Soapbox Labs to double headcount as new CEO named

Founder and current CEO Patricia Scanlon is to become the company’s executive chair

Patricia Scanlon, founder and chair, with new chief executive Martyn Farrows. Photograph: Arthur Carron

Patricia Scanlon, founder and chair, with new chief executive Martyn Farrows. Photograph: Arthur Carron

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Highly regarded voicetech company Soapbox Labs is to more than double staff numbers over the next two years as it names a new chief executive and positions itself for significant growth.

The company intends to grow headcount to 80 employees over the next two years having taken on an additional 10 people in 2020 to bring employee numbers to 30.

Soapbox founder and chief executive Dr Patricia Scanlon is to become the company’s executive chair with chief operating officer Dr Martyn Farrows replacing her.

The changes come as Soapbox is preparing to announce a number of major new client deals and partnerships in the coming months and release its first consumer solutions for apps, toys, games and robots.

Established in 2013, SoapBox uses artificial intelligence and deep learning to develop cloud-based speech recognition solutions for young children aged between three and 12. This technology has been popularly dubbed as “Siri for kids”, although it is more complex than that might suggest, as children’s speech behaviour differs greatly from adults.

As well as being used by companies in the education space in areas such as voice-enabled literacy, language learning, dyslexia screening and speech therapy products, SoapBox’s technology is also increasingly being deployed by smart toymakers.

The company has secured close to 50 global licences with clients globally to date.

Focus on innovation

Dr Scanlon, who have been named as one of the world’s top women in tech by Forbes magazine, said the move to become executive chair would allow her to focus on innovation.

“We’re about to hit the accelerate button after several years of development but when you’re a deep tech company you should also continually be innovating. This move means I’ll still be in a position to help steer Soapbox but will also be able to focus on further innovation as being CEO is all-consuming,” she said.

“We’re known globally for the technology we have developed and are leading the market and as we enter a phase of rapid growth the role of chief executive also becomes something different. When I first started thinking about changing roles I very much wanted it to be Martin who would take over to give us continuity and because we work really well together. This is the right thing for the company,” Dr Scanlon added.

Dr Farrows, who has over 25-years’ experience working in the edtech space, joined Soapbox Labs in 2017. Among many other roles, he was previously centre director at Learnovate, the Trinity College Dublin-hosted research and innovation centre.

“Trish and I have known each other and worked together a long time so we’re very comfortable in that and both recognise each other’s strengths,” he said.

“We’re very ambitious. We want to change how kids interact with technology and believe that there is no reason why you can’t have a global leader in voice technology for children coming out of Ireland,” Dr Farrows added.