NY Tech Meetup: Real-Time Language Translation, Internet Booze

Transclick founder Robert Levin

About 400 New York geeks and entrepreneurs converged on IAC’s swank West Side Highway offices for still the hottest monthly event in Silicon Alley: The NY Tech Meetup. (New to the gong show? Seven startups got in front of the crowd to spend five minutes a piece pitching their ideas, with each presentation followed by a Q&A that invariably revolved around the themes of “What language is your site scripted in?” “Are you hiring?” and “So just what exactly is your revenue model?”)

Two startups that raised some eyebrows:

Former Columbia Business School prof Robert Levin said he got the idea for Transclick while travelling in Central Asia and finding himself unable to talk to a French colleague. The idea: Software that can translate between 16 languages on-the-fly, so as one user types English the recipient reads German, Russian, or Farsi. The software is designed to work with a variety of formats, from email and SMS to instant-messaging platforms like Google’s gtalk, Yahoo’s YM, Skype, and even Second Life. Levin said he has eight patents pending for Transclick’s technology and has raised $4.7 million in funding from private investors so far.

CEO Rob Rizzo started his presentation telling the audience: “We are not Kozmo.com! We do not make deliveries ourselves.” What Wakozi (a word Rizzo says means “deliverer” in Swahili) does is act as an intermediary between New York’s wine shops and Internet consumers. Stores list their inventory on Wakozi, Web surfers select their picks and type in their credit cards, and the shop sends its deliveryman to fill the order with Wakozi taking a small commission. We love the idea — New York wine shops all deliver anyway, and the site makes hunting down your favourite bottle of Alsatian Riesling all the easier. Rizzo says Wakozi currently works with about 50 stores throughout New York City, and so far over $50,000 in libations have been bought through the site. But the open question: Whether Wakozi’s model will work anywhere outside of high density urban areas like New York.

Photos: Eric Krangel / Silicon Alley Insider

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