4 Tips for Handling Overseas Customers or Developers, from China’s Acheev.it

March 19, 2012

10:30 am

Acheev.it is a little hard to keep track of – the startup is based in Beijing, but incorporated in Singapore, with developers in Vietnam, an adviser from Australia, and first customers in Malaysia. Oh, and the founders are from the US and Germany. In other words, not the smallest of logistical challenges.

But they’ve pulled through: today is the private beta launch of Acheev.it’s platform, which gamifies work for salespeople – comparing them to coworkers, awarding them for mini-goals, and urging them on with praise and tips.

Based on Acheev.it’s journey, I’ve pulled out a few lessons for startups juggling employees or customers outside their home country.

Network around the region. Acheev.it cofounder Nicky Szmala attended sessions at the Founder Institute in Singapore, where he met mentor Steven Goh, CEO of mig33. Szmala’s pitches piqued Goh’s curiosity – and not only did he sign on as an adviser, he agreed to be the first customer.

Outsource the right way (if at all). Szmala and cofounder Michael Daugherty (from the US) chose an American-led outsourcing company in Vietnam to do their front-end development. Unfortunately, the original code didn’t live up to their standards:

“There’s a big variation even within their employees. Overall the organization is quite professional and we had really good communication with them, but we ended up having a junior developer assigned to our project at first,” explains Daugherty. “In the future, I think we might try some individual consultants so we can be sure of the person we’ll be working with.”

The Acheev.it cofounders

Go visit your customers. Acheev.it adopted the mentality of finding a first customer – mig33 – and building the product with them. So they flew from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and spent one week interviewing and observing the mig33 sales team. This week, Szmala and Daugherty are flying down to KL again to shepherd the launch and find out how their negotiated features actually work.

Don’t be afraid to live in China. Besides living with their significant others, Szmala and Daugherty enjoy plugging into the startup scene in China. And – not surprising to anyone who’s been there – most techies just set up a VPN and forget about the infamous Great Firewall. The cofounders admitted to some language difficulties, but entrepreneurs don’t have any free time for socializing anyway, right?

Acheev.it is targeting Malaysia and Singapore for now, but has plans for entering the West in the future.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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