The story about how a Mexican and a Czech built an international company starting in communist times
In itnig’s Podcast #23 Arturo Quintero, partner at itnig, shares the story of Moravia with us: How he set up the translation company together with his partner in the 90s, how they internationalized and created a global structure and what he has learned in the process.
Moravia is the story of a project that starts in a local market, is proven and reaches success and then takes the next step to internationalise.
At itnig every Friday we sit down to talk with interesting people whom we meet throughout the week and we make a podcast (in Spanish) out of our conversations. You can listen to it on iTunes, subscribe to our channel on Youtube or enjoy it through iVoox.
For this Podcast #23 Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig and Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial meet with Arturo Quintero, one of our partners at itnig and founder of Moravia to talk about his experiences.
Arturo grew up in Ciudad de México and with luck found his way to study in Poland. During the communist regime, without any political interest he found himself studying in Krakow. “I spent some years there until arriving in Budapest where I met a student whose parents were translators. At that time there were only governmental translation agencies but as you know in this time there were a lot of changes in Europe. Dynamic times when all services like transport and restaurants were liberated. So if you had an idea there was a good chance to build something.”
This is when Moravia, named after the region in Czech Republic, was created. Today it is one of the biggest companies in its sector with a yearly revenue of 50 million $, a strong client base and presence in 9 countries.
It was a great adventure of 22 years leading this company!
You tell your story so easy, but a lot of times this internationalization is hard. How did you take your first steps out of the Czech Republic?
We had big ambitions as we kept seeing that what we were doing was satisfying our clients. They were happy with us. Our business idea in itself is multicultural — localization means adapting the product as if it was created locally — so going global was a natural step for us.
To a certain degree you have to follow your intuition, to just go for it, but you also need a bit of structure, a plan. It’s a mix of both.
Who were your first clients?
Tech companies like Minolta and Hewlett Packard. We were doing translation from English and Czech. And they were looking for local companies to translate manuals and later on displays of photocopy machines. We also started working with Oracle, who already had a team for European languages in Holland, and they gave us their first big contract for Czech. Oracle really liked what we did and asked us to translate to Polish as well. So we set out to create an office in Poland and started working. Next up Hungary and soon we were known for localization to ‘exotic languages’ like Bulgarian, Hungarian…You have to remember the times! There was no internet and all technology, like translation memory, was new.
These first assignments allowed us to see the potential we had. Our goal was to work for Microsoft.
And we finally reached this goal of working for Microsoft in 1995. We added more and more languages and employed technology to help us in our processes. Translation memory is such a technology that allows you to recycle translated pieces as they are saved with their source. The software analyzes the text so that when a similar phrase appears, the translation can be reused. This makes the process quicker, consistent and efficient as we can use content created by other translators in our network as well.
Business model — What is it and how has it evolved?
We follow an Enterprise model lets’ say with few clients but high volume.
When we started out I was the first sales person. Before there was Internet getting access to people who know a certain language or people who know a certain technology was really hard. I am not saying it’s easy today either but there are certain advantages. I was the one who brought the first clients, at that time I did not even consider myself a sales man but if I look back at it, yes I was doing sales, growing our company.
Later on you need a process, a sales methodology and a lot of discipline. As we were working with big companies, they already had processes in place and a clear budget and visibility of the market. However, when the buyer has a lot of knowledge, it makes it also hard to defend your prices and keep your margins.
What is most impressive for me is how you opened up new offices in different countries. What does it mean to open an office in Japan or China?
Every experience was different and we were learning continuously. In general there were two reasons to open an office:
- be closer to our clients
- have a cost advantage in production.
China, Czech Republic and Argentina were places with highly qualified people, high talent to develop software at competitive costs. Japan, USA and Ireland were close to our clients, here our sales was strong working on product acceptance, budget etc. Translation is always done by an agency with translators — we do the compilation and quality control.
How big was your sales team by country?
We did not structure our teams by country. Our customers, take for example a company developing software for architecture with Asia, Europe and the Americas decide whom to work with. We had to convince all three of these points and we realized they were very well connected. I could not offer a discount to the office in Singapore as there was direct communication with California office. We replicated this structure in Moravia as well. Connecting our offices and making sure we had the same communication.
Operative point of view : Did you move the HQ of your company from Czech Republic to another place?
No, it remained in Czech Republic and from there creating subsidiaries. When I left the company, of course, I don’t know what changes have been made.
There were enough consultants who came and offered a move to Ireland. But it was never our goal to maximize for tax purposes.
Venture Capital — Have you ever raised outside capital?
No, every year was of growth and profit so we were able to reinvest our profit into growth. When I left private equity entered the company but not before. We did not need it. Now looking back I can see that it could have been an advantage but it had never crossed our minds before. I think venture capital allows you to be faster. You are able to
- grow more quickly,
- implement technology &
- do strategic acquisitions.
It’s not just the money but also the people behind it with their experience who can guide you in the growth in the company.
Why did you decide to leave Moravia and how was this process?
There is not one reason. With the birth of my daughter my perspective on life changed a bit and there were different dynamics with my partner as I was looking for a more aggressive growth as we were entering a more competitive market.
It’s a pleasure being part of the beginning of such a successful company.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Arturo Quintero and Moravia’s story. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.