#111 Boostlingo CEO Bryan Forrester on Fundraising, M&A, Scaling Interpreting Technology

#111 Boostlingo CEO Bryan Forrester on Fundraising, M&A, Scaling Interpreting Technology

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Tech innovation reimagines the way that language interpreting services are delivered. Continues this quite rapid evolution of MT as part of these broader AI services. There's definitely a lot of movement, some of that probably generated from M&A activities in the industry. And welcome everyone to another episode of SlatorPod. Hi there, Esther. Hi Florian.

Today on the pod, we have Bryan Forrester Co-Founder and CEO of Boostlingo, the interpreting technology platform. That was a really interesting discussion, Esther. You missed it, unfortunately, but it was really interesting and I really think that Boostlingo is going to become a real winner here in this interpreting space.

Quick audio heads up. There's a little bit of crackling. We weren't able to get rid of it but still very interesting discussion, of course.

I hope it's not too distracting. Otherwise, you can just head over and check the subtitles on YouTube. I'll do that. I will do that and I'll listen intently to what Bryan talks about. Very good. Cool company.

They bought those, they bought VoiceBoxer and Interpreter Intelligence and he's kind of outlining how they're going to kind of integrate and what kind of capabilities it provides them, so they're really becoming quite a comprehensive interpreting platform. Very interesting. Today though, you're going to tell us more about the job index. I'm trying to wrap my head around the Microsoft Translate update.

Microsoft Translator update, sorry. We're going to talk about Japan and machine translation as well and Keywords in game localization, but first, is it a good time to find a job in the language industry, Esther? Always. Yes.

I mean, I'd say so, why not? Well, for those who are already working in the industry, for sure. It's very buoyant in terms of jobs being advertised. Our index for April which we've just crunched the numbers, so that's up just over two points from March to around 179, so that's continued to climb since the start of the year in January. Up six points since the start of the year and the index is currently just two points off the all-time high that we saw in December 2021, so normally there's a bit of a seasonal slowdown around kind of January, and then it kind of climbs, climbs, climbs throughout the year, so looks like 2022 is off to the same kind of start in terms of following that trend. It's interesting that I've spoken to a number of people recently that are based in the United States and that quote-unquote great resignation was an actual topic and a challenge, like an operational challenge, meaning people resigned, do other things.

During the Covid pandemic, they had kind of maybe discovered other interests or just generally, there's just a very kind of buoyant job market generally, so it's actually a bit of a struggle to find highly qualified candidates. That's why we're seeing the index go up so strongly. I don't think this is that much of an issue in Europe, at least not here.

Yeah, no, potentially not. I mean, I'm seeing a lot of movement just sort of personally on my LinkedIn, kind of congratulate so-and-so for a new role at blah, blah, blah, so I think there's definitely a lot of movement. Some of that probably generated from M&A activities in the industry, but obviously equally, just a lot of opportunities, both on the buyer or client-side and within LSPs. Just from a kind of LSP operational aspect, I haven't heard many European LSPs telling me that they're struggling. That they're kind of, that there's a massive struggle ongoing with retain, I guess.

Retain is the keyword here. I mean, generally, of course, talent is always hard to come by. All right. Now let me try to unpack what Microsoft announced this week and I'm probably going to butcher it, but anybody that's interested in the detail, please Google Microsoft Translator enhanced with Z-code Mixture of Experts models, so I don't pretend to understand what this all means in detail, but I think Microsoft is now launching or giving early access rather to some select customers to a re-engineered, what I think is a massive multilingual MT system that can do, I mean, obviously, they promised like a quality improvement and just general improvement of language coverage, et cetera.

But what I find more interesting than the details of this announcement or just the general suite here is that their translator, Microsoft Translator is part of this kind of broader Microsoft Azure Cognitive Service suite and they continue to launch new features, continue to launch updates, further customization improvements, and you can see that there's just a lot of work going on at Microsoft and, of course, also at these other big tech companies to make MT more customizable and just more accessible to the enterprise rather than just a kind of raw output, right. So, I think this is the takeaway from this particular announcement now as well, that there just continues this quite rapid evolution of MT as part of these broader AI services, right, so I think we should just be aware of this and LSPs should be very much aware of this and just follow it. Even though you might get kind of tired by all these announcements by Meta, by Google, by Microsoft, by Salesforce, by all of these big technology companies, but I think you've got to keep an eye on it. I mean, it is having an impact generally on kind of the tech layer of the industry. We spoke about Aloud last week, the Google project, right, so as these things get productized some of them actually may become direct competitors to the language service providers.

But for now, do you think that it is actually a useful thing for LSPs? Like, can LSPs just kind of take this, build it, use it, like integrate it into their existing sort of machine translation, I don't know, stack engines suite? I think we need an expert on this to bring on the pod, but no, I'm serious. Like the question is almost like if you're an established LSP, you do your 20, 30, 40 million dollars in revenue, you have everything set up. Okay, more complex.

What if you started an LSP today? Like how would you build it today? Would you make it as complex as maybe some of these existing, larger organizations run, or would you just plug into some of these models and try to train him? So I think that's a question we should explore, but let's do it in another, not today. Staying on the machine translation topic, it's interesting. An interesting small piece of news came out of Japan, so let me try to get that right, so the Japanese Financial Services Authority worked together with the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, the NICT, to develop a custom English into Japanese, Japanese into English MT engine for financial content.

That they're now making available to private companies and the goal of this is really or this is one small puzzle piece in the broader puzzle or the brother picture of opening up and, well, not opening up, making Japan's financial markets more international. What does this mean? If you want to invest in the Japanese stock markets, there's probably not too much information currently accessible in English, so you have to kind of go through all of the disclosures and filings in Japanese which is a challenge, right, if you're kind of an international investor, don't have a presence in Japan. So, in order to make it more accessible for outside investors part of this is that translation initiative and, of course, they're all trying to do this more efficiently using MT, so they say they jointly developed a, what they call, high-precision AI-based translation engine that can translate documents in the financial space between Japanese and English.

They collected a large quantity of bilingual documents from a variety of stakeholders, which are then used to train and they said they got, hang on they contributed to improving the percentage of highest quality translations from 20 to 50%, comparing to a kind of what they call general-purpose translation engine. So, all right, you take, I don't know, a financial disclosure document, stick it into Google Translate. They say 21% was professional level, so human professional level. Now they trained that engine and now they're saying, well, after training it, we got 49% was at the professional level.

Still, 15% was fluent, 18% was not fluent. 6% was understandable and 12% was no bueno, they call it no good in their chart, but yeah, very interesting. I think it's an interesting move.

It's an interesting kind of private-public partnership where an authority would team up with a research Institute, develop a custom MT engine for a very specific purpose, and then make it accessible to private sector companies, so that is something that potentially others will follow at some point in the future. All right. Now, let's go to the world of game localization where we all know machine translation is part of it, but not a huge part of it. Well, yeah. Funny you say that, so we're going to talk about Keywords and their update or sort of finalized financial results for 2021. But yeah, just since you mentioned machine translation they did mention that they launched an MT management platform, so this is called KantanStream from obviously, their acquisition of Kantan people might remember.

So they, in 2021 Keywords launched a crowdsourced MT management platform, they call it, that obviously combines the AI component, that being machine translation, with Keywords professional translator, professional translators, so sort of human-in-the-loop model by the sounds of it with some kind of crowdsourced component. Yeah, I thought I'd lead with that since you mentioned machine translation. KantanStream, who comes up with these names? Why not call it something more simple? KantanStream. For streamers, streaming. I don't know.

Its flow of content maybe. Anyway, I'm not there to defend their sort of product name choices and I doubt I could do any better. Yeah, so in terms of the actual numbers and financial updates, I mean, Keywords did slightly better than they were forecasting. I think in December they said they were expecting top-line revenues of about 505 million euros. That slightly improved in the finalized results to 512 million euros, so that's about 570 million dollars.

Lots of growth, so about 37% increase from 2020 on an overall revenue basis and about nearly 20% of that was organic, so strong growth happening there at Keywords. Revenue growth, generally, as they sort of continue to say is being supported by a buoyant video games industry. But, of course, what we are mostly interested in is those localization revenues, because, of course, Keywords does other activities like sort of marketing, art development, game development, a variety of sort of different game associated services, but they have three service lines that focus on localization activities.

You'll remember that we had the head of the audio localization department join us on SlatorPod not too long ago to talk about all things audio localization, so they have a department that they call localization. That represents about 10% of the company revenue, so just over 50 million euros. Then there's the audio service line that does things like subtitling, dubbing, voiceover, and some what we would probably consider non-loc stuff, so music, for example. Yeah, music, which is nice for a game but that, yeah, I think I said 12% of revenue coming from audio, so that's the biggest of the three localization-focused divisions. Audio also grew the fastest of the three localization departments at around 30%, so lots of growth happening there and localization testing which is a smaller segment, so 5.3% of the total revenue, just over 27 million euros. So in total, if you kind of combine all three of those divisions or service lines, there's around 150 million dollars, if not more, of localization revenue happening there at Keywords.

So busy times for Alessandra, the Head of the Audio Department. Interesting. Yeah, I mean, there were a few other tidbits as well. Tell us more.

Did we find anything about their kind of media aspirations or? Yeah. I mean, they're talking, obviously, I think that Keywords said for a while now, if not more than sort of 18 months, two years, they've been working with clients like Netflix on the streaming side, so actually sort of pursuing a bit more of the film and TV industry rather than sort of pure focus on the video games market, so that kind of portion of the market is being serviced I think primarily from the audio service line. They said there's continued growth in subtitling, dubbing of film and TV content, where we serve clients such as Netflix as well as many of the other key streaming providers, so they're saying the other streaming providers have invested heavily now in original content strategy, which we know and we've talked about many times and that is helping to I mean drive demand for Keywords. So, Keywords is now pretty much playing in this TV streaming market by the sounds of things and benefiting from the same drivers of growth as other media localization providers, also. Got it. That wraps up Keywords and that wraps up the news segment, so we're heading over to Bryan and we'll talk about interpreting technology.

Fascinating discussion, stay tuned. And welcome back to a SlatorPod, everyone. Today, we are really happy to have Bryan Forrester join us today, so Bryan is the CEO of Boostlingo. Company everybody knows.

A US-based interpreting software and tech company, so we'll speak about Bryan's past busy weeks. He's had a few busy weeks recently and super happy to have you on the pod today. Hi, Bryan. Hi, Florian. Great to be with you.

Thanks so much for doing this, so you're in Austin, Texas today or? I am in Austin, Texas. Yes, a Bay Area transplant, as they say out here. A lot of Californians moving out, so I think I'm trying to hide the fact that I'm a Californian to the community at large, so I don't have that stigma attached to me.

Are there stigmas already being attached to Californians? I think maybe below the surface a little. It's a little subtle, but you can sense it. There's so many Californians out here. Here it's crazy.

That's what I've heard in all these podcasts and a lot of people going to Austin specifically, so, when did you move and when did the company move? I personally moved in the middle of the pandemic. We actually moved January 1st, 2021, kick off the New Year, packed up the U-Haul, and moved. We already had hired a few people out in Austin, so we already had an employee base here, but my wife is from Austin originally, so we had always talked about moving back here and it just made sense.

In the middle of the pandemic with kids not in school, I think we decided it was time for a change. Well, then at least you have an anchor, an angle to go to Austin, right. It wasn't just kind of, oh, everyone on Twitter is going to Austin, so let me go too/ I wasn't just following the trend. Yeah. There you go. All right.

Let's talk about Boostlingo and first, we like when we do this podcast is get started with kind of the origin story. Yours is quite recent, right? I think you guys started in like September 2016. So, if that's correct, so take us back to the origin story. How you met the founders, co-founders, and like, yeah, what was the original idea? Well, the two Co-Founders, Brian D'Agostino and Dieter, I had known prior.

We were friends before Boostlingo started. Boostlingo was not my first tech startup that I co-founded. In fact, my last company that I sold was in the IT services space and the MSP channel and I was coming out of sort of an earn-out period from that acquisition and getting the startup itch again when Dieter and Brian approached me with this idea in the interpreting space and Dieter had been working for language service companies for the last, I think at the time, over a decade, so he saw a real big opportunity in interpreting and, of course, it piqued my interest. We started looking at the competitive landscape as you would do when you start thinking about launching a company and we saw some really big, impressive companies in a really large market with an opportunity to innovate in technology and so we started doing industry surveys and luckily got a lot of validating responses to those surveys and all the checkboxes were getting checked. That you would look for when you want to greenlight a project and so we started the business in early 2016 and, yeah that's how the origins came to be. Just like most startups, the first couple of years were developers in a dark room coding but we launched our first production product in late 2017 or early 2018.

And it's evolved ever since, of course, like you have, I think three core systems and tell us a bit more about that, but the delivery platform, the interpreting management system and scheduling system, so it tell us more about kind of the core technology offering and then also just if you provide any services. What's kind of the key USP that you give the salespeople when they go out there and do some business development? Just kind of introduce the company and the key USP a little bit to the listeners. Yeah, sure. You're right Florian, we've pivoted 20 times in the early years on our go-to-market focus and learned a lot early on as you would when you start a startup. I think Boostlingo's mission has always been pretty constant though, despite all those pivots, right.

Boostlingo's tech innovation re-imagines the way that language interpreting services are delivered and that increases language access and improves communication globally, so that's always been sort of the mission of our company is to, we're a tech platform first, right. But the value proposition, you're right, we do a lot of different things, especially in light of these new acquisitions, but we are a comprehensive, what we call IMS system, interpretation management system. Mainly for LSPs, language agencies to scale their interpreting business, and interpreting, as you know Florian, is a lot of different use cases. There's a lot of different modalities and so our platform really is aimed at covering scheduling for in-person interpreting, so managing the workflow from beginning to end for scheduling in-person jobs and as you know a lot of language agencies do a high volume of in-person interpreting and we found back in 2016, 2017, a lot of them were still doing it through spreadsheets. It wasn't scalable, they needed a better platform to manage that workflow, and then on top of that we are a prescheduled phone and video platform, so in certain use cases, you're not using on-demand phone and video, your prescheduling phone and video calls. Just like we would preschedule a Zoom call or our podcast today, right.

It's a prescheduled event and sometimes there's reasons that you would have a prescheduled event versus an on-demand modality and then, of course, on-demand interpreting, which has been growing rapidly even before the pandemic rolled on the scene, but on-demand, OPI and VRI. And we think of our platform as a management system first, so a lot of LSPs use us almost like, best way to describe it is a CRM platform, right. They can manage all their customers through a single interface.

It's multitenant. They can manage all their customers in one UI. Well, on top of that, we're what we call an IDP. I'm using a lot of acronyms here, and I think a lot of your viewers will know what those acronyms mean, but others may not. IDP just standing for a delivery platform, so our LSPs don't just use us to manage their interpreting business but to deliver the service to their customers and they can white label the platform and go to market and one other big key component to our value proposition is our BPIN.

That's just short for Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network or our crowd, and a lot of our LSPs leverage that crowd for on-demand services so that they can scale their on-demand services, but they may not be able to cover 200 languages 24/7 online because with on-demand, it's all about supply and demand, so you've got to have the interpreters on the line to take the calls that your customers need. The BPIN allows them to do that. Got it. And quite unusually for a startup slash tech company, you did two M&A, two acquisitions. You announced a week ago or even less than a week ago, so you acquired VoiceBoxer and Interpreter Intelligence, so tell us more about that.

That's exciting. Yeah, super excited about these acquisitions and you're right. The last three or four weeks have been very busy here at Boostlingo HQ.

Each of these companies respectively bring a lot to the table for Boostlingo. With Interpreter Intelligence, we're acquiring a platform that has a lot of overlap with Boostlingo so there's a lot of the same, in a way, there's a little bit of a competitive overlap with Interpreter Intelligence because they do scheduling for in-person in their platform. We do scheduling for in-person in our platform and we both have similar LSP customers, right, but what we learned early on from Interpreter Intelligence and their team is that they had gone deeper in terms of customization for in-person scheduling.

They had a really robust reporting for in-person interpreting. They had better vendor management for managing the linguists themselves and those customizations weren't a focus of our dev team because a lot of our customers are asking us to continue to innovate on the phone and video side and so when we would get requests for continuing to enhance our in-person scheduling, as much as we wanted to work on that, it would always kind of fall down the roadmap priority list but that didn't mean we didn't care about it, and we didn't want to continue to improve on it, so Interpreter Intelligence IP brings to Boostlingo a lot of valuable IP as it relates to managing linguists and managing in-person scheduling. Not to mention I've known Conor, the CEO of Interpreter Intelligence for a long time. He's a really committed leader and a really talented developer himself, but also a development leader and I think he was looking at Boostlingo, not to put words in his mouth, but he was ready to focus more on the dev side and hang up the CEO hat and he shared my vision that one plus one equals three in this scenario, so really buying II for the team and the IP. VoiceBoxer, a very different type of acquisition, right, because VoiceBoxer's focused on RSI, remote simultaneous interpreting which is not something that Boostlingo does or did prior to the acquisition, so the IP is truly a new module in Boostlingo, if you think about it and so that IP was very valuable to us because we looked at that market.

If you've been paying attention to the private equity environment around RSI. There's been a lot of investments lately with VoiceBoxer's competitors and there's a reason for that. More of these events are happening virtual or they're happening in a hybrid type of model and so we knew that was a market we wanted to get into and we didn't have the focus to build it ourselves and we knew it would take a long time if we tried and getting to know Sergio and his team has been awesome.

We also know that the VoiceBoxer team being in Copenhagen will help us have a better presence in EMEA where RSI is very popular. I would argue even more prevalent than in any other region in the globe. Of course, we see RSI growing in the United States and in Asia-Pac but just getting that team in Copenhagen with an amazing platform and they have some really cool features that none of the RSI providers have built or maybe they are building, but they don't have them yet, so just overall both of the acquisitions together we think will round out sort of this comprehensive unified platform that we're trying to build. So you mentioned private equity and you received funding from an investment firm called Mainsail Partners, so what was first? The desire to do M&A or doing the raise and then having the opportunity to do M&A or what was the sequence there? And like, tell us more about how you partnered up with Mainsail and what's the story there. Yeah. Early on in startups, you're often worried about what you're going to do tomorrow.

Everything is chaotic. It's sort of like the Wild Wild West and then as you start to get bigger, as you start to scale, you start to plan farther ahead, and even going into 2021, we did not have any intention of raising money. We were trending towards profitability where the business was growing rapidly. My kind of early seed investors were asking, why would we even take money at this point? Things are going really well, but when I started to really look at what investments we needed to make to really scale the business to the next level and talking to our management team about it at the time, it became really apparent that we couldn't scale as fast as we needed to scale without getting a partner on board and Boostlingo had many firms contact us and were interested in making an investment but Mainsail really had a compelling case.

They have a strong background in and building sales and marketing machines and I got to know the Mainsail investors really well for the six months leading up to the deal and ultimately decided to go with them and what that's allowed us to do is really hire a lot of executive leadership that we wouldn't have been able to hire, so we added a lot of cash on our balance sheet, and then it's also, of course, as you mentioned, helped us acquire these two companies. So, when we took the investment with Mainsail, we knew we might want to do some M&A, but we didn't have any specific targets in mind at the time. It was really just to help the business scale to the next stage. Are they quite active in kind of, not maybe day-to-day operations, but just general support? You mentioned sales and marketing there, like, well, can you just tap into their expertise and network when it's needed, or is it a very proactive approach? Well, I would say that they are very hands-on where we need them to be and hands-off where we don't and that's really what you want in an investment partner.

They have, I joke with them internally because oftentimes I'm amazed that they know more about some aspects of the market than I do, right. They have a lot of research prowess going on behind the scenes and that means they can help us do different studies behind the scenes to understand if we're making the right decision in terms of our go-to-market strategy or in terms of our product roadmap strategy, so they do help us and get involved where we ask them to. Got it. Let's talk about that market, so kind of maybe, I don't know if it makes sense to split it between the US and EMEA but like, let's say we did split it between the UD and EMEA, what are some of the key drivers in the US market and some of the key drivers in kind of the EMEA market for you guys? Yeah.

Well, I think in the US market, remote interpreting, especially consecutive interpreting has been growing rapidly even, like I said, prior to Covid rolling up on the scene. The US is an interesting market, right. First of all, you have a privatized healthcare market, but there's this compliance overhead that requires healthcare organizations to provide interpreting services in most cases, so if they're taking government subsidies, for example, and what that's done is driven a massive market in interpreting, especially remote interpreting because as bandwidth, even in rural areas, has gotten better over time. It's much more economical to get a video interpreter than have an interpreter go on site. Of course, having an onsite interpreter is always going to be the most qualitative, the best qualitative experience you're going to have but in a lot of cases, it doesn't make sense, especially if it's just a 15-minute or a 20-minute doctor consultation, so it really depends on the use case.

But because of this compliance overhead, right, there's hundreds of thousands of medical entities that are our partners can sell to and so that's been a huge driver in the US and it continues to be. We still view it as a Greenfield market. We also see huge opportunities in legal and in education and in the public sector in consecutive interpreting and then as these events become more and more hybrid and remote because of the pandemic, we see RSI growing a lot in the US as well, but consecutive is still by far the largest in terms of the revenue pie in the United States, right.

It's very different in Europe. I was amazed when I went to a conference in Munich three years ago and I saw five booths for RSI technology vendors and I remember looking at my colleague at the time and saying, you would never see this in a US trade show. What's the difference here? Because of how unique the European market is and you have all these countries with different languages kind of jammed together on a continent and what it allows for is more and more event-based interaction where it's multilingual meetings. It's not just one language you need, but multiple languages that you need on these meetings. Of course, that's led to a proliferation of RSI technology on the European continent and now we see it growing, of course, like I said, in other regions. Whereas the dichotomy there is that the consecutive market in Europe is actually much younger, it's much more green.

We actually view that as a huge opportunity because what happened in the US with healthcare, what happened in the US with these different vertical markets I talked about, is starting to happen in Europe and Asia-Pacific as well, including LATAM. I mean, we see it in all regions. We see the opportunity, so it's sort of, the difference is in the US I view it as more consecutive with growing RSI, and in Europe, I view it as more RSI with growing consecutive, if that makes sense. Does make sense and you mentioned language, like the basically multilingual RSI events in Europe, how does language combos matter for you for the platform for the scheduling? Are you like completely language-agnostic in a sense? Or like, if it's Spanish-English, English-Spanish, it's still a lot easier than if it's some like, I don't know, a low resource language, to use a kind of a more technical term there? Yeah. Well, when you're talking about on-demand services and language support, right, there's economies of scale and more volume helps cover what you're describing as the longer tail languages.

Certainly Spanish and at least in the US market is over 40% of the volume that goes through our platform, so it is as you would expect, right. Intuitively the most common language, but Boostlingo is servicing over 220 languages on-demand and 24/7 and so those languages, that was hard to do early on. When you're doing a low volume of calls, it's hard to support those lower, the diffused languages because they're only getting called once a week.

Of course, now they're getting called even though the rare languages are getting called a lot and at Boostlingo we don't hire interpreters ourselves. We don't view ourselves as a service provider in that way. We're a technology hub that's connecting LSP labor pools together and so, we are routing calls to other language service providers. We call that our BPIN and so it's been easy for them to staff those languages as the volume through our platform has grown. But there is literally no language-related challenge, I mean apart from the availability component. Is that the only language-related kind of challenge on the platform other than that technically, or I don't know, I mean, there's nothing else, right? Well, I think there is when you start thinking about a couple of different things, right, so you get a couple of different language pairs that don't include English and you start talking about, you need an interpreter from Turkish to Russia, or you need an interpreter from French to Spanish, right.

English is not part of that language pair. That is a significant challenge because when you start thinking about, when we say we support 220 languages that's to and from English. But when you start thinking about the amount of language pairs you can have when you don't involve English, it's exponential, right, and you could have literally hundreds of thousands of language pairs. That's the challenge and that's what we're trying to build eventually, is a global network that can support all these different regions that may not need English in the language pair so that's a long-term challenge for us.

The other thing I would say is we do a lot of American Sign Language through our platform, and of course, spoken language and sign language are really two different animals in a lot of ways, right. They have different compliance regulations and overheads. They're managed by different organizations and the needs of our LSP partners that do a lot of ASL are very distinct from our spoken word LSPs, so that's another challenge in language when you're trying to build a platform that can both help the language providers that are providing spoken language services versus helping the deaf community and then, of course, now a lot of LSPs are doing both, right, so it's an education on teaching them how to support both. Walk us through some of the technical challenges with video remote. Let's say the consecutive variant, then now that you're in the RSI business, maybe you're also caring about latency and all these types of things, so walk us through some of the technical issues there that you need to solve and still need to solve for right now.

Yeah, I think, well, number one, the acquisitions are just a few weeks behind us, so we're learning more and more about some of the technical challenges in providing RSI but what's clear is that bandwidth has always been a challenge and it's getting better right across the globe. There's no question about it. Bandwidth is getting better. I think part of the challenge also when you talk about latency, jitter, those types of QoS metrics you'd want to keep track of, especially, in a high profile event, right, you've got 20 interpreters logging in, you've got a thousand participants on the call.

Stakes are high, right, and if it's a hybrid event, you have the challenge of having potentially a local area network, so what I mean by hybrid is a lot of people are at the event, but the interpreters are not and other people are logging in remotely. Something I think Slator's probably very familiar with, right. That kind of format and so the challenge there, of course, is getting a good experience for the people that are onsite that need those interpreting resources. They might be on a land that's got firewall permission issues or depending on where you are in the exhibitor floor, the internet may not be as good and versus the attendees that are remote and making sure that everybody has an equal experience. I think one thing VoiceBoxer has done really well is coming up with really innovative and creative solutions to solve that hybrid scenario and then, of course, with what we do at our core business in phone and video.

Video has always been a little bit of a challenge because it's much easier to do an audio call. The bandwidth requirements are much lower. You don't need to worry about what kind of webcam somebody's using and on the interpreter side, you don't have to worry about them being in a private setting and being dressed professionally, so all those kinds of things are challenges with video. But what we have seen just even in the last four years is that video has just gotten so much better. Through our platform, a lot of that has to do with bandwidth just naturally getting better over time.

A lot of it has to do with the video SDKs we write to over the Cloud, the Codex we use. It just becomes more, it negotiates bandwidth better so you got a higher definition video feed with less bandwidth requirements. Probably, you said before, dress professionally.

I mean, people are so much more ready now in front of their cameras and screens and their backlights and all of that so probably helps as well. Yeah. It's a login to video world we live in and so I think you're right. As I always tell people, our business is growing fast before the pandemic, but without question, the pandemic poured some fuel on the trend line of remote interpreting, right. Poured fuel on the fire there. Because it turns out it's good to have a remote platform when everybody's working remote.

Indeed. Let's go to another topic also tech, but kind of more future-gazing tech. Are you following what's going on in kind of speech-to-speech machine translation or whatever you call it, speech-to-speech translation at all? Is that something that's at all on your radar? Because like those Big Tech companies, Meta, Google, et cetera, I mean, they're all working on solutions there or like semi-automated solutions. Just what are your thoughts around that? Well, first of all, yeah we do keep an eye on it, of course, and the technology is really incredible.

What's interesting in the last five or six years, is the advancements made in sort of speech-to-text, not just from the big guys. I've seen a lot of the smaller startups create some really amazing products and so we view AI as a component of language interpreting and it's going to continue to be, especially, in certain use cases, right, but fundamentally Boostlingo believes that interpreting is a human experience. There's a reason video interpreting is growing so rapidly compared to audio interpreting.

People want eye contact, they want visual cues, they want to see a human and there's such a deep, emotional component to interpreting. You think about all the nuance of language, slang, sarcasm, all of those types of things that machines are going to have a really hard time with, even in our view, five, 10 years down the road, and the need to connect with a human when you're having really in-depth conversations about your chemotherapy or the treatments you need for your kids with your doctor. It's a lot more than just being able to do speech-to-text, right, when we think about interpreting as a whole.

That being said, there's a lot of consumer use cases where AI plays a huge role, right. Florian, you travel to Japan and you want to order some sushi rolls at the restaurant from the waiter, it's a couple of sentences. You can bust out your Google Translate or whatever other app and it's going to be much better than it was six or seven years ago. I can tell you that and we're even building in some AI and machine learning components into our workflows, into our call workflows, so even though the interpreting is happening with a human, we're building more of that AI technology into our platform and so yes, we keep an eye on it. It's really cool tech to look at and we think it's going to be more and more prevalent for certain types of use cases, but I do joke with people that humans will still be used for interpreting long after every car on the road is driving itself and because we just think that it's such a hard profession to automate.

I mean, because of the complexities of the job. That's a specific forecast. We shall check back in five years down the line, so let's talk about the tech roadmap.

You mentioned a few things that you're going to build into the platform. What's on the roadmap for the next two to three years? Also, of course, now that you have some integration work to do, but is there anything specific you can already mention? Well, yeah. I mean, you hit the nail on the head with the integration work. A lot of work ahead of us in 22, integrating VoiceBoxer and II into the Boostlingo core platform. Integration in general is a big theme for us. We're pursuing large integration projects with EMR, EHR vendors.

We have an open API and an SDK that developers can build on. We're also building integration projects with different telehealth platforms and not just in the US, abroad as well. We're also building training software, so that LSPs that have training programs for their interpreters can actually leverage Boostlingo to facilitate those training jobs and then, of course, just working on all features that our LSP partners are asking for, to enhance their experience and give them the features that they need to support their customers and that could mean integration with backend.

We already integrate with QuickBooks. We already integrate with Stripe, but what else do we need to integrate with that are our partners use commonly? So those are all really important themes that we're focused on in 22 and frankly, into 23, and then, yeah, some other big things are coming down the road that I can't quite speak to yet, but I'm excited to talk about our product roadmap as it evolves. Well, we'll get you back on the Pod, so in terms of building the company and like next steps, I mean, where do you see this in five, 10 years? If that's too long of a framework, maybe whatever framework or timeframe you pick.

In the LSP and the kind of the more traditional LSP world, a lot would like, I don't know, exit the private equity or maybe just sell to a bigger player, but you guys seem to be very much in a building mode. Is that a correct assumption? And like, what's your timeframe there too, I don't know, IPO or next round or something? Right. I mean, I think the short answer is YTD. Right now we're focused on building the best-unified platform for language service providers and remaining, continuing to innovate to stay ahead of competitors and also understanding the market trends, expanding internationally. That's a huge focus of our business right now because a lot of our revenues are concentrated in the US, so we're expanding internationally.

Already made a lot of progress there but really excited about these new markets, right, these emerging markets. I think interpreting, in general, is going to continue to grow rapidly but technology is going to play a bigger and bigger role and there's that saying, I think it was from DS-Interpretation a long time ago, that interpreters are not going to be replaced by technology, interpreters that don't know how to use technology will be replaced, and I think that really rings true and remote interpreting is going to be a huge growth engine for the language industry in general. I think if you look across all the different services that are under the umbrella of the language industry, remote interpreting has got to be one of the fastest-growing of all of them. Especially, in the emerging markets where there's even better bandwidth and better infrastructure that's being built, so there's just a huge opportunity in these markets and having the ability to provide all the different modalities of interpreting is huge. It's worth saying that big platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, they're going to play a role in this too, right. There are too widespread, ubiquitous not too, right, and so I think a challenge for not just Boostlingo but other competitors of ours is how do you work well with those different platforms? And otherwise, you're probably leaving some money on the table.

Got it. Well, Bryan was fantastic having you on a podcast. Thanks so much for doing this and congratulations again on VoiceBoxer and Interpreter Intelligence and happy integrating and building.

Thanks, Florian. It was great talking to you, as always.

2022-04-07 13:43

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