Connects a group of eager and ambitious scaleups with potential investors and experienced entrepreneurs, providing them with a sound basis for expanding their business to the US. That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind TechLeap’s recent three-day trip to Boston and New York.
In the company of (among others) Prince Constantijn van Orange and entrepreneurs already active in America, the group of about 20 Dutch founders quickly learned the basics of doing business in America.
Voyc: Track customer interactions
One of the participants on this trip was Voyc’s co-founder and CTO, Lethabo Motsoaledi. Founded in 2015, this Dutch startup develops AI-powered software for financial service providers such as banks and insurers. They can use Voyc to automatically monitor customer interactions so they can ensure they are ongoing and careful and that they comply with all current laws and regulations.
US: interesting market
Voyc – which currently employs 18 people – now has branches in Amsterdam, The Hague, Cape Town and London. Motsoaledi explains that the biggest development is currently taking place in the UK. But America is also an interesting market for us. So when we had the opportunity to quickly interact with the parties that could help us through this trip organized by TechLeap, the choice was made quickly.
We had already found an American investor in Boston before the trip, so our main goal was to learn a lot about how we could grow there. You can do desk research yourself on all the possibilities for expanding to the US, but being there physically and talking to people with knowledge of the local market is very different.
During a ‘pre-dinner party’ in the Netherlands, the participants were able to get to know each other and get more information about the program. ‘What I really liked was that the traveling group – apart from the other founders – included Dutch entrepreneurs who had already earned their boost in America. We’ve also got more information on the fundraising process and how to make a good pitch. That way we’ll be well prepared for the journey.’
Three days of networking
On the first day of the trip, the company visited Boston, where participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas with investors, entrepreneurs and other interested parties from the local ecosystem during an informal function and stand-up dinner. After traveling by train to New York on Day 2, the three-day trip concludes with a boat cruise on the Hudson and dinner in New York.
Networking was the common thread over these three days, Motsoaledi reflects. ‘I have had dozens of interesting conversations and gained valuable insights. For example, I was curious about where our potential customers are mainly located. In terms of scope, the Netherlands and the UK are much smaller than a much larger country like the US. Many Dutch entrepreneurs – due to the favorable time difference – start on the American East Coast, but I quickly discovered during the conversation that the area is not very interesting for us.
Large call centers
‘We’re mainly focused on banks and insurance companies in the mid-market range with big call centers – they’re not there. In the Boston area you’ll find companies that mainly operate in the engineering and biotech industry. And New York has a large financial district, but those parties mainly serve the upper segment of the market.
‘That was an eye-opener: our customers are mainly in the southern part of the US, where labor is generally cheaper and many call centers are located. To illustrate: Florida has 3,567 call centers, California has 3,294 and Texas has 2,651 – for example, the United Kingdom has a total of 622. It was not for nothing that we decided on the spot to extend our trip to Miami, Austin and Los Angeles to further explore the local market there.
Sales: Fast and direct
Motsoaledi also gained valuable insights into sales processes in the US. Sales processes work very differently there than in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. While our sales processes are often broken down into multiple meetings, in the US it’s much faster and more direct. Americans are more focused on a concrete decision and usually need only one conversation to decide on a possible follow-up.’
So it is very important that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve during the meeting and keep your sales pitch organized during the meeting. There is usually no room for second chances.’
Serve customers remotely
A third key learning for Motsoaledi: You don’t need to be immediately with a team in the US to achieve business success. ‘If you already have an office in the US, the investor often likes the idea, but the most important thing is that you have customers. So it is wise to start serving customers from the Netherlands and gradually build your local footprint; Setting up a local branch, with all that comes with it, is always possible. An added advantage of this order is that customers can often tell you where it is best to open an office.’
‘We are now working with our first American customer, serving from the Netherlands. Now we are busy expanding our customer base in USA. The first phase of discussion is currently underway.’
A worthwhile trip
All in all, Motsoaledi looks back on the trip as a very rewarding one, he says. “It was worth the investment. I estimate that it would have taken at least a year to gain all of these insights and contacts without this trip. Now our US ambitions have gained momentum. Many conversations have strengthened our confidence to start acquiring customers sooner. We were able to significantly sharpen our go-to-market strategy. ‘
Also, Motsoaledi was pleasantly surprised by the number of Dutch companies that are successful in America. ‘There is a large community of Dutch entrepreneurs in the US. People who are happy to advise you on setting up your transatlantic business and can put you in touch with the right parties. Another good reason for the ambitious scaleups enlightening TechLeap.
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