October’s here, and we’re thrilled to announce our app partner of the month is XBert – an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered audit and process automation app that identifies anomalies, business patterns, and financial risks in your Xero accounting data. By automating these, often very manual tasks, XBert ultimately saves small businesses and their advisors time and money while giving them confidence in their business data.
Based in Australia’s coastal city – Coffs Harbour, XBert was founded in 2017 by schoolmates Troy Brown and Aaron Wittman. Aaron filled us in on how the team’s life-experiences highlighted just how crucial it is to have reliable business data and how this notion sparked the idea to create XBert.
Learning life lessons
For many years, Troy and Aaron ran successful digital businesses in marketing and e-learning, respectively. However, grappling with incomplete and inaccurate accounting data made life difficult for them both.
“XBert was built out of lessons we learnt from the school of life. Both of our businesses were negatively impacted by errors in our financial data,” Aaron says.
For Troy, these errors meant his books looked better than they were, leading to fatal business decisions. For Aaron, duplicated invoices from a simple bookkeeping mistake was just one of the issues that led to inaccurate financials.
“We came together and agreed that there has to be a better way. There has to be something that people can use to monitor and be alerted of issues in their business, without needing to be a specialist,” Aaron continues.
Their experiences highlighted the importance of business owners having access to timely and trustworthy data to support decision-making. With this in mind, the two went out into their community and talked to other business owners. They wanted to know if they’d experienced similar challenges, and then pitched their ideas for solutions. After hearing similar stories, and getting positive feedback on their pitches, they knew they were onto something. The foundations for XBert were set.
Getting the data to get started
The idea that would become XBert was centred on cloud technology and the latest developments in AI and machine learning. Troy and Aaron wanted a system that could give small businesses and their advisors assurance that accounting and financial data was accurate and up-to-date. To do this, they created an AI powered by algorithms and fueled on data. And not just any data – they needed a lot of accounting and ledger data to help ‘train’ their AI and hone their product.
“At the start, we wanted to solve problems. However, you just can’t solve them until you get access to the right information, and that takes trust. We built the tools and frameworks, but to get anywhere, a lot of it came down to relationships,” says Aaron.
Through continuously networking with local businesses, the team was able to slowly build a database that provided enough information to train and sharpen their AI. A process of patience, the XBert team eventually formed a smart product that could comb through accounting data to help businesses succeed.
AI-powered insights and alerts
XBert stands for Expert Business Alerts, and is also the name of the algorithms behind XBert’s insights. These clever algorithms are the secret to XBert’s success. They are trained to audit Xero accounting data and bank feeds on an hourly basis. In the process, these ‘XBerts’ provide alerts on cash flow issues, errors, anomalies and patterns that can be difficult to spot manually.
“An example is a bill that’s incorrectly entered against a contact or supplier with different bank details, meaning that you’re going to pay the wrong supplier. XBert can look at the bill, and compare details such as the items or business number against the ledger or ABR [Australian Business Register] and flag it,” explains Aaron.
This ‘mini-audit’ then pushes its findings to a dashboard for business owners, advisors and other relevant users so they can assess and take action. XBert can even highlight potentially fraudulent activity.
“XBert recently uncovered that a client’s employee had set themselves up as a supplier in their system. We were able to detect that the same bank accounts existed for both employee and supplier. The client was able to see that and deal with it,” Aaron tells us.
These benefits combine to save small businesses time and money, while giving confidence in the data they rely on to make decisions. This also frees up time for advisors so they can focus on providing insights and interpretations of accounting data for their clients’ success.
Aaron sees XBert and Xero as a team making people’s lives easier.
“XBert helps keep across everything happening in Xero and makes sure what’s going on is done well. Together we reduce the manual effort and time required to run the accounting side of a business. This frees up valuable people to do more valuable things,” he says.
Growth through listening and learning
With a large number of ‘XBerts’ already under their belt, Aaron, Troy and the team are working hard to continually improve their already impressive offering.
When asked about the next five years, Aaron says: “In this business, five years is a long time away. But one thing’s for sure – we’ll listen, we’ll learn, and we’ll react. And we’ll keep building XBert to be the product that our clients want and need.”
Get more confidence in your data by checking out XBert in the Xero app marketplace. While it’s currently only accessible via the Australian version of the marketplace, XBert is available for other regions but excludes tax-specific integrations. If you’re outside of Australia, you can set this up directly via XBert’s website here using your Xero login.
Read about why XBert Founder, Troy Brown, thinks quality data is so important in XBert’s app partner guest blog here.