Supported By @CreativeCardiff
“I grew up just outside Cardiff, went to Cowbridge school, then to Bath I studied International Management and German. During my studies, I worked in Munich at an advertising agency,” explains Lo Bue when we speak over Skype one day.
It’s a freezing cold day in an autumnal Cardiff day and so to escape, Robert Lo Bue has popped off to Italy where he’s able to stay with a friend.
“I work regularly with about 20 different freelance translators around the world which means I work 24/7 because of the timezones. They’re the worst!” he explains, “Client wise, I think I’ve done about 50 different projects so far with about 35-40 different clients in nine months.”
His cosmopolitan lifestyle is no coincidence. Lo Bue set up and runs one of Wales’ only dedicated software translation companies, Applingua. He did so after getting bored of working for a company in Munich.
“After 18 months, I thought ‘I’ve always wanted to start my own company so I’m just going to do it – I’ve got nothing to lose.’” he says, “I didn’t have kids or a wife or anything so that was the time to do it. So I moved back home to Wales to live with my parents, rent-free. Since January I’ve been doing Applingua.”
During his degree Lo Bue got his first taste of working on technical translation projects. Now he’s putting those skills to work by translating iPhone apps or else paying freelances to do it for his clients.
“With app translation, you have to work within certain rules – basically what Apple says is right and wrong. That’s new to a lot of developers and also a lot of translators who are used to translating legal or medical documents,” he explains, “With Applingua, I created some training courses and every translator that works with me goes through the basic vocabulary and constraints that Apple sets. It’s new for everyone involved.”
At 24 and with an international business, the past nine months have been an incredible success for this young entrepreneur. But has his location had anything to do with it?
“As I said, I lived in Munich before and no matter how good your German is, there’s no way that you can set up a company,” he explains. “As it turned out, starting up in Cardiff was very straightforward.”
Lo Bue recommends looking at websites like Businesslink or just social networking sites like LinkedIn.
“You’ve got so many different people going at it alone in Cardiff and they all end up interacting on Twitter or LinkedIn. They’re really supportive. You know Welsh people! They’re friendly and don’t keep many secrets.”
He also points out that as his house is technically in Rhondda Cynon Taff, there’s a lot of funding available from the EU as RCT is part of their convergence strategy.
“Starting up in the UK is incredibly easy. Don’t listen to any of the political-mumbo-jumbo that says it isn’t. It’s the next part that is difficult,” he says when asked if someone should consider a startup instead of their dayjob, “You have to love what you’re doing and you have to be dedicated to it.”
“[When I started] I had no social life. After that I started reclaiming my weekends and refusing to answer emails at 11pm at night,” he continues. “There are times during big projects where I really do work all weekend, but then I’m my own boss and can decide to take two days off later on in the week.”
People like Rob Lo Bue are shining examples of all that can be achieved by young entrepreneurs in the city – he found a niche and took a risk.
“The satisfaction of watching something you are directly influencing grow is great,” he says in conclusion.
Then the phone hangs up. It’s cold in Cardiff but the climate is electric for innovators.