Never make a cold call to Silicon Valley

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Post by Catherine Robinson, Director San Francisco Kiwi Landing Pad.

Kea Chairman, Phil Veal believes that New Zealanders should never need to make a cold call when doing business in overseas markets.This really resonates with what we are trying to achieve at the Kiwi Landing Pad here in San Francisco. We provide an office space in the centre of gravity for IT, but our real value lies in the curated community that we have built to support and embed it. The expat community play a key role in being able to make connections and introductions for New Zealand technology companies launching into the USA.

I spoke at the annual Kea Inspire Days that were held in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. The Kea Inspire Days culminate in the World Class Awards and dinner that celebrates some of our most famous and successful residents and expats. Keep an eye out for next years Kea Inspire Days and learn from other New Zealanders who are up there on the world stage.

I was asked to speak about what it takes for a company to go from surviving to thriving in my experience as an entrepreneur who has done just that. Here is an overview of what I spoke about.

Adapt to be understood.

The most common hurdle companies need to overcome is to recognize that they need to adapt. We come from an incredible start point – our New Zealandishness means that we are respected, hardworking and community focussed global residents. Because travel is such a big part of life for most NZers, we are very aware of life offshore. From a business perspective we look at overseas markets and the most exciting element is the size of the market. And we head off suitcase in hand ready to sell to a market often 100+ times our local domestic market but, our sales and marketing collateral are often based on what has worked in New Zealand. Succeeding offshore is being able to adapt to the market, fast.

I had the rather embarrassing situation of being completely misunderstood when ordering coffee in San Francisco.  I said Catherine but the barista heard Effnn – the barista calling out Effnn latte in a packed cafe wasn’t cool. English is the first language in the US, but there are some significant differences in the way we speak. As a tourist that is ok- but to achieve cut-through in a very competitive market place, make sure you stand out for your technology and business idea.

Slow down, be concise, remove the colloquialisms. “Yeah, Nah, Yeah” is confusing to most Americans. The words “overseas” and “offshore” are commonly used in New Zealand and Australia – because we’re surrounded by oceans. In the USA, people say “domestic” vs “international.”

Adapt your messaging.

Be able to speak to the vision of where your market is headed . For example, don’t get hung up on whether or not Google glass will make you look like a glass-hole, or worse still – a dork. The notion of the internet of things is coming and we will be scanning, driving, flying and wearing devices that are embedded with internet enabled technology. Think about what opportunities this may open up for you. It’s not about having a working prototype – just the ability to position your companies vision for the market and the key role your technology will play in this environment.

Be careful of leading with where you are from.  Before you know it you have wasted your 30 allocated minutes with a top US VC and you haven’t even mentioned your exciting new product. Kiwi Landing Pad Managing Director John Holt also addresses this in a recent piece featured in the NZ Herald.

Adapt and keep on adapting as your market does.

A barrier or hurdle that a lot of companies add is that they feel isolated being in New Zealand. While we are 10,000km’s from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, we don’t have to feel isolated. Isolation is a feeling and not a geographical state. Through being based in market or travelling regularly and connecting to influencers, companies, analysts and teams in market, you can easily be better connected to what is happening in market.

Being connected means that you can adapt and adjust your company and product faster.