Conyac is a Tokyo-based startup that focuses on providing cost-effective translation services, leveraging crowdsourced expertise. It recently added a new service to its repertoire called Conyac for Business, and the company also announced its first overseas expansion to San Francisco. In addition to those developments, we also learned that Una Aruna Softic has joined the team to help their international marketing efforts in San Francisco. She previously worked with EverConnect.me, a social media account aggregation service that was shut down last September. We spoke with Una as well as Conyac’s CEO Naoki Yamada, about their plans to grow this translation business.
Tell us about this new business service, and why you are expanding your offerings in this way.
It’s called Conyac for Business, and it is designed better suit business translation needs. We started our service in May of 2009, aiming at giving individual users a way to break language barriers at affordable rates. [But] now we’re receiving more translation requests from corporate users, and that’s why we created the new service, to better serve those users.
How is it different from your existing service?
Our regular service provides translation services for casual communication purposes, such contacting a sales representative at an e-commerce site abroad when ordering. For the purpose of encouraging our (crowdsourced) translators to make a translation request very quickly, the maximum length in each ‘request unit’ was limited to [a maximum of] 720 characters. However, for the business service, the limit is extended up to 50,000 characters so that our users need not to split sentences into pieces when placing a translation order, meaning it may fit even for business documents as well.
Of course, in terms of satisfying clients with the translation quality, we also established a new qualification process to choose highly skilled translators for business needs. The business service can accept original documents for translation requests not only as text files but also in some different business document file formats such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Keynote Files. This feature would be really helpful for our business users, because they no longer need to replace texts in their original documents with translation results.
So why do this now?
We found there’s a need for much work coming from the social gaming industry. Social gaming developers are now intensifying their international expansion. And in terms of localizing their gaming apps with foreign languages, they have a tremendous need for translation because the release cycles of new apps and updates are very, very short. We believe our service fit them well, and that’s why we also added to our sales headcount in order to cultivate more corporate clients from the industry.
Does the recent change of your major shareholders have anything to do with this new business strategy?
Yes. So far, we have fundraised a total of approximately 40 million yen ($431,000) from Samurai Incubate, United (previously known as ngi group), and Skylight Consulting. The shares previously held by our first investor Samurai Incubate were handed over to angel investor Anri Samata, because he has many connections with our potential clients, so that he could help us.
You’re launching a new office in San Francisco. What’s the main purpose of that office?
Yes, my new colleague Una will be in charge of that, and we will be setting up a new office (or a desk) at a co-working space in San Francisco. We’ve not yet decided the location or the date of its launch, but will announce that very shortly. Basically, the main role of our SF office is to intensify our marketing efforts and gain a presence in the global startup community. Through the new office, we expect to get more new clients from the West coast who are in need of translation as well.
Do you have any plan to set up other overseas offices after San Francisco?
Yes. We’re now exploring the potential of setting up a new office in Singapore, where a number of Japanese and Asian gaming/tech startups have their offices.
The competition in the translation space is getting more intense these days. A Conyac competitor, 500Starups-backed Gengo is considered to be slightly ahead when it comes to serving businesses, as they have developed many tools and interfaces for business translation needs. In the Asian region, other startups in the translation space include OneSky and Translation Market – both from Hong Kong.