From Barn To Bright Lights - An English Unicorn In Asia

A combination of accelerating economies in emerging markets and access to a vast new consumer base has given businesses the motive and means to capitalise on new opportunities across the globe. The Anaplan growth story is testament to this; from being born in York, England to launching in APAC in 2014.

This article was first published in the Orient Magazine, 25th September 2017.


By Michael Gould, Founder and CTO, Anaplan


The world is a small place these days. A combination of accelerating economies in emerging markets and access to a vast new consumer base, along with challenges in more traditional markets and technological advancement, has given businesses the motive and means to capitalise on new opportunities across the globe. The Anaplan growth story is testament to this; despite being born in York, England, our first customers were based in the US and Australia.


While Silicon Valley is seen as the undisputed holy grail for tech companies searching for expansion, UK businesses are equally turning to the potential in the Asian market, and vice versa, with a number of European tech firms acquisitions made by Asian firms over the last few years. Anaplan has certainly been part of this Euro-Asian movement, launching in APAC in 2014 and our customer roster in the region has quickly grown since then. The potential is clear and we aren’t the only British unicorn to see this, with TransferWise launching a hub in Singapore earlier this year.


Breaking New Ground


Despite the opportunities available, making the move into new territories can be challenging. Those working on longer-term expansion projections are often left behind by companies able to expand quickly and efficiently, something particularly true in the technology industry. Companies need to have a sensible business plan that factors in global market volatility from the outset to reap the benefits of becoming a global business.


Expansion is an expensive business and keeping overheads as low as possible will help keep total costs down. When it comes to physical expansion, my advice is to set up low cost regional offices and keep overheads as low as possible until the team is operational. Sales are also no longer reliant on being in-market. With our R&D division based in York and our CEO simultaneously setting up a global HQ in Silicon Valley, we’ve been global since day one and never looked back. Setting up a software business made this tactic easier to execute, given that we weren’t dependent on significant physical investments in each new region.


You can start expansion into a new region with just two or three people in your team. With a sales manager and communications consultant, you’re equipped to begin selling and get the word out that you’re supporting that area, while ensuring that you don’t burn through valuable capital. With smaller numbers, getting the right people in is everything to your chances of success. Ensuring that these people have experience in the local market and clearly understand the unique challenges which businesses are facing in that region is also crucial.


Keep New Territories Connected


Regardless of the opportunities present, a large global workforce can be hard to maintain and justify if the results don’t go your way. This highlights just how crucial a business’ ability to operate smoothly on this scale is.

Keeping employees well-connected is important and speed is everything – a new satellite office cannot afford to be isolated from the wider organisation or it will fail faster than you can say “well-connected”. When a new territory is added to a global network, measures need to be in place from the start to seamlessly integrate them and there are no slip ups on simple factors such as time difference and currency exchange rates. In the case of workforce restrictions, such as those likely to accompany Brexit and the potential USA travel ban, giving your employees the tools to communicate efficiently with teams in different geographies will be increasingly important.


Connecting Through Technology


Undoubtedly, the acceleration of digital disruption has been the primary factor allowing businesses to rapidly expand and still stay connected on a global scale. An important development here is that cloud technology now allows a workforce to operate from one central platform; using a single reference point eases communication and removes the need for colleagues to negotiate a series of disconnected documents. Harnessing technology that can connect every corner of a business, alleviating spatial and inter-departmental divisions, can make functioning efficiently on a global scale a much simpler task. Ultimately, a business that operates its different regions in isolation is not a global business and will miss out on opportunities as a result.


Local Nuances


It’s also crucial to be tuned into the challenges you face in the specific target market and that you have a clear view of where there is an opportunity for success. When expanding beyond your home region, understanding how local regulations can impact on your product and how it’s developed is very important. As an example, cloud providers must be acutely aware of local rulings around data storage and governance, particularly around geographical locations; understanding these local nuances can make or break a business.


From a cultural perspective, the Asian region has a wide range of legal environments and business regulations to be aware of. Even during our early growth stages, Anaplan had international influences and expertise, which have certainly supported our ability to scale internationally and understand different markets. This has continued to be a focus for us, with a whole host of different nationalities now sitting on our board and senior team.


Remain agile to capture global opportunities


Expanding a business in an uncertain and challenging global economy can seem like an uphill battle. However, each business is different; the reality is that establishing a solid customer base in your chosen region and staying agile are key to successful expansion. This is made more important by the potential impact of unforeseen events such as changing trade deals, the availability of staff, and large fluctuations in exchange rates.


The best way to stay as agile as possible is to have a clear view of what multiple futures could look like. That means having a real-time overview of the business and the ability to quickly understand the implications of any market changes. Businesses can make better and more informed decisions when they connect people, processes and information across all business functions in one unified platform. Using this recipe for success, we have established a presence in eight countries across APAC and 16 across the globe, as we continue to explore the tech opportunities in this flourishing region.


Anaplan’s premier user conference Hub Comes to You will run across three cities in APAC, 4-5 October in Singapore, 11 October in Sydney and 13 October in Tokyo. The conference will bring together industry visionaries, leaders, experts, and people looking to be inspired and share the vision of connected planning. Visit for more information on this and other events across the region.



About the Company

Anaplan is driving a new age of connected planning. Large and fast-growing organisations use Anaplan's cloud platform in every business function to make informed decisions and drive faster, more effective planning processes. Anaplan also provides support, training, and planning transformation advisory services. Anaplan is a privately held company based in San Francisco with 16 offices and over 150 expert partners worldwide. To learn more, visit Anaplan's website.