The US is a tough sell. Even European companies have trouble. Once you factor in the cultural differences, language barriers and lack of US traction the task may seem rather daunting.
I have put together four key steps to take when entering the US and hope they help you get the most from our amazing and lucrative market:
1. Research and do it again
Don’t assume that you are expected in Silicon Valley with open arms and people should like your product. You will be hit with a lot of disappointment. Make sure you know the data. Be humble. Assume you know nothing. Market size is important – but so is knowing the competition. How have they entered the market? Would you be able to do the same? Investors will at minimum ask you to understand your grasp of what’s happening and to see if you know what you are doing. What structure do you need? Will you be registering a Delaware company? Is California the best option? If you have a product dealing with fashion or the creative industry it would make sense to consider New York.
2. Timing is everything
Don’t go to the US on a whim, because it has investors, a large market and is the thing to do. Look at what stage you are at. Can you scale? Have you localized your product? Is the website in perfect English? Most importantly – have you tested the waters? Did you attend conferences and discuss your product with anyone in the US? Make sure that if you decide to move you don’t do it during tax season and the Fall. The reason is tax season (around April 15) is a burden for many companies and any angels you might find. This is the period most companies are looking at the past – not the future. The Fall is a time in the US with a lot of religious and other holidays and then you have the Christmas rush. That’s at least 2-3 weeks you will not be able to get anything done.
3. Traction: Forget what you know
The traction you have in Russia doesn’t matter. Not even if you sold to the entire country. With zero brand awareness, zero reputation and no sales it is almost better to say to an investor “we know Russian sales do not matter, we have sold x amount, and we are looking for start selling in the US – to do that we will…”. That at least, will leave an investor knowing that you understand a very important pillar. This brings us to the next point.
4. Network: Go local
Make sure that your network is US and local. Going to the Russian community may be the obvious choice and it may seem easier. But it will keep you secluded and away from what’s really happening. There are some great successes in Silicon Valley that are founded by Russians, and that includes both startups and startup communities. But if you want to really go out there, make sure you spend time building your network with locals.
5. Following the rules
I put this point last not because its not important but because I hope that by reading it last it is the one thing you take away from this post. You cannot, I repeat cannot, assume that if something is on paper and you have signed it – it can eventually be thrown away. If you sign a contract in the United States, or with an American – or European for that matter – ideologically, culturally and legally it is a binding document. Don’t ever assume that you wont get sued. And, more importantly, remember – reputation is everything. Investors know each other, and they also may know a lot of your business partners. Being honest is the best thing you can do in an environment which is very volatile when it comes to Russian business. If your business requires Compliance -make sure you follow this to the letter. If you hire a law firm – it is always best if it is a reputable law firm. Be fair and transparent with your team. Pay on time. Embrace rules as guideposts to your future success.
Originally Published on VC.Ru