Going global is a big step for your company. You’re interested in expanding to international markets and economies, while staying successful and avoiding risk. Before you make the leap, there are a number of factors to be considered. For example, you need to understand and be prepared to face challenges such as language barriers, taxes and tariffs, international shipping and banking, insurance, new competition, pace, and a variety of socio-economic differences. First, check your bookkeeping program. Do you have the funds to expand at this time?
In 2013, Ronen Benin created RightBlue Labs, a Toronto-based software company. The company created the app Logit, a tool to help people in high-stress roles train smarter and recover better by identifying patterns in their lifestyles that may be altered to reduce injury, illness, mental distress, and burnout. Logit has the potential to reduce attrition and improve performance in sport, the military, government services, and other related industries.
Ronen is travelling to Israel in September 2015 to represent Canada and RightBlue Labs at Start Tel Aviv, a global competition held by The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tel Aviv Global. The competition brings together technology startups from 21 different countries for a five-day experience in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a booming entrepreneurial ecosystem with venture capitalists, seed funding, accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, global events, and major international hi-tech startups.
In a recent interview with Startup Canada, Ronen shared the lessons he’s learned and advice he has for entrepreneurs looking to expand into global markets.
When did you start thinking global?
“We’ve been in operations for about two years in Canada and we’ve been getting significant traction, especially in the last six months, and we saw an opportunity there and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” said Ronen. “When we started the company, we wanted to expand globally and the opportunity presented itself with the Start Tel Aviv competition.”
Why did you apply for the competition?
“In addition to feeling that the time was right, I was actually born in Israel and I’ve always wanted to build a stronger bond between the Canadian and the Israeli startup community, since I first became a technology entrepreneur,” said Ronen. “The deadline for the application process was early June and we submitted our application just in time and that’s because my team was on me to get it in. It was a very busy time for us but it was something that they understood was important for us and I’m glad they did that.”
What was your inspiration for the app?
“My brother and I were former national swimmers. We’re in different age groups but when I was 15, 16, 17, I started burning out from the sport,” said Ronen. “We kept a physical training journal and when I retired from the sport I looked at my training journal and there was definitely things I could have done to avoid the burnout that I eventually sustained. With my brother, he swam throughout university and in his third year he started calling me on a regular basis. He was performing pretty well but he was telling me he was constantly getting sick and injured and didn’t know what to do. I came to London and looked through his training journal and low and behold, saw the same sort of patterns forming that I had. When I saw these issues I decided to create a software to bridge the communication gap between him and his coaches, who don’t have the time to read the journal on a daily basis.”
When is the right time for a startup to get involved with national or international competitions like Start Tel Aviv?
“Technology is a very interesting industry, where things happen very, very quickly, and even though we’ve been around for about two years, it’s only been the past six months that we’ve reached that influxion time where things really started taking off,” said Ronen. “In order to apply for these type of competitions, where there’s a lot of other people applying, you need a product that’s been validated. The pitch needs to be there, but most importantly, I think, and this you may not hear from other entrepreneurs, you need to be able to onboard clients. If you do end up succeeding and winning a competition, you need to know you’re able to deliver. We felt we were at that stage, where we felt we were able to deliver and that’s why we started applying.”
What are your three wishes for RightBlue Labs?
“I’d really like to start building my network out in Israel,” said Ronen. “That’s so, a) we can have a soft landing spot, because I think that’s a very strategic location for us in terms of research and development, and for access to mainly the European market; and b) part of building my network is meeting all the high-impact entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers in that community. I want to make sure I come away with a lot of contacts I’ll be able to leverage down the road. The second piece is to be able to sell the product into national sport federations and even in defence.”
Looking long-term, Ronen says expanding markets will also help RightBlue Labs source Series A round funding. “It’d be great to come back with a few term sheets.”
So if your startup is looking to tap markets overseas, it’s important to make sure your product or service is polished, proven, and ready to pitch. Be ready to deliver and prepared to make the leap when the time is right for you. Capitalize on opportunities (like international competitions) and leverage your connections abroad.
For RightBlue Labs, by travelling to Tel Aviv for the start up festival, Ronen and his team will have numerous opportunities to meet with other entrepreneurs, techies, designers, investors in one of the world’s growing hubs for technology startups.
Photo Copyright: Startup Canada