Web meetings

KUDO Raises $ 6 Million to Make Multilingual Web Meetings Transparent

In 2017, CONGRATULATIONS launched its Language-as-a-Service platform to support multilingual web conferences and events. Fast forward in today’s remote working environment, and KUDO’s service is more relevant than ever. The platform provides real-time language interpretation for live online meetings and conferences, so people can listen and speak in their language, while expert interpreters translate what participants say into many other languages. The former UN Chief Interpreter is responsible for training KUDO interpreters who currently handle 32 different languages. KUDO has also integrated a suite of other meeting productivity tools that include instant comments, screen sharing, document sharing, and live polls to make web conferencing smoother and more engaging. Customers include the United Nations, the World Bank, the Council of Europe, and a number of leading technology companies.

AisleWatch met the CEO and co-founder Fardad Zabetian to learn more about KUDO’s growth during the pandemic (usage increased from 200,000 minutes to around 30 million minutes per month), business expansion plans and the recent round of funding.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

We just raised $ 6 million in a funding round led by Felicis with the participation of Global founding capital, ID8 Investments, Advancit Capital, and Air Angels. Collectively, they truly represent KUDO as a global company. The whole cycle from start to finish took less than 6 weeks.

Tell us about the product or service offered by KUDO.

KUDO is a Language-as-a-Service (LaaS) platform. We offer a cloud-based solution for multilingual business collaboration that allows you to meet around the world in your own language. KUDO broadcasts real-time language interpretation for live online meetings and conferences, and participants can join through their own computers or smart devices. Speakers, participants and performers can be in the same room or on the other side of the world.

What inspired the start of KUDO?

I have been in the conference space for about 20 years, along with two other successful companies dedicated to hardware solutions and clients such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the French Senate. Over time, we started to notice a trend where more and more meetings were uploaded. Large multilateral organizations were also under pressure to develop mechanisms for delegates to meet remotely, with full interpretation. It has kept me thinking about ways to disrupt our own market and beat the curve. KUDO was the result of this exercise and the foresight that the meeting space, as we knew, would eventually change.

How is KUDO different?

KUDO in a clean solution, rooted in a long and successful heritage that combines technical conferencing know-how and deep linguistic expertise. Our founding team has over 60 years of combined experience in all aspects of a multilingual operation. We are industry insiders. You can say that we are reinventing the wheel here, but we are not looking outward. We are wheel.

Which target market is KUDO and what is its size?

It is still premature to say this, as the market has not yet reached maturity. The best we can do is extrapolate from the existing data on the online meeting space and compare it to the wealth of information we collect as we grow.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the web conferencing market was valued at around $ 13 billion and is expected to grow to around $ 30-50 billion over the next five years. Conservative estimates indicate that multilingual meetings represent around 5-10% of this universe. But the current pandemic has turned the meeting space upside down, and it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect those numbers to increase tenfold rapidly. It’s a big market that’s going to be huge.

What is your business model?

KUDO is an annual subscription service with quarterly payments. The price will vary depending on the number of subscription hours purchased monthly.

The service can also be purchased on a prepaid basis, on demand, in various formats.

Clients are encouraged to work with their own interpreters, who are trained by KUDO online and offline. We offer a turnkey solution that includes interpreters, on request, in approximately 20% of cases.

How has COVID-19 impacted the business?

The current health crisis, despite its tragic consequences that affect us all so directly, has given online meetings a huge boost. In doing so, it opened up a window of opportunity that allowed us to prove our concept and shorten our business cycle. It created insane demand, almost overnight, just as our solution hit the market.

In just three months, we’ve seen our usage drop from 200,000 to around 30 million minutes per month. At the same time, our list of certified KUDO interpreters has grown from 1,500 to 8,000 interpreters, with an average of 650 meetings on KUDO each month. And those numbers continue to climb.

How did the funding process go?

We were surprised at how fast it went. It was also very encouraging, as investors began to refer the opportunity to other like-minded VCs, creating a very cohesive fundraising partnership.

We are very proud of the people and tacit knowledge behind our current team of investors. They are as enthusiastic as we are and just as willing to roll up their sleeves and help us grow quickly.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered when raising capital?

In retrospect, the challenges have never been too great, and once we got past the proof of concept phase, investor concerns simply vanished.

What factors about your business caused your investors to write the check?

The alignment of the stars was just perfect. The market opportunity was palpable, the timing was good and the product was mature. But I like to think that the one ingredient that pushed them beyond a reasonable doubt as to whether we can make it successful is much more subjective and yet impossible to miss: passion. We love what we do and it shows.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve over the next six months?

The additional leverage will fuel the much needed growth of our engineering, product and customer success teams. We have already planned for a new product to be released for December, which will be another game-changer.

We also plan to further improve the high-end security features that have led tech companies in the United Nations, World Bank, Council of Europe, and Silicon Valley to choose us over more affordable options but less reliable.

What advice can you give to New York businesses that don’t have a new injection of capital in the bank?
I would sum it up in 3 P’s: product, passion and perseverance. The money will follow.

I would sum it up in 3 P’s: product, passion and perseverance. The money will follow.

Where do you see the business going now in the short term?

KUDO is on the way to becoming a key player, if not the leader, in multilingual web meetings. Innovation is built into our DNA, so you can expect further breakthroughs to hit the market in the coming months. I’m not going to spill the beans just yet, but what we have to come will be mind-blowing.

What is your favorite open-air restaurant in New York

I really enjoy spending time on the terrace of Dumbo House.

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