Start-up saves apps from getting lost in translation

5 Feb 2012

Tethras co-founders Brendan Clavin and Brian Farrell. The company has offices at NovaUCD, Dublin and in Mountain View, California

Our Tech Start-up of the Week is Tethras, a start-up based at NovaUCD in Dublin that has tapped into the fast-paced growth of the mobile app industry by creating a mobile app localisation platform that’s starting to make waves in global markets. And the company is setting its sights on gaining traction in the Asia marketplace this year.

The Tethras platform works by enabling app developers to adapt their software into over 40 languages. It supports apps for Apple, Android and Windows devices.

The company, an Enterprise Ireland high-potential start-up (HPSU), was co-founded by Brian Farrell and Brendan Clavin in 2010. Since then it has been on a major growth spurt, opening up an office in Mountain View, California in addition to its Dublin base, and also ramping up its workforce to 16 people.

So how did the venture come about? CEO Farrell recounts that it was back in 2010 that he convinced Brendan Clavin to leave a very well-paid, senior position at Google HQ in Silicon Valley.

“The idea came from Brendan. He has been developing and managing tools for software localisation for over 20 years,” explains Farrell.

“As the mobile app industry started to gather serious pace in early 2010, we realised that the software publishing industry had been turned on its head. We began to think of the difficulties that support services would have in dealing with this. We felt that the mobile app developer’s workflow was radically different from that of the pre-mobile era, and that it required a different toolset and localisation service.”

Dublin and California

Fast-forward to 2012 and Tethras now has ramped up its team, with 16 employees now working between its Dublin and California offices.

“We have three product staff in our California office with Brendan managing the team,” explains Farrell.

Recent hires include Irish app developer Steven Troughton-Smith who has been taken on as mobile architect for the company. Tethras also managed to glean Matthew Gonzales, who relocated from Silicon Valley to Dublin for his new role as vice-president for business development at the company.

Says Farrell: “It was great to be able to add a couple of seasoned app experts. Steven and Matthew are both very well known in the international development community. They both have an in-depth cross platform knowledge that is difficult to come by.”

University spin-in

While Ireland is hot right now for university spin-outs, spawned from research, Tethras is a rather different type of start-up in that it’s a spin-in.

“We were lucky enough to be accepted into NovaUCD, as we had plans for collaboration with some of the university departments.  This has worked out very well for us,” says Farrell.

Explaining more about how Tethras operates its platform Farrell says the company aims to make it easy for mobile app developers to get their software translated and ready for publication in other languages.

“By working directly with their native file formats we simplify this process considerably,” he attests. “Our target market is every mobile app developer that wants to monetise their app by accessing foreign markets.

And as for its job-creation plans, Farrell says the aim is to scale up in 2012. “The mobile apps industry is moving remarkably fast.”


In terms of being an Enterprise Ireland HPSU, Farrell says the support has been “fantastic”.

“Enterprise Ireland really get what we are trying to do and have assisted us at every turn.  We have also been able to tap into their excellent support network in the US.

So what’s on the agenda for 2012? “Our plans for this year are to accelerate our growth and expansion into other market sectors. Asia is firmly on our radar, with projections for up to 25pc of the world’s app developers coming form that region by the end of 2014,” says Farrell.

And his advice for other self-starters out there? “The support infrastructure available to start-ups has never been better. I would strongly recommend early engagement with Enterprise Ireland, and if possible try to locate your business where you can access excellent support, like NovaUCD.”


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic