Internationalization (i18n) services is in full rock and roll mode lately. That’s a good indication that companies are feeling optimistic about global expansion.
Lingoport was raised on i18n consulting and development. That said, the i18n consulting part of our business tends to have significant highs and lows depending on economic outlook. I have joked that i18n services are one of the better economic indicators I know of, but alas, there’s no index of i18n projects and Goldman Sachs hasn’t called me yet.
Kidding aside, the pattern is that companies tend to put off globalizing their software when they are in a defensive position, and they move forward when they see opportunities with confidence. I’m happy to report that i18n services, in the form of full blown i18n development implementations, hybrid teams, assessments, and even i18n bug fixing as a service are exploding right now.
Companies have learned that in order to compete globally, they need to be present as more than just a stop on the internet. Software needs to function in target locale languages and cultural formats. If developers haven’t internationalized, or if they need improvement, then it’s important to get that done. It starts with internationalized software, and includes continuous systems, so that software is internationalized and localized in every sprint and release. Otherwise, global users get an inferior experience and that doesn’t cut it in this competitive world.
These days, Lingoport plans and relies on our continuous i18n, L10n (Localization) and QA product subscription business, but services are still an important contributor and problem solver for us and our clients.
Going way back, Lingoport was founded from my kitchen table as an i18n consulting firm. In early 2001, I had a product vision and laid that out on a cool slide deck. I went out looking for angel investors after the big NASDAQ drop in March of 2001, and the common refrain I heard was, “Cool idea but I just lost a ton of money. You should bootstrap it.”
Taking that advice, the easy path was to sell i18n consulting, and we had immediate success. But then the premise of this blog post hit hard. 9/11 happened, and coincidentally, we had won a large i18n project for a company that was going to bring email and the internet to airplanes before that was a common thing. You can imagine this project got cut off promptly. i18n consulting was sparse selling for about a full year after that, and sure enough, started to pick up as an indication that we were poking our heads out of recession. In the meantime, we hired a small team that worked on product development. The cool thing is that then, and now, all our product development is based on first hand experience with real world i18n development efforts. We live and breathe software development and globalization, seeing firsthand during i18n implementations, the barriers and difficulties to continuous i18n, L10n, and QA. This is quite different from most other companies in the localization industry which often are linguistics-based and may only interface with resource files and translators rather than source code and developers.
Unfortunately, there have been many cycles up and down for i18n services in this century. The 2007 financial crisis hit that part of the business hard. In fact, the financial crisis, along with some economic hiccups in subsequent years, pushed us to focus on our product suite so that we could solve more globalization problems at enterprise scale. Product sales grew to outperform i18n services.
Happily, we made it through 2019, and the COVID contraction, in good shape. Again, services were down, but product subscriptions held firm. The financial bloodbath for Lingoport I expected in 2020, and for much of the tech industry, never arrived.
Some of our i18n services business took on new forms. Instead of big i18n refactoring projects, we also started to deliver ongoing i18n bug fixing and support. This subscription service can be thought of as an i18n excellence team – patching up i18n bugs and barriers for globalized products, providing customized solutions, advice, and planning.
i18n full blown services started coming back with a roar in late 2020, and keeps picking up steam with remarkable growth so far in 2021. Product sales are up too. Our products and services fit well together for customer needs. Companies are making investments in their own software globalization, and systems, to streamline efficiency and success.
As an economic indicator, this all portends well for our 401K, and stock portfolios, at least for the near future. When/if big i18n project demand starts slowing down, we’ll know to watch out for downturns about 6 months ahead. Now I’m going to knock on wood that writing this hasn’t compromised the economy for everyone!
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