Describe, the audio and video editing platform founded in 2017 by former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, raised $50 million in a Series C round led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, a tranche through which OpenAI and its partners, including Microsoft, are investing in early stage companies. Descript is the second startup to receive an infusion of cash from the fund after note-taking app AI Memoryand Mason says it reflects OpenAI’s belief in the future of Descript’s AI-powered features.
“I founded Descript with the idea of creating a simple, intuitive and full-featured video and audio editing tool, an editing tool built for the AI age,” Mason told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We are on the verge of a generational shift in the way we create content, powered by AI. That includes the kind of tools creators are already using in Descript and emerging things like generative AI. The challenge for companies like ours is how to make that technology useful and accessible.”
Mason declined to disclose Descript’s post-money valuation, but noted that the financing, which also involved Andreessen Horowitz, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital and former Y Combinator partner Daniel Gross — brings the company’s total raised to $100 million. according to a report of The Information in October, OpenAI had agreed to lead the funding by valuing Descript at around $550 million, more than double the startup’s valuation as of January 2021 ($260 million).
“We started the OpenAI Startup Fund to accelerate the impact that companies built on powerful AI will have in the world, and we are particularly excited about tools that empower people creatively,” said OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap, who manages OpenAI Startup Fund. Press release. “In using Descript and speaking with customers, it’s clear that Descript is breaking down the barriers between idea and creation by extending video editing capabilities to a whole new class of creators.”
Descript was created as a spin-off of Mason’s Detour audio tour business, which Bose acquired in 2018. Aimed at podcasters and videographers unfamiliar with professional-level editing tools, the platform allows users to create instant audio and video transcripts that can then be cut and combined with music, photos, and other content using drag and drop tools.
Coinciding with the new cash, Descript today introduced a number of editing features, some powered by AI, and a redesign aimed at making video editing “as easy as editing a document or slides,” in Mason’s words. That might be a bit too promising. But the new capabilities simplify aspects of content creation that have historically been arduous.
For example, Descript now offers a background removal feature that allows users to set their videos to whatever settings they like. And with Write Mode, users can edit scripts in Descript, taking advantage of the platform’s Overdub voice cloning technology to record a voiceover.
Other highlights of the latest version of Descript, called Descript Storyboard, include multitrack screen recording (the recorder is now integrated into the editor, with separate tracks for screen and camera) and free access to sound effects, videos, images and music tracks. Descript now also provides new video animations and transitions and various templates, including layouts, title sequences, and social clips, along with the ability to create custom project templates.
With the redesign, Mason says the goal was to complement and augment Descript’s transcription-based editor while leaving core functionality intact. A new experience called Scenes allows users to break scripts composed in Writing Mode into scenes, and then arrange the images the same way they would work with slides in a deck. Scenes keeps Overdub voiceovers in line with the script, allowing creators to swap a scratch clip with the final recording, for example, without having to worry about the tracks misaligning.
“We believe video should be in every communicator’s toolkit, just as ubiquitous as handouts and slides. The tools are the only thing preventing that, and we intend to change that,” Mason said. “We think of our main competition as non-publishers: people who aren’t making video because the tools are too complex and time consuming.”
Descript is not the only company competing in the audiovisual content publishing space. In addition to incumbents like Adobe, there are startups like Zoom Out.Videowhich uses AI, natural language processing, and other technology to automatically create editable transcripts.
But San Francisco-based Descript, which employs about 100 people, has expanded aggressively, acquiring Artificial intelligence company Lyrebird in 2019 to power its Overdub feature. Initially focused on audio editing, Descript launched its first video editing capabilities two years ago, pursuing a digital video market that is Estimate be worth more than $20 billion.
The strategy seems to be working for Descript so far, which counted NPR, VICE, The Washington Post and The New York Times among its clients as of 2021. While Mason didn’t answer questions about revenue, he says the client base of Description has been expanded. in recent months to “major universities and non-profit organizations” as well as public sector organizations.
“The pandemic changed the way we all create and collaborate: a lot of people stuck at home became more curious about video, and a lot of people started exploring the creator economy,” Mason said. “Businesses started using video for more of their asynchronous communications. Around the same time, individual creators stopped respecting the boundaries between mediums; YouTubers started podcasts, podcasters flocked to TikTok, etc. Our new funding, plus the fact that all of those things I just mentioned are only gaining steam, puts us in a great position to weather any headwinds.”