Major hotel chains, credit card companies — even the federal government — are using a Boca Raton company to analyze tweets and other online content.
LinguaSys offers software that can translate and interpret online content in 17 languages: English, Arabic, traditional and simplified Chinese, German, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Malay, Spanish, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese and Urdu.
For a European customer who collects restaurant and hotel reviews, LinguaSys analyzes customer comments to see whether they're happy with the food or service.
For the Department of Defense, LinguaSys receives specific requests for online searches such as items about "immigration" in Spanish, which it translates into English.
After nearly three years in a startup incubator, the company recently moved to its own office in Boca Raton and is preparing for further expansion.
"We have large local customers. We wanted a place where they could visit," Garr said.
Andrew Duffell, president of the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University, said LinguaSys is one of many graduates from the Research Park's Technology Business Incubator. Garr drew on the incubator's resources to hit the market at the right time, he said.
"He understood the needs of the market, saw an opening and solved a problem," Duffell said.
"Big data" — a term coined to describe the availability and growth of data – raises privacy issues for some people, but LinguaSys founder Brian Garr said they don't apply to LinguaSys, which doesn't collect the data itself.
"We just provide the method of pouring data into 17 languages into a container, we analyze it, and then we give it back," he said.
When Garr lost his job in 2009 managing the speech recognition group at IBM, he consulted with an Australian voice-recognition technology firm. He founded LinguaSys to bring that technology to the U.S. market.
Now IBM is one of the company's customers.
In 2012, the company attracted the attention of entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and investor on the TV show Shark Tank. Cuban, whom Garr contacted via email, invested $750,000 in LinguaSys.
Cuban said LinguaSys is transforming the way large enterprises can tap into content across language barriers. Garr said he communicates weekly with Cuban, who advised the company to move to a monthly rent business model.
Now customers can pay monthly for the service through Amazon, or LinguaSys can put the software on their servers and the company charges for maintenance and support.
Garr said LinguaSys started 2014 with about $1 million worth of sales in contracts, but he expects sales to increase five-fold by year's end. The company is trying to raise $1.5 million to further expand its sales and 11-member staff, through Miami-based EarlyShares, a crowdfunding site.
The company has been getting local and national recognition. LinguaSys was given the 2013 North American Early Stage Investment Opportunity Award by Frost & Sullivan, a growth consultancy. Frost & Sullivan cited LinguaSys' patented technology, which enables it to add additional languages within just four months.
Garr also was recently named to eMerge Americas Techweek Miami "Techweek100," a list of tech leaders, investors, educators, media and others influential in south Florida's tech community.
LinguaSys plans to participate May 2-8 in Techweek, the first-of-its-kind conference connecting south Florida technology companies, entrepreneurs and industry experts with those around the Americas.
LinguaSys also has new business on the horizon with a global auto manufacturer. The company competed on an automotive application of against technology giants including Apple, and won, Garr said.
He hopes to be able to announce that deal next year.
©2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)