Back in 2006, I remember opening my LinkedIn account. This was the first social network I was using (I wouldn’t open a Facebook account until 2008), so it was both interesting and confusing for me at that time.
Two years later I decided to create my first LinkedIn Group (“Universidade Vigo Alumni Group”) as I didn't find any group in LinkedIn joining graduates from the University where I studied. It was really nice to search for old colleges and inviting them to join my group. But apart from having that first connection with old mates, group was not very active (despite its 3k members, still is not...)
Two months later I created “Renewable Energy Spain” LinkedIn group, where I was able to invite and meet professionals from an industry that was booming at that time in Spain. As I was working at Iberdrola’s telecom subsidiary, this group allowed me to help many people that wanted to get introduced into this business. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and helping people (when I’m not too busy), so it was a great place and a great time for that purpose. This group has currently +6k members and is quite active in discussions.
Later, by 2009, I was feeling really curious about voice telecom wholesale business, and I found that there were just a few LinkedIn groups covering this topic.
So, why not start my own?
I started “VoIP Wholesale Termination & Origination” LinkedIn group in July 2009 (currently the 2nd largest VoIP group with 13k members), and this was when my user experience with LinkedIn changed forever…
Wholesale telecom market is around $130 Billion worldwide, expecting to increase to $142 Billion by 2019. And there are thousands of people working on this buy & resell game, as we can find every year in May at ITW in Chicago, where 6k-7k professionals join year after year the largest and unique wholesale telecom event.
So... what makes LinkedIn so suitable for international voice wholesale business? These are my thoughts:
International VoIP wholesale business is one of the most dynamic industries in telecom, with an extremely low time-to-market for new entrants. Financing is the main issue and nightmare in this business, but that's another story...
The greatest margins are made selling to the origination retail carrier that has their own organic traffic, and terminating traffic locally in destination using niche local vendors (not transit carriers).
These days large carriers are not open to new interconnection with small/medium players (a good way to remove competition on a dynamic market, by the way). So it's not easy at all for a new entrant to interconnect with PTT's or Tier-1 carriers, thus having to interconnect with smaller carriers (not so reliable or trustable as the big guys).
As with all dynamic businesses with large revenues, this industry is really sensitive to fraudsters of all kinds.
So how are LinkedIn groups helping to develop this business?
Let's answer this question point by point:
Low time-to-market: you should promote your new company in specialized LinkedIn groups to get prospective customers. All small/medium buyers will be there listening and willing to find a new vendor that is providing a reliable route that they can then resell to a larger carrier.
Find niche local vendors: you can find them easily in these LinkedIn groups, as they are always promoting themselves.
Trustability: this is the best of LinkedIn! If you don't know your prospective new customer, you can check its company profile and personal profile of its Directors in LinkedIn. Where have they been working before? Did they own or work for another company in the past? Do they have many connections in your business? Are they active in LinkedIn groups? Do you share with them any LinkedIn connections? My recommendation is not to start an interconnection with an unknown company that doesn't have a Director with a good LinkedIn reputation and experience in this business during at least 4 years.
Avoid fraudsters: LinkedIn will help you here for sure. Formal documents can be forged but an online reputation is not so easy to make up! And, apart from searching their LinkedIn activity (post, comments and recommendations), look for registration of those companies at public records to check if their supposed-to-be Directors are also included in these records. Avoid companies that are: (a) incorporated as a corporation in one country; (b) with employees in a different country (this is easy to find with LinkedIn); (c) with a bank account in a third country; (d) not properly registered as an operator at the telecom regulator in the country where they have been incorporated.
Taking all these into account, in the end voice wholesale business is just:
Buying routes from good quality vendors -> find them in our LinkedIn groups!
Paying these vendors on time -> your responsability!
Reselling at a higher rate to wholesale operators or retailers -> find your prospective customers in our LinkedIn groups, and promote yourself!
Getting paid from your customers on a timely manner -> keep an eye on company and professional LinkedIn profiles, check posts about delays in payments, and subscribe to daily post from your favorite LinkedIn groups!
Very easy indeed, isn't it?
And one last recommendation: please attend ITW congress every year if you're involved in this industry! LinkedIn is incredible great, but there's a big need for face-to-face meetings. If you just hide yourself behind your LinkedIn profile, it doesn't really mean anything good at all for your reputation!
And reputation is everything in our business.
About: Jose E. Puente holds a MSc degree in Telecommunications Engineering from University of Vigo (Spain). Having worked in the full technical deployment of one of the first new entrants (VODAFONE ESPAÑA, formerly Comunitel Global) once telecom market was liberalized in Spain in 1998, as Key Account Manager at the telecom subsidiary of IBERDROLA, and as Wholesale Business Director at OCEAN'S NETWORK (leading the strategy and transition from being a branded reseller of MOVISTAR to becoming a real MVNO over ORANGE network), Jose E. Puente is currently involved in International Business Development with ALISYS, TAITIC, MOBILETALK-Q and a few other companies from Europe and USA.
To contact Jose E. Puente, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +34 654155756.