I attended and presented at the KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency) conference last week. Co-sponsored by the Dallas area chamber of commerce, this is an annual trade show and conference. This conference, very heavily subsidized by the Korean Government via KOTRA, invites and hosts hundreds of retail buyers, bankers, investment groups, and service providers to visit with selected technology companies and start-ups.
The KOTRA and Dallas Chamber offices solicit, book and host the retailers and other buyers. Not just U.S. buyers, but also retailers from South America, were present. Over the past two years, my client was able to meet with international buyers, is adding a new distributor, and has met with existing retail contacts. Most other companies present are not as sophisticated, or have the experience base, but they are getting the opportunity to meet and have real opportunities with real buyers.
The KOTRA offices maintain relationships with various service providers, such as my company, to provide resources to their incubating companies. While this show was more electronic in focus, the KOTRA group also supports companies across all industries. They also assist select U.S. companies by posting their products on an internal intranet available to Korean based companies to review for partnership opportunities.
My presentation, “Entering the U.S. Market” dealt with an overview on what vendors need to know and expect when entering the U.S. market. Having worked with American entrepreneurs for years, I have seen few that did enough research to understand what the industry standard terms, sales channels and distribution, and investment requirements are before jumping in. I can sympathize with having to cross large cultural, language and geographic divides. Feel free to e-mail me for further discussion, my contact info is contained within the Powerpoint available on the link above.
I have attended a similar, but smaller, event held by the Malaysian government last year. While the audience was smaller due to the focus, which was on chemical and natural products exports, there was a fair representation of potential U.S. partners booking meetings with the participating companies. These same companies toured each of the MATRA offices and held similar meetings.
I have been in high tech for almost 25 years. I never once recall being solicited or assisted by trade groups like I have seen from across Asia. I have even seen a Mexican trade group here in Texas starting similar efforts.
The Dallas Chamber of Commerce was certainly “working it” to match up partners in their geographic area for the better of both trading partners. But the Chamber can only assist not fund the efforts.
We can no longer expect the world to covet American technology and products. Technology innovations move fast and are copied over time, getting technologies to market quickly at a small scale cannot be left to the “venture” markets. R&D tax credits helped, most at the larger company level, but small companies need more. The lack of SBA loans, grants and funding in addition to the contraction in the general credit markets is hurting small and mid-sized businesses which drive the economy. If we innovate, but do not get to market quickly, we’re just paying the R&D costs for competitors.
Trading partners and International Trade are good – we just need to get better at sending more in the other direction.
“Using contract call centers for lead generation, sales, customer service and support, and disaster planning.”
“Small product and packaging changes can open new market opportunities with little additional cost.”
“Inventory from Raw Materials through the sales channel.”