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TradeGecko’s customer centric culture is helping customers to build their dreams

Within the first 30 seconds of this Startup Story the CEO of TradeGecko, Cameron Priest, gave a window into the customer centric culture that has made them one of the fastest growing startups in Asia Pacific.

TradeGecko provides eCommerce and Wholesaling businesses with a backend solution that helps them focus on building their business and less time managing it. Their initial success was built on strong product partnerships, with other SaaS vendors like Xero & Shopify, which enabled TradeGecko to find immediate scale in a low cost, online, acquisition model. Now that the partners channels are becoming a more crowded they are parlaying that success  into new revenue streams.

Cameron is obviously leading his sales team from the front and eloquently talks about aligning their sales teams to the new customer centric buying process and expanding their market from the early adopters to the early majority through education.

There are many nuggets of startup gold in this story, from great examples of narrowing your focus and is building a customer centric culture that supports work/life balance. This was exemplified by his staff interrupting the interview by applauding fellow team members when they leave the office. I will also be adopting a great quote from Cameron on focus where he stressed the need to “fill your baskets, before you start weaving the next one”,

We hope you enjoy this Startup Story.

What is your elevator pitch?

We build and sell the backend platform to power ecommerce companies and wholesalers. In terms of the vision it’s just little bit longer, we want to help every ecommerce entrepreneur to build the business of their dreams. I personally love businesses and we’ve built a software platform that we get to help businesses grow.

When did you first realise this is a problem that needed to be solved?

We’re kind of been toying around the problem area for at least 12 months before we started this company, when we’re back in Auckland in New Zealand. But we hadn’t quite struck on how important this part of the pain was until we moved to the Singapore, that was about four and half years ago. Further was working with lots of customers and my co-founder also had a business that have failed because he lost track of his inventory, he couldn’t get as customers to pay him. So it all makes sense in the rear view mirror but at the time, it was kind of serendipity

Can you tell us more about your revenue sales story?

In terms of how we get those customers, traditionally it’s all been online marketing is partnership driven. Our first serious revenue growth came from our partnerships with platforms like Xero, Shopify – other big SaaS players who are already serving our markets.

It was predominantly online. We built relationships with the teams within the partner companies. There was no official handover of leads or anything. But of course being friends with the guys’ helps and then bit of marketing and positioning ourselves as the inventory player of choice with the keyword “Xero” or “Shopify”. Interestingly enough, when we started, that was super powerful. It’s powerful for us now but our competitors do the same thing right now. So when we started, that was a nice channel and now others doing the same thing, and now there is probably a couple of dozens doing the same thing, so it makes that harder. Obviously we’ve got after the low hanging fruit first.

In a company you can do the number of things, you have people in your company who have barrels and bullets. When you’re younger you have a few barrels and few bullets. Then as you grow you want to add more barrels and barrels can be people, they can be teams, they can be strategies or whatever, but you can only do so many things at once. I think money, scale and people give you the ability to run more revenue streams in parallel. Also when you have something that works, it’s as easy as like let that thing work, I know that’s going to make me money, I can now try some more crazy. But at the start you just need one thing to work. You get a basket, you need to fill it before you weave another basket. So it’s important that we focus and we make sure we focused on being the best in something first and now we’re expanding our channels.

What is your biggest challenge in sales?

For me personally, it was like learning what does a high performing sales team to play. Do you put the AEs next to the SDR and CSM so they are a pod, or is sales it’s own team for, what’s the kind of structure how do leads flow from marketing through the funnel. That’s all brand new for me, so we brought some really good people on board to build help with that

As we move from the early adopters, the early customers along Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm,  adoption lifecycle curve, it’s actually education. You’ve got these guys who’re using spreadsheets or using some kind of cloud based software that they’ve seen iPads, they have iPads at home, they have iPhones and they can imagine what software could look like when they could be on their mobile device, it could on their tables in the cloud, but it’s scary. Change is scary. It’s about education.

To be honest we should do more sales driven digital engagement as I think sales isn’t about selling anymore, it’s about building a relationship and educating. People don’t, get sold software, they buy it. I think that’s such a trite thing to say but it’s really true. It’s relationships, we want to be our customers’ “business advisor”.


FULL TRANSCRIPT

Andy:                 Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of the startup stories – the series of interviews with B2B founders, CEOs and entrepreneurs where they share their sales story. Super excited today to be joined by the CEO of one of the fastest-growing startups to be coming out of Singapore and that’s Tradegecko, we’re joined by Cameron Priest. Cameron thanks for joining us.

Cameron:         Thanks, my pleasure.

Andy:                 We’ll start-up as we always do by asking you your elevator pitch over there at Tradegecko.

Cameron:         It’s kind of a 30 second pitch; we build and sell the backend platform to power ecommerce companies and wholesalers. In terms of the vision it’s just little bit longer, we want to help every ecommerce entrepreneur to build the business of their dreams. I personally love businesses and we’ve built a software platform that we get to help businesses grow.

Andy:                 That’s really really cool. I like the wrapping as to short and the sync version of the elevator pitch.

Cameron:         How many floors are your elevator, I guess the question.

Andy:                 There some have been quite a lot of floors in some of these elevator pitches.. When you guys did first realized that this is a problem that needed to be solved?

Cameron:         Good question. We’re kind of been toying around the problem area for at least 12 months before we started this company, when we’re back in Auckland in New Zealand. But we hadn’t quite struck on how important this part of the pain was until we moved to the Singapore, that was about four and half years ago. Further was working with lots of customers and my co-founder also had a business that have failed because he lost track of his inventory, he couldn’t get as customers to pay him. So it all makes sense in the rear view mirror but at the time, it was kind of serendipity.

Andy:                 Awesome. You talked about the pain in the elevator pitch and some of the challenges you faced there. Our sales was an absolute nightmare.

Cameron:         The thing we always think about, I don’t know what business are you in, what line of products?

Andy: Drinks.

Cameron:         We have a lot of alcohol companies; no one starts a brewery company to live in the spreadsheets. I’m not sure if it’s cool but you don’t see the fashion of label to do inventory management and stock takes, you don’t start a brewery or winery to manage sales. You do that because you love something. We hope that without backend platform, we can let you do the stuff you love a little bit more and the stuff you don’t, a little bit less.

Andy: I love that. That’s a great elevator pitch.

Cameron:         I spent most of time while I’m fundraising. I’m a young guy selling myself to old men for money. That’s kind of my job as a CEO at all the time. So you get pretty good at telling stories.

Andy:                 Absolutely. It seems like you’ve done a fantastic job and driven some great growth in the last couple of years. Talking about that growth, could you tell us a little bit more about how you guys go about getting the revenue?

Cameron:         The shortest version is that we provide a service that customers pay monthly fee to. But in terms of how we get those customers, traditionally it’s all been online marketing is partnership driven. Our first serious revenue growth came from our partnerships with platforms like Xero, Shopify – other big SaaS players who are already serving our markets. That’s what you meant?

Andy:                 It’s monthly revenues.Could you go a little bit more into how you initially found those partners and acquired them?

Cameron:         It’s quite interesting. At the start we had a couple of months; we were kind choppy, we had a platform which was standalone. I mean this is true for everyone building SaaS software which is you don’t live in vacuum and you can’t build everything. So what we realized is we talked to customers and we’re always talking to customers. What we do is important but anyone’s business there are other important pieces as well. When we really identified, being a kiwi we obviously use Xero, found Shopify and we partnered with few other players since then. Those partnerships were the first sources of traffic and the first time we delivered the complete product to our customers partnering with these sorts of players. You can pick up a couple of cheap high quality products, plug them together and have your own costumed ERP system or whatever it might be for hundreds of dollars instead of millions.

Andy:                 The flexibility is absolutely outstanding. When it comes to commercially, how do that work for you guys? Obviously these guys have great products but do you come to a point where though these passing across – leads and opportunities to you, did your sales team fulfill or you guys enabled that all online?

Cameron:         It was actually predominantly online. We made it to build relationships with the teams within the companies. There was no official handover of leads or anything. But of course being friends with the guys’ helps and then bit of marketing and positioning ourselves as the inventory player of choice with the keyword “Xero” or “Shopify”. So we’re trying to position ourselves. Interestingly enough, when we started, that was super powerful. It’s powerful for us now but our competitors do the same thing right now. So when we started, that was a nice channel and now others doing the same thing, and now there is probably a couple of dozens doing the same thing, so it makes that harder.

Andy: How you’re overcoming that challenge? You’ve got a sales team.

Cameron:         The big thing for us was that was our first to know. It was good but as a percentage of channels, now it’s reducing percentage. So really it’s about focusing and finding the next one. So when we started we tried to ride the coat tails partners and now we’re trying to build our own marketing funnel. We have AEs, STR, we have partnered channel now. So the law of hanging fruit was other people’s customers and then in longer term we need to build our own customers which is done, many inbound, many online, but there’s also other stuff like we’ve just hired a head of partnerhsips from VendHQ based out of Melbourne focusing on Australian market. We’re now trying to kick off more channels. We can afford it now as well.

Andy:                 And that was the main idea, one of the factors that you guys chose to diversify channels to market, was it the available capital or the fact that you’re running out of runway?

Cameron:         Both. Obviously we’ve got hanging fruit first.. In a company you can do the number of things, you have people in your company who have barrels and bullets. When you’re younger you have a few barrels and few bullets. Then as you grow you want to add more barrels and barrels can be people, they can be teams, they can be strategies or whatever, but you can only do so many things at once. I think money and scale on people gives you the ability to run more purchases parallel. Also when you have something that works, it’s as easy as like let that thing work, I know that’s going to make me money, I can now try some more. But at the start you just need one thing to work. You get a basket, before you weave another basket; you unfold your basket up. So it’s important that we focus and we make sure we focused on being the best in something first and now we’re expanding our channels.

Andy:                 I love that note “focusing”; I might be referencing you for that one “weaving the basket”. You told that you’ve been rolling at your direct sales team and building some partners in geographies as well but when it comes to building your own sales team, what’s been the biggest challenge for you over there at Tradegecko?

Cameron:         For me personally or for the company? For me personally, it was like learning what does a high performing sales team to play. Do you put the AEs next to the SDR and CSM so they are a pod, or is sales it’s own team for, what’s the kind of structure how do leads flow from marketing through the funnel. That’s all brand new for me, so we brought some really good people on board to build help with that. So I think bit of money and then a lot of experience in bringing people on who have built the playbooks. We’re not doing something that’s for the first time; other people have done what we’re doing. It’s really really valuable to bring the other people who’ve done it before.

Andy:                 Awesome. How about for the business? Now you’ve obviously built those playbooks and you understand that you’ve got some team in place, what’s the barrier for you guys now in the direct sales pitch?

Cameron:         I think the biggest thing for us is, as we move from the early adopters, the early customers, the adoption lifecycle curve, do you think Jeffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm.  It’s actually education, you’ve got these guys who’re using spreadsheets or using some kind of cloud based software that they’ve seen iPads, they have iPads at home, they have iPhones and they can imagine what software could look like when they could be on their mobile device, it could on their tables in the cloud, but it’s scary. Change is scary. It’s about education; it’s kind of explaining the benefits of moving to cloud based software, mobile software. In case of mobile, it’s pretty easy to explain. Onboarding them and educating them that it’s safe and secure. Then it’s moving systems – a lot of works, it doesn’t come for free. The first couple of thousand customers were either new startups that didn’t have system, it was really easy to move, or really tech savvy people. But as you move into the later majority of the market, there’s more resistance, more education, it’s more important to have channel resellers working there advising them. We talk about internally being our customers’ business advisor. That really has to be true for us, how I can get these guys and make these guys happy.

Andy:                 Yeah, it’s obviously a good feeling when you are able to get there and help someone’s business a lot.

Cameron:         That’s so much fun. We had a customer in Australia who is doing millions of dollars selling adult onesies like we had the most obscure, everything from the growing trend of vaporisers, marijuana out of Colorado I love seeing that, it’s just crazy.

Andy:                 That’s really really cool. You talked a big part of the challenge that you faced in education and you’ve obviously built a great challenge.

Cameron:         It’s the team applauding, we applaud when they go home. It’s strange.

Andy:                 For another interview. What role do you see is sales in educating piece? Is it just happen over the phone or do you also encourage salespeople to be out there and engaging digitally and helping people on that journey?

Cameron:         That’s a really good question. To be honest we should do more but I think sales isn’t about selling anymore, it’s about building a relationship and educating. People don’t, get sold software, they buy it. I think that’s such a trite thing to say but it’s really true. It’s relationships, we want to be our customers’ “business advisor”. So thinking of these software doesn’t help you grow your business. It’s when you can grow, now we can tell you what products are working. Here’s why your profits are down, here’s how you can expand your business. So we always talk about what is that we could do? If we say that our job is to help our customers build the business of their dreams, whether that help make a million bucks and go to the Bali, we should help them do that. Or, hey, I want to be a billionaire, that’s a different problem set and different problems to solve. But we need to be able to do both of them and making sure that we think bit more. It’s long term thinking for your customers and for your team. So how do think about, we’re here for the long term, these are our customers for the long term. We have customers who’d left the company, gone to another company then that company is our customer because it’s the long term relationship they have. You see this; you can’t get away with a shady business anymore.

Andy:                 You can’t just close your deal and go off. It’s really really great to hear someone so very much linked to how we like to do sales over here and really put in the customer at centre stage. It’s great staring at the top and permeating throughout all your organization.

Cameron:         Yeah, definitely.

Andy:                 That’s the end of our time, thank you so much. Plenty up plenty of startup gold for the listeners. Where can people follow you to get more words of wisdom?

Cameron:         LinkedIn, twitter or they can email me cameron@tradegecko.com

Andy:                 Thank you so much for your time, really appreciate it.

Cameron:         My pleasure. Thank you so much.

 

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