In 2011, SundaySky expanded to its second office in the United States to be closer to our target market and existing customer base. We are an Israeli startup and being in New York ensures we have more direct access to rich applications and possibilities for our technology. It also helps us shape our solutions and sell and service them.
Now headquartered in New York City with a technology center in Tel Aviv, our presence has grown significantly over the last 18 months, and we’ve been able to cultivate and sustain the same energizing spirit in the United States that’s existed in our Israeli office for the last six years. By selecting a strategic location and maintaining tight communication between both offices, we’ve been able to nurture a collective startup spirit across both cultures despite being 6,000 miles apart.
For entrepreneurs looking to grow their companies in a second country, here are my key considerations for expanding your offices internationally.
Location, location, location
The selected location of your second or even third office is key in your growth strategy. Naturally, you want to be right in the center of your target market as well as in a city that fosters top talent for your business. New York was the natural choice for our second office for a couple reasons.
Logistically, there are direct flights from New York to Israel and vice versa, and the travel can be a (somewhat) painless overnight flight. While the seven-hour time change can be challenging between the offices, it is more manageable than the 10-hour difference between Tel Aviv and the West Coast.
Strategically for us, New York was where we wanted to recruit top candidates to grow our sales, marketing, account management and creative functions, because our Tel Aviv team’s strengths lie in research and development, operations and professional services. New York is also a central location where many of our financial services, telecommunications and insurance customers are based.
Communication is king
From the outset, establishing effective communication channels and keeping constant contact between the offices is imperative to maintain success between customers, partners and colleagues.
Upon expanding offices halfway across the world, the biggest concern we had was maintaining smooth communication so far apart. It’s easy to consult colleagues by the water cooler or over coffee in the kitchen; some of the best brainstorms happen in hallways. Generating casual conversations with coworkers who are 6,000 miles away with a seven-hour time difference is a bit more difficult; yet we bridge that divide by constantly communicating over email and phone, and by adjusting our lifestyles in each office to fit the needs of a global company. Our Tel Aviv team routinely holds late evening and night calls, and our American employees start their days earlier than average.
In fact, our most simple yet effective solution is Skype; our employees use the instant messenger whether in the same office or in a different city, and we benefit from it as a discount international phone line. We use the app on mobile devices for constant communication, too, and even used it at our inaugural customer summit earlier this month to include remote speakers.
Additionally, companies should ensure as much face time (both live and virtual) between the teams as possible. When our team members from one location visit the other, the host office makes a conscientious effort to show them a good time and help them experience the office and the city. Though our offices are significantly separated, our employees are quite successful in maintaining a unified spirit, which I attribute to constant communication.
Keep collective values and spirit across cultures
Location and communication tools are both tactical ways to support the main challenge when expanding a growing company: maintaining the soul and spirit of your startup. While each office should have its own culture that may naturally vary (in our case, Israeli and American), startups should adopt and maintain a unified company spirit across all locations.
Though we are two offices, we are one growing company pursuing the same strategic goals with a pioneering attitude, which has allowed all of our 80 employees to stay aligned and focused.
Additionally, a growing company — especially a startup — needs to maintain its spirit while recruiting candidates to a new location. At SundaySky, we value a combination of creativity and intelligence in applicants, and that was not a trait we were willing to sacrifice as we moved across the globe. We continue to look for people who can excel in a dynamic and ever-changing environment, have the ability to work and thrive under pressure, make tough decisions under uncertainties and are unafraid to take risks and make mistakes, but who also acknowledge and learn from those mistakes.
I am involved in the process of recruiting every hire, and I make the effort to meet each candidate personally (via Skype if necessary). Today, we have employees in Israel and all over the United States, but they all have the same innate energy, ambition and enthusiasm for what we are doing with smart video technology.
In addition to acquiring top talent in the United States, we relocated a few key employees from the Tel Aviv office, too. Relocating some of the team from your original location can serve as an effective bridge between the offices, joining different cultures and strengthening your company’s unified spirit.
It’s an exciting time when your startup is in growth mode. Expanding to target locations and recruiting top talent is key to support such growth, as is maintaining the original, innovative spirit of your company. Fostering that across offices allows for deeper connectivity and continued growth opportunities.
Shmulik Weller is chief executive officer and co-founder of SundaySky. He has grown the company from an initial staff of three to today’s team of more than 80 dedicated professionals. Prior to co-founding SundaySky, Shmulik served in a number of executive positions at Veon, an Israeli startup acquired by Philips’ MP4Net Group. Philips’ MP4Net Group appointed Shmulik vice president of research and development.