Who is Charles Gener?
Charles is the CEO of Velcoms Network. He is a technical person who understands computers.
Aside from IT and technology, he is also interested in music and more recently, blockchain technology.
How did you start your business?
The internet services industry is one of the scarier fields to penetrate because there is a lot of politics and is dominated by two or three sharks in the Philippines. But Charles was able to start and maintain a good following with his internet services.
Charles was a gamer. He played any and every game out there. Notables mentions are DotA and Counter-Strike.
He would usually complain about how slow the internet is when he’s updating his computer and how low latency is when he’s playing.
At 19 years old, Charles has been trying his hardest to solve the internet connection problem here in the Philippines—all because of computer games.
How did you start earning thanks to your business?
Establishing the company wasn’t something that was on the top of his mind. However, he was already labeled by the local government and his community as an expert on the subject.
They encouraged Charles to get his own internet service and so, he started experimenting.
At first, he tried load balancing and experimented on the internet that they were working with.
Once his father got interested, his father helped out and proposed to make it a family business.
Using his father’s connections, he was able to learn from many good mentors.
One of Charles’ mentors was a Telcom CEO in Venezuela. He was the one that taught Charles how to deal with politics, how to maneuver in the industry.
He met this mentor through online forums. It just goes to show how a bit of courage can go a long way in building something up from scratch.
The CEO from Venezuela shared some of his time to help grow Charles into the expert that he is today. One of his tips was to never buy equipment in the Philippines because these things are incredibly expensive.
What happened after you have grown yourself with the help of your mentors?
Charles’ dad invested in his expertise. They set up some key infrastructures and partnered up with several companies to establish a fiber line.
By 21 years old, Charles was already negotiating with large companies to get his own independent internet connection. The first of which was from Ortigas.
In one meeting he was asked why he was doing this—why does he need a dedicated fiber line? All Charles answered was that he wanted to help his community.
The person Charles was meeting with was generous enough to give him a two-month free trial of his internet connection.
With a dedicated fiber connection, equipment from Europe and Hong Kong, and knowledge of WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider), Charles built their first internet tower which transmitted internet to his first-ever customers—his neighbors. All of which were impressed at how fast the connections were, and how quickly service was provided.
A while after the internet connection was set up, word spread of an independent internet service provider that provided high-speed internet and high-quality service.
Charles’ already had around 20 paying households enjoying his internet services. With the help of word of mouth, his influence grew and so was his customer base.
Scalability was one of the things that a young Charles was afraid of. Nevertheless, he still took the challenge. With the help of a few more connections, he was able to secure a second tower that was placed on top of a building.
The installation was free as long as the building and the building’s owner were provided internet. This was Charles’ first X-deal.
Internet connections are such a necessity these days that people are willing to pay big money for it.
The tower in that building was the first official tower of Velcomms Network.
Most of his first clients stayed with him up until today because they enjoy the premium service that Charles provides.
It has been hard. Charles never wanted to compete with the big names in the internet services industry. He was content with being just an alternative. However, the quality of his internet connection and the premium service that he provides has turned most of his long-time clients into his most loyal customers.
Today, Velcomms has an internal team of eight. Such a small team holds strong because most of its operations are automated. Aside from that, since their direct line was very stable, Charles didn’t have to meet with his clients a lot since problems were rare.
Velcomms was established mostly through the cooperation and support between Charles and his father, along with a little key learnings from his mentors who turned into good friends. From business management to coding, to simple appreciation of equipment, his mentors spent time helping him grow both as a businessman and as a person.
What were the challenges that you faced in building up Velcomms?
Arguably the biggest hurdle that Charles faced was getting government permits.
He thinks that it’s hard to expect any changes in these processes for the next five years or so. There aren’t a lot of technically adept people that can help manage these things except for the big players.
Those who do would rather go abroad for better opportunities.
Another big hurdle to pass, particularly at the start, was how to get clients in a country dominated by two, maybe three, giant internet service providers.
Charles started to search for and find clients online through forums. Afterward, he went and made a Facebook page.
With his efforts, he was receiving 20 calls a day.
That being said, he still had restraint because he focused on achieving ROI first and the fact that most callers were in areas that were far away from his area.