Smartcat’s tools are used by businesses all around the world. One such company is Tomedes, which delivers translations in more than 90 languages and has just been flagged up as one of Asia and Africa’s leading B2B companies by Clutch. We reached out to Tomedes’s CEO, Ofer Tirosh, to ask him about his company’s success over the past decade and about his plans for the future, as well as for his thoughts on the wider translation industry.
Having impressed a wide range of clients, including numerous blue chip companies, Tomedes attributes its success both to the quality of the individual translators with whom the company works and to the partnerships it has established over the years, such as the one with Smartcat!
Hi Ofer, please, can you start by telling us about Tomedes and why it has been flagged as a company to watch in Asia and Africa?
There were both quantitative and qualitative considerations behind Clutch’s inclusion of Tomedes in its list of companies to watch in 2018 in Asia and Africa. Our commitment to customer service was a key factor, as was our passion for linguistics and language translation. Given the innovative, dynamic tech sector that exists in Israel, where we are headquartered, it was a real honor to be one of just 29 Israeli companies selected by Clutch.
Both Asia and Africa are key markets for us, as, indeed are the US and Europe. We’ve tackled each continent slowly, always careful not to bite off more than we can chew. That has allowed us to roll out our professional translation services around the globe without compromising on quality.
“We’ve tackled each continent slowly, always careful not to bite off more than we can chew.”
When you founded Tomedes, was your plan to tackle one continent at a time or to take on the whole world at once?
The plan was always to grow in a way that meant we could maintain the principles of quality and customer service on which the company was founded. That meant growing incrementally rather than taking on the whole world at once. At the same time, we built enough flexibility into our strategy that we could follow the opportunities that arose. Consequently, we were able to build Tomedes into a global translation agency organically, maximizing its potential while sticking to the brand’s original ethos.
What are your top tips for managing such a geographically diverse team?
Positive and regular communication is key when working with a team spread around the world. With remote working arrangements, you miss out on so much of the important social interaction that takes place in an office environment. At Tomedes, where both our translation professionals and our clients, as well as many members of our operational team, work remotely, we use a range of measures to ensure that we foster an inclusive culture, despite the distance between us. Technology plays a key role in this, with messaging apps, work-board sites like Trello and voice over IP software all part of our routine communication package.
Using the right tools in other areas of our work is also important — and the reason that we are so pleased to be working with Smartcat. It is our responsibility to support our translators in their work, and that means embracing technology appropriately and using it to further the quality of the translations that we deliver. Success is a team effort, so we work hard to ensure that our translators have the tools that they need in order to use their linguistic talents to the best of their ability.
“It is our responsibility to support our translators in their work, and that means embracing technology appropriately and using it to further the quality.”
Understanding cultural differences is also important. We deliver translation services in more than 90 languages. That means working with translators and clients from a huge range of countries. We have to understand their motivations and cultural expectations in order to make that a success. For me, it’s a fascinating part of growing Tomedes into a global business.
Which locations are next on the list for Tomedes?
We’ve already established a strong presence in other English-speaking countries, so are now looking to further expand into Asia, with South Korea, Japan, and China at the top of the priority list. We’re also slowly building our brand in India, using a solid foundation to grow the business there, step by step, over the coming months and years.
How do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to industry trends?
I keep up to date with all the latest developments in terms of translation tech and also read a lot about freelancing and working remotely to aid my understanding of those who work for Tomedes. I try to travel regularly too, to keep up with key industry players in different countries, and to attend relevant events.
Do you think machine translation poses any kind of immediate threat to the translation sector as we know it?
Yes and no. Machine translation is certainly changing the translation sector as we know it. At Tomedes, we’re supporting an increasing number of clients by providing post-editing machine translation services, where machine translation has let them down and they’ve needed a human touch. So we’re definitely seeing changes in client demand. However, that change is more of an opportunity than a threat at present.
“We have the chance to respond to the technological advances by growing with them rather than railing against them.”
Machine translation has come a long way in recent years, but it still can’t beat human translation. We have the chance to respond to the technological advances by growing with them rather than railing against them. Ultimately, businesses want professional, high-quality translations at the lowest possible cost. While the available machine translation tools can deliver on cost, they quickly fall down when it comes to quality. That’s why there’s no immediate threat to the translation sector as we know it.
How has the language industry changed with the rise of the content economy?
The concept of content as a currency, so far as linking brands with the media and other publishers are concerned, is doing much to contribute to the evolution of the language industry. We’re seeing strong demand for content translation — not just blog posts and news articles but also video content. As such, the content economy is both increasing demand in the language industry and shifting that demand towards newer forms of content.
“The content economy is both increasing demand in the language industry and shifting that demand towards newer forms of content.”
As the amount of content grows, how do you scale up if you face projects that seem too big?
With a global network of translators, we are usually well-placed to deal with large or urgent projects. However, there are occasions when a client wants something translated faster than is possible. In such circumstances, we are able to assign two or more translators to work on the same document, provided the client is happy with such an approach. This does require careful oversight in order to ensure consistency, but it is a workable solution when the client needs their translation faster than one person could possibly provide it.
What types of content have become more popular over the last few years?
Video, video, and more video! 55% of people now watch videos online every day. For those who create content in this medium — and those who translate that content into other languages — this has been a massive change. As our connectivity globally increases, with 4G and 5G networks rolling out around the world, demand for video is set to increase even further. As such, many language professionals have been rapidly bringing their transcription, timestamping and subtitling skills up to speed in order to service this increasingly popular type of content.
What is the hardest part of working with this kind of content and generally with customers from today’s trending industries such as gaming, e-commerce, machine learning, big data, fintech, etc.?
The hardest part of working in the modern language industry is undoubtedly managing customers’ expectations when it comes to machine translation. We repeatedly hear how fantastic machine translation is these days, and many customers are genuinely shocked when they try it for the first time on a long document and receive page upon page of gobbledygook in return.
We work with those clients to explain the limitations of machine translation and to show how post-editing machine translation services can help to convert their “translation” into something that actually makes sense to the target audience.
Ofer Tirosh has been the CEO of Tomedes for the past ten years, overseeing its rise from an innovative start-up to a globally respected translation agency.