They could not be more different. Chad Marthinussen is a straight-laced 25 year old medical doctor, straight out of medical school and Gino Lange is a 34 year old tattooed rebel with a gift for designing really cool electronics. Both however, are serial entrepreneurs and the creators of South Africa’s latest technology start-up, Wave Innovate.
The tech duo has known each other since 2013, having bonded over their love of cars. At the time, Chad was busy with his second year of medical school while Gino was running a successful supplement store. The two “petrol heads” also discovered that they had a mutual interest in entrepreneurship, always sharing business ideas and envisioning that one day they would start something together. They eventually did start something in January of 2019, when Gino phoned Chad about starting a technology company.
Gino’s idea was to build their own premium media streaming device that can play anything from DSTV to Netflix. He had convinced Chad that the future was streaming and they had to make sure that they were players in the game before it became even bigger than it is now. The following day, Gino quit his job, moved in Chad and the two aspirant tech moguls went about setting out plans for what would become, Wave TV.
Their business strategy was simple: look at other streaming devices and make a better device. After they designed it, they would find a manufacturer to build the prototype and then find suppliers that produced high quality components at the lowest possible cost. A business venture however, generally starts out with a bit of failure.
Chad had decided that he would fund the first phase of the venture with his own money. The problem though is that sometimes, you do not anticipate how much something costs until you actually do it. After the prototype was built, Chad ran out of money and the project stalled but it was by no means the end of their venture. They tried finding other means by which they could fund the venture but it was Chad’s father, Charles, that came to their rescue. A retired teacher, he saw what they were doing, liked it and decided to help them fund the project through a loan. He also knew what his son was like, and had no doubt that the venture would become a success. Of course, Charles does not gamble with his money, so the tech duo are still paying back the loan in monthly instalments.
In addition to the loan from Charles, they also had to take out a business loan to start on the next phase of the venture which was to source the components. Gino had to spend a month in China where most high quality, low-cost technological components are built. While in China, he registered a business, travelled all over to different factories and finally decided on which suppliers they would use. Their next step was to assemble and then distribute their final product, the Wave TV streaming box.
Today, Wave TV is a fully certified Google media box with built-in Chromecast and a remote with google assist. The product itself uses only high quality components, including the material to build the box’s cover. The product was so well received that they started getting offers for funding, which they initially turned down. Chad says that they felt that they wanted to build this business themselves and did not want any additional partners.
The due also saw the potential to expand their brand and started manufacturing Wave Smart Watches. Like the Wave TV, they wanted to build something that was of high quality but affordable. They did this cutting out the middlemen that kept the costs high. They only started selling their products in August of 2019 and one of their Smart Watches variants is already sold out.
To date, their product line also includes Wave Audio Air Pods and Wave E-Bikes. They are also partnering with a UK lawyer to expand the E-Bike concept throughout Africa with foreign investment.
With the success of their company, Chad plans on taking a break from his medical career and taking up a position in the company fulltime. Right now, the company is being run by Gino while Chad often spends 24 hour shifts working at the hospital. He spends his free time helping to manage the business and although he loves being a doctor, he knows that he cannot keep up with being a doctor and an entrepreneur running a rapidly expanding business. His love for medicine will however become part of his future plans. He intends on starting a healthcare related start-up in partnership with Wave Innovate and his wife, Chanel Claasen Marthinussen (who also happens to be a medical doctor).
When asked for advice on starting a business, he says that you have to have a passion for entrepreneurship. Both men started selling goods and services in their teen which included everything from selling health supplements to doing gigs at parties as DJ’s. Chad also advises that you should find the right business partner who can add to your own strengths and help you with your weaknesses. Chad is a natural communicator (and salesperson) and says that networking is one of the key components of turning a business into a success. Gino however is the one with more business experience, having opened several businesses which included a shoe shop, a fitness instructing consultancy, car dipping company, forex trading company, club and supplement store. He is one of those people that can easily spot an opportunity and turn it into a profit. You also have to plan ahead and consume as much knowledge as possible before you start with your new venture. Chad says that he constantly read up on any business book or magazine he could get his hands on and listened to entrepreneurship podcasts. By the time he graduated, not only was he a medical doctor, but he had developed a deep knowledge of how to run a business. Chad is however aware of his own advantages in life.
He says that it was his parents that paved the way for him to be able to do something like start a technology firm. He says success is generational and the fact that his parents were well paid teachers gave him a generational advantage. However, as a kid, he had always wondered why his parents never moved to the more affluent part of Paarl. When he asked his father about this, he was told that you cannot learn about life if you grow up in a bubble, separated from the struggles of others.
Chad also hopes to encourage the youth in his community to give entrepreneurship a chance. He says that it is important to get an education so that you can have better opportunities, but it is also important to build wealth through entrepreneurship. This became especially apparent to him when he looked at the statistics in his area, which is historically “separated” (due to apartheid) by the berg river along racial lines. On the Paarl Eastside, the majority of the residents are coloured and on the North/South/Central side of Paarl, the majority of the residents are white. However, he found out that the Coloured part of Paarl is more educated than the white part of Paarl. At the same time, he found that on his side of the river, the Coloured community is generally poorer whereas on the other side, the white community are generally wealthier and owns the businesses in the area. He feels that with a combination of education and entrepreneurship, not only can the youth secure their futures, but they can also secure the futures of the generation that will come after them.
If you want to know more about Wave Innovate, you can visit their website at https://www.wave-innovate.com/about-us/
Note: A Special Thanks to Chad and Gino for taking the time to help us with this story