Startup: Setlr


Founders: Greg Hamilton & Philippe de Chabot

Pitch: Setlr is connecting the world through real-time human translation.

Andrew’s Commentary: 

When I think about translation services, I think about how translation relates to my prior businesses, and how important it will be to my future businesses. For my prior startups, I first considered foreign expansion opportunistically in response to foreign partners who became aware of my company and contacted me via email in English. At the time, I knew it didn’t constitute a systematic approach for international expansion if I only communicated with inbound offers for partnerships. It would have been better if I considered an outbound campaign that communicated exclusively in English, although it still probably would not have been as comprehensive or thorough as it should have been.

Foreign expansion is too important to startups operating today for founders not to consider far-reaching outbound email campaigns in the native language of their target audiences. Computer-generated translations don’t currently satisfy this need. It will be interesting to see what platform wins the massive opportunity associated with matching translators located anywhere in the world with companies in need of translation. Equal in importance to the quality of the translation, I expect that the dominant company in translation services will develop a workflow that makes translation seamless, rather than something that you associate with a significant amount of work and management time.

Video Highlights


To connect the world through real-time human translation.

Macro Thesis:

Today, you really only have two choices when it comes to translation: free, machine translation services and paid, agency-based services that make up the outsourceable language services market. Agency translation is relatively expensive and it’s just not practical enough for the everyday needs of most people. Machine translation services really let us down in terms of quality because services like Google Translate don’t really translate anything! Google Translate just uses its search power to find translations that have already been done in the past by real people and mashes them together using a best guess at your context. It’s why machine translation doesn’t really sound fluent and often makes people laugh.

We think the translation industry can forever be changed when people discover a third option: connecting directly to the millions of people all over the world who can deliver high quality, culturally-relevant translation at a much lower cost than the translation agencies, and they can do it in real-time as people need it, thanks to modern technology.

Market Sizing:

Back in 2005, the outsourceable language services market was valued at $5 billion dollars. This year, it’s been valued at $38 billion and growing strong. But what about all the people who don’t use paid language services and just make do with the low-quality free ones? Back in 2012, CNET reported that Google served more than 200 million people with its Google Translate service. We don’t want to disrupt the market — we want to grow the market by turning all those current non-users of the industry into the industry for the first time by making it cheaper, faster, much more relevant and reliable for everyday use.

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Product Or Service:

Here’s how our solution works: you send us a translation project of any size and we make it really easy to connect via email, through your smartphone or via our website. We’ll translate it for you and we’ll deliver a much more relevant translation because we’ll go beyond just looking at language pair to finding a translator based on geographic location, cultural experience and even those skills or specializations that are important to deliver a really meaningful translation: something like the ability to write a formal French letter or the ability to write creative copy for a website. It’s everything that a machine can’t deliver.

Real And Vaporware:

We’ve just launched our MVP and moved from private into open beta. Our social media following is growing steadily and our customer discovery is showing really great enthusiasm for the product. We’ve were selected to be on BetaList, where we quickly became one of the week’s most trending startups, and just featured us as the week’s “best in beta.”

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out our email, photo and website translation services and our goal for 2016 is to get everyone using real-time human translation, from businesses that need to target new customers around the world through to students or expats who just need a little help to cross the language barrier in their everyday lives.

Why Us:

I’m an entrepreneur and I’m passionate about solving problems but I’m especially passionate about solving this problem: I have firsthand experience of it and it’s been around for far too long. As a team we’ve spent a lot of time studying how people solve this problem in the real world and we’ve discovered that the answer is in the real people who live all around us. We have the technology to tap into this vast ocean of human ability and solve this problem once and for all, and that’s how we’re going to connect the world through real-time human translation.

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