Tokyo-based MyGengo harnesses advanced translation tools and $5.25 million in Series A funding for enhanced communication across the globe

By Editor October 18, 2011

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Q&A with myGengo co-founder and CEO Robert Laing. The company was founded in 2009 and recently raised $5.25 million in Series A funding.

SUB: Please explain what myGengo is, and the value proposition you bring to the translation market.

Laing: The world wants to communicate, but translation is hard, expensive and time-consuming. To solve this, myGengo has created a huge translator pool that is accessible either through a web order form or API, allowing you to “go global” in a few clicks. Our customers range from individuals who want to send an email in Chinese, up to large ecommerce and travel sites who translate thousands of pages into German or French via our API.

myGengo offers seamless global communication, rather than being part of the old fashioned translation market—in the same way that Skype is in the communication market, not the traditional ‘phone’ market. Eventually people will forget the translation, and just enjoy communicating.

SUB: How does the technology behind myGengo work?

Laing: Our API lets you ‘plug in’ to the translator pool and order translation from any website or application. We have plugins and libraries for all major code frameworks, so it’s simple to start building on myGengo.

On the back-end, our core technology enables us to test and qualify translators, and then allocate jobs efficiently without involving human managers. We have automated and human systems for quality control that ensure we do a great job every time.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Laing: Our API, huge translator pool and unique price point puts us in a different space. There are companies like Smartling who are doing very cool things with translation, and Duolingo, which has some interesting technology that we’re following. But we’re focused on delivering high quality and affordable human translation that scales, with an emphasis on quality that comes from working with the best translators out there and implementing a system of checks and balances that ensures our quality standard.

SUB: What do you offer that differentiates myGengo from your competitors or from companies with similar offerings?

Laing: Firstly, a focus on quality at scale. We’re the only company that tests every single translator that works through our system, so that customers know they’ll get consistent quality every time. Secondly, a true platform approach, where our API is a reliable piece of infrastructure that developers can access from any website or app. This truly allows you to scale.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind myGengo?

Laing: I ran a web agency in Japan, and always needed simple texts translated, which was way more complex than it should have been. As a bilingual Japanese person, Matt, our CTO, was always being asked for ‘favors’ to do translation. We thought there must be a better way, a simple way to get your text into another language without any hassle.

SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?

Laing: We launched a beta before any company was founded, to test the idea. Then we formed our Japanese company a few months afterwards in June 2009. We incorporated in the U.S. in February 2010. This approach is in line with our philosophy of testing things out and gradually improving—kaizen!

SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building myGengo?

Laing: Our Tokyo location has been simultaneously fantastic and difficult. Fantastic because there is simply no better place to understand the problems of translation. Difficult because it’s not an established startup environment, and raising money is tougher than in the U.S. Other obstacles have been the same that all startups experience, but the same things that give a great feeling of satisfaction when you’ve achieved them.

SUB: You recently raised $5.25 million in Series A funding—how do you plan to use the funds?

Laing: This funding is a key part of propelling myGengo to our vision—seamless global communication across languages. Of course we are hiring and investing in marketing to reach new customers, but the biggest areas of focus are in strengthening our translator pool and reaching out to developers—these are two communities that are vital to myGengo.

SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise new funding?

Laing: myGengo is experiencing very strong growth, which is the best time to raise money. We have customers looking out for new features, bigger capacity, and new tools, so we really needed resources to grow. The atmosphere in the company has been that we’re “ready for the next stage,” so we felt it was the right time to raise.

SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?

Laing: We’re concentrating on building the business.

SUB: What big goals do you have for myGengo over the next year or so?

Laing: Our intentions are always to build a strong, profitable company that has great growth. So our goals for the year are to keep creating things that customers really need, to invest in our translators, and to have fun.

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