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SpinVox: Enter the Dragon!

Money to burn, Christina?

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To Marlow, where SpinVox today hosted a demonstration for journalists of its technology to convert voice messages to text: two groups of four journalists, to be precise. For a full report on the demo, see this report.

Not long after the presentation had got underway, the door opened and in came the chief executive and co-founder Christina Domecq. Any questions? Well, a few, actually - but we had time for just one. Here's the exchange in full.

I asked how much new money had just been invested in the firm at the weekend - an infusion which amongst other things saved the website from being pulled. The Financial Mail outlined some of the debts, country court judgements and High Court legal actions the company is juggling here, yesterday.

"Fifteen million," replied Domecq. "PaidContent got its number wrong," she added with a bit of a smirk.

Were these new investors, or were these existing investors?

All had invested in SpinVox before, she replied.

So, I said. At your current burn rate of £3.5m per month, I reckon that buys you three more months after current debts have been cleared.

Domecq challenged my calculation. "My burn rate?"

"Well, you got £53m in April last year. Fifteen months have elapsed and you've spent all the cash. That's £3.5m a month."

"Ah," said Domecq. "We also have money from investments. About £10m from investments".

We were about to ask if her numbers had come up on the Lottery, but suddenly it was clear question time was over - Domecq reiterated that SpinVox would be cashflow positive in 90 days, and with that, she was bustled out of the room and on her way.

So we're not sure if it's 15m dollars or sterling - or how much is debt and how much is equity.

We'll report on the presentation and technology demo in a subsequent report. In short, we were invited to try and trip up SpinVox's automation, with a version of Tenzing, the type-ahead software that the "quality control agents" - as SpinVox calls its call center staff - use, as backstop.

It may be fair to say that we saw the difficulty of machine translation: all but one of the messages - a simple one placed by the SpinVox chief technology officer in a silent room - tripped through to the Tenzing console for manual interpretation. Pretty much in their entirety. So much for call center staff, sorry, agents, only seeing occasional word fragments.

Returning to the finances, there was a brief exchange at the end. A blogger asked who was the finance director?

"Roger Frye," came the reply from chief information officer Rob Wheatley.

That's funny, because Roger Frye, the illustrious founder of Talkland - which became the Vodafone Retail chain - is a SpinVox board director. There's no doubt he's a director. But he's certainly not a company officer. I pointed this out.

"We have an acting CFO," came back the reply. Paul somebody who's name we can't catch. It can't be Paul Martin, who was the last full-time chief financial officer and left last December. In May SpinVox announced they'd be appointing one David Christopher to fill the vacant CFO position full-time, but he hasn't started yet.

SpinVox don't half get through CFOs. The previous CFO Andrew Cherry left in July 2008.

What becomes of them? It's sharks with frickin' lasers, I think. ®

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