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Ask HN: How would a foreign startup raise funds in US?
25 points by nubela on July 31, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments
How can I get around doing this? I am a startup from Singapore with the intent on focusing on the US market, a rational move given that our local market is way too small. Anyone with an experience on this subject matter? Thanks!

1) Get traction.

2) Pitch your startup to investors which have previously invested in companies based in Singapore. 500Startups springs to mind. Talk to the local hometown heroes in Singapore who have achieved funding for recommendations on other investors.

Traction excuses virtually everything else. Not technically impressive? Doesn't matter, had traction. Not based in Silicon Valley? Doesn't matter, had traction. No business model? Doesn't matter, had traction... asterix. Market not obviously a billion dollar opportunity? Doesn't matter, had traction.

"Traction" can be sort of vague. You want to have a user adoption graph. You want that graph to be growing, ideally with growth accelerating. Ideally you want "use" to be less a measure of "signed up once" and more an ongoing thing, preferably, an ongoing thing that your users would be severely discomfited if they lost. You want to have some acquisition channel, ideally proved in microscale, such that adding money explodes it. Ideally, you have a business model, also proved in microscale.

If you have a (channel proved in microscale and revenue) or (a whole lot of users) or, ideally, both of those, at least some investors won't care if you're on the dark side of the moon. If you don't have these, you could probably slice and dice your numbers such that you could appear to have them, but honestly just going out and getting the numbers is probably a better idea.

DM;HT - I like this.

One thing to note, all of those things will matter when it comes time to determining valuation and risk-level of you/your team, and potentially if you'll be a fit for the investment firm. I do agree if you have a product and traction that it will be easier to find money, and you'll likely find money from somewhere - though the terms offered will be based on the overall package.

To add:

Get traction + Get attention.

Shout from the rooftops whatever it is you are doing. Reached a small goal (like the 100th member)? Write 25 blog posts about it, tweet it, post to HN, and just put it out there. In fact, make a video out of it.

> 1) Get traction.

aka "Nothing succeeds like success".

Given the fact you are from Singapore makes it very easy for you.

See, many of those American investors you are hving in nind (VC's, Angles, etc.) are holding tones of money in Singapore for tax engineering reasons (or even better, white hacking the IRA).

Hence, there are plenty of Singaporean businessmen and women who manages this money for them and have great relationships with them.

Getting traction in Singapore shall be the only worry of yours, once you got that right, and local key people are aware of your success, offers will fly by.

And yes, we do intend to move operations to the states too, so we are not looking to get the funded and bring it offshores, but instead stay and build an american business.

As an Australian I always find it bizarre this desire to goto the US when so much untapped opportunity exists in the region. Indonesia (240m), China (1344m), Japan (127m), Australia (22m) . All of which have have very little competition in so many areas.

I know there is a lot more money in the US but without any connections the only way you're going to get anywhere is by having a proven product. So why not exploit advantages closer to home.

As a fellow Australian, I think you've oversimplified.

1. America is a better fit for Australians. We ostensibly speak the same language; thanks to cultural exports we are highly familiar with American popular culture and domestic affairs.

2. There are 15 Americans for every Australian.

3. America has a gigantic middle class. Only mainland Europe is its rival.

4. It's easier to start and run a startup business in the USA than it is in Australia. Capital is much easier to come by, regulations are better suited to startups and you're not a pariah if you fail.

Comparing your list:

Indonesia and China don't speak English, have highly distinctive cultures from Australia and each other, neither has a middle class that's bigger than the USA's, capital is scarce unless you are politically connected, regulations tend to be based on personal schmoozing rather than impersonal rule of law and they are not tilted to favour small startups.

Right now, if you speak English and you want to launch an internet business, the USA is by far and away the most advantageous country to do it in.

If you want to launch mobile internet business, there is lots of opportunities in developing countries.

Quess what country leads mobile banking? It's Kenya. Something like 60% of Kenyans have made mobile money transfer. Money transfer via mobile phones has expanded to 16 percent of the total population in sub-Saharan Africa in just few years. Most of the third world people will never get landlines for the last mile, they just skip the whole step and turn wireless.

Mobile business in developing countries is just going crazy. Threre has been huge revolution in just few years and it's currently ongoing. I predict that cheap below $100 smartphones will turn the life of hunreads of millions people around in less than five years. They have less money, but they already use mobile phones more innovatively than we do.

The main difference in comparision to developing countries seems to be that mobile internet will provide much bigger productivity boost for developing countries than it will do for us. New iPhone app in U.S is nice but it will not turn your life prospects around. Lacking infrastructure (like roads that work in rain season) makes the ability to use mobile Internet more important.

I take exception to your mention of China as a viable market.

There's a lot of red tape you need to overcome in order to not only operate in China, but also to get money out of China.

It requires a lot of money to be spent on legal fees, as well as connections in China.

The heart of the problem is that outside of the US, the software industry just doesn't pay very well. So the people who are interested in tech leave to go to the US, then start companies there, and when these companies are successful, they fund people in the US because that's where they are and the scene that they are familiar with. I'm Canadian, it sucks how much talent the country bleeds, but it's really hard to get critical mass.

Other tips:

1) Get on Angelist and try and get some followers.

2) Go on TheFunded to learn more about the process.

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