Vend nabs Sam Morgan, launches Apple tie-up outside the US

Vaughan Rowsell talks to Idealog about appointing Sam Morgan to the Vend board, and expanding into the UK, Canada and Australia

Gareth Samuel Morgan, better known as Sam Morgan, ex-of Trade Me fame, has been appointed a director of cloud-based point of sale company Vend, as the company looks to ramp-up sales overseas.

Morgan's appointment comes as the Vend-Xero-Apple tie-up – which sees Vend's point-of-sale and Xero's accounting software folded into Apple products as a way for Apple to sell iPads and MacBooks to American small and medium-sized retailers –starts rolling out to retailers in the UK, Canada and Australia.

Vend CEO Vaughan Rowsell says Morgan's  international experience (he is on the Xero board and was a director of Fairfax after selling trade me to the Australian-based media company) is an important in his appointment at Vend, but they also wanted someone with "a New Zealand dimension".

"We did look at directors offshore and wouldn't rule that out in the future, but we are a Kiwi company and it's good to have someone with experience of building an international company from New Zealand. Sam is no stranger to technology companies that sell abroad and he sees parallels with what Xero is doing."

Morgan fills a hole on the Vend board left by the resignation, after more than five years, of another Trade Me alumni, Rowan Simpson, who was an early investor in Vend and the original chair.

Morgan was also one of Vend's early investors, through his company Jasmine Investment holdings, and even after fundraisings totalling $47 million, Morgan still holds a 8.38% stake. Rowsell worked with Morgan and Simpson for a time after the company he was working for, Vianet, was sold to Trade Me and morphed into Travelbug.  

Rowsell says this year should see another year of 100% growth, and revenue between $10 million and $20 million. It's been a busy year, he says. In July, following the Apple deal and an increasing number of enquiries from larger retailers, the company restructured into two business units, for smaller and larger customers.

"For the first three years we were selling online and attracting smaller, tech-savvy, self-starter businesses, who set up the systems themselves. But over the last year or so we have moved up the adoption curve and are attracting bigger retailers who pay more, but are more demanding in terms or features and support." 

Vaughan Rowsell, photographed by Stephen Langdon for Idealog in 2010

Rowsell says Apple-Xero-Vend partnership has seen Apple holding weekly events for retailers and the conversion rate at the events has been almost 50%. Later this month the roadshow will be rolled out to Canada, Australia and the UK, he says.

"This is a new initiative for us, going out to larger retailers, and this will be a large chunk of our new revenue. Each event we might pick up 10-20 new customers and they are holding them pretty much each week."

Everything's happened very quickly for Vend, Rowsell says. "It's crazy to look back to the first Idealog article [in 2010] and to think of the dream I had of building a high tech company out of New Zealand that could go global. I keep pinching myself."

Still, Idealog can't help but be a little nostalgic for the Vend of old, with marketing videos like this one...

... hiring videos like this one

...and a billboard campaign that went like this (OK, this one didn't actually run)