We’re taking Weirdly over to the USA and in the spirit of throwing up lighthouses, we’re sharing the journey with other startup founders – warts and all. Here are a few of the key things we learned from our first couple of trips over so far:
Well, Dale was back for a grand total of 10 days before jumping in the next plane heading over to The States. This time, she’s gone over as part of package BNZ offered Weirdly – to exhibit at the Global StartupGrind conference last week (she took Simon with her for that part) and now scouting out another of our potential target cities.
This scouting process is a mixture of channel partner, sales and networking meetings and so far, seems to be giving us a really good feel for how well we’d fit in each city. We chose the USA for a myriad of reasons – not least of which was the huge market that a is leader in recruitment practices, and the fact that there’s a very supportive NZTE team on the ground. If you want to know more about how we arrived at Destination:USA rather than say, anywhere else in the world, we wrote a blog about picking where to start.
In terms of that first scouting trip though, there were a few key insights for any other startup founders or entrepreneurs about to take the leap. Here’s Dale’s breakdown:
First off, expect to be busy. That first trip consisted of 30 meetings in 5 cities in 14 days (excluding weekends). Whew. What a whirlwind. And it just kept getting busier. People like to book meetings at short notice, so I was cramming in follow-ups and last minute sit-downs right up to the very last minute.
America is a place of extremes. Never have I seen so much money and so much poverty in the same place. Everyone is moving at a pace that’s so fast they’re a blur, or they’re sat on the side of the road not moving at all.
Whatever the size or location, business happens FAST. Meetings are 25 minutes at most and these guys like to get straight to the point. One minute of chit chat then “what I can do to help you” or “tell me what you need”. This can be a bit off putting for a kiwi like me, but by the end of the trip I was pretty used to it.
Here are some of my observations that might help some of you entrepreneurial business travellers to the USA:
- Be clear on what you want to achieve from your trip and plan everything around this. For me it was to establish 1-2 channel relationships, meet recruitment and hr professionals to suss out if Weirdly’s focus on recruiting for culture fit was some thing they could get excited about and to understand what the business landscape is like. And experience the US to decide if I like it – a big deal considering my team and I are going to be there a lot over the next few years.
- American’s don’t like to book meetings more than a week out. I had a goal to have three meetings per day booked before I left. And I ended up making tons more once I arrived – some at very short notice.
- The food isn’t really that big and bad. I found some great supermarket chains and plenty of cafes/restaurants that were super healthy and organic.
- Make the most of every moment. You never know what’s going to pop up when you’re in a city you’ve never been to before. Meeting minor celebrities, extravagant parties, crazy stories from uber-drivers, dining alone in a romantic couples restaurant on top of the San Francisco hills, anything can happen.
- Make sure you have some down time. Travelling alone is a blessing and a curse. Sure, you never have to check what someone else wants to do or eat, but you’ll also find yourself working every minute of the day and you might forget to look up once in a while and realise where you actually are.
- It can be really draining having high stakes, high intensity meetings all day with no-one to debrief with afterward. Make sure you’ve got a communications plan set up with your team so you don’t fall down that isolation spiral. We had daily skypes and phonecalls, as well as the ever-present Slack chatter – it worked pretty well but it was still challenging.
- Three weeks is almost too long. I had the opportunity to stay an extra week to attend an amazing conference. Towards the end of that week I realised I just wasn’t absorbing everything anymore – I’d reach saturation point. Shorter trips allow you to go harder and get more out of them.
- Don’t always take a taxi. Walk sometimes. It’s enforced downtime – good for those things I mentioned above like taking time to appreciate where you are, and processing after your last meeting.
- Be yourself – Authenticity and honesty goes a long way. They friggin love Kiwis over there. We’re from tiny little NZ and we made the trip all the way to America. This carries a lot of kudos immediately.
If you’re a kiwi startup and the USA is a market on your horizon then stop dilly dallying and get over there. The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll start learning.
And if you do get to the USA, be sure to pat yourself on the back. It takes a lot of guts to take on one of the giant markets of the world.