It is the dream of many German startups to enter the American market, securing a huge venture capital investment with one of the top funding firms on the East or West coast and gaining significant market shares while growing business at home and overseas.
What do you need to get going in that direction?
As a founder, you are used to being exposed to an enormous amount of pressure. That holds even more true in the U.S. American investors are impatient and demanding. Speed matters. A minute in New York goes by faster than 60 seconds in Germany. The difference between failing in America and Germany is that IF you fail – you fail faster.
However, failing overseas is not considered as a shameful or negative experience. Founders who failed have learned from their mistakes and usually come back stronger and wiser.
Investors are looking for serial entrepreneurs for this very reason. Be prepared to answer their questions on potential failures, be honest about them and sell your business mistakes as true learnings.
2. Presentation skills:
I have attended countless startup pitches, both in Germany and the U.S. What always amazes me is that German startups many times have a more mature product and are using more sophisticated technologies. The trouble often is that German founders tend to be on the ‘underselling’ side. “We have created xyz, but it’s not perfect yet, because…” — let go of perfectionism! It’s about building meaningful MVPs and selling those successfully.
Another piece of advice on doing successful presentations: Make them fun! Americans love being entertained. Build in a joke about yourself or show an unexpected picture. Don’t only be the dry German number guy that neutrally talks about every technical detail of his product. Your audience will play with their cell phones to endure your ‘boring’ presentation. Ergo: The less people playing on cell phones while you present, the better your act! 😊
American startups usually are excellent at selling whatever they are working on. It’s certainly helpful to keep in mind that children growing up in the U.S. are often holding presentations in their school classes. This is a very active part of the curriculum and their education. From a very young age on they tend to feel comfortable in front of audiences. This skill paired with a stable self-confidence comes in extremely handy, once they enter their professional lives.
So, be bold, make yourself heard, believe in your product… because nobody does it better than you do! A stable self-confidence is absolutely indispensable in the American business world.
Easier said than done. It not only takes guts to enter a foreign market, but it also takes a tremendous amount of effort to gather all the needed information to really do it right.
So how to go about it?
Use existing resources. Many associations have company directories that will provide you with the names of potential clients. Another good idea is to contact our legal services department at the GACC New York for a first free consultation on all of your legal questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Acquaint yourself with intercultural differences that play an important role in the business world. Don’t assume that what works at home works well overseas.
Be aware that marketing and sales are done quite differently in the U.S. Companies use a lot of social media, much more than in Germany. Twitter is a very successful tool over there, whereas Facebook ads are not really popular anymore. LinkedIn is much more than just a digital business card, it’s the network you use to do sales big time. American company websites engage their customers actively. They are about inspiration and the company’s vision.
Furthermore, American customers expect that you provide them with a phone number they can call in the U.S. to answer all product-related questions. Inform yourself on standard U.S. return policies.
5. Network – the most important resource!
An intact business network is key to success everywhere, but it is absolutely indispensable in America. Networking in the U.S. is an art in itself. Prepare yourself for network meetings, bring your international business cards and have a complete and meaningful LinkedIn profile. Ideally, you have endorsements in your profile – it grants you more credibility. Make the best use of your time at the network gathering by answering these questions beforehand:
· In order to call it a successful network meeting, what do I want to get out of it?
· Who will be there?
· Who do I absolutely want to talk to?
· AND: prepare an airtight 30-second elevator pitch. Learn it by heart.
Approach your identified business contacts proactively. Engage them in a conversation on your product. Tell them why it is so exciting – but from THEIR point of view.
Nobody has a perfect business network. So build it! Improve your LinkedIn profile. Search the net for your competition in the U.S. and find out which investor has given them money. Connect with that person on LinkedIn. First step done!