Guest blog by Ryan Lazanis, CPA, CA of Xen Accounting, Montreal
Bitcoin is a pretty hot topic right now, and for some, it’s a bit mysterious and controversial. How can we have a global virtual currency that’s completely decentralized and completely unregulated? A type of money that isn’t controlled or regulated by any bank or government is enough to make some people uneasy, that is until you learn more about what bitcoin is and how it works. It’s one of the smartest, most forward-thinking innovations of our generation, and it might just reshape the way we do business.
What is bitcoin?
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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!
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?
- Hear more of Andy’s story over at Xero TV.
- Learn all about Square and Xero on our website.
- Check out the Help Center for information on how to get set up.
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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?
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.
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Xero Touch for iOS has now been updated to give you access to your files from your mobile device.
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.
Great to catch up with Dennis Howlett in San Francisco this week and chat about tech. We talk about the impact of Google, mobility and what is Apple doing with these rich iPad productivity apps.
Dennis’s latest thing is Diginomica.com which is a great read for people that love the technology industry.
Rerun makes recurring billing easy. It’s a web-based solution for any business, organization or association that wants to automate their recurring, subscription or membership billing.
Rerun allows you to accept credit cards or bank transfers from customers for your products or services, making it easier to manage your business. Create custom payment streams to match the services or products you offer, and let Rerun automatically bill your customers.
Who is it for?
Rerun is for business owners who want to automate customer subscriptions and billing. For example, a Daycare can provide flexibility to parents by accepting payments on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annual basis.
How Rerun works with Xero
Rerun easily connects with Xero to retrieve customer, item and tax rate data. You can set up recurring and one-time payments in Rerun. The invoices are paid in Rerun, and the completed invoices are sent to Xero.
Where you can use Rerun
Rerun is built for US & Canadian businesses. Check out their pricing plans.
It’s free to set up your Rerun account
With Rerun, no monthly fees or merchant account is required.
Sign up to try Rerun with Xero.
A group of New Zealand’s top media and accounting partners joined Rod Drury, Amanda Armstrong and Stuart McLean for an intimate fireside chat (minus the fire, ‘cos it’s mid-summer in Auckland) at Generator last night, following day one of Xerocon New Zealand 2014.
Accounting partners Edwin Read from Rightway – an innovative, 100% Xero firm based in Martinborough, and Neil Sinclair from Winstanley Kerridge joined the group for a chinwag, as well as Dr Michael Fraser from NZICA and Russell Jones from ASB.
More than 900 accounting, bookkeeping and add-on partners flooded into the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland this morning for Xerocon New Zealand 2014. The line was long, but we got everyone inside eventually!
MC Petra Bagust kicked things off this morning. She was excited, talking about our values – love, beauty, transformation, fun. She described the atmosphere as majestic, magnificent, amazing and life-changing. “This is the kind of conference I want to be involved in!” she said. Same!
Update – May 12, 2014
Manilla recently announced they will be closing their service on July 1, 2014. For those looking for an alternative, check out another Xero add-on partner HubDoc.
Manilla is bill management software – manage and organize all your bills and accounts in one place online. Integrated with your Xero account, it allows you to export upcoming bills, saving you the time you’d normally spend manually entering bills into Xero. And with Manilla, you only need one password to securely access all of your accounts and bills. No more lost or forgotten passwords; no more hassle. Plus, it will automatically post a reminder for upcoming bills.
Who is it for?
Manilla is for US-based business owners looking to securely organize and manage incoming bills.
How Manilla works with Xero
Simply select an account in Manilla to export, map it to the appropriate chart of accounts in Xero and you’re done. Each new bill will automatically sync to Xero. Scott Scharf, owner of Catching Clouds, has written an in-depth review of the Manilla integration on the Sleeter Group Blog.
Where you can use Manilla
Manilla works for US customers and business owners.