Expanding globally can be a nightmare: new countries bring new customs and new regulations. Christoph Janz, managing partner at Point Nine Capital, sits down with Matt Price, SVP of Global Marketing at Zendesk; Nicholas Deassaigne, co-founder and CEO at Algolia; and Louis Jonckheere, co-founder and co-CEO of Showpad, to talk about their experiences.
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In a nutshell:
- Every country is different. Prepare for that, and ensure you have people on your team who can understand the culture.
- Establish offices in places people want to go to.
- Be very careful about cultural differences in hiring - it may lead to false positives or negatives.
Price: Americans are much better at selling themselves. Danish people are understated, so he thought that all US applicants were amazing - you need to take into account how people present themselves.
Dessaigne: Many employees thought it was important that at least one founder came from the US.
Q: How can you avoid the mistake of being oversold by Americans?
Price: Zendesk brings in potential hires to meet with a panel of people at the company. Having them meet a cross-section of people across the company helps them figure out if the candidate is a cultural fit or not.
Q: Is it true that US customers are easy to sell to?
Dessaigne: Homogeneity of the market is a big, big advantage in the US. The problem in Europe is there’s as many markets as countries. The way you sell in Paris is different from how you sell in Berlin or London.
Price: As soon as lawyers get involved - more common in the US - things get dicey. But he agreed that you need someone who speaks the local language in every country you sell to, which is easier in the US.
Q: How do you build out your team?
Jonckheere: It’s impossible to find the person who can scale up to 100,000 MQLs or 100 sales reps in Europe. As a founder, global collaboration is key - make it part of your culture.
Dessaigne: Bringing non-French people into France helped.
Q: How much cash do you need to expand into the US?
Dessaigne: He planned the expansion very proactively. When the move happened, 60% of his customers were American; he didn’t want to open the market, but rather wanted to expand it.
Q: What about Europe?
Dessaigne: Get local people to sell in those countries, and pick offices in places people enjoy going, like Berlin, London and Paris.
Price: Look into London’s tax-benefit employee sharing plan.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen in companies trying to expand?
Jonckheere: Don’t just copy what works in the US. Every country requires a different approach.
Dessaigne: Get to know the individual cultures and how they communicate. For example, he needs to be much softer with his feedback in the US.