Alex Barrera says start-ups should speak English.
Over the past 12 months, due to the economic conditions in Europe, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in start-up mobility. While the union might be disintergrating on a political level, start-ups are taking advantage of Schengen in a massive way. Eastern Europe has woken up and is providing talent across the continent, while other start-ups are fleeing from expensive or narrow-minded cities.
Smart people are picking up on the trends and are already reporting on each hub in English, a language that has become the de facto standard. Sadly though, many start-ups are still entrenched in their local myopic mentality. Under the auspice of things like hyperlocalisation, local hubs or testing grounds, they ignore the power of global mentality.
Some years ago I used to preached that start-ups should be global but that didn’t mean their strategy shouldn’t contemplate local tactics. It’s only now that I see how wrong I was. While in theory that comment makes sense, it’s nothing but a mental game to trap start-ups.
Focusing in the local market is, initially, easier. It’s the entrepreneur’s comfort zone. Nevertheless, in most countries, specially in places like Southern Europe or Eastern Europe, national pride isn’t a big thing. That means the chances of succeeding in your own country are way lower as no one believes that any national is worth a damn. Ironically, what comes from outside, from other countries, is always much better, no matter how much it actually sucks.
So, not only failure is more probable but it will cost more money and time to do so locally. For a lot of companies, this hinders their ability to go international because they’ll run out of money or they’ll believe, falsely, that it’s harder to sell outside their borders.
It’s true though that some markets require incredible amounts of cash and time to crack. Most start-ups cripple themselves from the very beginning by means of building as many entry barriers as they can for international users.
As someone that talks with a lot of start-ups worldwide, it’s fascinating that at least 1 out of 3 times, the interface or the notifications of the service are not in English. Just for the record, I’m not even talking about the content, I’m talking about the interface, about that Ok button that should say “yes” and not “Ja” or “Oui”. Why? Why is that? Why do you don’t want me to use your app? Why do you don’t want me to talk about it or even kick start my local market with your service?
I normally get two excuses; you’re not our target user or, we have other priorities, and translating 20 quotes into English, such a weird language, is very costly. Well, if you don’t have two friends that can help you with a quick, cheap and dirty translation, then you shouldn’t be doing start-ups, much less come to LeWeb. Also, I’m sorry I’m not your local target market, but hey, I was going to suggest your service to my friends in that city but now I can’t.
Restricting the virality of a service or product because you are lazy should be prosecuted and punished. While start-ups keep chasing media to get coverage for their products, they forget, ignore or even blatantly avoid implementing the most obvious viral mechanism, the use of a universal language, English.