By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
For Kyle Hungate, 2015 was a pretty memorable year.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vextras, a Dandridge-based start-up, became a father at the start of the year and just a few months later launched a total revamping of the company’s underlying e-commerce platform.
It was a major undertaking for the four-year old company that had developed an easy way for e-commerce retailers to sync their store with powerful cloud apps like MailChimp, Zapier, Slack and Xero in just a few clicks. With the newest endeavors, Vextras built on the success of its initial products and created a powerful set of messaging workflows that target online shoppers based on their buying behavior. The need was clear, and the upside from the decision has been impressive.
“We’ve been really fortunate to see some substantial growth as a result of the new platform,” Hungate says. At the beginning of 2015, Vextras was handling $200,000 to $300,000 a day in e-commerce transactions for its customers. Today, that number ranges from $1 to $4 million.
When we provided an update on Vextras about a year ago, the company had grown to 150 users. Today, that number is about 600. The growth brought with it customers with unique needs.
“We had kept building on our (existing) platform,” Hungate said, adding it had become increasingly obvious that Vextras was not going to be able to meet those customer expectations by simply adding features to its existing software.
“It was like putting a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “We reached a tipping point and started over.”
For about nine months starting in March, Vextras was adding customers and serving its existing ones while building the new platform. The new platform was unveiled in October.
As was the case with the company from its founding, most of the investment was self-funded, although Hungate says Vextras was awarded monies through MailChimp’s Integration Fund.
“We kind of feel like we are creating a new market,” Hungate says of Vextras, explaining that its customer base is mostly small to medium size stores that have an e-commerce presence.
“They want to do it like Amazon, but don’t have the resources,” he says. That’s where the Vextras package comes in.
Hungate describes it as “plug and play,” obviously a reference to its ease of installation and operation. There’s also the customer service component.
“We work with people on a personal basis,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun to see our customers grow.”
The Vextras customer base is global with users in more than 28 countries.
“We’re just helping customers wherever they are,” Hungate says. Some of those customers have been with Vextras for more than three years.
For this year and beyond, Hungate says the focus is on continuing to build the customer base and fine-tuning the platform’s features.
“Our goal by the end of 2016 is to handle over $1 billion in e-commerce transactions,” he says.
So what is Hungate’s advice for other entrepreneurs? It’s reflective of his down-to-earth approach: “Being patient, listening to customers, and trying to grow in a way that makes sense.”