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Globalization Challenges for Startups

Localization can become a costly adventure for your startup budget, so we have listed some tips for you.

Content creation and localization as a challenge

Startups are organizations designed to search for a “Big Idea” and to monetize it. They constantly reinvent themselves and explore innovative business models that disrupt existing markets. They learn by trial and error. Incremental growth is of paramount importance to them and speed is essential to beat the competition and to establish their businesses.

To grow fast, startups need to demonstrate the ability to create large volumes of content with short turnaround times and shelf life. One big challenge is that most content produced by startups is by nature unconventional. As a result, new technologies, workflows and evaluation types are applied to efficiently localize into multiple languages.  Despite all the preparation, localization can become a costly adventure for your startup budget, so we have listed some tips for you.

Number 1: Be localization-ready

To survive, startups need to be prepared for international expansion from day one. Going global doesn’t mean that you must have all your content translated into 50+ locales right at the beginning though. You just need to be prepared because that day might come sooner than expected if your startup is successful enough. Be localization-ready from the start to avoid unnecessary expenses down the road.

Number 2: Don’t go the easy way

This might sound paradoxical, but don’t keep localization in-house, just outsource it! Quick and dirty might be cheaper in the short term but in the long term, you’ll regret it. It’s fine to ask colleagues to translate content or use Google Translate incidentally, but why not focus on things you are good at and just outsource the localization part to someone else. There are so many options out there: from established LSPs to small startups disrupting the whole notion of translation (like Altlang that provides “translations” into different varieties of the same language) to crowdsourcing platforms offering “professional translation services at scale”.  There is a solution for every single budget.

Number 3: The importance of content profiling

Profile your content before each project and share this information with your vendor. What is the content type, the communication channel, the target audience, the visibility etc. Specify your expectations beforehand so that you can evaluate the translation based on objective criteria. You need to make sure your content is of high quality when it is brand-image-sensitive and highly visible but good enough quality when good enough is indeed good enough. Why spend a fortune on content that is for gisting with very low anticipated pageviews or rush projects that need special care?  Why spend on keeping the layout of the original version if that is not important at all?

Number 4: Make agreements beforehand and be over-explicit

This one is related to the previous tip. Based on the outcomes of content profiling, buyers of localization services should decide on the quality level, cost and delivery date of the translation and make agreements with their vendor before the project starts. A service-level agreement defined in the beginning of a relationship can cover high-level requirements but is usually no longer satisfactory. Each project will have some peculiarities and will need some fine-tuning. Best is to be over-explicit and to leave nothing to fate. Today, there isn’t one type of translation but there are multiple sorts. When you ask for a translation there is a large diversity of products and services you can get back. You need to specify what you want and how you want it.

Number 5: Track the productivity and quality in all localization projects

The datafication of the translation industry is an ongoing trend: translation memory match, time to translate, edit distance, quality scores, etc. All can be measured and quantified. In order for translation data to be useful it needs to be annotated using commonly acknowledged metrics like TAUS DQF. Startups are in a prime position to try and test new metrics and apply the best fit for their purpose. Data monitored in online dashboards offers valuable insights into certain translation issues, helps solve disputes with vendors and is an important tool to improve the quality of translations.

Consulting for startups: a gap in the market?

When it comes to globalization, one of the key elements for growth is localization readiness in an early stage. Appealing content should be created fast with a multilingual purpose in mind. Ideally, localization should be outsourced to a vendor or multiple vendors that provide scalable solutions and different levels of quality. We predict a growing market for consulting services targeting startups. Startups are desperate for advice when jumping on the localization bandwagon: so many technologies to choose from, so many approaches to localization and so many tools to measure ROI. To avoid mistakes down the road, they need a knowledgeable companion, a partner that can help in their early endeavors.

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Attila Görög

Attila Görög has been involved in various national and international projects on language technology in the past 10 years. He has a solid background in quality evaluation, post-editing and terminology management. Attila is interested in globalization issues and projects involving CAT tools. As Director of Enterprise Member Services, he works mostly with large enterprises involved in the TAUS community and hosts TAUS user groups surrounding quality evaluation.