First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andreas Hipp: We are actually quite OK given the fact of being based in Singapore where the spread is fairly under control while most activities are allowed, with some restrictions and obligations, of course. The main missing thing is being able to travel, which we are used to for many years.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cataleya.
Andreas Hipp: I was the Founder (2003) and Group CEO of Epsilon Global Communications, including Epsilon service provider and Cataleya technology businesses.
During my 20 years in the global telecoms community, I have contributed to the evolution of the international markets and technologies, creating innovative businesses and disruptive business models. I love technology but people even more and what technology can or must do for them.
I’m continuing to support the industry’s evolution through my startup enabler Incipio, acting as Chairman and CEO of Telecom Technology vendor Cataleya and my position on the board of Cirrus Core Networks, which offers an all NFV- based LTE Core Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) proposition for Mobile Network Operators.
My primary expertise is deploying disruptive business propositions and technologies, start-ups, and inspiring innovation in network virtualization, cloud, and data & analytics. I also have a strong background and passion for people, culture, and organization behavioral evolutions, which are now crucial to all operators’ survival and success.
How does Cataleya innovate?
Andreas Hipp: Given that we are in an existing market, most innovation is around features and business models; new technologies allow us to take shape. Innovation is driven by keeping a close eye on market and behavior developments that will impact the solutions required to support them. Close cooperation and collaboration with customers and other market players is key and question the status quo on an ongoing basis.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andreas Hipp: I think any business has been affected negatively except medical, online shopping, and delivery services, as well as certain cloud communications companies that have seen a massive spike that will last at least for some time. Medical will collapse to some old norms while the others will retain a good portion of the increase as they were already on a growth path that got expedited by the virus and its imposed regulations. For us, some of our clients have benefitted from the growth, and others have suffered, so I would call it neutral for now but certainly have not seen the take up we hoped for. We will see how the economic fallout will affect jobs, and fewer jobs mean less spending, and less spending on goods and services affects companies and their suppliers over the next 6 months, at least.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andreas Hipp: Well, we did not have to let people go but introduced pay cuts in April, which will remain in place till the end of the year to make sure we have some cushion. We were just about turning profitable this year as a kind of mature start-up, and funding became a non-option, so to remain liquid, these measures were important, and we will keep a keen eye on how things evolve. I haven’t learned much new as I have been through many difficult phases in my past, and the worst or the most important things to avoid are financial exposure or high leverage, siloed markets, and no reserves.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Cataleya in the future?
Andreas Hipp: I’m luckily a fairly calm person, and since I operate on the side of caution and expect surprises all the time, I rarely get caught out cold and unprepared. We will do well going forward as we have seen the worst (not just because of COVID-19 but starting bootstrapped with only F&F investment but 24 people on payroll now turning the corner after 3 years of absolute hardship )and would expect some fallout around our competitors, which should leave more room for us.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andreas Hipp: Our key competitors are typically large, publicly listed technology companies in the market for 15 to 20 years and dominate the space. However, some have been snapped up recently by companies like Microsoft or Cisco, and their attention is diverted. Others are often highly leveraged, so any dip in revenue or business model might be hard to digest for them. We are nimble and grab market-share where they are less focused, diversified our market segments, and shine with great customer service and support. In the early years, we always follow a guerrilla marketing strategy that does not attract too much attention from competitors and only focuses on key customers that are influencers and help us grow amongst their peers. Old trick but still working.
Your final thoughts?
Andreas Hipp: COVID-19 is certainly a “black Swan” event according to Taleb, but there have been others before, maybe not at that magnitude and maybe not at such a global all industries engulfing scale. Many say every challenge is an opportunity, which I think is not correct. For some, it’s the end of their business and maybe even their livelihoods. The ones who usually claim it to be an opportunity are the ones fortune has favored and maybe gave them a lifeline, but only time will tell how long it lasts. Resilience or better Antifragility is the philosophies in business (and life) and equally important as your product or service strategy and proposition. They don’t help you run fast, but they stop the freefall.