Home How Skimlinks Built A Company As Global As Its Product

How Skimlinks Built A Company As Global As Its Product

This post is presented by Business Is Great Britain.

The Internet is global, so why shouldn’t your company be, too?

Alicia Navarro, the founder and CEO of Skimlinks, learned early on that when you’re selling products or services over the World Wide Web, people can access them worldwide. That means customer service, technical support, and all other aspects of your business ought to be just as easy for them to reach.

Skimlinks helps Web publishers make money by turning mentions of products into affiliate links—clickable, trackable  links for which retailers pay sites when customers end up buying things. Since Web publishing and e-commerce have global appeal, Navarro has had to learn to run her business to reflect that. From its beginnings in Sydney, Australia, Skimlinks now has 65 employees spread around the world and dual headquarters in London and San Francisco.

In an interview with ReadWrite, Navarro gave us some pointers on running a business that’s gone global faster than you may have expected.

Give The People What They Want

Skimlinks has been an exercise in quick shifts from the very beginning. Navarro originally set out to build a social decisionmaking service. Her custom program for affiliate linking—the predecessor to Skimlinks—was simply a way to make money off of it.

“I found that when I was pitching for [venture capital] money or customers for our white-label service, nobody was interested in our social decisionmaking tool,” Navarro said. “They were all interested in this unsexy monetization technology that I built. I realized that if I wanted to survive, I’d have to throw away everything I’d built for the last year and instead commercialize this so that other websites could use it to make money on their sites.”

See also: Pinterest’s Second Attempt At Making Money Actually Sounds Smart

Today, Skimlinks runs on 1.5 million sites run by 40,000 individual publishers, with 18,000 merchants and affiliate networks as partners. Affiliate marketing is thought to have gotten its start in 1996, when Amazon launched its Associates program, and it’s done nothing but grow since. Forrester now estimates that spending on affiliate marketing will grow to $4.5 billion by 2016.  

The first step to a successful global business is identifying a product people universally want. Navarro’s original idea could never have become a global business because it wasn’t universally appealing. But making money off of a website, it turns out, is.

Begin Where The Opportunity Is

Navarro is a native Australian, but lives and works in London today. Leaving her homeland was a matter of finding a locale where she could find local investors for her business, something she was unable to secure in Australia.

“There was one venture capitalist in Sydney, that was it,” she said. “I pitched to him and the answer was no, and that was it, I was stuck.”

After that, Navarro said she “did what every self-respecting Australian does when they’re trying to find an answer and I went on a walkabout.” 

Six weeks of backpacking led her back to London, where she’d previously lived in her mid-twenties.

See also: 10 Great International Cities For Your Business

“I ended up deciding to move back to London because I’d managed to secure a first customer for the white-label service and I’d managed to find office space at an incubator,” she said. “The choice I guess was between the US and the UK, but I had a UK visa, I knew more people there, and I was more comfortable there. So I moved to London where I could be a full-time entrepreneur, and where my first customers were.”

Keep It Together

Fast-forward to 2014. Skimlinks has a London office, a San Francisco office, and is about to open a New York City office, too. Even with that breakneck expansion, Navarro has cofounders and employees who have been with her since her Australia days.

The key to keeping that international mixture smooth, Navarro said, is by maintaining a similar culture in each office through frequent visits from veterans of the business.

“We deliberately timed the move to San Francisco with two-and-a-half years of being in London,” she said. “We thought, now we have a solid-enough base in London that we can risk breaking it into two different teams.”

Navarro made sure that two of her original team members made it on to the San Francisco team, and built the rest of the satellite office around them.

See also: 12 Things You Should Do Before Entering a Business Partnership

“I made sure that the new office was seeded with what I call cultural ambassadors—people who are from the original team, who are strong representatives of the brand, who would be the kernel of the new office’s culture,” she said.

Finally, Navarro herself spends most of the year traveling in between the two offices, and plans to include the New York office in that rotation soon.

“II think the companies that don’t succeed are the ones that hire a standalone employee and expect them to operate on their own in isolation,” Navarro said. “It requires a lot of flying, face-to-face time, and a lot of founder time back and forth to not only support that person but not make them feel lonely.”

A global product, an opportune starting point, and a central business culture that unite the far-flung corners of her business are the pillars of Navarro’s success with Skimlinks. Now as she expands to mobile as well as desktop, to clients in Asia and beyond, and to yet another new office, Navarro doesn’t have any plans to change her method of attack.

“I think we do those three things very well and it’s enabled us to expand to San Francisco and we’re now replicating that path as we set up our New York office,” she said.

A product with global appeal—and a globetrotting personal touch. Those are Navarro’s secrets. Can you make them yours, too?

Photo courtesy of Alicia Navarro

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