Many tech workers and entrepreneurs leave Australia for Silicon Valley, and while for many it’s not the end game, employee share option scheme reform is key to luring them back, according to Xero managing director Chris Ridd. The Australian Consulate-General in San Francisco estimates more than 22,000 Australians are working in the United States and the Valley in particular. Ridd can relate. About 20 years ago when working for a large multinational he had the opportunity to leave Australia and work in Silicon Valley, but would eventually return and is now based in Melbourne. “I think it would be a shame if we had a situation where great talent in Australia and New Zealand felt they had to go to Silicon Valley to pursue career goals and get traction with an idea. But the reality is a lot go over there and come back,” Ridd says. “From my perspective and a lot of people I talk to (that move abroad), the US is not the end game but can be part of furthering your career. But Australia is a cool place to live and we’ve got a lot of innovation here. “So you can pick up some great skills and experiences and bring that back, that would be my hope.” That said, there must be incentive for talent to return to Australia and a big part of that relies on employee share option scheme legislation reform. The startup industry has been lobbying for some time for the government to roll back changes made to the legislation in 2009 which made employee share option schemes essentially unworkable for startups. The government has since promised to introduce new legislation, but has been criticised by Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie and Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes as it would only apply to companies with less than $50 million turnover. Ridd says when he moved from Microsoft to take a job at Xero, a big part of the appeal was the New Zealand-based company was able to offer an employee share scheme. “I took a 50% pay cut when I joined Xero. What got me on board was the act that they were able to offer equity. Equity is a huge value proposition when you’re in startup mode,” he says. “The only option you have at your disposal to attract people from large corporates that have a lot of experience is to offer equity, and to put a tax regime on top of that, that makes it less attractive is insane.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Taxi app and payments platform Ingogo is preparing to roll out its services nationally ahead of an anticipated initial public offering. Founder Hamish Petrie told Private Media the Sydney-based startup is set to expand to Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, having completed an earlier expansion to Melbourne in May of last year. "We started up in Melbourne a year ago, that was a success. Now we're building our network of drivers before launch. In Brisbane we've established an office, and we're building our driver footprint before launching the passenger offering," Petrie says. "We've been working on getting our pay system robust and lots of other things behind the scenes. The mobile apps, systems for hotels and restaurants and various business systems are solid to the point of rolling them out nationally." In August of last year, the company expanded beyond its original taxi booking niche when it launched a portable payment and accounting platform aimed at SMEs in partnership with Xero. Since then, it has been implementing a more professional management structure ahead of an IPO. The restructure has included the appointment of new chief commercial officer Craig Hopper and chief financial officer Trent Jerome. "It's imperative that you have a professional team in place to scale up and you've got to do things in a credible way. Getting the business to that point will be helpful in the corporate market," Petrie says. Petrie says Ingogo is predominantly interested in the IPO to improve its access to capital. "We haven't set an exact date, except that it will happen this year. We've grown our payments business rapidly. We thought we'd do $100 million in payments and we're past that point now," he says. Far from being a hindrance, Petrie says recent controversies at rival Uber has helped Ingogo to grow, and it is unlikely that Apple Pay will be a direct rival to its payment services. "There's been quite a bit of negative sentiment about [Uber]. In contrast, we're safe, we're insured, our drivers are licensed, and our prices are fixed. That's something both our corporate and private passengers say is important to them. "We think [Apple Pay] is fantastic. It brings faster, more convenient digital payments, and we're already set up and ready for digital payments. "The thing is that even if Apple is very successful, 100% of payments will not go through its platform. Our value proposition to a taxi driver is that no matter what method a passenger wants to pay with, we'll be able to do it in a cost effective, efficient fashion." Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian transportation network and mobile payments startup Ingogo has raised $9.1 million, as it increases its focus on mobile payments, ahead of a planned ASX listing next year. The investment round was led by UBS and Canaccord Genuity, and brings on board new investors including MYOB co-founders Craig Winkler and Chris Lee, Pitt Capital, Janchor Partners’ John Ho and a number of Australian and Asian Institutional Funds. It takes Ingogo’s total funding to $16.2 million and values the startup at over $45 million. Interestingly, of the $9.1 million, $1.2 million was raised via equity-based crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd, the first deal facilitated though the platform. Almost 50 sophisticated investors took part in the raise through VentureCrowd, each investing at least $1000, and at least one individual investing $50,000. Australian legislation does not yet allow retail investors to participate in such raises. In August, Ingogo announced it was expanding beyond the taxi industry and had signed a partnership with Xero to roll out its mobile payments platform to small businesses. Ingogo founder and managing director Hamish Petrie says this pre-IPO funding round will help the startup get some “runs on the board” in the mobile payments space, before listing next year. “We talked about listing late this year, but then we reached the partnership with Xero and it seemed premature until we get runs on the board behind that partnership. “ he says. “The strategy is to go and build some momentum behind that opportunity and create more value in the businesses when it lists.” Despite this increased focus on the mobile payments portion of its business, Petrie says it’s not pivoting away from the taxi and transportation industry. “We’re still highly committed to winning the taxi space, and we’re putting a lot of resources into improving both the passenger and driver applications, and some of the smarts behind those applications,” he says. “We’ve divided the businesses in two essentially. To ensure we’re still firmly focused on the taxi opportunity, we’ve literally created a second arm of our business to take the advantages we have in mobile payments and start to broaden that into other verticals. “Xero was the way to take that next step. Our job is to make it easy and seamless for a merchant to accept as many forms as payment as they want.” As for the transportation network side of Ingogo, some of the funds raised will go towards expanding the platform outside of Sydney and Melbourne, the two cities in which it currently operates. Petrie wouldn’t say for sure which city that might be, but says a state capital like Brisbane would be a logical step. Meanwhile, VentureCrowd is hailing Ingogo’s raise as one of the first major examples of how equity crowdfunding can work to provide startups with capital. The platform, powered by Artesian Venture Partners, the firm behind the Sydney Angels Sidecar Fund, an early Ingogo investor, gave the startup access to a large amount of individuals who invested smaller amounts than might typically occur during a raise. Chief operating officer of Artesian Venture Partners, Tim Heasley says the fact that applications were oversubscribed, demonstrates VentureCrowd is a “robust, viable investment platform for startups and investors”. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Failure is not the first word that comes to mind when looking at the career of Rod Drury, co-founder of online accounting software company Xero. But like many entrepreneurs before him, failure led him to his success. Recently he was hosted by Startup Grind Sydney and spoke about how he lost money on his document management startup and gave some tips on how to negotiate successfully. Check out his story in the videos below. On Tuesday, September 16, Startup Grind Melbourne will be hosting Greg Roebuck, the founder and managing director of Australia’s number one automotive internet site carsales.com. The event will be held at The Atrium at NAB HQ in Docklands from 6pm to 9pm. For tickets, head over to Startup Grind’s eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Cloud accounting company Xero has hit monthly recurring subscription revenues of $NZ8.6 million ($A7.93m), passing $NZ100m ($A92m) in annualised revenue for the first time. Full year operating revenue to March 2014 was $NZ70.1m. Xero CEO Rod Drury says passing the $NZ100m annualised revenue mark is a huge milestone for any tech company. “We’re so proud to have got there so quickly,” he says. Xero has also announced it is expanding its presence in Australia with a new office opening in Canberra and the hiring of additional staff. Staff numbers in Australia now total 144 across five offices. Xero says in a statement that it is committed to creating employment opportunities in Canberra, at a time when many public sector jobs are under threat in the ACT following this year’s federal budget. “We see the value in investing in our ACT Partners and customers, and continuing to grow our presence in the region” said Chris Ridd, managing director for Xero in Australia. “We are dedicated to providing localised support across Australian business hubs, such as the ACT, that have shown a real eagerness to adopt cloud-based accounting software.” Xero’s new Canberra office will open on Monday, June 16 and will be located at 10 Rudd Street, Canberra.
The end of the financial year is fast approaching and small businesses need to get their tax affairs in order. Chris Ridd of online accounting software provider Xero outlines strategies to help your business minimise its tax bill. Tax time takes it out of the best of us. A small saving grace is the general rule that you can claim deductions for any expense your business incurs while generating its income. Many of these deductions are straightforward – rent, materials, wages, supplies – but here are five you might not have heard of. Interest – don’t overlook what you can deduct You can deduct any interest on money your business borrows, including interest paid on business loans, overdrafts and other finance facilities. This might sound obvious, but there are other interest expenses you can deduct that can easily be overlooked. Firstly, any interest that is accrued on a business loan but not paid by June 30 is potentially deductible. Secondly, many small business owners fund their business through personal loans or with their personal credit card. And because the interest costs aren’t being incurred by the business itself, but by the business owner, you can claim a deduction on the interest in your own personal income tax. Depreciation – take advantage of the $6500 cap Small businesses shouldn’t forget to claim for depreciation – getting a deduction for the loss of value and wear and tear on the business’ assets. Assets usually have to be depreciated bit by bit over several years, but special rules for SMEs mean that they can get an immediate tax write off for any asset with a value of up to $6500. For example, if your business bought a $4000 computer in the current tax year, the business could claim an immediate 100% tax deduction when you do your tax return. The federal government has signalled it wants to drop the limit to $1000, backdating the change to 1 January 2014. This denies SMEs to take advantage of this concession before it goes out the window (although it remains to be seen if this change will be passed by the Senate). Nonetheless you can, at the very least, take advantage of the $6,500 cap for assets purchased before 31 December 2013. Motor vehicles – drive a better deal with the tax man There are also generous depreciation concessions for small businesses when they buy motor vehicles. SMEs can depreciate cars, trucks or vans and so on more quickly than other businesses. They receive 100% deduction on the first $5000 cost of the vehicle and can then depreciate the rest at 15% in the year they bought it. So a $14,000 car would attract a tax deduction of $6350 in the year of purchase. (If the vehicle cost less than $6500, the whole amount can be claimed as an immediate deduction under the instant asset write-off provisions outlined above.) But, as with the general depreciation rule, the government wants to remove these concessions; the initial deduction on a $14,000 car would then drop to $4200. But, as with the general depreciation rule, the government wants to remove these concessions and backdate them to 1 January. If this happens the initial deduction on a $14,000 car would drop to $4200. Trading stock – profit from your losses Tax time is a good opportunity to do a stocktake to see if you qualify for any deductions on your trading stock – anything you produce, manufacture, purchase for manufacture or sell for your business. You can write off any lost, damaged or obsolete stock for a tax deduction. If your stock level changes by more than $5000, you must take into account the change in value of your trading stock when you work out your taxable income for the year. If the value of the trading stock is higher at the end of the year than at the beginning, then the rise counts as part of your taxable income. But if your stock is worth less you will qualify for a deduction. There are three different methods of valuing stock: the price you bought it for; its current selling value; and its replacement value. You can choose which you use for which piece of stock, giving you the opportunity to maximise your deductions. Bad debts – there is some good news It’s always bad news for a small business when debtors fail to pay for the goods or services you’ve sold them. But at least there’s a small silver lining – you can claim a tax deduction for the bad debt. A bad debt is any debt which has been outstanding for 12 months or more and which you have made a reasonable effort to recover. It pays to go back through your outstanding invoices to find bad debts and write them off before the tax year on June 30. Also, if you calculate your GST on an accrual basis, don’t forget to claim a refund for the GST you paid to the Australian Tax Office when you issued the original invoice. So there you have it: five small business tax deductions to start looking at before the end of the financial year. Chris Ridd is managing director of Xero, an online accounting software provider which helps small businesses get their financial affairs in order. This article was updated after changes were announced in the budget.
The quality of applicants involved in the first Carnegie’s Den event of the year is a significant improvement on those in the past, thanks to partnerships with startup incubators, according to event organisers. Venture capitalist Mark Carnegie says this is because incubators in the Australian startup ecosystem are doing their job. “This round of applications has been of high calibre,” Carnegie says. Created by investment firm MH Carnegie & Co, Carnegie's Den provides a platform for leading Australian entrepreneurs to gain media exposure and direct funding from prospective investors. The finalists hoping to woo prospective investors in Carnegie’s Den this Friday at The Church in Darlinghurst include: Liquorun; an appropriately named crowdsourced liquor delivery service. CricHQ; a cloud-based cricket administration program. APE mobile; a construction and engineering site information management system. TokenOne; a unique two-factor authentication platform that enables users to securely login to third party systems using a patent protected method. Digivizer; a service which searches, analyses, connects and maps the social web and the comments made on it in order to keep clients informed. Switch Automation; a cloud-based energy management and environmental monitoring system that gives users the ability to manage building energy usage online. Selera Labs; a software developer which has developed data analytics that improve financial governance, ensure transactional compliance and automates internal auditing processes. Qwilr; a web-based productivity tool that allows sales teams to create and send the best quotes and pitches to clients. Carnegie said he had noticed pitches geared toward software-as-a-service, which can be attributed to a number of other startups who had been successful in this area in recent years. One such success story is Xero, the cloud accounting software startup that raised $US150 million ($A162m) in capital from a range of investors last October. “They see the low cost to establish and the big prize at the end of the rainbow,’’ he says. For these startups the path to the pot at the end of the rainbow leads through Carnegie’s Den. “We shortlisted 35 startups and met with every one of them,’’ Carnegie and Co investment consultant Zachary Midalia says. “And I made the point of saying to them, we’re not here to humiliate you, we’re not here to create drama, we’re purely here to help an innovative segment of the community.’’
MYOB co-founder Craig Winkler among early investors, as Practice Ignition raises $650,000 seed funding2:08AM | Friday, 21 February
Practice Ignition, an Australian firm that helps accountants to streamline their interaction with clients, has raised $650,000 in seed funding from investors including MYOB co-founder and early Xero investor Craig Winkler. The new funding will go towards expanding the company’s development team and business team. “Our aim is that all accountants across Australia can use our platform by the end of fiscal 2014,” founder Guy Pearson, told StartupSmart. Other investors include New Zealand-based software developer Trineo, several accountants, and Xero’s vice president of payroll, Stuart McLeod. Pearson, a former accountant, is also behind cloud-based services advisor Interactive Accounting. He says the investors who’ve injected funds into Practice Ignition, which was formed in 2012, were people he’d met through his previous venture. “Pitch to people that know your industry or find someone that likes your solution,” he advises fellow entrepreneurs. “That might be 100 cups of coffee later.” The seed funding was in exchange for around 22% equity in the firm, valuing it at $2.5 million. More than 400 accounting practices in 20 countries around the world are currently using Practice Ignition’s platform to on-board new clients, the company says in a statement. The platform automates the creation and acceptance of legal engagement documents and provides tools to collaborate with clients, as well as giving firms the ability to offer real-time quotes and turn traditional websites into a service-based check-out system. Craig Winkler said in a statement that he invested in Practice Ignition because its cloud platform enables accountancy practices to scale up their businesses by automating workflow, invoice and payment tasks. “Practice Ignition re-invents and streamlines the collaboration between advisor and clients, while dramatically reducing administration costs for accountants,” he said.
Ollo Mobile has won a trip to Silicon Valley after beating nine other start-ups in the Small Team, Big Impact competition in Sydney last night. The pitching competition was coordinated by cloud technology computing company RackSpace. Ten start-ups with fewer than 10 team members were selected to compete. Ollo Mobile is a new device and system for panic buttons, which elderly or unwell people can use to alert family members and health authorities when they need help. The other finalists were OpenLearning, Food Orbit, Projectia, Annexium, AuthoPay, Revolutionise, Clipp, Digital Sorbet and Geepers. The start-ups pitched to a judging panel of Mick Liubinskas from incubator Pollenizer, Kim Heras from start-up network PushStart, Ruslan Kogan from Kogan Electronics, Chris Ridd, the country manager from Xero, and Robert Scoble, Rackspace’s international start-up liaison. Scoble told StartupSmart he was excited to see an ecosystem beginning in Sydney, but Australia needed to do more to support entrepreneurs. “San Francisco and New York have ecosystems, as do Tel Aviv, Beijing and Seattle. London kind of has one and Los Angeles is being built. It looks like Sydney has a good one underway. These ecosystems need to keep the geeks in town, or they leave and go somewhere else,” Scoble says. Despite the growing ecosystem, Scoble cautions Australian struggles with employee share schemes (ESS) are a fundamental issue that needed to be overcome quickly. “The laws here aren’t letting start-ups use their stock options and equity to motivate people to shelve their jobs at big companies and come and join start-ups,” Scoble says. “Australia needs to deal with this quickly to support your entrepreneurial talent, or they’re going to leave and take their value with them.” The federal government announced a review of ESS opportunities in June. Scoble adds start-ups need access to money, talent, public relations and business expertise to get their companies to the point they’re turning over billions. “When you’re in San Francisco there is such a strong future culture, you can see it in the streets with people trying new things,” he says. “You need access to the idea that your plans are possible and a city with a great culture that encourages that.”
Melbourne-based payment system start-up Pin Payments has acquired the subscription payment management service and customer base of US-based Spreedly. The acquisition opens up a global network of payment gateways and clients for the start-up which only came out of beta in May. Pin Payments is Australia’s first all-in-one payment system, while Spreedly is a subscription management system. Business development manager Chris Dahl told StartupSmart the acquisition was easier because the two company visions were aligned. “Spreedly is a US-based company following a similar mantra to Pin, in that they're trying to better enable online credit card transactions for businesses,” Dahl says. “Spreedly were working with a couple of global partners, but now they’re with us, it means our client base is global overnight.” Pin Payments was a customer of Spreedly, which was shifting its focus to other products. Pin Payment customers kept requesting a subscription system, and Dahl says the suggestion to buy Spreedly came up in discussions and made a lot of sense. This is the first acquisition for Pin Payments, which has also partnered with leading online store platform Shopify and is also working with accounting software company Xero. “The acquisition was funded mostly through existing capital, with a trailing revenue share between Pin Payments and Spreedly. We expect revenue generated through the subscription business to pay back the cost of the acquisition within a year,” Dahl says. Dahl declined to say how much the acquisition cost. Dahl says the rise of software-as-a-service style businesses has made subscription models increasingly common. While Spreedly managed the subscription model, it still required a payment gateway, so clients required a merchant account. “Our product removed the pain point of having to go and work with the bank and have an approved merchant account. But it didn’t make it really, really easy for businesses to build a subscription business model. But this acquisition means that now they can,” he says, adding that the acquisition means time to market has been drastically reduced again. Dahl says the strategic investment enables Pin to offer a comprehensive subscription management service on top of their existing system. He says Pin Payments will continue to invest and innovate in the service and will be launching the company in New Zealand in the next few months.
Reckon is aiming to shake up the Australian accounting software market when it launches its first cloud-based product Reckon One in the next quarter.
Dan Norris was inspired to set up Informly whilst working in his previous company, a website design agency.
A venture capital firm backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has teamed up with another investor to pour US$49 million into New Zealand-founded start-up Xero, increasing the total amount raised to date by the cloud-based venture to US$67 million.
Peter Thiel has set up a $40 million venture capital fund in partnership with the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, which could be open to Australian start-ups prepared to relocate.
Accountancy software company Xero has raised $15 million to fund global growth and has made its first acquisition for the year, snapping up Max Solutions in a deal worth almost $5 million.
Xero investor and serial entrepreneur Rowan Simpson has invested an undisclosed amount in New Zealand start-up Go Vocab, which plans to internationalise its online language platform.
Australian tech start-up Paycycle, which provides online payroll services, has been snapped up by accountancy software firm Xero for $1.5m, just two years after the company was launched.