Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Interview with Idris Manley, NativeTung
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
It's another big week for startup launches, this time in San Diego at DEMOfall. One of the firms launching this week there is Los Angeles-based NativeTung (www.nativetung.com), which is developing tools to help web sites translate and create multilingual versions of their sites. We spoke with Idris Manley, founder of NativeTung, last week, to hear more about the company.
What is NativeTung?
Idris Manley: NativeTung is a global management solution that allows websites to maximize their global audience, reach, and engagement. It's in the automated translation category of the industry. We've been two years in development, and are excited to provide a revolutionary platform for web sites, blogs, and social sites to create and grow their international business.
Help us understand your technology--is this focused on the automated language translation technology, or on the process of localizing a web site?
Idris Manley: Essentially, what we do is we create a global layer for web sites, that supports multiple language content channels. We've created bi-directional, and real-time links between a web site and translation software. NativeTung is a cloud-based platform, which includes some software which runs on the web site, which ensures synchronization of the translation at all times. It handles language translation policies, quality control preferences, and allows all of that to be managed and organized from our console. We've essentially provided a customer a single interface, where they can create and analyze their international presence. We have control over the global website content, and how it is translated, as well as perform analytic decisions. The service is for sites targeting foreign markets, who are determining how to better optimize and tune how they are engaging around the globe.
So do you handle both the management and translation?
Idris Manley: It's definitely both. We take a holistic approach to globalization. We see ourselves providing a single solution for any company, which is managing a global online presence. To break that down, in terms of what that means, is we handle the managing and executing translation content, including the actual operational activity of translating that content. We support various translation gateways from Google, Microsoft, and other third party translation engines. In addition to that, we provide additional value through quality control mechanisms, which allows end users to manage the quality of those translations, such as meeting content domain requirements, branding and messaging goals, etc. In addition to that, we provide the ability of customers to review that with analytics. That allows a company to not only manage that translation capability, but also so that business analysts and executives can see how well they are performing and executing their global strategy.
What's the difference here between what you are doing and the traditional translation providers, and how do you fit into that world?
Idris Manley: We see ourselves as the third generation. When you look at the industry as a whole, there are couple of well-funded players. There's Google, Microsoft, Lionbridge, SYSTRAN, all of whom are spending huge amounts of money to be able to become the dominant language translation vendor. What no one has done, is focus on providing a solution. It's great to have an API to support translation, but how do you integrate that with where the content resides, the online content management systems? No one is taking the time to solve actually extending this innovative technology to where content resides. We realized that's what needed in this industry, to empower those who own the content to allow them to support translation, and to globalize and expand their companies to global markets. We've created a distribution hub which integrates with the content systems which require globalization and translation, along with the various systems that can deliver the translation, as well as with different partners and third parties who support the quality control and quality management aspects as well.
Who would be the typical customer for this service?
Idris Manley: It's interesting. We really see a need across the board. We built this to support corporate portals--companies that have a corporate presence on the web--but also see that social networks like MySpace or Facebook could use this technology to allow users at their site to communicate in their native language with other users. You could use it to break down language silos in those social networks. It also supports blogs. There's lots of media and blogs in Southern California, who could use it as well. An example might be Demand Media, which as a ton of corporate portals and content sites, and would be an ideal target to target customers in global markets.
How did you start NativeTung?
Idris Manley: It's funny, my original plan was never a language translation company. Originally, I wanted to build a simple international social newtork. I thought it would be a cool lifestyle business to have people from all across the world communicate in their native language. In order to do that, building the social network was rather easy--there's lots of prepackaged software now--but as I looked at how to identify and license language translation software, I realized it was too expensive, too difficult, or it just didn't work. I realized we had to build our own for the social network, and after we started buildling the technology in-house, and months and months of trial and error, we figured it out. We realized the technology was far more powerful, and would be far more useful to ther web sites to take advantage of, instead of just for our own needs.
What's your own background?
Idris Manley: I have almost fifteen years in the software industry. I started at Oracle many years ago in the valley, and have worked in various technical and business related roles as a consultant, project manager, and business development manager. Early on in my career, I worked in various areas in large companies. From there, I left to start by first startup, Aphiniti, which raised capital but ended up undercapitalized and closed down. I then worked again in industry for several startups, including Shopzilla, Seven networks, and Accruent. The last place I worked was at Yahoo.
How's the firm funded and financed?
Idris Manley: We're self funded, and have been two and a half years in develompent mode. We'll be seeking funding in Q4 for our first seed round, when we'll start engaging with prospective investors. For the last two and a half years, we've been very internally focused on our product. It's a very complex system we've built, although it's easy for the customer, it's been complex to support internally. We've taken the time to make sure that the software is tuned and addresses the key needs to provide a complete solution in this space.
Finally, can people use the software now?
Idris Manley: We will be launching our private beta at DEMO. WE will then take the next couple of months to get customer feedback and work closely with our customers, before we are ready for general availability. Any customers interested in signing up can go to our website and fill in our registration form, we'd love to give them the opportunity to try out the product and improve their business.