Rhetorical history

Created by: Lester Caine, Last modification: 14 Jul 2014 (18:42 UTC)

History of Rhetorical

Formed in 2000 as a spinoff from development work at Edinburgh University it  was eventuall bought out by ScanSoft  in November 2004.

News Item

Rhetorical finds voice software is unquestionably successful Text-to-speech specialist increases sales 70% and goes for breakeven

RHETORICAL, the voice synthesis specialist, has reported a 70% surge in sales that has allowed the Edinburgh-based company to keep losses level despite increasing headcount by a third last year.

Turnover from the company's rVoice software, the latest edition of which was launched last October, jumped to £ 1.7m in 2002. Net losses were held steady at £ 1.6m, while gross profits rose from £ 500,000 previously to £ 1.1m last year. The company, which is nearing its third anniversary since spinning out from the University of Edinburgh, has developed text-to-speech software that converts any type of written word into speech that is almost indistinguishable from the human voice. That is being used in a variety of applications in the telecoms sector, such as delivering e-mail messages to wireless customers via mobile phone. Marc Moens, chief executive of Rhetorical, said that growth in 2002 had continued into the current year, keeping the company on track to reach break-even in about six months. He added that Rhetorical, whose last funding round in November 2001 raised £ 4.3m, would not need any additional external cash before then. ''We don't have to go out for any more money before we get to breakeven,'' he said. Although a fresh equity injection has not been discussed formally, he added that returning to the venture capital market with a profitable company was ''certainly a possibility''. Rhetorical now employs 45 people, mostly in Edinburgh but a few operating out of sales offices in London, Germany and Boston in the US. The opening of the Boston office followed the signing of contracts with US giant Verizon Wireless, which has integrated Rhetorical's rVoice product into its own mobile offering. Similarly, the Scottish firm's technology is also being used by UK mobile operator Orange to give voice to Ananova, the animated newsreader that delivers headlines, weather and similar information to Orange customers. Beyond the mobile arena, rVoice is also being used to generate automated out-going telephone calls from businesses such as contact centres. For example, Birmingham-based Truancy Call, which serves about 150 UK schools, uses the software to ring up parents of children who are not in school. If parents are not aware of their child's absence, they can push a button that automatically connects them with a school official. Rhetorical says its software can easily generate voices with a wide variety of accents, and is already deployed in countries as varied as Germany and Greece to the US and Australia, the latter of which requires authentic pronunciation of Aboriginal place names. The company also recently launched America's Spanish, a fully-bilingual version that can automatically switch between Spanish and English, even in mid-sentence. Moens said the company was continuing to invest in rVoice, and expected to make further product announcements during the next few months. Moens and his co-founders, chairman Peter Denyer and chief technology officer Paul Taylor, own about 51% of the business. The rest is in the hands of a number of venture capital investors, such as Scottish Equity Partners, Pentech, Friends Ivory & Sime, Artemis, Pennine VCT and Capital for Companies.


Rhetorical Releases rVoice 4.2

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Latest version of text-to-speech engine includes rVoice Studio, a graphical development tool used to create ActivePromptsTM.
Posted Dec 1, 2003

Rhetorical announced the launch of rVoice 4.2, a new version of its text-to-speech engine. rVocie 4.2 has been designed as a server application for networked environments. According to Rhetorical, rVoice 4.2 comes with a graphical development tool - rVoice Studio, which can be used to create ActivePromptsTM. This is a patented innovation that allows prompts to be generated. The tool allows users to specify how rVoice should read the prompts and the results are stored as instructions to the TTS engine. "rVoice 4.2 represents another evolution in our technology," said Marc Moens, CEO of Rhetorical. "Improvements have been made at every level - from low-level integration and enterprise usability issues to voice quality, intelligibility, and naturalness. The ActivePrompt™ software and the rVoice Studio represent a major revolution in the way text-to-speech can be deployed in speech-enabled applications. This is the first time users will be able to create and update prompts in minutes, and mix these prompts seamlessly with dynamic TTS, for any voice they choose."

ScanSoft Takeover

ScanSoft to Extend Text-to-Speech Portfolio, Expertise by Acquiring Rhetorical Systems Ltd.

Company Expands TTS Capabilities and Resources that Matter Most to Customers - Custom and Natural Voices, Global Footprint and Multiple Languages

PEABODY, Mass., November 15, 2004 - ScanSoft, Inc. (Nasdaq: SSFT), a global leader of speech and imaging solutions, today announced an offer to acquire Rhetorical Systems Ltd., an Edinburgh, Scotland-based supplier of innovative text-to-speech solutions and tools.

With the acquisition of Rhetorical Systems, ScanSoft solidifies its position as a leading provider of speech synthesis or text-to-speech (TTS) solutions for a variety of speech-based applications. ScanSoft's TTS portfolio comprises the most languages and voices available anywhere - nearly more than all other vendors combined. The company will further differentiate its solutions with a number of techniques, tools and services that enhance the ability to deliver custom, dynamic voices.

"As we continue to drive the industry forward through the best technologies, services and partners, Rhetorical and ScanSoft share a vision for providing an enhanced voice experience through our TTS solutions," said Paul Ricci, chairman and CEO of ScanSoft. "We are excited at the prospects offered by Rhetorical and its talented employees for extending the value and augmenting the capabilities of our TTS solutions to better satisfy customers."

The transaction has been approved by both companies' boards of directors and is expected to close in December 2004. Consideration for this transaction is approximately $6.7 million, comprising approximately $4.9 million in cash due at closing and $1.8 million of ScanSoft common stock.

"With speech applications becoming more global, dynamic and personalized, our combined solutions can help eliminate static, recorded voice prompts and speed time to market for our customers," said Marc Moens, chief executive officer at Rhetorical Systems. "We are excited to join forces with ScanSoft to deliver compelling, custom and timely solutions for our customers and to the millions of people that use our collective solutions every day."

This acquisition is another example of how ScanSoft continues to invest in high-growth speech markets and is delivering on its strategy for a future where natural, human conversations will be the predominant way that people retrieve information and interact with automated systems. To achieve this, ScanSoft recognizes that speech applications need to be more dynamic, sound more natural, interact more conversationally and adapt to personal preferences. Rhetorical provides an array of technology, customer, partner and employee resources to help ScanSoft fuel its growth and propel the quality of speech applications throughout the world.

Benefits of the combined organization include:

  • Leading-Edge Technologies
    ScanSoft has a rich history of technology leadership in the text-to-speech market. Rhetorical TTS solutions are an ideal addition to its portfolio and bring a number of techniques, tools and services that expand its language catalog and enhance the company's ability to deliver custom, dynamic voices.
  • Working with the World's Best Companies
    ScanSoft has worked hard to garner a rich set of global customers and partners. Rhetorical enhances this position and brings relationships with a number of renowned companies including Verizon, Orange, Coca Cola, Sony, British Airways and Motorola.
  • Success through Partnering
    Broad, sweeping deployments require sophisticated distribution and partner networks to address customer demand and emerging opportunities. ScanSoft and Rhetorical share a partner-centric distribution philosophy, with strong ties to a number of common technology vendors and integrators including Nortel, VoiceGenie, BeCogent, Eckoh and Gold.

About Rhetorical Systems, Ltd.

Rhetorical is a leading provider of text-to-speech (TTS) solutions. The company builds high-quality voices, which in many applications are indistinguishable from the real voices on which they are modeled. Rhetorical is headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, with offices in the U.S. and Europe. The company's complete focus on text-to-speech allows it to set very high standards as it innovates, develops and maintains the highest quality products and services available.

About ScanSoft, Inc.

ScanSoft, Inc. (Nasdaq: SSFT) is the global leader of speech and imaging solutions that are used to automate a wide range of manual processes - saving time, increasing worker productivity and improving customer service. For more information regarding ScanSoft products and technologies, please visit www.scansoft.com.

Trademark reference: ScanSoft and the ScanSoft logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of ScanSoft, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other company or product names mentioned may be the trademarks of their respective owners.