How an academic turned his bright idea into cash
JOHN Tinsley is a perfect example of a researcher done good. After completing a PhD in machine translation in 2009, Dublin resident John and co-founder Paraic Sheridan used the knowledge learned at university to develop a spin-off company targeting the translating business. The 29-year-old's company Iconic Translation Machines helps professional translators working on technical documents like patents to bump up their productivity.
"Translating companies use our software as a productivity tool. It provides a basic translation of technical documents, which they then use as a starting point to improve upon. This really enhances productivity, which in this business means the number of words that can be translated per minute. Clients have reported jumps in productivity of between 25 and 200pc.
"It's a different beast to Google Translate and other similar services. They are designed as generic tools for the man on the street, but our software is highly adapted for specific content. Our market strategy is very much to target niches rather than the more general translating market -- products are themed around specific subjects rather than geographical borders. Our core offering, IPTranslator, is aimed at clients working on intellectual property documents like patents. The software is all based on algorithms, very engineering-heavy.
"The company was formally founded as a spin-off from Dublin City University earlier this year, where I completed my PhD, but has been in development for three years. We now have four full-time and one part-time employee and are currently looking for a round of investment. DCU funded most of the software development and owns the intellectual property rights to it, which we license. It also has an equity stake in the business.
"Our first client was We Localise, an international translating business. Getting the first paying customer on board was the biggest challenge; once you have one, it inspires confidence in all the others you speak to. We now have three clients and a number of deals in the pipeline.
"Setting up this company was a really natural transition for me. My undergraduate degree, also at DCU, was very relevant to what I am doing now -- I studied applied computational linguistics, the application of computer science to language. In school I was good at both languages and science, but was never crazy about studying just maths or physics, so although it is an unusual degree, it seemed like an obvious choice and has brought me down a really interesting road."