Tarik Mallett, founder and chief executive of Wellington-based Mobi2Go, which is finally riding the wave the company was built for.
A year ago, Wellington tech company Mobi2Go had 30 employees, with just two in its Toronto office.
Twelve months on its staff numbers 100 and its Canadian contingent has grown ten-fold. And founder and chief executive Tarik Mallett is expecting that number to double again in the next year as his company looks for new opportunities in Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The pandemic has been a boon for the firm as it has played a key role in helping struggling hospitality businesses develop their digital ordering and delivery systems to cope with lockdowns and restrictions.
But if all of this seems a little like luck, well that’s ignoring a lot of hard work and sacrifice from Mallett and others to build “a boat so that when the wave comes we can catch it”.
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There was the spurning of a promising career in cyber crime and forensic accounting with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and the potential for a lucrative partnership.
But Mallett realised “it’s probably not what’s going to get me out of bed in the mornings”.
There was seven years of practically no income and the support of his now-wife as he and others rebuilt their now successful business on the bones of an earlier version.
It was while working for PwC in the United States many years earlier that Mallett saw the power of the digital community and its potential to be harnessed for hospitality.
So the son of parents in the hospitality and catering industry joined with others to create a tidy and lucrative subscription-based business using group texts to connect customers with cafes and restaurants.
It was a nice little earner, but Mallett could see the likes of Twitter and Facebook darkening the horizon of the still dawning internet.
“These businesses could now communicate with the customers at no cost, so who’s going to pay a subscription cost for something they can do for free?”
Inspired by a “passion” to be part of a truly global business and requests from companies keen to use the new technology to help people order food and further improve the customer experience, Mallett turned his back on that previous business to build a new and better one.
He and others spent 18 months building Mobi2Go from the ground up.
That continued after the company was founded in 2010, Mallett forgoing any income as the staff and brand grew slowly, in New Zealand and overseas.
The wave was building, on the back of changing customer behaviour and industry trends towards online.
“That wave was just starting about 18 months ago and what Covid has done is absolutely accelerate it,” says Mallett.
“Covid has just driven that move to digital. Consumer behaviour has changed.”
And so have the prospects for Mobi2Go.
Annual revenue is currently between $10 million and $20m, in a combination of mainly licence and transaction fees, depending on the brand and the services it uses.
Mallett is looking to push that to $50m as the company grows and eyes more opportunities in North America, the UK, Asia and Australia.
There are competitors but Mallett believes those earlier sacrifices mean Mobi2Go is now “ahead of the curve”, and targeting the bigger brands with 100+ locations.
That success has helped it find funding too.
The company has secured about $10m in investment for
that next big push, from the likes of the Punakaiki Fund and Movac in New Zealand, and Australian firm Capital Z.
That’s allowed Mallett and Mobi2Go a few little luxuries: a secret door leads from the office to a lovely lounge with great views over the centre of Wellington; there’s a few bottles of whisky to keep him warm during late-night calls to colleagues in the Northern Hemisphere.
What Mallett sacrifices now is sleep.
“At the stage we are at, sleep is a luxury,” he says.
“I’m 24/7 on this business; I don’t have time to think of anything else.
“What keeps me up at night? Are we running fast enough? Are we doing all the right things we need to do to execute?”
Covid, too, will continue to throw up even more questions.
Sleep will be a luxury as Mallett and the team continue to find the answers.
- This is the sixth and final instalment in a week-long series profiling Wellington companies with global ambitions.