GetVoIP.com caught up with Dave Gilbert, CEO & Founder of Simple Signal, to discuss some vital (and not so vital) information. The conversation ranged from anything to Simple Signal’s approach to the future, to the extent of a style choice that only the nefarious Al Capone might have worn better. The “Big Cheese” started Simple Signal back in 2004, in what Dave characterized as a rather nerve-wracking foray. Even though he hasn’t seemed to put his feet up by any means, the company has since blossomed into a undeniable success story. Mr. Gilbert brings an astounding 20 years of technology, communications, and marketing experience everywhere he goes, teaming up with some likewise vets roughly a decade ago to engineer the most recent solution in Simple Signal.
Dave’s abundance of spirit transcends what is overtly featured in shows and interviews, and he has experienced a pattern of great successes, no matter the venture. Graduating from seminary in 1983, Dave later founded Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA, which quickly grew beyond 5,000 followers. Dave soon left the ministry on a friend’s dare – a seemingly unorthodox move that aimed to bring his charisma and expertise to the business world. As cliché as it might seem, the rest is truly history, as Dave has since grown to something of a deity in the telecoms industry – highly respected and revered by all. As a choice advocate for the industry, Dave is incredibly active (and vocal) at telecommunications events, a forward-thinker, dedicated leader, and a proven entrepreneur. Without further ado…here’s the transcript of our exclusive interview with him:
Mike Roden: Approximately how many fedoras do you own?
Dave Gilbert: 14
MR: I noticed in a past interview that you characterized Simple Signal’s initial foray as having the goal of being “ really disruptive”, yet it inevitably ended up being “disturbing”. Would you care to elaborate further on catalysts involved in that shift?
DG: At first (2004) I thought VoIP was going to be the biggest technological shift in a hundred years of telco. I could see how it would create “disruptive” chaos among the giants in the industry forcing them to change both their business model and their technology. But the technology stumbled with regard to its reliability and the lack of cheap bandwidth. Its impact was slowed until around 2008 when we hit a tipping point and the “cloud” was finally easily accessed and trusted by business. So the loud explosion of VoIP was muted. Over the years I’ve joked that my hope of creating a company that was “disruptive” turned out to only be a little “disturbing” to the Giants. However, we are now in a position to make that challenge.
The industry has gone from VoIP to EoIP (everything over the Internet). Nimble companies like SimpleSignal are tying people’s mobile devices together with their land line equipment. We created the beginning of Cloud-based UC that has threatened all premise-based companies. The “cloud” changed, and continues to change everything. Our customers have become workers that were initially excited about how UC allowed them to work “anytime, anywhere” to where they are lamenting that they are now working “ALL the time, EVERYwhere.” Now they are talking to us about creating solutions that build an overall communications strategy that will allow them to simplify and unify all of the ways their business communicates and collaborates. This is where SimpleSignal differentiates ourselves from the other companies offering VoIP. We are perfecting the “mass customization” aspects of providing solutions that are tailored to their unique business challenges.
MR: Candidly, the term “Big Cheese” is terribly outdated – though you’ve seemingly brought it back in way that’s acceptable; bringing innovations of the future, taking the reigns of progression. Did you always embrace this moniker, and who is responsible for creating it?
DG: [laughs] Yeah, so… I’m old. I suppose that’s why I’m ok with the title. However, I’ve surrounded myself with a team of very hip, slick and cool people that keep me dressing and thinking hip. We like to give interesting titles to our people. The less traditional the better. One of our channel managers is running around with cards that have her title “Channel Diva” on them. We are not going out of our way to try and fit in to a “stuck” corporate industry. We like the idea of zigging when others zag.
On most days, you’ll find our people working in teams, collaborating on a project or hunkered down on some task. Our office is buzzing but we try to keep it fun and interesting. This keeps personal drama down and the employee engaged with their work.
MR: In a few words, characterize the pursuit of project completion at Simple Signal.
DG: We measure incremental gain over time. “Kaizen” keeps us executing and measuring our progress daily.
[Kaizen (改善) was created in Japan following WWII, and refers to making perpetual, continuous improvements on a frequent, every day basis. In a business setting, this philosophy applies to every employee, and thus, creates a strong corporate environment]
MR: In merging voice and unified communications, what has been the most difficult task faced? How does Simple Signal differentiate itself from the rest of the market, which is inundated with services that don’t necessarily satisfy the needs of the modern consumer?
DG: We are innovators. We sell solutions to real business problems, not a product where one size fits all. We are constantly developing and getting new products to market.
Add to this our interest in taking our solution to the “M” of the SMB. Once we were relegated to the very small business that would trust us because we could save them money. Last year we began gaining customers that have 500 employees and above. In some cases they have hundreds of deployed people or stores and we help them build a communications network of their own. We are creating specific solutions that fit certain verticals like a glove. As a result we are getting the attention of some very large enterprises.
MR: Finally, when you look back on your time with SimpleSignal, is there anything you would like to have done differently?
DG: I think I would have waited about 5 years while the technology matured [laughs]. (The reality is we would not have done it if we had waited). It was so expensive and painful to be a first mover that we are just now getting to where we thought we would be years ago. But all kidding aside, it’s the education we received over those five years that set us up for our current successes.
Above all, Dave has showed me that it’s possible to wear many hats in a literal and euphemistic way, without compromising quality or coolness (respectively). That being said, I must really emphasize that I use the word cool sparingly, especially when describing individuals. The term might seem as archaic as calling someone the “Big Cheese”, yet these titles are a more than appropriate way to describe the leader and founder of SimpleSignal. Dave’s sincere, unabashed honesty in his personal demeanor is perhaps best represented in his business affairs, and you have to really respect and admire that in the overall scheme of things. Check out SimpleSignal’s blog for the latest from the Hosted PBX and telecoms leaders.
We want to thank Dave for participating in our inaugural interview of the series – not only is he a class act, he is also a tough one to follow. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more from other leaders and innovators…