The news: Yoodli, a Seattle startup with an AI-enabled software platform that analyzes speech to provide tips to improve communication skills, raised $6 million.
The founders: The startup was founded by Varun Puri, who previously worked on special projects at Google, and Esha Joshi, who worked at Apple and is currently Yoodli’s CTO. The startup is a spinout of 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 technology to provide users with a transcription and analysis of the 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 insight. Here’s an example of Yoodle analyzing a speech by Elon Musk in 2014.
The customers: The product is used by MBA students preparing for an interview, business professionals preparing for an upcoming presentation, or speech coaches using the technology to “diagnose” the specific speech errors their clients make. The hybrid work environment combined 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 number of well-funded language processing startups, including Otter and Descript, that offer real-time transcription services. Puri said “our biggest competition is a bathroom mirror, a stopwatch or a camera.”
The financing: The seed round brings Yoodle’s total funding to $7.1 million. The fresh money will be used to support the startup’s product development, sales and marketing expansion. It did not share its business model or disclose its valuation, but said it generates revenue.
The finances: The seed round was 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 Yoodle’s board. “At Madrona, we see the massive impact that Yoodle will have by improving communication for everyone.”