Nathan Field talks international entrepreneurship in the digital age
Alumnus Nathan Field, co-founder of the translation company Industry Arabic, spoke to guests about his business and the tactics he has used that can be beneficial to aspiring entrepreneurs Friday in the Venture Development Center.
This lecture was presented by the Entrepreneurship Club and the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics’ Horn Program in Entrepreneurship as part of this semester’s “Free Lunch Friday.”
Industry Arabic, which was founded by Field and William Ward in May 2011, is an online translation service. The company consists of 15 full- and part-time employees who translate English or French documents into Arabic, or vice versa, for customers from 55 countries, Field said.
Industry Arabic has worked with over 300 customers including the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, media outlets, think tanks, legal tribunals, international law firms and companies looking to sell products in the Middle East. Due to their international customers, the company is Internet based, and their employees are based overseas in the Middle East. The company uses free technological programs such as GoogleDocs, Quickbooks and Skype to organize and communicate with employees.
“We do not have a physical office,” Field said. “It saves a lot of money because we don’t have to pay rent. My co-founder and I go to Beirut three or four times a year, and we rent an office for a week. Because we’re based on the Internet, we’re basically everywhere, so we can easily respond to anybody from any country.”
The idea for the company started when Field was working in Saudi Arabia for an American company specializing in environmental radiation projects. It was difficult for Field to overcome the language barrier due to a limited number of available services. That is when the idea for a translation service came to his mind, he said.
Field, who graduated from the university in 2005 with a history degree and received his master’s degree in political science and Arabic at Georgetown University, had no business experience prior to starting the company. Thus, to get a better grasp on the industry, Field and Ward made a list of 100 contacts and asked about their needs. By investigating the market’s demand, the co-founders made certain there was a market for their business.
“A lot of people think networking is going to conferences and handing out business cards,” Field said. “That’s not what it is. Networking is just building up a lot of mutually beneficial relationships. The more people you know well, the more mutually beneficial relationships you will have, and the better you will do.”
Sophomore Fatma Bu Khamseen, who is from Saudi Arabia, read about Field’s business online and came to the event to learn more about it.
“I now believe that you can do something from nothing,” Bu Khamseen said. “He actually has a virtual company and has employees without having to pay rent.”
Field said he stresses simplicity, and the only way to run a successful business is to be fluent in a specific area.
“Entrepreneurship has become associated with creating a new app or inventing something new,” Field said. “We’re not innovative. We’re just doing something that’s been around for about 5,000 years.”
Industry Arabic’s website, which cost Field $250, allows customers to upload a file and send it to Field’s company. Once the employees receive the file, they send customers a quote. If they accept, employees email the newly translated file to the customer.
Junior Becca Leisher, Entrepreneurship club member, said her biggest takeaway from the lecture was the business’ simplistic nature.
“I liked when he was going through the operations strategies and the marketing strategies—learning how to keep things simple or how to specialize in something versus trying to solve every problem,” Leisher said.
Although networking and marketing are crucial for Field’s business, the most efficient strategy is word of mouth. Unlike most companies, Industry Arabic does not use Facebook to promote their brand.
“The number one most successful marketing tactic is to just do an amazing job on every project, no matter how big or small,” Field said. “Word of mouth will do the work for you.”