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GTM, Sales

Safe Harbor – Selling SaaS in Europe

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


Cloud companies live and die by growth.   The US market continues to be a great growth opportunity but US SaaS companies should consider to sell into Europe where many large companies are starting to buy cloud based services.

Safe Harbor = No More!

However last 2015 US companies that host client data in the US (on US servers) are no longer covered under the Safe Harbor regulation.  European clients are aware of this and will push back.

In an effort to educate the Storm Ventures portfolio companies Winning By Design organized a webinar where Vita Zwaan from bureau Brandeis provided her insights on the matter.  These insights were provided as of Monday March 7 and will expire over time.

What to do?

Q1: Can you sell software in Europe today while being a US company with data centers in the US?

A1: Yes but you have to use a “Model Contract” in which both companies agree to the terms.


Q2: When establishing Model Contract which law prevails?

A2: The law of the country you are selling the software to prevails.


Q3: Will Safe Harbor (a general rule for all EU states) be re-instated? and if so when?

A3: Regulation currently referred to as “Privacy Shield” is on the way to cover for this, and may be as early as weeks (May). Obviously this takes its due course, code for … who really knows, but from the sounds of it we are talking weeks/months.


Q4: I got a client right now who wants to buy from me, what should I do?

A4: Contact legal counsel to help you – it is not complicated but you want to do it right especially the first time – they will help you with establishing the model contract so you can process the order.

The above are my personal take-aways from the session, but I strongly advise you to contact a professional.

Q5: I don’t know anyone… can you help?

A5: We recommend you contact bureau Brandels and Vita Zwaan.  They were very helpful and provided these insights to our community to help us with this hot issue: Bureau Brandeis

What is your experience with Safe Harbor?