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Why This Female Founder Is Bringing Australian Entrepreneurs To The Big Apple

Founder and CEO of FD Global Connections, Trena BlairCopyright: Phil Carrick

There are few globally-renowned hubs of culture and commerce around the world that can lay claim to the same thriving entrepreneurial spirit as that of New York City. And now, a growing number of businesses in Sydney, Australia are turning their attention to the Big Apple as a first port of call for global expansion.

Based in Sydney, founder and CEO of FD Global Connections, Trena Blair is an expert in expanding businesses from Australia into the U.S., with New York as the entry point. Since establishing FD Global Connections in 2014, Blair has brought with her some of Sydney’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and businesses to New York across the luxury retail, wellness, FinTech, higher education, infrastructure and professional services sectors, to name but a few.

Through a series of three month-long immersion programs held in New York throughout the year, Blair prepares and trains start-ups and small to medium sized businesses that want to scale up. In April this year, Blair also led her first “Female Founders” immersion program for women in technology, with another program launching this September for Australian FinTech, InsureTech and RegTech businesses that are ready to expand into the U.S.

New York enjoys a continued allure for Australian-based companies, and from many cities around the world, as an inspiring, vibrant destination for business. And this is also the case for female founders in particular. Much of the city’s appeal can be attributed to the initiatives and policies that have been implemented over the years in New York at a local government level, which have been specifically designed to support women-owned enterprise, such as the key piece of legislation in 1988 that established the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development.

The New York tech sector also has a particular appeal for global entrepreneurs from Australia, and is an industry that FD Global Connections also specialises in. It is a rising sector in New York and according to a recent Endeavor Insight report, is growing twice as fast as Silicon Valley’s and raising more than $3.1 billion in funding in 2013. The same study found that between 2003 and 2013, New York City’s tech employees also grew by 26%.

New York was also ranked the number one city for female entrepreneurs on the Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index report in 2017, based on five key criteria, including technology, culture, capital, market and talent. Sydney, in comparison, was ranked 11th, ahead of Melbourne, which was ranked 17th.

“There is an apparent shortcoming in Australia in the full engagement of women entrepreneurs to ensure rigorous feedback on policy development,” Blair wrote in an article for the Australian Institute of Company Directors earlier this year. “New York and Sydney are the two cities that I have had the privilege of calling home. Both are leading business hubs because they recognise the positive economic impact of women entrepreneurs.”

There are several initiatives in Sydney driving forward entrepreneurship, but Blair notes that more can be done to support Australian entrepreneurs. “Sydney is a great city that excels in role modelling, coaching and mentoring, but it is policy at a government level that is missing,” says Blair. “That is one critical difference.”

Blair’s consultancy guides companies through the process of expansion into the U.S. market and New York, which includes conducting scalability assessments, board approval presentations, budgets and market entry timelines. Since 2014, Blair has worked with and mentored more than 50 companies to prepare them for expansion and launch in the U.S.

Originally from Sydney, Blair is a former New York resident herself, and worked in the city for three years, two of which she spent at American Express as the regional vice president of product and marketing for The Americas in its corporate travel division. The flight path between New York and Sydney is now a well-travelled journey for Blair indeed, who journeys back and forth regularly since returning to her Sydney base a decade ago.

“I had always wanted to continue having the opportunity to return to New York, whether with another company or my own business,” says Blair, “When I had the opportunity to showcase Australian companies in the U.S., and help build their business in the U.S., it was too compelling for me to walk away from.”

A global entrepreneur in her own right, Blair has also worked with two Australian universities to create coursework focused on entrepreneurship in the U.S., including an MBA subject at the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales Business School, and a study tour with the Sydney University Business School, which commences next week in New York and Washington D.C.

“The level of support in New York is incredible at the state government level, and it has filtered all the way down through companies and universities,” says Blair. “The investment that goes into supporting women and minority business owners is truly remarkable.”

“When Australian companies look at globalizing into the U.S., the earlier we are engaged the better. Around 80% of international companies that come into the U.S. fail, because they don’t understand the complexity of the market, the culture or the [business] language, which varies greatly between the two countries, despite English being spoken in both,” adds Blair.

What follows are Blair’s top three tips for companies that are considering expanding into the U.S. and New York.

Demonstrate your commitment to the New York market

Companies need to ensure they have a longer term presence – or strategy for that. When I am representing Australian companies in New York, I am often asked, ‘What is the long term commitment of this company to New York?’ The question is warranted, because they see a lot of people fly in and fly out – not only from Australia but other markets around the world. Unless you are ready to answer that question with a strategy that you have considered, it’s difficult to win business.

Conduct a thorough scalability assessment

I see organizations enter the U.S. market that haven’t conducted an effective scalability assessment. Companies can get caught out quickly because it’s such a big market, and if they are successful, they can very quickly overtake the size of their Australian operation. If you are not prepared for that (and that’s what your scalability can draw out), not only are you putting your New York brand at risk by non-delivery, but also you risk severing Australian business because you don’t have the support or operational strategies in place to support this growth.

Focus on your go-to-market strategy

A lot of companies think of this as very broad, but your go-to-market strategy is very much focused on these key questions; ‘Who are my clients?’ and ‘How am I going to win them?’ Considerations that need to be taken into account include distribution models, messaging and the channels your prospective clients use to receive information. It’s also about your value proposition and the products you have available. Your product may be great in Australia, and probably is if you are realistically looking the U.S. market, but inevitably, the customers and clients you speak to in the U.S. may want something slightly different, and companies need to understand that.

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