New DeepL CEO on Customer Service and Human-in-the-Loop Translation

On July 6, 2019, Germany-based machine translation provider DeepL announced the appointment of Co-founder Jaroslaw Kutylowski as CEO. Kutylowski had been with DeepL and its predecessor Linguee since 2012. He takes over from Gereon Frahling, who founded Linguee in 2009 and launched DeepL in 2017. Frahling has taken on the role of Head of Research at DeepL, where he will “develop and improve AI solutions to translate and understand texts,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

The change at the top comes a little over half a year after venture capital firm Benchmark took a 13.6% stake in DeepL at an undisclosed valuation.

“Things are going very well for DeepL and our growth is only accelerating,” Kutylowski told Slator. He added, “The next phase of our development promises to be even more intense. This change allows me to focus on running the business and developing new products and services, while also freeing up our research talents to focus on advancing our AI ideas and technology and overall product strategy.”

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Anecdotal evidence supports Kutylowski’s claim of accelerating momentum. DeepL.com continues to grow and is now ranked 1,147th globally on Alexa.com in terms of web traffic, 170th in Germany, and as high as 29th in Switzerland at press time. Asked about any other metrics that would illustrate the company’s trajectory, Kutylowski said they “don’t release statistics on our usage at this point in time.”

Beyond Europe?

On the back of the Benchmark investment, the company has doubled staff count since the beginning of the year, Kutylowski said, adding that most of their “hiring has focused on our research and development department, though we have also expanded our administrative personnel.” According to an article in Forbes, DeepL’s team has grown to nearly 50 staff.

While DeepL has become wildly popular in Europe, traction in the US and elsewhere has been somewhat limited. “We’re a European company, so it’s not surprising that most of the media attention and our initial customer base have come from European countries,” Kutylowski explained. He said other markets, such as the United States and the wider Americas, are very interesting, and “our profile is growing there, too, and we are looking to encourage that.”

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DeepL’s focus on Europe is apparent from its limited language coverage. The company currently offers only nine European languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Polish, and Russian), and none of the major Asian languages or Arabic. “The languages we’re supporting currently already cover a vast market,” Kutylowski said, declining to comment on new language releases.

When DeepL launched back in 2017, Kutylowski promised the addition of Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Portuguese. With Russian and Portuguese shipped, it is safe to assume the company is now likely working on Chinese and Japanese.

Unlocking the Enterprise

Many DeepL enterprise users, meanwhile, cite a lack of customer service and customization options. Asked whether the focus will remain on the product at the expense of customer service, Kutylowski replied, “Developing and improving our products will always be important, and, as part of that, we are working to improve usability and expand our customer service.”

Given its history as a website (Linguee) that monetized traffic via display ads, it is understandable DeepL would be more inclined to scale in the consumer market first before attempting to unlock its enterprise potential — which comes with customer service and customization challenges. However, based on conversations with industry participants, the company is seeing solid demand for its DeepL PRO offering among both language service providers and corporates.

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While much of DeepL’s output is used as raw machine translation, it is also a popular option for post-editing. Kutylowski sees the human translator’s role as applying “their specialist knowledge to deliver a final product far better than what can be achieved by either human or machine alone. I think this synergy of highly-educated professionals and a top-of-the-line tool like DeepL is currently the gold standard in translation.”

Image: MediaPark Köln, DeepL HQ