Experience as a Founder, the early stage of development of a platform like Bewords.com (by Mathieu Maréchal)

June 23, 20113 Comments
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Genesis.

It is always difficult to identify the very beginning of an idea or innovation. Thinking back to the time when we first started talking and brainstorming about BeWords, I believe that two main observations came to us: the first was the value chain of the translation business. The second was our experience as language service providers (as a translation agency in other words) and the difficulties we had to face everyday for every scattered quotation request, one-shot customers (with limited budgets, etc.).

Let me come back to the first observation: typically, the value chain is organised as follows: Customer > translation agencies > independent translators.

Translation agencies have the capacity, experience and tools to manage multilingual translation projects, deal with multi-format files or data, and to insure the final quality of the translation (by basically providing proofreading carried out by a second translator). Basically it’s a “unique provider” which is capable to help customers in “great need”.

And they also have the power, tools and processes to market/sell their services and find customers.

But, and this “but” is according to me the key, two trends that can be observed are: 1 – crowd translation, which is the translation by the fans or the community 2 – Internet and the capacity of a single translator (or any expert), based “where ever he/she likes” to be visible and to be reachable by any prospect (anyone can contact/work with anyone else).

So an observable tendency can be summarize as follow: Customer < > independent translators (translation agencies)

PS: Of course, not all types of companies or customers are willing to be in direct contact with the translators. The life of LSP’s (Linguistic Service Providers) is not endangered (or not yet at least…).

Let me describe now the second observation: for a common LSP, to handle small requests, with limited budgets, no-name and scattered prospects and individuals is a real pain, to talk plainly and straightforwardly. One page or less, multiple requests of quotations for a single project and for less than 50 Euros (this is not the margin of the project, but the turnover/amount of the sale …), is a loss of time for a LSP, because LSPs are more in search of recurring business, multilingual projects and basically large volume of source words.

And we observed the same thing for TradOnline (www.tradonline.fr) my translation agency. When we first created this company, we made sure to answer any incoming request and did everything we could to get the project. Then, a bit further along, we announced a “minimum fee” for any project (representing a minimum of 500 words, then later 1000 words…) and we ended up by declining some requests, for which it was just not profitable to spend time handling the project. What a shame, right? Declining incoming business…this is not acceptable…And so we created www.Bewords.com: our solution to 1 – surf on a new trend in our business and 2 – capture the scattered business, the thousands and more (probably millions) of small business and individual translation needs/projects and 3 – please our community of translators (that we wish to cherish).

The early stage of the development

The development of the platform was more difficult than we expected. One reason was our low experience, limited budget and wishes to provide everything from the day one of the opening (I must say that we failed in this goal).

The second reason was that we also had to drive the development of our translation company at the same time…and as we are neither hundreds of people on the team, nor even dozens of collaborators, the load of daily work is far more than 35h per week.

Many of what are called “details” (I would say hassle…) appeared very quickly. This is the drawback of wishing to do everything by ourselves…due to our limited budget and a bit also by “pride”, will of controlling everything and building a strong and real asset (depending on any SAS solution, external code, etc.).

I don’t remember all of them but let me think…

– The terms of use…what a fight…it is not that our lawyer was not as good as we would have needed but the process of describing every detail of the platform and what it does, doesn’t, can not do, should do if, won’t do unless…., every little detail of the features, trying to anticipate every misuses of it, etc…I let you imagine what have been our dreams/nightmare at night…

– The translator database : how it is structured. How to build the algorithm of searching among translators (why translator X appears before translator Y, what are the levers we want to give to the translators to allow them to appear among the first providers in the results, in other words, the structure of the ranking, etc.). How to invite translators to join Bewords? Etc.

– The long road to determine the best compromise between offering a lot of features and keeping the simplicity of use. A daily concern for our team.

To conclude, it has been a very rewarding experience. Bewords is growing day after day, we’ll keep working as hard as we have done until now to bring clients and translators together, the challenge has only just begun!

About Mathieu Maréchal:

An entrepreneur with a passion for the Web and languages, Mathieu Marechal has lived in several countries (Belgium, United States and now France) and has launched the translation agency Trad Online, which is headquartered in Paris and also has offices in 4 other countries in Europe.

In 2010, Mathieu launched a totally new and innovative concept which aims to revolutionize how business is done on the translation market: www.bewords.com

BeWords is a marketplace enabling translators and customers to work together directly, with no constraints. The site includes community features, a personal profile for each translator, a project management tool, online payment, etc.

About Bewords

BeWords.com is an innovative, open and community-oriented translator/customer market place. The idea is to give clients requiring translation services for their documents (such as web pages, presentation documents, etc.), the opportunity to find translators on their own and work with them “directly”. In this way clients can save money and quickly find professional translators for free. If you are looking to expand your activities you can get the best value out of using this service. 



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