This was a blogpost in the Harvard Business Review HBR Blog network by Michael Fertik, and it struck us as a little bit naive on one hand, and very audacious on the other.
On one hand, if your startup has a website, on any given day it could be visited, as ours is, by prospects from many different foreign countries. So, perforce, you ARE international, whether you like it or not. In our case, we’ve adopted English as our lingua franca, and even acknowledged that some of our courses might not work too well in foreign countries, such as franchising, which is a largely unknown thing outside the US.
On the other hand, and I just had this discussion with one of my clients who is international, it can be very expensive to adapt products and services for the international market. If you want to get an idea of how expensive, take our course E18 on International Expansion. This course is designed for established companies, but it could equally well apply to startups.
If you don’t adapt for international, you’ll lose some sales, but the nub of the question is whether what you’re going to lose in sales is greater or less, on a pretax basis, than the costs you’d incur in adapting for international sales. Dave Goldberg of Survey Monkey found 2/3 of his customers were international, so it makes sense for them to put their tools in foreign lanuages.
Another negative is that, especially in China and India, with their large consumer markets, whether you’d unduly, or earlier expose your product to knock offs.
A fourth negative is raising the money for international expansion in the current climate. Never fun.
Anyway, we laud Michael for a thought-provoking post. The link is http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/01/go-international_young_startup.html