Crossing the pond is the easy part. Landing in London and expanding your startup internationally is much harder–and incredibly rewarding.
TechCityInsider hosted a podcast featuring reps from TechCity UK, General Assembly, Twilio, AirBnB and oDesk, to talk about the keys to successfully growing your company in London. Here are some highlights from the podcast.
Have Startup, Will Travel
Matt Cynamon, somewhat jokingly volunteered to head General Assembly’s expansion into London in 2012. Three weeks after saying “I’ll go!” he was on an airplane crossing the pond. Matt quickly got to know local companies and culture,with support of TCIO and TechCity UK.
For startups who are just getting their start in London, developing relationships and getting facetime with customers should be more important than setting up scalable practices–at first, says Ally Basak Russel from oDesk.
Land and Expand
When you’re in a new city, a new culture it’s easy to get lost. Twilio’s head of European Marketing, James Parton, recommends staying in tune with the specific needs of your customers in specific locales.
“Part of the role that i’ve been playing [at Twilio] is helping to adjust the mindset to think of the local environments. Now we’re seeing much more inventory coming on board so we can support those communities more effectively.”
TechCity UK’s Pru Ashby addressed the two main challenges that American companies face when going global.
- Getting the right talent
Pru says American companies try sending someone from their HQ who knows the company culture, but doesn’t know the local market well enough to make an impact.
- Building the brand and building the market
“Sometimes brands are big fish in a small pond. Crossing the pond presents new challenges and opportunities,” says Pru. The key to making the most out of those opportunities is networking with the London community.
Adapting To Your Community
To be successful in London, you have to be in-tune with local expectations. Matt recalled an email General Assembly sent to their students, calling for them to register for “fall classes.” American students wouldn’t bat an eye at the email, UK students didn’t respond well. It’s “autumn” in the UK.
James Parton, head of European Marketing for Twilio, talked about staying in touch with your customers’ expectations for your product, and messaging.
“There are subtle differences. In the US you don’t know when you dial a number if its a mobile phone or a landline, because they just use city codes. Whereas obviously in Europe we have different numbers for mobile and geographic. So…. if you receive a message from a landline it’s kind of weird in Europe and you kind of don’t trust it, those kinds of things.”
London has an incredibly tight knit and welcoming tech community. Just take a look at all the UK news on our blog. We’ve seen it first hand with digital agency Poke, making it snow via text and London banding together to help out Shoreditch developers.
Pru brought up the success of Flood Hack, and event organized in roughly 24 hours which brought over 200 developers together to help victims of catastrophic UK flooding with software solutions. “It was about the community coming together to focus on, and solve a problem.”