Joseph A. Mann Jr. | September 16, 2016
The company and its services: Coral Gables-based Protranslating is a language company that provides a range of translation services to about 3,000 clients each year in the United States and overseas.
The family-owned firm provides written translations, simultaneous and consecutive interpretations, phone interpretations, voice-overs, subtitles, social media, marketing and advertising copy, plus other services. Most of its work involves written translations and interpreting assignments for businesses.
The firm translated 150 million words last year in 110 language combinations, using the skills of highly specialized professionals and computers. Any machine translations are reviewed and polished by humans.
The firm works mainly in languages like English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese, and is capable of providing translation services in more than 200 languages.
“This is a very complicated business,” said CEO Luis R. de la Vega, who has worked in the family company since he was a child and joined as a full-time employee in 2005. “You’re dealing with grammar, syntax, flow, tone and voice, as well as different cultures and dialects.” The firm has 130 employees at its headquarters, 200 at other offices in the U.S. and overseas, and employs about 5,000 contractors all over the world. “On any given day, about 500 people are working on different projects,” the CEO said.
Protranslating charges per word, per page or per project. The fee is 10 to 20 cents per word for common languages, and more for exotic tongues. The cost also depends on the quality of the original and the scope of the project. For example, Protranslating will negotiate a fee for developing an advertising slogan or campaign.
Clients include large commercial enterprises, law firms, finance and insurance companies and other organizations, especially companies that want to expand to reach new customers either in the U.S. or overseas. Products may be legal documents, annual reports, training manuals, corporate videos, websites, ads and marketing campaigns for clients.
“We try to help our clients break into new markets and go global,” de la Vega said.
Getting started: “The genesis of our company is the ‘linguistic gene’ in my father’s family,” said de la Vega, son of founder Luis A. de la Vega, who started the company in Miami in 1973 and is still active managing the business. The elder de la Vega, who is fluent in nine languages, began working as a simultaneous translator in the county court system (Spanish-English), moved on to doing more simultaneous translations and written documents in English, Spanish and Creole, and expanded the business to commercial clients and other languages.
CEO de la Vega, who has a bachelor’s degree in business from Georgetown University and an MBA from the University of Miami, is fluent in English and Spanish. His great-grandfather was also a linguist, “but the linguistic gene skipped me,” he said. Some of the employees who started working with the senior de la Vega in the mid-1970s are still at Protranslating.
The difference: The company hires the best professionals to do translations and carefully reviews each finished product. It also has developed its own technology platforms to increase efficiency and reduce time and costs. For example, it has memory databases and software that allow very fast translations of texts that have been translated before, ensuring consistent terminology. Protranslating takes the time to ensure that the company understands exactly what each client needs and what market or audience it will be used for, de la Vega said.
Sales: The firm said its revenues were $20 million in 2015. Revenue is based on the volume of words translated, plus other related projects, and de la Vega said word volume has been rising steadily over the past five years.
Competitors: “This is a very fragmented industry,” de la Vega said. “In the U.S., there are about 25,000 language companies and around 50 serious players.” Many focus only on a limited number of languages, like Spanish and English, he said. Some competitors are TransPerfect, SDL and Lionbridge.
Analyst: “The quality of translations and interpretations is critical,” said Susi Davis, principal at Coral Gables-based Davis Global Consulting Group, which provides planning for domestic and international conferences. “[Protranslating] are excellent professionals and always anticipated any potential problems at international events they handled,” said Davis, who has worked with several translation services in the U.S. and overseas in her current position and previously as associate director of the University of Miami’s Center for Hemispheric Policy. “My concern is always the interpreter,” she said. “If you don’t have a good interpreter an event can be ruined, no matter how good the speakers are.”
What customers say: Coconut Grove-based Open English, the leading online English-language school in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market, has been working with Protranslating for three years. “Most of our content was written in Spanish because our market was focused primarily in Latin America,” said Andres Moreno, the founder and CEO of Open English, which has more than 500,000 students in more than 40 countries.
“Now that we are expanding our services to countries like Russia and Turkey, we need to consistently translate our content into different languages. Protranslating has translated websites, scripts, press releases and also transcript work [for us]. Their service is perfect. They go beyond any translation company. They actually take your brand’s values, tone and style into account to make sure that all the material has a consistent voice. It is a company that I trust and that really cares about their clients. They make sure you are satisfied with their outcomes.”
MotionPoint, a Coconut Creek-based firm that helps companies expand their brands and sell products through more than 1,200 websites in multiple languages worldwide, has worked with Protranslating for over 16 years. “They provide a broad range of linguistic services for us, including translation, editing, proofing and localization (i.e., market-specific customization) across more than 40 languages and for markets around the world,” said Will Fleming, MotionPoint’s CEO. “Their work is outstanding,” Fleming said. “They’re true professionals, with considerable subject matter expertise, solid processes and a flexible, customer-centric service orientation.”
Challenges and outlook: “Keeping up with the pace of technology changes in our industry is one of our main challenges,” said de la Vega, who expects the business to grow by about 10 percent this year. “Constant evolution within our own technology stack and strategic partnerships with niche technology providers help keep us on the forefront of what our clients need.”
And recruiting is essential. “We have recruiting representatives, and all they do is look for the best talent in the world.”
Business: Protranslating provides a full range of translation services in more than 200 languages, including written translations, simultaneous and consecutive interpretations, phone interpretations, voice-overs, subtitles, marketing and advertising copy, plus other editing and production services. Last year, the company translated 150 million words combining the skills of highly specialized professionals and computers.
Headquarters: 2850 Douglas Rd., Coral Gables.
Founded: In 1973 in Miami by Luis A. de la Vega.
Leadership: Luis R. de la Vega, CEO, son of the founder.
Employees: 130 full-time at the main office. About 500 full- and part-time professionals are working on projects daily in Coral Gables and other sites, and the firm uses about 5,000 part-time translators in the U.S. and overseas.
Customers: Companies and other organizations that need multilingual and multicultural translations in marketing, advertising, surveys, annual reports; text for the fashion industry; technical manuals for manufacturing and other applications; law firms; financial institutions, TV, film and online, plus others.
Ownership: Owned and operated by the de la Vega family.