Recently, I was in North America for about a month scouting out opportunities for my business. I spent most of my time in New York and Toronto talking to potential partners and investors about a number of projects. It was a very rewarding experience on a number of levels.
As well as making some great headway on business projects, I was also fortunate enough to come home with a few awards. I was nominated for four awards at The Stevie® Awards for Women in Business and received a Gold, two Silvers, and a Bronze award. I took out the top gong as Most Innovative Woman of the Year (Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations), which was fantastic recognition for all the hard work the Bendalls team has put into creating and building The Female Social Network over the past year.
I was also able to speak to lots of people over there, from fellow entrepreneurs through to just random people I struck up conversations with. When you’re in another country, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile what you hear about that country in the media with what you hear from the people who actually live there. You read so much about the pessimism of the US these days that it surprised me a little that I encountered so much of the opposite — things are looking up and people are feeling generally positive!
So here are three lessons I learnt from my time especially in the Big Apple.
1) Americans are over politics, they’re getting back to work!
Maybe it was because I was spending a lot of time with entrepreneurs, investors and business people in general, but the overwhelming sense that I got was that people were well and truly over politics. It has to be said, the general attitude of New Yorkers to Donald Trump is not exactly warm or loving! But most people have moved on from the shock to the system his election brought and are now focused on getting back to doing business.
There will always be plenty of Chicken Littles worrying about the sky falling, but wiser heads know the US economy is actually pretty strong right now and has been trending up steadily since the bad days of the GFC. Most investors look past the daily theatre of what goes in Washington and can see that basic indicators like the Dow Jones have been moving steadily up and unemployment has been coming down. That doesn’t have much to do with how eloquent a speaker Obama might have been nor with how controversial the latest Trump tweet was; these are indications of the underlying strength of the American economy.
The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, has pointed out that he supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election but the country will continue to move forward even under Trump’s leadership. “Forty-five presidents of the United States and I lived under a third of them,” he said. “I bought stocks under 14 of the 15. The first one was [President Herbert] Hoover. I was only 2 when he left so I hadn’t gotten active at that point. But [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt was next. And I bought stocks under him, even though my dad thought it was the end of the world when he got elected.”
2) There’s plenty of money around
The venture capital scene in New York is very strong. There’s plenty of money around and lots of investors looking for smart places to park it. While a lot of the publicity focuses on the big money going into San Francisco startups and companies, New York is actually neck-to-neck with its West Coast rival when it comes to VC investment.
According to the PWC/CB Insights Money Tree Report for Q3 2017, VC funding for businesses in the New York metro area just pipped funding totals for San Francisco for the third quarter period of 2017. This was largely attributed to a massive funding round for NY-based WeWork. For total number of deals, New York comes in second behind San Francisco, and just ahead of Silicon Valley. The total amount of VC money invested in New York for the quarter was about $US4.3 billion.
3) Get on a plane
If I have one big piece of advice for Australian entrepreneurs, it is to get on a plane and get over here! If you’re not going to come over to New York, then make it Toronto, San Francisco, Beijing, Dubai, London, or Paris. It’s a big world out there and too many Australian businesses are missing out on some fantastic opportunities to grow and scale.
Digital technology and the internet have made the world smaller in so many ways and even small businesses can now get their products to global markets easily. We should be doing more of this rather than waiting for business to come to us.
Additionally, if you come over to New York you should look up people like Australia’s Consul General to New York, Alastair Walton, and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Nicola Watkinson. Both Alastair and Nicola were wonderful guides to the New York business scene and are doing great work in helping Australian businesses get a foothold in American markets.