We came across Paris based Cucumis this evening. It is a community site for people who speak at least two languages and want to trade translation services. Translate text to earn points, then spend the points to have text translated into one of 22 languages. As a user’s reputation grows they earn “expert” status and receive more points for translations. The service itself is free, and Cucumis is a one-man project.
The site is admittedly crudely designed, and there is no shortage of for-pay translation services on the Internet. The fact that the service is limited to use by people who are willing to contribute to the community by translating others’ texts is also a severely limiting factor in their market potential. This is clearly not a VC-fundable company, nor is it intended to be.
But it’s limitations add to its charm, and it has a strong community a year after launch. Each day, 40 or so texts are translated and 100 new members join.
Cucumis may do just fine as a small site for a few thousand translators to trade services.
My business advice should they ever wish to earn revenue (sorry I can’t help myself): If they add a business layer that allows people to purchase points to be used for translations without having to translate other texts themselves, and allow translators to trade earned points for cash, they could leverage the community to create a real business.
But first they need to hire a designer.