Exploring new international markets takes a lot of energy and time. A warm introduction can make a huge difference. In particular if you can also ‘try out’ for a short period of time from your own temporary office abroad. This is why InnovationQuarter (IQ), Enterprise European Network (EEN) and The Hague Security Delta (HSD) have established a ‘soft-landing’ programme for foreign companies that want to establish themselves in The Netherlands and vice versa. Cybersecurity entrepreneur Jorrit van de Walle from Audittrail participated in 2018 in a soft-landing programme and took the plunge to the US. With success.
Audittrail was founded in 2010 and provides audit- and advisory services in several fields, including privacy, information security and risk management. “As an organisation, we were not actively involved abroad, until our interest was aroused by the newsletter of IQ. The newsletter announced a cyber security trade mission to southern Germany. A great opportunity to see what is possible across the border. By participating in the mission, I have learned a lot about international business and gained a lot of great contacts. It also turned out that the German market is not suitable for us, as the German perspective on privacy and security is different.”
United States: The Place
“The fire was kindled. When there was announced a soft-landing programme to the US, we took our chance. We are very enthusiastic about this programme because it gives you the opportunity to explore opportunities for your business in an accessible way. You also make use of already existing networks, which was ideal. Through this warm introduction of IQ and HSD, we have already got to know a lot of people in the US. These introductions create trust, which is very important.”
In addition to access to local networks and knowledge of the country, the soft-landing programme offers temporary housing. “In October 2018 and at the beginning of 2019, we have stayed in the US for a few weeks. At cyber incubator Bwtech@UMBC – which is connected to the university of Maryland in Baltimore – we were able to open a temporary office. We were also introduced to the American Chamber of Commerce as network accelerator. They are basically the ones who will guide you during this period. After that, it depends on your own efforts, activities and ideas how successful you become. Fortunately, we can still call IQ or HSD for advice.”
“During this period, we have also established great contact with Microsoft. Through their head office in Seattle, I was invited in 2018 to speak at a GDPR Summit. We are also working together with two other parties, including Mavim from Noordwijk, on the subject of the GDPR. During my visit in 2018, I saw that the security and compliance market in the US is or can be enormous. That is when I thought, this is the place to be for us!”
Softlanding is successful for us
“The soft-landing has been successful for us. We have gained a lot of knowledge and experience of how things work, not only abroad but also here. We noticed that in the US there is a huge need for privacy advice, also with the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) coming in effect in 2020, and our compliance management framework (software-tooling). We have therefore crossed the ocean with these components of our offer and are trying to find resellers. At the moment, we have managed to interest the first four partners and are going to be in the US before the phase of a final offer. We have put a lot of time and energy into it, by consciously visiting multiple people and showing them that we are serious. In November 2019, we extended our lease contract with Bwtech. Out of loyalty, it goes without saying that we are staying connected with Bwtech, also because of the time and energy which Bwtech and the Maryland Chamber and Commerce have put into us. At the beginning of 2020, we want to go back to the US. We are currently preparing for this. We will then be actively searching for business developers and content consultants. It is also our intention to activate our partners to continue to work with us.”
Do’s and don’ts
“I do not know if soft-landing is suitable for every country. I can only judge for Maryland, USA. I find getting a warm introduction, where you land softly in an environment that is used to new foreign companies, a very good concept. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Of course, there will be some things you run into, but those are all learning moments.”
“My advice is to try to blend into the local society as much as possible. This is greatly appreciated. In addition, it is important to take notice of the cultural differences. Be very sensitive to that. Realise that you are in first place a guest in another country. And do not expect to have success within a few weeks. Do not go to fast!”
Interested in soft-landing? Find your information here!
For the interview in Dutch, click here.