Are you looking to set up your office in Silicon Valley? Below are the things that you should pay attention to.
Setting up office:
At the very core of setting up any successful team anywhere is a fearless leader whom people want to rally around. It all starts with that. That comes way before anything else.
Assuming that box is checked, a multitude of elements are at play now: what is the motivation to set this team up in the US? Does it have more to do with a specific talent pool that is more abundant here or is it to be closer to the customer/user? Depending on the underlying motivation to move, it will obviously determine the types of teams you’d want to set up here (product and engineering teams vs. business development and/or growth/customer acquisition teams).
Assuming that box is also checked, you naturally pick the geography that gives you the right intersection of your various needs — chances are you’re going to narrow down on one of the startup hubs in the US, simply because those offer the most compelling densities of talent, customers/users, investors, press, etc. Assuming furthermore that box is also now checked, our fearless leader needs to put herself out there and begin connecting dots, networking, speaking to the right types of people who will help her achieve her objective of hiring the right people.
Simultaneously, she’ll need to start investing in the logistics of setting up (ensuring the proper legal entities are set up, and if that legal entity needs to have some kind of a bond or transfer pricing relationship with an existing Indian entity, ensuring that is set up, applying for a FEIN, applying for a DUNS number, setting up early-stage startup friendly banking (a la Silicon Valley Bank, etc).
PR & Legal resources for founders
LEGAL: all the big law firms (Wilson Sonsini, Orrick, and Fenwick) have some kind of an early stage legal benefits platform, providing legal services in exchange for some kind of a convertible warrant. I used to believe this was the best way to get started, but I no longer think that. Pick a very local, one-man smart corporate attorney — you should find a handful on Yelp, but I use the Law Office of Chip Allen, super small, but very local, and because they are so local, they are more attentive and give great service. These kind of ultra-local law firms should be good enough to get the basics set up (entities, FEIN, SEIN, etc.)
PR/MARKETING: Nothing beats the founder(s) doing their own marketing and PR. Start blogging very regularly, start becoming active on forums like Quora and Twitter, and join a few Meetups in the area where you’re getting started up and just integrate yourself. That’s always the best way to begin to raise awareness about what you’re doing. If it’s simply beyond you to do that, buzzbuilders.net – the best outsourced PR firm I’ve worked with, but they rarely have time for new clients. If you can get in, great.
What are the challenges you face while going about this?
The greatest cross-border ‘language’ that speaks to all is intelligence. If folks generally perceive you to be a highly intelligent person, you will be able to stem any perceptions people may have. Indian entrepreneurs are blowing it up everywhere, and many more have massive engineering or product responsibilities at companies like Google, Square, SpaceX, etc. — so whatever perceptions existed are quickly evaporating, as they very well should.
What are the advantages of having a cross-border team?
The advantage would be very specific to your business. If WebEngage or WizRocket established a presence here, I would say the advantages would be a continuous arbitrage on engineering talent (in India) and being a lot closer to the customers both of those business are probably seeking (in the US). I would assume similar advantages were sought by the awesome teams at Freshdesk and Druva.
As Indian entrepreneurs, how is it to close sales / bag users in foreign markets?
Enterprises here, I believe, do have a more heightened sense of professionalism, even when talking to startups. Enterprises here now understand that the startup they’re speaking to could become the next Salesforce or Dropbox, and because of that, they treat them as peers. Again specific to enterprises, you also do find a higher propensity to sandbox and beta test a startup’s product. And collections. Yikes. Let’s not even talk about collections in India vs. other markets.
How are these two markets different? What can we learn from each market?
The US just has this massive head-start on all fronts, really. India is poised to explode as a consumer market, with the next generation of consumers all connected, all mobile, mostly salaried, and increasingly comfortable with doing things differently. India needs to focus on over-investing in a technological backbone for the consumer; how can India leapfrog the US and give all consumers dirt-cheap always-on connectivity at the same speed as the South Koreans? How can they continue to make the lives easier through transportation networks? How can we stem some of the public health embarrassments the country continues to suffer? India has so many base-level things to invest in and worry about, they don’t need to look elsewhere for inspiration.
By Serial Entrepreneur and Angel Investor Deepak Udani