Marketing Sales


Five hundred and thirty seven million people use the Web in English; 445 million use it in Chinese. Yet the vast majority of users, 985 million people, navigate the Web in other languages.

“Although every Web site is global from the moment it goes live, few are designed with a worldly aspect,” says author John Yunker. Companies miss crucial opportunities if they don’t address a global audience. Research shows that people prefer to visit Web sites written in their own language.

A Eurobarometer survey, for example, found that 90 percent of European Web site users will always visit a Web site in their own language if they are offered a choice. Only 53 percent of users would choose to use an English Web site in place of one in their own language. Up to 60 percent of users who did navigate to an English language website expressed missing interesting information. In some countries, users only watch and read online content in their own language. This reluctance extends to buying products. A paltry 18 percent of users surveyed said they would “frequently or always buy products in a foreign language.”

Businesses ignore translation and localization at their own peril. The rise of the Millennial generation underlines the need for these tools. People under the age of 30 comprise more than half of the world’s population. The majority of Millennials live in China, Africa, South America, and other countries with per capita incomes of less than $1,000 per year. More than half of the users in China, which is expected to surpass the U.S. in terms of Internet users by 2013, are under the age of 25. Most U.S. Internet users are between 18 and 29 years old, according to a December 2010 Pew Internet survey.

Millennials are poised to make big changes to the global economy. The world is facing a peak population of 9.7 billion estimated for the middle of the century, an aging global workforce, and decreasing fertility rates. It is ready for the Millennial business model, which focuses on social causes in addition to the bottom line. An entrepreneurial group, Millennials harness widespread access to information and markets to collaborate internationally. Lower equipment costs, improved telecommunications infrastructure, and widespread mobile adoption around the world have ensured that almost everyone can connect easily and cheaply. Income no longer presents an insurmountable barrier to entry.

In many ways, big organizations are on the same page as millennials. A hypercompetitive economy has forced corporations to decrease their response times around both market and stakeholder needs. As a result, collaboration has to be efficient and take place on a global scale. Corporations have flattened their organizational hierarchies and become more flexible. Offshoring and outsourcing have led to a more diverse, multilingual global workforce, even within the same organization. Within this context it is essential to have training, marketing and technical materials available in relevant languages so that global teams can collaborate and work more efficiently.

Meeting Translation Needs

International collaboration is a must in the modern, Millennial-driven economy. Still, most translation options are one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t address a company’s unique needs. Hiring a good human translator is the traditional course of action. But at an industry-standard rate of 23 cents per word, the average millennial entrepreneur, who probably comes from a country with a low per-capita income, wouldn’t foot the cost. Considering the increasing predominance of social media within the organization, combined with how quickly content ages online, the time it takes to find the right translator, communicate the parameters of the project, find a project manager, wait for the translator to finish, then correct the content could cost a company its competitive edge & position.

One recent alternative, machine translation, is fast and free. But it doesn’t guarantee quality. The solution lies in combining the speed and low price of machine translation with the expertise of humans. Corporations today need a collaborative translation platform, which leverages both technology and crowds to create custom translation solutions. Through a combination of software and humans, analyzed and customized translations can match the level of importance of content. Instead of applying a uniform solution to unique needs, companies can match the workflow to the job at hand.

Millennials and multinationals alike benefit from fast, accurate, and cost-effective translation. In the new global economy, massive international collaboration is a core facet of doing business. The need for localized content and translation is no longer a luxury. It’s an absolute bare necessity.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Groupon has been valued at $US16.7 billion after an initial public offering, Lefkofsky as executive chairman still calls many shots alongside Mason, who represents the company’s public face.

Lefkofsky’s outspoken manner has drawn regulatory scrutiny, and his mixed record at other startups may leave some investors reluctant to buy shares of Groupon as it faces rising competition from Amazon and Google, said Kris Tuttle, chief executive officer of Research 2.0.

“He’s a guy that makes a good entrepreneur, a startup guy,” said Tuttle, whose Boston-based firm researches technology investments. “To get to your first $US20 million, you can have all the colour you want, and he’s got that. But now, you’re talking about a public company that’s going to take direct competition from Amazon and Google.”

With Groupon’s stock rising 31 per cent on the November 4 debut, Lefkofsky, 42, must demonstrate that he can provide the oversight the company needs to fend off bigger rivals while chasing profitability. He would follow in the tradition of Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt, who helped guide founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin through the search engine’s 2004 IPO.

Management growth needed

Groupon owed almost twice as much to merchants at the end of September as it held in cash. Marketing costs rose 37 per cent in the latest quarter, four times as quickly as its cash pile. And rivals’ discounts are putting pressure on Groupon’s margins, according to researcher PrivCo.

“They have to prove that they’re a real company, that they can continue growing,” Jeff Clavier, founder of SoftTech VC in Palo Alto, California, and a Groupon shareholder, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “We’ll see whether the management team can grow into a public company management team.”

Culture of Debate

Lefkofsky, the largest shareholder with a 17 per cent stake, keeps an office on the seventh floor of Groupon headquarters in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, one level above where CEO Mason sits. While he oversees Lightbank LLC, a technology incubator that has invested in almost 20 companies, Groupon occupies a majority of his time, according to people close to the company.

Lefkofsky is frequently seen drinking coffee in the hallways and meeting rooms at Groupon. He attends the weekly “National Deals” meeting, where the company plans widespread discounts designed to raise its profile.

The gatherings act as a stage for what Mason, 31, has referred to internally as a “culture of debate”, where most proposals are met with objections from Lefkofsky or someone on the executive team, say people central to the company. In one meeting, chief financial officer Jason Child called Mason and Lefkofsky a “married couple” because of their tendency to bicker, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While no business section reports directly to Lefkofsky, the chairman moves between several functions in the company, including legal affairs, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and fundraising, according to a person familiar with the processes.

Executive departures

Lefkofsky’s hands-on role alongside Mason – a college music major who dropped out of a master’s program in public policy to start websites – has lessened the need for a chief operating officer and contributed to the departure of two executives in that role in six months, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Rob Solomon, who joined in 2010 after stints at Yahoo! and Electronic Arts, left in March. Margo Georgiadis, who succeeded him in April, departed in September to return to Google, where she worked before Groupon.

Lefkofsky, whose stake was worth $US2.86 billion on November 4 and ranked number 293 on the Forbes 400 list of richest people in America this year, also caught the attention of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules limit what companies can say about future prospects to potential investors between the time they file for an IPO and when shares start trading.

‘Wildly profitable’

In remarks to Bloomberg News, Lefkofsky said he expected the money-losing company to become “wildly profitable”. The company later updated its IPO filing to tell investors to disregard the comments.

While Lefkofsky sways debate, his view doesn’t always prevail. Early on, he repeatedly rejected Mason’s idea to increase spending on marketing to bring in more customers. Lefkofsky shot Mason down because he wasn’t convinced that customers acquired through marketing would be valuable over the long haul. Mason created a mathematical model to prove his point, and eventually won the day, people familiar with the matter said.

Lefkofsky encouraged deliberation when Groupon received two buyout offers in 2010. In the fall of that year, after Yahoo offered $US3.5 billion to buy the company, Mason wanted to immediately reject the offer on the grounds that he didn’t want to work for Yahoo or its then-CEO, Carol Bartz. Lefkofsky insisted that the board take time to discuss the offer, which they did for about three weeks before deciding to turn it down.

Rebuffing Google

Google’s offer for $US6 billion, made in November 2010, also prompted a drawn-out debate by the board. Kevin Efrusy, a Groupon director and partner at Accel Partners, wanted to turn down the offer. Lefkofsky wavered on the matter for about a month, before he and Mason finally decided that the deal would take too long to pass clearance with regulators, according to people close to the company.

As Groupon’s IPO filing brought questions about its accounting practices and rising marketing costs, Lefkofsky’s leadership has helped give the company credibility, said Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities lawyer.

“Eric has always been viewed as the most experienced hand on deck,” Stoltmann said in an interview. “He’s the adult in the room, the babysitter, the supervisor – a lot of people have a lot of confidence in him and that he’s on board.”

Other technology startups that have turned to seasoned executives to provide oversight include Facebook, which brought in former Google executive Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer to work beside founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Past ventures

Not all of Lefkofsky’s background instills confidence for investors. His investment in Groupon follows a series of past ventures, some of which floundered. In the 1990s, Lefkofsky and his business partner, Brad Keywell, bought children’s apparel company Brandon Apparel Group. It later faltered after accruing debt and when fashion trends shifted, Lefkofsky explained in his blog.

Lefkofsky also co-founded Starbelly.com, an online promotional-merchandise seller, in 1999 and then sold to Ha-Lo Industries for $US240 million. Ha-Lo filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in July 2001 after writing down the acquisition.

In 2001, he founded printing-service provider InnerWorkings, which went public in 2006. He also helped found Echo Global Logistics, a shipping-technology company, in 2005. That company held its IPO in 2009.

 Selling early

“Mr. Lefkofsky is proud of his track record as a founder of successful and innovative technology companies, including InnerWorkings, Echo, MediaBank, and Groupon,” Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for Lefkofsky, said in an email. “His career has not been without numerous learning experiences that have shaped him as entrepreneur and investor.”

Lefkofsky also raised eyebrows with his sale of shares in Groupon. In late 2010, he brought together a pool of investors that included large institutional backers like Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price Group to raise $US950 million in equity.

Lefkofsky sold $US257.5 million of his Groupon shares to investors during that round of funding, in addition to the $US57.1 million he had already sold in a previous round, transactions that are unconventional for a closely held company, said Mark Cannice, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco School of Management.

Daily involvement

“You wonder if that makes the most sense for the long-term value of the company,” Cannice said. “Early investors have already achieved large liquidity events well before the public gets involved.”

Lefkofsky gradually lessened his involvement in InnerWorkings and Echo Global after their IPOs, according to people close to the companies. He also spends less time focused on Groupon than he did at its founding, the people said.

Whatever his daily involvement, Lefkofsky still holds a disproportionately large share of voting power. In recent months, Groupon approved a dual-class stock structure that grants shares owned by Lefkofsky, Mason and Keywell 150 times the voting power of all other shares.

“He’s really the puppet master behind the scenes,” Sam Hamadeh, CEO of New York researcher PrivCo, said on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t think he wants to let go of this company, and he’ll be pulling the strings behind the scenes for a long time to come.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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