There’s always been a huge tension with startups: do you launch locally or globally?
You hear both sides: you need to stay focused (local); you need to be ambitious (global); you have to move fast (local and global…).
One of the pieces of advice that comes out of that tension is to launch in a good market and see how it goes: in Europe, maybe that meant launching in the Netherlands or the UK, and then taking things from there.
But at The Family, we often joke about a nation that seems to be invisible for lots of people: the Internet Nation.
What is Internet Nation? It’s the only nation with no border. It’s the nation where everyone speaks English (whether as a first, second, third, fourth language). It’s full of people who are young and ready to buy, people who see themselves as early adopters, people who like to try new things.
The good things with these citizens compared to the mainstream is that they are used to crappy products and not-really-ready betas…they get that it’s not perfect.
And the great thing is that every country on earth (almost?) has people who are citizens of Internet Nation. Sure, some places have more than others — Silicon Valley and the US are in front of everyone, maybe France has a little less, maybe Italy’s still getting there. But I promise you one thing: American, French, Italian, whatever, the citizens of Internet Nation are everywhere.
So who should launch in Internet Nation? Not every company is compatible with Internet Nation, but there is an Internet Nation-compatible path for every new company. Sure, some products are definitely better than others. Virtual products (SaaS, social, etc.) may seem easier than physical products, but that doesn’t mean that a hardware startup can’t take advantage of this market. Just look at how Kickstarter gets backers coming from around the world…
But obviously a product like Afrostream is an example of one that can go straight toward Internet Nation. Afrostream’s business is movies, streaming them for a worldwide, 100% connected audience that has a shared feeling of blackness. Their product isn’t French films or American films; it’s black films, and their business decisions are made with that in mind.
If Internet Nation seems right for you, go all the way. There’s one mistake that we see way too often: not being 100% in Internet Nation, but instead trying to be just as much in your local market. If Internet Nation is your choice, go for it.
That’s because Internet Nation has its own rules for going viral, for what it means to hack together a solution, and for what it means to feel attached to others who act and think like you do. Your branding and marketing needs to be designed for Internet Nation as a whole, not just for one particular country or region. You need to find things that everyone in the group can relate to, not just people in one specific location.
And that’s important to remember — Internet Nation is a homogeneity of culture, it’s not a multi-cultural melting pot. Yes, each person in it has their own particularities, their own story. But your product and your sales aren’t worried about that. You’re worried about what they all have in common: connected, eager, not caring where something comes from as long as it works. The existence of Internet Nation is a kind of victory for postmodern individualism: every person finds how they fit inside a common place.
Even your website should reflect this: if you’re aiming at Internet Nation, why would you have a physical address on your site? People are going to be talking to you by chat, email…what’s the point of saying where you’re from and instantly turning yourself into a local product?
You need to see your workforce like this, too. Universal Avenue shows what it is to be a leader in the field, but you can build a team however you like.
At TheFamily, we have several companies that embrace this idea: they are completely distributed, online businesses. StarOfService has over 120 employees, and they’ve only met a few of them in person. Flat covers the world with music scores, and has team members all over the place.
These are just a few examples, but here’s the point: that old tension and debate about where to launch has a new, strong answer. Internet Nation is part of the world — use it :)