Small business: Your business online - Vaughan Rowsell

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Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend, a cloud-based retail platform for brick and mortar retailers

Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend. Photo / Supplied
Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend. Photo / Supplied

Vend enables retailers and other businesses to accept payments, track customers, manage inventory, provide loyalty incentives and run business analytics for real-time insights into all business performance. Roswell launched Vend at the end of 2010 and in just over two years we now have thousands of retailers in more than 100 countries on the Vend platform running their stores. He has 40 staff across three offices in Auckland, Melbourne and San Francisco.

What are your goals?

We set out to move every bricks and mortar retailer we could find onto the cloud and we are getting there quickly. Small to medium retailers are embracing the cloud with both arms which is amazing, considering two years ago no one knew what "the cloud" was. So our medium term goal is to continue to give them better tools to run their retail businesses with. We are growing our teams in NZ, Australia and the US to be 100 strong, which for a NZ software company is quite something.

Long term, Vend is shaping up to be the number one leader in cloud based tools for retailers.

What aspirations do you have internationally?

We have just opened up our Melbourne office to grow our Australian focused team from, and we will continue to grow our presence in the US also so San Francisco is an important hub for us to be in The Valley too. It is not crazy to think our offshore offices will become bigger than our Parnell team pretty soon, something I never considered two years ago. As a globally focused company, we will continue to roll out sales and support hubs around the globe as we grow, with the UK being our focus next. By having London, Melbourne, Auckland and San Francisco teams that pretty much covers all timezones for sales and support coverage which would be a huge advantage for us. Southeast Asia is interesting for us as is South America, but we will cross those bridges when we get to them.

What support,do you need from NZ business, the Government, the investment community?

Growing a team across three different countries is challenging, but we like doing challenging things. We look for support where we can find it and in any form it takes. Kiwis are highly supportive of NZ business looking to go global, so we find we have many cheerleaders in far off places which is pretty cool and opens doors for us.

Organisations like KEA are a great resource for us too. Setting up shop in another country is expensive to fund with a New Zealand dollar so help from the Government is welcome, and continued investment in Vend is key. We are riding the crest of an amazing wave so look for any support we can get to help us scale up to maximise on the opportunity.

Companies sharing their experiences

Something that would be great to see would be companies who have been through global growth, sharing the lessons they have learned and providing a leg up for the next wave of Kiwi companies coming through, following in their footsteps. This is something I would love Vend to help with, once we have learnt the lessons, that is. But instead of us all reinventing the wheel here, there are plenty of great cases of companies who have already done what we are doing. We just need a better way to find out about them, get in touch and the ability to ask for advice and help. We need to celebrate our successes more, and find ways to help the next batch.

Where will you go for your next round of funding?

We have been pretty fortunate in that we have huge supporters at home. People like Sam Morgan, David and Nicky Wilson, Rowan Simpson and many more. But we are also fortunate we have investors from further afield also, like Point 9 Capital out of Berlin.

US investors

We have always been talking to US-based VCs who have a growing interest in New Zealand tech startups, but inevitably there is the Valley Tractor Beam that tries to suck up companies to pull them into the Valley. US VCs prefer to have their investments closer to home, somewhere in the Valley ideally, where they understand how a tech company can win. So there is a lot of pressure for companies to relocate to The Valley. This is understandable, but we know how to make Kiwi companies that can win too. So doing what we are doing, as Xero and many others are, having the potent mix of a New Zealand-founded company with a permanent US team, is a great approach.

Why stay NZ-based?

Our competitive advantage as New Zealanders building global companies is that we have a pool of amazingly talented people here who want to be world beaters. It is really positive that our cost base is much lower here than in the Valley so we can have amazing product teams here building amazing things. As New Zealanders we are hugely tenacious, and we love the idea of taking on the world and winning. We love that idea that we can beat anyone, with a tenth of the resource. That's our heritage.

Do you have much to do with the NZ tech community?

Vend is a big sponsor of events like Codemania and Gather. I try and involve myself in the tech community as much as I can. With a young family and a young tech company of my own it can be a challenge finding time to share, but I am catching coffee with someone in the tech startup space four or five times a week, if not more, giving advice or trading stories about life in a startup, how to look for investment and that sort of thing.

The Auckland tech scene

I am most involved in the Auckland scene, but am also pretty connected to amazing stuff that happens in Wellington and Christchurch too. But I have to say the Auckland tech scene is getting pretty exciting lately with a lot happening here.

The sprawling geography of Auckland never used to do small startups favours, but with shared working spaces like BizDojo, Generator, The Kitchen and others now it is easier for startups to mingle and collide with one another in a good sense. Like a chemical reaction, you want particles to collide in order to make amazing things happen. By getting more and more smart startups in close proximity make the serendipity of these particle collisions more likely. That's when the magic happens.

That's how the Valley works too. There are some new developments planned down at the Wynyard Quarter with the help of ATEED that look interesting too.

- NZ Herald

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