Willson Cross
CEO and Co-Founder, GoFetch. Established 2015

"GoFetch connects dog owners with Canada's fastest-growing network of dog sitters."

Why do you think you're ready to export internationally?

The pet services industry is ripe for disruption. But startup is only half the battle: the second part is scale-up. The main facet that has made us successful is our ability to scale our platform across many geographies. We're a well-received brand on both the east and west coasts, and are becoming a household name in Canada. This is really the thesis behind why we want to start exporting our services to new countries.

How are you evaluating potential export markets?

We're at the start of our international market scan. The United Kingdom, Australia and the U.S.A. are top on our list for many reasons. We see a unique opportunity in healthy pet ownership trends and the similarities of consumer segments in those markets. Paradoxically, though, for every similarity in consumer segments, each market represents ten different aspects in how you do business legally, financially, operationally, in investor relations and human relations.

What has prevented you from exporting to date?

As a business leader and day-to-day operator there are significant educational components that I personally have to think about when—and if—we move into a new country.

The World Trade Centre Vancouver's new Trade Accelerator Program equips business to export internationally by sharing pragmatic insight and experience. How could this help GoFetch?

I'm positive it will help us by educating the business about the levers we need to pull and become attuned to before pursuing expansion. That’s the “accelerator” component of the Trade Accelerator Program. It will accelerate our learnings; it will give us the data we need; it will give us the resources to make decisions—in terms not only of when we expand, but also where we expand to.

TAP is first in its class with respect to being a platform that small businesses learn and develop on, helping companies like GoFetch understand the intricacies and nuances of exports.

What lesson have you learned that you expect to apply to GoFetch's expansion into export markets?

It's the fact that you don't know what you don't know. It's a cliché, but it's very true. My biggest learning is to always be on your toes because you don't know what's ahead. Do everything you can to get a clear-sighted appraisal of how to do business in new markets.

What's your assessment of the state of B.C.'s export industry, particularly in service-oriented businesses like yours?

I don't think enough businesses are exporting, and the reason for that is they haven't necessarily been given the tools to understand how easy or how hard it could be. Just figuring it out is half the battle. The thing we have going for us from a technology standpoint is that we can flip a switch and be in new markets very quickly. But there are complexities from the perspective of financial and legal matters, incorporation and so on, that are sometimes tough.

The Trade Accelerator Program “figures it out” for a lot of companies. Not enough companies are ready to export, but a program like TAP can expedite their learning curve.

In other words, dogged perseverance can get companies so far, but implementing a successful export program may require a leg up.

B.C. is an incredible place to start a company and run one. From a technology standpoint there's a wealth of talent. From an investor standpoint there's a lot of resources. We have everything going for us. It's a great place to house the business, but we also have to be open to understanding what helps us grow in other markets—which ultimately fosters growth of human capital in B.C.