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Pleo’s going global: Here’s how we’re launching into new markets

We caught up with Pleo’s very own VP Product Growth, Haresh Bajaj to find out what goes into bringing our spend solution to the masses.

We’ve recently said Bonjour! to France, Hei! To Finland, and Hallo! To the Netherlands. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve launched Pleo in eight countries – and there’s still more to come. 

Launching in market after market isn’t a one-size-fits-all process (or an easy one), and it’s something that we’re constantly learning about and rethinking. 

We caught up with Pleo’s very own VP of Product Growth, Haresh Bajaj, to find out what goes into bringing our spend solution to the masses across Europe and to hear about some of the unforeseen challenges the team had to overcome along the way. 

First things first; Why are we launching in new markets?

Our vision is to make everyone feel valued at work. That means helping people save time, so they can do more of the work that matters. So things like filing expenses, paying invoices, getting reimbursed, and approving costs can be left to Pleo.

Having operated for over six years in six major European countries including the UK, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Ireland we came to the conclusion that the underlying customer needs are very similar. Ultimately, spending at work is broken.

There’s been a major shift in the world of work because of the pandemic. We’re seeing more companies open up to digital transformation, more decision makers wanting to get rid of manual processes and more businesses trusting their employees with buying decisions.

There’s a natural shift happening towards a more empowered culture, and Pleo's belief in making people valued at work aligns perfectly. 

What’s the process of launching in these new markets? 

The process of launching in new markets this year has been very similar, but the results aren’t always the same. 

For every new country, we do deep research to understand the market, the core customer needs, their spending habits, cultural nuances, individual accounting and tax rules, bookkeeping practices and legal requirements. 

We also create a ‘grassroots’, co-founding team which works out the localised, bespoke Pleo product offering and our commercial route to market. This team is supported by a small all-star unit that is involved in every launch to make sure that our playbook is followed and that all our learnings from previous launches supercharge the next. 

What were some challenges along the way?

We came across many challenges. One of the biggest was recruiting local people in countries where there’s almost zero Pleo brand presence.

Also, understanding customers and their market landscape was difficult. Without a strong understanding, we knew our solutions would not meet the real needs of an individual customer from a specific market. Tied to this was discovering where our first best customers reside in a new market, and how we can reach them.

But with such progress in a very short amount of time, it’s very easy for complacency to set in – especially for a completely new team. It was important for us to stay humble and most importantly, look at every day like it was day one.

What have you learned so far about launching into new markets? 

As we started to launch into new markets and invest in building our playbook, we eventually got good at it. We ended up going from six markets at the start of the year to 14 markets currently, so from a purely mathematical point of view, it seems like a good headway.

Our customers are our biggest fans and our biggest critics, so letting them be the judge of our experiences and solutions is so much more rewarding and humbling than endless internal debates.

Adding to this, we made some arbitrary date commitments for each market launch quite early on, a 12-month roadmap of sorts, and worked backwards from it. The underlying principle is that there’s no perfect product out there. So we get the Pleo experience in the hands of the customers sooner and work with them to get to a solution that works for them, and other similar customers.

That cut down on a lot of sometimes irrelevant discussions and the focus became more about ‘how can we get this to our customers sooner?’ so we can learn from them. An unexpected consequence of this is the tremendous internal and external momentum it has created, especially as we rely on so many parts of the organisation and other external partners to deliver various parts of the overall Pleo offering. 

What’s next for the market expansion team?

I can say, with some good confidence and proof, that we know how to launch in European markets.

The focus now is on learning how to bring on customers at scale in these new markets, how we can prioritise our product roadmap across our 14 markets, how to make our offering even better locally, and how we create a sustainable and profitable business while continuing to delight our customers in all markets. 

And for the most exciting bit, we’re doing due diligence for expansion beyond Europe. I am super pumped about this, so watch this space! 

Now it’s over to you. Where should we launch next? Let us know! 

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