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Automated Translation Platform Runs Out of Cash, Closes Down
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:22
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Jul 8, 2016

https://slator.com/industry-news/translation-platform-fluently-runs-out-of-cash-closes-down/

"...“we massively underestimated a client’s need to speak to someone like a project manager.”

[Edited at 2016-07-08 16:58 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:22
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English to Russian
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Totally deluded vision of translation marketplace Jul 8, 2016

“Translators are their own worst enemy. They could ditch agencies and earn more money. But they miss the human interaction,” Nielsen said. “All of these startups are trying to force a behavior change in a very conservative space, where people are very used to being pampered with human interactions.”

TBH I'm glad they went belly up.

[Edited at 2016-07-08 17:06 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:22
Member (2007)
English
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I'm glad too Jul 8, 2016

However, I do wonder how many real translators and how many sweatshop-type ones will never get paid for their hours of labour. That's a shame. Particularly as the owners will probably manage to come out of this with a nice nest-egg.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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It's a pity the service went down Jul 8, 2016



This is the first time that I've heard about Fluently.io, and unfortunately there is now very little information left on the web about their service (the most important pages have not been indexed by the Wayback Machine, despite a generous robots.txt).

But from what I can see, this was the type of service that would have benefited the translation industry, as long as the rates they paid were high enough (and I can't find any information about their rates anywhere).

I'm surprised at other repliers here saying "glad they didn't make it". Why glad??

What appears to have been their biggest problem was the assumption that (a) all translators are always available for work and (b) a translator who is available for work will always accept any job.

If I understand correctly, their system would match a client's project to a number of translators, but instead of informing the translators about the job (and letting them either bid on the job or simply giving the job to the first one that accepts it), it would be up to the client to select just one translator from the list, to do the job. And... if the translator then declined the job (too busy, or not interested, etc), the client would have to start all over again (or at least: the job would be delayed while the client selects his second choice and hope that that translator accepts the job).

It is commendable that their system did not require translators to outbid each other or to rush into things on a first-come-first-served basis, but unfortunately their alternative approach did not work either. Perhaps would perhaps have been best, after all, to let translators bid for a project, or at least work on a first-replied-gets-the-job basis.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:22
Member
English to Italian
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Rates Jul 8, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

(and I can't find any information about their rates anywhere).


However, googling for "Fluently.io" AND "per word" you get: "Source, Target, Rate (per word). English, French, £0.10. English, German, £0.10. English, Spanish, £0.08. English, Italian, £0.08. English, Portuguese, £0.08"


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:22
Member (2005)
English to Russian
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Commodification of translation Jul 8, 2016

is what I'm against, Samuel.

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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Yeah. So not buying Fluently.io's pitch = "conservative" Jul 8, 2016

Translators, too, missed the human touch. “Translators are their own worst enemy. They could ditch agencies and earn more money. But they miss the human interaction,” Nielsen said. “All of these startups are trying to force a behavior change in a very conservative space, where people are very used to being pampered with human interactions.

Uh, yeah. That's why I deal with agencies, because when staff send me one-line emails like "Hi Dan, can you handle this one by Wednesday? Tx" I feel special. Pampered, even.

Or maybe, just maybe, I deal with agencies rather than end clients because I like not having to hold the client's hand and always be there for them. Because I prefer to translate rather than to administrate. Because I like being free to pick and choose my projects and take days off when I want them.

The fact that this Nielsen person doesn't understand that attitude, and so built a fatally flawed system, suggests that she has a poor understanding of human nature. Book-smart, maybe, but people-smart or street-smart? Nah.

For another great insight, the article also quotes her as saying "We found a huge challenge in engaging translators with the platform while they weren’t getting work, but then have them become available when the work actually came in”.

So when there was no work at Fluently.io, translators weren't interested in wasting time there? And they went to work for other clients, there were no longer available when work did eventually appear from Fluently.io?

Apparently Fluently.io had to build a company and waste a ton of money to find this out.

I'm not amazed Fluently.io crashed. I'm amazed they got a first round of funding. Personally I'd have told investors to steer well clear.

Dan


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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I wonder: A rate problem? Jul 8, 2016

Nielsen said:
There was a lot of rejection when a customer picked a translator, but the translator did not take the work. Fulfilment became difficult.

When I am offered a job by a customer who pays really good rates, I stretch as needed. I do not need to be pampered or praised for my work, but I do appreciate it when I am paid a reasonable rate, as I have a family to feed.

Nielsen's words above immediately make me think that:
A) Fluently's rate level was perhaps not that attractive, and/or

B) Fluently failed to manage translator availability properly, if a customer was able to pick a translator who was not at all available.

I am registered in another platform in which customers can upload their work and have it translated with no or little PM intervention, but I very rarely work for them as their rates are really low. It is a kind of marketplace in which work is uploaded by customers and is grabbed by whoever takes it first, but, as it happens... sometimes work sits there for days and PMs have to try to convince translators to please please please take it! Apparently other professional translators also feel that the rates are not worth the effort.

Just a piece of advice for developers of this kind of platforms: sell the service properly to end customers, offer us a good rate, and you will have committed translators for life!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:22
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English to Spanish
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Theeeeeere you go! Jul 8, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
(and I can't find any information about their rates anywhere).

However, googling for "Fluently.io" AND "per word" you get: "Source, Target, Rate (per word). English, French, £0.10. English, German, £0.10. English, Spanish, £0.08. English, Italian, £0.08. English, Portuguese, £0.08"

There you go! That explains it all. I wish entrepreneurs discovered the big truth: that a successful LSP business begins with happy world-class translators = excellent translators who are paid a good rate. Your troubles begin the moment you decide to compete by rate.


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Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:22
Member (2015)
German to English
I remember this agency Jul 9, 2016

They were recruiting here at Proz last fall, looking for "rockstar translators" with "groundbreaking translations" (!). Having just translated some articles about rockstars, I thought, what the hell, maybe I could get some work out of them.

However, I found it an extremely uncomfortable experience. They wanted me to advertise myself on a profile site there, and include names of clients I had worked for. They sent automated e-mails prompting me to complete my profile, which were titled "You can do better".

What they were looking for were translators with certified credentials, 3 years of experience (that bit turned up later in an e-mail) and an existing client base*. I eventually wrote them that if I'd had those things, I wouldn't need their agency, was certain I would not pass vetting, and requested they delete my account.

I immediate got an e-mail from the CEO saying that I had been rejected, thank you for your time, etc.
Followed by an e-mail from the developer saying that the rejection had been a mistake. To which I responded that it certainly all the best, no hard feelings, best of luck, and please delete my profile now.

Right now I am doing work for (among others) another UK agency which has a team of PMs. Sometimes they overwhelm me with e-mails, sometimes one hand doesn't know what the other is doing, or I can't be sure who will respond to my e-mails. But at least I have human beings on the other end, and that, as the poet says, has made all the difference.

*or could at least fake having those things


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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On Fluently's rates Jul 9, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Mirko Mainardi wrote:
Googling for "Fluently.io" AND "per word" you get: "Source, Target, Rate (per word). English, French, £0.10. English, German, £0.10. English, Spanish, £0.08. English, Italian, £0.08. English, Portuguese, £0.08"

There you go! That explains it all.


Not really. These rates are higher than ProZ.com's "community" rates. It may not cater for the upper income band of translators, but it's nothing to complain about in general. I don't think, therefore, that their rates would have been a biggest contributor to their failure.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:22
Member
English to Italian
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Rates to end clients Jul 9, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Mirko Mainardi wrote:
Googling for "Fluently.io" AND "per word" you get: "Source, Target, Rate (per word). English, French, £0.10. English, German, £0.10. English, Spanish, £0.08. English, Italian, £0.08. English, Portuguese, £0.08"

There you go! That explains it all.


Not really. These rates are higher than ProZ.com's "community" rates. It may not cater for the upper income band of translators, but it's nothing to complain about in general. I don't think, therefore, that their rates would have been a biggest contributor to their failure.


Those were most probably the rates they charged their clients, not those paid to translators...


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Language is a human activity... Jul 9, 2016

... But that doesn't mean all humans understand how it works, just as you can happily use all sorts of devices without knowing what goes on inside.

Trying to reduce language to a commodity and letting clients 'do some of their own administration' is a common recipe for trouble. Very often end clients do not know what they want or need. Just as B2B marketing is very different from Business to Customer marketing. I see Ms Nielsen comes from an agency based in Leeds, which asked its translators to take a 15% drop in rates a few years back... They earned money, but are not popular with employees, translators or interpreters, and have a very high staff turnover.

Well-qualified PMs are not just there to pamper me or soothe my loneliness, though some do that as well. They are actually an important link in the chain, and do a job I can't be bothered with.

I CAN deal with clients directly, but like Dan Lucas,

I deal with agencies rather than end clients because I like not having to hold the client's hand and always be there for them. Because I prefer to translate rather than to administrate. Because I like being free to pick and choose my projects and take days off when I want them.


I haven't the patience or the skills to coordinate multi-language projects, DTP-work and whatever. Others have, and actually enjoy it.

And guess what, some of the agencies I work with are thriving, and serve the same loyal clients and contented translators for years. They may not be the cheapest, but they provide a service that end clients are willing to pay for.
There is not an enormous turnover of PMs either - although one agency said it had a swingdoor for staff going on maternity leave! They come back, pleased to start again where they left off.

Agencies like that earn money, and perhaps they save a little on marketing and recruitment, but they invest wisely in the human factor. I can be an antisocial bitch, but they even know how to handle me, and I appreciate it enormously.

Automated administration as described on this platform would drive me mad, and I am obviously not the only one.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 07:22
Japanese to English
Exactly Jul 9, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:
Those were most probably the rates they charged their clients, not those paid to translators...

Most likely. Which means when Karin Nielsen says "Translators are their own worst enemy. They could ditch agencies and earn more money. But they miss the human interaction," what she actually means is they could ditch the agencies and make the same or less as they would with the agencies, only with more hassle and stress and admin. I'm all for going straight for end clients, but not at those rates.

Also from what the article claims, it's the clients that missed the human interaction, not the translators.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 13:32 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmmm Jul 9, 2016

Let this story be a warning to all those who think they can computerise the whole process of matching clients to translators.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 13:59 GMT]


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