Groupon founder Andrew Mason is back with a cool new startup

Michael Seto / BI
  • Groupon founder Andrew Mason just launched a startup called Descript.
  • Descript is an ingenious audio editing tool for podcasters.
  • It was born out of the startup he launched after he was ousted from Groupon, called Detour.

Groupon founder Andrew Mason launched another new startup on Tuesday. It’s called Descript.

Descript takes an audio file, say a recording for a podcast, and automatically transcribes it in a few minutes using artificial intelligence. It then links every word on the transcribed word processing document to the original audio file. You can edit the audio file by editing the words in the transcription file.

That means no more messing with wave editors and other audio editing tools that seem like you need a PhD to master. You can also export your edited audio to a professional editing tool like Adobe Audition for more processing.

Andrew Mason is best known for his spectacular rise and fall at Groupon, the coupon/deals site company he founded, grew into a billion-dollar company in record time, and took public. Shortly after the IPO, when growth disappointed investors, he was ousted. That was back in February, 2013.

By the end of that year, he founded a new company called Detour, a startup that makes audio tours for smartphones. Detour raised about $US11 million from undisclosed investors, according to PitchBook, and it employs about eight people, Mason said.

A detour for Detour

Descript was born out of Detour. Detour worked on “hundreds of hours of audio tours, and we would be doing voice-over sessions in our studio and noticing that it took probably twice as long to edit the sessions as it took to actually record them, and you needed a professional engineer to do that,” Mason said.

DescriptBusiness InsiderDescript

Mason’s degree is in music technology. So when he and his team couldn’t find a tool that made editing easier, they decided to build one. They found a PhD student from Berkeley who was working on artificial intelligence transcription and hired him, Mason said.

When they showed their homegrown tool to the audio producers who came to the Detour studio, “They would just get so excited that we realised that [this tool] was maybe an even the more exciting business.”

The startup Detour still exists, though Mason says he knew when he launched it he would have “an uphill battle” to get people to go on audio tours for fun. He remains committed to it but has left the CEO role to become CEO of Descript instead, he tells us.

He’s not worried about the change in plans, known in Silicon Valley as a “pivot.” While a pivot can sometimes be a bad sign for a startup, sometimes the end result is something bigger and better. Groupon was the result of a pivot off of the original idea of a social network called The Point, for example.

“I’ve been through a pivot once before and this just felt [like it] had all the tell-tale signs,” he said.

His dream for Descript is to do for audio editing what tablet/smartphone photo editing apps did for photos and video: make editing so easy, anyone can join the podcasting revolution.

Descript has two pricing models: 15 cents a minute to transcribe files longer than 30 minutes which don’t need audio editing; or $US10 per month plus 7 cents a minute for files over 30 minutes, including the audio editing features.

Mason raised $US5 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz general partner Alex Rampell.

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