🎙️How to recruit your first team in the US ?
🎙️How to recruit your first team in the US ?

🎙️How to recruit your first team in the US ?


Webinar around recruiting your first team in the US with Lilian Poilpot, Lionel Bensoussan and Nicolas Rose.

🎙️ Interviews
HRCountry Management
Meeting Date
June 1, 2022

This webinar was organized as part of the US Bridge Program.

To talk about Recruiting your first team in the US, we had the pleasure of having the following experts: Lilian Poilpot, Senior Partner at Erevena, Lionel Bensoussan, Executive Vice President at SmartAdserver and Nicolas Rose, partner at XAnge.

Here is the replay (in 🇫🇷) :

🔭 Plan your departure

 Build a US Task Force from Europe 💪

The american market is tempting (we know!) but before considering going all in, it’s important that you make sure that it’s worth the time, effort and financial investment you’ll put into it.

Your journey to the US start by forming the task force within your team that will study the opportunity of this new market and your PMF. If you have the means and want to go a bit faster on this assessment step, you can always hire a consulting firm to help you unravel the topic faster.

During this assessment, you’ll also be able to see if your product needs a lot of localisation or not. If it does, it means that your local team might be made of more than just the typical Sale and Customer Support teams. This has to be accounted for in your US Hiring Plan.

Usually, there are 2 different roads a company may take once they look into their TAM (Total Addressable Market) and the US:

  1. Figure out early that the US represent the majority of your market (sometimes even > 80%) and get there fast! ⚡
  2. Scale-up in Europe first because there is room to grow. Then gradually, once they’re big enough (usually around Series B), they go for the american dream.🗽
We encourage startups to initiate their US expansion from Europe, with native speakers to mitigates the risks. Take advantage that in Europe we are lucky to have a lot of North American living in big cities like Paris, Berlin, London… Localize the content, prepare the marketing positioning, organize the tech and support teams to work in English on US timezones.
Learn more about US Marketing Strategies with our previous webinar:🎙️US Marketing Strategy: 8 rules you should follow🎙️US Marketing Strategy: 8 rules you should follow
While settling in the US, it’s very important to fit your marketing strategy to the american culture. A simple translation of your content will not do the trick. You need to adapt it to the standards of the US market. Nicolas Rose - Partner at XAnge

🛬 Landing in the US

Who should open the US office?

Now that you’re convinced that going to the US is the next step for your startup, you must be wondering who should be the one to open this new market?

You can “start from scratch” like some startups do by hiring someone on the ground or send someone from HQ.

Our two speakers are in tune on saying that it’s better to send someone from Europe:

→ Lionel believes that having someone willing to take the risk for the startup to move abroad in order to launch the business is a good signal that the company is ready for this challenge.

Lionel went alone in the US to launch DynAdmic and was the only employee for a year before eventually hiring a team.

→ Lilian always advise founders to send someone who knows the product and the team. Ideally, that someone is one of the co-founders or an early employee: they truly embody the DNA of the company and will be able to instill it to the first local hires. There is another advantage with having a co-founder on the ground: they can make quick decisions without reaching out to the Comex in Europe.

We advise the installation of a full-time co-founder for the opening of the US office, who will do the first recruitments. The co-founder carries the spirit of the company and brings a seniority necessary to make critical decisions: recruitment, marketing, prioritization of projects in the startup.

First local Hire: General Manager or Sales ?

The number one goal of opening a new market is to sell your product to a new audience. Therefore, the consensus is to hire a salesperson first. Operations can remain in Europe until the company reaches a critical number in the US.

However, for some sectors, such as fintech for example, it may be best to first look for a GM who will take on any local regulatory challenges.

The case of DynAdmic: Lilian came across some language barriers that hindered the potential success of DynAdmic in the US. He quickly understood that it was necessary to americanize their approach and consequently the teams that were going to be on the ground. Naturally, the first hire for them was to build their Sales Team. They also needed to start selling their product quickly to confirm that this U.S. expansion was worthwhile. It’s interesting to note that they chose not to bring in experts from HQ and make the local team 100% american. Instead, they passed on their expertise to their first Sales recruits.

"We had to experiment with our offer to find a match with the market as we were operating in a niche." Lionel Bensoussan - EVP SmartAdServer
Are American customers open to the idea of buying from non-native sellers? Yes: If you speak english very well it might not be a problem as the communication would be flawless. No: It's easy to get calls with leads, but they are often very short. This means you have little time to convince and you won't succeed if you are not comfortable with the language. Keep in mind that international cities like New York or San Fransisco do not fall under this analysis, as people are used to dealing with foreigners.
It is essential to fit the local context: recruiting US Natives is imperative or Europeans who have already lived in the US with a professional experience directly related to the Startup.

💨 Hire fast, fire even faster

Incorporating your company in the U.S. is a crucial first step: you need to get your legal affairs in order to be able to hire people quickly. You can start with an Employer of Record (like Workmotion) but as your U.S. business grows, you should open full-fledged subsidiary.

The recruitment process in the US is very different from what we have in Europe. There you have to move very fast.

Another striking difference is that job tenure in the United States is much shorter than in Europe. You should be prepared to hire someone who has never worked for a company longer than two years.

"Take your time to assess candidates but not with the European criteria... For example, know that the average tenure of a CMO in California is 22 months.” Lilian Poilpot - Senior Partner - Ereven

You should hire depending on your current needs and be ready to fire few months later.

Americans are very good at selling themselves in an interview, which is something to consider when hiring. Don’t hesitate to rely on a case study to assess their true level.

🧲 How to attract talents as a French/EU startup?

European startups should expect to be considered as "second class citizens". This is due to the smaller size of funding rounds in Europe compared to the US and the fact that companies are unknown to candidates. You'll have to put twice as much effort into explaining to potential candidates why they should join your company and what you have to offer vs. US startups.

As you cannot compete with large US companies and other US tech startups on their traditional play ground (compensation packages), you can work on:

  • Your company culture;
  • The career development opportunities you offer;
  • The vision and mission of your company;
  • Above-market bonuses prorated on sales.
"Due to the lack of benefits we had at first (no insurance, limited fixed salary, etc ), I spent 80% of the job interviews selling what I could offer: company growth, culture, career paths, bonus system... Out of my first three sales hires, 2 are still working with me 7 years later.” Lionel Bensoussan - EVP SmartAdServer

What about Headhunters ?

Since you are not familiar with the cultural differences in the market, using a recruitment firm can save you time, but of course there is a cost. An international recruitment firm is probably not the best partner, as it is likely a junior employee who will manage your account. Hence, it is best to work with a relatively small recruitment firm, which ideally has had successful experiences with European companies in the past.

There is a growing community of European startups in the US, and there are some organisation like Business France which can connect you to their business partners. Don’t be shy and seek guidance from them as they have paved the way for you!

Compensation in the US

Salary grids in the US are entirely different from those in Europe. You should not try to match the salaries paid in France for your American employees (and vice versa). Executives should be informed that a junior sales in the US can earn, in absolute terms, more than a VP of Sales based in France.

"A VP willing to accept a salary substentially lower than other VPs is probably not the best you can have." Lilian Poilpot - Senior Partner - Erevena

This has been a pain point for European startups in recent years as the amount raised was not enough to hire the best profiles in the US.

Having a top US profile on your board can be helpful, especially when you don't have enough cash to hire them directly to your Comex. This was the case for Criteo with Greg Coleman according to Lilian. Coleman helped the company navigate the market when it first launched in the US. Board members can help with sales if they are Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and even with hiring by leveraging their network.

Check out benchmarks for US salaries in our 💶Compensation Tools

👥 Working on your culture is key

Think about what you want your company culture to be as your team will grow to be more diverse.

→ Communication between the US HQ and the European one needs to be seamless. For example, it is important to make English the official language so that Americans do not feel rejected. You want to speak english, not only in the US office but also in the French headquaters, especially in written notes / email to easily onboard americans on projects.

→ Putting in place american rituals and best practices like all hands meeting could help employees to fit in.

Management must constantly seek to build bridges between teams so that everyone feels like they are part of the same company. Encourage exchanges and travel between offices. Create projects that include both American and European employees…

As they grow, some companies end up becoming American and moving their headquarters to the United States: Mirakl or Criteo for example.

Here are 2 things Americans like about French companies that you should consider keeping in your culture:

  • Family and friendly approach to the business
  • Ability to make mistakes without being fired
It is common for Americans to leave the office at 6pm sharp. Don't be offended by this as it is part of the 9 to 5 culture. However, they usually take a short lunch break, whereas the French take an hour for lunch and leave the office later in the day.
Want to learn more? Here are : All XAnge U. S. ResourcesAll XAnge U. S. Resources