Bringing innovative software solutions from the battlefield to the commercial world
David Tohn is the CEO of BTS Software Solutions, as well as its subsidiary Verb8tm, a captioning and transcription company. BTS Software Solutions provides application, systems, and web development services to government and commercial clients such as the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, CACI, and Towson University. Verb8tm, whose clients include the University of Maryland and NPR, offers a comprehensive suite of speech-to-text products at the cutting edge of audio and video technology. A 24-year Army veteran who was deployed into combat six times, David brings a unique perspective and proven leadership ability to his positions at both companies. Last December, Under Armour and Baltimore SmartCEO magazine bestowed him with the Game Changer Award at SmartCEO’s 2015 Circle of Excellence Awards. Under his leadership, BTS has earned numerous company-wide honors, such as the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council’s Innovator Award and SmartCEO’s Circle of Excellence Award for Small Technology Business, GOVStar Award for Star Workplace for Emerging Business, and Cornerstone Award for Howard County Small Business.
Q. Can you give us your pitch for Verb8tm?
DAVID TOHN: Words matter. The spoken word matters. It’s arguably 50% of our collective knowledge, what we say verbally in conferences or video or whatever, but it disappears in a black hole because it's not searchable, it’s not discoverable, it’s not part of the Information Age. But if you could pull out of this black hole, the audio and video content of a conference, of a classroom, of a board meeting or video teleconference or a conference call, that information is now accessible again and can become part of the Information Age and add to our collective knowledge.
What matters is speech-to-text for complex audio: multiple speakers, background noise, grammar—all the things that make our conversations understandable, readable, useful. Current technologies cannot do that. Automated technologies like Siri or Google Speak are incapable of handling multiple speakers with the accuracy necessary to be readable. Every transcript or caption you read or see on TV has a human in the loop typing, and they are hard to train. The next two years it’s going to be up to $200 an hour, and [it’s] not very scalable. Because of these costs and barriers to entry, very few industries are doing it. The broadcast media has to do it, the legal community and the medical community have to do it, but everyone else is left out because they cannot get to it. If you’re able to make this content searchable, you can generate revenue that's missing. You have a 5x return on investment if you just put captions with video on the web. It makes it searchable, accessible. You see 13.5% increase in web traffic in improvement in search results. You can save money for accessibility. So, there's money to be made and money to be saved.
Verb8tm is a patent-pending solution that takes complex audio, and turns it into text at 99.6% accuracy, at 50-80% cheaper than our competitors. We are targeting the education market—both academic, professional, and conferences—and the media markets. We see out of a $16 billion plus total market $600 million of an accessible market that we’re targeting over the first four years. The education market, we provide accessibility services. We’re already doing this at the higher ed, as well as providing captioning and transcript for distance and online classes. In the media market, we are doing live captions and transcripts for talk radio. National Public Radio: every transcript you see on the website is us. We also do it in the professional education market as well.
Verb8tm is a company with $500,000 of recurring revenue, 30-plus employees, patent-pending, and a pipeline just under $1 million. Our intent is to grow rapidly. Our demand exceeds our capacity, but we intend to disrupt the speech text market, create a talk radio market that’s not there, and make our spoken words accessible in the Information Age, and we’d like you to be part of our team.
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