Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Greg Lamm and Steve Wilhelm Staff Writer
Modo Group, a small Seattle marketing and branding company that counts Microsoft as one of its major clients, is opening an office in Paris to be near the software giant's European, Middle Eastern and African headquarters.
The move to Paris this June will put Modo closer to the action with Microsoft's Paris-based operations and also will give the boutique branding firm a foothold in Europe to attract new business, said Modo Managing Partner George Murphy.
Modo's decision shows how issues such as currency exchange rates and more convenient travel options can affect the strategy of a small company with clients in foreign markets. Murphy said the weak U.S. dollar against the euro should make Modo's fees more attractive to European companies. And Modo's decision to go to Paris was helped along by non-stop service between Seattle and the French capital that Air France launched last year, Murphy said.
"It makes things a whole lot easier because of the direct flights," said Murphy, a former branding executive with Starbucks and Coca-Cola who relaunched Modo last year.
Those daily Air France flights, which began June 11, helped put Seattle on the map in France, said Jack Cowan, executive director at French-American Chamber of Commerce in Seattle. Since the non-stop service started there has been an uptick in interest from executives and officials in France.
The cross-continental interest may not be reciprocal, however. Cowan said the Air France flights have not sparked a flood of interest from Washington companies considering branches in France.
Cowan said about once a month a French dignitary who might not have made the trip otherwise turns up in Seattle. In February, Cowan attended a dinner with local French senior executives to welcome to Seattle Monique Ben Guiga, a French senator who represents overseas French citizens.
About 5,500 French citizens live in Washington, mostly in the greater Seattle area. About 50,000 people travel each year between Seattle and Paris, including executives with The Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp.
Murphy said Modo has seven employees and annual revenue in the range of the $5 million to $10 million. Murphy originally launched the company in 2003, only to take his then-four-person staff with him in 2006, when he became managing partner of Fitch, a British-based design firm with a Seattle office. In September, Murphy resigned his position with Fitch in Seattle and relaunched Modo.
Modo has about a dozen clients, including Microsoft, Kaiser Permanente and Grupo Modelo, the Mexican brewer of Corona and Modelo beers.
Heading up Modo's Paris office will be Sarah Van Dyck, Modo's managing director. Prior to coming to Modo, Van Dyck worked on product launches and branding strategies for Proctor & Gamble in Europe. She speaks fluent French and received an MBA from Insead, the European Institute of Business Administration, in France.
Van Dyck also has another connection to Paris: Her husband, Philippe Sanchez, former CEO of Seattle's PhotoWorks, is the new managing director of Starbucks Coffee France.
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