Intelligent Solutions

Get Global!

Simon Woodhead

Simon Woodhead

28th March 2024

By Simon Woodhead

I read a great book recently – No Bullsh*t Strategy by Alex Smith. He has a newsletter and blog too which I’d recommend. 

In the book was the example of Nokia who used to make indestructible simple phones where the battery life could be measured in weeks. They couldn’t compete against the smartphone and gave up. Who wanted a cheap indestructible phone with crazy long battery life when they could carry around a £1,000 computer with battery life in hours that’d break if you looked at it the wrong way? Turns out quite a lot of people. With the benefit of hindsight this was a huge strategic error.

The point here is that sometimes your biggest weakness can be a strategic superpower, if you lean into it, and the question “what are we really really bad at” can yield interesting answers. This isn’t like the daft interview answer to the question “What is your biggest weakness?” where a positive is presented as a fault, e.g. “oh <blush> I just can’t help being on time and I won’t ever leave until all of mine and everyone else’s work is done. It really is a curse.”. No, this is genuinely, “What are you bad at that is unfixable?” and there is likely an opportunity in the answer.

I’d of course welcome your thoughts on what Simwood is really bad at, as always, but I wanted to throw one out there because I think it could be a superpower: we’re not global. Yes, we have a position in the 5th largest economy which you couldn’t easily build today; yes, we’re licensed in 21 States of the world’s largest economy, but that is it. Our home markets are the USA and the UK, period. It might surprise you to know we’re also licensed in Ireland, Austria, Germany and formerly Switzerland, but keep it to yourself. That is still pretty rubbish when there’s 195 countries in the world. 

How are you supposed to service that hot lead in Tuvalu, or become the dominant provider in Eswatini if we don’t give you all our API goodness to order numbers there? It is rubbish, utterly rubbish!

This isn’t a technical problem – we can spin the entire Simwood stack up anywhere as you’ve seen both in the USA, or other territories on occasion, and even in proactive response to industry DDoS the other year. No, technically we may be world beating, but we don’t have the heft to get licensed and build proper interconnects in 195 countries. We’re not global and realistically never going to be.

But wait…. The common corporate response to declining home markets by established single-market operators is to ‘get global’ (which at some level is as farcical as the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie “Get Hard”). The goal with ‘get global’ is to say you have service in 200 countries (yes, I know there’s only 195, keep up!). Maybe there’s some overpriced acquisitions in there too, because you can’t put a price on ‘get global’. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll realise that of those 200, most have no Regulatory basis whatsoever. This is actually how we came to be licensed in Ireland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland – because the “global” operator we trusted played fast and loose with the regulations and made it our problem when it caught up with them. In fact, of the 200, you might find 10 where they have some kind of regulatory authority and requirements such as emergency call handling in place and they’ll be, politely, the arse end of nowhere. Moreover, it doesn’t mean they have infrastructure or market position either; we can think of several global players who are simply resellers in the UK but they won’t tell their customers of course. This is very different to the surety you get from dealing with an infrastructure based proper domestic operator who has spent years building market position, interconnects, relationships and not to mention infrastructure.

So it is no surprise that “get global” seems like a stupid strategy to me, built on vanity and deception. This is especially true when you consider that those pushing this strategy do not have the unified global core like, for example, we do. They say they do of course but in some cases you’ll be dealing with a dozen different entities and a dozen different SBCs while in others they have no infrastructure whatsoever as they outsource it to someone else who has a couple of SBCs in the cloud. On the face of it we’re in the prime position to “get global” better by the definition of others, we just happen to think that definition is daft.

This brings me back to our biggest weakness – we’re not global, despite the fact we have the best, most globally potential platform. Such a shame, or at least it would be if we went the way of Nokia faced with the Smartphone.

Of course we’re not going to, there’s a better way. Imagine if our core was available globally technically and calls put into us in LA used the exact same account and pane of glass to manage as calls put into us in Tokyo, in fact your account and channels were available everywhere simultaneously through a single integration and API. Imagine if we’d securely trunk between those regions using our latency based routing, offering the full stack of services such as Teams integration, carrier-side call recording, AI, and modern codecs like Opus and AMR. All that leaves is actually getting services in the foreign territory. Here, absent any of the technical benefits, the ‘get global’ crowd will say they have you covered. But do they? You can choose not to be licensed yourself. You can choose to not have any infrastructure in-country yourself. And if you do make those choices and it catches up with you, at least you’ll see it coming from further away than a Tuesday afternoon email from ‘get global’ saying you were non-compliant and your numbers have been taken off you. We don’t advocate playing fast and loose with regulations, by any stretch of the imagination, but the point is where is the value in paying someone else to do so when you can do it yourself? Chances are, even if they are fully compliant you still need to get so yourself anyway!

So with our global platform, you can instead forge relationships at whatever depth you like with in-country operators, who perhaps we can even refer you to as they’re customers too. Or maybe you’d like a relationship with one of our global-DID customers – these are different to the ‘get global’ brigade as they’re not pretending to have a global network or be in-country anywhere, they’re just offering maximum geographic coverage with no frills, real or otherwise. 

ByoC will be coming to Simwood in Q2, making all of this possible, which we think is the right and honest answer to this challenge. We hope you’ll agree and prefer it to being misled further by others.

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