International Entrepreneurship, simply put, is a term that perfectly sums up the process of companies expanding to become global enterprises and everything that goes into making that happen.
Here we will take a look at organisations who managed to successfully extend their reach beyond their country of origin and approached problem solving creatively to become internationally recognised brands.
Innocent Smoothies have been a staple of supermarket shelves and health food shops for several years. The company was started in 1998 by three Cambridge University grads. They all had lucrative and promising careers in consulting and advertising but, despite this, they spent six months and £500 on fruit coming up with the perfect smoothie recipes.
Twenty years later, they are Europe’s number one smoothie company, with products on sale in more than 15 countries and offices in London, Paris, Dublin, Copenhagen and Salzburg. Expansion wasn’t always easy, however. Adam Balon, one of the founders, explains how important it is to ‘never underestimate the sheer cost and complexity of foreign expansion.’
When speaking about Innocent’s foray into the international market, Balon emphasises how important localisation is.
Innocent’s expansion overseas was actually accidental and happened when a distributor contacted them in 2005 wanting to stock their product in a shop in Paris. All they had to do was say yes and they were officially international. What they then learned from this incredibly easy and painless move was that they were selling more at this single point of distribution than anywhere else in the UK.
They ultimately chose Europe and went on to discover many of the difficulties associated with doing business on an international scale. ‘In any business the test, learn, change cycle must be quick. But overseas it has to run twice as fast to avoid haemorrhaging funds,’ says Balon. ‘In Austria, we learned this lesson, but only just in time. Initially we tried to adopt our UK model of using ‘hero stores’ to stock products and build the brand organically before going to the supermarkets. The problem we found was that Austrian purchasing behaviour is very different from ours in Britain.’
They adapted their business model and now per capita sales in Austria are almost as high as they are in the UK.
The way we go on holiday has radically changed in the last decade. A large part of this has to do with Airbnb. This holiday rental company started seven years ago in San Francisco when roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft apartment. Chesky and Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast.
Today, Airbnb has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.
As with Innocent, effective localisation was essential. ‘It’s important that we are both international and local at the same time,’ says Jason Katz, an engineer at Airbnb. ‘Because of this, we’ve taken many steps toward localisation, one of which is translation.’
Airbnb’s engineers have built a customized, highly sophisticated translation management tool (TMS) that helps the company add new languages and update existing content easily and ensuring that the language used is not only correct, but colloquial.
Another challenge is marketing a product or service to a global audience – what works in one culture may not work in another and could even cause offence.
As the former head of Global SEO at the company, Dennis Goedegebuure puts it, ‘The real challenge of global strategy isn’t how big you can get, but how small you can get.’ One way Airbnb does this is by creating Neighbourhood sections on the site and then contracting thousands of local photographers and videographers to provide the core content. This provides unique and authentic character to these areas on the site, curated by users who know it best.
Again, as with Innocent, one size does not fit all with international expansion. On arrival in Cuba, Airbnb ran into some unique issues such as the fact that credit cards are not supported on the island and it also has very limited internet coverage.
However, by teaming up with small, traveller-friendly lodgings on the ground, they were able to take bookings and receive payment by working with a remittance company in Miami. By adapting, they have continued to unlock markets all over the world – which has proven to be worth it as in 2017, two thirds of bookings came from outside the US.
This module (part of the MSc International Business) provides students with an appreciation of the growing importance of international entrepreneurship, and rapid internationalisation by small firms. It develops appropriate enterprise knowledge and skills among students to foster global entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviour.
This module will assist students to develop their personal international entrepreneurial effectiveness and to think creatively with regard to problem-solving and possible future scenarios, as well as assist them on their global citizenship journey.
To find out more about the MSc International Business visit the course page. If you want more information about studying at Ulster University’s London or Birmingham campuses, please visit our website.