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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Voice technology startup Voxion, run by Stonington grads, acquired by California company

    San Francisco-based voice entertainment company Volley announced this week it has acquired Voxion, a voice technology startup that high school graduates from Stonington founded in 2018.

    In the earlier days of Voxion, founders Matthew Gillen, Ryan Fornara and Nathaniel Rowe launched Hotel Helper, software used on Google Home speakers to act as a technological concierge, answering questions on things like local attractions, weather and checkout time.

    Voxion has since shifted to party games that can be played on an Amazon Alexa device. Gillen — CEO of Voxion and now product manager at Volley — said Friday that Rowe has since left the company while Andrew Rosenberg, Sam Bunger and Jake Levi have joined. Gillen is a 2018 graduate of Ella T. Grasso Technical High School, while three of the other four went to Stonington High School.

    Voxion went through a couple startup accelerators in 2019, and raised capital from investors in New York, California and Texas, Gillen said. Voxion then shifted to its current focus on games, after not seeing a lot of traction in the hotel space.

    "We wanted to build a product we'd actually want to sit down with our friends and play," said Gillen, 20. "It was really a labor of love."

    Its flagship game is called Mutter Nonsense. Here's how it works: Alexa gives out a website and game code for participants to join on their phone, players respond to fill-in-the-blank prompts, Alexa reads the responses, and players vote on which ones they think are funniest. The concept is similar to some Jackbox games but free and designed to be played in person.

    Gillen said Voxion released games early in the pandemic, and with people in their homes without much to do, the company saw pretty good growth. Voxion then started working with Volley, collaborating on the games Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader and Family Duel.

    "We're excited to team up with the creative and highly-skilled team at Voxion, and look forward to releasing entertaining new titles at an even faster pace," Volley CEO Max Child said in a news release. "As we continue investing in visual experiences, this integration of top-class visual voice design talent marks an important milestone for Volley as a company."

    Volley, founded in 2016, acquired Voxion for an undisclosed amount and now has more than 30 employees. Volley's other games for Alexa include Song Quiz and Yes Sire.

    "I definitely think voice technology is going to permeate into more households, into everyday life, and especially the entertainment aspect," Gillen said, adding that games are convenient — with no setup or complicated instructions — and can be played in a few minutes.

    e.moser@theday.com

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