How exciting – you’re expanding internationally! Assuming you’ve done the research about potential demand, competition, etc., and you’ve narrowed down the list of countries to set up shop, here are some nitty-gritty things you need to get right from the get-go, along with solutions. But first things first: Going international is a strategy, not an afterthought. The management team needs to be on board and aligned. Get that right first. Then add these to your management team agenda:
Location: Don’t just go with what everyone else is doing – select a location that makes sense for you. Etsy selected Berlin, not London, for its European HQ. Why? No doubt the art scene and the (relatively) low cost of living played a part. But also investigate local labor laws (see below). Keep in mind that you want direct flights home. It will make a difference.
Language: That clever Canadian intern may have won a top grammar prize back at school in Montreal, but that doesn’t mean s/he can speak French the French way. A sure fire way to alienate early adopters in new countries is to translate poorly. Using French Canadians or South Americans for French or Spanish is a quick way to show a market that you are not local, nor serious about them. Solution: Use native translators, or stay in English until you can do the job right.
Currency: Duh. But if you are selling online, you need to get this right. Customers are put off if you stray too far from actual foreign exchange rates. Solution: See how competitors or similar business have solved it.
European Girl, aka 500 Mentor Colette Ballou, is the founder of Ballou PR, the smartest and sassiest public relations agency on either side of the Atlantic, focusing on high-growth companies. She oversees activities for their Paris, London, New York and San Francisco offices and is a frequent speaker/moderator and a mentor/judge for startup organizations and events such as Seedcamp, Microsoft BizSpark, IBM SmartCamp, SXSW Start-Up Accelerator, the Telegraph Tech Start-Up 100 and TechCrunch. One of European Girl’s superpowers — the ability to smoke a pack of cigarettes in a single puff. Follow her on Twitter.