It's a platitude to say that you need a high-functioning business before you consider expanding to the US.
Some of our founders have European connections which presented an opportunity but nobody has ever built a category-leading enterprise software business in Europe by slowly beating down the doors of every European nation-state.
Rather, every enterprise software venture that has succeeded in becoming a global category leader has done so by building a significant North American presence.
Establish a strong domestic business
Focus on your local market, not the European market
Engage with your local VC and investment ecosystem
The answer, then, is to light the touchpaper on a local market: if you are a French business, focus on the French footprint. Sell to French multi-nationals, work with the French government, and leverage the French ecosystem because French multinationals are proud to buy from French technology companies.
Then, leapfrog Europe and go straight to the US.
The European expansion route makes little sense to most early-stage enterprise technology companies. The individual countries have little affinity to buy from other countries, each must be addressed individually, and many are relatively small markets.
The US is visionary in early adoption.
A transactional attitude means that – particularly in the low-risk, ‘switch off whenever I want’ SaaS world – you should have a large, welcoming, and reasonably homogeneous market to address.
Attitudes among the investment community are also changing, with US VCs looking to Europe for a steady deal flow of good ideas, talent (particularly from UK and Scandinavian universities) and very friendly tax environments for capital seeking a home.
European expansion can follow; so think big, and plan to go directly from your home market to America, on the foundations of a strong domestic business.
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, here are some pearls of wisdom from the Notion Family:
When you’re selling in Europe, especially in the UK, many SaaS companies are country-centric. It’s very hard for French companies to buy a British SaaS service if there’s a decent competitor available on the French-speaking part of the continent. Jacco van der Kooij,
Founder, Winning by Design
‘We could’ve gone earlier but we needed to get comfortable that we had everything shipshape in the UK. That meant people, process and also that we could implement customers in the UK and service people in the UK and support them from the UK. We contemplated it seriously 2-3 years earlier and decided that we didn’t have our house in order here, and it would be a dangerous distraction. It was when we felt that we had the right team that we were ready: we don’t have all the answers but when we find challenges, we’ve got the team to overcome them.’ Paul Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Volo Commerce.