When deciding to take your start-up global there are an unlimited number of questions and very few answers. Most of the time you just have to take the leap and hope you will be able to answer the questions before anyone notices.
So, when is the time right for a global launch? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. But weighing up the pros and cons, speaking to other founders about the lessons they have learnt, and trusting your instincts can have a big impact on making the right choice.
Here are the five key factors I took into consideration when launching globally, these can be a great starting point for other small-business owners making the same decision:
- When is the best time to tell people about your solution? Will they find utility and does the environment even allow them to use it? Are we too early? Are we too late? When will our competitors wake up?
- The world is a very large place with unlimited opportunities. Is it better to go wide or narrow? Do you know where your product will do best or is that an assumption?
- If you are a P2P business operating in the creator economy who will produce your content and are they in the same geographic location as your customers? Will the business get the same quality of supply from each country?
- Quantity of customers
- Is there a better customer and does it matter what county they live in? If you had to choose between many low-quality customers or a few high quality, which would benefit your business long term?
- Technical limitations
- Can you even scale? Will your product break if too many people use it? If you are 100 per cent global so that anyone anywhere can use it does that mean you support all languages?
From the outset, I always knew our particular business could only prosper at scale when we operated in all countries. Most importantly we had potential users waiting for us to launch in their cities. In saying that, it didn’t make the decision to launch internationally any easier.
My top tips are:
- Focus on your market and dominate it before you expand, this works for geographically specific start-ups. We decided to focus on Sydney at the beginning, where we could perfect the product and secure customers who could become ambassadors/user testers. Once we felt comfortable that we could offer value and had an initial product-market fit we decided to expand all at once.
- Make sure the pros outweigh the cons when thinking globally. Choosing to launch internationally is a risky activity as any time not directly invested in solving your customer’s needs and wants in a better way can be a waste of time.
- Beware that assumptions can backfire. When you decide to launch it feels like you have answers to most of the above questions, but actually they are only assumptions, assumptions can be wrong and often are. If you launch too early you might overextend your team and yourself. Have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any challenges.
- Don’t forget about your first committed customers. Ensuring you can expand while having a high priority on your current customers is crucial.
- Take the leap and adapt on the fly. Personally, no matter how much research you do – whether that’s exploring all the resources available to you and chatting to other founders, mentors, and advisors – you will still run into different hurdles and obstacles on your quest to launch globally. Sometimes you just need to jump in and adapt on the fly.
At the end of the day, the founder of the start-up needs to consider the opportunities and risks of expanding. If the opportunities outweigh the risks then they should deep dive into the opportunity. If you are looking to eventually expand in the future there are many things start-ups can do now to prepare. Most importantly they can organise the business to scale, this is the number one factor for a successful expansion. The world is a big place and you will need to make every interaction with your product magical. This can only be done through investments in automation and processes.