Over a year ago we set up our US office at the corner of Harrison St and 5th street in San Francisco. It was a perfect place to get things rolling. We stepped right into the silicon valley technology community and connected to the many leading players that make up this incredible place including venture capitalists, tech leaders, startups, and associations. It has been a perfect foray into the US technology landscape. A special thanks goes out to the Kiwi Landing Pad for making the setup simple, fast, and easy.
This is an exciting time for Xero in the US. We’ve expanded to almost 30 employees and along with that growth is a need for a larger office we can call our own. We have just moved to 244 Jackson Street. We have taken a full floor on the 2nd level of a four story building. The space itself is creative with brick and beam structures, high ceilings, and an open concept. For those that aren’t familiar with the area it is a fantastic location just north of the financial district right next to the Transamerica Building. The area is surrounded by great restaurants like Kokkari, great cafes, green spaces, and Sightglass coffee right around the corner. It’s also a hop, skip, and jump from Muni and BART. Needless to say, but the move has been incredibly uplifting for the US team.
A year ago today we opened our UK office and plonked five people down at their new desks. Twelve months later and we’ve grown our UK crew to thirty – well it was thirty as I sat down to write this, it’s quite possibly more now. We’ve grown and changed in many ways over the last 366 days, not least in the sense that the camera needs to be placed farther and farther away each time we take a team photo.
Aside from how busy our team photos now are compared with our 5-a-side football team last February, and how cute all the anniversary cupcakes look, we’ve also grown and matured a lot as a business in the last year. Continue reading ›
Today we pay tribute to Doug Edwards, father of Hamish Edwards our Xero co-founder and Chairman of RightWay accountants, who passed away last night. Doug was a huge influence for Xero in his usual quiet and humble way.
Doug had 50 years of service to the accounting profession. In the early days he was head boy at Wairarapa College and attended Victoria University where he was pretty talented on the basketball court – captain of the NZ University Team. He went on to become a Partner at Markhams (now KPMG) before starting his own practice. Everyone who knew Doug could only describe him as a true gentleman that has had a profound impact on the accounting profession as well as Xero.
Last week the WorkflowMax team had our one year anniversary as part of Xero. Woohoo!! It’s been an exciting, exhilarating and challenging year.
Some of the key highlights for us include:
- Doubling our subscription base to 3000 customers, which is ahead of our internal targets.
- 680 accounting practices globally now running their day-to-day operations on WFM Practice Manager
- NZ accounting firms can now use WorkflowMax Practice Manager to electronically file tax returns with the IRD and manage their clients tax payments. Australian tax features are on the way.
- The wider product/enablement/sales/support/marketing team has grown from 6 to 19
- Kicked off the new user interface and document management integration projects which will be visible in the application in the coming year.
People still ask me how I found the transition and the process of integrating into the wider Xero team. I always tell them we went from working in a small startup to working in a much, much larger startup. The mentality is so similar, the energy, the commitment, the attitude to go the extra mile, the startup passion and excitement is evident in every conversation. It bubbles right through Xero and is infectious.
I’ve recently joined Xero as New Zealand General Manager. It was a couple of years ago, in a previous role at CCH, after I lost two of my key sales team to Xero, that I started to take note of what the company was up to in the New Zealand market.
I’d previously visited Openside Accounting, run by one of the co-founders of Xero, Hamish Edwards, and had seen how they were turning the accounting industry on its head – accounting could be cool and innovative in the way they worked with their clients. Since then I’ve seen the rapid expansion of Xero both locally and globally, and decided I had to be a part of it.
Desktop software was becoming an infrastructure burden for accounting firms as IT providers costs and expertise varied widely. A big outlay on desktop applications was required up front, impacting cash-flow and productivity for quite a few years. Also, I saw modern practices were providing flexible working practices for their employees and this required anytime anywhere approaches to work.
It was clear was that go-ahead firms were already fully embracing the cloud and it was only a matter of time before the majority would. Demographic shifts are also underway with many partners expected to move into consulting roles or part time work over the next 5-8 years. We can anticipate that new tech-savvy decision makers will demand the benefits of cloud software.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? If you’re anything like me, it’s pick up your phone from your nightstand, check email and social networks, maybe browse a few news sites – all before getting out of bed.
Now you can add “reconcile bank transactions” to the list. From today, Bank Reconciliation is available for our Android users to download from Google Play.
With bank reconciliation on Xero Touch, you’ll be able to reconcile most of your bank transactions before getting to your desk. The bank reconciliation feature finds possible transaction matches, suggests possible transaction categorisations, supports transfers and allows you to leave notes on those statement lines that you’re unsure about.
When we first started Xero we found that the number one thing that business owners did in the morning was go online to check their bank account – to see if they got paid. Xero Touch is the fastest way to not just check who paid you but to keep on top of your cash flow. Just a minute or two in the morning and you’re up to date.
iOS coming soon
iOS is currently in testing and will need to go through the App Store approval process – it’s a few weeks away but we are working hard on it. Our intention was to release both together, but the Android release came together faster. The iOS release has a few design updates and was migrated to the latest version of the Sencha Touch mobile development framework, so there is a bit more work involved.
Last Sunday we migrated all of our customers, data and systems to a new primary data center in order to set the foundations for further growth. The migration involved synchronizing approximately 10 terabytes (TB) over the 1,500km between our old primary data center in Dallas and a new pre-prepared data center in Chicago. 10 TB is approximately the equivalent of the entire printed collection of the US Library of Congress.
On the day we had 34 staff in multiple offices performing data migration, database and infrastructure tasks, testing the application to ensure the migration had completed successfully, taking care of social media and customer tickets and standing by just in case we had any code issues. The team atmosphere was great with people pitching in where required from making coffees to triaging issues.
When you are growing a business as rapidly as Xero, doubling customer numbers year on year, and offering a service critical to so many people, you’ve got think well ahead. So we’re building and testing a new hosting environment for Xero that will ensure continued resilience and uptime and cope with this continual expansion.
We expect the server hardware and software at the base of Xero will need to handle a million+ customers in a few years time – that’s massive. Our existing hosting environment has been in place since late 2009 and has scaled from 15,000 paying customers to over 111,000.
We decided last year that a full migration to a new hosting environment is the appropriate next step rather than a further incremental capacity upgrade. This has allowed us to re-architect our platform to take advantage of new technologies, such as Microsoft SQL Server 2012, and scale in building blocks for easier planning, capacity and performance management.
I’ve now been with Xero for seven weeks and it’s been a busy and exciting time. My role as General Manager, Customer Support has me looking after the customer care, billing and partner bank feed teams. It’s a fantastic opportunity to influence our service to customers as we grow.
Most of my career has been in the public sector looking after customer contact environments. Most recently I was at Inland Revenue in New Zealand, setting up and running their customer contact service as well as roles running their complaint management department, and child support operations. Before that I spent time at the Ministry of Justice setting up their contact centre, and prior to that worked in advertising in the UK.
Outside of work I’m a bit of a football nut. I coach a lot – particularly goalkeepers – and I recently came back from a FIFA World Cup in Azerbaijan where I was the goalkeeping coach for the U17 New Zealand Womens team. I’m also married with 3 kids so my weekends and evenings are usually spent ferrying them around varying sporting pursuits. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I could tie a bow on this year I would. It has been a great inaugural year for Xero in the US and such a pleasure to meet so many forward thinking small businesses and accounting professionals. Many thanks to all who have joined us early in the US ride. It feels like a real partnership and I feel like we are building cloud accounting the way it should be.
Building a great team
Less than a year ago that it was just Craig, Catherine, and myself on the ground in San Francisco. Fast forward to today and we’ve grown to 20 people across the US. Our staff have come from all over, with a variety of backgrounds. Some from Intuit and Quickbooks, some with payroll backgrounds, some who have run their own successful accounting practices, and some with a deep understanding of small business because they have run their own. While they all bring something a little different to the table, they all have something very much in common – a passion for building a great company that is solving real problems for real businesses. They are some of the most energetic people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. If you have the same passion and drive – we’re hiring!
Localizing with a z
Our number one priority this year was to get Xero localized for the US. As with all product development there is always more to do but this year we ripped through quite a few big US features. We introduced check printing in April, moved to American spelling, introduced a 1099 workflow, and organized integration with online filing service Track1099.