Setting up shop overseas – a new place for your add-on
There are now over 300 add-ons available to increase the functionality of Xero and let you create a system that precisely fits your business needs. That flexibility is something we’re exceptionally proud of. And it’s something that our clients love.
As Xero has grown, so have our add-on partners’ businesses, and many are expanding into new territories and new overseas operations. Vend is a responsive point–of–sale (POS) system, Spotlight Reporting is business intelligence that creates fast, efficient performance reports and Receipt Bank is an ingenious tool for making your expenses more efficient – and all of these businesses have been blazing a trail by opening global offices outside their home territory.
We caught up with Richard Francis, founder of Spotlight Reporting, Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend, and Michael Wood, co-founder of Receipt Bank, to hear about the opportunities and challenges they faced when moving outside their local territory.
How difficult was it to get Spotlight up and running in New Zealand to begin with?
RF: “Perhaps the biggest challenge was deciding to start out as ‘Xero only’ – supporting Rod and Hamish and their vision from day one. We started out as the first independent Accounting Firm Partner (Francis Consulting), where we were already using cloud as much as possible, and then Spotlight Reporting was one of the very first add-ons (alongside the likes of Vend and Unleashed). Being ‘Xero only’ in the early days in particular meant you only had a limited user base, albeit a fast-growing, highly-engaged one.”
Did you have a similar experience when setting up Vend as a business?
VR: “Getting the initial product built was the key part, and making sure it met the needs of those early customers. You can’t underestimate the amount of work required to get this absolutely right.
But even then, once you have built the first version of the product, then you are really only at the starting line. The really hard stuff comes next. Finding customers and growing like crazy. Raising capital from investors early on helped, as it provided the fuel to really start to grow, and build out the initial Vend team. Getting the right people on board early really helps with success. You can’t do it all by yourself.”
When you started Receipt Bank in the UK did you have a comparable experience when growing your customer base?
MW: “I would agree with Vaughn – there is a huge amount of work involved in building a product that meets the needs of customers. From day one our aim was to build a product that saved time for small businesses but which could also create huge efficiencies for firms of bookkeepers and accountants. The fact that we were just concentrating on the UK (at that time) made things much easier – each time we have entered a new country we have worked closely with local accountants and bookkeepers to refine the product appropriately.”
Xero’s add-on community is a big selling point for cloud users. Has it helped Spotlight to be part of this community of add-on software?
RF: “Yes it has, although there’s such a large add-on community now that it can be hard to get leg-room at times. We’ve made some great connections and love some of the other popular apps in this space – it’s a real community, particularly amongst those of us who try and support all of the Xero events globally.”
Would you agree that being part of a wider add-on family has helped Vend grow?
VR: “Absolutely. The power of the cloud is being able to easily integrate other cloud apps together. Retailers really get this, as their business often has a few different moving parts, from inventory, to reporting, to ecommerce and so on. Being part of a wider community really lets our customers pick the best of breed apps to use together.”
Did the existing Xero community help when Receipt Bank first opened an office outside the UK?
MW: “Hugely. Even though we’d been working with Xero for a year or two, it was still a very pleasant surprise when Australians and Kiwis started showing an interest in Receipt Bank. Without Xero – and the Xero community – we would never have opened offices in Auckland and Sydney!
You’re planning on opening up a Spotlight office in the UK this summer. What was the initial attraction of the UK?
RF: “Yes, we have feelers out and were of course on the ground for Accountex 2014 and to scope out London options. This is such an exciting opportunity for a small team of stars to make their mark and transform the UK accounting industry by spreading the business intelligence, value-add bug. So the UK is a pretty key market for us.”
Will the UK and Europe be a big part of your strategy for Vend?
VR: “We have a large user base in the UK and EU, and we want to put in place a sales and support centre to better serve the millions of retailers across Europe. We’ll have a London and a Berlin office open by the end of the year, and we’ll be filling it with future Venders as fast as we can. There’s a huge opportunity in the UK alone and I am excited to be able to spend more time in London personally.”
Was it always your plan that Receipt Bank would go global?
MW: “Two of us started Receipt Bank and I still have the original business plan knocking around somewhere. And I can guarantee it did not mention any foreign countries at all. Receipt Bank ‘the global business’ really hadn’t occurred to us.
Xero, being notable for its global coverage, was really the spur that started international clients for us. It happened almost in phases, actually. First was New Zealand: emails coming in and phones ringing saying ‘That looks great! Can we have some?’. Then it was Australia and more recently South Africa and America.”
Where do you see Spotlight in ten year’s time – do you have plans for opening offices in other global locations?
RF: “We want to focus mainly on Australia and the UK now – Xero’s two key territories in my view. These are the markets where Xero can win, with New Zealand close to being in the bag already. Having good teams there is crucial, as we do love selling, educating and supporting our partners face-to-face. We also see the direct and verticals spaces in those two markets as exciting medium-term opportunities.
So I’m thinking a London office very soon supplemented by good people up North next year. Then later this year, the US beckons in some form.”
And what’s the future for Vend? Where will we be seeing Venders setting up shop next?
VR: “We’ll most likely have a dozen or more offices around the globe in the next ten years. By then we will have unlocked a lot of non-English speaking markets as well like Asia and South America. Perhaps there will be 1,000 Venders around the world saving retailers from bad software. That sort of headcount is somewhat scary, but we’re on a mission to get Vend into every retail store on the planet, so we are going to need some help!”
Read more about Company News