Venture Capital Yoga
Venture capital has found translation. Since Smartling closed on its 24 million USD Series C round, two other companies in our space have raised money: a $10.3 million investment went to MultiLing and One Hour Translation closed a $10 million series A. That’s over $44 million injected into our industry from the outside world in less than 6 months.
That venture capital is going to shift our industry is beyond reproof.
It takes money to make money, and VC-backed enterprises definitely have money. They have enough money, some worry, to make all the money – leaving little for those who aren’t VC-backed.
But I’m not concerned — because I do yoga.
Here is the story of my zen-filled path to non-VC bliss:
On November 2012, my friend Dayna gave me an order: Meet her at Hot Betsy’s in a half-hour. I was having a horrible week and the best way she knew to help was to introduce me to yoga. Two hours later, I left class saying, “That’s better than bourbon.”
Something about being in a 105-degree studio and bending your body into shapes you never thought possible completely takes your mind off of everything else. You’re in the present – and nothing matters except where you are with your body. What's more, where you are with your body changes each day. One day I can bring my foot into lotus. The next I can’t. And that’s okay!
Yoga lesson number one that keeps me from worrying about VC backed companies taking over translation: Your pose is your pose.
In yoga, it doesn’t matter if I can stick my foot behind my head and the next person can’t. It’s not a competition. My body doesn’t get anything special for beating others and others don’t lose because they can’t do it. The full benefit of every pose is from the effort — knowing your limitations and challenging yourself beyond them.
Whether other companies have millions at their disposal doesn’t change what I have to work with. I still have my resources and am responsible for doing the best I can with them. Whether my company succeeds is up to me. That a competitor has more resources may mean I adapt how I handle mine, but it doesn’t change everything I do altogether.
Which brings us to lesson two: Know what’s a bend and what’s a break.
I’m double-jointed so many poses are easy for me. But that doesn’t mean I should. I was only a few months into my practice when I sprained my wrist. The teacher asked us to do a handstand — a harder pose for me — but because she said, “You don’t need a spot,” I was too prideful to correct her. So I kicked up. Onto my wrist.
Some yoga poses stretch and improve you. You push your body, yearning to improve. Those are bends. But poses you know you can’t do, poses that push further than you’re capable — those are breaks.
Venture capital funding for our industry is a bend, not a break. Like other outside factors, this will change us, but not kill us. The smaller side of our industry has existed for decades. We have adapted to include language schools and refugee resettlement. It makes sense that the bigger companies in our industry will evolve over time as well. Venture capital funding is simply the next stretch our industry must make in order to grow. But it will not break us.
So I’m not intimidated or afraid. I’m going to focus on my mat and my business and grow the best I can.
Terena Bell is the CEO of In Every Language, a current member of the GALA Board, and a former member of the Leadership Council at Association of Language Companies (ALC). She writes a column on industry macro-trends for MultiLingual Magazine and serves on the White House Business Roundtable. She has degrees in English and French and recently completed a post-graduate program at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business. You can find her on Twitter at @InEveryLanguage.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.