Whether to tap into American consumers, investors, partners, or workforce, reaching the US is a common goal for startups throughout the Nordics. But the leap across the Atlantic is tricky for a lot of young companies, and finding a soft landing in New York, Silicon Valley, or anywhere between can be tough.
AmCham Finland, an independent, non-profit organization headquartered in Helsinki, recently announced that they’re opening a New York office that will focus largely on helping Finnish growth companies succeed in the US. Mike Klyszeiko, who heads AmCham’s Launchpad USA program, explained, “We can save companies a lot of time and money when entering the market. Rather than relying on very expensive service providers, we can bring a lot of that work onboard here at AmCham and help the companies enter the US market efficiently.”
AmCham aims to provide a holistic view of doing business in the US through their extensive network, diverse member services, and various events. For example, some Finnish startups may be ready to set up an office in the US to be closer to their customer base, but they have no idea what the logistical process looks like. Rather than spending long hours trying to figure out the regulatory process–or paying lawyer fees to have the process explained–AmCham can guide the startup through the process, freeing up the founders’ time so they can focus on their business. Or perhaps a startup hasn’t had any success generating sales in the US. AmCham will provide hands-on advisory work to help find the right customer channels, the right partners, and the best way to approach potential clients.
The new office in New York will serve a few different functions. Primarily, it will provide Finnish companies with a virtual office in Silicon Alley where they can hold meetings, attend high profile events, and network with other AmCham members. Although there are already some companies focused on making a soft landing for Finnish businesses in the US, AmCham has found a void in the market because the services and networks are so fragmented. Instead, AmCham wants to provide a single point of entry/contact that brings together all of the existing services, plus their own. The goal is to have Finnish companies feel connected to the local market and have access to a strong network in New York before they even arrive.
The office will also serve as a resource for US companies and investors interested in investing in Finnish startups. AmCham plans to tap into the private equity and angel investment community in New York to give added visibility to the Nordic region and bring investments to Finnish startups. While plenty of startups want to close their round with a big-name Silicon Valley VC on board, that’s probably not the best move for everyone, and AmCham wants to help growth companies find and get in touch with the right investment audience in the US.
Erika Sauer has been chosen to lead the New York office and aims to “mobilize more small and medium-sized enterprises, and help them capitalize on the opportunities [in the US].” For the past four years, Erika has assisted Finnish companies in Southeast Asia, mainly in Indonesia. AmCham plans to have the office open and fully operational by the first week in September, and will hold various events in collaboration with the opening.
Some startups may be suspicious of how much attention they’ll actually get with their AmCham membership since the organization works with huge companies like Google, Facebook, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and more. But every company, regardless of size, receives the same amount of attention and support, as well as the same invitations to every event. As Mike Klyszeiko explained, “there are no tiers: small teams get just as much attention as large ones.” So the fact that AmCham works with huge multinationals is actually an advantage: it can put startup founders in a room with the CEOs of potential partners or customers that would otherwise be nearly impossible to get a meeting with.
There’s one membership category at AmCham, which costs EUR 3,500 per calendar year and is open to companies of any size. For some very early stage startups, the timing might not be right and the price of membership may be too high. But the only requirement is that the startup is serious about going to the US market and sees the relationship as a long-term endeavor, rather than a drop-in and drop-out deal. Mike Richards, who runs AmCham’s Digital Services, noted that membership doesn’t just help companies get across the Atlantic, but is great for “growth companies that are looking to set up a serious network in Finland too.” The events that they hold for members in Helsinki bring together C-level executives, country managers of multinational corporations, first-time founders with small teams, and everyone between, fostering a strong, collaborative network within the region.
So if you’re a Finnish startup looking to break into the US market, move your operations to New York, or just build your network within the region, AmCham Finland could be a smart next step. And if you’re a startup based somewhere else in Europe, it’s worth looking into your country’s AmCham office to see if they can help with your market entry into the US.