Why web builder Rocketspark is not afraid to dance with the big boys like Xero to help the small guys conquer ecommerce

Mr Ralph lighting shop, a client of Rocketspark
Rocketspark is carving a niche helping SMEs build an online presence using a hassle-free web system

​When David works with Goliath, wonderful things can happen. That’s what smallish web builder Rocketspark is discovering -- you don’t have to burn massive amounts of cash to do clever things online.

Every business needs a website. That’s a given. What  Rocketspark understands is that small businesses have a host of challenges, including trying to build a website, maintain it and use it as an ecommerce tool, without blowing the bank account.

The company has distilled the process of providing a means for companies to build websites that are pretty, functional, and won’t spook those not unfamiliar with loading content or dealing with technology.

Fours 'boys' and their business

Rocketspark was founded in 2009 by brothers -- Grant and Jeremy Johnson -- and Johnson’s flatmates Lee Reichardt and Richard King. The four know the limitations small companies have when it comes handling the tangles of the web.

“Sure there are lots of softwares out there which are highly powerful. They are good for techies but too technical for most small operators, most of whom aren’t savvy enough to be confident users,” says Jeremy Johnson, one of the founders of Rocketspark.

Which is why the web design company offers small operators a platform to load their content, at $39 monthly subscription (plus GST); which comes with a host of correlated services including domain hosting, updating and managing the site. For $89 (plus GST) a company can list as many products as it wants on a website. There is a graduated scale of how many products can be listed on a website with various pricing options. And for the even fancier clients with huge pockets, the company is happy to custom-build websites, Johnson says.

For websites requiring complete ecommerce features, Rocketspark incorporates a range of add-ons from suppliers including Xero (for its accounting and financial management services). The company, also integrates Vend’s (payments solutions system) service, and Timely, a booking system popular among trades people, among others.

(LtoR): Rocketspark's NZ directors Jeremy Johnson, Richard King, Lee Reichardt

Kudos - innovation ad-on award

Rocketspark has so impressed Xero with how it integrates a range of add-ons onto its web application that it awarded Rocketspark the  ‘Shaking Things Up’ award in London, in February. The company beat hundreds of other service companies using Xero’s add ons, to the title -- a big endorsement for a small company with less than a dozen employees.

Xero, he says, was impressed by how well Rocketspark has managed to build connections with the wider world of Xero’s add-ons.

Winning the accolade has helped Rocketspark’s publicity “skyrocketted” says Johnson.

The company has put in some very hard yards over the last few years, and has also kept a measured pace of growth.

For the year ending January 2015, Rocketspark's subscriber base grew globally by 84 percent.  Johnson says the last quarter has been really positive with the number of paying subscribers in the Nov-Jan quarter being 110 percent higher than the same quarter in 2014.

Learning on the job

Rocketspark’s challenges are like other growing companies, including access to big amounts of capital, and getting awareness in a highly competitive marketplace.

“We could have grown a lot faster, using capital from outside sources. But that would have meant we wouldn't have grown the way we did - we were able to learn on the job, we were also able to understand what we did, and why we did them. That has also given us much more knowledge about what we are doing now.”

His brother Grant, is spearheading the company’s entry into the UK. There are plans to launch Rocketspark in the US, riding on the back of its partners in add-ons, including Xero.

Award night in London, in February. Standing next to Xero founder Rod Drury is Grant Johnson, a founder of Rocketspark.

Rod Drury on ‘end of the beginning’

So where does the company go to from here? Johnson says: “It is like what Rod Drury (Xero founder) says, ‘we are at the end of the beginning, now that we have got our foundation in place.

“We feel like we have created a very strong website platform. Now we have the real opportunities to consider breaking into specialist industries (with the platform).”

The company will be cementing its partnership with other service suppliers as it helps companies build online presence, Johnson says, although it will not dabble in the integration specialist space.

The roadmap for the future is all about improving customer service, understanding customer requirements and focusing on what it does best --  ‘making it easier’ for customers to sell online, and building beautiful websites, Johnson adds.

Rocketspark is also excited about the next Xerocon (April 30 to May 1), where it will be exhibiting its service, Johnson adds.