Starting a company is hard enough, but establishing a startup across different continents adds to the challenge. But that’s what my cofounders, Kristina Prokop and Trent Lloyd, and I did more than six years ago when we started Eyeota, the global leader for audience data, simultaneously in Singapore, Berlin, and Sydney.
Being a programmatic startup in EMEA and APAC was challenging. Eyeota was founded at a time when the ad tech landscape was changing and programmatic advertising was emerging. Seeing the need for audience targeting solutions, we set out to build an audience data marketplace to support the growth of programmatic and the range of marketing opportunities and beyond. Ambitious as we were, the market was still in its infancy, especially in those regions, and we were helping to break new ground on a global scale.
Fast forward six years and we recently opened our first U.S. location and our seventh office globally. Many people ask us why we started internationally in the first place. Their argument is that the U.S. is the most important and powerful market and businesses should start here before going overseas. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail before they’ve even had a chance to set foot in another state.
You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Starting a company internationally helps you to understand the expanse of the world. American companies think everything works like the U.S. because it’s big and homogenous. But they forget that people are very different outside of the U.S. So when they decide to expand internationally, the market can be unforgiving.
Building infrastructure in a new country needs to be done on a local level. Every single market you enter, people have different cultures, different habits, and different ways of doing things. As a data company, we know this firsthand. We are very careful developing local data sets and building segments so that our understanding of consumers, our data collection and our privacy adherences are on a local level. Everything from customs to business is done differently from region to region.
For example, in the U.S., business transactions are very upfront and direct. You have a discussion, you negotiate the best deal, and you’re done. Meanwhile, in the UK, you might have to take an agency out for drinks for a few weeks before you can earn and build that trust.
You can’t simply take an American paradigm and deploy it in Asia or the UK, just like you can’t take a German paradigm and deploy it in the U.S., Canada, or Japan. The world is different; the sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll be able to successful run a truly global business. Here are some global tips to help make the expansion smoother:
Pay Attention to Market Differences
The world is a big and diverse place. What will work in one region may not work in another. Understand the differences and nuances in societies, cultures, behaviors, practices, structure and localness. By better understanding your market on a local level, you’ll be able to operate more successfully.
Never Make Assumptions
Don’t assume that what has worked for you in other areas will work in other markets. To be successful in a new market, you need a tremendous amount of patience, understanding, and listening. You will learn a lot over time but there will always be something that arises that will surprise you.
Focus, Focus, Focus
At the onset, we focused heavily on data privacy and quality and ensured that we were adhering to each region’s data privacy and collection guidelines. We wanted to make sure that not only was our data accurate but that it was of the highest quality.
Partners are essential. We work with our partners (publishers and data suppliers) in a true collaborative effort, helping them turn their data into assets that they can monetize and build a business from.
Learn From Mistakes
Whether they’re yours or someone else’s, pay close attention. When we first started Eyeota, we wanted to build or business across the world in non-U.S. markets. At the time, the ad tech market in the U.S. was very commoditized and cluttered with companies venturing into the ad network space. Unfortunately, that sector experienced a decline.
Educate and Train
Hire smart people with the right attitude and basic skill sets, and you can train them and help build their experience as an asset. Although there was never any shortage of people who wanted to work with us, we had challenges finding the right people with the right experience when we first started. It was a new market so we invested in a lot of education and training.
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