My Week: Christian Arno of Lingo24

The translation service founder on living in Edinburgh, Silicon Valley and why Romanians love Cartoon Network.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'm not a particularly early riser - I get up around half eight, have a spot of brekkie and try to be in the office for around half nine. Our main office is in Edinburgh, which is where I'm based. Most people don't know this, but Edinburgh is one of the sunniest places in the UK, so I like to walk the 10 minutes to the office, which is near Charlotte Square. I love Edinburgh. I only moved here about a year ago, having lived in London, Romania and New Zealand. There's something about the size of Edinburgh, though - it's very livable-in.

Last week was particularly busy for us. We had our annual 'sports' day in Romania. Most of our staff - about 80 or 90 out of 130 - are based in a city there called Timisoara, so we all get together there and meet up. We've been having a sports day every year for the past five years. We used to do things like play rounders or have an egg and spoon race, but the Romanians are much more into drinking and smoking, so it's more free now - we don't really do much in the way of team building, anyway.

We set up in Romania about five years ago. We had about 15 people at the time, but we wanted to scale up significantly. Given that our market is global, we have to compete internationally when it comes to price, and salaries are a bit lower there than in other parts of Europe. The other reason we chose Romania was that they're extremely gifted linguists - it's the second most multi-lingual country in Europe. Timisoara is closer to five European capitals than it is to Romania's own capital - so you can tell it's going to be an international melting-pot. The country has so much history to it, too - it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so it has a lot of native German speakers; and, bizarrely, a lot of the pirated DVDs and TV channels seem to be in English. I asked one of our sales people how she had learned such good English, and her response was 'Cartoon Network'.

The other exciting news this week is that our first senior sales person based in Silicon Valley will be joining the company this week. I was over there last month for my first-ever trip there - it was great. You've got companies like Google and Yahoo, and they're all spawning their own exciting spin-offs, which is a huge opportunity for us. They may be small companies, but they've got immediate global potential because of the web.

At the moment, we want to recruit more senior people. In the past, we've recruited young people, graduates, and trained them up - partly because we like to do things our way, and partly because of the cost. And, to a certain extent, because of that hunger you get in young people. Now, though, we've decided we need a bit of pedigree. We want someone who has been around the block, who knows the lie of the land, who's got contacts and can make things happen for up. We've often taken people from big companies, which is something we want to build on more and more. We've just opened an office in London that's headed by someone we took from a massive advertising agency, who felt he wasn't being recognised. I guess our experience was if you go after people who are disillusioned at big companies or have been laid off, they'll have the talent - the pedigree - to take them to the next level.

We've been going for eight or nine years, but we still have a real start-up mentality. We're still running on energy, passion and adrenaline, rather than organisation. You can't take anything for granted at the moment, can you? We've seen a lot of people suffer over the last few months - and we don't want that to be us.

Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, the international translation agency.

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