Patrick Clover, founder of cloud based WiFi management software BLACKBX, tells us how exporting has helped his company secure orders from across the globe.
What does your company do?
BLACKBX provides cloud based WiFi management software to all manner of companies that want to offer Guest WiFi. Our solution is easy to set up and manage and is also cost effective. As well as giving businesses fast and safe guest Internet access, our technology gathers insights and provides small companies access to the same powerful data analytics and user experience tools that are typically associated with larger organisations.
We also have a unique integration service that makes it possible to communicate remotely with millions of internet access points globally in minutes rather than hours. This means we can offer a seamless transition to our guest WiFi with zero disruption to anywhere on the planet, all from our offices in Leith.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
BLACKBX was launched at the end of 2015. I grew up on a boat in the Mediterranean and was only ever able to access Wi-Fi when on dry land. I found this was a laborious and frustrating process. It would entail registering details, creating passwords and so on before finally getting weak and slow signal at the end. This experience motivated me to do something about this. I taught myself to code and then built the software that got BLACKBX off the ground.
How long has the company been exporting?
We have pretty much been supplying our services overseas right from launch. The nature of our service means that we can easily do business globally. One of our early customers was based in Brazil for example.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We supply our full range of Guest Wi-Fi and data insight solutions to a wide range of businesses. Countries we are currently providing our services to include the US and Brazil, as well as Spain, Germany, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Caribbean (St Kitts) and Los Angeles.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
We saw ourselves as providing a global service right from the outset. BLACKBX Guest Wi-Fi is aimed at any organisation that would like to provide good quality, safe and reliable internet access to customers, these days that is pretty much all businesses wherever they are located. In today’s connected society, your average customer expects to walk into a bar, restaurant or venue and be able to be online almost immediately. For example think of all the social media posts and photographs you now see from friends and family on holiday abroad. This is just expected as part and parcel of the experience now – the days of getting a postcard a couple of weeks after fact are gone.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
At BLACKBX we are lucky that we can do most of our business remotely. We may need to send a device out to a business prior to setting up our services but courier services are quick and reliable. If the business has a suitable access point then we don’t even need to do that. We can set up a public WiFi solution without the need for engineers and call centres. For example, we recently set up Guest WiFi services in Los Angeles for five venues of a well-known events company, we did this in a total of 15 minutes.
And the most challenging part?
Languages and time zones could be tricky but the technology is out there to get around the former and we are prepared to adapt our hours when it comes to the latter.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
To counter different languages we have kept things simple with the login screens so they can be easily translated into 14 different languages.
Every market has own price for services. To fit into that market it has been vital to find out the ‘going rate’ for a product to ensure we are competitive.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Be willing to accommodate different time zones and make sure your product can be customised to different locations.
Ensure you have a proper billing system in place and understand different VAT rules for different countries.
While we have been able to tailor our system to different languages, it is easier to make a start in markets that speak English.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We are interested in markets all over the world, we’ve recently been having some interesting conversations with companies in the US and Asia and see WiFi as having an important role in the public sector, hospitals and public transport. We expect it also to continue to expand in restaurants and hospitality.
In five years time we hope that BLACKBX will be everywhere. Ultimately, we want to provide one seamless, joined-up experience for guests accessing public WiFi wherever they may be – in airports, bars, stadiums, festivals, taxis – and wherever in the world they might happen to be.
Exporting and international trade remain high on the Scottish Government’s economic growth agenda and the Scottish Export Awards, in association with Scottish Enterprise and HSBC, are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.
To find out more about the awards, click here.
And the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.