Templafy co-founder Christian Lund offers some advice to ensure a positive migration for start-ups moving to the US.
Securing a US presence is often a natural next step in a start-up’s growth, but an ill-timed entrance can cause more than just stress to you and your employees. Done incorrectly, it can have serious consequences for the profitability and longevity of your start-up.
Each start-up’s move to the US is unique to their story, and Templafy’s success in this endeavour is due to many different factors.
Don’t rush into it
One of the biggest mistakes start-ups make is going to the US too early.
Sending a few people over to a co-working space to see what sticks isn’t a good idea. A change this big must be done deliberately.
Remember, you aren’t just relocating your employees, you’re relocating their lives and potentially their families, so you can’t treat the scenario like an experiment.
‘While Silicon Valley might be the dream, New York City or Washington, DC, might be the more practical reality’
A move to the US requires a lot of time and even more money. Start-ups need sufficient funding to move successfully – enough to bring over a significant team of employees and some representatives of upper management. A large investment such as this requires a strong, thorough assessment. Cost-of-living adjustments, travel stipends and tax changes are just some of the financial aspects involved that you may not have initially considered.
As Templafy grew and scaled, we considered these future costs in our business plan. In the end, we came out prepared for the change. Having sufficient, planned funding was essential to making the move a worthwhile success.
Remember: to a fair degree, technology has made it possible to successfully conduct business remotely. If there are currently no problems with remote customers or access to talent, then it’s best not to make a premature move. In some cases, you can rely on technology to bridge the gap. Setting up a physical office to simply get ahead of the game isn’t a smart strategy when it comes to entering the international market.
Work from home first
Start the move off slowly by entering the US market while still at home.
For some time before we set up in New York City, Templafy was doing business with US customers from our headquarters in Copenhagen. We hired people with solid experience in American markets who, for various reasons, lived in Denmark. Everything in the sales process was done by these employees, but from the Denmark office.
This strategy worked well and validated the international market for us before we arrived. In fact, we closed two of our four biggest accounts without ever meeting the customer in person. Having these organisational structures in place and operational before the move ensured that there was support for our team during the transition.
Choose a city that makes sense
In addition to the large concentration of key customers and enterprise SaaS investors, the leaders at Templafy also chose New York City because of its relative proximity to Europe. Collaboration is important for our company, so having some shared working hours was a necessity.
For most international start-ups, the further west in the US you move, the longer the time difference is from home headquarters, and the less manageable it becomes. For example, if a start-up from Estonia set up shop in Palo Alto, there would be a 10-hour time difference. While Silicon Valley might be the dream, New York City or Washington, DC, might be the more practical reality.
Don’t lose your culture, use it
There’s no need to reject your country’s culture. In fact, it is incredibly helpful to introduce it to American employees.
While international start-ups often focus on adapting themselves fully to American culture, bringing in bits of what your own culture does best can be a great advantage for your company. A melting pot mentality will set you apart as being a truly international workplace and reduce cultural silos across offices.
When compared to the US and even the rest of Europe, Scandinavia is a very small region. Because of this, as a people, we have to look outside of ourselves for opportunity. Templafy’s leaders and employees are inherently adaptable and that has helped our transition.
‘Hygge creates an opportunity for our American employees to work together in a way that is not common in the US’
Being Danish, we are often asked about the now internationally famous concept of hygge. The closest English interpretation of the concept is ‘cosy’. Hygge is an innate Danish way of living that spreads to every aspect of life and is particularly important during cold, dark winter months, which New Yorkers also experience.
In the home, for example, this translates to a warm fire, a cup of tea and a surrounding of simple comforts. But, in the American workplace, our hygge way of living manifests as a transparent and flat culture where everyone is accessible regardless of seniority.
Hygge creates an opportunity for our American employees to work together in a way that is not common in the US. Compared to typical US office culture, our New York office has more collaboration between departments and a thoughtful nature when it comes to building and executing processes. This hygge-inspired culture has been compelling to our US employees and a positive change overall, especially for those who have come from much different organisational styles.
Christian Lund is co-founder of Templafy, a Danish-based SaaS platform delivering brand governance and productivity across enterprise business communications.