Copycats are a dying breed. Each month the gap shrinks between a new digital service emerging in the U.S. and it being copied in other markets. This trend has big implications for global businesses, forcing them to rethink investment and innovation strategies.
India is a good example of just how quickly technology dispersion is accelerating. For example, more than 13 years passed between the launch of Amazon in the U.S. in 1994 and the launch of Flipkart, its equivalent in India. In 2013, it took just three months following DoorDash announcing its Series A funding for India’s Swiggy to launch.
There are three key drivers behind this rapid acceleration in the dispersion of business models:
- Local exceptions notwithstanding, human needs are often universal, and technology is therefore applicable across the globe.
- The internet enables the easy dissemination of information about new tech trends — TechCrunch is universally accessible to entrepreneurs.
- The rapid growth of mobile device adoption is a powerful platform for global rollouts.
For businesses expanding into high-growth markets, the implication of this trend is clear: While there’s a big opportunity, you must move fast.
There are five ingredients that help startups meet this challenge:
- Focus on large markets first. These provide the opportunity to scale fast, and leaders from large markets are more likely to become global successes.
- Develop a well-thought-out and repeatable model for internationalization.
- Raise capital as if you’ll be a global winner, and move quickly from proof of concept in one market to international rollout.
- Partner with investors that can help you overcome the specific challenges that come with internationalization.
- Hire talent with an international mindset.
For entrepreneurs in high-growth markets, one thing is clear: Although launching proven business models seen elsewhere has been a profitable strategy until now, that game is largely over. With global tech players becoming bigger and faster than ever before, there’s simply not enough time to achieve critical scale.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities for local startups. Global models eventually come up against the limits of local taste and context, and it’s within these local “moats” that home-grown startups can make their play.
Local moats can be regional, political, cultural or economic in nature. But they have one thing in common: they enable differentiation. For example, the Chinese wall allowed Baidu to resist Google. And language and cultural barriers have enabled local content providers like Africa’s ShowMax to compete with Netflix.
Additionally, entrepreneurs in home markets can build strong businesses by solving local problems. These local problems represent opportunities that might not be picked up by those working in the hubs of Silicon Valley and the like, and are therefore ripe for the picking.
The accelerating pace of tech dispersion is driving great change in the global startup ecosystem. While there will be fewer “copycat” services in the future, we can look forward to a new wave of original innovation in high-growth markets that will create huge opportunities for the startups involved.
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