June 30, 2021

Dream Big – 5 Reasons Startups Should Think About Internationalization Early

Written by German Accelerator

The world needs good ideas to solve many challenges, and your startup could very well provide the answer. So look beyond the domestic market, and you may find lucrative business opportunities overseas.

In fact, German startups have been bringing some of the most innovative solutions to markets across the globe – from process mining (Celonis) to mobile banking (N26). It is no wonder that Germany is often placed among the leading startup scenes in the world, with Berlin ranked as Europe’s top city for startups and Munich among the top 10 startup hubs in the Continent.

Other startup trailblazers include Flixbus, which revolutionized intercity travel within Europe and has since expanded across countries and continents, from Munich to Manhattan. Online fashion retailer Zalando also became an international e-commerce fashion empire after International expansion became central to its growth.

With increasingly more startups expanding overseas early, leaving your comfort zone and planning for international exposure ahead of time might be the key to achieving sustainable growth – just like the ‘born global’ startups that are poised to operate internationally right from the start.

Quote from the text about internationalization by Matthias Notz

“It is never too early to think about internationalization. You need to plan ahead by thinking about your global expansion goals even before you start your business – it could be something as simple as considering where the biggest market opportunities for your product are, or aligning expansion goals with stakeholders from the start,” said Matthias Notz, CEO of German Accelerator.

“Once you are set on going global, it’s important to acknowledge that different markets have different needs. It is important to think about the gaps and opportunities in oversea markets from the very beginning.”

So while you may have created a winning product that you can’t wait to introduce to the 84-million strong German market, it might very well have a greater demand and product-market fit overseas. The U.S., for instance, has a market four times the size of Germany (331 million), while Southeast Asia is home to some 675 million people – or more than 5.5 times that of Germany.

Here are five reasons startups should start planning their internationalization journey early:

1. Internationalization takes time

Venturing overseas can be an extremely challenging endeavor, so start the process sooner than you think you should, and make it a priority.

When preparing for international expansion, do your research ahead of time, be prepared and learn fast. Also, ensure that you have the essential abilities, talent, and resources to embark on the process.

“The sooner you start to work on the basics and make critical decisions, the easier it will be for you to actually scale internationally once you’re ready,” shared Dr. Christopher Smolka, Program Director of German Accelerator’s Kickstart International program.

“It is important to lay down the foundations and make internationalization decisions early to make the journey abroad smoother and the chances of success higher.”

2. Embracing a global vision is key to success

Don’t be afraid to think big from early on, for international success starts with big, bold dreams. It is not just about the founder’s mindset – be transparent about your plans and get the entire team on board to properly prepare them to work in an international setting. Everyone must think big, be open to an international company, and adopt a global mentality into their everyday work.

Also, dreams alone are pointless unless you set goals and take action. Only then can you start to realize your internationalization dreams and find success overseas.

3. You might miss the boat

As an entrepreneur, you may need to take that leap of faith into the deep end – and that includes jumping into the next new market to discover and leverage business opportunities that your domestic market lacks.

Don’t hesitate or delay the overseas move. There is no moment to lose, or it might be too late to seize opportunities once other competitors enter the foreign market. And who knows, they may enter your home ground next and become a threat to your business.

4. Leverage your early-stage momentum

Momentum can be everything in a startup – keep it up and ride on your high energy levels by assessing your internalization potential early. After all, new startup ventures and first-time entrepreneurs are often very passionate and adrenaline-driven at the start. This could be a golden opportunity to enjoy first-mover advantages such as building a strong global brand and customer loyalty.

Shelving internationalization plans may slow things down and cause you and your team to get too comfortable in your home market, making it more difficult to get going.

5. Your product could fare better overseas

Your product or idea could be a better fit or enjoy a higher demand in a foreign market. A novel way of sending money internationally affordably via a money remittance app might just do better in a foreign country with a higher proportion of foreign labor, for instance.

Being a success story overseas can also help build your brand and win over the home market. In addition, startups that build a global business early are better able to anticipate and hedge against foreign competitors in the German market.

To Summarize: Five Reasons Startups Should Think About Internationalization Early

1. Internationalization takes time
2. Embracing a global vision is key to success
3. You might miss the boat and let competitors gain an advantage
4. Leverage your early-stage momentum
5. Your product could fare better overseas

Five Reasons Startups Should Think About Internationalization Early from the text

Don’t let your fears or worries derail your dreams of going international. We understand the latest trends and best practices, and know the needs and priorities of startups that want to venture overseas.

Startups can get a head start on their internationalization journey via our Kickstart International Program. We will help you make critical early decisions on product, market, and business models to improve your growth trajectories for success on an international level.

The world is your playing field – go for it!