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Amazon and Jeff Bezos have invested in a startup that’s trying to solve one of Alexa’s biggest problems

Pulse Labs has raised $2.5 million

The new $100 Amazon Echo in grey, on a nightstand Amazon
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Amazon Echo and Google Home are huge hits with a big problem: A lot of people don’t continue to use new voice apps after they first try them out.

Enter Pulse Labs, a new startup that is working with voice app developers to test out new apps on a target audience before publicly launching. The aim is to get feedback from real people that can improve voice apps — called Alexa Skills on Amazon’s platform and Actions on Google’s platform — so they have a better chance at success when they become available to the masses.

Not surprisingly, the work Pulse Labs is doing has caught the attention of two parties that have a lot riding on Alexa’s success: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

So Bezos, through his investment fund Bezos Expeditions, and the Alexa Fund have invested in a $2.5 million seed round for Pulse Labs led by the Seattle-based venture firm Madrona Venture Group. Techstars Ventures also participated in the round.

Pulse works with Alexa app developers today and will start doing work with Google app developers later this quarter. The startup has built an online panel of testers who get compensated in exchange for trying out and providing feedback on their experiences with certain voice apps.

Takeaways from Pulse Labs testing have included the recognition that voice apps need to say good-bye upon “closing” so users aren’t confused when they are redirected to the main Alexa experience, and learning that a meal-delivery app needs to be smart enough to offer a response when users mistakenly answer a multiple-choice question with a “Yes” or a “No.”

“Developing apps for voice is a significantly different process than app development on other platforms,” Abhishek Suthan, Pulse Labs’ co-founder and CEO, said in a release. “[A]s our workflows and interactions shift away from more traditional platforms and mediums, consumers have different expectations regarding how an app responds, and designers will need to understand this change.”

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