Entrepreneurship is an addiction to some folks who never mind exploring new horizons. This is what drove Henrik Thomé to start his seventh venture, Sonetel, a global telephone service for global entrepreneurs.
Sonetel is all about globalization and entrepreneurship. “Our idea is to help global entrepreneurs, basically small international businesses especially in the developing world to increase international sales,” says Henrik.
How it started?
“I engaged Wipro to do the initial design and then another Indian company to develop the solution. Unfortunately, the outsourced project derailed, and ended up consuming 150 person years of effort,” says Henrik.
In the end, Henrik had to set up his own organization in Hyderabad with the key talents from the outsourced team. “Today, I am very glad that things turned out that way. A totally outsourced organization was simply a naïve idea. The passion and ‘sense of ownership’ we have in our team today would not be possible to achieve in an outsourced organization,” he adds.
Sonetel provides a free, global business phone system service for small and medium businesses across the world. It enables free internal voice and video calls globally and marries IP-telephony, mobile phones and regular telephony into a seamless, company-wide global solution.
Prior to Sonetel, Henrik started businesses within the telecom and internet sector since the early 90s. He is a passionate believer in globalization and entrepreneurship as tools for making this planet a better place. So far, 289,996 companies have signed up for its easy-to-use global telephone infrastructure from 235 countries.
How it works?
“Our customers get their own local phone number in any country that they want to sell to. Incoming calls are forwarded to their staff anywhere worldwide at the cost of a local call.
Showing a local phone number on their website increases trust with prospects and thereby conversions and sales,” points out Henrik.
For example, having a phone number in New York or Silicon Valley costs from $0.99 per month, so the service is affordable even for the most bootstrapped startups.
USPs over traditional PBX
It also has apps that allow customers to make international business calls from their mobile phone at the cost of local calls. “To ensure business quality, we do not use VoIP in its mobile apps – since VoIP over 3G doesn’t deliver dependable quality,” he says.
“We are not in the PBX business. Our customers are small and don’t even know what a PBX (business phone system) is. We deliver international phone numbers with inherent smart functions that cut costs and make our customers look good,” says Henrik.
Clientele base spanning across 160 countries
So far the startup has paying customers in 160 countries. “Last year we tripled sales, but we hope to grow faster than that moving forward. About 50% of our revenues come from Europe and North America. India represents about 3% of our revenue,” adds Henrik.
Dealing with frauds is not easy
Fraud is always a big problem when running a phone service, since telephony is a popular target for organized crime. A common approach for criminals is to add credit with stolen credit cards and then make many calls to expensive destination in some country where the criminal can get kick-back from the phone company.
“To get rid of this, we have 25 anti-fraud systems in place which constantly monitor our system to prevent misuse. Thanks to this, we prevent dozens of fraud attempts every day. But it has taken many man years of work to put this in place,” says Henrik.
The company plans to have millions of paying customers and eventually become the leading telephony provider for small business worldwide. “In the near-term we are launching our API, which allows partners such as mobile operators and web hosting companies to resell our service through their website or app,” adds Henrik.