The Redondo Beach-based founders of InterLingua Inc., a translating and documentation company, have found that using the Internet can help them develop markets overseas.
Jack Bernstein and David Andrews credit the Internet with boosting their translating and documentation business by 10%, providing them 24-hour access to potential customers, valuable data and employees around the world.
When a U.S. firm needed to have a German patent filed in a hurry several months ago, Bernstein went online, entered the Cornell University law school library's database and eventually located a list of German patent law firms compiled by a New Zealand company. By that evening, the problem was solved.
"That resulted in a couple thousand dollars profit after about one hour of being on the Web," Bernstein said.
Although InterLingua began primarily as a general translation service, it has built up a substantial business in the technical arena, particularly the processing of patent documents and legal reports.
It also does a brisk business translating U.S. product manuals into European languages, because the European Community has begun enforcing a law that requires all manuals to be offered in the language of each country where they're being sold.
"Since manuals for complex equipment can change daily, these are being put on the Web where people in Europe can go for updates," Bernstein explained.
InterLingua is also translating Web pages for foreign companies interested in reaching a broader audience and researches foreign-language Web pages for American clients. They also use the Internet to search for foreign-language studies, surveys or other documents that might have an audience if translated into English.
One area where Bernstein has not had much success is persuading U.S. catalog companies to translate their sales information. A representative for a small U.S. Western clothing company told Bernstein that he didn't need to translate his catalog into Japanese because they "can look at the pictures and decide what they want."
Bernstein strongly disagrees.
"The issue of translating into the native language gets more and more important as your product becomes more consumerish," he said.
Bernstein has also used the Internet to build his company's technical expertise. In addition to the 11 employees in Redondo Beach, the company employs 135 translators and editors around the world who were recruited via computer.
Bernstein, who grew up in Brooklyn, and his partner Andrews, who is British, are often asked whether they speak Japanese.
"We don't speak a word," Bernstein said. "We're marketing people. We saw an opportunity and we were able to mine it."
Export Help on Web
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce's LATrade and Bay Area Chamber of Commerce's Baytrade have developed a Web site for people interested in expanding overseas.
Called TradePort, this free service allows users to access a broad range of public and private information resources and databases connected with international trade.
For the novice, there is a simple checklist for setting up an export operation that can answer simple questions such as "What is a letter of credit?" For companies that are already working overseas, there are country and industry reports and a list of 40,000 manufacturers and service companies around the world.
Since its establishment last March, the site has gotten an average of 150,000 hits a month, according to Mark Giberson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. The program received seed money from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Giberson said the Web site also provides information on how to contact LATrade's five service centers, where there are individuals who can provide additional assistance.
TradePort's address is http://tradeport.org
Evelyn Iritani can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at (213) 237-7837.