Xero snares former Microsoft CFO as chair

The accounting software company is expanding further into the US, with senior roles being filled by three new hires with combined experience from HP, Microsoft, PayPal, and Intuit.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor and  Corinne Reichert, Contributor

New Zealand cloud accounting software startup Xero has strengthened its US team, appointing a US-based director and an additional chairman of the board, as well as setting up the new role of CEO, North America. News of the company signing three highly experienced employees comes after its recent NZ$180 million capital raise in October last year.

Announced on Wednesday, the new CEO of the North American arm of the business, Peter Karpas, was previously PayPal's vice president and general manager, North America, for SMBs. Prior to that, Karpas worked at accounting software rival Intuit.

"We are thrilled to have Peter join our team and lead our US business," Xero CEO and founder Rod Drury said today. "His proven leadership, comprehensive familiarity with the B2B market in North America in both accounting and payments will help our drive for growth in the US, where there are over 29 million small businesses."

Karpas commences as CEO, North America, on February 24.

New chairman of the board, Chris Liddell.
Image: Xero

The new chairman of the board, Chris Liddell, previously worked as vice chairman and chief financial officer of General Motors, and was employed as senior vice president and CFO of software company Microsoft from 2005-09.

Finally, joining the board as an independent director is Bill Veghte, executive vice president and general manager of computing giant HP's enterprise group. Prior to that, he, too, worked for Microsoft, serving as corporate vice president for Windows Server, corporate vice president of North America, and senior vice president.

Drury said the appointments position the New Zealand-based company strongly in the US and globally.

"Adding their combined experience and capabilities will help us become the global leader in small business financial software," he said.

Liddell, who more resently served as CFO and vice chairman of General Motors, replaces Sam Knowles who has chaired Xero for the last three years.

Xero's founders launched the company in the cloud, citing resilience, scalability, and uptime as reasons for deploying SQL Server 2012 on Rackspace infrastructure.

"With that rapid growth, we have had the need to quickly scale and change that scale really fast," Oliver Furniss, product manager at Xero, said in September. "Resilience is certainly also a challenge. This is our business, and our business is in the cloud, so uptime and performance is just fundamental to everything that we do.

"The benefit of the cloud is that we can schedule those planned releases and maintenance windows so it doesn't impact business customers. We can release often and constantly if and when we want to release an upgrade."

In October 2013, the company announced a 12-month global customer growth of 89 percent and an Australian customer base growth of 143 percent. As of September 30, Xero had 211,300 paying customers on its books.

"We now have 79,100 paying customers in Australia, almost two and half times the previous year," Xero Australia managing director Chris Ridd said at the time. "We are seeing an entire industry coming together, made up of accountants, bookkeepers, financial advisers, add-on developers, cloud integrators, and even banks, recognising the opportunity to connect via the cloud and drive productivity gains for small business.

"All of these factors make us confident about the continued popularity of Xero online accounting software in Australia against the incumbents."

In the 12 months to September 2013, Xero also doubled its global workforce to 584 employees. Its operating revenue for the first half of FY 2014 exceeded NZ$30.3 million; up 84 percent on the previous year, once revenue from its discontinued Xero Personal product is subtracted.

In November, the software vendor announced several new features, including support for purchase orders and a new payroll service.

Xero has development offices in New York, San Francisco, Wellington, Auckland, Canberra, and Melbourne, with sales and support offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

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