As so many businesses (and SaaS ventures in particular) leverage stacks of technology to go to market rapidly, it makes sense to structure it with the US market in mind.
Preparation is everything, of course, but few businesses think globally from the outset. As so many businesses (and SaaS ventures in particular) leverage stacks of technology to go to market rapidly, it makes sense to structure it with the US market in mind. Can your provider’s scale? Is localization built in at every level? Use American English throughout.
Think global from the outset
Use domestic customers to cross-sell to the US and secure referenceable US clients from home before putting people on the ground
Validate the US opportunity
Every decision you globalize in the early days will make life exponentially easier later on. The team at Athens-based Workable set out to present themselves as a global business from day one – and that’s not just ruthless ambition – although the Workable team have that in spades.
It was a conscious decision to sell to the world that has positively affected the culture, outlook and effectiveness of the whole business.
Where possible, secure your initial US customers from your home base.
As CEO of Workable, Nikos recalls ‘we didn’t have the luxury of winning many customers in Greece. We didn’t care about our local market – we built for a global audience and in particular in the US. Perhaps in the UK or Germany companies have the convenience of selling to local customers but something that works for the US will work for the rest of the world. And that’s rarely true the other way round.
Among the companies quoted here, Glofox found that a significant proportion of its business, a healthy flow of inbound leads, was coming from America while the company was still based in Dublin.
MessageLabs, meanwhile, used prestige UK clients (the Bank of England) to sell to parallel US organisations (the Federal Reserve).
Our founders vary dramatically in opinion on when and how to move. Some of our founders moved to the US, some sent representatives, a couple are still commuting the Atlantic.
There’s not a perfect answer. But de-risking the process by putting effort into validating the US opportunity and confirming product-market fit is something they all agree on.
Mike Laven at Currencycloud, knowing that he had regulatory hurdles to climb anyway, put some pre-sales experts in a serviced office and tasked with nothing more than understanding the market and building relationships.
Other businesses won’t have such a generous timeframe to hand. Either way, understand the market before you commit.
Any European enterprise tech company, with the ambition to be a category leader, must conquer the US. Download your copy of “Crossing the Atlantic” here.
To finish, a few golden rules from the Notion Family:
‘At MessageLabs, we had a handful of names who were prepared to be early adopters before we had any presence in the US; I think that’s a really good way to seed the market and get a sense of how responsive to your value proposition it will be. They were prepared to take a risk with us before you even have a presence in the US and that really helped us in creating a foundation to build on’ Jos White, GP at Notion.
‘We’ve been global from day one. The nature of the business is international, above borders, and with no barriers to entry. The UK was the most logical place from which to capture that international footprint. As we got bigger, we shifted more of the business towards the US because much of our buying happens in the US. And then we raised some capital in the US and that pulled us over there, too. So it was customer and funding led – a little chicken and egg. We balanced it pretty well: there were flexible office spaces so it was easy to dip our toe in.’ Brynne Kennedy, CEO of MOVE Guides
We didn’t have the luxury of winning many customers in Greece. We didn’t care about our local market – we built for a global audience and in particular in the US. Perhaps in the UK or Germany companies have the convenience of selling to local customers but something that works for the US will work for the rest of the world. And that’s rarely true the other way round. Nikos Moraitakis, Chief Executive Officer, Workable
Crossing the Atlantic
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