Why Ho Chi Minh City is a bootstrapper's paradise

6:49PM | Sunday, 14 June

When I moved to Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by many locals) I didn’t know a single person and had never been to Vietnam.   I’d heard it was a good place to base my software startup: a place with a global community of like-minded founders.   It turned out to be the right decision as it enabled me to open up a whole new customer base and find developer talent to help rebuild our online voting technology, Townhall.   It was a leap of faith after hearing that Saigon is a hotspot for startups. There’s a plentiful supply of local designers and developers who can help build web services and help startups get their products to market. Language hasn’t been a barrier.   I founded townhall, in Australia two years ago and I thought it was time to take things to the next level. When I signed up customers like the City of Auckland and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs via online meetings, I realised I didn’t need to be in Melbourne to run the business.   Moving to Vietnam allowed me to assemble a team and rebuild the platform from scratch for a fraction of the price it would have cost in Australia.   Vietnam is also a good location from which to connect with customers. I’m striking deals in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. Meanwhile it’s still in a time zone that makes it easy to connect with and support my Australian and New Zealand customers. There is a strong presence of international business people – digital nomads – who are either working for companies here, or running their own business from where they please.   Many people are now choosing to do this. A lot are here in Saigon because it’s a great ecosystem. Things like fast internet, an international airport. Low cost of living, social life and plentiful coffee are ingredients that make it possible for digital nomads to run their businesses and have a good life.   As most startup founders know, the early years can be really tough financially. Here in Saigon I’m eating out, having massages and getting my nails done, all for a quarter of what it was costing me to live in Melbourne.   Keren Flavell is the co-founder of townhall.

Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane among the world’s most vibrant startup event scenes: Survey

2:48PM | Sunday, 22 February

Sydney and Melbourne are in the top 10 cities outside the US for meetup groups, with Brisbane and Auckland also in the top 20, according to figures from US data analytics firm RJMetrics.   It is worth noting that the figures count the total number of memberships in each city, rather than the number of unique members. This means that one person who belongs to six groups will be counted as six memberships in the figures.   The figures show Sydney has 47,152 memberships, making it the sixth largest startup community outside the US, narrowly beating out seventh-placed Melbourne with 38,888. Meanwhile, Brisbane claims 16th place while, across the Tasman, Auckland takes out the 18th spot.   1 London, GB 210,148 2 Toronto, CA 73,476 3 Tel Aviv-Yafo, IL 63,699 4 Paris, FR 52,789 5 Vancouver, CA 52,366 6 Sydney, AU 47,152 7 Melbourne, AU 38,888 8 Bangalore, IN 37,963 9 Berlin, DE 32,652 10 Amsterdam, NL 30,902 11 Stockholm, SE 28,349 12 Oslo, NO 23,306 13 Pune, IN 16,690 14 Singapore, SG 16,612 15 Madrid, ES 15,947 16 Brisbane, AU 15,033 17 Hyderabad, IN 14,665 18 Auckland, NZ 13,115 19 Barcelona, ES 12,800 20 Budapest, HU 12,712   Silicon Beach Sydney organiser Bart Jellema told StartupSmart Australia’s startup meetup groups have grown tremendously over recent years.   “Five or six years ago there were a bunch of us, but no meetups – I think [muru-D’s] Mick Liubinskas might have been one of the first to organise one – so we decided to meet up. At times, we’ve had 40 people per week and other times just a handful. It’s been interesting to see it go from nothing to such a strong community,” Jellema says.   “You don’t go to events to try to get something out of it. But at some stage, someone will talk about a service that’s useful to you, or perhaps you’ll meet a lawyer or accountant and they’ll give you a recommendation.”   The sentiment is shared by Startup Victoria event manager Thomas Anbeek, who describes networking events as crucial to the startup ecosystem.   “They’re a central meeting point where founders who work alone can get together one day a week and drink some beer, eat pizza and make connections,” Anbeek says.   “Networking is crucial. As a founder, you’re doing it by yourself. But building a business is not something you can do alone, and so it’s crucial to have people around who can help you.”   Aside from Silicon Beach, regular Sydney meetups include the Sydney Tech Startup Meetup, Disruptive Startups Sydney, the Fishburners meetups, Sydney Startups Friday Drinks, Startup Grind Sydney, Lean Startup Sydney and Startup Founder 101. Meanwhile, key Melbourne meetups include Lean Startup Melbourne, Melbourne Silicon Beach, Startup Grind Melbourne and Startup Melbourne.   There are also more specialist meetup groups for areas such as robotics, health tech and fin tech in most of the major capital cities, while many regional startup communities in cities such as Cairns, Bega, Geelong, Wollongong and Toowoomba also host regular or semi-regular events.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Equitise launches its crowdfunding platform in New Zealand

1:28AM | Friday, 30 January

Equity crowdfunding platform Equitise launched in New Zealand on Friday, with one startup seeking to use the platform to raise $350,000.   The launch comes shortly after the startup closed a $500,000 funding round, led by a venture capitalist from Sydney. Equitise co-founder Chris Gilbert told StartupSmart he expects a larger funding round to follow later this year.   “Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of my time in New Zealand getting Financial Markets Authority (FMA) licence – the FMA being New Zealand’s main financial regulator. Before Christmas, we obtained our FMA equity crowdfunding licence,” Gilbert says.   “The New Zealand launch went live this morning, and we’ve had the first people validating their business ideas through the platform.”   The first company to use the platform is tourism travel guide Tourism Radio NZ, which had revenue over $950,000 in 2014. Gilbert says it has already secured $50,000 in funding and is seeking to raise $350,000, having already secured funding from a high-profile New Zealand-based angel investor.   The second deal, set to go live in the coming days, is an Auckland-based biotech business working on cystic fibrosis. It’s already raised $1 million and is looking to raise $2 million.   Equitise relocated from Sydney to New Zealand, where equity crowdfunding legislation is already in place, rather than wait for legislation to be implemented in Australia.   There was concern that Australian legislation might not be implemented until next year, but progress has quickened. Gilbert says equity crowdfunding legislation in Australia is starting to take shape, and he has been spending time with parliamentarians discussing the reforms.   The consultations included a round-table meeting involving ASIC, Treasury officials, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson and six or seven platform providers. Treasury is in the process of gathering submissions as to what the legislation should look like.   While there are still intricacies of the reform to iron out around investors and capital, Gilbert says the reforms are on track to be implemented sometime around the middle of this year.   “The federal government has been supportive since it has become aware of equity crowdfunding as an issue, and I’m confident we’ll see changes soon,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Online community is trying to fetch itself some funding on Kickstarter

9:19AM | Sunday, 7 September

Popular community-driven online newsletter The Fetch has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with founder Kate Kendall saying it is an important opportunity for the community to help it succeed.   Originally launched as a side project in March 2011, The Fetch is a weekly newsletter that curates the best events, news, jobs and must-reads for its community of professionals.   Having started in Melbourne, editions were added covering cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. There is also a ‘global’ edition for those living further afield.   Kendall told Private Media The Fetch community has grown organically through word of mouth as regular readers recommend it to their friends and colleagues.   “From Melbourne, there were volunteers to help it spread to cities around the world,” Kendall says. “There were editions in 10 cities across Asia, the US and Europe. It became a dependable local resource for work life.   “So part of The Fetch ethos is that it’s community driven with people volunteering their time to curate it. That’s very time consuming, and a lot of that time is spent on the admin side of things. At the same time, there’s a lot of community love from people saying they love The Fetch and miss it when it doesn’t come.”   Now, in a bid to grow the community further, Kendall is seeking to raise $25,000 through Kickstarter, with 41 backers already pledging $2566 to the campaign.   If successful, the funds will be used to create a community platform incorporating a mobile-optimised web app, new editions in 66 additional cities, better event categories, new features such as calendar syncing and increased customisation.   In addition, aside from its current focus, covering business, tech and creative industries, the crowdfunding campaign will allow for the creation of industry-specific editions. These will cover verticals such as the marketing industry, the arts community, the media, the sharing economy and sustainability.   “We really want the platform to allow users to customise their fetch feed, drill down into more industry verticals, see when similar people and friends are going to events and simplify posting events,” Kendall says.   “The community platform will allow people to see events in real time rather than waiting for the weekly newsletter.   Kendall describes the campaign as currently being “very much in the pre-outreach phase”, with a long initial deadline for the campaign of 40 days.   “So far, it’s been internally driven and we’ve raised 10% of our target. We’re really to have 40 backers generated through our internal networks and contacts. From Monday, we’ll go more public and begin our outreach efforts through email,” she says.   “Part of a community-driven platform is that it should be up to the community to see it succeed if it is valuable and useful. This is the one opportunity to see it continue to exist.   “If it doesn’t succeed, The Fetch will become a global newsletter of interesting articles, without the events section.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Getting to $1 million: Lynda Greening

6:30PM | Sunday, 22 June

In this new Friday series we talk to Entrepreneurs' Organisation members about cracking the $1 million in revenue mark.   About Lynda Greening   Lynda is a serial entrepreneur with more than 30 years of publishing, marketing and advertising expertise, as well as owner/operator business experience.   In the early 1980s, initially with a newborn baby and a massive 26.5% finance company loan and virtually zero equity, Lynda bought and operated two motels, which took her equity from $0 to $196,000 in just 14 months.   She progressed to the purchase of an island resort in the Cook Islands, turning a $750,000 annual turnover with around 50% occupancy to more than $3m annual turnover and over 85% occupancy in just under four years.   This business, which was purchased in early 1983 for $196,000 was sold in late 1986 for a property and cash settlement in excess of $1million.   In 1987, Lynda purchased a wholesale food and beverage distribution business in Auckland, and while the business was improving rapidly, the stock market crash of October 1987 reduced the value and profitability of the business substantially. The business was sold in 1989 and Lynda moved to Australia.   Lynda conceived of and operated a tourism publications business in north Queensland in the early 1990s, introducing new publication concepts for the new but lucrative backpacker market. She also established and managed the Cairns Sun newspaper for News Limited in Cairns.   After moving to Perth in 1998 she was general manager of a mining publications business, state sales manager of The Australian Financial Review, national operations manager of Telenet Corporation (sales division for the Internet directory company, 131SHOP) and an account manager with the Austereo Radio Network.   Taking the opportunity of moving to Sydney in mid-2001, Lynda progressed with her desire to establish a catalogue publishing company. Twelve years on Emerald Media Group prospers and is now the umbrella for a number of advertising publications, a marketing and advertising agency (print and digital) specialising in the B2B niche and Infusionsoft Partners, Consultants and Trainers.   Advice about getting to $1 million in revenue: "I am a little surrounded by wannabe entrepreneurs that are time-sellers, and it is not until the new business person gets it, as in, they scale their value instead of selling their time for money.   “Selling your time for money would mean every hour of your working day needs to be valued at $500 to achieve that magic million in one year, and there's not that many people that can achieve that price.   “But create something once for your $500 worth of time that you can sell multiple times or with a healthy margin and you'll start getting to the $1 million more easily.   “I had breakfast last weekend with a couple of new entrepreneurs where I encouraged them to package their offerings and not quote any time element, and they have since emailed me to tell them this was a break-through for them."

Why do some people seem to win all the time?

3:46AM | Wednesday, 13 March

I have spent my life looking for that ‘big break’ or some get-rich-quick scheme.

The Cheesecake Shop does away with master franchisors

3:37AM | Monday, 11 March

The Cheesecake Shop has finalised the restructure of its franchise group following the expiry of its master franchise agreement in New Zealand, which means all franchisees now deal directly with the franchisor.

Pie Face strikes deal to open more than 60 NZ stores

9:41AM | Thursday, 13 September

Australian food franchise Pie Face plans to open more than 60 stores in New Zealand after granting an exclusive license to two local businessmen.

NZ franchising sector poses challenges for Aussie firms: Report

8:47AM | Friday, 17 August

Australian franchisees should think twice before expanding to New Zealand, according to a new report, which highlights challenges within New Zealand’s fledgling franchising sector.

Cafe2U launch to capitalise on Kiwi coffee culture

7:01AM | Friday, 27 July

Sydney-based company Cafe2U is the latest franchise to launch in New Zealand, one month after announcing plans to appoint more than 1,000 additional franchisees in the United States.

How Nanotek took eight years to find a NZ master franchisee

6:27AM | Thursday, 21 June

The founder of Nanotek has revealed what the company is looking for in a master franchisee, after admitting it took eight years to find the perfect candidate for the New Zealand market.

Mag Nation to close poor-performing Auckland store

6:18AM | Wednesday, 13 June

Specialist magazine retailer Mag Nation has announced the closure of its foundation store in Auckland, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of setting up shop elsewhere in the New Zealand city’s CBD.

ANZ Innovyz START names inaugural start-ups for accelerator program

5:26PM | Monday, 28 May

A marketplace for pre-loved baby items and a farm business management software provider are among the 10 companies selected to take part in the first three-month ANZ Innovyz START program.

Soul Virgins

5:21PM | Monday, 21 May

Soul Virgins has set itself the task of making non-alcoholic drinks sophisticated, launching several non-alcoholic beverages made with fruit concentrates and natural flavours.

Xero acquires Max Solutions after raising $15m

3:54AM | Friday, 15 March

Accountancy software company Xero has raised $15 million to fund global growth and has made its first acquisition for the year, snapping up Max Solutions in a deal worth almost $5 million.

NextDC raises additional $10m for data centre expansion

4:55AM | Wednesday, 20 April

Data centre start-up NextDC has defended its decision to raise $10 million more than expected from its offer to existing shareholders, saying the funds will position the company to pursue additional growth opportunities.

Christchurch earthquake could drive up reinsurance pricing

2:36PM | Monday, 28 February

The devastating earthquake in Christchurch may have an impact on reinsurance pricing across the Tasman with premiums potentially rising for Australian businesses.

Turning the page on the Mag Nation doubters

2:36AM | Wednesday, 2 February

Sahil Merchant isn’t afraid of a challenge. According to friends, potential investors and even the magazine industry itself, his start-up Mag Nation didn’t have a chance of succeeding. Five years and more than four million customers later, Merchant didn’t just beat the odds. He smashed them.

Getting your start-up on the map

4:55AM | Friday, 27 April

The recent entry of social network giant Facebook into the geolocation game has sparked a wave of interest in location-based apps, with digital experts the world over predicting the likes of Facebook Places and Foursquare will soon be mainstream.