It was sunny skies and unseasonably warm on September 12, 2019 as over 120 language industry leaders gathered at the W Hotel in the heart of the city to take part in a sold-out SlatorCon San Francisco.
Participants came to mingle and network with industry decision-makers, which included CEOs, owners, and senior executives of leading language service and technology providers, private equity and venture capital investors, technologists, and service and tech buyers.
The optimism was palpable among participants, as speakers painted a picture of a healthy and growing industry, which has become the target of renewed investor interest over the past couple of years. The program ran the gamut — from language data annotation at scale, enterprise localization, NMT, M&A, corporate development, healthcare interpreting to venture capital and private equity funding — shining a spotlight on just how many different stakeholders contribute to this vibrant industry. Presentations followed SlatorCon’s trademark style of back-to-back 25-minute talks.
Slator Co-Founder and Managing Director Florian Faes kicked off the day’s packed agenda by giving an overview of the USD 23bn language industry’s main markets, players, tech developments, and growth opportunities.
He outlined how the industry’s five Super Agencies outperformed their smaller rivals in 2018, surveyed the current M&A environment, and touched on recent deals — such as Big Language Solutions’ acquisition of ProTranslating and the BTI Studios and IYUNO merger.
Next on the agenda was the panel discussion on institutional investment in the language industry. Hosted by Slator’s Faes, the panel was joined by Tomasz Tunguz, Partner and Managing Director at Lilt investor Redpoint Ventures; Sri Chandrasekar, Partner at Point72 Ventures, an investor in NLP startup PolyAI; and Charles Stubbs, Partner at MSouth Equity Partners, which teamed up with language industry veteran Jeff Brink to form Big Language Solutions and, in July 2019, acquired Florida-based ProTranslating.
The discussion revealed the interesting differences between the traditional world of private equity investing, which looks for moderate returns by partnering with proven businesses in growing markets, and the high-risk, high-reward approach of venture capital.