11.11.2022 - Startups

Cadence opens European office in Riga

Cadence, the US-based specialised language service provider (LSP), has opened its first European office in Riga. Currently employing four associates in the Latvian capital, the company plans to grow the team as it continues to expand its client base in the investment and business community across Europe, Asia and the USA. 

Labs of Latvia spoke with Cadence’s Director of People Management Kim Mogindol and Riga-based Associate Laura Burgmane about the decision to open an office in Latvia and the country’s competitive advantages.

In 2017, Cadence still went by its original name, SeekPanda. CEO and Co-founder Matt Conger was in the process of attracting funding when he realised that a rebrand would help the company appeal to investors. Around this time, Matt took part in the 500 Startups (now 500 Global) programme where he met Raimonds Kulbergs, an active member of the Latvian startup community, and Ragnar Sass, a representative of the Estonian startup ecosystem. This was his first exposure to entrepreneurs from the Baltic countries and a meeting that holds significance for the further development of Cadence.

Reputation, research and people lead to Riga 

Fast forward to 2022 when Cadence is in a position to expand to Europe after successfully establishing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the USA. “Matt was thinking, what country has a strong startup community, has high English proficiency and an almost untapped talent pool? We ended up looking at the Baltic region, in particular Latvia and Estonia because he already had some exposure to the entrepreneurs from this region,” Kim explains. 

“We were looking at different regions in Europe, somewhere that’s even closer to our client base in London and Germany. Then, Matt brought up that these offices would be close to our clients but it wouldn’t be very sustainable for us to open in an extremely expensive city at the beginning,” Kim continues.

So, the team focused its attention on Riga and Tallinn, and Kim carried out site visits in the spring of 2022. Before the visits, she reached out to local industry insiders like Latvia’s Raimonds Kulbergs and Egija Gailuma [co-founder of OX Drive], who Cadence found through LinkedIn. “We noticed she was doing some fantastic work in scaling and building. We like to see someone who has experience building a company from the ground up,” Kim shares of researching the market before making the move. Cadence also had the support of Toms ZvidriƆš, head of the representative office of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia in the USA.

Why Riga over Tallinn?

Although Tallinn and Riga were both options, Cadence chose Riga. “Competition for the talent pool was one of the major driving factors. Riga is almost double the size. Also, the community in Tallinn is more mature, which means competition is much higher. Cost is another thing we took into consideration. There are some situations where the bureaucratic process when trying to set up an entity is a little more difficult in Latvia, but we felt we had a much better experience when we were trying to interact with the startup community,” Kim shares of the decision making process.

“One of the key things when you have a Europe-based office is that you’re very nicely overlapping with Asia and the East Coast in the USA. This is fantastic for us, so it’s one of the offices that we will be investing in to grow,” she adds.

Role of the Riga office  

The Riga office is now home to four associates who handle client services and project management and is expected to grow by two until the end of 2022 and more in 2023. “The associates are the main thing that keeps our company going. They are first in line to be speaking to our clients, helping fulfill their projects. They’re the face of the company. They usually carry out due diligence projects from start to finish,” Kim explains of the Riga team’s role.

Laura Burgmane, one of the associates shares her experience with the company so far: “It’s been pretty exciting, working closely with the Singapore, Beijing and Los Angeles teams and just to be part of an international company. Other companies are prominent in Latvia as well but, at the same time, it’s rare to interact so much with people all over the globe.”

So far, the translation and interpretation projects have mostly taken place online due to the pandemic, however onsite work is picking up again.

Finding the right niche in a competitive market 

Cadence managed to carve a niche for itself among global LSPs, targeting solely private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capitals, and consulting firms. Kim refers to the company using the German term “hidden champions”.

“The difference between us and the typical LSP is that we’re very niche. We primarily serve capital market firms and expert networks, so it’s like a three-way relationship. The capital market clients are big on due diligence projects, whereas expert networks are the ones providing the resources for them to conduct these projects. We provide expert linguists to support them. Although it’s great to be able to serve everything under the sun, that would not give us a competitive advantage,” she explains.

Business born from genuine pain point

The niche came naturally. Matt has a background in consultancy, having worked for Bain & Company where he noticed how rare it is to have expert linguists help facilitate due diligence research.

Since the niche was yet to be discovered, it took a while for Cadence to gather its global pool of linguists, which is currently 2500 large. “We experienced so much difficulty at the beginning because people who are highly trained as interpreters and translators – what do they aspire to? Usually, to join the United Nations. That’s the end goal. Cadence was very much in a position to disrupt what was expected in the language industry,” Kim explains.

The business has ended up becoming a lot more successful than the team expected in terms of the language side. Kim speaks briefly of the future: “As the business world goes even more remote, you will notice that really rare language pairs or pairs, which were not as in-demand before, are now becoming much more in-demand. So we are definitely, aggressively trying to grow our linguist pool.”

Source: Lelde Benke (labsoflatvia.com). Publicity photo: Kim Mogindol opens Cadence office in Riga.

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