Do I need to take my startup to the US?

Silicon Valley is the centre of the startup universe. But do you really need to be there from day 1? Our expert panel of founders and VCs give us their advice.

In June we staged our first Sales Confidence conference at HereEast, in London’s Olympic Park. We called it SaaSGrowth2018. We had over 200 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 30 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our SaaSGrowth2018 articles.

VCs and founders panel

Our first panel discussion of the afternoon session was titled:

‘Investors and founders on raising capital, managing and accelerating SaaS businesses, and what future SaaS opportunities exist in the UK and Europe’

Quite a wide remit there, but I think we managed to cover it!

We were thrilled to welcome 3 expert VCs and 2 cutting-edge tech founders to the SaaSGrowth stage. Flavia Richardson from Funding London led our panel and asked the questions.

‘The largest deals are in the US. All the SaaS businesses in my portfolio want to cross the Atlantic. How important is the US? Do we have what it takes to compete with the US VC market?’

Tim Hampson

Our first answer came from Tim Hampson, Co-founder of SalesSeek.

‘I think it’s important. Pipedrive and Zendesk are fantastic examples of European companies who have crossed over.’

‘You have to do things in the right order. There is a risk in going over to the US too early. For us, our market is very competitive but very big. We can meet our revenue expectations with customers who are within walking distance of our office.’

‘You are going to have to go to the US at some point, but you don’t need to do it from Day 1 and build up all those costs.’

Excellent advice. Don’t try to run before you can walk.

Steve Collins

Steve, from Frontline VC, shared his opinion next.

‘There’s an opportunity.’

‘US companies take advantage of the incredibly strong network in the Valley. All their first customers come in from their connections and those of the VCs that have invested in them. It’s a self-sustaining bubble. When those companies start thinking internationally, they sometimes falter a little bit.’

‘UK companies don’t have this network, but they have a mindset that prepares them better for international growth.’

It’s a great point. UK companies have to grow the hard way, but it means they’re better prepared when they do go overseas. They don’t have to rely on their mates.

Barnaby Terry

Our VC from Sussex Place Ventures answered next.

‘You have to be in the States at exit. Your centre of gravity has to be in the States at exit. It’s where the buyers are and the customers are.’

However, like Tim, Barnaby warned about going Stateside prematurely.

‘It’s crazy to go there before you have a good grip on what your product offering is and your market engagement is in your domestic environment.’

Tom Lavery

Our final answer came from Tom Lavery, founder of Jiminny. Tom was lucky enough to live in the US for 5 years setting up companies. He had a practical tip.

‘In the US, they are the masters of inside sales. How you sell as a SaaS company at scale is completely different. Until you learn how to do it in the US, that’s a blocker.’

Over to you

What do you think? Have you crossed the Atlantic with a startup? How did it go for you and what tips would you give the Sales Confidence audience? Let us know down in the comments.

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