To Succeed Globally, Do Your Homework, Say Experts

Lehi—When it comes to “going international,” there’s more to consider than just whether people in another country are interested in a product, said experts on the subject at the World Trade Center Utah’s Taking Utah Tech to the World Seminar Thursday.

The global market is ripe for export, especially with a growing middle class internationally with newfound disposable income burning in their pockets. This is especially true for tech, but it also applies to niche markets, said Craig Perry, a shareholder with Parr Brown, Gee, and Loveless, who had a “mom and pop” falconry business in Southern Utah that found huge success in the United Kingdom and Middle Eastern markets.

Some of the fastest-growing markets internationally can be found in Central and South America, said Cal Adams, a partner at Alta Ventures. Deregulation has opened a lot of opportunities in Mexico, he said, and Argentina’s business climate has been proving more and more favorable for international trade. Even Brazil, with its recent political upheaval, is a good pick for many industries, he said.

Across Latin America as a whole, birth rates are dropping and wages are rising, Adams said.

“The disposable income in Latin America is higher than across Asia,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity in those markets.”

Europe, too, is still a good bet, said Cody Broderick, founder of inWhatLanguage, though only time will tell how the Brexit vote impacts the European Union.

When a business is looking at expanding into a specific area, it can be useful to find local investors, people who know the area and have good local contacts that can also help the business grow, Adams said. When Alta Ventures expanded into Latin America, he said, the company invited 30 local families to invest in the company, which in turn provided the company with further opportunities beyond monetary support.

“It’s a lot of block and tackling. It’s a lot of hard work,” he said of expanding internationally.

Perry said businesses should take great care to trademark and otherwise protect their intellectual property before opening for business overseas. Because of the oft times tricky ins and outs of protecting intellectual property overseas, including the potential for registering a trademark to a local office rather than the company as a whole, businesses should be very careful and possibly get a professional to help them beforehand instead of trying to sort things out afterward, he said.

“It’s much better to pay a little attention to these things at the front,” he said.

Broderick said when marketing in a new country, businesses should be extremely careful that they have everything translated correctly. It pays to be familiar with the culture, as well, he said—how a product is presented and even what colors are used in its advertising can rub people the wrong way in another culture.

Along with different cultures come different priorities, Adams said. Pitching a product or means of rooting out corruption isn’t going to be well-received in an area where the majority of business and government leaders—perhaps including whomever is on the receiving end of the pitch—are corrupt.

“The assumptions you have sitting here in the U.S. generally won’t hold up in any other culture,” he said. “You have to throw out all of your assumptions.”

Don Willie, managing director of WTC Utah, said despite the challenges, expanding globally can not only help a company grow, but help it survive if the going gets tough in one region of the world.

“Even at the earliest stages of your business, make sure going international is in your long-term plan. Have that long-term goal to diversify around the globe,” he said. “If one market falters, you’ll have other markets to carry you through.”

You can also listen to a conversation between Boombox’s Owen Fuller and Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith from the summit here.