It’s not fair to pick favorites, but sometimes it can’t be helped. And I just love the story of SayHi Translate, a translation app built and sold by three dudes in Connecticut. Despite being a small bootstrapped operation in the middle of nowhere, the SayHi team has seen its app downloaded more than 400,000 times, hit the top 10 paid iPhone apps (though it has fallen to top 100 recently), and reach #2 in business apps (where it is today).
Today, SayHi launched some new features that make the underdog upstart’s offering even more compelling.
The updates are mainly related to the interface, which was in need of some primping. The team has made the social sharing components of the site more obvious and user-friendly via pop-ups. About an hour ago, I used it to send out a Tweet in Chinese, an action that wasn’t immediately obvious in the previous version of the app. I spoke to the app, it translated and then transcribed my words, and then I tapped the text box and hit “share.” Easy.
It’s now also more clear that you can send text translations to people. That’s a boon for people who want to flirt with members of the opposite sex in a foreign language. Inter-cultural sexting, here we come.
Other new features include the ability to “favorite” a piece of conversation, in-app volume control, and voice customization – allowing users to change gender of the recorded voice, and slow down or speed up the speech.
After our initial story about SayHi, CEO Lee Bossio and his team got a lot of interest from some heavy-hitting investors who wanted in on the company. Bossio says SayHi has decided to hold off on taking funding for now.
“We hustled for years and now we’re profitable,” he says. “We have plenty of money to plan and grow from this point, when all of our previous planning was done on scraps. We also know that taking VC money opens an alternate path for the company, away from our plans. We are debating whether we want to take that leap or not.”
Bossio and his team tried to sell the app as an enterprise product for two years, targeting hospitals especially in the hope they could help doctors and nurses communicate with patients. After failing to make any headway with that strategy, the guys decided to make the app into a consumer product as a last-ditch attempt for success. Then, after dropping the price from $2.99 to 99 cents, the app got picked up by Lifehacker and Gizmodo, and SayHi saw its downloads soar.
Of course, the success has brought the spotlight, which has translated into intense competition. Free translation app iTranslate has since launched iTranslate Voice, a 99 cent app that is remarkably similar in design and functionality to SayHi. It now sits in the top 10 for paid iPhone apps in many countries.