I was honoured to be invited as the COO of Voyage Control to the American Embassy in London and then on to a reception at Ambassador Barzun’s residence to talk about start-up business expansion in the USA. This was part of SelectUSA, which is a Federal program that invites the best tech to the USA. Several great companies, such as PixelPin and Hubbub, will be hosted by SelectUSA to showcase their technology across the pond.
As Ambassador Barzun said, as he held the Rod Stewart album Atlantic Crossing, it's a partnership between nations that will drive each other's success. This got me thinking, dangerous I know, but I realised that sharing experiences on scaling in a single country is what tends to fill the blog pages, so here are some of my key learnings and resources that we used as we scale out in the US.
- Do your homework.
The US is a BIG place and each state is best treated like a separate country. Do a few trips over there to figure out where your product is most likely to succeed. It will determine which state is best to base yourself from. Think of it like this; would you open up offices in Paris if you thought you might seek mostly London clients?
- Build your entry team
Like a military operation build your crack team of entry experts. Lawyers, insurance and immigration. You can’t do this on your own. Unlike the UK, where you can register a company online and be operational in 10 minutes, there are multiple registrations and regulations to comply with, so be safe and hire good professionals.
- Outsource outsource outsource
If you think you can do it, then you probably can't and it’s best to outsource. Payroll, HR, and finance. Get operational, get clients and then take a breath to see what can be done in house.
- HR, get an advisor
Unlike the UK, labour is far freer to move in the US. This generally good, but can have adverse impacts on young businesses. The protection employees have is through laws of discrimination. You may end up having staff leavers in the first year, getting sound HR advice is key and often there are great non retainer folk around to help.
- Adapt and adopt your sales technique
Europe is conservative at taking on new technology particularly at the enterprise level. The early impression is that the US appears more willing and open to embracing new tech, but this also means that you can come out of every meeting thinking you have a contract! Learn the styles, politeness, etiquette of US meetings. English self-deprecation is often seen as underselling your product.
- Sometimes bold is best
So hopefully this helps my English and even my European friends get a little insight in to going over the pond. We did it at Voyage Control and are reaping the rewards of the great market of the USA.