5 Great Localization Tips for Startups

Localisation tips

5 Great Localization Tips for Startups

Startups often reach for the stars when it comes to global expansion. Irish company Soundwave is no exception and has found a successful way to launch their product into foreign markets – according to its founders, localization plays a big role in successful expansion. Here are their tips on how to go about it.


According to Jessica Stillman in an article on Forbes, most startups don’t think about ceilings and limits. She even goes as far as saying these companies aim for ‘world domination!’

Even though it can’t hurt to have such big dreams, this expansion of course does not happen overnight. Thus, she gives a few tips learned from music discovery startup Soundwave that will get new companies one step closer to conquering the world.

Stillman spoke with Soundwave’s CEO and co-founder Brendan O’Driscoll, who told her that the company was aiming for the global market right from the start. Consequently, the Ireland-based company launched their product for both Android and Apple devices and localized it to fourteen different languages.

According to Driscoll, European companies are more aware of localization than for example businesses based in the US as they are surrounded by a multitude of languages.

You might think a successful company would like to keep its knowledge about globalization to themselves, but O’Driscoll and his co-founder Craig Watson are more than willing to share a few tips with Forbes’ readers!

1. Think about your languages

According to the men, six languages is enough to cover nearly 80 per cent of all consumers worldwide. These languages must thus be chosen wisely and Stillman says Soundwave used the Irish Tethras for this. Moreover, Watson states that companies should not expect to have their content translated once and then be done with it for the rest of their existence. All product updates, messaging campaigns etcetera involve new translations.

2. Take your time

For companies not involved in the translation industry, the time it takes to carry out a proper translation can be surprising. Watson believes translation can either be done quickly or correctly and that a combination of the two is impossible. Thus, the earlier startups offer their content to a translator, the better. His advice: find out how long translation will take and then add 20 per cent.

3. Visit your market

As translation, and especially localization, means products are adapted to suit a certain market, it is a very wise idea to actually visit this market, the men say. This will give startups great insights in these markets and their consumers. In Europe in particular, it is very easy to visit a prospective market, Watson says. So hop on that plane!

4. Find locals who want to work for you

Most startups are on a very tight budget when they first start out, so finding other ways to communicate with their target audience might be very welcome. Stillman says that the Soundwave owners have found a great way to do so: they have launched a programme in which people can become ambassadors for their own country. These ‘Roadies’ bring the Soundwave app in the limelight and in return receive updates and networking opportunities. Moreover, they can even host events. According to Watson, the response has been amazing and has benefitted Soundwave greatly.

5. Effort is everything

Finally, Watson and O’Driscoll would like to point out that even if the results are not what companies expect, it is still important to go that extra mile and go for localization. Watson says that users will always appreciate the fact that you tried to adapt your products to their preferences, even if the localization is not perfect yet. However, he also warns companies about the other side of imperfect translation – according to him users will know if you are not committed to them and will abandon your products just as easily as they have found them.

Emma Tidey
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