Interview with Kirk Simpson (Wave)
Wave is a web based invoicing, accounting and payroll application.
I interviewed Kirk Simpson, Wave co-founder and CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy first in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Kirk!
How would you describe Wave in under 50 words?
Wave is a fully integrated suite of innovative, easy to use tools that help you run your business better. Invoicing, accounting, personal, reporting, payroll and payments all in one package. And we talk the language of small business owners. And did I mention, most of our tools are free.
Why did you decide to make Wave completely free? What’s your revenue model?
We originally intended to charge for Wave, but quickly changed our mind when we came to better understand our target market. People who are running a small business don’t have an extra cent to spare, especially for complicated software that they generally don’t like to use. Let’s face it, small business owners would rather do what they do best and that generally doesn’t include accounting. So we set our minds to innovating on the traditional pricing model.
Wave has two revenue models. Primarily, we show non-intrusive offers that are targeted to small business owners in all of our free products. It’s an ad-based model, but even our advertisements are great offers, designed to save the small business owner money for products that they would have to buy anyways. We also offer some paid products, most notably our payroll tools. But even with our paid products we are innovative on the pricing model – for instance our payroll is an all-in-one, no nickel and diming flat fee per employee.
You doubled your user base from 250,000 to 500,000 in just 6 months (May-December 2012), which marketing channels have you used to grow so quickly?
Our marketing team has been really smart at identifying opportunities, including building resources for niche markets where Wave is a natural fit. We’ve also created a robust social media presence, utilized great SEO practices throughout the company, used paid search, and created really valuable content to drive traffic to our site.
Most importantly we’ve invested in the product so that our users want to spread the word about Wave. You also can’t underestimate the power of free.
You also nearly doubled your team in that time to over 70 people. Have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers and managers?
Our goal from day one has been to surround ourselves with smart, creative, energetic and passionate people who care about our customers and the problems we are trying to solve. So we have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into finding those people. And when we do we go out of our way to try and recruit them by telling them the Wave story and drawing out what the future of Wave will look like. In a way each of those interviews is like a mini investor pitch. They are going to make a big difference to the success and failure of our company so we spend the time to sell them on the benefits of working at Wave.
Other than being completely free, how do you differentiate from your competitors?
Firstly, we have a laser focus on small business owners – typically nine employees or under. We don’t try and straddle small and medium sized businesses because they act very differently. That specific focus allows us to be very methodical about the tools we build and those we won’t. In return the small business owner gets a tool that speaks their language and is uncluttered by bells and whistles that only the medium sized business would need.
Secondly, we believe in building integrated tools within the same app. With Wave you don’t have to be using several different apps (all with different logins, user interfaces to learn and API’s). You can get invoicing, accounting, personal, payments, payroll and soon receipt scanning all in a single app, where everything works together seamlessly.
Finally, we are a true double entry accounting system. Different than some of our competitors who believe the only way to be simple is to remove that important fundamental, a Wave user is ready for tax time or to work with an accountant because with Wave you can get out to a proper balance sheet.
You acquired Vuru, a stock research and investment tracking application August 2012. What was the process like and has it been helpful in growing your business?
This acquisition process seemed natural, as we had been doing quite a bit of mentorship with the team at Vuru. We saw the clear value they could add to our suite of tools, the personal finance tools in particular.
But most importantly it was about Cam and Yoseph, the founders. We knew they were incredibly strong and could add a lot to the Wave team. We haven’t been disappointed – they have come in and added a tremendous amount of value in a short period of time. They are an important part of our future.
You have users in over 200 countries, have you come across any cultural or technical barriers?
We built our tools to be highly customizable, so you can input your own tax codes and create your own products, which is what has allowed us to see this kind of growth.
Of course, we’re still getting requests for language translations, and have run across a few areas where people have requested new areas to be customized, such as invoice headers, but we’re handling all of these on a per case basis. International growth is an important part of our future.
What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?
Without giving away too much, I can tell you that we’ve recently changed Wave’s structure, so it’s easier than ever to bring new tools and functionalities to our customers. There will be lots of exciting developments coming down the pipeline in 2013, so stay tuned!
You have been very successful with smaller businesses, any plans for the enterprise market?
Absolutely not. By trying to tackle every market, you end up with a muddled message and muddled products. You can’t be everything for everyone, but we can be the best suite of tools available for the small business owner, who represent approximately 90% of businesses in North America.
Can you convince the reader to start using Wave in under 50 words?
Try out our 100% free invoicing, accounting, and personal finance tools. Once you’ve seen them, you won’t need any convincing.
Finished reading? Check out Wave!