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Canada's Trade Commissioner Service Helps Startups Hit the Ground Running in SoCal

The Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) launched its first Black tech accelerator on January 24th, 2022 with the participation of U.S. established Black founders and executives. The SoCal BlackTech Express program supports Canadian Entrepreneurs, Black-owned and Black-led startups with significant growth potential to highlight the importance of diversity in the realms of innovation and technology.

TCS partnered with Brand LA and The Daraja Collective to offer the program's first cohort access to critical tools, valuable networking, useful knowledge, world-class expertise, data, and essential local information. The Canadian founders are planning their market entry and are poised to pitch to LA-based investors during a virtual Demo Day on March 29th.

The program's sessions hosted by Mourad Ratbi, Innovation Trade Commissioner at TCS, focused on offering strategic, targeted mentorship, and advisory services—based on each company’s needs—to counterbalance discrimination against Black-led companies, while providing higher visibility for these enterprises in the Southern California region.

The startups in this program cover a broad range of B2B and B2C market needs: pet transportation solutions, a new platform for hair artists, emergency roadside services, access to financial credit, and green tech for the utility industry that can help the planet and underserved communities. The founders are encouraged by the potential opportunities in SoCal and are grateful for the program’s outcome.

"The Black Tech Express is speeding up my plans to get into the U.S, by allowing me to get answers to questions that are really critical," said Dacia Rohlehr, CEO of Paws En Route.

Why These Programs Matter

More and more companies want to make it in SoCal. California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and L.A. specifically, the largest county in the United States. Our ever-evolving ‘GloCal’ consumer trends attract international expansion and local planning for economic growth. But are the companies landing here—to pitch or set shop—truly ready for what it means to be doing business in this region of the world?

The question of intellectual readiness beyond infrastructure is one Brand LA constantly poses to those who come to our organization through referral channels and partnerships. We’re constantly unpacking bags of assumptions, preconceptions and ideals about Los Angeles, Southern California, its people, the best way to get things done, networking (events to attend and with whom to shake hands); how to spend Marketing dollars, effectively, and most importantly, how to connect with our diverse, underrepresented, and marginalized neighborhoods. After all, we live and work in the areas we serve.

"We’ve been busy at Brand LA supporting this groundbreaking initiative by the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles, and we're looking forward to seeing these startups and future ones succeed beyond expectations" said Ivy Arias, our founder and CMO.

Programs like the Black Tech Express ensure that foreign startups in SoCal explore this market with a community engagement plan in mind—an important aspect of business development that could impact any company’s bottom line.

Executives making meaningful connections matters as much as business and procurement plans. The C-suite’s curiosity and/or concerns cover a wider range of potential challenges that well-meaning, budget-dependent marketing folks consider to be (way) above their pay grade—and which, nevertheless, should be part of a solid and sound communications strategy, regardless of business models, funding stage, and industry vertical.

The consequences of not being ready with, and for, community engagement in our region can rapidly change the meaning of ROI to the harsh-but-true concept of return on ignorance. Thus, local and above all foreign companies must include these essential efforts as part of their strategic and tactical planning.

Through the SoCal Black Tech Express program, the Canadian startups have also gained regional insights that will allow them to expand their work in crucial fronts:

1. Corporate Social Responsibility. Understanding how their regional presence could affect the communities from which they’d operate. From infrastructure impacting climate to workforce needs dictating employment opportunities, and taking DEI as seriously as it should be. CSR is an integral part of any operational equation and tactical implementation. Companies don’t need to have over 100 employees to practice conscientious CSR. It’s important to educate new market players on the importance of connecting with leaders whose organizations tackle challenges our communities are facing to learn how their companies can make brand-aligned, positive contributions.

2. Brand delivery and regional positioning. Consumers in this region also voice their sentiment about products, services, brands, and industries. The Black Tech Express also encourages startups to plan for consistent market/user research, that informs decisions about our consumer behaviors and trends. In general, some founders/owners tend to think that this important exercise is a luxury, which only mega brands can afford. Through this program, Brand LA has established how important it is to know what our communities think of what's available to them, and that perception matters. Most importantly, how these companies could enhance their portfolio to serve others better, and understand how else they can make a positive impact. For instance, startups in the green tech space that are solving problems in underserved and marginalized communities ought to have the leaders of those communities as part of their networking ecosystem.

3. Good PR (Really). The program has emphasized the need for startups to prioritize and exercise effective communications, public, and media relations, by allocating resources to cover Marketing infrastructure that can push more robust community outreach plans and digital presence. These companies will then be able to leverage the market adaptation for their effective entry. From sharing impact stories in a timely manner to operating with much-needed professional integrity, when it comes to being mindful about activism; creating a track record of consistent best practices to make an honest first impression, even when our region is challenged by the digital divide. Being able to reach all neighborhoods matter.

As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Helping local and foreign companies/organizations connect the dots to yield regional economic growth is an important part of Brand LA’s strategy. Our Marketing programs inspire collaborations and initiatives that can bring tangible results to our communities. Our partnership with the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) is one of the many ways, in which we’re fulfilling our mandate to advance more opportunities for all our residents.

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