Unbabel, a startup company that helps companies with translations through the power of AI, just earned $60 million in new funding.
Founded out of Lisbon in 2013, Unbabel offers an “AI-powered, human refined” translation platform that leverages neural machine translation, natural language processing (NLP), and quality estimation to help companies automate their translations between dozens of languages. The company can help translate customer emails, live chat exchanges, FAQ pages, and more, through a process that combines the best of a machine and human linguists.
Unbabel describes its approach as “AI augmentation” and translation as a service where they combine the speed and low cost of machine translation with a layer of human expertise powered by a “global community” of human translators.
While not all are necessarily professionally qualified translators, those who are not are vetted before acceptance into Unbabel’s program. They then work as part of a loop system that works to refine translations in collaboration with Unbabel’s platform.
“Our community is made up of both professional and non-professional translators,” Unbabel co-founder and CEO Vasco Pedro told VentureBeat. “We can leverage our AI technology to help non-professional translators produce professional-grade translations for the use cases we currently support, which enables us to scale. We strongly believe in this AI-augmented humanistic approach is the best, and probably only option, to tackle the world’s translation needs.”
Last year, the company had an estimated 55,000 human translators in its payroll. Unbabel classifies these workers as freelancers — saying it pays them online, into an Unbabel account, every time they complete a translation job.
The company today says that they have more than 100,000 registered human translators providing their service for the platform, signifying rapid growth and success for the company.
The business itself lists just 200+ full-time employees on its books. In addition to its Lisbon HQ, Unbabel claims additional offices in New York, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh.
Through this innovative combination of AI and human effort, Unbabel has raised $60 million in a Series C round of funding led by Point72 Ventures, with participation from Microsoft’s M12, Samsung Next, Greycroft, Scale Venture Partners, Notion Capital, Caixa Capital, Faber Ventures, FundersClub, Structure Capital, Indico Capital Partners, and E.ventures.
Notably, the funding was raised by big-name clients, including Microsoft, Facebook, Booking.com, and EasyJet. Generally, the company says that it has more than 150 enterprise customers using its platform, mainly in the travel, high tech, gaming, and e-commerce 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 as it’s now translating more than 1 million customer service messages each month, roughly 500% higher than the same period last year.
“This drive has come from businesses that want to expand their global footprint,” co-founder and CEO Pedro Vasco said in a statement. “While they already recognize the need to respond to customer service requests in the language of their customer’s choice, now they can do it at scale. Our AI-human solution is delivering enterprise business translation at scale that opens new use-cases that were nonviable previously when using a human-only translation, or pure machine translation.”
Unbabel has now raised $91 million since its inception back in 2013, including its $23 million Series B roundfrom 2018. The Portuguese company said that it would use its new proceeds to “consolidate its footprint” across its existing markets in Europe and the U.S., while it will also lay the foundations for its expansion into Asia.
“Now, we have the opportunity to develop the next generation of the ‘translation-as-a-service’ (TaaS) platform that will power enterprise communications of the future and ultimately become the translation layer of the internet,” Pedro said.
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 Vasco in a statement.