Australian startup takes digital marketing platform to US

March 2017

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Core dna’s move to the US opens up a lucrative new market for its innovative platform, which combines digital marketing, e-commerce and portal tools in one managed solution.

The global e-commerce market is estimated to be worth US$22 trillion (A$30 trillion), with the US accounting for over US$6.5 trillion (A$8.7 trillion) and the US B2B e-commerce market accounting for nearly a quarter of global e-commerce[1]. Supporting e-commerce and accelerating this growth is marketing technology or ‘martech’, which is predicted to grow to US$32 billion (A$43 billion) by 2020[2].

Finding the opportunity

Founded by serial entrepreneur Sam Saltis, Core dna was spun out of Melbourne-based digital marketing agency bwired.

‘We were building similar applications for clients over and over again,’ says Saltis. ‘I saw an opportunity to generate efficiencies by building an application once and then distributing it across the whole client base, removing the back-end complexities and allowing the time and space to innovate rather than replicate. Core dna’s digital experience platform was our solution.

‘In 2015, the Core dna platform was launched as its own business. This allowed us to make technology accessible to fast-growing companies, allowing them to focus on being creative and growing their business rather than spending time and money developing e-commerce solutions from scratch,’ says Saltis.

‘The Core dna approach is about improving the way we build websites, as well as simplifying the management of technology to help clients’ online activities align with, and enhance, their business objectives.’

Breaking into the US market

Following strong initial success in Australia, Core dna set its sights on the US, the second biggest e-commerce market in the world. Austrade in New York and San Francisco helped Saltis better understand American culture and business environment.

‘When I was ready to visit the US, Austrade made introductions to influencers, potential clients and key contacts in multiple cities,’ he says. ‘The trip was life-changing as it opened my eyes to the scale of the market opportunity in the US for Core dna.

‘The trip confirmed there was a need for the Core dna solution and that the business would be much more successful gaining new clients in the US by committing to the market, rather than flying in and out every quarter. The goal of the trip evolved from market research to visiting multiple major cities and selecting a location for our US operations.

‘I discovered that Boston was a key US hub for tech and a leading city for venture capital. It has a strong ecosystem due to quality educational institutions and availability of a strong tech talent pool, business experience and ancillary services. That’s why I decided to move my family to Boston and grow Core dna in Australia from there. Also, I found Boston to be quite similar to Melbourne.’

Saltis selected a co-working space in Boston as the base for Core dna’s US presence and hired local sales and marketing staff.

‘Breaking into the local ecosystem was a real obstacle initially,’ says Saltis. ‘In the US, people are constantly sold to so they are harder to reach than in Australia. I found having a warm introduction from a mutual contact makes all the difference when approaching new clients.’

Austrade support

‘Austrade provided us with useful connections when we were just starting out,’ says Saltis. ‘I continue to stay in touch with Austrade in Boston because they have a fantastic network.

‘The Export Marketing Development Grant administered by Austrade was crucial to getting the US office off the ground. We also take advantage of the R&D tax incentive, which makes our Australian-made product competitive in the US market.’

Advice for entering the US market

Saltis’s advice to Australian startups is not to underestimate the size and cost of the US market – focus on just one region initially.

‘Even though we speak the same language and have commonalities in our culture and history, be prepared for cultural differences. Even within the US, cultures vary greatly,’ says Saltis.

‘If you’re trying to sell in the US from Australia, it will be much more difficult. In the US, it’s also much easier to find information on your prospects, but harder to access the right person. That’s where having a strong network really helps.

‘While San Francisco is known as the tech hub of the US, I would advise companies to look beyond the Valley. There are plenty of other great tech hubs that are less saturated.’

Saltis notes that expanding to the US helped Core dna understand what it takes to be global and highlighted how small the world truly is.

He believes there is actually less competition in the US compared to Australia due to the larger market. ‘While there are challenges, what can be achieved is exciting and makes all the hard work worth it.’


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