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Friday, March 24, 2000

Isle-born high-
tech firm moves,
plans more staff

WorldPoint Interactive Inc.
opens 'Asia Pacific

By Tim Ruel


Fifteen flat-panel video display screens worth $15,000 apiece and five waterfalls will greet visitors this afternoon to the Bishop Street penthouse formerly occupied by executive offices of First Hawaiian Bank.

WorldPoint Interactive Inc. is blessing the doors of its new, 12,000-square-foot "Asia Pacific headquarters."

WorldPoint's rent at 1132 Bishop St. is about $15,000 a month, or $1.25 per square foot. The major expense, however, was the new hardware -- ringing up $1 million -- including a wireless local network.

The Web site language-translation company moved into the space this month because it had grown too big for its 3,000-square-foot office at the Manoa Innovation Center.

WorldPoint started at the center in 1995 with six employees and the help of a $580,000 state loan. The company subsequently moved its headquarters to San Francisco to be closer to venture capital.

But the bulk of its operations remains in Hawaii, where it now employs 65 and plans to increase its work force to more than 250 within six months.

The company expects to expand to another 39,000 square feet in the Bishop Street building over the next year.

Also on the company's agenda is an initial public offering of stock, possibly in the third quarter. However, company officials declined to give details on those plans.

Most of WorldPoint's new jobs will fall under customer support and Web and software engineering.

Entry-level engineers make roughly $40,000, Operations Director Jocelyn Gaw Gonzalo said.

WorldPoint wants to tap local students for jobs, one reason why it moved next door to Hawaii Pacific University, she says.

WorldPoint's Hawaii office is mainly for research and development, and administration.

The company also has offices in Zurich, Switzerland and Dallas, and employs 100 all told. It plans to boost its work force to at least 750 within a year, and open two more offices in Tokyo and New York, Gonzalo says.

WorldPoint customers, which include about 200 of the Fortune 1000, include Nike Inc. and DaimlerChrysler AG.

WorldPoint translates Web documents into 100 languages, allowing corporations to expand into foreign markets at a cost of roughly 15 cents to a quarter per word.

Gonzalo says she was initially worried about the shock of moving WorldPoint from the quiet, computer-geek culture at the Manoa Innovation Center to the corporate downtown area.

"If you look at school, MIC's like grade school," she says. "Then once you're in college, you're expected to perform a lot more."

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