Three months after premium domain Translate.com reportedly changed hands, the identity of the website’s new owner has been revealed.
News broke initially in November 2018 about the domain and the business going up for auction on Flippa, a domain broker service. According to follow-up reports, Translate.com was sold for USD 853,000 to a buyer who preferred to remain anonymous.
Vitchenko is a Ukrainian investor and founding partner of Ukrainian venture capital firm Digital Future, an investment vehicle for a group of IT businesses that also focuses on seed and early-stage investments.
Slator contacted Vitchenko to find out more about the deal and his plans for the future of what is arguably among the language industry’s most valuable domains. Vitchenko said there “were more than a hundred consecutive bids by 10 or so bidders and we were awarded a winning bid.” Vitchenko was not privy to the names or companies involved in the competitive bidding process.
While Slator was unable to independently verify the names of rival bidders, it would be surprising if there had not been a number of established language service providers (LSPs) involved in the bidding. The domain would be an asset to any LSP — and, one could argue, owning “Translations.com” was one of the more important factors contributing to TransPerfect’s long-term success.
According to Vitchenko, Digital Future “only bought domain and other digital assets” and has not “purchased a company running the translate.com site.”
Under its new ownership, Translate.com is now “being run by a small distributed team,” Vitchenko said. But “when there is a need, we’ll probably think of a permanent office,” he added. “We hired a team of experts and development professionals to take this business to another level.”
At the time of purchase, the Translate.com website was “still running, however, it was not actively maintained,” Vitchenko said. “I believe the product itself needs to be updated and developed further,” he added.
On the development work needed for the site, Vitchenko said the team plans to “start from accommodating existing products, doing fixes wherever needed, and improving user experience. Then, we’ll see.”
Translate.com was the subject of one of 2017’s most discussed stories, when it was discovered that anything typed into the free machine translation service offered by translate.com and powered by Microsoft Translator was freely accessible via a simple Google search. The privacy snafu turned the company from a business with an exceptionally well-positioned domain name to a cautionary tale on using free machine translation tools.
Vitchenko’s take on all that? “To the best of my knowledge, that wasn’t formally a ‘breach.’ Anyway, the issue was settled by the previous owner. We’ve purchased assets, so we don’t inherit any liabilities related to the company that was running the website before. We, however, do care about the reputation of the domain and the product, so we’ll do our best to ensure nothing like that repeats in the future.”
“This is one of our long-term strategic investments, so we don’t expect it to follow the investment horizon that is common to venture investments.”
It was the “good domain name” that attracted Vitchenko to Translate.com, and the fact that “we’d seen an opportunity to upgrade a product and strengthen the marketing approach.” Besides, “translation always has been on top of my personal interests” Vitchenko said.
Vitchenko pointed out that Translate.com “isn’t really a classic startup,” was atypical of the usual investment, and he does not plan on exiting any time soon. He explained, “This is one of our long-term strategic investments, so we don’t expect it to follow the investment horizon that is common to venture investments.”
Vitchenko sees real opportunity within the wider translation space, “in particular, the SMB segment remains under-penetrated in our view,” he said, adding that Digital Future is “watching several startups in the natural language processing space, but there are no deals yet.”
Editor’s note: the original article did not include the purchase price for Translate.com, which was reported by Vector to have been sold for USD 0.85m.