Though the U.S. is a dominant factor in global markets, 80% of the world’s population does not speak the English language. This barrier is the major challenge, according to Fardad Zabetian, and a dominant problem when it comes to getting business done. As such, this entrepreneur has hatched several companies dedicated to facilitating communication, the most recent of which has disrupted an age-old and very personal process of language interpretation.
After twenty years in the business of providing the technology and infrastructure necessary to ensure that world leaders, diplomats and business leaders who did global business could talk with one another, he realized that the actual translation process was the crux of what needed to be technologized. The internet and the cloud became the perfect place for this to occur, and served as a meeting place where the incredible talent of interpreters needed to coalesce and be accessed.
As such, Zabetian used this talent and technologies to reinvent the multilingual meeting with the creation of a powerful video conferencing platform that gives clients access to real-time interpretation from a network of thousands of professional interpreters. He gathered the experts who work with parliaments and presidents all over the world to provide 80+ spoken languages and sign languages to clients who do global business.
Though the company has only been around since 2017, proof of concept happened quickly when one of Kudo’s first clients was an iconic global organization filled with representatives from every country in the world who rely heavily on cross-cultural discussion. Shortly after, the services of this revolutionary multilingual platform were adopted by clients such as Harvard Business Publishing, governments, diplomatic agencies, and national trade organizations in Europe, Asia, and South America.
“After 20 years of providing technology equipment it requires to make events like a G20, the UN, the World Bank or the World Leader Summit come to life,” explains Zabetian from his office in midtown New York City, “I realized that the actual communication itself was the thing that needed to be technologized. It’s such an honor to work with some of the most highly educated people who make their living as professional linguists. Now businesses of any size, anywhere in the world, have access to their services.”
In addition to servicing organizations that need multilingual translation, Zabetian developed a system that provides opportunities for interpreters who, in the past, mostly relied upon local agencies and their own network for work. Furthermore, Zabetian implemented a new addition of the technology called KUDO Marketplace, released in February 2021, that makes scheduling of the interpreter and booking process an operator-easy experience.
Every startup works to disrupt existing paradigms, especially in the tech industry, and Zabetian created a technology that does this on several levels. It takes a bit of a history lesson to understand why this is significant:
Back in the times of ancient fiefdoms, telephones did not yet exist, or even transportation fast enough for leaders to speak directly to one another, never mind sign treaties over land quarrels. Leaders entrusted prisoners from their warring enemies’ side to interpret for them. As one might imagine, these people were highly valued, and potentially dangerous, but sat at the sides of the elite and whispered into their ears.
As history progressed, neutral professional interpreters emerged, as did the art of what’s called “consecutive” and “simultaneous” interpretation, both of which require highly educated individuals to perform, and under massive pressure. This artform began at the Nuremberg Trials post-World War II when the Allied powers created the International Military Tribunal with judges from the U.S., Britain, Soviet Union and France, who presided over the hearings of Nazi criminals.
A young IBM was credited with creating some of the early microphone and headset technology that allowed speakers and listeners to receive communication as quickly and accurately as possible.
We now live in a time where technology is democratizing these incredible efforts. Two decades ago, when Zabetian was a 26-year-old immigrant who arrived wide eyed in Silicon Valley looking to create his impact in the tech industry, he bridged this technology together and leased these systems to the organizations hosting diplomatic meetings.
“Given the history of this industry, it’s incredible that the internet has made this available at the click of a button,” adds Zabetian. “But the secret is the people. These professionals cannot be replaced by AI. They not only speak these languages, but as humans, have the unique cognitive ability to make split second decisions around legality, neutrality and fidelity, which is crucial in accurately interpreting communication. Imagine how the smallest difference could impact not only a business decision, but the fate of a country.”
This history helps to explain the origin of the KUDO business model SaaS, which has morphed into LaaS, Language-as-a-Service.
Today, Zabetian and his team at Kudo are on a mission to help small businesses go global by providing the KUDO platform and its talent pool of linguists in a way that’s easy and affordable. He tells a personal story that proved how possible it is:
“When I was a young entrepreneur sitting in my small office in San Francisco back in 2009, I learned about Mexico investing in tourism and promoting their country to host many large conferences,” he explains, “I did everything I could to find the key event planners in Mexico who would be needing equipment and infrastructure for their trade meetings. I scheduled a 45-minute webinar and made a $750 investment in hiring professional interpreters to make this happen and it resulted in contracts worth $3M. I am proof that any small business can do the same, but now KUDO makes it simple for anyone.”
Written by Alyson Dutch.