Bootstrapped to building a global business
The process of designing, building and launching a website used to be a daunting one for the non-tech savvy. Until three kiwi flatmates teamed up with one of their brothers working abroad and realised there was a better way.
Self-funded and launched in 2009 with just one client, the Cambridge-based software start-up Rocketspark, now has clients in 36 countries and thousands of websites to their name.
The founding four members, brothers Grant and Jeremy Johnson, along with good mates Richard King and Lee Reichardt, just happened to have the perfect complimentary backgrounds in management, web design and ecommerce for the job.
Despite now having multi-million dollar companies on their bill, they have a strong local focus and have created website solutions for more than 1,000 Cambridge and Waikato businesses.
Simplicity the key to success
In those early years, the friends realised that existing website builders were complicated and the process of creating a website from scratch overwhelming.
“We created Rocketspark for small business owners and designers because they often find themselves short on time and knowledge, and feel overwhelmed by international options and the task of building a website alone,” says Jeremy Johnson, cofounder and head of product.
“We came up with the idea that if we focused on a website-builder, that would take care of the development side and then we could focus on offering design and support.”
The result was an easy-to-use and cost effective do-it-yourself website creator, that streamlined the entire website process making it easy for business owners to be in control of their own sites.
Their initial website was a modest affair. Looking back at what they started with, it was very basic, but Jeremy says that’s exactly what made it so easy to use.
A creative launchpad
Over time, graphic designers started to use the platform for their clients so Rocketspark focused on this as a partnership opportunity.
They created Rocketspark Studio for designers and as the list of design partners grew, they then created an entire community hub called Creative Launchpad for designers to learn and connect.
"Working with designers who use Rocketspark for their clients has been a key source of growth," Jeremy explains.
"By attracting designers to Rocketspark, we can foster an ongoing reseller partnership where that one designer keeps bringing new websites live over time. Creative Launchpad is open to all independent graphic designers. We can help them with the challenges of running a business and they can get to know our team before jumping in as a partner boots and all."
Boom during the gloom
Quick thinking saw the company experience significant growth early in the pandemic.
Jeremy says that responding to the many companies who were looking to get their businesses online quickly saw some more innovative solutions come to light.
“We have many clients in hospitality and food services so we developed a scheduled ordering system that the likes of restaurants, cafés, bars, butchers, bakers and florists could use to set up schedules for pickup and delivery of orders.”
While they might have been riding the wave, they were also well-positioned to catch it after spending years honing their product and operations.
Since 2018, Rocketspark has received funding to support their ongoing research and development programme, including from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to help them to grow in Australia. This has helped to build connections, feed their talent pipeline and ramp up international expansion.
With team members based in Cambridge, Auckland, Raglan and Melbourne, Rocketspark always keeping an eye out for talent as they grow. Part of their community focus is providing opportunities to local graduates, and even high school students.
Small team, small town, big sparks
Rocketspark’s ingrained innovation vein saw them win the Add-on Innovation Award at the UK Xero awards 2015 and locally, they brought home the Supreme Award at the Waipā Networks Business Awards in 2021, and won the Excellence in large business category.
Being based in Cambridge and the Waikato allows the team to be really close to a large concentration of local businesses that have Rocketspark websites.
“Walking out the door and up the street to our local café and we are seeing and talking to customers with Rocketspark websites, that’s magic,” says Jeremy.
He loves the lifestyle that living and working in Cambridge offers. “Rather than spending hours every week sitting in traffic, I can spend that time cycling the river trails, running our forested urban trails or just spending more time with my family.”