Check out the pitch deck that the AI startup Papercup used to raise $20 million and help media and entertainment companies reach new global audiences
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- Papercup is a UK startup that’s helping media and entertainment companies find global audiences.
- It has an AI-powered dubbing service that promises to do high-quality translation at scale.
- Read the pitch deck Papercup used to raise its $20 million Series A round.
Digital media and streaming companies are increasingly looking overseas for growth as the US market for subscribers gets saturated. That’s driven demand for translating TV shows and films, but the process is costly.
Papercup, a UK-based startup, is working to solve that problem with a AI-powered dubbing platform.
Founded in 2017 by tech investor Jesse Shemen and machine learning engineer Jiameng Gao, Papercup has raised about $30 million to date. Its most recent round was its $20 million Series A last year led by Octopus Ventures; other investors included Local Globe, Sands Capital, and Sky and Guardian Media Ventures.
Papercup is using the funding to refine its voice technology so it can translate more types of content over time — including sports, comedy, and live video — and support more languages. Simon King, a leading speech-processing expert, is a research adviser.
Shemen, the company’s CEO, told Insider that Papercup charges a base rate of $20 per minute, which he said is half the typical going rate for human translation, though such rates can vary widely by language.
“The demand is endless, but it wasn’t scalable,” he said of media companies’ growing need for translation. “We created synthetic voices that are human-sounding. To apply that to video with compelling, persuasive, emotion is harder. That’s the problem we solve for.”
Papercup says it has translated videos for Fremantle, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Sky News, Bloomberg, and Insider. Most of its efforts are translating English-language videos to Spanish.
The company is trying to encourage publishers to adopt a new audio feature from YouTube tested by MrBeast that lets content creators add multi-language audio tracks to their videos so they can reach international audiences.
“YouTube is interested in catalyzing adoption of the feature; that’s where we can play a role by introducing a low-cost, effective way of dubbing,” Shemen said.
Papercup also sees an opportunity to translate educational content, TED talks, internal corporate communications, and podcasts.
Other well-funded AI-based startups have focused on voice, like Respeecher, which clones voices of bygone actors for movies and video games; and Deepdub, which is using generative AI to dub movies and shows.
Shemen said Papercup differentiates itself by using humans to quality-check translations and creating high-quality voices that are specifically designed for video.
AI has stoked a lot of existential fears across media and Hollywood that the tech could eliminate people’s jobs or be abused by recreating real people’s voices without permission — or in some way deceiving listeners.
Shemen said he believes Papercup is serving a need that’s not being met due to a dearth of translators. As for the potential for abuse, he said the company maintains quality control over the process by doing the dubbing itself rather than licensing its technology. And Papercup has said no to certain clients, he noted.
But as the company looks to scale up, Shemen added, it has to think about licensing and what safeguards it could include, such as an identifier marking its videos as synthetically produced.
Check out slides from the deck that helped Papercup raise its $20 million Series A round.
Papercup takes its name from paper cup “telephones” attached with a string.
The company has raised about $30 million so far, including a $20 million Series A round in 2022.
Papercup’s pitch is that it can help media and entertainment companies do high-quality translation at scale.
Most of its work is translating English-language videos to Spanish, but it also handles Italian, German, and French translation.
Papercup believes the market for its services is huge, with content libraries that are mostly in one language.
It’s looking to translate everything from filmed entertainment to social video to news.
Papercup’s pitch is that its synthetic voices are especially human-like.
Clients upload their video to Papercup, which handles the translation in-house, with human quality controls.
Papercup said a docuseries it translated into Spanish was highly rated in a survey.
The Spanish-speaking market is large, and viewers in different countries and regions tend to be accepting of a homogenous version of Spanish, making it an ideal language for Papercup to focus on.
Papercup has also translated videos for Insider into Spanish.
Papercup is bullish on a new feature from YouTube that lets content creators add multi-language audio tracks to their videos.
Papercup is trying to encourage YouTube publishers to adopt the feature so they can grow their international reach.