From the December 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

So you're finally ready to tap the worldwide market. But what's the international demand within your industry? We asked several experts for their views on the top global opportunities, and they agreed the following three have a lot of international potential:


Christopher D. Lancette is an Atlanta-area freelance journalist who covers international business for a variety of local, national and international publications.

Infrastructure

Ruth Stanat, CEO of SIS International Research in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sees a need for infrastructure worldwide. "Many countries are focused on improving their infrastructure," says Stanat. "This creates opportunities for small companies that qualify to be a part of infrastructure construction."

Leigh Phipps of ARCADIS Geraghty & Miller, a global environmental and engineering consulting firm in Denver, shares that view. "Outside the Third World and developing countries, almost every nation is dealing with the issue of replacing aging infrastructure," says Phipps. While developed countries need services such as building prisons or treating waste water, Third World countries tend to skip steps. (For example, residents use cell phones rather than waiting for improved wired phone line service.) Consequently, it's risky to work with these countries.

The key to success is specialization. A number of countries look to the United States for firms that offer advanced technology and specialization. Phipps says her international company uses smaller, specialized companies all the time. "Even a company as large as ours isn't going to have people with every single specialty," she explains.

IT/Telecommunications

"Investment in telecommunications technology is hot everywhere, especially in emerging nations," Stanat says. "Third World countries have a terrific need for communication devices so they may be linked to the rest of the world."

Statistics back her up. The American Electronics Association (AEA) reports that U.S. high-tech exports exceeded $165 billion last year. (See "Global," September.) Of that, $26 billion went to Canada, while $18.3 billion was shipped to Mexico, making these two countries the largest individual buyers.

IT consultant Harry Sello points to several specific opportunities. "One is software designed for the general consumer rather than for organizations' internal use," he says. "There's also huge demand, especially in Europe, for personal hardware--things like personal digital assistants." (For details, visit the AEA Web site at http://www.aeanet.org.)

Medical Devices

"Most knowledgeable health-care professionals around the world look to America as a leader in innovation," says Steve Northrup, executive director of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association. "The United States is one of the few areas in the world, if not the only one, that has an entrepreneurial medical-device sector." He points out that two-thirds of the 7,000 medical-device companies in the United States have 50 or fewer employees. Also, the Health Industry Manufacturers Association cites that some $147 billion is spent on health-care technical products around the world; $85 billion of that is spent outside the United States.

No wonder medical-device firms are doing business overseas. Says Northrup, "Demand is growing worldwide. Latin America and Asia are two of the biggest growth areas, but you should be aware of the economic instability in those markets."

Gabriel Spera, editor of the online trade publication Medical Device Link, sees opportunities in Southeast Asia and Europe. "Southeast Asia needs straight commodity goods, like blood bags, tubings and needles," says Spera. "In Europe, you'll find a sophisticated market looking for high-end technologies, such as robotically assisted surgical systems."

Next Step

Visit the Medical Device Manufacturers Association at http://www.medicaldevices.org and Medical Device Link magazine at http://www.devicelink.com. For information on the 8th Global Medical Device Conference in Cancun, Mexico (January 16-18, 2000), and the 1999 Emerging Markets Report, go to http://www.himanet.com.

Contact Sources

Harry Sello, c/o Harry Sello & Associates, hsello@aol.com

SIS International Research, (219) 432-2348, SISFWA@ctlnet.com