Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Language I/O has closed on its first institutional venture round of $5 million. The company provides text to text real-time translation in 100 languages for global companies’ customer service.
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The funding round was led by two Massachusetts-based firms, Gutbrain Ventures and PBJ Capital, with participation from Silicon Valley-based Omega Venture Partners and angel investors including angel group Golden Seeds, which also invested in the seed round.
We spoke with co-founder and CEO Heather Morgan Shoemaker and co-founder and Chief Business Officer Kaarina Kvaavik about raising their Series A funding and solving a need that would be expensive to hire.
“I know how hard it is to be an engineer and a woman, but I was not prepared for the challenges I faced when it came to raising money,” said Shoemaker, an engineering masters graduate from CU Boulder.
As a profitable company in a large market, with two founders that have extensive business experience and domain knowledge, Shoemaker was surprised by all the pushback they received. Especially, she said, as they had mentors who’d told them: “Your technology is a slam dunk. You have marquee customers, Fortune 500 customers. It’s not like you have this idea and no revenue.”
Language I/O, founded in 2015, was bootstrapped until raising funding became a priority in 2018 as competition in the space grew. In 2019, the company raised a $500,000 seed round led by Casper, Wyoming-based angel investment fund Breakthrough 307.
The service can be used for instantaneous chat, email, articles and social media.
“The use cases are any platform where there are conversations going on between two parties. It could be an internal slack channel, it can be gamers talking to each other over some kind of internal chat,” said Kvaavik, who heads up sales, marketing and partnerships.
“What’s especially challenging is conversational translation or user generated content,” said Shoemaker, as “it’s messy content, it’s not well written, it starts out bad, you’ve got misspellings.”
That’s the area where Language I/O hopes to distinguish itself, as the content needs to be normalized before it can be translated.
The company also recognized that technical customers needed special translations and built an “aggregation layer” with a glossary of industry terms specific to a company, to ensure accurate translation. The service is integrated with six different neural machine translation engines, and has built-in encryption for personal data; when the translation is sent back, Language I/O does not persist the content for training or other purposes.
The service is integrated into leading CRM systems including Salesforce Service Cloud1, Oracle Service Cloud, Zendesk and via API. Language I/O has strong relationships with CRM providers that pull them into conversations with potential customers, according to Kvaavik.
Pricing starts at $499 per month for a discovery package. The service doesn’t charge based on how many languages or how many customer service representatives a user taps, instead basing pricing on usage of the service on a monthly or annual basis.
Language I/O’s customers include email marketing company Constant Contact, photo purchasing provider Shutterstock (SSTK), photo publishing service PhotoBox, and Brave, a faster and secure browser company.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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