At Babelverse we have been running in extreme bootstrap mode, doing everything possible (or seemingly impossible!) to make quick strides towards our goals.
We have some news to announce, but we first wanted to tell you a bit about how we got to this point. If you’ve read some of our previous blog posts, or followed us on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know some pieces of the story, so we’ll try to keep it short.
It all really began for Babelverse with a Startup Weekend event in Athens, Greece at the end of 2010. After living in Paris for a while and working on a few startups, Mayel de Borniol had decided he wanted to travel and live abroad. Josef Dunne, working for a digital agency in London, felt the same. We both ended up in Greece, and came up with the idea of Babelverse shortly after meeting there, mainly driven by our own troubles with the language – it was all Greek to us!
An early opportunity to test out the concept came during the March 2011 tsunami in Japan. We called for volunteers to offer free interpretation to assist foreign rescue teams and reporters on the ground who didn’t speak any Japanese.
Soon after, the two of us spent 6 months in Chile as part of the 1st round of the government’s pioneering incubator Startup Chile (offers foreign entrepreneurs 40,000 USD equity-free, a 1 year visa, office space and relocation support, with the aim to attract potentially world class startups to their country). So in June 2011 we packed our bags, said see-you-later to Greece, and headed down to Chile on this unknown entrepreneurial adventure to make Babelverse a reality.
In December, we headed to Paris for an opportunity to present Babelverse in front of thousands of people for the first time. The audience of the LeWeb conference was very excited about the project, and the judges honoured us with an award.
In January we offered to live translate US president Obama’s 2012 State of the Nation address into up to 6,796 languages (i.e. all of them). We were living in Buenos Aires at the time, we pulled a 24h all-nighter with the help of many friends and volunteer interpreters around the world, to make this last-minute idea happen (thanks!)
Then returning to Europe, and taking bootstrapping to the extreme, our team of three (now joined by our designer Zachary Zorbas) lived and worked in a 15 square metre garden shed in London, continuing to develop the platform in time for launch.
For the official launch in April 2012 at The Next Web, on top of participating in their startup competition (and receiving 2 more awards, one from the jury and the People’s Choice!), we partnered with the organisers to interpret the conference talks into Spanish and Portuguese for remote viewers in Latin America.
It is worth noting, that right from day one, people have paid to use Babelverse, and we’ve paid our interpreters. Differing from what is common in Silicon Valley, Babelverse is not one of those apps in search of a market or business model. A recent gig was providing interpretation into Francais Quebecois (French) for the International Startup Festival in Montreal.
In May 2012 we headed to New York for TechCrunch Disrupt, where Babelverse had obtained a booth to demo in the US for the first time. It was a nice surprise that this less multilingual public was just as excited as everyone else, and voted Babelverse for “Audience Choice”, which lead to a presentation on stage, where a jury then selected us to present once again among the top 6 finalists.
This all lead to many conversations with investors and other interesting people who wanted to follow up, most of them based in Silicon Valley, so we decided to extend our stay in the US and headed to San Francisco. This quickly proved to be a good move, as within 2 weeks of being there, we’d obtained some initial funding.
Indeed, we are proud to announce 500 Startups as our lead investor (the round also includes other angels). We feel that they are a great match because they share Babelverse’s international focus, and have a strong and very helpful network of representatives and portfolio startups around the world.
Though now in the US, Babelverse wasn’t forgotten in Europe! We were selected as one of 12 top start-ups in Europe as part of the European Union’s TechAllStars programme, and more recently selected as a top high-potential startup in the Startup Games, an Olympic-affiliated event organized by the UK government.
The point being, Babelverse cannot be described as “European”, “Greek”, “Chilean”, “South American”, or “US based”, etc. Babelverse is a global (if not universal!) project. We already work with collaborators and interpreters in more than 100 countries, with our interpreters covering 642 language pairs as of the day this post was published. Even when our customers are US-based (for example), they often resort to Babelverse when they want to expand their international presence.
Partnership with TechCrunch
In fact, we’re also announcing a partnership with TechCrunch to translate Disrupt SF (a conference about technology-driven disruptions happening in many industries, which combines top thought-leader discussions with new product and company launches). This will make Disrupt SF available in 12 languages so that the public around the world can view and follow the proceedings live in their own language.
- Español (Spanish)
- Français (French)
- Português (Portuguese)
- Deutsch (German)
- Italiano (Italian)
- 普通话 (Mandarin Chinese)
- Русский язык (Russian)
- मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
- 日本語 (Japanese)
- 한국말 (Korean)
- Türkçe (Turkish)
Next steps for us include rounding-up up our awesome team (apply here!), launching a mobile app for personal on-the-spot interpretation, and raising a larger round of funding to make all this – and much more – possible…
Side note: If you’ve read all the above, you may have noticed that we move around a lot! And if you’ve been following our adventures on social networks, you probably saw our photos all over the islands of Greece this summer. While it sure is great fun, we at the same time never stop tirelessly working to take Babelverse to the next level. In today’s world of near-ubiquitous WiFi and 3G we count ourselves very lucky to be able to work from anywhere, and we choose to do so from the most awesome places. Life and work don’t have to be enemies, and we are very happy to enable our team, and the thousands of Babelverse interpreters to have the same lifestyle.
You’ll find more details about the Babelverse story on our blog and there is much, much more that is yet untold… buy us a beer and we may share some stories