Last week I moderated a panel session on taking your business global, as part of a Morning Startup meetup at Spacecubed.
Taking your business overseas is a common milestone for most Australian startups. Whether it’s engaging your first enterprise customer in Singapore, opening your first sales office in the US or relocating your company to the UK, the challenges and pitfalls are everywhere – but then so is the upside.
In order to help navigate both the known unknowns and unknown unknowns, startup support firm scale.partners assembled an all-star panel to share their successes and failures in this space. We heard about hiring and managing talent remotely, extending an Aussie ESS to overseas employees, when to register your entity in another jurisdiction, grants to support you, trademark and patent strategy, how to structure your corporate entities.
Watch the video recording here: https://www.facebook.com/morningstartup/videos/2184157941884927/.
On the panel we had:
Justin McLoughlin, CEO of AirCFO, a US accounting and financial consulting partner for high growth startups. AirCFO is based in Cleveland Ohio with a remote office in San Francisco, and has helped a number of Australian startups relocate to the US.
Amanda Kearney, an international tax specialist who for the last couple of years has been working with startups and scale-ups as Director of scale.partners, a boutique professional services firm focused on Perth startups. Amanda is an active member of the Institute of Tax on their Membership Committee and International Tax sub-committee, and also current Chair of Women in Tax (WA).
Kevin Reece, CEO of APE Mobile, a SaaS business focused on construction companies. Over the past couple of years Kevin has opened overseas sales offices in both the UK and US, and had navigated the numerous challenges involved.
Alistair Mann, a registered patent and trade marks attorney with a technical background in software and systems engineering. Alistair operates his own practice in Perth and works primarily with local businesses and innovators.
I collected some highlights and takeaways from the talk for those unable to make it.
Kevin Reece recommended getting advice and referrals from people who have trodden the path already: “it will save you a huge amount of time and reduce your risk (of stuffing up). Sounds obvious but before you start, understand all your intended business outcomes as there will be a number of different ways to achieve them. Don’t just do what someone else did.”
He also highlighted the difficulty of managing and prioritising a number of moving parts with different timeframes, so having an overview before you start to avoid nasty surprises - eg that visa not arriving in a week…
Alistair Mann highlighted that IP rights are territorial in scope. “Care must be taken to ensure your IP is protected on a territory basis. Similarly, IP due diligence should be carried out to avoid treading on the toes of other IP right holders when venturing into new countries. Opportunities to safeguard IP rights are easily lost through not taking the correct steps to secure them.”
Whilst global domination may be the ultimate goal for many startups, initial budgets may limit your ability to give your IP the full attention it deserves in more than just a handful of countries. Prioritising your key jurisdictions and adopting an IP strategy that is proportionate is essential.
Justin McLoughlin advised Australian startups looking to move to the US to allow two to months for the process, and start with a checklist focused on legal, tax and general compliance and start chipping away one at a time. He recommends an initial focus on forming the legal entity. “Then if you're hiring employees or transferring people to the US, you should address US payroll and employee benefits next. Third, assuming you are generating revenue, get a handle on the US Sales Tax rules as they apply to your business. Lastly, you can generally put US and State Income Tax compliance to the end of your list.”
If you need an advisor who can guide you through some of the above processes, reach out to us at scale.partners. We work with partners in key countries like the US, UK and Singapore and so can support you through the full process rather than only take you part of the way.