© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explain how some born global firms can leverage the rich social capital in their local (home country) horizontal network for accelerated international market entry and growth. Horizontal networks warrant separate attention from their vertical counterparts, which, along with those focussed on external international contexts, dominate most network studies in the realm of born global research. Design/methodology/approach: The study utilises a multi-level qualitative approach in the study of a multi-firm population of animators in Ireland that, due to the small domestic market for their product, needed to pursue global customers from inception. The case study domain was purposely selected as a critical exemplar of a local horizontal network operating in a highly globalised industry. The authors collected data through in-depth interviews with 16 company founders. This primary interview data were complemented by interviews with staff at the apposite industry association and triangulated with secondary data on the local and global industry conditions, members’ international successes and awards. Findings: The results demonstrate how active membership of a local horizontal network can be leveraged for the acquisition of international market knowledge and customers for born global ventures. This arises from the sharing of collective market knowledge and communal global customer information within the network to mutual benefit. Originality/value: Although limited by the specific conditions in this highly globalised, non-competitive industry context, this study is unique in that it finds that cooperative interpersonal and inter-firm relationships embedded in a local horizontal social network, and mediated in part by an institutional support actor, emerge as important levers for a born global’s accelerated acquisition of foreign market knowledge and of global customers.