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#DataBanking: Retrospective and Other Thoughts for Scottish Companies

Author: Ross Hamilton, IDE International

At the beginning of December, The Data Lab and SDI sponsored a Scottish Delegation to travel to New York for the Big Data and Analytics in Banking conference. This guest blog post summarises the insights and take-aways form one of the delgation members.

Last week I attended the Big Data and Analytics in Banking conference in New York, #databanking, as a guest of The DataLab Scotland, @DataLabScotland. The DataLab was bringing over a number of up and coming Scottish companies to the conference and were being joined by some of the representatives of Scottish Development International (SDI),@ScotDevInt. The group was also have introductory and exploratory meetings in and around New York.

I have been living and working in New York now for over 20 years, mostly in the Capital Markets and Technology sectors. I am also a founding member of the GlobalScot business network for Scots, and those with a strong affiliation for Scotland, to help Scottish companies develop and grow their businesses by providing business advice, market intelligence, and mentoring.

Recently, my Scottish partners and I started IDE-International, a global product and services company based in Scotland, to bring innovative change, program and risk management solutions to enterprises. Collectively, we have worked across a number of industries and continents, helping companies run large scale transformation programs. We believe there is a huge gap in the market for providing the tools executives needs to use data and analytics to drive insight around their market and business operations and to execute large change and transformation programs that deliver against strategic business goals and initiatives.

When I reached out to my friends at SDI in Boston to seek assistance in helping me develop the US market for IDE-International, they had suggested that I join the Data Lab Scotland and their guests coming over from Scotland at the conference.

The #databanking event itself was well-curated and well-run, and so was one of the better events I have been to in a long time (and I have been to a lot in the US and in Banking!). Regarding the subject matter, the presentations were insightful and useful in terms of validating some of the ideas we have at IDE-International, as well as generating new ideas for how we may want to approach target clients. In the most part, the speakers from industry were accessible, happy to chat and provide feedback, especially since they stuck around themselves after their own talks to hear other industry perspectives.

Given the more intimate and curated nature of the event, there were ample opportunities to network and meet with both product vendors and potential partners. The market here in the US is large, so being a vendor requires having standout differentiators and truly knowing your competition. A key way to research this and validate your ideas is to actually spend the face time with them at these events!

For Scottish companies looking to come to the US, the support from the Data Lab and Scottish Development International could not have been better. They were all were organized, very supportive, were willing to make introductions where they could, did their own networking at the event and were facilitating meetings for the Scottish companies with as many people as they could. Talk about walking the walk! The SDI guys also carved out time to discuss IDE-Internationl’s own goals and go-to-market needs in the US, and for us to forge a plan whereby we would follow up after the event to make introductions to people in their own network.

For companies thinking about establishing a market presence in the US, it is relatively straightforward, IF you have the right advice, support and approach. The good news is there are a lot of resources you can leverage to make these easier. Here are some initial pieces of advice I would provide:

  • TEST your Ideas / value proposition quickly. The US is different than the UK in many ways, so stylistically your approach to selling and marketing may need to change or be refined. Given the vastness of the country, there is a very large market to target, which also means there are vast differences in culture even between the states. That requires some advice, support and feedback on your message and approach. Don’t assume your sales pitch in Scotland will resonate here. That said, I have found many people in industry here to be very open and approachable to listening to your ideas and providing candid feedback.
  • FOCUS your efforts to establish a beach-head in a finite number of markets and get reference clients.
  • Use Scottish Development International to the MAXIMUM! By definition, it is their mission to help Scottish companies grow internationally. They have geographic and industry coverage across the nation, and since part of their job is to influence US companies to realize the benefits of establishing in Scotland (the import side of their job), they tend to know a lot of influential people in those companies. These may well be the same people YOU want to be speaking with, and they are very happy to make the introductions.
  • Use GlobalScots – many of us have been around the industry and the US for years. They know some stuff, and they will be happy to help you out, make introductions (if they can), help to hone your message, or just provide general business advise, strategy or feedback. Scottish Enterprise can also facilitate getting you access to the GlobalScot network (or ask me, I am happy to help).
  • Make sure you understand whether there are legal reasons to have a US legal entity. For example, are you providing local services and are your target clients required to do businesses with US-based corporations? Are you providing on-shore or off-shore services or products?
  • Ensure that you understand the tax regime and what your obligations are within the US., especially if you are going to be employing staff here. The labour, insurance, tax, payroll and benefits markets and regulations are not the same. In some ways they are actually less stringent, in others they are just different enough for you to need some advise and assistance.

In summary: the US is a large market and great opportunity for Scottish companies to grow internationally. Use the friends, networks and resources that are available to you to the maximum. The Data Lab, Scottish Development International, and GlobalScots are truly pivotal resources for you, and being on one of their trips where they are all present and ready to help you out, is an opportunity and experience not to be missed.

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