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AMA: Amir Jirbandey from Papercup

AMA: Amir Jirbandey from Papercup

Amir Jirbandey, the Head of Growth and Marketing at pioneering AI dubbing business Papercup, talks about challenges, team bonding, and the key metrics required to take a business from zero to hero. 

Hi Amir! Could you share the story behind your startup, including the problem you set out to solve and the inspiration that led to its creation?

Papercup was founded in answer to a problem that had frustrated me for years – that 99% of the world’s video content was trapped in a single language.

Traditional dubbing services alone can’t solve this problem because they’re prohibitively expensive and labour-intensive – two issues that continue to persist.

As a result, a vast number of content creators and owners were unable to reach lucrative international markets.

I’d been interested in the capabilities of text-to-speech tech for a while, dating back to the robotic voice on GPS systems, and saw there was an untapped opportunity for anyone seeking to bridge the gulf between content creators and their potential audiences worldwide.

After months of research and development, it became clear that the market demand lay in an efficient and scalable dubbing solution that didn’t entangle creators in the complexities surrounding localisation or require vast budgets.

One of our co-founders, Jiameng Gao (who was an expert in the field) and I then got to work developing and packaging the offering for lifelike AI voices that could meet this demand. Papercup was born.

Fantastic! What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Behind every successful company, there are great, smart people who are aligned with their mission. Most challenges are also on the same page.

How do you set out your mission to be ambitious, yet grounded in reality?

The scope needs to be clear and easily understood.

As Papercup has created a new category in AI-powered localisation, hiring, retaining and growing a team of talented professionals has always been at the heart of our success and will continue to be in the future.

Apart from tapping into all our members’ intrinsic values and reward systems, along with a flexible working culture, and fair and transparent compensation, we continue on the path to changing the world of AI dubbing. 

Could you tell me a bit more about your team, and how you've grown the business?

Having spent a considerable amount of time in R&D, in the last 18 months, we’ve found exponential growth in helping media & entertainment companies scale their video localisation and tap into new global markets.

This has led to our team doubling in size and making strategic hires across our machine learning, engineering, localisation and commercials teams to build on this momentum. 

If you could only choose one metric to help guide your business success, what would it be and why?

One metric that we look at internally quite often is how many potential people around the world have watched videos viewed through our service. This number is now around 1 billion people globally and growing!

That’s impressive! Can you share a unique tradition, celebration, or inside joke that's become a part of your Papercup's culture?

Due to the nature of our business, a large part of our culture is built around learning.

We have Papercup University, which runs every other week where one member talks about a topic they’re either very knowledgeable in or passionate about. This has ranged from sunscreen to quantum physics.

We also run a showcase every other week where Papercuppers go through their successes, failures, and breakthroughs with the rest of the company.

The whole thing has a great tone of humour about it which helps break down the taboo of sharing failures publicly.

Could you share a challenging moment or setback in your journey along with the lessons you learned?

There are too many to share but the common threads across almost all of them are:

  • Having a clear vision of where we’re heading
  • Doing the right thing
  • Having a caring working environment
  • Communicating for full transparency with everyone in the company

These principles allow us to navigate through the most challenging times.

How do you currently manage your cap table?

We use Vestd for our cap table and manage capital through them.

That's great to hear! Do you have a share scheme in place?

We have an EMI scheme for employees and an unapproved option scheme for non-employees (advisors, contractors, etc.) This allows Papercup to make sure all our members are compensated fairly on the back of the success of the company.

What’s your dream dinner party line-up?

Let’s assume this is a Papercup dinner party and I know most of the team would love Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Grace Hopper, Tim Berners-Lee and for some added spice, Elon Musk to be there.

And finally, if you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, it would be...

White Pony by Deftone.

We agree, that’s a great song! Thanks, Amir.
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