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Cam Richardson was studying at the University of Canterbury, where he had completed a degree in environmental science before returning and doing a masters of business.
A wave of entrepreneurship went through the university while he was there and it was to pave the way for a "light bulb moment" when he turned 21. For his present, his friends and flatmates wheeled out a three-wheel motorbike - "my jaw was just on the floor".
The fact they had banded together and all contributed towards his present got him thinking. Tertiary students often struggled when there was a big occasion, often only being able to afford "a mug, a T-shirt or a firm handshake".
Around the same time, the proliferation of e-commerce began. Splitting the cost for such a purchase highlighted the vast number of uses where groups could pay, whether it was travel, events or concerts.
His own birthday present had involved friends, flatmates and extended family to create an "incredible" result. But Mr Richardson also realised that such an initiative was quite a challenge to organise and he started to drill down on why it was such a challenge, along with what else existed in the market.
There was a "big moment of realisation" that there was a chasm that existed between a group and the product or service that they wanted to purchase which led him to to found PaySquad which enabled a group of people to split the cost at checkout.
It was developed with the help of a good friend whom he went to Southland Boys’ High School with, while other product experts from around the world were also brought in. One of the benefits of starting a business during Covid-19 times was that he became "just another guy in front of a webcam", he said.
Mr Richardson was born in the United States to a Kiwi father and an American mother; he joked he had the sarcasm and realism from his Kiwi side and the "boundless optimism" of an American which saw him launch the start-up in Invercargill.
His father was from Lumsden and there were still extended family in the area; Invercargill was the closet thing to a home town that he had ever had.
Now married and with a young family, settled back in the southern city, Mr Richardson said young people’s views towards money had changed rapidly. They were more open with it, had different expectations and were open to experiment.
He acknowledged, with inflation high and a recession looming, it was the "perfect storm" for a start-up business, but tackling a global problem like group payments, which had serious scale and social good to it, got him "fired up".
Its retail proof of concept allowed people to split the cost of a gift card, through thesplits.co, which was particularly useful at this time of year. Next year, it was planned to connect with payment aggregators and big merchants and he hoped it would be "just another option at checkout".
Mr Richardson was already eyeing up the US market, both from the investment side and also market expansion.
"We have to make sure we provide enough value for merchants to feature at the checkout," he said.
He had enjoyed working alongside Southland’s innovation and investment network Coin South and also had an opportunity to meet people through Mainland Angel Investors.
Being based in Invercargill had some serious advantages, including a cheaper cost of living, and he felt the city was getting "better and better".
Every day in a start-up was "crazy". He was learning a variety of transferable skills and it was "very, very exciting", he said.