The Silicon Review
“We believe that everyone should have access to connectivity and that it’s our role to ensure that every experience is seamless and friction-free.”
As the Internet becomes central to the way people work and live, the digital divide is taking on greater economic significance. Students without Internet access at home may struggle to keep up with school assignments. According to researchers, towns with less access find themselves falling behind economically. Holidaymakers no longer enjoy their break, if this comes at the expense of great connectivity.
And now, the availability of speedy Internet service is starting to affect people’s biggest purchase: their homes.
In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Wifinity.
Wifinity provide wireless Internet services, and connect over six million people a year in the UK, across a range of sectors, including Defence, Holiday Resorts, and Retail. The company was incorporated in 2007 and is headquartered in Kingston upon Thames.
Wifinity have built their own flexible cloud software platform, so as to not rely on external software. This gives them the agility and flexibility to leverage state of the art tools, but also allows them to own the entire customer experience and roadmap.
Mark Parry, Wifinity Founder/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Wifinity was set up to make broadband better, and to help get more people connected with affordable high-speed broadband. The idea of Wifinity was born when I moved into an apartment, and wanted to get broadband, but had no other option than to get it from the national incumbent. The experience was poor; I had to wait two weeks to receive my box, and the service was overpriced. I decided that there was a better way to do this. That’s how Wifinity was set up.
About a year after launching Wifinity, we were presented with an opportunity to look at a military base in London. We discovered that hundreds of soldiers living in Barracks across the UK were being forgotten by broadband providers, and in most cases had very few ways of getting connected. As these Barracks were often built in remote locations, mobile networks were unreliable at best, so service personnel were deprived of the opportunity to keep in touch with their loved ones or unwind after a long day of training. This caused a divide. That’s where Wifinity stepped up and broke that divide by providing service personnel with the same access as their civilian peers.
The experience we gained by installing WiFi in hard to reach areas has strongly benefited our expansion into new spaces.
In 2013, we expanded into the Holiday Parks space, partnering with large players such as Bourne Leisure and ParkDean Resorts, as well as small independent businesses to provide WiFi to their teams, owners, and guests. We now own and operate the UK’s largest Holiday Park PAYG network, with our service covering over 35,000 plots.
In 2017, we started Gigaliving, a GigaBit internet service tailored especially for build-to-rent and build-to-sell developments.
Q. There is nothing more important for a successful small business than a well-defined mission and vision statements. Can you explain your M&V statements in brief?
Wifinity’s mission is to make WiFi great. This sounds so straightforward, but if you look at some of the other broadband service providers in the UK, there are numerous complaints about the quality of the service, the binding contracts, and the price!
We believe that everyone should have access to connectivity and that it’s our role to ensure every experience is seamless and friction-free. We started in niche verticals. However, in order to extend this mission to a broader population, we’re now building connectivity into homes.
Q. Any company, big or small, must have a sense of authenticity and originality to succeed, is your company a leader or a follower.
Wifinity is definitely a leader. Our position as challengers in the market drives us to constantly disrupt industry standards and to be ahead of tech trends and consumer demands. Our strategy is built around growth through innovation. We challenge the business constantly to deliver new products that delight users and respond to customers’ needs. This has led to the development of a number of exponential growth products in the last 18 months such as ‘Stardust’, our new pay-as-you-go proposition for the military accommodation, and Gigaliving, a new development-wide Gigabit WiFi offering for build-to-rent and build-to-sell properties.
Q. How have customers motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
Wifinity’s entire ethos is built around delighting our customers at every possible touchpoint and experience. We are very data and insight-driven: We listen to our customers and look at how products are used and build our products and infrastructure on the back of their requirements.
This can be illustrated by our approach to roaming: We know that service personnel move around a lot across the UK, so we ensure that our WiFi is available at over 100 military sites, and our users can just roam freely across sites.
Furthermore, unlike most broadband providers, we don’t lock our customers into long term contracts. We give our users the choice to leave our service if they are not totally satisfied, or if their circumstances change, with no penalties.
Q. How do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this highly volatile market?
Because of our culture and agility, we are able to shift direction rapidly to keep up with customer demands.
When it comes to our products, we are always thinking five years ahead. For example, our new product Gigaliving X provides customers with speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, 217 times faster than the average home broadband speed.
Moreover, our complete and utter stubbornness and determination to never let down a single one of our customers is at the core of everything we do. I personally read through every single piece of customer feedback and I follow up immediately if required.
Q. How do you keep your company up and running?
It all comes down to people and culture. It seems so simple, but without great people, united behind a vision, we are nothing. We bring in the top one percent of talent, from diverse backgrounds – all the way from multinational execs to entrepreneurs, software experts, and incredible customer service team members.
We also believe in using our Skills for Good: In November 2017, one month before the annual Christmas party, I decided that there were better ways to spend money, energy and Christmas spirit and that Wifinity should put their biggest skill – setting up Internet and WiFi – to good. This was the birth of the ‘Good Connections’ programme, built around improving the lives of people in need, by providing them with a free WiFi connection, forever. Every single employee came together as a team to survey, plan and install WiFi throughout local homeless shelters. This programme touched the lives of many individuals in need and has become an annual challenge.
Q. Do you have any new products ready to be launched?
We have an ambitious roadmap, but our new Big Bet, Gigaliving, our residential product, will change the way people feel about home connectivity and broadband.
Gigaliving provides Gigabit speeds to residents, wherever they are in their development. They are connected to our secure network from the moment they move in, and can then take their private connection with them, as they roam in communal spaces, like the gym and roof terraces.
On the back of this we have developed our new state-of-the-art Community App, which allows residents to participate in a hyperlocal building community directly from their mobile device, while always protecting their privacy. Residents can post ads, discuss events, get offers from local retail units, to name but a few examples.
The app also provides building management teams with the tools they need to effectively communicate with tenants and manage their building. Features include visitor, package and key management, tenant surveys, maintenance requests, building handbook, and rent collection.
Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
Wifinity is changing the way people experience connectivity. We will continue to push boundaries and we are rapidly becoming a market-leading challenger in the residential broadband space. Watch this space!
Mark Parry: A Formidable Leader
Mark Parry, CEO, co-founded Wifinity in 2007. Mark, a YC alumnus, started Wifinity directly after graduating from Kingston University. He was offered a scholarship to MIT but instead decided to go straight into the real hands-on experience of starting his own Business.
Mr. Parry in his own words: “Much as I would have loved the MIT experience, and got a lot out of it for sure, nothing beats the school of life, and when you have an idea you should pursue it!”