What are the signs your start-up needs to open an international office?

29 Aug 2019

New York City. Image: © TOimages/Stock.adobe.com

While start-ups will always have a home at their original HQ, there’s a point where it makes sense to get face-time with your market through an international office, writes Christian Lund.

Cracking the US market is a goal for many international start-ups, but opening a US office is the holy grail.

Having a team on the ground in the world’s largest market is a sure way to boost credibility and solidify your reputation as a global player.

Tech has made conducting cross-continental business simple, if not seamless. Cloud-based technology and ubiquitous high-speed internet connections make us feel closer than ever to our global business partners.

But, for international start-ups, there are some pain points and limitations that even technology can’t solve. And when these struggles start to reveal themselves on the bottom line, it’s time to consider a move Stateside.

Distance from your market

No matter how clear video calls become, there will always be an advantage to speaking and interacting with customers face-to-face.

Conducting business digitally and across time zones becomes increasingly difficult as international client rosters grow. While there’s a natural and necessary place for a headquarters in the home country, it makes sense to have an equally strong presence among your highest density of current and potential customers. For many international start-ups, those customers are in the US.

‘Having key interactions in person allows us to understand our customers’ problems and cater our solutions to them in a more granular, personal way’

My company, Templafy, is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. While the city is a stunning example of Scandinavian beauty and excellence, it isn’t widely known as a hub for enterprise SaaS. So we followed the scent of our largest concentration of potential customers to New York City.

The world’s top brands and their core business units live in the heart of Manhattan, and these are the corporations with which we want to foster meaningful business relationships. Having key interactions in person allows us to understand our customers’ problems and cater our solutions to them in a more granular, personal way.

Draining talent pools

Identifying the location of your customer base is critical, but proximity to your clients is nothing without support from a stellar team of employees.

For many start-ups – especially those from smaller countries – access to talent becomes a major issue as they grow and scale. For example, the population of Denmark is just under 6m. That’s more than 2m people less than the total population of New York City.

Talent is strong in the US, especially in major cities. New York City, San Francisco and Chicago are home to some of the world’s best universities, have attractive urban living opportunities and are epicentres of culture. As such, they attract some of the world’s top talent.

Becoming a global player

Making an international move isn’t an overnight decision. It must be deliberate and well-planned. The most successful cross-continental moves are planned far in advance, built into business plans and preceded by a strong market entry.

While the information age and speed of digital communication is evolving, something with as much power as a simple handshake is yet to be replicated over the internet.

By Christian Lund

Christian Lund is co-founder of Templafy, a Danish-based SaaS platform delivering brand governance and productivity across enterprise business communications.