learn | plan | execute | rinse & repeat

Export Resources

“Global growth can be both daunting and rewarding. Here are the steps to take, the mistakes to avoid, and the basics of exporting and importing.”

“Risk vs reward.  From chasing too many opportunities to the cost of local regulation, international expansion has many threats that domestic-only businesses often don’t see.”

Global Opportunity

1 %
more profit

Companies that export are more profitable than those that don’t. Tap into economies of scale and benefit from larger markets, cheaper cost of capital while diversifying risk.

$ 0 B
ict export volume

In 2016, Canada’s exports of information and communication technology sector services were $10.9 billion.

2 x
women-owned exports

In Canada, the proportion of Women-owned exporting SMEs doubled from 2011 to 2017, rising to 15% of all SME exporters.

TRADE DIVERSIFICATION

Did you know?

Trade diversification is also an important mandate for Canada as a whole, with the Government of Canada planning to achieve 50% more exports by 2025. It has never been a better time to diversify globally, especially as a technology company: Canada has 14 free trade agreements with 51 countries, 36 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs) and many more negotiations in progress around the globe.

Canada has always relied on exports as a pillar of its economy. As a net exporter, from natural resources and commodities to now technology, it’s beneficial for today’s founders and leaders to recognize the importance of global opportunity. In 2016, Canada’s exports of information and communication technology sector services were $10.9 billion.

With global internet and mobile trends on the up, Canadian fintechs have a tremendous opportunity and role to play in shaping an inclusive, productive and multi-bottom line digital future.

Steps for Exporting Successfully

While scaling up is unique to each company, there are characteristics and milestones that are shared between all successful export companies. With the flexibility of today’s remote workplaces and decentralized team structures, expanding internationally is no longer limited to large well-funded organizations. There are of many challenges as well, but like most strategic decisions, it’s important to weigh the cost-benefit trade-offs.  Generally, each of the following steps need to be taken (not in this particular order): 

 

Before any planning takes place, it’s a good idea to assess your company’s export readiness for entering a new international market, expanding into additional markets, or taking on more challenging, high-growth export markets. A few key questions to think about and discuss with your leadership team include:

    • Does your company have a successful track record of selling to domestic markets? What target audience(s) already use your product or service? If your product or service is novel in the Canadian marketplace, you may be better off focusing on domestic sales first. 
    • What are your expectations for exporting, and is the leadership team committed to developing export markets through dedicated time and resources? A solid understanding of what is required to succeed in the international marketplace will go a long way in saving time and money.
    • Does your company have the financing required for exporting? A big hurdle for many companies are the costs associated with international business development, market research, business training and understanding the legal and tax implications of exporting.
    • Do you have the human capital required for increased production? It’s important to be able to meet demand and respond quickly to customer inquiries, in addition to any language or cultural modifications needed for your product or service.
    • Is your intellectual property protected both domestically and internationally? Most company patents are only in North America, so it’s important to do your research beforehand. 
    • Do you have the logistics infrastructure to support international delivery? Do you require a local salesperson or other local representation in new markets?
    • How will you ensure success in a new market where your competitors may already be dominant? It’s important to clearly define your unique advantage, do thorough market research and develop a strong market-entry strategy. 

 

Several government websites include helpful export readiness quizzes and assessments, such as the Canadian Trade Commissioners’ export quiz and the US International Trade Administrations’ exporter assessments for new, expanding and experienced exporters.  

Market research is vital for any successful export plan. You can approach this by starting with specific countries or by your specific industry sector. It’s important to make sure your sources of research are credible and up to date, especially for new emerging markets like fintech. In general, this process identifies new or emerging markets for export opportunities and uncovers a wealth of insights of potential customers. Ideally you should conduct both primary and secondary research on potential new markets. 

 

The international market research process generally consists of the following steps:

    • Screen and shortlist potential new markets
    • Assess target markets
    • Make decisions on a target country (or countries)

 

It can be beneficial to rank each target market on a set of factors such as:

    • Economic conditions and growth (general and industry specific)
    • Political stability and specific industry regulations
    • Trade relations with Canada and in general
    • Cultural differences and norms
    • Ease of access geographically

 

The fintech sector is a highly regulated space and subject to each region’s governing bodies, whether in banking, securities, transactions or digital identity. Extra attention will need to be given to the specific regulations and trends for each country – sometimes this means having to be creative in your export plan, such as licensing, profit sharing agreements or joint ventures.

 

A helpful resource is the Canadian Trade Commissioners’ Spotlight on Market Research, which includes a step-by-step process to conducting good market research and highlights specific methods. Most fintech ecosystems globally have one or more industry and community organizations, which can be a useful resource and potential local partner. There are also many specific country reports and sector guides, which can be found in the Resources section.

Any kind of growth requires financing, and exporting is no exception. The more regionalized and customized your product or service is, the more funding you will require. Several financing options are available through equity, debt and grants (see specific export funding programs in the Resources section). 

 

In Canada, the main export funding programs available for fintech companies are:

    • CanExport for SMEs: Up to $75,000 in funding to cover up to 75% of your international market development activities. Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may choose up to (5) export markets to target, where your company has no or minimal business. 
    • CanExport Innovation: Up $75,000 in funding for Canadian innovators who aim to commercialize new technologies. Initiatives are to establish new R&D collaborations with foreign partners to co-develop, validate or adapt their technologies for commercialization.
    • BDC business loans: Financial support and advice for SMEs in all industries and at every stage of growth.
    • Export Development Canada: Financing and insurance solutions for your company’s international transactions. Export Development Canada manages and takes on the risk, making it safer for Canadian businesses to grow beyond our borders.
    • EUREKA Program (through National Research Council Canada): EUREKA is an international network for market-driven industrial R&D that includes over 40 economies from the EU, Europe, Israel, South Korea, and now Canada. Projects are financed through national public and private funding mechanisms, including NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) for Canadian SMEs.

 

There are also several provincial and regional funding programs, which you can find on the Funding and Support page of the Canadian Trade Commissioner website.

The key question here is to figure out if you have the surplus production capacity or available specialists to meet increased demand. This often requires going back to your business plan and adapting it as an export plan: identify your target market(s), export goals, necessary resources and anticipated results. 

 

For many tech companies, increased production may translate into additional server storage, but a tailored marketing plan for exporting is key to ensure success. Think of it as relaunching your business for the first time – how will customers in a new region get to know your company? Before you land your first international customer, you’ll need a strong plan that answers the following:

    • What are the characteristics of your target market?
    • Where are your target customers located?
    • What strategies do your competitors use to acquire customers?
    • What is your company’s marketing strategy, and how does it differentiate?
    • What tactics should your promotional strategy use?
    • How should you adapt your existing marketing materials, or even your product or service?
    • How should you adapt international pricing and taxes?
    • How will your product or service be shipped to customers?
    • Will you require international distributors or resellers?
    • Are there strategic partnerships that can complement your product or service?
    • What is the customer support experience like for international customers?

 

For fintech companies that are shipping physical product, there are also international trade regulations, export permits and documentation that will be required. You can learn more about international shipping here.

Understanding the legal requirements and implications for international trade is critical during the planning phase, before you start any export plans. Any international contractual agreements are more complex than domestic ones, as words can often mean different things regionally. It’s also imperative to identify which is the “proper law” when more than one country is involved – this should be established early on for both parties. Finding a legal professional who specializes in international trade can help prevent a lot of missteps.

 

Other specific information about the different types of laws to be aware of:

 

    • Contract laws for goods and services: Contracts for sales of goods are generally quite straightforward, covering the sale of goods involves transferring, or agreeing to transfer, goods to a buyer for a sum of money. There are often specific clauses for transfering ownership, delivering goods, acceptance or refusal of goods and unpaid seller rights. Contracts for sales of services, however, can range from a handshake to pages of legal and technical specifications. Whatever the agreement, both parties should have the same understanding of the exact service(s) to be provided, resources who will be providing the service, facilities available to the client, start and end dates, payments to be made, situations where the contract may be terminated and implications for any work already completed, conditions for holdbacks, dispute resolution and more.
    • Meeting international standards: There are international standards for almost everything, so exporters need to ensure that they comply with the standards in their target market. Adopting these standards helps increase your company’s competitiveness and can save time in communicating technical information. You can learn more about standards on the Standards Council of Canada’s website, which includes accreditation programs and region-specific standards. If you are exporting physical goods, you also need to be aware of Canada’s exporting regulations, such as relevant business licenses, permits, restricted items, economic sanctions, etc. Check the Canadian government’s Exporting Regulations page for a guide for processes and requirements.
    • Protecting IP rights: Even if you’ve patented or trademarked your technology in Canada, you will need to seek out similar protection in your target markets. A good starting place is to familiarize yourself with intellectual property law basics, develop an IP strategy including taking stock of current IP assets, search international IP databases and consult with an IP professional or lawyer to formally protect your IP rights. They can help prevent common pitfalls of exporters, such as not covering IP issues in contracts with distributors or outsourcing partners or infringing others’ IP rights in a new market. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) helps companies seek patent protection in over 140 countries concurrently. The Government of Canada has also published a helpful guide for exporters to protect their IP.
    • Resolving disputes: Consult with a lawyer familiar with your target markets’ contract laws, as many issues can arise in international trade disputes. In some cases, arbitration or alternative dispute resolution may be an option. You can find out more on Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Dispute Settlement page. Taking preventative measures to avoid conflicts is always preferred, so it’s a good idea to follow Responsible Business Conduct (doing business responsibly in an economic, social and environmentally sustainable manner). In January 2018, the Government of Canada announced new measures to strengthen its approach to Responsible Business Conduct to help keep Canadian companies at the forefront of responsible business practices abroad. You can learn more about this in their Spotlight on Social Responsibility.

Resources and Guides

Below you’ll find a list of helpful resources and links on successful exporting, international business and support for Canadian fintech companies:

missing a link or want to share?

Email us at info@ncfacanada.org for any other useful links you think we should add.

Subscribe to NCFA's Newsletter

First Name

Last Name

Email *