Interview with George El-Hage — Founder and CEO of Wave
The Business Anecdote Magazine had the pleasure of speaking to George El-Hage, a Canadian Businessman, Entrepreneur and Financial expert. George is the Founder and CEO of Wave, a digital business card that allows you to share your own personalized landing page with a tap. In our interview George talked about his entrepreneurial journey and the origin story behind his company ‘Wave’.
Hello George. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background and career before your entrepreneurial journey?
George: When I was younger my decisions were always based on finding the largest payout. That mindset led me to study finance, complete my MBA in investment management, and then work in Fintech. Before I knew it, four years had passed, and I was still working in the finance industry, never feeling truly fulfilled. I wasn’t building something for myself. Thankfully, I soon realized that chasing a paycheck is secondary to personal freedom, freedom to choose when to work and what to work on.
Entrepreneurship allowed me to enter a sandbox where I am free to create anything and ultimately invoke change. Wave was born from the strong desire to help people build more meaningful and engaging connections.
After getting a taste of the corporate world, I knew that a long-lived career in finance was not my path. Although, I did realize that I enjoy working at startups with smaller teams and a do-it-yourself mindset. I’m happy to have experienced my journey in finance the way I did as it only accelerated my path to building my own startup. I am grateful to have realized that there is another way, a way to have a profound impact, make change, and have fun “on the job”.
My hope for aspiring entrepreneurs is that they realize everyone else’s path does not mean it has to be their path.
Where did the idea for your startup “Wave” come from and what’s unique about it?
George: In the thick of business school, the expectation to fit a certain mold was especially true when it came to landing a career in the world of finance. Year after year, I would attend countless recruitment events in hopes of securing a job. Despite being successful in my job hunt, I continued to attend events. At the time, I simply wanted to broaden my network. I couldn’t help but notice that the attendees did not get the chance to showcase their personal brand or build lasting connections. At that moment, I began brainstorming ways in which others could build more engaging and meaningful connections. The first step was to modernize the traditional paper business card. Wave is the sustainable and tech friendly alternative. Wave Smart Products enable you to share your own personalized landing page through a simple tap using NFC technology – meeting the demand to go contactless. Individuals are now able to seamlessly share their contact info, socials, websites, portfolio, CV, videos and much more. No more searching around for a phone or email on a tiny piece of paper that may or may not be in your briefcase. Waves products are a win-win for the user and the person they’re networking with.
Why have you chosen to implement the “Wave” technology using a physical card rather than a digital app card?
George: We first ran a survey and noticed that most participants were still interested in the physical aspect of a business card. People like custom branded cards where they can showcase their personal business, name, or company. They still want that option, so we made sure Wave offered that. Like a lot of our customers, I like having a physical product that I can personalize for myself and my team. That is also the feedback we got during our development stages. Having something concrete to present is familiar to people, but Wave takes it a step into the future by being a single reusable card.
We also understand that some would like a fully digital version and have started development of a Wave card for your digital wallet. Additionally, for those who want to go all-digital, a QR code will also be found on your Wave profile very soon.
George: Wave has been bootstrapped from the very beginning. Everything is reinvested back into growing the business. We've sold thousands of cards since we launched 3 months ago and have already broken even on our initial startup costs. When running a bootstrapped startup, it's key to stay as lean as possible. You need to cut out any costs which you could alternatively do inhouse. The more you have in your bottom line the better you can play the game going forward. It is vital to learn how to create content, market yourself organically, manage your ecommerce store and generate leads or you'll drown in expenses.
With limited resources at the time of Wave’s beginning, my team and I decided to take a different marketing approach opposed to the standard digital marketing ad spend. Running digital ads will burn your cashflows quickly. Without sufficient cash flows your company stops in its tracks, and you’re left holding the bag…an empty bag. We found that working with resellers is the best and most efficient way to getting the Wave card into the hands of as many people as possible. Our resellers are an extension of our team. We’ve met with and spoken with several resellers and chose those that reflect our own values and align with our goals. We give them as much support as they need in getting sales and achieving their own goals by providing free content, trainings, resources, and access to our team. We have also connected with affiliate partners to promote Wave using a revenue share model. h
To aid their marketing efforts, founders should put their primary focus on branding themselves by giving valuable insights about their specific niche. Building a community around that niche is key. From there, show your audience how your service or product can and will benefit them. The focus in the early phases should be spent building your personal brand on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Clubhouse, and/or LinkedIn. Be the go-to in your subniche, and people will buy your product from the trust you’ve built, and the knowledge you’ve shared on your specific topic. Make it about the customer. Customer first - always.
What’s the geographical reach and expansion plans of “ Wave”?
George: Our current focus is Canada, but we have plans to expand in the US and Europe via our reseller partnerships. We were careful not to stretch ourselves too far and too thin in the early stages. That would have just led to low growth across the board due to limited resources and capital. At Wave, we like to keep a centralized and targeted approach to our expansion plans. Everything regarding our growth is planned and intentional. With our individual consumer success since we’ve rolled out our platform, we have now shifted our focus to an enterprise solution for businesses. Every business has their own unique brand. So, we recently rolled out our custom branded digital business cards so our customers can do just that: make them their own. They now have the option to design their own custom cards complete with their brand logo and colors. Businesses will be able to capture leads, integrate with their CRM tools, get data analytics, manage their teams’ landing pages and much more.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
George: I can wholeheartedly say that all entrepreneurs that I have met and started their own companies have inspired me. Those who take a risk from leaving the stability of a 9 to 5, choose to get their hands dirty and put in the work to start building. I respect what they’re doing and am inspired by their stories. If I had to choose one or two entrepreneurs of major influence, it’s Gary Vee and Justin Welch. I admire Vee for always being unapologetically himself. He doesn’t care what others think of him and consistently promotes the side hustle at all cost mentality. Welch flipped his life around – a total 180 after a panic attack caused by burn out from his Silicon Valley job. He decided to go out on his own and now teaches others on how they can venture on their own, too.
Media these days tends to glorify the entrepreneurs that receive millions in VC backed funding. Those are not the most inspirational stories. We need more coverage and awareness on the risk takers that bootstrapped their way to building a company from the ground up. That is where the real inspiration lies. That’s how we get inspired to do something for ourselves, to do something for others. We learn from their journeys. Then we take that leap and begin a journey of our own.
Before we conclude this interview please tell us what mitigations have been put in place to protect customer data, especially from cyber crime?
Thank you George for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you and “Wave” all the best?
George: Thank you