Vendon, based in Riga, Latvia and part of the highly successful Draugiem Group, describes itself as ‘the friendliest vending telemetry team there is’. In just 10 years, the business that began as a two-man band has evolved into a tight-knit group of thirty professionals. Supported by a network of international partners, Vendon operates in more than 70 countries and now, the company plans to intensify its focus on the UK. In a two-part PV special report, we’ll introduce you to the company, its people and its products.
Part One: Serendipity
‘Serendipity’ is not a word we Brits use much, but in Riga, at Vendon HQ, it is front and centre when describing how the company was founded. Vendon was not created by design; it was created by opportunity – and a huge slice of luck.
Ten years ago, one of the Draugiem Group boffins, Edgars Bināns, who was a developer for MapOn, working on telemetry for vehicle fleets, was buttonholed by a businessman engaged in vending. He was looking for an SMS payment solution for vending machines – but it wasn’t long before Edgars realised that his ‘baby’ could become something much more than a payment solution…
So, in keeping with the Draugiem Group’s ethos of innovation, Edgars set to work. Within 4 months, a prototype was created. The first tests were carried out at the Draugiem Group’s office in January 2010 and were a great success. Subsequently he began to trawl the international vending events, to see if there was sufficient demand for the vending telemetry product he’d created. He wasn’t disappointed. He realised he’d come up with something for which there was a substantial demand. Back at base, a talented developer called Kristiāns Vēbers created the ‘back office’ that was required.
Having put their collective toe in the water, Vendon ‘dived into vending’, creating ripples that were felt across the globe. Next, the world of OCS came into the company’s cross hairs and Vendon technology was embraced enthusiastically by operators of table-top coffee machines
Fast forward to 2021 and Kristiāns Vēbers is Vendon’s CEO. ‘When we started this business, we were pioneers in the industry’, he said. ‘There were previous efforts to develop telemetry in the 2000s, but it was too early, too expensive. Furthermore, barely anybody saw added value for this technology. We had to work hard to educate potential customers and convince them that they could work more efficiently with this technology.’
Vendon’s progress was notable: it was noted by many of the world’s leading manufacturers of coffee and vending machines. Relationships were established then that have become closer and more productive than ever in the intervening years. Thanks to accuracy of the data and the sheer talent pf its engineering team, Vendon asserts that ‘nobody comes close in terms of reliability and the accuracy of the data Vendon can deliver.’ What’s more, the company proudly claims to have ‘the most advanced and reliable IoT and telemetry solution for vending and coffee machine monitoring and management.
‘It’s a big claim for us to make’, agrees Andrey Sergeyev, ‘Vendon’s Chief Customer Officer, ‘but to tell you the truth, that’s what our customers say about us. We focus entirely on the vending and coffee sectors so we know that marketplace inside out. If an operator has an issue, we have the resources and the know-how to fix it immediately.’
It’s not just the speed of response that ticks the industry’s boxes: it’s the reliability of the Vendon system, its robustness, that has captivated the marketplace. ‘We’ve heard many, many times about operators connecting with competitors’ solutions, only for them to break down’, Andrey says. ‘But ours? You just plug it in, and away you go. Let’s face it, if you’re in the unattended retail game, you need your payment technology and telemetry systems to be reliable. If your system fails, your entire business grinds to a halt.
‘Right now, we are working with 45 manufacturers and as you’d expect, the levels of the relationships vary with each specific partner, Andrey said.
Connectivity has been the Achilles heel of others in the sector, but this has never been an issue at Vendon. The company has no less that AT&T as its global connectivity partner.
Ten years into the story of Vendon, another chapter Is about to be written. The company has targeted ‘significant’ expansion in western Europe, namely in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the UK and Ireland. Currently, Vendon serves these territories through distributors. In the UK, Espresso Service takes that role. ‘Our distributors know their individual countries and they have the knowledge to assist our customers. It’s a system that has worked well for us.’ As for dear old Blighty, Andrey says ‘the UK is one of the largest and most important markets. Our plan is to expand our activities in the UK, both through our distributor and through contacts Vendon has nurtured over the years.
‘Our main area of interest as we grow in the UK is self-service retail, especially coffee, other beverages, snacks in vending and coffee corners, petrol forecourts, offices and the like. More and more refreshment solutions fall into these categories and as this section of the market expands, so the requirement for the management controls that we provide will grow. The time is right.
‘The road to success has not always been an easy one, with many bumps along the way, seemingly overcome out of sheer spite’, Andrey says. ‘This resilience is weaved into the very essence of Vendon, and it has paid off. We’re moving forward at a steady pace, with both feet firmly on the ground. We’ve set ambitious goals, and we are always on the lookout for new ways of giving our clients more. The boom in sales of coffee machines shows no signs of slowing down. We’ve been focused on the coffee segment for many years and that will continue as we aim to provide coffee service operators with more options, alongside continually improving existing solutions for vending operators.’
As the dangers associated with Covid subside, Vendon will be a major presence at trade shows, including EuVend, Venditalia, Milan Host and Vendtra in Germany. ‘Plus, as many local events as possible’, Andrey adds.
Who knows, maybe Phil Reynolds can squeeze Vendon into the Vendex line up? Let’s hope so, because getting up to speed with Vendon, and what it can bring to the party, will be a priority for many coffee businesses and vending operators – as well as manufacturers – in the months and years ahead.
In Part 2, we investigate what Vendon is poised to bring to the UK’s vending and coffee sectors.
Visit Vendon: https://vendon.net
Visit Planet Vending: HERE