On November 9, 2020, Interprefy Founder and CEO Kim Ludvigsen will hand over the leadership of the remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) platform he founded six years ago to Annett Polaszewski-Plath.
Ludvigsen’s new role, as Founder and Vice Chairman of the Board, will allow him to “focus on business development and strategic partnerships — activities I like and that I’m good at,” he told Slator. No major change in the company’s shareholder structure accompanies the leadership change, Ludvigsen said.
Annett Polaszewski-Plath takes on the CEO role at the Zurich-based RSI provider after commercial leadership stints at ticketing platform Eventbrite (Managing Director for DACH) and online payment portal PayPal (Head of Sales for DACH).
The German-born Polaszewski-Plath recently relocated to Zurich after having spent many years in the UK and US. She told Slator that joining the company is “a unique opportunity to help bring Interprefy from startup to maturity.”
Asked what excites her most about the RSI industry and where she foresees risk, Polaszewski-Plath replied that RSI is on the cusp of a digital transformation and holds a lot of potential for “creating a stunning event experience” for participants. “The risks, of course, are that the industries are changing at a rapid speed and focusing on the right areas is key.”
“The incredible cognitive [skills] of interpreters never ceased to amaze me” — Annett Polaszewski-Plath, CEO, Interprefy
She added, “I’ve been part of many events on the participant and speaker side that offered simultaneous interpretation, and the incredible cognitive [skills] of interpreters never ceased to amaze me.”
From Collapse to Boom
Interprefy founder Ludvigsen said that October 27, 2020 will be exactly six years ago to the day since he “went to the company register to incorporate Interprefy.”
That early on, Ludvigsen had a vision: “If I could build a profitable business and one day pass on the leadership to somebody better suited to take my ‘baby’ from the startup to the grown-up stage, I should be proud, because this would be a huge accomplishment.”
He recalled, “At that time, I had already worked almost a year on the business idea. It was tough in the beginning, but we quickly grew — probably because I had the ability to, at a very early stage, attract highly talented people as well as investors.”
Ludvigsen thought the “tremendous momentum” Interprefy gained over the last months would make it “the right time for a change — for me and for Interprefy — so I went to the board with my idea”; stepping down and handing over the CEO reins to Polaszewski-Plath.
Polaszewski-Plath will lead “a global team of 100+ experts,” who, according to Ludvigsen, “make it beautifully simple” to combine any video conferencing platform with RSI in any language.
“As of the end of February, no events could take place due to travel and assembly restrictions. So our business collapsed. By the end of March, clients started coming back to us, desperately asking us to help take their multi-language events entirely online” — Kim Ludvigsen, Founder and Vice Chairman, Interprefy
One challenge for RSI providers is how to collaborate or run atop major video conferencing platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and, naturally, Zoom. In October 2020, Zoom launched Zapps, a suite of apps within the Zoom UI that, at the time of writing, does not yet feature an RSI platform among what they call “best of breed” apps.
Zoom does offer a feature for live interpreting. Ludvigsen said they have been “delivering interpreting through Zoom for almost a year and, since Covid-19, the business has exploded.” He added that “Zoom will not only work with one RSI provider, but with several.”
Ludvigsen pointed out, “We’re technology-agnostic,” and, thus, also have existing partnerships with other web conferencing providers, such as ON24 or BlueJeans, which use an Interprefy widget inside their platforms. Key clients come from “NGOs, government organizations, corporations and associations from many sectors, such as sports, health, technology, education, and many more.”
Asked to elaborate on the impact of Covid on the business, Ludvigsen said, “As of the end of February, no events could take place due to travel and assembly restrictions. So our business collapsed. By the end of March, clients started coming back to us, desperately asking us to help take their multi-language events entirely online, which we started doing. And the demand for our solutions has continued to increase ever since. By the end of Q2 we were already back on track.”
“Most of our revenues are customized orders. We don’t offer a subscription-based model at the moment” — Kim Ludvigsen, Founder and Vice Chairman, Interprefy
He said their three biggest challenges were (1) hiring and training people fast enough to meet demand; (2) processing order inflow volumes in a timely manner; and (3) adapting and refining their product.
Ludvigsen also pointed out that, in terms of AI entering the interpreting space, there are “still many challenges so far, mainly around quality.”
On how he sees Interprefy’s financials by year-end, Ludvigsen told Slator, “2020 will be almost triple of 2019.” He added, “Most of our revenues are customized orders. We don’t offer a subscription-based model at the moment.”
As for any plans to raise capital, the Interprefy founder said, “We successfully completed a capital increaser this spring. We have a credit facility from the Swiss government fund Technologiefonds and, on top, we have a positive cash flow. We also have financially strong shareholders. But we never say never.”