Should non-American companies scale in the United States?

Q: How should non-American companies think about scaling into the US? Should they even be thinking about scaling to the US?

If you want to see the extended response from Elizabeth, check out this video.  

We hear this question a lot from international founders and we get it. Scaling in the US feels so appealing!

  1. The US market is big and people are willing to spend money
  2. There are a lot of US investors who say “If you were going after the US market as a US company, we would definitely be interested in backing you."

The big problem is that if you’re not based in the US and you’re trying to go after a local US opportunity, that is really, really difficult.

You don’t know much about the US landscape. How can you outcompete the other local startups going after the same opportunity?  

Plus when you really think about it from an investor's perspective, would you back an overseas company for this opportunity in the US? Or would you rather back a local company that knows the market in and out and has a strong network here already?

Of course, you’ll back the latter. So reason #2 is kind of nonsense because those investors who say they would be interested if you were local, wouldn’t back you anyways.

So what should you do? Our belief is that you should build your business the way you want to build your business.

Option #1: Do you want to go after the US opportunity?

If so, move to the US. Learn everything you can and build your network here before you think about investors. You need to be the best team here to tackle this specific opportunity.

We see immigrant founders come here all the time and kick ass. But they have to spend time ramping up quickly and learning everything they can.

Option #2: Rethink your business strategy

If you’re not really interested in the US but want to go there only to get funding from US investors, we would encourage you to rethink your business.

The US market is incredibly crowded. Oftentimes, an international team has a more interesting opportunity in their local market. For this reason, Elizabeth Yin has spent more time investing in emerging market companies than US companies in the last year or so.

Look in your local market and see if there is an interesting opportunity that’s a blue ocean that your team will be well-positioned to go after. Knock that out of the park.

This may mean you can’t get access to US capital. But that’s OK because you may have a better opportunity right where you already are.