Ones to Watch: Kids Speech Labs–“China poses the greatest market opportunity for us.”

Ones to Watch | Fri 20 Dec | Author – Business & Finance

Each week Business & Finance highlights an up-and-coming start-up, making waves in its industry. This week we speak to Shona Darcy, co-founder of Kids Speech Labs, a digital health platform to support children’s speech and language development.


What is it?

Kids Speech Labs is building a digital health platform to support children’s speech and language development. Imagine a speech version of the height and weight chart that parents already use, enabling parents to easily understand if their child’s speech skills are on track for their age. 

Our platform aims to manage the early stages of speech development at home, with children playing voice enabled games that, through continuous monitoring, can adapt training modules to their ongoing speech and language skills. Parents have access to a dashboard that informs them of their child’s progress, helping them make informed decision about their child’s needs. 

Kids Speech Labs is using speech recognition, data, machine learning and predictive analytics to take the guessing game out of speech and language development. Our goal is to be the new benchmarking standard for child’s speech and language skills, to help parents and healthcare providers ensure that no child misses out on the care they need, when they need it. 

Who’s behind it?

Shona Darcy, co-founder, Kids Speech Labs

I have a PhD in children’s speech recognition and 10 years’ experience in digital health and have researched and validated digital health applications across several clinical areas, from cognitive decline to adherence to inhaler medication. Most recently as Chief Scientific Officer for Neuromod Devices I was responsible for validating an innovative neuromodulatory technology for tinnitus. 

My co-founder Celine de Looze has a PhD in linguistics and phonetics and is an research experience across several clinical applications of speech processing. She has extensive expertise into speech analysis for understanding neurological conditions including Parkinson’s Disease and MS.

We have an excellent tech team, highly skilled developers with experience in the digital health space, and have advisors across the commercialisation, AI and Funding.

How is it funded?

Up until July ‘19 we were bootstrapped including funding from prize money from NDRC Ireland Funds Business Plan competition (2018), New Frontiers Phase2 and EIT Health Validator programs. We have just raised a family and friends round of investment and about to begin raising a Seed round. 

Future plans.

After securing funding we will build and validate the first automated, clinically validated articulation assessment for children. This is the first in a suite of applications to cover the full scope of children’s speech and language development. 

We want to see our tools integrated into healthcare systems to improve screening and triage procedures so that families are not waiting for 6-12 months to see a speech therapist. We are looking for partnerships with early intervention and healthcare groups to validate our technology on a large scale. 

In year 3 we expect to expand to at least one new language, with China posing the greatest market opportunity for us. With only 2,500 speech therapists for 1.2bn people and China leading the way for demand for digital health technologies this is a huge opportunity for us.