What does it take to build a successful app?
In her shoes
With new restaurants and bars sprouting up by the day, our city's current food and drink scene is a thriving one. But when it comes to the question of good service in Singapore — the answer, unfortunately, is not always affirmative. As a result of understaffed establishments, we face the daily frustrations of poor efficiency and unsatisfactory staff behaviour.
The solution? Download WAAVE, an app which serves as a mobile platform for customers to order and pay for their food without standing in line or waiting to get the attention of service staff. This streamlines the day-to-day operations of a restaurant and fulfils service standards with just one trip instead of five. On top of that, WAAVE enhances the social experience of having a meal. With friends or first-time acquaintances, there's always the awkward topic of splitting the bill — but with WAAVE, that problem is already taken care of during the ordering process.
Below, we chat with the brains and beauty behind this rad app — Silvana Carpanelli-Hayes, founder and CEO of WAAVE. She shares her thoughts on cultivating better service with technology, the challenges of building an app, and what it means to be a tech entrepreneur in today's world.
What makes WAAVE unique to none?
It's about a good balance between efficient staff and happy customers. Venues who use WAAVE want to give their staff all the tools they need to succeed. Contrary to what people might think of technology replacing the human element, WAAVE applies technology to make that human element shine better. We've also included a social component to the app, so that anyone in the world can actually send or gift you an item from a restaurant here in Singapore. The app will notify the user and all you have to do is to go to the restaurant to collect it. With this, vendors can generate revenue from outside the country without having to hire more staff because you don't even have to serve that customer.
How did you find yourself in the tech world?
I came from your good old brick and mortar business model. It wasn't until I started working in my first tech company that I fell in love with the whole idea of it. That was when I left and started developing my own idea of an app.
What was the hardest part of developing WAAVE?
When I first started out with the concept, we couldn't even process mobile payments in Singapore. This was before Uber and Grab happened; the idea was still growing at that stage. Fortunately, Singapore was superbly efficient when it came to the technological aspects. The difficult part was changing people's behavioural patterns of people — like how in the initial phase of Uber, it was probably hard to get the first user to jump into a stranger's car without any doubt or hesitation. We had to change user's habits of waiting for staff and taking the initiative to place your own order on the phone — doing so would then come with the incentive of speedy service. There always has to be some kind of benefit for the user for them to be willing to use your app.
"I think the roadblock happens more often in ourselves thinking, 'Oh no, it's a male-dominated world'. It is, but we (as women) bring a whole different set of skills to it."
What does being a woman in a male-dominated industry mean to you?
I think the number of women in tech are growing exponentially, which makes me really happy. We actually just got our first female investor! But as far as misconceptions go about women in tech, I think that everybody's willing to listen to a professional entrepreneur, whether male or female, as long as that person is passionate about the product. As long as you know what you're doing, gender in the end has nothing to do with it. I think the roadblock happens more often in ourselves thinking, "Oh no, it's a male-dominated world". It is, but we (as women) bring a whole different set of skills to it.
What are your thoughts on similar apps in the market as of now?
To me, seeing more companies blossoming in the industry is actually a blessing. Reason being, we are all together building a thriving new industry, hailing technology in many ways. As we are similar, we also find ways to differentiate each other as our process flows are different. Consumers are always going to have their preferences when it comes to apps, so the goal is to keep growing and changing, and to really listen to the users. I'm an addict to change and so is my company.
"Contrary to what people might think of technology replacing the human element, WAAVE applies technology to make that human element shine better."
Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
First of all, ask yourself the question 10 times and on the 11th time, if your answer is still yes, then go for it. I don't think entrepreneurs are made, I think they're born. You need to feel very comfortable not knowing when your next paycheck is going to be. But it's better to try and fail than to not even give it a go. I had to be a fast learner because as an entrepreneur, you have to learn as you go along or you won't make it. The key is to surround yourself with important people. As the founder and CEO of my company, there was a time when I did everything. Now I give a very capable team the direction they need to reach their KPIs. I have the right person in each position — from digital marketing to operations to a brilliant CTO (Chief Technology Officer).