When most people hear the word export, they don’t necessarily think of the technology and software realm.
World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) partnered with Utah Technology Council and Beehive Startups this month to change this. The Taking Utah Tech to the World Seminar gathered the close-knit software and tech community at Adobe in Lehi to talk about all things exporting and to learn from the phenomenally successful Ryan Smith, founder and CEO of Qualtrics, about how his company navigated and succeeded in the international marketplace.
Smith delivered his remarks in a fireside chat discussion led by Owen Fuller, co-founder of Boombox. The tech gurus discussed how important it is for software and tech companies to grow internationally. When asked what he would have done differently in his own global expansion, Smith remarked, “We could’ve done a lot more around the brand, around testing different models in different markets.”
Smith also highlighted the importance of finding the right mentors and not being too hasty to finance by selling large amounts of equity.
“If you’re going to give up equity you better be looking at someone who is going to be able to open those doors and is plugged in, especially because Utah is different from the valley,” said Smith.
Following the keynote, WTC Utah President and CEO Derek B Miller moderated a panel of exporting experts. Specialists included Cody Broderick, founder and CEO of inWhatLanguage, Carl Adams, partner at Alta Ventures, Craig Parry, shareholder at Parr Brown, and Don Willie, managing director of WTC Utah. The panel focused on the importance of adapting products to new markets, finding resources to begin exporting, and identifying rules and regulations related to entering a foreign market.
During the discussion, Broderick stressed that exporting companies need to make sure communication comes across clearly, no matter what culture a product is moving into. He emphasized that attendees should always work with a company that knows how to protect and enhance their brand in foreign markets.
In a similar tone, Craig Parry cautioned against entering markets without a complete legal understanding of foreign copyright laws. He shared an example of a Utah company that thought they were licensing their brand to an in-country producer, when in fact they were selling the rights of their brand to local distributers. “The local distributers owned the IP for Europe, and the headquarters had to buy it back at a blackmail-type rate, said Parry.”
Parry also talked about how exporting is a way to access much larger markets, especially for small businesses. He used the example of a Utah company that specializes in Falcon gear. This company’s market in the United States is very narrow, but it is able to find success by exporting to the Middle East and Europe.
Exporting plays an essential role in growing Utah’s economy. Utah exported nearly $13.3 billion in goods and services in 2015, an eight percent growth from the previous year. Software and IT have played a vital role in that growth, as 16 percent of 2015 exports were from the computer and electronic products industry.
The key takeaway from the seminar was that there are countless opportunities available to companies looking to expand abroad. Foreign cultures and laws may be difficult to adapt to, but the benefits of growth and extended longevity that come with exporting are worth the initial hurdles.