Paul Seed is the President and Co-Founder of StarTech.com – a London-based technology manufacturer specializing in connectivity parts for the IT industry.
You can learn more about their export success story here.
What was your first export sale?
An anti-glare screen we developed called the Monitor Docket to protect against glare and radiation. We first sold it in Taiwan more than 20 years ago.
How did that first export opportunity arise?
In my travels to Taiwan I noticed they looked at the screens a little differently than they did in North America. They viewed them a bit like a medical product because they were paranoid about electromagnetic radiation coming out of their monitors. We were already making these screens and selling them in Canada, so we developed the product to try to attach it to that market. At one point we were selling a container a month of these things to a distributor who was then selling them in Taiwan.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you had known then?
I wish I would have a looked at it a bit more from a long-term perspective, built out a little more of an export strategy. And I wish that I had realized earlier that the Canadian brand is as strong as it is and had taken advantage of that a little bit more.
How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
The world has become a lot smaller and people understand global products. Everyone has access to Amazon and they know what products are available in the marketplace and that makes international markets on a micro scale a lot more accessible.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
Understand your customer and how they are using your product. That way you can add value. Competitive advantage is coming more from that than from making a product. People can copy products almost in real-time now, so making a product creates less value than understanding the customer. People are still stuck on the idea that you have to be making something, but what you are manufacturing is value for your customers.