Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

For Viki, Web Video Translation Equals $20 Million

There are lots of ways to tackle the Web video boom. Viki’s angle: Crowd-sourced translation. The Singapore-based company takes video produced all over the world and provides subtitles in more than 150 languages.

That means you can watch “The Heart is But a Child,” a Hindi romantic comedy, with English captions. And you could also watch part of the movie with Thai subtitles, too — but you won’t be able to watch all of it until Viki’s volunteer translators finish their work on the film.

When I last talked to Viki CEO Razmig Hovaghimian about his company, I obsessed over the idea that Viki’s volunteer workforce would demand a cut of of the company’s revenue or equity as it grew. At the time — a little more than a year ago — the company had just raised $4.3 million from Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, and Hovaghimian told me he thought his volunteers would keep working for free even with the new money.

Apparently he’s right — he says he now has 500,000 translators working on his movies, up from 100,000 a year ago. And now he’s raised another $20 million in funding with the BBC and SK Telecom unit SK Planet, along with earlier investors. Hovaghimian, a former NBCUniversal executive, says the money and partnerships will help him secure more content and distribution — in addition to his own site and YouTube, you can currently find some some of this stuff on Hulu and Netflix, and there’s more on the way.

Revenue? Last year I got Hovaghimian to tell me he was on a $1 million annual run rate, before factoring out payments to distributors and content partners. But this time he has wised up and is staying mum.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik