Lilt, a provider of AI-powered business translation software, announced today that it has raised $55 million in a Series C round led by Four Rivers, along with new investors Sorenson Capital, CLEAR Ventures and Wipro Ventures. The company says it plans to use the capital to expand its R&D efforts, as well as its customer footprint and engineering teams.
“little” [aims to] build a solution that [will] combine the best of human ingenuity with machine efficiency,” CEO Spence Green told TechCrunch via email. “This new funding will… [reduce our] unit of economy [to make] translation more affordable for all businesses. It will also [enable us to add] a sales force to our existing production team in Asia. We are in three regions – the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia – and we want to have both sales and production teams in each of these regions.”
Based in San Francisco, Calfiornia, Lilt was co-founded in 2015 by Green and John DeNero. Green is a former software engineer for Northrop Grumman who later worked as a research intern with the Google Translate team, developing an AI language system for improving English-to-Arabic translations. DeNero was previously a senior research scientist at Google, mostly on the side of Google Translate, and an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
“15 years ago I lived in the Middle East, where you earn less if you speak something other than English. I’ve never been exposed to that kind of inequality before and the downside was extremely frustrating,” Green told TechCrunch. “I then returned to the United States, went to high school and started working on Google Translate, where I met [DeNero]† Our mission is to make the world’s information accessible to everyone, regardless of where they were born or what language they speak.”
To translate marketing, support, and e-commerce documents and web pages — Lilt’s main workload — Lilt uses a combination of human translators and tools, including keyboard shortcuts, style guides, and an AI translation engine. Green says the platform supports about 40 languages and offers custom termbases and lexicons, which show translators a range of possible translations for a particular word.
The aforementioned AI engine, which is regularly trained on new data, including feedback from Lilts translators, analyzes translation data to make recommendations. But the translators have the last word.
“AI and machine learning help automate the business translation process, but you can’t automate it all – that’s why we’re a human-in-the-loop process,” says Green. “We leave the creative and emotional elements of translation to humans, while automating the tedious and repetitive elements. This helps with the unity economy of our company and allows companies to apply translations across all customer touchpoints.”
Using the Lilt platform, clients can assign translators and revisers, track due dates, and track the progress of translation jobs. After signing an annual contract with Lilt, customers can use the service’s API and connectors to pipe text for translation from platforms such as Slack, WordPress, GitHub, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Adobe Marketing Cloud.
Translators receive a fixed hourly rate, which is individually agreed. They must earn at least $20 for providing “linguistic services” through the platform to pay out, which can include both review and translation. Lilt automatically tracks hours, counting only time spent actively translating and reviewing content and not time spent doing external research outside of Lilt’s standard work limits (30 seconds for translation per segment and 50 seconds for segment rating).
A robust market
According to a recent Salesforce survey, the average consumer now uses 10 channels, including social media and SMS, to communicate with businesses. Yet the average company supports relatively few languages. A July 2020 survey by Stripe found that 74% of European e-commerce websites had not translated their checkout pages into local languages.
This is where Green sees opportunities, despite competition from rivals like Unbabel. Grand View Research expects the machine translation market to be worth $983.3 million by 2022.
With more than 150 employees, Lilt already claims to have clients at Intel, Emerson, Juniper Networks and Orca Security and others in the education, crypto, technology, defense and intelligence sectors. “It is only becoming more important to ensure an end-to-end multilingual customer experience,” Green added.
Existing investor Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Redpoint Ventures and XSeed Capital also participated in Lilt’s Series C round. It brings the startup’s total capital raised to $92.5 million.