14 Minutes of SaaS

14 Minutes of SaaS

E46: Vaughan Fergusson – Founder & ex CEO of Vend – 4 of 7 – Tell you Story

Vaughan Fergusson – Founder & ex CEO of Vend – 4 of 7 – 1001 Nights telling your Story - episode 46 of 14 Minutes of SaaS

E46: Vaughan Fergusson – Founder & ex CEO of Vend – 4 of 7 – Tell you Story

This is episode 4 of a 7 part series with Vaughan Fergusson, sole founder and former CEO of Vend.
He talks about getting his initial investments.
He urges founders to tell their story and pitch wherever they are. He talks about the influence of his Mum on his life when she bought him and his siblings a computer. He explains the connection between that gift and the foundation of a non-profit for kids called OMG tech. And we find out more about OMG tech which he co-founded with his partner Zoe Timbrell.

“Tell your story everywhere you can… tell the part you’re really passionate about … find a way to get up on stage.”
Pitch constantly.
Before he had a track record of being a successful SaaS founder he was talking about what he wanted to build and some people thought … “well if this bugger can cycle all the way through NZ – they perhaps thought that he might be someone who will persevere with the startup etc”

After about 5 years they couldn’t continue to ride the wave because everyone else was getting into the space so a couple of years ago the differentiated and aligned to the independent retailers – generally incredibly passionate, not techies and just ok business people. Cherish retailers he called them.

He feels the online experience will never kill the bricks and mortar. Pitch constantly … His 1st investment came from an 18 month relationship that started in a BBQ. He was pitching all over the place with a slick vid and some screenshots. A German bloke saw the pitch – his name was Christoff from Germany of n Point 9 Capital (Christoph Janz invested early in Zendesk) – he didn’t know that this guy was a major investor – but he ends up participating in series A.
He sets up OMG tech to increase the talent depth in New Zealand and also to encourage girls to get into tech. And deep down he wanted to replicate his Mum’s gesture when she brought him home a PC when he was 8.
“I wanted to replicate the gesture my Mum made when I was 8 ….and buy me a computer …… and figuring out what it could do.”

Part 4/Episode 46

Transcript

Vaughan Fergusson

I wanted to replicate the gesture that my Mum made for me when I was 8 by bringing home that PC. So .. One day out of the blue she brought home a Sega SC 3000 … and this was in the 80s and computers costed as much as cars. Nobody had them. And so it was very abnormal for a solo unemployed paraplegic Mum of 3 boys to go to the bank and take out a loan and bring home a computer. She didn’t know what it could do .. and us kids we had no idea .. but we spent pretty much every day on that computer.

Stephen Cummins

Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS, the show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS ScaleUps.

Vaughan Fergusson

This is episode 4 of a 7 part series with Vaughan Fergusson, sole founder and former CEO of Vend.
He talks about getting his initial investments..

He urges founders to tell their story and pitch wherever they are. He talks about the influence of his Mum on his life when she bought him and his siblings a computer. He explains the connection between that gift and the foundation of a non-profit for kids called OMG tech. And we find out more about OMG tech which he co-founded with his partner Zoe Timbrell.

Vaughan Fergusson

We jumped on a skype call and his name was Christoph. And he asked me lots of questions about, you know, what we’re doing around funding and growth metrics, how many customers and yadda… yadda… yadda and like, you know, I was a naive kiwi entrepreneur. And I’m like you know, I just kept it open … my journey and shared numbers and how things were going. And he was like, ‘oh, yeah. Yeah. This is a very good.’ And he was like, well, maybe we could catch up again like in a couple of months and, and I was I ‘sure yeah, it’s been a blast’. So, yeah, we kinda did that on every other month, you know … a regular skype call with Christoph. He asked me also challenging questions about the growth of the business and how I was thinking about growth and whether we need the money and things like that and… So I gave him all that info. And then another one of those calls … this was just after raising our seed round from Sam and Ron. Christoph said ‘I’d be happy to invest in you if you’re looking for an investor’ and I was like I gave him the worst answer ever – I said ‘No because I just raise a bit of capital from Sam and Ron. So I said sorry, I’ve just raised some money. And so we’re not looking for capital. And he was like no, that’s fine.
That’s like I said we just keep talking and… talking and… talking and then about a year later – at the end of our regular skype call … I said “actually you know what … we’re actually raising some more money now. Yeah, it’s a bit more than what I was looking for before. Would you be happy to invest? And he said ‘Absolutely!’

And so the end of that journey was like 18 months of telling the story … you know … he was frantically taking notes building up a profile, you know. He had our trajectory. He had a couple of key data points about the business. So when it came time to need some money. It was an easy sell – like he’d already been on the journey for 18 months … and just had been waiting for that opportunity. And so Cristoph, you know, for your listeners, this is Christoff Janz … the early stage investor in Zendesk. And he’s the master of SaaS investment. And since then he’s grown out his portfolio … Point 9 Cap is the fund. And, and I like to think that they know how to pick the best of the best of SaaS companies … basically because they invested in Vend. (laughing)

Stephen Cummins

They have a great reputation.

Vaughan Fergusson

Well, they do… they do… they do have a great reputation.
But way back in the beginning, it was just Christoff, a random guy on a skype call. I had no idea who was.

Stephen Cummins

Now … the future’s all about the kids. You said that of course, and it’s true. Tell us a little bit more about OMG tech. Tell us a bit about the this amazing sounding social enterprise that connects kids and educators with future tech.

Vaughan Fergusson

Yeah, so that was a simple idea. How do we get kids playing with technology? And the idea came to me for a couple of reasons. Why I found it with my partner Zowie. One was because I wanted to increase the depth of the talent pool in the tech industry. It’s probably the same everywhere. You know, it’s a bunch of white guys doing shit with computers and… and I was like well …’Where are all the girls? Why are we not hiring girls in engineering? Where are they? So that’s where part of the idea came from. I wanted to replicate the gesture that my Mum made for me when I was 8 by bringing home that PC. So .. One day out of the blue she brought home a Sega SC 3000 … and this was in the 80s and computers costed as much as cars. Nobody had them. And so it was very abnormal for a solo unemployed paraplegic Mum of 3 boys to go to the bank and take out a loan and bring home a computer. She didn’t know what it could do .. and us kids we had no idea .. but we spent pretty much every day on that computer.

That was replaced by a commodore 64 and then it was PCs … and we had three PCs …  and, you know, it just keep going. And so, you know, we tried to think well, what’s the equivalent? Like everybody has a smartphone and kids have phones and we all have access to computer.
So it’s not like giving kids computers because they’re already surrounded by them. And so then we thought well, you know, it’s actually… the PC in the eighties … the equivalent of that today is probably the 3D printers or the drones or the robots. It’s the VR, the AR … all the emerging tech. We haven’t really quite figured out what it’s gonna do yet. And it’s that which we wanted to get into the hands of 8 years olds … because in another 10 years time that’s the tech that’s going to be mature … and that they’re going to be using and day to day life.

So the idea is simple. Just pick the future technologies that are probably going to become mainstream and put them in the hands of 8 to 12 year olds … and then just see what happens. And we did that. And, and what happens because they just love playing with technology. And it can be … because kids don’t know … like to us, it can be seen like crazy future technology like VR or 3D printing or robots. Like for kids. It’s just like technology … and they think ‘Oh right cool! … How do I figure this out. I’m going to figure out how to do this and, you know, how do I program a robot? Or … you know ‘How do I design in 3D?’ or ‘How do I build a game? For them its just fun.  They’re learning as they go. So that’s what we thought of. And we, you know, we ran events all around New Zealand.

We put thousands and thousands of kids through the events. But then we realised that was actually the easy bit … like getting kids to love technology is actually easy. The hard bit is creating a pathway for an eight year old so that they can follow up for the next 10 years of their life to come out the other end and, you know, be somebody who has used technology and understands technology enough so that they can shape the world around them to use it.

And getting them excited about a robot on a weekend is great but then, you know, they go home and that they don’t have a robot at home. So, you know, they… they can’t really follow through. So that’s what we’ve been working on over the last couple of years. It’s like how do we, you know, inspire the kids, but actually create that pathway. The answer seems actually pretty obvious. When you think about it … it’s like the people who could help create those pathways are the teachers!

The teachers and school. And how do we empower them to not be afraid of technology. So a 50 something year old teacher can teach a class full of 10 year olds robots and not feel intimidated by that. And so that’s what we’ve been focusing on the last couple of years …. is how do we develop the content and provide the support for teachers … so that they can learn technology and feel competent to stand in front of the classroom. Because the technology is just a tool, right? Yeah. It’s the… it’s the competence and the creativity that you applied to it but yeah …  that’s where the magic happens. And so yeah, in the future VR is just going to be a tool.

Stephen Cummins

There’s great initiatives in the world at the moment in trying to solve, you know, stem related problems. Coder Dojo, which was originated out of Ireland, is global. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Teaches kids how to code. … The ability to adapt fast, to understand how the world changes, and the part that tech is playing in that change … and the ability to generate ideas, innovate effectively … to be in control of your own life, to have the confidence to write your own story. You know, is part of what OMG tech is looking at … are you looking to address that paradigm?

Vaughan Fergusson

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s why I say that technology is just a tool. We’re not teaching kids how to write python … even though we are! You know we’re not teaching kids how to program a robot … even though we are! We are teaching them how to think, how to be critical thinkers … and how to think programmatically. And how to work as a team, how to be creative, how to fail, how to learn from failure. It’s those skills that are actually the most important things because the technology will change continuously over time. In 10 years time there’ll be something new.  There will be some new tool that they need to use, but they’ll be armed with this amazing muscle …  you know … the creativity and the entrepreneurials and the creative thought … and that’s going to be the skillset that’s going to be in high demand when the robot overlords come in and make us all redundant … because, you know, automation is going to replace anything that requires manual labour or repetitive tasks or anything with precision … robots are going to do it. In the sort of more white collar areas. You know, anything that’s just like, you know, looking for patents, analysing data. AI’s going to do that, right? So you know. There’s a big gap there, right? It’s like a ton of jobs that aren’t gonna exist anymore. We’re going to delegate away to tech to do.

The skills that are going to hard… or that we won’t to delegate away to technology are the more human skills. It’s the philosophy, it’s the creative side of things. It’s the ability to take a vague idea and turn it into a reality. So parts of that journey of taking an idea and trying to turn it into a product or turning it into a service … you use technology. But you still need to have that skillset to be able to deal with the vagueness like, you know, the ambiguity and find tune it down to actually turn it into something really tangible. And that’s kinda my hope for the kids that we put through the OMG tech programs is that we’re building a next generation of skills that in the future world where creativity is valued more than technical ability, you know. We’re gonna have this army of kids who are just gonna turn up to work and be the people that the world desires the most when it comes to skills.

Stephen Cummins

You said that our Tamariki should dream of being our next rocket scientists and have the tools to get there. I presume Tamariki is a Maori term.  What exactly is that?

Vaughan Fergusson

So that’s the kids. Okay. So a great example … to dreams to become a rocket scientist .. because, you know, New Zealand, now has the space program with rocket Lab. And now we’re watching rockets going into space and … doing it from New Zealand. And it’s something that 10 years ago people would have thought would be impossible crazy. Like that will never happen. So that’s an inspirational story. And it’s quite funny .. it’s like, you know, we joke about how things are not rocket science. But. A lot of things aren’t. Even rocket science is not rocket science. (laughter). And so, yeah, we want the kids to not have it as a barrier for a second in their thinking. ‘Well, I can’t do that. Like that’s impossible..’  Why you know … ‘I’m a young Maori girl in New Zealand. I could never launch a rocket into space. Like to show you why not? Why not? You have to build that confidence.

Stephen Cummins

In the next installment – episode 5 of 7, Vaughan discussed an evolution away from tall poppy syndrome to world class innovation and growing confidence in modern New Zealand

Stephen Cummins

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills and to Ketsu for the music. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoy the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.

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