Business Translation Center

Translation sector startups – an overview

by OFER TIROSH 15/08/2018

The vast, global nature of the translation industry means that it is an attractive market for language companies to try to crack. With startups looking to act as disruptors in a vast range of industries – and some of them enjoying significant financial success as a result – it is only natural that enterprising individuals should seek to use technology to take on the challenges of the translation sector. Now, new figures from startup platform AngelList, have revealed some fascinating insights into the current size and shape of the market. 

Translation startup snapshot

The language industry is massive. On LinkedIn, for example, there are over 20,000 companies relating to the language sector, and some 600,000 individual profiles connected to it. Such vast numbers mean it has been hard to interrogate the data meaningfully, which is why the AngelList figures are so interesting – because they separate out ‘translation’ as a category in its own right. 

The figures show that there were 331 registered translation startups at the start of July 2018. Each of those businesses is looking to disrupt the translation industry in some way, blending the latest technology with innovative ideas in order to generate an exciting burst of progress. Looking at their focus, crowdsourcing is top of the agenda, as companies seek to harness the power of social networking and crowd contributions to delivery translation results. Companies are focusing on mobile apps as the second most popular business case/sector, followed by interpretation, freelancer matching or community, and machine translation. 

The changing face of the translation industry

One interesting aspect of the data is what it reveals about startup survival rates. Just 10% of the registered crowdsourcing companies on the platform have failed since 2011, for example, while 25% of those focusing on mobile apps are no longer active. This compares with an overall failure rate of 20%. 

For those looking to disrupt the professional translation industry, the figures thus provide a firm steer in the direction of crowdsourcing, despite the drive by larger companies (and, indeed, some smaller ones) to crack neural machine translation. It seems that those startups focusing on human translation are more likely to survive for longer periods than those looking to make waves by producing apps. 

Translation startups around the world

With AngelList being a US-based and English-language platform, it is unsurprising that the majority of translation startups that have registered on it are from the US (91 companies) and then the UK (25 companies). After those come India (with 16 registered startups), Germany (9), France (8) and China (6). In total, 51 different countries are registered on the platform with business ideas that relate to translation. 

Due to the nature of the work undertaken, it is to be expected that the translation industry will always have more of an international focus than other sectors. Despite that knowledge, it is interesting to see just how many countries from around the world now have their own startups looking to play a major role in the future of the sector. Only time will tell how many of them go on to achieve that lofty ambition!