Why going global was the best thing we did
I often get asked why Yellowfin decided to go global. While the Australian market is relatively large, it’s also quite risk averse, which makes it a challenging market to sell into. While VC-backed software vendors have the benefit of selling to others within their VC family, as a bootstrapped startup we had to forge legitimate markets outside of Australia. We knew that we had to spread our wings to grow and expanding overseas quickly gave us the opportunity to sell faster.
So we opened offices in the US, Japan and the UK as well as keeping our head office in Australia. With the benefit of hindsight, we’ve found that there are many other benefits that Yellowfin has gained from our decision to go global.
Global presence builds resilience
When the global financial crisis hit, Yellowfin barely noticed it because our revenue isn’t concentrated in one region. Our revenue streams are balanced and reflect the size of each of our regions. Having strong regional offices built resilience into our organization because we didn’t have all of our eggs in one basket. While we could’ve gone into just one market and built a phenomenal niche there, it would’ve made our business more fragile. We wanted to grow the diversity of our business, so we built in the largest market, the US, while also pushing into Europe and Japan at the same time so we weren’t reliant on one region.
Having multiple regions also means that our customers have different buying cycles. This has also helped us build resilience and allowed us to grow consistently as an organization.
We learn more from diverse customers
Having our business spread across several regions has given Yellowfin a very diverse customer base. Every country we operate in has different strengths in terms of the type of businesses that operate there, whether it be manufacturing, agriculture, or finance. Japan has a lot of manufacturing, while Australia is more service industry focused, for example.
As a software vendor, our customer base reflects the industries that are in those regions. So we learn a lot about how different industry segments and customers use our software. We can then leverage this knowledge to improve our product and the way we sell in other regions.
We benefit from different cultural approaches to selling
Having multiple sales offices also minimizes some of the risks in our sales organization. It’s not uncommon for organizations to hire people in one region who work the same way. But with a regional business model, we have different types of salespeople and teams across the organization. Each is shaped by their own cultural background and brings a different approach to selling.
As a result, every region does some things a little differently and has its own nuances. This allows our sales organization to learn what works and what doesn't from each of them. By taking the best from each region, we’re able to build a stronger, better sales organization.
Our business has grown in unexpected ways
Having a regional presence has also given us the opportunity to find and grow our business in ways we didn’t anticipate. This happened when we released Signals last year. We expected that our first sale of Signals would be in the US but it wasn’t - it was in Japan. The markets reacted very differently to the new product and this produced unexpected results. The Japanese love automation, so AI was the best thing that could happen to our software. In contrast, the US and Australian markets had a level of reticence.
We were able to test our new product in the Japanese market and then use those use cases to help us build a critical mass across all of our regions. This was a much more effective and efficient way to launch the product than if we’d tried to launch in Australia, for example. This was particularly interesting to me, as I could see how being regionally diverse gave us the opportunity to grow in new ways.
I think there are huge benefits for an Australian software vendor to go global. It not only gives you resilience, new markets and a diverse customer base, but you also learn things that you wouldn’t otherwise. If we’d just stayed in Australia, I don’t think we’d have a business today. The decision to go global has given us a much stronger and faster-growing organization.
Stop making excuses and get on the plane
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