Starting Up Globally: Perspective from Founders from Around the World
What motivates a company to expand globally?
Last week, Sept. 24 through Sept. 28, downtown Denver's thriving entrepreneurial community gathered for its annual eponymous Startup Week (DSW) to network, circulate insights and ideas, lessons learned and celebrate the success stories among them.
At the "Starting Up Globally – A Conversation with International Founders" seminar, Tuesday, Sept. 25, panelists Sarah Selhi, Kanchan Dwivedi, Deb Noller and moderator Geoff McQueen shared professional advice on how to approach expanding a business beyond geographic borders.
One theme that arose was the common belief that no matter where a company is based, creating a healthy culture within and appealing to the surrounding community's values are high priorities.
Here are 4 more pieces of advice to expand a company internationally:
1. SARAH SELHI is the CEO and founder of SpaceiShare, a Toronto-based space-sharing platform that provides clients with storage and parking by facilitating peer-to-peer connections. She expressed her hope to expand the business into the U.S. in the near future.
WHAT MOTIVATES COMPANIES TO EXPAND GLOBALLY?
"Perhaps your product might be seasonal, and therefore there are ebbs and flows that go with what it is you're doing in that particular region," Selhi suggests. "Perhaps, expanding into another market might offset some of those ebbs and flows..."
2. KANCHAN DWIVEDI is the founder of LoanGini, a peer-to-peer lending startup based in Bagalore, India, created to simplify the process of taking out a loan at a reasonable rate while providing lenders with enticing returns on investment. A Stanford alumna, Dwivedi has years of international business experience working in the U.S. and Hong Kong, China.
HOW DO YOU FIND CONNECTIONS + MENTORS IN A FOREIGN MARKET?
"If they have a similar background like yours, into the startup world ... they have some idea about what startups are all about," Dwivedi says. "It's not a rosy picture all the time. So, in which case, they would be willing to walk with you ... They understand that you're not this big, established company ... they have a better understanding and empathy as a startup founder for you."
3. DEB NOLLER is the CEO of Switch Automation, an Australian-based software company that aims to change the way people manage buildings worldwide. The smartware platform allows large portfolio owners to connect data from all of their buildings, systems and devices under one unified user interface. They also do "advanced building analytics and machine learning with fault detection." Since launching in 2012, Switch Automation has developed branches all around the world from the Philippines to New Zealand.
HOW DO STARTUPS GO ABOUT ESTABLISHING CREDIBILITY INTERNATIONALLY?
"The most important thing for any startup, doesn't matter who you are or where you are, the only thing that really matters is traction," Noller says. "That is how you get funded; it's how you grow your business; so, traction is the No. 1 thing. So, you have to find a market where you're going to ... get the best traction."
4. GEOFF MCQUEEN is CEO and co-founder of Acello, a startup that got off the ground in Wollongong, Australia that aims to use ServOps technology to streamline and automate the daily operations of professionals, such as tracking client work and managing contracts with ongoing clients. The ultimate mission of the company is to help professionals spend less time on the day-to-day and more time doing the work they love. Acello currently maintains branches in Denver, San Francisco and Wollongong.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DETERMINE WHICH INTERNATIONAL MARKETS TO EXPAND YOUR COMPANY INTO?
"My main piece of advice would be to visit in person ... in fact, the most important part of your research is to just go," McQueen says. "But I don't necessarily jump in too aggressively – like make a couple of visits. Do a whole lot of dating before you get married, so to speak."
Anna von Pechmann is a freshman at Colorado State University, majoring in journalism. She participated in a partnership between the University and ColoradoBiz magazine that brought students from Fort Collins to Denver Startup Week 2018.