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Unbabel scores $1.5M to add a human touch to machine-powered translation

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Computers may have solved number-crunching and turning data into digestible information, but what about the translation of human languages?

A company called Unbabel is tackling that with its combination of artificial intelligence and human crowdsourced translation, and it has just announced a raise of $1.5 million in seed funding.

Because human languages are very complex and nuanced, Unbabel first uses computers to translate a customer’s inquiry, then it splits into micro-tasks for its human translators to refine and check for errors. Unbabel then puts the text together and sends it back. Customers can send and receive their text through email, online, or through Unbabel’s API.

While the use cases are unlimited, Unbabel sees its service as a great way for companies to handle social media content, customer communication through email, and customer support forums and comments.

Unbabel is the future of translation. This incredible team has created a service which represents the shift that’s happening cross-industry using technology to empower independent workers and connect them with the businesses that can benefit from their skill sets,” said Matrix Partners general partner Jared Fliesler in a statement. Matrix Partners participated in this round.

“As we continue to see a surge in highly efficient vertical labor marketplaces, eliminating the middleman, the implications are enormous for both the global workforce and the future of innovation,” he continued.

Unbabel is not alone in working to provide efficient and accurate translation by adding a human component. For example, Smartlings, another translation company that uses human translators, recently raised $25 million. Smartling handles the translation flow for its customers by outsourcing it to more than 200 translation agencies in the world.

Currently, Unbabel’s service is available for translation from English, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese to 15 languages including the above languages. It charges only $0.02 per word and says its editors earn on average $8 per hour.

Unbabel raised this round from Matrix Partners, Google Ventures, Elad Gil, FundersClub, IDG Partners, and many others. The company plans to use the funds to grow its engineering and marketing teams in order to improve its computer-based translation technology and acquire more customers.

Unbabel was founded in 2013 by Vasco Calais Pedro, and is headquarted in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in Lisbon, Portugal. The company was part of accelerator program Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 batch.

More information:

Matrix Partners is a US based seed and early stage investment firm that focuses on Software, Enterprise Software, Mobile, Financial Tech, SaaS, and eCommerce. Matrix has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Palo Alto, California, Mumba... read more »

Google Ventures is the venture capital investment arm of Google Inc. that makes financially driven investments in technology companies. Google Ventures seeks to invest in start-up companies in a variety of fields ranging from Internet,... read more »

Unbabel’s mission is to enable seamless, trustworthy written communication in different languages. The Unbabel platform combines a novel approach to machine translation with a community of bilinguals and freelance translators which r... read more »

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