Business Communication in the 5G Era with Damian Hanson of CircleLoop

Using the power of 5G to communicate quickly, flexibly, and securely, Mission Labs is bridging the gap between legacy providers and modern-day digital communication experience. In this episode, join your host Carrie Charles as she sits down with Damian Hanson, Director and co-founder of Mission Labs. Follow along as the two discuss the telecommunications industry and the future of Mission Labs across Europe, and learn a little more about CircleLoop, Mission Labs’ cloud-based business phone system aiming to replace traditional phone systems.

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Business Communication in the 5G Era with Damian Hanson of CircleLoop

I am thrilled to have with me Damian Hanson. He is the Co-founder and Director of CircleLoop joining us from the UK. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Carrie, thanks very much for having us. I appreciate it.

Tell me a little bit about how you got to the seat you are in now.

I have always worked in the technology industry from the early days of mobile technology application development. I started up my own business as a Cofounder with my business partner, David Hague, in 2010. We built our first startup together, which was a retail technology company. We built and sold that business about three years later and stayed with the business further for four years. In 2016, we founded a business called Mission Labs, which is the trading entity behind CircleLoop which is one of our products.

The industry and the sector that we decided to challenge with CircleLoop was the traditional telecoms industry. We built a product that is digital-first and a self-service SaaS product CircleLoop to try and challenge the norm in that industry. The journey has been quite a successful one. We were acquired by Gamma Communications in March 2021, so we are part of a much bigger business now. Our own business is part of that group with about 130 staff, and we continue to grow month on month as part of Gamma.

Congratulations. How exciting. Tell me more about the story of CircleLoop. A little bit about the markets that you serve, maybe the countries you serve, products, and customers.

As I alluded to, we observe the telecoms industry. It’s typically quite painful industry for smaller businesses in particular to consume business telephony and business phone systems. The starting point for CircleLoop as a product was to build a software-first, Software as a Service or SaaS product. You could go to CircleLoop.com, sign up online, try the product, and consume its features and capabilities with no obligation in terms of a free trial period. If they go there, they were ready of course and have the credit card details to become a paying customer. The product itself is fundamentally a phone system.

It’s all based on desktop and mobile applications, but customers can self-serve and get on with that themselves. We challenged the traditional norm in the telecom sectors. Typically, businesses were involved in a lot of manual processes in dealing with traditional telecom companies. Maybe being locked into contracts for 2 to 3 years so we wanted to spin that on its head. As other products are successfully done in other industries and give our customers a product, they could serve and grow on their own basis.

5TT Damian Hanson | CircleLoop
CircleLoop: CircleLoop is really challenging the traditional norm in the telecom sectors. Typically, businesses have a lot of manual processes dealing with traditional telecom companies. CircleLoop spins that on its head.

Let’s talk a bit about the current state of 5G deployment in the UK. Where is it now? Where is it going? What are your thoughts there?

CircleLoop is a product that’s available in the UK. 5G deployment is something that we have been eagerly anticipating. Over the last couple of years, there have been various pilots and trials around the UK for 5G deployments, and it’s in 2022 that we have seen the rollout of 5G. What that means for us as a business in terms of our product is because it’s an IP product.

It works wherever you work in terms of desktop and mobile apps as I mentioned. Whether you are on your internet at home or on the move using your mobile data. CircleLoop relies on that high-quality speed and service. The 5G status in the UK has been something we have been looking forward to rolling out more. Statistically, by the end of this calendar year 2022 and probably Q1 of 2023, 5G will be the predominant data channel in the UK.

We hear a lot about private 5G versus Wi-Fi versus private LTE. Can you talk about the difference between all three of those and let’s say the benefits of private over Wi-Fi if that is the case?

The different technologies rely on different originations of their technological sources. Wi-Fi is typically delivered as fiber to the premises or traditional ethernet service to homes or businesses. That’s been the way that most of our customers will consume their connectivity. The speed is increasing with the privacy and security elements driven by mobile data being faster and faster with 5G.

It means that people can consider alternatives to Wi-Fi and LTE technologies to use those for private networks to transform the ways that they have been working. In terms of the primary differentiation and the benefits become focused on the speed, flexibility, and security of 5G as a new channel over and above. Those other traditional connectivity channels.

5G offers better speed, flexibility, and security than other traditional connectivity channels.

How can emerging private networks revolutionize business?

It comes back to that flexibility that 5G is going to give companies the speed in which they can set up networks not reliant on the lengthy installation process and things like that. It means that the flexibility to launch private 5G networks is quick as opposed to traditional cables being run in the ground and provided physically to the premises. It gives a different angle on that. The speed and security that then comes with that as a benefit is where those businesses will focus. They have got their own private 5G networks that they can benefit from within the business.

It’s coming and it’s exciting. There’s so much in front of us. How would you say that the benefits of 5G in particular aligned with the requirements of cloud-based services?

Most cloud-based services, by the nature, are those that are consumed typically on the apps or web applications that reside on the devices you’ve got. Cloud-based services are consumed anywhere, whether you are at home, on the train, in the office, or in a different country around the world. Your cloud-based services from a Software as a Service perspective work wherever you happen to work.

5G ultimately means you can consume those services in a much faster way using the much faster data speed. For us, where CircleLoop is concerned and calls are placed over the internet, it means that the quality of our service and the bandwidth in which the service operates is a lot better. It basically improves the quality of our service.

I know that there’s power in partnership as young companies grow. Could you talk a little bit about the notable partnerships that CircleLoop has taken advantage of and maybe some that are coming up in the future?

We partner with lots of different types of businesses. In the early days of establishing our business, we have very much partnered with mobile networks themselves. We are able to offer phone numbers and services like that inside our applications so those partnerships are important to us. The business that we are now part of Gamma also provides mobile services.

We partner with most of the mobile networks in the UK in particular, and many now across Europe as well. In terms of other partnerships that we leverage within CircleLoop, we have launched our CircleLoop Business Perks proposition, which allows startups and small businesses to benefit from loyalty discounts. It offers other complementary products that they may like to use as they grow their business. These partnerships have been useful for us.

For example, we partner with banks like Tide, the business banking service, and Expend for efficient business expenses. BrightHR for HR legislation and propositions and also other web-based and cloud-based tools like Crunch from an accounting perspective, and Wix from a website-building perspective. All of these partnerships and the way in which 5G can support services like CircleLoop in the future with greater speed and flexibility have been important for us.

You are able to serve your customer even better with those partnerships by offering more. The state of the workforce globally is challenging for most companies right now. It’s easing up in other places. In other places, it’s not. In some places, certain skillsets are easing up and getting easier to find and other skillsets are not. What is the state of the workforce in the UK and is there a shortage of skilled labor there as well?

We’re about 130 employees now within our business and Gamma, which we are a part of, has close to 2,000 members of staff. Certain skillsets are shortage of candidates in the market, in particular around software engineering and development services. That’s long been a pain point for many technology businesses like ourselves to make sure you can recruit and also retain the type of talent that you are recruiting to your team.

For many technology businesses, recruiting and retaining software engineers has always been a pain point.

The market is very competitive. We have grown our business continuously year after year, so we still manage to hire and retain the right talent. A key part of that is for us to have the right culture within the team to make sure that people enjoy working for us. Also, the technology and the products that they are working on are forward-thinking in their nature, and they are using software technologies that are exciting for them. They are learning and growing their skillsets as we continue to grow our business as well.

Are there any particular strategies that you are using, let’s say, for hiring or maybe even retaining talent? Something specific that you can share?

I will talk a little bit about the culture there. That’s probably hard to describe fully how a culture feels within the business. We are very passionate about supporting our team and making sure that they are happy in their work. Through the COVID pandemic, the ways of working have changed very significantly around the world, but in our local market here in the UK.

We have supported flexible working regularly anyway prior to COVID. Also, now post-COVID, we remain pretty flexible on the working week and have given our employees the ability to work from wherever they feel most comfortable. From a cultural point of view, we have quite an open and relaxed culture within the business which means everybody knows where they fit in the team and what their roles and responsibilities are.

What about the future? What’s the vision of CircleLoop and where would you say that you are going to be in five years, let’s say?

The continued vision for CircleLoop is to become a dominant brand in the UK market. We have made great progress in recent years. Now, as part of Gamma Communications, we’ll continue to enhance our product and grow in the UK market. We will also look to launch different territories within Europe. More to follow in the New Year, but we all look at certain key European markets to launch CircleLoop because it’s a digital and internet-based service effectively. We can launch that into new territories relatively quickly, build customers in their local currency, and provide local numbers and local services so that CircleLoop can be used in any international destination. It’s continued growth in the UK and then international expansion beyond that.

5TT Damian Hanson | CircleLoop
CircleLoop: The vision for CircleLoop is to become a dominant brand in the UK market. They are looking to launch across Europe. Since CircleLoop is digital and internet-based, it can be done quickly.

I have a question about your success because you’ve experienced a lot of success with CircleLoop and it sounds like you’ve got a great culture and a big future. I know there are many pieces to your success, but if you could say one thing that you did that helped us get to where we are now, what would be one of those pieces of your success that you can share?

It’s hard to pick one thing. Our timing in the market has been probably the main contributory factor to our success because we timed the launch of CircleLoop pre-pandemic. Going into the pandemic, everybody wanted to use a digital service for the devices they have already gotten from different locations because we were all in a lockdown situation.

We saw a huge demand for our proposition during those periods. I suppose the early vision for a sector that was likely to change probably than unluckily depending on how you look at it. Accelerating through what happened in the pandemic meant that the product got a lot of traction and visibility maybe faster than it did. At the end of the day, you create your own luck with startups and new businesses, but that’s been part of the process for us to make sure our products fit for market and in the right place at the right time.

Market timing is very crucial to the success of every business. Damian, thank you so much. Let’s talk a little bit about how to reach CircleLoop and your website. Are there any jobs available on your jobs page?

We are always hiring in the team and looking for good people to join the business. In terms of our website, it’s www.CircleLoop.com. You’ll find information about us and the product. You can sign up for a free trial, and also in the About section, you’ll find more on the business and openings and vacancies we have within the company as well.

Thanks for coming on the show, Damian. It’s been a pleasure.

No problem. Thanks for having me. I appreciate that.

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About Damian Hanson

5TT Damian Hanson | CircleLoopDamian Hanson is the Co-Founder and Director of CircleLoop, a cloud-based business phone system making waves in the telecoms sector by offering SMEs a more modern, flexible approach to telephony. CircleLoop is now servicing roughly 4,000 SME customers within the UK and has positioned itself as a ‘Digital-led Challenger’ telco.

Business Communication in the 5G Era with Damian Hanson of CircleLoop