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Sajan goes public, stays local, targets growth

<i>Submitted photo</i> Angel and Shannon Zimmerman started Sajan as a home-based business and grew it into a publicly-held company.

Sajan started as a home-based business in 1997, grew to build and occupy a 23,000-square-foot building in River Falls during 2005, and soon -- makes its debut as a publicly held company listed on NASDAQ.

Husband-wife team Shannon and Angel Zimmerman recognized the need for their language-translation service and built the company around business globalization. If a client wanted to do business internationally, Sajan could help them do it.

Shannon says behind the decision to go public was the sentiment, "Our intent is to see this company ignite globally."

He says the deal to go public took about nine months and involved a former company called MathStar, a programmable-chip business that started in Minnesota but moved to Oregon. It was publicly held but had ceased operation in 2008 and had one remaining employee.

Technically, MathStar bought Sajan for roughly $16.2 million then filed for a post-merger name change back to Sajan. It has also requested a ticker name from the Securities and Exchange Commission and expects to hear back from the SEC within weeks.

Shannon calls the deal a "reverse merger" with a non-operating public shell (MathStar) and explains that it was a way for Sajan to gain capital and go public.

It also enabled the company to reach its goals without the expensive task of making an initial public offering (IPO).

"Angel and I are the majority shareholders," he said about the couple's post-merger interest.

He remains the company's president, chief executive officer and interim chief financial officer. Angel remains the chief operations officer. The couple plans to keep Sajan's headquarters and their residence in River Falls.

Shannon says Sajan anticipates continued growth and thinks the company has potential to create wealth and value in the community.

Angel said, "So much has changed and so much more will change, but sharing the success of this company with so many great local employees has been wonderful."

Springboard to the world

Sajan employs about 75 people at its River Falls headquarters, 625 Whitetail Boulevard. Some 15 other people work out of offices in Dublin, Ireland and Delhi, India.

Shannon said the company is considering expansion into Asia and Spain. He calls the global market "wildly opportune."

The Zimmermans expect to grow the local workforce, too, since demand keeps growing for educated professionals well versed in technology and international business.

"Language is a barrier to sales and growth," explained Shannon.

Since the beginning, Sajan has been helping clients break down those barriers. As a leading high-tech company in an emerging market, Sajan provides a cloud-based translation management system technology and language translation services in 40 languages.

Shannon acknowledges that the nature of Sajan's business might be hard for some to comprehend, so he shares a quote he often uses when he's presenting on the company's behalf.

Willy Brandt, a German-born politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, said, "If I'm selling to you, I speak your language. If I'm buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen (then you must speak German)."

Sajan strategically restructured itself in 2009 by creating two divisions within the business: Global Language Services and Software. Shannon appointed Vern Hanzlik as president of Sajan Software, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary in Ireland. The longtime software-industry veteran Hanzlik will be based in River Falls and is charged with the commercialization of a technology-only offering.

Shannon says the dual offering fits industry trends and demands the leadership skills of a proven professional like Hanzlik. He said also in 2009, Sajan added a new senior leader of Sales and Business Development.

Closing the deal, says Shannon, establishes a foundation from which the company can build and expand as well as investment opportunities for those interested in the market.

The SEC will soon tell the Zimmermans the "ticker symbol" letters that will denote Sajan in official stock reports. Meanwhile, going public starts a whole new era.

"This merger represents a calculated move designed to strengthen the capabilities of the company and enable growth which offers broad benefits," said Shannon. "The company will remain relentless in its quest to become the world's best."