“US-access is a bit like a game of Monopoly,” says Mike Klyszeiko, who runs the Launchpad USA program. Really?
Well, yes, kind of.
Unlike in Monopoly, in which a roll of the dice determines the pace at which you move around the board, the Launchpad USA program is structured so that you know what steps to take and when to take them.
Perhaps, the best comparison to the game is that you have to be careful with how you manage your cash and critical of the investments you make as you move ahead. Breaking into the US requires a lot of planning and understanding where and when to make investments, so that you get the maximum return on your investment.
What happens when you come to the critical moments?
It is imperative that you have all the key information at hand so you can make a well-informed decision. Unfortunately, I have seen too many companies make decisions without being properly informed. They, for example, establish the wrong type of business entity in the US. This has precluded them from carrying out certain activities that were the reasons for them for going to the US in the first place!
You have observed and worked with Finnish companies for several years. You have seen what usually goes wrong. What are the Finnish companies’ weakest points?
Let’s start with the positive. Finland is the home to many really innovative and very competitive companies. Every day, I see amazing technologies that serve many different industries.
The greatest challenge these companies face is a lack of sufficient capital to support their internationalization plans. This is especially true for younger companies for which scalability is key.
Last year, American startups raised $30 billion more in venture capital money than their European counterparts. Companies with more capital can penetrate and scale up in more markets more quickly. I see Finnish companies often having to take incremental steps in growing their business beyond Finland’s domestic borders because of the relatively low level of funding.
How can you solve that problem?
It’s difficult to bypass a lack of capital. With less capital companies are required to be more disciplined, as the margin for error is slimmer.
That is why we have established the Launchpad USA program and structured it the way we have. It is based on planning and resourcing the steps ahead of time. It is also based on providing the needed information so that the company can make sound decisions with a full understanding of its options.
By the way, how many “steps” are there in the Launchpad program?
Well, that varies depending on the scale of operations the company is looking to establish. On average, a company must execute at least 40 steps to really enter the US market and establish a local presence there.
That’s quite a few! How do you help prepare for that many separate phases of execution?
The Launchpad USA program has four components. First, there are our advisory services, which help companies develop a smart and efficient US market entry plan. Second, there is the strategic networking, which helps our companies connect with the right partners to support their market entry and business-development activities
Third, there is training. We conduct regular sessions to discuss various aspects of doing business in the US. We have experts and member companies with more experience share their insights and best practices. Fourth, sharing of business-critical information. We want to provide companies with the information they need to make the right decisions at the right time.
Those elements cover all 40 steps – and more, if need be.
How long will it take an average company to go from scratch to sustainable business?
With proper planning and a well thought-out market-entry plan, a company can have a solid presence with staff based in the United States in 3 – 4 months.
Long-term sustainability is a different thing. I have seen companies become sustainable within the first year of their US operations. In some cases, however, it can take much longer. That depends on the market in which the company operates, the stage, which the company is at, and how well the company succeeds in building a customer-base before it makes a move to the US market.
Thanks so much, Mike, for your insights!
To learn more about the Launchpad USA program and how your company can take part. Contact:
Director, Transatlantic Business Development
+358 (45) 140 4911