Reclaiming a voice: how AI helped a CEO speak again

AI technology restores Ben Baldanza’s communication abilities post-ALS diagnosis

Ben Baldanza, the former CEO of Spirit Airlines, known for his dynamic leadership, faced a new challenge when diagnosed with ALS in 2022.

The disease progressively impaired his motor skills and significantly affected his speech, making his ongoing work as a board observer, teacher, writer, and podcaster a challenge. Rather than step back, Ben and his wife, Marcia Baldanza, went looking for AI solutions that could help preserve his voice as the disease progressed. 

Collaborating with the nonprofit Bridging Voice and ElevenLabs, they aimed to recreate Ben's voice using samples from his time as a podcast host.

We used over 200 podcast episodes to create a professional AI clone of Ben’s voice that mirrored his original tone and clarity. This new voice debuted to much acclaim, allowing Ben to continue hosting his podcast with a voice his audience knows and loves.

To hear the difference, listen to this episode of Airline Confidential before Ben cloned his voice:

And the episode that aired after Ben turned to ElevenLabs:

The feedback from the listeners has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing support for Ben's continued presence in the podcast. Importantly, Ben’s AI voice lets him not only maintain his professional roles but also enhances his daily interactions, giving him a tool to express himself authentically despite ALS.

Ben shared his excitement with our team, writing, Words can't express how thrilled I am with the voice clone you created for me. I've been telling everyone about this and shouting ElevenLabs' praises from the rooftops!

Ben's story is another testament to the power of technology to profoundly contribute to people’s accessibility needs and wellbeing. His optimism and determination, coupled with innovative AI solutions, have allowed him to face his challenges head-on, continuing to lead a fulfilling life that inspires others.

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