Let me simplify it all to 4 simple pieces of advice:
For most U.S. companies:
- Start marketing, supporting and talking to European customers as a distinct segment once you have 10 of them. If you can get 10, you can (of course) get 100. It’s OK to let the first 10 find you, though.
- Consider opening a full European office, even just 1–2 folks, once you have $1m in revenue in Europe. That’s enough to justify the hire. Wait past $1m-$2m in ARR, and you are wasting a chance to be closer to customers.
- Expect it to happen, and plan for it. Europe and the U.S. are different markets of course, but most of the best SaaS apps organically cross borders. I’ve invested in 20+ European SaaS companies, and almost all of them organically acquired U.S. customers even without a full U.S. presence. Likewise, most top U.S. SaaS vendors are pulled a bit into Europe. At least the U.K. Even in my first year at EchoSign, we had 10%+ of our revenue in Europe.
- Localizing early is a strategic weapon. You will need to localize (i.e., translate and more) at some point. The longer you wait, the harder it is. And the earlier you do it, the more it’s a big competitive advantage over those than are English-only.
Plan for it.