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Xero hits 1m mark

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Xero recently passed one million subscribers on its global cloud accounting platform, meaning it has doubled subscriber numbers in less than two years and has added nearly 300 000 subscribers in the last year alone.

The online accounting platform Xero has announced it recently surpassed one million subscribers worldwide on its global cloud accounting platform.

Xero has doubled subscriber numbers in less than two years and has quickly grown to become a global accounting platform leader, adding nearly 300 000 subscribers in the last year alone. Xero launched in South Africa in 2016, and has grown rapidly since then.

“Five-and-a-half years ago, at 50 000 subscribers, we asked shareholders to imagine our business at a million subscribers,” Xero CEO and Founder, Rod Drury said. “We invested for the long term to build a business and ecosystem to achieve those numbers. It’s very satisfying to deliver on that promise.

“Starting around ten years ago with our first lines of code, it’s amazing to see the global community who have built businesses on our platform,” Drury said.

Accounting has gone global

With subscribers in more than 180 countries, many are now doing business across borders – not just in their home countries. Cloud technology has reshaped trade over the last decade, and we’re seeing the rise of truly global small businesses that have grown up without the need to operate within the confines of a single country’s borders.

“Only a global platform – on a single global code base like Xero – can offer the opportunity for small businesses and their advisors to expand their businesses offshore, connect to banks in multiple countries and use Xero’s technology and payment partnerships with Google, Apple, Square, Paypal, Stripe and others to do business seamlessly all over the world,” Drury said. “It sets in motion a global network effect as small businesses expand their trade between countries.”

“Many of the 100,000 business advisors who work with their clients on Xero have small businesses that import or export. The increasingly global nature of small business means that, like Airbnb, Amazon, and Facebook, accounting platforms must also be global.  Surpassing one million subscribers positions us as a leading global cloud accounting platform. We’re just getting started.”

Ready for the AI generation

The next wave of accounting innovation is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Xero completed its complex migration to Amazon Web Services, consolidating the platform on a powerful set of technologies that help unlock the power of our vast connections and data. In the last 12 months, Xero has processed more than R10.9 trillion of global economic activity, giving it a unique and high-value dataset to drive insights

and  machine learning.

Xero’s machine learning system can now code invoices for small businesses, categorize expenses and recommend accounting practices to a potential client, automating the busy work of accounting, freeing advisors up to focus on providing clients with expert advice.

“Machine learning and automation will open up the next phase of innovation in accounting, driving a transition in the industry bigger than the move to the cloud did ten years ago. With technology doing more of the time-consuming, data entry work, we will see more accountants take on advisory and virtual CFO roles within the small businesses they support,” Drury said. “Rather than just keying in data, they’re interpreting the output – and with the power of machine learning, they’ll provide higher level advisory services that help clients feel in control of their finances which is a key human function that cannot be replaced.”

Cloud innovation drove Xero’s rise to help more than one million subscribers. Machine learning and automation will be the wave which enables us to scale to service millions of small businesses and advisors around the world.

“Xero has evolved from the market challenger into one of the leading global cloud accounting platforms. The first challenger to surpass one million subscribers is a significant milestone for cloud accounting and validation for an industry which didn’t exist a decade ago. Together with our accounting partners and small business owners, we’re so excited to lead the industry innovation charge.”

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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