Founders Felix Schönfelder and Mario Schilling
© Socialwave GmbH

Socialwave: WiFi Hotspots and Marketing Modules

The Munich startup Socialwave offers WiFi hotspot devices for owners of cafés, hotels, doctor’s offices, etc. with a marketing module solution. We spoke with Felix Schönfelder, one of the Socialwave founders.

Munich Startup: 1. Who are you and what do you do?

Felix Schönfelder: Socialwave was founded in 2013 and has since been working on delivering added value to both businesspeople with a brick-and-mortar business model as well as their customers. By hooking up a professional WiFi hotspot from Socialwave, business owners are not only able to offer their customers free WiFi, but also have the opportunity to use Socialwave to manage the technical infrastructure of their digital marketing. An important building block of the marketing module system by Socialwave is an automated feedback management tool that helps companies collect positive online reviews for Google and industry-specific review platforms such as Yelp, Tripadvisor or Jameda. This boosts their reputation and most particularly their Google ranking as a result. That makes shops, doctor’s offices and hotels or restaurants more visible and brings in more customers.

2. But that’s nothing out of the box!

That’s right: Free hotspot service providers for businesses really have been around for a while and there are lots of them. But the Socialwave concept goes far above and beyond. Our solution delivers greater variety and significant advantages in terms of marketing options. We establish contact with customers through their need for a fast internet connection and use that to generate sustainable touchpoints for every business owner. We don’t expect our customers to have marketing experience or to come up with an additional budget. With our WiFi marketing tools, even marketing amateurs such as doctors, hairstylists or restaurant owners can efficiently place advertisements that can hold their own in terms of graphics compared to what an agency can deliver.

Automated marketing tool

Our hotspots are also plug-and-play devices. That means they can be used right after being hooked up without needing any effort for installation. Our customers’ end users — such as restaurant guests, patients in a waiting room or members of a fitness studio — log into the Socialwave hotspot through a social media channel or by email. Registering is very easy. When logging in, the end user has to accept the terms and conditions and can also select the optional advertising opt-in, which the customer can use to conduct marketing through Socialwave. A restaurant or hotel owner can then perform automated email marketing to ask for Google reviews, look for employees with popup windows or even send birthday wishes or an invitation to an upcoming event.

It’s the diversity of services and flexibility that make Socialwave hotspots unique compared to all other hotspot service providers. We adapt the product to perfectly suit the individual needs of our customers.

3. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Probably the biggest challenge for Socialwave has been team growth. When you launch as a startup, you start without any real hierarchy or strategic distribution of tasks because you want to control and be responsible for everything yourself in the beginning. But as your customer base grows, the startup at some point reaches a number of employees that can’t be managed by the founders like they had been in the beginning. Introducing hierarchical structures requires a lot of sensitivity to avoid friction.

4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?

In our Munich office, Socialwave now has about 20 employees. Together with our field sales force, our office in Berlin and our IT, Socialwave now has a total of roughly 35 employees.

Socialwave had sales of approximately 1.5 million euros in 2018. We expect that to increase to 3 million in 2019. Even if we keep up this pace of growth, it’s still important to us that our team spirit doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Perfect conditions for founders

5. What does Munich mean to you?

Munich is home to us. Even though we founders aren’t directly from Munich, it has turned into a kind of home for us. Whether for action or relaxation: The city offers everything we could wish for. The conditions are also perfect for starting your own business, apart from the price of rent of course.

6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?

We’ve really struck a chord with our company, because we help business people in a once analog field of business reach their target groups digitally without having to pay too much attention to the subject. The demand is huge. So we think we’ll be more of a unicorn!

In the years to come, Socialwave will become the marketing platform for business customers. It will be possible in the future to centrally control, update and monitor different social media presences and to initiate comprehensive campaigns. And the most important factor is that the customer always has the option to put it all on “autopilot.” If they want to, they don’t have to take care of anything because we will manage it all automatically.

7. Isar River or English Garden?

No doubt about it: Isar. While the English Garden is just as beautiful, the Isar isn’t as crowded and also isn’t as much of a tourist attraction. That’s why we prefer relaxing by the Isar after a long day of work instead of going to the English Garden. To clear your head and bring the workday to an end in a very Munich way, the Isar is the better choice.