Rhetoric - February 2021 Recap

Finalizing the prototype and prepping for user interviews

Hey everyone,

February flew by! See below for updates on progress to date and product discussion notes.


  • We’ve officially deemed our prototype “good enough” and are implementing the final touches before starting to show it off to users and collect feedback

  • We developed some simple designs for the home page and meeting experience - screenshots and key user research questions below.

  • Auth0, Retool, Freshpaint, and Amplitude are all live. We also integrated with Stripe and are throwing together a product marketing landing page via Webflow. 

  • Ivan and I had some great discussions around positioning the company - notes below.

🌱 Wait, we have a prototype….that works? 

The prototype is still spartan, but it contains *enough* of the base functionality to start putting the product in front of users for research and testing. Our focus for this prototype is to understand how users integrate the app into their daily meetings. Specifically, is it used in real-time? Do users benefit from a live transcription during the meeting? Or, do they prefer a more synthesized design with chat-style notifications highlighting “areas of opportunity”?  We’ll dig into the basics of this through product metrics (DAU, time on app, meetings per user,  filters per user, WoW retention) and by interviewing as many users that are willing to chat with us.

🎉 Feature & Design Updates

Updated home page! Straightforward design with a clear CTA and access to prior meeting transcripts. 

We brainstormed a few different designs that would clearly notify the user of improvement opportunities without negatively distracting the user’s attention from the meeting. Users are now able to toggle between (1) viewing a live transcription with highlighted filter words OR (2) chat-style notifications when a “filter word” is spoken (see screenshot below). The chat-style interface will be where we integrate other features on our roadmap: pace analysis, speaker share, rambling notifications, meeting prep, note-taking, etc.

Create your own filters! Our research interviews highlighted that many users had a unique inventory of filler words they relied on when speaking: “obviously”, “if you know what I mean”, “from my perspective”, “just to be clear”. We’ve built in the functionality to add any filters that are specific to you in addition to a default set! 

🎯 Positioning

Ivan and I spent some time last week talking through product positioning. Is Rhetoric best described as “Grammarly for Zoom”? “Levels Health for soft skills”? “Alexa for habit building”? “Strava for meetings”? That’s enough cringy comparisons. 

We need to sell an actionable short-term vision (improve spoken communication) alongside our true north star / 10-year vision (companion AI to build better habits). A bit more about this: Alexa and Siri are great products to fetch information and automate mundane tasks (set reminders, play Spotify songs, etc.), but what we (myself, Ivan, and hopefully some of you) really want is AI that provides insight into our daily actions and offers relevant feedback on opportunities to improve. It’s a big and amorphous vision, but an important one. If I gave you data around your habits, tendencies, and behaviors - how would you change? Check out our 1:1 discussion here

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the difficulty of the problem we’re trying to solve. Selling a product that offers a path to self-improvement is never easy. I had a few discussions about this challenge over the past couple of weeks and a great metaphor came up: there is a big difference between creating (and selling) a “vitamin” versus a “painkiller”. A vitamin is a product that is “good for you” in the long-run. Not surprisingly, it garners great traction in user interviews: “Yes, I would LOVE that!”. However, vitamins are easily forgotten and rarely sticky because they do not provide immediate satisfaction. Painkillers, on the other hand, provide immediate results. This is a helpful framework when thinking about our roadmap and user segments - it is imperative that we prioritize features, designs, and user experiences that elicit a feeling of growth and improvement. This means easing public speaking anxiety and helping our users resonate with an identity of a strong spoken communicator. 

🦙 Other Updates

Launching a company in graduate school requires quite a bit of juggling between classes and extracurriculars. Luckily, most MBA programs do an excellent job of creating an environment to learn and execute simultaneously. We’re excited to be accepted into the Jumpstart Accelerator program at Northwestern for the summer (8-week accelerator with a non-dilutive grant). Additionally, this spring, we will be joining the NUvention AI Analytics program that gives us the opportunity to team up with designers and AI practitioners in masters and PhD programs at Northwestern to advance our prototype’s NLP abilities. 

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any ideas or questions about the product! The next update should be a big one (a link to a product?!) - stay tuned.

Raman & Ivan