High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Global Entrepreneurship Week Endeavor Tip of the Day: Start Local but Plan to be Global

Part of a series: Ten Rules for Becoming a High-Impact Entrepreneur

The following post is from an upcoming study by Endeavor’s Center for High-Impact Entrepreneurship (C-HIE) on key success strategies for start-ups. The study is based on interviews with 55 High-Impact Endeavor Entrepreneurs from 11 countries. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’re sharing five of our favorite “Rules for Becoming a High-Impact Entrepreneur” from this study, with input from some wise Endeavor friends. The full report will be available soon.

Today’s most admired startups – the Facebooks, Googles and LinkedIns of the world – are global companies that started in local markets. Let’s take Facebook as an example. Zuckerberg started Facebook on a very local level, testing out the original concept at Harvard College. Over time, Facebook grew nationally and then globally. Today, Facebook has more than 800 million active users, more than 75% of whom live outside of the United States.

Reid Hoffman, Endeavor Global Board Member and Founder & Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, spoke about why it’s important to “start local but plan to be global” at the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit.

“You might as well shoot for something large because you can still end up with something smaller. And part of the reason this is a rule of entrepreneurship is because if you don’t start out aiming for the big game, you almost never can get there. It’s gotta be, ‘How can I have a global impact?’ I think all high-impact companies basically have to think globally in nature these days because of the way that the market ecosystem is going. You go, ‘okay, how do I play onto that stage?’ ….One of the biggest challenges is how to build something really strong with a local focus and then participate on the global stage. For example, we launched LinkedIn with thirteen countries on the list and I think we got to the full list within four months, because as each person complained that their country wasn’t on the list, we added it in.”

Research completed by Endeavor’s Center for High-Impact Entrepreneurship suggests that the most successful entrepreneurs started local but planned to be global.

Among the best entrepreneurs interviewed – those whose companies have grown at an average rate of 20% or greater over the last three years –74% focused on succeeding locally at first, in order to perfect the fundamental aspects of their business model, but they aspired to be global, and designed their business in a way that would allow them to expand globally in the future.

When Endeavor Colombia Entrepreneur Lilian Simbaqueba founded LiSim in 1996, she knew she would have to expand beyond Colombia to be high-impact.

Initially, LiSim had plenty of business opportunities in Colombia, so Lilian decided to focus first on building a very strong business in the local market. When the financial crisis hit Colombia, however, risk to LiSim’s core business increased substantially. Lilian decided the time was ripe to expand internationally. One of LiSim’s existing clients had a bank in Ecuador – creating a natural link to a new market. After Ecuador, LiSim’s geographic expansion continued, mostly by “pulling” from existing contacts and clients. ACCION International brought LiSim to Peru and Bolivia, and the World Bank to Egypt and South Africa. Throughout the expansion process Lilian had to make small adjustments to the model, but the core business model she’d perfected in Colombia has remained the same. Today LiSim operates in 20 countries.

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