It’s just a fact. Eighty per cent of internet users don’t speak English. In the US, we see that usually about half of most sites’ traffic is from outside the US. The competitiveness of the tech startup scene has never been greater, so the risks you take launching an English/US-only product is pretty great that, if you are successful, someone else will beat you to launching in most other markets. European tech startups appreciate this and almost always launch their site with multi-language support. But here in the US, we often punt on worrying about translation for a few years. In the meantime, we leave room for competitors to capture market share from the larger community of the non English-speaking web. It’s also important to note that all of the growth of the web is happening outside the US.
Why do we punt on translations? Because we used to only have brain-dead options. Working with technologically unsophisticated service agencies who over-price translation relative to ROI. Also, there were no web-friendly solutions: real-time, low-touch, clean API, etc. That all changed when Smartling launched.
Now companies simply manage their English site and Smartling does the rest, in real-time.
I have discussed them previously, and I am an investor in the company. I wanted to report that the company is solving the translation problem elegantly for scores of well-known big sites like Foursquare, IMVU, SurveyMonkey, Scribd, EventBrite. They have launched a self-service product for long- and mid-tail sites. By allowing companies to get their site translated in a few days or a week, there becomes very little reason not to launch your web business as a multi-lingual product on day one. With professional translation or crowd-sourced translation options, I am excited about the multi-lingual web they enable. Others are excited too: Smartling just announced they raised $10M to enable every site to be fully translated in a matter of days or weeks.