Note from Editors:
Eating the same food for quite sometime in China, due to language barrier, inspired Ryan Rogowski to create Waygo. Even without connecting to the Internet and using a phone with camera, Waygo can translate texts in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
by David Ongchoco
With the Chinese economy booming right now, it’s not so uncommon to see foreigners from all over the world spend a few years in China, learning the language and finding new opportunities. For #entrepreneurs, China’s rapidly developing #tech scene, manufacturing industry and larger market, make it even more enticing.
This very exciting Chinese market was enough to incentivize Waygo Founder Ryan Rogowski to spend one year immersed in China as an IOS developer. Then, a personal pain-point of having to eat the same ‘Kung Pao Chicken’ for the longest time because he couldn’t fully understand the local language yet would lead him to create Waygo.
Waygo is real-time computer vision #platform that uses optical character recognition (OCR) to allow your phone camera to instantly translate text without Internet connection. Currently, you can instantly translate Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
He shared, “I thought my personal phone should be able to read foreign language so I quit my iPhone game development job to build a real useful tool. I started to build the basic algorithm for the #app then when I moved to the US, I met my two cofounders, Huan-Yu Wu and Kevin Clark.”
Huan-Yu Wu, who was originally from Taiwan but moved to the US, had a strong background in computer vision. While, Kevin Clark reversed engineered the Google Goggles for his research paper and was interested in natural language processing and travel. Ryan had found the perfect team.
It was heads down for them working on building the application for the next 1.5 years.
Building the product from scratch
They would spend the next 1.5 years building the whole computer vision #technology in house with a goal of taking the computer vision and translation technology offline. The result? 3 US patents and a lot of moments where they wanted to give up in between the 1.5 years.
Ryan shared, “It was a very intensive product to build and required a lot of R&D, figuring out how to build the algorithms and how to make them run efficiently on a mobile device.”
And this one year and a half wasn’t easy at all. Ryan recalls running out of money once or twice during that one year. He shared, ” Before we had our product finished, we ran out of money so we had to take on consulting projects on the side to pay the bills.”
He added, “We worked on a couple of web projects for clients while continuing to build the Waygo technology. It was really tough on the team because we were balancing multiple tasks at the same time but we pulled through.”
From Product into Company
Once they finished building the product the next step was turning it into a company and beta testing.
Ryan recalled, “In the beginning, we actually went to a lot of conferences and tried to show up in the pitch events with the hopes of demoing our product and getting some users. That was pretty challenging in the beginning.”
Ryan even recalls his relationship with one of their early #investors, who first thought that what Ryan was trying to do was impossible. He shared, “When I told him the idea, he told me it was impossible but I went back to him after the 1.5 years and demoed the product. He was ready to write a check right there.”
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