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Making the jump: Supercharge your international expansion

From Amsterdam to Tokyo, Adyen counts now 23 offices around the world. We invited Pieter van der Does, Founder and CEO Adyen to share his valuable experience with the 11 founders of Rise Batch #2. They discussed product-market-fit, expansion strategy, localization, legal issues and much more. We unravelled their insights so you can take them with you. Wondering what’s happening during the Rise programme? With this series of articles, we peel back the curtain of our exclusive sessions where 11 leading Dutch tech entrepreneurs and scale experts join forces to break down the challenges around scaling a company.

Scaling up can be a wildly-rewarding, yet incredibly stressful time for any entrepreneur. Things move extremely quickly and a new home means a whole new set of consumer habits and regulations to get used to. 

There will always be risks involved throughout the process, however by ensuring you’ve taken high levels of care in your preparation and carried out in-depth research, those risks are reduced significantly. 

Immerse yourself in your new home

Understanding your market should start a long time before actually making the jump. Building this knowledge early will help you avoid potentially costly mistakes further down the line. How should you advertise yourself? Where should you seek funding? What documents do you need before trading? Putting the time and effort into this won’t guarantee success, but it’ll definitely make it far more achievable. 

Doing the legwork early and knowing exactly where you sit in the market before even arriving will make the transitional period a lot smoother. This is a brand new environment composed of consumer trends that may be alien to you, putting yourself in a position to understand these trends as soon as possible will inevitably help you keep any early running costs lower than if you went in blind. 

Kickstart your own marketing calendar as soon as possible, especially if you’re scaling into somewhere that is unfamiliar with your brand, product or services. Doing so will be a massive help when it comes to arranging meetings with potential investors and clients. 

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We are not looking only at the market size, we are paying attention to where we have traction.

Pieter van der Does, CEO & co-founder @ Adyen

Seek advice wherever you can

With that all being said, this is still going to be a learning experience and there will inevitably be bumps in the road. That’s why it’s important to reach out and seek help whenever and wherever you can. 

Local embassies can be extremely useful when you’re finding your feet. They can point you in the direction of any business grants you may be entitled to, advise on key regulations and match you with helpful figures relevant to your operation. 

Hiring a local advisor, who is tapped into the latest rules and regulations of your market is an extremely worthwhile investment. While it may not seem necessary at first, one misunderstanding of local law could set you back months.

Build a team who understands the local market

Assembling a winning team is tough at the best of times, doing so in a completely new country only makes that process harder.

While hiring locals may be difficult if you aren’t fully set up, building a team that has a fuller understanding of the consumer market you’re expanding into is always worth the extra effort. 

Knowing exactly who and what you’ll need before arriving is another integral part of keeping unexpected costs and skill-shortages to a minimum. It can also be key in streamlining any potential business deals. Different markets like to deal in different ways, so allowing those trends to dictate your recruitment strategy could be the difference in someone wanting to work with you and them looking elsewhere.

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3 top tips from Wibe van de Vijver, Director of Markets @ Techleap.nl

  1. Readiness is key. It’s a fine balance between on the one hand not being too slow and on the other hand, making sure you have sufficient resources and product-market-fit to hit the ground running. 
  2. Allocate enough time for your first local hires. When building a team in a new market with a different culture, it's extra difficult to assess the right fit. Your first local hires set the tone for the local team and so will impact your success. 
  3. Ask help from other entrepreneurs expanding in the same region and offer help for those who ask for your help.

Stay sensitive to differences in culture

It’s always worth taking extra care with the way you communicate when entering a new country, whether it’s through your external marketing or internally with your staff. For instance, Dutch workplace culture isn’t always well-received in American offices and can be counter-productive in terms of motivating your team. Likewise, the style of messaging you use to promote a product in the Netherlands, probably won’t resonate with a UK audience, so always be wary with the kind of language you use.

A quickfire guide to the major markets

South-East Asia

  • The ecosystem still needs to be institutionalised in Singapore, so it’s a good time to get in and help shape its future.
  • Singapore has a strong reputation and is trusted by surrounding countries, making it a good base for companies with plans to expand further.

USA

  • Term sheets can be complicated, invest in someone who has a deep understanding in this area - Taylor Wessing offers a useful report on current deal terms.
  • People are ready to meet new faces, marketing and sales is big in the US and cold-calling can work - but an intro will skip a few steps. Directly reach out and prepare your story well.

UK

  • The UK possesses one of the biggest ecosystems with lots of investment. However be sure to monitor the latest trends as things will change, particularly as Brexit introduces potential new regulations. 
  • The British tend to be extremely polite, so be sure to package any communications like a sandwich; start with something nice, get your information across, then end with something nice.
  • Cold calling doesn’t work so introductions are a huge bonus when seeking out potential clients, especially when it’s someone at the top of the hierarchy.
  • Make use of the Dutch embassy and speak to Lieke Conijn for priceless advice.
  • Do not bring up Brexit in meetings.

More regional tips on the GoGlobal website

Germany

  • Brand reputation can go a long way; build on trusted reviews and endorsements - most importantly, deliver on what you promise.
  • Share your presentations in German, and allude to German organisations in your references.
  • Approach business meetings with a lot of formality.

More regional tips on the GoGlobal website

France

  • The French market is an extremely loyal one, once you build that initial trust you can grow rapidly.
  • Make sure you have a French phone number, it’s a good first step in building that trust.
  • Don’t be put off by confrontation, debate is a common practice here as it allows you to make steps forward.

More regional tips on the GoGlobal website

Scandinavia

  • The market here is known for innovation and its willingness to adopt early ideas. Norway is particularly strong in the energy sector while Sweden offers a range of strong commercial brands and export commodities. Finland is big in the material sector, while Denmark’s health sector is particularly strong.
  • Honesty is hugely important here so be clear and up front. The government will blacklist you for breaching rules and once they do, it’s almost impossible to get off that list.
  • Generally Nordics care less about relationships and more about seeing the data.
  • Denmark is very similar to the Netherlands in terms of humour, whereas Sweden is more German, where formality and abiding by the rules is more appreciated.

More regional tips on the GoGlobal website

This process will undoubtedly be a whirlwind of ups and downs, so being agile is crucial to succeeding. Decisions should be carefully considered, but made swiftly - this can often seem daunting, but good preparation will allow for better-educated choices in all regards to your business. 

Make sure you clear up your agenda so you can dedicate time and mindspace into your expansion strategy. Visit our GoGlobal website to gather tips from other entrepreneurs, get key regional contacts,  access relevant checklists of top regions… And much more! 

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Go Global

GoGlobal has been created for all ambitious entrepreneurs that want to expand their business abroad and become a serious player in the international business markets. This website is your one and only ultimate guide on global expansion with valuable data and interactive maps, regional insights, video tips from fellow Dutch entrepreneurs, checklist and must-knows. And much more!

Check it now

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