IT manager turns investor
Former Xero country manager Leanne Graham hopes to help spread the success enjoyed by the NZX-listed darling to other software firms after pumping $500,000 into Auckland cloud computing company GeoOp.
Graham, who left Xero in December after a four year stint with the firm, expected it would be the first of two or three investments she would make through Cloud Rainmakers, a company she set up to reinvest the knowledge and cash she had accumulated in her 25 years in the industry.
Graham will also become the part-time chief executive of 11-person GeoOp.
It was a little scary to switch from being a corporate manager to an investor, she said. "In saying that, the opportunity is now. This is the next generation of firms that is going to do huge things like Xero has done and I couldn't miss out on that."
GeoOp sells cloud-based job-costing software that can integrate with Xero and other applications. Graham said it stood out, in part because of its ability to support the use of GPS technology to track mobile workers. "Are your workers on the job, or 'on the job'? Know for sure," is one of its marketing slogans.
Founder Nick Bartlett said laws on whether employers could insist that staff used GPS tracking devices on work mobiles varied from country to country. They were unclear in New Zealand, while some Australian states had strict laws against it. Because of that, GeoOp had designed its software so the feature could be switched off by each worker.
Bartlett said Graham's investment would let GeoOp open offices in the United States and Britain over the coming year.
Graham said GeoOp aimed to capitalise on the business productivity potential of smartphones.
"If you put 100 'tradies' in a room a year ago and asked them to pull out their phones, they would have pulled out a Nokia 64 or flip-phone Motorola. If you did the same today, 95 per cent would have a smartphone but they would probably not yet be using it for business purposes other than possibly email and text."
Graham said the three year-old firm earned three-quarters of its revenues from overseas, had upped sales by 475 per cent during the past year and would probably seek a further $1 million-plus from other investors in a new funding round.
"Xero has laid the foundations for small businesses to say it's okay to have their business information in the cloud."