New Zealand impact startup Kara Technologies has raised NZ$1.3 million in Seed funding to make sign language more accessible in the media for the deaf.
The round was led by Sydney VC Investible and included Kiwi VC’s Te Pae ki te Rangi, Quident Ventures, Icehouse Ventures and Startmate.
Kara is building a more equitable and accessible global communication system for the deaf community through a combination of motion capture, AI and neural network algorithms. They have developed digital humans, avatars with faithful faces and emotional expressions that are easy for their audience to understand.
Co-founders Arash Tayebi, Sahar Izadi, Farmehr Farhour and Ken Erskine wanted to enable 24/7 digital sign language availability by translating media content such as video, audio or text.
Tayebi, CEO of Kara, said current best practices, such as closed captioning, are generally considered inadequate to deal with the deaf community, while sign language interpreters are not widely used due to barriers in availability, urgency and sheer scale.
“This infusion of capital and support from our strategic investors will enable Kara Technologies to further engage with the deaf community and scale our technology platform to enable improved accessibility to important information and valuable content,” he said.
Investible investment manager Jayden Basha said the market opportunity is significant.
“Kara Tech has established fruitful partnerships with government agencies, platforms and entertainment leaders to bridge an important communication gap,” he said.
“Emergency response systems to online and social media will be able to leverage the incredible product.”
Dr. Jamie Newth of New Zealand impact fund Te Pae ki te Rangi said Kara Technologies has a unique high potential impact opportunity.
“We love Kara’s commercial and deep impact proposition as much as the founders – talented, dedicated and with deep integrity,” he said.
“For us, Kara is an impact VC case study – they show what’s possible when you combine technology, community validation and aligned capital.”