With Patricia Matey, VP International Strategic Growth at Genially
As part of our work on international expansion, we hosted a portfolio session featuring conversations with Patricia Matey, VP International Strategic Growth at Genially and Felix Ohswald, CEO and Co-Founder of GoStudent. We also presented our survey analysis of 60+ Edtechs’ expansion experiences.
Genially is a recent addition to the Brighteye family - Brighteye participated in Genially’s recent $20M round, closed in September 2021. Felix is a Specialist Advisor to Brighteye.
In this, the first of two pieces, we focus on the conversation with Patricia.
Genially is the most powerful online tool for creating interactive, animated content. It can be accessed anywhere and thus secures traction around the world, without the need for Genially to formally ‘enter’ new markets. It has users in over 180 markets and has dedicated teams in 5 specific geographic markets.
What follows is a case study of Genially's approach to international expansion, using insights shared during the portfolio session and supplemented with conversations with Patricia.
1. Could you tell us about your approach to expansion at Genially?
When I joined Genially, we were in the throes of deciding where and how to expand. My first priorities were building the CRM, creating the expansion playbook, hiring and onboarding international accounts, setting up KPIs, building customer journeys, developing relevant contracts and adjusting the product portfolio in line with what our customers in new markets were demanding with relevant translations.
We now have teams dedicated to 5 key markets, with users in more than 180 markets.
Our key user groups have evolved in time, as we have expanded. Education is now a key area of focus- we saw virality and traction in the sector as teachers and students began sharing their work produced on Genially within their networks. As awareness grows, we are able to develop relationships at organisational and school or university level. As such, as we have expanded, education networks play an important role in our early penetration and traction.
2. How do you decide which markets to enter?
We first focus on markets with the highest numbers of organic registrations. We first, therefore, operate on a B2C basis and then we start working to convert users to B2B relationships, once we can see a good number of registrations from individuals at a shared organisation. This happens quite nicely in both education institutions and in corporates.
The second focus is market variables, including competition, traction including how quickly traction has grown, legal barriers, and digitisation indicators in the market.
The third focus is on the budget necessary to create a whole customer experience for the market and building an effective, high-performing local customer team. This is typically made up of 5 sub teams, including community, acquisitions, support, customer development and growth.
3. What is your outline entry process?
There are 5 key stages to our expansion process:
· First, we undertake a market opportunities study- considering macro indicators on market suitability and existing traction, as well as key or significant regulatory or entry regulations
· Second, we focus on localising the platform (website, editor, product, help centre, blog, emails, etc.)
· Third, we build the team, including hiring into customer acquisition, UX, sale and product marketing roles
· Fourth, we adapt all products/ materials with relevant local use cases in corporates, schools and universities so that users can properly understand how Genially can help them improve what they do.
· Fifth, we develop target milestones and build scale!
4. Managing local teams
Maintaining positive, productive relationships with country teams focused on different markets is key. We achieve this via three types of regular meetings in addition to a markets dashboard showing local performance and progress against KPIs:
· Daily morning calls to overcome stoppers (collective, all international teams)
· Weekly contact with country managers to share insights and strategies (collective, all international teams)
· Weekly or fortnightly 1:1s with country managers to understand pipelines and performance against KPIs (single market focus, separate teams)
5. Finding talent
Hiring the right talent can make or break an expansion approach, so we like to take our time in the process. We prefer to narrow rather than broaden the specification- it does make it harder to find suitably qualified people but it also means you’re more likely to make successful, longer-lasting hires. We like to utilise our Ambassador programme in this process as well as our other networks of users. We find that engaged customers can provide a helpful funnel of interesting candidates!
6. Challenges during the expansion process
We tend to divide challenges between those relating to operations and those relating to scalability. We initially focus on operations stoppers in each individual team, considering stoppers in marketing, growth and customer success teams, for example. We then focus on the scalability challenges in each team. We then create goals for each team that can combine to create market-level goals, which combine to create expansion goals!
There are three main areas of challenges during the expansion process:
The legal barriers need to be addressed quite rigidly given that they are immovable- for instance, the Loi Chatel in France and FERPA and COPPA regulations in the US. Addressing these regulations is more complex and nuanced than simply updating our terms and conditions, as is the case in other markets and with other, simpler regulations. The regulations require more significant product adaptations and developments, which can be quite time-consuming. We used external education consultants in key markets to help us comply these regulations.
Depending on the markets we enter, and the degree to which we focus on education or corporate customers, payments can present a considerable challenge. Firstly, it’s important for customer conversion that payments can be made in local currencies. For instance, when we first entered some markets in South America, we could only take payments in dollars and euros. We worked hard to correct this as quickly as possible- conversion increased significantly after this change. This is partially because local currency conversions can fluctuate quite significantly, relative to the comparative stability of dollars and euros.
Secondly, if you enter markets with less sophisticated financial systems than, say, Europe and the US, many education sector clients (schools, colleges, universities, et al.) don’t have their own credit cards and thus need to pay by bank transfer, which is of course, more manual than a simple online payment- some schools need to make payments in supermarkets or other community hubs. This also makes renewing client relationships more difficult as renewal isn’t automated and must be manually pursued by the Genially team.
We address these issues by developing MVPs with local currency in new markets and have hired a small team to process payments. This said, as with other areas of the business, we are spending considerable energy automating what it’s possible to automate.
c. Team scalability
Building international teams is challenging. It’s easy to forget that a key part of the expansion process is broadening awareness of existing teams, not solely dedicated to new markets, to the need to consider new markets in their decisions. Thinking carefully about priorities, processes and structures is crucial to rapid acclimation to new markets and their consumers, particularly if you have more than one target market, as we do at Genially (in education and corporations) that require considerably different, nuanced sales and success approaches. Once these approaches are developed, it’s important to adapt your training of new teams to match the nuances of their market. Corporations’ behaviour and practices are more comparable across markets than education systems (partially due to varying government roles within education systems).
On a related note, it’s important to consider how you maintain, improve and broaden your company culture. Appropriate language capabilities and translations are key, for expansion playbooks, analysis and communications between and within teams.
This is all part of the process of adjusting to the realities of becoming a bigger business- good challenges to have!