Jenny Cohen Derfler
Jenny Cohen Derfler

What It Takes To Run A Born Global Company

Born Global
Born Global Startups

Throughout the past few years, we have seen globalized brands popping up progressively in international markets, but right now, we are experiencing a business climate that is supporting born global firms evermore. What does it take to birth a born global company and operate it successfully? Let’s dive into the international waters of born global businesses and discover what is needed to ensure long-lasting results.

Defining Born Global

By definition, a born global business is a venture that positions itself on an international playing field from the onset of its launch and typically without any internationalization period. While many firms target international markets and develop a global presence within one or two years of their founding, this usually does not classify as “born global”. Firms that internationalize from the first day of their operation are also referred to as global startups, instant internationals, and international new ventures.

From the nuances in user interface language to handling regulatory issues to establishing local sales offices, born global firms concentrate on adapting to foreign business requirements as part of their initial strategy, instead of “crossing that bridge when they get to it”.

Some of the world’s most influential brands with the highest market capitalizations are held by born global firms. Uber, Spotify, and Skype were all created with the intention of becoming multinational corporations, and they achieved this goal within a short period.

Labels aside, these businesses usually possess distinctive characteristics which position them for success within international markets. What makes a born global company successful?

The Global Edge Factor

According to an article in the Technology Innovation Management Review, born global companies have essential elements which qualify them as instant internationals. But perhaps the most significant aspect is the need for a global edge. Born global companies must have a competitive advantage on a worldwide stage. Either by supplying a sweeping competitive advantage or through a universal product or service offering that is brand new to international markets.

This brings us to one of the main requirements for success as a born global company – a unique product. The offering is clearly distinctive, is of high quality, and displays creative genius. In addition, it possesses the ability to communicate in the languages of every continent and is often one of its kind. The product is accessible within global markets from the outset, without the need to start locally first. Ultimately, the value of the service or product is higher than the logistical costs involved.

Because consumer needs are fairly standardized throughout the world, born global companies aim to meet these universal demands with their supplies, so to speak. A key point to note is that each of the brands mentioned previously introduced something that faced no competition at the time, which essentially gave them a unique position directly lined up for success.

Another thing that plays an essential role in born global companies is the talent behind the product offering.

Diversified Talent

Since it involves coordinating many activities across many countries, born global firms benefit significantly from having access to global resources from their inception. Primarily teams that come from diverse backgrounds. The sole reason for this is that having talent and leadership spread across diverse regions instills multi-international behaviorism within the corporation. I.e.: Companies built with a universal mindset solve universal problems.

However, achieving this isn’t straightforward. Firstly, the importance of sourcing and hiring qualified staff should not be overlooked. The team must be able to accept the growing pains that come with an emerging business, whether domestic or international.

Secondly, considering that the leaders behind born global firms require knowledge intensity and experience interacting across cultural and sometimes linguistic boundaries, it’s certainly a skill set that demands both practice and patience. Although often more patience than practice.

Buzzworthy = Backing

Another principal factor to operating a successful born global company is having a product offering that is buzzworthy enough to attract an array of investors, especially ones with international influence – compared to domestic investors. It’s only natural that having access to financial backing with substantial reach lends itself to more opportunities.

Enablers Of Internationalization

At their core, born global firms are enablers of internationalization which means as brands; they need to carry international weight. One example is within the context of community-centric benefits. As opposed to fostering benefits in localities only in close proximities, global startups aim to solve problems on a worldwide scale.

Besides this, companies operating within an international market need a clearly defined mission, vision, and goal – which resonates with a broad audience. A born global company needs to establish a connection with a range of demographics – since casting a wide net is key to hooking people from many different backgrounds.

Therefore, the founders and leaders of born global businesses are greatly benefited from either existing connections or having the ability to build an international network. Businesspeople heading up born global firms should know how to network across cultural boundaries and adapt to the often interesting encounters that come along with multi-cultural working relationships.

Even when it’s not an East vs West polarity, being on the same side of the globe still encompasses unchartered territory. One occasion that springs to my mind is when I travelled to China and had a meeting with a prominent company about a potential partnership. The entire experience was interesting, to say the least, but ultimately it was a learning curve for knowing how to handle situations of a similar nature in the future.

The World Of Air Doctor

When it comes to being Born Global, Air Doctor checks all the boxes.

Air Doctor was literally born from a global need for traveler health care insurance when one of the founders fell ill in South America. Our mission is to enable any traveler in any country to obtain the medical services that they need. So, we understood from the beginning that we would be an international company.

In turn, our product answers an unmet need with its innovative technology and unique concept – an app that connects travelers, insurance companies, and physicians to solve the problem of arranging and paying for emergency medical care whilst abroad. Consequently, in a classic born global strategy, we use resources from multiple countries to deliver our service.

Naturally, COVID has been a challenging time for us since international travel came to an abrupt stop in 2020.

However, that didn’t stop us from creating a telemedicine solution and building the components for a digitized service. We spent the rest of the interim developing our global network, growing our team, and we’re even winning several awards along the way.

Roll With The Punches

It goes without saying that anyone running a born global firm needs to be able to roll with the punches. Agility and flexibility are the name of the game – especially within an intercontinental arena. Whether it’s about being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to jet set off to a conference or about being able to pivot a business model during times as trying as those in a global pandemic – being able to adapt is pivotal.

While most investors are mainly interested in tech-driven startups, the people are always the real driving force behind any company’s success. Technology and markets will forever be dynamic, but when a born global firm is backed by a solid team that is passionate in their single pursuit, the business is built for both endurance and the global stage.

Born global companies are a cardinal aspect of the global economy, making their success equally significant. Air Doctor is a born global brand, and every curve ball is just another stepping stone to both future and ongoing triumphs.

About the Author
I am the CEO of a global startup, Air Doctor. Previously held top managerial positions at Intel Corporation.
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