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How to go global as a B2B startup

Video Summary

A panel of global businesses talk about scaling, the issues and troubles that a company will typically experience and how you can prepare yourself for failure before it happens.


Dedicated Product Manager and Marketer with 10+ years experience working for high profile global brands. Comprehensive background in: product, leadership, strategy development and creative brand management with strong financial acumen.

A highly driven, dedicated and ambitious business leader, I thrive in an actively challenging, fast paced business environment. I currently apply my skill set - including leadership, motivation, mentorship, public speaking, strategy setting and execution, commercial negotiations and investor relations - at a leading high-growth S-a-a-S business in travel technology. I have a passion for challenging the status quo

I enjoy customer support. That just summarizes why I love SaaS and what you should expect at ChargeBee - world class customer support.

Remi has more than 20 years experience in the software industry. He has directed and developed technical teams while driving revenue and margin growth in both startups and in large corporations. He thrives on the challenge of building new business and achieving objectives.

Remi has worked in technology companies in San Francisco, Paris and Sydney.

What you will learn?

  • When you should go global
  • What you need to consider first
  • What mistakes you might make
  • What team you need to help execute the plan

Mac Wang:
My name’s Mac. I lead the Stripe team here in Australia and New Zealand. And as we build economic infrastructure for the internet, meaning helping companies of all size with global payments or launching new kinds of business models, we get to see firsthand how online commerce really is at an inflection point. And we’ve got companies like SiteMinder, Ayuda, and Xero, and Chargebee who are bringing offline businesses online or helping entirely new businesses start and grow.

And so as we see that, going global becomes a key question, especially if we’ve got a relatively small market in Australia for most industries. And so we tend to be thinking about that international piece almost earlier than in other countries. And even though the internet maybe is making it easier to reach and connect with users and customers, the operational aspects of those businesses are actually getting harder and harder. And so it’s great to have people here who have lived and breathed that in their in their businesses to have a bit of a discussion about it today.

So maybe to start with, it’s just worth introducing everyone. So does everyone, do a quick intro about them, their company and their experience in going global?

Remi Roques:
Sure, so I’m managing director of Ayuda Media Systems in APAC based in Sydney. So we are a software company based in Canada and in the last two years, we developed our business in Australia, and then last year we started also expanding in Asia.
What we do is we provide a software for out-of-home media owners. Out-of-home advertising is the advertising that you can see in the streets, on billboards, and on the shelters on public transport. So we provide a software for these companies to run their business and basically push their campaign’s on these screens.

So I’m happy to share.

Dai Williams:
Hi. My name is Dai Williams. I work for SiteMinder. We provide an acquisition platform for hotels. So effectively, we help them list on sites like booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb. We provide technology that helps hotels get direct bookings as well. We start on the Northern beaches of Sydney. We are headquartered in the Rocks now. And we are pretty 5x the biggest company of what we do in the world. We’ve got about 35,000 hotels around the world that use our software. We’ve got about 650 staff who are predominantly based in Western Europe and the US.

Personally, it’s like mine are probably too much relevant roles. I ran our global sales when we expanded from five reps to a hundred. We kind of expanded up through our series B, and I was manager director for Europe where we had about 180 staff in two locations in Europe primarily targeting the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Amanda Cornish:
Hi everyone, Amanda Cornish. I’m from a company called Xero. So Xero, if you’re not aware is a small business platform. Originally, we started out in accounting software and we’ve now built up to an ecosystem of around 700 plus apps and we’re connected to over a hundred banks within Australia. And really what we do is we facilitate collaboration between accountants and bookkeepers and small businesses.

And my particular role is a global role building product. So right now I’m working to build integrated payment solutions for billing supply payments and employee payments across all of our key markets. So in about five different countries right now, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, UK and the US.

And in preparation for today, I just flew back from London. So I’ve got jet lag to talk to you about this global discussion. So if I fall asleep, please please make sure you poke me. Thanks.

Krish Subramanian:
My name is Krish. I’m co-founder and CEO of Chargebee. Chargebee specializes in subscription management and recurring billing. So when we started of the company, we started a very small market which had greater challenges. So from the beginning it has been a B2B global play for us. So hopefully we’ll be able to share some relevant insights based on my experience. Thank you.

All right. Thank you.

Where I’d actually love to start is on timing. Like we mentioned that it’s often going to be something to get real global scale out of Australia, you’re going to think about global pretty early, especially if you’re a startup. So maybe talk to us about how or when you started to think about it and what criteria you thought about.
Krish, you want to start?

Sure. So for us, from the beginning, it has been a global play because as a B2B SaaS product, the only way we could acquire customers was through forums like Hacker News, content marketing and others and there’s no way for you to for us to put a filter to say, this is the only country which we operate in, right? Unlike a payment provider where it’s specific to each country.

As a SaaS product, you are already agnostic of countries, agnostic of underlying infrastructure benefited as long as I can support Stripe or Braintree or PayPal, any of that, we are readily available and which means that the inquiries come from everywhere like so which means that straight away you’re born global and you are stretched thin in terms of support and sales and most of the time I’m jet lagged because of the phone calls at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning.

And Amanda do you have a similar view about SaaS companies that, was there a ‘when’ thought about when to go or was it more like, we effectively are because we’re SaaS?

I think, so Xero is a company that’s about 12 years old and Xero founder Rod Drury always said from day one that he wanted to build a global company and I think that really is reflected in how rapidly we’ve been able to expand. So I think you know, the key points are, think global from day one. And also really plan and invest accordingly.

Yeah, I think for us it was really understanding our total addressable market around the world. And for those of you who are not familiar with the hotel space, particularly independent kind of motels and bed and breakfasts, 70% of the stocks sit in Western Europe. So for us it was a matter of you know, kind of proving the value in the product and that we’ve got product market fit in general.

We saw a lot of traction coming from around the world just because you know people find you. But we had this kind of big inflection point that actually if we really want to get big, we have to kind of shift to being a very aggressive outbound sales log, which was probably our big shift. So a whole lot of stuff comes into product market fit from a country relevancy perspective. So for us to really expand and scale we have to be incredibly relevant than in every single country that we operate kind of intently.

So you see markets where you kind of pick up people to come to you, but we’ll have a country like Spain for example where we’ve got 15 reps making 40 to 70 phone calls a day. And when you’re selling that kind of product, you’ve got to appear as local as if you’re selling in Australia. So there’s a lot that goes into that from a sequencing perspective because you kind of want to go to a market where your product first doesn’t actually need that much work to be local. So for us it was about expanding to places like the UK because there was a pretty pretty nice similarity in business model and go to market product.

But when you move to Western Europe and Southeast Asia the kind of dial changes. So we staggered those a bit later because it was a much heavier product.

Yeah, as I could, I guess you got onto their like the ‘which countries’ almost based on that fit side.

Remi, it sounds like you’ve had Canada, Australia, now into Asia. How have you thought about which countries and the criteria for picking where next?

So on our side we provided software for a niche market, right? So we cannot just stay in one country. We had to expand internationally. And the countries were driven by what we’re doing, the existing market, can we find similar countries? So for instance, we were quite strong in the US then Australia was, you know, a good landing platform for APAC. So we focused on that. And because our software is, needs a lot of implementation services, so we had to find first a contract to be able to come here. So we invested in sales, in selling from overseas and winning our first contract and then it’s only when we won our first contract here that we start building the business.


I think we touched a bit of product there and I think, when I think of Xero, I think of, Xero’s very product and customer, even ecosystem dimension, which I think is one thing Xero has done incredibly well. How have you dealt with that as you’ve gone into like, obviously every country is little bit individual and unique. What challenges have you thought of through there?

Yeah. It’s actually really challenging. You might start out in one particular market and for us that was New Zealand, and we essentially started building accounting software, which can be scalable but is actually quite regional as well because you’ve got different legislation, you’ve got different taxation systems. So I think what we’ve really been able to do is tackle, you know country by country, moving from New Zealand, obviously local. Next option for us was to move into Australia and then expanding to the US and the UK and there’s a lot of challenges that come with that around different time zones and product market fit. And I think you, if you don’t stay close to what the customers in that particular market want, then you’re really going to struggle. And the challenge is coming in with the product that you know has worked in one market really testing it in that market but rapidly modifying where you need to and where that product isn’t actually working because you will find some surprises and some challenges in new markets and you tend to bring in your own learned experience of the location that you maybe grew up or where you’ve built your business. But what you’ll find is that those experiences might not be relevant in a new market. So I think it’s really important for me. I’m just all about getting customer feedback all the time, continuously, throughout the whole process of building product.

Anything to add from your other products for a pretty heavy anchor as you go country by country?

Yeah, I mean, it’s quite if you got a product that you can basically sell and implement, you know, without being in the country. On our side, that’s not the case. I mean, we need me to be pretty hands-on. Yeah, so I think if you’ve got if you can have the time to build your product locally and then be able to after that expand internationally, that’s great. But usually that’s not often the case, I think.

Yeah, I know it’s one thing that as very broad comment, but generally Aussie and Kiwi companies tend to build incredibly good product because the products are what the company stands by. A lot of the US companies tend to rely a lot on previous relationships to power the start of their businesses. So Aussie and Kiwi product tends to be very very strong. And because we have to expand so early, you know, like the xero guys have to expand and we had to expand very early. You become very attuned as to what local buyers going to want in your product.

And there’s the feedback loop. It is super critical to being relevant for that user because at the end of the day, if you are an accounting business in the UK or a bed-and-breakfast in Spain, you’re going to have two choices. You’re going to have a company like Xero or SiteMinder who are a good global company, or you’re going to be you’re going to have the local competitor who will probably not be as rich in the feature set. So you’ve got kind of got to be local but because you have the global scale, you can kind of outstrip them.

Thank you.
Just a slightly different perspective, which we took from the beginning was to look at the global traffic for us. In Google Analytics starting with that, we started looking at the inquiries and then we pick the hardest problem in that market that we need to solve in the product that would get us traction. Because the inquiries could be coming from everywhere. But then when we looked at it, for us EU in 2016 was going through this EU challenge and we said if we were to build that feature first and solve the hardest problem for that market first, that could get us the most traction in one market and become the anchor market right while we continue to build out in other places.

And that was actually super helpful for us to pick what is that pain that everybody’s talking about today? There is very relevant. Right? So from beginning of our late part of 2015, everybody in Europe was talking about that. And Australia had this GST change with includes the tax, exclusive tax and all that and then we picked that problem and then start at solving that in invoicing. And that helped us, right? We of course connect with Stripe as well as Xero but then from subscription perspective, this was important for businesses and they said we need that solved.

So from product thinking perspective, it was very helpful to look at some of the hardest problems, try and solve that for the market first, simply because anyways, we are global.

Yep. So maybe let me go a little bit deeper on the product thing and maybe ask you all a slightly harder question on that as well because I think it’s ultimately, probably ever we’ve all got constrained resources. So how do you work through the prioritization question? Because customers will tell you in Spain B2B, something’s important, that’s important. GDPR, PSD too, you name it, that we compliance for Xero, etc. How does, how do you juggle the prioritization question of your marquee user from New Zealand versus the small sort of new one in the new country? How do you get, how do you manage the processes around prioritization, especially into engineering?

So for us it’s more of putting, trying to put a dollar value to the, in terms of ROI, like in terms of feature that needs to be built versus the ROI. And the time there is available, right? You hardly have initial days. We hardly have like a couple of engineers working on any particular module, and that’s harder. So we try to put our hypotheses to say, okay, so what are the competing priorities this quarter in terms of product features and why is that? Is it going to bring in delight or more customers? And just try to look at it from that framework has been helpful to say okay, if we solve EUV and you look at the support inquiries and product inquiries, conversations and you would get a sense of okay, so there seems to be a real pressing problem and if we solve that, well this is going to happen. So you have the product manager actually do the research around just that one feature to try and see, is there a, are we really going to solve a pain or is it a nice to have that people are asking for?

Yeah, and I think you know the compliance piece kind of goes without saying that you generally have to do that. So it’s always an interesting conversation that’s going to fall into the prioritization essentially with my team. We’re doing prioritization pretty much on a weekly basis and for us it’s really challenging because we are building product right now in five different countries, and the maturity level of those markets are all actually quite different within our own business.

So one of the things we really focus on is assessing true product management, which is assessing, is this going to drive benefit for the customer is this going to drive revenue for the business? And then prioritizing based on those factors in a true product management sense. So we do that. We work agile, we work in two-week sprints, and every two weeks, we’re assessing our priorities and they do change every two weeks which makes for some interesting times.

Yeah, and I think the lens on top of that as well is what’s the top-down strategic like kind of goals of the company for the next kind of 12-24 months. Because you’re going to have to make some compromised decisions no matter what you’re doing. And it’s easy to listen to the loudest voice in the room, which will tend to be an anchor client in an existing market that you’re quite well penetrated in, for example. You know, expanding internationally it takes a fair amount of cojones because you do have to make decisions where you’ve got the client to say that that might be because you’re small stage paying 30% of your revenue. But you have to choose. You’re going, look, we’ve got data and we’ve got, you know, there’s art and science. We’ve got data and we’ve got field, country X is our next big expansion, there’s big opportunity for us to grow there and we’re going to dedicate the next 3-4 sprint’s whatever it is to building features for us to be successful there.

But to do that, you are making compromised decisions about what you’re not in your home market or vice versa. If you decide to build that, you’re then compromising potential future growth. So it’s almost a matter of you know, what you say no to is more important than what you say yes to.

And just to complement what has been said, which I fully agree with. What you can try is try to make these customers that are really demanding these features, localization features, to pay for them. And just not give them for free and the other option is that you can try to hold on developing these features and test the market first and then when you see that you start to have a lot of traction in the market, in the local market, then you start investing more in these localization features. That’s a few tips that you can add right?

I think what we got onto was a bit of the how, which I think is really interesting because it’s nice to have a plan but execution obviously matters a lot. One part we didn’t talk about or another part I guess of the how would be like organizationally or structurally. Maybe Dai sounds like you’ve been on the journey from what was a five to a hundred, how did that journey evolve from like additionally through the now?

Yeah, so to start up SiteMinder there were five of us in the company and we’ve kind of grown to 650 now. The structure you put in place to start with will almost, I can guarantee you, will not be the structure you end with a year later or a year after that. The kind of cool things that have happened with our structure over time. And the first one is that SiteMinder is inherently inside sales SMB business and the important side of that is when it comes to how we structure our regions. The leader of our regions is really someone that runs the inside the four walls business so that the person that runs the you know, tactical marketing, operational sales, implementation and everything inside the company. And the overlay to that is as we grew and we scaled, we found Sydney a pretty tough market to find top exec talent. So our regional leaders would actually run, as we were growing they were effectively proper GM’s right? They would make tactical marketing decisions. They would make tactical sales decisions. But as we’ve buffered up our leadership and we’ve got a much stronger leadership group that would sit here in Sydney, as we got stronger and that we’ve actually found the role of our regional leaders shifted from being the person that’s inside the four walls kind of greasing the funnel to the person who’s outside the four walls doing Biz Dev and key account management. So that’s a reconstruction you get these really strange makeshift reporting lines where you know, who’s accountable for the performance of our sales in Europe, is it our Europe lead or is it our sales lead? And now that we’ve got a strong exec, it always falls back to the functional lead, so that’s been a very tough learning for us because the profile of leader we’ve had in the regions, we’ve had the cycle and change because we’ve gone from someone who gets the mechanics of the funnel to someone who’s actually, you know, quite strong in a networking capacity.

Yeah, and I suppose I could add to that as well. We’re very very similar in the context of having a global team as well as regional teams in all of our key markets and I think the interplay between those teams is essential and having really strong communication where oure global teams are primarily deal with, delivering our product, and then our local teams are responsible for go to market, sales strategy, marketing, etc. So I think getting those the collaboration right between the local knowledge and also the global team is really important because you can scale faster if you build products in a global capacity, but in terms of getting traction within that market, it’s really essential that you have a team on the ground that understands the market, understands the customer pain points, and can really work with you on that local basis.

And does that combined with to start on that one because that, you mentioned go to market, but you did you mention before you had, you’re building product in five countries.


How does that overlap or not everyone?

It keeps me extremely busy because I work with five different go-to-market teams. So yeah, it’s challenging but you, there’s a lot of benefit there and you can really, what you essentially can do is you can you can take something, you know, that you’re building in five different countries and you look for the similarities and then you can build on the similarities and build that into a product or a platform and then obviously create, you know, various different nuances for each market. And if you don’t have that whole view, you’ll end up building product in every market and you’ll have all this fragmented, all of these fragmented solutions that you have to continue to maintain and that is absolutely not a scalable approach.

This is very helpful learning for us because we don’t have the teams on the ground anyway. So more than three years back, we were completing I think a 30, 28, 30-member team globally, like when I say globally right, just our customer base is global, but then we were all based in Chennai, and we did not even have the San Francisco office. But today we have a 174-member team with a few people in San Francisco, and then most of the team in Chennai. And just the support alone is about 32 people, right? The challenge that I used to face, slightly different right from the perspective of team structure. The early days it used to be, okay. So who should handle the customer support? What is the phone number that you put on your website for support or sales? And where should it redirect to? It used to be my problem right, and all of it, I used to give one, two, three options in the phone number, but then all of it would come to my mobile. And over a period of time, I figured that this is just not scalable because there are those early morning calls that you would take and then I would forget to log them in a CRM or even I would have offered the solution but then I don’t even know who I spoke with, right? Because I’m already sleepwalking. So that used to be the challenge.

But later on I found some tools which were actually useful. One of our own customer was based in UK and this person used to run large call centers and said hey, I see that you are offering 24/7 support, 24/5 support for customer support and sales, but then how can I help you? And he was setting up a small start-up and I asked him to actually take up. So what I did was have this phone numbers, in specific hours, I would redirect all the inquiry calls to his cell phone, his number, and he was able to offer that service at 49 pounds a month is where we started. Probably we are paying I think after a couple of years we are paying him 500 pounds a month, but the best thing was for about six hours that I needed where there was someone who could actually pick up the phone locally and then answer, I was able to leverage that with under 100 pounds per month by having someone actually take up those first inquiry calls create them as a customer support ticket so it comes through email. So there is someone always available to attend right because we just couldn’t hire fast enough or we did not know if we should actually be hiring before we were having the pain right? It’s always a catch-up game.

So that was one and now the way we do that is we have people attending to these calls in sales and support slightly differently with more people and all that. It becomes a lot more easier. Yeah.

Yeah. I’ll come back to your point by just, while we were on the like structuring team type points. Remi, I think you’ve mentioned that you took a slightly different approach with how you thought about service providers and contractors and things in markets. How, what was the thinking there?

Yeah, so I started by myself here in the global team and yeah, the first thing that I did is that I consider, I so I contacted some business consultants to help me. So HR, legal, accounting, all of these kind of services that you can get to help you go the team. You cannot do it by yourself. So you have to think about being surrounded by these kind of experts who are going to help you go the organization locally. So, I think that’s pretty important and there are lots, a lot out there, they are not so expensive. In the end, you know, they save you money. So we save you time and that’s I think that’s very important to choose this kind of services.

To address to your point that you mentioned, I think we did it. We did some surveying a little while back that mentioned it. I think 97% of startups thought that tech tools had helped them go global or help them accelerate global. I’ve been treated, does that resonate with you all and have you found any particular kind of tools that are that have made it easier in your usual kind of expansions?

Yeah. I think I think it’s impossible to do it without it to be perfectly honest on multiple fronts. I think you know the Xero product example’s a really good one. Like how do you go on a product feedback back into a central hub to kind of decipher what’s going on from a sales and acquisition and customer life cycle, you need some pretty strong analytical understanding of what’s going on with your customer base.

So one of the things in hindsight that we did incredibly wrong was we took a pretty big series B from Silicon Valley, got way too overexcited and went from 150 staff to 500 in about 15 months. And the majority of them were not in Sydney. So as we grow overseas, we didn’t back up the people growth with process and operational growth and we’re, it really came home to roost was when you can see everyone, you know that the theory of like when you stand up on a chair as a CEO and someone in the room says we can’t hear you, your business has inherently changed. We couldn’t hear everyone and we didn’t know what everyone was up to because we didn’t have the operational a) systems and b) rigor. It becomes very hard to diagnose stuff not working. So a very very tactical example, when we were selling in France, our reps kept telling us that we kept, we would lose deals to competitors. Lose to the other competitors. And it’s all we got a very strong discipline on how we managed our funnel, only when we started managing a funnel well did we actually realize that we win more competitive pictures than we lose but our actual problem in France is we can’t open enough opportunities. So when you’re sitting in Sydney, you’re a long way away from the action, particularly when you’re in the US and Europe. And you need that rigor around the operations and the systems to actually run and diagnose your business because otherwise, you’re just relying on what the people in market will tell you, and they will tell you two things all the time. One, your products too expensive and two, your competitors are beating you and it’s not always the case.

Yeah, I think tools are very important. When you compare them to the time that they save you it’s a no-brainer. So don’t hesitate to invest in any kind of tools like software-as-a-service tools or any other structural that you can put in place. That’s, that will save you a lot of time, a lot of money. So yes, on our side, you know, we of course, you know the tools that we use, conference calls, Slack, things like this. Instant messages, Xero, we use this kind of software and that’s how we operate. So even if, you know, you want to try one for a while and after a while it’s going to be, you are going to abandon it, it’s better to try and test it other than just say, well I’m going to do this in an Excel spreadsheet, which is the worst thing that you can imagine and then yeah, basically feel the pain all along.

For us, for US expansion, tools for from a compliance standpoint, tools like Gusto has been very helpful because it just takes care of the payroll, HR, insurance, all of that right rolled into one bundle. It has been super helpful from compliance standpoint.

From market expansion standpoint from a customer base perspective, I think it’s a combination of tooling plus process as he mentioned because who you are limits your product and the buying process changes very drastically by country right? Where if you are dealing with North America most likely it’s the buyer themselves say that a product manager or a developer who’s evaluating the product and they are more likely to make the decision right? Very differently compared to a market like UK or Australia where we have found that there are more consultants who are actually signing up on behalf of the customers evaluating the product, on behalf of the clients, which also works very differently, which means that your sales process cannot be the same for different markets and you have to fine-tune that based on some of this. So a combination of tooling plus process has been very helpful.

One of the theme before we maybe take some questions. So if people want to think of questions. The last one would be, I guess just around challenges. I think the matter you touched on before that each countries have their uniqueness or readers have reached the uniqueness is whether its compliance or tax or regulatory or how people want to get paid or how people want to receive their money. And there’s even a cultural overlay to that. What was maybe each of you, what was kind of the biggest challenge you think back to from an expansion point of view? And maybe what would have you done differently? Anyone?

So I think probably at a macro level, challenges that you’ll face coming into a new country really come down to some cultural differences. So if you build a cold company culture that promotes diversity and inclusion from day one, then effectively when you go into new markets and you see new cultures, new ideas, new people, your people are actually really already geared up to be able to deal with some of those challenges and to accept and actually embrace some of the differences when you go into new markets.

And then you know, great probably micro example, I spent four years living in the US and when I got over there, I leased an apartment and my landlord called me up and said, great so you can drop off your check at my house. Here’s my address. I was like, what? Like I have to drop off a check at your house? And that was such a good lesson. Susie was her name, by the way. She was a lovely lady. We got to know each other well by the end of the 12 months that I was there. She taught me a very valuable lesson, which is don’t go into a market and assume that things are done exactly the same way there. And as soon as you realize things are done differently, even though for us, you know, check payments are you know, a crazy concept and I don’t you know, I don’t think to that point I had actually written a check in my life, my business now that I’m working on payment solutions in the US has a, you know, very big focus on check delivery.

So I think at that micro level when you come into a new culture and new company, new market, really pay attention to what those differences are and then deliver solutions and solve problems for those. Yeah.

Yeah, I’d kind of run on, you know, when you do go to new places, you naturally have an inclination to think how you think and that’s where humans and people think somewhat differently. I think an important and important in particular when you are a B2B SaaS company, I can talk very specifically from an SMB where our economics are pretty tough. You actually you do have to challenge what you hear through kind of A/B testing whatever you want to call it and the most relevant example for us was you know, we were told and we still get told that you know to sell particularly in places like Western Europe. It’s a face-to-face market. I’m sure many of you hear this phrase and it’s absolute rubbish because you know, we’ve proved we’ve got the best part of 20,000 customers and on the continent and we’ve done it exclusively from inside sales in London and go away.

Now, that’s not to say that’s always right because in Asia we run the exact opposite model. We’ve got a small satellite office in Bangkok and then we’ve got reps distributed throughout Asia, so don’t be too shy to challenge what you hear and kind of you know, you take what you hear and from a cultural perspective and layer it into your business. And you know, if for us we had to make inside sales work because the economics of having reps on the ground just wouldn’t have.

So that’s then from, one of the questions we get asked is, you know, if we did it differently, what would have we done? And the number one thing that I personally would have done differently when we grew the sales was really beef up on ops like sales, marketing, customer ops as a core competency to help the exec diagnose their business because without it, you’re just, you’re stabbing in the dark.

So on our side, so cultural differences was really a challenge. It’s I think the main challenge and yeah, we do business in Thailand, in South America, and it’s basically another planet there. You know, you just to do a conference call. They, you don’t understand them over a conference call it doesn’t work. So you have to travel several times there to meet them in person. So that’s very different culture.

We overcame these challenges by hiring a very diverse range of people. So we’ve got in our team, we’ve got people from from different backgrounds. So India, Pakistan, Korean, somebody from Brazil. I mean, so I hired out of 20 people, I think I’ve got eight different nationalities that are represented in the team. So with this kind of team, then you can basically talk more easily to your clients and engage more easily. So I think that diversity is also a solution to your problem.


Right. To reflect on what I would have done differently, just like how they say always be selling or I should have kept my antennas up for always be hiring. The hiring mode. To look for talent everywhere global, you know, we, so even though the customers are in 43 countries, we only have location in 2 places. They end up, I would say if we had started hiring more locally right, in different regions that could have been helpful. But that requires, as a founder right, to start wearing the CEO hat a little bit more seriously to say right because we are always in the section more like founder, right? Not CEO. And it’s important to actually think about that in terms of global expansion to actually see that okay, so you’re actually getting a lot of traction and there’s dollars coming in from this region. So, optimizing and always be hiring is something that I would tell myself, right if I have to go back in time, simply because it just takes a lot more time than we imagined to look for the anchor hire. So it’s important to continue to network with a lot of people around the world to try and find out who else we should be talking to right? And for me, the best channel was our own customer support, building relationship with our customers, and then after solving the problem, right, I always try to engage in casual conversation with those very same people who are the anchors of sales in different regions or head of customer support in the region to talk about who else they know that I should talk to right? That has been the super helpful channel for me to just build a relationship with our own customers in different regions to try and understand the local market little differently from their lens. And I should have started doing that much earlier.

Alright. Thank you. So we might open up for questions, we got a few minutes left. Any questions from the audience for anyone? Do we have, we’re a little short of mics. You at the back here.

Man from audience:
Yeah. Thanks. That was really good. I guess question maybe for all of you but you did a lot about tools and systems and operational competencies to expand globally and do that well. Probably a common set of decision to make, what is a core product? And what do you sort of outsource to like a different tool? And where do you draw the line?

So when you say core product, you mean what you develop in-house versus?

Man from audience:

Yeah. I developed nothing. You’re, as a tech business, your value, yourself as a founder, your business and your investors is in that uniqueness of your product, your market and what you can do. Not in building like CRMs and that kind of stuff. That’s why I advise a noisy company now, it’s trying to go global and the presentation earlier said very nicely, because you can do something doesn’t mean you should right. So they’ve built an in-house CRM and are now trying to migrate to Salesforce and they’ve got, you know, 2,000 customers and they’re trying to grow 2,000 a month. No sorry, 300 a month. They’re effectively trying to change the wheels of the bus while it’s going so I would look at what you as a founder, a business, as your core competency is and really focus on that. And there are systems and tools that can do pretty much everything else at to be honest a relatively low value. I mean this is stupid tactical but you know people building extensive custom integrations on Salesforce that can all be automated through tools. Like trade and that kind of stuff for 700 bucks a month. So they might seem expensive and you can do it, but I would always encourage you to focus on everything else.

And whether it’s expensive or not, most of the time the internal argument is, hey, this is very easy. Right? Let’s do it. And then the question never try in process. Okay. So are you going to say, you’re going to build it? Or build, maintain, and improve it? You’re going to maintain it, right? And how long are you going to hand hold it and continue to improve it, then they’ll be like, okay, no. I don’t want to do try then they’ll hand it over.

As the typical example is try to build your website, you know, if you got, if you’re building a product on top of that, so I’m going to build my website. That’s not going to work right? The time that you’re going to spend building your website and maintaining it, it’s going to be basically driving you out of running your business and the focus of your business. So yes, I completely agree by other than trying to build some visual tools.

But we do know the counterexample with Stripe then, which is brilliant, right, which is the Stripe email. Internal knowledge base, I guess?

I like visibility. So Stripe has a point of visibility in terms of emails where you can put things that make them visible. And I think that the point I would say there is a journey just to, it lies quite around like journey of like teams and people is I think. Our theory on that was pretty very helpful from a scaling point when you’re not in the same room where you can hire super-strong generalists, new in market early give them access to everything they need. There was kind of a lot of theory around that sort of thing which was…

And it’s also open source, which I love.

Woman from audience:
Lynn Wood from IT Response. My question is on product development and it’s for Amanda and that’s because you’re developing accounting software and there are two parts to my question, basically. Interesting that you started from New Zealand with Xero and then tailored the software country by country. Was that helped by the fact that it was international financial reporting standards and now across the world apart from the US and secondly when you were developing the software, how much were you dealing with accounting firms vis-a-vis a standard setters and the regulators?

Yes, so there’s definitely some nuances in every individual country and what we’re seeing as a trend across, you know, the accounting industry and the finance industry is a standardization of messaging with ISO and things like that. So I think in the next few years, there will be more capability for us to deliver solutions globally, but it has been very much for us a focus on each individual market.
In terms of what was the second part of your question, sorry?

Woman from audience:
How would you deal with accounting firms like KPMG and Waterhouse vis-à-vis directly with the standard setters and the regulators?

So we’re heavily involved in conversations with the government in all of our key markets and we really are driving, for us, it’s about driving outcomes for small businesses, and we actually need to have a seat at the table in those discussions to drive outcomes that will help increase small businesses’ ability to grow and expand. And one thing, you know, we’ve been very successful in in all of our markets is collaborating with accountants and bookkeepers because these are the advisors, these are the most trusted advisers that small to medium businesses have. So in terms of finding a distribution channel that can actually help you expand, it’s been really important for us working with accountants to deliver not only product that helps them, but products that help small businesses.

All right. I think we are over time. So there’s a couple, we probably need to stop now. But I mean, I’ll definitely be around. I’m not sure if other people are around for a little bit longer for a coffee or something. So if there’s any questions for any of us, please do come say hi. And otherwise, please thank Krish, Amanda, Dai and Remi.

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