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.
- Find a Common Interest. People connect with someone who shares a similar interest whether it be cartoons, sports, video games, tech innovation, sailing, or brewing beer. We tend to like people that are similar to us which makes feeling a connection that much easier. Discussing your shared interests will help make your next lunch and future interactions flow smoothly.
- Repeat, Approve, and Relate. Most people like to know the person sitting across the table is engaged in the conversation. You can show you’re listening by briefly summarizing what they said (repeat), make a suggestion that you agree (approve), and relating it to a personal experience (relate). This strategy can be very effective at showing you’re engaged but it can also come across as a little fake when overused.
- Don’t be afraid to Swear. The LIGHT use of curse words can set a casual mood and make it easier for your lunchmate to relate. Guy Kawasaki covers this in his most recent book, Enchantment, and recommends you: swear infrequently, when you can’t control it, when the audience supports it, and if you keep it tame. He also emphasizes that swearing can be a huge risk so look for cues from your match before dropping a shittake…definitely avoid the F-bomb.
Above all else, be yourself. People find it easier to relate to someone who is genuine. Feel free to share your rapport building tips in the comments and help us improve the networking experience with your tweets and shares.
Now you’ll be able to select one of your zones during the scheduling process based on where you’ll be.
Be sure to let us know what you think about the new feature and don’t forget to schedule your next LetsLunch.
- Be visible and relevant. Frequently update your social profiles, tweet on a relevant topic, blog, and even consider producing a quarterly personal newsletter. Being consistently visible to your network increases the likelihood of your contacts offering suggestions or providing opportunities. Be careful not to over share as some people will lose interest or miss your important updates which could do more harm than good.
- Target individuals. Make a habit of contacting and following up with a specific number of contacts per week. Being visible is great but being personal is invaluable. Having direct contact by phone or email lets you connect directly with the individual and makes them feel more obliged to help you.
- Give, Give, Give. Michael Roderick, a NYC LetsLuncher, blogs on business strategies which includes his G.A.T.E. strategy where the G stands for Give. Always look to suggest connections, potential partnerships, or new job opportunities that will benefit your contacts. How often do you come across jobs that you aren’t qualified for but you know someone who’d be perfect? Not only does this help your contact but it also shows your potential employer that you have the company’s best interest in mind. These gestures will build rapport with your contacts and will make asking favors easier in the future.
Frequent contact is a key to maintaining a strong network which is ultimately the difference between success and obscurity. Feel free to share your thoughts on maintaining your network by leaving comments below.
Our VIPs are expected to provide one hour per month to lunch with one of our premier users. The lunch will be a unique opportunity for the LetsLunch user to network with someone who can help them find capital, gain publicity for their product, or find a partner to build their company. VIPs have the ability to specify the type of users they meet based on their interests (cloud computing, Web 2.0, complex derivatives), employment (marketer, banker, entrepreneur), or anyone with a solid reputation score. Most VIPs are passionate about being mentors to the next class of entrepreneurs which is why we hope you’re ready to bring your networking A-game. We always tell our users to focus on building the relationship first rather than making the sale; this way both parties can get the most out of this unique meeting.What makes these Lunchers premier? Each month we select them based on their reputation score. Their score is a product of their Luncher feedback and social reputation (number of followers, experience, skills, etc). We also require them to have a minimum of 4 lunches per month and perfect attendance to be considered. Therefore the Lunchers are selected based on merit rather than who’s willing to pay for the experience. This ensures the lunch will be valuable for both the VIP as well as the Luncher.
Think you have what it takes to become a LetsLunch VIP? Email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can determine if you’re worthy.
- Consider reviewing the restaurants menu in advance so you know what to order before you get there. This will increase the time for telling your story or pitching an idea rather than selecting the right Maki Roll.
- Review your match’s Linkedin profile and be especially familiar with their company. If your partner doesn’t have to spend 15-20 minutes explaining their business model, they can spend it understanding how they can help you.
- Put the iphone away. We all know we’re incredible multi-taskers, despite what studies say, but spend your hour focused on the conversation and drawing connections to your network. You’ll get more out of the meeting and make a better impression with your match.
Hopefully these tips will help you maximize the value of your next LetsLunch.
Feel free to share your time saving advice in the comments.
Those of you that Like us on Facebook have been well informed of our latest features. If you don’t like us yet…why not? We’ve been very busy over the summer perfecting the Letslunch user experience by adding features and tweaking the scheduling process. We didn’t want to let that hard work go unrecognized so here’s a post to keep our blog community in the know.
The first suite of changes were designed to let users find each other easily on the site and to move towards a Letslunch world that’s a little less random. Users can now see each others Lunch Radius, Upcoming Open Lunches, and add others to their Wish List. These changes will help users get lunches with people they find interesting and lead to a decentralized matching process. It will also help ensure you get more relevant lunches but don’t rule out our algorithm’s ability to introduce you to great people.
The second batch improved the scheduling process by allowing users to reschedule a lunch rather than canceling and to change their lunch venue. Speaking of venues, we’ve increased the list of restaurant suggestions to help you find the right place.
We’ve also addressed how you communicate and share contact information with your Lunch Match. Your email and phone number can now be automatically exchanged through our scheduling emails. Pump the breaks Anonymous…we also added new privacy features which allow you to control if this information is shared. See the screenshots below to learn how to keep your contact information private and to find out about our other great privacy features.
Access your privacy settings from your LetsLunch profile page:
Select the “Privacy Tab”:
Don’t forget, you can always anonymously text your lunch mate if you’d prefer that method of communication.