The pandemic and the massive transition to video-conferencing solutions have made the world flat but what happens when there are language barriers? KUDO is a video-conferencing platform that provides real-time language interpretation for live meetings and conferences. Attendees can listen and speak in their native languages, while expert interpreters translate so that everyone else in the audience is able to participate and understand. The platform currently supports 100+ languages and experiences a 3500% increase in demand since the lockdown began. The company has recently launched an on-demand marketplace for conference interpreters as the world opens up and enters a new era of hybrid meetings.
AlleyWatch caught up with Cofounder and CEO Fardad Zabetian to learn more about the company’s impressive progress since we spoke after the company’s seed round last June, future strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $27M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $21M in our Series A led by Felicis Ventures. Felicis is joined in this round by Maverick Ventures, Elephant VC, FJ Labs, Global Founders Capital, and billionaire activist investor Bill Ackman.
KUDO is the creator of the only cloud-based video conferencing platform with real-time multilingual interpretation supporting 100+ languages and 147 sign languages. Additionally, KUDO launched KUDO Marketplace, the first on-demand booking platform for conference interpreters, making multilingual meetings more accessible by providing access to thousands of professional interpreters.
What inspired the start of KUDO?
My cofounders and I are industry insiders in multilingual meetings and language technologies. We recognized that we had the knowledge and ability to technologize the industry, providing broader access to interpreters with the aim of realizing our mission of eliminating language barriers.
How is KUDO different?
KUDO was purpose-built for the conference interpretation industry. We are the only business that has coupled a robust cloud-based video conferencing platform, replete with crystal-clear sound quality, a drop-down menu of 100+ languages and 147 sign languages, and conference-focused features such as voting, request-to-speak functionality, and seamless hand-off between interpreters with on-demand access to thousands of professional interpreters.
What market does KUDO target and how big is it?
We currently target government partners, international organizations, and enterprise businesses operating on a global scale.
What’s your business model?
For both KUDO and KUDO Marketplace, we have a two-pronged business model: a standard SaaS-based subscription model to access the platforms coupled with volume-based pricing plans for the interpreter service.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
When the business world and the in-person meeting industry went remote due to the pandemic, we experienced a 3500% increase in demand. Now that the world is entering this next phase of the future of work, where travel and room capacity limits are still restricted, we believe there will be greater demand for hybrid meetings, where meeting organizers will need to offer parity of experience for both in-person and remote attendees. KUDO has developed hybrid meeting capabilities to support this New Normal.
What was the funding process like?
While we initially targeted a $15M Series A, during the process we encountered a tremendous amount of investor interest, and after declining several funding opportunities, ended up closing the oversubscribed round at $21M.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The largest challenge of raising capital was simply the time-intensive nature of meeting with investors, supporting due diligence and reading through term sheet language. At this pivotal stage of the business, where there is such tremendous demand and opportunity for growth, I’m excited to be able to shift my focus back to scaling the business.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Ultimately, our investors believe in our mission of eliminating language barriers. The pandemic has meaningfully changed the way that we meet, travel and conduct business. Demand for remote meetings will continue to be high, and with the introduction of on-demand booking for interpreters, new use cases that had not previously considered interpretation will open up.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
With 40+ open positions, our number one goal is to continue to add talented team members. Ensuring that we have the right team in place who are passionate about our vision is especially important.
Additionally, we will be focusing on enhancing our product offering to ensure a flawless customer experience and support the needs of our growing network of interpreters.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
With 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to bootstrapping businesses. My advice to others in this position? Keep an eye on your monthly burn, ensure you have systems and processes in place to measure return on investment in all aspects of your business, and make sure your staff is laser-focused on your ultimate mission. Honestly, I think this is good advice whether you have $20 or $20M in your bank account.
Keep an eye on your monthly burn, ensure you have systems and processes in place to measure return on investment in all aspects of your business, and make sure your staff is laser-focused on your ultimate mission. Honestly, I think this is good advice whether you have $20 or $20M in your bank account.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our company continues to grow at a rapid pace, adding new logos, signing new partners, and increasing our global presence. We are investing in our local presence in all regions while growing our reach to new verticals.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC.
Ten Hope is a new spot a few blocks from where I live. I love it for Friday evening casual dinner with the kids.