Let’s start with learning a bit about you?
I’m Nigel Cannings, the founder and CTO of Intelligent Voice Ltd, a speech tech solutions company that works with government agencies, banks, securities firms, call-centres, litigation support providers, international consultancy, advisory businesses and insurers. I’ve got more than 25 years’ experience in both law and technology and I’m a regular speaker at tech industry events.
Great, really interested to learn about Intelligent Voice. Can you please tell us – how and why did you get into speech tech after law?
I started my working life as a lawyer in the early 1990s, but I’ve always had this keen interest in tech. My dad, who is now the chairman of Intelligent Voice, sold the first ever personal computers in Europe through his Byte Shop chain in the 1970s, and I’d always wanted to follow in his footsteps. When I was 18 in 1987, I walked into his office and told him I wanted to become a businessman, which was the 80s speak for ‘entrepreneur’.
For the first time in his life, he swore at me, promised me I had no idea how difficult that was, and to go and get a proper job. If I still wanted to run my own business after that, I should come back to him then.
Fast forward 17 years, I went to university, became a lawyer and ended up running the legal team in Europe for one of the world’s largest software companies. I’d made good money out of share options, so I left my job, walked back into his office, and said, “Right! I’m ready, Dad!” He stared at me, baffled.
He had no recollection of that seminal moment in my life—at the time, all he’d wanted was to get me out of his office!
What led me down the speech technology path was a passing comment I’d made to my dad when we were having lunch 14 years ago. I’d been working in natural language processing and tagging, and I’d written my Twitter tagging/trending tool.
I said to my dad that I wanted to exploit this technology for financial services and my dad replied that he’d been demonstrating speech tech to police officers in Boston in the 1980s, trying to convince them to use it for radio transcripts. That got me thinking – why didn’t we take all the stuff I’d been doing, my dad’s idea of speech tech, bundle them together and see what we got…