Innovation Driven Expansion

Here at Global Expansion Summit, we think a lot about what drives global expansion. Every new speaker we talk to, research call or event we attend yields a new pearl of wisdom and often some common realities on what stimulates a company’s brave leap into a new market. The most common refrain of late has been innovation driven expansion.

So what is this? What does it mean?

One of last year’s keynote speakers, Denzil Samuels of GE Digital put it best when we said on stage “global expansion can’t happen without growth and growth can’t happen without innovation”. In his keynote, Denzil cited examples such as Uber, Apple and Airbnb who are often labelled “disruptors”, frequently encounter significant roadblocks to growth, and yet who have seen tremendous global growth. These companies have identified new ways of doing business by embracing digital technologies and making their assets more productive. They are characterised by rapid growth despite shaking up established industries and yet they each have different experiences with scaling into new foreign markets.

Today, new startups with fresh ideas and big growth ambitions are emerging every day all around the world. Whether an emerging paytech company or a new clean energy business, these entrepreneurs are vital to the global economy, creating more than double the number of jobs that established companies provide. A 2016 EY survey found that 59% of entrepreneurs around the world said they expected to increase their workforce in 2016. Compared with large businesses which only planned to expand their workforce by 28%.

Innovative entrepreneurs are also fundamentally changing the way large companies and multinationals do business, innovate and grow. They ask the tough questions, challenge established practices and identify new opportunities. Increasingly large corporates are trying to tap into this by investing in startups and adopting open innovation strategies. Building networks with start-up communities is an important way to stay relevant, find great talent and work with new partners.  For the start-ups, their relationship with corporates is not necessarily focused on acquisition as an end goal, but on support for navigation into complex industries and as a route to scale.

This capacity for growth from startups is increasingly recognised by governments who are working to cultivate ecosystems of innovation and eager to label themselves “the next Silicon Valley”.

What we’ve learned from own speakers and attending Unbound and Wayra’s demo day recently, was that the success of the Silicon Valley is not a template to be copied. The secret is more about knowing your ecosystem, knowing your entrepreneurs and knowing your stakeholders. Innovation hubs can be grown by focusing on the unique strengths of your market and helping innovative young companies to scale. Beyond this, cooperation and collaboration between startup clusters can be developed to foster cross border growth and boost local economies even further.

Here at Global Expansion Summit, we’re particularly interested in those later stage startups who are plotting their own international expansion. Like many budding entrepreneurs, we are interested in the lessons learned from start-ups who have both succeeded and failed in their path to global domination.

We’re putting together an agenda of startup success stories, investors, accelerators, corporates and governments to provide a platform for further discussion on innovating abroad. We’d love to hear from you about your own experiences expanding abroad and hope to see you at the Summit in 2017!