John DeNero and Spence Green started Lilt because they believed that a person’s native language shouldn’t limit their ability to learn, grow, and support themselves. Spence likes to say: “Were I to have been born speaking Malagasi, and I had to learn English to study computer science, my challenge would have been much greater.” This is a form of social inequity that is less visible than gender, race, or class, yet it is no less intrinsic: you cannot control your native language. Social problems rarely have satisfactory technical solutions. However, steady advances in computational linguistics, our field, have brought us to a time at which universal information access is not just a dream. Now is the time to build.
Our contribution to this goal is to enable businesses to offer the same experience to all customers and employees irrespective of language. Revolutionary consumer tools like Google Translate have empowered people to pull translated information on demand. They offer no quality guarantee, but that is an acceptable compromise given the speed and convenience benefits. Now we want to enable information publishers‒businesses‒similar speed and convenience, yet with quality guarantees. This guarantee is not free, but the degree to which we can make it affordable is directly correlated with the degree to which a business can democratize its information.
Our team and investors believe that the impact of AI will be most profound in the enterprise. Tools are being built that allow 20 people to do the work of 100. This is the augmentation view of AI first advocated by Doug Engelbart in the 1960s, which is now becoming a reality. Specifically, machine translation is having its moment after 70 years of work by some of the pioneering figures in computer science. We believe that Lilt is uniquely positioned to help businesses operationalize those advances and that more businesses than ever can be equipped to go into more markets than ever.
This is a unique time in the history of both commerce and technology. True, success results in financial reward, but this is one of those unique cases in which the benefit to humanity is incommensurately greater.
We enable our customers to serve theirs. Then their customers have knowledge, they are empowered, and when they are empowered, progress is made.
Let’s make progress together.