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'Technology can be democratised': Xero's Rod Drury on equality, marketing, and building a sustainable business

Xero's CEO shares what he's learned about building a global company - and how tech can be used to promote equality.

Xero boss Rod Drury is honest when he talks about the struggles in getting the word out about your product or service. “Marketing is really changing,” he says. “There’s no playbook for how you build these global brands.”

But understanding data and hacking growth can go a long ways to being able to build your business and serve the needs of customers, he says. And just because you can “connect all your systems and build an automation machine,” you still need to immerse yourself in and connect with your customers.

Of course, Drury knows a thing or two about what he’s saying. After all, Xero is one of Aotearoa’s best-known and best-loved companies, and its cloud accounting software has transformed the global industry.

But he also has some hardware to back up his claims, as Drury was named the Global Marketer of the Year at the Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) World Marketing Congress this past week.

AMS co-director of international programs, Professor Barry J. Babin, says that Drury epitomises what the awards is all about. “The entrepreneurial spirit and drive he shows and his willingness to explore the cutting edges of marketing truly capture the spirit of the AMS mission,” he says. “As you look at the next 10 years, marketing science gets even more interesting as the disciplines of marketing and data sciences interact to create entirely new approaches to build global brands.”

Earlier this year, Xero reached the one million subscriber milestone, with clients in more than 180 countries. But for all of Xero’s success, Drury is also quick to emphasise the importance of promoting equality for everyone, regardless of gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, race, creed, national origin, ability or disability, or anything else about them.

“Technology can be democratised,” he says. “Technology gives us access. Programming can be available for everyone. In New Zealand there’s a really good awareness of diversity in tech.”


In March, Drury tweeted that 42 percent of Xero grads in 2017 are female. It’s a stat he told Idealog earlier this year that he’s particularly proud of. “We think about diversity in all things,” he says. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

It’s also something echoed by Xero managing director Anna Curzon. Speaking to Idealog for International Women’s Day earlier in March, she praised the company’s efforts for greater representation and equality not just internally, but also in the wider community. “What I love is that there is a big audacious purpose and intent behind what we do at Xero. There aren’t many organisations that have the audacity and passion to go out there and attempt to change not just an industry, but rewire entire economies for the greater good. I love working with amazing people every day who share this intent.”

Check out an earlier interview with Anna Curzon: