Our new blog series, “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity,” is all about leaders at fast-growing companies who have greatly benefited from prioritizing and adopting a global perspective.
We’re kicking things off with Jim Finnegan, founder, and CEO of FieldMotion who grew up and launched his company in Newry, Ireland.
FieldMotion is a SaaS company whose prospective customers and market opportunities exist in far greater numbers outside of Ireland than inside. Jim had global expansion on his mind from day one and from very early on had spent time traveling to and from the U.S.
Find out how Jim was able to build up enough confidence to take that leap from focusing on growth in Ireland and its neighboring countries to opening up offices and going to market in the U.S and beyond.
This is part 1 of 7 of our “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity” series.
What is Fieldmotion?
Fieldmotion is a mobile workforce management platform designed for field service engineers. Our clients are typically HVAC, plumbing and heating, electrical, fire and security and service and maintenance engineers. One of the biggest issues that companies in these sectors face is that they are still using paperwork in the form of triplicate books.
This can cause major issues with admin, paperwork is not handed in on time causing late invoicing, sometimes information is not recorded correctly and missing which can mean invoices are inaccurate and companies may not invoice for goods that have been used.
At Fieldmotion we digitize the paperwork so that Service engineers can collect all info on a mobile or tablet device and send the info back to the office in real time. We can take GPS locations, record signature, voice notes, photographs read barcodes and QR codes and much more. All info is sent back and stored in the Fieldmotion CRM system.
Companies now know what their guys in the field are doing instantly, management decisions can now be made in real time.
As someone who’s successfully started two businesses in your home country, how would you describe the entrepreneur community in Northern Ireland?
There are a lot of startups. Northern Ireland is not a big manufacturing exporting country so a lot of people are into technology and computers and the standard of education is very high. That's the reason why you will find a lot of American companies investing in Northern Ireland. The taxes are good and the cost of living is very low compared to the US, so for a lot of American companies coming over its really economically viable.
You now have offices in Ireland, Boston, the UK, and Australia. When you started the company, did you always view it as a global company?
Because we were selling software we always seen our self as a global company. When we first started off, we were only looking at Ireland so that we could find our feet. Basically, we organized face to face meetings and talked to local businesses to find out was there a market. Once we realized we had a viable product that could be sold we started selling over the phone and we extended our reach. We then sold into the UK and thought to ourselves if the product was Americanized there's no reason why we couldn't sell it in America as well.
Companies from the US started to contact us who had found us through our website, That really got us thinking and was the catalyst that pushed us to start looking at America.
Why did you apply to an accelerator based outside of Ireland? What made you choose the US, specifically Boston?
Well, I suppose we had done a couple of accelerators back home. There was the Propel program, which was for really early stage start-ups and then we also went through one with the Danske Business Lab and Springboard, which is run with Catalyst INC. A good friend and mentor recommended that we should look at mass challenge accelerator as a great way to make a soft landing in the USA.
But, over this past few years, we always toyed with the idea of trying to get into the American market. We always believed that the product was a perfect fit. We had already travelled to Boston, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas trying to understand the market. We knew that getting onto Mass Challenge would be a better way of doing this as we would be on the ground every day for 4 months rather than traveling for a week at a time every few months.
Boston was a perfect fit, we feel comfortable there, the culture is a lot like back home, people are nice and accommodating and the time frame is only 5 hours behind Ireland. Boston just made sense and many of our ideal clients are in that part of the country.
Why MassChallenge Boston?
When I heard more about MassChallenge I applied for it straight away. We knew that Mass challenge would give us the soft landing we needed. We needed to get on the ground and this was the perfect opportunity.
What impact did MassChallenge have on FieldMotion?
I suppose we now know that the product is a perfect fit for the US Market. It helped us understand the terminology better so that or clients could relate to the product better.
Having access to all the mentors helped us with a number of different things, we changed our pricing structure, we understood the market better, we were able to set up a US company and bank account and most importantly understand the complicated TAX system.
MassChallenge was an eye-opener as I said before It gave us the soft landing that we needed. we now have a healthy pipeline and have closed numerous US deals.
What advice would you give to people who want to break out of their country and have success globally?
If I was to give them a bit of advice, it’s that you need to spend some time on the ground of that country. You need to understand the culture, the language, the terminology, how business is structured, and just the way things work. I think a lot of people think that they just need to hire somebody there, but it doesn't work like that. You need to be on the ground yourself.
Truthfully, it takes time, and you will throw a lot of money at it. It's a lot of traveling back and forth, so do it as cheaply as you can. You want to make sure that whatever you do, you're going to receive some sort of return for it. Get your questions answered. There are a lot of people out there that will help you. Find the right people and mentors that you can actually talk to; that you can ring up on a daily or weekly basis, and ask the questions that you need answered. This includes other companies that are already doing business there and people that have done it before. They'll give help and advise you.
Lastly, it's not going to be easy and you will make plenty of mistakes. You need to be prepared to fail and prepared to pick yourself up.
How would someone know that they're ready to take their company to that next level in terms of expanding globally or outside of their native country?
If you feel that your company is doing well in your own market. That could be a good time to start looking at it and doing your research, but there's no right or wrong answer.
It's going to have to feel right for the company. They’ll also need to have the resources, the manpower, and the funds to actually take it to that stage. You need to be going with some sort of money that you're prepared to lose. You have to be prepared to lose that money. Also, before you go, do a lot of test runs back home. Test it and talk to as many companies as you can. Make sure that your product is good enough.
My advice would be to try and get a good foothold in your own market before looking elsewhere.
This is part 1 of 7 different interviews with entrepreneurs who took a global perspective with their startups.
This series is done in partnership with Ideometry. Ideometry is a Boston-based full-service marketing agency serving a global client base. With a full suite of creative, development, and strategic services, Ideometry helps startups and Fortune 500 companies alike get the business results they’re looking for. If you’re doing something interesting, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at ideometry.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org