Why did it take 6 years to develop our smartphone app?

This is the story of how (or do I mean why?) the brilliantly simple business idea that is whym took 6 years to gestate.

What is whym? whym is a smartphone app that enables any traveller, anywhere in the World (speaking one of about 12 major languages), to be connected to a live, professional interpreter, within seconds – with just 2 taps on the app.

Where did the idea come from?  The story of whym, and its evolution as a mobile app started 6 years ago. A team of very clever software engineers started to design and build a global platform aimed at language agencies around the World. The platform enables these agencies to create and deliver services for their users with immediate access to home-based, freelance, telephone interpreters. The users can be anywhere in the World; the interpreters can be anywhere in the World; the language pairs that need to be interpreted can in theory be any combination imaginable. The magic that connects a user to the right interpreter in a matter of seconds was what was so innovative about our platform. This led us to form a technology company called  Interpreters-on-Call (www.interpreters-on-call.com)

Soon, however, we reached a stumbling block. We had at our disposal a brilliant technology platform that could potentially be used by any of the 26,000 language companies around the World, but we were missing the crucial interpreters to connect to!

Pivot No. 1

Language agencies are historically very protective of their valuable lists of freelance interpreters and don’t want to share their details with anyone else. Those same freelance interpreters want to work with as many of the best (and best-paying) agencies as they can, and want their details to be made as widely available as possible. We decided to try to square this circle, and created Interpreters Portal (www.interpretersportal.com) to act specifically as an agency for interpreters, and to build and manage tailored services for agencies on the Interpreters-on-Call platform. This was enormously successful, with over 2,100 professional interpreters signed up and ready to be connected to users on the platform.

Still, this was not enough. We now had the interpreters, but we still needed to find a way to stimulate more demand for their services.

Pivot No. 2

We brainstormed all the possible niches to find an area with a potentially unsatisfied demand for interpreters. One obvious market was staring at us from our own everyday lives. We realised that millions of people leave home and travel to places where they do not speak the local language. Further research suggested that this was potentially a huge market. But how could we get the service into the hands of potential users who did not even realise that such a thing could exist?

This was in 2013. And what was the emerging buzz then? The mobile app! And lo! whym was born and launched to the international traveller community in the Autumn of 2015. 

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