Machine translation startup Language I/O raises $5M


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Language I/O, a startup providing AI technologies for real-time, company-specific language translations, today announced that it raised $5 million. The company says it plans to put the funding toward customer acquisition as it expands the size of its workforce.

In the digital era, translating information into different languages can have an impact on businesses. For example, there’s a risk of losing 40% or more of the total addressable market if online stores aren’t localized. In countries like Sweden, over 80% of online shoppers prefer to make a purchase in their own language. And around 75% of all online shoppers say that they’re more likely to purchase again if the after-sales care is in their language.

Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Language I/O, which was founded in 2011, claims to perform more accurate, personalized translations via an engine that intelligently selects neural machine learning models for requests and adopts preferred translations for product names, misspellings, acronyms, industry jargon, and slang. Customers tell Language I/O which words they want in their dictionary, which enables the models to improve over time across more than 100 languages.

“Our platform proactively detects new terms and phrases that require a translation [and] encrypts and pseudonymizes personal data,” CEO Heather Morgan Shoemaker told VentureBeat via email. “Language I/O uses natural language processing techniques to engineer unique features from the data, which power the machine learning models. We also use a special type of unsupervised neural network called a self-organizing map to automatically detect and flag anomalous content before a human even sees it. A second model uses this data to identify potential glossary terms and the external translation quality feedback allows it to adjust and improve over time.”

Andrea Paragona, senior manager at Constant Contact, a Language I/O customer, has been using the platform to interact with multilingual clients. “Language I/O enables us to deliver our knowledge base content to our expanding international audience in their native language,” she said. “This is extremely meaningful to our customers, who can then focus on learning the tool without concern for translation.”

Language I/O integrates with customer relationship management systems including Zendesk, Oracle, and Salesforce and offers an API that allows clients to access company-specific translations. These systems benefit from the aforementioned feedback provided by agents and the professional linguists that Language I/O works with to fine-tune its core technology.

While Language I/O’s platform is currently focused on translation in channels like email, articles, chat, and social messaging, Shoemaker says the company — whose competitors include Lilt — is poised to extend beyond basic support to “anywhere that businesses need conversational translation.” (Think Slack channels, gamer-to-gamer chats, virtual meeting tech, and learning management platforms.) It’s already testing new solutions with its roughly 60 customers including Shutterstock, PhotoBox, and Brave.

“The pandemic caused our monthly recurring revenue to double in a matter of a couple of months during the pandemic as companies stopped traveling to staff up native-speaking agents globally,” Shoemaker continued. “Our technology offers a viable alternative and with advances in the quality of neural machine translation just in the past year, it’s even more attractive than it was just a year ago.”

PBJ Capital, Gutbrain Ventures, and Omega Venture Partners led the series A raised today, with participation from individual investors Michael Wilens, Tom Axbey, and Eric Schnadig, along with early-stage investment firm Golden Seeds, which focuses on startups with female founders. Twenty-employee Language I/O claims to have been bootstrapped since 2015, with the exception of a $500,000 seed round in October 2020.


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