WHAT IS CONNECTAMERICAS?
ConnectAmericas is the first social network for businesses in the Americas, dedicated to promoting foreign trade and international investment. With the slogan “Take the world with your hands,” the proposal of the platform is to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to grow their businesses internationally in three steps: CONNECT, LEARN AND FINANCE.
WHAT DOES CONNECTAMERICAS DO?
ConnectAmericas will help SMEs to strengthen their businesses, providing access to communities of clients, suppliers and investors in the region and all over the world, segmented by industry. It will also provide useful and simple information about procedures and regulations for international commerce, and about the financing opportunities available in IDB member countries.
WHO HAS CREATED THIS PLATFORM, AND WHY IS THE IDB INTERESTED IN THIS ISSUE?
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) created this social network for businesses with the support of globally renowned companies, such as Google, DHL, Visa and Alibaba. The goal is to decrease the occurrence of three fundamental obstacles that SMEs confront when they seek to expand internationally: (a) access to trustworthy international contacts; (b) access to current and high-quality information about international trade; and (c) access to financing. In this way, ConnectAmericas seeks to provide up to date, practical and simple information about the main operational aspects of international trade, through articles, blogs, online courses and interactive learning tools. Finally, ConnectAmericas seeks to bring financing opportunities closer to SMEs through consolidated information on financial and technical assistance products that are available to SMEs in each member country of the IDB Group.
HOW DOES CONNECTAMERICAS PROMOTE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN COMPANIES AND ENTREPRENEURS IN THE AMERICAS?
ConnectAmericas connects companies and entrepreneurs with potential clients, suppliers or investors through professional communities that are segmented by industry. When users register and indicate the company they work for, ConnectAmericas invites them to indicate business preferences, such as their industry and their purpose for using the platform (meeting clients, suppliers, investors, etc.). On the basis of these preferences, ConnectAmericas recommends that users join one or several professional communities, as well as inviting the user to view the profiles of other users with compatible or similar interests, with whom he or she can communicate directly using an internal messaging service. Likewise, the system allows users to comment on and evaluate other users who they know or with whom they have done business, in order to build trust within the community.
WHAT INDUSTRIES DOES CONNECTAMERICAS SERVE?
The goal of ConnectAmericas is to promote international commerce in all industries. Therefore, the educational materials provided cover general topics, such as strategies for internationalization and the preparation of international business plans. Likewise, the offering of financial products and technical assistance is designed for any SME with an interest in expanding its business in the region or globally. That being said, the current business communities have been created on the basis of two pilot industries, which ConnectAmericas will use as a basis to begin to expand organically: Global Services and Food. These two industries were chosen based on the IDB’s previous experience organizing in-person business roundtables – Outsource2LAC and LAC Flavors – in all parts of the region. This selection of communities served will grow rapidly over the course of 2014 and 2015, starting with the infrastructure industry. It is important to clarify, however, that users from other industries are also welcome to become part of the ConnectAmericas community, which is a group dedicated to addressing topics related to international trade in general. At the same time, users will be able to create business communities in other fields of interest.
WHAT CAN USERS LEARN ON CONNECTAMERICAS?
On ConnectAmericas, users can access a variety of useful sources of information. Firstly, there is a repository of original editorial content, prepared by the ConnectAmericas team and by commercial promotion agencies in the region. This content includes simple and practical information about the main aspects of international trade, including regulatory, strategic, financial and cultural issues. Likewise, open online courses will be offered, which any user can access during the period in which the class is taught. These courses contain audiovisual and written lessons, and self-evaluation tools are made available at the end of each module to allow each user to progress at his or her own speed. ConnectAmericas will also offer a self-diagnostic tool, which will help entrepreneurs to understand their needs and orient them in their search for educational materials. And finally, ConnectAmericas offers access to a comprehensive database (INTRADE) of commercial statistics, which will soon include information on duties/ tariffs and non-tariff measures, such as sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.
HOW DOES CONNECTAMERICAS HELP USERS TO FIND FINANCING OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS?
ConnectAmericas offers its users a consolidated and easy to use selection of different financing opportunities available in their countries of interest. This selection includes information on financial products and services relating to international trade offered by local banks – including the banks that the IDB works with in its Trade Finance Facilitation Program – as well as technical assistance services offered by the IDB Group, which includes the Inter-American Investment Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Fund.
WHAT KIND OF PROTECTION WILL CONNECTAMERICAS PROVIDE TO ITS USERS’ INFORMATION AND PERSONAL DATA?
The IDB has developed ConnectAmericas to promote the internationalization of SMEs, on a non-profit basis. In this sense, the IDB is committed to respect the privacy of its users, and in no way will it utilize this Information for commercial purposes. In the same way, ConnectAmericas will permanently do its best efforts to maintain the highest standards of IT security to safeguard its users’ information.