Apple has agreed to purchase voice app startup Pullstring, according to a report from Axios. The San Francisco-based company was founded by a group of former Pixar executives in 2011 and its technology has been used in everything from interactive voice apps for toys, to Amazon Echo and Google Assistant products.

Background: Pullstring was founded in 2011 by a group of former Pixar executives, and originally was used to power interactive voice apps for toys (including Hello Barbie in 2015). It later broadened its approach with the introduction of such IoT products as Amazon Echo and Google Assistant. 

It raised around $44 million in venture capital, from firms like CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures and First Round Capital. According to PitchBook, its most recent post-money valuation was just north of $160 million.

The upfront deal value is said to be around $30 million, plus around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. That would include CEO Oren Jacob, who once served as Pixar’s CTO.

Despite Apple being the first major handset-maker to deploy an on-device digital assistant, it has since fallen well behind Google, Amazon and others in the space. Purchasing a company like Pullstring, which specializes in building apps with voice integration, might help them bridge the gap—a tall task to be sure.

Source: Axios