When Microsoft-centric software component vendor GrapeCity acquired longtime partner ComponentOne in June, the amount of revenue the company generated from the sale of software tools was around 60%. That’s because GrapeCity is so much more than a software creator, reseller and distributor; it’s a story rooted in post-World War II missionary work.
The company was founded by Paul Broman, an American missionary, who in 1946 was working as a medic with the Allied occupation forces. That was because his father, a devoutly religious man, did not want his son to be directly involved in the death of a people he viewed as noble. After viewing the carnage in Japan first-hand, he relocated there in 1950, took a Japanese wife and, along with seven other families and others, realized another way they could help Japan re-estabilsh itself on the world stage was by teaching its children English.
Broman and the other missionaries bought a small hill in a remote part of Japan and built a kindergarten on the land. They were so passionate about instruction, and firm in the belief that those at the school should get great value for their money, that the school flourished. Broman then taught himself how to program, and in 1983, he wrote an accounting software package that was so successful that it laid the foundation for GrapeCity.
In the meantime, according to current general manager Rick Williamson, U.S. software companies began working with Broman and his team to translate their software into Japanese. “You’d be amazed how much money they make selling tools in Japan,” Williamson said.
One of the company’s major efforts today is around GrapeSEED, a multimedia curriculum created to teach non-native English speakers the language with great proficiency and efficiency. Sunny Wong, who sold ComponentOne to GrapeCity, visited the facilities in Japan.
“What impressed me most was WINEstudios,” he said. “They make movies there, and commercials, along with the GrapeSEED DVDs. They’ve hired some ex-Disney animators, and it’s actually the largest movie studio outside of Tokyo.”
Grape stands for fertility and growth; city reflects stability. Throw in the belief that you treat others as you would want to be treated, and you now know GrapeCity.
And now that you do, forget it. Everywhere but in Japan, Williamson said, the company will use the ComponentOne brand, even as its Asia business experiences growth in China, Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar. That’s the word the company is now looking to spread.
David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.