As an EVA, I would not invest in this product without seeing a complete venture pitch.
Pain Point: There is clearly a need for a visual translator, and translation from Asian logographic-based character sets, such as Chinese and Japanese Kanji, to Western phonetic-based languages is one of the most needed tools in today’s connected world. The elevator pitch did a good job connecting the need to the product. The demo was excellent. I especially loved the fact that the product can work offline, to avoid expensive roaming charges that would be incurred from using a solution like Google Translate.
Solution: This is where the presentation fell apart for me. Language translation is a tremendously difficult task. The presenter only vaguely referenced their “patent-pending” technology that handles the translation. Considering that scholars have been making tools to assist in translation for centuries with varying degrees of success, I am highly skeptical that his app will be able to translate anything more than a menu at a restaurant. It might work for menus, because it is a highly restricted and predictable vocabulary set that you will be dealing with. Once you leave the restaurant, you now have to consider a massively expanded set of words in your dictionary. In addition to this, the basic unit of meaning in any language is the sentence or phrase, and anyone who has used Google Translate will know that it is easy to translate a single word, it gets much harder to translate a phrase or sentence. Context is a difficult concept for software, especially with the fact that words can have multiple meanings, and combinations of words can radically change meaning. I want to know HOW their software deals with this problem.
Differentiation & Competition: These sections will be addressed jointly. No effort was made to differentiate between existing products, and there are a LOT of them. I have already mentioned Google Translate. But Apple has a product, as does Microsoft, and a host of other major software development firms. I would expect some kind of explanation of the differentiation between these products (there is a difference which you can find if you look online, but the presenter did not mention it).
Marketing: Distribution partnerships – smart! This was well thought out and likely to help them to penetrate a market that is already dominated by major software companies.
Championship: the competency of the team seems a little thin. 10 years of computer vision experience shared between 4 members of the team? That is extremely thin for tackling a nut as difficult to crack as visual translation of languages. In addition to this, the presenter would be much better off learning how to use a microphone in a presentation. Hint: When you have a microphone, you do not need to shout. It might be a small thing, but it really made me check the experience of the team more closely, as it was a very amateurish presentation.
The Ask: I have no objection to the amount asked
The Return: This section was completely omitted. There was no clear demonstration of profits and ROI. All that was presented was the mention that there were 10 million English-speaking visitors to China each year. No mention of how much of this was a potential market. They also only obliquely mentioned their current success. The presenter mentioned that they were experiencing “50% month over month growth of downloads.” How many of these purchases vs. free downloads?