International markets have been cash cows for American companies since the days of charter barges and wooden ships. Now that airplanes and fiberoptic cables have become mainstream, doing business overseas and across borders is fairly simple. Some countries are great for outsourcing, some are better for a brand new audience. What if some are untapped? Cuba's latest developments with America are making US companies chomp at the bit, a new neighbor to partner with, a new audience, a new start.
Not without it's challenges, Cuba poses an intriguing opportunity for American businesses, their infrastructure has a ways to go since the cold war turned to permanent cold shoulders but there's no replacement for Cuba's culture and the lost time it's had with America's own culture.
Enter Netflix. Are you the least bit surprised that they're one of the first companies to race into the gulf? They recently announced that streaming is available in Cuba - technically speaking. Any registered user on the island can watch House of Cards but payment is a challenge, a challenge all too typical of international business. Especially in Cuba.
Netflix will allow Cuban users but will not accept Cuban Pesos as payment, credit cards or US currency are the only options. There are plenty of ways to get around this via third parties or foreign bank accounts but Cubans don't have credit cards. While Mastercard and Amex duke it out to establish business with Cuba, Netflix Director of Corporate Communications Cliff Edwards is not worried, "We are investing in all countries for the future, not simple the here and now."
Along with payment issues, Cuba has some of the slowest internet in Latin America. For years they've been operating with a system known locally as El Paquete meaning The Packet. This refers to an external hard drive walked, driven, and passed hand to hand via local hubs (houses) to distribute all kinds of contraband content. Videos, Games, Antivirus Software, you name it, this packet had the goods. In this DIY system, Cubans have been able to keep up with telenovelas and Kevin Spacey alike. While the fiberoptic cables get run, Netflix will wait and their new audience will grow hungrier for the latest in binge-watching.
The ability to think long term in the face of challenges and see the opportunity down the line is key to success in international markets. The path is fraught with roadblocks and challenges that will make you, your company, or your client want to quit. Having the courage and patience to find solutions and invest in a big success while small problems get fixed is invaluable. Our company can speak from experience, setting up international programs for clients across Europe and China have been our latest conquests. It was never, and still isn't easy, but it's always rewarding.
If you want to cross some borders and expand your company's growth, shoot us an email, we'd love to take the journey with you.