SupaPass – channelling content for business

Over recent months, I’ve been quite active on Social Media. No, not tweeting rage or sharing my latest fashion buys. Rather, I’ve been out to try to prove that it can be a viable way of marketing B2B professional services – in my case, consultancy on international business expansion.

I was told it couldn’t be done. There is a lot of reticence to engage with social media from what I’ll call the “Decision Maker Class” in the UK. That’s been exacerbated by recent revelations of misuse of data and hacking. However, the biggest barriers seem to be first discovering good content, and second to find the time to watch or listen.

So how do those, like me, who are determined to make it work and have a story to tell, get our message across? Social Media gurus will tell you that you have to be in it for the long haul, posting new content frequently – and I can confirm that’s true, as, with “shares” and “follows”, whilst it takes time, one’s following does start to grow exponentially.

With sufficient content – lots of videos or articles – it’s nice and easy to have one’s own “channel” on YouTube or a podcast platform. The downside is that these introduce unwanted diversions.

Firstly, there’s advertising. These platforms have to make money, of course, so their use of advertising is understandable. There are now plenty of enthusiastic young “youtubers” and podcasters who seek to make money from their work, and the advertising these platforms bring gives them welcome income. However, if you’re really promoting yourself and your services, and not looking for that type of revenue, it’s at best unhelpful – especially when the adverts have nothing to do with your content, or could even promote a competitor.

Secondly, there’s the “suggestions”. A viewer of your YouTube videos will then be taken to another made by someone else – and also see a list of alternatives. As the algorithm chooses them hose may have nothing to do with your subject – and there’s a big risk that a viewer who goes on to watch one of them then forgets the content of your own that you so carefully crafted.

It’s not just those promoting B2B services that face these issues. Consumer marketers do too. Any business wanting to monetize their services, or just promote them through video or sound clips or articles – training in particular comes to mind – will feel the same.

I found the answer in SupaPass – a novel solution created by a really engaging and committed team in Norwich, headed by Juliana Meyer and Kathryn Wright. They’ve developed what is essentially a white label app that a business can own-brand, and then load and update its own content. It’s low cost, sold on a monthly subscription basis, and includes all the necessary functionality to charge users on a subscription basis. The app works on Apple and Android as well as using a web browser.

SupaPass was originally conceived for the many bands and artists that have a substantial following but maybe aren’t yet in the major league. For an affordable monthly fee, the artists can have their own label app and get their fans to subscribe. With sufficient followers, their costs are covered and they make money from it.

However, the thinking has evolved. I think SupaPass is actually ideal for businesses that want to promote their services and have content to show – even when they don’t want to charge their viewers. Big companies already build their own apps, but that costs a fortune and takes ages. With SupaPass, there’s no need to build an app or maintain it – so it’s very quick and cheap to launch, at a cost that any SME should find affordable.

I can think of so many uses. Financial advisors could use it to post their daily or weekly updates to their customers. Manufacturers or suppliers can use it to show do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists how to use their products. It’s a great way to deliver almost any form of training – in fact, many SupaPass customers originally got hooked by a channel with dozens of videos demonstrating to would-be anglers how to catch different kinds of fish.

All these businesses should also find this to be a great sales tool. Prospective customers could be given the app itself and some of the content for free. When they see that there is additional content only available to that company’s customers, that’s certain to build curiosity and generate valuable inquiries.

Unlike using social media channels, users should have no worries about personal data security – and marketers have total control of the medium.

SupaPass is a great, logical development from the social media phenomenon and it’s destined to be a hugely valuable disruptor, not just for musicians and artists but a wide business community.

Their website with full details is

Up your stakes in Uruguay (no, that’s not a typo)

Sunset over Montevideo


by Oliver Dowson, CEO of International Corporate Creations Ltd

The first thought of companies looking for business opportunities in South America is unlikely to be Uruguay – yet for many, that could be the ideal location to set up.
The country is best known for agriculture, especially beef farming – in fact, cattle outnumber humans by nearly 4 to 1 (12 million cattle, just 3.5 million people) and over 80% of the land mass is dedicated to meat production. So very few businesses are likely to consider it as an export market.

So, to attract international investment, the country has re-invented itself as a hub for business across the whole of South and Latin America. Taking advantage of its central location and time zone, Uruguay has set up Free Trade Zones which provide advantageous facilities for distribution, manufacturing and services to be delivered to all those huge markets around it – Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and others.

Visiting, as I did recently, one cannot help but be impressed. Although there are of course still enclaves of “real South America” in Montevideo, generally the city is uber-modern and buzzes with life. It has benefited enormously from years of political stability, and great strides have been taken to rid business of bureaucracy. As a result, it’s now the easiest country in South America to set up in and do business from. The fact that basing in a Free Trade Zone means zero taxes just feels like icing on the cake.

Although I admit to loving all South America, I have always avoiding favouring any one country. However, I do feel very positive about Uruguay. I’ve always found it very difficult to convince the businesses I talk to in Europe and North America of the potential of South America – but perhaps this is the place that can “tick all the boxes” and convince doubters of the value.

With my own experience of running service sector businesses in the region, one thing that particularly impressed me was the language capabilities. Obviously Spanish is the national language, but being bordered by its much bigger neighbour Brazil, many people also speak Portuguese. English is taught in schools from an early age, resulting in wide fluency. When I set up businesses myself in the past, I went to Brazil, as it was impossible to find enough staff in Colombia, Argentina or Chile who could speak Portuguese – and so I’ve now been kicking myself for never thinking of checking out Uruguay.

I visited three excellent examples of FTZ-based businesses, each demonstrating a different aspect of the value of choosing to base in Uruguay.

The first manufactures generic drugs for export throughout Latin America. The Science Park FTZ offered them literally a greenfield site to build a state-of-the-art facility, staffed by highly qualified local personnel but also exploiting robotics wherever feasible. The tax-free status was clearly a key factor, but the major points were the ease of export to all regional countries (and taking advantage of Uruguay being a member of the Mercosur tariff-free group of countries) and minimal bureaucracy.

The second was a vast distribution centre, importing a wide variety of products in bulk, and repacking them to meet specific retail orders to deliver to duty-free shops in airports throughout the continent. The value of being in one of the only free trade zones in South America, with a major port and airport within a short distance, no import or export duties and minimal paperwork, really came home here.

But it was the third example that registered with me as the best opportunity of all for the companies that I regularly talk to in the services sector. The company I visited is a sort of Latin version of Amazon. It has based its entire customer service operation in Montevideo and is now expanding its management team – it’s grown in just a few years from a dozen people to several hundred. Apart from the tax-free status of the FTZ, the real business benefits are the central location, multi-lingual staff and convenient time zone – which works not just for Latin America, but for the USA and Canada as well, of course. This is a model that can be replicated on quite a small scale, and SMEs looking to expand services across the Americas – and those that may have thought this to be an “impossible continent” – should definitely consider basing their operations in Uruguay.

It’s also a very civilised place to live, so, whilst you probably don’t need expats to run your business, any that you bring over should be very happy. Montevideo is a modern city, bordered by what seems to be unending beaches. And if it’s too quiet for you, Buenos Aires (Argentina) is just an hour by hydrofoil over the River Plate.

There’s a lot of support and advice available from the investment authority, Uruguay XXI.

There’s a great opportunity to learn more about Uruguay and the opportunities it offers in a seminar, “Why Uruguay?”, at Tower Bridge London on 18 May 2018. International Corporate Creations is proud to be supporting and organising this on behalf of Uruguay XXI, and the event is also supported by the DIT Department for International Trade, the British Embassy Montevideo and the recently-formed Uruguayan-British Chamber of Commerce. For more details and an invitation, please contact 

One of the Free Trade Zones in Montevideo

Montevideo Port
On the top of the Uruguay World Trade Centre Montevideo

Creating a true Value Proposition for new healthcare developments

by Oliver Dowson, CEO, International Corporate Creations Ltd

“The central goal in healthcare must be value for patients”.

It’s become gospel, and it’s certainly true when selling directly to consumers – aka patients. Almost everybody agrees their health is more important than money. The concept starts young, with almost all high school students having to write essays on the relative importance of health v. wealth. But, whilst consumers (sorry, patients) will therefore pay a disproportionately large part of their income for something that will make them better, they will of course choose the most cost-effective option.

Naturally, patients attach different values to different medical conditions, and so solutions can be priced accordingly. That’s the fundamental of value pricing – attach a price to the outcome, don’t base your pricing on “cost plus”. So, the inventor of a great cold cure that costs $5 a dose to produce may only be able to price it at $10 – because people won’t pay more, knowing that, untreated, the cold will go away in a few days. The fortunate inventor of a miracle cancer cure that also only costs $5 a dose to produce could no doubt sell it for $1000 or more per dose.

Start-up health businesses need to convince investors that the future product pricing they use for their Business Plan follows this mantra, is credible – neither too high nor too low – and well justified. Even though it’s hard to put a monetary value on a health outcome, entrepreneurs need to try.

Those devising health solutions that are not for sale directly to patients, but to national health systems, hospitals and commercial care providers, face a different issue. Here, however revolutionary the concept (unless it’s a cure for a previously untreatable condition, of course), the cost to the provider of delivering the outcome has to be cut by more than the cost of the solution. It’s just like every other new B2B product or service. If it doesn’t deliver savings, customers won’t buy.

Whilst this might seem obvious, most digital health start-ups that I’ve seen presented recently haven’t really addressed this. They assume that, just because their invention will improve patients’ outcomes, health service buyers will find it a compelling proposition. I’m sure all of them will provide economic benefits in some intangible way – but that doesn’t make them saleable products. By getting cured of illnesses, patients will enjoy happier, longer lives, and generate a greater economic benefit to the world in their lifetimes. But that’s not an effective sales pitch.

In countries such as the USA, where almost every aspect of health is blatantly commercial, the need for a monetised value proposition is obvious. However, in the UK, where I write this, the “market” is the National Health Service. I suppose it’s natural for new entrepreneurs to think that, as a state-funded service committed to the best patient outcomes, they will adopt any new technology proven to be beneficial.

But no, it’s the same. The government expects ach division of the NHS to run itself on a business footing, and there’s a desperate shortage of cash. Hardly any entity has enough money to pay for what it has already committed to, and, after years of austerity, its’s increasingly difficult to realise more efficiency savings.

So it’s essential to prove that the new product or service will save money. That could be through patients being discharged more quickly, procedures being performed by less qualified staff or needing fewer person-hours per outcome. Bottom line, though, is that the value proposition needs to be costed and proved.

At the outset, entrepreneurs may only have a gut feel for how such savings will be made. But to create a compelling case, they need to monetise their product, and convince investors that their figures are right.

Global Thinking for Digital Health and MedTech

I’m getting ever more excited by the new businesses that I’m seeing in the healthcare sector. Whilst the introduction of new drugs largely remains with established companies, there’s a proliferation of new technology and software, promoted by some really smart entrepreneurs, that will bring real benefits to all of us.

The most visible are physical devices, which have acquired a class label of MedTech. There’s already a vast number of patient-centric apps, covering everything from lifestyle improvement to self-management of medical care. And behind the scenes, there are new apps and software tools for professional use in hospitals and care homes – classed as “Digital Health” – destined to really improve patient outcomes and healthcare sector efficiency. Efficiency is really important, as ever-increasing demands on healthcare both push up costs and create issues of logistical availability.

We’re working on some great healthcare-related projects at ICC, one helping to expand international markets for a very smart UK business and another searching for the best global sector investment opportunities for a wealth fund, so I’m seeing a lot of these developments at first hand.

One thing that’s clear is how critical it is for MedTech and Digital Health app companies to plan for global dominance in their fields as early as possible. Healthcare and wellbeing are universal concerns, and these new products and service are needed in every country of the world.

Postponing or neglecting that is very risky. There’s the usual chance of finding that entrepreneurs in other markets have developed near-identical products – quite possibly having spotted the opportunity here first. Patents and copyrights aren’t enough, especially with software – the route to conquering international markets is getting there first and establishing one’s brand.

Additionally, there are often several different ways of achieving the same improvement in health outcome, and delay risks overseas markets adopting an alternative. And, if those foreign alternatives are more internationally agile, they may enter and start to dominate the domestic market. Even if the competition is not as good, that could easily destroy the local business. It’s therefore essential that entrepreneurs and investors ensure that their business plans aim for the earliest possible international expansion.

It’s sad for me to find young, gifted and enthusiastic entrepreneurs with great health care startups who aren’t thinking that way. The usual reasons are cited – it’s distracting and diversionary, we need to get established first, we don’t have the funding – but those can all be overcome.

Admittedly, initial trials and test marketing can take much longer than with other business propositions, perhaps especially where those require getting buy-in from the UK NHS. But maybe it’s quicker elsewhere.

Products and software might need adapting to other markets – but, until you study them, you won’t know, and there’s therefore the risk that, whilst what’s needed could have been achieved easily at an early stage in development, doing it later becomes difficult and costly.

So, whilst it’s easy to say that it can’t be afforded, the question is whether startups – especially those in the healthcare sectors – can afford not to start planning their international expansion from Day One. And it needn’t be either costly or disruptive. International Corporate Creations can help!

Whilst in some areas of politics, globalisation may be becoming a dirty word, in the world of MedTech and Digital Health it’s essential thinking.

Turbulent times require an international solution

Global Access of Service and Technology Solutions System
Nationalism is resurgent. Brexit continues to be the known unknown, but is looming. The pound has fallen and shows no sign of recovering much. Inflation has started to rise. So have business insolvencies. We’re heading into the unknown of Brexit. We’re in the throes of an election that is at best diversionary.
All the indicators are scary, but despite them, much of British Business is doing what it does best. Keeping calm and carrying on. Waiting for “clarity” before taking any new action or making any investments or changes. Which is, of course, courting disaster.
As you’d expect me to say, the current uncertainties make internationalisation a top priority for businesses, especially those in the services sector. However, I’m coming from a different angle here.
The Brexit priority seems to be cutting immigration. Potential European immigrants, however, aren’t waiting for a change of policy – they’re already going somewhere else – and many who are already in the UK are looking for opportunities to leave. This is a problem for almost all businesses, even those that don’t currently employ any (and it’s not just the health service that’s dependent on foreign labour).
Fewer immigrants means it will be more difficult to hire. Some politicians seem to think that there is a vast pool of domestic labour that is being neglected by employers who would rather hire foreigners. Any business person could tell them that there is no prejudice against nationals in any company here – the vast majority of that pool of unemployed Britons either can’t work, won’t work or are unemployable. To solve the problem, we welcome and hire young, talented and hard working people from Europe and the wider world.
Following basic economic rules, a reduction in the supply of such people will increase the cost of all labour, as employers are forced to offer higher salaries to attract the staff they need from a scarcer offering. Deliberate cuts to profitability are limited, so, coupled with the higher prices now seeping through from exchange rate changes in 2016, we are bound to see an accelerating inflationary spiral.
One solution is to hire abroad, in countries where the skills you need are more plentiful and costs are lower. I’m not advising outsourcing – that takes away your control and generally increases costs – but setting up a subsidiary operation.
Entrepreneurs in the services sectors tend to shy away from this idea, or limit their interest to offshoring back office jobs. But why? The businesses that they serve, especially the younger and more dynamic ones, don’t expect local friendly face-to-face chats with their solicitor or accountant. In the modern world, everyone’s used to online access and video conference calls, and is happy if it means the service costs less or has other advantages such as 24/7 service.
Moving a lot of the work offshore to your very own subsidiary, retaining the core skills and entrepreneurship here, can ensure sustainability for the business and increase profitability.
Making new sales to an international market from that base can also guard against currency fluctuations. Companies already exporting services can, by moving the centre of delivery away from their home country, avoid any new trade barriers and guard against negative and nationalistic sentiments that may arise in their existing markets (think “America First”). Similar benefits can be had by manufacturers moving final assembly abroad.
Done the right way, creating a new overseas subsidiary can be quick and cheap to set up. In most cases, it could be trading within 6 months and be self-financing in the first year. Come on, small UK businesses, what are you waiting for?

Expanding to Dubai – the Hong Kong of Arabia

Dubai is to Arabia what Hong Kong is to China – a super-modern, accessible, Western-friendly tax-free economic and tourist hub that bridges the divide to countries all over the region that appear more challenging to business. So it’s hardly surprising that so many companies are interested in setting up there, or in one of the other Emirates.
While Dubai’s economy originally relied on oil, gold and jewellery, there has been huge diversification, much of it driven by foreign direct investment. So, although it imports over $200bn of goods annually, around half of that value is re-exported. The burgeoning services and tourism sectors account for an even greater proportion of the economy.
Setting up a branch or subsidiary is not without hurdles, of course. The first decision, which puts off many, is whether to set up in a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) or on the “mainland”. The original concept of FTZs is to encourage inward foreign investment, typically by offering reduced or zero taxes and government-sponsored facilities. In the case of Dubai, FTZs are promoted on the basis that they allow 100% foreign ownership, whereas “mainland” companies need a minimum of 51% UAE ownership.
Although there are all sorts of restrictions on what business can be carried out, and where and to whom one can sell, B2B businesses shouldn’t be fazed – they just need to pick the right FTZ. B2C businesses that want to sell to consumers in the UAE, however, will need to be on the “mainland”, and will need a local partner. That’s often not as difficult to find as one might expect, and, with the right advice, there are ways of avoiding having to cede much control or a massive share of the profits.
For those going the FTZ route, the next step is picking the right one to set up in. That sounds easier than it is. There are 39 FTZs in Dubai alone, and more domiciled in other Emirates (e.g. Sharjah and Ras Al Khamah) that permit companies to trade in (and sometimes even work from) Dubai. The FTZs vary in terms of the types of company activity permitted or encouraged, facilities, costs and (to a limited extent) bureaucracy.
All FTZs have physical boundaries, but most are simply clusters of office towers and warehouses that one can drive through without being conscious of having crossed any boundary. One of the larger and typical ones is the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), which covers around 200 hectares to the West of Dubai. There are around 12,000 companies set up here, increasing by 150-200 per month.
The location of the FTZ only becomes a concern where the business needs physical premises. Perhaps the majority of the businesses starting up in Dubai are small, with just one or two staff who will work from home, so they can avail of flexible arrangements available from some of the FTZs.
Objective and independent advice on choosing the right FTZ is essential – and yet, perhaps surprisingly, it is not always sought or taken. There are many local agencies offering setup services (and in some cases the FTZ Authority itself might provide those services), but almost all “prefer” one or two FTZs they will steer clients towards and offer headline-grabbing low fees.
Beware, though, of the hidden costs. Simply obtaining, notarising and legalising the necessary paperwork can cost more than the setup services themselves. Different FTZs have very different licence fees and unexplainable differences in bureaucracy – set up times can vary from 4 to 26 weeks. And that’s under pressure – local agents need a lot of chasing, which can be very costly with your time.
Businesses need bankers, accountants and lawyers, and setup agents again steer clients towards their favourites. It’s clear that commission payments are an important consideration. Over the years I’ve made a point of personally visiting every business that our clients will have to rely on, to ensure that they are solid, reliable and meet Best Practice in business probity. That’s a good idea everywhere, but definitely essential in Dubai, where (regrettably) I’ve met quite a few charlatans.
So take good advice, and don’t be put off by apparent barriers. Dubai is a great location for business expansion. It’s easy to work, it’s perfectly situated for trading all over the Middle East, almost everyone speaks English, and it’s got great weather, beaches and things to do, so almost everyone will be happy to visit regularly.