@Geeknrolla: How not to be an American idiot – a primer from Hubdub

American Idiot – Launching Your Startup In the US – when you’re actually in Scotland

LesleyEccles, co-founder of  Hubdub, a news prediction game drops the 411 on how to successfully launch a startup in a region  you don’t actually live in.

The site launched in November last year and got about 500k web users, mentioned across about 100 media outlets, considered to be quite a successful launch. By way of introduction, the company is based in Edinburgh, its founders are Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English… and 70% of the audience is US-based. Why did they choose to launch in the US? Echoing a point Inma Martinez made earlier, Lesley says, if you want some of the pie, make sure it’s a big one. They focused on the US and only the US (again, very similar to Leisa Reichelt’s point about picking your audience when designing your user experience).

Lesley’s advice:

  • Use conferences to launch your product, hire a PR agency. It was very expensive, Hubdub spent about a third of their seed money on the launch – but it worked. They travelled once a month or so to keep in touch with customers and advisors, and to meet potential investors.
  • Advisors – choose advisors in the region you’re launching. Work out who can add value, and find people who are helpful – when people offer, they genuinely mean it so take them up on it — but don’t abuse it.
  • Network, network, network.
  • Be nice to your users – citing Paul Graham from Y Combinator who says people are so used to having poor service that you’ll stand out from your competition just by being nice.
  • Identify your superusers – these are the people spending more time on your site than you are. Hubdub identified their superusers and then hired from among them. There are also a few people who work for free as moderators, because they love the product so much. They’ll evangelise for you, offer advice and Hubdub uses them as a sounding panel. They try to meet as many of their superusers in person when the opportunity arises.
  • Sweat the small stuff – like, getting a US phone number. People are much more likely to trust you if they recognise your dialling code!
  • Steep yourself in the culture – calls it the Indian call centre mentality. They watch US tv shows, sports games, game shows, etc. Be careful of humour, most times it just does not travel well.