3 Lessons to learn from Successful European Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

How can one make it in entrepreneurship despite all the hurdles of severe immigration laws, the language barrier and other challenges?

United States, a land of opportunities, has always been a centre of attraction for entrepreneurs. It takes sleepless nights and endless working hours for these ambitious start-up founders from around the world just to get a step closer to their dream. So what’s the success mantra for a foreigner to taste success in the U.S.?

Sergey Brin of Google and Elon Musk of Tesla are often mentioned as prime instances of the “American dream” becoming a reality for the outsiders. As much as 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies are founded by immigrants or a child of immigrants. The proportion is even higher at about 59 percent in New York. How do they make it big despite the obstacles of strict immigration laws, the language barrier and other challenges?

1. Making a new network

The bitter truth is that a lot of foreign startups fail on the other side of the Atlantic. One of the prime reasons for this is that founders who just move to the U.S. rarely have a sturdy professional network.

Both fundraising and looking up for first customers are heavily dependent on who you already know, said Kaspar Tiri from Estonia, the co-founder of Wolf3D, a firm that creates personal avatars for the virtual world. He has appeared on Forbes 30 Under 30 Technology 2019 ranking.

Kaspar said, “Being completely new in the country, your network is very limited, and it makes it much more difficult to get started.”

Perhaps this is the reason why an accelerator or graduate school often becomes the starting point for many foreign entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Carlos Reines, co-founder of RubiconMD, a New York-based telehealth company that has raised approximately $20 million, said he was able to form connections and network courtesy to his studies at Harvard University. Reines, originally from Spain, got familiar with U.S. business practices and met Gil Addo, with whom he co-founded his company.

2. Every business is people based

To get traction or raise capital abroad one must intuit how people in other cultures think, according to Stas Tushinskiy, the founder of the San-Francisco-based ad tech company Instreamatic.AI. His start-up freshly signed an agreement with Pandora to test interactive voice ads.

“You need to learn the cultural code first and it could be different depending on where you are.  In New York, for example, there’s more emphasis on status and power than in Silicon Valley,” Tushinskiy said.

Moreover, foreign entrepreneurs often have a hard time with language nuances. Reines said, “To close a successful round requires an ability to convey an appealing vision.”

A lot of professionals raised in other foreign lands simply don’t have the storytelling skills to capture the attention of investors as effectively as their American counterparts. And most often they are too modest to “tell the story”: they rely on pitching a realistic and grounded idea for their business. However, investors in the U.S. are regularly flooded with perfectly crafted pitches and discount the excessive optimism of start-up proposals.

3. Accepting the challenge with positivity

While the non-native entrepreneurs often lack storytelling skills and a high-quality network, what every successful start-up founders have in common is a positive attitude.

Reines said, “You need an extra dose of flexibility and a willingness to learn and adapt to a new culture and way of doing things. And — very important — to never fall back on the excuse of being a foreigner to justify why something can’t be accomplished.”

He himself invests more time thinking about the future and analysing new opportunities than complaining about past experiences.

One other mannerism that effective foreign-born CEOs typically have is that they don’t grumble about U.S. politics or immigration — instead, they see themselves as being in the right place at the right time.

America is still the most open and welcoming environment to visionaries from other countries, believes Tushinsky, one of those foreign entrepreneurs.

The companies that foreign entrepreneurs produce in the U.S. are the real proof that diversity works. For instance, RubiconMD hires people from different backgrounds and countries of origin, including Ghana, Nigeria, Spain, Canada, India, China and Germany.

In a global economy, unique experiences and a vision that travels beyond borders more often becomes a start-up’s key strength. Foreign founders in the U.S. dare to be off beat; perhaps that’s is the one key benefit they can draw on to eventually make it big.

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