Start-up Task No. 1: Think Global
It may sound silly: You don't even have your first customer yet. But considering a global strategy from the moment you launch your business can set you up for greater flexibility and much faster growth. Even a corner pizza shop might have global reach--just ask the place adjacent to Zuccotti Park that took orders from all over the world for pizzas to be sent to Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Here are four good reasons to create a global strategy from the very start:
1. You already have a huge advantage.
While I know nothing about you I do know this: If you're reading this article, there's a good chance that you speak English. Perhaps it's your native tongue. If so, congratulations! You have a big advantage over millions of others because English is firmly entrenched as the language of the global marketplace.
"All of our support, everywhere in the world, even in China, the standard language for our support is English," says Bertrand Diard, CEO and co-founder of Talend, which provides integration software for large enterprises. Talend software is open source, which means it's free to download, but customers pay for implementation assistance and support.
For Diard, a French native who began his company in France, making English its standard language was a strategic choice that required a lot of effort. Think how much easier it is if you already speak English.
2. You'll design it right the first time.
It may seem logical to start with a local focus and think about expanding to other countries somewhere down the road. The problem is by then it may be too late. For instance, when Diard launched in France, he was already thinking of customers not only in the rest of the European Union and the Americas, but also in Asia. And so he built in the ability to use non-Roman scripts right from the start.
The same goes for the design of your company itself, he says. "Between the United States and Europe, there's a good ability to work together, but Asian culture is very different," he says. "To build a global company, you need to plan for those differences, and make sure that everybody will be able to work together."
3. You can be a global customer as well as seller.
Taking a global view can also mean taking advantages of opportunities that international outsourcing provides. For example, Talend uses programmers in China to write some of the code for its products.
4. You can grow very fast.
Very fast. Diard launched Talend in 2006. Six years later, the company has more than 400 employees and 10 offices in Europe, the United States, and Asia. It has about 3,500 customers, including Bank of America, TD Bank, Verizon, eBay, and Yahoo. Along the way, Diard moved the company's headquarters to San Francisco, a move he says further improved its global reach.
"If you don't think globally for your product and your deployment, I think you will be uncompetitive in your market," Diard says. "And you'll be missing a lot of opportunity."
MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.