Human-powered translation service Transfluent raises $2M, announces 900pc sales growth

Transfluent CEO Jani Pettinen

It’s been a while since I last covered the Finnish online translation service Transfluent — in late 2012, they picked up $1 million in angel funding to open a New York office, and inserted themselves into the Unity, Zendesk, WordPress (see disclosure) and Weibo ecosystems.

Now Transfluent has announced the raising of another $2 million, which it is calling a “pre-Series A” investment round. CEO Jani Penttinen (pictured above) told me this is because “it’s a mix of angels and one fund” (that’s Finland’s Vision+ Fund, along with those angels and the Finnish government funding agency Tekes) and the company still anticipates raising an “actual Series A” later this year.

The firm, which offers human-powered translation services for websites, apps, blogs and even social media accounts, has also given an update on its business. In late 2012, it had around 15,000 freelance translators in its global network, covering 60 languages. Now it has over 50,000 covering more than 80 languages, and 2013 saw a 900 percent year-on-year increase in sales.

Transfluent’s biggest rival is probably Smartling, which raised $24 million in a Series C round last October. Smartling has some very high-profile clients, such as Pinterest, Uber, Spotify, Dropbox and Tesla Motors, and it offers a variety of translation methods including automated translation – though there’s a good argument for only using humans, particularly if they can deliver in near-real-time as Transfluent promises.

“[Smartling is] focused on website translations while we focus on more dynamic content like customer support messages and social media, so we’re not going head to head,” Penttinen told me.

According to former Nokian Tero Ojanperä, who co-founded the Vision+ Fund: “Transfluent is going to revolutionize the translation industry through real-time matching of supply and demand with human touch.” The company is currently looking for engineers and salespeople in Helsinki and Sunnyvale, California, and with the major growth it’s undergoing it will be interesting to see how big that upcoming Series A will be.

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.

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