The Elusive Uberization of Translation

29 Déc 2015

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By Florian Faes

Two new competitors have entered the market with their own take on how to become that elusive “Uber for translation.”Stepes is the crowdsourcing startup of language service provider CSOFT. Beijing-based CSOFT has been active in the language services industry for over a decade, making most of its business in North America despite its Chinese origins. The company generated above $40 million in revenue in 2014. The Stepes app launched on Android on December 17, 2015 and is planned for release in iOS and Windows.

Digital media company Emerge Media, meanwhile, is trying to monetize ownership of the sector’s hottest domain name, The company offers MS Translator-powered machine translation on its landing page and launched an option where it upsells website visitors to a crowdsourced, post-edited paid translation service in June 2015.

CSOFT’s Crowdsourced Translation Startup

From what we gathered in personal discussion with CSOFT VP of Strategy Carl Yao, CSOFT sees huge untapped demand for translation services that can be unlocked only if prices are reduced dramatically by using a crowdsourcing approach. Yao called this the long tail of translation demand. According to Yao, Stepes seeks to expand its pool of translators (currently numbering around 50,000 thanks to CSOFT’s TermWiki community) by allowing literally any bilingual person to translate documents submitted via Stepes.

And why would anyone want to? Well, translators on Stepes use a chat-based user interface (UI) that allows them to work line by line in a way that looks like they are texting. They can “swipe” back to finished translations or see more text from the original document to gain more context and maintain translation quality throughout the document. This apparently intuitive UI, according to Yao, is meant to lower the barrier of entry for anyone who wants to become part of Stepes’ “crowd” of translators. As for quality assurance, the Stepes app makes use of secondary reviews and a rating system for feedback on finished work. The result in terms of price: 3 to 10 cents per word, depending on the language pair. Finally, Yao did not specify how the company plans to handle the processing of what would be millions of micropayments should Stepes succeed.

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About CSOFT International

CSOFT International Ltd. is a world leader in localization and globalization consulting services, providing turnkey solutions for companies facing the challenges of engaging customers and markets across linguistic and cultural barriers. Recognized as one of the Top Innovative Companies in 2011 by IDC we have an award-winning international team. In 2012, the company’s CEO was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and a Tech Disruptor by CNN Money.

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