As a former hockey player, I love using this Wayne Gretzky quote from my title.....too often at times. Yet, It reminds me over and over of how to think in business. There's been this exit in the German market announced officially yesterday that has received quite a bit of press, including my own. One of the aspects that hasn't yet been written about is what the founders did to get to this exit.
I guarantee you that this happens to be one of the steps that every successful founder I have had the pleasure of witnessing in Germany has done perfectly. They were where the puck was going. In regards to their exits (or further fundings) this was the US and specifically the Valley. There are two types of founders. Those who do everything possible to allow serendipity to happen and those who don't. They are travelling to where the VC's are, where the action is and where potential buyers happen to be. This is outside of Germany, outside of Europe and usually in the US (some smartly went to Asia). Sure, exits happen inside of Germany or Europe with local buyers but not at a relevant scale and you limit your chances by not being global.
Be it the current 6Wunderkinder exit or the ten other German companies I've seen sold to US companies, one commonality stood out. They were all constantly in the US (or at least a lot). You simply have to travel. You need to be where the action is. You have to speak "their" language. Even if you sell locally, you need to have an international footprint to drive exit valuations. People need to see you. They need to feel comfortable that you "get it". You have to be a player and as much as that sounds like putting lipstick on a pig, you need to play the game.
Yes, it's tiring constantly going back and forth, usually on a startup budget. Crappy hotels and economy flights on international routes suck. You will be at a ton of events that may add zero value to you short-term. At the same time, if you aren't making the right connections you will never be part of the in-crowd. Don't waste time just going to random events. Have a strategy of where you need to be and whom you need to meet. Get intros, bump into people, be present and be visible. Ever more founders are realising this but I am still surprised how often people just don't put in the effort. Avoid this mistake if you can.