Going Global as a Small Business

One of the end-game goals of most entrepreneurs is to reach a point where they’re recognized internationally. Thanks to the internet, it’s surprisingly easy for your product to reach different cultures, countries and languages. However, this alone isn’t enough to consider yourself as a global business. Unfortunately, small companies have a much harder time breaking into international markets because they don’t have the right connections, staff or knowledge required to make it overseas. While this can be something you slowly work on over a long period of time, there’s no doubt that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

However, there are a couple of strategies that you can employ today that will not only increase the number of international opportunities available to you but could help you enter foreign markets on a much lower budget.

Photo by Brett Zeck on Unsplash

Consider which countries you want to appeal to

While it’s possible to appeal to the world as a whole with your product, we highly suggest that you pinpoint your focus on a particular region of the world or country. Some products do much better on a global stage because it’s something that everyone can use, such as a smartphone. However, even such a widely-used tech product can have smaller markets and demands in certain areas. For instance, wealthy areas of the world love big-name brands such as Apple and Samsung. However, areas with dense populations and lower income might prefer budget smartphones with a heavy emphasis on value.

As a result, you need to consider which countries your products appeal to. This can be difficult to identify with minimal research. This is why it’s important to do some preliminary research on potentially viable markets before you decide to invest in your growth in another country’s markets.

Do your research as early as possible

Once you have identified those opportunities, it’s time to start doing research. Everything from financial options to production and even cultural differences needs to be considered when performing research. The idea here is that you’re looking for any risks or challenges involved in breaking into a new market.

On the financial side of things, it’s worth establishing flexible options so that you can easily pivot your business when you want to capitalize on overseas opportunities. For example, having a way to send money to Pakistan could be helpful if you wanted to set up a means of production in South Asia. Similarly, having support for local payment methods and not just cards and PayPal. In the context of Pakistan, this could mean local options such as EasyPaisa and payOrder. Doing this type of research will greatly improve your chances of breaking into an international market simply because you’ll be more relatable.

Establish a small team of experts

If you want to go global as a small business, you’ll need to organize a team of experts that can smooth out the process. This can include translators, local influencers and even support staff that can speak the language. With this small team of specialists, you’ll have a much easier time communicating with an overseas audience and also appealing to them through changes in your branding and products. It can be difficult to find the right people for the job. Networking is your best friend here and doing your research on local influencers to work with can make a huge difference in your success rates.

One of the essential skills of becoming an entrepreneur is being able to lead a team. Even if it’s a relatively small but diverse group of specialists, having a team that is focused on international growth will make a huge difference in the long run. Not only will you be able to communicate with overseas customers, but you’ll also be able to change your branding or products and services to fit a different market. You should never underestimate the cultural differences in overseas markets and how they can affect both the products you create and your marketing materials. By respecting these cultural differences, you’ll have a much easier time growing your business in a completely different environment.

Going global as a small business can be surprisingly challenging, especially if you’re working with a relatively small team or have a limited budget to spend on overseas expansion. However, with the right approach and a team to support you, we believe that it’s one of the most attainable goals for a confident entrepreneur. If you’re looking for something challenging to push your business to its limits, then attempting to break onto an international stage may be enticing thanks to the rewards it can offer.

Newbie Technopreneurs in Amazing Conference

As I gazed from across my seat, looking at the multitude of people riding the MRT in Singapore, I realized that the episodes from my favorite TV series, Silicon Valley, were actually true. In this case, however, they were in the US and I was in South East Asia.The stories if the technopreneurs in that show were almost very close to reality. This weekend proved to be an amazing experience. It wasn’t because we won that pitch competition or we got to raise seed funding (because we didn’t but we’ve been getting emails already from VC’s since this morning!), but because I learned so much about myself, about our team, and about this interesting world encapsulated in one word — tech.

Taxumo in Echelon Asia Summit 2016

Thank you, Tasha of ASpace for the photo!

Thank you, Tasha of ASpace for the photo!

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

We went to Singapore to showcase our web/mobile application called Taxumo. Our flight from the Philippines left at 10:00 PM and we arrived at Singapore at 1:00 AM the following day. There were four of us, Ej (CEO), Alex (CFO and the CPA in our team), Dex (CTO) and yours truly. We arrived hungry so we had to eat at the nearby McDonalds, a brand familiar to us. We left the airport after and arrived at our hotel around 4AM. We had to be at Singapore Expo (the venue at 7:30 AM) to set up so that meant we had to leave at 7 AM (yup, since traffic wasn’t really evident in Singapore). EJ and I woke up to the messages of our colleagues at 7 am and hurriedly rushed so that we could leave right away. We really thought we were late, but lo and behold, we were actually one of the earliest ones there at 8:00 AM.

Taxumo Booth: We probably talks to more than 500 people!

Taxumo Booth: We probably talks to more than 500 people!

Being early in conferences, gives you the advantage. You get to practice your pitch to a few people (mostly co-tech startup founders), so that when investors come in, you have already amazingly mastered your pitch after saying it a dozen times over. Also, you already have prepared answering questions, and these questions will probably be the same questions repeated over and over again from different people.

Pitch, Listen and Participate

We have seen that in conferences like these, the people who ‘win’ (not used literally) are the people who maximize their presence in the conference. How do you maximize your presence? One is to share your idea to as many people as possible. Don’t be scared to share your idea as there may be investors who will be willing to help out, potential brand partners who might be willing to partner with you, existing solutions providers that may be able to integrate with your system, potential users who will have great insights and other enablers who may speed the process of launching or expanding your idea.

Taxumo Echelon

With the lovely Bev from e27! :)

With the lovely Bev from e27! 🙂

We thought that Echelon Asia Summit was great because we got to meet with various venture capitalists. We also got invited to join totally awesome incubator and accelerator programs. We also got offers for help if we want to expand to other ASEAN countries.

Taxumo with our friends from No Coinz

Taxumo with our friends from No Coinz

Also, I have learned to be willing to listen to other people’s ideas, too. I got to meet a lot of interesting people with unique ideas and it was so inspiring to hear them. We mad new friends, like our Indian friends from NoCoinz and we got to bind with the other Philippine delegates, too.

Make Calculated Risks Fast

Taxumo with UnBum :)

Taxumo with UnBum 🙂

I have always been exposed to how traditional businesses and how large corporations in the Philippines operate. I grew up with a family whose main business was putting up brick and mortar stores where we sell food. Preparations for these kinds of businesses would take years. My family was lucky since what we entered was a food franchise business; otherwise, planning, preparing and building wouldn’t have gone that fast.

Our CEO, EJ, pitching at Echelon Summit Asia 2016

Our CEO, EJ, pitching at Echelon Summit Asia 2016

We have noticed that in this industry, everything seems to move so quickly. A large number of the businesses there have only started with the idea less than a year. Prototypes have already been built, whether it be software or hardware, and these groups and entities have already validated ideas with customers. Most of the companies that have received seed funding where those that have shown some form of traction from paying customers.

Taxumo meeting after the conference!

Taxumo meeting after the conference!

It’s no wonder that concepts like the Lean Methodology and tools like the Javelin board and also methods like Agile and Scrum have taken this industry by storm. In this industry, all of the founders of the your company need to act fast and work fast while still working on the grounds that your ideas have been validated by your target market. We have noticed that some ideas are great ideas but don’t seem to get much attention since the problem and pain point wasn’t validated enough. We have also heard stories about great and validated ideas but since execution was slow, the idea never really flew and they were beaten by competition. Both are crucial. Check that your start-up has done or can do both.

Learn to Hustle

I never really understood what the term meant when I first encountered the word during our incubator program in Ideaspace. At first, I felt that the term was too ‘hard-core’ and ‘rough’ to be used in a business environment (lol! I thought that they should have used a more business-y term). But man, this week proved me wrong! Hustling was definitely what we did. In the two days that we were in #ECAsia2016, we probably talked to more than 500 people and pitched our idea to close to 10 investors.

Hustling! Taking our picture in between train rides!

Hustling! Taking our picture in between train rides!

In front of my dream office! This will go up on my vision board!

In front of my dream office! This will go up on my vision board!

And that wasn’t all, the day after the conference, we visited 2 VCs and made a courtesy call to DTI – Philippine Trade and Investments Council Singapore. It was inside of the MRT in Singapore in between meetings where I found myself thinking about our country and our future. Both Venture Capitalists also mentioned that they haven’t had any visits yet from any startup from the Philippines.

Taxumo with Commercial Counsellor Glenn Penaranda and Ms. Cris Lacuna of DTI - Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in Singapore!

Taxumo with Commercial Counsellor Glenn Penaranda and Ms. Cris Lacuna of DTI – Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in Singapore!

I know that we all know that we have talented people in the Philippines. What we know and what we have as a Taxumo, may even be nothing in comparison with what you, my readers, may be capable of doing or are capable of creating. We just have to try to achieve our dreams and try to make a difference. We may not be the best startup out there, winning competitions and all, but we will never stop trying.

We will never stop believing that we can create solutions that will make your lives simpler! Onwards we go!

We will never stop believing that we can create solutions that will make your lives simpler! Onwards we go!

Love lots,




PS. Thanks for the tip, Bianca Medina to not wear heels! haha! My feet hurt so bad! 🙂 haha! It was worth it though.

PPS. For Angels, VCs, Investors and possible partners, please email me at ginger(at)taxumo.com 🙂