[“How To Take Your Startup Across The Pond” originally appeared on Inc. and is written by Jeff Barrett.]
Taking any company across the pond is a risky business, best carried out with a cool head, united team and a lot of research. When it comes to fintech in particular, people tend to be sensitive about their money. Consumers overseas may not be as willing to part with their cash to an unknown entity as they would in the States. Blindly punching in credit card details isn’t common in all parts of the globe.
Plowing into a new market without adequately reading up and seeking local advice is like belly flopping into a bottomless swimming pool. If your startup is showing signs of second phase growth and it’s time to take it international, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Learn the lingo
No one’s expecting you as company CEO to step out of your area of expertise and brush up on your French or German skills, before selling to customers in these markets. But, they are expecting your company to. According to the Common Sense Advisory, 87 percent of consumers who can’t read English won’t buy from an English-speaking website.
If customers can’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t trust you enough to buy it. That goes double when it comes to installing a payment platform, transferring money, or any other area requiring fintech solutions.
UK fintech company, TransferWise, was set up to save individual customers and business owners from paying hefty bank fees and inflated conversion rates when transferring money abroad. Valued at $1.1 billion, with an investor list including the likes of Peter Thiel, Max Levchin and Richard Branson, TransferWise understands the importance of localizing their assets to their target country.
Detecting the right language in the main countries they do business, customers can see the entire version of the website in their own language. This increases confidence by crafting a message that speaks to the audience on a local level, with local currency, date and time formats and images.
Get ready for cultural differences
Many US companies make the mistake of believing that there are no significant cultural differences between the UK and the US. After all, the language is the same, they’re our greatest political allies and they have a similar outlook on life. Okay, so you might fail to grasp every word they’re saying, especially if it’s in a bar. But it’s hardly the same as learning how low you have to bow to your counterparts in South Korea, or the appropriate dress for a business meeting in the United Arab Emirates.
UK/US cultural differences tend to be more subtle, yet equally as important. Take self-promotion, for example, something very common in the US. Companies and people are encouraged to sell themselves and their strengths, tout the prowess of their business and general personal acumen. However, in the UK, self-promotion is not only discouraged, but it’s pretty much taboo. According to Andy Molinsky, writing for the Harvard Business Review, when working in Britain there should be: “No embellishment and certainly no grandstanding. In fact, if self-promotion is an art in the U.S., the corresponding art in the UK is self-deprecation.”
This is important to remember when it comes to crafting your company message, marketing materials and advertising campaigns. WePay’s infamous marketing stunt at a 2010 PayPal conference in San Francisco was certainly memorable and hugely successful.
They blamed their competitor for freezing customer accounts and dropped a 600 pound block of ice with frozen money inside. While this saw a 300 percent increase in weekly traffic, in some parts of the world — the European Union included — this kind of comparative advertising is actually illegal and can lead to hefty fines.
Make use of local resources
Making use of local resources can play a key part in the success of your international venture. In fact, finding out about the availability and incentives provided by local institutions and government before you go should be a vital part of your research strategy. YapStone, a payments provider, processes more than $17 billion annually. Access to assistance and information from local institutions was vital to them when setting up their international office in Drogheda, Ireland.
The company was able to take advantage of new legislation in Ireland that provides a competitive operating environment for Fintech companies. This includes taxation breaks and a low corporate tax rate of just 12.5 percent. They also partnered with regulatory institutions, including the IDA, American Chamber of Commerce and local Chamber of Commerce to get help and support while setting up on a foreign shore.
Know about key legislation that applies to your business
This can take on many forms, so it’s important to examine any and all that apply to your sector. From corporate taxation to employee benefits, consumer protection to data protection laws, you’ll need to be informed. The battle between South Korean Fintech companies and Apple over Apple Pay still continues. As Apple is threatened with legal action for supposedly violating the South Korean Telecommunications Business Act.
Taking your startup overseas isn’t easy, but it’s definitely achievable if you keep in mind the differences between local markets. Make the most of local resources and on-the-ground talent, and make sure you don’t violate any laws or ruffle too many feathers as you continue your path to industry disruption. You want your company to be talked about for all the right reasons, not as a case study of an epic international flop.