Heather Delaney: “As a business owner, I find the US and Europe vastly different.”

How does building a business in the United States differ from doing the same thing in Europe? There are few people better qualified to answer this question than Gallium Ventures founder, Heather Delaney.
Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Delaney has spend periods of her life in both the US and the UK, and has launched business ventures in both countries. LAMA contacted the transatlantic entrepreneur to learn about her experiences working in each of the two regions.

Heather Delaney moved from the US to the UK last January, to launch her new PR consultancy, Gallium Ventures. She and her team help tech companies develop their products, refine their proposition and successfully market their creations.

“Every Gallium Ventures client is a bit different,” says Delaney. “Some of them we help with product development, some want guidance on VC funding and their exit strategy, and others want help with PR.

“We’re quite careful with what we work on. If we love the product, we understand it and if we wanna buy it ourselves, we’ll work on it.”

Silicon Valley has changed in the last few decades

Back in 2016, Delaney was busy starting up another PR agency, this time in California.

“I’ve got quite a unique perspective on Silicon Valley: I was born there and spent some of my childhood there,” she says.

“Coming back as an adult, I found it had it changed a lot. It really wasn’t the place I had left, and it was very different to the UK.

“When I was younger Silicon Valley was much more collaborative, and everyone was in it to help each other. I grew up with friends whose parents were the CEOs and founders of some of the leading tech companies in the world right now.

“All these people would meet up, and if they found out a neighbour was launching a startup, they would recommend lawyers, accountants PR teams, potential employees, and it was very much a community.”

Coming back as a business owner years later, Delaney found the culture in Silicon Valley had changed for the worse.

“A lot of fiercely intelligent people are moving to Silicon Valley and working for great companies, and they’re getting amazing salaries,” she says.

“But it’s an incredibly stressful work culture, because it’s so competitive. I found that a lot of people I was meeting had a plan of making X amount of money in three years, or selling their company in three years, and then moving back to their home country or home state.

“Unfortunately, this has priced a lot of locals out of the area. I like to think it’s just a blip on the map right now, but it would take a big change to make the area affordable again.”

Unlike the US, Europe sits conveniently between the time zones

Gallium Ventures operates worldwide, with clients based in Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and the US. According to Delaney, having an HQ in the UK helps make working across all these regions manageable.

“One of the benefits of coming back to London is that I sit in-between the time zones,” she says.

“It sounds very simple, but it’s very, very important to me. I can wake up in the morning and speak with Asia; in the afternoon I’m talking to Europe; and in the evening I can talk to the US; and then my day is done. That alone can make a vast difference to anybody’s mental health and wellbeing.”

For startups in the States, healthcare can be a headache

Maintaining a healthy workforce is a top priority for enlightened startups in our times. According to Heather Delaney, the decision to launch Gallium Ventures in the UK has made staff welfare a much simpler matter than it would be in the US.

“When you’re looking for staff healthcare in the US, it’s such a swirly world, and it just keeps growing,” she says.

“It’s incredibly complicated in terms of which healthcare providers you go for, and what services are the best for your team. I had to consider: do I have staff with kids, or with physical health and mental health ailments? And if that’s the case, how do I build a healthcare plan that works for everybody?

“In the UK, if you’re a small biz owner, you have benefit of knowing you have the NHS.”

When interviewing candidates for roles at her previous company in the US, Delaney would often find healthcare was a deal-breaker for applicants.

“I used to have interviews with people where they’d be the perfect candidate, and at the very end, the question was: “Does the job include healthcare, because I’ve got a child and I need to make sure myself and my family are covered?”,” she says.

“I always found that very sad, that you’d have these people who would love to go for a specific role or company, but if the healthcare didn’t cover their child or family member, or whatever ailment they might have, they would end up going for something far less valuable to them, purely so they knew they were covered health-wise.”

Europe and the United States present comparable creative challenges

At both Gallium Ventures and at her previous PR consultancy in the US, Delaney has been tasked with creating marketing campaigns that accommodate cultural difference between the nations or states that make up a client’s audience.

Delaney sees the United States as a more challenging territory than individual European nations on this score, due to both its size and the cultural differences existing between its states.

“If you take Texas, North Carolina and New York, they’re all very different, and there’s different news, technologies, stories and angles that’ll be of interest to each one,” she says.

“If you take the UK, yes there are pockets and regions – you’ve got the north, the south, Wales, Northern Ireland – but culturally, people understand the same sense of humour as others.”

Creating campaigns for multiple European countries, however, is far more akin to creating campaigns for the United States: “It’s very similar, in the sense that when you’re doing creative campaigns, you do want to take into account any cultural differences in the states, and how a creative idea might work from one region to another,” says Delaney. “Say, the Germans might be slightly different in terms of what they’d want from a creative campaign to, say, the Swedes.”

The cultural differences between companies in the US and companies in Europe are vast

Delaney can point to a wide array of cultural differences between companies in the US and companies in Europe.

“There’s health care. There’s time off. In the US you’re not given 25 days holiday as standard – you’re lucky if you get ten. There are differences within employee contracts which are just vast,” she says.

“Then, culturally, in Europe there is more of a work-life balance. It’s so competitive in Silicon Valley that if you don’t respond to an email, somebody else will – so are you gonna keep your job, or get the next pay rise or promotion?”

According to Delaney, European companies and their employees mutually expect more of an even work-life balance than their peers in the US.

“They don’t hide behind “Yoga Thursdays” and assume that weekly one-hour slot  keeps mental health balanced for everyone, when in reality the majority of staff are too stressed,” she says.

“Culturally there is more of a balance over here in Europe, and that is really nice to see.”

Heather Delaney is the founder and managing director of Gallium Ventures.

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