As an entrepreneur, I've found success with several companies due to the supportive environment my home country, Australia, provides for founders. In 2012, when my co-founder and I launched Switch Automation, we knew our product would usher in the next generation of sustainable building management. We chose Sydney for our headquarters because it's the seat of sustainability in Australia. The City of Sydney is heavily invested in Australia's environmental strategy and that presented an enormous opportunity for us to serve enterprise organizations there.
Australian companies wanted help meeting their reporting requirements and we gave them a solution that not only accomplished that, but helped them uncover opportunities to achieve energy reduction targets and reduce operational expenses. By launching Switch where we have a strong network, we established a solid foundation for future expansion. We always planned to be a global company, and the United States was the next logical step. Before we set our sights on the U.S., we made sure to address three key considerations.
1. Timing is everything
Buildings account for nearly 40% of CO2 emissions in the United States, and yet the U.S. continues to lead the world in lowering carbon emissions. To me, that demonstrates both a need and a desire to improve building performance, which is the core of what we do at Switch. We had already won several clients in the U.S. and Canada in the REIT, banking and retail industries. To provide them with superior service, we needed to expand our team in those markets and forge top tier industry partnerships. I considered what cities would lend the most support to our efforts. As evidenced by Dell's recent Women Entrepreneurs Cities Index, the Bay Area ranks #2 in the world for fostering the growth of female entrepreneurs.
2. Choose a location for its resource
San Francisco was appealing because it positioned Switch at the epicenter of technology: Silicon Valley. We had a plethora of resources at our fingertips: talent, capital, legal support, partners, customers and co-working spaces. We hired an elite team from the exceptional pool of data science, customer success, communications, as well as energy, mechanical and software engineering professionals there. The dense concentration of venture capital helped us continue to attract funding and increase momentum. Additionally, we partnered with Intel, Microsoft, Dell and others who support the delivery of our scalable building performance platform to our customers. We leveraged networking opportunities in co-working spaces such as WeWork, Galvanize and Rocketspace.
3. Take a global perspective
When considering how to scale a global company, we couldn't forget that each new market is different. We had to identify how each one experiences the pain point we're alleviating and avoid making assumptions. As you expand, it's critical to leverage your network's experience and use external research authorities to validate your business model. Ensure your plan is applicable to the markets you're targeting and consider your financing streams, anticipated revenue, potential customers, sales model, legal requirements, partnerships and competition. Plan your timing carefully and take discovery trips to inform your decisions. Once ready, fully commit to entering the new market to demonstrate you're there to stay and make an impact.
Before you decide it's time to expand your business to the United States, consider three important questions: Is the timing is right? Are resources plentiful and accessible from the location? Do I understand the ecosystem I'm about to enter? If you've laid a solid foundation, building on your early success should come naturally. Don't let fear of the unknown hold you back. Remember, if there's a market for what you're doing and no one else is doing it, somebody else will claim the space if you don't.
About the Author
Deb Noller is the dynamic CEO and co-founder of Switch Automation, a smart building software company specializing in building intelligence and performance optimization. With more than 20 years of experience in real estate, technology, business and sustainability, she is passionate about helping enterprises leverage next-generation facilities management technology to execute more efficient business operations. Deb is one of eight women in the first intake of Springboard Enterprises Accelerator program in 2013. She is also an active member of the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), a Realcomm Advisor and was recognized as one of the Dell Founders 50 and by Rare Birds as one of the Top 50 Female Entrepreneurs in Australia.