American Dreaming: Notes from Skynamo's visit to the USA - 4min read
Skynamo has big dreams - ones that stretch far beyond the borders of South Africa. After opening our UK office in 2017, we are now planning our move to the States so a few of us went to ‘Murica to explore how realistic our dreams are. What we discovered was both sobering and exhilarating, and quite tasty!
Go Big. Or Go Home.
America is big. That probably sounds a bit trite. But seriously, it’s vastness is on a scale that most South Africans can’t quite comprehend. We had a meeting with the city of Dallas Fort Worth’s chamber of commerce and found out that its GDP is three times the size of South Africa. One City in America makes three times as much money as our whole country. That’s big. If we replicated our model directly, we would need nine offices to meet the demand of just this one city.
The above is a statistic presented to us by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Dallas-Ft Worth has three times the GDP of South Africa. This blew our minds.
Exhilarating: There is so much opportunity here. Niche success in the states translates into significant success for everyone. As Skynamo’s customer base grows, it will have more resources to invest in R&D and more data points to develop the product against. The result will be a product that keeps getting better and increasing customer facing infrastructure such as support.
Sobering: It's not easy to make ‘a dent in the universe’ here. The investment in terms of time, money, attention and energy to get noticed, even a little bit, is immense. This is not a market to half-heartedly experiment with. We are either in, or we aren’t.
BE Big. Or Go Home.
South African business culture is a modest one. We tend to shy away from announcing ourselves as the best - waiting for others to say it on our behalf. This kind of attitude will get us nowhere in the States. It requires us to be consistently and vocally confident in our tech, and ourselves, as a baseline. The attitude seems to be – if you can’t back yourself, why should I back you at all?
Exhilarating: Finally! We can just say what we believe and know about our product. “Skynamo is the best answer to the challenges sales reps face when out selling on the road. It will absolutely make a difference to your sales number.”
Sobering: In a market where everyone is ‘The Best’, it takes extraordinary claims and proof, supported by aggressive marketing to stand out.
Challenging: Modesty, some might consider it false modesty, is hard-wired and difficult to change. This is going to be hard for many of us.
Willing buyers. Lots and lots of them.
Americans want to buy. We did a few expos while in the States and potential customers would approach us to find out about Skynamo. Let me repeat that – They approached us. There is a willingness to be sold to that transforms the conversations from one of slightly awkward, beating around the bush, style of chatting to a direct conversation about what we do, why it works and a frank interrogation if Skynamo is right for them.
Exhilarating: This market wants to know about us. They are interested in our technology and happy to explore if it's right for them. Yay.
Sobering: This market is interested in everyone. We need to stand out to move the conversation from ‘sounds interesting’ to ‘sign here.’
Nurturing our Roots. Remembering home.
Skynamo’s birthplace is a tiny, almost windowless office in TechnoPark in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Our values, culture and beliefs about the world are coded into the technology. It is because of who we are. The challenge for many businesses that expand into the States is the market opportunity and the business culture can overwhelm the thinking, beliefs and culture of the organisation that brought it into being in the first place.
Exhilarating: Our South African tech can make a difference all over the world. We can bring something new to a market that has seen it all.
Sobering: We need to pay special attention to our culture and who we are so that we don’t get absorbed so much into the US corporate culture that we lose what makes us unique.
Hamburgers can be an art form.
We ate a lot of burgers. Tim Noakes would not have been pleased. The best come from a bar and grill in Atlanta called Vortex. So obviously this city is getting our vote as the location of our first office.
This trip was the first of many as we explore how best to take Skynamo into America. We'll keep sharing our learnings, thoughts and experiences through this blog.