Guest post by Karl Loo, MBA Candidate 2014, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
As a New Zealander, it was a proud moment to lead my classmates from Oxford University to visit Xero – a leading Kiwi business – in San Francisco.
This year, our trek list included the likes of Google, Facebook, Square, IDEO, Y-combinator and Xero. Although Xero is a new arrival to the Silicon Valley scene, I have been watching Xero and its phenomenal growth in New Zealand. Now the company is one of the largest companies in New Zealand and is on track to dominate the accounting software segment globally – and it was great to see them in their new offices in the homeland of IT innovation.
From an MBA student perspective, hearing from the executive leadership team was thought provoking. Highlights included learning about the agile product development methods as well as the unique challenges of marketing a traditionally unglamorous sector, accounting. The class was impressed that a provider of accounting solutions could have a focus on beautiful design, as well as the sheer pace of growth of the company – “everything doubles each year” was a phrase that struck us.
At Xero, we’re so committed to innovation that we host a product hackathon every quarter for our San Francisco product teams. These allow ideas from our team to get the chance to move from an idea to working prototypes.
We hold two types of hackathon events in our San Francisco office. Our HackIt events last a few days and are focused on innovative ideas with few rules attached. Our ShipIt events give the team the chance to work on something that they want to improve but it must be delivered, ready for release, after two days. It’s understood that there’s no obligation on Xero to ship any of the projects. However, it’s a way of generating ideas that we can use for planning future work on the products.
The winners of our hackathon last week in San Francisco was the Xero Achievers. They worked on the gamification of payroll using badges and Facebook integration. We also had teams working a new tax engine, automated timesheet check in/out using a mobile app, a new architecture framework, a goal tracking app, a conversion tool, hotkey navigations, and an on-screen calculator. It was a great few days, with lots of passion, collaboration, discussions and of course nerf gun battles.
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is where there is free rein to work on projects the team think will be useful, innovative or cool. Our events kick off with a traditional hot American breakfast to keep the energy levels high for the day. Then, the fun begins.
Regularly scheduled work takes a back seat while the team build, code and hack away on something that interests them – whether it’s an issue they want to solve, a process they’d love to improve, or something completely random they want to try. They’re encouraged to think outside of the box and they have the chance to collaborate with other team members they may not normally work with.
There’s a few key reasons why we do these events:
Thinking out of the box – gives an opportunity for those radical ideas that would never be prioritized.
Fostering innovation – If there are no constraints then anything is possible.
Enjoying work – Culture is a huge part of working here and these hackathons help to make Xero a great, fun, place to work.
These hackathons embody our company culture of creativity, challenging the norm and having fun whilst we do it. Giving our teams the freedom to work on whatever they want for a couple of days keeps them on their toes and challenges them, both creatively and technically. We believe that being surrounded by innovative ideas helps develop new ones, and pushes us to think outside the box.
Already started thinking about a project you’d work on? If you think you might be a good fit for the Xero team, head on over to our careers page to apply for an open position!
SMS My Debtors sends friendly SMS reminders before an invoice falls due and follows up invoices that remain overdue. Don’t get lost in your customer’s inbox! Research shows that SMS messages convey more urgency, have eight times the response rate and in most cases are read within 90 seconds.
Who is it for?
Businesses looking to reduce their debtor days and in turn increase cash flow.
How it works with Xero
Set and forget! Continue to use Xero as you do now and SMS My Debtors will sync daily and send reminders on overdue invoices. Saving you valuable time and headache.
Where you can use it
It’s available around the world, including Australia, New Zealand US, UK and Canada.
Try out SMS My Debtors for free
You can sign up to try out SMS My Debtors with Xero for free.
Read more about Developers
A security flaw has been discovered in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library that is used by up to two thirds of the internet, as well as by a small number of services that Xero uses. Xero has in no way been affected, and your data is safe. More information is available at the OpenSSL page which includes the Security Advisory.
The researchers who discovered this issue have given it the dramatic name of “Heartbleed”, which you may also see referenced in some news articles.
Steps Xero has taken
Any time there is a potential threat to Xero, we conduct a Security Incident process which includes investigating the potential impact to Xero and our customers.
The immediate step we took was to evaluate which Xero systems use OpenSSL, and whether they used the affected version. The majority of our environment does not use OpenSSL as we run predominantly Microsoft technologies. The sweep of our environment showed no servers or sites running the affected versions.
The second step was to evaluate which external systems we, or direct customers, use that may be vulnerable. The only vulnerable site identified was our Australian Partner ‘Toolkit’, which stores no customer data and does not allow users to log in. Our third-party hoster for that environment is August, and they admirably patched the issue within 30 minutes, for which we thank them. The Xero Toolkit site is no longer vulnerable.
As stated above, we have no reason to believe that any of Xero’s environment is affected by this OpenSSL issue. We count ourselves lucky in this case, as a lot of other SaaS providers haven’t been as fortunate.
What you can do
Even though your Xero account is not affected, it is good practice to regularly change your passwords that you use online, and to use a different password for each site that you use.
To protect you from other sites that you use being compromised, consider changing all your passwords for important services now, while it’s at the front of your mind.
To manage multiple passwords for different websites, so that you don’t have to remember them all, we recommend the use of a password manager such as KeePass.
What we will do next
While we don’t have any immediate actions needed to protect our users, we are looking at whether there are any further steps we can take to add additional protection. I’ll update this post later with any action we take as an outcome of this threat.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me (Security Officer, Xero) via our support channel (email@example.com).
The start of the year is a busy time for UK accountancy practices. The deadline for self-assessment means that January can be a pretty hectic month, and when you’re busy it really focuses attention on how efficient (or otherwise) your processes and systems are.
With this in mind, we got together with AccountingWEB to ask a sample of 1,100 accountants how the 2014 self-assessment period was for them this year.
Read more about Accountants
US Payroll in the Lone Star State
US Payroll in Xero now supports tax calculations for Texas work and employee locations. We had a lot of demand to bring payroll to Texas — after all, it is the state with the second-largest population — and we’re pleased to make this happen for small businesses that reside there.
During our February Roadshow, we announced we were offering free conversions from MYOB to Xero for Bronze and above certified partners. It was a well-received announcement – the room erupted into applause! We know that one of the biggest obstacles our partners have in moving their clients over to Xero are conversions, so we wanted to provide them with a service that would be easy, automated, and best of all, free.
We are happy to announce that for applicable partners in Australia free conversions from MYOB to Xero started today. Jet Convert has managed thousands of conversions and is ready to scale with its automated service. Hear from Alexander and the team at Jet Convert on our conversions page and start moving clients on to Xero today.
Read more about Accountants
Our good buddy Greg over at Rightway posted on about Insight Seeing things others can’t see on the Rightway blog.
It got me pondering how I think about strategy and making decisions.
I read many years ago, I remember it was back in Sugarland Texas in the early 90′s actually, a few parables that have stuck with me over years.
Preparation lets you take advantage of opportunity
It takes a year to become an expert on something
Becoming an expert in something is as simple as reading widely on a subject to get up to speed and then monitoring news and events about things that happen in that area. This can seem daunting at the beginning, but over time you begin to develop a model, or belief system about how things work.
Over time you gain confidence in your model. When events occur you think ‘I knew that would happen’ and after a while you can publicly make predictions. If you’re an entrepreneur you eventually start to bet on those models and can be rewarded for being right.
As each new fact appears you test it against your model. The fact either confirms your model or challenges it. I love it when I find things that are inconsistent with my models. As an example when companies put out numbers that don’t feel right I love to dive deep to find out why that is? Why doesn’t it fit? Do I learn something new or have I found a misleading statement?
I love debating points with our team, because good discussion tests your model and makes you justify assumptions. I always learn things when others argue from a new perspective which tunes the model up further.
News on the Internet and especially news feeds (RSS) have seen the number of facts you see multiplied substantially. I think that has accelerated testing and development of my mental models. I’ve been in technology for 27 years and have seen the big patterns many times. I’ve been reading RSS news feeds for over 10 years and active on the tech twitter stream so there’s not much tech news that gets by me. Each new fact I apply against my models, maybe hundreds per day. It’s not a conscious thing and it’s not onerous as I enjoy reading tech news.
To outsiders, entrepreneurs might look like they make big and bold decisions. But to the entrepreneur that works this way you have simply gained confidence in your models. Perhaps it looks like insight but I think it’s more that over time you’ve developed confidence in your own judgment and making a big decision is a simple and logical step.
Xero is like that for me. The move to the cloud felt obvious. The small business opportunity was clear and what we need to do to win feels pretty straight forward. It’s not arrogance, just confidence that you can see it all play out.
Our challenge to make sure we share the vision through the team and empower our people to go as fast as they can.
So that describes how I think. Does that resonate or do others have different ways of thinking they can share?
Read more about Business
TransferMate helps Xero users to save time and money on paying international foreign currency invoices. By integrating directly with Xero, you can select your unpaid foreign currency invoices, view live exchange rates and book those payments. Payments are then instantly posted back to Xero saving you time and money.
Who is it for?
TransferMate is for any business that pays invoices in foreign currencies. You may be an Australian importer paying suppliers in US dollars or a New Zealand retailer paying suppliers in Germany in Euro.
How TransferMate works with Xero
TransferMate connects to your Xero account and searches for your foreign currency invoices. Through TransferMate you can book your foreign currency payments and TransferMate will send the payment details into Xero, marking your Xero invoices as paid, saving you the hassle of double entry.
Traditional banks often overcharge and under deliver on international payments. TransferMate saves customers on average 80 percent on international payments by offering lower wire/bank transfer fees and more competitive exchange rates than traditional banks.
Where you can use TransferMate
TransferMate is available in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada and Europe.
Try TransferMate Today
Read more about Developers
We feel very proud to report on FY14.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Xero finishes year up 83% to $70m
4 April 2014
(Note: all currency is in New Zealand dollars and results are unaudited)
Xero Limited (XRO) announces operating revenue of $70.1m for the year ended 31 March 2014, up 83% from last year’s $38.4m result.
With monthly committed subscriptions growing to $7.8m, the recurring revenue model means that Xero commences its 2015 financial year strongly with $93m in annualised subscriptions (representing an 81% increase on the $51.5m reported at the same time last year).
The net loss after tax for the second half of the year ending 31 March 2014 is anticipated to be similar to that reported for the first half resulting in a full year loss of approximately $35m, compared to $14.4m last year. Xero has expanded its team to 758 employees and has $210m of cash to fund its growth.
The strong New Zealand dollar adversely impacts reported operating revenue given 66% of this revenue is denominated in foreign currencies. On a constant currency basis Xero grew operating revenue by 92% in the period.
Recruiting senior management for growth and filling out global teams was a key focus for the 2014 financial year as Xero added a further 376 employees.
Xero is now the leading accounting software provider in New Zealand and the leading online accounting software in Australia and the United Kingdom, with annualised subscriptions of $29m, $41m and $14m respectively.
With strong growth expected to continue in these markets, Xero turns its focus on the important US market. The US market entry phase was completed successfully, allowing Xero to raise an additional $180m of capital in October 2013, bolstering the Board with appointments of New York-based Chris Liddell as Chairman and San Francisco-based Director Bill Veghte and appointing Peter Karpas as CEO North America.
Xero has been receiving US industry recognition, including: Accounting Today’s 2013 Top New Products: Honorable Mention – Xero Touch, Mobile category; CPA Practice Advisor’s 5-Star review 2013 (for Software as a Service); and “Top Choice” for the best online business accounting app by PC World/ Macworld.
Xero has also made progress on a number of large scale partnerships, and has recently announced integration with Square, Inc. in the US.
Xero has proven its strategy and execution and continues to build a world-class team, while substantially growing revenue.
Progress against the incumbents and its strong cash position places Xero at the forefront, as the adoption of cloud software accelerates for small business solutions.
Xero expects strong growth to continue for the foreseeable future.