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Danish Dhamani, a first-time entrepreneur and Drexel University engineer, has built the Orai app, tapping artificial intelligence to help people hone their public speaking skills.
“Right now Orai gives feedback on just your delivery, the mechanics, your filler words, your pace, your energy, but down the line, we want to make this artificial intelligence that gives human-like feedback,” Dhamani, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Tanzania, told citybizlist in a video interview. “If you were to talk to a speech coach, they would also critique you on your content, on the logic of your speech, your structure, your rhetoric, your words, your diction. Orai would do that.”
Dhamani has headed the Philadelphia chapter of Toastmasters International over the past year after discovering he himself could use some public speaking skills. Prior to starting Orai, he served short stints at Globus Medical and Pennsylvania Machine Works. Dhamani believes he has been “terribly lucky” to be where he is with his startup in such a short amount of time. The secrets of his rise: inspiration from his mother, the street smarts of his father and surrounding myself with a bunch of smart people.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You have won a number of prizes and over $170K including $5,000 from Microsoft Imagine. How have these helped?
DANISH DHAMANI: As for our funding, we have been really lucky to have won some business plan competitions and that has given us a runway of maybe the next six to 12 months. Plus, we do all the development in-house, so we have the development capacity. If we have an idea, we can design it, we can build it, we can test it, all by ourselves, and that is really powerful.
EDWIN WARFIELD: How do you move on now? Can you provide us an update on the downloads?
DANISH DHAMANI: Looking in the future, though, our plan is to close a few enterprise contracts, get us a few pilots running, get a few more thousand users on our consumer app, something tangible that we can show to investors. We want to have the leverage where we can go to an investor and say, hey, we started a year ago, this is where we are now, we have five enterprise clients in life sciences, we have five in the B2B SaaS space and we have around 100,000 downloads and 10,000 active users. This is our next goal, this is our next vision, this is the next step for us, and we need a million dollars or two million, whatever that number might be. That is the plan.
The app is currently only available in English and only available for the iPhone, and the reason we did that is, we are still early stage. This is a whole new territory, and we are trying to find that product market fit. Once we nail down on what users really want, what are the driving features that brings them back to the app every single day or every single week, once we know that, then we are ready to scale, and by scale I mean add different languages – Spanish, German, French, whatever – and add Android support, add Windows support. That’s the way to move forward, but before that you have to be really lean, really like a startup, where you just build one specific case and then when you are ready, that’s when you scale.
I know that a few executives look at this, and one of our asks is, if you have a sales team, we want at least to start and set up a pilot with you to show you that Orai can really help you drive revenue up because we can give you like a one-to-one correlation. The way your reps perform in the quarter on Orai can be a predictor to who is going to make sure that they close that quota or who is going to be your top performing reps, who is going to be your underperforming reps, all from your voice. We are willing to set up pilots right now. The product is built and that’s our next step and that’s our ask.
EDWIN WARFIELD: We hear you have plans to further refine Orai and add more bells and whistles.
DANISH DHAMANI: We have a big vision for Orai. In five years, I want Orai, even before five years, we want Orai to be worldwide phenomena. If there is anyone who wants to improve on their speaking skills and it is not just public speaking. Public speaking has its notion where when you are in front of five, 10 people, when you are presenting to a crowd, we want to change that. Anyone who has to speak, who has to communicate, who has to convey their ideas, their experiences, anyone anywhere in the world, we want them to use Orai. Orai as an app, an accessible way of becoming a better speaker, better than practice in front of a mirror, more effective than asking your friend or your loved one for feedback, and more cost-effective than hiring a speech coach.
That’s what Orai is going to be. Right now Orai gives feedback on just your delivery, the mechanics, your filler words, your pace, your energy, but down the line, we want to make this artificial intelligence that gives human-like feedback. If you were to talk to a speech coach, they would also critique you on your content, on the logic of your speech, your structure, your rhetoric, your words, your diction. Orai would do that.
A speech coach would also give you feedback on your non-verbal features like my hand gestures. Are they with purpose? Is my smile too much or is it appropriate? Am I being compassionate at times? Am I looking straight in the eye? Do I walk on the stage in the right manner? Orai would be able to do all of that.
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