How to enter the US market as a start-up from abroad

In this article, we will discuss the tools to promote foreign start-up, how much this can cost the founder, and how a company from Siberia became a manufacturer of attractions and medical devices in Jacksonville, Florida.

EnterIdeas team at office in Jacksonville, Florida
EnterIdeas team

Every year the number of new start-ups grows, but only a few will remain afloat. Entering the foreign market for many start-ups is one of the most difficult and incomprehensible tasks. How to make it easier for a foreign start-up to enter the US market, and not lose money, is a question that concerns many.

For many large companies, not only for start-ups, the US market is the primary goal for sales of their goods and services. According to statista.com, as of April 2021 North America and Asia-Pacific account for over 80% of start-up companies in the world with North America being the most widespread. It seems that the US market is so large and loyal that a product that has proven its quality in a foreign market will surely take off. However, this is not the case. Like many other markets, the US market has its own characteristics. Some of them will seem trivial, while others can help solve your problems and do it right.

Let’s start with the most important thing. Patent application and PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty). The objective of any start-up is to create a product, launch it, and attract investments for growing the company in current markets. The main draw of a company is its intellectual property, which is what an investor is investing in.

“When you enter a foreign market all you have is intellectual property, and it must be protected” says Igor Mendzebrovskiy, CEO of EnterIdeas LLC. — “Therefore, first you need to take care of an American patent”.

Entering a foreign market with a foreign patent, means the company will not be able to find success in the US market. To enter the US market you must first file an application for a PCT, the international patent system un the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This procedure has two phases: 1) international, where an international patent search is carried out; 2) the national phase, where a search is carried out on the territory of the interested state, and a decision is made on the compliance of your invention with the established protection criteria.

If your startup is related to the production of food or medical devices or equipment, you will also need to register with the FDA and receive a registration number. Without this certificate, will be impossible for companies in these spheres to enter the US market.

When entering a foreign market, you need to understand the mentality of the country. You may be oblivious to many of the behavioral factors of the local residents of another country, even if you have been in this country for a long time. That is why it is so important to have employees on your staff who are either residents of this country, or nearby countries, who understand the customs, communication, and business practices in the target market. Based on the example of our company, we have a Russian employee who was born in Sweden and spent much of his childhood in Sweden, Denmark, England, and the US. This allowed him to grow-up in an English-speaking environment, and to understand the culture and mentalities of European countries and the USA. Additionally, we have employees from the USA and Canada which also allows us to build the right communication with clients, distributors, and suppliers. You can read about the importance of building a sales department below.

You may think that your product is unique and will be bought solely because of its attractive characteristic, but no. According to Forbes, and Fortune, 90% of startups fail. After analyzing the situation, CB INSIGHTS found that 42% of the surveyed start-ups found that “the lack of a market need for their product” was the reason. The following tips can help you avoid a bust, especially in a new market.

You need employees who will create demand for your product. Who will take on customer development tasks, test the channels for entering the market, test all possible hypotheses and collect the preferences of the target audience. Now do you understand why native representatives of the target market are needed? When we entered the American market with a multifunctional medical bed, we first examined the needs of hundreds of hospitals and other medical facilities. This allowed us to find the sore sports, and to better understand the needs of our end customers.

“Having formed an internal communications department, we called over 1000 institutions from which 6% came to us as clients,” Igor said.

Among other things, a good CustDev will help you to learn about the competition, their pricing policy, the volume demand in the market, and the financial capabilities of the client.

IP telephony.

If you do not have an office in the USA, or employees there who work remotely, you will need an IP telephony connection. At the very least, you will save a lot of money as roaming charges these days are not very friendly for start-ups. It has both pros and cons. The disadvantage being that 99% of the time, the client will not be able to call you back. The advantage being that one American number can be used by several employees in your sales department at once. For example, you can use Zadarma (not AD).

Support from industry experts.

One of our companies produces amusement rides, the other produces medical equipment. As we entered the US market, we realized that we need the support and advice of industry experts from the US. This is how we became members of industry associations that bring together manufacturers and operators of amusement equipment. It should be noted that this method is not cheap, especially for start-up companies. However, if there are investors ready to support this decision it will allow you to gain benefits that will more than recoup the costs. One of these benefits is internal meetings where operators and manufacturers can meet one another. In our case, we were able to get access to economic and financial analytics. We began to understand how many attractions are sold on the market, which ones are most interesting to people, and which business models and monetization methods are now priorities.

For already establish start-up companies in the market, or companies that have good financial support, we recommend that you contact an expert in your niche for a detailed review of the market strategy. As a rule, these experts already know all the competitors in your market, can introduce you to distributors, and can else help you draw up a product-to-market strategy. Our attraction is represented in the US Entertainment mark including LBEs, FECs, and VR parks. This is why we connected with Bob Cooney and arranged for group mentoring. Yes, it costs a lot of money. But we could afford it, and the information we received on marketing, advertisements, sales, and finances has already begun to pay for itself. This is why we sincerely advise you to find experts for yourself in your niche and begin cooperation. Maybe you will agree on different terms? Maybe it will be a share in the company? The main thing is to not be afraid. Meet, communicate, and try. In any country, advanced communication skills will help you succeed.

Workshop group session with Bob Cooney
Workshop with Bob Cooney

Pilot products.

If you work in the B2B segment, that after you work out a strategy for entering the US market and you start sales, the most difficult thing will be to show clients that your product works. One of the best ways to do this is to have a pilot project. The client should understand why he needs this product or technology, what problems it will cover, and most importantly, how economically profitable it will be.

AI CCTV Camera for amusement park
HealthVision AI CCTV Camera

For example, we offered clients our AT360 attraction with another project, a smart camera capable of covering certain problem areas of parks in the way of safety, marketing, and advertising. This can be integrated into both the attraction and the amusement park.

The presence of a sales department made it possible to establish the correct communication paths with park managers, offering to supply them with pilot cameras to demonstrate their use and effectiveness. This will also allow you to find any shortcomings and modify the product for the needs of the client.

Participating in international industry exhibitions.

Despite the prevailing opinion that exhibitions for start-up companies do not always have a special effect, we are prepared to argue against it. Industry exhibitions are one of the most popular ways of PR communication, with which you can find clients, distributors, personally meet most competitors, and sometimes recoup the costs of promoting your product on the market. This is our second year at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando in November. In the first year we were able to personally meet many clients and market experts. In the first year our attraction was not ready for sales, but we were able to present ourselves and build a database of 1500 potential customers and interested distributors, with whom our sales department works.

EnterIdeas team at IAAPA Expo
IAAPA2019. EnterIdeas booth.

We are again participating in the IAAPA Expo2021, and our preparations for it are going at an accelerated pace. We would be glad to meet you at our stand, №4011, from the 16th to the 19th of November in Orlando.

Based on the example of the IAAPA Expo and the US entertainment market, it should be noted that the location and dates were not chosen by chance. Orlando is one of the biggest entertainment centers, with a huge number of parks. November is the ideal time to search, and then make decision about buying new attractions for the next seasons.

The budget of many start-up companies does not allow them to participate in major industry exhibitions. In this case, participation in the exhibitions as a guest is an excellent alternative. Do not be afraid to bring brochures and business cards with you, because even as a guest you can meet with clients and talk about your company, product, or solution.

Your office in the USA.

When sales begin, an office in the US and the constant presence of someone from management may be required. Like in any other country, the US has coworking centers where you can work, make appointments, and network. If you have the money, you need to think about your own office. We recommend that you think carefully about the location of your company in the US. It does not have to be in New York. Our company is based in Jacksonville, Florida. This was not an accidental choice. It is the largest city in Florida, with more than a dozen theme parks. In addition, there is a large seaport in Jacksonville, which means the question of export and import of equipment is answered. Remember, a lot depends on your choice.

Lastly, we can’t fail to mention the need for good design and product advertising. For example, on crowdfunding sites people can make advanced payments to start-ups that they like. To attract finances to your product, the idea must be worked out and packaged attractively.

In the words of our CEO, “People need to understand what they are giving their money for. In order for the same Kickstarter to really be useful, no matter how paradoxical it sounds, you first need to invest yourself in packaging the idea on a turnkey basis. Correct positioning, visuals, videos, texts, advertising, marketing are the things that founders often save on or do not properly design. If you really want to shoot your shot, you need to attract contractors and allocate a lot of funds for quality content”

The advertising and marketing department of EnterIdeas LLC notes the need for a high-quality marketing and advertising strategy, especially in the growing digital advertising market. Well thought out brand colors, a beautifully designed user-friendly website, high quality printed materials, and a presence on social media are something that any company cannot do without. This allows you to be closer to your client, and to talk in more detail about your product, company, and team. Targeted and contextual advertising, and e-mail marketing will help you expand your audience and increase brand awareness.

In summary:

  1. An international patent is the first thing to think about.
  2. Sales in a foreign market will be effective if there are native employees in the sales department and a well done CustDev
  3. Be in a circle of experts and leaders. This will speed up your market entry.
  4. Focus on the value and use of your product. Place pilots to improve it and work out the kinks
  5. Participate in exhibitions and advertise your product to as many people as possible
  6. Do not forget about advertising and marketing because they can facilitate sales, especially in a foreign market

Good luck!

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store