Thank you to those who joined us for What you need to know when scaling to the US! For those who couldn't make it, we have condensed the whole event into five questions to ask yourself before you set off on your adventure to hopefully give you a flavour of what we covered.
To give this some context... Back in January 2019, a few of us packed our bags and set up shop in New York. So far so good! But we learned a lot along the way.
And some of the things we had to ask ourselves helped us on more levels than just international expansion.
If these questions don't make you run for the hills and you think you are ready for your US adventure, why not get some advice from our experts on the night -
Dan Glazer - London Office Managing Partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Bailey Morrow - Vice President Consumer Internet at Silicon Valley Bank
Joe Benn - Co-founder of Ugly Drinks who expanded to the US in 2018
James Townsend - Co-founder of Kontor who expanded to New York in Jan 2019
Here's what to ask yourself....
Are you willing to see scaling internationally as a “test”?
If you can’t, you might be making life hard for yourself on an emotional level as well as an organisational level. Lots of businesses fail in the long run, and failure is OK... as long as you acknowledge it as a possibility.
Like many of the startups and scaleups we work with, we don’t have a capital-intensive business with tons of equipment. That helped us adopt an attitude of “let’s do it and see how it goes”.
Can the necessary team members extract themselves from business as usual without everything falling apart?
Smashing a gigantic new challenge while ploughing ahead with your day job? Good luck!!
We’ve spent 5 years building Kontor and experienced our fair share of highs and lows figuring out org structure, team focus, roles and responsibilities.
So before we did the international thing, we made sure we’d established our core team of 15. Then one of our founders gradually extracted himself from our day-to-day runnings in the UK half a year in advance of the move.
Are you able to put together a robust 5-year US expansion business plan?
We had to present one to the American Embassy as part of our immigration application. In hindsight, it was an essential exercise in itself, helping us clearly assess the market opportunity and growth potential we see for the company.
Can you face not being able to do by yourself all the things you really want to do by yourself?
All the to-do-list items you reckon you can knock on the head? That sound like they should be easy? Get ready to eat humble pie and hand most of it over to an adviser...
For example, when we started talking with our accountant, we realised that tax filing is definitely not a DIY job. We quickly learned that the US not only has different federal and state taxes, but they also have local government taxes. In short, with over hundreds of different tax codes, you do really rely on your accountant.
These services aren’t free, but we’ve found they’re well worth the money.
Will you be alright without the mothership?
A new work environment can be lonely, whether you’ve started to WFH or are walking into your overseas office for the first time. It just isn’t the same as the place you’ve left behind.
We’ve found the US to be very open and receptive but also very competitive. The business culture has less overlap with the UK than you might expect.
On the upside of course, it’s amazing because you get to create something new and figure things out as you go. We’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
We have asked ourselves all of these questions in the past, so if you need any advice just email us at email@example.com! ... and of course if you are ready to scale to the US and need office space for your business let us know!