The U.S. has created the perfect storm for innovation across cultural, educational and financial spheres. The U.S. is among the top 10 most educated countries in the world. It produces the greatest number of startups. And while the U.S. also ranks highly for wealth among other countries, it ranks No. 1 — with $48,734 billion — in total individual wealth.
While these factors have resulted in tremendous innovation and growth for startups and entrepreneurs, it also means the U.S. is saturated; permeated with people who have the drive, education and money to create new businesses.
So, new entrepreneurs who want to find new areas of opportunity can do so by looking outside of the U.S. Meanwhile, you’ll find it is easy to utilize all of your U.S. enthusiasm and ingenuity overseas in three simple steps.
1. Research startup ecosystems
My interest in growing a business overseas began when I met a few international colleagues at a local event. We connected on LinkedIn. I suddenly was a part of their networks. By following some of those leads, I quickly uncovered an entire group of people in China, Malaysia and Thailand who were interested in mobile marketing, just like I was.
LinkedIn is an easy place to find other startups and experts who work in the countries or industries you are investigating – and even potential talent.
For example, Startup Singapore works to connect interested entrepreneurs in Singapore with resources and each other. Malaysia has similarly developed Startup Malaysia to encourage the growth of fundable startups in the region.
As you connect with these types of groups and others like them you will start to build a network of people who are interested in collaboration, mutual growth and assisting you to find investors to support your business. Many countries have created programs and allotted resources to encourage startup growth, so find those communities and connect with them.
2. Book your flight
Once you have made some connections, get on a plane and go meet them. For me, this step was a little scary because it seemed expensive, far away, and completely out of my comfort zone. However, I trusted the connections I made would at least afford me a place to stay and an experience to remember.
The people I met turned out to be wonderful, enthusiastic and motivated. Not only did they take me to great restaurants and beaches, but they helped me understand how I could integrate my services with their markets.
While traveling around the world seems expensive, a $500 flight to Malaysia isn’t much more expensive than a cross-country domestic flight. Once you’re there, your expenses would amount to less than a trip to Silicon Valley. The benefits of meeting people you want to work with, visiting the location and experiencing the market and figuring out logistics, far outweigh the costs.
3. Work with a local partner
After you’ve done your research and made your rounds, decide how you will get your startup off the ground in a preferred market. Hopefully, through networking and being on the ground you have identified a few key locals that are open to collaboration.
In all of my travels, I made strong friendships. So, the real challenge was to decide which market to start in and how to proceed. My friends and partners (established through networking and traveling) helped me figure it out.
If you want to start a business overseas, a local partner is essential. This alliance will help you test the waters, navigate the market, identify resources and figure out the logistics. In fact, Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries require you to have a local partner in order to benefit from extensive government programs for startups.
Most emerging markets have reliable government agencies actively investing in entrepreneurship, so a local partner will help you uncover these resources. Once you have identified a market, established trustworthy partners, and uncovered government funds, your local partner can help evaluate candidates to hire. Essentially, once the research and visits are complete, you just have to choose to move forward with it.
Take your business global
In the U.S., your startup is competing for resources with every other entrepreneur out there. You are a little fish in a big pond. By spending some time and energy looking into global alternatives, you can give your startup a real chance to have an impact. You can be a big fish in a little pond.
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.