Impressions on the First US + Uruguay IT Business Forum
This past November 5th was the first CUTI US Business Forum (CBF for short) in Montevideo, Uruguay. CUTI stands for Cámara Uruguaya de Tecnologías de la Información (IT Uruguayan Chamber) the only chamber of its kind in Uruguay. This first edition of the CBF had the support not only from public and private companies but also from American and Uruguayan institutions, including embassies and ministries and had more than 800 attendees and 30+ sponsors including CISCO, Sabre, Hard Rock Cafe, HSBC, among other local IT firms.
Regarding its speakers, it included experts from the US and Canada, including Ryan Williams from SalesCollider, Mike Hennessey from PuenteLabs, Tony Duckett from xiBoss, Matt Reed from Clockwork, Matthew Poole from the US Embassy, among others.
To have a better understanding of the importance of the US – Uruguay IT business relationships, the US represents more than 60% of Uruguayan IT exports (according to figures from CUTI), which means hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and growing!
Lets discuss now which was the aim of the CBF:
Learn: there were may small and emerging IT firms, as well as young professionals, that attended CBF with a learning spirit. Learn about what? About how to do business with the US! To hear first-hand from American and Uruguayan business leaders. The openness of each and every panelist and keynote speaker was a perfect fit to learn from them and their experience.
Network: plenty of opportunities to network with other like-minded people, whether its on a coffee break, at lunch time at one of the many delicious food trucks, at the happy hour sponsored by Hard Rock Cafe, or just hanging around the booths/living room areas of the sponsor companies, the chances to meet and greet other people was huge.
Share: share experiences from business leaders about how they started selling to the US, how do they differentiate, how did they land and expand, how to get the first customers, what to keep in mind, and get tips from people that already made it into that market.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a panel discussion called “The ABC of doing business in the US”, as well as being part of the organizing committee of the CBF. The aim of this panel was to give attendees (around 100 people) a basic understanding of what it takes to sell IT services in the US, delivering nearshore from Uruguay. In this case I represented Conexio Group, of whom Arkano is one of the founding companies. I had the honor of co-founding Conexio Group in late 2013, backed by Arkano, Pyxis and UruIT (the three of them Uruguayan-based IT firms) and manage it until December 2018, when I stepped down from my CEO role to be Advisor to the Board. The other companies in the panel were BROS (represented by Christian Serron), OneTree (represented by Carlos Acle) and Codigo del Sur (represented by Nicolas Amarelle). The four of us sell IT custom development services (over different technologies, platforms and niches of course) mainly to US-based companies.
One of the most interesting thing about this panel was to acknowledge the different views and ways of starting and managing such a company. For example, several of us consider that traveling regularly to the US is a must, while one of them rarely does it, and ironically is the biggest of the four! Another difference was on how we started. In the case of Conexio, as just described, as the association of three different IT firms, while in other cases from the panel, the founder started as an individual freelancer/contractor who then hired more people. This diversity just speaks about the different ways a company can start, and that there’s no golden rule, apart from doing an awesome job for your clients.
Trying to summarize some takeaways from this first CBF:
- The US is by far the biggest market for Uruguayan IT firms and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
- There’s genuine interest in US firms and experts in knowing more about nearshore in general and Uruguay in particular.
- Canada (and Toronto in particular) presents a really interesting opportunity for Uruguayan firms to soft-land in North America, allowing them to serve both, Canadian-based companies as well as US ones.
- There’s more momentum in the shift of US-based companies from offshore to nearshore, which gives tremendous opportunities to LATAM IT firms.
- The match cannot be more clear: the US has the need for qualified people and has the resources to afford them, while we have the technical skills, the cultural fit (which greatly reduces communication friction) and we are very cost-effective.
Now, we will start working on the CBF 2020 so it will be bigger, better and even more productive than this one!
#CBF2019 #CUTI #Conexio #Arkano #DoingBusiness