Naureen Anwar is the CEO and Co-founder of NameShouts - a platform that helps the world pronounce names. Naureen graduated in electrical, computer and software engineering from McGill University in Montréal, Canada. She has over 10+ years of experience in software development and prior to starting NameShouts, she worked in software development and project management roles in companies like SAP and Nortel.
Naureen is passionate about using technology to solve problems. With NameShouts, she hopes to bring the world together by giving everyone a universal name pronunciation tool.
Chaity Tarafder is the COO, and co-founder of NameShouts. She has a background in Economics from McGill University but followed her passion for language and data into the world of tech startups. She works with native speakers from diverse backgrounds and manages teams of over 20 people to build a database of over 400,000 names in 21+ languages.
Working on NameShouts combines her love for tech and humanities and she loves the challenge of mapping the world’s culture through names.
Request feedback on just about anything related to your business, marketing material, product designs, product packaging, almost anything. Respondents submit written comments with every pic Fu poll. And now you can use the coupon code, NOT101 for a free 15 person firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Olivier [00:00:00] Welcome to business, not 1 0 1 hosted by me, Olivier Bousette, founder, entrepreneur podcast creator. In this episode, we explore the founder's journey from their aha moment to the roadblocks and problems to what they would've done differently in hindsight, and the unique solutions they came up with. I hope you enjoy this episode.
Hi guys, welcome to business, not 1 0 1. Let's get right into it. Give us your introduction and your 60 second business pitch.
Chaity Hi everyone. Thank you for having us here today. I'm Chaity. I'm one of the co-founders of name shouts. I am also the COO I take care of operations and data at name shout.
Naureen Hi my name is Naureen. I am one of the co-founders of name shouts. You know, as a startup, we have multiple roles. I'm the CEO and the CTO. So what is name, shouts name? Shouts is a platform that helps you pronounce names. Every new relationship, every new connection that we [00:01:00] make you know, it starts with learning a new name and we help people do that.
So it's you know, if you are at work or if you have a meeting and you know, you don't know how to pronounce a name, you can go to our website, you can type in a name if you know the language of origin, that's great. And you get instant. To the audio and the phonetic reselling of the name. So today we support 400,000 names across 22 of the world's most used languages.
They include languages like Hindi, Tamil, Hebrew you know, Arabic and people who use us today. They primarily use us for work. So we. Last month we have had over 50,000 visitors and they include individuals, small businesses and, you know, large enterprises like Humana and and Allstate.
Olivier That's really interesting. So. Aha moment behind this project.
Naureen Yeah. So I think Jo and I, we, we had like different sort of, we [00:02:00] experienced the problem in, in different ways. Right after graduating from McGill, I started working at a German company and I was coming across a lot of hard to pronounce European names. And, you know, we were, I was having hard time finding a good solution on the internet and Chote I think she faced the problem in another.
Chaity Yeah, so I was on the receiving end of this problem. My name it's not written, the spelling is not phonetic, so. Gets mispronounced a lot. I get called Katie or charity a lot. And I also was a new immigrant to Quebec. I didn't speak any French and I was butchering French names all the time. So it wasn't one Eureka moment.
It was more like a persistent frustration over time that Norin and I were both having, and eventually we were like, let's create a solution. There has to be a better.
Olivier Yeah, it's interesting. And that's so true. It's one of the problems we face coming to a new place or working with a new company, certainly international [00:03:00] company. So that's great. When you first started this to where you are now, did you guys have a major pivot or. Or has your business remained pretty much in line with what you originally.
Naureen I think that when we first build a tool, we sort of created it for ourselves. And, you know, initially we were having a lot of problem with. What we call foreign names. So names that were basically not English names and When we sort of released the website. I think one of the feedback that we got from our users is that they wanted English.
And I think while building name shouts, we realized that English names, especially English last names can be very, very complicated. So I think right now we, we support all the languages and our vision is really to become a universal name, pronunciation tool. And I think the other major pivot that we had is that we started off as maybe not knowing a lot about the.
Aspect. And we realized that people who were using us most who were having this problem more, more frequently were, you know, salespeople who were. [00:04:00] Trying to, you know, close a deal or reach out to a new client. And they, they mentioned that like for them, time is often a factor. So they mentioned that they would love, you know an an integration next to maybe a customer's name.
So we realized that, you know, we had to prioritize working on the API so that they could have the play button next to, you know, any name on any CRM and not waste time, but have it right at their fingertip.
Olivier That's really interesting. And I like the API part of it that you were mentioning. I think that's so important. Certainly for sales people, to be able to pronounce the person's name, to get that opening conversation started. And that's something we don't think of. A lot of people use email to sort of cover that up.
But even when you do talk to the person, if you're in a position that you're reaching out to them, it's really important to say their name properly. A lot of people take offense when their name is sort of butchered. And I am the king of butchering names. So I know , that's why it happens to me all the time.
All right. Since, since you've launched this, what was one of the biggest roadblocks you guys encount.[00:05:00]
Chaity Yeah. So when you were a startup founder, like in the early stages, there are many roadblocks, there are many challenges you. But the biggest was probably one was funding. We had to be very capital efficient. We had to make, like we had to prioritize, you know, what to spend on because there, the resources are very limited.
Even our time is very limited there at the beginning. There were just the two of us, me and NOK. So we had to brutally prioritize because if something needs to be done, one of us has to do it. There are no other resources available. So yeah. Prioritizing and deciding what to. Like choosing what to spend money on and what to fore.
Olivier Yeah, funding is one of the hardest things I think. Most startups. And did you guys feel as two women because you two women founders, did you struggle to get financing and to get funding from investment firms? Or did you bootstrap your project from get go and it was never an issue.
Naureen Yeah. So we, we essentially bootstrap because I think when I quit my job, I had a little bit of [00:06:00] savings, which I put. Business. And then, you know, Cho and I, we were part-time on this until 2019 actually. So we, we had, I think that there, there are probably issues, you know, that woman founders face when it comes to funding, like we can look at the stats and stuff, but one on one, we try to not sort of think about it.
You know, we, we sort of wanna pitch and present the best version of ourselves and our company. And then we, we try to sort of you. Like get funding, you know, if possible. But I think, I think that would probably be our advice to, to minority founders is that, you know, do your best. And there's probably enough people there.
There's probably an investor out there who love your business. Who'd get you and would wanna invest on you. And I think we got a lot of help from the community because. We were minority woman founders. You know, I think that there are some pros to, to being a minority woman, founder, you were you know, I think people are more likely to meet you.
They, they, you know, they invite you to events. So in there are pros [00:07:00] and cons, you know, to being, being a woman, founder. Jo, do you have anything to add to that?
Chaity And funding is extremely challenging for everyone. We speak to many like male straight male, white founders, and it's very challenging for them as well. It's not easy for anybody. So I don't know if it has been specifically hard for us. I think this is just a very challenging problem for everybody at our stage.
Olivier Yeah, it's true. Only 1% of businesses get funded.
And certainly if you don't have a full team. So if you're a solo entrepreneur, it's almost impossible getting funding. because they would, they want teams. So looking now forward to your next part of your business and sort of looking backwards at your roadblocks, if you can go and leave yourself a 30 or 60 voice mail
what would it say that you should do differently or that you should have jumped on first?
Naureen Do you wanna take
Chaity voicemail. That's very challenging. Yeah. I would just tell myself to you know, like you. Believe in name shouts, keep going basically what we have done, actually like keep [00:08:00] going keep working towards it. Maybe prioritize better, maybe like, you know, one of the advices that we have learned, maybe don't try to do everything yourself.
Try to delegate more yeah. Try to get other people. Hire professionals. If you.
Naureen Yeah, I think for me, for me, it would be similar. Yeah. Yeah,
Olivier For me is hiring an accountant right away,
Olivier because it's something that you don't think of until it's a bit late. And then you're scrambling to find things every tax season.
Olivier switching gears a little bit for marketing. What has been your most successful tool for marketing name? Shouts.
Naureen Yeah. So we, we sort of, we didn't have a very concrete marketing plan. You know, we, we started out as, as we mentioned that we didn't really know what we were doing. We sort of stumbled on like figuring out the right channels that works for a name shout. So I think for us content marketing has been really, really great, you know, we we have [00:09:00] like, we have a freemium business model in the sense that we provide our service for free.
And I think that tends to generate, generate like a lot of organic word of mouth if your product is good. And I think that's been a very. Helpful channel and overtime because of content marketing. We, we were, you know, ranked higher in our SEO and that helped bring up a lot of organic traffic. So most of our growth has actually been organic because you know like Google keywords and, you know, we, we just prioritize SEOs and content marketing, and that seemed to work really, really well.
Olivier That's really interesting. Do you feel with LinkedIn, certainly just how I met you, do you, this LinkedIn really working for you guys? Certainly because it is much more of sort of tuned towards business people using it and for the API, has that something been very successful for you guys?
Naureen So we've tested LinkedIn and LinkedIn is, is great. I think it's, it's definitely one of the channels for us. It's actually been Twitter. Twitter has been really, really helpful when it, when it comes to name shouts, [00:10:00] we've been able to find, you know, the right customers, the right. Influencers who really get this, who identify with their problem.
And we often see our users, you know, like recommending our product on Twitter. So, but yeah, so I think every, you know, business will probably have their right social media channel, whether it's, you know, TikTok or LinkedIn or Instagram or for us it's Twitter. Yeah.
Olivier That that's really interesting. You mentioned TikTok and I spend way too much time on TikTok. So being an expert in it, I feel are you guys planning to go onto that? Because I think it's you guys sort of a unique business model that actually would fit really well in TikTok to show people how pronounced names and the difficulty around it.
Is this something you guys are looking.
Naureen It's definitely something we are looking into. So our head of like our marketing person, Seth is, has been playing, playing around with TikTok. So it's something that you're right. It's very viral and, you know, names are often butchered, so it's, it's perfect TikTok content and it's something that we definitely wanna explore more.[00:11:00]
Chaity Yeah. Name shelf needs a TikTok channel.
Olivier It does it does, you know, just for me just to be watch these things. Cause I think it'd be so funny watching people. And I think there's a lot of content creation right there just saying names. So, but on the next step with social media, where do you guys feel that it's probably one of the best outlets for your business to move forward to.
So let's say if you had to get out of going from sales to some. Field, where would it go? Would it be education? . Or is it something you, you feel it's always gonna sort of remain in the sales aspect?
Naureen Yeah. So we, we monitor like, so we have data analytics on the website and I. We were surprised a bit by our findings, especially, I guess ever since COVID happened, sales activity sort of went down and we could see that people have been using name shout. Educators have been using name trouts a lot more and very, very frequently especially in the us.
And after talking to a few [00:12:00] of the teachers, as well as the students, we realized why that's the case? I think almost 50%. So gen Z is like the most diverse generation ever, and they really care about their identity and culture and they, you know, they, they take pride in their names. So teachers really.
Make that effort to pronounce students names correctly. We also found that HR actually, so, you know, as we are doing more remote meetings, as zoom calls have become, you know, more the norm you wanna create, you wanna feel connected, you know, to your coworkers and, you know, it's, that's hard to do if.
Keep butchering their names on zoom calls. So we see that there's an uptick in usage in HR and like people just, you know, trying to create more inclusive and work environments for their colleagues and just try to connect with each other more.
Olivier That's really interesting. Yeah. That's why I felt, I felt when I was watching a website and playing with it, I felt it wasn't just a sales tool. And that's why I asked because I see so many opportunities you know, certainly with [00:13:00] linguistics and teachers and HR, I didn't even think about it, but so true.
Communities events. That's something that a lot of people, unless you have a lot of experience with names I'm, I'm always amazed at a MC host who can actually say everybody's names properly, because if I was up on stage, I'd be butchering everybody's names and like, you know, having to repeat a million in my times in my head.
So switching gears a little bit, and to, we have like, to know more about you guys as entrepreneurs, and I'd like to know one thing that I ask everybody is. Because you're busy and it's, there's so many dynamics in your, in your business. How do you guys stay productive?
Naureen Okay. So I'll go first. I, so I for productivity is an interest of mine. So Cho probably knows. I read like all the, the business books and stuff and all the best practices. And I'm like trying out different systems. I think for me, what's currently working is especially for entrepreneurs. I think it's important to focus.
because I think there are just so many millions of things that, that, you know, you can do. There are, so there are so many good ideas, right? That, [00:14:00] that, that might work for your business, but you have to identify which one will be like the most effective and really, really focus on that. I think that also like, Scheduled time for deep work.
So, you know, just like four hours where you're just working on a task, like, and make sure that, you know, you're not interrupted, which is very, very difficult. But schedule that time. And I think the other, probably the one is that yeah, have a not todo list. So, you know, don't do everything, you know, delegate as much as possible, but also, yeah, you cannot do everything, but do the things that matter most, and it's very hard to do.
Chaity Yeah for me again, I try to be productive, but I think what really helps is like the things that Norine mentioned on top of that I think for myself, having deadlines, help having like a list of priorities, making sure I'm only working on the highest priority things right now. Because that's a [00:15:00] challenge for me because I am an ideas person.
I. I get distracted by the newest shiniest idea. So it's very hard for me to sometimes focus on the more like tedious tasks that need to get done and not work on the, you know, the cool, coolest thing that is like in right now. So yeah, it's just sticking to priorities, setting deadlines for myself and making sure I stick to.
Olivier Yeah, I hear same thing for me. I do time blocking and two minute rules. So if it can be done two minutes, I get it done in the morning. And time blocking to block out everything. I shut off my phone, I take everything away and I focus on the task. Because otherwise, like I said, I can get on TikTok and then next thing you know, it's separate time and I'm like, oh, you know, what did I do?
What is one thing that drains your time? That's you wish you could sort of pass on to somebody else? And again, I would say like, accounting is one of my pet peeves, but what is it for you guys?
Naureen [00:16:00] Troy, you wanna go
Chaity Yeah. So personally for me the admin, the legal work definitely could be done by someone else. It's not necessarily difficult, but does take up a lot of time. And I feel like this is easily, someone else could do. Yeah, a lot of the HR work like, you know, contracts and stuff could definitely be given to someone.
Naureen Yeah, I think for me, it's accounting. I second that accounting can be a pain point. I think having like some kind of software, like we use QuickBooks. That definitely helps, but it's not as automated as it can be. That's just my general thoughts, I think. Yeah. Yeah.
Olivier That's so funny, my accountant, if he listens to this podcast, I'll be very happy to hear that he still has a job at the end of this. Everybody always does the same thing by counting. So one thing I always ask people is, did you guys have a mentor or a business coach that helped you along?
And if yes. Do you suggest people to have one.
Naureen Yes. So [00:17:00] I think our advice would be have many, you know, business coaches, like maybe have three or four people you, you really, really admire. So when we did found your fuel, but even before that, we've always had. Business coaches that have been like guiding us and helping us. And it it's, it's important to find people, especially, I guess the best business coaches would be maybe founders, you know, who are maybe three or four or five years ahead of you, maybe a series B or series C founders because they, they can help you a lot.
But also someone maybe. 20 years older has been like, you know, in the business for a long time. So I think it's good to have different perspectives. So I wouldn't say have one, have many and have like different perspectives because then they will help you challenge your thinking and you know, you'll have a bit better understanding of the business and, and the landscape joy.
Chaity Yeah. So I highly recommend having mentors and I would say have different mentors at different stages of your company because. Startups move so [00:18:00] fast. Like your company is different every six months. So you need mentors for different stages and you definitely need multiple mentors. Like for example, for us, when we were in the incubation stage, we had mentorship from district three.
Then we did founder full when we were a little bit more mature. And then now we have a different set of mentors again, through like mentor connective, district three. So have different mentors at different stages and definitely get multiple mentors to help you in different areas of your.
Olivier That's brilliant. Yeah, really well said. Are you guys planning to be mentors for other businesses? If you're not already.
Chaity Yeah, we would love to we are still fairly early stage, but if there are founders, especially female founders, this is like a cause very like close to my heart. If I can help them with anything at all. Kind of advice. If they're at an earlier stage than us, I would love to help them, even if it's like a, not a former mentor, mentee relationship.
If they just wanna talk to me for a few minutes, [00:19:00] I'm always available to talk to them.
Olivier Yeah, I think that's brilliant. It's because you guys have seven years of experience in a couple of incubators. You have a lot. Your belt that most people don't get to experience, certainly for people who start their business later in life, it's harder for them to get into these programs because they're sort of not in that sort of circle.
And I find, I always ask people that question now, because I wonder how many people have, you know they have, you know, either a mentor or a business coach, and then I ask them, would you do it for somebody? And they're always like, oh yeah, I haven't thought about that. So I think it's really important to keep passing around the information.
So that's that's brilliant. question I'd like to ask everybody is certainly cuz now you guys are a team and you have a team of people that work with you. How do you guys do your wellbeing? How do you keep yourselves in, you know, mental and physical shape? Because it's obviously taxing having a business and everything that goes with it.
Naureen Yeah. So for me, I don't probably work out as much as I should or watch my diet as much as I should, but I think one habit. [00:20:00] that I sort of have taken on in the last two years is just trying to meditate. You know maybe like actually I, 20 minutes a day, I, I try to meditate first thing in the morning.
And the other thing that's really helped joy and me, and I think it's also helped our co-founder relationship is that few or four times a day, we would go for walks, especially during quarantine together and discuss the business and our life. And I think that. It's really important to schedule downtime, you know, as a founder, because I think it's, it is a very long road.
We all, you know, it's usually like quick success stories are really rare. So you have to like, you know, take rest and make sure you don't burn out because that can happen.
Chaity Yeah, for me going on walks with Nora and even by myself have been very helpful. And just maybe sometimes just doing nothing, you know, you sit around and do nothing and you just think about things. So doing nothing for maybe, you know, 10, 20 minutes a day is very important. [00:21:00] And you know, do things nice things for yourself, you know, get a massage, go for like a spa or, you know, get a manicure, do something nice for yourself once in.
Olivier Yeah, that's really important. It's self-care and doing things for yourself and downtime. I think that's important. Switching gears a little bit. This is one that I really enjoy. Is there a business book that you have either and each of who you can answer this, that you've read that has had an impact.
It either be a, a business book or non-business book, but that had a direct impact on your business. And so your entre, your journey of entrepre.
Naureen Yeah. So I guess for me, I, I think I, the one book that I recommend, you know, early stage founders, it's, it's called the mom test. So it basically just talks about how to interview your potential users or customers. And I think that's something we cuz you know, we, you, as an entrepreneur, you often have an idea, but I, I do think.
You know, validating that with your, your customers is very important and that [00:22:00] book has it's more tactical, but it has some, some really good good points. And that's, that's sort of why we built like this new, so name, shout, the earlier version was more for the consumer. And then we sort of took out the lessons from the mom test and we interviewed our, you know, core group of users.
And that's how we sort of build this new version, which was based on what they wanted. So I would recommend that book, the mom.
Chaity Yeah, for me, it was probably the book getting things done. It's a good book for productivity. I think you've read it as well. You mentioned it earlier in the podcast. I don't read a lot of business books, but I think this has really helped me like keep track of my tasks.
Olivier Excellent. Yes, the mom. Heard of, but I hadn't actually read the book. So that's really interesting. All right. If you can have a coffee with a famous entrepreneur, who would it be and why I'll let each of you answer that?
Naureen You wanna go
Chaity [00:23:00] Yeah. So for me, I think it's gonna be Tim Ferris just because I'm a big fan of his books and his podcasts. I listen to him a lot. And I like that. He's not just about business. He talks about, you know, just life in general, he talks about like health diet. It, so I, I think we could have like a well rounded convers.
Naureen Yeah. And, and for me, it's actually Melanie Perkins from canva.com. So she she's an Australian founder. She built her business out of Silicon valley. I just really love her values. I think that, you know, as tech people, we, we focus a lot on maybe the numbers and, you know, the revenue, but I think we should also like.
Think about the social impact of our work and like be a bit more well rounded. And I think she, she has that and she's built I hear that the culture of Canada is amazing. So, you know, at some point we wanna have a great culture name, shout. So I wanna know how she did that.
Olivier That's great. All right. Last question. How could people reach out and connect with you? [00:24:00] What's the best.
Naureen Yeah. So for me, I'm always available on Twitter and LinkedIn. So, you know, I'm, you know, you can always reach out to me and drop in a message and you know, I'll get back back to you for sure. Yeah. I try to get back to everyone who messages me. So.
Chaity Yeah, same. I'm on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can look me up ter and I try to reply to anyone who reaches out to me. So just drop me a line and I'll get back to you.
Olivier Excellent. And we'll be adding those links onto the, this podcast description. So I wanna thank you both for having the patience through all this. The initial hiccup, but as well, taking the time to have this interview with me. So I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Naureen you for having us. It's it's been an absolute pleasure, right, Jo.
Chaity Thank you so much for having us. And it was wonderful talking to you and I hope we gave something interesting to your listeners.
Olivier Thank you for joining us today and listening to this episode of business, [00:25:00] not 1 0 1. I hope that this interview gave you some invaluable insights and that will help you along your business journey. If you have any questions, comments, feel free to reach out to me and as always, please like share and follow.
Thank you and tell next episode.