Submitted by Mike Anthony as part of our contributors program.
Despite their expansive presence around the globe, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have struggled to connect speakers of different languages. Online translation services have improved tremendously, yet multilingual communication in real-time (such as chatting) is still impossible on most networks. Google Translate (GOOG) offers auto-detection of origination languages, and Apple (AAPL) is experimenting with instantaneous verbal translators for its upcoming iPhone models, yet social networks continue to lag in this area. No networks offer the ability to meet, chat, engage and consume media in synchronous, multilingual communication. David Lucatch aims to change that with his new company, Yappn (OTC: YPPN).
Lucatch created a personal fortune and legions of fans when he founded Ortsbo and its parent company, Intertainment Media (TSX.V: INT) (OTC: ITMTF), which hit a high of $3.35 per share in 2011 after starting the year below $0.10 per share. Lucatch also claims to have created the largest non-brokered tech financing in Canada in 2011: an oversubscribed private financing for Ortsbo. He now serves as CEO of Yappn which is preparing for public beta in just a few days after the success of its institutional beta. Yappn is a tool for interacting across social networks such that “each user’s Yappn experience will be native to their home language.” The service current supports 70 languages.
The foundational technology of Yappn, powered by its partnership with Lucatch’s Ortsbo translation service, is the ability to communicate in realtime with speakers of any language via Twitter conversations, chat dialogue windows, Facebook interactions and even metainformation interactivity with photos, videos and other multimedia. “Language is probably the largest, last barrier for online communications,” said CEO Lucatch. Yappn users can upload, view, modify, and respond to information from a single interface for a variety of social networks. An analysis by the University of Toronto explains a basic interaction between two users.
“Imagine that English-speaking Alice needs to talk with Farsi-speaking Zahra. One of them can log into Ortsbo using her preferred social-media platform (such as Facebook Chat, Google Talk or MSN Messenger), and each can type and read the conversation in their own language. That minor miracle is possible because Ortsbo instantly translates the conversation into each participant’s preferred language as they chat.”
In addition to this core technology, Yappn will also allow organizations to embed the platform directly into their existing service offers. It will offer a suite of tools ranging from white labeling to full customization. “Yappn has seen significant traction with our confidential, pre-launch partners as we work to finalize the design and implementation programs going from internal testing to open beta,” Lucatch explained. “The reaction from these partners has been outstanding and the feedback from brands, industry executives, trade organizations and agencies continues to validate Yappn’s premise for a global, socially engaging and game centric platform for online and mobile discussion.”
With Yahoo’s recent purchase of Tumble for $1.1 billion, the demand for social media tools that “just work,” in the timeless words of Steve Jobs, is increasing exponentially. Facebook acquired Instagram, a basic yet elegant photo-sharing service, for $1 billion. Pinterest has 50 million users, about half the size of Instagram, and is valued in the hundreds of millions. Yahoo even bought a mobile news reader called Summly, a simplistic tool that nevertheless “just worked,” for $30 million. Lucatch is confident that Yappn will be a success story in the ongoing social media revolution, saying, “We want to treat everyone around us as partners. Nobody works for us, everyone works with us. And it’s a philosophy that we have carried forward through almost thirty years of business.”