For many years startup and scale-up entrepreneurs have asked me about how to enter the US market successfully. As someone who built businesses in the USA before, I’ve experienced firsthand how complicated it can be. Getting noticed, creating messaging that resonates with the American culture, and campaigning and selling in the US are very different than in other countries. It is a very big country, and the biggest problem may be to know where even to start.
To navigate these obstacles, I founded USA Launching Pad, which helps foreign companies build their sales in the USA and be more successful more quickly. Our team of experienced American business builders supports entrepreneurs every step of the way with our proven method and our personal networks.
This fall, we worked with a cohort of three tech companies to bring them into the US market. One of these companies is Mitipi, who are innovating the home security market by creating a deterrent from burglaries and home invasions. Their first product, KEVIN, is a plug-and-play smart device that simulates sounds and projects images that make people believe you’re still at home.
We sat down with Mitipi CEO Patrick Cotting, who is working with USA Launching Pad to start US sales for his successful Swiss business, to talk about his experience.
What is the Mitipi origin story?
For many years, our core team worked in the insurance industry in Switzerland. One of the main problems we hoped to solve with Mitipi was reducing the number of burglaries claims while increasing customer loyalty. Our original idea was to provide insurance packages with an alarm system. However, what we discovered in our research is that when an alarm system goes off, the damage is already done. Most burglaries are done in about five minutes, and an alarm system mainly just helps the burglar know when it’s time for them to go. So therefore, it shortens the time of the burglary but doesn’t prevent it. Additionally, alarms often come with expensive subscriptions and setups, and once they are installed, we found that many people forget to activate the system before leaving their homes. That’s when we knew we needed to come up with a solution that would actually deter a burglar, and that’s how we came up with the idea for our business.
What were some of the most shocking things you learned about the home security market when you came up with your value proposition?
We did extensive interviews with victims of burglaries, law enforcement, and even burglars themselves to understand the real factors determining how a criminal will pick your house to rob or move on to another one. What we found out were two very crucial things. The first was that a burglar makes a decision based on if they see or hear activities in the home. The second is that they make this decision when they are 10-20 meters from your house. So to actually prevent a burglary, it’s optimal to simulate activity in your home so that they’ll just move on.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Home Alone, there is a really funny scene where Macauly Culkin’s character, Kevin, sets up what looks like an elaborate party to deter the burglars from entering his home. That’s where we got the inspiration for the name of our first product – Kevin!
What was it like introducing Kevin into homes in the European market, and what markets are you hoping to connect with in the United States?
We’re proud to say we currently serve over 3,000 households in Switzerland and customers in the Netherlands and Italy. We have chosen Switzerland as our first market as Swiss customers are demanding, they’re wealthier on the whole and often travel, especially during ski season. So when we first started marketing in Switzerland, we ran a whole billboard ad campaign in ski resorts that people could see when they were on the lifts, and it got hundreds of people thinking about the safety of their homes. We are so proud to share that after surveying our first 3,000 customers, we learned that nobody had a burglary in their home.
Now that we’re branching out in the United States, we hope to reach 120,000 homes. We believe everybody deserves to feel safe, and we’ve conducted interviews with people all over the country to get their insights. A former police chief from Chicago told us that one of the largest problems is that burglaries can be a very highly emotional event for most families, but it is a very low priority for the police. We are trying to bring Kevin into the homes of those who travel often, but also older adults who are retired, so that every family can feel a sense of relief knowing that their home is safe.
How has the USA Launching Pad helped you to meet your goals for entry into the American market?
Working with the USA Launching Pad has saved us A LOT of time – years, even! I spent two weeks in San Francisco and shaved off a year of time I would have spent trying to understand the different channels we needed to be successful. USA Launching Pad excels at organizing an outreach to the people we need to interview to evaluate product features, messaging, pricing models and to give us recommendations. It’s a lot of different opinions and data, and advice can often be diverse, but this has been so helpful to us in that it paints a larger picture of the market. The potential customers we interviewed and told the product story to, immediately got it and applied the benefits to their own lives and why the product is built that way. It has been the most valuable resource for us to know we are on the right track.