The University of Melbourne’s Tin Alley beta program is set to expand, with three universities – Monash, Swinburne and Tasmania – joining the initiative. As program co-founder Miguel Wood told StartupSmart, the program helps to bring together startups with enthusiastic tech students. “The program is a form of community infrastructure that fulfils a core need, and that’s access to talent, bringing together stakeholders,” Wood says. “Startups spend a lot of time and effort on looking for tech talent, while students often don’t know to look to find opportunities to work for startups.” An official announcement of the expanded program will take place at an event at the offices of 99Designs in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. While applications for the 2014 program don’t open until mid-August, Wood says the event will be a good opportunity for startups to get familiar with the program. “It’s really to announce the program expansion, explain how the process will work for the expanded program, and it’s an opportunity for startups to talk with partners, fellow startups and ex-students,” he says. For startups wishing to go further, Miguel warns that the selection process is competitive in finding the best startups for the talent. “It’s a fairly basic online application that involves the need for tech talent and the potential role for people being selected, then there’s an independent panel of peers to make a selection on the best environment for the student,” he says. The original program ran last year and paired five Melbourne University undergraduates with local startups to get a feel for what running their own tech company looks like.
Google has partnered with incubator Fishburners, in a six figure deal, to implement its startup outreach program Google for Entrepreneurs to help facilitate the growth of the startup community. The partnership will see Fishburners become part of the global network of Google’s 30 startup hubs, allow companies based at Fishburners access to the Google framework for startups, as well as international innovation programs. It will also be renovating and doubling its space, including a ‘physical’ Google Hangout. Fishburners chief Daniel Noble says that the partnership was a good fit based on the fact that Fishburners acts as a not-for-profit and does not take equity or invest directly in startups accepted to its programs. Startups apply for space at Fishburners and commit to a 20-month program until they are ready to move on. Successful applicants pay for their time there with desks being charged at $400 a month. “We’re about equipping startups to be better formed companies when they go to market, or seek investment,” Noble says. “Too often companies try and do things much too early.” Part of the Google deal will also be a push to encourage more female entrepreneurs. In a blog post announcing the deal, Google says: “From the Cochlear bionic ear to Wi-Fi, Australia has a long history of innovation. Local-born innovations and startups like Atlassian, Freelancer, 99Designs, and Shoes of Prey are flourishing in global markets with the help of the web. While we’ve seen the growth of the startup community in recent years, we know there’s still a long way to go.” One of the first programs on offer is BlackBox Connect, a two-week immersion program in Silicon Valley. A Fishburners’ based startup will be selected to spend a week on Mountain View and have access to Google’s network of experts. “Supporting local tech startups is vital to Australia's future economy. We know the talent, drive and potential for innovation is all here; we hope to help realise the full potential of Aussie entrepreneurs,” concludes the blog post.
Australian DesignCrowd, a global crowdsourcing marketplace for design work, has acquired Worth1000, home to over 600,000 graphic designers and enthusiasts. While no financial details of the acquisition were made public, DesignCrowd COO Chris McNamara told StartupSmart they had acquired 100% of the company and no staff would be coming across. McNamara says the acquisition means that DesignCrowd will have more graphic design talent than if you knocked on the door of every design agency in the US, Australia and the UK combined. “Our goal is to build a global marketplace that is home to the most creative people on the planet," McNamara says. “This acquisition is just another step towards that.” Worth1000 is a popular design community website that runs creative competitions of all types, including effects contests (otherwise known as ‘photochop’ or photoshop contests), photography contests, illustration contests, writing contests and more forms of multimedia. It has a strong reputation for being community-driven. Worth1000 has never been properly monetised, and was only sold late last year to US firm Emerge Media, from whom DesignCrowd acquired it. McNamara says that they were mindful of working with the existing Worth1000 community to understand what they wanted and are already looking to bring on a community manager to solidify that relationship. “We’re in the process of understanding deeply how existing users are using Worth1000, and part of our approach going forward will be mindful of that,” he says. The migration process of Worth1000’s users has already begun, and DesignCrowd’s user base will be growing significantly in the next few weeks as a result. DesignCrowd recently opened an office in San Francisco to grow their US presence and are on a mission to expand globally after $3 million funding from Starfish Ventures last year. DesignCrowd’s biggest competitors are fellow Australian-owned 99Designs, which has a bigger market share to date and also has a more established market share in the US. What impact the acquisition makes on that remains to be seen. The success of both companies has been buoyed by the phenomenal growth in crowdsourcing and competition incentivised platfoms. “A growing number of businesses around the world are looking to online crowdsourcing communities to get work done, and we’re working hard to support this demand globally,” says McNamara.
Investors, founders, and an enthusiastic crowd of startup ‘wantrepeneurs’ packed into Inspire9’s Richmond offices last night to celebrate the launch of new not-for-profit Startup Victoria, which aims to grow the local startup community. Speaking to StartupSmart, Startup Victoria chair Leni Mayo said the Victorian startup scene’s biggest challenge is the lack of good product people. Mayo, the founding investor in a host of startups including 99Designs, Flippa and Learnable, hopes Startup Victoria can go some way in addressing the problem. “I think we are terribly weak at product, marketing, branding, sales, we really need to pull our socks up, but of those the one that stands out far above the rest is product,’’ Mayo says. “In Melbourne I could pick 100 engineers and stack them up against engineers in your average Silicon Valley startup, and it’s a fair fight. “In product, we have less than half a dozen in Melbourne that would stack up, and probably less than 10 Australia-wide. “It’s a blend of human understanding, commercial nous and tech nous, and we don’t have enough people like that. We don’t value them enough.’’ Newly appointed Startup Victoria CEO Lars Lindstrom agrees. “The Americans are very, very good at that,’’ he says. “We need to improve.’’ Lindstrom has a wealth of experience in startups. Having spent roughly 10 years in investment banking in Melbourne dealing with billion dollar takeovers and mergers, he left the industry to cofound a startup, a free home distributed newspaper delivered in all the major cities in Denmark. That was in 2006, and within 12 months the newspaper, funded by advertising revenue, became the most read in Denmark, and employed over 1000 people. Lindstrom says the company was close to breaking even when “Lehman Brothers cracked”, as a consequence advertising revenue dried up, and that was the end of that. Not dissuaded from the startup industry, in 2009 he returned to Australia and co-founded the world’s first eBook reading software ReadCloud aimed at schools, where he remains chairman. ReadCloud has a catalogue of over 100,000 eBooks and distributing deals from the world’s major publishers. Under the leadership of Lindstrom, Startup Victoria will run a “better founders” program which will bring together experienced, practising startup founders to discuss the best way to tackle large fundamental problems facing the Victorian startup scene, like the lack of globally competitive product people. “It will involve different startup founders talking about stuff deeply concerning and important, and the people around that table need to come up from a large shared experience,’’ Mayo says. “This is an area Startup Victoria can help through better founders, because it won’t just help the founders, but also their employees.’’ The program has parallels with a similar effort being made by Inspire9 founder Nathan Sampimon. In addition, Startup Victoria will also run a “more founders” program which will be open to anyone interested. “We’re trying to create an institution where you have access to real information that can help you along the way, as opposed to getting opinions,’’ Lindstrom says. “We’re trying to be more scientific about it and give best practice. “Not necessarily guarantee their success, but point them in the right direction.’’ Startup Victoria was launched with the support of the Victorian government, which provided $100,000 worth of seed funding.
According to Paul Graham, investor and founder of Y Combinator, the best way to get a winning business idea is to not think of any. Instead, you should be looking at which problems you can solve.
It is a crying shame that some people in the local start-up community think playing on a world stage means a brain drain for Australia. If they used their own brain, they might see it's not a choice of Australia or Silicon Valley but rather Australia and Silicon Valley.
When it comes to learning on the job, lessons aren’t confined to those who want to boost their chances of a promotion. Aspiring start-ups can also glean the skills they need to embark on the path to entrepreneurship.
Some of Australia’s leading start-up entrepreneurs have made an appearance onto this year’s BRW Young Rich list, with the tech and retail sectors well represented.
We've bootstrapped Shoes of Prey to date but we've been exploring the possibility of raising capital to help accelerate our growth.
We all love a list, whether it is a rich list or a list of the best companies to work for.
The business world has been abuzz with talk of a second dotcom bubble, fuelled by the huge public debut by LinkedIn last week.
James Packer is reportedly planning to pour $40 million into daily deals and group buying site Catch of the Day, suggesting tech companies are the current flavour for large investors.
Mark Harbottle happily admits he’s a “start-up guy”. The co-founder of SitePoint and 99Designs may not be steeped in the pinstripe and spreadsheet CEO culture, but he can be relied upon to come up with a sector-defining online idea.