If you run an Android smartphone or tablet, did you know that there’s a good chance you might be able to run Amazon’s app store as well as Google Play? Here’s how to set it up. First, in your settings menu, look through the Applications and Security menus for an option called “Install apps from unknown sources”. If you can find it, make sure you tap it to switch it on. Next, visit this page and press the yellow “Download the Amazon App Store” button in the middle of the screen. When the download is complete, you’ll get a notification saying “AmazonApps-release.apk. has installed”. Tap the notification, tap install, and then tap open. It’s now ready to run.
This week’s session of the Next start-up development program was focused on investment, with Adventure Capital co-founder and partner Darcy Naunton presenting to 27 start-ups about investment strategies and business development. Naunton told StartupSmart he was impressed all of the start-ups were tackling genuine problems, and therefore had real potential if they focused their idea on one target market. “The focus in my answers last night was on the need to target and hone in on one market. It’s much easier to test by defining your best market and going after them,” Naunton says. “It also means the number of players and stakeholders you need to get onside are much lower.” Naunton says once an idea is proven, you can approach angel or venture capital investors, and begin expanding across verticals. “Having traction within a single vertical is enough to approach any investor for funding, provided you understand the similarities and differences of the verticals that are next on your list. This is pretty important, because each market has its own dynamics and culture of doing things,” Naunton says. The presentation also explored the changes that are required once a start-up founder takes on investment, adding they are considerable. “You need to be ready for the obligations and cultural change that come when you take on investment and become responsible for someone else’s money. From then on, as director of a company your single goal becomes to maximise shareholder value, even if that’s a detriment to your own goals and lifestyle,” Naunton says, adding most investors expect to be able to exit within five years. Naunton says for new founders with limited track records, it helps to get in touch early to start building relationships before approaching for funding. “Investment is a people game, and getting comfortable with your investors should be your top priority. Get in early and set some goals, and then achieve those milestones and communicate it back before approaching for funds,” Naunton says. He adds it was great to see the start-ups were approaching possible investment pragmatically. “I was refreshed to see they weren’t all indoctrinated into the Silicon Valley mentality, and the idea that a good idea has the right to investment and enough persistence will make it happen sooner or later,” Naunton says. According to Naunton, online marketplaces are one of the most common ideas emerging across all levels of the start-up ecosystem, from start-up weekends to accelerator s to funding pitches, but many misunderstand how complicated these are to scale. “Because it’s quite an easy to understand business model, we keep seeing a lot of marketplace ideas. But they’re really hard to build and scale, and very few successful ones have emerged from Australia,” Naunton says, adding 99designs was the stand out in this space. Naunton added Adventure Capital saw a lot of value in business to business ideas, especially those that focused on delivering and using data such as business intelligence softwares. “Another really interesting area is ideas that follow on from the Amazon web services model and carve out particular aspects of the business process, refine it and turn it into a business of its own,” Naunton says.
Amazon executives are urged by their chief executive Jeff Bezos to read three books, which he uses as frameworks for explaining the future of the company. Bezos told a CNBC tech correspondent he encourages them to read Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution and Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal. Three local entrepreneurs spoke to StartupSmart about the book that changed their lives and approaches to their entrepreneurial careers. Fred Schebesta, founder of rapidly growing comparison site Finder, told StartupSmart that Michael E. Gerber’s E-Myth helped him understand the importance of systems for driving growth. “When I first started out in business I was completely stumped by continuously briefing the same project over and over again. As I had never worked in a big company before, I didn’t have the same frame of reference as other professionals and I needed something that would help me build a business,” Schebesta says. “E-Myth taught me the importance of systems, processes and how to manage people. It completely changed my view and provided me with a fresh perspective. I often consider reading it again for inspiration!” Dan Flynn told StartupSmart reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad in his teens sparked a new way of thinking that inspired him to launch the social enterprise Thankyou Water several years ago. “The book really got me thinking about ways to generate money but also helped me understand that while school education was important, entrepreneurs had to apply business principles in order to succeed,” Flynn says. Thankyou Water has got their range of food and water products into major supermarkets after a crowdsourced lobbying campaign. “As I look back over this book again now, there was this one line that was one of the key messages in the book: ‘Failure is the process of success.’ It’s crazy how this line is even more relevant to me now, five years into the Thankyou journey. The numerous failures and setbacks we’ve experienced have taught us so many lessons, which have helped shape Thankyou as a company and our team as individuals,” Flynn says. Robin McGowan, founder of customisable commerce site for suits InStitchu, told StartupSmart Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose should be mandatory reading for every business owner. “It tells the story of Zappos and the focus they put on customer service and experience. Tony makes the point that anyone can copy your business idea but they can't replicate the level of service you provide to your customers. If you go above and beyond with your service they will keep coming back no matter what,” McGowan says.
Making the leap from the corporate world to writing her own recipe book and launching a food website was “terrifying”, Tanya Bartolini tells SmartSolo. “I have always been such a corporate person,” she says. “I never imagined myself to have the courage to do this in the past.” But after the birth of her son Mitchell, now 20 months old, working with a career coach and mulling the idea of writing a book, the former business development manager in the finance sector decided she had had enough. Bartolini, 32, had worked in finance since leaving school, and steadily rose through its ranks as she focused on her career. Based in Brisbane, she worked with a career coach to investigate how she might be able to stay in her home town, but still advance to an executive position without the need to move to Sydney. From those discussions, she came the realisation that maybe she wasn’t meant to be in the finance industry. She says she and her coach started investigating a path that would combine her loves of food, Italy and family and formed the idea of writing a book, which she started when she went on maternity leave. When she returned to work, she found it wasn’t what she wanted, especially after starting her book and thinking how she might be able to turn it into a business. “I’ve had to take a big risk and leap of faith that what I believe in is something that people will believe in as well,” Bartolini says. Her book, Blending the Cultures, is being self-published and is due to be released in November. It tells the story of Bartolini’s family who left Italy after World War II to come to Australia and weaves together family recipes. She says that with the birth of her son, she realised there was a generation of children who could grow up without knowing the stories of their families and the recipes that sustained them, which helped spur her to get writing. She’s having 1500 copies printed in the first print run and the book will also be available through Amazon as an iBook and for Kindle. Bartolini also launched a popular food website for everyday home cooks, The Kitchen Bench, which aims to be a place where cooks can share recipes and offer useful advice to each other. She also has a Facebook page that currently has over 3000 likes. The website was originally called The Everyday Cook Network, but an email from a reader alerting her to a similar-sounding site prompted her to change it to The Kitchen Bench. “My lesson learned is don’t fight something that’s not worth fighting for,” she says. She says she was only three months into starting the website, so the switch was not too stressful. “In the end I think I’ve got a much better name,” she says, adding that she’s got a trademark process underway. She plans to monetise the site through advertising and hosting a monthly “In the Spotlight” section where she showcases a business that can provide a recipe or kitchen tip or trick that provides value for users. Bartolini aims to continue growing the number of followers of her blog and become a “go to” site for advice for home cooks. And another book may be on the cards in the future.
Duncan Thomas has assembled an unlikely international team to help bring his online travel management start-up to life. From his Hobart home he’s brought together developers in Pakistan, website backend expertise from Israel and a flights wholesaler in India. Pakistan and India have battled over the Kashmir region for many years, while Pakistan’s passports say they are valid for all countries except Israel. Despite the tensions between the countries, Thomas, who works in software sales and business development, says “people are people” and the people he works with aren’t interested in politics. “Politics is for politicians,” he says. Thomas has been working on Travl8tor, a travel management and booking tool for small and medium-sized businesses, for the past two years and recently won a pitching advice webinar run by international accelerator Founder Institute and co-hosted by StartupSmart. “I like the business a lot,” Founder Institute chief executive Adeo Ressi said of Thomas’ pitch for Travl8tor. “This is a real issue.” Thomas, 37, says the idea for the business came to him when reading an article that interviewed a human resources manager who said the biggest issue they faced was travel management for their employees. “I got to thinking that seems an easy problem to fix from a software basis.” After discussing it with his brother, a sales manager at a mining company, whose reaction to the idea confirmed for Thomas that “it has legs”, he set about writing up a business plan. A key weakness, however, was that he didn’t know anything about the travel industry. That was overcome as he researched the subject and came across an Israeli start-up that developed backend platforms for travel agents and websites and helpfully sent him a document titled ‘So you’ve decided to create an OTA’ [online travel agency]. “Once I had that the pieces began falling into place.” Thomas has secured travel product suppliers that can offer 200,000 hotels around the world, 900 airlines and car rental in 193 countries. Travl8tor works by providing a platform for businesses to manage travel bookings. Businesses can set budgets and company travel policies which are applied whenever staff book travel. Thomas says motivation for working on Travl8tor is “easy”. “It’s my idea, it’s something I can see, I know what it can potentially be,” he says, adding he’s bootstrapped the business and spent around $20,000 building it so far. The biggest problem he says he faced was thinking too long about the idea. “You’ve actually got to do it,” he advised other start-up entrepreneurs. “You’ve got to follow through.” He adds that he’s also inspired by a quote from Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos who said: “There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.” Thomas says the thinking reinforces the theme that customer service is key and that customers generally want to pay less. He also advises that start-ups have a “good lawyer” on board as early as possible to help navigate legal issues such as trademarks, supplier agreements and patent applications. While Ressi liked Travl8tor’s idea, one thing he didn’t like was the name. “I beg you, this is such a good idea, just rename it,” he said. Thomas says he’s open to suggestions and wouldn’t rule it out.
Read all about it: Bookshop industry veteran dismisses the gloom, urges indies to get the model right8:33AM | Wednesday, 21 August
The bricks-and-mortar bookstore industry is here to stay provided owners can get the model right, says QBD The Bookshop managing director Mark Robinson. The company opened seven stores last year and is set to open three to five new stores this year. Robinson told StartupSmart they wouldn’t be opening new stores if they thought the industry was not long for this world. “We’re always opening shops, and we wouldn’t be doing that if we weren’t confident about the book industry’s future,” he says, adding each new store is on a six-year lease and costs the company almost half a million dollars to set up. “We’ve been doing this for 22 years and the industry has changed dramatically. But we see a future; you just have to get the model correct.” Robinson says the major changes are reduced store sizes and the constant evolution of the range offered. Ten years ago, QBD The Bookshop stores would easily sell tens of thousands of dictionaries and street directories, but now they’d struggle to sell 3000 a year as these services are available online. Online is the elephant in the room for many bookstores, with the rise of Amazon disrupting the book industry twice with lower priced, home-delivered books and the rise of eBooks, where Amazon retains market dominance. “I think Amazon has already had its impact, it’s here now. That said, I love seeing the Australian dollar falling so it’s less attractive to buy overseas,” Robinson says. “All retailers are doing it a bit tough with the downturn and bookstores have been caught up in that with a double whammy.” He adds he’s confident paper books are here to stay for the foreseeable future. “The market has changed, but there is an experience you’ll never get with the electronic book. You’re not going to wrap up a USB stick with a picture of Donna Hay and stick it under the Christmas for grandma,” Robinson says. “There are plenty of people out there who want to buy books.” While QBD The Bookshop stores are company owned, and therefore have the flexibility and range of a chain network, Robinson says the industry isn’t over for independent retailers who are smart about how they’re structured. “When things get difficult, owner-operators can adapt. Saying that, the market is very tight. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling books or saucepans, it’s not easy and you really have to be on your game,” Robinson says. QBD The Bookshop began fitting out a new store in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool this week. Robinson says the keys for a new store in Southland shopping centre in Melbourne are due in October, and they’re in the final stages of contracts for three more, including one in South Australia.
Getting backlinks, retweets, endorsements and social mentions from influential bloggers is a powerful way to give your content marketing a real boost. However, the challenge is that they get hundreds of outreach emails every day. So how do you, an aspiring blogger, earn the attention of the bloggers further up the food chain? Let’s start with what not to do. How to get ignored Send an un-personalised email Beg for something Guilt them into it Blast out a group email Talk about yourself Don’t include details on your email signature This ‘spray and pray’ approach does more harm than good. Fortunately for you, most people make one or more of these six mistakes and the worst culprits are usually SEO companies and PR agencies. I personally recommend doing this type of blogger outreach yourself rather than engaging someone to do it for you. How to stand out The good news is that it’s relatively easy to stand out in sea of appalling outreach emails if you do your homework. Think of backlinks as an indicator of your relationships and put work into your relationships. People will link to you, if you’ve earned it. Here is a process to follow to increase your chance at success. 10 steps to take before you “ask” 1. Identify the influencers in your market 2. Keep a list in a spreadsheet 3. Follow them on Twitter 4. Follow their blogs via your RSS feed (I use feed.ly) 5. Comment on their blogs 6. Tweet and share the posts that you like 7. Buy their books, read them, review them and blog about them. 8. Subscribe to their email newsletter 9. Email them with sincere praise or a thoughtful question (best to reply to their email newsletters) 10. Wait until you get a reply, and grow your relationship from there. The golden rule is always to lead with generosity! This process obviously takes time, and whilst that won’t appeal to some people, it is the only way to build relationships of substance with the right people. Blogger Outreach Email Template When that time comes to “ask”, I recommend you follow this format: 1. Be personal and friendly Hi [first name], how are you? 2. Show sincere praise As you may remember, I’ve been a fan of your books and blog since I was referred to your writing by ________ in 2009. 3. Lead with generosity Your recent book about _______ resonated with me because of XYZ. I wrote a short review on Amazon and since I knew my tribe would find it useful too, I emailed it to my 1500 subscribers. It also prompted me reach out to you. 4. Ask Using some of your tips from your book, I actually released my first e-book last week! It’s called ____________ and I credit you in the acknowledgements on page five. If you felt it was worthy of a tweet or link that would make my day! But if you don’t, that’s cool too, I just wanted to say thanks for inspiring me to take action. Note: My preference is not to actually ask for anything since they already know how valuable a tweet or backlink is. I trust that if I create something valuable enough, they’ll want to link to it or share it anyway, without me asking. I do however make it easy for them to link to, hence the link. 5. Close I notice your speaking schedule will bring you to Sydney later in the year. Knowing that you love _______, so you should really try _______ if you get the chance! 6. Email signature All the best, Adam Success The key to success is to take the time to nurture the relationship, lead with generosity, don’t ask for too much, make it easy for them and provide enough info in your email signature so they can make sure you are legit. Don’t fret if you don’t get a hit back, they are busy people. Keep following their work, leading with generosity and your time will come! I must to extend a hat tip to Rand Fishkin & Tim Ferriss for the insights I’ve been able to apply and share here. My first piece of content that earned the attention of prominent bloggers was the Web Strategy Planning Template, which is still a free download.
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.”
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 businessinsider.net 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We know that starting an online business can allow for a faster launch than traditional bricks and mortar businesses.
A phone “airbag” could mean never breaking another mobile, which, for some people, would be a dream come true.
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.
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.
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.
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.