Should Startups Think Internationally?by StartupDigest on November 23, 2010
I’m writing this from Sao Paulo Brazil before my trip home and it got me thinking, should startups think internationally?
Here is some context for this discussion (feel free to skip below for the main takeaways).
The US economy is pretty much stagnant relative to other countries, the government is completely debt ridden, and it doesn’t look like we are getting out of this situation anytime soon. There are still plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs but the US startups are all generally fighting over the same pie.
Contrast this with the BRIC’s and emerging economies. Brazil alone has 70,000,000 internet users and 200,000,000 inhabitants, the BRIC nations are growing at 8%-25% annually, and these countries have a long way to go until they reach full development.
Plus there is an incredible amount of room for opportunity here. The population is dying for more innovative products/services, just look at the excitement these Silicon Valley international trips bring ex. Geeks on a Plane.
I can say from first-hand experience the people here in Brazil want more startups. The local directories, shopping sites, and marketplaces haven’t been innovated upon since the 1999’s, and only recently entrepreneurs have been creating new products, but there isn’t enough.
So should startups think internationally? We asked the StartupDigest community on twitter and here is what some of you had to say:
@mccannatron generally speaking they shouldn’t. focus on local market + language first. if success, then go intl. (unless local mkt small)
@mccannatron not bad 2 plan 4 L10N, INTL (localize internationally). but don’t waste time until initial prod/mkt fit. same w/ scalability; don’t over-engineer.
@StartupDigest why should startups think internationally? — because cross border ideas and frequent reality checks are a good thing.
@StartupDigest Larger market, easier to carve out revenue globally than locally, at least here in PH.
@StartupDigest it’s a flat seamless world hence if they can deliver services globally they should think international but start local
To give dreams to the staff, or they’d leave soon. RT @mccannatron: Quick Question: Why should startups think internationally?
@StartupDigest Established tech companies are global, future successful startups need to have a global reach, but deliver localized service.
@mccannatron customer development is initially local, but if the problem you solve is everyone’s problem, deplete WHILE planning global!
Based on these tweets and talking with others here is my short answer to the question, should startups think internationally?
Startups should start local and dominate the market the understand best before going internationally. If you are in smaller markets (Philippines, Australia, etc) you should start thinking about expanding internationally faster than your counterparts to achieve critical mass.
If you are planning on building a $1b+ world dominating company you should start thinking internationally even before you are ready because that is where your competition will be (either clones of your service or larger corporations). The best way to do this would be to travel internationally just to explore and gather data, either on your own or with groups like Geeks on a Plane. It’s good to have the occasionally reality check.