In this episode of SaaS Connect by Cloud Software Association, Craig Klemp, who was Sr. Director of Global Partnerships at Evernote during the time of recording, and is now VP of Strategy and Partnerships at EZ Texting, shares the lessons learned from international partnerships.

Evernote, a productivity tool with 60,000 installs a day, boasts 225 million users worldwide, with 80% of those located outside the US. 

Their global partnership ecosystem is made up of four layers:

  1. Tech/integrations
  2. App stores (distribution)
  3. OEMs (distribution)
  4. Resellers (distribution)

In this presentation, Craig highlights partnering with massive Japan-based consumer brand NTT Docomo, which is on the same scale as a merged AT&T and Verizon, with 50% of the Japanese market share.

He offers valuable considerations for companies thinking about international partnerships:

  • This kind of partnership can’t be managed remotely.
  • Culture has to be taken into account. Evernote’s CEO, Phil Libin, initially drove the impetus because he is a “Japanophile”. He loves everything Japanese, and this helped cement executive buy-in from the mega Japanese company. It was all because of trust. Executive buy-in is critical.

Here are some examples of how culture impacts business in Japan:

    • We tend to over communicate in the US because of the mix of cultures and the need to be understood: we tell them what we’re going to tell them, we tell them, and then we tell them what we told them. However, in Japan, doing that in a business meeting would be like hitting them over the head with an anvil. They read into body language, they read into different things, like what’s not spoken, what’s left unspoken. It’s a really important part of the culture. 
    • Business practices matter. For example, if you host a business meeting, as the host, you need to sit closest to the door.


  • Considerations when you think about moving into other countries:
    • What are your local assets? For example, brand equity, team, market fit. And can these assets be leveraged? 
    • Localization tools can work to a certain extent.
    • Timely partner support is critical. Offer support in their language and in their time zone.
    • If you’re serious, hire resources locally (in your partner’s geographical location).


Resources Mentioned:

The Culture Map (book)



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