This is a review of last week’s Annual Conference by Mark Rodgers of Cipherion Translations. Mark is also chair of the IIA Internation Working Group. This review was originally published on his own blog and he very nicely (cos he’s a very nice chap) allowed us to republish it here. Thanks Mark!
IIA Annual Conference: Open Data, Cloud Computing and the Future for Irish Entrepreneurs
Cloud Computing and Open Data
A tech-conference in Dublin these days is not a conference without an appearance by Josh Holmes – Microsoft’s evangelist. And Josh didn’t disappoint either, with some wonderful insights into deep fried mars bars and other Arkansas delicacies. Tech-details aside, the convergence of cloud computing and open data is starting to show signs of becoming a reality, well done to IIA for showcasing the strategic nature of this convergence. Check out our thoughts on m-cloud.
Future for Irish Entrepreneurs – a European Content Hub?
The final panel discussion really started to spark the imagination. Neil Leyden, joint-winner of “Your Country, Your Call”, outlined his fantastic ideas and visions for an Irish Content Services Centre (ICSC) here in Dublin. In short, it’s the IFSC Part II.
However, instead of funds, Neil suggests that we focus on our unique position and ability to play a central role in Content distribution to the European market – and beyond. Disney (www.disney.com) , EA (www.ea.com) , Sony (www.sony.com) etc could all be invited to set up European “content” centres here in Ireland.
Constantin Gurdgiev loved the opportunity to speak publicly and not mention the words “bailout” or “crisis”! Instead he focused on the opportunities for organisations to develop new technologies, not based on a defined and known market, but more along the lines of: build it, go to market and try and sell it, take on customer feedback, modify the product or service and go to market again. The future is un-known, as soon as you do market research, it’s out of date!
This is real entrepreneurship – heading into the future, not certain of where or how you’ll get there but knowing that you have the people, tools, resources and abilities to get there. With a sprinkling of deep fried “self-belief”, as Josh might say.
So instead of spending your €1million of investment in technology, spend €250k on the sales channel and sales person… and spend the next €500k on upgrading and improving. “K”s can also be dropped above ; – ). A bit like the Japanese Kaizen approach.
This approach ties in very nicely to a current LinkedIN debate in the Irish Software Association group on how tech start-ups can find the right sales people. What’s emerging is that IRELAND INC, as a collaborative community, could be doing a better job at supplying already existing information and / or contacts and networks to our entrepreneurs – so that they are better equipped to face into what is ahead. Perhaps Michael Gerber’s “E-myth” be made mandatory reading before anyone sets up a business. In reading the book it becomes clear:
- Most businesses are set up by folks who know the “technology”, myself included.
- The more successful they get, the busier they become in delivering product / service
- This leaves a gap in the business: Who’s going to sell my services
- Sometimes this realisation comes too late: the business goes under
- Successful entrepreneurs either delegate the technical aspects or hire a great sales person
- All businesses are the same; all entrepreneurs are the same – only with different challenges.
- So let’s just recognise the problem, consult others to see if it’s valid, and change our approach.
In Ireland, there are ever more green shoots appearing. The harvest is still some time away.
However those that are just starting along the road to global success can learn from those who are one step ahead, those that are one step ahead can give back to those that are just starting. Just check the newspapers last weekend, the Turley brothers netted €80m for the sale of their business CarTrawler. One of the brothers was in sales, one was in operations – it works!
Mark Rodgers, chair of the IIA International Strategy Working Group and Director of Cipherion was a guest on yesterday’s Sunday Business Show presented by Conall Ó Móráin. You can listen to all of yesterday’s show on the Sunday Business Show site or you can subscribe in iTunes. It’s a show filled with many gems so I would recommend it.
Here is the excerpt with Mark speaking with Conall Ó Móráin about internationalising your business online.
The IIA International Strategy Working Group have created another case study. This time IIA Member Company Pigsback.com is featured. Jonathan Kyle of IIA Member Company Greenjobs.ie interviewed Michael Dwyer, CEO of Pigsback last December.
Dwyer shares some interesting insights about how having founded Pigsback in 2000 it turned out that the Dot Com Crash was not all bad for their company
as it allowed us to bring the Irish business to profitability and it also let us ensure that our product offering and business structure were strong enough for overseas expansion.
A salutary tale for the times we’re living in!
He also talks about what the company learned from their expansion into the very different markets of the UK and Canada.
Access the Internation Strategy Working Group’s resources to download the PDF and other case studies from the group.
The IIA International Strategy Working Group have released another great case study. This one focuses on MUZU.TV which frequent readers of this blog and our site will know were chosen as the 2009 Overall Net Visionaries. You can download a PDF of this case study from the Resources section of IIA.ie. One of my favourite parts of this case study was the response to the question:
What is the advice you would give companies starting out on Internationalization?Buy a suitcase, register for air-miles.
There is plenty of other insights into the strategy of this fascinating company who were “born global” as Caelen King from our previous ISWG Case Study on RevaHealth.com described his company.
This case study was compiled by Jonathan Kyle of IIA Member Company Greenjobs.ie. (who incidentally also won a Net Visionary award for 2009 Internet Entrepreneur!)
Did I totally rob that title from somewhere else?
The International Strategy Working Group had a very successful event last week about Winning International Business with the Web last week. You can find the event presentations in Resources section of IIA.ie and great post from Una Coleman here on the brill new Bloggertone about the key lessons from the day.
To support and continue advising businesses planning to go global the International Strategy Working Group (ISWG) are preparing a series of fact sheets, kicking off with the IIA Quick Fact Finder: Channel Partner Management For International Markets which is now available in the ISWG section of IIA Resources. This will be available to all for two weeks only and then will become a members resource.
Case study compiled by the IIA International Strategy Working Group reviewing the success and experience of Irish based entrepreneurs internationalizing their Businesses.
This case study is also available to download as a a PDF from the Resources Section of IIA.ie
Caelen King, interviewed below, is confirmed as a speaker in the IIA International Strategy Working Group’s upcoming event. Information about this event will be made available as the details are confirmed. Please see our events page or sign up for our Monthly Digital Digest and regular Events Alerts.
RevaHealth.com is a healthcare search engine – a web portal gathering and providing information about health clinics around the world, displayed comparably. In e-business terms, it is a pure play business – a company that originated and does business purely through the internet. There are lower barriers to entry but the internet affords smaller companies the ability to compete with much larger brands due to typically lower overhead and marketing costs.
Its revenue generating customers are health clinics, such as dentists, cosmetic surgery, medical tourism, laser eye care, chiropractors, fertility treatment to mention a few. Through the RevaHealth portal, clinics all over the world can have their services listed. The benefits to the customer are:
- Lead generation
- Building their brands online
- Savings in time and money
RevaHealth also takes care of the ultimate customer. The patient search is made easy. In the offline world, customers approach to information gathering is interruption based and time restricted. The prospective client rings the clinic, is often put on hold, asked to ring back later, or given information based on the time the clinician has between patients. And, it all happens during clinic hours as opposed to at the customer’s convenience. RevaHealth’s domain rich portal provides the customer with all the information he/she needs right there and then. It is a 21st century proposition responding to the demands of today’s customers.
RevaHealth has already aggregated all the relevant information for the patient by checking the clinics’ own websites: for instance to determine if they advertise their prices – they even phoned some clinics to see if they have parking, and they let patients share their experiences of the clinic. RevaHealth are experts in SEO and SEM (search engine optimization and search engine marketing).
RevaHealth is the technical online marketing partner of health clinics globally. It was set up in 2007 and now has over 110,000 clinics in 99 countries listed.
- Why internationalize – what were the drivers?
- the productization of healthcare,
- a growth in medical tourism,
- a socialized healthcare environment,
- demands by the consumer for greater choice and information,
- a fragmented market place.
- What markets did you focus on?
- What needed to be in place?
- A good enough back-end system.
- “A sound Business Plan that we returned to and iterated as our market knowledge grew”.
- No sacred cows: the business model evolved and significantly changed in the first trading year.
- What were the main challenges / obstacles? How did you overcome them?
- What activities were most successful in achieving success?
- Measuring everything.
- Following up on leads.
- Assessing the leads as prospects or not.
- Learning how to identify a “hot” clinic.
- What are your most effective routes to market and why?
- How did you win your first client?
- How influential was winning your first client in developing the market?
- What marketing initiatives have you used to support your internationalization?
- What were the key learnings? (legal, tax, language, culture)
- If you were doing it again, what would you do differently?
- What is the one piece of advice you would give companies starting out on internationalization?
RevaHealth was “Born Global” a term used to describe small technology oriented firms, targeting niche global markets as opposed to wide international markets and many industries, with little or no domestic market. The international experience of the founders weights heavily on the success of such companies.
RevaHealth’s proposition from the start was to become a global player. Its market opportunity in Ireland was always going to be small. It has operated in the international space from the start.
Caelen King also fits the profile to lead a “Born Global” company. He has previously worked with Baltimore Technologies, one of Ireland’s internationally successful indigenous technology companies.
A number of key market factors and drivers combined to create the opportunity for a new business offering to healthcare clinician providers:
The global healthcare market size is greater than €6 trillion.
RevaHealth selects territories based on market research and assessment. This is primarily desk research that it completes inhouse. It has broken down its markets as follows:
It also looks at markets where it can add value. Based on the outcome of its market research, it scrapes data from the web on local clinics to post on its site. For example, take a look at their list of plastic surgery clinics in the UK or dentists in the UK. “Traffic comes to our site in unpredictable ways” according to Caelen King. Understanding the value in a territory is a discovery process. “Hot spots” emerge. A market is formed when consumer traffic reaches a critical level.
Human Resources: recruiting and attracting staff. It was not about the money. It was a challenge to attract seasoned and experienced staff on both the sales and technical side: to bring that mature level of expertise to jump-start the business. Seasoned and experienced people were not interested in giving up job security and stability to join a start-up. The entrepreneurial drive exhibited by early stage applicants was low.
Revahealth went to the universities and sought graduates hungry to learn in a short period of time, in an entrepreneurial environment. Now, its growing public profile in the Irish market place, particularly in the technology community and the positioning of its founder, Caelen King, as an online technology guru, guarantees interest from prospective employees for the future.
Competition (lack thereof): “We didn’t have any real competitors in our space. In fact we would have almost paid for serious competition.” Competitors not only validate a business proposition and market – they also help build it. “We were bringing something new to our niche. Our clients and prospects were unfamiliar and wary of the model. We didn’t have the actual business case to substantiate our proposition. It was theoretical”.
“We gave away stuff for free. We clearly articulated this was another route to market for our clients – we would not be cannibalizing their existing business. We provided compelling feedback and demonstrated measurable ROI (return on investment)”.
Building domain knowledge: RevaHealth differentiate itself from other information portals through focusing on a niche and really understanding that niche. Its travel budget is spent almost entirely on building domain expertise about the territories in which it operates.
Initially, it had to pay for traffic to the site through google ads. SEO initiatives can take up to 18 months to build decent google ranking. Now, it has almost no google ad campaigns.
The sales process is roughly 2 months with 4 – 6 phone calls and 4 – 6 emails. Its sales staff are 3rd level graduates, young, smart and tech savvy. They are Dublin based and they speak at least two languages.
All sales activities are measured and visible. Peer performance is a good motivator. The key driver in the sales process is early completion.
RevaHealth is now looking at identifying Channel Partners as a route to market to support its sales and market growth objectives.
RevaHealth’s first client came about from a Belgian customer query about weight loss. The €500 spent on champagne celebrating that first and early win (after the site was up for just 3 months) far outweighed the €10 subscription fee. The client is still with them, now on an annual subscription of €1,500.
More than anything else, it gave the team a great confidence boost at that early stage. It also validated the business model, provided the business case and reference site to attract new customers. Winning early was enormously influential.
In the tradition of a pure internet play business, most of RevaHealth’s marketing is online: SEO and SEM with metrics underpinning all activities. Google is the 2nd most trusted form of information for consumers. Link building is also a key marketing task.
It is now looking at Channel Partners as a route to market and is starting to create marketing material to support its positioning as online technology experts delivering niche business processes to business driven healthcare providers. This will be a mix of offline and online marketing.
RevaHealth uses social networking platforms. Follow @revahealth & @phil_revahealth on twitter: it uses its blog, http://blog.revahealth.com/ to comment on technical issues and build its profile as online business process experts.
It has not localized either its website or marketing materials. However, all its sales staff speak at least two languages.
Concentrate on what you need today rather than focus on building for tomorrow.
The earlier and more frequent you make those sales calls the earlier revenue flows: the earlier you have reference sites to leverage and the sooner you learn and adapt the business model to client and market needs the more successful you will be.
As an international online business relationships are different. However, a lot can be done over the phone. While a script can be an aid to the sales staff, calls are almost never the same. Hire smart people, provide them with support and an environment to learn and be successful.
Stop worrying about the long-term and focus on what’s needed now.
Pick up the phone and make the sales calls – in volume and frequently. Close the deal in the shortest time.
 Web scraping transforms unstructured web content, (in HTML format for instance), into structured data that can be stored and analyzed in a central database. Web scraping is also related to web automation, which simulates human web browsing using computer software.
Case study put together by the IIA International Strategy Working Group reviewing the success and experience of Irish based entrepreneurs internationalizing their businesses
Synopsis of company
Mathieu Gorge is CEO of VigiTrust, a specialist solutions provider in security assessments, compliance and security e-learning. Founded in Dublin in 2003 by Mathieu, VigiTrust is rapidly building a global reputation as a niche leader specialising in Cyber-crime, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and ISO 27001 focusing on human aspects of security including social engineering and awareness training. VigiTrust already works with and leverages references from Blue Chip clients. It advises numerous tier 1 banks and retailers as well as government departments on how to design, develop and implement durable security strategies. Mathieu’s articles are published in the ISSA Journal and Computer Fraud Security Journal
VigiTrust is based in Dublin with US offices in NYC.
1. Why internationalise – what were the drivers?
A desire to be an entrepreneur
Mathieu’s and VigiTrust’s story is not unlike many other entrepreneurs and start-ups. He had an overriding drive to set-up his own business, coupled with a passion to bring something new to the security market. He had spent several years in the corporate world, acting as a sales person, project manager and product manager in the security re-selling space building a reputation as an industry expert.
Responding to market demands
VigiTrust started out as a service provider, with a focus on data protection. Back in 2003, there was much less emphasis on data protection, more on firewalls and anti-virus software and solutions. As Mathieu leveraged his existing network and reputation, he quickly found he and VigiTrust were being sucked back into the security re-seller space. It would take another few years for the market to mature to the point where VigiTrust could offer a differentiated service around its initial ambitions for data security.
A global play
In the meantime, VigiTrust was generating revenue and gaining a reputation as a thought leader. VigiTrust was delivering security workshops in Dublin and London and consulting on governance and compliance.
At the same time, the market was moving to greater demands for governance and compliance – driven in the very early years by the Worldcom and Enron scandals, more recently the Bernard Madoff debacle. It was clear that VigiTrust would need to have a global reputation and be a global player if it was to be successful in this space and give itself a future exit option. The US was leading the field of governance and compliance: it would be a key market within which to gain a reputation as a solutions provider and the launch pad into other countries.
As the business model matured, VigiTrust exploited the opportunity to productize its offering through its e-learning tools and build real IP (intellectual property) in the company.
2. How did you win your first client? How influential was winning your first client in developing the market?
Winning that all important client (not necessarily the first client) was enormously influential in setting VigiTrust on the path to internationalization and success. Like many others before, it was down to a mix of previously established reputation, hard work and luck. In 2004 it won a tender with the Dept. of Justice, which opened up a lot of doors. In mid 2005, a small German company was looking for security experience to manage the inherent dangers of using multi-functional printers. Mathieu’s reputation and google key word search won VigiTrust the gig. As it turned out this company was the path to VigiTrust’s first multinational, corporate client, HP. A one day consulting contract with HP quickly lead to 100 days to eventually allow VigiTrust to becoming HP’s Imaging and Printing Group de facto external security consultants. At one of those early meetings with HP EMEA, one of the HP IPG’s senior executives said to Mathieu, “This is going to be very successful for your company”.
“Success brings success”, says Mathieu Gorge. VigiTrust leveraged the HP client reference which then helped it win a contract with MasterCard in New York.
3. What needed to be in place?
- A differentiator: technology and subject matter expertise. It’s important to identify your USP (unique selling point).
- Positioning as a thought leader with deep experience in the security field.
- A strong understanding of the competitive environment: your ideal and “no go” customers: the decision makers and decision making process.
- A relevant market offering.
- An understanding of one’s strategic position.
- Understanding the requirement to think about strategic development whilst progressing on day-to-day basis at a tactical level (long term vs short-term goals and ambitions)
4. What were the main challenges / obstacles?
Lack of experience as an entrepreneur and in running a business.
5. How did you overcome them?
Tapping into all the support structures and expertise that is available in Ireland: Enterprise Ireland, Dublin Enterprise Board (mentoring and coaching), Dublin BIC.
6. What activities were most successful in achieving success?
Mathieu is an evangelist for the work of EI and believes the Irish brand, particularly in the space of security and e-learning, positions Ireland (and Irish companies) on the global map for expertise.
7. What are your most effective routes to market and why?
Growth for VigiTrust is predicated on building sales through local Channel Partners. While VigiTrust’s current model has the opportunity of being a pure internet play – doing business through the internet, enabled by web-based applications and SaaS (software as a service), a sales process supported by reputation, client references, white papers, webinars, web demos, VigiTrust believes that it will need to have a physical presence in each of its key markets to substantially build its revenue and support its Channel Partner Distribution model.
The Channel Partners will give you the cultural plug-in.
8. What markets did you focus on?
As previously noted, the US is a key market for VigiTrust. It now has a sales office in New York.
Even though Mathieu is French, he says Enterprise Ireland’s support, in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Paris, has opened the French market much more so than his French nationality.
Contrary to popular perception, VigiTrust has not found the UK an easy market to penetrate. This is not least due to strong competition and limited resources to dedicate to opening up and maintaining a presence in several countries at this stage in its maturity. VigiTrust believes that the decision making process and buying patterns in the UK are different to that of other western countries.
9. What were the key learnings? (legal, tax, language, culture)?
As a small, but growing company, managing marketing materials and websites in several languages is difficult. For now, VigiTrust’s main website and marketing material is in English, with front page local language websites to come shortly in French and German. This includes website translation (at a minimum), localised sales and marketing materials, local SEO, creation of press packs etc.
Mathieu delivers his conference presentations in English and French. For German speaking audiences he uses slides in German and delivers either in German or English. He can participate in conference Q&A in these 3 languages. He believes this gives him a cultural edge.
Channel Partners (CP)
One must be committed to one’s CPs. Continual training and support of the CP is essential as is a CP programme. Mathieu praises Dublin BIC for the support they give them in developing a CP programme.
It is easier to recruit CPs when you have reference clients in their respective markets.
The exchange rate can have an impact on one’s sales and marketing budget and the opportunity cost of opening up new markets: eg UK is now more cost-effective to target as it was when exchange rate was GBP 1 = 1.5 Euro. Young organizations need to understand the opportunity cost and not just focus on the size of the market.
Finance & accounting
Get yourself a good management account: an outsource model works well. You must understand the tax system (in different countries).
Cash is king. Having an early understanding of accounting is valuable – P&L, Balance Sheet, Cashflow statements.
The importance of having a Business Plan from the outset and revising at least yearly.
Scale and market credibility
In the US, large buyer organizations like to meet their supplier shareholders. If you are a HPSU, (High Potential Start-up) with EI as a shareholder, use it!
10. What marketing initiatives have you used to support your internationalization?
Building a public profile
Much of Mathieu’s marketing efforts were focused on writing articles and white papers (in English, and French – 2 languages in which he is comfortable), attending conferences, and eventually, being invited to present at conferences in the US, UAE, Hong-Kong, Germany, France, the UK and Ireland.
Participating in the right networks
It’s easy to waste time in the early days networking in the wrong places. Identify the business and subject matter networks for your industry: for instance the PCI council (there are only 3 or 4 Irish members – 79 in Europe).
The Irish American business community and networks are very powerful.
Leveraging client references and testimonials
Some SEO activity in local markets.
11. What advice would you would give companies starting out on internationalization?
- Recognise where you don’t have skills: work with people who’ve done it before.
- Be mindful of what is realistic for you to achieve.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices but be aware of the impact of your entrepreneurial zealousness on your family and personal relationships: understand family obligations.
12. What are your future plans with respect to internationalization?
VigiTrust has identified its Tier 1 markets as: US and Canada to be followed by Tier 2: UK, Germany and France and Tier 3: Brazil and Australia.
It already has sales and clients in the US, Canada, Ireland, Germany and France.
VigiTrust is building an international business to give itself a 3 year exist strategy.
The IIA International Strategy Working Group had their inaugural meeting last month and they were straight out of the starting blocks!
Many Irish organisations are already generating significant revenues from International markets, but could we help you improve on this and how are you performing compared to the market?
The IIA International Strategy Working Group will be holding a seminar in the Autumn to help organisations better tap into international revenues using the Internet. In advance of this seminar, called “Growing international revenues using the Internet”, we are looking to identify how we can best meet your areas of interest. It would be great if you could complete our short survey.
Your responses are private and anonymised and will only be used by the IIA and the working group for this purpose.
Check back later in the summer for more details of this event. The Working Group will also post here regularly to keep you updated.
A guest post from Mark Rodgers, Chair of the International Strategy working group and Managing Director of Cipherion Translations outlining how the first meeting went.
The IIA’s International Strategy Working Group kicked off last week with our first meeting in the Digital Hub. It was duly noted that everyone turned up for the WG meeting on probably one of the hottest evenings of the year in Dublin. Managing to finish the meeting having overrun by a mere 30 minutes ensured that focus was maintained: keep it simple, just do what needs to get done.
The brightest hope for Irish organizations at the moment is to develop a more international strategy and start seeking new markets abroad. In fact many Irish organizations are already operating internationally – from Ryanair to the mom&pop craft organizations that sell into the USA. It’s no revelation to most that the internet is really making it a lot easier for Irish organizations to do business internationally – and this working group aims to bring some of that knowledge and information to a wider IIA audience.
Member of the working group include Una Coleman (Codega Consulting), Jonathan Kyle (Greenjobs.ie), Cathal Cronin (Realex Payments), as well as Eoin O’Siochru (Enterprise Ireland’s E-Business unit), Stephan Brennan (The Digital Hub Development Agency) and myself from Cipherion Translations.
We’ll be kicking off with a survey of members in August on what information / training members are seeking to help make the process of targeting international markets at a lot easier. We’ve already plans afoot for a Breakfast Seminar in October as a well as an Easy-To-Use-Guide that’ll have all the necessary information to help organizations take the next steps in reaching wider global audiences. Others have done it and it isn’t hard.
So keep an eye out for our activities, read about us online and if you have some experience or interest, get in touch with Roseanne, IIA Membership Manager.