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How Do You Build A Billion Dollar SaaS Company?

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Vend’s JC Taunay-Bucalo tells TechWeekEurope how the company looks to stay ahead in a fast-evolving market

Tell us a bit about Vend and your current role

Vend is a cloud-based point-of-sale platform for dynamic retailers that was founded in New Zealand five years ago. We’re growing really fast – we now have customers in over 15,000 stores using Vend software and we’re on the same growth trajectory as the world’s most successful first generation cloud companies – like Netsuite, Zendesk, and Salesforce.

We entered the market during a period a real innovation in the retail and payment sector; particularly among independent retailers who can move quickly and leapfrog larger high street players. Online shopping has focused the mind like never before. In this environment, it’s never been more important to offer the best customer experience. This means out with old, expensive proprietary tills and in with iPads which customers can use to pay anywhere in the shop and sales staff can use to manage their stock, download reports and more.

JC Taunay-Bucalo, Chief Revenue Officer at VendOur founder, Vaughan Rowsell intends to turn Vend into a billion-dollar-plus company. It’s my role as Chief Revenue Officer to keep us on track.

How have you plotted Vend’s growth plan? By what point do you expect to turn into a billion dollar company?

As a second wave cloud company, we’re lucky in that we have a map of sorts to work from. Comparing our growth to the likes of Zendesk or Salesforce, when they were the same age as us, gives us a good measurement of our performance as a company. But we aren’t just going to trod the well-worn path. We’ve learned from these companies and are looking at how we can break the mould in terms of growth, to lead the second generation of SaaS businesses.

It’s a competitive market; how do you stay ahead of the game?

We have the advantage of being one of the first cloud-based POS companies to go to market, so we’re already ahead of the curve. But we have had to evolve quickly to stay there. Our customer acquisition model was completely marketing driven when we started. The customer experience was mostly self-service and we had no sales people! At first we attracted small retailers, like cupcake shops and tiny boutiques. These were our early adopters.

After two years we evolved our product and established a strong customer success team, which helped us naturally move up the value chain and attract bigger customers – but usually still with only one store. We started to incorporate a lot more offline marketing, such as attending and organising our own events.

The next phase involved moving to larger, more complex, multi-outlet retailers and franchises. To do this we developed a strong reseller channel and created an outbound sales team. This is still a focus for us.

What’s the next chapter for Vend? How do you plan to keep evolving and growing?

As we continue to aim high, being able to service larger companies has become a priority. Initially our customers paid the same price, regardless of what features they were using. Now that we’re acquiring larger customers with more niche requirements we’re updating our product model to make it more module-based, with specific features customers can turn on and pay for – or not – depending on their needs.

For instance, we’ve just added advanced analytics and will be launching an omni-channel module very soon. This approach makes Vend the ideal choice for small and large enterprises alike.

You have customers in over 140 countries; how have you managed to attract and retain customers from all over the world?

We launched Vend as a global company and were amazed by the amount of international signups we attracted in the early days – through organic reach alone.

Still, we knew early on that we needed a physical global presence, to support our customers and establish a presence in key technology hubs, like Silicon Valley. We came up with a model that allows us to plant people on the ground in strategic areas, while staying true to our DNA as a bootstrapping start-up.

We set up offices in cities based on time-zone, a less-cutthroat hiring market, and quality of life for our staff. And these cities, like Toronto, Melbourne and Berlin, are full of great, creative people. Then we set up lean business development teams in important cities like San Francisco and London. This approach has enabled us to continue to extend our reach, support our international customers and ensure we capitalise on revenue generating opportunities.

What would be your advice be for the next wave of cloud companies?

My first recommendation would be to develop the best tool stack possible from day one. We started with an enterprise stack we could grow into, that wouldn’t limit us or our growth.

Secondly, we would advise companies to go global from the outset. Because we made these choices early on, Vend quickly established itself as one of the most global software-as-a-service companies in the world. We are operating across numerous markets, with a relatively equal revenue split across key countries. This makes us very different – but we’re certain the next wave of cloud companies will learn this lesson from us and will pounce on the global cloud opportunity.

Apart from Vend, which company do you admire the most and why?

We really admire another New Zealand based company called Xero, who provide cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses. Similarly to Vend, Xero has grown rapidly – it now has over 400,000 users – and is focused on offering a great customer experience. Xero is a key partner for Vend and we work closely with them to deliver a seamless customer experience. New Zealand based technology companies have been infiltrating the UK with game changing technology for years – Xero is definitely one to watch!

JC Taunay-Bucalo is chief revenue officer at Vend

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