In just four years Vend has grown from one guy with a vision to more than 200 people around the world, 7 offices, and users in over 140 countries. We’re quite often asked how this happened. Here is the first in a new series telling the story of Vend, as seen in BRW.
One of the questions I’m asked frequently is “what particular pieces of advice would you pass on to other startups?” It’s a great question, but as it’s usually asked in a setting in which I have to give a snappy answer, it doesn’t often get as much of an answer as it deserves. So here we go.
Think and act globally from day one.
Before I wrote the first line of code I knew Vend would be a global company. So I think that impetus was built into the company’s DNA, and gave us a lot of direction and momentum in the early days.
If we hadn’t promoted ourselves internationally then we wouldn’t have picked up so many customers in different time zones so quickly, which means we wouldn’t have felt the intense pressure to provide global 24/7 support, and we’d have been slower to scale teams in other regions. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but the meaning is there.
Ship your product fast.
It’s quite tempting to fully validate your product in your own backyard – and I agree you want to be close to those initial customers. You want to be able to spend a lot of time with them. But you should only really do that for the first ten. Once you’re comfortable that you’ve got a good market fit and your product is sellable, don’t worry about delivering something ‘perfect.’ Just go broad and wide as you can, and get it into people’s hands.
Surround yourself with people you can lean on. Then lean on them.
I’ve earned the nickname “Chief Delegation Officer” – and that’s what it comes down to for scale. You have a problem, you find the best person to solve that problem, and get them on it. One person does not scale. If you want to make something big you need people. As a founder, don’t think you need to solve everything, because you can’t. Surround yourself with other people who can help and get them on board as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to hire people smarter than you. Delegate. And trust people.
My philosophy is that if you get the right people on the right mission, and you have this culture of trust – where everyone is trusted to make their own decisions and try new things, and not be penalised if they make mistakes – then that sets the foundation for people to do really amazing things.
Go fast. Raise capital. Don’t slow down.
Be impatient and stay impatient. Raise money and spend that money up front to get customers, build the product, and hire amazing people. Then keep the momentum going – because scale always slows things down – and manage the growth as best you can. If you’re onto a good thing, you don’t want to slow it down.
That’s pretty much my role; removing all the roadblocks that are going to slow us. Just be sure to mitigate growing pains with good governance from day one. Because that is hard to retrofit. No matter how lean you operate, introduce management and good processes up front – and then run as fast as you can.