About STEP USA:
STEP USA is a 5-day startup boot camp 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 on 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”.
“The STEP USA program gave us important insights at the exact right moment – saving money and time”
STEP USA Ambassador Naomi Owusu is the CEO of Tickaroo GmbH. The company was founded in 2011 and employs 31 people. Located in Regensburg, Bavaria, Tickaroo provides software as a service solutions (SaaS) for news and sports live storytelling. It also offers software development services for the German market, including designing, prototyping, development, and maintenance of the software.
Today Naomi Owusu talks with us about Tickaroo’s achievements, the importance of the U.S. market, and her insights on the STEP USA program.
GACC NY: Naomi, it’s a pleasure talking to you! How is Tickaroo getting through these economically challenging times?
Naomi Owusu: It’s good talking to you, too! I remember joining the STEP USA program in September 2017 and how excited I was to travel to New York. So much has happened in the meantime. The Corona crisis has had some effects on Tickaroo as well. Large sports events for example were not taking place which is a tough situation for our business. We lost significant budgets. As a consequence, we are extremely busy acquiring new customers in other segments such as public sector institutions and broadcasters as well as putting a lot of effort into supporting medium-sized businesses with digital transformation with our new brand madeby.tickaroo.com.
Needless to say, this means a lot of restructuring, reorganizing, and rescheduling in very, very short turnaround times. That can be stressful sometimes…
GACC NY: Yes, that sounds challenging indeed. But tell me, are there also things going well for you right now, maybe even better than you expected?
Naomi Owusu: I am happy how well everybody is working from home and how effective we can still be as a team. What we do to keep our business up and running is to really focus on our cash cows. We reflect on our actions more than ever to make sure that we use our resources in the best way possible. To keep in mind that every decision has an impact on your company’s success is an insight we all take to heart.
GACC NY: What do you consider the greatest success in your company’s history?
Naomi Owusu: I guess it is not the one ‘big thing’ that makes Tickaroo successful. I value all the small steps leading to success – ranging from excellent teamwork, interacting successfully with investors, using our networks and skills wisely. Every step leads to another step. Looking back, however, I am proud that we were able to expand our product range and offer more services to our clients. It took us some time to develop different products, but what we are offering is of great benefit to our customers. That’s really a satisfying feeling.
GACC NY: Looking back, are there things that you would have handled differently – a lesson learned that you can share with us?
Naomi Owusu: Absolutely. As a founder, you have to find the right path that works for you and your team. In the beginning, we focused our efforts on the development of our products and did not spend a lot of time or budget on marketing and sales. Looking back, I would change that. It’s important to find experts who talk about your product. My advice is to expand your brand and customer base on the market AND talk about it. Let people know why they need your product, get them engaged at an early point.
GACC NY: Thanks for sharing this, Naomi. Please tell us why the U.S. market is important for you?
Naomi Owusu: The U.S. market is one of the largest markets worldwide and we have developed products such as the Tickaroo Liveblog and our Tickaroo live sports Software as a Service. This is an extremely interactive real-time Cloud-CMS for high traffic media, sports, and broadcasting cooperations. These 2 products are now at a point that they can be sold in the U.S. Furthermore, we have identified several relevant sources of revenue for Tickaroo over there.
GACC NY: Is that why you joined our STEP USA program in September 2017? What were your most valuable takeaways from this 5-day boot camp in New York?
Naomi Owusu: Yes, absolutely! I heard about the STEP USA program through my network and it was recommended to me. I must say that it exceeded my expectations by far. New York is an absolute hotspot for business and tapping into an existing network such as the GACC New York was extremely helpful. It was the guidance and well-organized meetings that made all the difference. It simply was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the U.S. market in a very short time.
My biggest take away from the STEP USA program? We learned how to start our business in the U.S. What was most insightful was how to approach investors and potential business partners with the information they want to hear. Marketing and sales start right there. This, I found, works quite differently from what we are used to in Germany. It was a true and important eye-opener!
GACC NY: In your opinion, what do startups generally underestimate when coming to the U.S.?
Naomi Owusu: It is expensive to start a business over there. I guess what is underestimated the most is to put aside a budget for entering this huge market. As an already busy founder, you need to be prepared that your attention shifts from doing business at home to doing business in a foreign market on top of everything else. When we realized that, we decided to wait a bit because we have a fast-growing business in Germany and still lots of potential to grow our revenue at home.
GACC NY: Makes sense! Can you share a success story that has its roots in the STEP USA program?
Naomi Owusu: Sure! During the individual pitch training that we received as part of the STEP USA program, we improved and streamlined our original pitch deck a lot. We completely restructured it by focusing on the key benefits our clients have when using Tickaroo. We always tended to be very modest and careful when talking about our success, our numbers, or our pretty impressive partner and client network. It seems we were constantly more focused on getting things done and less ready to communicate what we have achieved over the years. After the STEP USA program, we really started TALKING and SHOWING what we have accomplished. That is an important part of being successful in business and I am very happy to call this one of the biggest take-aways from the STEP USA program.
We also completely worked our marketing and sales strategy over and that opened some important doors for us in Germany. I feel that with this fresh approach, we were on the winning side because we managed to close some valuable accounts for Tickaroo!
GACC NY: Glad to hear! So, what are your next steps in the U.S.?
Naomi Owusu: We are looking for more business contacts in the U.S. and we would love to get more marketing and sales training focused on SaaS and B2B business. At the moment, we are hiring: we are also looking for excellent salespeople in the U.S. That is what we need most right now.
GACC NY: Naomi, it was great catching up with you! Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and all the best for Tickaroo!