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Done Deal: Recent fundings secured, contracts inked and deals done, for the tl;dr crowd

Xero is replacing founder Rod Drury as CEO.

Drury will be replaced by Steve Vamos, who takes over on April 1.

“Over the past 18 months Steve has worked closely with Xero’s executive team developing its management capability and operating model,” a press release from Xero stated. “Steve has more than 30 years’ experience in technology and digital media including roles at three iconic companies: IBM, Apple and Microsoft. He has lived and worked in Australia, the USA and Asia, and is a proven leader with the skills and discipline to drive Xero in its next phase of global growth.’

Xero Chair Graham Smith said: “Succession planning has been high on the Board’s agenda and with the business performing strongly, we believe the time is right to make the transition at CEO level. We believe Steve Vamos brings an invaluable skill set to lead Xero. He has worked in some of the world’s largest tech companies and is a recognised, purpose-driven people leader, with a focus on growth and operational excellence.”

Said Drury: “It’s been a huge 11-plus years building Xero. It’s amazing to consider we started with just four people in a small Wellington apartment and we now have over 2,000 people across 17 offices in eight countries, and over 1.2 million subscribers. I’m so proud of the Xero team, the community that’s formed around us, the positive impact we’ve had on our customers, and the shareholder value we’ve created.

“Steve has demonstrated to the Board and me that he has the skills and experience we need to execute Xero’s next phase of growth, while I contribute to strategy as a non-executive director with my passion for product innovation.”

Vamos, a former CEO of Microsoft Australia said he was excited to get to work. “What Rod and Xero have accomplished is rare and remarkable. I’m excited to have this opportunity to lead Xero’s growth and development going forward. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Xero leadership team and we have a clearly communicated strategy, which we are committed to executing.”

Drury will remain with Xero as a non-executive director. The move was announced on Monday.

Incoming Xero CEO Steve Vamos.

Soul Machines, best known for bringing digital humans “to life,” has entered into a new partnership with Daimler Financial Services.

The move comes as Soul Machines debuted “Sarah,” a digital human designed to help Daimler Financial Services customers with personalised at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“Sarah combines artificial and emotional intelligence for a completely new experience which redefines the link between man and machine,” claimed a press release about the development. “She will be able to assist customers similar to a personal concierge, with the goal of offering the right information at the right time with a convenient and emotionally intelligent, digital touchpoint.”

Said Soul Machines chief business officer Greg Cross: “We have a fundamental belief that in the age of artificial intelligence we are entering, machines can be more useful if they are more like us. Businesses today risk losing customers through impersonal online experiences. We’re thrilled to partner with leading companies like Daimler Financial Services based on a mutual belief that the future of highly-personalised, successful customer experiences is rooted in human-like interactions powered by technologies like artificial intelligence.”


This latest partnership builds on a growing number of agreements that Soul Machines has recently announced. In November 2017, the company announced a partnership with Autodesk, the software maker for people who make things, for AVA. AVA is Autodesk’s digital human that provides customers access to a service agent 24/7—answering questions, directing them to content and completing transactions.

Earlier this month, Royal Bank of Scotland’s, NatWest Bank, a large retail and commercial bank in the United Kingdom, also announced that it has been working with Soul Machines on a pilot for Cora, its customer service digital human. Already in advanced testing, Cora has more than 100,000 conversations per month.

Each of these customer solutions are built on top of IBM Watson to provide a customer experience that goes way beyond the traditional AI user interface of chatbots and voice assistants.


Cloud-based HR software provider Pivot Software has been bought by Australian company ELMO Software Limited.

Based in Christchurch, the Pivot will continue to operate, and there will be no change for existing customers.

 “We are excited to be joining with ELMO to provide the market with a complete suite of HR solutions,” said Pivot founder and CEO, Philippa Youngman. “This will enable Pivot to further accelerate our growth in the Asia-Pacific market, and provide our clients with access to specialised and functionally rich HR solutions for the complete employee lifecycle. There is significant opportunity for a regionally-based provider to service this market with a comprehensive HR solution, which is what the combined group will offer the market.”

Youngman also said there were no plans for layoffs as a result of the acquisition, and she would remain as Pivot’s CEO.

The father and daughter team behind silk clothing brand Silkbody will step down from the business next month as they hand over the reins to a Wellington buyer. The business is currently based in Dunedin, and will shift operations to Wellington in April. The 16 year-old brand is known for its lifestyle clothing in silk and silk blends.

We have been enjoying significant growth over the last three years and felt it needed a fresh approach to manage this growth and really take it to the next level,” designer and director Emily Cooper said. “It is the right time to hand the baton over. We’re excited for this next phase for the brand.”

The New Zealand Fashion Museum describes Silkbody as “an example of a thriving fashion enterprise – utilising New Zealand design and marketing skills and off-shore production – in the post-protectionist environment. It is also proof positive that you don’t need bells and whistles to produce a successful clothing label. Silkbody specialises in the classic wardrobe fashion essentials most directional designers are too busy to bother about.”

Silkbody’s business model changed around four years ago as David and Emily shifted from a traditional distribution model of selling to retailers, to selling almost exclusively online, direct to customers through their own ecommerce sites and the Amazon marketplace. More than half its sales are exports to customers in Europe, the United States, and Australia.

New owners Laurian and Darryl Godwin are excited about relocating the business to Wellington with its burgeoning creative fashion scene. Although the business model will remain predominantly online sales, they look forward to establishing a small retail presence.

Emily Cooper, Laurian Godwin and David Cooper.

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