Praveen Shanbhag, CEO of NameCoach, believes that accurate name pronunciation is critical to making a strong first impression and showing respect for your customers, partners, and prospects. TaskRay sat down with Praveen, our Diversity at Dreamforce 2019 scholarship winner, to talk about their upcoming launch at this year’s event.
Tell us about your company. What inspired you to start NameCoach?
A few factors led me to build the first version of NameCoach. Certainly, the fact that I’ve had my name mispronounced many times in my life was a part of it. However, the real catalyst was hearing my sister’s name mispronounced at her college graduation. We had friends and family come in from all over to witness her ceremony. The moment when she was supposed to be recognized for all her achievements, her university unintentionally butchered her name. It was jarring and alienating for us all, even though we know it probably wasn’t from a lack of effort. I thought, ‘What if there was a simple way to hear audio pronunciations when you need them? It would be a lot easier to learn and remember names for instances just like this.’ So that’s where the inspiration for building NameCoach came from.
When I was first starting the company, my mom told me a story about her experience that really resonated with me. When she immigrated to the US, she had no friends or connections here, and it was extremely difficult for her to adjust to and adopt this new culture. One day, at her first doctor’s office visit, the nursing staff struggled with pronouncing her name. So they said, “Look, we don’t know how to say your name, so we’re just going to call you Anna.” My mother’s name is Anupama. She it said it made her feel like they were caring for someone else.
“Her experience demonstrates how much it matters to people that you care enough to know their names. It makes people feel respected and acknowledged.”
What are you most excited about at Dreamforce 2019?
First, I am looking forward to meeting people. SalesForce has such a huge footprint across many different use cases and verticals, and I want to learn from people in as many different areas as I can. It’s important to me to connect with people about what we’re doing and see where folks could integrate NameCoach.
Second, of course, we want to expand our roster of initial partners using our new Salesforce app. We want to connect with people across different areas of customer service, sales, corporate diversity & inclusion, hospitality, non-profits, as well as education – so I’m hoping to build those connections at Dreamforce. While we will certainly be providing more value to educational institutions with the new integration for a variety of areas, from recruiting to advising to fundraising, expanding beyond the Higher Ed sector will be a big focus for us this year.
What are your goals for 2020 and beyond?
We want to iterate on the app that we built for Salesforce, building on feedback from our initial customers. The underlying system is an audio pronunciation recommendation engine that uses machine learning and other data algorithms to the surface the right version of the name pronunciation in a given context, drawing from the world’s largest database of accurate audio names. We would like to start to expand how we deliver that value, and how we deliver that system beyond Salesforce.
Our long-term vision is to make this a tool that allows people to respect someone’s identity from the first interaction in numerous ways. Since we are already working with universities on name pronunciation, we are moving towards gender identity and pronouns as well. Students are inputting their gender pronouns and their honorifics, and in some cases even their sexual orientation. As well as name meanings and cultural backgrounds. As we build our footprint across a lot of different verticals, we are starting to think about ways to go deeper into how people want to share their identities with others, and enable better connections with others.
Be sure to visit NameCoach at Dreamforce to meet Praveen and his team, or join a session! Find them at Booth 30 in the Trailhead area.