In order to prepare a launch in the US, it is essential to connect our ImpactUSA founders with entrepreneurs that can tell the specific story of the entrepreneurial journey from Europe to the US. Here are some key takeaways from our various encounters with successful US-based European entrepreneurs.
When does launching in the US seem the most appropriate?
Often times, individuals ask entrepreneurs why target the United States in the first place. There is only one answer: the market size. From a European point of view, the US looks more like a continent than a country. The many opportunities and the top-notch tech ecosystem make the US an inevitable step in the roadmap of our start-up founders. For some entrepreneurs, the biggest business opportunities are in the United States, and for others the company is inherently international — opening an American office makes total sense. Entrepreneurs with very innovative products see the US as an opportunity to be positioned as a first-mover on a new targeted market.
French entrepreneurs need to open offices in the US to show their commitment to the market and be taken seriously. Clients, investors, and partners will want and expect you to be around and available if they experience any issues. And let’s be honest, flying for business can only work for a couple of months before exhaustion. Keep in mind that the country is large and heterogeneous, so you’ll need to understand where the key players in your industry are and to settle close to your ecosystem.
Adopt a different mindset
Americans and Europeans are different in many ways. All the successful European entrepreneurs we have met in the US had to change their mindset in terms of funding, sales, company vision, and general approach to the US market.
“What really struck me is the ability to say the words ‘a billion dollars’ and not laugh. That is not easy to do when you come from a European market where you are fighting to reach $100K ARR. The US is a huge market and they invest bigger tickets.” — Dennis Mortensen (serial entrepreneur, CEO @x.ai)
It was also critical for these founders to switch their vision from a bottom-up to a top-down approach. In Europe, they are used to think, “with a bit of luck and a good execution we could be at this point in three years” (Dennis Mortensen). Whereas in the US, they quickly understood that they needed to show their vision first. Pitch the billion-dollars outcome, show the plan, explain each step, and find all the counterpoints of why it could not be true.
“You need to believe that you are going to become the next big tech company, the best in your market. Believe in your destination and bring people on it, you’ll see if they want to follow you on the journey [as you go] or not.” — Dennis Mortensen
Entrepreneurs also need to put themselves out there, network as much as possible, and interact with the ecosystem. The United States is about personal branding. Don’t be afraid of failure, to have failed or pivoted is actually seen positively, it shows maturity and experience.
Keeping one identity
Almost all entrepreneurs we have talked to stress the importance of having one of the founders or a key player in the company be directly involved with the launch in the US. Given the difficulty of the task, you need someone who is 100% committed and who believes in the project. The stakes and expectations are high. Expanding abroad means that one of the founders will need to move with the project, and by doing so, the whole company dynamic can be shifted. Remember, a lot of time and money are put into a risky project. While the US adventure can be challenging and exciting, founders need to be careful not to neglect their activities in Europe.
Communication becomes a key factor. Entrepreneurs need to take into account time differences and find new ways to keep the company culture and coordination between offices. Every entrepreneur will tell you that keeping strong links and talking daily with their HQ teams is crucial. This helps with work coordination, keeping everyone aligned and on board with the project.
In terms of team organization, usually, the European companies keep their product, technical and R&D teams in their home countries as it is less expensive and more convenient. They build, however, local teams for operations, marketing, and sales.
Rising high after a backlash
Launching your business in the US is very hard. Every entrepreneur will tell you that it was like starting again from scratch. A lot of mistakes are made in the beginning and you’ll need to adjust and sometimes pivot to adapt to this new market. Founders become early stage entrepreneurs again, but they can now leverage their European experience.
“A lot of downs, very few ups, that’s just how it works.” — Mathieu Nouzareth
The US offices are often laboratories to experiment new methods and best practices that can be transposed to the HQ. They usually test out-of-the-box strategies they would not have implemented in Europe otherwise.
A personal journey as well as an entrepreneurial one
Deciding to jump in this new US adventure is as much a personal journey as an entrepreneurial one. It is an important life change, that can seem glamorous at first, but the pressure to deliver builds up quickly after the initial high of following its very own “American Dream”.
“Doubting the whole enterprise is a heavy burden, the first six months are very exciting; but for the remaining six, pressure builds up, there is a lot of cash burn with little to show for.” — Nicolas de Rosen.
Most entrepreneurs when considering moving to the US have to take seriously into consideration how it is going to affect their personal lives. Some are married, have kids; before deciding to leave, founders need to deal with visas, housing, schools, and the list goes on. The United States is very expensive. Expect $400K of gross income a year to live in New York City with a family of four.
Other topics discussed were how to deal with human resources hassle (hiring, managing and retaining cross-cultural teams) and selling in the US.
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If you also want to pursue your American dream, Impact USA’s team can help you navigate the US market. To learn more about the program visit Impact’s website: https://www.impact-north-america.com/