Kitchener, Ontario-based technology company Bridgit created a smartphone management app for the construction industry. The company has seen U.S. sales take off. Mallorie Brodie, CEO of Bridgit, discussed the company’s success with ExportWise.
When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
It was early on, once we came out of beta (testing) for the product. We wanted to expand beyond the local set of customers. The U.S. seemed equally as feasible as a future market, as did other parts of Canada. Because the construction market in the U.S. is roughly ten times the size of Canada, we felt it was probably better to start trying to build-up our customer base there.
What was your export journey like to get to where you are today?
Pretty seamless. We’ve been able to maintain essentially all the same processes that we have for our Canadian customers. Support and sales look very similar and we haven’t had to change anything fundamental to be successful in the U.S. market.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country?
We’re able to spend a little bit more face-to-face time with our local customers and do a lot of research work with them. But now we’ve started to spend more time in the U.S. getting together with our U.S. customers, working with the software in concentrated cities. A lot of our PR strategy was focused on Canada, but now we’re getting more involved with some U.S. publications and trade associations.
Can you share a “best lesson learned” from a bad exporting experience?
Aside from figuring out some tax forms and logistics, it hasn’t been particularly difficult.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started exporting?
A lot of Canadian companies should probably make the move into the U.S. sooner than they think. It is faster for us to go to New York for a meeting than to fly out to the west coast of Canada, for instance. I think people feel like it’s going to be a more complicated process than it is, but that wasn’t our experience. If you’re working in an industry where the market is going to be significantly larger in the U.S., which is probably most sectors, then it’s worth taking that leap of faith earlier on rather than later.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?
Once you’re validated your product offering and you’re not in the experimentation or beta phase anymore, I’d say expand internationally sooner rather than later.
What is the one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?
A global mindset. You really can’t just be thinking about how you provide value to customers in your backyard. You need to be thinking on a much more macro level about the industry. Ultimately, if companies can start thinking about exporting early in the business, they can have much more ambitious goals for the company. If they figure out those key customers they could be working with in the U.S. or in other places abroad, they can get really ambitious with their overall growth targets.