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New Exporter of the Month August 22, 1997

Young Halifax Firm Makes its First Ever Sale an Instant Success


Packaging and shipping its software in just three weeks for a major international trade show -- in time for its initial launch and, hopefully, first sales -- was no easy feat for a small company like MathResources Inc.
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This is the first instalment of a new CanadExport feature, "New Exporter of the Month". Each month, a company that has made its first export sale will be selected and profiled as part of CanadExport's continuing coverage of new Canadian exporters.

But that's where timing, preparation and a good marketing plan can make all the difference... not to mention a bit of government help. That was especially true for a company barely a year old, with a full-time staff of just three people (up to 25 on contract), including President Ron Fitzgerald.

Government help key to start-up

"Back in 1994, while researching markets and building prototypes for our interactive math dictionary, MathResource," he recalls, "I started knocking on government doors."

This led Fitzgerald first to the Canada-Nova Scotia Business Service Centre, and in early 1995, to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

"Our total budget for technical development and marketing of MathResource came to over $500,000," says Fitzgerald, "with ACOA providing half of that. Without ACOA's seed money, we wouldn't have been able to develop our product."

Getting the niche product to market

MathResource is based on Waterloo Maple Inc.'s computation plotting ability on CD-ROM. Fitzgerald -- with a 17-year background as a math editor in the publishing industry -- was familiar with the 10-year-old Maple and took this system one step further, refining it quite extensively.

"We now pay Waterloo Maple a licence fee for using its software," he explains, "and as it turns out, we are using the Waterloo company as our distributor.

"This is how we got to launch our product in Germany," he says, "at CeBIT, one of the largest annual software shows in the world, in Hannover, back in March."

Waterloo Maple -- it gives MathResources access to some 33 distributors worldwide -- was participating through one of these, Adept Scientific PLC from the U.K., which had a major pavilion at the show.

"Our software was ready and packaged just three weeks before the show," recalls Fitzgerald, "and we shipped over 500 units. We sold them all -- some $25,000 worth -- making it our first big sale.

"Once again, timing was everything, our product was just off the shelf, and we were ready for a launch -- with product approval by the National Research Council of Canada."

Groundwork really pays off

In addition to having a distributor, Fitzgerald also relies on direct marketing.

It didn't take long for MathResources' next sale in April -- some 200 units worth close to $15,000 -- in Washington, DC, as a result of December trade missions "sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Renewal and the Halifax International Trade Centre," recalls Fitzgerald.

Another small contract -- but representing an important connection -- signed in May with a small organization in Singapore was also a result of attending the Educational Conference on Math and Technology in Dallas, last November.

"The different government officials have all been very generous with their time -- including the Canadian Trade Commissioners in the field -- in suggesting the right trade shows, in helping us get there, and in introducing us to the right people."

The company -- with US$60,000 in total sales to date -- is already setting up its marketing plan to the end of 1999, with two new products just launched and others on their way, some with backing from IBM.

By the way, why did MathResources decide to focus on export markets first -- confounding common wisdom ("establish yourself first in your domestic market")?

"Because education in sciences currently holds a higher priority in Asia and Europe," says Fitzgerald. "However, with the emphasis on technological development, the North American market should be very receptive to our two new products."

For more information on MathResources Inc., contact company President Ron Fitzgerald, tel.: (902) 429-1323, fax: (902) 492-7101, or consult the interactive demonstrations on the Internet.

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