The Founding Story

This is the first post in a series about the Thankyou Payroll journey, which will cover their story from founding to philanthropy to governance to their future (hint: it involves equity crowdfunding). We’re going to start at the start, with our illustrious founder:

I’m Hugh and I founded Thankyou Payroll at the start of 2009 with a friend from university Kate Stevens.

I realised there was an opportunity while working for IRD as a service designer exploring design solutions to the problem the IRD had with the mountains of paper employer returns they received each month. At the time the IRD received 85% of it’s approx 180,000 employer returns via paper. I learned that a few years earlier various payroll providers had successfully lobbied for a subsidy to be paid to them for each small to medium business that used their services. The subsidy was generous and in fact so generous that it was clear to see that a free service that utilised it would still result in a client lifetime value equaling that of many subscription business services.

I knew if it was going to be me building it it was going to be a social enterprise.

I wanted a future in which the businesses that succeeded were the ones that could demonstrate the most benefit to not just their clients but also to our communities.

One of the key takeaways from my studies in design was an appreciation for all contexts within which an organisation operates. I knew it was also the best way to start an organisation with few resources but talented and like-minded friends. I also felt like this way we could build a stronger crowd of cheerleaders — and that this was the future of business I wanted. I wanted a future in which the businesses that succeeded were the ones that could demonstrate the most benefit to not just their clients but also to our communities.

Things started off very slowly. Yes, my first office was in our garage. Corny eh? It flooded when it rained but it was an excellent place to work otherwise.

Kate left the project after a year and I was surviving on the WINZ enterprise allowance and a few thousand dollars my grandmother left me after her death that year. I taught myself to code and we released a pretty ordinary first version and signed up our first client in 2010. It was Lani actually (who later became CEO and is now a board member) when she worked for Volunteering Otago. With some help we managed to sign up 19 clients by March 2011.

I managed to battle on alone for about 2 years there on not much but in late 2012 I was very lucky to have my friend Tom come on board as our Designer/front end developer/legendary all around fixer and we started to build our current version. The real progress came when we were lucky enough to talk Lani into coming on as our CEO. Ever since then we’ve been going from strength to strength.

Tom, Lani, & Hugh when they hit $30,000,000 processed through their system in September 2013.

In the next blog post, you’ll learn more about what Thankyou Payroll currently does with their Thankyou Charitable Trust, with Lani’s Foundation Story about their philanthropy.

Sign up here to hear more from the team in the lead up to their equity launch.

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