Timely, along with WIP, were the winners of BNZ Startup Alley at Webstock ’13. Timely will be visiting Kiwi Landing Pad soon as part of their prize. In the leadup to their visit, we caught up with Ryan Baker from Timely and with Catherine Robinson, Kiwi Landing Pad’s San Francisco Director.
Webstock: What’s the one big thing Kiwi start-ups wanting to operate in the USA should know, but don’t?
Catherine: The USA market is a 100 times bigger than New Zealand, and 100 times more competitive. This is great for “sharpening your saw”, but be prepared to adapt, change the way you conduct and operate your business.
Webstock: What are some of the main reasons Kiwi start-ups haven’t succeeded in the US market?
Catherine: Firstly there are already a number of successful Kiwi companies, like Litmos and Aptimize for example but we want to see a lot more of them. In my experience there are several key issues that can affect kiwi companies:
- Don’t try to “boil the ocean”. Choose a single vertical and concentrate there. This is a foreign concept to many NZ companies because we’re from a much smaller market, we tend to generalize our approach
- Speed to market. We create great innovative products in NZ, but markets and demand change rapidly and this has left many companies scrambling to adapt to the changes. Worst case it means missed opportunities for success
- Cost. Starting a company to be global from day one used to be prohibitively expensive for most early stage companies. In the last five years this has quickly changed, and the cost to enter market can be dramatically lower
Webstock: For Kiwis freshly arriving in SF, Silicon Valley, the hub of the web… what should they expect in the way of culture shock?
Catherine: Silicon Valley is vast and there is no big “Welcome to Silicon Valley” sign. It’s 1500 sq miles of tech campuses, strip malls, housing estates, business parks and cities that merge together.
San Francisco is about 70 kms from Santa Clara – one of the cities inside Silicon Valley. Prepare to spend a lot of time traveling and have plenty of buffer time built in. Being late is not a good start to a meeting here.
Technology plays a significant role in the Bay Area. If you are lost or need help there is an app for that.
Contrary to popular belief-there is good coffee in San Francisco!!
Webstock: A year or so down the track how’s Kiwi Landing Pad going? How would you sum up the year and what are you looking forward to in the future?
Catherine: KLP is a long term play – the vision is to provide a landing point for an increasing number of Kiwi businesses wanting to expand into the US and in doing so reduce their risk and the time it takes to set up an office and accelerate their business development plans through our knowledge, networks and community.
In the last few months we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of companies wanting to establish residence at KLP, a reflection of a growing awareness and more companies thinking globally.
Timely founders with the winning cheque at BNZ Startup Alley
Webstock: What are your expectations around a visit to SF and the Kiwi Landing Pad?
Ryan: Our expectation is that it’s going to be frickin’ awesome! For both Andrew and I this will be our first visit to San Francisco. Although, one of the cool things about being part of the cloud ecosystem is that we’re already working with a few SF based companies – so there’ll be familiar faces for us to meet with right from day one.
The Kiwi Landing pad will be fantastic to use as a home base. We’re hoping to corner all of the residents there and hear their war stories of getting traction in the US.
Webstock: The US is a huge market. Is it a realistic target for you? If so, does that scare you? Excite you?
Ryan: Yes, the US is a huge market, with lots of potential customers for our product. But inevitably that also means more competition as well. The US is already our largest source of customers for Timely – but currently our conversion rate sucks on US accounts – so there’s something that we’re not doing right and it’s great timing for us to get over there and figure it out. It’s exciting for sure!
Webstock: Are you expecting anything in the way of a culture shock, going from Dunedin to SF?
Ryan: I’ve been to other parts of the US before – so not expecting general culture shock. But in terms of Silicon Valley culture – yes, I’d say the maturity and size of the startup/tech space over there is going to be pretty different to what I’m used to!
Webstock: A couple of months on from BNZ Start-Up Alley at Webstock, how are things progressing? And in what ways has winning the competition helped you?
Ryan: The timing of winning Webstock was awesome. We are using the prize money on advertising and this is already starting to bring in new customers. We’ve also had increased interest from investors, which was always part of our plans once we had the demand for the product proven. The geek-cred has been cool too – and we’ve met a bunch of other start-ups that we didn’t know before who we’ve kept in touch with.
Webstock is the second best thing I’ve ever won in my life (in the 80’s I won an Omnibot, that will never be beaten).
Webstock: Where to from here for Timely?
Ryan: We are still growing at a really healthy rate – so the challenge will be to keep doing what is working well and to manage that growth. We will be hiring over the next few months – and building a team of ridiculously awesome people will be a big focus for us.