Export Report: If you’re going to San Francisco
San Francisco, home of the Kiwi Landing Pad, is an ideal staging post for New Zealand tech firms into the US market. Catherine Beard offers up some useful business tips. I took the opportunity to stop in the US recently as I was fortunate to be invited by the Global Federation of Competitiveness Council to […]
San Francisco, home of the Kiwi Landing Pad, is an ideal staging post for New Zealand tech firms into the US market. Catherine Beard offers up some useful business tips.
I took the opportunity to stop in the US recently as I was fortunate to be invited by the Global Federation of Competitiveness Council to be a participant on a panel at the Competitiveness Forum of the Americas in Panama City.
As well as meeting some of our overseas representatives in Los Angeles, which I reported on in the last issue of NZBusiness, I also met with some others in San Francisco.
It was interesting being in San Francisco post-America’s Cup. I was surprised by the number of Americans who were hoping the Kiwis would win. We were well liked in the sailing competition and NZTE got some great leverage with venture capitalists turning up to cocktail functions and showing great interest in being introduced to New Zealand companies.
I met with Catherine Robinson, director of the Kiwi Landing Pad – an office space where New Zealand technology companies can ‘hot desk’ and have a base from which to check out the US market and ‘plug in’ with the technology scene and technology investors in Silicon Valley.
Catherine joined the Kiwi Landing Pad as its director in September 2012 and brought with her extensive experience in commercialising technology and strategies for entering the United States market. At www.kiwilandingpad.com you can learn more about the Pad, and hear from Kiwi tech entrepreneurs doing business from there.
One of the guest posts from Ash Fogelberg sums up the Pad well: “There are lots of interesting people doing exciting things and it is exactly what it claims to be, a landing pad for Kiwis to get themselves sorted in San Francisco.”
Catherine Robinson had some good advice to share with Kiwi tech firms, which I have summarised below:
• Don’t underestimate how much you will have to adapt – from employment law through to how people get paid. The faster you can adapt, the quicker you will succeed.
• The Kiwi Landing Pad is a place to do your market research – being in the market allows you to pick up the nuances that can get lost in translation if you just outsource the market research.
• You need to know if you can sell your product in the US market. If you can’t sell it, how is a sales person going to be able to?
• You need to find the right level of venture capital. It probably won’t be the big name brands because they are looking for really big investments. It pays to look at who has invested in your competitors, or who has the skill-set or knowledge in your market and what size deals they are currently doing.
• You can get a visa waiver if you are only going to be in the US for a couple of weeks at a time. Some companies take this approach at first, commuting back and forth between New Zealand and San Francisco for a while.
• Don’t appoint sales people from afar. You need to understand the quality of the relationships they have and you can only do that by being there on the ground.
• There are lots of tech events going on all the time in San Francisco. Be there and get amongst them.
• The Kiwi Landing Pad is a place where technology companies can be part of a networked community and there are lots of benefits in that. It becomes a supportive ecosystem.
Catherine Beard is executive director of ExportNZ.