Steve Vamos: My thoughts on Xerocon Day one

It was a real buzz to be on stage in front of 3,500 of our accounting and bookkeeper partners to open Xerocon in Brisbane today. While this isn’t my first Xerocon, it’s my first as CEO, which is why I’d like to take a moment to reflect.

Xerocon gives us a reason to stop and appreciate just how special the Xero community is, and how important the bond with our partners is, as we work together to achieve a common goal – to help small businesses grow.

If you look back 12 years to when it all started, it’s amazing to think that Xero has grown from one country to 180, one subscriber to 1.4 million and one person’s idea to a global team of more than 2,000 people. We have an amazing foundation to build on, thanks to Rod’s vision and the incredible team and community who’ve made Xero what it is today.

Now all eyes are firmly set on the future to see what’s next for Xero as we enter a new chapter, and I couldn’t be more excited to be leading the charge.

Who am I, and how do I fit with Xero?

Rod has steered the ship since founding Xero in 2006, so change at the helm is unprecedented, and it’s natural that there’s been a bit of curiosity about me and my background.

I’ve had a life-long interest in and passion for technology and digital media, and I’ve held senior roles in tech businesses (Microsoft, Apple, IBM) for over 30 years, including a stint as CEO at NineMSN.

I’ve known Rod for more than 10 years, and we worked closely together, alongside the whole leadership team while I was consulting to Xero in the 18 months leading up to my appointment as CEO.

But it actually all started when Rod contacted me, back in 2011, to help him find a leader for Xero in Australia, which was when I introduced him to Chris Ridd. Around the same time, my bookkeeper Tracey Howitt introduced me to Xero to manage my accounts – and I’ve been a advocate since.

So why is Xero for me? Aside from the people, Xero’s purpose really resonates with me, and so does the commitment of the whole team to helping small business thrive. Small businesses traditionally have been woefully underserved, and considering they make up 99% of all businesses in the OECD, there’s immense potential to make a real impact.

Where we’ve come from, and where we’re heading

We’ve made huge inroads, Australia and New Zealand have the highest cloud adoption rates in the world, but we’ve got our work cut out for us as we take on new geographies.  

I believe that, working alongside our partners, we can realise the huge potential that exists for Xero. It’s possible that one day every small business in the world will interact with Xero, in some way – there’s no reason we can’t get there if we keep focused on executing our strategy.

From ‘beautiful accounting software’ to ‘beautiful business’

The Xero community can be proud of all of our innovation and development so far. Xero started off as cloud accounting software, but nearly 12 years on, we’re so much more than that. Our transition from cloud accounting software provider to being a true small business platform is reflected by the fact we’re now facilitating business transactions, not just recording them. And that’s why we updated our tagline earlier this year to ‘beautiful business’.

The Xero ecosystem illustrates how we’re building out from Xero’s core accounting software products into new places and spaces in the small business economy.

Innovation, acquisitions and partnerships

Xero was built on innovation, and the business has been growing at an incredible pace over the last 12 years. The more we innovate, the bigger we get, and the faster we must grow to keep ahead. We’ve got to the point where we simply can’t do it all ourselves.

We’ll continue to develop in-house, but we’ll also be accelerating our strategic acquisitions and partnerships. Our recent Hubdoc acquisition and Gusto partnership are good examples of looking externally to provide a beautiful experience for our customers. Bringing on these two companies means we are able to offer an enhanced experience at a much faster pace than if we had developed similar capabilities ourselves.

Moving forward with machine learning and the financial web

I closed my keynote by giving a quick glimpse of the exciting product updates we’re announcing at this year’s Xerocon. All of them are linked by a common theme – delivering tools and products that save our advisors and small business customers time and put them in control of their business.

The automation of routine tasks is what machine learning is now delivering. And this opens up opportunities for our partners to do more advisory work – really stepping into the role of a business coach to help small business customers grow. I think this is very exciting.

A key product that supports this is email-to-bills: the beta version is already cutting down the time users spend on bill creation by 25%. This means, for instance, that a business which generates 70 bills each month will save seven hours a month. It’s the progress our developers are making with machine learning that’s enabling this. We’ve also rebuilt our invoicing from scratch to make it more intuitive, easier, and faster to use. These improvements will save small businesses and accountants hours, freeing them up to use their time more productively.

We are also continuing to move the financial web forward significantly, introducing the Xero bank feeds API, a new, global API that allows any bank, fintech or other financial institution to sync their bank feeds directly to XeroI.

Also today, Herman Mann, Vice President of Product and Alliances, covered our product updates in further detail, which you can read about here.

Our other keynote speakers on the first day of Xerocon included Genevieve Bell, a professor at the Australian National University who debated the impact of AI on society today, and Gill Hicks, a London bombings survivor, who raised a thought-provoking discussion on the importance of taking control of the issues you face.

That’s a wrap for day one. Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to doing this again.


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