Iconic founders pocket up to €5.3m after sale to UK business

DCU spin-out language software company acquired by RWS Holdings in €17.8m deal

Two Dublin academics will share up to $6 million (€5.3 million) after the company they founded in Dublin City University was bought by a listed UK business.

Dublin City University spin-out Iconic Translation Machines has been acquired by London-listed RWS Holdings in a deal worth up to $20 million (€.17.8 million).

Iconic is a language technology software company that was founded in 2013 by Dr John Tinsley and Dr Páraic Sheridan. It provides machine translation and artificial intelligence solutions for a wide range of industries. The company uses proprietary technology developed from years of research at DCU's e Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), now part of the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Adapt Centre.

RWS, a leading language, intellectual property support services and localisation provider, said it is to acquire Iconic for an initial payment of $10 million with additional deferred consideration of up to $10 million in shares after 28 months, subject to future performance.


The deal is one of two acquisitions announced by RWS on Tuesday. The company also said it is to acquire the Indian company Webdunia for $21 million.

RWS, which is listed on the AIM in London, has annual turnover in excess of $450 million a year and employs over 3,000 people worldwide. The group says it translates over two billion words per annum.

Iconic recorded revenues of $1.2 million last year, up 100 per cent on the prior year, and an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of $23,000.

The company co-founders both had a near-30 per cent stake in Iconic as of the end of July 2019. DCU also held a 13.4 per cent share.

Early backers

Bloom Equity and the Boole Investment Syndicate, who are part of the Halo Business Angels Network (HBAN), are also early backers of the compan y, as is Enterprise Ireland .

The company, which had been working closely with RWS prior to the acquisition, will continue to be led by the company co-founders as a division within the expanded group.

“We are very excited about the opportunities this acquisition will give us to serve our clients with an enhanced service delivery model as we expand our capabilities and leverage RWS’s scale, global footprint and comprehensive suite of services and platforms,” said Dr Tinsley.

“We’ve been engaging with RWS for a number of years now, and have always admired their business. We are very complementary in terms of the clients and sectors we provide solutions to, and, given RWS’ stellar reputation for quality and our reputation for technology innovation, it is a natural fit,” he added.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist