SlatorPod is the weekly language industry podcast where we discuss the most important news and trends in translation, localization, and language technology. Brought to you by Slator.com.
#76 BLEND Enters Voice Services, Keywords CEO Retires, Propio Gets Growth Equity
In this week’s SlatorPod, Florian and Esther discuss the language industry news of the week, with BLEND’s acquisition of GM Voices, a voice and audio localization provider known for producing the original Siri for Apple.
Following RWS’ appointment of a new CEO, Keywords Studios announced the retirement of CEO Andrew Day, with Jon Hauck (CFO) and Sonia Sedler (COO) stepping up as interim CEOs while Keywords searches for its new leader.
In healthcare interpreting news, Esther talks about Propio Language Services’ growth equity investment from Triple Tree Capital Partners (TTCP) — which sees TTCP expand its portfolio into language services for the first time.
Meanwhile, Florian discusses the completion of video remote interpreting (VRI) provider Cloudbreak Health’s SPAC transaction following its merger with digital healthcare provider UpHealth.
#75 How Large Companies Buy Translation Services — With Procurement Cube’s Armand Brevig
Armand Brevig, Managing Director of Procurement Cube, joins the pod to discuss how language service providers (LSPs) can work with Procurement at large enterprises.
Armand touches on the rationale behind a consultancy firm like Procurement Cube. He talks about how they find clients and goes through the typical company profiles they assist.
He then shares how translation services fit into the company's portfolio, both from a buyer and sales perspective. He briefly goes through the evolution of the procurement function, from being transactional to strategic.
Armand mentions some of the common misconceptions that service vendors may have about procurement and tackles the perception of translation services as a commodity.
After delving into the importance of category management, Armand explores the preference for single-vendor strategies over multi-vendor. The pod closes with Armand’s outlook on the future and how Covid has re-orientated procurement spend.
First up, Florian and Esther discuss RWS’ appointment of Ian El-Mokadem as the new Group CEO. El-Mokadem. They also unpack RWS’ half-year report, which put revenues at USD 461.8m, with USD 6.2m contributed by Webdunia and Iconic Translation Machines.
Esther talks about subtitle, translation, and automatic transcription startup Subly’s USD 1m seed round. The company was founded in 2018 by Holly Stephens and reportedly started generating revenues from July 2020 in the middle of the pandemic.
Another transcription and captioning provider in the news this week was Verbit, which raised USD 157m in a Series D round, only weeks after acquiring VITAC.
On the tech side of things, Florian looks at a new offering in academia, with the University of Zurich’s Certificate in Advanced Studies in Translation Technology and AI. The duo also review a data anonymization project called MAPA (Multilingual Anonymization toolkit for Public Administrators).
#74 Remote Simultaneous Interpreting With Interactio Co-founder Simona Andrijauskaitė
Interactio Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer Simona Andrijauskaitė joins SlatorPod to discuss the Lithuanian startup’s journey.
Simona talks about how the pandemic boosted demand and changed their primary market, with institutions needing technology for multilingual communication. She relates how it was all hands on deck at the remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) platform, as years of development were compressed into weeks.
She also reflects back on their recent USD 30m round and how they managed to raise one of the biggest series As in the language industry. She closes with the company’s plans to improve quality on all levels, including hiring top talent.
First up, Florian and Esther discuss the language industry news of the week, kicking off with Straker Translations’ announcement of a USD 15.5m capital raise.
Esther talks about the Language Industry Job Index (LIJI) that, after a five-month growth streak, shrank for the first time since January 2021.
Esther also unpacks the controversial new RFP for translation services released by the Dutch Ministry of Justice (est. contract value, USD 40m), which has drawn criticism from translators and interpreters.
Meanwhile, Florian reviews the continuing evacuation from Afghanistan of the US Department of Defense, a story picked up by this week’s SlatorSweep.
#73 What’s New in Machine Translation with TextShuttle CTO Samuel Läubli
Samuel Läubli, Partner and CTO at TextShuttle, joins the pod to talk about the ins and outs of a language technology provider, and the current state of machine translation.
The CTO touches on his background in Computational Linguistics and decision to go back to the academe in 2016. He gives his take on the current state of machine translation, particularly weaknesses around sentence-by-sentence structure and limited control.
Samuel discusses his thesis, which tackles three key challenges in MT for professionals: quality, presentation, and adaptability. He debates whether machine translation can become truly creative without artificial general intelligence — or if it will always be considered imitation.
He then walks listeners through TextShuttle’s business model as well as the key problems the company solves for clients, ranging from producing MT systems to helping with configurations, workflows, and training translators.
First up, Florian and Esther discuss the language industry news of the week, where RSI platform Interactio announced that it had raised USD 30m in series A funding, led by VCs Eight Roads Ventures and Storm Ventures.
Esther delves into Straker’s 100-page annual report, which showed the Australia-listed LSP’s 13% revenue growth to USD 22.6m for the 12 months to March 31, 2021.
The duo also discusses Akorbi, another fast-growing language service provider (LSP), which recently acquired the low-code process automation platform RunMyProcess from Fujitsu.
Heading to Japan, Florian goes over Honyaku Center’s 2020 financial results, which saw revenues decline 14% to USD 91m and operating income nearly halved to USD 3.8m.
Florian closes the Pod full circle with more machine translation news: a research paper presented by Bering Lab about IntelliCAT, an MT post-editing and interactive translation model; and, out of big tech, Microsoft Document Translation, a recent addition to their enterprise MT offerings.
#72 Vistatec CEO Thomas Murray on Agile Localization and Organic Over Acquisitive Growth
Vistatec CEO Thomas Murray joins the pod to discuss the company’s international presence, the tech and business environment, and managing growing content volumes.
Thomas shares his insights on how geographic spread and the follow-the-sun model are important in serving clients. He explains why the language service provider (LSP) prefers organic growth over M&A, owing to the quality and longevity of customer relationships.
He also discusses how globalization has changed the way the LSP tackles “content explosion”; and how agility and speed of execution are crucial to scalability. The CEO also weighs in on ISO certification and how using it in the right way can lead to operational excellence.
Finally, Thomas reflects on the past year as Vistatec moved its operations online and kept staff safe through Covid.
First up, Florian and Esther share key takeaways from SlatorCon Remote, which drew in nearly 300 attendees and facilitated 200-300 individual networking sessions. This year’s SlatorCon Remote highlighted the message of growth with Iyuno-SDI CEO David Lee pointing out how 2020 was a peak year for OTT.
In the UK Esther touches on two healthcare translation and interpreting framework contracts that are valued at over USD 500m. Meanwhile, Florian goes over the top paying states and job prospects in the United States as presented in US BLS’ annual Occupational Outlook Handbook.
#71 Unbabel CEO Vasco Pedro on Translation Productivity, Lisbon’s Startup Scene, Growth Plans
Vasco Pedro, CEO of Unbabel, joins SlatorPod to discuss the company’s growth journey — from identifying the initial use case to raising USD 60m in Series C funding in 2019, and beyond.
Vasco outlines Unbabel’s translation pipeline and underlying technology. He describes the importance of the human-in-the-loop model and the ability humans have to impact the output of machine learning (ML) models.
The CEO talks about the challenges of ‘going remote’ overnight in response to Covid. Vasco says culture plays an important role in attracting top talent globally in the highly-competitive AI / ML space.
Vasco also shares his experience with investors, such as Point72’s Sri Chandrasekar, lead investor in Unbabel’s Series C, who provide actionable insights on how to further scale the business.
First up, Florian and Esther discuss the launch of the flagship Slator 2021 Language Industry Market Report. The duo share highlights from the 80-page, newly-released Market Report, which features a wealth of insights and data.
They also tackle over a week’s worth of M&A, as Florian unpacks Big Language Solutions’ acquisition of US-based interpreting provider Language Link, and discusses the backstory to Big CEO Jeff Brink’s “tenacity, honesty, and desire” in closing the deal.
Esther talks about translation and interpreting provider Propio Language Services’s acquisition of Vocalink — also in the US — while in Germany, she highlights GEtraNet’s acquisition of Lingua-World. Florian closes by reviewing AI transcription agency Verbit’s acquisition of captioning provider VITAC.