Situation: An early-stage software company is expanding internationally, both offering services to international companies from their Silicon Valley base, and building a presence overseas. What land mines should they avoid? How do you expand internationally?
Advice from the CEOs:
- Be more strategic than opportunistic. Europe is very interested in start-ups. Investigate potential locations thoroughly. For example, Luxembourg and Spain are not the most reliable markets or locations for basing a business.
- There are already good networks in Europe that you can plug into so that you don’t have to build everything yourself.
- There is a European organization called Open Coffee Club that attracts high tech and social media start-ups. You might consider either partnering with them or buying into their network.
- You can set up a corporation in Cyprus to leverage tax advantages and build a network covering Europe.
- To have geographic reach across Europe, you probably want two locations in Europe and one in Russia. Look at Ireland and Romania.
- Many Russian oligarchs have their investments in Cyprus and may provide a source of investment funds.
- Investigate the European Investment Fund and their sub-funds like the JEREMIE Holding Fund. This is a large government-funded investment pool focused on technology, innovation and start-ups.
- Foreign companies are attracted to the US because we have the right ecosystem for technology development. However, a bridge strategy for European companies who want access to US funding is tricky. The key issue is visas which have limited duration and may be difficult to renew. Also, immigration frowns on foreign business people who visit the US too frequently.
- Have you considered helping start-ups build through their early stages – reducing risk of early failure – before helping them come to the US?