Last week, Hiya attended the NOAH Conference in London, which is one of the pre-eminent conferences in Europe. The conference witnessed an attendance from over 2000 people including entrepreneurs, investors and tech enthusiasts from European internet and digital industries.
There was an impressive lineup of speakers and workshop sessions that proved to be a great platform for exchanging experiences and learnings, and developing business relationships. Included in the lineup was Hiya CEO Alex Algard, who was invited to lead the ‘Go Global or Bust’ workshop alongside Ankur Shah, CFO of Careem and Hugh Njemanze, CEO and Founder of Anamoli. The panel was moderated by Peter Weed, a partner at Lumia Capital.
The workshop was attended by a diverse group of ambitious and budding investors. The lively panel discussed various aspects of international business expansion, each drawing upon their personal experiences and learnings. Discussions revolved around three key themes:
What is the right time or phase to expand globally?
This question led to an interesting discussion as all panel members were leading different businesses, in different geographies and believed in operating with different business philosophies.
Hugh, operating in an enterprise space, emphasized on mastering one’s product, making it more stable and building a recognized brand outside of the domestic market before venturing into new markets.
Alex, on the other hand shared how Hiya’s partnership with Samsung helped Hiya reach out to customers in 35 countries over a short period of time. Despite it being a challenge, Alex emphasized how this was a great opportunity to gain early traction and put Hiya on a continuous learning curve to produce products that can solve user problems.
Lastly, Ankur, brought in an interesting perspective for O2O (offline to online) businesses. He described how it is not only important to build the right product, but also to build and manage the infrastructure around the business- people, processes, systems- that operate over international boundaries.
What is the best model to serve international markets?
While there is no ‘best’ model that can serve every business, this is one of the most important questions that every business needs to answer at the beginning of their journey to expand beyond their home market.
Alex started the discussion by sharing how the acquisition of Whatsapp in 2014 compelled him to push for an ‘international focus’ for Hiya. He continued with the idea of ‘internal focus’ and emphasized that it goes beyond just language translation to actually understand different cultures, usage patterns, importance and impact of specific feature and pain points. Living true to his mantra, Alex moved to London in 2016 along with his family to grow Hiya’s presence in Europe. Other panel members strongly resonated with Alex’s philosophy of a founder-led expansion model and transmitting company culture through osmosis.
What is the most important learning/experience when taking a business global?
Moving outside a home market is an important milestone for not only the the founder(s) but for the entire company and workforce. The journey entails new challenges and learnings. Everyone on the panel believed that the key to successful expansion is to build the right team with the right set of people. Alex, further said that it’s imperative to connect the regional offices with the right mindset that align with the headquarters, and at the same time having managers who truly care about international offices.
As a whole, the workshop and the conference proved to be a great platform to hear and learn from the inspiring stories of great entrepreneurs and thought leaders. For Hiya, we got a great opportunity to put forward our philosophy on being an ‘international first consumer focused’ company and positioned ourselves on the map of emerging European digital startups.