Sponsored Content by Language I/O

Female Co-Founders advance AI translation technology with $5m in VC funding

Years after being told that she couldn’t be a fighter pilot for the US Airforce because she was female, Language I/O (LIO) Co-Founder and CEO Heather Morgan Shoemaker asked her co-founder, Kaarina Kvaavik, if the duo should pitch investors on their already successful technology as men.

“I asked Kaarina if she’d be open to me changing my name to Heath, wearing a beard and strapping on a voice modulation device,” Shoemaker said. “I was certain that I would raise money faster if Language I/O was pitched by Heath instead of by Heather, but Kaarina talked me out of it.”

At the time, Shoemaker had already pitched at least a dozen VC firms about LIO’s proprietary technology, which allows its customers—including one of the largest social media platforms in the world—to communicate with their customers over any e-channel in any language. Despite having a 95 percent customer retention rate, a proven record of turning a profit, a reputation of showing customers a 550% ROI, and having a proprietary core technology that puts other translation engines to shame, each said thanks but no thanks.

“I can’t tell you how many times we were told that it couldn’t be that difficult to duplicate what I had built,” Shoemaker said. “In my experience, male engineers don’t encounter the same level of suspicion about the validity of their technology. ” 

Although equally frustrated with the funding process, Kaarina said, “we need to do this as women so we can inspire other women” and she was right.

In February 2021, Language I/O raised $5 million in A round funding. Bob Davoli of Gutbrain Ventures and Bruce Clarke of PBJ Capital co-led the round, and were joined by other investors including Omega Venture Partners, Michael Wilens, Tom Axbey and Eric Schnadig.

“According to Crunchbase, In 2019, 2.8 percent of funding went to women-led startups; in 2020, that fell to 2.3 percent,” Shoemaker said. “Knowing that VC funding for women-led startups is on the decline, makes the fact that we received this funding round an even greater accomplishment than we had even anticipated. My goal as a female co-founder of a tech company is to help the rest of the world understand why women in tech struggle to raise VC funds. That, and to have Language I/O completely dominate the conversational translation space.”

The technology

Image Credits: Language I/O (opens in a new window)

LIO’s machine translation optimizer takes the best machine translation engines on the market including Google Translate and then layers its own proprietary technology on top creating the best possible translation for LIO customers. LIO has turnkey integrations for all major CRM (customer relationship management) systems such as Oracle, Salesforce and Zendesk. It also has an API so any company from anywhere can access the technology.

Although machine translation engines have come a long way, on their own, they cannot recognize words and phrases that may be unique to a company. For example, if you put “Language I/O” or its slogan “the future of translation is conversational,” into any machine translation engine for translation and translate it into any language, neither will make sense. The same goes for misspellings, jargons, product names, or any other messy user generated content (UGC). This is a big problem for customer service agents who are relying on traditional machine translation platforms like Google Translate to translate real-time conversations with customers. 

Below is a perfect example. Here we have a Spanish customer chatting with an English speaking customer service agent using messy UGC. This is the original chat from the customer: 

“He realizado la promocion para el ganafor del rg con rafa, y no me habis dafo la iltima free.”

If you put this into Google Translate, the question in English appears like this:

“I have made the promotion for the ganafor of the rg with rafa, and you have not given me the iltima free.”

As the English speaking agent, the question makes no sense and when conversations are nonsensical, it’s hard for the agent to respond, let alone help. Now, if you put the original question in Spanish into LIO’s technology and the agent would instead see: “I have redeemed the promo code for the French Open winner with Rafael Nadal and you have not given me the latest free.”

Makes a little more sense, doesn’t it?

“Language I/O is disrupting how businesses communicate with their global customers,” said investor Bob Davoli. “The combination of an innovative technology, product market fit and an exceptionally strong team compelled me to invest. Language I/O is eminently poised for tremendous growth.”

The Future of translation is conversational

Image Credits: Language I/O (opens in a new window)

With live chat expected to grow by nearly 90 percent in the next 12 to 18 months, it’s no wonder that multinational businesses are looking for solutions that will allow their agents to chat with customers in any language. 

“We have customers in gaming, retail, travel, hospitality, ecommerce—whatever the industry, everyone is looking to conversational translation channels,” Shoemaker said.

Korean gamers want to chat with American gamers and businesses want to engage with customers over Slack and WhatsApp. By hitting LIO’s API, they can do both. 

Andrea Paragona, Sr. Manager Knowledge Base at Constant Contact, has been using Language I/O to interact with its non-English speaking customers for years. 

“Language I/O enables us to deliver our knowledge base content to our expanding international audience in their native language,” Paragona said. “This is extremely meaningful to our customers who can then focus on learning the tool without concern for translation. The integration through Salesforce is seamless and Language I/O executes our content updates very well, we know we are in excellent hands.”

LIO is the preferred machine translation tool for companies that appreciate accuracy, need to get up and running within 24 hours and want to safeguard their customers’ Personally Identifiable Information (PPI).

“We encrypt all PPI,” Shoemaker said. “We are also GDPR compliant and ISO 27001 certified. Our customers trust us with sensitive information and we don’t take that lightly.” 

This is how everyone can help women in tech

“Venture Capital firms need to check their bias,” Shoemaker said. “The discrimination that women in tech experience with VC firms often has nothing to do with their ideas, the scalability of their product, or market forecasts and everything to do with gender. To change this, we need to start at the beginning, well before up-and-coming women in tech even get to the pitch stage.”

First, teachers and parents need to encourage women and girls to pursue math and science in school. 

“In school I was good at math, but even when I figured out a repeatable shortcut to solve a problem that my teacher had posed to his advanced math class, he was not only surprised that I figured it out on my own, but also attributed the shortcut to one of the male parents.” 

Next, men and women alike need to second guess their knee jerk reaction to women in positions of power and support women who prioritize their career and job interests.

Finally, legislation needs to incentivize VCs to fund female-founded tech startups. 

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but Language I/O is in a position to help balance the scales,” Shoemaker said. “We openly advertise the fact that Language I/O is a women-founded, women-run business and this in turn attracts women to our company because they know they will find more empathy and opportunity here. We’re also willing to speak out against societal bias against women in the startup world and are proud to be a voice that is part of the solution, not the problem.”

To join LIO’s large enterprise customers such as Constant Contact (CTCT), Shutterstock (SSTK), PhotoBox and Brave, contact us. Or follow Kvaavik and Shoemaker on LinkedIn. 

More TechCrunch

Some startups choose to bootstrap from the beginning while others find themselves forced into self funding by a lack of investor interest or a business model that doesn’t fit traditional…

VCs wanted FarmboxRx to become a meal kit, the company bootstrapped instead

Uber and Lyft drivers in Minnesota will see higher pay thanks to a deal between the state and the country’s two largest ride-hailing companies. The upshot: a new law that…

Uber and Lyft’s ride-hailing deal with Minnesota comes with a cost

Andreessen Horowitz’s American Dynamism fund has established a new fellowship program aimed at introducing top engineers and technologists to venture investing, a move that could help the firm identify less…

a16z’s American Dynamism team launches program to introduce technical minds to VC

Another fintech startup, and its customers, has been gravely impacted by the implosion of banking-as-a-service startup Synapse. Copper Banking, a digital banking service aimed at teens, notified its customers on…

Teen fintech Copper had to emergency discontinue its banking, debit products

Autodesk — the 3D tools behemoth — has acquired Wonder Dynamics, a startup that lets creators quickly and easily make complex characters and visual effects using AI-powered image analysis. The…

Autodesk acquires AI-powered VFX startup Wonder Dynamics

Farcaster, a blockchain-based social protocol founded by two Coinbase alumni, announced on Tuesday that it closed a $150 million fundraise. Led by Paradigm, the platform also raised money from a16z…

Farcaster, a crypto-based social network, raised $150M with just 80K daily users

Microsoft announced on Tuesday during its annual Build conference that it’s bringing “Windows Volumetric Apps” to Meta Quest headsets. The partnership will allow Microsoft to bring Windows 365 and local…

Microsoft’s new ‘Volumetric Apps’ for Quest headsets extend Windows apps into the 3D space

The spam reached Bluesky by first crossing over two other decentralized networks: Mastodon and Nostr.

The ‘vote Trump’ spam that hit Bluesky in May came from decentralized rival Nostr

Welcome to TechCrunch Fintech! This week, we’re looking at the continued fallout from Synapse’s bankruptcy, how Layer wants to disrupt SMB accounting, and much more! To get a roundup of…

There’s a real appetite for a fintech alternative to QuickBooks

The company is hoping to produce electricity at $13 per megawatt hour, which would be more than 50% cheaper than traditional onshore wind.

Bill Gates-backed wind startup AirLoom is raising $12M, filings reveal

Generative AI makes stuff up. It can be biased. Sometimes it spits out toxic text. So can it be “safe”? Rick Caccia, the CEO of WitnessAI, believes it can. “Securing…

WitnessAI is building guardrails for generative AI models

It’s not often that you hear about a seed round above $10 million. H, a startup based in Paris and previously known as Holistic AI, has announced a $220 million…

French AI startup H raises $220M seed round

Hey there, Series A to B startups with $35 million or less in funding — we’ve got an exciting opportunity that’s tailor-made for your growth journey! If you’re looking to…

Boost your startup’s growth with a ScaleUp package at TC Disrupt 2024

TikTok is pulling out all the stops to prevent its impending ban in the United States. Aside from initiating legal action against the U.S. government, that means shaping up its…

As a US ban looms, TikTok announces a $1M program for socially driven creators

Microsoft wants to put its Copilot everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft renames its annual Build developer conference to Microsoft Copilot. Hopefully, some of those upcoming events…

Microsoft’s Power Automate no-code platform adds AI flows

Build is Microsoft’s largest developer conference and of course, it’s all about AI this year. So it’s no surprise that GitHub’s Copilot, GitHub’s “AI pair programming tool,” is taking center…

GitHub Copilot gets extensions

Microsoft wants to make its brand of generative AI more useful for teams — specifically teams across corporations and large enterprise organizations. This morning at its annual Build dev conference,…

Microsoft intros a Copilot for teams

Microsoft’s big focus at this year’s Build conference is generative AI. And to that end, the tech giant announced a series of updates to its platforms for building generative AI-powered…

Microsoft upgrades its AI app-building platforms

The U.K.’s data protection watchdog has closed an almost year-long investigation of Snap’s AI chatbot, My AI — saying it’s satisfied the social media firm has addressed concerns about risks…

UK data protection watchdog ends privacy probe of Snap’s GenAI chatbot, but warns industry

U.S. cell carrier Patriot Mobile experienced a data breach that included subscribers’ personal information, including full names, email addresses, home ZIP codes and account PINs, TechCrunch has learned. Patriot Mobile,…

Conservative cell carrier Patriot Mobile hit by data breach

It’s been three years since Spotify acquired live audio startup Betty Labs, and yet the music streaming service isn’t leveraging the technology to its fullest potential — at least not…

Spotify’s ‘Listening Party’ feature falls short of expectations

Alchemist Accelerator has a new pile of AI-forward companies demoing their wares today, if you care to watch, and the program itself is making some international moves into Tokyo and…

Alchemist’s latest batch puts AI to work as accelerator expands to Tokyo, Doha

“Late Pledge” allows campaign creators to continue collecting money even after the campaign has closed.

Kickstarter now lets you pledge after a campaign closes

Stack AI’s co-founders, Antoni Rosinol and Bernardo Aceituno, were PhD students at MIT wrapping up their degrees in 2022 just as large language models were becoming more mainstream. ChatGPT would…

Stack AI wants to make it easier to build AI-fueled workflows

Pinecone, the vector database startup founded by Edo Liberty, the former head of Amazon’s AI Labs, has long been at the forefront of helping businesses augment large language models (LLMs)…

Pinecone launches its serverless vector database out of preview

Young geothermal energy wells can be like budding prodigies, each brimming with potential to outshine their peers. But like people, most decline with age. In California, for example, the amount…

Special mud helps XGS Energy get more power out of geothermal wells

Featured Article

Sonos finally made some headphones

8 hours ago

The market play is clear from the outset: The $449 headphones are firmly targeted at an audience that would otherwise be purchasing the Bose QC Ultra or Apple AirPods Max.

Sonos finally made some headphones

Adobe says the feature is up to the task, regardless of how complex of a background the object is set against.

Adobe brings Firefly AI-powered Generative Remove to Lightroom

All cars suffer when the mercury drops, but electric vehicles suffer more than most as heaters draw more power and batteries charge more slowly as the liquid electrolyte inside thickens.…

Porsche Ventures invests in battery startup South 8 to boost cold-weather EV performance

Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B