With his career spanning twenty years across corporates and tech companies, leading international expansion and advising growth-orientated start-ups, we're looking forward to unpacking key insights and learnings with Daniel Shaw-Dennis, SVP Strategy, Growth and Alliances at Yellowfin BI as part of this series.
You launched Yellowfin in Europe around nine years ago when the business was still bootstrapped and scaling for tech companies was not the well-trodden path that it is today. What changes have you seen in the past few years in scaling a company from Australia today?
The funding to enable initial awareness in new markets for starters. When we started, any awareness we created was built off the back of our initial wins. One of our first big customers was the NHS and when they went live, we pushed everything into it, in terms of PR. We put the bulk of our EU marketing budget into that story, using that awareness to gain traction with other NHS Trusts. This gave us credibility in that space, as well as a great story to tell within an industry or specific sector. I would highly recommend leveraging those great customer stories and putting some funds into raising awareness with those first flagship customers, particularly in the UK.
Let’s talk about the NHS because a number of our Australian clients are looking at them as a client. Externally, the NHS seems like this impenetrable fortress, with 70 different trusts… How did you get that success?
The first NHS Trust we secured was due to the technology we had. They wanted to put analytics in the hands of clinicians and non-technical people and we specialised in providing data for non-technical people to actually understand and do their jobs.
But, it is hard due to their set budgets and each Trust acts separately. To get our story in the market, we looked at NHS specific events that showcased what we did, because Trusts want to know what other Trusts are doing.
Where we particularly accelerated across the market was through a partner and channel strategy. That is really important when you don’t have the budget to put dozens of people on the ground.
We went via channel partners that sold and provided services around our product and we partnered with an organisation that specialised with the NHS. If you’re looking at a vertical like that, my advice would be to look at organisations with relationships in your target market and how they could potentially benefit from your technology.
"My advice would be to look at organisations with relationships in your target market and how they could potentially benefit from your technology." Daniel Shaw-Dennis
How would you go about identifying and evaluating the right channel partners for a business?
In terms of Yellowfin, channel partners played a key part in our international growth and some of the considerations we made in identifying partners were:
Once you identify the right partners, be really upfront as to what the expectations are and treat them like they are part of your team in terms of enablement, training and working with them.
What do you need at headquarters to prepare for and support international growth?
Be prepared to get on that plane at least once a quarter, budget-willing. Whilst zoom calls are fine, it’s different to sitting down with someone for a coffee or a drink and finding out what’s actually going on on the ground, solidifying those relationships is really valuable.
Do you still view the UK as a good place to do business across Europe in a post-Brexit environment?
The short answer is yes. Particularly for Australian companies, there is so much synergy in the way we do business and the way we interact - our sense of humour for example, which makes it easier to do business in terms of an Australian company and the UK entity.
What would you have done differently with business growth and expansion?
I would’ve pushed for initial resources earlier to provide product support in the region. One of the key criteria for customers is knowing they have support in the region, during their business hours. In the early days, we’d get close to a deal, but the fact that our support hours were based in Australia (and in a different time zone) would mean the difference between yes or no.
Around partnerships, a mistake I think most companies make early on is they try to sign everyone they can. It means you’re spending less time with the right partners that will help grow your region. Be clear upfront with expectations and understand that channel partnerships will take time to grow. Especially in a B2B with long sales cycles.
"A mistake I think most companies make early on is they try to sign everyone they can. It means you’re spending less time with the right partners that will help grow your region." Daniel Shaw-Dennis
You now advise companies to scale internationally, what advice would you give a founder who’s looking to scale their business?
The biggest piece of advice is, if the opportunity is there, go for it! We know the Australian market and its size. Of course - sort out your own backyard first before going out there but once you’ve built that strong foundation, you can use that foundation (and learnings) into the new market.
You don’t need ten bodies on the ground on day one, be strategic and look at partnerships to provide scale. There are also strategies with alliance partners where you can dip your toe in the water with complementary technology, to see if it’s right for you. Australian tech has such a strong reputation today, so use that to your advantage. Just be prepared for those late nights and early morning calls.
Looking to expand your business internationally? Get in touch with Hugo at firstname.lastname@example.org.