Ashley Zuelke is the Senior Advisor for Export Policy, Promotion and Strategy at the International Trade Administration.
Julia McNerney is the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary at the International Trade Administration.
Last week, the International Trade Administration (ITA) held the first event in the Startup Global Pilot program at 1776, a local business incubator in Washington, D.C. Startup Global, which Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker launched in February, was designed to help more startup firms think global from the earliest stages of a company’s growth. One of four in a series of pilot program educational events, the 1776 event welcomed 25 startups and experienced startup exporters. The participants all agreed that the theme of Thursday’s event is clear: start planning for international success on day one. The theme is important because:
- The world wants U.S. goods and services.
- Advances in technology and communications, as well as new assurances of e-commerce platforms that build trust between buyer and seller, mean that it is easier than ever for the 95 percent of consumers outside the United States to purchase from U.S. companies.
- Many technology-enabled businesses are in a reactive position when international sales opportunities or challenges arise, and don’t know where to start or who to go to for help.
At the cutting edge of commercial innovation, startups are the next generation of U.S. exporters. As a result, ITA is piloting Startup Global, an outreach and partnership development program launched under NEI/NEXT, the successor to the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI). The NEI/NEXT strategy coordinates federal programs and policies to help more U.S. companies begin exporting and expand to new markets by making it easier to get involved.
Startup Global is designed to provide focused assistance and information to early-stage companies by building partnerships with the United States’ unparalleled incubators and accelerators, which are key centers of gravity and trusted advisers in the startup ecosystem. Startup Global will produce half day educational seminars in partnership with local incubators and accelerators to cover the most-pressing issues startups face in the global business environment. At last week’s event at 1776, those topics included the path to going global, the availability of key federal and local government resources, and best practices in intellectual property protection and licensing.
Another theme realized at Thursday’s Startup Global pilot: assistance is available. Participants were enthusiastic to learn about federal government resources in their own backyard. They include:
- The International Trade Administration: with more than 100 offices across the country and Commercial Service Officers in more than 75 markets, ITA is a key source of business counseling, market research, business matchmaking, trade events, and knowledge regarding implications of foreign regulations.
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: has critical information for businesses on protecting their intellectual property.
- The Small Business Administration: has key trade business planning and financing resources for eligible companies.
In addition, courtesy of the Global Innovation Forum at the National Foreign Trade Council, participants heard about other available resources from leading private sector experts about doing business internationally.
In the upcoming months, the Department of Commerce will host pilot seminars in Arlington, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. These events will not only provide direct assistance and access to expertise, but also measure demand to inform the creation of a national initiative.
The pilot event at 1776 set a high bar and registered tremendous demand. ITA looks forward to additional insightful feedback from future seminars, and to supporting the next generation of globally fluent U.S. businesses.