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Singapore wins silver in global entrepreneurship

Guest Author: Anthony Coundouris, Director of Sales and Marketing at Future Books. 

Hot on the tail of the most powerful startup hub, Silicon Valley, Singapore was ranked #2 globally in terms of total entrepreneurial activity, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Report.

Now, this piqued our interest, so we decided to survey our clients (mostly in the food and beverage, tech and consulting industries) to find out what makes them tick.

We completed this study on Singapore startups in January 2014. A random sample of 242 businesses located within a four kilometre radius of Singapore’s CBD were drawn. 95% of the sample were private limited companies, incorporated sometime during 2012/13.

Controlling interest

Owners and directors, or control, were split evenly between foreigners and locals, except in the instances of food and beverage. Food and beverage saw a larger proportion of local control.

 Foreign and local split between startups

50% of directors and shareholders of food and beverage companies were either blood relation or married couples.

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Get time back with Square and Xero’s new integration

To us payments geeks, when Square launched, it just made sense. A simple, elegant solution to small merchants’ credit and debit card acceptance problem? How come I didn’t think of that?!

Square actually solves more pain points for small merchants than meets the eye. Complicated fee structures, expensive hardware and merchant account underwriting requirements were the norm for many years. These archaic demands made it impossible for many small businesses to even qualify, let alone afford a merchant account. Not only did Square remove all of these issues, they did it via a tiny piece of plastic and customer cell phones. In short, Square effectively democratized payments for the small guys, giving every person in the US with a mobile phone access to a point of sale system!

I’ve been a Square fan since the early days and am thrilled to finally offer its merchants an integrated accounting solution that does the heavy lifting for them. Other combined payments and accounting solutions just dump raw data on users. But Square and Xero work together in lock step – intelligently sorting transactional data and building an accurate view of accrual balances. A once tedious process is now made simple with Square and Xero.

To get a taste of how the integration works, check out our video:

With this integration, Xero will automatically sync all of the previous day’s transaction data from Square, summarize it and create an aggregated transaction in Xero – allocating any payments, refunds, fees and sales taxes to the appropriate account. Sellers and small businesses can now save time, which was previously spent manually inputting sales.

Using this approach, Xero will keep track of the money Square owes you while breaking out all Square fees, tips and refunds. In addition to credit card receivables, Xero can also help keep track of cash receipts. Using auto-generated bank rules, each bank deposit from Square will be matched with outstanding receivables using a settlement account methodology.  This will also allow for importing of historical transaction data from Square, and quick and easy bulk coding of multiple daily summaries.

We are thrilled to announce this partnership, and hope you enjoy the time that Square and Xero together give back to you.

Xero customer, Andy Ciordia of The Secret Chocolatier is especially excited about the integration. “I used to spend my Sunday afternoons manually dragging, dropping and categorizing my weekly Square transactions into Xero,” says Andy. “This integration gives me my weekends back – I have more time for my family and my business.”

Want to learn more about Square point of sale software for retailers?



Strategic alliance with KPMG in the UK

In London this morning we’re announcing the launch of a strategic deal with KPMG, one of the Big 4 global accounting firms.

This is a significant milestone for the adoption of cloud accounting in the UK and one we expect will further accelerate our growth in the UK, the most hotly contested online accounting market globally.

KPMG London


Accounting API: 10 new features so far in 2014

This morning’s 2.46 release of the core accounting API provides developers with the ability to retrieve repeating invoices. This feature became more compelling to provide with the recent advances our reporting add-on partners have made in the area of cashflow forecasting – repeating invoices include some key information on this front that will make these applications even more useful.

We are proud to be moving quickly on the release front with 10 key features released in the first three months of 2014:

API releases 2013-2014
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B2B apps: product doesn’t win, distribution does?

There are more and more great B2B SaaS apps being developed every day. From CRM systems, to point of sale, to inventory, the list goes on and on. Many of these B2B apps are vying for the same customer – small business. And the small business segment is arguably the largest untapped market on the planet when it comes to cloud software. That’s why we are seeing an increasing number of apps and an increasing investor sentiment. So why is it so hard for these apps to achieve real scale?

Xero apps

I recently caught up with Bjoern Herrmann, the Founder & CEO of Compass. His company aggregates and tracks startup and small business data from a number of sources online sources. He calls it “Moneyball for the business world”. The service provides benchmark data on key metrics like new customer adds per month, average revenue per user, and customer life cycle data. All these things are important to any company, but Bjoern has found a niche in an underserved startup market. We like it. If his company can help startups uncover issues or capitalize on opportunities earlier, then these startups have a better chance of winning. Compass’ goal is to accelerate the global pace of innovation and reduce the failure rate of businesses. We at Xero, as many of our customers know, feel the same way about helping small businesses by providing clear insight into their finances to make sound business decisions.

Below are some recent stats that Bjoern shared at the 2014 Small Business Web Summit in February.

  • SaaS is less than 6% of overall software market

  • Almost half of SaaS businesses choose growth over profitability

  • Less than 7% SaaS companies achieve 10,000 customers

  • Distribution is the #1 challenge for these companies

    • 23% rely on direct sales

    • 13% use partnerships

    • 9% use viral tactics

    • 8% use other lead gen activities

    • 7% rely on customer word-of-mouth

Why aren’t we seeing more of these apps break the 10,000 customer mark? The research conducted by Compass uncovers several possible reasons, but the one that stands out is access to a distribution channel.

Many small business B2B apps are up against a large incumbent. David vs Goliath stories tend to exist across all verticals, and the data shows that some incumbents are hard to disrupt because of the ecosystem they have built over decades. Legacy channel partners, consultants, trainers, resellers, and system integrators work against the shift to a new cloud operating model, as the change in model also impacts their businesses. Leveraging these existing channels is challenging so it is up to many B2B apps to develop new channels to market in to. As the data suggests, most of these companies are using inside sales teams to sell directly to small businesses. This is not for everyone as it can be costly. Some are using partnerships which can prove to be effective in a cloud world of open APIs. Others have found a way to use viral methods, but we haven’t seen the rapid adoption like we see in the consumer space. Small businesses don’t sign up for business apps on a whim.

The bottom line is that Compass’ research shows that startups that can capitalize on the best distribution will likely be the winners.


Talking entrepreneurship

Rod spoke last week at the launch of Spark – the University of Auckland Entrepreneurship Programme, and the team from 90 seconds TV captured an interview afterwards.

During the chat, Rod covers off topics including focus and planning, building teams, investment, exporting, risk, how business can be fun and about “going for it”.

Check it out:


Files on the run

Xero Touch for iOS has now been updated to give you access to your files from your mobile device.

Xero Files using Xero Touch for iOS

Files for Xero was released back in October and was a game changer, allowing you to attach source documents to transactions. This gives you a full picture of your financial data and supporting materials all in one place.

Now you can upload images to your Xero Files inbox from your iOS mobile device, whenever and wherever you are. You can upload photos of receipts, assets, locations and people to Xero, and they’re just the more obvious uses; we have no doubt you’ll be able to think of numerous other ways to take advantage of this capability!

Not only can images be captured and uploaded to your files inbox for later, you can also use your iOS device to review any files that are in your inbox, too.

The latest version of Xero Touch for iOS including files is available in the App Store. A brand-new version of Xero Touch for Android was released last month and Android support for files is already in development.


Is the future of work standing desks?

Standing while you’re working may seem rather odd to most people, but it is a practice with a long tradition. Winston Churchill wrote while working at a special standing desk, as did Ernest Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin.

 Why standing desks and why now?

Standing desk at Xero

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that sitting is killing us. A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours sitting on our bottoms – at work, at home, in the car, in the movies, and even in the gym! Add that to seven hours of sleep and we spend nearly 19 hours every day being sedentary. That is incredibly excessive. Human beings are not designed to sit down so much.

Several studies have also shown that stand-up desks do really offer better health benefits. Fewer medical issues, less back problems, increased productivity, increased energy, higher calorie burn, living longer and healthier are just some of the numerous benefits that have been documented scientifically and anecdotally by stand-up adopters. However, as in everything in life, there needs to be a balance. As it turns out, standing all day is not very good either – it can lead to enlarged veins, or the hardening of arteries.

Change your posture constantly and move around, whether you sit or stand at work – because standing all day can be as bad as prolonged sitting.

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Working with Xero and Workpapers – taking back control of your compliance

Helping accountancy practices really add value for their clients is what we’re all about at Xero. We’ve even put together our own Practice Studio suite which includes Workpapers, a software package which make your compliance process faster, easier and smarter. And less time spent on process-heavy compliance means more time to collaborate with your clients on important year-end issues.

We caught up recently with Ian Woollard, Director at Pearson Buchholz, to find out how working with Xero and Workpapers has transformed their compliance and quality assurance processes – and allowed them to bring additional value to their client conversations. Ian’s been using Xero since 2010, when clients initially started requesting cloud-based solutions for their accounting needs.

Ian Woollard from Pearson Buchholz

Ian Woollard from Pearson Buchholz

Pulling your data from Xero into Workpapers

Ian’s keen to underline Xero’s ability to produce tailored management accounting reports for clients, as well as the secure nature of Xero’s data – a deciding factor when the firm wanted a system that provided the comfort around data that was needed for their business. But it’s the synergy between Xero and Workpapers that has really made a difference for Pearson Buchholz.

“What Workpapers does is allow us to suck the data we need out of Xero. For us, it’s a great tool and it’s a great time-saver.

Before we used Workpapers we were producing a manual file for each client for review purposes, which was a time-consuming process. What Workpapers allows us to do is stop re-processing the client’s data to create working papers for review processes. That data is already there in Xero and can be pulled across straight into Workpapers.”

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Digital innovation in action on the Sunshine Coast

I was recently invited by the Caloundra Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Queensland to speak on ‘Digital Innovation in Action’.

Digital innovation in action

The Sunshine Coast is a great example of a regional community seeking ways to encourage local business owners to improve productivity by embracing the latest technologies. In opening the breakfast, Michael Shadforth, President of the Caloundra Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the need for businesses to understand and embrace opportunities offered by cloud technologies like Xero in order to improve business efficiencies and lower the costs of running IT.

A local businessmen himself, Michael is clearly passionate about seeing business flourish in the area and sees local innovation as a great way of preventing the “brain drain” of young talent moving to the cities to pursue job opportunities. As a result he was particularly taken with my story of an Adelaide Bookkeeper who made the move to the Sunshine Coast for lifestyle reasons and was able to keep all her clients as a result of using Xero.

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