I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)

EARLY EDITION: Voice/AI M&A heats up as Peloton acquires voice/AI company Aiqudo

In one of the most prescient videos you will ever see leading into this pandemic, one pop-music diva (Aretha Franklin) and another pop-music diva (George Michael) sing their iconic 80’s duet remotely, thanks to equally larger-than-life screens, before finally coming together at the end in-person.

Franklin’s savvy addition of George Michael to the song gave her the biggest hit of her career along with a 1987 Grammy award.

From the song:

When the river was deep, I didn't falter.
When the mountain was high, I still believed.
When the valley was low, it didn't stop me, no…
I knew you were waiting.
I knew you were waiting for me.

Peloton is a company that makes tech-enabled stationary bicycles.

Remember that Peloton ad that had people riled up on social media?

You don’t?

Allow me to remind you:

The ad was immediately labeled misogynist, sexist, and behind the times.

The actress and actor in the ad became targets of threats on social media, and Peloton had many, many harsh articles written about the company’s marketing efforts:

Peloton resisted the urge to overreact, weathered the storm, and allowed social media mobs to move on to the next faux outrage.

Meanwhile, all the attention brought the company massive new revenue.

The company’s stock surged 440% over 2020, and by the end of the year, the mainstream media was instead writing articles like this about the company:

Facing an uncertain post-pandemic revenue picture - will people start riding bikes outside, as all this ends, and forget about Peloton? - the company has gone into acquisition mode, spending all that money the Twitter mob brought them.

One of these acquisitions was our friends at Aiqudo, who we had gotten to know well thanks to them being part of our voice/AI consulting program, Project Voice Catalyst, for the past few months leading up to the acquisition.

We had first met Aiqudo years ago, when they were particularly focused on integrating voice technology & conversational AI into vehicles. Specifically, they were focused on enabling mobile applications with voice in such a way where they would better integrate in the car.

The company was always focused on how best to integrate voice/AI into legacy software, which included mobile applications and websites. As one of the true stalwarts in the space, being around ever since Alexa showed up, they honed their craft and continued to work diligently on their core technology.

Led by hard-charging CEO John Foster, a person I very much enjoyed working with, the company navigated tricky waters of the last couple of years and bought themselves the time necessary for an eventual suitor to come along.

The main takeaway from Peloton - a company with money burning a hole in its pocket - acquiring Aiqudo, a longstanding member of the voice/AI community, is that eventually every single, solitary midsize-to-large company will have to introduce voice/AI into its operations.

Peloton made the Aiqudo acquisition alongside some other emerging tech acquisitions as the company figures out how to stay ahead of its competition.

This won’t be any different in any other field, from insurance to hoteliers to automakers to publishers to healthcare systems. Voice tech and conversational AI absolutely must become part of the equation to remain competitive.

Consequently, with money flowing freely and big companies getting bigger, acquisition is the easiest route to make that happen.

Expect to see many more duets between voice/AI companies and large companies needing to acquire their way into expertise in the space.

Project Voice 100 is the gathering of 100 top CEOs and senior-level executives from the voice/AI space.

It consists of two parts: VIP Reception on Tuesday, April 13, and three-hour networking-heavy, program-light conference on Wednesday, April 14.

The opportunity to meet other executives in the space will provide a jumpstart to 2021 and help accelerate every business there. CEOs of publicly traded companies all the way down to CEOs of impactful companies started during the pandemic, spanning the spectrum of industries and revenue profiles, will be there.

You can’t buy tickets anymore - they’re sold out online - but if you’re interested and an executive at a company looking at voice/AI or working with voice/AI (and particularly one reading This Week In Voice VIP on a regular basis), reach out.

You can check out the This Week In Voice VIP Spotify playlist here.