Barrett Parkman, who serves as VP for The Great Wall Club, led the first panel discussion of what should be an exciting second day focused on the startup economy at GMIC-SV in San Jose, CA. Ryosuke Kawamura, CEO of Bitcellar, Inc. and Doug Renert, Partner at Tandem Capital, stopped by to discuss Building a Global Startup for Massive Growth. The founder of Mindtalk, Danny Wirianto, and Eric Setton, CTO of Tango, were also kind enough to sit down and share their thoughts on how startup firms should go about pursuing growth prospects.
Working in the global market leaves one susceptible to many external powers. For startups that desire growth, Setton advises that “Companies in hypergrowth often find great coincidences. Focus on your execution, focus on what you can control”.
One of the first questions posed to the panel was whether or not, in today’s app ecosystem, global releases were a necessity. Setton noted that he sometimes sees “a reluctance to launch internationally”. The consensus shared that developers should have no reason to fear international releases of their products. “You want to architect and hack growth as much as you can,” continued Setton “and the key to having the biggest growth is having no boundaries”. Renert added “getting data on what users are doing with your app or service is the most valuable thing you can have”.
In terms of strategy, the panel discussed two important aspects for startups to keep in mind. First, Wirianto raised the point that not every startup is lucky enough to have such major investments or resources. Premature expansion efforts could result in spreading yourself too thinly. Therefore, any expansion efforts must be well planned and executed. He offered that some startups’ primary objectives are to “grow what they have and conquer a local region” and then use that cash inflow to “become a global player”. Renert also chimed in “you have to make sure that your core models are even working”. Clearly, different developers will have different experiences. Setton pointed out that for “Direct to consumer businesses that need to get to a large scale extremely quickly” releasing globally may be of more significance.
Next, the panel conversed over the actual make up of an app and what features are best for international markets. Language and translation projects are often one of the more difficult obstacles for global expansion. As a solution, our panel of industry leaders turned to the simplicity of images. Using symbols can “alleviate the burden of translation small firms would have to do” said Setton. Rovio, among others, was commended for their simplistic user-interface, consisting of mostly symbols and pictures, for Angry Birds. The design was simple, which served to internationalize it, which served to popularize it. “Today there are a lot of visual paradigms that are better suited than displaying text”, said Setton. This example is exactly why we’ve seen more simple entertainment focused developers gain traction in the international market than any others.
Obviously, at GMIC-SV mobile Internet enthusiasts arrive from all corners of the world, so naturally our panelists gave some insight to international entrepreneurs targeting the U.S. Wirianto said when penetrating an international market “we have to ask ‘where are our power-users’?” Without those power-users you’ll have no one to drive your business. U.S. firms also find it difficult without partnerships, let alone collaboration. The proper marketing channels are also great tools for the product. Success is difficult to attain without the proper combination of these. For that reason, Renert warned that developers “shouldn’t assume that you can expand into the U.S. market right away. It is a tough market”.