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Posted: June 01, 2010

Tech startup: Mojofiti Inc.

Eric Peterson

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INITIAL LIGHT BULB: Friends and colleagues for more than a decade, Dennis Wakabayashi and Alan Simon were discussing the state of the Internet a year ago. Then online director for a global ad agency, Wakabayashi lamented that the Web was segmented by language barriers, but pointed out to attorney Simon a number of solutions: software, crowdsourcing, traditional human translation, and any combination of the three. Simon conceived of a translation-oriented startup and brought the idea back to the table.
"Alan took the ball and ran with it," Wakabayashi says. "He really sparked my passion." It wasn't just the promise of profits that drove the duo to co-found the company: "We thought if we did this for people, the world would be a better place."
Enlisting Washington Redskins honcho Mike Shanahan and international hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa to serve on their board of directors, Mojofiti was incorporated just under a year ago.

IN A NUTSHELL: "Language barriers are segmenting everybody on the Internet," Simon says. "You're really searching the Web as it relates to your language."
The site is still in beta mode, its translations powered by what Simon describes as a "unique" software system capable of improving itself via crowdsourcing, i.e. allowing the crowd to correct the software's mistakes and teach it not to make them in the future. "It's only going to get better with time," he adds.
Wakabayashi describes Mojofiti's "freemium"-style business model as "delivering a solution that's free to people who blog or read on the Internet" and selling translation services to businesses. "In business, mission-critical translations still need a human touch," Simon notes. Pricing is based on the language in question, but Simon touts Mojofiti as "faster and less expensive" than the competition.
The plan calls for Mojofiti to integrate with the top blogging and social-networking websites. "What we're really doing is collaborating, not competing," Simon says.
Denver-based Buddhist teacher Anyen Rinpoche recently began blogging at Mojofiti.com. "I teach Tibetan philosophy and meditation instruction," he says. "My students are all over the world and not everybody speaks English. (Mojofiti) is very unique and very special."

THE MARKET: "The growth in translation relating to business is in Web content: news, e-mail, et cetera. Simon pegs the "multilingual market" (a.k.a. localization) at $15 billion a year worldwide, not to mention a comparably sized - and rapidly growing - market for social-networking media.

FINANCING: A two-part angel round closed in February and netted $1.25 million. The company is embarking on a Series A round to facilitate international expansion and development of a mobile application.

WHERE: DENVER | FOUNDED: 2009 | WWW.MOJOFITI.COM

"OUR MEMBERS BLOG IN 28 LANGUAGES. ANY READER WHO COMES TO OUR WEBSITE WILL READ IN THEIR OWN NATIVE LANGUAGE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT LANGUAGE IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN. IT GIVES ANYONE IN THE WORLD THE ABILITY TO TAP INTO THIS ECOSYSTEM THAT DOES NOT HAVE LANGUAGE BARRIERS. IF YOU E-MAIL SOMEONE IN ENGLISH AND THEY SPEAK RUSSIAN, THEY WILL RECEIVE IT IN RUSSIAN. ...WE'RE ONE OF THE FEW PLACES ON THE INTERNET WHERE PEOPLE ARE SPEAKING HAITIAN CREOLE."

- DENNIS WAKABAYASHI, MOJOFITI CO-FOUNDER
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Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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