When should I expand internationally versus focus on growing locally?

Holly Liu / November, 2017


Holly Liu founded the venture-backed mobile gaming company, Kabam in 2006 with UC Berkeley alumni. Kabam was sold to South Korea’s Netmarble Games for a reported $800 million in 2017. Holly led the design for Kabam’s award-winning “Kingdoms of Camelot” franchise, which has grossed over $250 million in less than four years.

Watch this video as Holly emphasis the importance of being ready to scale and how deciding a seating chart can be more complicated than you think.

Video transcript:

When should I expand internationally versus focus on growing locally?

So when should a startup think about expanding internationally versus locally, sadly I’m going to say it depends. It really depends on what kind of business you are in, what you feel your competitive advantage is. I know that when a friend did a moving company it was online to offline and their competitive advantage was how many states can they be in, and lock up from state to state.

I will say that what’s really important before you think about expanding, regardless of any type of startup, is making sure that you’re ready, that the core of your business is really good. Then you can consider expanding because the downside of going out and expanding before you’re ready is that many things can crumble very quickly. Just make sure your core is good and it’s quite repeatable and then you can start thinking about expanding to another state or to another local because it will feel really different.

Its impact on culture is really great. I think the largest impact it has is really on communications. I think for any startup and I hope every single startup gets to a phase where they have to grow even their headquarters or their one location into two floors. That was a big deal and a big impact on communication.

Actually, the funniest thing is that the seating chart is actually one of the most political things within a startup. People don’t know that but where do people sit is something that has caused many discussions and hurt feelings, which is really funny. It does impact communications, people feel like ‘oh, the feel is so different’. But anytime you do introduce more people, do it very thoughtfully and when you’re ready.



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