The beginning of a new year is always synonymous with reflection—looking back at where you started, how far you’ve come, and where you’re going next. It’s with this spirit in mind that we at KUDO took time in 2022 to reflect not just on how we can further support our clients in their day-to-day lives, but on the wider impact we want to make in the world.
As usually happens, what began as a reflection escalated into an intense period of brainstorming, idea-sharing, and experimenting with new initiatives. From these eventually emerged a top-to-toe brand revamp for KUDO, and with it, the launch of KUDO AI, our AI-powered, real-time Speech Translator.
Today, we managed to catch up with KUDO’s co-Founder and CEO Fardad Zabetian to dig deeper into what’s going on at KUDO in 2023.
Q) Let’s start with the obvious question: why a rebrand?
Fardad: I think rather than a ‘rebrand’ I would call it more of a centralization of what’s always been present in the KUDO DNA.
When we founded KUDO, we had a vision: to give everyone the power to understand and be understood in their own language. Throughout the years, we’ve worked hard to transform this vision into reality by developing specialized multilingual solutions for anyone who needs to communicate, collaborate or engage over actual or virtual borders.
This vision implied the need for a strong collaboration with our clients—getting to know their pain points and what matters to them, and most importantly, understanding how we can best support them. We recognized how, behind each and every use case for language, there are concrete and recurring problems. For example, how can I more effectively communicate with my internal and external stakeholders, and increase my organization’s reach? How can I run productive training programs with my international colleagues while being sure that complex topics are understood? How can I build a team that is truly inclusive, and support talented professionals who might not feel confident in their English proficiency?
In reality, all these questions come down to KUDO’s core values of Inclusion, Productivity, and Growth. These values—the ways in which we empower our clients—are the reason KUDO exists. With this rebrand, we simply wanted to emphasize how these values, and our clients, remain at the core of everything we do. Focus is the word.
Q) What’s ‘new’ about the branding?
Fardad: Well, the first thing that catches the eye is probably that we have a new logo, which visually highlights the value we place in the idea of connection. By moving towards a simple, mono-color logo, we’ve put the dots more front and center. These represent two people in different locations or two people speaking different languages, being able to communicate thanks to KUDO. You’ll also notice our new color palette, which combines pastels with vibrant blues and yellow; being a tech start-up means there has to be a degree of slickness and simplicity to our look and feel, but we’re above all a human-first company, hence adding some color for warmth.
But there’s much more to a rebrand than the visual aspects. We really asked ourselves: what is it that makes KUDO unique in our industry? And the answer—the KUDO ‘secret sauce’—is that we are 50% experts in language and 50% experts in technology. This joint expertise is what constantly drives us to create specialized communication solutions, and allows us to add value in our clients’ processes.
And so we decided to incorporate our core values into an updated mission for KUDO: to combine human and AI power into multilingual solutions that enable people to communicate effortlessly in any language – wherever they are.
Q) “To combine human and AI power” – Can you elaborate?
Fardad: Sure. This is a reference to the two solutions that KUDO sells—the services of our talented network of 12,000 professional interpreters and our ground-breaking AI Speech Translator. Both solutions are rooted in language and technology expertise, and mean that we can deliver on absolutely any language or use case requirement that our clients have.
Whereas our values of Productivity and Growth were already being powered by our human interpretation solution, Inclusion—which encompasses not just language access but affordability—was the driving force behind KUDO AI. We want to create a world in which all individuals and organizations are empowered to think global, go faster, and express themselves in their own words. Whether a client is seeking to staff an international conference with a dozen language interpreters or conduct a customer interview using AI, KUDO is there to make it happen. And now, between our talented network of interpreters and our Speech Translator, we can truly deliver on this vision.
Q) Why did you launch KUDO AI?
Fardad: Once again, the answer lies in KUDO’s core values, and our desire to really deliver on our vision to make every meeting inclusive, productive, and truly global.
We have an amazing network of professional interpreters who are already doing a great job in making language accessible for our clients. But we also know that the vast majority of meetings globally are still being conducted in ‘business English’. For a lot of these meetings, the use of professional interpreters can either be impractical or unaffordable.
KUDO AI fills that gap. It’s an alternative for when the use of such skilled interpreters is impractical or out of reach. KUDO AI will expand language access, which will increase overall awareness about interpretation. I believe it will create a spill-over effect leading to more demand for skilled human interpretation services.
In terms of why KUDO, specifically, it’s because as both interpretation and technology specialists, we know first-hand the complexity of language. That’s why we believe that any research and development in AI needs to be pioneered by a company with a deep understanding of and respect for interpretation—much in the way that KUDO led the innovation on AI-assisted tools for interpreters. The launch of KUDO AI will make language accessible to a wider audience while introducing those same clients to the expertise of our professional human interpreters.
Q) What languages are available on KUDO AI?
Fardad: At the moment, our Speech Translator is available in five languages: English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. We plan to add new languages every two weeks though, including regional variations like French as spoken in Canada or Portuguese from Brazil.
The pool of target languages is bigger, though, and will soon include other European languages as well as Asian and African languages. KUDO’s clients are based all over the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, so we are extremely familiar with the diversity of languages and dialects in these regions. This is where the marriage of language and technological expertise at KUDO is important. As we speak, our team is hard at work making sure that KUDO AI can expand language access on a global scale.
Q) How do you envisage interpreters working alongside tools such as KUDO AI?
Fardad: Interpretation is a broad field spanning a vast array of use cases, objectives, and techniques. Professional interpreters are needed to ensure accurate communication across languages, and they will be for years to come. But technology has its place, too. Especially with repetitive, scripted presentations delivered to an audience of passive listeners, in languages of wide diffusion.
This is to say that KUDO AI and human interpreters do not exactly share the same space. The temptation to reduce this debate to human versus machines is huge, but we are talking apples and oranges here. Comparisons are not really applicable. KUDO AI mostly brings language and interpretation to meetings where up until here people were struggling in English only (or in any other foreign language). So, the choice is not between AI interpreters and human interpreters, but rather between AI interpretation and No interpretation.
Also, AI can do many of the things a human can do. But there is a whole lot more that humans can do that AI cannot, especially in language. So, if anything, AI is opening the door and inviting more people to the banquet of language and interpretation.
Q) Finally, between the KUDO rebrand and the launch of KUDO AI, what can your present and future clients expect from you moving forward?
Fardad: In a nutshell, a ‘paradigm shift’. We are redefining the frontiers of multilingual communication. We are living up to our vision of a world without language barriers, where everyone can afford to be understood in their own language. With all our solutions, we address our clients’ need for growth, increased margins, diversity, and a true global reach.
And the real beauty of all of this is that we are just getting started—and we can’t wait to make those developments accessible and really give everyone the power to understand and be understood in their own language.