Despite a bad reputation, Europe have had quite a few fine tech companies making it big i America. Spotify is an obvious example. Trustpilot, Zendesk, Klarna, Checkout, Revolut and Deliveroo are European-founded companies that has led succesfull expansions.
But few have reached the level of success that UiPath has seen in the past years. Originally from Bucharest, Romania, the company has expanded globally with such a speed and efficiency that the automation company has become one of the fastest growing tech companies on the planet. The fastest growing according to Deloitte. The latest numbers I was able to find said: 3000 employees, a 35 billion dollar valuation and more than 600 million dollars in ARR.
That is why I decided to reach out to their founder and CEO, Daniel Dines, to hear if he would finalize our short series on The Dos and Donts of American expansion. Luckily, he agreed to participate for a short interview.
Here is his advice.
What is your best advice for a young European startup/scale-up looking to expand in America? What are the biggest opportunities and what are the biggest challenges they must be aware of?
My best advice is to focus on customers. Being customer-centric is a natural progression. At UiPath, customer-centricity keeps our humility in check and our work environment healthy. If there is one thing I am proud of, it is our culture. Growing fast but maintaining culture and discipline isn’t easy – it’s hard work.
Hiring the right people is also very critical, and I think it’s something most founders struggle with. One thing that’s helped me is asking my board members for introductions to great people in those areas—even if they’re not someone I can hire.
Talking to them helps me calibrate and figure out what I want. But for me, the biggest lesson has been that culture fit comes first. I used to ask very specific questions of candidates, designed to get at how smart they were. But now, I don’t really have a script; I just want to see what kind of conversation happens naturally and whether it feels like we would work well together. It’s important to keep an open mind.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in expanding from Europe to the US and how did you overcome it?
Starting a company from a small place with no market has a hidden advantage: it forces you to think globally from day one. We went against the rules of perfecting the business model first in one territory and instead, we rapidly expanded globally to the United States, Europe, and Asia simultaneously.
We took the less traditional route to growth, and it has worked. This makes our business truly unique in the world of enterprise software. We have accumulated knowledge from thousands of customers deploying at scale pushing us to innovate faster. This is not easy to replicate overnight. Our global presence and large customer base have created competitive differentiators that few companies have at our stage.
What is the main difference between operating in Europe and in the US? How is the market different and how are the audiences behaving differently?
Companies and even governing bodies in Europe have come a long way with digital transformation programs, but in many ways, they are still behind compared to the U.S. Growth in the U.S. is larger and faster, but I do see Europe catching up. Still, many startups originating from markets such as Northern Europe or Central and Eastern Europe aren’t thinking big enough. It’s critical to think big. There’s room for more bold-thinking tech minds emerging from different areas of the continent.
Did you do any Americanization of your brand and marketing operations? And what did you do to build a brand in the US?
In 2017, we relocated our headquarters to New York City to establish a permanent presence in the U.S. market. We established steady and strong relationships with important global systems integrators and were closer to our U.S. customers. Like our other expansions across Europe and Asia, this was an important signifier to the market of our global business model. We also needed to increase our headcount in the U.S., and in fact, our first U.S. hire was our chief marketing officer, Bobby Patrick, who is still CMO today. Our goals have always been building the brand, expanding our customer base, and treating our customers, partners and employees with respect.
What’s exciting is that jobs in automation are among the fastest emerging careers worldwide, so it attracts many talented people. We strive to attract the best talent possible at UiPath. Our worldwide brand recognition certainly helps, but we are also always raising our own standards of excellence.