Yes, the U.S. market is big. And yes, many of today’s major tech companies rocketed to initial altitude on massive growth within the U.S. market (we’re looking at you, Google). But can you afford to ignore hundreds of millions of potential customers outside the U.S.? Up to 67% of your future customer base doesn’t live in America, and many startups have found out the hard way that customers in other countries won’t do the heavy lifting of navigating your English-only offerings. Internationalization and localization are crucial components of your global strategy.
So let’s talk about that global strategy. How do you talk about your company’s mission? Are you gathering intel on potential international markets? Talking to local competitors there? Are there emerging trends you can identify which might dovetail nicely with your startup’s strengths?
While you might not be ready to launch overseas, there are things you can be embracing today to make that process easier when the time comes. Top of the list is internationalizing your content for website translation or software localization as you develop a process which will give you a competitive advantage in terms of speed-to-market when launch time comes. With internationalized code, multilingual localization will be a quicker and more cost effective project.
Three west coast startups that have learned the value in going global early are BrightEdge, Apptio, and Nest. BrightEdge, a cloud-based marketing technology company, helps marketers use information about social media sharing to inform content strategy. Serving big brands with major global footprints, BrightEdge recently closed a $42.8 million round of funding. Organizing and analyzing data on social media requires global capabilities combined with a nuanced understanding of culture and language, but for this San Mateo, CA company, the rewards have been worth the investment.
Seattle-based Apptio provides Technology Business Management (TBM) for “managing the business of IT through an integrated view of technology cost, performance, supply and demand.” The company attributes its near doubling in revenue since March 2012 to a roster of more than 125 global enterprise firms.
But not all global startups serve existing big brands with cloud computing. Take Nest Labs in Palo Alto, makers of the sleek “learning thermostat.” Though they’ve picked up customers from around the globe, they’re also proof that going global can start in your own international backyard, as their recent expansion into Canada proves. Localizing their device for their Canadian customers involved “teaching” it Canadian French and adapting to half-degrees in Celsius. From Canada, Nest has their sights on France and the U.K., a natural extension.
So where in the world will you take your company? It seems that startup is a word ready for any language.