going global, part iii

Quick recap: to scale internationalization (i18n), you need strong tools and processes in place. These posts go through an overview of those tools and processes and how to approach them. 

The first post of this series went through expansion strategy. The second post covered content and communication. In this third and final post, the focus is on some areas of operational i18n that impact product. At the end of the day, every part of the business is impacted by i18n. I'm focusing here on the ones that I believe need the tightest collaboration and providing some examples of what to think about with regards to:

  • content
  • legal
  • payments



I'm referring to content here as structured content that is part of running the business. For example, every market in the world has different car manufacturers, categories and models. A van is not the same thing in every market in the world. That means as you open up new markets, you have to bring in new content sources. For a long time at Uber, we had people manually entering this information and we made a small optimization to simply duplicate original data when creating new cities in the system. Of course, this was not particularly useful for our international cities because the base city that we duplicated was San Francisco. Oops. If we had to do this again, it would have been particularly helpful to rely on standardized sources of information and proactively update that with new sources relevant to the expansion markets. This data will vary by business but as you think about known data, consider what those sources will be and how to get them internationally. Some examples to consider include:

  • financial markets (stock symbols)
  • food (recipe ingredients, measures)
  • addresses (postal code formats)
  • telephone numbers (formats, country codes)

Work closely with your operations teams to understand what data they need and use on a daily basis to run the business. Even if these data sources aren't integrated into UIs from day one, having the reference will ultimately lead to cleaner data in your systems.



*It should go without saying that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice but I'll say it anyway. Please don't take this as legal advice in any way, shape or form.

Regardless of industry and market, there are regulations which require compliance. At the most basic level, that applies to terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) and privacy policies. Corporate structure can also play a role in this, i.e. where your company is headquartered according to your articles of incorporation. For example, if a user with a US credit card who legally resides in Canada goes to France and uses your company's app to do something, what laws govern any potential litigation? I have no idea and you probably don't either. Fortunately, there are people in your company who will be thinking about this, aka your legal team.

Different parts of the world also have rules with regards to how you display and collect information on websites and apps, including the much maligned EU Cookie Law. How and when to display this information, especially if it changes can have real consequences on design and marketing. Some examples of questions that you may need to ask:

  • If you're required to ask for compliance at certain points, do you need to use specific language?
    • How prominent does this notice need to be?
    • Who does it apply to?
  • When and how do you need to announce major changes to your user base?
    • What defines a major change?
    • What is the actual user base to which this change applies?

Work closely with your legal team to understand what will affect the product on an ongoing basis. Laws and regulations change and being aware of potential changes can help you avoid nasty surprises and unnecessary delays to market and product launches.


PAYMENTS (¥$₡₱£€)

This is one of the most complex parts of going global, so it's not entirely surprising that a collection of currency symbols looks like a cartoon version of swearing. Here are just a few of the things that might come into play:

Credit card processing, taxes, exchange rates, foreign fees, international credits, new forms of payment, security requirements, merchant accounts, interchange fees... etc. etc.

Without even going into detail, it's clear that there are many things to consider with regards to international payments. If I tried to cover each of these things, I would either give up and this post would never be finished or you'd give up reading partway through. Rather than do that, here's a structure to consider in defining your international payments roadmap:

  1. match up your expansion plan with the primary payment methods
    • if there's a large addressable market, but only 3% credit card penetration, how will that affect the order in which you place that market?
  2. understand the regulatory needs for online transactions
    • do you need to collect information with each transaction, e.g. asking for CVV?
  3. understand the needs for merchant accounts, physical offices and bank accounts
    • how long in advance do you need to get these in place?
    • are these required to operate in the country?
  4. iteration is always possible
    • consider launching with only credit cards to start (which is relatively easy) and build on this at a later time

Work closely with your F&A teams to understand the financial regulations and timing requirements that will apply. This can be one of the most complicated areas even in just a single market and at Uber, the Money team is absolutely critical in managing transactions and payments for consumers and drivers globally. In the pithy words of the Wu-Tang Clan:


On that note, this is the last and final blog post of the series on going global. If you missed the earlier posts, you can get to them here: part i, part ii. I hope you found these useful, and if there are any future areas you'd like to see covered, feel free to let me know in the comments.