Headquarters: Boca Raton
Concept: LinguaSys software allows computers to “understand” human text, making it possible for people to communicate with devices and for companies to extract critical information from vast amounts of text in different languages. Linguasys, an IBM business partner, also provides big data text analytics, for example helping companies understand what customers are saying about them on social media like Twitter or Facebook in multiple languages.
Story: Co-founder Brian Garr had managed human language technology programs at IBM’s Boca Raton offices. Given the converging trends of big data, the “Internet of things,” and social media, Garr recognized the growing importance of natural-language processing. He set out to identify the best new R&D in the natural-language field, located the best in Melbourne, Australia, and formed LinguaSys around this technology with its inventor, Vadim Berman. With a small investment from some South Florida angels and some from Washington, D.C., they created the Carabao Linguistic Virtual Machine, along with 16 language models. From the start, they attracted big name Fortune 500 companies and today have a list of clients billionaire entrepreneur/investor and — including DARPA, the U.S. Army and Micro Systemation — that attest to the quality and affinity for their products.
Launched: March of 2010 by Garr, Vadim Berman and Can Unal.
Management team: Brian Garr, CEO; Vadim Berman, chief technology officer; Can Unal, vice president of development and architecture; Carla Johnston, vice president of worldwide sales.
Number of employees: 12 on four continents; LinguaSys is planning to add 12 more employees in the first half of this year.
Financing: LinguaSys has raised about $1 million in seed capital from investors including well-known“Shark Tank” personality Mark Cuban. It is currently using EarlyShares.com, an equity crowdfunding platform, to raise up to $1.5 million.
Recent milestones reached: Growing number of government and Fortune 500 global companies using LinguaSys technologies. The company, in some cases with its partner IBM, serves top brands in banking, hospitality, mobile phones and financial services. Global market analysts Frost & Sullivan recently named LinguaSys an “exceptional early stage investment,” awarding the company with the 2013 North American Early Stage Investment Opportunity Award in the Internet Software and Services Industry. LinguaSys recently announced it is adding Nordic and Korean languages to its product offerings.
Biggest startup challenge: Attacking the right markets, in the right sequence. LinguaSys’ Carabao software has attracted clients in multiple areas, including natural language interfaces, text analytics and machine translation. “An emerging company can’t focus equal attention on all these markets at the same time. It’s not easy to turn away from some business opportunities, but it has to be done,” Garr said.
Next steps: Continue to close major customers in top-priority markets, bring on outside board members who can add significant experience in operating large software companies, and most important, “make sure the world knows about our solutions,” said Garr.