Travel startup lessons learned from idea to glory in 12 months

This November, VerbalizeIt’s human translation platform was recognized as the travel startup of the year at the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit.

As entrepreneurs, we are programmed to focus on and worry about the work that lies ahead. Moments like this, however, encourage us to pause and reflect on how far we have come in just over a year since VerbalizeIt was born (TLabs here).

NB: This in an opinion piece from Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda, co-founders of VerbalizeIt.

There is no unique recipe to success, and we certainly have a long way to go before considering ourselves successful.

However, these five beliefs have put us on the right path— beliefs that we will continue to embrace in the years ahead.

1. Starting with a Shared Vision

VerbalizeIt started with two founders sharing their excitement about making the world smaller by tearing down language barriers.

As we have grown our team and our global community of translators, ensuring a shared passion for global citizenship has permeated every aspect of our hiring and training.

In the last year, we have experienced incredible highs of being on Shark Tank and PhoCusWright, and some equally humbling learning experiences.

A shared excitement about our long-term vision has allowed the team to stay even-keeled through periods of incredible flux and intense work.

2. Embracing the art of constant beta

In 2012, VerbalizeIt was accepted into Techstars – a preeminent technology accelerator program. Here, we were introduced to the ideology of “failing fast” and rapid iterations towards building a sustainable business.

As perfectionists, this was a difficult approach to commit to, but has since proven to be an incredible accelerant for VerbalizeIt.

In just over twelve months, VerbalizeIt’s technology platform has undergone four major overhauls and innumerable feature improvements, driven by feedback from customers and translators.

The results have been rapid improvements in our offerings, and recognition from customers that we are willing and able to constantly improve how we support their business.

The idea of constant beta now drives every aspect of VerbalizeIt, from technology to sales.

3. Listening to the naysayers

VerbalizeIt was founded as a mobile application for live interpretation. In speaking with prospective customers, we started receiving feedback that VerbalizeIt was ill equipped to support their business due lack of other translation offerings.

As we dug deeper, we discovered that minor tweaks in our business would allow to us address our customers’ broader needs.

Within four months, VerbalizeIt transformed from a mobile application to a platform capable of internationalizing all mediums of business communication.

Today, our customers leverage VerbalizeIt as a one-stop platform for website localization, text and media translation, and live interpretation.

Some of our largest and most loyal customers have resulted from our ability to transform critical feedback into business opportunities.

4. Standing on the shoulders of giants

Language barriers are so pervasive, that they create a virtually endless list of opportunities for a translation platform like VerbalizeIt.

Our team had to acknowledge the need for stronger expertise and distribution to take on a staggering thirty five billion dollar translation market.

With that recognition, we actively sought out the support of individuals and distribution partners, whose experience and resources would allow us to find and support customers globally.

Over the past year, we have rapidly expanded our reach by aligning ourselves with amazing partners such as Travelport, Rosetta Stone and American Airlines.

As a result, VerbalizeIt now serves international travelers and businesses across all seven continents (including Antarctica!).

5. Putting in the Time

Forty years ago, a researcher studying the world’s most successful chess players famously concluded: “There are no instant experts in chess – certainly no instant masters or grandmasters.”

We are certainly appreciative of the fact that there is no substitute to putting in the time and hard work in start-up success.

Above all, VerbalizeIt’s journey thus far is the result of the sheer tenacity of our team, and of undying support and patience from our families and loved ones.

Business models and technology platforms may change, but we will continue staying true to these beliefs in the years ahead.

NB: This in an opinion piece from Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda, co-founders of VerbalizeIt, a translation platform that provides international travelers and businesses with on-demand access to a global community of over 16,000 human translators.

NB2: Laptop champagne image via Shutterstock.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.

 

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