At Xero, we have a strong focus on thinking innovatively so we can solve big challenges on behalf of small businesses around the globe. In Denver, where our Xero Americas HQ is located, innovation and entrepreneurship was on full display at Denver Startup Week earlier this month. We love participating in Denver Startup Week each year since it links back to our purpose of providing business owners with the tools and information they need to succeed and it helps grow a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Denver.
This year, we hosted a career fair, the closing bash, and three panels covering topics from fundraising to gender diversity in the workplace, and developing an online strategy. We’ve compiled some of the highlights of our favorite moments from the panels.
To kick off Denver Startup Week, our first panel featured Michael Tsokur, principal at Akrasia Capital, Michael Kershner, founder of Innovate Illuminate, Anthony Halsch, CEO of RoxBox Containers, and Robert MacNaughton, product manager at ScaleFactor. This panel was moderated by Tim Cook, Platform and Implementation Manager at Xero.
We partnered with our platinum accounting partner ScaleFactor and their small business customers to tell their story of financial success.
For many fast-growing startups, raising capital is a vital part of their success, but it can be hard to determine where to begin. Michael Tsokur shared his views that funding is more of an art than a science. He recommends that startups start conversations with potential investors as soon as possible. In the early stages, people often invest in you, rather than your idea, so it’s important to build your network.
Once Michael Kershner got his business up and running, he quickly found that accounting is one of the things that you can control. Anthony agreed and said he’s easily in his bank account 2-3 times each day since his business had to be cash flow positive pretty quickly.
With Robert’s background as an accountant, he encourages businesses to seek help early so accounting and finance isn’t the one thing that’s scaring you about running your business. He shared that having your books in order is going to make life a lot easier whether you decide to go after funding or not.
Our second panel was moderated by Bethany Parker, VP of Business Platform at Xero and featured panelists including Jana Galbraith, Director of People Experience at Xero, Jessica Rusin, VP of Engineering at Guild Education, Kate Barton, SVP Executive Office & Special Projects at Downtown Denver Partnership and Rebecca Picciolo, Entrepreneurial Services Manager at DJJ CPA.
Our panelists discussed inclusion, diversity in the workplace, and best practices that organizations can implement.
Jessica described how her team thinks about inclusion during the hiring process. They’ve taken steps to write job descriptions that will attract a broad set of candidates. And when candidates are tasked with completing a project for their interview, they make sure the project only takes an evening, since they understand it’s hard for people to give up their time.
When it comes to finding advocates in the workplace, Jana encouraged people to seek out leaders in your organization. She described how diversity was a large part of her interview with Xero Americas President Tony Ward and she could see how this was a priority for him.
The panelists also discussed the importance of inclusion in the workplace and ensuring everyone has a voice and feels like they’re heard. Rebecca shared how inclusion on her team has come from building trust. Her team operates a trusting environment from the top-down where anyone can feel empowered to speak up and share ideas. She pointed to an example of creating this space for new employees to feel empowered that their voices will be heard.
Our last panel featured Brad Kopitz, CEO at Artifact Uprising, Matt Erley, VP of Growth at Havenly, Lindsey Langwell, Senior Marketing Manager at Xero, and was moderated by Kaz Campbell, Business Intelligence Manager at Xero.
The panelists discussed the key tools, KPIs and online strategies businesses need to consider when starting a website.
One theme the panel touched on is the importance of being able to understand your customers. Brad encouraged everyone to consider what information you have at your disposal and learn from that. Determine what you can gather to start to inform why, who are the best customers, and what they think about your brand.
When it comes to measuring success, Lindsey shared that a lot of people jump immediately to ROI, but you should avoid the temptation to jump there first. She encouraged people to go back to the “why” to understand why you’ve set a plan in place, and break it down into smaller pieces so your metrics become more meaningful.
The panel also left the audience with practical advice of tools they recommend for startups. Matt is a fan of usertesting.com to get quick feedback or any of Google’s free tools. Lindsey also recommend using Google Forms as a way to gather insights internally and externally since it’s important to get feedback often. Brad shared that Unbounce is great to test different landing pages.
We love supporting the entrepreneurial community in Denver through Denver Startup Week and can’t wait for next year’s event!
Katie O’Brien is Marketing Campaign Manager at Xero.