Even on a cell phone from nearly 9,000 miles away, you can feel Rod Drury’s energy.

The co-founder and CEO of Xero, the cloud-based accounting software company that this year made it to the top of 2014’s Innovative Growth Companies list, Drury was speaking enthusiastically from his base in New Zealand about what led him and Hamish Edwards to found Xero in 2006.

“It always upset me that big, financial software was so hard to actually extract information from,” he said. “We began to see what was happening in the consumer web—that you could start to build these really neat, engaging web applications and not have to install software. Yet we weren’t seeing that innovation happen in small business. So to me, there was a very obvious opportunity.”

A self-described software nerd, Drury locked himself in his office at home for a few weeks and wrote an early online relational bit of accounting software.

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