Skate to where the voice is going…

Aaron Batalion
Lightspeed Venture Partners
4 min readFeb 14, 2017


When I was a kid, my computer had a SoundBlaster card. If you were a geek like me, you remember editing your autoexec.bat file to include:

@echo off
SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 E620 T6

What you might not remember is it came with “Dr Sbaitso”, a DOS program (we didn’t call them apps back then) which you could type into and it would respond “intelligently” with voice. It was a remarkably crappy experience, but it was the first time I felt I had a conversation with a machine. It was eye-opening.

read closely. :)

Twenty plus years later, I had another eye-opening experience. I taught my inquisitive 3-year-old son how to use Google. He couldn’t read or type at the time, but he knew how to use an iPad (tap/swipe/etc). I taught him to tap the microphone button next to the search bar in the Google app, ask a question, and the results would be YouTube videos which he could understand and learn from.

He would do it on his own constantly, later using the awesome YouTube Kids app specially built for this purpose, without me even nearby. At that moment, I knew if it came so naturally to him, his entire generation would grow up with it.

I also realized, that if my 3-year-old illiterate son was able to use the internet… and almost a billion people on the planet are illiterate, that maybe we had just found a way to accelerate bringing the rest of the world online.

The Amazon Echo was launched 6 months later and it’s been on my kitchen counter ever since. My wife and I use it for kitchen timers and the occasional weather report, and the neighborhood kids love it for dance parties, but most of the time it just sits there. It’s a great example of a technology that feels right… not because we use it every day, but because we know we will.

According to the VoiceLab’s 2017 Voice Report, 1.7M voice-first devices were sold in 2015. In 2016, 6.5M devices shipped. If that was all sold in the US, of the estimated 50M households with income over $75k, that’s more than 15% market penetration… in my opinion, without a killer app yet. At CES this year, dozens of hardware manufacturers had integrated Alexa natively... and with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are all working on their own voice driven APIs, the time is right for an amazing team to build the right voice-driven product, experience, and/or new piece of hardware that we all use daily.

As a VC, my role is three-fold: 1) to nurture the companies and founders we have invested in, to augment their strengths, minimize their weaknesses and to help optimize their outcomes; 2) to have a thesis on where technology is going; and 3) to jump on those waves, before they crest, and work with the most innovative and authentic teams in the world.

We think it’s time to skate to where voice will be and find the best founders who agree that voice driven applications will soon become part of popular culture.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’re working closely with the team at betaworks on the upcoming voicecamp accelerator. Betaworks is an early stage NYC startup lab that we love and have been lucky to work with before. Giphy, a Lightspeed portfolio company, was incubated there.

The voicecamp is a 11-week program for a select group of builders that are working on conversational interfaces, verbal computing, and AI. We’re excited to programmatically co-invest with Betaworks and work actively with these companies.

Learn more here:

If you’re working in this space, apply to VoiceCamp and/or reach out. Respond here, Twitter DM @abatalion, or email me: aaron(at)

Me: Alexa, I’m excited to see what these teams build.
Alexa: So am I.

Looking forward to talking to what you’ve built.



Aaron Batalion
Lightspeed Venture Partners

NewCo. Past: Partner, @LightspeedVP. Founder/CTO, LivingSocial. Tweeting at @abatalion