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Our Team


Etienne Barnard

CEO & Founder

Etienne obtained his Ph. D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1989, writing his thesis on “Neural Networks for Scene Analysis”. He has since then been active in research and development in pattern recognition and speech processing. He has held a number of academic positions, and has also worked in industry. Etienne has co-authored more than 250 refereed scientific publications, on topics including pattern recognition, neural networks, speech recognition and human-computer interaction. He holds a number of international patents in speech processing and is a past Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. Etienne’s research contributions have been recognized in various ways, including Google Research Awards in 2009, 2011 and 2014.


Charl van Heerden

CTO & Founder

Charl completed his B. Eng at the University of Pretoria, and started working with Etienne (then his M. Eng supervisor) at the CSIR in 2005. He interned with Google in 2007 (language modeling for GOOG-411), 2008 (language modeling for Voice Search) and 2010 (Voice Search for Afrikaans, English and isiZulu), before returning to South Africa to complete his Ph. D. in Computer Engineering (thesis: “Efficient training of Support Vector Machines and their hyperparameters”), co-authoring 40+ peer-reviewed papers on speech recognition and general pattern recognition. More recently, he was part of the NWU MuST team, which was part of the consortium which won the international IARPA-sponsored Babel competition.


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