3 Lessons I’ve Learned Leading My Startup to Global Markets | Hacker Noon


Postoplan Hacker Noon profile picture


An AI-powered system for marketing automation in social networks to create and publish content in social media.

Unlike the inert corporations that take a long time to approve and implement any processes, startups enjoy unique opportunities to make their product global and quickly enter any market. Startups are more flexible, and they adapt to any audience quicker. The important thing is to know what you’ll need at the start of scaling your businesses. Let me share three important lessons that I’ve learned from my experience of working with 147 countries.

Universal UI/UX is not a myth

Entering global markets is difficult because your product must be liked by everyone, therefore you should keep your product’s potential markets in mind right from the start.

First, organize focus groups. This is precisely what we did: we used Upwork to contact 10 marketing professionals from different countries (Spain, United States, UK, and so on), tested the interface with them prior to the launch, and recorded all their comments. There were some differences, of course, but we gleaned some common insights as well. Using these insights, we adapted the interface to find a common denominator while keeping the cross-cultural differences in mind. 

Such tests are important because if you make an app for the U.S. market, it may prove to be not user-friendly for the European one. For the Asian or Arabic market, such an interface might end up being completely baffling. Quantifying Visual Preferences Around the World research does a great job demonstrating in full detail how different countries vary in their preferences for the visuals and the color scheme. There are cultural sensitivities to keep in mind as well (such as the different interpretations of the same gesture), so you really need to study every market in detail to find ways to avoid any potential troubles.

Creating a product that will be equally liked in the U.S., England, and Australia is practically impossible. The users’ mentality in each of the countries has pretty much been set in stone, while your startup is only now appearing on the international market. This is why everyone looks up to Airbnb, Bolt, and Uber as the most successful case studies.

Second, use the design patterns that follow certain established rules. For example, a link must always be underlined, and in any country, the user will know that they must tap there to open a page in a new window. Settings are always located in the top right corner, so don’t move that item down just because you want to – the new users are unlikely to find it, because there are straightforward navigation patterns that are already in place.

There are growth opportunities in all 195 countries  

Don’t limit yourself to the United States as your only market. Even if you want to become Silicon Valley’s best-known startup, there are different ways of getting there. Looking for your entry point, consider all the countries and winnow the list down using your personal criteria. Look at the market size and the size of your specific segment, look at the audience. Personally, we discovered the Spanish-speaking market as our growth and reference point that we used to scale our business. And we were based out of Estonia, which was named the best country for startups in 2018.

Choose the markets that fit your criteria and begin to test the process of building an audience. Thanks to Facebook and its targeting capabilities, such things can be done almost free of charge. Don’t create an MVP for each market. We set up targeted advertising in 15 different countries at once and got very different results. In the US, for example, the cost of customer acquisition was very high, and in India, we got excellent feedback and cost of registration, but the rate of conversion to paying users was low. In the end, we chose the Spanish-speaking market.

Don’t be afraid to hire local consultants who know everything about the market to help you choose which ones to test. They will give you pointers that you wouldn’t find on your own: for example, in India, everyone uses local services and it’s very important to enable local payment systems. And this is more of a cultural issue than a matter of preference. Or the fact that WhatsApp is Mexico’s most popular messenger. You can find this information on your own, but first, you need to know what to look for, and second, you’ll lose lots of valuable time in the process.

A Multicultural team is an important part of your success    

This point is directly related to the things we discussed earlier. You must hire local experts because they know a lot about the specific market. About its laws, legal and financial intricacies, cultural nuances, and overall mentality. All of these are important for a startup to learn about its audience and preserve its good reputation. Without knowing the specifics of the local laws, it’s possible to make a critical mistake in the process of financial transactions or registering the company and launching your business. If you don’t hire experts from different countries, you are unlikely to create a truly successful product.

The second reason why you need a multicultural team as you scale your operations is that users want to have support 24/7. This is difficult to do if you work in New York and New Delhi, but all your users are in Moscow and London. Our employees live in 18 different countries spread over the globe. This is done precisely so that we can ensure constant live user support.

The ideal situation is when your developers speak the languages of your markets of presence. A developer who only speaks English will have a hard time adapting the product for Spanish-speaking audiences. Try to break down your teams and their supervisors by country.

A multicultural team entails remote work, and that type of operation has its own aspects to consider. Remote work can be effective, but only if you have a clear understanding of how your operations are organized and how to monitor all the processes. Excess of control forces employees to resign, and its lack leads to problems with performance. Make sure to spend enough time finding the optimal arrangement for working with your team and the best tools for communication and performance monitoring.

Also Featured In



Join Hacker Noon