Insights from LSE alumnus Rafie Faruq (Class of 2014) who has gone on to co-found the charitable fundraising platform GivTree:
Startups grow in phases. Sometimes this is defined by investment rounds or revenue brackets and one such phase is approaching international markets.
Having successfully completed our first campaign in the UK, GivTree is now expanding across borders for the next phase. GivTree is a charitable fundraising platform that uses a chain reaction of donations to harness the power of collective action. Here are some tips we have learned along the way:
When taking your startup abroad, what’s easier than joining forces with one that is already there? For example, by fundraising for a charity called Peace Brigades International, we’ve been able to help human rights defenders in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico. Different businesses have different comparative advantages, so use the experience of existing organisations. Most people are happy to give advice.
It’s always useful to have employees from other countries with foreign languages. Moreover, if you can get some experience abroad, it will greatly improve your value as an employee. International markets vary greatly. In the third sector for example, charitable activity thrives in countries like the US, New Zealand and Sri Lanka according to the World Giving Index, but other countries have comparatively little activity. So choose your employees accordingly, and as a potential employee, decide which markets to gain experience in.
Understand the legal landscape
Budget some time to adjust your business to the various legal jurisdictions abroad. Then multiply it by three. Startups (particularly in the UK) might take for granted the relatively smooth legal structures that allow us to bootstrap small businesses however this is not the case everywhere. We noticed that the frameworks around handling payments abroad, whether that is digitally, via mobile or directly through banks, vary greatly. But traversing these legal challenges successfully will make your startup harder to replicate and more valuable.
Expanding your business abroad usually comes after settling in the domestic market. If you’ve gotten far enough to prove your model in one place, you’ll be in a great position to challenge other regions.