ISSUE #59 – Interview with Olivier Gerhardt, Co-Founder, CEO, Wavecell
WHAT IS YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL STORY?
I started my entrepreneurial journey after relocating to Singapore in 2009 with my family. Singapore was the perfect place to start a business for many familiar reasons.
For one, it is an excellent regional hub for accessing Asian markets. Additionally, thanks to the government’s support, Singapore’s flexibility, simplicity, low tax environment and advanced infrastructure have turned it into a favourable entrepreneurial ecosystem. Last but not least, it is one of the best places for cultivating a healthy family life.
WHAT DOES WAVECELL DO?
Wavecell’s mission is to help enterprises and application developers easily integrate modern communication channels into their products and services, and offer a seamless user experience on web and mobile to their customers. From SMS and mobile push notifications to voice and video calls, Wavecell provides cloud based real-time communication services to global customers in more than 200 countries.
We have more than 500 active customers across a wide range of industries such as e-commerce, telecommunication, digital marketing and CRM platforms, finance, insurance and transport.
Take time to understand the network of venture capitalists in your region.
WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT FUNDRAISING?
The company has been self-funded from the beginning, which has forced us to have a profitable business model from Day 1. We successfully grew the business organically over the first four years to S$6 million of revenue generated last year with a team of just 10 people and decided to work on a more ambitious expansion plan last year as we wanted a fi rst mover advantage in Asia’s booming cloud communication market that would be worth USD30 billion by 2020. Towards the end of 2015, we successfully raised S$2.5 million from the first round of fundraising, which involved two major Singapore-based venture capitalists, Qualgro Asean Fund and Wavemaker Pacific, with extensive networks in Asia.
The fundraising process is intense and requires a lot of dedication over a six month period at the very least. Potential investors will use that time to assess your business, team, products, market opportunity and growth. While all the meetings take a lot of your time, it is very important that you remain focused on growing your business while keeping your team fully motivated, which is a real challenge. Having said that, the Singapore investment scene has evolved positively over the last few years, with much more funds available from business angels, business incubators, family offices, venture capitalists, corporations and government affiliated funds.
One of the key learning points from our fund raising process is realising the importance of taking time to understand the network of venture capitalists in your region.
Armed with this knowledge, you can connect with the ones that are currently investing in your industry and partner with those who offer the most lucrative agreements. You also need to select the venture capitalists that will be able to help with your business and bring value in the long term.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPANSION PLANS IN SINGAPORE AND BEYOND?
Our ambition is to be the next leading player in our industry in Asia. Over the next 12 months, we plan to grow our market share in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region. We are currently opening offices in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to scale up our sales force and local presence in the main markets where our cloud communication services have gained significant traction.
Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “The Enterprising Spirit” – Issue #1 2016