How to Attract Foreign Investors to Your Startup

While the US market is ripe for investment and numerous funding opportunities, not all the global markets can boast the same kind of ecosystem. Startups are booming worldwide, yet the majority of investment rounds are still closed in the Silicon Valley.

But what if you are operating a company overseas? Does that mean you should only pitch domestically up until you reach a larger scale? Not necessarily. Sweden, for instance, is known to have a small domestic market, yet the country is now home to the largest amount of unicorn startup outside the SV. How did that happen? The short answer is – most founders aimed at international markets from day one.

If you are ready to take the same path, here are some useful tips for attracting foreign capital to your venture.

Network Within International Communities and Events

Investing overseas assumes certain additional risks from the investor’s perspective – unfamiliarity with the market, legislations, and tax systems to name a few. Hence, to increase the chances of attracting a foreign fellow on board, your best bet is to nurture a prospective lead you both will share and trust. In today’s connected world the opportunities are plentiful. Keep an eye on the international events held in your location like TNW conferences or Startup Safari. Start building your way into international trade associations like EBAN and hawk on the events organized by international accelerators in your area e.g. 500 startups, Techstars or Dreamit.  

Highlight the Benefits of Investing in Your Country

Jeff Clavier, managing partner at SoftTech VC, sums up his main concerns about investing overseas:

“Investing abroad is even more tricky: to the issue of strong leads and supporting the companies, you are adding legal, tax, audit challenges. How do you review documents in non-English languages, where structures can be quite different from what we are used to in the US?”

You can try outweighing the potential investment challenges by appealing to the governmental programs and tax benefits offered to investors in your home market. The UK government, for instance, offers significant tax reliefs for investors in the early-stage digital business, including the Patent Box – a special tax regime for all the profits from IP and R&D activities. Malta, Austria, and Cyprus run attractive governmental investment schemes, which include obtaining a 2nd citizenship apart from getting significant tax benefits. Indian government has launched an attractive investment scheme earlier this year, which includes a 100% tax exemption and inspector raj-free regime for three years.

Make all the potential benefits of investing in your market an integral part of your winning pitch.

Participate in International Startup Competitions

Get your name out there by taking part in an international startup competition or hackathon. Even if you don’t get the first prize, your name will become more familiar and you should try following-up the jury later on. Some of the competitions worth checking out include:

And here’s another more detailed list to check out.  

Keep Your Documents Neat and Ready

By this time you should already have your paperwork in place including company incorporation documents, bank account in compliance to receive funds from foreign individuals and your tax registration documents.

When approaching a potential prospect, make sure you also have the following documentation prepared in two languages:

  • Your business plan;
  • Financial documentation for the past few months and projections for the future;
  • Monthly cash burn and funding requirements;
  • Product roadmap and strategy;
  • Market research data; and your
  • Sales pitch/Investor deck.

Additionally, it’s worth creating an additional document outlining all the ins and outs of investing and operating in your domestic market, prepared by an internationally recognized agency to raise your credibility bar.

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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