Entrepreneur, Startup Awards finalist, and member of telecoms firm Telefonica’s Wayra startup accelerator scheme, Erika Brodnock tells us about the successes, trials and tribulations of setting up her own business. In her second column, she shares her top tips for taking your startup international.

The main goal of every startup is to be successful and dominate the market they are targeting. From personal experience, I have found this is not as easy as entrepreneurs initially hope it to be. Through setting up my own business, I am currently experiencing the struggles and highlights of taking my idea from the kitchen table to an international brand.

The company I have set up is Karisma Kidz. It aims to empower and educate children aged between 3-9 years through play by providing online and offline products that enhance their confidence and happiness. Being from the UK made it the most plausible place to start, but I always felt that the real passion for my products was going to come from the US and I’ve consistently sought opportunities that enable exposure in that market for us. Preloading our app onto the Kurio tablet was a great asset as it’s sold globally and we immediately begun to pick up downloads from the US. Now just under 60% of our monthly downloads are coming from the US so I’ve been looking for further opportunities to take the Karisma Kidz stateside.

Go back to school
Attending the Mobile Academy last year put my idea in front of the team at UCL responsible for pulling the course together. Of course, I kept in touch with progress updates once the course concluded. This lead to a nomination to apply for a place at CTIA Startup Lab which is hosting an event in Las Vegas aiming to accelerate the growth of seed and growth-stages companies - chosen by their local communities and investors for their future potential. I’m pleased to say that I’m writing this from a hotel in Las Vegas as we were selected as one of four UK startups to attend.  

Get native
One of the key lessons for me over the last couple of years is that a business needs to have a unique global competitive advantage – what may appear to be unique in your own country may already be in use elsewhere in the world. In our case, Social and Emotional Learning is a nascent market attracting individuals from the likes of Angry Birds in China and the founder of EA Sports in the USA. Once the unique selling point has been identified, a business must ensure that they cater for the cultures of the international countries they’re attempting to target. In a recent webinar lead by Sanae Nakanishi, it was noted that British companies were mostly unable to penetrate the Japanese smart phone market as a result of failing to localise. Contacting local industry experts may prove to be invaluable by helping to tweak your product to make it culturally appropriate.

Network, network, network!
We’re having a terrific response so far at Super Mobility Week with interest from a leading VC in our space, which is very exciting. What’s positive to see is that opportunities exist to aid our international journeys. Keeping in touch with connections and letting them know what you are looking for as well as keeping an eye out for webinars held in different countries may provide a detailed and helpful insight into what particular countries want and what they already have from a native perspective. In addition, looking at initiatives abroad provides an opportunity to network and pitch in a different country with an unexplored audience.

Follow Erika on Twitter @ErikaBrodnock and find out more about Karisma Kidz here.