Israeli start-up Lexifone, which runs an automatic phone conversation translation service, is set to come out with an Android app that will enable smartphone users to call people all around the world and speak in their own language, while the listener hears the message in theirs.
It’s an impressive system, based on advanced algorithms and clever use of voice-to-text technologies. Lexifone, barely two years old, is used by millions of people around the world and and is proof that hi-tech in Israel can thrive outside the Tel Aviv bubble.
Lexifone allows customers and vendors in countries around the world to ensure that deals run smoothly. For example, a hotel in Spain could set up a phone number for tourists from France, who can call and book rooms in French, with the desk clerk on the other side of the line hearing the request in Spanish. It works with Spanish (European and Mexican), French (the France and Canada dialects), Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), German, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, and three flavors of English — US, British, and Australian (Hebrew is on the way, the company says).
Lexifone started out in the first incubator round of Haifa’s Hi Center, which just graduated another four start-ups from its Top Start-Up accelerator. Top Start-Up, which began last October, was the first accelerator for new start-ups in the Haifa area, offering companies office space, mentoring, and partnerships with companies like Microsoft.
Four companies participated in the newly-graduated Top Start-Up group: YouMe, which is developing health-related cellphone apps; OptiCar, which is working on making the car rental process more efficient; WebSnacks, which is developing a content distribution center for tablets; and Dalit Technologies, with a smartphone-based system to manage agricultural enterprises.
All these companies hope to follow in the path of Lexifone, so far Hi Center’s most successful graduate. In 2011, Lexifone got a $2 million investment from Canadian web branding company Intertainment Media, which is using Lexifone’s technology on its Ortsbo email translation and chat site and app. Lexifone is doing so well with its global business that it recently declared that it was seeking to raise $10 million in a second round of financing.