The World is a wide world. The startups world is as such. As a kid I looked at maps of the world with both envy and fear.
Both based on the same reason : huge and unknown.
What about startups looking at this map nowadays ? When the whole world may be their target (market).
As a side note, this article takes roots in my attendance at an event held, months ago, at Spark (Microsoft’s incubator in Paris, France) where UBIFRANCE would present and advise on the matter of doing business in/with the United States. Hence my “French startup” point.
I never took the time to reflect on it – and that is a pity indeed – but a few encounters have, since then, confirmed the fact that startups, overall, still do not know as much as we could think when it comes to what it takes to go abroad. And this article is finally born.
Welcome to the jungle.
One major take : in today’s hyper-connected world where information are everywhere to be found – and in the startup world where the U.S. are regarded as THE place, the dreamland somehow – so many people do seem to suddenly discover that the picture is just a picture. And what it does mean to set shop in Uncle Sam’s yard.
“Welcome to the real world” said one … . Welcome to the jungle.
It is a business jungle, no different from what any founder would experience in his/her own country. But that is a foreign, unexplored jungle.
I must admit it was quite refreshing, during this event, to see some stunned faces and naive questions asked. At the same time, it could be worrying and raising the question of basic culture level and of how business-ready some founders really are.
Please note, even during the gold rush, not many people would find gold right by their own feet.
The point to keep in mind here : doing business in the U.S. is nothing easier than it is in France or anywhere else. It is just different.
Even if executives, large companies, “rockstars”, etc … can be reached far more easily than they would be in France, they are far not easier to convince. What worth is there in getting 5 or 10 minutes of Twitter’s attention if your pitch is so bad you can only get crushed ?
The outcome could be dramatic. Screwing up is one thing. But screwing up in front of an influencer is bad.
Would you climb the Everest with only your underwear on ? Do your homework, get advice, be as ready as you can to face any situation.
Too many friends ?
And no real advisors ?
As a follow-up of my previous chapter, be prepared, ask your network.
However, not everybody has a huge network of savvy – and capable – advisors. Make sure to get the right expertise from the right experts.
For a basic reason, “surprisingly” enough, in the same way as doing business in countries such as China or Russia does require to have a local partner onboard, so does it when trying to work the U.S.
It sure is not a mandatory requirement to have a local contact but someone with experience of the market and local rules would, at least, allow to overcome some hurdles.
Speaking specifically of the U.S. a lawyer is a recommended asset too. Be it just in order to ensure that all the paperwork (for a visa request for instance) can be filled properly and validated within a reasonable amount of time (months …).
Overall, the piece of advice is quite standard here : be ready and not alone (plan and seek advice).
Just be (real) entrepreneurs.
Indeed, be entrepreneurs. Real ones. Knowing what you are talking about, getting to the point, showing passion and this endless will to get things done and done again until success comes.
Easy to say of course. But achievable as well as some French startups explained during the event.
Some launched in the U.S. Some expanded there. All founders were French with average to limited knowledge of the country specifics.
Yet they worked things out, be it with American associates, lawyers, dedication, etc … .
From their experience, one thing is to be kept in mind : Everything is possible there – including success.
And when we speak dog-sitting-related platform, that is indeed the place where to make it work and find success.
Be entrepreneurs indeed.
Though I was speaking about naive French founders, I can, on the other hand, but take notice that more and more French startups make it in renowned U.S. star incubators (like Techstars and Y Combinator).
Kid founders are growing up. Thanks also to the growing number of opportunities to get feedback, advice, basically education, not only from peers but from various experienced experts.
That is where I close the circle of this article. With a salute to UBIFRANCE and Spark/Microsoft for the assistance and expertise they are offering startups. And even if I had known UBIFRANCE for a while, they made me look like the naive kid with an impressive display of experience, assets and expertise they can provide.
In the end, it does seem the “kids” are doing well already or have all tools in hand for success.
Go startups, grow, explore and conquer the world!