Are you looking to expand your business into the U.S.?
I don’t blame you, there is so much opportunity. The key is to arrive prepared, and ready for success.
As the Publisher and CEO of Unfiltered, I have the great honour of travelling around the world interviewing some of the most amazing business leaders on the planet.
It just so happens that many of these business leaders are New Zealanders. Kiwis killing it on the global stage.
I recently returned from the USA where I was filming for a new series called Unfiltered in the USA.
We interviewed over 20 business masterminds while on tour, including the President of Y Combinator, Sam Altman; the CEO of Unity Technologies, John Riccitiello and Matt Nordby, President, Global Licensing and Chief Revenue Officer of Playboy Enterprises.
We flew into Los Angeles, and after a couple of days of driving around in our JUCY van, headed to Mojave for an interview with the CEO of Virgin Galactic, George T. Whitesides. Virgin Galactic had just unveiled their brand new spaceship, VSS UNITY, so we were there at a very busy time (we missed Branson by one day!). George spoke in a lot of detail about the “business of space,” and the greatest opportunities that entrepreneurs can exploit in the industry. New Zealand is one of the world leaders in this space (pun intended), with Peter Beck from Rocket Lab literally changing the way satellites are launched, globally. Unfiltered has filmed detailed interviews with both George T. Whitesides and Peter Beck, which will be live soon!
One of the other major highlights of Unfiltered in the USA was our interview with Kiwi businesswoman Sarah Robb O’Hagan. Sarah, who had her start at the University of Auckland, was until recently the president of EQUINOX, a global fitness and lifestyle brand across the U.S. and the United Kingdom with 18,000 staff, before leaving to launch her own startup, ExtremeYOU. Sarah is the former President of Gatorade, General Manager of Marketing at Nike, Director of Marketing at Virgin Atlantic Airlines, and has been named among Forbes Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Sports multiple times. She is literally killing it on the global stage, and she is only 43-years-old.
To hear from Sarah how she has made it big in the U.S. was truly inspiring. She explained how she was fired from Virgin and Atari, before landing her dream job at Nike. And how she had to work 18 times harder than everyone else. Check out her full interview Here.
I’ve learnt a lot talking to these amazing business leaders in the U.S., and have pulled together 7 of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt relating to the expansion of New Zealand businesses into the U.S.:
1. Want to get in a door? Introductions are vital, particularly in Silicon Valley. In New Zealand, business leaders are often very receptive to being cold-approached, but in the U.S., an introduction is often the only way in the door. A trusted introduction ensures your proposition will be looked at. We interviewed Scott Nolan, a Partner of Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, who said introductions are practically the only way to get a meeting at Founders Fund. Relationships are vital!
2. Get to the point. Americans don’t muck around. If you don’t have your elevator pitch ready, you won’t be taken seriously. Learn to sell your business vision within 20 minutes.
3. Oversell yourself. I was once told by an American friend that nobody would take me seriously as I was “too humble.” As a general rule, Americans often oversell themselves by 100%, while Kiwis often undersell themselves by 100%. Double your enthusiasm and truly sell yourself. Just be sure to turn off the hype when you get back to New Zealand otherwise you’ll get killed by other New Zealanders who will hate this.
4. There is no “U.S. market.” If you’re looking to expand your business into the U.S., realise that there isn’t a “U.S. market.” Different states have massive differences. It is smarter to expand into California, or New York, and then expand into other parts of the U.S. later. Going after the whole country at once will likely cause you a massive headache and unnecessary failure.
5. You can’t rock up, raise some capital, and go home. Almost always, founders have to be on the ground in the U.S., or live there, to raise capital. A huge number of Kiwis go to the U.S. for a few weeks, have a few meetings, and expect to raise capital and take over the world. This just won’t happen. The U.S. is a serious place, and requires a serious effort.
6. Visas are hard; don’t underestimate the challenges you will face! As Kiwis who value our freedom, it is easy to think that you can rock up to the U.S. and stay forever, forgetting that you will quickly make it to Donald Trump’s hit list unless you do it properly. Finding the right Visa is hard, expensive and time-consuming. Make sure you really, really want to do it, and don’t give it a half-hearted effort, otherwise you’ll fail.
7. Kiwis want to help! There are amazing support networks in the U.S. to help you grow. Make sure you check out what NZTE has to offer, as well as the Kiwi Landing Pad which is an amazing first step. These people have been through it all before, and can save you from making rookie mistakes. Also be sure to chat with the thousands of Kiwis who live in the U.S. as they’ll be happy to help you succeed on the global stage!
Also, remember to check out Unfiltered’s International Business and Exports Sections for exclusive advice from those who have been the most successful.
Good luck, and have fun.
Jake Millar is the CEO and Publisher of Unfiltered.co.nz, a business education platform which helps businesses grow in New Zealand and abroad through exclusive video interviews with game changers. Interviewees include Sir Michael Hill, Sir Douglas Myers, Diane Foreman, Theresa Gattung, Rob Fyfe, Stephen Jennings, Karen Walker, Eric Watson and Sir Ralph Norris. Check out Unfiltered Here.