Unbabel's AI-powered translation software is used by the likes of easyJet, Facebook and Microsoft

Unbabel CEO Vasco Pedro

Unbabel CEO Vasco Pedro

Technology that combines artificial intelligence and humans will play a big role in the future, believes the boss of translation tech service Unbabel after it raised $60m in new funding.

The Portuguese start-up combines AI with a global community of translators to enable companies including easyJet, Facebook and Microsoft to communicate with their customers in any language.

Its Series C financing – nearly three-times the $23m Series B raised last year – brings its total investment to $91m since being founded in 2013.

Co-founder and CEO Vasco Pedro said the backing speaks to the “rapidly expanding business case for AI augmentation” – a segment that Gartner predicts to create $2.9tn of business value by 2021.

“We are now translating more than one million customer service messages a month,” he added.

“That’s over five-times the volume we saw in 2018, which only underscores the global demand for agile multilingual customer service.

“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.”


What is Unbabel?

Based in Lisbon but with a global customer base, Unbabel has built an AI-powered translation service that can be integrated into clients’ own communication platforms.

Its chatbot software translates text written in someone’s native tongue by combining bespoke neural machine translation – similar sentence-structuring tech to that used by Google Translate – and a global network comprising tens of thousands of “Unbabelers”.

Working as paid freelancers, their role is to post-edit the automatic translations to ensure professional quality.

Unbabel’s software covers 28 languages for hundreds of subscription-based clients – also including Expedia, Booking.com, Skyscanner and Pinterest, which use the technology with the aim of increasing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Since then, a video product was brought to market by the company by combining translation with transcription – providing captions to be synched into a video with native-quality subtitles.

Future iterations of the technology are based on conversational AI, which will be able to understand the intent of a speaker in order to achieve a better quality of translation.

Unbabel, which recently recorded its strongest quarter yet in terms of revenue growth, will now use the extra capital to accelerate global expansion and broaden its AI capabilities.


Unbabel funding won because of transformative potential

Point72 Ventures, an early-stage venture capitalist fund based in New York City whose portfolio includes micro-investing app Acorns, led the $60m funding alongside e.ventures, Greycroft, and Indico Capital Partners.

Previous investors Scale Venture Partners, Notion Capital, Microsoft’s venture fund M12, Samsung NEXT, Caixa Capital, Faber Ventures, FundersClub, and Structure Capital also participated in the round.

Pedro said: “We are pleased to add the support of Point72 Ventures, e.ventures, Greycroft and Indico Capital Partners, which understand the disruptive power of truly seamless translation.

“For the first time, Unbabel’s customers are able to look at language as a business enabler rather than as a barrier, and scale their operations according to strategic priorities.”

Sri Chandrasekar, a partner at Point72 Ventures, added: “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.

“We believe that Unbabel is poised to transform the translation industry, and we are incredibly excited to partner with them on this journey.”