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Basing a Global Tech Business in the Bay | Ben Scott’s Tauranga Sea-Change Story

Basing a Global Tech Business in the Bay

Ben Scott is the co-founder of SwipedOn – an App that transforms visitor registration for modern-day offices. Used by fortune 500 companies, the Kiwi business has been getting rave reviews across the globe since its 2016 launch.

Ben, who grew up outside New Plymouth and is a beach-lover, quickly realized that a company like SwipedOn can operate from anywhere in the world. He approached the company’s founder, Hadleigh Ford, about moving the business from Auckland to Tauranga.

“The beauty of what we do is that we are digital, so we can do it from anywhere.”

Ben loves the coastal Tauranga lifestyle and when he’s not working, he’s taking advantage of having one of the world’s best beaches as his backyard. Let’s hear how his Auckland to Tauranga move panned out. 

Ben, give us a snapshot of your career.

After I finished a double degree in marketing and physical education at the University of Otago, I headed to Wellington for my first job, peddling pharmaceuticals. From there, the big wide world beckoned and I moved to South Korea to teach English for a year.

I then headed to London and landed a job with Barclays Bank. I contracted with them for four years on and off, working in financial operation risk management. In my off-time, I was a snowboard bum in Austria.

I wanted a career change, so I flew to Germany and worked on Superyachts all over the world for eight years. The last boat I worked on was Dragonfly, owned by Google co-founder, Sergey Brin.

What is SwipedOn?

SwipedOn helps people in business meet, collaborate, and build lasting relationships – simply, safely, and securely. It is an App that replaces old-fashioned visitor books with sleek, simple, and modern digital visitor registration. Our stunning interface makes visitor management beautiful and it can be synced across multiple iPads and multiple offices. SwipedOn transforms office receptions, improving safety and security at the same time. 

How did you get involved in SwipedOn?

After so many years at sea, my partner, Cecile, and I were keen to settle in New Zealand. I wanted to put all my energy and focus on an entrepreneurial project, so I did a one-month ‘Sprint Program’ through Massey University in Auckland.

There I met Hadleigh Ford – the founder of SwipedOn. Hadleigh had already started SwipedOn with a similar idea that I had. I called Hadleigh to see if he needed a hand and we hit it off right away. He was still working his day job and I was between jobs so could get stuck in. It took us the next year or so to rebuild and relaunch SwipedOn and really get going with sales.

What is it about SwipedOn that appealed to you?

I was buzzing doing something completely different from what I was used to. Creating a product is such fun and still gets me excited today. Right from the start, I knew that the concept was sound and the market big; we just had to get in there and do it.

What is your role at SwipedOn?

I’m Head of Product. I’m sort of the glue between the customers, the design team, and our developers and I’m the one with the harebrained ideas!

 

Why did you choose to move to Tauranga?

When I was younger, I was heavily involved in Surf Life Saving – I competed at Mount Maunganui all the time and have fond memories of this place. Once we gained a little traction and started to think about office space and staff, I realized that being digital, we can really work from anywhere in the world, so I spoke to Hadleigh about moving to Tauranga. Since moving here, we have used the “sun, surf, software” tagline quite a bit.

What was your expectation of Tauranga in terms of tech innovation and entrepreneurial support?

Tauranga is not Auckland; I expected finding the right staff to be more difficult in this smaller city. That said, we have been blessed to have some really great people join our team. I guess people are looking to escape Auckland because almost everyone is an ex-Aucklander who has moved here for the same reasons I did.

What are those reasons?

I wanted more balance and I didn’t want to feel like I was fighting the system all the time. I hated the traffic in Auckland and we don’t have to deal with that here. 

Has the Tauranga lifestyle lived up to the hype?

Definitely. Living in Tauranga is so much better than Auckland and it’s much easier to do everything here! Our first summer here was magic. Walking to the beach bare feet from the house has been the best part of it for me. 

The growth in the CBD has really surprised me here, I think Tauranga will be a big city one day!

What do you love about living here?

For my partner, Cecile, and me, it’s all about the beach. When we were living in Auckland, we used to visit the beach about once a month in summer, it was just too much of a mission. Here, most nights in the summertime I go for a swim after work. I love going for a surf over at Matakana Island – the only issue there is how much beer is needed to bribe my mates with a boat to give me a ride!

We also enjoy the hot pools. It’s crazy how long they have been around for – I remember coming to the Mount hot pools when I was a little surf lifesaving grommet. A hot soak on a Sunday night is a great way to relax before the week ramps up again. 

We’re surprised at how much we still enjoy walking up the Mount. Even though we’ve been up a million times, it’s still a great thing to do for exercise and the view at the top is pretty special. 

What does the future look like for SwipedOn?

We would love to follow in the footsteps of some of the other awesome Kiwi tech businesses such as Timely, Vend, and Ask Nicely. We look up to these guys and would love to build our tech business here in Tauranga.

Have you had any connections with local business development groups? 

Yes, a few. From the early outset, Priority One has been active in making sure they can provide assistance and it’s mainly been around network connections which are really important when setting up a new business. They helped us attract good development talent from Auckland. I’ve also had a couple of coffees with Mark Irving from Priority One, discussing recruitment.

Basestation and Venture Centre have been hugely helpful in getting SwipedOn off the ground. Through them, we have met a lot of well connected local business people such as WNT Venture’s, Carl Jones, who introduced us to some really important contacts in Tauranga who ended up investing in our company. Finally, we have also been involved with Enterprise Angels who have invested in SwipedOn. They have a very wide circle of friends and have helped us complete our investment round.

What do you do for fun in Tauranga?

Hot pools. Surf. Kitesurf. Beach. Enough said!

 

Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?

No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga!

Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

Email us at info@priorityone.co.nz

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