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Mike Klyszeiko
Director of Launchpad USA, Amcham Finland

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I’m able to offer tailored guidance for your U.S. market entry.
But here are some quick tips first.

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Define the goals and objectives for your trip at least three months in advance.

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Do not travel to the U.S. for ‘feedback’.

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Use your existing network to facilitate easy introductions with the people you need to meet in the U.S.

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Be clear and honest by stating the purpose of your suggested meeting when asking for introductions. Don’t play games. Just get to the point.

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Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and cold call.

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Send regular reminders to confirm the meeting.

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Consider visiting places outside of Silicon Valley or New York City.

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I often receive frantic emails and calls from Finnish founders and executives who are just days from flying to the United States.

They want last minute introductions to ANYONE! Their planned schedules have too many gaps, and there are no coherent goals for the trip, besides capturing a few snazzy selfies at the Google campus. Ultimately, business leaders of new companies reach out to me because they’re worried about spending a week of their time and thousands of euros on a trip that doesn’t yield tangible results.

Having advised and invested in hundreds of entrepreneurial ventures, as well as being familiar with American business norms, I’m able to offer tips for making your first trip to the U.S. a productive one.

This list is simply a compilation of the best ideas I’ve gathered and created based on my interactions with founders who found success.

  • Define the goals and objectives for your trip at least three months in advance.

Are you traveling to meet and sign on five new customers? Do you want to establish contractual relationships with distributors around the country? Will you seek angel investors to support your new venture? Simply meeting people and receiving feedback do not justify a costly trip.

  • Do not travel to the U.S. for ‘feedback’.

Americans are usually positive towards each other’s goals and visions, and this also applies to new business concepts within entrepreneurial hubs.

Ask “What do think of my idea?”, and you’ll probably hear “That’s a great idea!” or “I love it!”

This consistent positive feedback can often lead to false conclusions. The only type of feedback that matters in the early stage is money. If the market likes your product, they will buy it. If investors like your business, they will invest in it. All other feedback is largely irrelevant and may lead you to make bad business decisions.

  • Use your existing network to facilitate easy introductions with the people you need to meet in the U.S.

Once you have decided on your trip objectives are you can go into the next phase of planning which involves your CRM a lot of calling and emailing.

In our hyper-connected world, you may be only one person away from the exact person you need to meet. Do your homework, look through your current connections and identify matches to ask for an introduction.

  • Be clear and honest by stating the purpose of your suggested meeting when asking for introductions. Don’t play games. Just get to the point.

Busy executives in the U.S. rarely, if ever, want to meet simply for the sake of meeting. Tell them from the beginning if you want to sell them something. If you’re seeking investment, tell them you are raising capital and are interested in their contribution.

  • Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and cold call.

Absent any introductions through your own network, you will be forced to undertake the painful, and sometimes lengthy, process of contacting cold leads. This requires a lot of time, hence the three-month window, persistence and patience.

I’ve found that it can take up to 30 contacts to finally set a meeting with an executive at a medium to large enterprise in the U.S. Direct phone numbers and email addresses are rarely public information, so you will likely need to jump through a lot of hoops to get that person’s attention.

I also recommend that you have an executive summary ready to fire off through email, should that person ask for more information before agreeing to meet. With enough persistence, or should I say ‘sisu’, you will eventually secure that meeting.

  • Send regular reminders to confirm the meeting.

Reminder should go out up to 24 hours before the scheduled meeting. Inevitably, there will be cancellations or requests to reschedule. One useful strategy is to leave one day open at the end of your trip for rescheduled meetings. This is a tip I picked up from a successful Finnish entrepreneur.

  • Consider visiting places outside of Silicon Valley or New York City.

I commonly see companies lured into those two destinations because they think it’s what they must do. However, the United States has 52 metropolitan areas with over one million people. There are business opportunities and capital literally scattered all over the entire country.

You may find your ideal location in an unsuspecting region, as long as you spend the time to look for it.

The more work you put into trip preparation, the better your results will be. Preparation will also increase the likelihood that you’ll be flying back across the Atlantic with orders placed, contracts signed, or funds invested into your enterprise.

The U.S. market is a massive challenge, but it’s not insurmountable. Many have gone before you and have succeeded. I suspect they have done so because they have taken many of the steps I just laid out.

Please reach out to me before your trip, but make sure you leave at least three weeks before your departure, not three days!

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