Interview: Bethanie Maples Krogstad on the TranscribeMe mobile transcription app

Following her review of the mobile audio transcription app TranscribeMeAntoinette Siu interviewed VP of Sales & Marketing at TranscribeMe Bethanie Maples Krogstad about the transcription service.

Why did you build this app?

In our team alone, we had our CEO’s partner undertaking her thesis and having to spend long hours transcribing interviews. Another team member who is a writer spent many painful hours banging away on a typewriter every day, editing long poor quality transcriptions that required almost as much time as the original job.

When our CTO Victor met our CEO Alexei to talk about his work in biological sciences, tracking individual birds using speech recognition technology, you might say there occurred one of those rare and precious moments when everything fell into place. They realized that TranscribeMe could use this technology to accurately convert voice to text using the latest technology, and do it from anywhere easily and conveniently.

What are the main problems you’ve faced so far?

We launched our beta program at the DEMO Asia Conference in Singapore in March of this year. Since then, we have come a long way with the launch of the iPhone app, a transcriber recruitment campaign that resulted in 2000+ transcribers on our platform, and continuous incremental improvements to our service based on customer feedback.

However, the two top challenges that we face are:

  • Crowd-engagement: unlike other tech startups that have one type of customer, we had two clients that want transcription done and our crowd of transcribers. Our ability to deliver on our promise to clients depends largely on how successful we are in recruiting, engaging and managing our crowd. As a growing company, one of our biggest challenges is to be able to manage revenue growth with the expectations of our crowd.
  • Market segmentation: as we learnt more about the transcription industry, the competition, and our customers, we learnt that customers from different market segments have different needs from their transcription provider. Transcription is a horizontal industry with applications in a number of industries including medical, legal, events, market research, journalism, and media.

Due to the wide variety of customers, we have had to learn and adapt quickly to create a service that satisfies a number of different market segments that have slightly different expectations.

For instance, a researcher or journalist would like to have a verbatim transcript with a very fast turnaround time. On the other hand, an event organizer would like to have an edited transcript that is easy to read.

Who do you see benefiting from this service?

Current transcription solutions have not been able to keep up with the expectations of journalists and have failed to provide an integrated transcription solution that is fast, accurate, and mobile.

The TranscribeMe iPhone App has changed this. Journalists can record and receive a 98%+ accurate transcript in their email inbox within a few hours – all on the go. We are confident that it will make journalists life easier.

Currently, the app is only available on the Apple App store. Android and Windows versions are under development and scheduled to launch later this year. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still use TranscribeMe by submitting your audio using the web portal.

The other group we want to see benefiting is our crowd. These are individuals who are also looking for ways to monetize their time, often in and around other life commitments. We provide them with the opportunity to make money with as little or as much time as they have to spare.

What sort of feedback have you had?

User love the availability and accuracy of our service through the App. What they told us to work on was the payment system – and we’re about to roll out an easier process in response to this in the next week or two.

We get feedback from a wide range of individuals using the app for different purposes, like medical professionals dictating prescriptions, business professionals capturing meetings, market researchers recording focus groups, and journalists transcribing interviews.

Due to the fast turnaround time, professionals are coming up with innovative ways of using the app – like recording sales meeting notes and storing the audio and transcript in their Evernote account.

We are focused on letting our customers lead the product development efforts. Based on their feedback, a new version is now waiting for approval in the app store with critical updates like automatic resumption of recording when an incoming call is answered, ability to delete recordings locally, and a simple walk-through explaining how to use the app.

How do you make sure you have enough capacity to deal with demand?

We built our platform to overcome the scaling issues other companies have. The beauty of crowd-sourcing is that you have humans on demand, with no overhead costs normally associated with a workforce of this size.

We put a serious amount of work into understanding, training, engaging and developing the skills of our crowd. This focus helps us overcome the problems with engagement that other crowd-sourcing companies have found in the past.

Communication is key for managing thousands of people working independently across the world. We use a combination of digital tools like webinars, private social networks, and in-built tools within the transcription platform to have elasticity in managing capacity depending on the demand.

In terms of app development, we try to be one step ahead of our users by having the whole team involved in suggesting new product feature functionality.

We leverage our social networks to get ideas and brainstorm with leading designers and developers to create an intuitive user interface on the front-end and a strong technical back-end that is able to deliver on the challenging aspects of mobile app development.

How do you differ from other services?

While conducting competitor research and industry analysis, we found that there are thousands of transcription companies that are not able to meet customer expectations due to different bottlenecks.

Most are small businesses that can’t scale and turn around jobs in days if not weeks. Others have faster turnarounds available but are not cost effective.

On the other hand, automated speech recognition solutions produce on average 50-70% accuracy, but cannot handle multi speaker conversations – not very useful from a journalism perspective.

The realization – that currently, there is no integrated transcription solution that delivers on 4 key customer expectations: speed, accuracy, mobility and cost-effectiveness – was my favourite part.

With the global wave towards increasing efficiency of business processes using crowd sourcing and micro tasking, we wanted to leverage the power of crowd, our technology and build a globally scalable, mobile transcription solution.

TranscribeMe is different from its competitors in a number of ways:

  • We use a hybrid model: speech-recognition software and human crowdsourced transcribers – to deliver a highly accurate and affordable transcript with fast turnaround time.
  • Crowdsourcing allows us to pass on cost savings to users, as we have no empty overhead. It also allows us to be highly responsive – with people working in all time zones around the world.
  • Crowdsourcing also allows us to offer an extremely high level of accuracy.
  • Our technology micro-tasks chunks of audio, allowing them to be processed in parallel – this in turn allows for a faster turnaround, which only gets better as our company and crowd grows.

Any future developments planned?

With the rise of telecommuting and the rise of self-publishing, more valuable audio content is being created than ever before. We envision a world where people can easily search, share, and therefore monetize their ideas seamlessly though transcription.

This means being able to capture and process content from any mobile device, have near-real time transcription, and have data filtered and summarized to enable actions and inspirations.


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