Found in Translation: MemoQ Software

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Formed by three Hungarian language technologists more than 15 years ago, memoQ is one of the world’ s fastest developing computer-assisted translation technology companies . The company grew from an after tax profit of HUF 108.2 million in 2017 to HUF 131.7 mln in 2018, while net sales are up to almost HUF 2 billion, according to public records. The Budapest Business Journal spoke with co-founder Balázs Kis.

Balázs Kis, co-founder of memoQ.

BBJ: Who were memoQ’s founders?

Balázs Kis: In our early stage we had three partners: István Lengyel, Gábor L. Ugray and myself (hence the original name of the company: Kilgray, from our names). We were working together at language technology company MorphoLogic at that time. Gábor studied mathematical programming and German, István is an economist, a translator, and a PhD in translation studies. I am a computer engineer and I also have a PhD in applied linguistics.

BBJ: What was the original idea and target market?

BK: We had three basic motivations. First, around 2003-2004 we realized that we could do better than the computer-assisted translation technologies at the time, so we teamed up with a group of programmers, and created a program. Second, I was teaching translators how to use translation tools. Thirdly, inspiration also came from my family; my parents and I had a publishing company focusing on IT titles, where several translators had to work on each single project with very tight deadlines. We had to produce high-quality and terminologically consistent output through group translation. We created an efficient workflow, where team members could work on separate parts in parallel and stay consistent, thanks to thorough preparation and peer reviewing.

BBJ: Did you have any financial support at the beginning?

BK: No. We had some tender money, but in the beginning most our financial backing came from own sources, and after a few years, from revenues generated by the business.

BBJ: What is the key to the success of your business model?

BK: In 2009, we set a goal: to be one of the prospective vendors if, at a translation technology tender, two suppliers are considered. I think we have achieved this. Today our business strategy focuses on more down-to-earth goals. In the beginning, our product was very traditional: customers bought a license, and installed the product on their PCs. Computer software, however, has changed significantly; collaborative technology now must be cloud-based. Accordingly, we have changed our product and our business models. We offer traditional software and cloud services. Traditional software costs more up front, while cloud services are paid for monthly. At memoQ, the two models coexist peacefully.

We have only one product: memoQ, a computer-assisted translation software. It offers many features to individual translators, translation teams, translation companies, and enterprises in general. Depending on our customers’ needs, we offer various deployment and licensing options. In terms of deployment, our server can run in the cloud with three different geographical centers. We can also provide dedicated servers and manage the full hosting service. In these cases, we do all the maintenance. A third deployment option is when customers install the product on their systems. As for payment models, we offer perpetual licenses along with a technical support period of one year. However, we also have a monthly or annual subscription model. Customers pay a subscription fee for the use of the software, the access to support, as well as the upgrades to new versions.

BBJ: What is the company behind memoQ?

BK: Last summer we renamed our company from Kilgray to memoQ Translation Technologies with the idea of unifying the brand. The shareholders are different now: not every owner is a founder. We also wanted a transparent and clear trademark.

BBJ: Who are your main target groups?

BK: We are targeting three main segments. Individual translators are the most numerous group, but they purchase low volumes. They give roughly one-quarter of our sales. Our second core audience is translation companies . This is our traditional market, where we could fill a vacuum, and as a result, grow more than 100% annually between 2008 and 2011. The third focus group is enterprises that have their own translation activity. We are particularly strong in some sectors, the best example being game developers. Other sectors, such as healthcare companies, are challenging because their industry is highly regulated. However, thanks to the expertise of some of our team members, we are making successful inroads in that field, too.

BBJ: What is the breakdown between local and foreign customers?

BK: Our customer base is very international. We have clients from roughly 100 different countries. Our main customer areas are Germany and the United States, but the rest of Europe is also strong. We have local distributors in China and a presence in Japan as well. Our total headcount is around 80 people, including overseas colleagues . Japan is a dynamically growing market, making a 100% expansion last year. Hungarian customers amount to only 1% of the total.

BBJ: What is memoQfest?

BK: This is our annual conference for current and future users. The first such event was in 2009. Our aim is to boost our brand and budget as well as to provide professional content to the attendees.

BBJ: Will machine translation ever replace human work?

BK: The answer to this question is a firm “No”. There will always be a gap between machine and human translation. Besides, the global translation workload is constantly growing, which leaves plenty of space for human translation, even with neural machine translation (which is treacherous: it often produces perfectly formed translations, but silently skips parts it cannot translate).

BBJ: What future goals does memoQ have?

BK: A couple of years ago we have consciously begun to deal with our “technological debt”. The code of a software product always needs modernization every few years. For example, ours had to be at least partly redesigned for cloud-based services. This is a never-ending process. We plan to add more process automation to memoQ and to improve our business services. We are also thinking about the language industry as a whole. In its current form, translation is an afterthought. Most content is not created for a local audience. More globalization requires more localization, which should start as early in the content creation workflow as possible. Post-editing, reviewing, correcting content is the most expensive means of quality control. We are already offering tools (such as terminology management, advanced editing functionality, or real-time QA) and also seeking new ways to challenge this status quo.

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