Guy Cooper, managing director at Wave Digital tells us about web and app design.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Guy Cooper: My family are safe and well, thanks. We consider ourselves fortunate to be living in Australia, where the rate of infection has been very low. Like many families, working from home has also increased the amount of time we spend together, which has been a really positive change. During various lockdowns last year and this year, I also noticed a big increase in families spending time together outdoors. That increase in activity is something I hope as a nation (and as a family) we can maintain.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Wave Digital.
Guy Cooper: I am Managing Director of an app development company, Wave Digital, based in Melbourne, Australia. My career has been varied, rewarding, and a bit unusual. I first started out with a large professional services firm – PricewaterhouseCoopers – as an accountant. After moving into an industry-based accounting role for a number of years, I then transitioned into technology as the CFO of 99designs and the broader Sitepoint Group (some of Australia’s most successful startups). This is when I fell in love with the tech industry. This culminated with my purchase of Wave Digital back in 2013. The common thread – a keen interest in the business. What is exciting about Wave is that I can steer the business in the direction of using technology to make lives better, particularly in health, which I am passionate about.
How does Wave Digital innovate?
Guy Cooper: As a tech company, we always have to innovate. Our clients, particularly startups, expect it. I think innovation needs to form part of the team culture. At Wave Digital, I only employ passionate and talented people who have the drive to want to try new technologies and change and improve what they do. Our app developers have regular dev-only catch-ups to brainstorm new tech and what they would like to test. We aim to balance technology change and developer needs with business needs and have a structured way in which we assess how we will push our tech stack forward. It also helps to have clients that are willing to invest in technical proofs-of-concept or to push the boundaries of UX, UI, or development. Also, I think like a business owner, you are always reflecting, looking at how you do things as a business and what you can do better. Innovation has been crucial to our longevity – app development in Australia is a turbulent industry, and I think our company’s ability to respond to, and in some cases, lead change is why we have successfully been building apps for over 20 years.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Guy Cooper: To date, we haven’t seen a large change in our client base as a result of the pandemic and, in some instances, have had new work directly related to it. Having said that, there have been periods where there have been fewer inquiries than in previous years and an increase in the time taken to commit, driven by the level of uncertainty people are feeling about the future. One of the lasting impacts on our business finances is that we have a lease for an office that now spends 60% of its time or more not used. I think the shift to working from home is something that will remain. In light of this, when our lease comes up for renewal, I will be considering alternatives.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Guy Cooper: Fortunately, we have not had to make any difficult choices regarding human resources.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Guy Cooper: Our team were pretty much set up to work in a fully remote environment, having worked with clients from around Australia. From that perspective, there hasn’t, therefore, been a huge impact on our relationships with customers. I have missed the ability to meet people in person but, as everyone’s in the same boat, we are all getting used to building relationships via Zoom. The main tools we use to manage our customer relationships are Miro for client design collaboration, Zoom for meetings, and Jira for service desk management.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Guy Cooper: Yes. In the initial stages of the pandemic, we saw our immediate pipeline dry up. At that point, we benefited from government support. This provided a much-needed cash flow boost so that I did not need to make any hasty decisions, particularly around staffing. I was able to take the time to review our financial position and prospects and formulate a strategy for how to stay afloat while keeping our team.
Your final thoughts?
Guy Cooper: One of the exciting things we have seen to come out of the pandemic is the acceleration of ideas and innovation in digital health. This industry forms approximately 60 per cent of our client base. In Australia, for example, telemedicine has been very limited due to a lack of government support. In the space of a few months, the government and industry had embraced providing care for patients remotely, which made a huge difference to patient wellbeing during the crisis.