113 million hardcore fans worldwide 147 million occasional viewers US$252 million in global revenues a predicted total prize pool of $71 million for all tournaments and competitions. No, these numbers don’t refer to a traditional mainstream sport like football or basketball. Rather, they come from a sport that saw its major surge begin a mere 10 years ago, a sport whose global revenue has already surpassed the revenue of the entire music industry by $20 million in 2014, a sport that giant brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, American Express, Intel and Samsung are vying to sponsor. I’m talking about eSports – also known as competitive gaming, electronic sports or professional gaming – a type of video game competition where professional players battle for the highest rank and the top prize. With an rapidly expanding global fan base and an increasingly organized industry business model, eSports has now become a real deal – so real that participants now qualify for the application of US P-1 Visa, a type of visa that’s long been reserved for professional athletes. But how did eSports become so big, so fast? And what factors have contributed to its growth? The rise of eSports Fun fact on the earliest known video game competition: on October 19 1972, a group of students at Stanford University competed in an “intergalactic spacewar olympics.” The prize? A one-year subscription to Rolling Stone. But the winners of today’s eSports tournaments can expect a bit more: the International 2015 Dota 2 Championship – which took place earlier this month – had a prize pool of over $18 million, making it the largest ever for a single tournament. Just a decade ago, the first-ever professional video gamer, Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, appeared on the cover of BusinessWeek, with an eight-page feature detailing the rise of the industry. Back then, the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) was just starting to eke into the nation’s consciousness. In the five years leading up to the feature, “Fatal1ty” had won more tournaments and pulled in more prize money than any other gamer: more than $350,000. In 2005, he won the big prize of $500,000 at the CPL finals, which were partially broadcast on MTV. Intel was the primary sponsor for the CPL 11-event world tour, with other backers such as Samsung, AMD and Tylenol. Members of Evil Geniuses compete in The International DOTA 2 Championships, where they came away with the grand prize of $6,616,014. Jason Redmond/Reuters Both CPL and the Electronic Sports League (ESL) started in 1997. According to an infographic from ESL, its number of registered gamers grew to one million in its first eight years. By 2013, that number had grown to over four million. ESL communities could be found in 46 countries, with over 883,000 registered teams and more than 30,000 new gamers joining the league every month. Meanwhile, the League of Legends 2014 World Championships had more than 32 million viewers online – which was more than 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and Game 7 of the 2014 NBA finals. Forces behind the growth The major factors behind the growth of eSports include the popularity of new platforms for viewing video games, new business models and a surge in “Geek Pride.” The core reasons, though, center around the creation and growth of new platforms – especially streaming platforms like Twitch, where audiences can see live streaming of professional players competing with each other almost every day. They might tune into see teams of the best players battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields, in both small skirmishes and intense 5v5 competitions. These new platforms have broken down walls that previously limited the gaming experience to just the players in the game. They’ve attracted more people to the community, while allowing for two-way interaction within the space. For example, streaming platforms like Twitch (which Amazon acquired last year for $970 million) have provided incentives for both professional players and audiences to gather and interact. For professional players, they can gain income through a combination of advertisements, subscription fees for streaming their games and donations from viewers, which has made making a living by playing video games an attainable goal. For audiences, streaming makes eSports extremely accessible. Fans don’t even need to be especially skilled at playing video games to participate; they can simply sit back and enjoy the games. According to Newzoo Global eSports Audience Model, about 40% of eSports viewers don’t play the games themselves. What’s more, audiences can actually engage with players via Twitch, sending real-time comments or questions to players as the competitions stream. Some players will respond, while others will even invite viewers to join in on the game. The win-win model of streaming platforms has triggered great interests in eSports. According to a 2014 report from Twitch, there were 16 million minutes watched, 100 million unique viewers and 1.5 million unique broadcasters every month on Twitch. What’s more, the number of peak concurrent viewers hit one million in 2014. The prosperity of platforms like Twitch has greatly increased awareness of eSports and generated huge revenues for the industry. These revenues behind eSports, meanwhile, have attracted big name brands, such as Nvidia, Intel and Samsung, to make more investments. Money from these investments is then used to innovate new streaming platforms such as Hitbox, Mobcrush and Kamcord, which further increase awareness and create large gaming communities, while leading to more revenue opportunities for gamers and brands alike. This healthy innovation cycle in eSports business is a major support behind the surge of professional gaming. Another factor could be attributed to the fact that the term “geek” has seen a resurgence. “Geek” and “nerd” are no longer derogatory terms. In a way, they’ve become mainstream – an identity popularized by a number of new outlets, including Nerdist Industries and the community Geek and Sundry. Today, with the popularity of the expression “Geek Pride,” people who are intelligent and have prowess in the virtual space are eager to find a way to unleash and publicly promote their passions. eSports have simply become a new way to demonstrate Geek Pride. With our culture now taking eSports seriously – and as someone who studies gamers and gaming data – I see immense possibility and potential for eSports and greater spectator interaction in this brave new world. Dmitri Williams is Associate Professor of Communication at University of Southern California This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Stone and Chalk, a new fintech hub that promises to help accelerate the development of Australian fintech startups, was unveiled in Sydney on Tuesday. The independent not-for-profit will be located on level 26, 45 Clarence Street in the Sydney business district. It will include 1230 square metres of office space with the potential to grow to 3000 square metres. Stone and Chalk’s co-working space will open in May and can fit up to 150 entrepreneurs, as well as offering space for seminars, industry meetings and conferences. Corporates will also be able to rent space in order to collaborate with the startups working there. New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who spoke at the hub’s launch yesterday, says it will encourage innovation and creativity in fintech. “Stone and Chalk will provide fintech startups with subsidised office space to collaborate, network and investigate venture capital opportunities,” he says. “The fast-growing fintech sector will further strengthen Sydney’s position as Australia’s business capital and a globally recognised and competitive finance sector.” Stone and Chalk chair Craig Dunn says the hub will become the heart of fintech in Australia and hopefully Asia. “Digital disruption is transforming the financial services industry and there is much to be gained through greater collaboration between stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem. We are focused on brining to life our vision for Sydney’s fintech hub to support startups compete, thrive and lead on a world stage.” Toby Heap, managing director of the AWI Ventures fintech accelerator program, says the new hub will provide a physical focus for the growing fintech ecosystem. “Our aim is to provide an ecosystem of advice and support that empowers the brightest up and coming financial services executives to leave their often comfortable nests and start a new generation of world leading financial services organisations.” The hub was made possible due to professional and financial contributions worth more than $2 million from Allens, Amazon, American Express, AMP, Capital Markets CRC, CIFR, FINSIA, Finzosft, HSBC, IAG, Intel, KPMG, Macquarie Group, Oracle, Suncorp Bank, Veda, Westpac and Woolworths. Co-founder and chief operating officer of Pocketbook, Bosco Tan, praised the commitment shown by the government and private organisations in coming to “collaborate and elevate innovation”. “Being surrounded and supported by the who’s who of the sector is a critical step to shortening the process of ideation and execution,” he says. Posse co-founder Rebekah Campbell says the there’s a huge opportunity for innovation in financial services. “The fintech hub is a great initiative to drive focus and collaboration in the sector. I’m sure we’ll see some giant disrupters emerge as a result in years to come,” she says. Fintech start-ups that would like to express interest in moving to Stone and Chalk, visit stoneandchalk.com.au for more information. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Bitcoin Group, the entity behind Melbourne-based bitcoin arbitrage fund Bitcoins Reserve, is set to list on the ASX next month. The company wants to raise $20 million at 20 cents a share, as it looks to capitalise on short-term gains from its arbitrage fund and “medium-term” profits from bitcoin mining. Bitcoin Group co-founder Sam Lee has been in China recently negotiating with investors who have recently cashed out of Alibaba’s initial public offering about the potential of coming on board post-listing. He says the company is being supported by a Chinese millionaire, who only wants to be known as Mr Gao, who is funding the company pre-listing. “The short-term opportunity that we’ve capitalised on is the cryptocurrency arbitrage fund, but that will obviously have diminishing returns as more and more become involved,” Lee says. “We see the medium-term objective being profiting through bitcoin mining, to support the network that will allow safe and secure payments and transactions. “Over the next two years, the system is set to issue 1.3 million bitcoins per year and at current market value ($A446 per bitcoin) this is equivalent to a $580 million dollar per year opportunity.” Lee says the Bitcoin Group wants to make up between 5-10% of the total bitcoin mining pool, but admits that number is speculative given the amount of variables involved in bitcoin mining. The company will be following in the footsteps of DigitalBTC, an Australian bitcoin mining and digital currency trading company that listed on the ASX in March. Exactly where Bitcoin Group sets up its operation is still up in the air, although the evidence points towards China. A number of factors will be taken into account when deciding where to set up, including power prices, the labour costs related to maintaining mining equipment, and proximity to mining equipment manufacturers. Lee says it’s likely that Bitcoin Group’s mining operation will be outside of Australia. The group’s long-term goal is more ambitious, that is to ride on the coattails of bitcoin, which Lee says will eventually be a payments platform on par with Visa, MasterCard and American Express. “The ultimate goal of bitcoin is to create a global payment network that people could utilise to do remittance, and also currency exchange through an unbanked system,” he says. “This is essentially where bitcoin will really shine in the long run, and therefore the long term objective is to become a payment processor or gateway, just like Visa, MasterCard and American Express.” Bitcoin Group is also funding a new co-working space in Melbourne and giving bitcoin startups the chance to use it for free until the end of the year. There’s a chance that it could invest in some of those startups in the future. “To get to know a company well enough for us to invest in their operation, it requires a timeframe to get to know them, if they are to operate out of our space, then we’re able to fast-track our decision-making,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Title image: Allan Guo (left) Sam Lee (right) with the Bitcoin Group.
Apple is expected to launch the latest version of the iPhone at an event it is hosting at the Flint Center for Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, next week. Apple has already sent invitations to an event taking place on September 9th at 10am, local time. In a curious move, there are reports the notoriously secretive tech giant has gone so far as to construct its own multi-storey structure alongside the venue. The choice of location is particularly significant because it is the venue where Apple launched its first Macintosh computer in 1984. It is also significantly larger than the Yerba Buena Center or the theatre at Apple’s corporate headquarters, where the tech giant normally makes its major new product announcements. Speculation about the new device hasn’t escaped its key rivals, with a list of consumer electronics giants including LG, Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola – and possibly others – all gearing up for major product launches of their own over the next month. So what can we expect to find from the iPhone 6? Here are some of the more credible rumours about what we can expect from the device: 1. A larger screen and, perhaps, a phablet As far back as November last year, there have been persistent and credible reports Apple has been working on two different models of the iPhone 6. According to most reports, the first model is set to feature a 4.7-inch display, while the second will include a 5.5-inch screen. This would make them close in size to the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.7-inch display used on the Galaxy Note 3. Along with the move to two screen sizes, Apple is reportedly moving away from the plastic casing used on its current low-end device, the iPhone 5s. Aside from the usual Apple rumours sites, reports about the two screen sizes have appeared in a number of credible business publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Unfortunately, it is not clear if both versions of the iPhone will be available at launch, with some speculation the larger 5.5-inch phablet version could be on hold until next year. 2. Mobile payments According to a second credible rumour, Apple has been working on its own mobile payments platform centred on the iPhone 6. During the past week, a number of respected publications including The Information, Re/Code and Bloomberg have independently confirmed with sources that Apple has struck a number of deals with major payment providers, retailers, and banks. Those signing up to the payment platform include credit card and payments giants American Express, Visa and MasterCard. The reports suggest the iPhone 6 will include an NFC (near-field communications) chip, a technology used to power tap-and-pay credit cards and public transport systems. It will allow iPhone 6 users to make purchases with their smartphones, rather than by using a credit card or by paying with cash. While NFC-chip technology has long been a standard feature of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones, Apple has long held out on using it in its devices. 3. Does Apple have anything up its sleeve? For years, it has been rumoured Apple has had a smartwatch, or iWatch, up its sleeve. In recent years, the hype surrounding wearable devices, including smart bracelets and smartwatches has grown, with many expecting Apple to eventually join the market. Following the release of the Pebble in January 2013, a number of consumer electronics and device manufacturers have dipped their toes in the market, including Sony, LG, Motorola and Samsung, among many others. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are believed to be working on wearables of their own. At the Google I/O developer conference, the search and mobile giant unveiled its Android Wear device platform. Meanwhile, rival consumer electronics makers are working on smartwatches with their own SIM cards, as well as round clockfaces. The growing speculation is that the time is right for Apple to release its smartwatch – before it’s too late. 4. iOS8 Whether or not the iPhone 6 comes in a larger form, accepts mobile payments or is partnered to a smartwatch, one thing is for certain: it is set to run iOS8. First unveiled during the company’s WorldWide Developer Conference during June, iOS8 will bring along a number of new features for users. The new version of the mobile operating system is designed to be interoperable with the new version of Mac OS X, known as Yosemite. The improved interoperability means users will be able to use their Mac as a speakerphone for their iPhone, read and send their iPhone messages from their Mac, or use a feature called Handoff to pass activities from one device to another. It will also come with a new health tracking app called Health, which uses a new underlying API called Healthkit to gather health tracking data from a range of third-party health tracking apps and devices. iOS8 also includes the foundations of Apple’s Internet of Things home automation platform, known as Homekit. 5. A sapphire display In August, some photos of the new device leaked showing a thinner, lighter version of the iPhone. But one feature in particular was notable: the use of sapphire, rather than glass, for the screen. While the choice of material is likely to make the device significantly more expensive, a less shatter-prone iPhone will certainly be music to the ears of anyone who has ever accidentally busted a mobile phone screen. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Apple is partnering with American Express, Mastercard and Visa, to enable iPhone 6 owners to pay for goods in physical stores. Sources have told Re/code that American Express has agreed to be part of the company’s mobile payments platform, while Bloomberg sources confirmed the involvement of Visa and Mastercard. The new payments system is expected to let iPhone 6 owners use their phones in place of credit cards, debit cards or cash to pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores. It’s not clear which retailers have signed on to accept such payments. Alibaba IPO planned for next week Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will hold what is expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering next week, a source familiar with the deal has told The Wall Street Journal. The deal could raise more than $20 billion and be the world’s largest in years, and would mean Alibaba shares would begin trading as soon as September 18 or 19. $400 for Apple’s wearable? Apple executives have discussed charging around $400 for the company’s new wearable device, although it’s not yet clear whether or not the price will be set in time for Apple’s September 9 press event, where it’s expected to be unveiled. Sources have told Re/code to expect a range of prices for different models, including lower priced versions. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18.88 to 17,098.45. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Small business owners are running serious financial risks due to knowledge gaps about tax, new research has found. More than 1000 Australian small business owners were surveyed in a study commissioned by American Express. While most small business owners (73%) understood they were responsible for errors in their tax returns even if they used an accountant, many were not clear about GST responsibilities, tax deductions and write-offs. Tax consultant Adrian Raftery told StartupSmart the survey reveals why so many small businesses fail within seven years, adding there could be a link between failed businesses and a lack of understanding of tax obligations and concessions that are available. “With knowledge gaps like this, how are they reading their profit and loss sheets? Are they saving for tax time so it doesn’t impact cashflow too much?” Raftery says. He says the risk of getting caught and fined is quite high for small business owners. “Even if it’s an honest mistake, the chance of getting caught is still reasonably high because of data matching and the analysis the ATO can do these days,” he says. Raftery says the combination of the interest charged on missing tax combined with penalties could cause critical issues for small businesses. The research shows ongoing confusion around GST with 65% of small businesses believing they need to register for GST once they are turning over $50,000 a year, when they actually don’t need to register for GST until they’re turning over $75,000. Small business owners are also missing out on concessions and possibly making expensive errors because of confusion around claiming receipts and write-offs. Only 9% of businesses thought they were too small to come to the attention of ATO auditors. Young entrepreneurs are significantly more at risk, with the research revealing 51% of entrepreneurs under 34 were not aware they were responsible for errors in their tax returns. They were also more likely to lose receipts. Raftery says the confusion often comes from misunderstanding the tax system. “Accountants devote their whole lives to knowing and keeping up with this. But business owners should make an effort to be aware of the tax landscape and the rules,” he says. Losing receipts was more of an issue for companies with three or more employees. Across all the business owners surveyed, the receipts most likely to be lost were petrol (40%), stationery (32%) and food and beverages (23%). A key confusion for small business owners was entertainment deductions. According to Raftery, most small business owners don’t realise that any meal that involves alcohol can’t be claimed, as the write-off is for working lunches and “mere sustenance”. Almost half (46%) of the small business owners surveyed thought they could claim $300 worth of deductions without receipts. This option is only available for individual tax returns, not for company returns. Many of those surveyed also didn’t realise they could claim taxes paid last year based on losses made this year. Just over half didn’t realise they could claim write-offs for equipment purchased for home-based businesses. One in three small business owners surveyed still kept their receipts in a shoebox and 42% used accounting software. “The most common honest mistakes come from mathematical errors, just the general calculation errors. If you’re not using accounting software, you’re doing more calculations and so you’ll be at greater risk.” Not only were many small businesses struggling to navigate the tax system, 69% said tax reporting was increasingly complicated. But Raftery says it gets easier. “The tax obligations can seem quite complicated and onerous. With experience and doing quarterly BAS and an annual return and knowing what to claim and being educated over a couple of years, it does get easier. But you do need to invest the time at the beginning to understand it, and make sure you have a good accountant.” Concern around navigating the tax system was higher for more profitable companies, with 75% of those making more than $200,000 a year saying it was getting increasingly complicated. According to the survey, small businesses spend an average of 20 hours a year on tax reporting, with businesses turning over $200,000 or more spending more than double that each year.
Australian gaming company 3rd Sense has outlined how it built an online tool called Blitz, developed by Dr Ken Hudson, which uses gamification principles to drive corporate innovation.
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.
Companies run by young entrepreneurs are more likely to make a profit than those run by older business owners, new research shows, although a lack of industry knowledge remains a major roadblock for tyros.
Back in the 1800s and early 20th century, women in Britain used to gather in homes to make chains.
Australian consumers are willing to spend an average 12% more for excellent service, according to an American Express report, but 40% of consumers say Australian businesses miss the mark.
This week’s Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco saw the tech giant ratchet up its battle with Google, unveiling its own mapping service and a beefed-up voice-activated service.
American Express has unveiled plans to invest $100 million in eCommerce-based start-ups, with the credit card giant set to accept applications from around the world.
Female business owners are 6% more likely than their male counterparts to use at least one form of social media in their business, according to a new study released by American Express.
DealsDirect buys corporate shopping and reward site Shoppers Advantage in its biggest ever acquisition10:10AM | Friday, 14 October
Online department store DealsDirect has upped the ante on its string of acquisitions, purchasing the corporate shopping group Shoppers Advantage in a deal that will add around $25 million in revenue per year and a member database of over three million.
Architecture software maker Aconex, Rebel Sport and start-ups LookOut Mobile and Apps Perhaps have been named as some of the winners of this year's Mobile Awards, organised and run by eBusiness consulting firm A Thinking Company.
Your business can’t survive without a steady stream of happy customers. But despite this, large numbers of Australian businesses aren’t putting enough emphasis on customer satisfaction.
A third of Australian consumers believe businesses pay less attention to giving good customer service in the current economic climate, according to a new global survey.
More than eight in 10 start-up entrepreneurs do not know what constitutes an allowable tax deduction, new figures reveal, suggesting tomorrow will be a fraught end of financial year for many emerging companies.