Lessons Learned From Scaling an Early Stage Startup Internationally

Many companies that have their eyes on unicorn status first have humble beginnings. When launching your product or scaling your business, building the team is just as important as bringing your service or brand to market. I’ve seen firsthand what it’s like to grow a team from a handful of passionate visionaries to over 30 employees across three countries.

Stay true to your roots

A Dublin-based company, we stayed true to our roots by building out our product and engineering team there. Rather than uproot the company and move away from Dublin, we embraced the talent that Ireland had to offer, and are now up to 24 employees in HQ. Many companies, like their products, chase trends when it comes to being in the perfect place to find talent. For us, we’ve found that Ireland is one of the best places to help us achieve that.

Related: This Entrepreneur Went From Running a Million-Dollar, One-Person Business to Scaling Up

Some call it a niche, others call it product market fit

Once companies put their flags in the ground and declare the greatness of their product, there’s a race to validating that pain you solve in the market. Some of the best startups I’ve met and advised met early and often about the immediate impact their product or service would have on customers. It’s important to build a vision, and show investors where your brand will head in the next 5 to 10 years, but it’s even more importantly to understand how what you do today, will get you there.

Know when you need capital and why

Raising capital can be exciting, but it needs to be grounded in pragmatic decision making. Many startups raise a seed round until they can find product market fit, followed by an A round of funding that helps facilitate that growth, build out the team and establish the next phase of expansion.

Be strategic about expansion

Talent lives in different nooks and crannies. When considering the company’s expansion plans, it’s important to understand how the team will grow. Will the first half of the year be spent establishing a go-to-market presence? Or will you continue to invest in the teams you have in HQ?

For us, we knew that great sales and marketing folks lived in the states, and in terms of accessibility to the Dublin team, Boston was where we landed. Sometimes, though, you end up building a team around a strategic hire. When the former head of text-to-speech at Google joined our team, we decided to grow out our R&D efforts in Edinburgh where he lived, to take advantage of his expertise and the local talent in Scotland.

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Invest in the team

Growing a business is about a group of people coming together to help achieve a vision of how your product or service will make an immense impact on the market. It’s no small feat. But if you’re like me and are involved in the operations side of things, it’s important to keep your ears to the ground, understand the morale and energy of the team, and where there are opportunities to invest further in a company that truly has a chance to make a difference.

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