The Startup's Guide to International Expansion

The number of new startups is growing rapidly around the world. An estimated 305 million startups are created each year. Some start in small countries and later move to the global market toward international expansion.

In the digital age, geographical barriers are no longer an impediment for growing companies. The internet connects the world and creates huge opportunities in the startup industry.

However, many startups that have the initial capital to grow may end up failing because they didn’t plan their strategy before going global with international expansion. The planning stage should start by asking questions about your business. Ask about its potential to reach international markets. Take a moment to think about the answers to these questions regarding finances, logistics, and business process improvement strategies.

Does Your Startup Have Potential to Go Global?

It’s easy to start making plans to expand your startup to other countries. However, you should know that not all startups have the same chance of thriving in international markets. Here are some startup characteristics to look out for to ensure proper international expansion.

  • Global vision. No matter how small your startup may initially be, the key to expanding to other countries is to think internationally. This depends on many factors, starting with your sales channel strategy. For example, online retail stores that don’t depend on local operations and can acquire global customers may be likely to expand successfully. 
  • Competitive nature. One of the risks of going global is that the world becomes your competitor. Before stepping into international markets, extensively research competition. This ensures you stand a chance against them. You may discover that remaining local is the best option for your business.
  • Solid revenue: Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it’s become harder to secure economic stability. Even if you think your business model has the potential to succeed internationally, wait until your startup is financially prepared for expansion.

Planning Stage Considerations

After taking a critical look at your business, you may decide that global expansion is a good idea for your startup. Then, it’s time to start planning.

Don’t rush through this part of the process. There are several factors to consider before transitioning. For example, you may use this time to find out what your key business processes are and start thinking globally about them.


Money is one of the primary reasons why startups fail. 29% of startups shut down their businesses because they run out of funding.

It’s extremely important for startups to plan their finances before expanding internationally. Establish a budget for international expansion. Consider any extra expenses and taxes involved. If you find that finances may be too tight, it’s best to postpone the expansion until your startup is financially ready. 


Even though your customers will be from all around the world, you still need to find the perfect location for your office. You should also designate a strategic destination for any necessary manufacturing plants if you produce your own products.

Picking a location is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Choosing one place over another will affect shipping costs, regulations, and manufacturing expenses. Therefore, take the time to consider every option.


Logistics include the transport, storage, and packaging of your products. This is not only based on the country you’re producing and dispatching from. Another determining factor of logistics to look into is international routes.

Carefully research any international laws and regulations involved in exporting your products to different countries. Don’t rush this process. Breaching any of these rules can have fatal consequences for your company’s finances and reputation.

Cultural Differences

At this point, you may be thinking that all you have to worry about is numbers and laws. However, there are other factors that are just as important. When you decide to expand your business internationally, you’re also exposing your brand and products to different cultures. 

This may mean implementing different language options into your website. Be ready to adapt your current marketing strategies to the specific countries and cultures you’re targeting. Having multicultural teams is great, too. This gives your startup access to diverse points of view and customs. 


In the early stages, many startups feel the urge to expand internationally. They want to get ahead of competitors, so they find ways to reach a wide audience as soon as possible.

As with any business decision, take the time to plan and strategize. Everything from finding your ideal marketing strategy or customer onboarding template takes time. Work on your finances and customer processes until you’re convinced you’re ready.  

Advantages of International Expansion

Though this guide stresses the risks of an international expansion, it can also benefit your business. From gaining recognition to boosting profits, the global market can be very generous to your startup if you do things right.

Increased Revenue 

You may have a very profitable local business, but global expansion really ups your game.

The larger your audience is the larger your chance of selling. Though the Covid-19 pandemic has hit business hard, a McKinsey study found that increased volatility and uncertainty have enabled growth in foreign exchange-related revenues

International Recognition

With great risk comes great reward. Making a name for yourself in your own city may be easy. However, being recognized internationally can be even more rewarding. If your business is successful in another country, your reputation can help you expand further in the future.

International Talent Pool

Finding the best employees to join your startup can be difficult. The process is easier for international companies because they have boundless access to talent from other countries. Expanding your business means that you can reach more candidates and gain access to global talent pools.

Start Planning Your Expansion

Following the steps detailed in this guide, you can secure a safe and stable international expansion. Moving from a local to a global market is never a risk-free transition, but when planned carefully it can help your startup grow faster than you could imagine.

Alister Esam is the CEO and Founder of Process Bliss, a workflow software that is reinventing how businesses execute day to day tasks. He is an expert in strategic planning, business process management, and business process optimization. Alister has more than 15 years of experience in helping businesses run at peak efficiency. He dedicates his career to make work easier, and more motivating for managers and employees alike. Connect with him on LinkedIn.