The perfect scheme for most startupers begins with a good idea and leads to a global company, operating in many countries.
Around 35% of teams stay together 3 months after a startup week-end and roughly 10% have raised money, says Joey Pomerenke, Startup Week-end CMO. Yet, the 2-days event is a good workshop to remind you how to build a global company.
The SWHK#7 happened 3 months after I arrived in Hong Kong. Enough to realise how thriving the Hong Kong startup scene was. A bunch of events had been organized the week before, around the StartmeupHK Venture Program forum. It was very exciting to meet so many people within the ecosystem: entrepreneurs, accelerators, co-working spaces, lawyers, governments agencies… And the Startup Week-end was a really nice conclusion to this week.
It was the first time I took part in such an event. I was really curious about the experience. It happened in Cocoon, a cool co-working space in Hong Kong, where we could work all week-end long. Startupers and students, local people and foreigners, designers, developers and business people, participants, mentors and judges, all kind of people gathered up for the week-end. More than 70 people dedicated themselves to building startups during 48 hours.
It began on a Friday night. After a short introduction, we formed teams.
The team & project.
I joined a Brazilian guy’s crew. We were 7 people. 6 business people, 1 designer and no developer. Let me quickly sum up the project we worked on.
Rafael, our team leader & Arman, our designer
Issue: In Brazil, many people order products on Alibaba. But when the products are delivered, their characteristics (quality, color, size, material…) often don’t match the order.
Solution: The idea was to create a platform, like fiverr, where Brazilian buyers could send requests for quick and cheap quality controls. On the other side, we wanted to build a community based close to the factories (in Hong Kong to get to Shenzhen for instance) to reply to the requests. A basic control would have been a picture and a few questions to answer.
Oh, something I forgot about the team. As I told you, we had one person from Brazil, but also one from Holland, one from Mexico, one from Moldova, one guy from Hong Kong of course and we were two people from France. We had so many different backgrounds to come up with the right solutions. Well, it didn’t really go as planned.
Our strength quickly became a weakness in the Startup Week-end, and we finished the event with no real valuable proposition to offer.
Being so different was very time-consuming. In 48 hours, you have almost no time to discuss. You need to get things done quickly to unveil your MVP on Sunday night. None of us were convinced with the business model, as it might not have been viable in our own countries. We lost valuable time discussing a lot.
It was very hard to get some potential-customers feedbacks as none of us but our team founder knew any Brazilian person who could answer our questions.
However, here are a few best practices I could figure out from this experience.
#0. Make your product scalable
This is a prerequisite. Startupers know that better than anyone, of course: being scalable is about creating the processes that will allow you to easily answer a growing demand.
This is how we thought our product. It was almost a tacit agreement that led us to this web platform solution, where a growing community could have quickly answered a growing demand for quality controls.
Being scalable is mandatory to access any investment money or any accelerator, as it is at Nest, one of Hong Kong top accelerator programs and as it was at the Startup Week-end final pitch. Yet, it might have been useful to follow Paul Graham’s, Y Combinator co-founder, advice there before getting into this scalable model.
#1. Test foreign markets first
During the Startup Week-end, it was highly recommended, if not mandatory, to use Value Proposition Design Tools & Business Canvas (for anyone interested in Hong Kong, you can join the Meetup Group). The purpose of this tools was to get product/market fit and so customers as quickly as possible.
Using these tools to go global and discover new markets makes completely sense. And we did it during the Startup Week-end. Here is what we learnt about the project.
It would have been very hard to get customers in France, Holland or Mexico (no trust).
In Hong Kong, nobody really saw the need for such a service. They simply change the provider if the product doesn’t match the quality requirements.
First Conclusion: When you have a product or service that works somewhere (here in Brazil), this is not obvious it would work anywhere else. So, test your markets.
#2. Think local
Another conclusion to our tests came directly from eastern Europe and Russia. It appeared the service we planned to develop, could have been useful to women from there who wanted to buy directly on markets in Chinese market. You get some products’ picture from a local community member, who can also buy it and ship it to you.
We weren’t convinced we had a real opportunity there, and we finally didn’t focus on it. But I came to a second conclusion. Think local when you want to expand a business abroad. You might find new & unexpected opportunities.
A good and local example might be Uber. They successfully launched their company here in Hong Kong and I remember this conference, where they displayed outstanding figures (regarding previous launches in San Francisco, Paris and London). I was all the more surprised that I always heard Hong Kong taxi service was really good.
Just go on their website. You will see how they adapted to the market, launching Uber Taxi (order a regular taxi through Uber) and Uber Cargo (probably directly inspired from successful companies here, EasyVan and GogoVan).
Uber website for Hong Kong
#3 Form an international team
This is stating the obvious, but good to be mentioned. Work with local people on the markets you want to settle in. You will have a way better understanding of how business works there.
From one desk in Cocoon, we managed to reach people in 5 different countries to get feedbacks on our service. We also had great insights from our Hong Kongese teammate, who knew how to deal with factories, providers and where to find them here.
Iana (Moldova), Jacky (Hong Kong) & Hosni (the Netherlands), working on our project
The Startup Week-end was, above all, a human experience, where you learn to work with others to solve real problems and create great companies. That is for sure.
Even if you have a startup already, the Startup Week-end might offer you good insights, hands-on experience and fun. That’s essential.
I’ve been observing global strategies for more than two years now, and this is the problem I am trying to solve with my partners: we created mercurr to make it easier for tech startups to go global. The Startup Week-end confirmed the ideas we had. Think global from day 1, don’t be afraid to explore & test unexpected markets and work with locals. It will get you on the road to global success.
In 2012, Thomas and I launched a non-profit media organisation, focusing on French entrepreneurs all around the world, the W Project (only available in French, but a few videos like this one!). From march 2013 to march 2014, we travelled in 13 countries and shot 70+ interviews.
Thomas, Edgar & Brice, mercurr co-founders
Post written by Brice de Matharel: