San Francisco-based startup ‘PullString’, that enables the design and publishing of voice apps, has reportedly been acquired by Apple to better compete with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (via Axios). The startup was founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives was and originally used to power interactive voice apps for toys.
The upfront deal value is said to be around $30 million, plus around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. That would include CEO Oren Jacob, who once served as Pixar’s CTO.
Voice is seen as one of the next big things and Apple has been way behind both Google and Amazon in terms of adoption and is open to developers. Making it easier to write voice apps combined with a more open Siri could help close the gap.
PullString, which is also referred to as ‘Toytalk’ in the industry as it develops AI to power toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine, raised nearly $44 million in venture capital from firms like CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and First Round Capital.
The company’s most recent post-money valuation was just above $160 million. Apple has not yet made the acquisition official.
Meanwhile, the Cupertino company has just hired former Microsoft executive Sam Jadallah, who will be leading the iPhone maker’s smart home initiatives.