Unbabel gets $60M for its blended approach to business translation

 In Artificial Intelligence, Europe, Fundings & Exits, Indico Capital Partners, linguistics, machine learning, machine translation, pittsburgh, Point72 Ventures, TechCrunch - Funding & Exits, Technology News, Translation, Unbabel

Unbabel, a Lisbon-based startup that’s built a platform for translating customer service messages at scale by combining the speed of machine translation with native (human) speaker nuance and expertise, has closed a $60 million Series C round.

The investment was led by Point72 Ventures, with participation from e.ventures, Greycroft, and Indico Capital Partners. The 2013-founded startup last raised a $23M Series B in January 2018. The latest round brings its total funding to date to $91M.

Unbabel describes its approach as “AI augmentation” and translation as a service — by which it means it combines the speed and low cost of machine translation with a layer of human expertise powered by a “global community” of human translators.

Last year its network of human translators was said to number around 55,000. The company told us it now has more than 100k registered translators providing translation services for its platform.

Unbabel classifies these workers as freelancers — saying it pays them online, into an Unbabel account, every time they complete a translation job.

The business itself lists just 200+ full time employees on its books.

UNBABEL TEAM

Customers signed up to use Unbabel’s translation platform to scale the global reach of their customer support services include the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Booking.com and easyJet.

Unbabel says it has more than 150 enterprise customers using its platform, mainly in the travel, high tech, gaming and ecommerce sectors. It touts cost savings of up to 76% vs other translation methods and increased customer satisfaction.

It also claims it’s just seen its strongest quarter yet in terms of revenue growth (though it’s not breaking figures out), and also in machine learning “breakthroughs”, as it puts it (on the latter it references a shared task win in machine quality at the WMT19 conference this year).

Unbabel says the Series C funding will go on ramping up growth in the US, Europe and Asia, as well as on enhancing the capabilities of its AI — including building out an artificial intelligence research lab it recently announced in Pittsburgh.

“We are now translating over 1,000,000 customer service messages a month. That’s over five times the volume we saw in 2018, which underscores the global demand for agile multilingual customer service,” said co-founder and CEO Pedro Vasco in a statement.

“We were inspired by Unbabel’s vision to provide enterprise-grade translations at the click of a button and impressed with the human-in-the-loop translation technology they’ve built,” added Sri Chandrasekar, partner at Point72 Ventures, in a supporting statement. “We believe that Unbabel is poised to transform the translation industry, and we are incredibly excited to partner with them on this journey.”

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