Wave Apps

Case Study

Wave Apps

Creating an inspiring vision and purpose-driven strategy for growth in tech start-up


An entrepreneurial spirit driven by purpose, passion, and big ideas is the seed of most early start-ups. However, as these start-ups scale in size and complexity, the speed of growth can quickly dilute the core essence that once drove success. In order to overcome this obstacle, start-ups need to be strategic in their approach to maintain their unique momentum and focus as they mature, grow, and scale.

Wave launched in 2010, with the mission of changing the way small businesses manage their finances. By 2011, they reached a key milestone of more than one hundred thousand customers. However, as a common threat to most start-ups, Wave’s growth was in danger of plateauing as the business became larger and more complex.

As they reached this key inflection point, Wave made some decisions that changed their future trajectory. Firstly, in 2015, they made an investment in their first Chief People Officer to ensure they had an integrated human capital strategy to empower and enable business growth objectives. Secondly, in 2016, Wave’s Leadership Team engaged Lapin International to create an inspiring vision and purpose-driven strategy for growth.

The core values that we created for the company came out of one of the first sessions with Lapin and has really fueled how we do things internally and how we make decisions. One of the biggest examples of that is really understanding how we can put empathy for small business owners at the center of everything we do in ways we hadn’t been doing before.
Kirk Simpson


Lapin’s strategic discovery process revealed key insights that Wave implemented, leading to the unlocking of business potential. As Lapin began their executive team development work, the Wave team learned how to work together more effectively. Through some restructuring and their own personal development, they created an interpersonal chemistry that led to an aligned, cohesive, and empowered team.

Lapin’s unique and proven approach to seamlessly integrate business strategy and values-based leadership profoundly impacted and influenced how business decisions were made at Wave.

In focused workshops, Wave was guided to define their purpose in a sharp and articulate way, rediscover their core values, and more effectively adapt them to its strategic objectives. The Chief People Officer worked with the Executive Team to embed those values into the company’s culture and cascade them throughout the organization. The result of that work had a direct correlation in creating a best-in-class engaged workforce and ensured that all efforts across the organization were aligned to key strategic objectives.

Lapin’s work with the Leadership Team was key to discovering and articulating the organizational purpose. It defined what unique tangible and intangible contributions Wave could make to small business owners.

Through Lapin’s exclusive CEO coaching and 360° assessment with David Lapin, Wave’s CEO, Kirk Simpson, explored and articulated his personal purpose and values and learned how the organization experienced his leadership. Based on these findings, Kirk gained the clarity and alignment he needed to build upon his core foundation as a leader. He overcame the limitations that his own humility at times placed on his organization and developed a healthier balance of confidence, ambition, and humility. With these learnings and insights, Kirk began to lead the company through a purpose-driven strategy for growth, thereby taking Wave to the next level.

Kirk already had the makings of a great leader, and through Lapin’s values-based leadership development program, he unlocked his full potential—all while remaining authentic to himself and to the company that he had built with his co-founder, James Lochrie.


  • Wave's Leadership Team developed and cultivated a vision and strategy for putting empathy for small business owners in the center of everything they did throughout the organization, enabling these business owners to turn their dreams into reality.
  • This bold approach shifted Wave’s mindset from product focus to customer focus and freed the organization to simplify and focus their product offerings and optimize their customer experience.
  • By gaining a deeper and clearer picture of who the customer was and what their needs were, Wave was able to recruit and develop the right talent to meet those needs.
  • Through these new perspectives and approaches, Wave instilled deeper trust with both their customers and their employees, resulting in an incredible and sustained growth trajectory over a three-year period.
growth rate over the last five years


The way that Wave manifested their purpose and values resulted in measurable and significant changes across the organization, including:

  • Increased employee and customer net promoter scores;
  • Increased diversity within the organization;
  • Increased engagement within the Leadership Team and Wave in general, resulting in many internal promotions.

As of September 2019, Wave experienced a 4,924% growth rate over the last five years. The company has more than 400,000 active users around the world and tracks over $330 billion through its accounting, invoicing, payroll, and payments products.

In addition, Wave’s excellence has garnered the following recognition in 2019:

  • Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Winner (three years in a row)
  • Best Workplaces in Canada for Women and Inclusion (three years in a row)
  • KPMG Fintech 100
  • CB Insights Fintech 250
  • PRISM award (recognizes coaching excellence in the workplace)
  • #16 on Growth 500: Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies 2019

In 2017, Kirk was recognized as a “top-rated CEO”. The combination of Kirk’s stellar leadership skills and Wave’s impressive performance led to Wave being ranked #6 on Great Place to Work Canada in the 100-999 employees category as well as listed as a Great Place to Work for Technology, Women, Millennials, and Inclusion—three years in a row. Kirk attributes part of this success to his working relationship with his coach, David.

As a result of their success, Wave caught the attention of financial giant H&R Block in early 2019, and was acquired this year for $405 million USD, the seventh largest Canadian tech exit since 2001. Prior to entering the acquisition, Wave and H&R Block agreed that Wave will remain committed to their purpose and values, allowing Wave to retain their innovative culture and continue their great work serving their customers.

During this acquisition process, Kirk turned to David for continued guidance and coaching to ensure he was making the right decisions along the way.

Wave is an incredible success story of the power of a company that successfully aligns its purpose, strategy, values, and culture to deliver unique value to its customer. Lapin is proud to participate in this incredible journey of success through providing invaluable support, guidance, and direction to the CEO and leadership throughout the last three years of their transformational journey.