Video chat without language barriers? KUDO makes it possible
Business of Business: Why not take it away and introduce yourself and explain a bit about Kudo.
I am based in New York. I am the co-founder and CEO of KUDO. KUDO is a language-as-a-service platform where you can hold meetings in different languages live using our KUDO plus platform, or marketplace, which is the network of professional conference interpreters who can provide up to 80 languages.
Ok, so basically it’s almost like UN Assembly meetings when people have headphones on, and they hear discussions happening on the floor in their ear?
It’s a very, very good comparison. We build a conversation or just an experience in the cloud without all the planning and infrastructure that needs to be in place. Our goal and our mission is to make it very, very easy for users to be able to plan a plan and organize multilingual meetings and to have access to this very talented pool of interpreters, regardless of where they are. find and their linguistic needs. We have created a product called Interpreter Marketplace, where we have 12,000 interpreters on our platform and hosts and meeting planners can find interpreters and bring them to Kudo meetings with just a few mouse clicks, and provide the topic of the date and time of the meeting. We can today more than 80 spoken languages and sign languages on our platform.
And you have a history of working at the UN [United Nations]?
Yes, a UN headquarters project took me from California to New York about 11 years ago. I was very fortunate to be part of the team that really designed and implemented the technology and the 20 conference rooms, including the General Assembly Hall and the Security Council at the headquarters of the UN in New York. And of course that goes through my other business, the business that I started about 20 years ago.
What were you thinking when you originally designed and launched KUDO for the private sector?
It was, was and still is an area of opportunity and expansion. It’s a new market. When we launched KUDO, it was late 2018, and basically 2019, and most of our customers were very early adopters. They used KUDO for public meetings for large meetings that have a community in different places and usually for short messages. And of course, the pandemic has really pushed everyone to look for alternatives to be able to ensure business continuity. And we had a solution that was ready and very well designed from the ground up, based on their use case. So we went from 30,000 minutes of use to 30 million minutes of use in about four weeks.
And when was that?
From March 1 to March 1, 2020. WE are hosting a meeting we have called a “Marketplace”, which is a B2B managed business-to-business marketplace for users to plan source, book and pay for conference interpreters professionals and bring them to KUDO meetings. Of course, we have launched a few new products that connect and integrate Marketplaces with other meeting platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
“So we’re removing all those sticking points and making it easier.”
So we remove all those sticking points and make it easy. For someone who needs a Korean interpreter, you can book it for tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. and have that interpreter ready. This performer has privacy set up and has the right setup with the right connectivity to sound great in the meeting. Yes, all of this, we take care of this product has been a very successful product for us since the launch in April last year, and it has been recognized by Time magazine in the top 100 innovations of the year.
How did you make sure you could deliver what you promised to do. There was just such skyrocketing demand.
I was learning as we went through this experience. I think there were days when we had 250 incoming requests for a demo, and I think about how we were a 14-person startup, and 10 of us were basically engineers, coders, so we really didn’t have the infrastructure to be able to meet these many demands. We were only processing the most recent requests and trying to accommodate them. Like any other business, we have had to adapt to a new way of working, families working from home and confinement. It was quite difficult and really the team was a very small team.
But we continued to have great success. We still have a lot of new hires, but we had an average of 10 people starting each month. So, every Monday, a new e-mail arrives, “these are the five new members joining the company”, and provides them with computers, gives them access, configures them. Laptop supply has improved a lot in 2021. but in 2020 there was quite a struggle.
So you started with 14 employees, and now you have 120? Or how many employees do you have?
We are at around 180 today.
wow. So, are you growing up? And your clients, what percentage would you say are from the private sector, or say NGOs, or think tanks and governments?
When we reviewed our Q4 of 2021 and Q3 and Q4 of 2021, we signed more corporate logos than government logos. And that’s a whole new use case for the private sector for the enterprise. And it’s really kind of a global budget counted for different applications. And it can be training, product training, public meetings. These are mainly internal applications. Then you have the customer success set, which is about training in communicating with customers and partners. This is another use case.
“Basically, we’re doubling our revenue every year, and when it comes to meetings and the number of clients, we’re also doubling our growth.”
But fundamentally, we’re doubling our revenue every year, and when it comes to meetings and the number of clients, we’re also doubling our growth. Our pricing is simple. We have three different plans based on the usage of our platform, per year, and based on that we can start with an entry level, which equals 100 hours of usage. And they can go up to 1,000 hours of use.
So how do you ensure your customers’ privacy? I’m sure if you’re talking about legal issues, board meetings, and obviously politics and diplomacy, how do you technically ensure that nothing can be hacked? Or also that performers pay attention to who is listening?
Big questions. As you know, confidentiality is a process. So it’s a process, it’s an ongoing effort, especially when it comes to online meetings. So one of the big investments we made at a very early stage was within our information security department, and of course now it’s expanded. We have a lot of initiatives and compliance where KUDO really focuses on privacy.
Some of our customers have their own mostly private cloud where they hold meetings, with dedicated encryption keys. We have different servers. WE have servers in USA, servers in Europe. We also have servers in Asia. Then we also have servers for specific government entities it is designed for. So there are dedicated servers for them based on their compliance needs.
“All of our interpreters are bound by confidentiality. So when a client makes an appointment, you already have a confidentiality agreement.”
So interpreters, we have our KUDO certified interpreters, they go through a KUDO certification process, which is more of an online process to get familiar with the platform and have the right setup. Of course, we also go through a series of checks. All of our interpreters are bound by confidentiality. So when a client makes an appointment, you already have a confidentiality agreement.
Did you mention anything about KUDO’s assistance to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly? How do you work in this environment?
NATO therefore uses our product for some of its meetings where it needs linguistic support. and of course, NATO has been in the headlines for the past few months. And we see that KUDO was at the center of diplomacy and was able to enable clear communication between different stakeholders. And when I see our platform being used to find avenues of diplomacy, it’s always such a rewarding moment.
Ok, were they using KUDO for the recent escalation between Ukraine and Russia [which has now become a war]?
Yes, they have been using KUDO for two and a half years.
And you are from Tehran, Iran?
So I was born in Tehran, I lived there and I grew up there during all the bad and difficult war stories, and as a teenager I always listened to the radio and I watched television and everything was about the Council security, whether they pass a new resolution for peace between Iran and Iraq or not. So at the end of the day, when I was able to do something in my professional life, I decided to focus on this very big problem which is communication.