You've Established a Successful Start-up, Now What?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Andy McLoughlin
  |  November 04, 2013

As a growing start-up, expanding your business internationally is far from easy, as well as a significant investment. Regardless of how successful you are on your home turf, don’t expect to jump off the plane and be welcomed with open arms by the local press, find yourself a trendy loft apartment and hire your team in the space of a few weeks. The reality is that it’s hard work, and tech start-ups considering taking the plunge should always (always!) ask themselves: Is international expansion really necessary?

Do Your Homework

The first step is to sit down and establish whether at this point in your business it’s worth the time, expense and distraction. If international expansion is genuinely worth the effort, you need to ensure that the foundations for your business are in place well before you open your new office doors. In my case, by the time I relocated to San Francisco with Huddle, I’d been visiting the West Coast five or six times a year for the previous couple of years. By spending time familiarizing yourself with the local technology market, influencers and the culture, you’ll be much better prepared to hit the ground running.

Communication and More Communication

One of the challenges that comes with international expansion is maintaining effective communication with your team. Naturally, it’s easy to hold the assumption that everyone in your company knows what’s going on when you’re all in one location. However, when employees are thousands of miles away, you have to assume that people may not be as in the loop as you think. As such, you need to take action in driving the communication between offices. No surprise, I’m a big fan of taking full advantage of collaboration technology, including online collaboration for documents and knowledge sharing, IM, and videoconferencing. The more you can get out of and away from e-mail as your primary communication tool, the better.

The New 9-to-5

To keep communication flowing across time zones, you’ll find that it’s important to get into a regular rhythm that fosters real-time interactions. For example, I reserve my early mornings for communicating with colleagues in London. Setting regular meetings with your team and sticking to them can help make sure everyone remains in the loop and accountable, no matter where they are located.

Know the Risks

The biggest risk businesses take when they expand, internationally or otherwise, is growing too fast. Often times, companies decide to expand without having the revenue (or funding!) to grow properly or, worse, don’t maintain the quality of early employees. Then they end up losing the company culture that the business was founded on.

The right time to expand is all based on cold, hard cash.  If you’re growing as the business grows, as soon as you have the money to hire, you do it. If your business is looking to attract venture capital, suddenly expansion can happen much faster and therefore, you need to be really clear on where you want to place that investment. If international expansion is a priority, it’s important to partner with investors that have a firm understanding of the region you are expanding into, and can help facilitate key introductions and offer meaningful guidance.

Drive Innovation Regardless of Location

You have a vision and you need to do everything you can to stay true to it. You have to balance this vision as the company grows and must realize that you can't do everything yourself. That’s why you need to hire great people in your region and beyond, who can deliver excellence and help you achieve your business goals. Balancing your vision with the vision of the great people you hire is what drives innovation, even as your company expands.

Making the decision to expand is really about understanding where your target market is, and putting real time and resources behind such expansion. One salesperson sitting alone in an office is not going to set you up for long-term success. Ultimately, you need to be where your customers are.

Andy McLoughlin is executive vice president of strategy and co-founder of collaboration company Huddle (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi