opinion pieces

To all those who’ve asked themselves: “Should I move my startup to the Silicon Valley?”

Mario Uher

Mario Uher

6 min read

To all those who’ve asked themselves: “Should I move my startup to the Silicon Valley?” — Here’s our guideline:

I’m sure every startup has had the thought to move their business from their home country to the birthplace of (modern) innovation — the Silicon Valley.

For some, it is rather a nice imagination than an actual consideration. However, some others really do believe that their product would have better chances in the US market.

As you can imagine, we at YodelTalk continuously had discussions like these within the team and with ourselves. We built a product that we know would definitely work in the US market. However, it is a whole different conversation when it comes to actually doing it. As for us, we decided to give it a try and move parts of our non-development activities to the US.

This is why we want to tell you what steps you should think through before making a decision:

1. What good will it do to move to the US?

Don’t expect to make a quick dollar in the US

Don’t expect to make a quick dollar in the US

We believe that this is the most important question to ask yourself. Is it really doing something good for your company to move to Silicon Valley?

In the startup world, your first priority is: survival. Every founder knows the struggle of fighting through getting your product-market fit, getting an investor on board, or just finding the right people to hire. Definitely another challenge that you will have to add to this list is taking everything you have built so far and restructuring it. This is why you really have to leverage the pros and cons.

In our case, we know that the majority of our customers are based in the US. It gives customers a sense of comfort, just to know that the people they need to talk to are close by. It builds a certain kind of trust from the beginning of your business relationship with them.

Secondly, we build our business to partner up with great integration platforms. And those are mainly located around Silicon Valley. Not to mention that again, letting them know you are right next to them and can easily set up a meeting for the next day is a psychological factor that has a great impact on your partnerships.

And thirdly, we are keeping our options open to be in the US for fundraising. This is a whole other topic I could write my own blog post about. In short: if you want to scale up for an A/B/C-round, you will most probably need to raise money in the US. So it makes sense to be there from an early stage on to build up your network.

2. Am I willing to move my life to the US? If not, is someone else fitting to take over this role, and are they willing to do that?

It should not come to this situation
It should not come to this situation

You have to be aware that you will be living in a whole different country for an uncertain amount of time. Not everyone is made for this change. As said before, you are facing enough challenges already, and having trouble adapting to the new environment should definitely not be one of them. So if you know that you can’t do it yourself, you need to know if someone else from your management team can and wants to take over this role.

3. What will be done differently in the US than at home?

Some kind of structure makes your lives way more easier

Some kind of structure makes your lives way easier

Now we are already getting to the more specific questions. You already know that you want to move the business to the US. Now, you need to figure out your goals and daily routine. In our case, only parts of the team are living in the US while the others stay in Austria for development. This means you really need to structure and organize your everyday routine to make the most of your time in the US. Questions like “Who do I want to get an intro to?”, “Will I need a mentor?”, “How will I communicate with the rest of the team?” should get answered beforehand.

4. Is it possible from a financial/legal perspective?

Actually, if it comes to a legal perspective, be that person!
Actually, if it comes to a legal perspective, be that person!

Please do not make the mistake to overlook this aspect! The mindset of “let’s just try it and see how it works out” is in most cases something positive but there’s nothing more unprofessional than being in talks with an interested investor, telling them that you are building up an office in the US and then you realize that you don’t have the right Visa to even stay in the US for a while. My suggestion is to look into the different Visa options so you know which one could work for you. It’s just about being prepared and knowing what’s coming towards you. Also, living in the Bay area is super super expensive! Keep that in mind and add those additional costs to your financial model.

5. Is the team supporting this decision?

You’re all in this together ;)

You’re all in this together ;)

Personally, I think this is a question often overlooked. It is a fact that there’s a 9 hour time difference and 6000 miles separating you and your team (at least from Europe). You need to really stick together and work towards the same goals in order to make this way of “teamwork” successful. This means that your team should also be able to see the advantages of doing business in the US. Otherwise, someone will get frustrated sooner or later and besides all those obstacles you have to overcome, major disputes within your team should not be one of them.

Bonus recommendation:

We know, this is not only a difficult decision to make, but also you may not be able to answer all these relevant questions right away. As said, we knew from the beginning that we’d have some potential in the US market. But before taking the big step I can recommend going to the US for a short trip. Try to set up meetings with potential customers/business partners/VCs and see what happens. We went to the US in Fall 2016 and again in March 2017 to attend numerous meetings and to get some first-hand insights. This really helped us to understand the potential we’d have in the US market and made our decision a whole lot easier!

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