The traditional view on expanding a business with potential in international markets is to first build and capture the local market. This works in large developed markets like the US with deep local customer base, for example, the Enterprise and B2B technology sector. This concept also worked when distributing products globally was a challenge; it was a tough task establishing and managing a distributed workforce in each location.
However, this thinking doesn’t hold anymore and if a technology product has to succeed globally, especially out of the developing world, it needs to think global from day one for the following reasons:
Business opportunities in all segments of technology are replicating at a lightning pace across the world with the mass adoption of SaaS and App Stores. In such an environment, startups don’t have the luxury to build traction in their local markets at their own pace. It is imperative that they interact with target customers during the early product-market fit development phase. While larger traction should primarily be built through digital channels, it’s important to have face-to-face interactions and interviews with customers to truly understand the nuances of their problems. Little Eye Labs, acquired by Facebook (GSF Accelerator Batch 1 startup) followed this strategy successfully by attending a lot of international events, conferences and developer meetups.
While the availability of angel and seed funding has vastly increased over last the two years, there is still a dearth of risk capital especially for global consumer plays at an early market validation phase. Investors in Silicon Valley, New York and Singapore are writing cheques to B2C startups with attractive hooks for global audiences. However, in the absence of large amount of traction, angel investors and VCs in the US like to know the team and assimilate their vision. This can only be done in person and after taking the right endorsements through existing networks. Hence, it’s important that emerging world founders start building these relationships with potential investors at least a few months prior to beginning the fund raising process.
Ben Horowitz, partner at A16Z ($2.7B US VC Fund) recently said that creating a wildly successful company requires great genius and great courage because building a company is hard and lonely. Let’s examine that for a second, it’s not vision, nor creativity, nor charisma; it’s conviction to stay on the road less travelled. This courage is only built in the school of hard knocks and founders must take a few punches on the chin at an early stage to build strength for the long haul. I can think of no better way than making1000 pitches to the smartest people in the world and learning from the hard feedback on how your startup needs to do better and faster.
This vision is what drove us to evolve GSF into the GSF Global Accelerator Program, which we believe, is a startup of startups. We plan to follow through on that conviction.
About the author
Brij Bhasin is an Operating Partner at GSF Accelerator and is based Bangalore. He is available on Twitter @brijbhasin