LanguageWire announced the appointment of Søren Bech Justesen as CEO on June 11, 2020. Justesen took the helm from Henrik Lottrup, who founded the Denmark-headquartered language service provider (LSP) in 2000. Lottrup remains on the board of directors and a major shareholder in the company.
Justesen first joined the Danish LSP in September 2019, taking on the role of Group CFO. He held a similar post at IT company Conscia prior to joining LanguageWire, and has served as Chief Financial Officer at companies in the pharmaceutical and IT sectors. He told Slator, “My primary background is in the IT industry and I have 10 years of international experience as CFO. I started my career with the Danish IT company NNIT, where I later took on several senior management roles before becoming CFO.”
As previously covered, after LanguageWire was acquired (majority) by private equity firm CataCap in 2017, it put its buy-and-build strategy into play the very next year, bolting on Danish software firm FrontLab and snapping up rival LSP Xplanation to double in size. LanguageWire reported revenues of approximately USD 63m in 2019. Xplanation’s former CEO, Véronique Özkaya, joined rival Argos Multilingual at the end of May 2020.
It is not uncommon for private-equity-owned companies to elevate the CFO to the CEO position in the runup to a sale. In fact, 2019 reports in the Danish press hinted at an impending sale. Asked whether his taking the reins at LanguageWire indicates a planned exit by CataCap, Justesen replied, “We are not part of a sale process. However, as a private-equity backed company, you are in principle always up for sale.”
What is definitely on the horizon, according to LanguageWire’s new CEO, is more investment into tech. Together with the development of the LanguageWire Content Platform — which Justesen describes as being “at the core of our business and a key differentiator for us” — they will also continue to invest into neural machine translation. “We are really moving on MT with new offerings, building new connectivity and integration options, and we are currently working on a next-generation TMS,” he said.
“We are not part of a sale process. However, as a private-equity backed company, you are in principle always up for sale”
LanguageWire has developed a proprietary platform to include all aspects of production, from quoting, connecting to client content, allocation to linguists, translation (CAT), billing, and invoicing.
Having been a career CFO in the IT industry, now CEO in the language industry, in Justesen’s view, “LanguageWire is a tech company, with the same characteristics as any other tech company. LanguageWire is a tech- and project-driven organization, with the same profitability drivers you would see in IT companies. However, our strong and diverse customer portfolio makes us resilient towards crises — more than some other IT companies have experienced.”
“We are currently working on a next-generation TMS”
According to Justesen, “Overall, business has remained strong,” in light of the Covid-19 pandemic as the company has built “a deep customer portfolio from a range of industries.” He added, “But naturally we do see some customers’ business slowing down. Digitalization has never been more important, and we have a key focus on how to keep our customers strong through the Covid-19 crisis using automated workflows, on-demand content, MT, and direct system integration.”
LanguageWire’s home base of Denmark managed the pandemic well and its reopening has long been underway, Justesen said. “We have reopened our offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus. However, as an international company, this is not possible in every region. Luckily, we are used to working remotely and collaborating across regions and offices. Over the coming weeks I will meet everyone in person or virtually. Coming from within LanguageWire, I already have a good rapport with many in the company.”
“Over the coming weeks I will meet everyone in person or virtually. Coming from within LanguageWire, I already have a good rapport with many in the company”
Moving forward, their vision remains the same, Justesen said: “To devote a large amount of resources into the development of our content platform.” Another priority, to enhance scalability and “establish an ideal foundation for future growth — organically, as well as through mergers and acquisitions.”