BABELVERSE: Starting with a vision

Since starting Babelverse a in Sept 2010, we’ve been eager to catch up and write a series of blog posts sharing our story and the inspiring places and people we’ve met along the way.Openness and knowledge sharing are fundamental to us. Most of our major milestones have occurred in plain sight. It’s not that easy, being a small team of two (Josef & Mayel) that desperately want to focus on building rather than talking. But let’s try this anyway, we’ll just have to get better at it! We’ll start by playing catch-up on our story so far, with a series of posts… prepare to sit back and get reading, grab a cuppa tea, coffee or preferred tipple and enjoy.

Greece, 2010

Greek ParthenonIn late 2010 we noticed that Greece was having a rebirth moment with regards to entrepreneurship and innovative free-thinking. Excited about this and wanting to be part of this movement, we attended as many of the related meet-ups like Open Coffee and events like Startegy, which are focused on encouraging people to start their own venture.

Startegy 1, 23rd Oct 2010

Greece and BabelverseIt starts by people pitching a variety of ideas on stage, (max 60 seconds), receiving feedback from the audience and then brainstorming to further refine the idea. Both of us (Josef & Mayel) were in the audience listening to the different pitches, some were in Greek, a few in English, and the others in some kind of “Greeklish”, in any case, a large part of the room had a hard time understanding, which was core to the success of the event, the audience voted on the ideas pitched – it was important that everyone understood and everyones ideas were expressed and not mis-interpreted.

After watching around 25 pitches, it was nearing the end of the pitch session, this was our chance to stand up and share our idea, this was the moment everything came together and the idea was formulated while we were sitting in the audience, we raised our hand and requested to pitch, then literally a couple of minutes later we were on stage pitching our rough-around-the-edges solution of “peer-to-peer simultaneous interpretation via your smart-phone”. We received a tremendous reaction from the audience, and the rest is history. 😉

An out of the blue solution, this is the moment Babelverse was born.

Birth of idea - Startegy - oct 2010

We then got to work researching, gathering feedback, thinking about features, business model and the challenges, and planning our next steps.

These are actual post-it notes from our brain-storming sessions at Startegy. I wonder where they are now?!?!?
These are actual post-it notes from our brain-storming sessions at Startegy. I wonder where they are now?!?!?

What sparked the idea of Babelverse?

Babelverse was not something that we’d been planning, it was one of those out-of-the-blue ideas, based on a culmination of real-life experiences. Here are just a few of those that we think brought us to this moment, stirring up the thoughts that lit the spark:

  • Both of us were foreigners living and working in Greece at the time (Josef is British & Mayel is French), and we often had a problem with the language barrier (the little Greek we did know, didn’t get us far!), during business, day to day life, conferences and events, arguing with taxi drivers.
  • We noticed how traditional interpretation was set up at conferences like TEDxAcademy (4th Oct 2010): it required special hardware and on-site interpreters which have to be sourced and then attend the venue.
  • Someone had spoken to us about the Babels, a group of volunteers that provide interpretation at World Social Forums.
  • Back in 2007 Mayel created “Babelizer”, a groundbreaking platform for crowd-sourced translation/subtitling of any online video (before the fairly similar DotSub launched).
  • Of course, we are also both fans of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its babel fish.
  • Curious minds.
  • And more…

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