The news: Yoodli, a Seattle startup with an AI-enabled software platform that analyzes speech to offer tips for improving communication skills, raised $6 million.
The founders: The startup was co-founded by Varun Puri, who previously worked on special projects at Google, and Esha Joshi, who worked at Apple and is currently Yoodli’s chief technology officer. The startup is a spinout from the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence (AI2) and the founders were honored as Young Entrepreneurs of the Year at this year’s GeekWire Awards.
The product: The platform uses natural language processing tech to provide users with a transcript and analysis on use of filler words, non-inclusive language, pacing, body language, among other actionable insights. This data is private to the user but can be sent to friends or coaches who could provide human insights. Here’s an example of Yoodli analyzing a speech by Elon Musk in 2014.
The customers: The product is used by MBA students preparing for an interview, corporate professionals getting ready for an upcoming presentation, or speech coaches who use the tech to “diagnose” the certain speech mistakes that their clients are making. The hybrid work environment coupled with The Great Resignation created more demand for the product, Puri told GeekWire.
The competitors: Philadelphia-based startup Orai also uses AI to provide speech training. There are also a variety of well-funded language processing startups, including Otter and Descript, that offer transcription services in real time. Descript, for example, underlines words such as “uh” and “um” in its transcriptions. Puri said “our biggest competition is a bathroom mirror, a stopwatch or a camera.”
The funding: The seed round brings Yoodli’s total funding to $7.1 million. The fresh cash will be used to support the startup’s product development, sales and marketing expansion. It did not share its business model or reveal its valuation but said that it is generating revenue.
The funders: The seed round was co-led by Madrona Venture Group and Cercano Management (formerly Vulcan Capital), with participation from J4 Ventures, Ascend, and other angel investors.
“The fear of public speaking has affected humanity throughout history and across cultures,” said Patrick Ennis, a partner at Madrona who will join the Yoodli Board of Directors. “At Madrona, we see the massive impact that Yoodli will have by improving communication for everyone.”