As digitization continues to influence how businesses large and small conduct operations, many entrepreneurs need to be prepared to think big. How can their business reach not just a pre-determined audience, but how can the company also be prepared to engage with global markets and begin to grow at an international scale?
Exporting is a complicated network to navigate, and that’s where ORBATL’s Metro Export Program and Challenge represent an entry point to interested local companies. The Atlanta Metro Export Challenge is a regional grant program designed to engage and challenge small- and medium-sized companies in metro Atlanta to think about their international expansion and to encourage action by serving as a resource for information.
We spoke with three local companies – all previous participants in the MEC and recipients of a grant to expand their exporting operations – about their success coming out of the competition. More information on past winners can be found here.
Patricio Keegan is a business development manager with Tecme – a developer and manufacturer of mechanical ventilators for intensive care units. Tao-Yang Han is president of IronCAD – a software product for manufacturing automation and 3D CAD mechanical design. Doug Mancosky is chief science officer for Hydro Dynamics, Inc.
Q: Tell us about your success in recent months. How did the MEC/MEP program grant impact that success?
Keegan: The MEC was extremely helpful for us. The grant allowed us to participate in two big medical trade shows and connect with existing and potential new partners. One of the tradeshows we attended was Medica, the biggest medical tradeshow in the world that takes place every year in Germany. The other trade show we attended was Arab Health, which takes place every year in Dubai.
We were able to attend both global events with the grant from the MEC. Both trips had a direct impact on our business. For example, at Medica, we started a business relationship with a new distributor from Saudi Arabia. This new partnership allowed us to enter into a new market and expand our presence in the Middle East.
Han: During my trip to Taiwan in January 2019 I had the opportunity to discuss with a mid-size, industrial automation company about our products. Due to IronCAD’s extremely productive assembly design software, precision robot simulation software, easy-to-use products and significantly lower price, the prospect company seemed a good fit in their robot manufacturing division and warehouse automation division. They immediately followed up by trying our product on cloud, as well as downloaded a 30-day trial version. The company also requested a training session to learn more about our product. We are in active discussion with this company.
Part of the reason we get this opportunity is due to referring to a successful sale into the industrial automation group of a multi-billion-dollar company in Taiwan. We went to visit the multi-billion-dollar company in Taiwan in 2017 using a grant from MEC/MEP program.
Mancosky: One of the main applications for our technology is for more efficient extraction of hops and other flavors for breweries. The MEC provided some critical funds when this application was just being launched that allowed us to attend a second tradeshow that year. That tradeshow not only provided a repeat business customer, but we also met Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco – an early adopter of the technology and a critical reference going forward.
Q: Has metro Atlanta as a region/marketplace contributed to your company’s success? How? Would you recommend the grant program to other companies looking to grow their exporting operations?
Keegan: Atlanta has contributed to our company’s success. Atlanta is a great place for business that offers convenient logistics and a friendly business community with many resources for small companies. Atlanta also offers a diverse talent pool that comes from the most advanced universities located in [the region], specifically in technology and science programs.
Han: Absolutely. The grant helped to pay some investments to grow export business. Without the grant we may not be able to invest in some of those opportunities. In addition, winning a grant from the program is a good credit point for IronCAD.
Mancosky: Our company has several Georgia Tech graduates, so metro Atlanta is in our blood. However, we also draw on other great resources such as the Georgia Department of Economic Development, who have made many great connections for us. Our patent attorney office, critical to our business, is also located in Atlantic Station. We're so happy we participated in the MEC, not only for the business it has provided, but also for the experience of the challenge process and the local connections it has given us.
Q: How does doing business at a global scale impact your business? Do you believe exporting in general is important to the local economy and bringing our region to the attention of the global market?
Han: Doing business at a global scale increased our revenue and balanced market dependency. Exporting is a critical revenue source of our company. It enables us to grow and hire more employees locally. We hired two new employees in 2018, two in 2019 so far, and plan to hire one more in 2019.
Keegan: Tecme relies heavily on exports since we operate in a very niche market. The new clients and deals we have made from exporting have allowed us to increase our sales and grow our company, creating more job opportunities. These are direct and indirect jobs that have a strong impact on our local economy.
Mancosky: We started exporting almost out of necessity during the economic downturn when many of our domestic projects became victims of spending freezes or outright cancellation. However, many of the markets that slowed here for our technology were still viable in other parts of the world. Exporting wasn't easy initially. There were language barriers, new partners, extra paperwork and logistics to overcome that weren't part of a regular domestic sale, but in those days, it was critical to paying the bills. Today, exporting is part of a healthy mix of diversified sales in both application and geography and allows us to sell the same product to a larger audience.
For more information on the Metro Export Challenge and ORBATL, please visit: https://orbatl.com/ or email Michael Theisen-Jones.