From Translator to Linguistics Entrepreneur: A Conversation with Krzysztof Zdanowski


Richard Lucas and Kimon Fountoukidis speak with Krzysztof Zdanowski, language and technology entrepreneur. Krzysztof argues that entrepreneurship is about emotional and social intelligence. He discusses the ups and downs on the road to building Summa Linguae Technologies, a company with yearly revenue of $35 million. 

Krzysztof studied applied linguistics in college, which helped lay the groundwork for his initial career as an interpreter. He first worked night shifts at a steel plant in Krakow. The factory had workers from different backgrounds, giving Krzysztof experience translating between workers and the international managers. Not long after, Krzysztof was fired from his job, which gave him the perfect opportunity to explore starting his own business.

Krzysztof created a translation company and experienced several challenges in the effort to find the perfect business partner. He describes the important lessons he learned in these initial struggles. For Krzysztof, the most important things when it comes to a business partner are a "match in values" and complementary skills. 

Krzysztof also discusses the role of luck in creating a business. As he states, in the early days, he gave away half his business, only to buy it back shortly after. Krzysztof also experienced personal setbacks, dealing with a severe illness that left him partially paralyzed and in and out of the hospital for several years. He finally began to recover after a series of treatments in 2015, which allowed him to refocus on growing the business. 

That year, the company went public on an alternative stock exchange in Poland and made its first acquisition of a translation company based in India. At this point in time, the company's yearly revenue was $1 million a year. Summa Linguae was able to more than 30x by acquiring other companies. For Krzysztof, this period was filled with stress. To fund these acquisitions, he had to spend a significant amount of time raising money and hiring talent to grow the company.

This period of "crazy growth," from 2016 to 2019, was the "death valley" for Summa Linguae. In 2019, Summa Linguae sold a portion of its equity, giving both the company and Krzysztof breathing room. 

In recent years, Summa Linguae has begun pivoting from translation to data services. Specifically, they use their data built up from many languages to help train AI voice assistants and other language assistant tools. 

Krzysztof spends much of his free time helping to build the entrepreneurship scene in Poland through the Entrepreneurs' Organization

Krzysztof Zdanowski is an entrepreneur. As CEO of Summa Linguae Technologies, he has built a language and technology company with revenue of more than $35 million per year.

The NBN Entrepreneurship and Leadership podcast aims to educate, inform and entertain, sharing insights based on the personal stories of carefully selected guests—all in an informal atmosphere of unscripted conversations and open, personal accounts.

Find links to past episodes here.

About our Hosts:

Kimon Fountoukidis:

Kimon is the founder of both Argos Multilingual and PMR. He founded both companies in the mid-90s with zero capital, and both have gone on to become market leaders in their respective sectors. Kimon was born in New York and moved to Krakow, Poland in 1993. He is passionate about sharing his success with others and working entrepreneurs of all kinds to help them achieve their goals. Listen to his story here. Kimon's on Twitter here.

Richard Lucas:

Richard is a business and social entrepreneur who has founded or invested in more than 30 businesses, including Argos Multilingual, PMR and, in 2020, the New Books Network.

Richard has been a TEDx event organiser for years, supports the pro-entrepreneurship ecosystem, and leads entrepreneurship workshops at all levels. He was born in Oxford and moved to Poland in 1991, where he continues to invest in promising companies and helps other entrepreneurs realise their dreams. Listen to his story in an autobiographical TEDx talk here. Richard is on Twitter here.

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Richard Lucas and Kimon Fountoukidis

Richard Lucas is a business and social entrepreneur who founded, led and/or invested in more than 30 businesses.

Kimon Fountoukidis is the founder of both Argos Multilingual and PMR. Both companies were founded in the mid 90s with zero capital and both have gone on to become market leaders in their respective sectors. Kimon was born in New York and moved to Krakow, Poland in 1993. Listen to his story here.

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