New Zealand Produces More Than Just Wool - There Are Some Incredible Tech Ideas Being Developed Too

New Zealander and Vend CEO Vaughan Rowsell.

New Zealand is known for having more sheep than people. There’s plenty of jokes about that.

But just over the Tasman, the land of the long white cloud is living up to its tag line and producing a number of promising tech companies.

In 2012 NZ’s tech sector contributed almost $23 billion to the country’s economy, up 17% since 2010. According to the New Zealand Technology Industry Association it is a very outwardly focussed sector with exports hitting $6 billion for 2014, it’s the third largest export earner behind dairy and tourism.

Accounting software company Xero is one which has gained global notoriety, flipping the way small businesses manage numbers. The cloud-accounting company is aiming to hit $US100 million in annualised committed monthly revenue this year and has flagged a potential US listing.

Other NZ tech companies include Rakon which produces a good portion of the world’s frequency control devices used in GPS systems and Peter Jackson’s films which developed high frame rate film production, capturing almost 50 frames a second.

But another NZ tech company which is gaining traction is POS company Vend.

Vend POS system.

The growth of SAAS companies and acceptance of the cloud means even if you are located at the bottom of the planet, you can build a company with global reach.

“It seems to be an industry we’ve kind of latched onto,” Vend CEO Vaughan Rowsell said.

“I think it’s because of our geographic isolation, we’ve always been the little brother to Australia and down at the bottom of the world. Then the internet comes a long and all of a sudden cloud computing comes along which means essentially you can export anywhere and build a business from anywhere.”

Cloud computing as an industry is still in its infancy but the Kiwi’s are going hard at it.

Since launching in 2010, Vend has grown to more than 150 employees – hardly any of them are over 40 years old mind you – and Rowsell expects that number to double shortly.

“We’re adding a person a day I think at the moment,” Rowsell said. “We’re in high growth mode.”

“We’re 150 people going on about 300 people this time next year.”

In almost four years the company has raised about $35 million in funding from the likes of PayPal co-founder and the first outside investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel, and other prominent investors. It has opened offices in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe and has acquired about 12,000 customers around the world.

“The thing that’s front of mind for me – that keeps me awake at night – is how fast can we grow the organisation, how fast can we scale this thing,” he said, adding getting the software in front of retailers, getting sales teams on the ground and hiring the right people is how he thinks this will be achieved.

“It’s hundreds of little things that you have to focus on.”

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