Localization is challenging no matter the size or age of your company. Something as fluid as human communication, with all its attendant vagaries and subtleties, is intrinsically difficult to replicate faithfully. When it’s a startup, with all the chaos and uncertainty that name implies, seeking to localize its product or service that challenge is magnified tenfold. 

The word startup — a word that barely existed in the English lexicon until 1976, didn’t see widespread usage in US English until the late 90s, and still has a somewhat amorphous and contested definition — has come to symbolize both the promise and pitfalls of entrepreneurship, innovation, and 21st-century capitalism. Startup culture (and the mere fact of the existence of such a thing as “startup culture” is telling) is chronicled, observed, worshipped, and criticized. Startups are fodder for documentaries, web series, films, books, and countless think pieces. And the great majority of startups, like all businesses, are powered by the drive to grow. Growth means expansion and expansion means adaptation, and that’s where localization comes in. 

As we’ll see in the pages that follow, there are a multitude of concerns, and a multitude of approaches, when it comes to localizing your product or service as a startup, but the one thread that runs through them is this: if you have even a moderate level of confidence that you’re going to expand your presence outside of your local market, build your brand from the start with that in mind. 

The world is large, and diverse, and it’s gratifying to see the start-up world acknowledging and adapting to that reality.