Language I/O Granted Entrance to UW Business Incubator

Looking out from the top floor windows of the Wyoming Technology & Business Center (WTBC) in Laramie Friday, I was feeling dazed and happy. I had just returned late the previous night from Dreamforce in San Francisco where Language I/O Owner/Co-Founder Kaarina Kvaavik and I had been meeting  with clients, partners and prospects at the massive Salesforce Dreamforce event. During these trips one question always comes up. “How are you making a software company work in a place like Wyoming?” Watching the sun glint off the turning leaves, all I could think was “Who needs San Francisco when you’ve got Wyoming?” It’s not just the view of sweeping Wyoming landscapes or the state-of-the art facility with like-minded entrepreneurs and modern furniture. It’s also the fact that our new satellite office in this building sits right on the University of Wyoming (UW) campus, next door to really smart software engineers and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers. And Language I/O needs them. 

On Friday afternoon, I presented a plan to a group of business and technology leaders at the WTBC. The plan? To setup a machine learning program for UW researchers and computer science student interns at this goregeous, Laramie facility. The program will be managed by Alanna Larson, a member of our software engineering team with graduate-level machine learning education from the UW Computer Science Department. Friday, she was already making plans to move into her new office. “I’m going to be planted in that co-working space whenever I don’t need two screens in my actual office! The view is incredible.”

Indeed it is. Thanks to changes underway by Dave Bohling, Ph.D., director of the WTBC, a large co-working space has been opened up where there used to be cubicles. Bohling is bringing in modern, butcher-block collaboration tables, high stools and other amenities to inspire technical creativity in the huge, windowed area.

“The addition of Language I/O to our resident companies in WTBC fits extremely well with our historical charter and our strategic goals of nurturing technology businesses in Laramie,” Bohling said.  “As an operating economic development unit of the University of Wyoming, this also gives us a chance to help Language I/O mentor their student interns, with Alanna and Heather teaching them about AI and coding as applied to real-world issues, and us mentoring them in the language of business and technology overall in business value creation.”

Specifically, the Language I/O plan is to bolster the ability of our translation service to automatically learn and improve from experience. Today, the Language I/O platform automates monolingual customer support agents (mostly English speaking) to provide e-support to customers in any language. When a machine translation is called for, our system automatically selects the best machine translation engine for a particular language pair – English to Spanish, Japanese to English, etc. based upon human inputs and a complex feedback loop. But changes to machine-translation engine priority for a language pair currently rely on programming from our team of engineers. This new machine learning project headed by Larson will enable the already sophisticated Language I/O platform to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Harnassing the ingenuity of UW researchers and computer science students will help our small company grow this machine learning technology more rapidly. Especially with our new satellite location on the UW campus. 

Wyoming Technology Business Center at night for UWYO Magazine

I remember hearing about the WTBC about 10 years ago when it was new and thinking, “This is where I need to be.” Who knew that 10 years later I would be running a technology startup that would be so warmly welcomed into that very building? Yeah San Francisco, you keep your entrepreneur on every bar stool, collapsing public transport and one person per square foot. We’ve got space to grow.