Story of SmartScribe transcriber

Your personal transcriber in your pocket

SmartScribe is a combination of a Voice Recorder app and a transcriber. This mobile/web software has many features, making it a great daily productivity tool for everyone. With SmartScribe, your phone becomes your personal scribe for your meetings and appointments. Its multilingual speaker identification feature makes it a great tool for recording and transcribing dialogs in 31 languages and dialects. Also, its folder structured Voice Recorder can entirely replace the iPhone’s built-in voice memo for better usability and an added option for transcribing your voice memos if you decide to do so later on. Additionally, if you wish to have your voice memos transcribed by a professional human transcriptionist, you can hire one directly from within the app!

My name is Hamed and I am a co-creator of SmartScribe. In this blog, I’m sharing the story of creating SmartScribe, along with my learned lessons from this journey.

 

The idea of transcriber app

In the year 2019, I was surfing Amazon’s AWS website and going through some of the A.I. services they provided. One of them was the AWS Transcriber service and the fascinating part was its ability to identify speakers. This means the engine would identify the different speakers who participate in a dialog and tag them! After running some research I found out that the engine was also highly accurate. I wanted to create a mobile app that would harness this powerful engine and make it accessible from my iPhone. Additionally, AWS offered even a more sophisticated A.I. service for a premium, capable of transcribing the medical conversation. Also, the transcriber engine was capable of transcribing in 31 languages. All these bonus features fueled the motivation to create this app!

 

Taking the first step in building the transcriber app

After speaking with a friend (Alex) about the idea, we decided to take a stab at this transcriber app. We started this mainly because we wanted to sharpen our skills in two things that we thought were going to be the future: cloud services and mobile.

We decided one of us takes ownership of the cloud part and the other takes care of the mobile side of things.

Admittedly, the mobile side of things started horribly. The prototype of SmartScribe was a black screen with a red circle. Tapping on the circle would make the app record sound from the microphone. The plan was to send the recorded audio to AWS for transcribing. Well, this prototype was pretty ugly and discouraging and soon it became obvious that it would be best if we could somehow pair the Voice Memo app, with the AWS service. After all, why re-invent the wheel?

It turned out due to privacy restrictions it was not possible to pair Voice Memos with the cloud services. Therefore, the plan became re-inventing the wheel but, we will make it better!

There were two shortcomings with iPhone’s Voice Memo app: Unorganized files, and difficulty finding a file.

Back then, Voice Memo app records would be accumulated as a long list of neverending timestamped files. After recording a few ideas for various things, they all would pile up like a giant pile of laundry with an assortment of items. Therefore, when it was time to find a particular idea, it would take a lot of time. On the other hand, the simplicity of the app design was brilliant and for our version, we decided to maintain the simplicity of the Voice Memos app but, resolve the two shortcomings mentioned!

The Journey of building the transcriber app

Now that we made up our mind to build a legit transcriber app, we knew that we had to build the foundation properly. Therefore, we focused on the very basic: education!

I took the responsibility for the iOS app and started taking an iOS course. I went through the course once really quickly to get a general understanding of the protocol for building an iOS app. Afterward, I went back and redid the modules that applied to what I needed for this app. The development was progressing non-stop and almost around the clock. Also, it went through many design iterations and changes to eliminate any unnecessary components and make the number of steps for using the app as minimal as possible.

On the AWS side, Alex took the lead and set up a function that would receive the audio and the parameters from the iOS app and launch the transcription service. Afterward, it would parse the transcriber’s results to a human-readable format and place the files in a predesignated location for download. Similar to the front end, the back end went through many iterations of adding and removing features to a point we felt was optimal in terms of the amount of information we provide.

We were quite excited about the multilingual transcriber feature as well as the medical transcriber capability of this app we were building. Furthermore, we expanded our platform to Web for the users who would like to transcribe a pre-recorded audio. Also, after a few iterations, we added a human transcription service and users now can hire a human transcriptionist directly from the app.

The company

After a few months of learning and non-stop development, the next part was the logistics of things. We formed an LLC and named it: Ultra Tech Studio. We are a software as a service (SaaS) company and SmartScribe is our debut SaaS product.

Everything about Ultra Tech Studio was to be about developing the best product that we could make. Furthermore, Ultra Tech Studio was a haven for developing our skills. Everything from technical skills all the way to leadership and business skills. We started with the product, then we started contacting people we thought might be able to help in marketing. I reconnected with a mentor I worked for about a decade ago and she (Shelley Leinham) graciously became the mentor for Ultra Tech Studio. During the peak of the pandemic, we developed a Covid screening iPad app that would screen the patients for the Covid symptoms, and we sold the App to a company in Canada. We were quite close to landing a contract for developing a platform for Miss USA 2021 but we could not reach a financial agreement and the deal fell through.

Currently, we are entertaining a project related to real estate and blockchain.

The unbreakable rule

Prior to founding Ultra Tech Studio, Alex and I had built a product for a retail energy company and that’s how we became friends. First and foremost, we have similar work ethics and both of us are hard workers. Additionally, we tend to keep an open mind when we disagree about things and we both know that we are not perfect and sometimes our egos get the better part of us. Nevertheless, our conflicts do not last long and we often quickly arrive at a mutual agreement.

Our unbreakable rule was we would spend some time on Ultra-Tech Studio every day. The duration is not important and it could be as short as 10 minutes but skipping altogether is not an option unless we are taking a vacation and we take days off with intent. This rule was inspired by a very good book called “Atomic Habits“. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

 

The struggles

One of the biggest struggles was keeping the optimism and persevering with a positive attitude. Maintaining the positive energy is easy when things are moving forward with ease, funds are flowing, clients are reaching out, and when the momentum is rolling. However, when things are slow, the revenue is not showing up, no clients are reaching out, and inspirations are drying up keeping that positive energy requires a Zen-like mindset. I realized whenever I was reflecting on all our efforts on a materialistic level I would get discouraged. However, it would not take long before I’d remember why we started building SmartScribe, to begin with. I personally did it because I wanted to get high on an accomplishment and that accomplishment was the product itself rather than monetary success. I wanted to build this for the sake of building it like a piece of art project.

Another huge struggle was finding contractors with a caliber matching our expectations. Personally, one area of improvement for me is that I tend to do everything myself and as a leader, I should be comfortable with delegating. Fortunately, Alex is much better than I am in this department and he has been balancing this tendency of mine.

 

Lessons learned

Here are a few lessons we learned.

  1. First and foremost, if you are developing a product for a profit, first get funded.
  2. Your contacts are one of your greatest assets.
  3. Keep learning and every day and master your craft.
  4. Always keep the big picture perspective.
  5. Be patient and enjoy the process.
  6. You will never fail if you don’t quit.

 

At Ultra Tech Studio, we are committed to delivering quality applications and turning your ideas into industry-grade apps!

See how SmartScribe compares to other similar apps in this article!