5 lessons I’ve learnt growing TAINA Technology internationally
With TAINA’s Platform relevant to financial institutions globally, where we focus and how to succeed in these markets is really important for us. Here are some key lessons learnt from our international journey so far:
1. Do your research: Choosing a new market requires dedicated focus and a lot of information-gathering before you can sell to the local clients—for example for TAINA, US banks will approach certain aspects of regulation in a particular way, while Swiss financial institutions have a special approach to client data. Don’t rush; take the time to get this right.
2. Choose the right market: In choosing your markets, you must be guided by the strength of the client demand that you observe and feel, rather than any hypothetical metrics. Keeping in touch with our chosen markets, observing demand, while drawing in clients has been essential.
London is our first home and where our HQ remains. Our very first client, however, was a UK-headquartered global institution that discovered us remotely from its office in the US. We still have a very close personal and working relationship with this client and one of the things we are grateful to them for is opening our minds to the US market very early on in our development.
We continued to receive strong interest from the US market and the US has become a key focus for us, not as a deliberate strategy on our part, but as a result of market traction. We set up our first base in the US at Rise by Barclays with all of our hires in the US based on exceptional talent rather than due to geography.
With TAINA’s next hub likely to be Switzerland, we are applying all the lessons from our US setup to this next stage of our development—and taking the opportunity to share that learning here. We know that we will learn even more through the experience of establishing TAINA in Switzerland.
As with the US, we are taking our time and focusing on our clients and partners before we set up a physical base in Switzerland. Whilst, culturally, the two markets are clearly different, with varying approaches to systems, legislation, and transparency, we aim to keep TAINA’s values consistent.
3. Different markets have different characteristics: Similar institutions in different markets will move at different speeds so you need to balance the strength of demand from local clients with sales cycles in your chosen market. Size is not necessarily a determinant of efficacy; this means you can prioritise a faster-moving institution where decisions based on size might take you in the wrong direction. And don’t assume that success in one market will automatically lead to success in another.
4. Boots on the ground: The first person on the ground in a new location is crucial, with the classic advice being to send a co-founder. As TAINA’s single founder, I could not leave our base to go to the US, so I relied on an amazing person, Rasheed Khan, a phenomenal thought leader who I originally met during his time at Goldman Sachs. I can admit now that I agonised over that decision. I had done all the research and was aware that, typically, first local hires who have not previously been with the team do not work out. But Rasheed defied all these stats, making the move a huge success and, today, we feel that our US team is part of the family, part of TAINA’s DNA. This is entirely Rasheed’s achievement and we cannot imagine getting through any major core initiative without our US team.
5. Partnerships and trust are critical: Local partners and local knowledge are super important on your international journey. In our case this includes our clients, industry thought leaders, Big 4 firms, Universities, technology companies and many other stakeholders who have and continue to be incredibly valuable on our journey and whose trust we cherish above all.
In our last round we welcomed Anthemis, SIX FinTech Ventures, Tribeca ESP and Reciprocal VC alongside our existing investors. This was a very deliberate choice based on many months of research and conversations and now, without doubt, we have the best partners to help us grow further, in both the US and Switzerland.
The Department for International Trade has given us tremendous support from the earliest days and through all the subsequent stages of our growth. It has a strong local presence in all key markets, and I recommend the organisation to any UK business thinking of expanding internationally.
With its particular strength in knowledge and networks, we have also benefited hugely from the Mayor’s International Business Programme in London, the UK TechNation and our US law Counsel Wilson Sonsini.
Extra lessons for a new normal:
6. Remember local rules—tax, immigration, employment, regulatory oversight, etc. Often treated as a straightforward necessity rather than a core task, or even overlooked, the reality is that all this can be very complex and expensive, so worth putting it on the list of issues to work through early on.
7. Post-COVID, we have all had to re-set, personally and professionally, adjusting to the new world at our own pace. Commercially, we need to seize opportunities but not at the expense of keeping people at the heart of what we do. This is especially the case in the digital arena, where opportunities are many but the human touch can be hard to maintain. Keep evaluating and constantly explore new opportunities.
Ultimately, wherever you go, one thing that unites all of our experiences is that trust at every level is absolutely fundamental—with your local team, advisers, clients, as well as your clients’ trust in your ability to deliver what they really need.