LetsLunch launched in Italy with explosive media coverage! We had mentions on national television, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Millionaire Magazine, and received thriving social buzz all over Italy.
Here is the repost from our Guest post at business insider http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-take-your-startup-international-without-breaking-the-bank-2011-12
Here are the lessons from our experience.
Sometimes you get overwhelming demand to launch your startup internationally. Postpone it! Do not attempt to launch at a location foreign to you until you have gained traction in one city/country, and thus, avoid the hassles of extra paperwork, managing human capital, exploring the unknown territories, etc. But startups are all about exceptions and breaking the status quo, sometimes you should and can launch internationally in the early stage of your startup. The biggest challenge is how to handle paperwork and risk trusting people who may have the potential to ruin your startup with a badly managed launch.
Note: I am not advocating that you should launch internationally and lose the focus locally. However, I am talking about the possibility of adding 2 extra work hours a day and result in having a great international launch under your resume.
When a potential country has lot of cultural fit for your product, you will definitely receive a lot of inbound requests from people there interested in helping you bring your startup over.
Don’t dismiss any of those emails and requests.
At this moment, check for two things from these individuals…1: Altitude and 2: Attitude
Altitude is pretty easy to gauge. I used a template of 5 questions to ask [mostly from Paul Graham's essays] and emailed every one of them saying we would love to have them get involved.
- Any ideas to help users find us?
- Why are you the right person to do this?
- What’s your marketing plan with targets, goals, and deadlines?
- What are the promotional strategies you have in mind? PR campaigns ideas, community outreach, manage local social media, etc.
- Will you be recruiting people to work with you and then manage them?
Ask those questions nicely and the response you get will give you insights on how smart they are. They need not give you all the perfect answers but it will give you an idea of how they think and if you can work with the person. Later on you can throw in your own plan, insights, and guidance accordingly.
Now is where their trust towards you comes into play. You trust them to launch and execute your business abroad, and they agree to be temporarily working without pay and taking the risks is necessary. This type of deal will only be accepted by those who believe in your idea enough to take the risk. They’re the cream of the crop. You wouldn’t have this luxury if you are funded and are paying someone to do it. The strength of their belief in your vision will not compare to the person who passes the test above.
Once they pass these filters, it’s the time to discuss money, bring in paperwork, title task, ect.
I always tell them that we can do a simple revenue sharing agreement for that market, consider legal paperwork, register the local company in the situation of earning more than 100k revenue abroad, or discuss the potential of local investors coming in.
After this, give them a business card, company email, access to local social media accounts, and setup the first goal. For us it was 2000 signups before the launch through our coming soon page. That will be the end of most of the work for you and from now on you just need to email them about their progress [not of signups], watch for local media articles, and mid way through the progress, come up with an official launch date. Only do this after you’ve seen great progress, otherwise inform the country manager that you might not even launch and the shared effort will bring nothing if it doesn’t meet the launch goals.
Once the rubber meets the road and you see the progress.
Motivation slightly goes down here so i often send couple of videos (ABC by Alec Baldwin) and have them look at eveything top down : why are we doing the startup> to make a million dollar> how do we get it-by having 100,000 paying customers> how do we have those customers by having a million non paying customer> how do we get them> …..
There are various things you can do to keep them motivated, top down analysis, bottom down, beginners eye, going fast vs going in the wright direction, short terms vs long term > 10,000 ft view vs daily grind.
Have them also work on getting additional people involved to delegate some work and gain new leverage.
When we were launching in Italy we had 4 people working for us. They even found an incubator who agreed to give them an office space. Thanks to the booming incubator culture you will be able to find one in every city of the world. And the smaller the scene, the more the help they will provide.
If you follow the above and with a bit of luck, you will have a booming launch. Now the work will start post launch towards reaching those xxxxxx no of users. Whatever your goal or the revenue may be.
What will be our first stop on this world tour? The wine-rich shores of Italy, where business lunch meetings aren’t just standard, they’re part of the culture. Italy is the land of two hour lunches where relationships get started and business deals are made. We couldn’t have asked for a better petri dish to test our service on the international scene. We couldn’t have asked because you asked us. Of all the suggestions we received for places to grow, Italy was the resounding winner. Countless visitors and fans have been begging for a launch in Italy and some evangelists have even partnered with us to make this dream a reality. They’ve also helped us get covered by Italy’s tech media The buzz has been remarkable.