Jorden Woods, 32, has lived everywhere from New York and Paris to Japan and Alaska, and he speaks five languages. His wife and business partner, Excelle Liu, 34, is from China; their 4-year-old son was born in Hong Kong. Small wonder, then, that in 1996, when Woods and Liu returned to the U.S. to become entrepreneurs, he was thinking like a citizen of the world.
The 50-employee software and consulting company he started, Global Sight in San Jose, Calif., helps clients "globalize" their Web sites to serve a growing international audience of customers and suppliers online. Its Ambassador software lets a multinational's staff easily tweak and customize Web content for various countries, where regulations, business practices, and cultural norms--in addition to languages--often differ. A number of users around the globe can quickly make changes to a Web page over the company network. For example, a company's lawyers in Paris could type in legal changes specific to France, then pass it along to a marketing director to make more revisions. The program stores frequently used translations, and staffers don't have to know how to code Web pages to use it.
Woods, like his main competitor, 35-employee Idiom Technologies Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., is betting that companies will clamor for help managing international Web sites as Internet usage explodes abroad. By 2003, international users will account for 65% of all Web users, up from about 50% now, says IDC, a technology research company in Framingham, Mass.
Granted, Global, whose clients include GE Information Services, Cisco Systems, and Palm Computing, is targeting a still tiny market and hasn't turned a profit yet. (Woods won't disclose revenue numbers.) But it has attracted $3 million in venture capital from Draper Fisher Jurvetson in Redwood City, Calif., which estimates that Global Sight could have a $1 billion market value in five years.
Doug Erwin, a senior engineer at GE Information Services, says Ambassador has reduced the time it takes to update the Italian, French, and German versions of the company's TradeWeb site, geared to GE's small and midsize trading partners, from three weeks to several hours. "Globalization is the next big thing on the Web," he says.
Woods certainly hopes so. In the next year, he plans to double his staff, open offices in Europe and Asia, and go public. But, he says, "many days are like a roller coaster. You wake up in the morning and you're on the top, but by the middle of the day you think it's over. Being able to take on those peaks and valleys and stay focused keeps me going." Sounds like an entrepreneur in any language.
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