New Zealand retail tech company Vend is well-known among Kiwi SMEs for its point of sale product, but as it widens its scope and pushes into the North American market, it’s supporting rapid growth with a hiring spree of 125 staff.
Founded in 2010, Vend began as a cloud-based point of sale software provider but is now working to become what chief executive Alex Fala describes as “a complete system of record”. It specialises in integrating smoothly with other business and payments applications such as Xero, PayPal and SmartPay.
It’s this latter attribute which has given Vend an edge in the US market, says Fala. The US payments market is very different to New Zealand – in the US, one of the primary ways retailers purchase credit card processing facilities is through a third-party reseller rather than a bank.
By tapping into this channel and creating partnerships with payment processors and resellers, Vend has accessed what Fala describes as “tens of thousands of additional on-the-ground sales people across the continent who are selling Vend’s retail software to merchant services as part of their tech stack.”
“Most customers will have three to four pieces of tech, if not six to eight,” Fala says. “We want to sit at the centre of that and connect it all up.”
“This partner-led approach allows us to benefit from others’ innovation.”
Vend’s competitors in the US tend to try to create “one-stop shops” by bundling tech products together, says Fala, but Vend is “agnostic” and partner-led.
“Particularly, we’re not a payments company.”
This marks Vend out as “the only retail point-of-sale of scale that’s also reseller friendly,” says Fala. He explains that the partnerships also effectively function as endorsements to North American retailers who may be unfamiliar with Vend’s brand: “They look at the endorsement of our partners and think, ‘These guys must be legit.’”
Vend has launched strategic partnerships with many of the largest payment processors in North America, including WorldPay, CardConnect, Evo and North American Bancard. Together, these account for over NZ$1.2 trillion in card processing volume per year.
“They may not be names you’ve heard of, but they all process tens of billions of transactions,” Fala says.
To support this growth, Vend is hiring 54 new Auckland staff and 71 staff globally, growing its existing workforce by nearly 50 percent.
Vend’s chief people officer Shirvani Mudaly says hiring top talent to power Vend’s expansion will be “critical to our success”, but she’s keen to retain the culture that’s characterised Vend’s growth so far.
Mudaly says the team has done lots of work to identify the aspects of employment at Vend that staff care about, identifying learning and development and career progression as key. That workforce is a highly engaged one, she says, reporting that more than 94 percent of staff say they are consistently “proud to be here.”
“Growth like this brings challenges of course, including how we retain our amazing culture and diversity that Vend is renowed for, and ensuring we keep the bar really high when it comes to recruiting top talent. It’s a great position to be in and an incredibly exciting time for us at Vend. I feel privileged to be part of it.”
Fala was unable to disclose whether or not Vend is currently profitable, but says the quality of leadership talent Vend has been building gives him confidence that the organisation is mature enough to handle this growth. He intends for Vend to become a billion-dollar company within the next five years.
“I feel confident that we’ve got it under control,” Fala says. “That doesn’t mean we’re complacent.”
He is optimistic about the overall trajectory of the retail industry globally, saying he believes retail, broadly, is starting to move past a narrative of disruption into one of regeneration.
He believes Vend is “far from saturation” in New Zealand, and sees the size of the North American independent retailer market as a massive opportunity.
“If you think about what happens in a forest, dead wood dies and a new, much more vibrant ecosystem comes along,” Fala says. “That’s what’s happening in retail.”