Skip to main content

Session Digest: Scaling Globally, the Keys to Success

Posted at: 03.18.2024in category:Session Digests
From cultural fails to unexpected successes, we digest the key moments from our recent New York and London VivaTech Startup Meetups. What would our panelists do differently if they had a rewind button when embarking on their global expansion?

Scaling globally visual

Make a Cultural Impact

Matt Cooper is the co-CEO of Crowdcube, a crowdfunding investment platform that’s raised over 1.4 billion pounds in the last 10 years for its clients and has successfully gone from a local solution to a global operation all over Europe.

Matt implores startups to take culture into account when expanding beyond their own borders.

“When you start a business, your company’s core values are very culturally aligned to the values of where you operate and where the founders are from. If you're a British business, you have predominantly British values.

“We began to understand that different societies are perhaps high context versus low context, and what that means is when you're communicating as a team, you can actually be having very different conversations.

“When you think you're being explicit as a CEO in your message to a team in Paris or a team in Stockholm, the context in which they take that conversation is entirely different from the way you try to deliver it.

“You can't change your values. They are based on how you are raised, your parents, and your social group. But what we can do is work on behaviors. It’s one of the important things that we got wrong in the first instance but I now think we get quite right.

“So really be aligned with what behaviors you expect from your team but be aware of the fact that the cultural differences can create misalignment.”

London panel of speakers London VivaTech Tour panelists. Photo credit: VivaTech

Find Local Solutions

Hasna Kourda, co-founder and CEO of Save Your Wardrobe, was the winner of last year’s LVMH Innovation Award at VivaTech 2023. Since then, the startup has expanded its sustainability fashion tech beyond its home market.

Hasna encourages other expanding startups to search for local solutions to make the transition easier.

“Brexit was quite a big pain point for our growth. The UK was settling and trying to differentiate from regulations but also ways of working with the EU so we had to adapt to that. And so Germany became really fast our first market even before the UK. We started to headquarter there, but we had to travel back and forth, understand taxation laws and accounting and we found more reasons not to set up an office there.

“What we did instead was find other local startups to work with that would take those hassles from us, that knew the culture way better than we could. So instead of investing in having an office in Germany and having a local team, we outsourced it.

“While managing a very tight budget with a pre-seed round you can't do much. So we had to make sure that we were not overspending but also being in the same space as the client we wanted as targets.”

Know Your Budget

Richard Kotite is the Vice President at Accel, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Palo Alto, California that’s backed over 25 unicorns since its beginnings, including Spotify and Meta when they were young.

Richard's advice for European businesses that are thinking about expanding to the US is to understand the cost. “Do a lot of homework in advance and avoid making costly mistakes. Launching into the US is very expensive.”

“For hiring talent, it is probably twice as expensive in high-cost cities like San Francisco or New York. You have to think okay am I ready to actually make that investment to move into the US? It doesn't make sense in the seed stage when you're at pre-product market fit or if you don't have the resources.”

“Also, know that the competitive dynamics are oftentimes very different in the US versus your local market. Your product may be working for you in the UK or France, but may not necessarily pass well into the US. You have to be very intentional about crafting the product strategy to adapt to the US market.”

NYC panelists on stage New York VivaTech Tour panelists. Photo credit: VivaTech

Find Success in Failure

Max Rivera, Global Expansion Lead & Partnerships at Snap Inc., was hired at Snap eight years ago to help the American company expand to Latin America. After a rocky ride, but eventual success, Max created the playbook for the company for its expansions beyond the LATAM markets and into Europe and the Middle East.

“International expansion is risky business. You should look at it as a high-risk endeavor and go in with a mindset of getting something out of it even if you fail.

“So go in with a plan. Test the market. Reduce the risk as much as possible. But most importantly, figure out how you can develop lessons. Can you develop a playbook? Can you learn something from that experience and apply it as you go further? So that even if this expansion fails, don’t have an aversion to international expansion or completely rule out a country or region just because you didn't make it the first time.

“Try to extract those learnings. It took us some time to realize that and to really learn things even in failed endeavors.”

François Bitouzet talking at NYC panel Francois Bitouzet, VivaTech’s Managing Director, at the New York VivaTech Tour. Photo credit: VivaTech

Go Time

Whether you’re a startup that’s already started scaling, or just starting your homework, Richard leaves us with this reminder: “There's nothing that really prepares you for [expanding internationally] no matter how many panels you listen to or advisers that you talk to. You just need to be on the ground and learn for yourself.”

Looking to expand outside your market? Join us at VivaTech 2024 this 22-25 May and meet with investors, major corporations, and the leaders of tech from over 174 countries to start making your global connections.

Share this

Related articles