Private equity partnership hints at larger industry trends

On August 4 Joshua Gould, CEO of Leeds, UK-based thebigword, spoke exclusively to MultiLingual Media about their partnership with US-based private equity group Susquehanna Private Capital, what it means for thebigword, and trends for the future of the language services industry.

The language services landscape is changing rapidly, expanding into new areas and adopting technology at a furious pace, with new players are entering the field constantly. Within this changing landscape, though, are some industry veterans who were offering language services long before the line between language services and tech became (sometimes problematically) blurred. Thebigword is one such company, having been in business for the last 41 years, offering translation and interpretation services to a wide range of clients, from individuals to small businesses to enterprise clients to government agencies. 

As of August 5, thebigword has announced that they have partnered with Susquehanna Private Capital (SPC) in an effort to increase the reach and scope of their localization tool WordSynk, used by companies and government agencies in the US, UK, and EU. 

Gould said that “Susquehanna are investing in the management and expertise, and there will be no management changes” at thebigword, relating that the partnership with SPC was driven largely by a desire to help the company expand and develop their language technology offerings, allowing them to live up to their mission of helping clients of all sizes break down language barriers. Gould also said that he hoped to be able to expand the company’s ability to offer non-English interpreting and translation services (that is, services that do not use English as either a target or source language), a somewhat neglected but vitally important branch of the industry.

This partnership is symbolic of several recent trends in the language services industry, namely the shift to, and increased focus on, language technology such as AI and remote interpretation. The technology for these services has existed for, in some cases, years, but the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic drove the adoption of these technologies into high gear, putting remote interpreting for businesses and especially the medical field on the map, and highlighting the importance of well-localized and reliable information for a world population that found itself largely confined within its borders, or sometimes even within its homes. 

It also highlights several trends in the language and technology sector: the shift of capital from the US to other countries, particularly in the EU and other parts of Europe, and a general wave of mergers & acquisitions, capital investments, and partnerships that have characterized much of 2021.

As part of both a de jure and de facto multilingual union, language service providers in Europe have long been able to leverage the relatively high level of multilingualism (though it must be noted that this is, again, relative and unfortunately not evenly distributed among economic classes). As US language service providers look across the Atlantic and see the enormous profitably of the industry here, capital has begun flowing in a decidedly eastwardly direction, making what has long billed itself as an international industry truly international.

Time will tell what the future holds for the language industry, but if thebigword’s announcement and ambitions are any clue, the blending of the technological and human element, as well as the shift from a US-centric view toward language services, are likely to shape the industry in fundamental ways in the months and years to come. 

Sarah Hickey, VP of Research at Nimdzi Insights will interview Joshua Gould later today on her show Last Week in Localization. MultiLingual and Nimdzi recently asked Gould some tough questins on their new show C-Suite HotSeat.

Michael Reid
Michael Reid, Managing Editor at MultiLingual, is an educator, translator, and language, culture, and diversity consultant who lives in Athens, Greece, with over 20 years of experience. He speaks six languages fluently and another seven to basic competence. He also speaks just enough Klingon to negotiate safe passage through the Neutral Zone.


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