Oct 29, 2014 Reetta Heiskanen
Imagine typing a tweet in English and having it appear in fluent Chinese a few minutes later in Weibo, the leading Chinese social media site. Or writing a press release for your company in your mother tongue and getting it translated into five different languages during the same day.
Transfluent is making this possible. The platform uses 125 213 professional translators worldwide to help the customer to automate communications in over 100 languages.
The company is able to translate all the communication channels that the customer is using – for example Zendesk messages, Facebook, Twitter and Weibo posts. Transfluent also translates apps and games into for example the top 10 most popular languages.
So far, the company has raised a total of $3,3 million in funding. In January this year, they announced a 900% increase in sales. Let’s hear what has brought them this far!
The story begins some eight years ago when I was living in China and started a company there. I didn’t speak any Chinese, and the locals didn’t speak English, so I learned to appreciate the importance of localized communication, and saw the difficulty of finding translators.
The idea stayed with me over the years, until three and a half years ago I was at a point where I could start building something new – Transfluent.
I have lived in 5 different countries, on 3 continents, and even now in my home we speak three different languages – English, Chinese and Finnish. I get to see the challenges with language barriers in daily life, and I know that what we do matters a lot. Being able to build something that could impact the lives of billions of people, and affect the global economy, is a major inspiration.
We have been pretty lucky that the problem we are solving is quite obvious to everyone, and so far it has been relatively easy to land great customers, and raise funding when needed. Obviously building a startup is never easy, and I have learned many lessons the hard way, but I really have no major complaints. A fantastic ride so far!
I have learned that it is important to think big enough. We actually had some trouble signing the first customers when we started out small, back in Finland. We could have easily given up back then, thinking that our idea sucked.
Later, when we decided to steer focus to the US market and go after the biggest brands and most successful companies on the planet, we found out that not only is it easier to land business deals with them, but they also totally love what we do. This experience has taught me that there is absolutely no goal that is too ambitious, and often it is indeed better to go after the big fish!
Funnily enough, it all happened without planning, over some drinks at one of the Slush parties last year. I bumped into Tero Ojanperä and we had a very good conversation. We kept talking through Slush and the whole deal was basically finalized while I was at the Helsinki airport about to board a flight back to Silicon Valley.
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