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TransPerfect Is Gunning for Lionbridge, Not an IPO
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on November 8, 2005  in the following blogs: Supplier Business Issues, Translation and Localization
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We heard from TransPerfect that we were wrong about a plans for an exit strategy. Phil Shawe, the company’s CEO, is only 36 years old and says that "we’ve got nothing more fun to do than all this — and this keeps us pretty busy." What "all this" is is building a company with enough scale to go head-to-head with Lionbridge and SDL. Shawe went on to say that "if it was about creating an exit for ourselves, Liz and I would have been out long ago. For us, it’s really more about winning."

Although we believe that Shawe could find a lot of fun things to do with some US$30 million in his pocket (and a like amount in partner Liz Elting’s designer purse along with her American Express card), we understand the desire to be number 1. In fact, since the disappointing non-debate between Lionbridge’s CEO, Rory Cowan, and SDL’s Mark Lancaster at Localization World in Seattle (they agreed on just about everything except the dress code), it would be more entertaining to watch a grudge match between Phil — with visions of stretching his $60 million company to a $500 million powerhouse — and Rory, who wants to build the first billion dollar language services company.

However, despite Shawe’s protestations, we still think that Transperfect/Translations.com would be a great acquisition for Lionbridge, SDL, or an offshore integrator wanting to get into the language services business. Shawe and Elting could have a lot of fun starting a new company from a luxo loft in Greenwich Village instead of a dorm room at New York University. But Shawe shuts down that discussion with the statement that "we are a much more likely to be an acquirer, than an acquiree."

Time will tell where on the acquisition spectrum TransPerfect falls. But just in case anyone’s looking to buy the company, get some language services, or be acquired, we have one question — is it TransPerfect or Translations.com? Echoing Scott McNealy’s famous 1989 statement about simplifying Sun’s product line, we recommend that TransWhatever put all of its marketing wood behind one arrow and brand itself with one unequivocal name as it works its way up the list from Number 9 on our list of the top 20 translation companies into the top 5.


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