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Fardad Zabetian of KUDO: “Don’t get distracted by the noise”

When you start the process of pitching your business and vision for investors, clients and partners, you will hear many different opinions. However, all of these opinions are not necessarily relevant to your business. I try to put the feedback into improvement, instead changing my plan or being distracting from the vision. It’s important to […]

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When you start the process of pitching your business and vision for investors, clients and partners, you will hear many different opinions. However, all of these opinions are not necessarily relevant to your business. I try to put the feedback into improvement, instead changing my plan or being distracting from the vision. It’s important to listen, but it’s also important not to get swayed or distracted. At the end of the day, you are going to make the right decision.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fardad Zabetian.

Fardad Zabetian, CEO and founder of KUDO, Inc., has spent a lifetime removing frictions between people and in ways that have disrupted how audio, video and language interpretation is used in global business. He has hatched five companies, two before the age of 24 and two of which were named by the Daily Deal Flow as “fastest growing businesses in America.” All of these experiences have landed his phone number on the speed dial of diplomats, government executives, and heads of legendary institutions globally. Zabetian is a master of audio conferencing, microphone discussion systems, electronic voting, meeting management, simultaneous interpretation for meeting rooms, boardrooms, council chambers, and auditorium systems.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I came to the U.S. in the early 2000s, just when the dotcom bubble burst, which ignited my entrepreneurial spirit to create my own companies.

The thing that led me to this career path is a deep curiosity about how things work.

I have been in the global conference world for 20+ years, both selling and leasing equipment for events that range from the G20 to nuclear summits and world leader meetings.

We’ve worked on some great projects; one of which was an invitation to revamp a legendary assembly hall with cutting edge equipment to make sure everyone could be heard and communicate seamlessly in many languages. We were also the ones who provided the translation booths and AV equipment that interpreters used to translate for world leaders in some of the most momentous of situations.

After hatching a few companies which provided this infrastructure (Media Vision in 2002 which sold conferencing hardware and language interpretation equipment and Conference Rental in 2007 which leased conference microphones, language interpretation solutions and related services for events worldwide), I realized that the communication itself needed to be technologized.

I’ve been called a disruptor a few times and now we’ve revolutionized the multilingual meeting with the launch of a company called KUDO.

KUDO created a cloud-based video conference platform with a dropdown menu of 100+ languages (and sign languages) which are provided by live interpreters; 1000s of the most talented linguists from all over the world.

We make multilingual meetings simple.

I’m an engineering person with a mind for people. I love building companies and teams, especially when the things we do are needed by iconic global institutions and influential enterprises. Over the course of my career, I have had the honor of working with presidents, parliaments, and many very smart people.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Since the dawn of time, language has brought opportunities for few, while creating challenges for many.

Back in the day, interpreters would sit at the hand of the king and whisper into their ear. Then for a long time, they were highly educated individuals who were flown all over the world to provide their very unique and beautiful service.

There is nothing that will replace physical connection, but when video technology became an accepted way of connecting and communicating, we saw an opportunity.

What’s really different about KUDO is that we’ve dipped into the pool of a very rare set of talent; interpreters who now can provide their talents on video.

These professionals provide what’s called “simultaneous interpretation,” which is an extremely difficult thing to do in real time.

It may seem that AI would be the thing to replace this, but most have no idea of the intricacies of interpreting. It’s so very far beyond just a verbal translation, very finite human cognitive skills are required, most notably, 3 things we call: legality, fidelity and neutrality.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Back in 2003, my very first customer was the city of Thornton, Colorado. I really had (and still have) difficulty pronouncing the name of this city (I would sometimes say Thor-ton). Every time I made cold calls to potential customers, they would ask for references from existing clients, which meant I had to reference Thornton constantly. I would be so excited to speak about it, but at the same time I was very nervous about my pronunciation. As a result, whenever I had to discuss a challenging name, I would just spell the name of the company until I mastered the pronunciation.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Most mentors have come within partners and clients that I’ve worked with. Over the last 2 decades, I’ve been very fortunate to be in a space surrounded by very talented and smart people with a global vision. When you look at our clientele you see highly intelligent people. An example is the Head of Technology for a large international corporation, who is running a fast-paced, highly-disciplined, multi-time zone operation and has very high expectations.

One of the things that I’ve learned through my mentors is very simple: show up. Always be present where you need to be present; the rest will happen.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

A disruption, by definition, is a deviation from the normal course of action.

Some of the biggest disruptions have resulted in services that we use everyday, whether it be for entertainment (Netflix), or for everyday use (Apple, Amazon). Each of these industry disruptors have inarguably changed the way we live on a day-to-day basis, whether it be streamlining processes, or widening our global access.

These disruptors can also be seen as positive or negative, it all depends on the side for which you want to build your case. However, industry disruptors that focus on broadening accessibility, streamlining processes, and widening global access for the everyday use of services are driven by a positive mission that should win in the long term.

In the case of KUDO, this disruption couldn’t come at a more crucial time in business. The elegance and specialness of the world that interpreters have lived in the past is changing, especially with the limits on gathering and travelling that COVID-19 has introduced. Business as usual will eventually resume, however, access to these qualified, professional interpreters has always been quite limited. KUDO provides a platform for which more and more businesses can have access to this talented network of interpreters. In turn, especially during this time of restricted travel, businesses still have the opportunity to connect with the right markets, wherever they may be.

This sounds like a positive disruption to me.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t get distracted by the noise.

Focus on your vision.

Focus on your mission.

When you start the process of pitching your business and vision for investors, clients and partners, you will hear many different opinions. However, all of these opinions are not necessarily relevant to your business. I try to put the feedback into improvement, instead changing my plan or being distracting from the vision. It’s important to listen, but it’s also important not to get swayed or distracted. At the end of the day, you are going to make the right decision.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I anticipate this technology being available for any business user or startup entrepreneur to use at any time.

Right now, the clients who use KUDO are massive global organizations and enterprise companies. I think that what we’ve created provides an incredible opportunity for businesses to think globally immediately, because it takes away the previous time and expenses to overcome communication barriers.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

A recent book I read is “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, it’s about efficient and strategic hiring methods and practices for growing businesses. This subject directly applies to KUDO, as we’ve grown significantly over the past year, and continue to grow.

One of the lessons is about establishing a vision for your company that is supported by not only talented people, but those who will support you beyond what you’ve initially dreamt.

Another take-away is to make sure you hire those who support and contribute to the values and company culture you want to build. This helps me tremendously as I’m spending 20–30% of my time these days focusing on recruitment.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I often find that good advice comes when you least expect it. Recently, I heard something from a spin class instructor at Soul Cycle who said: “Where you are today, was your dream a couple of years ago.”

I think about this often, and have a deep gratitude for where I am, it also pushes me forward to achieve more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me, what we are doing at KUDO is the movement that I am most passionate about.

We are working every day to break language barriers, and truly connect people worldwide. When businesses, thought leaders, innovators, and creatives are able to develop ideas through collaboration, true progress happens.

My mission is to remove a major blockage that exists today which is language, so that all businesses attain their potential, and opportunities for collaboration are limitless.

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