Yoodli, A Startup Backed by Madrona Venture Group and the Allen Institute for AI (AI2), Applies AI to Life’s Biggest Stress: Public Speaking
Yoodli, a startup leveraging AI to help people develop the necessary soft skills to present and communicate confidently, opened early access to their beta product at www.yoodli.ai. The founding team of Varun Puri, Esha Joshi, and Dr. Ehsan Hoque, alumni from GoogleX, Apple and the MIT Media Lab, brings a passion to a challenge that most people experience every day. The Company is also announcing it has already raised $1M in pre-seed funding from the Allen Institute for AI and Madrona Venture Group.
“Many of us have struggled with public speaking and have been on the receiving end of poorly delivered presentations,” said Varun Puri, co-founder of Yoodli. “During my time in Silicon Valley, I met countless colleagues, often fellow immigrants, who didn’t receive the recognition they deserved because they struggled to communicate effectively. Our platform will be an incredible leveler enabling people to practice and get real time feedback based on science as well as from friends and coaches.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the fear of public speaking affects 73% of people. However, we all need to speak in group settings — remember the awkward wedding toasts, dull classroom presentations, and never-ending team meetings? Numerous studies have suggested that oral communication is the number one skill that college students find useful post-graduation and yet is not taught in a direct way while in school.
“As a female engineer in a male dominated industry, I felt like I had to try even harder for people to take me seriously,” said Esha Joshi, co-founder and CTO of Yoodli. “The nerves and doubts before a presentation can be crushing, and the feeling of successfully expressing yourself in front of an audience is a huge confidence booster. Our platform takes you from the nerves to the confident persona you need to achieve your goals.”
Puri previously ran special projects for the President of Alphabet and then led Africa operations for a GoogleX initiative that is expanding internet connectivity using invisible lasers. Joshi brings her expertise as an Apple engineering lead as well as her experience speaking at large gatherings such as the Grace Hopper Conference to the mission of Yoodli. Dr. Hoque, the co-lead of the Rochester Human Computing Interaction group and MIT 35 Innovators Under 35 awardee, adds decades of research experience building AI interfaces to upskill the workforce. His work has helped people with autism practice communication skills, doctors prepare for end-of-life conversations with patients, and Parkinson’s patients detect their condition directly from their computer screens.
“We see a tremendous opportunity to use AI as a way to improve human social and cognitive skills,” said Matt Mcllwain, Managing Director of Madrona. “We like to back exciting teams from Day One and this team has the passion, technical and industry experience that inspires us to come to work every day. And give presentations!”
Yoodli is hiring for applied AI engineers, fullstack developers and a Head of Growth.
Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and sign up at www.yoodli.ai to join the product waitlist.
About Madrona Venture Group
Madrona ( www.madrona.com ) is a venture capital firm based in Seattle, WA. With more than 25 years of investing in early stage technology companies, the firm has worked with founders from Day One to help build their company for the long run. Madrona invests predominantly in seed and Series A rounds across the information technology spectrum, and in 2018 raised the first fund dedicated to initial investments in acceleration stage (Series B and C stages) companies. Madrona manages over $2 billion and was an early investor in companies such as Amazon, Smartsheet, Isilon, Redfin, and Snowflake.
About the Allen Institute for AI (AI2)
AI2 was founded in 2014 with the singular focus of conducting high-impact research and engineering in the field of artificial intelligence, all for the common good. AI2 is the creation of Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, and is led by Dr. Oren Etzioni, a leading researcher in the field of AI. AI2 employs more than 100 top-notch researchers and engineers from across the globe. AI2 prides itself on the diversity and collaboration of our team and takes a results-oriented approach to complex challenges in AI. Learn more at allenai.org.
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