Abake Adenle is a Nigerian-American entrepreneur who creates African language voice detection and speech synthesis software. There was no known player in the voice recognition and speech synthesis software business that specialized in African languages when she launched her company.
Adenle aspired to be a university professor as a child, but she began her career in finance, spending eight years as a quantitative strategist at Morgan Stanley. “I designed and developed trading methods for institutional investors as part of my job. She told Techpoint Africa, “I did that for almost eight years.”
Adenle created the Speak Yoruba App while at Morgan Stanley to help people learn the Yoruba language. She was inspired to create the program after observing her niece and nephew use a smartphone application to learn English, according to her.
She added, “And it ended up performing great in the app store.” “I had a number of requests from people wanting me to build a version of the app in their native African language, which was great and something I believed I could do. But I had a job that required me to work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., so it wasn’t feasible for me to take on at that time.”
After eight years in finance, she eventually left to focus on her speech recognition program. Her desire to own her time and enjoy intellectual independence drove her to make the decision, she claims.
She told Techpoint Africa, “I appreciate the idea of owning my time.” “I also value intellectual liberty. “I’m working on something I want to work on,” she clarified, “not because it’s been assigned to me, but because I enjoy working on it.” This is something I am grateful for.”
When we first entered the voice recognition industry in 2017, it was pretty uncharted territory with a lot of unknowns. She, on the other hand, was unfazed. Adenle was consulting in the finance area while creating her software and looking for investment for her startup.
“It was my responsibility to design voice recognition and speech synthesis, as well as to deploy a product that spoke two African languages. As a result, I created a Beta One for Yoruba and Swahili,” she explained.
“We created a male Swahili voice as well as three female Yoruba voices, one of which was based on my Yoruba voice. We also created a couple of variations of our main speech recognition model that were content-specific voice recognition models for Yoruba and Swahili.”
It’s important to note that Siri and Alexa are powered by speech recognition technologies.
While Adenle’s business plan was admirable, many venture capitalists were unwilling to invest, so she submitted a proposal to Innovate UK, where she received $500,000 in startup investment. “We still have the broadest native African language coverage right now, even if we’re still in private beta,” she said.
The internet mogul was born in the United States to Nigerian parents. She did, however, spend the first six years of her childhood in Nigeria before returning to the United States for her secondary education.
She completed her education in the United States, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Morgan State University in Maryland. She also completed a Ph.D. program in Signal Processing at Cambridge University, with a concentration on Bayesian Inference.
She is now the founder and CEO of ajala, a London-based start-up that develops enterprise speech solutions for languages with limited resources, with an emphasis on African languages. Adenle considers her startup to be one of her proudest achievements. For her, creating something novel, such as the app she created, is gratifying.
Adenle received the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Voice award from Women in Voice (WIV), a non-profit located in the United States, in July. The award honors and promotes women and gender diversity in the field of speech technology. The Nigerian-American financial analyst was honored for her achievements in “making African languages accessible through voice solutions.”