On May 25, 2015, the Global Innovation Forum, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Microsoft Accelerator Seattle and Silicon Valley Bank co-hosted a forum to explore the opportunities and challenges for startups and small businesses in the global marketplace and to discover resources to help globally-minded business succeed.
Startup, corporate and government leaders discussed —
- How local startups are engaging globally and the challenges they face along the way;
- How to identify and access U.S. Government and private sector resources to reach new markets;
- How digital services and e-commerce-based businesses can gain exposure and traction abroad; and
- How to protect intellectual property globally and navigate foreign regulations.
See who spoke and connect over social media
The opportunity: Local startups in the global marketplace
Daniela Braga, Co-Founder, President and Chief Scientist at DefinedCrowd @
Michelyn Caldwell, Owner, NB Products, Inc.
Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder and CEO, Remitly @
Jon Roskill, CEO, Acumatica @
Moderated by Jennifer Butte-Dahl, Director, MA in Applied International Studies, University of Washington @
Navigating international compliance and protecting IP
Stevan Mitchell, Director, Office of Intellectual Property Rights, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ITA) @
Jeremy Snodgrass, Attorney, IP Licensing, Microsoft
Georges H.G. Yates, Partner and Firmwide Chair, International Practice, Perkins Coie @
Moderated by Jake Colvin, Executive Director, Global Innovation Forum @
Succeeding in the global digital economy and global e-commerce
Terry Romero, Outreach Lead for Food and Crafts, Kickstarter @
Dr. Bill Mitchell, Founder, PicoBrew @
Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan, Head of Amazon Launchpad – Startup Program
Moderated by James Bledsoe, Deputy Director, eCommerce Innovation Lab
What We Learned
Takeaways from the event
Going global has a lot of advantages.
“For us, it’s been a good thing to be globally expansive early early. I’ve seen companies of $10 million in revenue and 150 people that then start to go international and that’s when they struggle, whether it’s with time zones, other cultures, or communication.” — Jon Roskill, CEO, Acumatica
“If I just limit my market to the United States, I’ll hit a plateau. And on a global scale, in a lot of industries, there isn’t much competition out there.” — Michelyn Caldwell, Founder, NB Products
“Going global is a big opportunity, it’s a game changer.” — Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan, Head of Amazon Launchpad – Startup Program
Governments have resources designed to help entrepreneurs go global…
“Overseas, the government of Singapore has been very helpful and has been able to open doors, provide loans and things like that to us.” – Jon Roskill, CEO, Acumatica
“The UK does a phenomenal job of helping companies understand how to get licenses and operate – the FCO even has an innovation department.” – Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder and CEO, Remitly
“I was able to expand into more markets because of the assistance of the U.S. Commerce Department which made me feel more comfortable and got me the information I needed to move forward.” – Michelyn Caldwell, Owner, NB Products, Inc.
…if you know where to find them.
“I’ve seen companies make some of the same mistakes over and over again. One is getting a commitment to export from the CEO or upper level management. Spend the money where you need to spend it, whether it’s legal or regulatory assistance, wherever it makes sense to do your international market development. And for goodness’s sake, have some sort of a plan! We can help you with these things.” – Diane Mooney, Director, U.S. Commercial Service Seattle
“Developing a relationship with us can pay off in a lot of ways. The more we know about you, the more we can help you.” – Wistar Kay, Business Development Manager, Washington State Department of Commerce
“Having a bank that has the capacity and resources and expertise the process of going global is important with everything from having foreign exchange, to opening international accounts to performance bonds.” – Minh Le, Market Manager – Washington & Western Canada, Silicon Valley Bank
Global internet platforms like Kickstarter can help entrepreneurs reach the global marketplace.
“We honestly had no idea what the demand would be like. That’s why Kickstarter was so great. You learn a lot about how much and where your demand is. Our first product raised $670,000 in pre-orders on Kickstarter from around the world, and we learned where our customers truly were.” – Dr. Bill Mitchell, Founder, PicoBrew
“We’ve seen creators stumble and underestimate [international] shipping. It’s changing and is affected by things beyond our control like gas prices and politics. Doing a Kickstarter project is like a boot camp for addressing these challenges, and like any small business challenge, it’s hard but essential work.” – Terry Romero, Outreach Lead for Food and Crafts, Kickstarter
“The reason the lean startup thing has legs is because you don’t burn through a ton of money before you figure out what you want to do. Don’t take a pile of money up front, do it lean and kickstart it.” – Dr. Bill Mitchell, Founder, PicoBrew
“Kickstarter gives you access to a lot of people, anywhere, determined by you.” – Terry Romero, Outreach Lead for Food and Crafts, Kickstarter
Securing your intellectual property on a global basis is valuable in multiple ways (including as an asset on the books)
“You can show patents on your books as an asset. IP can be used to offset newer metrics like average monthly users or your growth in subscribers. And if you’re successful, you will likely become engaged in a competitor suit sooner or later.” – Jeremy Snodgrass, Attorney, IP Licensing, Microsoft
“It’s really important to familiarize yourself with the waterfront of your IP assets and think about your protection strategy in a more cross-cutting way and not just your primary resource.” – Stevan Mitchell, Director, Office of Intellectual Property Rights, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ITA)
“IP is important from an offensive and defensive point of view. Going into a foreign market, if you’re the new kid in town, the old kids in town are going to want to beat up on you, so that’s where defense is important. If you’re the new kid in town and nobody else is doing what you’re doing, and you want to beat up more on the old kids, you want the offensive protection.” – Georges H.G. Yates, Partner and Firmwide Chair, International Practice, Perkins Coie
Lean on partners to help you get off the ground when going global.
“One of the things one of their customers failed to do was to ask UPS “what else can you do for me?” They were only using UPS’s tools so much.” – Wendy Ramsey, Profit Supervisor, UPS
“If you have a product that is sophisticated, atoms-and-bits-based and global, you’ll want to work with a major manufacturer who can handle things like returns and reworks with you…There are huge differences between first, second and third-tier manufacturers for expensive and time-consuming operations like large injection molded plastic pieces. If you don’t partner carefully you can have all sorts of delays and interruptions in your parts deliveries.” – Dr. Bill Mitchell, Founder, PicoBrew
“You can hire a worker from abroad through a globalization partner and offload all of the complexity to the partner.” – Minh Le, Market Manager – Washington & Western Canada, Silicon Valley Bank