Danish Dhamani, a first-time entrepreneur and Drexel University engineer, has built the Orai app, tapping artificial intelligence to help people hone their public speaking skills.

“Right now Orai gives feedback on just your delivery, the mechanics, your filler words, your pace, your energy, but down the line, we want to make this artificial intelligence that gives human-like feedback,” Dhamani, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Tanzania, told citybizlist in a video interview. “If you were to talk to a speech coach, they would also critique you on your content, on the logic of your speech, your structure, your rhetoric, your words, your diction. Orai would do that.”

Dhamani has headed the Philadelphia chapter of Toastmasters International over the past year after discovering he himself could use some public speaking skills. Prior to starting Orai, he served short stints at Globus Medical and Pennsylvania Machine Works. Dhamani believes he has been “terribly lucky” to be where he is with his startup in such a short amount of time. The secrets of his rise: inspiration from his mother, the street smarts of his father and surrounding myself with a bunch of smart people.

EDWIN WARFIELD: So, how’s it going out at Orai?

DANISH DHAMANI: This week was really exciting. We got an article published in Fast Company, which has international reach. We got a domino effect from that, where we got another article published in Wired, and that really built credibility.

Now, if you go on Oraiapp.com we have highlighted over there featured in VentureBeat, Fast Company, (and) Wired, and that really helps you as a startup, where you have not so many customers. That really helps you, but apart from just credibility it brought us so many users. We were getting thousands of new users every day, people from all sorts of backgrounds and people reaching out to me on LinkedIn, offering their services, offering partnerships.

For example, yesterday someone from the U.K., who is one of the world’s top speech writers, he helps run master classes at the U.N., writes speeches for ministers in the U.K., he approached us and said, Danish you have built an excellent technology, imagine the synergy we could have if you partner with a domain expert. What beautiful things we could create together, and so those kinds of partnerships are the next steps. You have an app, but to really get a worldwide reach, you need to form partnerships with the right people, and that’s some of the next few steps that I am working on.

EDWIN WARFIELD: You came to the U.S. from Tanzania just five years ago. What has guided you on this entrepreneurial journey?

DANISH DHAMANI: My parents are the reason I am who I am today. Like my mother, she has been instilling in me the soft skills like being ethical, having integrity, having this notion of giving back. I got all of that from my mother. Never doubting or compromising your fundamental principles, that’s something I got from my mother. Being a good human being is very fundamental. She actually did her PhD in spirituality and nursing, like something to look together; and so she is, I think, in my opinion, someone very well accomplished and the reason she is there is because she has been a good human, and so she has been instilling in me that, and being grateful, having gratitude towards whoever is helping you be out there.

And from my father I got all the street smarts. He dropped out of college because he had to support his siblings – his two sisters back in Pakistan and India – and so he just started off with the family business, running that, finding any opportunity he could and being able to support us for me to be able to come to the U.S. It is a heavy burden on parents, right? But my father, I think he is very street smart, and I got all of that business-mindedness from him.

I am a first-time entrepreneur, and I have been terribly lucky to be where I am in this short amount of time, and that’s not just because of what is in here, but it’s because of all the people I surround myself with. I never worked in sales. I am not a public speaking expert, but I have surrounded myself with sales leaders, with top sales trainers, with the top public speakers. And by surrounding myself with them, I have been like a sponge, extracting the best from everywhere and that’s what I think an entrepreneur is. You go out there, find the experts that are solving the pain point you want to solve, find the best ways of solving that, find the most efficient ways of solving the problem, and build a solution, and that’s what I have been doing.

I have so many mentors, some in Philadelphia, some on the west coast, some back home, and its all because of their continuous guidance, continuous mentorship that I am where I am right now. Like if I am trying to close an enterprise deal, it’s a long sales cycle. I’ve never done that, but I invite one of my mentors always on my call, and he sits there and guides me. Danish, you should do this next time, or that was really good, you really appreciated the decision-maker in that call, you really put him up there, and I think this call will go through.

Connect with Danish on LinkedIn

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