Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn says having a global business puts the spotlight on your company’s weaknesses

While some startups choose only to target their immediate market, others think global from the start.

Speaking at Tech Toronto, Michael Tamblyn, the CEO of Toronto-based Kobo, says focusing on an international market from the point a startup launches helps startups grow and scale. Startups often think it’s easier to focus on one or two markets, he says, but when you have a product like an e-reader that people around the world would be interested in, it’s worth thinking big.

“We went global because we had to,” said Tamblyn, who was on Kobo’s executive team since it started in 2009. “It would have been so much easier to concentrate on one or two markets, but even when we were writing the first business plans in 2009, we could see that three to five companies were going to dominate ebooks worldwide and we wanted to be one of them.”

Tamblyn went over three points that helped Kobo succeed. Along with focusing on a market outside of North America, Tamblyn said that when entering international markets, it’s important to build strong relationships with local retailers who will help market a company’s products.

“We made expanding into new countries as lightweight as possible,” said Tamblyn. “We built partnerships with local retailers. They introduced us to all of their customers and sold devices in their stores.

He added that having a strong team working in multiple countries can help startups understand how businesses function in different markets. “Most important for us was that having a large number of people working remotely in a lot of different countries will throw a spotlight on every weakness you have in HR, hiring, performance management; really your culture as a whole.”

Watch the full talk below:

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Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.