More than two years ago, I launched Vayable, a platform to request, design and book unique travel experiences with locals, with a small team and community of about 70 local insiders (our name for local advisors) in San Francisco. Since then, we've grown into an international community of 5,000 insiders in more than a hundred countries across six continents, while simultaneously keeping our team small, lean and in San Francisco.
While scaling has been amazing, it has created a bit of conundrum for us: How can we be everywhere at once?
If we were a large corporation, we'd hire managers and open offices in all of our key markets. But as an early-stage startup, we had to get creative and invent a new way of being in multiple places and attending to various user bases at once. By creating pop-up headquarters, appointing remote ambassadors, building relationships and online communities, we turned this obstacle into an opportunity.
If you are planning on scaling your lean startup globally, here are some tips:
Start in your own backyard. Test out ideas and build relationships first with those in your own backyard, then take your learnings on the road. It's important to identify key contacts and relationships and start building them before you invest in growing them. If you have a lively customer base halfway around the world, start first with Google hangouts, Facebook groups and email before hopping on a plane.
Know when to be in specific place. Each time we pop-up in a new market or mobilize a community in a particular market, we're guided by concrete business-wise goals and enter that market with a specific purpose. Follow opportunities strategically and make your goals known to your team and the community.
Pack light. The key to moving fast is packing light. Don't get bogged down with unnecessary stuff you're hauling from place to place and don't waste your time at baggage claim. Whether you're on the road for three days or three weeks, you can always manage comfortably with a carry-on.
Opt for co-working spaces. This is the best way to keep overhead low and networking high. Most cities have a variety of great co-working spaces tailored around different kinds of communities. In Paris we worked from Mutinerie, in New York at Fueled Collective and in San Francisco we hunkered down at Rocketspace. All have incredible spaces and very strong startup communities.
Connect fearlessly. Know whom you want to talk to beforehand and set up as many meetings before you leave. When you meet folks, always let them know you're there for a limited time and ask them whom else you should meet. Although it's important to plan, make time for those impromptu coffees as well.
Find locals at your destination.
Your time on the road is much more precious than your time back at home. To ensure you're not only scratching the surface, connect with locals who can not only tell you where to go and what to do, but also who to meet. Cut to the chase and go to the heart of your destination.