The U.S. and China operate the world’s largest economies and warming relations between the two nations are opening up new business opportunities. Still, the language barrier can be problematic when navigating specialized industries.
Enter SeekPanda — a two-sided platform designed to match translators and interpreters with clients’ specific needs.
“We are obsessed with bringing modern solutions to the antiquated industry of interpretation,” said SeekPanda CEO Matt Conger.
Conger originally founded SeekPanda in Beijing, with Phil Kohn, a classmate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. This summer they relocated to Seattle, where SeekPanda now operates.
We caught up with Conger for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Find your voice and eliminate risk. Use SeekPanda to effortlessly get matched to the interpreter who will be your secret of success when doing business abroad.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We first experienced China as business travelers who spoke zero Mandarin. It was hard enough doing business in another country, but in a country with such a major language barrier as China, we knew there had to be an easier way. We studied Chinese ourselves and came to realize that the language barrier was never going to go away between the world’s two biggest economies. Seeing that labor markets in the U.S. were being revolutionized by marketplaces, we knew there was a huge opportunity to build one in China.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap until product-market fit is achieved, then we’ll use VC to get as much gasoline in the tank as possible. Our company is a B2B firm, and having VCs who work tirelessly to help provide intros to strategic partners and customers is invaluable for B2B firms.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We are obsessed with bringing modern solutions to the antiquated industry of interpretation. Our secret sauce is seeing solutions that work in one labor market and applying them to our industry. Not just labor markets, but dating apps, too. We’ve found not one but two insights from dating apps that we’ve designed into our product. ‘Swipe right to find your voice’ was a slogan we once considered.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Hiring a team who can be the voice of the supplier in our marketplace. As founders, we were the voice of the customer. But we needed a yin to our yang.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We thought that customers want to browse profiles. They don’t. They want a curated match.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuckerberg. The guy speaks Chinese, so he’ll totally help us find more companies looking to go abroad.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Room escape!”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Passion for bringing change to an industry that has historically resisted it.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Don’t go at it alone! You will hit a rough patch and a co-founder or two will turn that frown upside down.”