What, Who and Why

Firas

What I Do

I help non-US based tech startups get established in the US. I do this by providing hands-on support with building company operations in Boston, including transitioning the headquarters and founders as well.  My approach is to work with one or two companies a year where I can take a part-time operating role as a member of the senior management team.  My role is most intense and impactful in the first 12-18 months of my engagement.  After that, I take on a more typical advisory role as an independent board member or operational advisor.

One way to describe my approach is that of establishing a beachhead for my client companies. I am the first person in the US representing my client operations. I help the founding CEO build a plan for launching US operations, and I begin laying the foundations for the eventual build-out of the company team here.

Why I Founded (N)Squared

In my eight years as an investor at OpenView, I ran into many super exciting companies based outside the US. Most of these companies were looking to enter the US, but had little experience doing so. Everyone knows that starting a tech company is quite daunting. What is more daunting is starting a company outside the US, and then having to go through another startup experience bringing it to the US.  Entering the US is a difficult thing to do. Many a companies failed in their first attempt to conquer this market.

It occurred to me that what these international companies needed was the operational support to get the US team started, more so than an investment from a US investor. And so I decided to spin out of OpenView to start my own advisory firm. And (N)squared was born.

My goal is to de-couple the investment need from the operational support, and offer the latter on its own.  Yet my offering does in fact include helping my clients prepare for, and secure, US based funding.

Why Me

I have a unique blend of VC and startup experiences coupled with operational consulting experience.  I acquired the VC experience after eight years as a founding member and investing partner at OpenView.  I acquired the startup experience after five years as a founding member of three software companies, two of which failed and one survived into the expansion phase followed by acquisition.  I acquired the operational consulting experience after five years as a senior consultant in the Operations Management Group at Booz&Company.

But Why Me… Really

Because I am passionate about working with founders to help them build their startups. I thrive on mentoring. I have been there myself and made more mistakes than all of the founders I’ve worked with combined. The range of my experiences gives me a really broad viewpoint on all the elements that go into building a startup into a large company. I have sat on many boards, both as an operator and as an investor. I went through many rounds of funding both as entrepreneur and as investor. I have lived through two startup failures as an entrepreneur and one as an investor. I have seen two of my portfolio companies grow into companies about to file their IPOs. I have helped three companies based outside the US establish their US businesses. I have lived in five countries and have strong appreciation of cultural nuances. I have lived in six states in the US and understand the nuances of the America culture. At heart, I am an operator, an entrepreneur and an internationalist.

And most importantly, this is what I really want to do.

Target Clients

If your startup is a Business-to-Business software company
If your startup is based outside the US
If your startup has a large market in the US
If your startup is generating run-rate annualized revenue of $1 million to $10 million
If you are ready to make the leap into the US
If you are willing to build your US headquarters in Boston

Services I Offer

US Expansion Strategy: work with my companies to define the overall expansion stage, and the specific approach to entering the US. This phase includes the definition of the mechanics of shifting some or all company operations to focus on the US. It defines the target US market segment, and the associated distribution model. It defines the composition of the US team, the sequence of hiring, the budget model, and the required funding.

US Sales Incubation: work hand-in-hand with the founders, to setup the first sales process in the US. This includes the development of a sales process, incorporating the process into the CRM, launching marketing and sales activities and optimizing those activities over time. It also includes hiring of the sales resources, or outsourcing to an agency. It includes the establishment of an office with all its associated infrastructure.

Funding: work hand in hand with the CEO to define the expansion model and budget going forward and identify the funding need.  Complete overhaul – or first time build – of an investment package that provides the optimal positioning of the company, definition of target market and growth potential, competitive differentiation and market segmentation, and the approach to scaling the company.  Developing the due diligence data-room.  Launching the outbound program for engaging the right set of investors.  Coaching the founders on presentation skills. Providing support during term sheet negotiations and subsequent support of the closing process.

CEO Mentorship: work hand in hand with the founding CEO to develop and execute the company strategy. Defining the senior team needed and helping in the recruitment of top notch talent. Establishing and recruiting an effective Board of Directors.  Helping the CEO manage the board dynamics. And overall, helping the CEO avoid mistakes.