Scaling in the U.S. Market: How to Build a Winning Team
perspectives / Insights

Scaling in the U.S. Market: How to Build a Winning Team

What you need to know about tapping into the U.S. talent market.

Laura Rowson
May 9, 2024

For many international early-stage companies, the U.S. market represents a huge commercial opportunity. To truly address this opportunity, many businesses aim to establish a local presence in order to drive brand recognition and to make inroads with U.S.-based customers. Indeed, the number of American workers hired by international companies grew 62% between 2022 and 2023. For startups looking to launch and grow their businesses in the U.S., hiring strong U.S.- based talent is an important first step. 

However, for many early-stage startups based outside the United States, it can be challenging to attract, hire, and manage U.S. employees. Doing so requires navigating a myriad of regulations, including federal and state employment laws and payroll taxes. Companies seeking to gain a foothold in the United States also need to understand employees’ unique expectations around compensation, benefits packages, and corporate culture.

As the first in a series of workshops focused on supporting companies scaling in the U.S., Salesforce Ventures recently hosted an event to help guide portfolio companies as they expand their workforce globally. I was pleased to moderate conversations with a group of Salesforce Ventures portfolio company leaders and Salesforce executives: Tony Jamous (CEO and Co-Founder of Oyster) joined Kate Hallick (VP of Recruiting at Salesforce) to discuss how to find and attract new talent worldwide. Amanda Buck (Senior Director, Global Talent Acquisition at BigID) and Rachel Cochran (SVP of People at Algolia) talked about how to manage a global workforce.

The workshop offered great insights for founders seeking to expand into U.S. markets. In this article I’ll share some of my favorite takeaways. For more, I encourage you to watch the video of the workshop below:

Start With Compliance

When hiring U.S.-based talent, international startups have a choice between setting up a legal entity or hiring an employer of record (EOR). It’s important to understand the different obligations these choices place on the employer. If a startup sets up a legal entity in the United States, the company will be directly responsible for managing payroll and complying with state and local employment laws. It can be costly and time-consuming to establish an entity, but the business will also have more autonomy with this option. In the long run, setting up an entity may be better as the business scales or if the business plans to hire a large number of employees.

Another popular option is to use an employer of record (EOR). EORs can manage background checks, hiring, and onboarding. They can also help with payroll, including tax withholding and social security contributions, currency conversions, and visa assistance, if needed. They can provide compliant employment agreements, offer insurance coverage, and help you research salary ranges for specific roles in different locations.

Find the Right Partners to Tap into U.S. Talent

Partners like EORs and benefit brokers can also help international startups map out the U.S. talent landscape and distinguish their company’s brand. BigID, for example, relies on an EOR to help stay up to date on changes to regulations and the hiring environment. 

Partners can also help startups develop a thoughtful compensation philosophy for their U.S. workers. For example, they can help determine positioning: Do you want to pay a premium for talent? How do you want to distribute equity? Rachel explained that a lack of thoughtfulness and clear communication about how compensation is determined can damage the company culture and distract teams from their core responsibilities. Startups should document their company philosophy, and take steps to ensure everyone conveys the same message to each employee and candidate.

Your First U.S. Hires Are Critical

The first employees a business hires in the United States should have the energy and network to jump-start the U.S. talent search. Ideally, they’ll also have the skills to bring people together. Startups should be sure that each new employee aligns with their company’s mission and culture. They should also recognize that hiring in a new market is an opportunity to hire from more diverse backgrounds.

When hiring internationally, Tony looks for a characteristic he calls “ego flexibility,” or the ability to adapt and quickly adjust to new ways of working. He explained that employees need to be open, flexible, and agile as the workplace evolves in new ways, and this trait is particularly important for first hires in new geographies.

Most U.S. workers don’t have the mandatory probation period that may be common in other regions. This means there is less flexibility around deciding mutual fit with potential employees. Startups may be tempted to rush to hire their first few U.S. candidates, but Tony cautions that employers should balance the cost of an empty seat against quickly hiring someone who isn’t quite right for the job. Businesses should be specific about the type of talent they need. Define the skills, attributes, and competencies that will make a great hire. Ensure new U.S. hires align with the company’s key priorities and operating plan.

Businesses should also make sure each new hire understands what success looks like for themselves, their teams, and the company—and connect the three. Develop detailed objectives and key results (OKRs) for each.

Establish Your Brand Where Top Talent Resides

U.S.-based talent may not be comfortable applying for a job unless they have a clear sense of the employer’s brand. As such, a first step international startups should take when hiring in the U.S. is defining their employer brand. “The smaller the company, the more competitive the market in getting your name out there,” said Kate. She urged companies to think about “how you can build your brand in the region or location where you’re going to be hiring.” Establishing a strong employer brand also has the additional benefit of improving a company’s reputation, which can attract high-quality customers, partners, and investors.

Startups should consider creating a dedicated U.S. career website to communicate a clear mission or value statement in a way that’s tailored to the local market. The information shared should reflect the culture of the business inside and outside the workplace, as well as local cultural nuances. The business’s regional leader should be a key part of the company’s local brand, and should be out front promoting its mission. For example, Salesforce Ventures’ London-based portfolio company Autogen AI appointed Elizabeth Lukas as U.S. CEO to support their expansion in the U.S. market. Elizabeth regularly posts news about Autogen AI on social media channels.

Be Transparent About the Opportunity

Create transparency by describing the business’s corporate culture in each online job posting. This allows new employees to understand the values and purpose of the business. This is particularly important if the company can’t offer a higher-level of compensation than its competitors. The U.S. recruiting site might answer common candidate questions, such as: How can I be successful at the company? How informal is the work environment? What’s the pay structure? Startups should also consider including employee photos and quotes about why they enjoy their jobs. These kinds of details make it easier for prospective employees to learn what it’s like to work at the company.

When Oyster is hiring for its own workforce, Tony asks Oyster’s employees to post job reviews on recruiting and social networking sites, a practice he calls “open sourcing.” He explained during the panel that Oyster has grown in just four years to 500 employees in 70 countries thanks in part to open sourcing. Oyster’s career website lists its core values and highlights the employee review scores on Glassdoor and Culture Amp.

Create a Global Corporate Culture…

Startups must foster a global culture to attract talent. Part of this shift involves letting go of the business’s national identity and giving all employees access to the same career opportunities, regardless of where they live. Rachel says this approach allows everyone to have an equal “share of voice” because teams aren’t just accommodating executives at the global headquarters.

“You’re not a French company anymore,” said Tony. “You’re not a British company or an American company. You’re simply a company.”

…While Cultivating a Regional Comradery

The business’s U.S.-based employees can still create and sustain a local culture while being part of a global team. Group messaging channels for each city or region of the country facilitate comradery and make it easy for colleagues to connect and plan events. Algolia offers a Community Leaders program where each location with 10 or more employees can arrange events such as team dinners, virtual happy hours, and office volunteer days. They’ve found this offering raises morale.

Make a Plan for Asynchronous Collaboration 

It can be tricky for teams across the globe to collaborate, especially if they don’t have overlapping work hours. So it’s important to perfect asynchronous work. Algolia and BigID leadership spend time building internal processes that govern how work gets done, regardless of location.

Startups should map out a clear process with workflows and deadlines for each time zone. For example, a team in France should add their remarks to a document by 3PM GMT+2 so the New York team can incorporate their edits when they start work at 9AM ET. Trust becomes critical when employees are working in different time zones. Company’s must assume the best intent to help create psychological safety. Rachel explained that it’s important to have “empathy for the teams that are experiencing different things across the globe.”

Businesses should choose common communications tools, whether that’s Slack, email, or messaging apps. All employees should post their locations, time zones, working hours, and vacation schedules on a platform where colleagues can easily find them.

Limit meetings that will inconvenience particular regions. When meetings are necessary, ensure that leads send specific pre-meeting documentation at least 24 hours ahead of time so everyone can review them. Consider sending translated meeting summaries to employees who may be non-native speakers, and employing AI-powered tools for real-time captioning. Ensure employees across regions can find ways to connect directly for further training, onboarding, or mentoring. 

“Async work is not always faster, but I think it gives you a big opportunity to be inclusive,” said Rachel. “Train your managers on best practices when interacting with colleagues in other time zones and hold them accountable.”

Foster Growth Through U.S. Expansion

The U.S. market represents a phenomenal growth opportunity for many international startups. Having high-quality U.S.-based talent can help a business attract new customers, find new investment, and improve brand perception. It was a pleasure to host a group of business leaders who’ve accomplished this challenging expansion. I hope their insights prove valuable to other founders seeking to grow their business internationally.


Salesforce Ventures hosts frequent workshops with Salesforce experts and industry thought leaders designed to address our portfolio companies’ recurring challenges and to support them in their path to success. To learn more about Salesforce Ventures, visit our website.


The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney or financial representative to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal or financial matter. Opinions of the referenced presenters and/or author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Salesforce.