About STEP USA:
STEP USA is 5-day startup bootcamp launched and organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce New York (GACC NY). A highly successful program, it focuses on facilitating U.S. market access for young innovative companies and takes place 4 times a year. It also exists in a virtual format. STEP USA prides itself in having created a network of roughly 300 STEP USA alumni, more than 60 U.S. incorporations and 35 investment rounds. It is tailored to the needs of startups who intent to scale their business internationally.
The GACC NY is featuring selected STEP USA Alumni, calling these founders “STEP USA Ambassadors”.
“CONTACT IS KING”
STEP USA Ambassador Benjamin Gregor Zaczek is the CEO of SalesViewer®, a sales-intelligence company located in Bochum, North Rhine Westphalia. Benjamin and his colleagues participated in the STEP USA program in September 2019, visiting New York and Boston.
SalesViewer® identifies anonymous website visitors and redefines the way of strategic business development. Companies worldwide want to know who is visiting their websites in order to target potential clients and find out about their specific needs. Zaczek and his team have developed a digital solution and introduced their product to the European market in 2011, enabling sales representatives to dig deeper and reach out to new leads.
Today Benjamin Zaczek opens up on his plans for the U.S. market, sharing his insights on the STEP USA program and why he believes in the power of networks.
GACC NY: Benjamin, great to see you again! How are you holding up in these economically challenging times? What are the greatest difficulties for SalesViewer® at the moment?
We have planned many (non-digital) activities in Germany and abroad for 2020, which have now been cancelled due to the corona crisis. These include trade fairs, speeches, customer trainings and other activities with face-to-face contact. Since a part of our business is based on face-to-face-contact, we also had to rethink our previous activities and find other ways of personal contact. I think that this was a spontaneous challenge, which our team nevertheless managed very well. On the other hand, we wanted to focus more on our US expansion in 2020, which we are now partially shifting to 2021.
GACC NY: Are there things also going well for you right now, maybe even better than you expected?
We have been very lucky in the past few months because many companies are currently looking for new ways to acquire new customers because of the crisis. And SalesViewer® provides a perfect solution for this need. Since the website is currently one of the few channels to get information about companies and service providers, SalesViewer® fits perfectly into the current situation. We were able to increase our customer growth significantly in the last months.
GACC NY: What do you consider the greatest success in your company’s history?
Well, first of all, we are extremely happy to have successful business relations and serve international customers like Stepstone, Linde or Statista.
After starting our business in 2011, we were able to secure market shares in diverse European markets such as Austria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Poland.
And of course, we are very proud to have received several international awards and recommendations such as “OMR company to watch 2019”, “Newcomer of the year 2019” in New York or a listing in the official Google training materials as “Google recommended company” because of our innovative approach and international activities.
GACC NY: Why is the U.S. market important for you?
The U.S. market is one of the largest markets worldwide and, from our point of view, the most innovative market for digital products. It offers almost unlimited opportunities for companies like SalesViewer® and is a powerful growth engine for becoming a world leader of website visitor identification. After receiving more and more inquiries from companies in the U.S., we felt that the time had come to reach out and learn the ins and outs of that huge market.
GACC NY: Is that why you joined our STEP USA program in September 2019? What were your most valuable takeaways from this 5-day boot camp?
First of all, it was great that we could visit two amazing startup ecosystems – New York and Boston – in one trip, helping us establish contacts to new international business partners in both locations. Taking STEP USA, we had many important learnings about the U.S. market and the U.S. startup ecosystem. It was helpful to get compact information on the whole topic of how to really do business with American customers. Knowing the U.S. from vacationing there and doing business are two different things. STEP USA helped us understand the DNA of American decision-makers, American clients, and what to take into consideration in order to succeed there. We wanted to find effective strategies on moving forward in that promising market and luckily, we did. The GACC New York proved to be a strong partner.
The legal information provided was extremely valuable and will help us when we are ready to found our own U.S. subsidiary.
We were also surprised by how fast American clients react when they are interested in your product. They are much more willing to take risks or invest in something than their counterparts in Germany.
Furthermore, we were impressed with the mentors that gave workshops during our stay. They were full of energy and inspiration and that brought our business at home to a whole new spirit. We are still in touch with some of them.
And lastly, visiting MIT in Boston and several top-notch accelerators in both Boston and New York were highlights. We loved the STEP USA pitch night when we were given the opportunity to pitch SalesViewer® to a big New York audience at Hudson Yards on the 56th floor while overlooking a sunset over Manhattan…
GACC NY: In your opinion, what do startups generally underestimate when coming to the U.S.?
I would say it is underestimated how hard it is to acquire new customers. Contact is king, that is what we can say! Tapping into existing networks, reaching out to neutral business facilitators is a game-changer.
What is also underestimated are the legal regulations around the topic of HR. Human resources are handled quite differently in the States. It was interesting to learn how to hire the people correctly, and to understand the differences in employment law for example.
GACC NY: Can you share a success story that has its roots in the STEP USA program?
Absolutely! We are super excited that we were able to win many new customers in the U.S. since taking part in the STEP USA program. We achieved this by presenting Salesviewer® during several organized networking events, got on stage and said who we are, what we can do for clients and what our goals are in the U.S. It was like a chain reaction and several interesting business contacts got in touch with us. Even in these economically challenging times, we are able to drive 5-digit revenues in the US each month.
The trick is to do your follow up after the trip. That is one thing I highly recommend: Follow up on leads – continuously! Make sure you get the introductions that you were promised. GACC NY: Do you want to tell us about the Newcomer of the Year award in New York?
That is a great result of STEP USA as well! After the STEP USA program in the fall of 2019 we were surprisingly nominated for the “Newcomer of the year award” in New York which we won on November 6th last year! It’s an award organized by the GACC New York, but an independent jury of economic experts makes the decision on who wins. We are immensely proud of that and feel that we have invested our energy and resources in the right way. It seems – with the right kind of preparation – our business activities in the States over the past 12 months can be called highly successful.
GACC NY: What are your next steps in the U.S.?
We are definitively planning on opening a U.S. office once the Corona crisis is over and the U.S. economy has recovered. During the past 2 years, we have checked out several locations in the U.S., looking at Silicon Valley, the Atlanta area, and the East coast. We are now focusing on New York – it is an excellent starting point because it offers one of the world’s most exciting startup ecosystems. And the density of clients is breath-taking. What we also like about the East coast is that the time difference to Germany is only 6 hours compared to the West coast with 9 hours.
GACC NY: Benjamin, lots of success for your endeavors and thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!