Online translation startup Unbabel raised a series B round in late December 2017, according to a regulatory filing with the SEC. The total offering amount is USD 23m, of which USD 14.16m has been sold as of press time.
It is unclear if the company based in San Francisco and the Portuguese capital Lisbon has sold or is going to sell the remaining USD 8.84m.
Among the likely investors are Notion Capital and Scale Venture Partners. The SEC filing lists Chris Tottman and Andy Vitus as Directors. Tottman is a partner at London-based VC fund Notion Capital, while Vitus is a partner at Silicon Valley-based Scale Venture Partners.
Notion Capital would be a follow-on investor, having participated in Unbabel’s Series A back in November 2016.
Founded in 2013 at tech incubator Y Combinator, Unbabel is still a relatively young company. The current round makes Unbabel one of the most well-funded language industry startups to date. Prior to the current round, Unbabel had already raised around USD 8m.
In an interview with Slator in late 2016, Unbabel Co-Founder and CEO Vasco Pedro said that if “one takes away pure machine translation services” the language industry is “an incredibly long tail of high-cost, low-tech, and massively inefficient solutions where the business model is basically ‘throw more humans at it’.” He wants technology to do 95% of the job so that human translators can efficiently “do the final bit that humans are really good at.”
Of course, many other language service and technology providers are also trying to do this, with varying degrees of success. However, attempts at increasing automation often get bogged down by devil-in-the detail-type client requests and custom workflows. So it will be interesting to see how fast Unbabel finds traction outside of its customer service content sweet spot, where it tends to be easier to automate processes than in, say, the clinical trial or legal translations space.
Unbabel’s Series B ends a dry spell in VC-backed language industry funding. In 2017, Qordoba’s USD 5m Series A was the only sizeable financing round in the US and Europe. In China, MT data company UTH got USD 6.35m from search engine giant Sogou. Chinese MT vendor New Tranx, meanwhile, secured USD 7.5m from a variety of investors.
Slator reached out to Unbabel for a comment but has not received a response as of press time.
Update: Aside from Notion Capital and Scale Venture Partners, five other new investors joined Unbabel’s latest funding round — the investment arm of three leading technology companies (SamsungNext Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and Microsoft Ventures — all based in the US), US online venture capital firm FundersClub, and Lisbon-based Caixa Capital.