As entrepreneurs are considering international expansion earlier and earlier, it is crucial that they structure their ventures to anticipate and mitigate the tensions that can arise from the ongoing need to match perceived opportunities to available resources.
Most startup companies today consider overseas expansion from their inception. Yet, says the author, entrepreneurs and their managers often underestimate the cost of expansion and lack a clear conceptual framework for it. On the basis of studying 50 entrepreneurial ventures in more than 20 countries, he concludes that such ventures follow a variety of different expansion paths. The most successful are those that best manage the constant tensions between resources and opportunities, each of which run the gamut from purely local to worldwide. He offers a framework that defines the choices a venture has at its inception and throughout its life, then shows how the framework can be used to assess and direct a venture and mitigate developing tensions by anticipating a variety of strategic, financial, organizational and regulatory factors. This is illustrated with case examples of a software company that took a balanced or “diagonal” path (the most common), an air-freight delivery service that progressed from pursuing local opportunities with local resources to pursuing cross-border opportunities with local resources, and a consumer-loan provider that began by pursuing a local opportunity with local resources, then added cross-border resources. Other examples include London-based fashion e-tailer Boo.com, Boston-based Internet Securities Inc. and the Georgian Glass and Mineral Water Co. in the Republic of Georgia.