Feb 15, 2019

Apple buys voice app startup Pullstring

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Apple has agreed to buy Pullstring, a San Francisco-based startup that enables the design and publishing of voice apps, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: This could help Siri better compete with Alexa.

Background: Pullstring was founded in 2011 by a group of former Pixar executives, and originally was used to power interactive voice apps for toys (including Hello Barbie in 2015). It later broadened its approach with the introduction of such IoT products as Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

  • It raised around $44 million in venture capital, from firms like CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures and First Round Capital. According to PitchBook, its most recent post-money valuation was just north of $160 million.
  • 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 being open to developers. Making it easier to write voice apps combined with a more open Siri could help close the gap, even though both Google and Amazon continue to invest heavily in voice.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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  3. Federal government latest: Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment." The USDA confirms that a Bronx zoo tiger tested positive for coronavirus.
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  5. States updates: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is "literally going day-to-day" with supplies.
  6. World update: Queen Elizabeth II urges the British people to confront pandemic with "self-discipline" and "resolve" in rare televised address.
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World coronavirus updates: Fewer deaths in Italy and Spain, U.K. toll jumps

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Health officials in Italy and Spain are seeing a glimmer of hope, as both countries reported a decline in deaths from the novel coronavirus Sunday. But the death toll continues to surge in the United Kingdom, which now has the world's fourth highest number of fatalities from COVID-19.

The big picture: The virus has killed more than 69,000 people and infected 1.25 million others globally as of early Monday, per Johns Hopkins data. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 131,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 15,000). About half the planet's population is now on lockdown.

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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