When I started my business, I focused on the U.S. market. But as I networked with people and made connections, I kept hearing about international opportunities. When talking about technology and mobile marketing, those conversations always led to discussions about how Asia, Europe and South America were the places where growth was happening.
Since I didn’t have any experience overseas, I didn’t listen to the advice these entrepreneurs and business experts shared. I was too afraid. It took a while, but I eventually overcame my fears and plunged into business overseas. Since then, I have been rewarded with successful partnerships and new enterprises. While I wasted time ignoring opportunities that were presented to me, you don’t have to.
The risk that you run in the U.S. has to do with the level of competition and market saturation. Startups are not unique here. But what if you could be one of a few innovators to build something somewhere no one else is?
Overcome global startup hurdles
To be successful, entrepreneurs have to look past what everyone else is doing, and find the gap that allows them to stand above the competition. Right now, countries outside the U.S. are eager to encourage economic growth and innovation. If you haven’t jumped into business overseas yet, here are the hurdles you must overcome:
1. You haven’t been there
Just go. It’s worth it to make the trip. Consider once you get to one country, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to visit a few places on a tour. Check LinkedIn for connections and government programs interested in investing in startups, and plan to talk to those people on your trip. You’ll get a feel for the culture and the geography.
2. They don’t speak English
There are more second-language English speakers than first-language speakers, which means plenty of people around the world speak your language. In fact, English is an official language of more than 30 countries, including India, Singapore and Sri Lanka. And even if not everyone speaks English fluently, the people you’ll connect with (those driving innovation and entrepreneurship in their countries) certainly should.
3. You’re unsure how to spot emerging markets
Like everything else under the sun, a quick Google search can easily provide you with information. When I searched for a list of emerging markets, one of the first resources I found was a slideshow with clear data on these markets from Bloomberg.
India is one of the largest emerging markets, and Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea are in the next tier down. Generally speaking, Southeast Asia is the fastest growing economic market. These countries are actively seeking the help of startups to stimulate growth.
4. You don’t know how the country works
Make friends with locals. Find someone in that country who is as excited about your idea as you are and has the knowledge, education and resources to help make it happen. A trustworthy partner, who is often required in order to access government stimulus funds anyway, is essential to making your business work.
Partner with someone who knows where things are, how things work and who to ask. You need to be able to trust that person to provide you with solid information and make informed decisions on everything, from where your office space should be located to who you should hire to join your team.
5. You don’t have enough money
You may not have capital, but people who want to support and grow emerging markets do, such as Startup Singapore, Startup Malaysia, Emerging Crowd and Unicef. Many emerging markets even have government funds to support and develop startups, and your local partner can help you identify those funds.
As you can see, the most popular excuses just don’t hold up. Emerging markets offer an extensive and generous opportunity, and if you are going to be successful, you need to take advantage of what benefits doing business overseas can provide for your company.
This article has been edited.
Ty Morse is the CEO of Songwhale, an interactive technology company focusing on enterprise SMS solutions and Direct Response campaigns, both domestic and international. Since the company’s 2007 launch, Ty has grown Songwhale into an international leader in mobile marketing. A two time Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Ty has been featured in the NY Times, Wired, NPR, PBS, and Discovery Channel and published in Forbes, the NY Report, and Geek.
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