The first day of GMIC SV featured several panel discussions, including the Build Local, Distribute Global session focusing on international business development. The discussion highlighted both the strategies and successes of GetJar, Zynga, Groupon, Foursquare and ZeptoLab in foreign markets while being moderated by Benjamin Joffee, CEO of Plus8Star.
As these industry leaders shared their observations on everything from marketing to app development, there was an overriding message of flexibility. Groupon, which is now in 48 countries internationally, was represented by David Katz, who is their General Manager of Mobile. He said “from a mobile development point of view, what we’ve learned is that each country is different. We’ve needed to build our apps and platforms with enough flexibility to accommodate those differences without winding up with 48 different apps”. While Groupon was aggressive in acquiring a global footstep, Zynga VP of Business Development Jonathan Flesher shared that they had accidentally gone international due to the popularity of Facebook.
Even when it appears to be smooth sailing in the market, obstacles arise. Misha Lyalin, CEO of ZeptoLab, gave an example when he mentioned that their game, Cut the Rope, had been translated for Portuguese gamers, but the wording had clearly been of Brazilian origin. Gamer feedback from Portugal immediately shed light on this problem.
ZeptoLab takes an interesting approach when entering new markets. Lyalin mentioned that when first establishing ZeptoLab products in a new market their primary objective is not to spread the game. Instead, the intention is to let the game spread on its own and then attempt to sustain that type of following. Adding new content or updates keeps fans interested and engaged. ZeptoLab provides this fresh content at no cost. Lyalin refers to this routine as “investing in the user base”, under the impression that these acts of good faith create brand loyalty among end users.
To conclude the discussion, each panel member offered news on how they would proceed to further globalize their companies. Chris Dury, CEO of GetJar, expects to have offices in China within the next year. Holger Luedorf, VP of Foursquare, briefly shared plans for further leveraging Foursquare’s local recommendation engine and adding more local language support. Finally, Flesher expressed his excitement for the launch of Zynga’s publishing platform, which will work on both web and mobile. He hopes to see more developers given the opportunity to cross borders with this tool.