Monica Camino Moreno is the CEO of Dialexy, an AI-powered translation service. She spoke with The PIE about the importance of certified translations, why she got into tech and the business’ partnership with UK NARIC.
The PIE: How did you get into the education sector?
Monica Camino Moreno: I’m a certified translator and have been doing certified translations for over 10 years now. At first, I was freelance, doing different kinds of translation work for clients like companies or translation agencies, and I was combining my work as a freelancer with studying. When I finished my masters in the UK, I set up a translation agency.
When I was working as a translator, I noticed that my individual customers often needed things like official documents translated. These could be documents to get married in the same country, it could be to buy property somewhere else, or it could be to study abroad.
“The certification requirements are different in every country”
I started to see that profile was a really big trend. There were many people who needed these documents, but we could not help them as easily in the same way as we could help everyone else in our industry.
At the same time, I’m originally from Spain and I know what it is like to come to the UK to study and need all your previous qualifications translated. I’ve had to translate my birth certificate when I got married; I’ve gone through all the hassle of getting certified translations for myself.
The PIE: How difficult was the process of getting certified translations?
MCM: For me, it was a lot easier because I was a certified translator and had colleagues who could help me. But I know how difficult it is for students or for migrants, in general, to get these kinds of services when you don’t know anyone.
You need to understand how the certification requirements are different in every country and you need to be able to verify that the translator is doing a good job. This usually requires a knowledge of language, which you may not have.
Even within the industry, translators don’t know how certified translation is different from every other service they offer, so we can’t expect students to know that. It just felt like I could contribute to bridging the gap between both worlds.
The PIE: How did you get involved with tech?
MCM: When you are a certified translator, you have to deal with documents that come in paper form. So most of the time we get a PDF or something that we cannot touch and we have to redo all the formatting. It is a manual process which takes forever and you cannot charge a lot because you’re dealing with an individual student who is not necessarily wealthy.
At the same time, the documents that you see are very similar and you’re following the same process over and over again. But you still have to do it in a manual way because there’s no technology out there.
I was lucky enough to have friends in the tech industry and I was telling them about the problems I was having and that I had to keep translating the same certificates. They thought there must be some technology out there to make it easier but there wasn’t. I said: “Well, I can’t make this, I’m not a tech person. But maybe you can, how about you build it for me!” So I started the company with my co-founder.
We entered a start-up competition in Switzerland where you take an idea to an MVP and spent a month in Switzerland just developing a business plan and looking at the technology to see if it would be feasible. We ended up having a great prototype that we could show and demonstrate and it won the competition, so we were very happy.
“We are different from everything else out there because we use artificial intelligence”
We came back with that and said, “okay, well, we have a robust business plan, let’s give it a go”. Then we applied for some grants here in the UK and got government backing for the project. We thought it was worth giving it a try.
The PIE: Tell me more about Dialexy.
MCM: Dialexy is a certified translation specialist service. We only do certified translation and we don’t translate websites, we don’t translate reports, just certified translations of official documents in the immigration and education sectors. For example, that could be transcripts or criminal records for visas and statements.
We are different from everything else out there because we use artificial intelligence so that we can process and translate these documents. It means we are much faster than any other competitor out there because they have to follow a manual process. The technology helps us to enforce and maintain higher quality standards because we can be more consistent and follow a set of clear rules.
The PIE: How do you think tech is received in the education sector?
MCM: People in the industry can be a bit risk-averse. It is hard for them to embrace these opportunities. While everyone else is trying to make the most out of working with tech start-ups to get more streamlined or offer new value to their customers, it feels like the education sector is taking its time to assess and embrace change.
Having said that, it’s a fantastic sector to be in, and people are really open-minded in many ways, they’re always very happy to chat with you and to help you refine your procedures. So it’s easy for you to get feedback from them. It’s just the implementation of things that can take a bit longer.
The PIE: What are your main markets?
MCM: We have two lines of business. One is where we sell direct to individuals and we do that online. But then we also have partnerships. We work with people in the education sector, (one of our top markets) and the immigration sector as well.
“It feels like the sector is taking its time to assess and embrace change”
In the education sector, we work with organisations like UK NARIC and universities and colleges. In the immigration sector, we work with consulates, with law firms and with regulatory bodies of different kinds.
We could help with other things like export documentation for businesses, but at the moment, we’re not focusing on that. We are going sector by sector, country by country, doing things properly.
You joined up with UK NARIC to provide a certified translation service for students and universities. Could you tell me more about this partnership?
MCM: We met UK NARIC in July last year, where we were attending some of their training sessions. After talking with them we learned they needed translation services so they could issue their statement of compatibility. But they didn’t have a certified translation service, instead, they just requested it from the student.
They had a translation waiver service by which they would charge their students but not give them a translation, they would just make sure that a person who had the native language of the documents could look at it.
Through just chatting, it was apparent that they were having problems with getting the translations. The ones they were getting, when people were not paying for the waiver, were not of good quality, because translators are not specialised in this field. So they would get poor quality translations, which means that whenever their team looked at them, they couldn’t really do their job properly and it would take them longer.
So we just said, “look, how about we work together to sort this out”, and that’s how it all started. They recommended us to their clients and they started to see that our translations not only work faster, but they were better as well.
What are some future plans for Dialexy?
MCM: Well, we have some short-term goals. At the moment we are already decreasing the turnaround times for our service compared to the competition and we are able to offer our translation in 24 hours for many of the documents that we have. But one of our main goals is to decrease that turnaround time to two hours and later on to make them instant. We’ll see how fast we get there.
“One of our main goals is to decrease that turnaround time… and later on to make them instant”
We also want to increase our country coverage little by little and in a couple of years time, we’re planning to expand geographically, first with countries such as the US where there is a big need for verification and then places like Australia where there are lots of students from China for instance.
I think long term, we’re looking at linking with other services where we can add value. For instance, verification would be one of the most obvious connections because not only do you need to understand a document that you received from somewhere else, you also need to make sure the bodies have valid credentials. So if we link those services, it’ll be better for everyone.