“Don’t come to the US, it’s too soon for you”. WRONG! Don’t listen to the naysayers.
I have been hearing this repeatedly in France. If you are an early-stage startup, people will tell you that you are way too young to go international. You need to prove yourself in the French market, validate your product, raise funding, become more mature, and then you can consider going out and eventually to the US.
This is so last century…a world where SMEs grew slowly and would consider “exporting” after 5 or 10 years of maturity. To be honest, I hate the word “export”.
Startups need to become global right away and there are three main reasons for that.
First of all, there is Product-Market Fit. If you develop your company in France, your product will be built for the French customers Period. French customers are notorious for demanding customized products, and you may get drawn into professional services, making it difficult to scale. As a startup, you need to focus on one segment. The market is small and you will be tempted to go 360, addressing many segments and losing your focus.
Second, Timing is Key. When coming to the Wild West, you will probably discover that your market is much larger and mature than the one you experienced in France. Maturity is good, but being too mature is not. A market too “ripe” will have entrenched competition and you may be too late to the game to dislodge them.
One example? Hmmm… I don’t want to go bad mouthing anyone… but… I remember when an ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) software vendor came to us a couple years ago. It was a beautiful piece of software. But do you know how many ERP vendors there are in the US? Probably more than 50. ERPs were invented 30 years ago. Of course, this company was way too late to the game and they didn’t stand a chance.
Third and the most important reason is Culture. If you successfully serve US customers, you are building a market-driven company. US customers are demanding; they want the right solution with the right support. You need the right team and an organization that speaks “customer”. On top of that, the world is BIG and that if you want to conquer it, you need to be laser-focused. In other words, being in the US will drive you to have the right mindset to be successful.
I recently spoke with my friend, Arthur Menard de Calenge, a true entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Lambs.
He started the company in France, selling radiation protective underwear. Business traction in France was excellent thanks to their marketing talent. Despite this good French start, he made the courageous decision to relocate the entire company to Santa Monica, California and start over in America. They spent 6 months working on a product adapted for the US and rebuilt their marketing strategy and messaging completely. Now the company is enjoying double digit growth.
“Why did you come to the US?”, I asked.
“First, this is the only place you can find investors who know how to build a brand. Second, you have to immerse yourself entirely in US culture and the customer experience,” he replied. His results have proven him right.
So, to all Early Stage Start-ups, don’t wait too much to come to America!