Maestrano has had operations in the US for over a year and is rapidly expanding in the North American market following the trend of the rest of our operations growing faster every day in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. And it all started in 2013 from Australia. When we decided to launch Maestrano in 2013 with my co-founder and CTO, we knew only two things: that we were in for a challenging ride and that Maestrano would be a global company.
Establishing our startup as a global player was built in the DNA of the company from the first drawing in the lounge of the tiny studio apartment that saw the beginnings of our adventure.
Maestrano was created by two French co-founders, from Sydney, Australia, where we had lived for seven years with the goal to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) worldwide benefit from the cloud – for real. We wanted to provide SMBs with a seamless experience of the cloud by providing connection between all the tools they use and visibility across their entire business in a very simple manner without the need for any configuration or software implementation at their end. We knew that Maestrano would be a technology company at heart.
So we left our corporate jobs to start the adventure. After two trips to the Valley to understand a bit better what creating a startup was all about, we finally had developed our prototype technology, had an idea about our route to market and were ready to raise our first funds from Australia, which can be quite challenging. The Australian startup market, although vibrant and quite dynamic, is far less mature and extended than the US market. Funds are scarcer, more difficult to find, and the risk-taking levels of investors in Australia are far lower than their US counterparts.
It took us quite a lot of legwork and hundreds of hours of relentless pitching to finally raise $1 million of funding from investors who included, among others, our chairman, Ian Buddery, founder and former CEO of eServGlobal, exited in part to Oracle and Gary Jackson, former CEO of Cisco Asia Pacific and then Microsoft Asia Pacific.
From there, things went fast for our company. After having taken office in Sydney, launching commercially in January 2014, we hired a small but extremely focused team and patented our core technology globally in July 2014.
Our marketing then was focused on Australia and the US and started yielding results robust enough for us to establish our first US office, in San Francisco. We raised a further $2 million to fuel our company’s growth and kept on improving the product to grow our customer base.
At that point in time, Maestrano was getting closer to what we had envisioned: a quite unique platform, looking like a marketplace of solutions for SMBs, but with a unique twist: thanks to our proprietary technology, all applications talked together, exchanging data live and seamlessly. Our big data engine was finally ready and able to provide complete and real-time reporting across our business clients. We were providing to SMBs what only the large corporations had been able to afford so far, in a click of a button, and at no cost.
That was when we grew strategic partnerships with application providers like Intuit and with reselling partners globally and in the US. We decided to open our operations in Dubai, to see what a “Blue Sky” market would do for us.
Then came the launch of Maestrano Enterprise in late 2015, which essentially provides our core technology to large corporations globally. This offering changed the profile of the company, opening a whole new world of opportunities in the enterprise space.
With our growing traction, we were able to open our Singapore and London offices, making Maestrano a true global group, serving to date thousands of SMBs worldwide in more than 17 countries and enterprise clients in seven countries, including banks, audit and consulting firms, telecommunication companies and hosting companies, among others.
In the meantime, we expanded our US operations. Officially incorporating Maestrano US and taking office in Seattle was a significant part of our US journey. Saying it was easy would be twisting the reality. We discovered the intricacies of the US administration, the complexity of the banking system and the difficulty of hiring rock-star team members in a highly competitive market. But we pulled it off, thanks to the great support of US networking groups, startup programs, and trade and industry commissions, among others.
Being based in Seattle and San Francisco was great, but not practical for covering the entire US territory, which is why we hired team members in Boston to address the East Coast.
To date, our US operations are blossoming and we plan to further grow our US-based teams and our investment in the country.
In hindsight, I would happily admit that we underestimated the size of the US market. Of course, we knew it was a large country, with more than 300 million people. But we quickly realized that there is a lot of competition, no matter your industry, and that it is all about being smart with investment choices when funding is not unlimited. We rapidly chose to focus on targeted verticals, especially for the enterprise market, leveraging our partners network.
It certainly took longer than expected to get proper market traction and actual market validation. But staying focused on our targets got us through, and we are now looking at exciting growth in what is, for us, a critical market.
My single piece of advice to give to foreign startups launching in the US is to come here very regularly and frequently. The US is an exciting market – and everyone wants a piece. So it’s about being committed, investing time and money and ensuring that you find the rightful space for your offering. This country is definitely still a land of opportunity.
Stephane Ibos is CEO and co-founder of Maestrano, an innovative cloud services business management platform. When launched in 2013, Maestrano attracted $1 million of funding in its first three months and was recognized as revolutionizing the way SMBs could manage business systems on the cloud. For the past five years, he also worked as program and business section manager at Thales Australia, handling various defense programs. He left to dedicate himself full time to Maestrano.