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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Especially If You Are Trying to Build a Mobile App with International Appeal

The Mobile juggernaut is not stopping and has grabbed the attention of entrepreneurs and technologists worldwide.

We also know, however, that making the leap from a startup to a global company with growth worldwide is easier said than done.  In todays app ecosystem, the top apps in a country usually come from outside that country. Is this optional or essential? The panel at GMIC SV this weekend had some interesting insights.

Almost universally, the panel participants felt that it is absolutely essential to launch in multiple markets even if you might be building the product initially for one market.

Launch everywhere …. And see what happens

Eric Setton, CTO of Tango noted that  many companies are reluctant to launch and wait for everything to be perfect. But the way to have the biggest growth is to make sure there are no boundaries. Entrepreneurs should not feel shy about their  product and launch everywhere.  The amazing thing is that you can have a 10 person startup operate like a global company with a dozen data centers across the world.

Be visual from the get go

If you want your apps to have international appeal, visual paradigms are better suited than text. Use pictograms and symbols everybody understands, and this will reduce the burden of translation with the additional benefit of making it easier for people to use.

Encourage company diversity

Its important to have a diverse international team who can help with local perspectives. Tango for example has people from more than a dozen countries. These different perspectives help guide product direction.

Be quick to capitalize on breaks

You never know what sorts of breaks you might get. Doug Renert, Partner at Tandem Capital cautions companies not to start out focusing internationally. Focus on a local market, optimize for that group, but launch everywhere and see what happens. For example, their investment in the Zumodrive (like iCloud is these days) sync utility, which was No.1 in the US market, is now the No. 1 free app in Japan with high ranking in South Korea and others even though it was available only in English. This caught their attention and they got partnerships from Motorola, HP, Lenovo to subsidize localization. Tango had a similar experience.

Regarding advice to entrepreneurs, Danny Wirianto, Founder of Mindtalk asked entrepreneurs to not spread themselves too thin, but focus on a region. For example, Southeast Asia has 180M mobile users and is growing rapidly. If you are in that region, do not automatically target the US as a first market.

Other advice from the panelists was to partner with a powerful partner if you can: Telcos, cell phone manufacturers, and others: all of these can do wonders for your company’s recognition. Having collaborations with many startups also helps you become part of the ecosystem and get adopted faster.

Above all, be passionate in creating value for the users, and remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!


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