Unicorns have been revolutionizing the world of technology and services for several decades. They have changed the way people shop, eat and work. Many unicorns have gone from startups in a college dorm to household names all around the globe in a few years. They have also shifted the country’s idea of how to become wealthy and change in different economic sectors. Companies have crafted a particular template of success for American companies. However, this template does not always expand as well to other countries. International expansion requires change and growth that unicorns are not always able to handle. These companies must show their flexibility and their ability to thrive in new cultural, economic, and political systems if they hope to reap the benefits of international wealth after they become unicorns going global.
Unicorns and disruption
Unicorns going global causes a number of regulatory and economic headaches. They make their mark in the United States with disruption. Market disruption occurs when a new company significantly changes the way a specific sector does business. This disruption creates a market opportunity that the company is able to fill and make massive profits with. This business model works well under a particular set of market conditions. The problem with international expansion is that another country often has vastly different market conditions.
Other countries have different cultural values and relationships between government and business. These divergent conditions may make market disruption in a particular area more difficult. The market may have already been disrupted by another company that will now be a unicorn’s competitor. An intrusive government may be invested in that other company and might take steps to undermine the unicorn.
New business models
A unicorn’s business model may change when it expands to another country. Brands often change their focus in other countries to suit the values of that country and to try and regain their edge. Global unicorns have to be flexible and mold their business model around the needs and realities of new countries. A company that relies on information technology may not want to conform to the censorship rules of the countries they are expanding to. But they may not have a choice if they want to do business in a country. Sometimes, the restraints placed on global unicorns are ones that are more directed towards cultural norms than economic or governmental practices.
A popular example is the field of restaurants. Companies that want to make millions of dollars in international restaurant sales have a certain model that they can use and a certain menu that they become famous for. No matter how popular that menu is, they will most likely have to change it in other countries. Other countries have different tastes and cultures that lead to the adoption of a different menu. A foreign country may also have religious guidelines that prevent their citizens from eating a startup’s food. As a result, the startup must show flexibility and tailor their menu to the needs of the new country in order to survive.
Unicorns also have the possibility to become behemoths. International expansion has allowed for the exponential growth of numerous companies. The United States is indeed a large and prosperous country. However, it only has a small fraction of the world’s population. Expansion to other countries and continents can lead to an expansion of billions of customers and billions of dollars in potential profits.
Countries such as China have over one billion citizens and prosperous financial centers such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. The international expansion allows unicorns to access these new markets and find new ways of making money. They can set up their own subsidiary companies that export their business models to new markets. Once located in those new markets, subsidiaries can survey the market and discover new business opportunities. These opportunities may allow the unicorn to add an entirely new business to their initial business model.
How to expand
In order to compete in other countries, unicorns must do their research and take their time. They should never rush into an international expansion because of the lure of the increased profits. Instead, unicorns may have to spend thousands of dollars researching new cultures and making connections. They need to forge personal relationships that may take months or even years to come to fruition. In addition, unicorns have to have a model that they can replicate easily for each country once they have initially expanded outside of the United States. With enough time and research, unicorns can avoid the bevy of problems that doom the vast majority of overseas expansions.
Unicorns will continue to be a critical part of the world’s economic landscape. There are still numerous businesses to be disrupted and venture capital dollars to be invested. These efforts will only expand in impact as older unicorns grow and become profitable. Unicorns must remain vigilant and be extremely careful as they consider international expansion. Such an expansion has the possibility to either make or break the fortunes of both its owners and investors.
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