The Y Combinator folks are on a roll with another great post, this time on Going Global With Your Startup.
- Fulfilling international orders is still surprisingly complicated and expensive
- If you’re opening an office in a new country, put someone who already knows your company well in charge of that process
- Anywhere you have employees, you need an accountant and a lawyer
- Work visas are complicated, expensive, and stressful
- You’re going to need to get on an airplane sometimes
There is lots more detail and good advice in the post so you should read the whole thing. (I’ll wait…)
I have taken a software company global in both directions – first a company started in Europe (Ireland) that expanded into the United States, and then my current company Qstream, which started here in Boston and then expanded into Europe (Ireland and the UK.)
I have no experience with #1 because my companies have never made physical products. (Technically I guess that is not quite true because my first company was long enough ago that we originally shipped the product on 3.5″ floppy disks and later on CDs. Good times. Good times.)
However, I have dealt with #2 through #5 extensively and strongly agree with the recommendations. I have spoken to groups of entrepreneurs and individuals in the past about going global and you can definitely short-circuit learning a lot of lessons the hard way by talking to someone who has done it.
It is still remarkably complicated to set-up and run a business in multiple locations, particularly for a start-up that is resource constrained. You also need people who know the local culture, customs and laws. If you can get the balance right (don’t rush to do it, take it slow, one country at a time) then it can be a big competitive advantage.