Speeko is using technology to create better public speakers

Nico Aguilar, CEO and co-founder of Speeko, pitches at the finals of the 2018 Young Entrepreneur Convention to Ben Milne, Tim Zarley, and Jason Calacanis. (Photo courtesy of Speeko).

Nico Aguilar still remembers his unsuccessful attempt to give a speech in his University of Iowa rhetoric class.

“I had a full-on anxiety attack in front of my entire class and it’s taken me a lot to come back from that,” Aguilar said. “It’s something I’ve always struggled with, my anxiety and confidence with public speaking.”

That moment served as a catalyst to improve his communication skills. Aguilar worked with a public speaking coach, recorded himself and read about how to improve his speaking skill in books and online and was able to slowly get better and better.

“That journey of improving changed my life and is the spark behind starting Speeko,” Aguilar said. “We want to bring this same breakthrough to a lot more people and we think technology is a way to do that.”

Speeko uses artificial intelligence and automated speech recognition to listen to how you speak, measuring a variety of metrics including words used, the pacing, all these different factors to see if you sound professional. The app then gives you coaching specifically tailored to how you can best improve your speaking skills.

In 2017, Speeko participated in the University of Iowa’s two main competitions—the Rose Francis Elevator Pitch Competition and Business Model Competition—and won both of them. Winning the Business Model Competition advanced them to the 2018 International Business Model Competition, where they placed as semifinalists.

Last year, Speeko was one of ten companies accepted into the Techstars Chicago Class of 2018. Upon being accepted into the three-month program, the company was provided $120,000 in funding and direct access to a mentor network made up of Chicago tech investors, executives and entrepreneurs. 

“TechStars really helped us connect with a lot of founders and folks in the midwest startup ecosystem,” Aguilar said. “It just accelerated what we were able to do in a set period of time. The built-in mentorship and networks through TechStars hav proven to be really helpful and resourceful for us.”

The launch of the Speeko app was announced at TechStars Demo Day on October 4. The app offers a free tier for users and a paid subscription tier that provides more advanced analytics.

“We think of communication as the next frontier in human productivity and corporate wellness,” Aguilar said. “We want to see people improve their ability to communicate and think there’s a big wellness component in what we’re doing with Speeko.”