Gigabyte-brained entrepreneurs seeking to tap foreign markets indeed have many tools at their disposal; ever-improving Web-based architecture is one that Baloff suggests keeping a particularly close eye on. Net hardware can also open the door for a variety of companies wanting to make an international name for themselves by introducing a new technological concept.
Introducing cutting-edge technology to a foreign market is exactly the path Ofer Gneezy, president and CEO of Burlington, Massachusetts-based VIP Calling, decided to take when he co-founded the company with Gordon VanderBrug in 1996. VIP Calling created software that allows it to transfer calls to a public telephone network and offer substantially cheaper rates than traditional carriers. In 1997, the company began using that technology to route international long-distance calls over the Internet. Now, it completes calls for major U.S. carriers and has established partnerships throughout Asia and Latin America, as well as offices in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Texas, New Jersey and California. In May alone, Gneezy's company handled more than 10 million minutes-worth of calls.
"The hardest part of getting started was convincing the companies our technology worked," says the 41-year-old. "There was a question of whether Internet telephony could deliver the quality of the traditional voice connection. We proved it could."
Developing new technology, though, is just one path to success for IT firms. Another is to take an improve an existing mouse trap, which is what Stampede Technologies Inc. president and CEO Gordon Dorworth did when he created TurboGold for Lotus Notes. Since then, the 46-year-old has created dial-up network software geared toward providing faster information access to mobile computer users, with more than 25 percent of his products headed overseas..
On the downside of the IT boom, Baloff and others advise American entrepreneurs to be careful not to repeat common mistakes, such as rushing into a foreign market before gaining enough experience at home, underestimating how much money they'll need, and trying to develop products for industries they don't really understand.