Vendasta year in review: Brendan King and George Leith on automation and AI

From automation and AI to developing a world-class team tasked with delivering digital to local businesses, 2022 has been a year to remember for Vendasta. As the company marks its 15th anniversary in business, Vendasta CEO Brendan King and Vendasta Chief Customer Officer and Conquer Local Podcast Host George Leith sit down for their annual year in review podcast episode. 

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Looking back at the year that was and crystal-balling the future of technology in 2023, this article breaks down some of the top themes and newsmakers as Vendasta heads into the new year.

Automation and AI expected to be the top technology trend in 2023

This recurring theme of automation and AI is back again as one of the top trends that technology companies have their sights set on for the years to come. 

“A few weeks ago, [Brendan] and I were at a conference and pretty much every presentation was about automation and AI and the impact it was going to have on what's going on,” George Leith comments.

With the introduction of new and superior AI technology, like the recent explosion of the AI model ChatGPT, Brendan King believes technology has reached a point where the data is able to fuel technological sophistication. 

“The models have gotten to a point where they're becoming useful. The content that's being created is an index to drive that. It's really about data. One of the predictions is that data will become the new currency as businesses look to leverage technology. The technology of automation and AI has always been there, but what it needs is the data underneath to train and understand how to react. And so it's really just hit the forefront,” King says. 

King predicts we’ll see automation and AI begin to make people’s lives easier and better at a higher rate in the coming year.  

Small businesses will harness the power of automation and AI to succeed

“There has been this massive growth of small businesses in the last six months. So coming out of the pandemic in North America, the phenomenon is that we're seeing a lot of new businesses that are starting. Automation and AI will most definitely play a role in those startups that have less than 10 employees.”

George Leith

Chief Customer Officer , Vendasta

King agrees, spelling out some of the biggest challenges these small businesses are facing out of the gate.

“Inflation and increasing interest rates make it harder on small businesses. What makes it even harder is supply chain disruption. Then on top of that, there's the labor shortage. Automation, AI, and efficiency are what’s needed for these guys to survive. These small businesses will find a way to operate without the labor and resources that they've traditionally had,” King says. 

The next generation of small business owners are inherent “digital natives” and the technology learning curve is no longer as steep as it had been in the past. 

“In the past, small business owners had not grown up with technology in their pocket. Now, we've got folks that are starting businesses that are millennials and are familiar with technology. They're doing things that most people in the industry said small businesses would never do. They’re shooting their own Instagram reels, they're shooting their own talks and doing podcasts,” King says, painting a bright future for SMBs that are harnessing the power of digital marketing so their businesses can succeed.

A post-pandemic landscape: Returning to sustainable growth 

Quantified perfectly by the massive jump and acceleration in online shopping and ecommerce sales in 2020, there was a huge increase in digital transformation and adoption over the pandemic.

Ecommerce as share of total U.S. retail sales from 2010 to 2022


Source: Statista

“Nobody predicted the pandemic, that was a black swan event. There was a massive increase in the use of technology. Now that the growth is coming back to normal, we're seeing what I would describe as a revision of the mean,” King says.

According to King, experts pointing towards a “slowdown” in the industry are not considering the bigger picture. 

“You have to look at it in the context of what has happened. It might be easy for people to say that these technology trends are going to slow down. They're not slowing down, they're just back to the mean, and they're going to continue to grow,” King says.

Democratizing digital for small business 

As Vendasta celebrates 15 years in business and positions itself to leverage emerging trends like automation and AI, another evolving theme in King’s view has been the concept of democratizing technology for local businesses.

“I've always had a soft spot for small businesses. I've seen the struggles of small businesses. Even though I'm a technology guy, I know how hard it is to implement and use technology, and how difficult it can be. The goal has always been to democratize it, and when I say democratize, to me that just means making it easy, accessible, and affordable.” 

Brendan King

CEO, Vendasta

Not only does this mission serve local economies, but there is financial opportunity in it for Vendasta as well. According to King, small and medium businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. 

“It's not just our core purpose to help those local businesses succeed. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's the right economic thing to do for Vendasta,” King says.

Vendasta acquires Yesware to bring to market best-in-class sales engagement platform

Acquired by Vendasta in October 2022, Yesware is a sales productivity platform that provides tools and features designed to help sales teams communicate and collaborate more effectively, as well as track and analyze customer interactions, and manage their sales processes. 

Some of the features offered by Yesware include email tracking and scheduling, templates, automation and AI, analytics and reporting, and integrations with other sales and CRM platforms.

By integrating Yesware's sales enablement technology with Vendasta's end-to-end platform, both companies will be able to offer new solutions to their customers. 

“Our platform has evolved. We want to be a customer relationship management (CRM) system that connects digital product and service vendors with small businesses and the technology experts that serve them. Building that CRM is no easy task. We've adopted some best-in-class tools, like Yesware, that are going to help us accelerate our technology roadmap and allow us to move faster. There's a lot of subject matter expertise and talent there. We couldn't be more excited to have Yesware as part of Vendasta,” King says. 

King named Canada’s Most Admired™ CEO 

In November 2022, Brendan King was honored with the Canada's Most Admired CEO™ award from Waterstone Human Capital. Brendan received the award in the Growth Companies category. Since its founding by King in 2008, Vendasta has expanded to employ more than 725 people and has provided marketing and technology services to almost 6 million SMBs worldwide. Vendasta has garnered over $160 million in venture capital funding and remains committed to its ambitious growth plan.

King shares that, as his role within the company has evolved, there are three main things he focuses on to help Vendasta realize its vision for the future: Resources, a world-class team, and organizational alignment. 

“It has been a long time since I've been able to be an individual contributor. Really, there's only three things that I can do. One is I can provide the company with all the resources it needs to grow, making sure we've got enough money. 

“The second thing I can do is build the team. I can't really do anything myself, but I can build a fantastic team who's been there, done that, and is much better than I am at any individual thing. 

“And then the last thing, and probably the most important thing, is to provide organizational clarity and alignment. That means that everybody knows where they fit in the organization and exactly what they're doing. And everyone's clear on our purpose and on our vision and our mission, and can execute against that,” King says. 

From automation and AI to a growing team delivering digital to SMBs: Looking ahead to Vendasta in 2023

Whether we explore the acceleration of automation and AI in the new year or ways to achieve scalable and sustainable growth in business, there has never been a more exciting time to work in the technology space.

On behalf of the entire content team who contributes to the Vendasta blog, we would like to extend our gratitude for your ongoing support and readership. 

As we close out this year and look forward to the next, we hope that you will continue to join us in exploring the latest trends, ideas, and insights in our field. We also wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a happy and healthy new year. We hope that 2023 brings you joy, success, and fulfillment.

We look forward to continuing to serve you in the coming year.

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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