Swedish businessman takes a swing at Alibaba and eBay – launches 39 language online marketplace

“Transportation is cheap, it is easy to transfer money, and the world is full of people who love to do business. But even though globalisation has come far, the language barrier remains an obstacle,” says founder Andreas Isaksson.

After 25 years in international business, he has seen his fair share of confusion. Born and raised on a farm outside of Gothenburg, Sweden, Isaksson went on to pursue a career selling Volvo trucks. A first adventure presented itself in Iran.

“I went there on a business trip in 1990, and ended up staying for three years. I travelled the country, and almost nobody in the business community understood a word of what I wanted to say,” says Isaksson.

In his dealings with the world of business, a pattern emerged. Isaksson was sent to sell trucks in Russia, Hungary and Turkey, only to find himself using interpreters to communicate with clients. Having left Volvo, he partnered with a Japanese machine tool manufacturer, whereby the procedure was duly repeated. Gradually it occurred to him that English wasn’t the global language it is so widely believed to be.

“Doing business is all about presenting an offer, but doing that is difficult if you can’t communicate properly. During my career I have been dependent on interpreters, and it is like working in complete darkness,” says Isaksson.

Now his experiences have spawned the idea of a global marketplace for goods and services. Whereas existing alternatives are often country specific, based on a single language, Commercus.com applies machine translation to maximise the potential impact of each advertisement. Users post ads in their native tongue, choosing between +400 categories, after which the advertisements are automatically translated into any language of choice at a rate of €3 per language.

“Until now, there has been no way to advertise your products and services on a truly global level,” says Isaksson.

To welcome new users, the first 150 000 advertisements including translations are completely free.