It’s quite common for many startup founders to overlook their own internal capabilities and resources before venturing into a new market. The most likely reasons are that a founder either doesn’t consider them or immediately dives into internationalization, engaging with prospective clients and partners, and attending conferences and tradeshows abroad.
By not assessing internal capabilities first, founders make internationalization more challenging, leading to wasted time and money. They might even make a few business faux pas along the way. To prevent this, our Internationalization Officer, Andrew David Herweg, has listed several questions below that you should ask your team. This will give you a clearer idea of the resources you have internally before taking your first steps towards a new market.
Determine which members of your team have business-level proficiency in foreign languages, and specifically, which languages they speak. Why is this important? If someone on your team is fluent in the native language of a country you’re considering for expansion, you’re in a fortunate position. They can assist with market research, proofread marketing or sales materials, and even facilitate prospect interviews. This not only saves you the expense of hiring a consultant but also countless hours that would otherwise be spent relying on tools like Google Translate!
Discovering that a teammate has spent significant time in a target market country for your business can be invaluable. Such experience can lead to potential business connections, deepen your understanding of cultural nuances and business etiquette, and, at the very least, provide insider tips on where to dine when you visit the country or city next!
When it comes to internationalization, the ‘cupboard’ might not be as bare as it appears. Check if your business already has relationships or contacts with resellers, distributors, clients, research institutes, or investors abroad. Understand the current dynamics with these organizations and assess if leveraging these contacts could aid your entry into a new market. It’s typically more straightforward and cost-effective to expand within a market alongside a partner than to venture in solo.
New market development is a daunting task for anyone. Begin by asking your team who’s interested. Then, evaluate their competencies and availability before deciding who will take the lead. While tasks in many startups are often shared or have significant overlap among teammates or co-founders, internationalization requires clear leadership and accountability. It’s essential to choose someone both willing and capable. As a note: Think of internationalization as a ‘project’ rather than a core business focus, at least in the immediate term. Determine who can spare an extra 2-3 hours per week to dedicate to this endeavour.
Internal capabilities go well beyond your own team’s competencies; skill sets and experiences. Check and see what existing digital tools you have that can assist you as well as work in the markets you’re exploring for expansion. Do you have a subscription to Credendo? Does your payment solution accept foreign currencies? Can you keep working with AWS in prospective countries?
In conclusion, by carefully assessing your internal capabilities and resources before embarking on international expansion, you not only save valuable time and resources but also set the stage for a smoother and more successful journey into new markets. So, take the time to tap into your team’s language skills, international experiences, existing relationships, and willingness to lead, and don’t forget to leverage the digital tools at your disposal. With this simple understanding of your internal assets, you’ll be better prepared to chart a strategic course for your startup’s global growth.
At imec.istart, we prioritize international thinking from day one. Our dedicated Internationalization Officer, Andrew David Herweg, arranges foreign business missions and prepares young entrepreneurs for global expansion.
If you're a tech startup with a solid proof of concept and a drive to grow, we invite you to apply during our three annual open calls (September, January, or May) to take your startup to the next (international) level