In the first of a series, the JN talks with entrepreneurs and business leaders to get the pulse of hiring, business activity, and areas of professional collaboration across the Jewish Detroit community. It is our hope that these spotlights will provide insights into the changing local economy and highlight possible professional opportunities within Jewish Detroit.
After working on various technology projects for large and small companies alike, 29-year-old brothers William and Warren Frenkel established the UniVoxx team in 2017 as a gateway to tackle the deficiencies that they noticed in previous business transactions. They wanted to reimagine how the industry could be more agile and efficient.
Through UniVoxx, a Bloomfield Hills-based company, clients can now simultaneously make and receive calls from desk phones, iOS/Android applications, or web browsers.
Today, customers range from 5 to 2,000 employees and works with a team of international developers on telecommunication features focused on saving businesses money and time. While support is provided through their Metro Detroit based team, they have clients throughout the region, including significant recent deployments within the Milwaukee Jewish community.
The brothers, who grew up in Huntington Woods and now reside in Birmingham, are also part of a family that has been active leaders and philanthropists in Jewish Detroit for generations. Their great grandfather Meyer Prentis was the sole Jewish executive within the automotive industry during a time when GM became the largest corporation around the world. Prentis would go on to help start many Jewish organizations, including what would become the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and was invited by Philip Slomovitz to join the advisory committee for The Jewish News in 1941.
We caught up with Warren and William as they were working through the first two months of the COVID-19 situation.
1. In what ways will your company alter its strategy to adjust to the changing needs in the market?
We’ve immediately shifted into a first response, to help our clients move to remote-work and deploy temporary fixes to get the functionality they need. As we think about our long-term product roadmap, we’re now prioritizing telework as the new normal. Phones are a lifeline for some businesses; we’ve made sure to personally reach out to every customer to see how we could help. Our team has helped set up remote offices which include desk phones, conference lines, web calling, eFax, our mobile app, and video phones.
For businesses that have been heavily impacted, we are offering significant discounts— and for many non-profit organizations, we are providing completely free services.
2. What is your attraction to growing a business in the Detroit area?
We grew up here. Our roots were planted here. Our great grandfather… was incredibly passionate about the community of Detroit and passed down his love and commitment to the city to his kids, and their kids, and now we’re proud to continue that legacy.
While we are a tech startup, we love being here. We are very involved in several Metro-Detroit non-profit organizations and have great relationships throughout the city. It’s incredibly exciting to see the growth and change of Detroit over the past decade, and want our presence to be here.
3. How do you see the business landscape shifting for your clients?
While the Shelter-in-Place order is temporary, no one is going to be returning to their normal lives anytime soon. If a meeting can be done remotely, it will be done remotely for the foreseeable future. As you might expect, there has been a massive increase in demand for our conferencing, mobile, and web services, and we expect this to continue to grow over time as people settle into this remote lifestyle.
4. What was the impetus to start UniVoxx?
It came out of frustration for the current offerings. William had experienced the inefficiencies of the industry in his previous positions in corporate security and I.T. and knew there needed to be a more straightforward, streamlined and user-friendly solution.
We believed that the business telecom customer should have every tool at his disposal, via an easy to use portal, without requiring assistance from customer support, or getting forced to sign a five-year contract.
5. Why did you choose to focus on the telecommunications industry?
It was ripe for disruption. It’s been dominated for too long by giant corporations that charge excessively and overcomplicate their services. At the same time, telecom is a necessity for nearly every office…. We learned how much business would spend on their phone services, and when we learned that smaller organizations had to manage multiple vendors that could simply blame the other for an issue, we realized we had to seize the opportunity to build a company that provides complex services with simple solutions that worked for more reasonable prices.