Six months after coming out of stealth mode, a Seattle AI startup called Yoodli is raising the curtain on a free website that’s designed to improve your public speaking.
And as if that’s not enough, Yoodli is throwing in some free games as well.
“Think of these as Wordle, but for communication skills,” Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri said in an introductory video.
Yoodli’s main training program can be enough of a brain-teaser by itself: You can upload an audio or video clip, or do a real-time recording of your speech using the app. Hit a button, and the software analyzes what you say to point out filler words (such as “um” or “ah”), repetitive phrases, hedging words (like, “you know”), non-inclusive words (such as saying “guys” instead of “folks”) and whether you’re talking too fast or too haltingly.
At the end, Yoodli give you a confidence score and points out ways to improve. Check out this example, which picks apart a speech given by billionaire Elon Musk. (The talk earned a 2 on Yoodli’s five-point scoring system).
Puri emphasizes the view that public speaking should be fun, not a chore. That attitude applies even to the company’s name, which riffs on the word “yodel.” Six months ago, Puri explained in an email the name “has a fun and catching ring and represents our playful company culture (try saying Yoodli quickly three times, you’ll end up smiling).”
Yoodli’s public-speaking games reflect that same sort of playfulness: One of the games challenges you to see how long you can talk without, um, saying a filler word. Another one feeds you seemingly random words to work into a real-time conversation. Yet another game asks you to make analogies on the fly. (For example, “A blueberry is like a toilet because…”)
“Building your speaking skills is like training a muscle,” Puri said in a news release. “The same way we warm up before athletic events, or calm our minds through meditation, we can train our bodies before we speak. At Yoodli, we think that speech preparation can be fun and stress-free. That’s why we’ve built daily AI-powered drills to help people improve their impromptu speaking and interview skills.”
Yoodli, which was spun out from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence’s AI2 Incubator program last year, has already picked up some endorsements from experts in the field — such as Craig Valentine, who won Toastmasters International’s World Championship of Public Speaking in 1999.
But you could argue that one of the best endorsements comes from Puri himself, who said he uses the software to prepare for his presentations. Puri and his fellow co-founders were persuasive enough to attract $1 million in pre-seed funding last year from AI2 and Madrona Venture Group.
Puri and another one of Yoodli’s co-founders, Esha Joshi, are among the finalists in the 2022 GeekWire Awards’ Young Entrepreneur of the Year category. Head over to the GeekWire Awards website to check out all the finalists, vote for your favorites, and reserve your spot for the May 12 awards ceremony at the Showbox SoDo in Seattle.