Inside the Textshuttle and Supertext Merger

Inside the Textshuttle and Supertext Merger

Two Swiss companies joined forces recently as Supertext and Textshuttle announced their merger in April 2024. Textshuttle’s co-Founder and CTO, Samuel Läubli, has become CEO of the combined organization.

Supertext is one of the leading language service providers (LSP) in Switzerland — with revenues of USD 20m in 2023. Textshuttle is a machine translation (MT) and language AI company that was an early pioneer in neural MT. The two companies will be rebranded using the name Supertext towards the end of 2024.

Läubli told Slator that the transaction was a pure share-swap arrangement, meaning no cash changed hands in the deal. Going forward, “all shareholders of both companies will continue to be shareholders, and we’re not bringing in new ones at this point,” he added.

The combined organization has 120 full-time employees. Its leadership includes Laura Fernández, CEO of Supertext Corporate, and Lucas Seiler, CEO of Textshuttle, who will join the newly formed Executive Board along with and Läubli and Supertext’s co-Founders Fabian Dieziger and Rémy Blättler.

Building Something Big

Despite the obvious differences in operating a tech company and a services company, the partnership was destined to be, in Läubli’s eyes. “Strong arguments” for the merger included the fact that “both Supertext and Textshuttle are largely bootstrapped (so the ownership structure is simple) and successful (so everyone wanted to stay involved),” he said. 

The CEO explained that they ruled out other forms of cooperation, such as a cross-selling arrangement, in favor of a merger because it promised a more suitable way to bring new offerings to market. “We’re about to build something big, and that wouldn’t work if one party wanted to push for more tech and the other for more services,” Läubli said.

For him, although “AI needs to take the center stage,” it’s not a question of technology or services; “Neither pure-tech nor pure-service can satisfy the true needs of most buyers in the language industry, neither today nor tomorrow.” 

“Neither pure-tech nor pure-service can satisfy the true needs of most buyers in the language industry, neither today nor tomorrow.” 

Samuel Läubli, CEO of the combined Supertext-Textshuttle company

Läubli’s reasoning is that, “even a 100% correct AI [translation] system output is useless in many scenarios without some form of human certification.” And, for its part, “purely human creation is long out of the question, but even the linear workflows driven by classic TMS are too slow and costly to stay competitive.” 

Product First

According to Läubli, the path to operationalize such “mixed-initiative” offerings — combining AI and expert services — is “certainly much faster than if Supertext tried (and possibly failed) to build deep tech or Textshuttle tried (and possibly failed) to build langops [language operations].”

Samuel Läubli CEO of Supertext
Samuel Läubli, CEO of the combined Supertext-Textshuttle company

The company’s immediate focus will be on product development, with the team planning to develop new offerings rather than “just ‘integrate’ what both parties already have,” Läubli said. Another priority is “establishing a common culture” across the two teams, which the CEO feels optimistic about. “Supertext and TextShuttle are a great fit in terms of soft factors,” he added.

Asked what new opportunities the merger will unlock for the company, Läubli pointed out that, although the teams already serve clients across multiple verticals, “the new solutions in our pipeline will allow us to reach a much broader range of people within these organizations.” 

As a result, “we’re moving away from being the select provider for a small group of localization-savvy specialists to pretty much anyone facing multilingual challenges.” Use cases based on time-to-market are also high on Supertext’s agenda. 

The merger may seem logical to the parties involved, but the reality is that mergers in the language industry are rare and a merger of this type (tech + services) is all the more so. 

At a stretch, one could liken the Supertext-Textshuttle merger to the RWS-SDL acquisition back in 2020, although it’s clearly a flawed comparison. That was only technically a merger, as an all-share deal, and only arguably brought together a (mostly) services company in RWS and a tech company (at least, historically) in SDL.

Regardless, in this particular industry, combining a legacy services company and a legacy tech company into a truly unified offering of language tech and services (one that is better together) is a highly ambitious pursuit that teases big potential rewards.