22 Nov Lunch with Optimizely // Exploring how to launch in Australia
Travis and I caught up over lunch with Tony Ward (SurveyMonkey MD Australia), Warren Billington (MD Signal), Alistair Venn (MD Menulog), Balder Tol (Director of Community WeWork), Daniel Karlsson (MD Impact Radius), Troy Martin (Director, APAC Sales Instructor) and Graham Jackson (CEO Fluent Retail). The aim of the get together was for Travis to chat with and gather insights from experienced local MDs and Country Managers who have been there before: launching an international tech company into the Australian market.
During lunch the following themes were discussed:
Build a local team, with local knowledge
Make sure you understand the key differences and/or similarities between the markets. A sales approach that is proven in one market doesn’t guarantee success in another. For example, in Australia 53% of workers are employed by companies that have less than 20 FTEs, in America it is 18%. Hiring an experienced local MD who has built GTM teams previously is highly recommended. Having pre-sales and post sales support in the local geography is a must.
Whilst building a local team is key, shipping in at least one asset from HQ for a period of time, to ensure the company culture is fostered in a new market is a must. This person will also act as a connector internally. Warren Billington had the support of a pre-sales asset from Signal’s HQ in Chicago for the first 12 months, who prior to returning to HQ trained the local hire that Warren made to replace him. This allowed a great transfer of knowledge. Charlie Wood (MD of Dropbox) had the privilege of 10 Dropbox employees relocating from San Francisco to Sydney for their Australian launch. All of which supported Charlie for the first 12 months as he built out the local team.
Leverage the channels
For B2B SaaS platform tech companies focused on winning enterprise clients, working with System Integrators is key. Getting this model right ensures that you have a “one too many voice” in market, which will facilitate scale. Pete Williams at Deloitte was Yammer’s top performing sales person globally (without actually working for the company), when he advocated both internal and external use of Yammer at Deloitte.
Location, location, location
Co-working spaces in Australia are commonplace and if you’re not ready to commit to your own space straight away, these spaces are designed for tech companies are a must. They can also make a difference in the quality of people you hire. My top two picks in Sydney are WeWork (with two locations; 5 Martin Place and Harris Street) and Tank Stream Labs (Bridge Street).
Setting up the local entity
This is easy to do, but shouldn’t be overlooked or left until the last minute. There are some amazing services providers who can help with the local tax laws, employment law, setting the entity up, ESOP (employee share option plans).
Understand the local geography
Asia is not one geo. Australia is a relatively easy market to understand, hire great staff and do business in. However, achieving success in Australia will require people on the ground in at least Sydney and Melbourne (not or). One of the most frequently asked questions by international companies looking to launch in Australia is: Sydney or Melbourne? The answer to this question will require another blog post, it isn’t straight forward. However, you should consider where your customers are and in an ideal world, you would have staff on the ground in both locations. Achieving success in Asia will require an intimate knowledge of how to GTM in each APAC country. It will also require a local approach, be it, direct or channel (depending on the country).
With just over 350 staff in down town San Francisco, and a small team in London, Optimizely launched in 2010 and has now raised $146 million in funding, with backing from Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Bain Capital Ventures and Citi Ventures.
Travis has been leading the business’ global sales efforts for the last four years and has seen an organic growth in Australia. They have been serving the local market with two full time employees based in San Francisco working around the often-gruelling Australian timezones and periodically flying in for meetings. With a plethora of tier-one customers including CBA, Fairfax and Allianz the time is now right for Optimizely to build an Australian team.
Like many tech companies, Australia is the fourth largest market for Optimizely globally, punching well above its weight given the size of the population.
The company has grown to become the world’s leading experimentation platforms, enabling businesses to deliver continuous experimentation and personalisation across websites, mobile apps and connected devices.
Their strength lies in enabling businesses to experiment deeply into their technology stack and broadly across the entire customer experience. The platform’s ease of use and speed of deployment empowers organisations to create and run bold experiments that help them make data-driven decisions to become more innovative.
We look forward to seeing Optimizely’s continued growth. If you’re looking to build out your dream team in Australia, we’re the right people to chat to. Get in touch now.
Kevin Griffiths leads MitchelLake Executive for the ANZ Practice. Based in Sydney, he is focused on supporting startups, NewCo’s, scale-ups, and established tech companies with C-suite and board requirements, in addition to working with Australian SME’s and enterprises undergoing digital/technology transformations.
Since joining MLE in 2012, Kevin has led over 100 searches. His time has been divided into three key areas – CEO searches for scale-ups or tech companies going through transformation; CTO/CPO searches for tech companies with a global requirement to bring talent to Australia with technology and/or product leadership at scale; and consulting to and leading searches with clients looking to innovate, who are seeking advice from the MLE practice on the question of build, buy, or partner.
Prior to joining MLE, Kevin was a Partner at BMS where he built and led the Midlands commercial practice in the UK, before moving to Australia to help scale the business in Sydney and Melbourne.