Moderator’s Interview: Malin Geanovu from Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce

Welcome to our blog section: Moderator’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the role of the moderators on COBCOE Connects and be.connected and, particularly, about their functions and visions on the platform.

  1. Hi Malin. First and mandatory question: who are you and what is your role in your chamber? 

I am Malin Geanovu and I am Business Development Executive – International Trade at the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group – one of the biggest Chambers in United Kingdom.

2. What makes your chamber special? How do you differentiate from others? 

 Our Chamber is in top 5 of the 53 accredited Chambers in UK. We are a very proactive Chamber and we get involved in different type of projects, in a region driven by global business.

3. What do you think of COBCOE Connects and how do you think it helps your members? 

COBCOE Connects is an online platform that creates great opportunities and connections and is allowing our members to promote and offer services across Europe and beyond, moderated by trusted Chambers of Commerce.

4. Where do you see COBCOE Connects in, let’s say, three years?     

Over 3 years from now COBCOE Connects platform will be still in expansion and the members will use it more and on a regular basis, as an important platform for getting business and promoting.

5. We have recently announced four new networks on the platform, including BECI, which is a big chamber of commerce. How do you think it could impact your members? 

This is great for the members for a few reasons – Increase in the number of potential business opportunities; Increase in number of new contacts; Increase in number of potential markets they can expand.

6. What do you miss on COBCOE Connects?   

A video or something similar for presentation (as a marketing material) to be sent to new and potential members. Also, a guide “How to Use” the platform.

7. 11 countries are already on COBCOE Connects. Which one would you like to see represented next?     

Some of the Arab Countries – UAE, Saudi, Qatar etc. East European Countries, South East Asia.

8. What are the features that you would fine helpful to add in the future? 

“How to use the platform” Guide and an alert service for matching opportunities.

9. If we added artificial intelligence on COBCOE Connects, what would you like it to help you with? 

To match opportunities to compatible businesses and send alerts.

10. Fill in the blanks “before COBCOE Connects, the world was... quiet and smaller”

Our Member Speaks… Anne-Hélène Scouarnec from Authentic Human Resources

We continue with our new blog section: Member’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the ways companies find themselves on COBCOE Connects and, particularly, about their successes on the platform.

Today we interview Anne-Hélène Scouarnec from Authentic Human Resources.

Anne-Hélène Scouarnec

Ann-Hélène is a freelance HR advisor, who delivers custom-built HR services to facilitate International companies’ settlement in France. This includes HR compliance, recruitment, employee relations, on-boarding, talent and performance management, training, HR administration.

Ann-Hélène is a member of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce in Paris, which was how she learned about COBCOE Connects. She has found the platform “easy and straightforward” to use, and says that “Opportunities and Network are the most useful features for me”.

However, although the platform is a useful channel to new business opportunities, you still need to make it part of your regular business development programme to get the most out of it. Ann-Hélène admits that so far she has not been able to dedicate enough time to develop interesting leads and new opportunities.

She finds that attending Chamber and other business networking events are an important means of generating new business.

Personal contacts are of course one of the main reasons companies join chambers, though it can take up time. When you work on your own, it is often helpful to meet other business contacts face to face at a networking occasion.

However, we hope that soon Helene will be making the most of both ways of creating new business – we will be pleased to follow up with her over the coming months to support where needed – and to get more feedback as the platform evolves and grows.

Do you have a story about your involvement with COBCOE Connects – any success stories to tell about contacts made for your business?

Get in touch with us.

[SUCCESS STORY] Franco-British Chamber receives a new member

Through the COBCOE Connects online platform, the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce was contacted by Leila Lunguleac from Arelance, a Spanish company who are looking to expand their business activity in France.

After initial contact through the COBCOE Connects platform, we had several conference calls in which we agreed how the Franco-British Chamber could help Arelance to boost their activity in France.

We are delighted to announce that Arelance have become a member of the Franco-British Chamber thanks to the COBCOE Connects platform and we look forward to helping them.

Moderator’s Interview: Edwin Kropman from the Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Welcome to our blog section: Moderator’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the role of the moderators on COBCOE Connects/be.connected and, particularly, about their functions and visions on the platform.

  1. Hi Edwin. First and mandatory question: who are you and what is your role in your chamber?
    I am the Moderator for France on COBCOE Connects and at the Franco-British Chamber, I coordinate Business Connect as well as the occasional event.
  2. What makes your chamber special? How do you differentiate from others?
    It is both the oldest British Chamber of Commerce in Europe and the oldest ‘foreign’ Chamber of Commerce in France. In the face of daunting challenges, including two World Wars, the Great Depression and the recent Global Economic crises, the Chamber has proven a remarkably dynamic and adaptable organisation, uniting and assisting the Franco-British business community for 145 years.
  3. What do you think of COBCOE Connects and how do you think it helps your members?
    COBCOE Connects is a fantastic way of bringing businesses together from across the world on an online platform whilst maintaining the trust that comes with Chambers of Commerce.
  4. Where do you see COBCOE Connects in, let’s say, three years?
    In the coming years, I think that COBCOE Connects will go from strength to strength: significantly growing the number of members and therefore with even more opportunities and potential contacts.
  5. We have recently announced four new networks on the platform, including BECI, which is a big chamber of commerce. How do you think it could impact your members?
    Four new networks is very exciting news. It shows that COBCOE Connects is developing strongly. The addition of more networks is always good for our members as it gives them the chance to increase their business activity. The addition of BECI is particularly useful for our members as many of the new contacts and opportunities will be in French.
  6. What do you miss on COBCOE Connects?
    More business projects.
  7. 11 countries are already on COBCOE Connects. Which one would you like to see represented next?
    Germany. It would be great to have Germany on the COBCOE Connects platform as it is the biggest economy in Europe and therefore could provide lots of new members and therefore opportunities for the existing COBCOE members.
  8. What are the features that you would fine helpful to add in the future?
    A keyword alert function for new opportunities.
  9. If we added artificial intelligence on COBCOE Connects, what would you like it to help you with?
    Browsing through companies.
  10. Fill in the blanks “before COBCOE Connects, the world was _________”
    Unsecure

With Brexit, think of your EORI number! By Géry Brusselmans

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is announced for March 29. If there is no flexibility agreement, companies will then be subject to administrative formalities at customs. So get an EORI number now.

The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union will not make things any easier for Brussels companies exporting or importing goods and services to the United Kingdom. While this may reassure some, a transitional period could make some customs rules more flexible. Officially, the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March. A withdrawal agreement is currently under discussion, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal, rejected on 15 January by British parliamentarians, does not bode well for relaxation. In the case of an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, any company that exports or imports goods and services to the United Kingdom would benefit from facilities until the end of 2020. Among these facilities, you should not, for example, fill in specific documents and will not be subject to customs controls. As you read these lines, the probability of an agreement being signed is low. If this agreement is not signed before 29 March next, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union definitively. In this, each company that imports or exports will have to complete formalities to clear customs and will be subject to possible customs controls from 29 March. We therefore advise companies wishing to continue their commercial relations with the United Kingdom to already have an EORI number.

Request your EORI number from the General Administration of Customs and Excise

But what is an EORI number? Contravention of Economic Operator Registration and Identification, this number has been mandatory since 1 January 2017 for European Union companies that import and export outside the European Union. This number is mainly used for electronic procedures related to the customs clearance of goods. The European Commission requires companies that come into contact with customs to identify themselves by means of an EORI number. Without a customs declaration, the goods cannot be loaded or unloaded and there will therefore be no export or import. The economic operator must register in only one Member State. For Brussels companies, the request should be addressed to the FPS Finance. Go to the FPS Finance website, in the General Administration of Customs and Excise section (https://finances.belgium.be/fr/douanes_accises/companies). You will need to complete a form that includes details such as your company’s contact information and the natural person responsible. The form should be returned to you within 48 hours. Companies that have not yet had any experience with customs formalities and filing a customs declaration may be assisted by a customs representative. To contact a customs representative, go to the site mentioned above and select the “customs representative” tab.

The original text at: https://www.beci.be/2019/01/17/avec-le-brexit-pensez-a-votre-numero-eori/

How do we ensure that the next “big thing” in tech is in Europe harnessing the strengths of global SMEs?

3,000 powerful and rich delegates from over 110 countries gathered in Davos this January to discuss, amongst other matters, how to make sure the next big thing in tech is European. However, the solutions to the challenges faced by Europe may lie with those who were largely not present – SMEs.

At a lunch discussion, #Politico noted that “The mood was upbeat, the consensus: Europe is a great place to live and work and…that small can be beautiful: “Europe isn’t made for scale,” But that doesn’t have to be a disadvantage, should the next tech wave not produce consumer-based platforms but solutions for businesses”.

One speaker noted that Europe’s strength is in small and medium enterprises, and in capitalising on the innovation position it already has. What’s missing? “A framework to help those companies.”

TIAO believes we have the framework needed to capitalise on Europe’s SME strengths.

To return to the WEF ideas – a WEF report produced with McKinsey, “Innovate Europe – Competing for Global Innovation leadership”[1] sets out a vision for how Europe can become a global leader.

Europe has strengths to build on: its start-up scene is increasingly vibrant and its tech workforce is growing faster than ever at 2.6% a year. It boasts many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are leaders in their fields. Its strong industrial base is ripe for innovative disruption, as the application of new technologies increasingly focuses on industrial supply chains and the integration of industries.

However, to seize the opportunity, Europe must overcome challenges:

Recent research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that Europe is only capturing two-thirds of the digital potential of the US, a gap that has remained constant since 2016 primarily because of a lower level of technology diffusion and use of digital technology.

The situation looks even grimmer for key future technologies: in 2016, Europe attracted only 11% of venture capital (VC) and corporate investment in AI, while the United States and Asia captured 50% and 39%, respectively.

As a result, Europe also lags in knowledge, strong innovation networks, intellectual property and brand reputation in technology and innovation, whilst Europe’s innovative companies face global competition for technical and entrepreneurial talent. For Europe’s citizens, new skill sets will be required to adapt to shifting patterns of employment.

And not least – in many ways Europe’s markets remain fragmented, despite efforts at the European level to complete the single market.

The report proposes four ways for Europe to construct a new innovation model and address its lack of scale in digitalization and AI.

Firstly, Europe should leverage its industrial assets by funding digital platforms and technologies for strategic European industries.

The rationale is that Europe has world-leading innovative SMEs and large incumbents in key industries ripe for disruption as the application of new technologies increasingly focuses on integrating industries. To catalyse innovation, Europe could build on its existing assets and fund national industrial strategies to digitize and integrate at scale, for example through digital platforms that enable more cross-sector and cross-company collaboration.

So far, so good. Then the report takes up the “old chestnut” of picking winners, by proposing that the focus should be on core industries with high potential, including basic and advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and wholesale trade.

This is all well and good, but such a selective approach also risks further fragmenting the approach across Europe – innovation does not sit neatly inside pre-defined boxes. The point of disruptive technology is that it is not always apparent where the next challenge and opportunity may lie.

For this reason, TIAO takes a more holistic approach to global business development opportunities for SMEs. Rather than focus on picking winners and silo based sectors, TIAO works with the grain of established hubs of local and regional expertise to create a level playing field for all SMEs, anywhere, to gain a foothold in the emerging Globalisation 4.0[2] playing field.

Where do we find these hubs of expertise? Through working with the rich web of traditional chambers of commerce threaded across Europe and into their wider global connections.

As WEF notes, Europe’s markets remain fragmented, and despite European level initiatives to bring our established business networks together, the collaboration is often (less than) skin deep, usually with a focus on policy rather than pragmatic business development.

TIAO works on a “bottom-up” premise, creating a neutral B2B matchmaking platform space for SMEs to develop their own opportunities and business connections. The USP of TIAO”s platform is the direct support of personal moderators in each local chamber, interconnected and working together to promote win-win business successes for all their members, wherever they are located.

The WEF report has numerous other recommendations, which it believes can be a catalyst to improving Europe’s lagging performance. Governments can play a role in  including opening up government- owned data for research, fostering secure platforms that make transparent which data are shared and when, and that allow citizens ( and SMEs) to own their data and access rights, as well as ensuring that maximum use of public procurement is used to foster innovation.

Europe needs to boost talents, competing with digital skills and diversity. Again TIAO’s approach facilitates a level playing field for every SME in a trusted and moderated environment.

As the report recognises: the Fourth Industrial Revolution has immense potential for Europe’s economy and citizens.Fully implementing a digital single market (DSM) could increase Europe’s GDP by up to an estimated €415 billion per year to 2025.1 Lagging European firms, were they to double their digital intensity, could add up to €2.5 trillion in GDP in 2025.

TIAO can and should be a key partner in helping to make this a reality for every SME.

________

[1] https://www.weforum.org/reports/innovate-europe-competing-for-global-innovation-leadership

[2] WEF describes Globalisation 4.0 as identifying new models for peace, inclusiveness and sustainability to suit a world where further global integration is inevitable and where existing models of global governance struggle to foster concerted action among the world’s powers.

“This fourth wave of globalization needs to be human-centred, inclusive and sustainable. We are entering a period of profound global instability brought on by the technological disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the realignment of geo-economics and geopolitical forces. We need principals from all stakeholder groups in Davos to summon the imagination and commitment necessary to tackle it,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. (h/t Politico)

Welcome New Chamber of Commerce Aboard: the Belgium and Luxemburg Chamber of Commerce in Morocco

We are pleased to announce that the Belgium and Luxemburg Chamber of Commerce in Morocco has joined be.connected. The moderator of this new network is Hicham Jaid.

The Belgium and Luxemburg Chamber of Commerce in Morocco has more than 93 years’ experience in supporting member companies, developing their business, expanding their network and increasing their visibility in the business world in Morocco, Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The Chamber is a real facilitator to open up to new markets and a network of professional contacts to exchange with thousands of companies through the network of chambers of commerce and industry in Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Morocco.

The Belgium and Luxemburg Chamber of Commerce in Morocco is an essential interlocutor for all promotional actions that promote networking, help for B2B opportunities and offer real opportunities to economic operators in the three countries.

How to develop Trusted Relationships in a Global and Digital Business World?

TIAO Managing Director and co-founder Joost Visser about TIAO’s mission: helping companies develop new business opportunities online in a safe and trusted way – TIAO ‘Trust Is An Outcome’.

Trust is the cornerstone of any business relationship.

Small and medium sized companies (SMEs) have always relied on trusted personal relationships with clients, suppliers and staff members. Traditionally the people trusted the most have been family members and close friends or institutions such as banks and governments, using laws and contracts. In a globalised and digitalised business world building trust the traditional way is becoming more and more difficult.

TIAO’s big idea has been to create a digital business development platform for SMEs in which trust is inbuilt from the outset, decentralised and distributed by continuously strengthening the individual components that build trust: 

  • delivery of results
  • transparency – clarity about who you are dealing with and how results are delivered
  • accountability – people taking ownership of their actions and being responsive.

TIAO’s insight was that there could not be a single ‘silver’ bullet that would create Trust, the essential part of its business match-making platform.

TIAO’s solution is to continuously work on adding more trust-building elements – in partnership with Chambers of Commerce:

  • Only existing members of Chambers or new members vetted by Chambers can join the platform – reinforcing transparency and accountability, all users are ‘known’ to the Chambers they are member of, if there is a problem a Chamber linked to the user is accountable
  • All users develop a so-called TIAO ‘trust’ score on the platform which expresses how active they are in the platform (delivery – how often are they on the platform and number of opportunities posted) and how detailed their company and personal profiles are populated with data (transparency)
  • Having a moderator available at any point in time to help verify information (transparency), to assist in making connections (accountability) and helping identify business opportunities (delivery of results). 

Decentralised and distributed governance of the TIAO platform. The primary relationship on the platform is between SME and its host Chamber. This goes for all users – TIAO has no direct users.  Collectively Chambers sign off on the platform’s terms of use and data privacy policy, as well as admission standards.

As the platform grows – we expect to have more than 30 Chambers and over 20.000 companies on the platform by the middle of 2019 – we will continue to take further steps that build trust: 

  • In partnership with an academic partner we will be introducing artificial intelligence inside the platform that will assist the user with improved search results and recommended matches in a transparent way (the platform will explain to the user how results were obtained).
  • Adding more ‘trust validators’ to user profiles that signal increased trustfulness of a company such as memberships of reputable organisations, certifications or other ‘seals of approval’.

Building Trust is a journey that you take step by step – we at TIAO are in it for the long haul, keeping two old sayings in mind, one Dutch and one Chinese: “Trust arrives on foot, but leaves on horseback and “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step”

Our Member Speaks…Esra Koraltan from the London Bridge Project

We continue with our new blog section: Member’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the ways companies find themselves on COBCOE Connects and, particularly, about their successes on the platform. Today we interview Esra Koraltan from the London Bridge Project.

The London Bridge Project (LBP) is the leading consultancy and management company focused on sales consultancy, full sales cycle management and business development. They provide local support to Turkish and international companies in the UK. By identifying the best business opportunities in the UK, their aim is to maximise the profit and minimize the efforts of their clients and partners to extend their operations.

  1. How did you learn about the platform COBCOE Connects?

I heard about it through Malin at Thames Valley Chamber. When I asked him if he would be able to put us in touch with international companies, he suggested I use COBCOE Connects.

  1. What feature did you find the most useful on COBCOE Connects?

The opportunities page where you can look at what different companies are advertising.

  1. Did you face any challenges while using the platform?

No. I think it’s an easy-to-use platform.

  1. How many leads/responses has the platform generated so far for you?

So far, three.

  1. What is the quality of the leads the platform generates for you?

All three leads I had a response from were related to what our business is looking for.

  1. What other tools, platforms, channels do you use for similar business development activities?

We use LinkedIn

  1. How do you see the response rate / success on COBCOE Connects compare with the alternative options?

I’m not using any other platforms similar to COBCOE, but I believe LinkedIn is one of the best tools out there to reach out to potential clients and find leads.

  1. We already have 11 countries on COBCOE Connects (France, Bulgaria, UK, Slovenia, Lithuania, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Finland, Italy, Nigeria). If you could pick the next one, what would it be?

It would be South Africa.

  1. What has becoming a member for the platform meant for you?

It means that I get to easily connect with business from different companies who are looking for our services.

  1. What piece of advice would you give a new member on the platform?

Try to use the platform regularly to keep up-to-date with new opportunities and not to miss out on anything.

  1. Would you recommend COBCOE Connects to your colleagues/other companies?

Absolutely. I think COBCOE Connects is a great platform for small-medium sized businesses.

Our Members Speak…Viktor Girov from R&D Solutions

We continue with our new blog section: Member’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the ways companies find themselves on COBCOE Connects and, particularly, about their successes on the platform. Today we interview Viktor Girov from R&D Solutions, which is located in Bulgaria.

R&D Solutions offers complete IT cloud services on top of AWS – consultancy, architecture analysis & design, development, implementation, deployment, support and maintenance. Their services include digital cloud transformation and mobile solutions on top of AWS infrastructure; consultations for the implementation of DevOps and Agile software development methodologies and project management, cloud services, based on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

  1. How did you learn about the platform COBCOE Connects?

I first learned about COBCOE Connects through BBBA – the British-Bulgarian Business Association. At one of the meetings they organize for their members, COBCOE Connects platform was introduced and I thought it’s a great way to reach out to businesses outside Bulgaria.

  1. What feature did you find the most useful on COBCOE Connects?

Pretty much the whole platform is made very intuitively. You can easily select different criteria and pick up the right opportunity.  It’s great that COBCOE Connects gives the opportunity to meet real business with its real needs.

  1. Did you face any challenges while using the platform?

I cannot say I faced any challenges. The platform is very user friendly.

  1. How many leads/responses has the platform generated so far for you?

As a company offering complete IT cloud services on top of AWS including digital cloud transformation and mobile solutions, we have the chance to help almost every business to increase its competitiveness and revenue by adopting new technologies. So far we had several talks with potential customers one of which developed in a long-term partnership.

  1. What is the quality of the leads the platform generates for you?

The leads are high quality and gathered in one place which is the best part.

  1. What other tools, platforms, and channels do you use for similar business development activities?

We try to use all available channels from social networks through different platforms like COBCOE Connects, Clutch.co, Sourceseek and of course our website www.rnd-solutions.net.  You can find us on some of the events in Europe dedicated to digital and cloud technologies, innovations and ICT as well.

  1. How do you see the response rate / success on COBCOE Connects compare with the alternative options?

The response rate is pretty good. The idea of the platform is to connect companies and I think it is met.

  1. If you could take one feature and add it to COBCOE Connects, what would it be?

I believe adding ratings and client’s reviews to companies’ profiles will add additional value to the platform.

  1. We already have 11 countries on COBCOE Connects (France, Bulgaria, UK, Slovenia, Lithuania, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Finland, Italy, Nigeria). If you could pick the next one, what would it be?

I would say USA as in technology aspect the country is highly developed and can offer many opportunities to European vendors of different services.

  1. What has becoming a member for the platform meant for you?

It means being part of an interesting community, full of opportunities and an ideal way to show R&D Solutions’ expertise and to receive feedback for our services.

  1. What piece of advice would you give a new member on the platform?

If you want to be successful in COBCOE Connects you’ll need to spend time every day in the Platform and be proactive – create and track opportunities, try to connect with other members, complete your own profile.

  1. Would you recommend COBCOE Connects to your colleagues/other companies?

I already recommended COBCOE Connects to some companies here in Bulgaria and will keep doing this in future.