5 Tips to internationalize your startup

4 min reading
5 Tips to internationalize your startup


One of the biggest challenges for a newly-created company is in its growth and expansion. Whether because of the current economic situation or the globalization of the business world, the internationalization of a startup has become the logical evolution of any entrepreneur's business model. What was once considered a long-term strategy (feasible only after the consolidation of the company in its home country) has become an essential move for the success of any business project. One of the important factors has been the greater international experience of the teams, who increasingly acquire multinational business knowledge and apply it 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 boosted the global nature of new companies.

Those startups that are created from the outset with an international vocation is what is known by the term Born Global. These are companies that, right from the time they are set up or shortly after, are launched to the international market. Those with a consistent strategy soon become very important elements for growth and economic revitalization. Some notable examples of Born Global are the Spanish company Softonic (a website that provides a large amount of downloadable software as well as tutorials and discussion forums), another Spanish company BuyVip (an online clothing outlet acquired by Amazon) or the world famous eBay, Google and the aforementioned Amazon.

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

– Start making decisions from the beginning. To keep internationalization in mind in the short, medium or long term, we must start making decisions from the outset. François Derbaix, founder of Toprural (search tool for rural houses in 10 countries in Europe) and mentor in Seedrocket, recommends choosing a name that is easy to internationalize, especially from a phonetical standpoint. Another point to consider is the language. In this respect, it is advisable to start working bilingually from the beginning, as this makes the internationalization task easier regardless of whether it is started from the outset or postponed months or years.

– Adapt communications. Internationalizing is not only about translating the website, we must also take the special characteristics of each market into account. In this respect, the website's content must adapt to them, either by including local success stories or changing the company's site domain. This is because there are countries where the local domain (.es, .fr, .de) is considered by users as a closer site than the .com domains. Social networking is another point to consider, as there are markets in which there is a higher prevalence of social networks than others. For example, apart from Facebook or Twitter (the two benchmark networks) there are other sites with a large number of users in local markets. in Spain, Tuenti is one of the most far-reaching social networks with the young public, while in China Qzone and Weibo are the most widespread.

– Know the market you're targeting. Each country is a different environment in which there is a culture, idiosyncrasies and special folklore. Analyzing these characteristic aspects of the market helps a great deal in managing to achieve a successful landing. In addition, knowledge of the country helps you be more accurate in marketing strategies. Something as simple as paying attention to local festivities can greatly help develop more effective strategies to position our product. Also, another essential feature when you have a thorough understanding of a country is to know whether a previous market in which our product has a place already exists in it and study the companies you would have to compete with.

– Partner with the right people. For a startup, which does not have the financial muscle of a large multinational, partnering with local referral partners is one of the most attractive options when arriving in a new market. Through these partners, the company can get to have a closer knowledge of the local market and its socio-economic situation. To approach these partners, one of the best ways is to attend industry events and international fairs. In addition, being closer to state institutions facilitates red tape and paperwork. A clear example of the importance of this is Imaste (European leader in developing virtual events with more than 140 projects in 25 countries), which used alliances with leading companies abroad (such as Monster.com and The Economist) to attract customers in new countries.

– Internationalize inside to internationalize outside. For your company to successful achieve internationalization, you should remove the borders in your team. Having people who are aware of the specific cultural and economic features of the country we want to enter greatly facilitates things. Proficiency in multiple languages ​​is also essential. While speaking English is the basic need to internationalize your business, knowing the local language in non-English speaking countries is an important factor. Thus, companies such as Imaste, BeBanjo (provider of video on-demand services that works for clients such as British Telecom, Channel 5, Orange Francia and Sky Channel) and Toprural have staff with a distinct international nature.

In markets hit hard by the economic turmoil, such as Spain, internationalization has become the best way for local startups to grow their business. The consultant Keyprocom has conducted a study which analyzes the international activity of 15 Spanish startups. It is reflected in the study that 33% of these startups is present in between 4 and 6 different countries. This mark was exceeded by 13%, having one of its offices situated in 7 to 9 markets. However, 54% still operates in one or, at most, 3 different countries, including the home country. Most opt for markets like Latin America (linguistic proximity) or Europe (cultural proximity). Only a brave few dare to tackle Asia. In terms of sectors, the most internationalized Spanish startups are those related to e-commerce (40%), followed by telecommunications and new technologies (20%) and with leisure and entertainment in third place (13%). Most companies have a strong presence in global communication social networks such as Facebook and Twitter with profiles tailored to each market in which they operate.


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