Lingo24 looks to attract ‘masters of universe’

TRANSLATION company ­Lingo24 is launching software this week as it seeks to woo ­clients by appealing to a new breed of “geeks” at the core of multinational companies.

Christian Arno says the translation software will operate automatically on clients websites. Photograph: Neil Hanna

Chief executive Christian Arno said the firm has invested a six-figure sum in developing­ an application programming interface (API) at the Edinburgh-based company in a bid to appeal to top technology experts at big groups. “These developers are ­becoming the masters of the universe,” he said.

An API is a computer protocol that allows different software or systems to interact. In the case of Lingo24, the API will allow its translation software to operate automatically on clients’ websites and other communications.

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Arno, who founded Lingo24 in 2001 and has built it up into a £7.5 million turnover firm with clients and staff across the globe, said APIs are now a crucial element for any technology outfit, and Scottish companies should be seizing them as a chance to win orders across the world.

That is because ease of interaction and a seamless fit are highly prized by developers, who Arno believes hold the key to winning orders.

He said: “99 per cent of translation companies don’t have an API. It makes us so much more attractive to the developer community, who are increasingly powerful in corporations.”

Arno said that, whereas software developers were previously seen as a support act, they are now so crucial to many businesses that they are making key decisions without having to consult their bosses in the boardroom.

He cited the example of online payments company Stripe, which has built up a huge presence on websites after concentrating on making systems as easy to integrate as possible. Its APIs mean a payment system can be incorporated into a website with just a few lines of code.

Stripe only launched its developer-friendly payments system in 2011, but by January of this year it was valued at $1.75 billion (£1.1bn) in a $80m funding round led by Peter Thiel – one of Silicon valley’s most famous entrepreneurs and investors. Yet many outside the IT world are not aware of the importance of APIs.

Arno said: “APIs are big. This is definitely a big opportunity for Scotland.”

Lingo24 lists American Express, Orange and the United Nations among its clients, and brings in more than 60 per cent of its revenues from overseas. Last year it won contracts with sportswear brand Adidas and Apple-owned audio equipment maker Beats, helping it grow turnover by 12 per cent.

It employs more than 200 people across offices in New Zealand, Panama, the Philippines, Romania and UK.

Arno set up the business without external financing but finally agreed to allow investors in earlier this year. After touting the firm in Silicon valley, he ended up choosing a consortium of local business leaders led by oil consultancy veteran Paul Gregory, who became chairman of the firm. As part of the deal, announced in April, Lingo24 raised an invoice finance facility from Lloyds bank, in the “low millions”.

The deal has helped Arno to revamp the firm’s technology base.

He said: “Our general investment in technology is on the increase and we are starting to see the fruits of that.”