Thanks to everyone who responded to the last two posts. Though not customer validation, your comments help to support the following theories:
- Sales and scaling overseas remains a primary challenge for Irish startups. Though the language is (basically) the same, issues of culture, connection, and promotion remain. The style/approach to sales and fundraising (down to the concepts of politeness and negotiation) are still very different between our countries. Challenge: can we offer more resources, better facilitate/support/connect/highlight promising companies in the USA? Entering a country of 350M people and fifty states covering 3,300 miles from Maine to California is an overwhelming prospect. Can we provide real, targeted sales and service support.
- Investor anxiety is a concern. Scaling a company beyond Ireland involves added risks, longer timelines, and more outside investment. For some investors, this can feel like/be a loss of control.
- Location, location, location. Where to set up shop? More than 80% of investor money is in Silicon Valley, which is also twice as far from Ireland as New York. Minnesota medtech is unrivaled, though biomed is distributed across a broad swath of the States (and Peapack NJ is considered ground zero for the pharma industry). Startup hotbeds include Austin TX, Boulder CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Seattle WA. Airport transport (including flights to and from Ireland) can’t be beat in Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas. The strong Irish connections in Boston, Chicago and New York are a definite advantage. There is no right answer, perhaps the best idea is a place with strong support from which a company can do reconnaissance, make more informed location decisions after a year or two.
One key question that was raised by several commenters: if we create a pipeline, can we fill it? Does Ireland produce enough scale-worthy, world-beating companies to make this a compelling, long-term proposition? My opinion is conditioned by my experience in Chicago, where we faced the same questions twenty years ago. The Chicago experience: as soon a funding became more available (more angel investors, more VCs willing to accept alternative business models to the ‘traditional formulae’, and increasing valuations), and more buzz produced by early successes (and beating the drum from the city, the universities, the investment community), the startup activity accelerated and the city now boasts the #6 ranking in the world for innovation hubs.
Fund it and they will come.
As we go forward, we’ll be focusing on these issues – and others. Thanks again for support and encourage you to continue offering your perspective, criticisms, help.
Educator (Associate Professor) / Entrepreneur / Leader of angel
communities /Entrepreneur in residence at PorterShed
and BioExcel / Rarosenberg@gmail.com