Analyzing global culture

I often hear entrepreneurs talking about bringing a product from one market to another market under the assumption that the cultural drivers to adoption are the same in multiple geographies. Sometimes this is true and other times it isn’t true. When I hear these pitches I always try to dig in to find what core assumptions are being made (there usually are some big ones). Then I can try to understand what the entrepreneur knows and doesn’t know about those assumptions and can see if they know enough to make me believe them.

Here are a couple of examples to think about in this space if you find yourself thinking about a company trying to do this. After the WhatsApp acquisition there has been a lot of focus on mobile messaging and the ability for things like WeChat (which has a huge Chinese and Asian MAU base) to expand to the western world. I suspect that the US, Europe, and Asia all have different profiles though and as a result the translation is not the same.

Most Chinese have issues with auto-correct on iPhones and Android devices as the auto-correct isn’t written by native speakers. This drives frustration with the auto-correct and an excitement to use technology that avoids the auto-correct problem. It would be interesting to better understand improvements in native language auto-correct and how that may drive down usage of alternatives. Having spent enough time on the subway in Beijing… There is an obvious benefit to text based communication over voice based communications (reading the message is easier than listening to the voice message over and over again). That isn’t to say that a great auto-correct solution would be better than the new normalized culture of voice messaging that the WeChat network has promoted. It is important to understand why these tools are successful though before extrapolating them to other markets.

A great example comes form looking at mobile gaming. We can break down and see who is using sites like to access games. Look below at the age stats for mobile gaming between the UK and the US. The UK female gamers are incredibly younger than the female gamers in the US and this equates to different games. This is just one example of validating assumptions heard in start up pitches… even if the entrepreneur seems motivated and thoughtful about their market.


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