Namecoach raises money to teach users how to pronounce names correctly • TechCrunch


We’ve all been faced with a hard-to-pronounce name. But not everyone takes into account the consequences of wrong pronunciation. In a piece for Fast Company, Karta’s Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact Madhumita Mallick recalls how her name was a source of anxiety even as a grade school student.

Research shows that when peers and teachers mispronounce or change the names of students of color, those students are less engaged in the classroom and are ostracized from people who don’t want to be associated with their names. As one of the co-authors wrote in 2012: “Actions and attitudes [students] Multicultural school environments experienced in K-12 schools emphasize a form of cultural ‘otherness’ that runs counter to our goals. [is] Something significant.”

Namcok CEO Praveen Shanbhag heard a speaker mention her name at his sister’s alma mater during a college graduation. That, along with his experiences as a first-generation immigrant to the US, inspired him to co-found Namecoach, which develops naming tools that can be embedded into platforms like Salesforce, Canvas and Gmail.

“We’re on a mission to make pronunciation a thing of the past for everyone,” Shanbhag told TechCrunch in an email.

Shanbag started dabbling in programming while working on his Ph.D. in philosophy at Stanford. He decided to code an app that would collect recordings of students saying their names and deliver them to name readers for graduation, which became Namecoach. In the year By 2016, Shanbag said hundreds of schools were using Namecoach’s software and services.

Namecoach – which has finally expanded its customer base to customer brands – is not alone in the market. NameShouts offers robust naming tools like Facebook, Slack, and LinkedIn. But Shanbag told me that he wanted to differentiate Namecoach by investing heavily in AI and integrations early on.

Image Credits: Name coach

For example, Namecoach uses an AI system to predict the correct pronunciation when a person’s name has multiple correct pronunciations based on nationality, ethnicity, gender and location. Another platform systems produces speech in the absence of a nominal audio recording.

At its highest level, Namecoach features user-generated pronunciations of names from an audio pronunciation database. Shanbhag asked about the accuracy of the system and whether users could correct errors that might be entered into the database.

It’s not released yet, but Shanbag says Namcok is developing AI to provide pronunciation that takes into account the speaker’s native language — not just the name’s owner’s language. “Your name is the core of who you are, and saying it right sets the tone for a positive interaction for both parties,” he says.

The Namecoach platform works out-of-the-box with Microsoft Teams, Outlook and Google Workspace services, and provides an API and software development kit to enable third parties to build Namecoach functionality into their products. But the focus in the next few months will be the startup’s first consumer app, Shanbag says, which will be available as a Chrome extension next year.

Namecoach — which today closed an $8 million Series A round led by Impact America Fund with participation from Authentic Ventures, Metaplanet, Engage.VC, Founders Fund, Bisk Ventures and others — also plans to ramp up its sales and marketing efforts and expand its platform operations. A collection of links. Shanbag also hinted at the potential beyond voice guidance, including feedback to help users improve their pitches and create warm interactions in sales situations.

Leaning toward sales applications makes sense for Namecoach’s marquee clients — Salesforce, Netjets and PwC. Beyond those three, the 30-person startup claims to have more than 300 education and corporate clients worldwide.

When asked about Namcok’s revenue figures, Shanbhag said, “The Series A funding will allow us to accelerate our goal of integrating voice technology into every aspect of our communications workflow.” “Namecoach has customers across a very broad spectrum of verticals, use cases and enterprise sizes, which means we don’t rely on it to thrive by shrinking into any single segment.”

So far, Palo Alto-based Namecoach has raised $15 million in venture capital.



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