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Devang Mehta

Devang Mehta – Venture Partner, Anthill Ventures.

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Tricks and Tips to Expand Your Startup Internationally

Acquiring local competitors is a great way for startups to expand globally. Acquisitions help bridge many gaps - talent, language, cultural nuances, and local contacts in addition to the more obvious benefits of revenue, product features, users, page views etc.

Expanding beyond one's native geography is often a major growth imperative for many early stage companies. The good news is that quite a few startups have achieved this goal with impressive, and sometimes dazzling, results. There are numerous ways to achieve such growth - let's look at the most popular ones for Enterprise and Consumer Startups

Enterprise Startups

For startups marketing to other corporations, the key to ANY sales deal is effectively educating the decision maker on the capabilities of your offering. This tenet is particularly true for startups wishing to expand beyond their geographical location. For these startups, the wonders of digital marketing -- Website, Social Media, Educational Videos, Blogs, Whitepapers, etc are  tremendously helpful for lead generation and nurturing; often enough to consummate a sale with zero human intervention through digital payment platforms (Freshdesk - an India based Customer Success platform being a great example of this kind of success).  

Successful global startups, and Atlassian is my favorite in this category, do a fantastic job of courting their target market - in this case software development groups  - with a mesmerizing mix of state-of-the-art product features, digital marketing finesse (as described above) and fervent community evangelism. Such Enterprise startups inevitably need to create local presence down the line - typically a Sales Head with Sales Engineering teams for "handshake-driven" situations that require persistent prospect-nurturing -- especially for larger Enterprise prospects that need the assurance that comes with a local team

Another popular strategy to become visible to an international audience is to get your startup embedded into popular app marketplaces like Salesforce AppExchange and similar offerings from Technology behemoths. Getting one's startup selected to prominent accelerator programs run by Microsoft, Qualcomm and others dramatically opens up new customer acquisition avenues - essentially by piggybacking on the armies of salespeople that these corporations have in their ranks.

Consumer Startups

Expanding internationally can prove to be harder for consumer startups vis-a-vis their Enterprise counterparts. Possibly the best strategy is build and market a product predicated on the famed Network effect - Twitter and Facebook being the best examples of this phenomenon (LinkedIn also, as an Enterprise and Consumer company). The key to these successes is to build products that are inherently viral, span across countries, cultures and languages, and whose basic product versions are free to consumers. These Consumer startups always succeed better when they are able to localize their content - by presenting the content in the language native to the geography, they are addressing.

Other consumer startups, like Zomato from India (no network effect across borders), have grown by sticking to 'first principles' - building a world-class, scalable, and robust product; and then by adroitly creating local presence and connections to help enter and capture markets..

Partnerships and Acquisitions

Acquiring local competitors is a great way for startups to expand globally. Acquisitions help bridge many gaps - talent, language, cultural nuances, and local contacts in addition to the more obvious benefits of revenue, product features, users, page views etc. Acquisitions are often a great way to execute quick local growth - especially in markets that are lucrative yet complex; and ones where business is often conducted with high-touch interactions.

Finally, partnering with local players, especially resellers and system integrators, is a tried and tested path for global expansion especially for Enterprise startups. These partners need upfront training and need to be convinced of the explosive growth potential of your company. When done right, these relationships prove to be extremely beneficial to address a local market without actual local presence.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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