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Verbalizeit, a startup service connecting human translators to travelers and businesses with one phone call, announced an iPhone app, two new business partners, and five new team members at last week’s TechStars Demo Day in Boulder, Colorado.
When the company entered the startup accelerator earlier this summer, they were a bootstrapped team of two. The co-founders met at the Wharton School of Business where they shared similar travel horror stories of finding themselves unable to ask for help in a foreign language. This sparked the idea for the company they founded in March 2011, then known as PalmLing.
A win-win translation service
Travelers and businesses pay between $.50 and $1.00 per minute to speak with a human translator. The service can be used for giving directions in a taxi in Spanish, asking about food allergies in Hindi, or communicating with business suppliers in Japanese, explains co-founder Ryan Frankel.
Although the benefits for monolingual travelers are clear, Verbalizeit is also helping thousands of bi-lingual speakers earn a little extra cash. Parents, students, and retirees make up the estimated 2,000 translators on call around the world.
Translators mark themselves as available whenever they are free to take phone calls and users’ calls are randomly routed to a person with the appropriate language skill set. Frankel describes it as “essentially a platform that enables people with a second language to monetize on that skill.”
Mobile services for translating on the go
The mobile app is especially helpful for travelling abroad as users aren’t charged roaming fees. Travelers select the two languages they need translated and are connected with a translator. The app is available on iOS and Android.
If a traveler is abroad without a smartphone, they can buy a local mobile phone and Verbalizeit will send them a local number to connect with the network of translators for the same costs as a local call.
Verbalizeit is currently working on a picture-based translation service. Users would be able to take a photo of a sign or menu and send it to a translator who would reply with the translated text.
Spreading the love through partnerships
Verbalizeit recently partnered with StudentUniverse, Skype, and TripLingo in an attempt to share the translating service with students, businesses, and language learners. Through their partnership with Skype, users can add a translator to any Skype call. This service would aid businesses that are looking to enter new markets or outsource work by breaking down language barriers that may have previously stunted overseas growth.
The idea behind Verbalizeit’s partnership with TripLingo is that users who are in the process of learning a language can connect with a translator to practice with a fluent speaker.
Finding happy medium between translation services
In the past, large businesses have had to rely on call centers staffed by professional translators that were too expensive for individuals or small businesses. Machine translations provided by sites like Google Translate are available for free, but they provide almost no help for real life translating dilemmas.
Verbalizeit has found the happy medium between providing quality translators and affordable services through their crowd-sourced platform.
They are close to raising their first capital round of funding following TechStars Demo Day.