Podcast Ep 103: Sendoso European HQ lead David Ryan on the gifting business’s big plans for scaling in Dublin.
San Francisco company Sendoso recently established its European headquarters in Dublin with the creation of 100 jobs.
From the get-go the company said it intends to source Irish products as part of its corporate gifting catalogue and one of the first Irish businesses to transform its European scale is Rob Kearney-backed Snack Farm.
“My father gave me a bit of wisdom that I still use to this day. He said to me: ‘Remember, nothing happens until somebody sells something. Everything else is downstream. Your customers are everything, your relationship with your customers is everything’ ”
I talk to Sendoso’s European HQ lead in Ireland David Ryan, a seasoned tech executive who has masterminded entire global product rollouts for major brands like Electronic Arts’ various Star Wars games as well as building e-commerce systems for Walmart.
Sendoso provides a central solution to curate highly-personalised gifts and experiences offered through its global, end-to-end logistics and distribution supply chain, integrate with existing tools to track relationships, and offer deep analytics to show how they’re helping to boost the business bottom line.
The business, which was founded in San Francisco in 2016 by Braydan Young and Kris Rudeegraap, recently raised $100m in Series C funding, bringing the total funding to $152.7 million, led by Softbank, with additional investment from Craft Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Oak HC/FT, Signia Venture Partners, Stage 2 Capital, and Struck Capital. Thanks to this raise Sendoso has been able to further expand its business and keep up with the huge demand it has seen from its user base, which is now over 20,000 globally.
Sendoso currently has over 500 employees across the US, Europe, and the Asia Pacific and will increase its workforce by 30pc by the year-end.
In an investment supported by the Irish Government through IDA Ireland, the new positions will cover a range of areas including software engineering, business development, supply chain and customer support with open roles already live for the new Dublin office and will provide further support for its 20,000 global users from customers including Comcast, Kimpton Hotels, Thomson Reuters, Nasdaq, eBay, and others.
Sendoso is currently based in a temporary office, and a future permanent site will be decided shortly along with the location of the company’s warehouse where it will house its extensive gift options.
Masterminding the growth of Sendoso in Dublin is David Ryan, an executive who is used to taking on big global scale projects and making them a success.
Prior to joining Sendoso Ryan was instrumental in the live production environments of globally renowned games and franchises such as Warhammer Online, League of Legends and more. When he worked for Electronic Arts he ran the live production environment in Galway for its popular game Star Wars: The Old Republic, the first game that Star Wars creator George Lucas had allowed for licenses for intellectual property outside of Lucas Arts.
“I had the privilege of reporting in on our daily performance of Star Wars to George Lucas and his lawyers. To give you a sense of scale, on day one after we lit the servers up in Australia and we had 4m customers.”
After that success Ryan went to work for Jet.com, a rival to Amazon, where he set up a development centre in Dublin that developed technology instrumental to Jet.com’s success in building a $1bn business in just six months by optimising costs. Jet.com’s success caught the eye of Walmart which acquired the entire business.
“So for the past five years before joining Sendoso I was leading a tech team of 120 looking after some foundational products for Walmart, including the building of the Intelligent Retail Lab.”
In effect, Ryan is no stranger to building large, globally-focused and always-on digital environments for some of the world’s biggest brands. “My role in Sendoso is to build a European headquarters for clients with a full global solution. I’m building the full e-commerce offering for Sendoso in Europe with warehouses in Dublin and the UK to service the UK and all of Europe.”
The roots of business
Padraig Staunton, CEO and founder of Snack Farm; Aideen Teo, buyer, Partnerships manager, Sendoso; Rob Kearney, firector of Wellbeing, Snack Farm; and David Ryan, European HQ Lead, Sendoso
I ask Ryan what kind of a grounding led to being the mastermind of global e-commerce supply chains from digital marketplaces like Warhammer and Star Wars’ games universes to physical and digital retail with Jet.com and Walmart.
“It comes from my parental roots. I grew up in a highly entrepreneurial family. My father ran one of the largest office equipment businesses in Ireland, Bryan S Ryan. I suppose I was just immersed in it from a very young age, understanding the roots of business.
“My father gave me a bit of wisdom that I still use to this day. He said to me: ‘Remember, nothing happens until somebody sells something. Everything else is downstream. Your customers are everything, your relationship with your customers is everything.’ So when you have that kind of DNA in you and that sort of skill and mindset developed over the years, you kind of morph towards growing businesses and the challenge of engaging with customers.
“Because what I’ve described there is engaging with customers in online services or delivering groceries to them, it’s still engaging with customers. So that’s the deep roots: engaging with customers; how you do it and how you make them feel. It’s not what you say to customers, it’s how you make them feel about themselves.
“The other piece of advice I got from my father was never let a clever CFO tell you how to run a business; always know the numbers. He guided me towards an accountancy qualification which I did with KPMG. But I always had a fascination with software and its potential. So I’ve grown up and have worked with the software engineers my whole working life and we’ve brought amazing products to market. I’ve just been a facilitator in this; rather than driving the software development I just get the roadblocks out of the way, making sure things worked and were deployed properly.
“Get the experts in the room and make sure the customers don’t suffer as you push forward. Because you make mistakes as you push forward. And you should make mistakes. Because if it’s perfect information you’ll never move forward, you’ll never make a decision and you’ll wait until everything’s perfect. So you must push forward and take risks, but manage your customers and their expectations.”
A little known part of the Sendoso story is how the business began when the CEO Kris was in the middle of selling software over the phone and a customer’s dog was barking in the background. “He immediately got on and ordered a dog toy and sent it to him and lo and behold that customer became a long-standing customer for Kris. He started to send out little personalised gifts and notes of appreciation to people he was engaging with and he found his prospect list went up, his meetings were taken and things happened. He got in touch with Braydan to see if he could make it smarter and Sendoso was born.
“It’s a software platform that allows you to send out gifts and the special sauce is we are integrated with all the CRM systems, including Marketo and HubSpot. We have a marketplace where we list goods that people can send as marketing and sales professionals and we have warehouses to fufil that.”
A recent example of the kind of collaborations that Sendoso can have with Irish businesses is the relationship with Rob Kearney-backed Snack Farm, an Irish provider of healthy snacks full of energy, fibre and protein. The partnership will result in Snack Farm’s product being available on the Sendoso platform and allowing the Irish company to reach new global markets, in particular corporates across Europe.
“Any one in America who sees Snack Farm as available for selection and they wish to send a gift to a customer in France, it’s wide open for them to do that. So it’s giving them access to the marketplace at no cost for them. It’s a nice way to help Irish SMEs and the local business base to get access to business beyond our shores. It can help lift ourselves out of the pandemic, get ourselves up and trading again and that’s where Snack Farm fits in – and we’re immensely proud and privileged to be working with them; a highly ambitious company with a great ambassador.”
Ryan sees more Irish companies joining the Sendoso marketplace. “We’ve got 30,000 gifts within our whole catalogue but within Europe we’re still building that out.”
A number of Irish suppliers from craft gins and beers to lifestyle goods are already aboard. “We have the warehouses to stock the goods and the ability to offer them in the marketplace for selection. We’re going to be getting other vendors and suppliers onto the platform and if you go onto the Sendoso website and want to be listed as a partner you just click on the link. If you’re based in Europe, you’ll be talking to our buying and curation teams. And it’s no more complicated than that.”
Finally, I ask Ryan about Sendoso’s plans for Dublin and mention the tradition of California tech companies starting small in Ireland before growing at scale. Will Sendoso stop at 100. “We’re in execution mode. The product market fit is done for Sendoso. We have 800 customers and 30,000 units and we’re doubling every year.”
He said that Sendoso has gone beyond start-up mode. “We’re at escape velocity, this is taking off. And those numbers of jobs I think will significantly increase.”