Totally autonomous vehicles could (or may not) be simply around the corner, however within the meantime, a startup that’s constructing in-car apps to assist human drivers cross the time when behind the wheel has raised a spherical of funding.
Drivetime — which makes voice-based trivia quizzes, video games and interactive tales that individuals can play whereas driving — has raised $11 million in funding led by Makers Fund (a prolific investor in gaming startups), with participation from Amazon (through the Alexa Fund) and Google (through its Assistant funding program).
The startup right now has eight “channels” on its platform consisting of video games and tales you could entry both inside a restricted free-to-play tier or through a paid subscription ($9.99 a month or $99.99 a 12 months). The plan is to make use of the funding to proceed increasing that catalog, in addition to investing in deeper integrations with its new big-name strategic traders, who themselves have longstanding and deep pursuits in bringing extra voice providers and content material to the in-car expertise.
Co-founder and CEO Niko Vuori instructed TechCrunch that his final ambition is for Drivetime to grow to be “the Sirius XM of interactive content material” for vehicles, with a whole bunch of various channels of content material.
In step with these plans, together with the funding, Drivetime is right now asserting a key content material deal.
It has teamed up with the long-running, well-liked recreation present Jeopardy to construct a trivia channel for the platform, which lets drivers take a look at their very own expertise and in addition play towards different drivers and folks they know. The Jeopardy channel will supply content material from the TV present’s trove of IP and include one other acquainted element: will probably be narrated by Alex Trebek, with a brand new quiz getting revealed each weekday for premium customers.
That social aspect of the Jeopardy recreation is just not a coincidence. The San Francisco-based startup is based by Zynga alums, with Vuori and his co-founders Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson additionally working collectively at one other startup referred to as Rocket Video games since leaving the social video games big and exiting that to gaming giant Penn National for as much as $170 million. That monitor report goes some strategy to explaining the sturdy record of traders within the new startup.
“Social and interactive codecs are the following frontier in audio leisure,” mentioned Makers Fund founding accomplice Jay Chi, in a press release. “Niko, Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson, with a decade-long historical past of working collectively and a confirmed monitor report in constructing new platforms, is the most effective group to deliver this concept to life.”
“Gaming and leisure are amongst prospects’ favourite use instances for Alexa, and we expect these classes will solely develop in reputation as Alexa is built-in into extra autos,” mentioned Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund at Amazon, in a separate assertion. “Drivetime stands out for its concentrate on voice-first video games within the automotive, and we’re excited to work with them to broaden the Alexa Auto expertise and assist prospects profit from their time behind the wheel.”
Along with the three traders on this newest spherical, previous to this Drivetime had raised about $four million from backers that embody Felicis Ventures, Gas Capital, Webb Funding Community (Maynard Webb’s fund) and Entry Ventures.
Vuori declined to say what number of installs or lively customers the app has right now — though from the appears to be like of it on AppAnnie, it’s seeing respectable if not blockbuster success on iOS and Android to date.
As a substitute, the corporate prefers to concentrate on one other stat, its addressable market, which it says is 110 million drivers in North America alone.
In the meantime, including a Jeopardy channel is constructing on what has labored finest to date. The preferred class in the meanwhile is trivia, with Tunetime (a “identify that tune” recreation) coming in second and storytelling a 3rd.
Drivetime’s premise is an fascinating one. Drivers are a captive viewers, however one which has to this point had a comparatively restricted quantity of leisure created for it, focusing primarily on music and spoken phrase.
Nonetheless, the rise of voice-based interfaces and interactivity utilizing pure language — spurred by the rise of non-public assistant apps and in-home hubs like Amazon’s Echo — have opened a brand new alternative, growing interactive, voice-based content material for drivers to interact with extra proactively.
You may suppose that this seems like a recipe for a automotive accident. Received’t a driver get too distracted attempting to recollect the fourth president of the USA, or who was referred to as the daddy of the Structure? (Trace: It’s the identical man.)
Vuori claims it’s truly the reverse: Having an interactive recreation that requires the driving force to talk out loud can focus her or him and hold the driving force extra alert.
“We’re double-dipping in security,” he mentioned. “On the one hand, we embody the protection points of Alertness Sustaining Duties (AMTs). However we additionally act as a preventative, that means that whereas gamers interact with Drivetime, they aren’t participating with anything.”
Whereas the content material right now could function a means of conserving drivers from doing issues they shouldn’t be doing whereas in a automotive, there may be one other apparent alternative that may come as drivers grow to be much less vital and can want different issues to occupy themselves.
Long run, the Jeopardy deal may usher in different channels based mostly on well-liked recreation reveals. Sony Photos Tv Video games, which owns the rights to it, additionally owns Wheel of Fortune and Who Desires to Be a Millionaire.
“We’re thrilled to work with Sony Photos Tv Video games to deliver Jeopardy, the best recreation present on the planet, to an underserved viewers that desperately wants interactive leisure probably the most – the 110 million commuters in North America driving to and from work by themselves day-after-day,” mentioned Vuori mentioned in a press release.
Apparently, regardless of the expansion of “expertise” for Alexa or apps for Google House and different residence hubs, and the general reputation of those as a means of interacting with apps and sourcing data, Vuori says that he hasn’t seen any competitors emerge but from different app builders to construct voice-based leisure for drivers in the way in which that Drivetime has.
That offers the corporate ample alternative to proceed selecting up new customers — and extra offers with publishers and content material firms on the lookout for extra mileage (sorry) for his or her legacy IP and new enterprise.
“Drivetime is likely one of the early pioneers in creating secure, stimulating leisure for drivers within the automotive,” Ilya Gelfenbeyn, founding lead of the Google Assistant Investments Program, famous in a press release. “Increasingly individuals are utilizing their voice to remain productive on the street, asking the Google Assistant on Android and iOS telephones to assist ship textual content messages, make calls and entry leisure palms free. We share Drivetime’s imaginative and prescient, and stay up for working with their group to make the day by day commute extra pleasing.”