Helen Twose

Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Success: From low growth to cloud nine

Cam Scott embraces the IT trend, by helping businesses connect to the cloud.

Cam Scott with a cash register, one of many products from his company which offers cloud-based support. Photo / Greg Bowker
Cam Scott with a cash register, one of many products from his company which offers cloud-based support. Photo / Greg Bowker

Cloud computing has taken the technology world by storm, blowing traditional computing businesses aside.

Cam Scott has weathered the cloud computing maelstrom, but only by reinventing his IT business.

Scott quit corporate life and a regular salary to do his own thing in 2007, establishing Bmobile, a business based on his previous IT experience, selling specialist technology.

Scott says that by the end of 2012 he was bored, dissatisfied and tired of fighting for a share of a commoditised, low-margin, low-growth business.

Scott, 50, says he needed either to reboot Bmobile with a new focus or "go get a real job".

But the winds of change were blowing and his predominantly retail-industry customers were buying hardware from him, then ringing back for advice on how to connect it to cloud computing software.

Instead of running software installed on their computers or retail terminals, these retailers were connecting over the internet to a range of new cloud-based software services, often paying monthly subscriptions rather than big up-front costs.

Accounting software company Xero is New Zealand's best known example of cloud software, but plenty more locally developed applications are running on smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops.

After several months of working as a free helpdesk, Scott got in touch with Vend, a leading cloud-based, point-of-sale software provider, and signed up to its partner programme. The plan was to set up a showroom and show the Vend software in action on every bit of hardware it was designed to work with.

"From the day that we opened we were selling," says Scott.

"Out of every 10 people that came in here we were selling to at least eight of them, purely because they were walking in and going: 'Oh my God, this now makes sense. I see how it all fits together. I see how it works. I want what I see'."

Scott branded his new business The Cloud Lounge.

"That's about bringing the cloud down to earth and making people feel comfortable about what has been perceived by a lot of people to be really cool but actually difficult to understand or difficult to get your head around."

Since launching 12 months ago, Scott has doubled his team to six people and will look to double it again this year.

The business has worked on 100 projects, boosting revenue by 150 per cent on the previous year and is likely to blow through the $1 million turnover mark this year.

For its efforts The Cloud Lounge was named Vend's partner of the year for 2013, beating competition from throughout the world.

It's not just about Vend, though.

Scott says The Cloud Lounge is about identifying the "best of breed" software products, primarily New Zealand-developed applications, and taking them to the marketplace.

Alongside Vend and Xero, The Cloud Lounge connects retailers to Shopify e-commerce software, Timely appointment scheduling and the Mobi2Go mobile ordering system for cafes and restaurants.

It is talking to three Singapore-based Kiwis behind the stock management system TradeGecko, which integrates into Xero, and has been approached by half a dozen other cloud software companies in the past year.

"What we've realised is the more time we spend in this space the more we've realised there is this massive, massive opportunity in the marketplace to connect up cloud software companies with end users."

There's no standard, one-size-fits-all solution and The Cloud Lounge uses the software building blocks to match the customer's needs. It has even talked to a church about using Vend's technology to collect donations, something Scott is sure wasn't in the minds of the original developers.

Fixed fees are charged depending on the complexity of the job.

While retaining the retail focus of its offering, Scott is pushing to move The Cloud Lounge beyond small-to-medium sized, early technology adopters.

It's where his background supporting traditional IT implementation helps.

Scott says it's about combining the old with the new.

While the technology might be bleeding edge, he says it is important to take the time to understand the client's business, match their needs with the right applications and ensure the implementation, training and support is there to back it all up.

Most business owners are more conservative, Scott says.

"They are business people and typically business people want to be sold to.

"They want to make sure that what they are buying into does benefit their business; that that stuff is going to work."

Once Scott has nailed the New Zealand market he's keen to take The Cloud Lounge model overseas, showcasing the best of local software development and integration.

"A lot of what I've been able to apply to this business is based on a whole bunch of businesses over the years and it's kind of converged into this perfect storm of opportunity."

- NZ Herald

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