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Flitto, the Korean startup that uses crowdsourcing to destroy Google Translate

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This past week, TechCrunch had its San Francisco Disrupt conference, and hundreds of startups and thousands of people poured into the convention center. Amidst the sea of people, several groups from Asia had arrived including the Chinese, Indian, Hong Kong, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean delegations. And my favorite startup of the mix is definitely Flitto. It’s a South Korean startup that built an app that has over 2 million users already.

How did a translation app get 2 million users?

Flitto’s two million users all came onto the platform during their beta testing. Flitto just came out of beta this week in sync with TechCrunch Disrupt. Now, how does an app that was still in beta get over two million users? You have to use it to find out.

Simon Lee, founder and CEO of Flitto, demoed the mobile app for me.

So, for example, let’s say you want to translate a sign that is in Korean, into English, so that you can read it. All you have to do is take a picture of the sign and upload it to Flitto, and within one minute, other users will translate it into English.

As Simon demoed, I was in awe as 5 or 6 translations were immediately submitted from actual users across the world. Within a few minutes, we selected which was our favorite translation and rated it at 5 stars. Once the best translation was selected, no more translations were submitted to the system. In other words, at any moment, you can get an accurate translation of anything from text to photos to audio of one language and have it translated, within a minute. That’s the power of this platform.

On top of the speed of Flitto’s translations, the coolest part has to be the fact that people can make money off of the platform. There’s one girl in Indonesia who makes $300 a month just by translating from Indonesian into English and vice versa. She only works 30 minutes per day on Flitto.

The quest to destroy Google Translate

If you’re a bilingual person like me, you know that Google Translate has been getting better as Google hacks the world’s books and it’s machines learn better linguistics and grammar. But no matter how good Google gets, it’s still not as good as an actual human. It’s better to throw a Mechanical Turk at the problem than a robot. Humans process language way more deeply than any computer at the moment, no matter how many CPU’s are behind it.

Simon showed me a comparison of Google Translate versus Flitto by translating a comic book (Yes, you can get your favorite comics translated!). After I got an immediate translation from a user of an English phrase into Vietnamese, we compared it to the Google Translation. The Flitto translation was way better. And even then, Flitto has Google Translate embedded in the app almost as a failsafe, just in case people don’t believe in the human element.

How the points work and how people make money

With Flitto now coming out of beta and launching worldwide, we’re bound to see some growth in its userbase. Currently, all users operate on a point system. They can buy points and redeem them for translations or get paid in points for their translations. It’s easy money for folks who are excellent bilingually and have some extra time to spare. Flitto also manages its userbase via a rating system.

If you are a translator, and you made the best translation, and the requesting user selects your translation as the best, then you get points. These points not only can be redeemed for money via PayPal or your bank account, but it also improves your overall rating. That’s how the Indonesian girl can make $300 a month. And that’s how Flitto gets so many users on its platform, there’s real incentive.

Try it out, you can get your translations or give translations on Android or iOS.

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(Editing by Charlie Custer)


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