The first StartupDojo of 2014 was held yesterday. It was crowded, more then usual, and as always concepts and ideas where pitched and feedback was given by the participants.

Apart from that a somewhat unusual presentation was held as well: Rickard Hansson was invited over Skype to talk about their current US expansion. Rickard is CEO at the startup Incentive, who in earlier got an investment and has since then opened an office in Los Angeles.

He talked about and got a lot of questions about how the expansion plans are going. Here are some of the insights he shared.

When talking about difficulties in setting up the businesses:

“It’s pretty easy to set up the corporate here in the US. The hard part are the banks – they are a lot harder on security and fraud protection.”

The decision to move over to the US was based on statistics. 70% of their revenue was from the US, most of that from west-coast, so having a presence there was important. That Los Angeles was chosen had to do with a chance meeting, where he got good connections to the Los Angeles scene. It has other benefits as well, he added:

“You pay a third or a quarter of what things cost in silicon valley, which is a great advantage.”

One of the questions form the audience was on how they planned to grow the office quickly.

“We will be using recruiting firms, like everyone else here. We are part of good network here and that is a great thing. We are looking for marketing, business development and sales in the US. But we will keep the engineering in scandinavia – we want to have the development back home”

Another question was about the biggest mistake so far

“One thing that caught me by surprise was thinking that things will go faster because it is in the US. That was not true. The first meeting always feels good, but then things take forever to get started. It’s the opposite to Scandinavia – there it takes a long time to get to know each-other, but once you are past that stage you are up and running quickly.”

Regarding their sales process he shared some interesting insights, about inside sales and how that works

“Here in LA sales are done over Skype from ’inside sales’ offices instead of meetings. It takes so much time to just to get a couple of miles in car because of all the traffic, so everyone does the initial sales process over Skype instead of setting up a meeting.”

One question was about difference between overhead costs and total costs of employees in US vs Sweden.

“It’s not that big a difference. Right now everything is pretty cheap because of currency exchange rates. Employee costs in total are however comparable to Scandinavian levels, I would say it is on par. Depends a little one what field – sales is a bit cheaper, but engineers are just as expensive as in Sweden.”

A last question was if he had any good advice for those starting a startup. There he shared an interesting personal opinion:

“If you do a startup, try to have partners, but try not to have them working in the company. I would recommend co-founders that are not active in daily operations. Otherwise when things go good everything is fine, but when things go bad it gets tough.”

We wish Rickard good luck with the US expansion, and thank him for sharing some of the knowledge gained.