Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda run a translation company. Will it earn them a deal on
Shark Tank VerbalizeIt Update
- Entrepreneurs: Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda
- Business: Live translators on demand
- Ask: $250,000 for 15% equity
- Result: $250,000 for 20% equity
- Shark: Kevin O’Leary
Ryan and Kunal began their pitch speaking Spanish. A translator named Erica shared details of the deal before they got into the specifics of their business, VerbalizeIt. Ryan and Kunal had created a business that allowed hundreds of human translators to monetize their downtime, by providing on demand translation services to those in need. Of those in need, Ryan and Kunal highlighted international business meetings, and pitched VerbalizeIt as a way to break through the language barrier.
Robert Herjavec asked them to talk about how it all works. Ryan explained that VerbalizeIt was available online through a web browser or by downloading their app. The user would essentially place a call, which was routed through VerbalizeIt’s virtual call center, and get a human translator within fifteen seconds.
Kevin O’Leary couldn’t believe VerbalizeIt had enough staff to get that response time reliably, but Kunal said translators were champing at the bit for the chance to monetize their downtime. So far, they had over two hundred translators offering services in five different languages.
Robert shared Kevin’s doubts that VerbalizeIt translators really were available 24/7. Ryan said the community they built was simply that good. Robert asked how the translators were paid, and Ryan broke it all down.
He began by stating the user could download and try the VerbalizeIt app for free. Once the trial ended, they were required to pay $0.50 to $1 per minute for the translation services. The translator, in turn, would receive $7 to $15 an hour based on the total time spent translating. Meanwhile, Ryan and Kunal boasted 70% margins, taking the lion’s share.
Kevin asked about sales, and Kunal was delighted to share that they had grossed $10,000 in two weeks. Mark Cuban asked how long VerbalizeIt had been operational. Kunal said they had been online for only one month.
Daymond John asked how they were sure the translators were translating accurately. Ryan said he was confident because the first fifty translators were discovered by visiting language centers nationwide. From there, other translators heard about the company through word-of-mouth.
Kevin asked if VerbalizeIt used a rating system. Ryan and Kunal confirmed there was an option to rate your services after each call. Kunal also shared that the top translator earned $550 in two days recently, illustrating the upside for the translators to work with VerbalizeIt.
Barbara Corcoran asked, with so many apps out there offering translation services, what made VerbalizeIt any better than the others? Ryan said that human translators were always better than machine language because technology simply couldn’t compete. Mark strongly disagreed.
Mark said it wasn’t just a matter of translating the words. Having a translator who also understood business, for the purposes of translating during business meetings, as a regular translator might miss the lingo and translate inaccurately.
Kunal countered that their translators ranged from high school students to PhD doctorates. Mark countered that, by needing someone with a very specific skill set, they lose the instantaneous aspect, one of the main appeals of the service.
Kevin asked what languages were available. Kunal answered that they currently offered Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Robert asked why they didn’t offer Croatian, pretending to be offended. Everyone chuckled.
Ryan suddenly sweetened the pot, speaking about a deal with the then giant Skype that would get them in front of 31 million Skype users. Barbara asked if the deal was already finalized, and Ryan said it was.
Robert asked what the deal did for VerbalizeIt. Ryan said that their app was now listed as the “featured app” in Skype’s app directory. Barbara asked if the deal was exclusive. Unfortunately, Ryan said it was not. For this reason, Barbara was out.
Daymond said he noticed the other sharks asking lots of questions. Because he knew them to have interest in the tech space, and because he had none, he decided he would be happier to sit back and watch them fight over a deal. Daymond was out.
Robert noticed something as well– Mark was quiet. He said that Mark loves talking so much, that for him to be quiet meant something was going on.
Mark said he’d make it easy. He was interested, and he had always been interested in language because his company was working on machine language programs for translation services. However, the limitations were there, so there was a clear advantage to bringing both translation apps and human translators to business meetings.
For this reason, he offered $250,000 for 25%, but he didn’t want to wait for other offers. Mark pressured Ryan and Kunal to make the decision immediately or risk him dropping out.
Kevin looked insulted, and asked if Ryan and Kunal wanted to hear other offers. They said they were interested. Mark warned that it would be a risk to keep him waiting. Kevin called Mark’s bluff, and Mark sat back.
With Mark stuck waiting to hear if he’d get the deal or not, Kevin decided to offer $250,000 for 20% equity, undercutting Mark’s offer by 5%. Robert jumped in almost immediately after Kevin finished his offer, offering $250,000 for 25% equity. Although his offer was identical to Mark’s, he said he felt Ryan and Kunal were smart enough to pick the right partner here.
Ryan asked if they could step into the hallway to discuss, and they were given permission. The sharks bickered a bit while the entrepreneurs weighed their options outside. Robert theorized they might get a better deal if they all partnered together, but Mark and Kevin did not seem keen on the idea.
When Ryan and Kunal returned, Daymond asked if they reached a decision. Kunal said they could see value in siding with any of the three, but they wanted to be sure they were being given the best offers before making the final decision. Ryan asked Mark and Robert if they would come down to meet Mr. Wonderful’s 20% equity offer.
Mark said he would not, because he understood the value he provided that made him a superior choice to Kevin. He said he employed a specialist whose job was only to do machine language translation services, and he felt an introduction to her was worth the extra 5% equity alone.
Kevin disparaged this, telling the partners their business had nothing to do with what Mark and his team were working on. It was a better strategy to side with him and retain as much equity as possible. Robert accused Kevin of saying “much ado about nothing,” and basically calling him the worst choice of the three. Kevin retorted that Robert could not offer nearly as much value as he could.
The sharks bickered a bit more before turning back to Ryan and Kunal. At long last, they turned to Kevin and accepted his deal for $250,000 in exchange for 20% equity. The rest of the sharks were stunned, seeming to indicate they thought it was going to pan out in a different direction. During the after pitch confessional, Kunal claimed it was not over the 5% equity and the decision had more to do with the value only Kevin could provide.
So, Mr. Wonderful was able to get the deal, but how did things go after the tank? Keep reading our VerbalizeIt update to find out!
We have good news to share in our VerbalizeIt update! While the deal with Kevin never closed, Ryan and Kunal received the funding through another investor and grew the business from there. They expanded their services from just conversation to documents, videos, websites, and app translation services. In 2016, Smartling, a cloud-based translation company, purchased the company for an undisclosed amount. VerbalizeIt, now owned by Smartling, remains in business as of 2023.
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Jennifer is an avid Shark Tank fan that has been watching the show for years. She serves as Senior Editor at Shark Tank Recap and ensures that all our information is accurate and that our posts are up to date. Her favorite Shark Tank products are Le-Glue and Ring!