Language Startup - Interview with the Founders of a Translation Agency
As well as gaining international work experience, a year abroad is a great opportunity to make valuable connections with people across the globe - they may even become your co-workers after you graduate! Meet Louis Adams and Tom Lansdowne, co-founders of London Accent, a translation agency designed to help young, aspiring translators to get a foot in the door.
1. Did you spend a year abroad during your degree?
LA: Yes, I studied Economics with French at Nottingham and spent my third year abroad in France. I was keen to use the opportunity as a ‘year in industry’ and gain some professional experience so I undertook two internships – or stages – in Paris. The first was at a small financial communications agency located in the heart of the city and the second at a multinational bank based at La Défense – Paris’ equivalent of Canary Wharf – so I got to experience different types of office environment, although both jobs were finance-oriented.
TL: I also studied Economics with French at Nottingham, and was offered a year-long internship at a leading translation agency in Paris. This gave me a very contrasting experience to Louis’ more finance-orientated placements, as I was able to gain a really deep insight into an industry that I found incredibly interesting.
2. How did your language skills, intercultural skills or experiences abroad enable or inspire you to set up your company?
TL: Aside from the industry knowledge that I was able to accrue during my placement which directly benefited my company, I found that having the opportunity to work at a French SME that operated in so many different countries taught me a great deal about the barriers faced by international organisations. This inspired me to take a closer look at the obstacles met by smaller companies when trying to expand overseas.
LA: Living in France made me realise I wanted an international career that would use my language skills, and was certainly a driver behind the decision to set up our company. I met our third co-founder, who is based in Paris, during my first work placement, so without that internship and without French, I would never have met and stayed in touch with him.
3. Please describe your business.
TL: London Accent is a startup translation agency that looks to provide young aspiring translators with the opportunity they need to get their foot in the door of the translation industry. We’ve noticed that such opportunities are incredibly hard to come by, often deterring exceptional translators from following their goals. So we offer freelance opportunities for students and recent graduates to give them the experience and confidence they need while also earning some money to support their student living!
LA: The majority of our client base consists of startups and SMEs in France that can’t otherwise afford the expensive rates charged by high-end translation agencies. By making translation more accessible we help our clients expand overseas and really explore their potential.
4. Describe your lightbulb moment.
LA: Tom and I had found ourselves being entrusted with a fair amount of translation work during our internships, simply because we were native English-speakers, and we had mentioned to each other that it would be good to do some translation work when we were back in England. The lightbulb moment, however, was when Tom came home one day having had an epiphany at work and said “why don’t we set up a translation company that uses students like us to translate?”. We went on to spend about 90% of our remaining weekends and evenings in Paris in a nearby internet café working on the idea and developing it into a business.
TL: It was a few months later that we approached Nermin, a Masters student at ESSEC business school, who shortly after became the third Co-Founder of London Accent. Having a native French-speaker in the team with a huge amount of business experience really enabled us to take our idea to the next level.
5. Did you receive any business support from your university before, during or after you set up your business?
LA: When we got back from France, we immediately got in touch with the incubator in Nottingham’s business school. They gave us feedback on the idea, helped us set up and gave us office space to work from. We’ve also had a number of business surgery sessions with experts who come into the incubator once a month.
TA: As our business is all about helping students, Nottingham’s languages department has been, and continues to be, very supportive of the idea, allowing us to give presentations to their students and spread the word about London Accent! Our other target universities have also been similarly receptive to the idea.
6. What do you wish you had known before you'd started up?
TL: Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Louis, Nermin and I wasted a lot of time trying to find things out on our own, when in reality the startup scene is full of individuals that would be more than happy to grab a quick coffee and share their insights.
LA: Tom is right; we’ve ended up with free accounting, free legal advice and free marketing, all because we were willing to ask for it.
7. Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
TL: I say this to Louis quite a lot, and it always surprises me, but what setting up London Accent has taught me is that you’ve really got to get out there, meet as many people as you can, and attend as many events as possible, as you never know what opportunities might come your way. And I promise you’ll be surprised by how far one conversation can take you.
LA: We are young entrepreneurs ourselves and still have a lot to learn! I would say that while it is certainly a good idea to get advice from as many sources as possible, ultimately you have to trust your own instinct because being a good entrepreneur is about being innovative and finding ways of doing things differently. Similarly, successful entrepreneurs have many different habits and have had many different paths to success: there is no one right way of doing things.
8. Do you have any further comments about the year abroad and entrepreneurship?
TL: Your Year Abroad can take your career in a direction you might have never thought it would go in, so why not embrace it and do something you enjoy!
LA: Entrepreneurship is rarely proposed as a potential career path, even though some people are clearly made for it. If you see yourself one day setting up a company, then why not use the year abroad as an opportunity to go and work in a young company where you’ll be working alongside the Founder/CEO and you can see first-hand what running a company is all about?