Dublin-based Sastre was brought to Lilt by fellow Lionbridge veteran Paula Shannon, who joined the San Francisco-based company in early 2019. Shannon and Sastre had worked together since their days at Berlitz’ Softrans in 1992, which, via Bowne, was acquired by Lionbridge in 2005.
Sastre held a number of senior sales positions until he was tasked with overseeing Lionbridge sales and operations in Western Europe before leaving the company in March 2019. At Lilt, he will report to Zack Kass, VP of Revenue.
Sastre’s addition comes as Lilt executes on its strategy of selling into large enterprises. Lilt started as a technology company marketing its translation productivity tool to linguists and language service providers; but, in early 2018, shifted to what the company calls a managed service model.
The company hopes to use its software, a clever blend of adaptive and predictive machine translation and an interactive user interface, to boost human translation productivity and change industry economics by offering low unit rates to clients, but attractive hourly rates to professional translators. VP Kass told Slator in a phone interview that Lilt’s translators now average around 1,000 words per hour.
Lilt operates mainly from its headquarters in San Francisco and a research hub in Berlin, where the company has added a number of developers to its ranks. Kass said that while hiring Sastre gives Lilt a presence in Dublin, one of Europe’s most active localization centers, the recruitment of European sales and business development executives will not be restricted to the Irish capital.
All that hiring does not come cheap. Asked if Lilt is funding its current recruitment drive primarily from funds raised in its October 2018 Sequoia-led Series A, Kass simply responded that Lilt has had “profitable months this year.”
Lilt, along with fellow startup Unbabel, is one of the most interesting language industry companies to emerge from a crop of translation-focused startups launched in 2015–2016. The two companies target different end-markets. Unbabel is laser-focused on customer service content as opposed to Lilt, which targets the broader enterprise space.
What both companies share are CEOs with a background in language technology, who have no legacy technology to replace, and are aggressively building the latest advances in neural machine translation into their workflows.
That said, hires like that of Sastre show that despite all that tech, there is still the need for a seasoned sales executive with deep client relationships to penetrate large enterprise clients — and have a change at winning against the biggest global LSPs, many of which have been in business for nearly 30 years.