21 Feb Hannah Godfrey, Startup Advisor – International Expansion – Winning by Design – Sales Confidence
I am going to talk about international expansion like James said, the reason I’m talking about that is because I’ve got a bit of a personal story that I expanded a company internationally, so I thought I’d tell you my story very briefly. I began my career working for a company called Brand Watch, social media analytics platform when I started working for them in Brighton they were about 10 people; I grew up in Brighton took a job as you know sales account management SDR when it’s company at that size you’re kind of everything, the company started to do really well grow really quickly, so within a year we were a hundred people in Brighton, and started to get all this interest from all around the world. I spoke Portuguese and Spanish and still do, the CEO Giles said wanna go to Brazil open up an office in Sao Paulo? I said sure, but let’s do it and then we’ve got some investment the ambassadors were like why are you going to Brazil before you go to the States, so I went to New York with a colleague of mine and open up our New York office. So spent four years in New York, grew the team there from me and him to about 60 people, decided oh every tech company needs an office in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, so got to go there, went back opened an office, scaled back the office, learned a lot of lessons. And then after five years with Brand Watch, the company grew from ten to five hundred people sixty-five million dollars in funding, and a hell of a journey, so I thought I had accomplished everything I set out to, so joined another SaaS business in Mountain View California called Tubular Labs, and VP of Sales there for a year or so. And then decided it was time to come back home so, been in London for a while now and I came home and I had no idea what the tech scene was like in London; I’d been in Silicon Valley and New York and near the US market pretty well, but didn’t know what was happening in Europe came back was super impressed and fell into consulting. So started up my own consultancy helping high-growth SaaS businesses do lots of different things, and then I landed on Winning by Design actually through an introduction through Notion Capital, who I was kind of flirting with to say hey do you want to introduce me to your portfolio companies and they said, we like Winning by Design they’ve designed sales as a science, they’ve put together these books and blueprints and really know what they’re doing.
So here I am I leave the UK business for Winning by Design. That’s enough about me though, I’m talking about international expansion, as I said I’ve got three top tips. So the first one of those is thinking about why why do you want to expand internationally. A lot of businesses that I meet and have met say well we’ve grown so fast here in the UK, our salespeople are so busy there must, we know the States said normally it’s the US. it can be other markets depending on your business so just a caveat everything I’m standing here tonight these are broad brushstrokes and not going to apply to every single business but these are themes that I’ve learned from working with about 100 SaaS companies, so why? I like to think about this is push and pull; a lot of companies go to the US because they feel they should, or go to you know Asia or wherever it may be. But often, it’s very expensive expanding internationally not just the legal fees, and you know visas and things like that, and incorporating a business overseas, but hiring people and figuring out where to go and everything’s very expensive, so it’s an expensive mistake to make if you are not yet ready, so that’s when companies push.
When companies are pulled internationally what that looks like is they have clients that they’re working with on a global basis, and their clients say hey can you talk to our you know team in New York can you talk to our team in Singapore, and then suddenly their how to service these clients on a global basis, and they need people kind of round-the-clock. So I’m not gonna go into it in detail, but there’s a few different things you can do from having having to service different time zones, all the way through to actually needing people on the ground and a more permanent way. But the first top tip is are you really ready are you pushing to go abroad or are you being pulled there.
The second one is where where do you want to go as I said in my story earlier with Brand Watch we decided we needed an office in San Francisco, so we went the office cost in San Francisco, I mean personally rent in San Francisco, New York was the most expensive city in the US, until the month that I decided to move to San Francisco where San Francisco overtook New York as most expensive city you’re looking at you know $35,000, this was then a few years ago for a large studio apartment a month. So rent personally, office space, and talent is the most expensive in the world, and we decided to ship a few of our developers over to help with that from from the UK office. So we did that and then realised you know what you pay a developer especially in Brighton or in the UK compared to in in Silicon Valley, is very different, so suddenly are we had to be offering a really exciting role and really great benefits to keep our UK developers that we shipped over wanting to work for us and not going to work for anyone else in Silicon Valley; and sales was the same story it’s it’s really really tough. So anyway long story short think about where you want to go don’t just go where everyone else goes and normally, go where your business is so again where are your clients; if you’re selling into a debt if you’re ad-Tech and you’re selling into advertising agencies, it’s probably New York, if you’re working with entertainment and media is probably LA, so again all my examples was are US-based; that’s my experience from spending about seven years that’s that’s number two number.
Three is who so when you go, I meet a lot of CEOs that say yep I’m ready I’m gonna take my family I’m gonna move. I’m gonna go, and I’m gonna take the company there. That’s not what we did when I was at Brand Watch and I actually think it worked out really well we sent myself, and somebody else from the business to go there commercial people and the CEO Giles came for stints at a time, he’d come for a few months and then go back I think I was really important for culture as well, because the business has grown very quickly in the UK we had a really good thing going but having the main leader, and especially if you’re CEO is is kind of that pillar personality who keeps the company together like Giles, is it can be very disruptive to have them out of the business completely, so think about who you send also who you hire so we had, one of our the great things we did when we went there is we have some really great customers, so we were pulled there; our customers even said come sit in offices so we had our team of people sitting at back of their office, and they said hey we’ve got other vendors we work with who have really talented people we think you could actually hire them. So anyway we got a introduction to somebody but this was another lesson land we hired from a competitor via a customer, it didn’t work out, she left after three months and that was a nightmare, but we learned a lot of lessons one we didn’t realise the about health care in the US and that you really do have to have pay for health care and also it was chaos, absolute chaos for the first three to six months, and I mean the whole time really would was chaos, but exceptional chaos so find people that can deal with chaos and don’t send your CEO in most cases.