What a Year it's Been
Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Tens of thousands of messages. Tonnes of failures, lessons and successes. More than 100 thousand dollars. 1 Year.
Luke Campbell - Dec 30 2019
As 2019 comes to an end it's good to take a minute to reflect on some of the most memorable moments and how we got here.
Lucy Turner and I started working on Vxt in November 2018 as a part of the Summer Startup Programme run by the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship. During the early months most of our time was spent developing and validating our ideas, meeting people and figuring out how we could build an early version of our app. You can read more about that here.
In February we presented Vxt to an audience of over 200 people as finalists of the Summer Startup Programme. We didn't have a working prototype yet but we had a solid foundation for building one. Having spent some 10 weeks working on Vxt over the summer we weren't sure how we would deal with going back to full time study whilst bootstrapping our startup. Over the next few months we encountered a whole lot of technical challenges. Frankly we had no idea how to overcome them and our confidence that we'd ever be able to was shrinking everyday. We kept working, Lucy focused on building out the software and testing, whilst I focused on the business strategy and building a professional network.
Over the next few months we participated in a bunch of different competitions which helped us refine our idea even more whilst raising money for our business without having to sell any shares. Having a really strong business pitch helped us win a few grants and gain support from a bunch of large companies.
In June, after finding ways around the technical challenges that had stopped us from building Vxt earlier, we raised $5,000 to hire a few other students to help accelerate development. We threw out every line of code we had written to date and started from scratch. With a new team and lessons learned from months of failure we built our app in six weeks worth of Sundays. The app was slow, ugly and confusing to set up, but for the hundreds of people I had personally met who f#$@ing hated voicemail, it worked.
We launched the free version of Vxt in August. Our priority was getting users onto the app so that we could find bugs and turn feedback into improvements. Whilst adding features and fixing bugs, in the background we were working on subscriptions so that we could start making money from the app and turn Vxt into a viable business.
When we released subscriptions in late October and signed up our first paying customers we started to focus on growing our user base. In early November our story garnered national media attention from the likes of Stuff, The Project and Seven Sharp. In the middle of our final exams for the year we ended up on national news on-boarding thousands of users in just a few days. In fact, between shooting for Seven Sharp and The Project Lucy sat her Secure Software exam and aced it. It was stressful to say the least.
You can see the results of being broadcast on national TV at 7pm on a Monday night below.
We had hundreds of people signing up every few minutes whilst the shows were airing and soon to come, hundreds of emails from people who were in love with the app and more than a few experiencing issues with it.
We have achieved a whole lot these past 12 months. Since November last year we have raised over 105 thousand dollars and thousands of people have started using our app. More recently we were announced as one of five Kiwi startups selected for the Vodafone xone Partner Series programme in the hopes of building a corporate partnership between Vxt, BNZ and Vodafone NZ. Our team is so grateful for the support of everyone in our community and all of the help we have received so far. 12 months ago I couldn't have imagined what the next year had in store for us but what a year it's been.
Luke Campbell is a co-founder of Vxt, a smart assistant app. Luke has previously been involved in the non-profit sector in Christchurch, New Zealand.