Go Global Without Waiting to Grow Up

Micro-multinationals are startups and small companies that do business globally right from the start.

Traditionally a company got off the ground locally, then expanded nationally. When it got really big, it went global.

You may have heard the SAP commercial where a businesswoman says, “we’re definitely going global … just as soon as we go national.” In the past that pretty much summed up how small businesses and mid-sized businesses grew.

But things are changing. The newer trend is for companies to be international from the beginning, without having to wait to grow up. They’re the ones that have been dubbed the “micro-multinationals.”

Marton Dunai writes an article in the Contra Costa Times about this trend:

Once, only giant firms roamed the global marketplace. The world of export, import, shipping and customs came with high costs. It wasn’t for the novice entrepreneur.

Then came the Internet, nose-diving communication costs and the collapse of rigid international barriers. China and India gradually joined the global marketplace. That allowed companies to go beyond manufacturing and selling overseas: They outsourced everything from customer support to bookkeeping.

Midsized companies soon began to take advantage of those services. They thrived, too.

Now, global communication is a breeze and very affordable. Offshoring and outsourcing anything is a widely available service. Traveling and shipping are easier than ever.

All that has entrepreneurs cooking up new business plans that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Newborn businesses are going global and often beat the big boys at their own game.

I’ve most often seen this trend applying to technology and information businesses.

It’s easier to be a global business (1) when you don’t have to worry about physically moving lots of stuff across borders, and (2) where the location of your workers and workplace is not as critical as it is for a goods-based businesses.

However, even other kinds of businesses are starting to see the global trend, fueled by technology, easy email communications, English becoming the lingua-franca of business, and the opening of global marketplaces.

Look, for instance, at the antiques business. Many antiques dealers are now global. You can routinely buy antiques and collectibles on eBay from dealers who consider it just an ordinary day when they make a sale to someone in another country.

And it’s not just the high-end dealers, who’ve always catered to an international clientele. Today it’s not uncommon to buy a $75 item on eBay and have it shipped internationally, especially if it’s a small item that can be packed and shipped easily and cheaply. But even large items like furniture are routinely shipped internationally. Just check out all the auctions and eBay stores featuring Chinese “antique furniture” where they ship it by the container load to the U.S.

The Contra Costa Times article makes this very point, talking about how this trend of startups doing business globally is going beyond technology and information businesses, to other kinds of businesses.

Read: It’s a small (business) world.

And for more about micromultinationals, read also:

The Trend of the Micro-Multinationals

The Mighty Micro-Multinational

And check out Laurel Delaney’s blog and newsletter, where she writes tips and tactics for small businesses to go global:

Global Small Business Blog


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

15 Reactions
  1. Graham Lutz, The Young Capitalist

    The idea of going global right off the bat is so exciting I can’t even stand it! what’s more exciting to me is the opportunity of a work-anywhere type of situation thanks to technology!

  2. Hi, Anita — great world globe picture 🙂 and the concept is called “born global” for those entrepreneurs who go global right out of the gate.

    Hope all is well,

  3. Hi Laurel, Ooops! Did I use your globe image? It was on my hard drive, perhaps from one of your guest posts??? Anyway, hope you don’t mind.

    I’ve added your blog to the post as another resource on going global as a kind of mea culpa. 🙂


  4. Tips and Tactics that Laurel Delaney writes about is truly great info. Thanks Laurel

  5. Hello Anita and all ~ thanks a bunch. I’ll be cross-posting this entry to The Global Small Business Blog soon. Watch for it.

  6. While exciting, going global is something that needs to be planned well in advance, and with the advice of persons who have been successful entering/ expanding into international markets.

    Technology has made reaching opposite parts of the global “reachable” but that doe snot mean that because a firm can use Skype, that it should open up an office in Shanghai, or outsource their production.

    Throughout my 6 years in China, it has been the SMEs that have been hurt the most. Large companies paid their tuition 10-15 years ago, but their infrastructure is in place. the problem that SMEs face are vastly different, and it requires a lot more ongoing work to make the platforms stable.


  7. This also means that your competition is not just the business down the road or even in the same state or country. Small or mid-sized businesses who can be more flexible an innovative could just as easily be in your market space without you knowing it and with possibly much lower cost structures

  8. This is a trend that perhaps personifies the flattening world. Glocal is a term increasingly used to highlight this trend of going global while operating locally.

  9. We get quite a bit of international traffic to our aircraft website – Aviongoo. Probably half our revenue comes from there.

    If anyone is interested, we’ve started several blogs about specific aircraft models. If you want to start selling aircraft, it would be a feather in your cap to be an expert in a particular niche.

    Since we can’t be everywhere on all our blogs (most are populated with daily automatic updates), we would be more than happy to allow interested parties to become key contributors. Over time you might become the key authority concerning particular aircraft types.

    Also, if you are in the Houston area, we can get it setup so you can visit an FBO.

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