Do You Have What It Takes?

On March 3rd CEED Slovenia welcomed its 9th generation of entrepreneurs by hosting a networking event with 3 guest speakers from London, San Francisco, and New York City.  Bostjan Špetič, Founder of Zemanta based in NYC, Boštjan Bregar Founder and CEO of 4th Office based in London and Anne Park, Director of Strategy and Development at CEED Global based in San Francisco talked about global trends and shared their insights about what it takes to grow a global business based on their experience in these dynamic markets.

Anne started the conversation by rejecting the idea of trends, “Entrepreneurs should focus on their passion and executing their vision to the best of their ability. Chasing trends is futile because by the time something is trendy the opportunity in that area has passed.”  Bostjan Bregar added that entrepreneurs should focus on their story.  Customers and investors alike are looking for authentic stories about how a company changes lives.  It is an entrepreneur’s responsibility to articulate their company’s story.  As the Founder of 4th Office, Bostjan worked tirelessly to articulate his story and at the end of the day it has resonated customers and attracted several international investors.  There are many ways to attract investors and build a customer base.  Bostjan Spetic has a relatively traditional story, pitching at Tech Crunch in London, winning and catching the eye of international investors.  Bostjan spent 4 years building his sales team in NYC and found it very easy to network and meet people.

Networking: The Key to Growth

In NYC there are events for entrepreneurs everyday.  Entrepreneurs should take advantage of these opportunities and leverage co-working spaces to grow their networks.  San Francisco is similar to NYC in that getting meetings with high level people is not that difficult but don’t expect more than 30 minutes of their time and take the meetings seriously.  Although San Francisco has a casual vibe people are busy therefore expect pitches to be practiced and conversations to be pointed.  According to Anne, “you never know where your next lead is going to come from so it’s important to put yourself out there and to network and mingle with those in your industry or those who can connect you with resources.”  Bostjan Bregar has a slightly different take on networking.  He builds his professional network virtually and connects to individuals in his industry via the Internet.  He finds this to be the most effective in this globalizing world where “your next customer can come from anywhere.  Additionally, your workforce can come from anywhere.  The movement towards a more flexible workforce necessitates products like 4th Office which enables companies to work with staff from around the world.”  Bostjan advised the entrepreneurs in the audience not to be limited geographically.  This is why he spends 80% of his time on social media, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, where he shares his story and connects with people across the globe.

You Can’t Manage a Global Company from your Couch

The key message from Špetič and Bregar to those who want to expand their businesses abroad was to be prepared to move to that country you are trying to conquer. “It’s only by being close to your customers that you can get real feedback, employ the right people and fire the wrong. If you’re not there you just don’t know what’s going on.”  When they asked the audience how many of them aspired to take their company global over 75% of the participants rose their hands.  When asked how many were prepared to move abroad less than 20% raised their hands demonstrating that there is a disconnect between what the entrepreneurs were aspiring to do and what they were willing to do to get there.  International investors also like to have their entrepreneurs close by so they can monitor their growth.  Both Bregar and Spetic moved to London and NYC to be closer to their customers and investors and have found success in doing so.  For those who aren’t ready to take the plunge Anne suggested entrepreneurs join the CEED Global Club where entrepreneurs can learn about new markets by joining CEED hosted trips to markets like NYC and London where entrepreneurs have a chance to meet with industry leaders, investors and get insider knowledge about opportunities.  The CEED Global Club is also launching a web series called “Ask the Expert” where members have access to experts in several industries who will talk about product development, international expansion, marketing, sales and raising capital.  CEED aims to help entrepreneurs in its network take their business to the next level and the CEED Global Club is one tool to help entrepreneurs get there.