Five Tips to internationalize your startup

  • Internationalization is a crucial moment for any company. If we talk about startups, this movement can be the key to success. Let’s talk about some valuable tips for when you give the big jump.

One of the biggest challenges for a new company is in its growth and expansion. Either by the current economic situation and the globalization of the business world, the internationalization of a startup has become the logical evolution of the business model of any entrepreneur. What once was considered a long-term decision (possible only after the consolidation of the company in its country of origin), it has become an essential step for the success of any business project moving. One of the important factors for this has been the greatest experience of international teams, which increasingly acquire entrepreneurial skills of multinational and apply them to their own personal projects.

The internationalization of startups also comes from the emergence of new funding mechanisms such as incubators or crowdfunding, which have enhanced the global character of the new companies.

Those startups which are born from the beginning with an international vocation are known by the term “Born Global”. These are companies that, right from the time of its founding or shortly after, launch on the international market. Those with a consistent strategy soon become elements of great importance for the growth and economic revitalization. Some outstanding examples of “Born Global” would be the Spanish Softonic (a website that offers a wealth of downloadable software, as well as tutorials and discussion forums), another Spanish firm, BuyVip (an online clothing outlet acquired by Amazon) or the world-famous eBay , the aforementioned Google and Amazon.

When internationalize, Internet and new technologies are vital tools to successfully undertake this adventure, but they are not the only factors to consider, as there are many variables that need to be analyzed and studied.

  1. Start taking decisions from the start. Even keeping in mind the internationalization in a short, medium or long term, we must start making decisions from the beginning. François Derbaix, founder of Toprural (searching houses in 10 countries in Europe) and mentor in SeedRocket, recommends choosing a name that is easy to internationalize, especially from a phonetic point of view. Another point to consider is the language. In this sense, it is advisable to start working bilingually from the start, because it is something that makes it easy to internationalize whether you start from 0 minute as if you postponed it for months or even years.
  2. Adapt communications. Internationalize is not only about translating the web, we must also take into account the special characteristics of each market. In this sense, the contents must be adapted to the different markets, either with the inclusion of local success stories or changing the domain of the site of the company. The reason for this is that there are countries in which the local domain (.com, .fr, .de) is considered by users as a closer site than the .com domain. Social networking is another point to consider, as there are markets where there is a majority of social networks over others. For example, apart from Facebook or Twitter (the two key networks) there are other sites and networks with a large number of users in local markets. In Spain, Tuenti is one of the most powerful social networks for young audiences, while in China Qzone and Weibo are the most widespread.
  3. Know the market you’re going. Each country comes to be a different environment where there is a specific culture, a special idiosyncrasy and folklore. Analyzing these characteristic aspects of the market in advanced helps a lot in getting a successful landing. In addition, knowledge of the country helps to be more precise in marketing strategies. Something as simple as paying attention to local festivities can greatly help to develop more effective strategies to position our product. Also, another essential feature when you have a thorough understanding of a country is whether it already has a prior market in which our product has its place and then we can previously study the companies that we have to compete with.
  4. Partner with the right people. For a startup, that does not have the financial muscle of a large multinational, associating with key local partners is one of the most attractive options when reaching a new market. Through these partners, the company can manage to have a closer knowledge of the local market and its socio-economic reality. To approach these partners, one of the best ways is to attend industry events and international fairs. Besides this, coming closer to public institutions facilitates the bureaucratic and administrative work. A clear example of the importance of this is Imaste (European leader in development of virtual events with more than 140 projects in 25 countries), which took alliances with leading companies abroad (such as or The Economist) to capture customers in new countries.
  5. Internationalize inside to internationalize out. To get your company a successful internationalization process, you must eliminate the borders on your team. Having people who know the cultural and economic particularities of the country where we want to land greatly facilitates things. Mastering several languages ​​is also essential. While speaking English is the basic need to internationalize your company, knowing the local language in non-English speaking countries is an important factor. In this sense, companies like Imaste, BeBanjo (provider of video on demand working for clients such as British Telecom, Channel 5, Orange France or Sky Channel) and Toprural have international character teams.

In markets hit hard by the economic crisis, such as Spain, internationalization has become the best way to get local startups grow their businesses. Keyprocom consultancy has conducted a study that analyzes the activity of 15 Spanish international startups. It reflects that 33% of them has presence in 4 to 6 different countries. About 13% exceeds this mark, placing one of its offices in between 7 to 9 markets.

However, there is still a 54% of them operating in one or, at most, 3 different countries, including the home. Most of them choose markets like Latin America (because of the linguistic proximity) or Europe (because of cultural proximity). Only a few brave try Asia. Regarding the information by sectors, the most internationalized Spanish startups are those related to electronic commerce (40%), followed by telecommunications and new technologies (20%), while leisure and entertainment come in the third place (13%). Most companies have a strong presence in social global communication networks such as Facebook and Twitter, with profiles adapted to each market in which they operate.

* Source: BBVA Open4U

Posted in Blog.

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