Kerala Technology
Buy Me A Coffee founders weave a new magic

Cofounders of VoiceNotes Jijo Sunny and Aleesha talk about their project in a social media post. Courtesy: VoiceNotes

Buy Me A Coffee founders weave a new magic

Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 21, 2024
Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 21, 2024

The day GPT-4o was released, many Kerala techies were glued to the Product Hunt website, where creators big and small showcase their new products. Their interest was not piqued by the latest offering from OpenAI but by an AI-assisted notetaker developed by a trio of Keralites.

The response on Product Hunt was astounding as VoiceNotes zoomed to the top of the list on 13 May 2024, ahead of much-hyped offerings like GPT-4o.

As venture partner of Unicorn India Ventures, Robin Alex Panicker, posted on LinkedIn, it was a goosebump moment for many Kerala techies to see a product created by Jijo Sunny, his wife Aleesha, and his brother Joseph Sunny do so well on such a competitive global platform.

The trio are familiar faces on global tech platforms, having co-founded Buy Me A Coffee, a popular platform that enables creators like writers, artists, and musicians worldwide receive financial support from their followers. (More on that later.)

VoiceNotes translates your speech into English text, even if you are speaking in Indian languages like Malayalam, and offers options to generate summaries, emails, to-do lists, and social media posts from that text. It also provides an AI assistant that provides answers about your past notes.

Essentially, it acts as an efficient assistant, whether you are a CEO discussing a marketing idea or a housewife recalling where you found a bargain last month.With unlimited context settings, VoiceNotes can remember and recall everything you tell it. Jijo says that can avoid overtaxing your brain as it effectively works a second brain. “That frees up a lot of burden for people like me as I am a serial note taker.”

Anyone can use the site or app for free for one minute, with an upgrade option to become a lifetime user for just 50 US dollars. The response to the product was overwhelming, and within days, VoiceNotes raked in 100,000 US dollars in revenue from subscriptions, according to the company.

“We already have over 11,000 users who are using it as their personal note taker. About 30 percent of the users have signed up for the upgraded version,” Jijo revealed to TikTalk Newsletter. “We see interest across the world, especially from Chinese users.”

Upgraded version users can record up to 30 minutes, though they may have to wait longer for transcription.

VoiceNotes co-founder says it is not designed for long recordings. “We wanted people to capture their thoughts and ideas in their raw form, not a recalibrated or sanitised version of their original thoughts.”

Jijo, says that says that ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT in 2022, he had been waiting for someone to create the personalised note taker he wantedone that would organise his random thoughts without having to write them down, recall information when needed, and generate notes from it.

Though he had scribbled down the idea somewhere, they never worked on it as all three were busy running Buy Me A Coffee. What pushed them towards it was a personal trauma that Jijo and Aleesha faced when they experienced a miscarriage.

That shattered their world, leading to a series of meetings with doctors, nurses, midwives, and other health experts. "We were snowed under with information and it was difficult to process everything at once," says Jijo.

They recorded their meetings with experts, transcribed them, and Aleesha tried AI platforms like ChatGPT to better understand the information. That’s when they really started to yearn for a tool they could use.

This led to the creation of VoiceNotes.

The work was exacting but exciting, recalls Jijo. “It also helped us get out of the dark period we were in. The new project excited Aleesha and stopped her from brooding over the past.”

With Joseph creating a simple but elegant design, a beta version generated enough excitement among their friends, prompting the trio to make the product public.

Jijo says they envisioned a product that could be used by anyone, even groups like the elderly who are currently excluded from AI products. “We have a 90-year-old neighbour here in London. Aleesha and I wanted to create a product that she could use,” says Jijo.

VoiceNotes is designed for everyone, not just a few tech-savvy users. That's why we avoided adding too many features to it.”

The cofounders seem to have impressed both nerds and geeks when the product was officially launched. In a show of appreciation, the Product Hunt Newsletter featured VoiceNotes on the very day of its release – a rare honour bestowed by the US-based site.

Some user feedback also demonstrated the versatility of the product. One dad wrote saying he is using it to journal the growth of his kids, including their words and the advice he is giving them.

“I record what they did, record them saying things and hopefully when they are old enough, they can revisit these audio files and really see what their parents did for them,” the user wrote.

A student from India requested an extension of the $50 lifetime offer for a few more months, explaining that as a student, he couldn't afford the fee. He also promised to subscribe once he secured a job. Moved by his situation, Jijo and the team reached out and provided him with free access after reading his message.

Jijo says they see VoiceNotes as a mass product that will bring the power of AI into the lives of young and old alike. “My parents love the fact that they can get what they say in Malayalam into English text. They are now using it for everything,” says Jijo.He says note taking is not a common habit as people do not bother to write things down. VoiceNotes can help overcome this hurdle as a user can record their idea and the app will do the rest for you. It also ignores background noises and uses your voice to generate text.

Despite the encouraging responses, Buy Me A Coffee will remain the bread and butter job for Jijo, Aleesha, and Joseph, who are now based in London. The site now boasts over a million users, with transactions worth 50 million US dollars made through the platform every year.

It opened up a new economic path for creators who previously relied on advertisements and sponsorships to sustain themselves.

Despite its global impact, Buy Me A Coffee is rarely celebrated as an Indian success story. Many Kerala techies are unaware that the site was set up by three of their countrymen, as Jijo and Joseph hail from Malappuram and Aleesha is from Kozhikode.

All of the backend work for Buy Me A Coffee is carried out in Kochi and Calicut, where 28 employees are located.

[A proper write-up on Buy Me A Coffee is in order, and I've already made a note of this in my VoiceNotes.]



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