Business matchmaking platform helps service‑providing SMEs find global markets
When Karima‑Catherine Goundiam went looking for international clients for her digital transformation consulting company, she found an opportunity to set up a whole new service to help her business and others.
Goundiam has worked for 20 years in the field of digital transformation strategy, focused on areas such as brand‑building, bringing products and services to market, establishing partnerships and fast pivots. In 2015, she founded Red Dot Digital Inc. and built up an international clientele, with 75 percent of her customers outside of Canada.
While enhancing Red Dot’s profile and client list, she worked with many fellow startups and “it became clear that all of us were struggling with common challenges,” recalls Goundiam, the company’s CEO. These frustrations included difficulties getting funded, finding clients, scaling and connecting with the business services they needed.
Goundiam decided to create a business matchmaking platform to help small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs) connect and work with each other. She launched the platform, called B2BeeMatch, in 2020, shortly before the COVID‑19 pandemic hit.
“It was a strange coincidence that suddenly boosted the need for online business networking,” says Goundiam. “We became relevant literally overnight.”
Karima‑Catherine Goundiam, CEO of Red Dot Digital Inc.
Goundiam was born in Senegal and has lived in many countries, settling in Canada in 2000. She has faced many challenges as a Black businesswoman in the technology field. “Every single one of those challenges I have transformed into an opportunity,” she notes.
She especially got support from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) for B2BeeMatch, which is now her main line of business. She calls the Trade Commissioners who have helped her “very pragmatic”, with advice in strategic markets. “They opened the door.”
With the help of three grants from the CanExport SMEs program, Goundiam has established major partnerships with business associations worldwide, such as the International Chamber of Commerce, which has become a major connection for her business.
The B2BeeMatch platform is growing quickly and is now in 40 countries, she says, noting that the international expansion of her company has been “mostly organic.” Its partners include business groups, large institutions and private companies, which pay a tailored platform experience, premium features as well as data-driven insights. The company recently developed a partnership with the aerospace industry following a trade mission suggested by Kim‑An Nguyen, a Trade Commissioner who covers the aerospace, automotive and transportation sectors in Paris. Red Dot has also been in touch with the TCS in Dubai, London and Washington.
“What I’ve enjoyed most has been the support from the Trade Commissioners in providing advice and connecting me with contacts,” Goundiam says. “If I have a question about a market, I go to the Trade Commissioners first to get their insights…They’ve been incredibly helpful.”
Bill Macheras, a Trade Commissioner who covers professional services at the TCS’s regional office in Toronto, was “instrumental in helping me navigate the TCS,” she says, noting that he gives her advice and points her in the right direction. “Bill is super connected, he’s very generous with his time and information. And when you come to him, he’s very straightforward, which I absolutely enjoy.”
Macheras says that as Goundiam’s first point of contact in the TCS, he offered advice about how she could distinguish her company from others. “She has some interesting advantages,” he says, including the fact that she’s fully bilingual and has an international background. That is “a real bonus” in global business, where there are often cultural differences between customers and service providers.
“Karima is persistent, she’s determined, and she has an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s definitely the kind of person it’s hard to say no to,” Macheras says. “It’s important for a Canadian company to be determined to stay in the market, because it’s so easy to get dissuaded.”
He says Goundiam has used the TCS to “maximum effectiveness,” from participating in trade missions and networking events to benefiting from programs like CanExport SMEs.
He says trade in services accounts for about 40 percent of Canadian exports and growing, but a lot of firms that sell them have difficulty articulating what their offering is, and their competitive advantage. “It’s important to clearly and succinctly define your value proposition”, he says, noting that a major “differentiator” for professional services SMEs like Red Dot is the customization, quick response time and personal attention they offer.
Goundiam says selling services is challenging because they are often intangible, the sales cycle is dynamic and contacts come by word of mouth. She calls B2BeeMatch a “sophisticated dating app” that allows professional service providers to connect with companies locally and internationally based on criteria such as their languages, location, diversity ownership and more.
In addition to B2BeeMatch, Red Dot continues to offer consulting services, and Goundiam says the company has “accelerated our roadmap.”
She encourages entrepreneurs like her to remain true to their purpose. “I see companies that have a vision and then if something doesn’t go their way, they keep changing strategies. They delay their own success,” she says, noting that SMEs have to be “relentless” in their journey.
“Penetrating a market is a long‑term game, not a short‑term thing,” she says. “You have to invest time and money and build relationships, and that’s where you see your returns.”
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