Wavecell was founded in 2010 as a self-funded venture that aimed to simplify real-time cloud communications. Today, the company, headquartered in Singapore, employs a team of 80, working on the ground in five countries across Southeast Asia. Olivier Gerhardt, Wavecell’s CEO and co-founder, who dreamed up the business after 15 years in the telecommunications industry, says their rapid growth has been a pleasant surprise. “We’ve got a really good team, good talents, who work very well,” he says. It’s that human capital that he credits for Wavecell’s ability to scale so quickly.

Wavecell’s products allow developers to integrate SMS, voice, chat, and video calling into their existing applications. “We basically help businesses to better communicate with their clients. We've been building a communication platform as a service,” Gerhardt explains. Wavecell’s leadership saw a need for a company to fill the gap between telecom operators and enterprise. This is the space where their offerings, a sort of platform on top of a platform, has been able to thrive.

With a background that spanned tech and sales, Gerhardt brought to Wavecell not only his telecommunications engineering perspective, but also a focus on clients. One of the elements of the work he most values, he says, is “spending time with my clients to understand their pain points, really helping to solve their problems.”

The founders decided to headquarter the company in Singapore and to focus on Southeast Asia because they saw the region undergoing a dramatic boom, one they predicted would continue into the future. “The middle class is growing massively, they are all digitizing, all the industries are digitizing their services,” says Gerhardt. This heady combination of economic growth and widespread digitization has translated into a wealth of business opportunities for a company that supports digital industries. And while the company’s offices—in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore—reflect its regional focus, Gerhardt emphasizes that their platform and connectivity are global. There are so many communication channels available to brands who want to connect with customers, he points out, but SMS is still the most universal because it’s available on every device.

Wavecell recently launched a new product that brings video interactions to websites and mobile apps to facilitate the kinds of customer-service interactions that have traditionally been handled in person, or, more recently, via text-based chats. Gerhardt sees this as part of a global trend, with special relevance for the finance industry. “They need to find a way to engage with their clients remotely, because the new generation doesn’t necessarily want to visit a branch anymore.” The same principle applies, he says, to any customer service or customer assistance interaction. He envisions all kinds of possibilities. Imagine you are a customer needing technical support from your internet service provider, he says. “They’re with you at home, they will take control of your back camera and figure out the problem and help you instantly solve the problem.” An appealing prospect to anyone who’s ever attempted technical troubleshooting over the phone.

Just as important as the company’s technology is its organization. Gerhardt notes that as Wavecell has scaled up, he has spent more and more of his time focused on the company’s internal organization and processes. Onboarding senior managers and figuring out the right organizational structures are as important as fine-tuning the tech. And right now, as Wavecell plans to expand from Southeast Asia into Japan, China, and Vietnam, cultural literacy is especially crucial. “You learn by experience,” says Gerhardt, “so I spend quite a lot of time in those countries to understand the culture, to meet with people, entrepreneurs, to understand the market. Whenever we decide to go into a country, we start by hiring a local business entrepreneur, one who really understands the way of the markets.”

Gerhardt says he and his whole team have a lot of fun working in Wavecell’s multicultural environment. Their team includes people from around 15 different countries, a mix he finds inspiring. “This is what is important,” says Gerhardt. “We need to make sure not only ourselves, but the entire team has fun and really enjoys what they do.”

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