September 8, 2022

How a SaaS Startup Secured $6.3 Million in Funding after a U.S. Expansion

Company Name:
MARKT-PILOT GmbH

About:
MARKT-PILOT helps machine manufacturers make more money on parts sales by providing market intelligence on prices and lead times.

Founded:
2020

Headquarters:
Esslingen

Founders:
Tobias Rieker & Amin Oumhamdi

Industries:
Manufacturing, SaaS, Software

Expanded to:
The U.S.

Founded in 2020, MARKT-PILOT helps machine manufacturers make more money on spare parts by providing them with market intelligence on prices and lead times. MARKT-PILOT’s software benchmarks all of a given manufacturer’s parts against competitors and informs the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) which parts are underpriced, overpriced, or exclusively supplied by that vendor.

With no other companies worldwide providing a similar solution, MARKT-PILOT is the first mover in this market. As such, they’ve built up significant traction in the industry with over 100 customers. The MARKT-PILOT team has also won regional and national awards, including the CyberOne Award and ranking as a Top 50 Startup in Germany.

 

Why MARKT-PILOT Chose German Accelerator for Their U.S. Expansion

Given that the total size of the machinery industry in the U.S. is more than three times larger than in Europe, the MARKT-PILOT team always knew they would need to expand to the States. After building up their core SaaS product and team in Germany, they were ready to begin their international expansion journey.

“The main reasons why we wanted to expand to the U.S. were first, that our customers were already asking for us to come and help them, and second, to get more pricing intelligence on the U.S. market.”

Tim Geyer | Strategy and Growth Manager at MARKT-PILOT

But expanding to the U.S. wasn’t a simple process. The MARKT-PILOT team needed some strategic guidance and on-the-ground know-how. That’s when they turned to German Accelerator.

“We wanted to join German Accelerator to have a structured go-to-market strategy for entering the U.S.,” said Geyer. “The program gave us a holistic support framework with a 360-degree view of the market, in addition to access to valuable U.S. business networks.”

How German Accelerator Helped MARKT-PILOT on Their Expansion Journey

During their time in the German Accelerator U.S. Market Access program, the MARKT-PILOT team faced – and overcame – several key challenges.

“One major challenge for us was to get our message as simple and as applicable as possible for a U.S. audience,” said Geyer.

To achieve this, the MARKT-PILOT team worked on simplifying their customer pitch deck and refining their website to make it more engaging. Likewise, they completely revamped their calling scripts and created new email campaigns with improved wording.

In particular, MARKT-PILOT found their mentorship time to be one of the most valuable parts of the program.

“We had a great lead mentor in Geoff Baum who challenged us a lot, but that helped us perform much better,” said Geyer. “Geoff played a very critical role in our success.”

When the founders had their first meeting with Baum, he was initially critical of many aspects of their business, pointing out everything that needed to be fixed or changed.

“But he was right about everything,” said Geyer. “Then, over the course of the next month, we just tackled many of those challenges together. He worked relentlessly to help us refine our pitch and messaging to reduce its complexity. He also introduced us to many network partners and potential customers and gave us a lot of insights on hiring the right people.”

Beyond the experience with their lead mentor, the MARKT-PILOT team received comprehensive guidance on their initial go-to-market strategy with a framework that covered every aspect that they’d need to determine. For example, they discovered that the typical customer journey in the U.S. was way different than in Germany.

Other mentors from German Accelerator provided MARKT-PILOT with valuable introductions:

“If we needed a lawyer or an accountant, or if we needed to have some initial customer conversations, the network was crucial in making those early connections,” said Geyer.

What MARKT-PILOT Has Achieved Post-Program & Beyond

By the end of the program, the MARKT-PILOT team was able to reduce the complexity of their offering and find a solid message-market fit. They opened their first office in Chicago, hired their first U.S. employee, and closed on their first few manufacturing customers in the States. Finally, program mentors helped them shift their business model from a long-term, contract-focused software business in Germany to an authentic SaaS company in the United States. This shift to SaaS also involved redefining their tiered offerings and pricing structures.

Shortly after finishing the program, MARKT-PILOT raised 6.2 million euros (US$6.3 million) in seed funding.

“German Accelerator was a huge asset to us in getting the valuation that we did because investors saw we had so thoroughly prepared our go-to-market plans in the U.S.”

Tim Geyer | Strategy and Growth Manager at MARKT-PILOT

Since then, MARKT-PILOT has now hired 7 more U.S. employees, gained 10 new enterprise customers, and increased their new deals per month by 600%.

According to Geyer, they’re now paying forward their German Accelerator experience by networking with and helping other German startups who want to expand to the United States. For instance, working together with Oculavis, a member of their same German Accelerator cohort, the MARKT-PILOT team co-hosted the Future of Field Service industry conference with over 100+ manufacturers in attendance.

Advice for Other Startup Founders Considering an International Expansion

When asked what advice they would give to German startup founders about to undertake a similar internationalization journey, the MARKT-PILOT team had a few things to say.

“Accept that as a founder, you have to rebuild your startup all over again in a way that’s different from everything you did in Germany.”

Tim Geyer | Strategy and Growth Manager at MARKT-PILOT 

Geyer also reminded founders that things will take time to fully develop for startups just moving to the United States.

“The U.S. is a big market,” said Geyer. “No one cares about you as a German startup that no one’s ever heard of. Accept that things will take a while, but eventually, they will play out for you if you have a good product and a good pitch.”