Building a New Paw-ffice in New York City

It takes more than just guts to expand a start-up to New York City, but with much resilience  planning, Pawjourr founders Sijun and Jane share how they managed to bring their business to the Big Apple.

By Sijun & Jane Peh | 8 June 2022

Us and our Alaskan Malamute, Oolong

6 April 2022 – that was the day my co-founders and I head to the airport for the first time after 2 years of COVID, ready to fly to New York for our company, Pawjourr. Our friends, family, and work colleagues came to send us off (though I suspect it’s really for Oolong, our Alaskan Malamute whom we are bringing along with us).

Why USA? USA pet owners spent over US$100B (yes, Billions!) on their pets in 2021 alone, thus as our business is heavily geared towards the pet industry, it is a natural target market for us to conquer.

Oolong enjoying New York

We subsequently spent the first 3 months of 2022 redirecting our focus from Singapore to USA, but remotely. This meant taking calls in Singapore at three in the morning and working late nights to accommodate the clients and users in the USA. However, once we validated the need for our company to expand into USA, we pulled the trigger and we are finally here today!

Initially, we were contemplating between New York and San Francisco but decided on the former because NYC seem to be a good mix of media, consumer and financial hubs (… maybe a bit of Gossip Girl too). We also chose NYC for a 2 key reasons:

  1. Majority of our clients and potential clients have their headquarters in New York
  2. NYC being a transient city means that we meet people from all over the country from different states, allowing us to learn the cultural nuances and working environment of people from different parts of the country.

What we have learnt

Now that we have been here for 2 months, we thought to share a few key learnings for start-ups looking to expand into the US:

Before going into US, plan your visa well, the US visa system is a lengthy, expensive and complicated process. Evaluate the length of stay you require in the US and plan your visa accordingly. Start your Visa process 3-6 months before your move to the USA to buffer enough time for processing.
You have to be rich to be broke here. It is the largest market in the world, but USA expansion costs can spiral out of control without proper planning. Research on office spaces, hiring, rent and food costs in the US and plan for a buffer of 50%. Expenses in USA (especially NYC) can get expensive very quickly.
Specifically for NYC, Landlords pick and choose their tenants. There is no shortage of renters in NYC, even with its sky-high rent prices. Without a Social Security Number (SSN) and Credit Score (which is very important here), it’s going to be tough to find a landlord willing to take you in. Take the time to check the different neighbourhoods to see if it suits your lifestyle.
Safety was a huge concern for us. We downloaded the Citizen app, which is a local news app reporting incidents around you, and of course, the news makes it worse. The first week we were here, there was the Brooklyn subway shooting.

NYC is generally a safe city, but Singaporeans coming here will definitely get a little culture shock. Spend time to familiarise yourself with the city and its surroundings, learn to navigate the city, be wary of suspicious people and places, and try avoid the areas that are a little shady. It took us about a month before we start to get the hang of navigating around the city.
Us with Naveen, CTO & Co-Founder at Pawjourr at an event organized by Andrew Yeung at VRworld

But there’s a reason why people still flock to New York

It is really the “American dream”. There are plenty of opportunities here, there is great hustle culture, and people are just hungry. The hustle culture is very strong here and people are always on the move, thinking about the next big thing. We figured it may also be because of the high cost of living here, so you can’t really “stop” because the rent has to be paid.

There are a lot of innovation going on here; some of our favourites are Microacquire and Republic. You can always find something for everyone here – largely because entrepreneurship is celebrated and encouraged.

This is prevalent across the entire US (not just NYC), but we love how supportive the tech and start-up community is. There are many free resources shared on Twitter, extensive exchange of ideas, and generally people helping each other out. There will definitely be some groups who are a little more “exclusive”, but people generally want to see you succeed.  

Finally, having a deep understanding of cultural nuances and the local context will help you in your expansion perspective. There have been key learnings that we are able to apply to our company just in the past 2 months that we have been here – a classic example is how we should not be treating the US as 1 large country, but instead 50 different states.

Definitely, New York is a city full of character. It is not going to be like your ‘Gossip Girl’ scenes where you shop and live at Upper East Side all day, but it is definitely a place full of opportunities and we are really loving it here!


About Sijun, Jane and Naveen

Sijun, Jane  and Naveen are founders of startup Pawjourr, a marketplace connecting brands and agencies with pet owners to co-create content. To date, they have created over 100K content for 200+ clients and paid out more than $1M to their network of pet creators from all over the world.

Connect with SijunJane & Naveen on LinkedIn.

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