Australian eBook start-up achieves funding success in Amsterdam

7:26AM | Tuesday, 2 July

E-book writing, publishing and promotion platform 7write is looking for a home after attracting $250,000 in seed funding from a range of investors, including early PayPal investor Australian Peter Davison.   The start-up is in the final stages of the three-month Startup Bootcamp Amsterdam program. It is set to launch in public beta in the next week or so, final tweaks to its platform permitting.   The founder and developer of 7write, Paul Hayes, told StartupSmart the funding breakthrough and intense training experience has rewarded his commitment to getting 7write into an accelerator program.   “There are about 400 global accelerator programs. I didn’t apply for all of them, but I definitely applied for at least 50,” Hayes says.   “It took me four years to get here. I tried many, many different ideas and start-ups.”   7write offers writing software with a range of extra support tools, an eBook file-generating software and digital marketing support.   Hayes says the success of 7write breaking through the crowd of ePublishing start-ups is due to offering a complete solution in an often confusing space.   “We understand a lot of people will take certain pieces of the puzzle, whereas we take an author by the hand and guide them through from concept to fully published eBook and paperback. We’ve gone to extreme efforts to simplify a complex process,” Hayes says.   Hayes started developing the interface for the platforms in September after trying to develop a range of start-ups. He says the demand after he listed on Beta List spurred him on.   “I did a one-pager and a lean launch on Beta List and had over 1000 people sign up, so I knew I was onto something,” Hayes says, adding that the listing and following accelerator applications attracted interest from investors in New York and Dubai.   Despite the success, Hayes is backing away from any claim of being a disruptive technology.   “We’re not trying to disrupt the publishing industry. There is a huge space for self-publishers to work synergistically with the major publishers,” he says.   “The number one problem publishers face is finding the next big-selling author, and the number one problem writers have is getting noticed by publishers and getting a contract.”   Tapping into emerging markets   Hayes says 7write taps into these problems as well as the rise of successful self-publishers achieving mainstream publishing success, such as E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Hugh Howey’s Wool.   “We’re partnering with publishers around the world and giving them access to our sales data. So people who publish with us are getting exposure to publishers who are increasingly seeking out new talent who already gained traction,” he says.   Set to move into public beta shortly, the 7write team is in contract negotiations with several major publishers.   The focus on data is something Hayes is keen to keep developing.   “I know for a fact it was one of the things that interested Peter Davison quite significantly. So the more people who publish with us and the more data we collect, the better,” Hayes says, adding that they’re starting to experiment with cover split testing,   “In our development pipeline, we’re working on features like split test covers. It’s pretty close to impossible to do this in Amazon at the moment, but we’ve talked to Amazon and they agree that the number one factor in sales is the cover.”   The 7write team charges an upfront fee for authors to use the software that includes ISBN allocation, professional cover design, file conversion, and global sales. They also take a 10% cut of sales.   “We do that to align our interests with the author, they win and we win. We’re constantly experimenting with ways to sell more books,” Hayes says.   While anyone can publish using the service, Hayes says they’ll be offering extra services for bestselling authors, and working with them to test experimental marketing tactics before rolling them out to the wider network of authors.   Hayes says their focus post-accelerator will be on expanding the team of four, developing an HTML5 version of their software and working out where to base the business.   “We really are going to go where is best for the business. We do have a lot of interest and a strong base in Australia with a couple of funding offers available. But the majority of publishers are in Europe, so London, Amsterdam and Berlin are strong options for us too,” he says.   International focus   Hayes says not limiting the idea to a geographic location and honing his time management skills were key to the company’s success so far.   “Don’t limit yourself, apply to global accelerator programs. If I only applied to Australian programs, I would have had a fraction of the options,” Hayes says.   “If I had to pick one main skill to learn, it’s time management. If you can master your time, that’s a huge step up. You need to work out how to get things done. When you start up, there is so much focus on the idea and the notion the idea is what is going to get your there.   “But, really, the idea is just a multiplier of the team; if you learn to get things done, and combine that with a powerful idea and a powerful market research, you’re set.”

NSW start-up ditches Business Insider name following US legal stoush

4:09AM | Tuesday, 30 April

A start-up NSW media company has bowed to pressure to change its name from US company The Business Insider, which claimed that it was deceiving visitors to its website by using a similar brand.   Business Insider Pty Ltd, located on the NSW Central Coast, has switched its brand to Business Ink following legal action lodged by New York-based The Business Insider Inc in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia earlier this year.   Mark Cleary, co-founder of the Australian site, tells StartupSmart the name Business Ink was chosen as a way to “thumb our nose” to its American adversary.   Cleary founded the Australian version of Business Insider with Bob Fitzgerald and Dean Collin in 2011, with the site providing information to companies in regional NSW.   By contrast, New York-based The Business Insider, created in 2009 by entrepreneur Henry Blodget, has 23 million unique visitors a month and now has substantial interests in Australia.   Allure Media, a subsidiary of Fairfax Media, recently won the right to publish a local version The Business Insider. However, Fairfax wasn’t part of the legal proceedings to force the name change.   Business Ink initially hauled down its URL in order to emphasise its local, rather than international, focus, but has now gone further by completely rebranding.   “If we had a lazy $250,000, we would’ve carried on, but we made a decision to not risk it,” Cleary says.   “Our legal advice was that it would be an ‘interesting’ test case. (Business Insider) beat us to the internet by 10 months and in that time they say they’d established a presence in Australia through the number of hits they were getting here.”   “We got early advice saying to just rename ourselves and that has proved good advice. They could’ve bitten us when it was much tougher to rename.”   Cleary says that one of the most damaging aspects of the episode is that the business’ entire online archive has been wiped by the rebrand.   “The Google history we’ve created has just evaporated,” he says.   Cleary adds that start-ups need to be increasingly careful when choosing a business name.   “We talk about world shrinking, but it has already shrunk,” he says. “Your search for a name needs to be global and you need to avoid similar names, because it’s just too hard to compete when it comes to hard cash.”   “We could argue that does anyone really care in New York, Rome or Paris about the laying of new sewerage pipes in The Entrance on Central Coast? But that doesn’t matter – we were in their space.”   “You’ve got to be unique. That’s the challenge. Google or Amazon don’t have names that relate to what they do, but they have a strong brand name. Choose a name that you can really own.”

Retail Evolution Lab unveils five must-have technologies for stores

3:03PM | Tuesday, 12 March

Local retail design firm Red Design Group has unveiled a range of new in-store technologies for retailers, after partnering with AOPEN to launch the Retail Evolution Lab in Melbourne.

Expert predicts trickle-down effect for group buying after LivingSocial raises $110 million

3:45AM | Friday, 15 March

US-based daily deals giant LivingSocial has raised another $US110 million from investors, with an industry expert predicting a trickle-down effect for smaller players.

The Iconic’s India outsourcing sparks sale speculation

3:39PM | Sunday, 10 March

Cashed-up online fashion retailer The Iconic has come under fire after it was revealed the company has been outsourcing jobs to India, with a retail expert suggesting the start-up is preparing to sell.

The ultimate company culture tour: Zappos in Las Vegas

3:33AM | Friday, 15 March

I was privileged to go on a tour of the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas last May 2012. You can check out the official tour here.

Start-ups strut their stuff at CES 2013

3:19AM | Monday, 11 March

The 2013 International CES, the largest in the tech show’s 45-year history, has wrapped up, with start-ups ranging from the Pebble ‘smartwatch’ to a device that informs people if they haven’t taken prescribed medication grabbing attendees’ attention.

Choosing your online revenue model

1:41AM | Wednesday, 9 January

We know that starting an online business can allow for a faster launch than traditional bricks and mortar businesses.

Phone airbag promises a soft landing

1:26AM | Wednesday, 9 January

A phone “airbag” could mean never breaking another mobile, which, for some people, would be a dream come true.

AMMA leverages success of one start-up to raise $1.5 million for another

3:19AM | Monday, 11 March

Queensland-based firm AMMA Private Equity has launched a $1.5 million capital raising to fund a start-up that offers a voice and texting service to smartphone users who are out of credit.

Aussie entrepreneur Leeaps into US start-up documentary

3:32AM | Monday, 11 March

Australian entrepreneur Simon Walker has made a documentary called the Leaap Project, which saw him visit 10 US cities in 20 days to gain insight into America’s complex start-up scene.

Forbes names most powerful people – who can you learn from?

3:49AM | Monday, 11 March

US President Barack Obama might be the world’s most powerful person, according to Forbes, but there’s a handful of entrepreneurs on this year’s list for start-ups to draw inspiration from.

How I built the Amazon empire: Four top tips from Jeff Bezos

3:09AM | Monday, 11 March

Start-ups should respond to skepticism systematically and be prepared for a fight from the very beginning, says Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship.

Cyber Monday sales up: Three eCommerce lessons from the US

3:44AM | Monday, 11 March

A week after the Click Frenzy debacle in Australia, Americans have started Cyber Monday – the yearly sale that inspired the local version.

Uber prepares for Sydney launch: Five top tips from the US venture’s GM

3:39AM | Monday, 11 March

The Australian general manager of US-based car service Uber has offered start-ups some advice after spending five years in Silicon Valley, as the business gears up for its Australian launch.   Uber, based in San Francisco, is an on-demand car service where drivers pick up users based on iPhone, Android, SMS and web-based requests.   Last month, Uber confirmed its intention to launch in Australia, posting job descriptions for an operations manager and a community manager, having already hired a general manager.   That person is David Rohrsheim, who is heading up Uber’s expansion to Sydney after spending five years in Silicon Valley, where he not only worked but attended Stanford Business School.   Ahead of Uber’s Sydney launch next week, Rohrsheim shares his insights about start-ups:   Never stop moving   “I was a bit of an IT geek as a kid. I studied engineering at uni but was encouraged to do a double degree in finance, so I would understand more than just engineering,” Rohrsheim says.   “I spent a few years working with [global management consulting firm] Bain and then was introduced to a VC firm in San Francisco, Draper Fisher Jurvetson.”   “I worked for them for two-and-a-half years… It was an ideal way to meet a lot of people in a short period of time. I was welcomed into the valley.”   “I then applied to Stanford Business School, which was just down the road… Almost half of the people in venture capital [in Silicon Valley] have a Stanford MBA.”   “I decided it would just be a fun experience. I thought of it as a gift I gave myself.”   Be driven by the cause, not the title   “The biggest change in my mindset over the last five years is to actively pursue projects I’m passionate about… It’s important to solve a problem that matters to you.”   “I do think too many people start businesses – and this is all around the world – because they think it’s sexy or they want the CEO title.”   “Start-ups are such hard work that if it isn’t your main reason for being alive, eventually you will give up on one of the down days.”   Silicon Valley is hard work   “You’re encouraged to get on the plane and go to Silicon Valley, where it will all work out.”   “I think sometimes people are expecting too much. They expect to arrive and for it to just start happening… Get as much of [your] story together before you arrive over there.”   “There’s a lot of magic there but you’ve got to get some runs on the board first.”   Don’t be afraid to come home   “It was a tough choice to come back… I had many more friends in San Francisco than anywhere else in the world.”   “I wanted to work for a disruptive consumer technology company, and there’s lots of them there, but in the back of my mind I knew I would come home one day.”   “I didn’t think it would be so soon, but the Uber opportunity was one of the most interesting jobs I could imagine back in Australia.”   Get frustrated   “I am personally frustrated by how long we have to wait for innovative services in Silicon Valley to move down to Australia.”   “Every day I am longing for Amazon Prime and I am highly motivated to shorten that gap, and Uber is just my first project.”   “Australians are tech-savvy, wealthy and share a common language, so we deserve to have the latest from Silicon Valley earlier.”

Sensis brings out the big guns for third hackathon

3:41AM | Monday, 11 March

Sensis is to roll out a fresh ‘hackathon’ in Melbourne this weekend, including an impressive list of mentors such as Lonely Planet’s Gus Balbontin and Scott Rogers from Seek.

Co-working growing pains

11:23PM | Tuesday, 13 November

A growing number of start-ups are claiming co-working spaces to be their secret weapon, giving them a competitive edge in their quest for world domination.

Growth of Android ecosystem underlines app opportunities

3:03AM | Monday, 11 March

There are increasing opportunities for aspiring app developers in the Android ecosystem, new research suggests, as the wide range of brands and price points continues to win over consumers.

iPad mini: How it compares to its three main rivals

10:17AM | Friday, 26 October

Until now, entrepreneurs had two broad category choices when it came to mobile devices – smartphones and tablets.

iPad mini lends itself to location-based apps: Expert

3:28AM | Tuesday, 12 March

App developers should be able to quickly get to grips with the newly released iPad mini, and will also be presented with several opportunities, including the creation of location-based apps, according to an industry expert.