Startups, whether they’re in early stage or pursuing funding, should be thinking outside of the box. The box we’re referring to is the limits of geography, space, location. But it can also be the scope and vision you have for the future, and how you conceive of taking your business to the next level.
As we gear up to re-launch Startup Crowdfunding—the world’s leading aggregator of startup crowdfunding opportunities—we reflect on what makes us and the other startups in this blog post unique: a “Global” DNA.
As part of the Grow VC Group—the global pioneer and leader in crowdfunding—we can’t help but think and act globally. Our own team at Startup Crowdfunding is spread across London, Singapore, Dublin and Vienna. Every member is a specialist in their respective domain, yet each one of us shares a passion for startups, entrepreneurship and a global perspective. We are all excited to play a central role as a quality global crowdfunding aggregator in an industry that has proved to be a truly disruptive model for investing in startups.
But how necessary is it to have a global perspective ingrained in your startup’s culture? It makes obvious sense to aim high, but from a practical perspective, how does one do that? Here are some lessons to get you inspired to start thinking (and acting) globally:
Consider building a global team.
Is your startup London by way of Tel-Aviv? Do you have biz dev in Hong Kong or the US? If not you might want to consider taking advantage of the various networking tools like Angel List or our own Startup Crowdfunding to meet potential collaborators across the globe.
Never has there been a better time to connect virtually with individuals who share the same interests and passions as you. Whether you’re plugging a skill gap in your team or searching for a co-founder, consider looking for talent outside of your existing network.
Productivity, with low overhead costs.
The benefits of broadening your talent pool beyond the nearest tech hub are numerous. A virtual team reduces overhead costs and the inefficiencies of sharing an office space. This is one of the reasons why the infamous startup incubator Y-Combinator doesn’t provide office space: not having an office restricts the number of meetings taking place, forcing one to keep one’s head down and focus, focus, focus.
Global team, global values.
This is a bit of a chicken-egg situation, but if you genuinely value a culturally diverse team, you will succeed in building it. Those who value a global perspective will want to come work for you. It’s that simple.
Jilliene Helman, Co-founder and CEO of the real estate crowdfunding platform Realty Mogul, argues that in order to pave the way for aggressive growth, startups must align and establish their core values from the get-go. She refers to Realty Mogul’s core value of dressing professionally as a commitment to professionalism, but the same can be said for global perspective.
Mobile ads optimization platform and real-time bidding exchange, Smaato, knows the importance of international expansion, too. Smaato has built a successful operational business in India and the Asia-Pacific region, something which Smaato Chief Strategy Officer Ajitpal Pannu asserts is difficult for many US-based companies to do.
The secret to their success? We believe it’s the global experience and values placed on international markets by their leadership team. Smaato’s CEO Ragnar Kruse first founded IPT GmbH in 1980 as a computer retail business that imported products into Germany from the US and Asia. According to his bio, Kruse understands the unique opportunities and challenges in bringing new technologies to international markets.
Think beyond your existing market.
A goldfish will grow to the size of its fishbowl, and the same can be said for startups. At least according to Wufoo’s founder Kevin Hale at #StartupAsia Tokyo last week. Hale cautioned budding entrepreneurs about the risks of becoming too comfortable with your surroundings, “It’s easy and dangerous to get complacent in other regions, where you might think ‘I’m the best startup in this location.’ You then don’t focus on being innovative, or being agile.”
Foot soldiers and insights.
Not only will you avoid the dreaded fishbowl affect, but connections to different markets through your colleagues or partners will really and truly help in carving a space for your startup. Think of it this way: you’ll have a foot soldier on the ground to represent your startup in that space at conferences and meetups. What’s more, you’ll gain their understanding and insights into how users in that market think, feel and behave. Insights which will be invaluable for expansion into other markets, which in turn will ramp up your appeal to investors and potential partners.
Demonstrate your commitment to global and growth.
Think of this as the flywheel effect: the more knowledge you have about a growing market the more likely you are to succeed in developing a user base there. The greater user base you have, the more attractive your product or service is to investors or partners, and so on.
Investors like Structure VC partner and Salesforce investor Mike Walsh looks for whether there’s a ‘large enough market’ to return 10-100 times his investment before he considers funding a startup. If you do the groundwork and demonstrate your commitment to expanding globally, the more appealing your startup will be to like-minded investors equally focused on expanding their portfolios to different markets.
Learn from other global-success stories.
The ridesharing service Uber first made its move outside of the US during the 2011 international internet conference LeWeb. CEO Travis Kalanick then went on to launch the service in Vancouver, with the help of Hootsuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes and his friends. Both times enlisting his network of top tech CEOs to test-drive the service, reinforcing the notion that a global network is worth investing in, especially if a global launch is on your horizon.
Yahoo!’s successful investment in the Asian market through Alibaba did not come without failure, too. Build, buy, partner was their three-step model to success. The first two attempts included building the business from scratch, then buying out and managing control of local companies. Yahoo! eventually found the perfect balance, investing 40 percent into Alibaba and relinquishing management control, and demonstrating that finding the right partners can pay huge dividends.
Remember that your global startup adds value, too.
It’s also worth noting that many Asian firms see partnerships with US or European startups as an opportunity to gain a foothold in that region. So don’t forget that by targeting investors from different markets, you too bring a unique opportunity to the table.
As SoftBank Capital partner Joe Medved says, “Expansion overseas is challenging and involves many unique considerations…[And] yes cultural barriers exist – but for the right company, with the right partners, heading to Asia,” or any overseas market for that matter, “can translate into huge dividends.”
If the ambition for your startup is to go big or go home, we recommend going global as the first step on that journey.
This blog has been written by Brooke Rutherford, Community Manager for Startup Crowdfunding. Brooke has worked for global companies in retail, e-commerce, education and telecommunications. Welcome to the team, Brooke.
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