TouchBistro was launched simultaneously in Canada and the U.S. in June 2011 as a solution for restaurants looking to speed up the time it takes to place and deliver orders. The point-of-sale software system was created by serial entrepreneur Alex Barrotti, who saw an international market for helping restaurants dive into the digital age.
Below, Barrotti talks about his export journey and how working outside of Canada has helped improve his business, while at the same time contributing to the local economy through jobs and investment.
When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
From day one. Because our product is an intangible export, there was no reason to confine it to Canada only.
What was your export journey like to get to where you are today?
Having the app available is one thing. Having official support, as we get critical mass, was the next major step. One of the benefits of creating our software for an open platform is that you leverage local access to the equipment. It’s not like 20 years ago when someone bought a point-of-sale system from a manufacturer, which included the hardware and software combined. Today, our customers buy the equipment, which in this case is the Apple iPad, and download our software. We aren’t’ moving hardware around, we just have to make the software to run on it.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country? How did you adapt to that difference?
As we’ve expanded to different countries, we’ve had to hire more people in our support centre who can speak different languages to handle their calls. That’s a benefit for employment in Canada.
What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/operations in Canada?
Having customers in different countries helps to improve our business. For example, New York is a very competitive market. A lot of people see it as the restaurant capital of the world. You can get every food group imaginable there. Working with customers in that environment makes us create a better product, period.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?
Don’t be afraid to compete globally. We have great technology in Canada, great talent and a strong capital and investment market. Take advantage of it. When we started, the majority of our sales in North American were in Canada and the other 30 per cent in the U.S. That has now flipped to 70 per cent in the U.S. and 30 per cent in Canada.
What is the one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?
Vision. You have to envision how your product is used in each market. When we started selling in Australia, for example, we had to integrate with the local payment system so our customers could process credit cards. In Mexico it was the same thing. Some features are more important than others, depending on where you go. Anticipate that.