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Google, DHL, Visa and Alibaba.com team up with IDB to create innovative online platform for SMEs seeking business contacts, online courses, tips on exporting, and financing opportunities
COSTA DO SAUÍPE, Brazil – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) today unveiled ConnectAmericas, a new digital social networking platform to help companies, especially small and medium-size businesses throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, expand to international markets.
ConnectAmericas offers members access to potential clients, suppliers, partners and investors throughout the region and around the world.
The innovative platform also provides a large database of information on tariffs and trade rules, and a variety of free online courses to help companies learn how to export or become part of international supply chains. In addition, ConnectAmericas supplies users with information on available financing options from commercial banks, international investors and from the IDB.
Members who create user and company profiles will receive recommendations of contacts to meet and new learning materials to access, based on their business profile and preferences.
“ConnectAmericas was created in response to the demands of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region and it is designed to help overcome some of the key obstacles that prevent them from exporting: lack of access to reliable technical information and business contacts,”said Fabrizio Opertti, chief of the IDB’s Trade and Investment unit. “We are using the power of social media and expanding internet usage in Latin America and the Caribbean to provide companies with accessible information from reliable sources through ConnectAmericas.”
After four months of testing with more than 100 businesses, ConnectAmericas went live on March 28. Now any company can access the site www.connectamericas.com free of charge and register to establish contacts and start using the tools. Main tools for the site include:
Connect: Allows users to post their company profile and view the profiles of potential clients, suppliers and investors. Companies may use the platform to communicate with other users through a secure and private internal messaging system. Users may rate and review other users based on their information exchanges.
Learn: Users will find a comprehensive repository of online databases, tutorials, webinars and massive online open courses (MOOCs) that will enhance their knowledge of the exporting process, including content created by the Inter American Investment Corporation (IIC) on export readiness and topics such as developing a business plan for first-time exporters to complying with phytosanitary standards around the world.
Finance: Users can learn about financing opportunities for international trade and investment provided by the IDB Group and commercial banks and can complete an online application form to determine if they are eligible. Users also will be able to access InvestAmericas, a platform developed by the IIC, which seeks to facilitate the investment and due-diligence process between enterprises and international investors.
Like any social media network, ConnectAmericas will grow gradually and organically as new members sign up and additional services and training courses are added. Initially, marketing efforts will target two sectors that already have benefitted from IDB international trade promotion and networking events such as “LACFlavors”and “Outsource2LAC”: exporters of food products and of professional services, respectively.
Frequent users of the site will accumulate points, making them eligible for special benefits offered by the IDB and its private sector anchor partners in ConnectAmericas, which are Google, DHL, Visa and Alibaba.com. Frequent user awards include discounted online ads from Google, special rates on shipping from DHL and special promotions on services with Visa and Alibaba.com.
About ConnectAmericas’ partners:
DHL is the industry leader in international logistics, by air, land, ocean and railways, present in more than 220 countries and territories across the globe. Frequent users of ConnectAmericas will be eligible for discounts on shipping done through DHL Express. DHL will contribute content to the ConnectAmericas site, including online courses, videos, articles and country fact sheets.
Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google will offer special benefits to ConnectAmericas users to access its online advertising and cloud computing tools, as well as trainings to participating SMEs to help them get the most out of the web.
Visa, with more than 30 million cards circulating among small and medium-size companies (SMEs) in Latin America, the United States and Canada, aims to help boost the competitiveness of SMEs through access to electronic payments and help them access international markets through e-commerce. Visa will contribute with e-commerce guides and videos, SME research and articles, as well as incentives for members who rack up points through frequent use of the site’s functions.
Alibaba.com, the original business of the Alibaba Group, founded in 1999, is the leading platform for wholesale international e-commerce, serving millions of buyers and sellers worldwide. It allows small companies to sell their products overseas and obtain supplies internationally. Alibaba.com will offer discounts on company-verification processes to members of ConnectAmericas, will promote ConnectAmericas on its own portal, and will contribute e-learning materials.
About the IDB: Founded in 1959, the IDB is the leading source of financing for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, whose main objective is to reduce poverty and inequality while promoting sustainable development. Through loans and technical assistance to governments and companies throughout the region, the IDB supports the strengthening of the private sector as an engine of development for the region’s economies.
About the IIC: The Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) is a member of the IDB Group. The IIC promotes development through the Latin American and Caribbean private sector, with the focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The IIC provides companies with financing in the form of equity investments, loans, and guarantees, as well as with innovative technical assistance, advisory services, and knowledge products.