Software that accurately translates one language into another has been the dream of computer scientists for decades. But anyone who has used Google Translate will tell you, human beings are still better than machines at capturing the nuances of language.
Until technology catches up, the private and public sector will still need the services of firms like TranslateMedia. Founded in the U.K. in 2004 by Rupert Evans and Patrick Eve, TranslateMedia has a global presence with offices in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and Austin, Texas. In 2013, it recorded revenues of just under $15 million and is projecting to reach $25 million in the next three years.
The firm focuses its efforts on the advertising industry, offering not just translation, but also so-called ‘transcreation’ services. This refers to the process of adapting a client’s advertising message for another language, ensuring the translation captures the right tone and context for a targeted overseas market. While TranslateMedia has no patents on the technology, the firm does use specialized software called STREAM to optimize its workflow and create efficiencies, such as collecting past translations of common word combinations that it can re-use.
“We provide each client, as a point of contact, a high-skilled project manager who manages the client’s projects. This distinct blend of state of the art technology and client service means that few agencies out there, to date, have the tools to rival TranslateMedia,” says Patrick Eve, Managing Director of the firm.
According to Eve, the translation market is worth up to $33.5 billion and is dominated by a few large companies such as SDL, Lionbridge, and Welocalize. Alongside these major players is a cottage industry of tens of thousands of freelance translators and small firms that usually work on a project-by-project basis.
Translation agencies that rely on linguists, such as TranslateMedia, face the difficulty of achieving economies of scale. Workflow efficiencies can only lower fixed costs so much, and these agencies still need to pay for more human translators when demand increases. One of the biggest risks Eve can see for the firm is balancing rising demand for quality and speed of translations with an increasingly price sensitive customer.
Another threat is the constant technological advances in machine translation. In May of this year, Microsoft announced a breakthrough in its real-time voice translator, which has been in development for over 10 years. The product will be incorporated into its online communication tool Skype before the end of 2014, Microsoft recently announced.
To keep playing the role of market disruptor, TranslateMedia will need to think strategically. The firm has raised half a million dollars to fund acquisitions and global expansion in the coming years. Whether TranslateMedia can grow market share with some smart acquisitions remains to be seen, but for the time being, demand for its product will remain as online media opens up overseas markets to an increasing number of advertisers.