Diary of Accountex 2016 and 10 days in Trump’s United States

For the last 10 days, Dan Fairbairn (Operations Manager at Waypoint) and Andrew Van De Beek (Director at illumin8) travelled across the USA to visit Accountex 2016, one of the leading accounting and technology conferences held in the states each year.

They share their travel notes below, compiling the highlights of their US trip, the best of Accountex 2016 and catch-ups with some industry players in various cities.

Jetlag, a new President and a beer or four

Our journey began as we flew to Los Angeles on the evening of the US election, landing in the early hours of the morning to discover Trumps’ victory. Interesting times! We met Rhett and Mike from Basis 365, a Xero gold partner and client of Waypoint, as we battled jetlag and tried to work out what a Trump presidency means for the world. All fun and games over a few beers, until the guys discovered the freeway home was blocked by protesters.

Accountex 1 – Waypoint and illumin8 from Waypoint on Vimeo.

After a day at Universal Studios (it’s LA – you must!) and a trip to the Getty Centre, we went our separate ways.

Dan visits Denver

I had an amazing time in Denver, albeit forgetting that when you’re 5,000ft above sea level, you need lots more water and a little less craft beer! I met with simPRO, Xero and two Xero partners, including Christina from AccountingProse. The meeting was delayed due to a doctor’s appointment, but predictably ended in a shot of whisky. From there, I left for Vegas to re-connect with Andrew.

Andrew visits San Francisco and Salt Lake City

I spent two days in one of the most expensive cities in America working in some incredible remote locations, including Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate Bridge. I stayed with a local accountant in Salt Lake, where we had a very interesting conversation about why his company tried the cloud but decided not to use it. I conducted a remote Advisory Board meeting with the rest of the board back in Australia, then jumped on a very early flight after late night post-Utah-Jazz-NBA-game celebrations to meet with Dan.

Las Vegas hosts Accountex 2016

Vegas was, as Vegas always is, a fun time for a short time. We spent three days at Accountex 2016, drawing inspiration from enlightening talks by Xero and Sage amongst others. 

Outside these sessions, we talked to attendees from web-based firms such as CPA, key players like Blake Oliver, and companies looking to explore new technology. We were fortunate to connect with a few like-minded accountants and software peeps from all over the world, including HPC Advisory, QA Business Solutions and AccountKit.

Vegas, whilst an incredible place, is also a dangerous location for a convention. Making it to the morning sessions is not always guaranteed.

Accountex 2 – Waypoint and illumin8 from Waypoint on Vimeo.

Dan and Andrew do Los Angeles

Our last day back in LA was a chance to ‘take it easy’. Forever organised and efficient, we managed to fit in an NBA game, ice hockey game and LA auto show before our 10pm flight!

Takeaways from Dan

It was great to see a completely different geographical market, but recognise familiar names such as Xero.

The drivers in the United States to adopt web-based accounting software seem much less of an incentive than we experience here. US businesses are held back by institutional problems such as the lack of a centralised banking system, and a general wariness of technology. We were surprised to hear questions such as ‘Where do I put all my paper copies?’, and ‘How do I get started?’, which would have been appropriate in Australia five years ago.

I think the USA will have a much more app-centric approach, and this came up in discussions during my meeting in Denver with Xero. In other words, where the UK and Australia seem more willing to move from incumbent systems and ‘work it out as they go’ (we commonly get queries from people who are NOW using Xero, rather than queries from businesses who want to build out their add-ons), US companies seem more focused on getting the whole solution prior to migration.

This is certainly good news for us!

Highlights from Andrew

You don’t realise how diverse the US is until you are immersed in it. The ability to unite a profession in a country so large seems near on impossible.

What I sensed at Accountex was that the accountants present really want to take big steps to improve their businesses, yet can’t see past the current things holding them back. Difficult clients, physical working environments, and PAPER EVERYWHERE.

I have a greater understanding of the bubble we live in Australia, and how far advanced we are compared to other parts of the world when it comes to cloud accounting and business solutions. The sense of excitement we experience in Australia about the benefits of cloud accounting is non-existent in the US. Comparing Accountex to Xerocon, a cloud accounting conference in Australia held earlier this year,  Accountex lacked the fun vibe. Many of the presenters and attendees were just not revved up to be there and advance their profession.

With all that in mind, Accountex 2016 was a fantastic opportunity to offer cloud-based accounting services to US small businesses. Given there is so little movement right now, those who take the early steps will be miles ahead once everyone catches up.