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 deaf people.
The round was led by Sydney VC Investible and with Kiwi VCs Te Pae ki te Rangi, Quident Ventures, Icehouse Ventures, as well as Startmate.
Kara is building a more equitable and accessible global communications system for the deaf community through a combination of motion capture, AI, and neural network algorithms. They’ve developed digital humans, avatars with high-fidelity faces and emotional expressions, that are easily comprehensible to their audiences.
Cofounders Arash Tayebi, Sahar Izadi, Farmehr Farhour and Ken Erskine set out to enable 24/7 digital availability of sign language, translating media content such as video, audio, or text.
Tayebi, Kara’s CEO, said current best practices, such as closed captions, are broadly regarded as inadequate for engaging with the deaf communit, while sign language interpreters are not widely utilised due to barriers in availability, urgency and sheer scale.
“This injection of capital and support from our strategic investors will enable Kara Technologies to further connect with the deaf community and scale our technology platform to enable improved accessibility to important information and valued content,” he said.
Investible investment manager Jayden Basha said the market opportunity is significant.
“Kara Tech has established fruitful partnerships with government bodies, platforms, and entertainment leaders to bridge an important gap in communications,” he said.
“Emergency response systems through to online and social media will be able to leverage the incredible product.”
Dr Jamie Newth from 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 profound impact proposition as well as the founders – talented, committed, and with deep integrity,” he said.
“To us Kara is an impact VC case study – they demonstrate of what’s possible when you combine technology, community validation, and aligned capital.”