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Russell Artzt, others urge startups to pursue overseas sales

Russell Artzt, CEO of Digital Associates LLC, was

Russell Artzt, CEO of Digital Associates LLC, was a panel speaker at the Startup Global event held at the Center for Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology on the Stony Brook University campus on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

CA Technologies, from its earliest days, pursued sales outside the United States, and 40 years later one of the company’s founders advised technology startups to do the same.

“We became global very early in our journey,” said Russell Artzt, who retired from the computer software giant last year and now runs a startup at Stony Brook University.

“At CA, we developed products that were global in nature and followed international standards,” he said at a conference held at the university last week. “Early on we used distributors in foreign countries that eventually were given executive positions in CA.”

Artzt was among the local executives who spoke Thursday at the half-day event designed to encourage startups to export their goods and services. It was part of Startup Global, a U.S. Department of Commerce initiative aimed at getting small businesses to sell overseas early on in their development.

Artzt recalled that CA, which has a large office in Islandia and a headquarters in Manhattan, first exported its software to the United Kingdom, and then France, Italy and Spain. The company worked with distributors in the countries, developing “close relationships, doing a lot of training and making sure they understood the products,” he said.

Artzt, in an interview afterward, said his Digital Associates LLC began a year ago and is already pursuing customers in other countries. The startup has seven employees working on software to help companies inventory and manage widely dispersed digital assets, such as websites and domain names on computers and mobile devices.

Commerce officials said they hope startups in Nassau and Suffolk counties follow Artzt’s lead.

“Starting global from the beginning is important, it’s critical to the growth of the U.S. economy,” said Thomas McGinty, Commerce’s acting deputy secretary for international trade.

Government statistics show exports from Long Island companies grew 21 percent between 2012 and 2014, to $10.5 billion.

Michelle Gillette-Kelly, founder of Ms. Michelle’s gluten-free baking operation in Calverton, said she began thinking about overseas markets after receiving compliments about her cookies from international visitors to the East End.

“They encouraged me,” Gillette-Kelly said in an interview. “I want to show people what we have here.”

She urged small-business owners to participate in free export-assistance programs from Commerce’s Long Island Export Assistance Center, Empire State Development and other government agencies. She has five employees.

“Travel … Go to the countries that you want to export to and see what the competition is doing,” Gillette-Kelly said, adding that she plans to make her first forays to Brazil, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.

Applied DNA Sciences, a biotech firm that uses plant DNA to make anti-counterfeiting and crime prevention products, also started exporting early — first to the United Kingdom.

“To compete, you have to be bringing real value to an industry or to the consumer,” said James A. Hayward, CEO of the Stony Brook-based company. “Also, learn a foreign language. Even if you cannot speak well, making an effort really counts.”

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