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How to Scale #Internationalization

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This article includes key takeaways from Bernard Liautaud and Jonathan Anguelov’s talk on how to scale internationalization. Check out the…

This article includes key takeaways from Bernard Liautaud and Jonathan Anguelov’s talk on how to scale internationalization. Check out the full video on Youtube or get the latest from our Scale series.

2 key mindsets

Mindset #1: International from day one

The benefits of keeping an international mindset from the get-go can’t be overstated. For SaaS startups in particular, looking at the US market early on is logical (and often mandatory). What that means in terms of company structure is key for the next steps. Building a salesforce tasked with addressing the key markets, confronting your product to global competitors, and building an organisation that is not defined by a single, dominant culture: the traits that internationally-minded companies acquire early on facilitate further internationalization as the company grows.

Mindset #2: Build the experience your clients want

Acquiring customers on a given market will, in most cases, require sales reps. But it isn’t a firm requirement, nor is it the only one. Starting from a concrete view of what buying experience your customers want will allow you to plan for what functions will need to be localized: whether it’s sales, marketing, support, pre-sales, or even in some cases partnerships with local resellers. The quantity and nature of the touchpoints that constitute your standard buying cycle are the basis for your hiring roadmap when you decide to tackle a new strategic market.

4 key best practices

Best practice #1: Defer at your own risk

Deferring entrance on a key market to a later date is a gamble. European entrepreneurs will typically be reticent to launching in the US until they feel they have cornered the European market. However, putting off what feels like a risky move turns out to be a much riskier option. Launching in the US is always hard, regardless of company maturity. But deferring it to a later date means you may lose your first-to-market advantage (if you’re lucky enough to be in that position to begin with), or it may allow a local competitor to conquer that market before you get a chance to address it. The US market is colossal. It’s also highly homogenous, meaning a competitor can spread across it much faster. Go there ASAP.

Best practice #2: A company-wide shift

Committing to building your presence on some key markets has an impact on your entire company. This is most notably the case for the US, which usually brings a company-wide shift. Expectations from your product, tech, and support teams will all increase drastically. Launching in the US also brings a new level of ambition to the team, and that ambition is perhaps best represented by the frequent decision for founders to relocate there. This was the case for Bernard Liautaud at Business Objects, as well as some of Aircall’s founding team.

Best practice #3: Have several versions for your launch

Be ready to face hardships, and try several different iterations of your market launch if unsuccessful at first. If the market research was conducted thoroughly, failing can sometimes hide a more fundamental issue with the product. But more often then not, the issue is hiring. The first version of your launch — i.e. the initial team hired to deploy on a new market — can turn out to be a mistake. That mistake can be compounded when a team is assembled without approval from top management. If it fails at first, keep trying. Reassess and give it another shot with a new launch.

Best practice #4: Build a single culture

The goal should be to build a company with a single, global culture. Doing so involves bringing the team together as one: have common projects between members of the team in different locations, create shared goals for teams that are spread out worldwide, hold company-wide meetings to open up debate to the entire team. Also, cultivate a mindset that encourages ideas: the best ideas won’t all come from your HQ, empower every one on the team to contribute.

Note: Being a part of a global company can be a perk for employees. Creating opportunities for the team to grow can also feed into your culture. Aircall offers language classes to those who wish to be able to better communicate with other members of the team. Business Objects offered employees the option to exchange their location for a 6-month program to learn more about their colleagues from across the globe. The result: renewed willingness to engage with other offices and a single, global culture across the entire company.

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About Bernard Liautand and Jonathan Anguelov:

Bernard Liautaud is Managing Partner at Balderton and former co-founder and CEO of Business Objects (acquired by SAP) and Jonathan Anguelov is co-founder and COO of Aircall. In this fireside chat, they share their advice for entrepreneurs looking to build on a global scale and explain how they grew their startups beyond borders.

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