Symbl for Startups founder profile: How Helios champions tonal analysis in the financial services industry and beyond

Helios CEO Sean Austin.

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During your average human-to-human conversation, tone plays a sizable role in how a given message comes across. In fact, research shows that tone of voice accounts for 38% of human communication!

Enter Helios. This Symbl for Startups inductee implements advanced voice processing and conversation AI to solve for the lack of information regarding tone in traditional text-based analysis. Its flagship product, Comprehend, offers an impressive 200 unique tonal features per statement analyzed.

Read on to discover its potential implications for the investment community, how Helios expects to enable the exploding voice economy and which verticals outside of the financial services community CEO Sean Austin believes would greatly benefit from tonal research.

Tell me how the idea for Helios came about. What market need does it fulfill?

Sean Austin: Helios was born out of a multi-decade dream Dr. Gerwin Schalk and I have had. We’ve seen what’s possible when bleeding edge scientific research gets merged into a massive trend within technology. My time at Spotify showed me just how big that can get by the explosion of audio consumption that streaming provided; we know intuitively that voice communication is more than just words.

That tone of how we speak can mean everything for a simple everyday conversation and especially for high-powered earnings calls with CEOs that thousands listen to. We decided to embark on this journey with this vision to fuse the tone of voice with the language across all financial services communications and beyond. It’s something that has never been done before.

In a way we’re defining a new market, but all great companies need that North Star for the world they want to see.

When did you discover’s API, and how did you know it was the right fit for Helios?

SA: As a part of daily product development, we evaluate conversational analytics platforms. After hearing several different firms note how fantastic was we decided to dig deeper.

Between the amazing technical support on Slack, easy-to-understand developer documents and now a great proof-of-concept underway, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We’re certain the underlying capabilities of’s API perfectly compliment our unique tonal analysis platform.

Together, we will be able to bring a whole new universe of understanding to the financial services industry.

Can you explain some of the benefits of human-to-human speech analysis as it pertains to improving one’s trading strategy?

SA: Speech analysis is critical when creating algorithmic or more fundamental trading strategies. Corporate announcements are designed to properly communicate messages that drive shareholder perception and understanding.

Without properly understanding the entire message, pieces can be lost and ultimately create massive ripples in the marketplace. Helios solves this by implementing speech analysis, a sort-of tonal sentiment, at the sound level so the investment community can leverage that entire message.

At this stage of complexity in how the markets work, and their volatility, I would not want to be caught only hearing half a message… I’d be essentially tone-deaf without Helios!

How does Helios compare to similar software in the financial space?

SA: We’re a pioneering company when it comes to tonal analytics and an audio research platform for asset managers. We’ve yet to see another company approach this given the massive complexity and research that is required. We believe forging unique and complementary partnerships only further accelerates our differentiation as a product suite.

Which Helios features have your customers been most excited about and why?

SA: Coverage of corporate events is our most requested feature in terms of feedback and one of the unique propositions we have as a platform. Scaled analysis in the cloud, or on-premise, is crucial in deriving more value through the vast wells of audio globally.

We’ve planned for this since day one because we envision a world where all corporate audio events and related audio is processed in real-time for the investment community to leverage. It is an exciting time to be in the alternative data space for financial services. Job listings are growing at an exponential rate and the need for insights through data has never been greater!

How do you see Helios evolving as the company gains users?

SA: Helios is designed to enable this exploding voice economy. We see the world as complete only when the voice tone is paired with all the amazing features that language itself provides.

We will continue to focus our efforts on providing next-generation tools and products for the financial services community around key corporate communications, but I wouldn’t ever rule out just how powerful tonal research could be for entirely different verticals including gaming, sales, healthcare and beyond.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.



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