Part of the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops series, MaRS is piloting “Ready, Set, Go Global,” a new workshop designed to help companies enter foreign markets. This is a two-part workshop happening on October 7 and 14.

The challenge

Gaining access to foreign markets can be an essential strategy for growth-oriented companies. Exporters tend to scale faster and enjoy stronger financial results than non-exporters.

Yet Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—firms with 1 to 499 employees—punch well below their weight in global markets. While 90% of Canadians in the private sector worked for SMEs in 2012, these firms accounted for less than 10% of export sales. Exporters tend to be bigger, older companies. Smaller, younger firms stick closer to home.

The reasons are clear. Compared to larger businesses, SMEs have fewer resources to manage globalization challenges, which include navigating the export ecosystem, learning different operating rules, targeting customers, validating products and attracting financing.

Getting ready

Most entrepreneurs recognize that going global involves careful risk management and rigorous preparation. Risk management can take many forms:

  • Using export infrastructure
  • Hiring local staff
  • Co-locating in “soft-landing” facilities
  • Forging strategic alliances—e.g., licensing deals, distribution contracts, joint ventures, or mergers

These activities mitigate risk through publicly-funded programs, intermediaries and business partners.

Tech companies are using two key strategies to reach the international stage. One, they are connecting with industry clusters that allow for economies of scale in order to increase competitiveness with larger firms (e.g., fintech). Two, they are entering partnerships with corporations that co-develop innovations in exchange for access to global expertise, risk capital and international supply chains (e.g., healthcare). These tactics are smart options for companies looking to grow their businesses abroad.

Getting set

Many resources exist to help businesses expand internationally. These include market research, training courses, advisory services, trade missions and export finance. These resources are typically designed for mature businesses with conventional exporter profiles.

Advances in online commerce, more open trade policies and the worldwide demand for technology make it important to tailor market-entry programs to suit small, innovation-driven ventures. These companies need to cultivate international ambitions when they are startups.

Register for MaRS Going Global workshop

Going global involves serious evaluation of the company by its leaders, a deep commitment to new learning and a willingness to use whatever resources are available to facilitate foreign market entry.

Together with partners in the export ecosystem, MaRS is piloting a new workshop, Ready, Set, Go Global. Part of the suite of Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops, this new offering is designed to help companies take critical actions, including:

  • Being explicit about the goals for expanding internationally
  • Identifying target markets as precisely as possible
  • Conducting a company readiness assessment with expert input
  • Understanding where the company needs support, including financing
  • Knowing what resources are available and how to use them effectively
  • Building team capability and commitment
  • Having a plan for foreign markets that’s part of the company’s overall strategy

Want to learn more about this new workshop? Read details about Ready, Set, Go Global.

Earl Miller

Earl Miller was the Director, Global Initiatives at MaRS. He led international partnering activities designed to open strategic markets for MaRS technology ventures. See more…