This week, to coincide with London Technology Week, we held two roundtable events for senior TMT execs with co-hosts LivingBridge and Barclays on the theme of “Going Global”.
One event was, naturally, held in Central London, whilst the other, in a blatant flouting of the rules, was held in Manchester highlighting that there is plenty of Tech talent out there in the regions too.
Unsurprisingly the impending result of the EU referendum was a hot topic in both locations. Regardless of your point of view, most were agreed on one point, a Brexit result is likely to cause some uncertainty in the short term, potentially delaying decisions around fundraising, M&A and even international expansion.
The longer term is, of course, tougher to predict but attendees discussed a host of possibilities and concerns including availability of talent, the impact on overseas investments into private equity funds, and even the social impact on the UK workforce.
Another area we covered in some detail was how to go about making the decision on which international markets to tackle first.
We had attendees that had been responsible for running operations in the US, Australia, Germany, Israel and India to name a few and, the consistent message was that language commonality does not necessarily make the task an easier one. Issues in the US market including litigation and the sheer scale of the market mean that it’s not going to be the American Dream for most who try to crack it, at least not without an awful lot of hard work (and a large dose of good fortune).
A common theme was the importance of finding the right talent to do the job, ideally a manager or a team who understand the culture of the market you’re attempting to enter whilst also being able to act as a “culture carrier” for your business. If such a person exists, hold onto them for dear life.
There is also the data-driven approach for the analytically minded of you out there. Leveraging information from sources such as Gartner and Forrester, the UKTI (who were in attendance) or relevant industry associations can go a long way towards informing you about which geographies might be most appropriate for your software/service/widget. They can also help put you in touch with people who have been there done that, an invaluable source of what not to do if nothing else.
And finally, don’t forget about the UK in your strategy to make it big. There’s little doubt that strategic acquirers and Private Equity alike value a successful foray into international territory, but they also value businesses that have exploited the low picking fruit first before heading to the Alps/Rockies/Andes in search of glory.