November 28, 2019

Straker goes to Hollywood with $1m deal


The Auckland and Gisborne-based Straker Translations says it landed a $1m deal with a major US TV production studio - which it's billing as the first of its type.

Co-founder and chief executive Grant Straker won't name the new customer, but says his company's services will be used for adding subtitles (and via partner, dubbing) for multiple TV series produced by the studio for the Latin American market.

Straker Translations uses artificial intelligence and machine learning for creating an automated first draft of a translation - in the same manner as rivals like Google Translate.

But unlike the freebies, it uses a real-life human (crowdsourced from an army of 13,000 freelancers) to finesse each draft into a polished translation.

Straker says the deal was won by new team in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank, neighbouring Hollywood, where major studios are clustered, which was set up explicitly to pursue such deals.

The team has a "good pipeline", Straker says.

"The media market is the fastest-growing segment of the translation industry and due to its rapid growth, it is hard to estimate but we believe this is a $5 billion market opportunity. It is also the market segment where demand is currently outstripping supply and ongoing innovation will be critical to meet customer and market demands."

The $1m deal for services that will be completed by March 2020 and will be the first time a television studio uses an advanced translation platform that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine translation algorithms to power automatic speech recognition to transcribe, translate and understand the nuances of actors' dialogue while adhering to specific standards for sub-titling, Straker says.

He says his company's new RAY Ai Media Platform is faster and more accurate than traditional, mostly manual translation services for the entertainment industry, and complies with various MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and other industry body standards around digital watermarking and other measures to protect intellectual property.

Straker Translations was co-founded by former paratrooper Grant Straker and his wife Merryn in 1999.

In October last year, it listed on the ASX at A$1.51 a share.

In May, the company reported revenue, fuelled by a series of acquisitions, was up 44 per cent to $24.6 million or 4.7 per cent ahead of its prospectus guidance.

The company made a $4.5m net loss, versus a $1.6m loss in the prior year.

Its loss before acquisition and IPO costs was $790,000, a 60 per cent improvement.

The company finished the year with $17.7m cash (from the year-ago $22m) and no debt.

Shares hit a high of A$2.15 in July before cooling to a recent A$1.70 for a market cap close to A$100m.