At Stripe they firmly believe great companies come from everywhere. Which is why they’ve built the Stripe Atlas platform, making it easier for great companies from around the world to expand into the US. Through developing this platform, and growing globally themselves, they’ve learnt a few things. Here are the top five lessons on going global with Sarah Heck, Stripe’s Head of Entrepreneurship.
Don’t (necessarily) Go For The Obvious Choice.
There are lots of different markets that look appealing as either large markets or similar ones to the markets you’re already operating in. However some of the most successful markets for Stripe have been the smaller or less obvious ones. Singapore is a good example of this; a market that seems small, but is actually quite the opposite. Many countries in the Southeast Asia region use Singapore as their hub of operations, therefore being in Singapore gives you access to the whole region. So sometimes making the non-obvious choice for your company makes a lot of sense.
Invent Your Own Signals.
When looking at markets you need to look beyond the obvious metrics everyone else is using, like GDP, population, or language. It’s important to pick the right metrics for your business and market. Stripe has a strong brand with developers and startups, so look towards things like the number of GitHub accounts in a certain market, or the number of startups on Crunchbase. They invented some of their own signals like which IP address locations were being logged, and the countries where people were frequently tweeting about pain points around payments or economic infrastructure. Or where people were notifying them when they launched their companies. These things got them much closer to the actual latent demand that exists for their product than the more mainstream signals would have.
It Takes Longer Than You Expect
Launching in a new market will always take longer than you expect, whether it’s because of regulation, time zone, language or something else. Everything gets slowed down, even for the fastest moving companies. Stripe overcame this by running really long beta periods, which has worked well. They launch in beta and test very rapidly, working closely with a small set of users to make sure the product is really tailored for the market. Then only when they’re super competitive do they go from beta to a public version. Despite requiring a long runway it gave them confidence that they’d be successful when launching publicly.
The First Person Makes or Breaks a Market
Every company needs to find their Batman. Finding the right person to start in a new market will really make a difference. Stripe have found generalists who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into everything make the best first hires in a new market. You have to think about everything from building a prototype of the company to thinking about how you do sales. You have to be a jack of all trades. Being out there alone making it all happen can be really difficult, so you really have to find the right personality for that.
Build an Organizational Structure To Empower You From Day One
Lastly, Stripe has worked really hard to build an organizational structure that empowers local markets from day one. How do you empower teams, especially early on, to make sure they can operate relatively autonomously? When you’re thinking about timezones and language, how can you make sure the people on the ground who really understand the local market are empowered to do their job? Allow them to dig into the details of what will be most successful in the market, and what is needed to achieve product market fit. Later on, as markets mature, you can bring them back into the fold of HQ in different ways. But make sure that they’re empowered in the beginning.
Kiwi Landing Pad
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.