Kristen Lunman and Natalie Ferguson, cofounders of leadership platform Powrsuit, recently joined the Angel Association New Zealand delegation to Austin and Denver. Here Kristen shares their key learnings and reflections from the trip, a testament to the value of leveraging international networks.
While the rest of Aotearoa was stuck in semi-isolation for a few years, we’ve been locally focused a lot longer as founders. Our last startup, retail investing platform Hatch, empowered Kiwi to live their lives on their terms. After a 2021 acquisition, we’re continuing our mission – without the strict financial regulations that kept us close to home. Our new venture, Powrsuit, had a global focus from day one.
Powrsuit is a leadership platform for women, and our vision is simple: we want more women in positions of power and influence. Aspirational, sure, but we’ve been around long enough to know success comes from solving real problems for real people. So, we got obsessed with the challenges facing professional women. The 6,000 people who’ve since joined our community (and the hundred who’ve paid $799 for our pilot) have validated local demand.
But do the same problems exist in the largest market in the world?
We jumped at the opportunity to join the Angel Association delegation to Austin and Denver. Unlike many other US-bound founders, our primary goal wasn’t to raise money or acquire customers. Instead, we set out three clear intentions: To connect with (and learn about) US investors, to understand the market from people working in it, and to find a launch pad for our eventual global expansion – one with a supportive startup ecosystem, ready talent, and great food, wine and coffee.
Back in GMT+12, we’re excited to report our progress: a significantly de-risked venture.
We’ve supercharged our problem and solution validation, and daily pitching enables you to quickly iterate and improve your storytelling. Every founder aims for that ‘aha’ moment when your message lands with investors – they ‘get’ why this, why you and why now. One week in, our hit rate was dramatically higher.
Our networks have expanded – a testament to the strength of our Kiwi support system! Someone always knows someone, and they know ten more helpful people. Thanks to the programme, we gained valuable connections before we even left. On the ground, they grew exponentially. People genuinely want to help, and hot tip: they’re eager to visit New Zealand. You’d be amazed at who opens their networks in exchange for friendly travel tips.
We’ve shifted our perspective. On the one hand, the world is much smaller than it can seem – millions of potential customers are only a 14-hour flight away. On the other hand, the US is supersized – big cars and portions also mean big money, collaboration, and support.
So, we’re following in the footsteps of others who’ve gone before us and looking forward to setting up shop stateside. You hear it constantly, but we’ll iterate it again: you have to be in the US to succeed there. Fortunately, global initiatives by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship and Angel Association of New Zealand are critical in facilitating a smoother landing.