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The 1M/1M Incubation Radar 2014: Pronounce Names, San Jose, CA

Posted on Monday, Aug 25th 2014

In today’s increasingly multi-cultural society, you often come across the need to find the correct pronunciation of a name, a place, or even an item on the menu. You could find the correct pronunciation of a place in a dictionary, but how do you find the correct pronunciation of a name?

To address this need, Pinky Thakkar, in 2006, launched Pronounce Names, the “dictionary of name pronunciation”. It is a free website dedicated to help people pronounce names correctly. The pronunciation-sharing website includes phonetic spellings and audio recordings of more than 100,000 names. People can learn how to pronounce names and can submit the correct pronunciations of names. People can even request for the pronunciation of names. Pronounce Names is available online and also as an Android application.

The idea for the site was born when Pinky, an engineer from Mumbai, moved to the Bay area. As the Bay area is highly diverse culturally with people from all over the world, she found that for her and her friends from abroad, pronouncing names of people and places was a huge challenge.

Pinky says, “A relationship begins with a name and it’s important to say it correctly.” As a person in a foreign land, forging new relationships and learning the pronunciation of new names and places was a necessity. There was, however, no website at that time to help people pronounce names. The only way to know the correct pronunciation was to either guess or ask others. She, therefore, created a platform where people can go submit the pronunciation of their names and others can look it up and can pronounce it correctly.

Pronounce Names is like a Wikipedia where people can submit the pronunciation of a name and it is instantly live. The website also offers additional information about a name such as its origin, meaning, alternate spellings, etc.

When the website was first launched, there was no competition. However, its competitors now include inogolo, Hear Names, and Google.

Pronounce Names currently has over 1 million visitors in a month and its Alexa ranking in the US is under 10,000. They penetrated the market through SEO and word-of-mouth publicity.

Their top target segments are Sales and Marketing, Customer Service, Universities, Hospitality industry, and Fraud. Its users include eBay, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, etc.

Currently, their monetization is through Google AdSense. Pinky says, “We get two to three emails per week from advertisers asking for advertising space on our website.”

As for their growth strategy, they plan to keep collecting names and add functionalities like reverse look up. They recently launched an Android app and have plans to launch an iPhone app as well.

The company was entirely bootstrapped through personal savings and income from another business, 360 Biometrics. Currently, Pronounce Names is able to generate enough revenue to cover its expenses.

This segment is a part in the series : The 1M/1M Incubation Radar 2014

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