The objective of this paper is to investigate the institutional characteristics of different geographic contexts that affect the internationalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The study focuses on three categories of factors: (a) sociocultural, (b) political/legal, and (c) economic. Under economic factors, it examines competitive pressures in international markets, the nature of demands in international markets, domestic resources advantages, and domestic general economic characteristics. The paper identifies universal factors that influence the internationalisation of SMEs regardless of the location of the firm. These universal factors are distinguished from context-based factors, which are specific to the particular conditions of the people/location of the firm. A comparative analysis of cases from Italy and Iran allow us to find factors that are universal, others that are Iranian context-based, and one factor specific to the Italian context. Also, our analysis suggests the existence of some factors without significant influence in either country.