I’ve recently been asked by Cardiff Life magazine to write a monthly column on startups in Cardiff. It’s a short look at what’s happening, what the future looks like for startups in Cardiff, and a very quick profile of a local startup. Comment if you’d like to be featured in a future issue.
Anyway, here’s the first article and profile, which is on the shelves this week. Worth looking out for as you get to see cheesy pictures of Rob Lo Bue and I! (update – download the full colour PDF right here).
Cardiff is a wonderful, innovative, creative city. You don’t need me to tell you that. But sometimes we do need to remind the rest of the world. I’m forever having to drag business contacts here, kicking and screaming, then finding that after 48 hours they have to be paid to leave. They don’t want to go, realising the benefits of being in a city that can be traversed in 15 minutes. By bike. Or that it’s a joy to not have to travel 2 hours to the nearest remote countryside, beach, mountains or isolated lake. That stuff is on our doorstep, and we sometimes take it for granted.
And this makes it an absolutely ideal place to establish a digital, technological or creative startup. You only need to look at the geographies of Palo Alto, California (“Silicon Valley” to you and me) or Boulder, Colorado, to see how a relatively small community, with easy access to geography that improves quality of life, can be the bedrock for a great startup scene. Although we’ll have to quickly gloss over the minor issue of the considerably better weather that they have over there!
South Wales has a great history of business, manufacturing and production, but it will need to turn to new innovative business models and learn that the old ways of doing business aren’t always the most appropriate any more. There’s a very good chance that the next global business success out of Cardiff will have been started by young man or woman who spends 80% of their time in a hoodie and flip-flops, and was turning over £500k before they felt the need to get their first office. They will most likely be a Zuckerberg, not a Trump. Things have changed, and fast.
The reasons why Cardiff isn’t yet a city renowned worldwide for its digital startup culture are many and varied, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. And there’s no point trying to replicate Silicon Valley exactly. The story of that region goes back over 50 years to a semi-conductor lab. Our business history, culture, geography and attitude is different, and so our success will be different. But if we’re to be looked upon favourably in a global marketplace we need to be having strong digital successes. Over the coming months I will attempt to throw some light on the great startups here that could one day be our very own Facebook, and the work that lots of different people are undertaking to make Cardiff, and Wales, one of the places you immediately think of when you talk about companies that are changing the way we live, work, play and create.
– – – –
In the first of our one-minute startup profiles, we spoke to Robert Lo Bue, of Applingua.com
Hello! Introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Rob and I am the founder of Applingua.com. I was born near Llantrisant, just outside Cardiff, but have been travelling around for the last 7 years (Bath, Munich, Rome & Barcelona!). I got back earlier this year and set up office in Cardiff Bay.
So, what does your startup do?
Applingua takes smartphone apps and translates them into different languages. Most developers make their apps and games in English. Applingua turns them into French, German, Chinese, etc (even Welsh!) so everyone can enjoy them.
What makes Applingua special?
Applingua is pretty unique. It’s not just about translation: we test each app directly on the device, we check word fit on the screen and that they still make sense in context.
What was the genesis? The eureka moment that made you realise you had to build this company?
I was working for an app development company in Munich and was in charge of translating their apps. It was such hard work and translation agencies didn’t really know what an iPhone was. I had to do something about it.
And where are you at right now?
I’m nearly 18 months into Applingua and it’s going strong. We have clients all over the world, helping them increase their own app sales internationally. Applingua recently got its own office and has just brought a new member to the team (Hi Sarah!).
What’s the key to your growth? In other words, if someone could wave a magic wand, what would you want them to do for your business?
Stop time. Often startups don’t need tonnes of cash thrown at them, but Bernard’s Watch. There’s so much I want to do, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Where would you like your company to be in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, Applingua will be the de facto internationalisation agency. I want Applingua to add even more value by consulting apps on their international marketing strategies. The app market is growing every second, we want to grow along with it.