January 9, 2012 The Oregonian
Sheetal Dube hopes her small idea can make a big difference, one correct pronunciation at a time.
As global interactions become increasingly common — and the variety of names we come across becomes more diverse — Dube wants to bridge the gap between online interactions and real-life conversations.
The first-time entrepreneur launched Audioname in April. The web application lets people record their own name, then attach an audio clip of it to emails, blogs and social network pages.
“It’s just one idea,” Dube said. “But it can really impact a lot of people.”
The startup landed a spot in the Portland Seed Fund’s inaugural class lastyear and won the BendVenture Conference’s concept stagecompetition in October.
More than 750 people have already signed up to use Audioname. The site has attracted traffic from more than 100 countries, including some of its key targets: China and Brazil.
A longtime user-experience consultant, she knows better than most how the first few moments of a conversation can impact relationships.
Product: Web application thatrecords your name and shares it through email and social networks.
Funding: $25,000 from the Portland Seed Fund and $10,000 from the Bend Venture Conference. Dube has fronted the rest of the startup costs, and is in the middle of a $200,000 investment round to take Audioname to the next level.
In Dube’s own words: “It’s a mission to connect people better. It seems like a mission to connect the world.”
One momentin particular made an impression on her when she attended a presentation with abusiness partner. No one had trouble referring to her co-worker, Mary, shesaid, “but you could see their face cringing as they had to say my name.”
By the way, it’s Shee-tul Doo-bay. But Dube’s colleagues don’t have trouble with it these days. They can hear her pronounce it on her LinkedIn page, email messages and any other way they interact online.
“It’s something that’s just so subtle,” she said. “But once youtalk about it … that’s how it all started.”
The idea won over judges at StartupWeekend Portland last year, giving her the validation she wanted to pursue Audioname full time.
After launching a beta version in September and collecting feedback, she’s pursuing a $200,000 venture capital round.
She’ll spend the first half of 2012 targeting customers and refining her business plan. She’s also exploring more applications for Audioname and partnerships with key websites, such as LinkedIn.
“It has been quite an adventure,” Dube said. “It really started with an idea.”
—Molly Young,503-412-7056, @PDXSmlBizNews
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