I run Corporate360, an international bootstrapped startup and here are some tips for taking your startup international from our experience.
Growing any business is no mean feat and for many, setting up abroad can be a significant milestone in the growth of their business.
In different countries and markets, regulation and style of business can all differ significantly.
For example, in Singapore, we give each other business cards with two hands. It is simply common etiquette known by anyone with specific market knowledge of business in the region. However, not knowing this could be a serious hindrance to expansion in the market.
When looking to grow internationally, I believe there are five things you need to get right:
1. Pursue clients with an international portfolio
Working with clients with an international portfolio can be a great means for businesses to get themselves introduced to a foreign market.
From a B2B perspective, if you manage to sell your product to a company in your home country, and they also have an international presence, selling to them abroad will be easier. When moving into a new market, you may already have a customer, ensuring that the expansion does not have to be solely funded from your other business operations.
2. Secure market experience
Whenever any business expands into a new location, market experience on the ground is critical. Knowing simple things like business etiquette, taxes and competitors is essential, and having someone on the ground with experience in these matters is critical.
In the US, for example, businesses importing products need to pay certain taxes and duties, which will need to be factored into product costs.
Equally as a business leader or owner, you cannot be in two places at once. No matter how committed you are to your business, you will need leadership and oversight support, whether that is at home or abroad.
One of the most difficult issues many entrepreneurs face is giving away responsibility and letting other people lead your business, but this is necessary for growth. Nobody can make every decision in a business growing globally, especially in technology where the pace is so fast.
3. Pursue new markets with big opportunities
The most valuable markets are always the biggest, but often more difficult to crack. Identifying the best target audience to market products and services too is critical, as these can often vary based on country.
eMarketer predicts that by 2016, India is expected to overtake the US as the largest Internet market. This therefore makes India a key target for any budding technology entrepreneur looking to expand internationally.
4. Pursue opportunities where there is a lack of innovation internationally
Innovation is a word that has been used the world over, but remaining innovative could not be more critical to international expansion. It is no use having a so called ‘innovative’ product selling in one country that someone else has already set up in another.
Taking this product international will be much more difficult as you could face stiff competition against an already established supplier. If you have a business idea or product that is innovative and completely different to anything else on the market worldwide, there is little excuse to not taking it global.
When I set up Corporate360 this was very much in my mind. I saw a market gap which needed filling, not just in Singapore but worldwide.
5. Ensure funding is available before you start
There is nothing more upsetting for any entrepreneur than failure. It seems to be programmed into our psyche, the determination to succeed.
Maximising your probability to succeed is essential, and you would not want to fall at the first hurdle. It is therefore critical to have enough funds to startup and some more to back yourself up. The costs of marketing, taxes and legal fees of expanding abroad can quickly rack up, making having enough bank in your war chest critical.
Taking your business to that next level is never particularly easy, but knowing what to expect and being ready will make it a whole lot easier.
In my experience, business leaders simply need to be brave and bold.
There is nothing wrong with taking your time over it, getting business plans right, and ensuring you have the right team ready to support your expansion. Remember, every business is different, and so is every market, the important bit is making your business fit.
To sum it all, you have to understand your customers, what they’re trying to accomplish, and then deliver products and solutions that can enable their success.
The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email to writers[at]e27[dot]co