At 34, Stephen Polley was on the fast track. He was president and chief financial officer of the $65 million-a-year PRC Realty Systems Inc. in McLean and had experience as an Arthur Andersen & Co. consultant.
It would take a unique business opportunity to make him disconnect his corporate connections and link up with a seedling company in Oakton, Va. Last month, that opportunity came.
Polley was named chief executive officer of GlobaLink, a company that combines computer technology and translation services to provide companies with documents in any language.
Polley had toyed with the idea of a smaller business where he could have a stake in company equity, he said. When GlobaLink came along, it provided that opportunity and combined his two primary areas of interest: international business and telecommunications.
"In small companies, you have to leave your ego at the doorstep," Polley said. "The motivation is different. We recruit employes who aren't attracted to the amenities of corporate life but who have a passion for the idea behind the company."
GlobaLink provides translation services to companies through personal computers. Companies send documents via mail, courier service, facsimile or electronic mail (available to the subscribers of MCI Mail, CompuServe, Delphi and other electronic mail services), and GlobaLink distributes documents via computer to translators.
GlobaLink employs 17 full-time translators and is establishing sites in England, Belgium and West Germany. It takes four hours to translate a one-page document and 24 hours or less to translate up to five pages.
According to company founder Christian W. Skeem, he hatched the idea for the firm while working as a contract translator for the State Department. He figured the combination of on-line computer capability and translation services would solve the problem of overnight delivery in any language -- the equivalent of an international Federal Express.
Skeem approached Venture America, a venture capital firm, to discuss financing last August.
Venture America has invested about $100,000 in the company since October and is the major shareholder. Skeem, Polley and two private investors hold the rest of the shares.
According to Skeem, the most challenging translations are of non-romance languages such as Arabic, Japanese or Greek, because standard software does not recognize language characters. Translators transcribe documents into a type of morse code and send it to GlobaLink, where it is decoded, Skeem said.
Polley said 60 percent of GlobaLink's clients are located outside of Washington, D.C.
"We are looking for mid-sized companies -- companies that manufacture the parts of a pen or make childrens' shoes, not Coca-Cola or the World Bank; companies in Kansas, North Dakota or Ohio that are considering the international market," Polley said.
"We consider GlobaLink to be our premier investment," said Dan Moore of Venture America. "Because of Polley's corporate success in the telecommunications and service industries, he was first choice as CEO."
Polley described his career with big corporations as doing a triple flip on a trapeze with a net underneath him.
"Now it's our chance to try the same flip without the net," he said.