Creating world records - meet Vend

Some people are lucky enough to be first in their family to do something or perhaps first in their workplace or region. But what about being first in the world? 

This is exactly what Vend has done, creating the world's first POS system built entirely in the cloud. 

Now powering over 15,000 stores across 140+ countries, Vend is growing and they're growing fast. In their first three years they grew 1100% and now have offices in offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, Toronto and London. They're now even working with big names like Apple to get Vend on iPad into the hands of more retailers around the world. 

We chatted with founder and CEO, Vaughan Rowsell on what it takes to grow a business like this and what wise words he's offer to others wanting to follow in his footsteps.

What is Vend and what’s your role in the business?

Vend is a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) and retail platform that gives retailers everything they need to manage and grow their business. Vend enables retailers to accept payments, sell in-store and online, manage their inventory, reward customer loyalty, and report on their business in real-time. We launched in 2010 as the world’s first POS system built entirely in the cloud, and we’re now powering over 15,000 stores across 140+ countries. 

What has been the most challenging part of growing your business?

In the beginning our biggest challenge was in scaling our growth globally in a short space of time. New Zealand’s small market size means entrepreneurs have to think and act globally from day one. We picked up customers in different time zones early-on which forced us to provide global 24/7 support and scale teams in other regions very quickly - while still keeping our unique Vend culture intact.

Since then, we’ve grown incredibly fast - 1100% for the first three years, and more than 100% over the last two. When you’re travelling at such speed the hardest part is adapting to constant changes and keeping the business on the right trajectory. You have to stay nimble and switched on to keep up with the pace, and there are times when you have to make hard decisions to stay on track.

Any advice to others finding it tough?

I’ve learned that if you want to build something great, or solve a difficult problem, you can’t do it alone. As a founder, don’t think you need to solve everything, because you can’t. If you have a problem, find the best person to solve that problem and give them the space to get on with it. You have to work hard to constantly innovate, keep on top of new trends and create a clear strategy that will get you to where you want to go - and to do that you need smart people to help you.

What makes your product stand out compared to others in the market?

We’re currently sitting at the front of a massive wave in the retail and business industry. The cloud is having the biggest impact on business since the internet. Because we were the first POS on the cloud and were built for mobile devices from day-one, we’re able to provide really modern but easy-to-use tools for retailers at an affordable price and that’s what’s seen us succeed so far. This unique position is also what’s helped us build a relationship with big brands like Apple - we’re now working closely with Apple to get Vend on iPad into the hands of more retailers around the world. SMB retailers can manage their entire store from one place using our software, and plug-and-play with additional business tools like Xero to essentially create a system that works for them. This can be transformational for a business.   

How do you go about selecting the right staff?

There are two things that are really important to us in terms of hiring - talent and culture - and we put a lot of effort into making sure we get this right. Having people that embody our Vend values is top of the list for us. As part of our recruitment process we ask people to complete a culture quiz using the platform Weirdly which asks questions like “What was your last crazy idea? Did it die a quick death or did it succeed?” and asks them to rank preferences for different parts of the work environment, such as what they would look forward to most about working at Vend. There are no ‘right’ answers, but it’s important that we get an idea of what motivates and inspires people to see how they’d fit into our teams. With the culture-fit right, the other piece of the puzzle for us is replicating that globally.

Whenever we set up a new office overseas, we make sure it’s established by long-term 'Venders'. They transplant our culture and share their knowledge with new hires. And it works like magic. At the same time, it’s really important to hire in-market. From New Zealand, we commonly make the mistake of thinking we can understand a foreign market by consuming their media, but the talent pool in other markets like the US and UK is massive and locals understand the business ecosystem far better than we do.

What do you think people should know about running a business before they start?

Everyone says starting and running your own business is harder than you could ever imagine, and that’s true. So before you start you really need to ask yourself - is this my passion? Whatever your business is, from software to skydiving, if you’re passionate - or even obsessive - about your product and what it can do for your customers, then you’ve got a great shot at succeeding. If not, then it’s time to rethink your plans. When you’re up working at 3am for the fourth week in a row, passion is what’s going to get you through.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

If it is just myself, then a cabin in the woods or the bach by the beach with some good books. Having time to switch off is important. But with a group of friends or family then you can’t beat going somewhere warm like the islands to have fun, food, and fires on the beach.

If you could take all your Vend staff somewhere on holiday, where would you go?

As we have people all over the world now, I would pick somewhere equidistant from everyone, which looking at a map means probably Hawaii, and find somewhere remote and off the beaten track there to have a week long festival celebrating all our successes and really enjoying each others company. Good company makes a great company.

Emily is a Senior Advisor in the Deloitte marketing team who knows that behind every great business lies a great story. She loves talking to inspiring people who are thinking outside the box to create a thriving SME sector in New Zealand.