As we have seen in previous articles, our Tech Centers are a new development which we at EU Tech Chamber are very excited about. The inspiration comes from the Hanseatic League which set up hubs around Europe for predominantly German merchants and traders to use as bases in the countries where they wanted to conduct business. They offered a collegiate sanctuary where the merchants could relax, talk to fellow German-speakers and work on their plans to find new customers and extend their range of contacts. And that’s exactly what we intend to offer with our 21st century Tech Centers, though our range is global, and the services we will provide to our European tech companies will be significantly more sophisticated!
We have made a start already with our Center in China, and of course, we have just seen our Virtual EU Tech Center come on stream (we hope our members are beginning to explore its possibilities). But our intention is to roll out actual centers in such developing economies as Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As we constantly reiterate our core values of Competitiveness, Sustainability and Growth drive all we do, but the mantra for each new Tech Center that we open will be; ‘Minimize costs, maximise sales, while providing the highest level of security’. How are we so sure businesses will want to use them? This article seeks to answer that question by giving a guided tour to what exactly is on offer – and what it will cost.
Let’s start with cost. Thanks to the great generosity of governments and individual donors from around Europe who are happy to fund our innovative and far-reaching plans, we can afford to give the services we provide for free! That is, until the participating company is well established and making a profit. And then, and only then, will we have the conversation and solicit a contribution to help the pave the way for the next cadre to use the Tech Center. And the beauty of the scheme is that even if we were charging for them, the services we provide would be very cheap for what they are, because they are shared, and so will be extremely cost-effective.
Each Center will work on the 8+1 model: eight services freely available to all under the same roof, and the ‘plus one’ is that office space itself. Limiting the number of participating members to thirty per Center, we can provide everything any business would require: Financial Services (to help set up bank accounts, credit cards etc), Registration Services (to set-up the legal entity of the newly arrived company), Training Services (to assist the settling in process), Supervision (which will be there throughout to deal with problems and difficulties as they may arise), Human Resources, Back Office and IT. And finally, we offer aid with Promotion.
All of these services are important, and each company will depend on them just as they would back at home. But Promotion is the key. There’s no point in establishing people up in a well-appointed and professionally supported office environment if they don’t start speedily setting out their stall and making their presence felt in the host economy. Promotion can go in one of two directions, Direct Sales and Indirect Sales. Direct Sales fall into two categories, on-line events and offline events.
EUTECH will help with these. We will be monitoring – and mentoring – throughout, will always be available for discussion and happy to give advice when required. However, participating companies will be completely independent, so they can choose which direction to take to promote their products and services. Indirect Sales similarly falls – perfectly logically – into two categories. We will establish a network of Distributors in each of the host territories. Some of them will be focussed on localities which they know well – and remember a country like China is vast, with eight huge regions – North China, East China, Central China, etc – and they don’t all do business in the same way, so local expertise is at a premium.
But then we also have a category of Industrial Distributors. These are people with industry expertise – so, banking distributors for bankers, agricultural experts for those aiming to penetrate agriculture, etc. Each of these distributors will have their own inside knowledge, and, crucially, their own networks of contacts to help facilitate speedy access to markets and to help achieve the target of becoming profitable.
The whole idea of the EU Tech Centers is to fast-track this process towards profit. And we can get our participating companies there so much faster and cheaper than they would get there on their own because the entire set-up is designed to drive down the cost. The shared services model is an extraordinary cost-cutter. Each year, there will be thirty companies arriving in the Center, served by a team of between twenty and thirty – secretaries, IT people, HR, etc. So twenty or thirty people keeping 30+ companies running smoothly and efficiently. Amazing! Especially when you consider that each of those companies, if working on their own, each with their own office and staff, would need around five people.
So working individually, only thirty companies would be employing at least 150 people to get the same outcome. We reckon that with overheads – rent, wages, utilities, IT, and all the other unavoidable costs of running an office, each of those companies would be looking at savings of between 100,000 – 150,000 € a year! And what do they pay if they are with us in the EU Tech Center? Apart from paying external costs e.g. fees for setting up their company in the host country and the wages of the one or two employees who will run their affairs, they will pay absolutely nothing! Scout the world, and you won’t find a better deal.
And in addition to all the help they get from EUTECH, both on the ground and from our HQ in Europe, they will help each other. As each participant finds their place in the local or national economy, they will make contacts and develop their own networks. They will meet business people outside their own particular sphere, but those may be just the people a colleague back at the Center would benefit from being introduced to. Each Center will recreate that convivial collegiate atmosphere that our predecessors enjoyed in the “Fondaco dei Tedeschi” on its magnificent site on the Grand Canal in sixteenthcentury Venice.
Too good to be true? It sounds that way, but it is already happening. Our first EU Tech Center is being built as you read this article but we haven’t waited for the building work to be completed. We’ve already started, in an office block in the locality, so the first of our participating companies are already benefitting from the EU Tech Center experience. And as word spreads, more will want to join them. But places will not be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. We will, unavoidably, have to subject would-be participants to a pretty thorough screening.
This is the first of six stages in our Program Implementation process and is designed to judge suitability by three main criteria: Market Potential, Tech strength – and here we are interested in the potential for global growth and development – and finally, Competitiveness. In other words, we have to be convinced that our chosen companies will be able to benefit from our help and support to make a competitive entry into a new overseas market, representing the very best of European technology. We want each to be a success – of course – but we also want them collectively to be the perfect ambassadors for European standards and values, so that those following in their footsteps will find it easier because their hosts will already expect and value European quality and reliability.
Companies can apply for a place in the EU Tech Center all the year round, and if the initial application warrants it, we will invite you for screening and appraisal. This takes around two weeks. The successful candidates are then launched on the programme which will eventually see them established in their own space in the Center on the other side of the planet. This takes time and hard work, but we will help all the way through.
To begin with there is the establishing of a wholly foreign enterprise to guarantee legitimacy in the new environment. We have help on the ground with that – a guide through the inevitable shoals of paperwork and any local hoops that will need to be gone through. This will take from two to four months. At the same time, you will be recruiting your own local representative who will be your employee in the EU Tech Center.
Obviously, he or she will need to be conversant with your line of business as well as a well-connected member of the local business community. Again, we will help identify the right person, check their credentials, set up digital meetings for interviews and so on. This shouldn’t take more than one or two months. This employee will be crucial in establishing your company in the ‘Incubator’ as we sometimes call the Tech Center.
They will need to get to know how everything works and crucially, the right people to ask for help. Again, everything will be done to make this phase as easy and stress-free as possible. Even before you are fully set-up, you can join the EUTECH Sales activities that run all the year round and will always be at your service as you put your business plan into action. We know that there are many businesses who like the idea of expanding into global markets but find the prospect daunting. They think, it’s only for the ‘big boys’, the multinationals, the global corporations.
To which we would reply: each of those global companies had to start somewhere, almost always with a small factory or a corner shop, or in a tiny office. And at some point someone had to take a risk, take a big decision, develop a bit of business wizardry – and now several generations later, they’re household names. It can be done.
And we in the EU Tech Chamber are offering something that is unique in concept and invaluable in practice – the EU Tech Center, which in time will support our European companies in penetrating new markets around the world. Come and join us!