Personal experience: Five difficulties when starting a business in the US
I have been living in the USA for a couple of years now, developing two of my own projects and today decided to share my experience. I often come across articles with stories about how cool it is to do business in the United States, whose authors do not talk about the possible difficulties along the way. As a result, many may have an overly idealized idea of how they will come to Silicon Valley with their startup to change the world.
So it was with me, which repeatedly led to frustration when confronted with reality. Therefore, today I will talk about the difficulties in doing business in America, which should be morally prepared before moving.
To be a foreigner is already a difficulty
Quite an obvious point, but personally I was not fully aware of the volume of difficulties that arise only because I am not local. It does not mean that someone in the States does not like foreigners and specifically Russians (although people are different), it’s more likely that foreigners are more difficult to do business than local ones.
For example, only a lazy blogger or business journalist in runet did not write about the fact that you can open a company in the US remotely without getting up from the couch. In fact, the situation is twofold - on the one hand, this can be done; on the other, there are nuances
For example, if you use the services of specialized lawyers, then everything will go smoothly. I did so when opening my first company, there were no problems. Except for one thing - the cost of registering a company only exceeded three thousand dollars, while I received an absolutely standard package of documents without left-right deviations.
When starting the second company, I decided to be smarter. After all, there is Stripe Atlas, which is always mentioned in the articles on how to do it. Despite this, they refused to open me the company through this service. After sending the application, the answer came very quickly that Stripe does not register companies that “do business in certain countries”, and Russia is on this list (such beautiful countries as Somalia, Iran, North Korea also appear in it).
At the same time, we have a company aimed exclusively at the world market, no one was going to work in Russia. The correspondence with the support made it possible to find out the real reason for the refusal - my cofounder at that time resided in Russia, and we indicated his actual address in the application. This turned out to be enough to get a refusal - although no one has anything against the Russians specifically, as I was stressed in the correspondence.
When I suggested simply adding the American address to the application, I was told that it was possible, only it would be necessary to attach a contract for annual rent, bills for electricity / Internet addressed to the co-founder for several months and “answer some more simple questions” - in advertising about this do not write.
Another example from personal experience. In the US, QuickBooks is very popular for accounting. It is really very convenient, it has several varieties, including cloud service. One of the coolest features is the ability to send invoices to customers directly from the accounting software. You can pay such bills at least with a credit card, and everything immediately goes into the program.
Such payments are included on a separate request. However, for about a year I was denied their activation due to the lack of a credit history - the newly arrived immigrants do not have one: you need to open several credit cards and use them without delinquency for the credit score to rise. A year later, they didn’t refuse me right away, but sent me a rather big list of documents, which should be provided:
After spending a couple of hours, I collected and sent everything, since it can be done online. As a result, I received a letter stating that something was wrong with the list. Exchanging emails with customer support led to the fact that the girl from QuickBooks called me and explained that they were not satisfied with my driver's license (driver's license) of the State of Florida.
The thing turned out to be that since I am in the United States on an O1 work visa (I told you about getting it), then the term of validity of the rights is limited to the validity period of visa status. That is, they are “temporary” (although they were issued for several years). And they are not temporary when a green card becomes available to their holder. That is, as long as you are not a permanent resident or non-US citizen, you will not be able to accept payments through QuickBooks. Naturally, this is not written on any of the landings of the project.
Any business is constantly under the threat of legal pressure
America is a country of lawyers. Not everyone in the USA likes this - it is no coincidence that the legal profession is one of the five most hated. It is a common opinion that in the States they sue both companies and their clients for any reason. There is an important clarification: so do those who have the money for it.
Lawyers are expensive at all stages of cooperation. The initial consultation may cost several hundred dollars, then work is paid on an hourly basis (rates can be as high as $ 400 and $ 500 per hour).
If you have a small startup in the market with large and rich competitors, then you are automatically at risk - because they have money for lawyers, but you do not. I myself came across this - a week after the launch of the site of a new project, one of the competitors sent a threatening letter through a law firm.
The arguments from this message were easily broken by the facts, however, an experienced lawyer was required to draw up a competent answer. Therefore, at the start of any activity in the US market, it is necessary to lay down a budget with a margin for possible sudden legal costs.
You need to very actively "pump" spoken English
Even if the planned audience of your business is Russian-speaking immigrants, and you were not going to interact a lot with local people, without spoken English it will be difficult to promote the business yourself. For example, I was very surprised how much people in America love talking on the phone.
I myself do not like to do this, and Russia managed to solve a significant number of work-related issues in electronic form. Here, many companies and government agencies have online chat rooms, but they are mainly used to sell services. For more complex questions, you need to call - and I have often mentioned in such cases a kind word online chat in my bank in my home country.
I was sure that I spoke good English, but the reality turned out to be a little more complicated than it seemed. In the US, there are so many immigrants and just people with different pronunciations that it is sometimes difficult to hold the simplest dialogue by phone. A common situation is to call support several times and drop until you get to the operator you understand. This happens even with the locals, it is a common thing.
Yes, often in public services and large companies it is possible to use the services of an interpreter by phone. However, this may not always solve the problem - in many cases, translators are not native speakers of the Russian language, but simply people who it seems that they know it (I got this when I decided to change the tariff on the corporate SIM card in T- Mobile - hell is that), or the immigrants of the older generation. It is far from always possible to talk through them qualitatively, therefore it is better to train spoken English before the move, so you can solve your questions, relying only on yourself.
Civil services are also regularly mistaken
The United States is perceived as a country where efficiency and quality of work is at the forefront. Unfortunately, this does not mean that everything here always functions like a clock. Quite often it happens that an important document from government agencies is lost and does not come to you by mail. This happens in interactions with any agency, from the federal immigration service to state-level business departments.
The real situation - I recently ordered a certificate from the relevant department in Delaware, which confirms that my company is alive and doing business. Such a document may require a lot where, for example, PayPal asks him to register a business account.
Certificate of good standing in Delaware
I filled out an application, sent it by mail, the money for the service was written off, a check came to the mail box confirming this, but the certificate itself did not. Calls and attempts to solve the problem in the chat did not give anything - "we all sent, you should have received, goodbye."
Only one way out - to pay the fee again, and again wait for the desired document for several weeks. I do not know how others, but earlier I was sure that here it happens very rarely.
The market is huge, but finding customers is not easy due to competition.
One of the main advantages of the USA is a huge market in almost any industry. But there is also a huge competition in almost all niches. This means that promoting a business here is far from easy. The more companies compete for the attention of potential buyers, the more expensive is the advertisement - both offline and online.
For example, I know of cases when companies paid $ 100 thousand dollars for outdoor advertising in Miami, and did not get any results. At the same time, online costs are not always lower, and efficiency is higher.
For example, in RuNet there is a certain amount of online media and a blog platform, like Habr. Although there are not many such sites, it is realistic to use them to attract customers and users of new projects. In the US, this is all bad: contextual advertising on the Internet is very expensive, and the media is not so loyal. For example, I had the experience of interacting with the editor of a large media project: the answer to one letter took him about a month. In the end, the publication was refused without explanation. The paid publication at the time of my appeal cost more than 10 thousand dollars.
As a result, it took quite a lot of time to develop effective strategies for promoting in the US and selecting tools for their implementation - for example, I toldabout using Medium as an alternative to traditional media.
Not immediately, but I managed to learn how to promote projects through Medium-blogs, whose attendance is higher than from traditional online media
When opening a business in the US, you will be faced with a number of difficulties. It is important to be ready for them, so as not to spend more and avoid problems, but they can be overcome if you are at least morally ready for them. Good luck to everyone and thank you for your attention!