In the first months of 2007, John-Daniel Trask took a risk.
As a passionate techie, he had a dream to help people improve the reliability of the programs they were running for their business. So he co-founded Raygun, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that would help make his vision a reality. The software intelligence platform collects data about faults, performance issues, and affected users, which helps the companies using Raygun to better understand the performance of their software.
As a cash-strapped entrepreneur starting a business, John-Daniel needed a system to manage the finances of his young company that wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg.
Through word of mouth, he’d heard of another young Wellington SaaS start-up that was offering him the ability to track his finances online and in real-time.
“I knew Rod Drury (Xero CEO) and Craig Walker (CTO) from working with them at Intergen/Glazier,” says John-Daniel. “But beyond that, I’d already started hearing around the tech scene in Wellington that ‘oh, Rod has started this thing with Craig’. I thought I’d better check it out.”
“As we were just starting out, we all used our own laptops to save money. But having helped my father with his business accounting software, where he used desktop accounting software, I know what a… excuse me, what a shitshow it was,” laughs John-Daniel.
“Using desktop software means designating one computer in the office to do the accounting. So if I wanted to check how Raygun was doing from home, or traveling, or just in a different location altogether, I was stuffed.”
John-Daniel knew he needed something more modern and less intimidating than an old desktop system.
So with that, John-Daniel took a risk. He walked over to the old Bank Arcade in the capital’s center (Xero’s first headquarters), and signed up to Xero, becoming one of their first customers ever.
The early days
When Xero launched, conversations about the cloud and what the internet and apps can do for business weren’t commonplace.
“I think all credit is due to Rod and Xero for waking up the New Zealand market to the potential of the cloud,” says John-Daniel.
“We didn’t need any convincing — we were a super nerdy SaaS business anyway. But what Xero did was educate the entire country about the tech opportunities that existed for businesses. In fact, they’re still doing it today, with all of the talk about machine learning and AI being the next steps for Xero.”
“What they’ve achieved in terms of helping the technology industry is amazing.”
The tech scene in Wellington helped Xero right back. Through customer feedback and user testing, Xero was able to develop a product people love.
“I mean, when we first signed on, we were coming into Xero’s office to do some user testing on the product,” says John-Daniel. “When Xero was first looking to integrate with Yodlee for international bank feeds, Raygun came in and helped build the first proof of concept.”
“That’s one of the greatest benefits of the technology community in New Zealand. We all work with and help each other, because we’re all working towards growing the sector for our country.”
Ten years on
Looking back over the past ten years, John-Daniel likes to think Raygun and Xero have grown up together.
“When Xero first launched, it was relatively simple and basic. But so were we as a company, so we married well together. For example: Xero didn’t have multi-currency capability all those years back, but we didn’t need it, because we were a boot-strapped startup operating out of Wellington,” says John-Daniel.
“The first thing I remember being impressed by was the bank reconciliations. I mean, we had to write to our bank manager first, using some .pdf form, just to ask for permission for it to be done! But compared to any other program or feature available, bank rec was really easy to do and run. Xero was a really modern take on accounting, especially for someone like me, who had no background in accounting but who needed a strong grasp of the financial performance of my business.”
Another early feature of Xero that John-Daniel enjoyed was the ability to track Raygun’s profit and loss. As a young company earning just a couple of thousands of dollars here and there, money was tight.
“At that stage, every single dollar is significant. To build a business, we needed a strong grasp of the financials. So with the P&L capability in Xero, coupled with the automatic bank feeds, that was just incredible for us. It was great being connected to the numbers any time I needed to be.
CEO Rod Drury says “we’re as proud of Raygun as they are of us. It’s exciting to see how they are also expanding globally and being seen as the leaders in their field.”
Since expanding to the US last year, Raygun has some big clients on their books. Microsoft, Nordstrom, Coca Cola, Virgin, Domino’s Pizza — all of them use Raygun to track how well their software is performing.
When Raygun set up shop in Seattle, they signed up for the US-version of Xero too. They’ve also made use of Xero’s API, by creating a system in their admin site where Raygun’s financial controller can jump in and manage things for the company.
“Xero’s well-meshed into our entire infrastructure,” admits John-Daniel. “My biggest fear is that, as a growing company, we’ll become too big to keep using the software.
“What I’d love is for Xero to scale up to serve larger businesses. I know SMEs are their bread and butter, but I’m terrified of ever having to move off it,” he says.
“I can’t imagine life without Xero.”