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THE NEWS WRAP: Magic Leap is launching an augmented reality developer platform

6:33PM | Tuesday, 2 June

Augmented reality startup Magic Leap has announced it is launching an augmented reality developer platform, according to TechCrunch.   Last year Google invested more than $600 million in the company, which says it can project light and graphics into the human eye alongside what it sees naturally.   Speaking at the MIT EmTech Digital conference, Magic Leap chief executive Rony Abovitz said the company was ready to start training developers.   “We’re out of the R&D phase and into the transition to real product introduction,” he said.   “There is no off-the-shelf stuff that does what we’re describing.”   Native Americans and domestic violence survivors protest Facebook’s naming policy   Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, drag queens and others have come together to protest at Facebook’s headquarters in response to the company’s policy of only allowing people to use their “real” names.   Fairfax reports more than 50 protesters held up picket signs and chanted outside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.   Facebook says people need to use their real names in order to prevent instances of bullying or inappropriate behaviour on the social network, but has softened that position after complaints from the LGBTIQ community.   However, the protesters said they wanted Facebook to do more by not putting the onus on vulnerable groups to prove their identity.   Apple chief lashes out against companies that compromise customer privacy   Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has lashed out at companies that make a trade-off between customer privacy and security, according to TechCrunch.   Speaking at the EPIC Champions of Freedom event in Washington, Cook said people have the fundamental right to privacy.   “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” he said.   “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 28.43 points, falling 0.16% to 18,011.94. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.72 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Coupa Software raises $US80 million, landing a $1 billion valuation

6:32PM | Monday, 1 June

Spending management company Coupa Software has raised $US80 million, making the cloud startup the latest fast-growing businesses to land a valuation of more than $1 billion.   The found was led by T Rowe Price along with Iconiq Capital, the firm managing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s personal investments, according to Re/code.   The latest capital injection is the startup’s seventh investment round, bringing the total capital raised to date to $US169m. Microsoft buys German startup for more than $100 million Microsoft will purchase the German startup behind the Wunderlist to-do list app for more than $100 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The acquisition is part of a bid to improve Microsoft’s mobile, email and calendar applications.   The Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder GmbH is backed by US venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and other VCs. Apple to launch music streaming service Apple is launching its own music streaming service to compete with Spotify, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The new Apple service will reportedly cost $10 a month; however, unlike Spotify, the company will not allow users to stream its entire catalogue.   The move represents a significant shift away from the downloading model that helped Apple revolutionise music a decade ago. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 29.69 points, rising 0.16% yesterday to 18,040.37. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.08 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Snapchat raises more than $700 million

5:30PM | Sunday, 31 May

Snapchat has raised an additional $US537 million in funding from investors, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The round was led by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding and two hedge funds.   The latest capital injection values Snapchat at $US16 billion, up from $US10 billion in December. Apple buys German augmented reality software startup Apple has purchased a German augmented reality software startup to explore the possibility of integrating the company’s technology with its products.   The terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Apple gave Reuters its usual one-sentence statement saying it buys smaller technology companies “from time to time” and does not comment.   Metaio specialises in augmented-reality software for the retail and automotive markets and has received investment from serial entrepreneur Carl Westcott and Silicon Valley equity fund Atlantic Bridge. Woolworths leaks customer data in $1 million gift card breach Woolworths has mistakenly emailed customer data along with the redeemable codes for more than 8000 gift cards, forcing the grocery giant to cancel more than $1 million in vouchers.   The company told Fairfax it takes data security and customer concerns “seriously”.   “We experienced a technical fault with an e-voucher offered to customers this week,” the statement read.   “We are working to resolve the issue and are assisting customers.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.44 points, falling 0.64% yesterday to 18,010.68. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.5 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Brillo and Weave among major announcements out of Google I/O

5:44AM | Friday, 29 May

Brillo, a cut-down version of Android aimed at embedded devices, and Weave, a framework designed to compete against Apple’s HomeKit API, were among the key announcements from the Google I/O developer conference this year.   Other key announcements from the tech giant include a photo sharing service and app designed to compete against Flickr called Google Photos, a series of major virtual reality announcements, and the latest version of the Android operating system, which is known as Android M.   Clinicloud founder Hon Weng Chong told StartupSmart that while Brillo and Weave are aimed more at the home automation end of IoT rather than medtech devices, a key issue for any embedded device is the trade-off between ease of programming and memory use.   “Right now, we’re not even using Embedded Linux. We’re working on bare metal in Assembler,” Chong says.   “There’s always a trade-off. When you use Windows 10 or Embedded Android, you need to have extra memory and more processing power, and that comes at a cost. So the trade-off is between the cost versus how easy it is to program.   “Certainly, it will be good for new startups that are just prototyping their ideas. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of getting a product ready, you need to do a bit more work. I’m not sure the trade-offs and chip costs are something Microsoft and Google have really taken into consideration.” Assembler still the only way to go The sentiment is shared by Procept products and marketing manager Rob Crowder, who also serves as the managing director of Smash Wearables. He told StartupSmart Assembler is the only way to go right now, assuming you can write apps that basic.   Crowder also says multi-purpose wearable devices such as Android Wear smartwatches and the Apple Watch still lack the precision needed to do something like accurately measure a player’s tennis swing, as single-use wearables such as Smash Wearables’ device does.   “Right now, if we asked a wearable to do everything the Apple Watch does, and at the same time have the precision we need it to, you’d probably need a battery the size of a backpack, and no one would buy it.   “Our own wearables, that are useful for some very specific purpose, have a shelf life of somewhere around three to five years. At some time, someone will come up with a general device that’s precise enough with a battery good enough for tennis. But right now, there’s still a trade-off. How hard you ask it to work led us to develop our own wearable.” Concerns around Brillo’s memory use David Soutar, co-founder and chief executive at Wattcost, says a lot of embedded devices couldn’t support the memory use Brillo requires.   However, not all startups are as pessimistic. Oomi vice president Chris Hall says he intends to take a close look at Google’s IoT ecosystem – as long as it doesn’t compromise the user experience for Apple and Windows users.   “At our end, we’ve encouraged an open ecosystem. What’s been happening in the IoT space is a lot of fragmentation. So we’ve tried to be as platform-agnostic as possible,” Hall says.   “Oomi Touch integrates with Apple HomeKit to give full value to iOS users. We’re also a partner in Samsung’s Tizen Alliance.   “On the Google side, the big talk last year Nest Thread. However with Weave, there seems to be a distancing away from Nest and on the hardware side, we’ll take a close look at what the hardware offers.” Great to have an Apple HomeKit rival LEAPIN Digital Keys cofounder Steve Dunn says he thinks it’s great that Google have finally stepped in and set a new IOT platform with Brillo and Weave to rival Apple's HomeKit.   “It means that we can now more easily interface our smart lock products with other IOT products without having to go through a lengthy negotiation exercise with all the different companies with all their different IOT products one at a time.   “We’ve been talking with some overseas telcos, other startups, security product manufacturers, and even insurance companies about building interfaces, and pulling together smart home products and kits with our smart locks. But up until now it feels like we've been going on dates with all these other companies, talking and looking at each other’s products, discussing taking action, but not actually doing anything. This Project Brillo announcement by Google levels the playing field now, so it means that the best products can more easily come together and offer more choices for the consumer.   “Up until now, it’s only been the loudest voices and best negotiators (mostly in the US) and not necessarily the best products, which are coming together because there hasn't been one primary platform for IoT products… Hopefully, Brillo will enable the smaller startups like us with great IoT products to get all the interfaces done, and get their products out there in front of consumers easier than they do now.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple working on Google Now competitor

5:16PM | Wednesday, 27 May

Apple is developing a new iOS imitative code named “proactive” that will leverage Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and third-party apps to compete with Google Now.   Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on user data and device usage patterns, but respect its users privacy preferences, a source told 9to5Mac.   The feature will likely replace Apple’s Spotlight menu. Speculation suggests some form of Proactive will be introduced with iOS9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. Comcast restarts Vox Media acquisition talks Before Vox Media acquired Re/code, it had been engaged in acquisition talks with Comcast.   Comcast has invested in both Vox Media and Re/code, and now following Vox Media’s purchase of Re/code, Comcast is ready to reopen acquisition talks with Vox Media, Quartz reports.   Vox Media has raised about $US110 million over the last six years and has been seeking a Valuation close to $1 billion. Desktop internet is not in decline The amount of time spent online on desktop has remained steady for the past two years, according to data from comScore.   Online mobile usage has grown steadily over that period and is adding to, not subtracting from the amount of time people spent online on desktop computers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 121.45 to 18,162.99. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US77 cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Ribbit! App developed by Queensland scientists aims to be the Shazam of frog calls

5:22AM | Wednesday, 27 May

Queensland scientists have developed an app that allows users to identify frogs by their calls. It’s not quite Shazam for frogs yet, but it’s a step in that direction.   The app, developed by scientists at James Curtin University in Queensland and released earlier this month, stores the calls of all 238 known Australian frog species, along with other information, to help users identify frogs.   Designed to replace textbook field guides, the Frogs of Australia app features information about each of the 238 discovered Australian frog specifies. Users wishing to identify a frog can use geolocation to narrow that list of 238 to a more manageable one which includes those known to live in that area.   The frog can then be identified by matching it to profile pictures or an audio recording of the frog’s call stored within in the app.   Senior lecturer, College of Marine and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, Dr Conrad Hoskin says there was a need for an updated field guide for Australian frogs and it made the most sense to throw away the old textbook format in favour of an app.   The dream is to eventually develop technology that helps such an app identify frogs, without user assistance, in the same way music discovery app Shazam identifies songs and artists. Shazam’s technology is how Apple’s virtual assistant Siri identifies songs.   “That’s where we’d like to end up. The thing with Shazam is when a song is playing, it’s the same song anywhere you’re playing it,” Hoskin says.   “When you’re out in the field, there’s never just one frog calling. There’s always lots of individuals, and the range in frog calls is quite amazing. So we’re not there yet. We’ve got the calls at your fingertips, but it still requires the user to identify them.”   On average two new frog species are documented in Australia every year, so the app also includes a submit feedback function, which puts users in contact with Hoskin and his team, so they can investigate any interesting finds.   Hoskin says that feature is designed to help the team tap into bushwalkers and explorers who might bump into new frog species in their travels.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Lyft raises an additional $US150 million in funding

5:33PM | Sunday, 17 May

Ridesharing service Lyft has raised $US150 million ($A187 million) in funding from serial investor Carl Icahn.   The latest capital injection comes off the back of a $US530 million Series E round in March, bringing the amount of capital raised by the startup this year to more than $800 million.   Icahn said in a statement he was very happy to be investing in Lyft because he believed very strongly in its team.   “I believe that ridesharing is poised to become a fundamental component of our transportation infrastructure,” he said.   “The Company’s revenue growth to date has been extremely compelling, and increasing urbanization over the next five to 10 years should enable the company to maintain that trajectory. Additionally, I’ve been very impressed with Lyft’s founders and management team, and I believe they are well-suited to take advantage of this opportunity and to make Lyft an extremely successful company.”   Lyft is a competitor of popular ridesharing service Uber, with an Australian launch in the works according to a partner company. Apple acquires US mapping startup Coherant Navigation Apple has snapped up San Francisco-based GPS startup Coherant Navigation in a bid to improve the company’s mapping technology.   “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a spokesperson told The New York Times.   The acquisition is the latest in a string of mapping technology startups bought by the company in recent years. Payments startup Clinkle in hot water after employees quit in protest Mobile payments startup Clinkle is in trouble after seven employees walked out on the company due to ongoing frustrations with its 24-year-old chief executive, TechCrunch reports.   Clinkle shot into the spotlight in 2013 when it raised $25 million in seed funding from investors such as Peter Thiel and Accel Ventures without a publically available product.   The company’s founder and chief executive, Lucas Duplan, has previously fired a string of employees and has reportedly withheld information from employees regarding a potential buyout. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.32 points, rising 0.11% to 18,272.56. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 80.4 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Move over Melbourne Cup – let’s start betting on Australian unicorns

5:45AM | Friday, 8 May

Australians gamble more on the Melbourne Cup ($200 million, $9 per capita) than the entire venture capital industry invests in startups in a year ($100m, $4.55 per capita).   This disparity is especially concerning when we consider that in the US, three companies (Apple, Facebook and Google) contribute $1.3 trillion to GDP, which is higher than the value of our entire ASX. All three of those businesses were once startups with the youngest being Facebook founded a mere 11 years ago.   We rightly celebrate the success of Atlassian and REA Group, however, we need to create the conditions to drive a thriving and substantial ecosystem of startups. With this in mind Salesforce is supporting the recommendations of the StartupAUS Crossroads Report 2015, which provides an action plan for how Australia can develop a vibrant tech-startup ecosystem.   According to the report, the impact that tech startups could have on the Australian economy, if nurtured and supported, is huge. Two key findings that struck me are:   Each new technology-based job created adds five additional jobs in other sectors (3x a new job in manufacturing or extractive industries) 73% of a nation’s future wealth can be predicted by its Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – a measure of a nation’s ability to produce a range of goods varying in complexity from extracting and selling unprocessed natural resources to building and selling complex industrial products/services. Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, which means unless we start driving more innovation, we would predict low future GDP growth.   Not only do tech startups positively impact the economy, they also provide the growth of the ecosystem through creating ‘unicorns’ – startups valued at over $US1 billion. The existence of unicorns raises the profile of entrepreneurship and creates a market of experienced and cashed-up employees who create and support new companies, attracting other hopeful entrepreneurs who want to be where the action is.   Australia’s tech ecosystem has seen huge progress over the last three years and with just a few tweaks there could be a tremendous wave of growth in the nation’s Silicon Beaches. While all of the eight action items recommended in The Crossroads Report are important, in my opinion, there are two that are most pressing:   Increase the number of people with ICT skills Improve access to startup expertise   Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills. However, enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily. There is an increasing gap in the skills we need and the type of workforce Australia is producing.   If we act now to produce the right work force and build our startup ecosystem, graduates educated in STEM will find many of their future jobs with the unicorns.   Key to building up this ecosystem for the workforce of the future is providing the right support to our existing startups. Initiatives like York Butter Factory, Fishburners, and our own Salesforce for Startups program are all aimed at providing the right conditions, expertise and technology to startups as they scale.   While the support currently available is valuable, there’s still more work to be done. If we want to build the next generation of unicorns we need both industry and government of all levels to work in concert to provide the right framework and support.   Australia is now at a crossroads, it’s time for the nation to foster a viable environment for startups to not only operate in, but to thrive and succeed.   Tom Karemacher is the regional vice president for mid-market and SMB at Salesforce APAC.

Guy Kawasaki: Eight ways to be an evangelist for your business

5:11AM | Tuesday, 5 May

Guy Kawasaki made his name as Apple’s “chief evangelist” a term he says was coined by the marketing team. He was one of Apple’s first employees and was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984 under Steve Jobs. Now he’s the chief evangelist for Australian design business Canva which just announced an extra $6 million in funding. Whoever he’s working for, Kawasaki is passionate about being an evangelist for your business rather than just marketing it. Ahead of his keynote address at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Kawasaki spoke to SmartCompany about how you can be an evangelist for your business. 1. Ignore the doubters Kawasaki says working with Steve Jobs at Apple taught him if entrepreneurs want to create truly innovative products they need to ignore what everyone else is saying.   “Most of those people will tell you they just want better things,” he says.   “If Steve Jobs had listened to the advice in the 1980s he would have just made a better Apple 2.” 2. Have the other person’s interests at heart “An evangelist has the other person’s best interest at heart also and, primarily, most sales people are trying to make a quota and commission,” Kawasaki says.   “Evangelists want to get people more creative and productive, which is good for them and which is also good for the evangelist.” 3. Trust is essential Kawasaki’s first job after he finished his MBA was working for a small family-owned jewellery manufacturer.   “The jewellery business is intensely personal, reputation is everything; it’s hand to hand combat and I really learnt how to sell,” he says.   “It’s all about how to get people to trust you.” 3. Be prepared for hand-to-hand combat “When you had a computer like Macintosh and you had no precedent it too was hand-to-hand combat,” Kawasaki says.   “We literally met with companies one at a time, like selling a $35,000 ring you had to sell people on creating software for the Mac.” 4. Have an underlying purpose Kawasaki describes his time at Apple as “the best days of my life”.   “We were on a mission to prevent worldwide domination by IBM and it got closer to a religion than to a business,” he says.   “I believe the essence of what Apple did back then was it democratized computers.”   Kawasaki says he finds Canva’s mission equally inspiring.   “For me it’s empowering people for design like Macintosh empowered people for computers.” 5. Have a magnificent enemy “I can’t tell you that every product and every service can find as magnificent an enemy as IBM,” Kawasaki says.   “There are not that many magnificent enemies and if you are a small business, in particular, it’s harder to define a magnificent enemy.” 6. Use technology Kawasaki says the tools available now make evangelism even easier.   “Back in 1983 I had a car, an airplane ticket and a copper-based telephone system,” he says.   “Now you have email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google hangouts on air and Skype.” 7. Remove barriers to entry Canva operates using a freemium model where the basic product is free although the company is getting ready to launch the paid service Canva for Work.   Kawasaki says a freemium model makes life easy for him as an evangelist.   “The benefits are that it presents a very low barrier to buy something; it’s kind of a land grab,” he says.   “You want to give people a very slippery slope.”   “Remove all the barriers for adoption and make it as easy as possible to fall in love with your product,” he says.   “One barrier many companies make is that you have to download an app.” 8. Eat what you kill “You should eat what you kill,” Kawasaki says.   “I have never seen a company die because it couldn’t scale fast enough but I have seen many die because they scaled too quickly.”   CeBIT starts today at Sydney Olympic Park.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Newly launched Apple Watch poses unique challenges for app developers

4:02AM | Friday, 24 April

With the Apple Watch having now officially launched in Australia, developers and businesses releasing apps for the platform are describing a number of unique challenges posed by the device, including dealing with a smaller screen, unreliable Bluetooth links and new contexts for apps.   The highly publicised launch of Apple’s wearable device will see the number of companies with smartwatch apps explode. The list of companies committing to apps on the platform includes Domain, REA, CBA, Fairfax, Qantas, Woolworths, OzLotteries, Westpac, St George and Zova.   They join startups such as Rewardle and Freelancer which are already operating on smartwatches via Google’s Android Wear platform and, in some cases, created apps even before the Apple Watch was officially announced.   Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford says many more businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to the platform.   “At the moment as a digital agency, we’re not seeing a lot of demand for apps, but there is a lot interest in the business community. A lot of businesses are watching the launch very closely,” Bradford says.   Bradford says screen size is one of the major user interface issues developers need to consider when designing an app.   “In general, smartwatch keyboards are unusable and on the Apple Watch it’s non-existent. That creates a number of UI challenges. So for example, for an app that relies on communicating between two people, instead of a keyboard, Apple allows you to use predetermined emoji, draw on the screen or call them by voice. That means the whole UI needs to be rethought,” he says.   “The other issue is processing power and the necessity of being synced to the iPhone for many of the features. So, for example, the watch can’t access the internet directly, meaning you need to have your phone nearby – in a pocket, a bag or on a desk – when you want to call someone.   “That means if you have a fitness app, there’s a good chance the user won’t have their phone in their pocket when they go running – and you won’t be able to get data onto the internet in real time. So you really need to consider the context as well as the UI.”   Among the Australian startups preparing to launch an Apple Watch app is mobile ordering and payments platform AirService. Its chief executive and co-founder, Dominic Bressan says it’s important to be mindful of battery life, and that design elements work differently on a smaller screen.   “It’s a new platform, a new experience, and you can’t just shrink an iPhone app down to a smaller screen. So you have to pick which elements you bring from the iPhone to the Watch,” Bressan says.   “So notifications are something that naturally flows from the phone to the watch. I don’t see the full ordering experience translating to the watch, at least this stage. We will allow users to save a couple of favourite orders, but a full browse of venues with photos will remain on the iPhone.   “It has been really tricky developing an app without a device to test on and needing to do everything in a simulator. You have to remember things like the Bluetooth Low Energy connection is prone to drop out on the real device, but always works flawlessly in the simulator.   Likewise, Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung says notifications are likely to be a key focus for the startups forthcoming Apple Watch app.   “For us, the benefits of an Apple Watch app are proximity and immediacy. Most of our Apple Watch app features are worker-centric features. We’re looking at scheduling, alerts and notifications that will allow them to move quickly and respond to an alert,” Fung says.   “When it comes to posting tasks, at this stage the interface just isn’t strong enough. That will change over time, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Over the long term, we’re looking at things like using voice-to-text for tasks.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple could ship Apple Watches to customers sooner than expected

4:53PM | Wednesday, 22 April

Customers who have pre-ordered the Apple Watch can expect to see their new gadgets at their doorsteps sooner than expected.   Customers in the US who pre-ordered the device were originally told their orders would not ship until May or April. However, many have received an email notification saying their orders are “processing”.   “We’re happy to be updating many customers today with the news that their Apple Watch will arrive sooner than expected,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.   “Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.” Professional certification startup Simplilearn raises $US15 million Professional certification startup Simplilearn has raised $US15 million in Series C funding, according to TechCrunch.   The startup specialises in online self-learning and corporate training, with analytics, project management, marketing and programming courses proving the most popular among consumers.   To date the startup has raised $US27 million and plans to have one million users by the end of 2015. Facebook launches new app to identify unknown callers Facebook has launched a new Android app to identify mystery callers, Re/code reports.   Called Hello, the app taps into information publically available on Facebook to identify who’s calling you – even if you aren’t friends with the person calling on Facebook.   The application only works if the person calling you has shared their number publicly on the social media platform. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 88.64 points, rising 0.49% to 18,038.27. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: On-demand marijuana startup backed by Snoop Dog raises $US10 million

4:30PM | Tuesday, 14 April

A San Francisco startup that delivers medical marijuana to customers on-demand has raised $US10 million in Series A funding in order to launch nation-wide.   The capital injection was led by DCM Ventures, with 500 Startups and Fresh VC also participating in the round.   Founder and chief executive Keith McCarty said in a statement the funding will allow the company to fill 50 job vacancies across all areas of the business.   “We want to thank our early patients and partners in the San Francisco Bay Area who have contributed to our success to date,” he said.   “These major milestones are only possible with their support. The new funding enables us to expand rapidly by further developing our technology, building new dispensary partnerships and scaling our team for hyper-growth as we expand nationwide where marijuana is legal.”   Apple says no to selfie sticks   Apple is banning selfie sticks from this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to Apple Insider.   “You are not permitted to make audio or audiovisual recordings of WWDC or take professional photographic or video equipment, or wearable recording devices into Moscone West or Yerba Buena Gardens,” the event’s attendance policy reads.   “In addition, you may not use selfie sticks or similar monopods within Moscone West or Yerba Buena Gardens.”   Pocket raises additional $US7 million in capital   Pocket has raised an additional $US7 million in funding in order to expand its team and launch in products, according to Venture Beat.   The startup allows users to save content from across the web – including social media platforms such as Twitter – and read it later or keep on-hand for future reference.   Pocket has raised $US14.5 million to date.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 59.66 points, rising 0.33% to 18,0365.70. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.7 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Apple Watch: Why are so many, prepared to pay so much, without even knowing why?

4:24AM | Monday, 13 April

Within hours of the pre-order launch, the initial batch of Apple Watches were showing shipping times of two months. Not only had the cheapest Apple Watch Sport at AUD $499 sold out, but so had the Apple Watch Edition with a rose gold case and retailing at AUD $17,000.   And all of this for a watch that reviewers have given decidedly mixed reviews. The fact that people are willing to spend that much money on a device that they have no forehand knowledge of is a testament to the power that Apple devices have over their customers. The Apple Watch does nothing that other, far cheaper devices have done for many years. The Pebble watch, available for the past 2 years, covers most of the same functionality as the Apple Watch and retails for just AUD $89.   The truth of the matter is that the majority of people don’t actually know the difference. It has been a long standing joke about the number of people asking if the Pebble watch people are wearing is, in fact, an Apple Watch. For those that have worn a Pebble, or Android Wear or other smart watch, the reality of the usefulness, or otherwise, of these devices will have been long apparent.   It is a useful thing to get notifications of text messages on your watch, but the novelty of having your wrist buzz every time one of the 200 hundred a day emails arrives, rapidly wears off. Rejecting calls from your watch is also a useful feature, but answering the call and speaking into your watch is as socially acceptable as wearing Google Glass. Switching on the fitness functions on most smart watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 does a much poorer job of hear rate measurement than a dedicated fitness devices like the Fitbit.   The Apple Watch, although aesthetically more attractive perhaps than other devices, is in essence the functional equivalent of an AUD $350 Fitbit Surge. Whether the Apple Watch works as well as the Fitbit in terms of fitness tracking is yet to be seen.   According to Finder.com.au, 800,000 Australians, or 4.2% of the adult population, are intending to buy an Apple Watch. This is a similar number to those in the US that are intending to buy a watch, although this number has dropped from the nearly 10% of iPhone users who were intending to buy one back in December 2014.   Whilst it is easy to think of people stopping wearing an $89, or even an $300 device, as nearly 40% of wearable owners in the UK have done. It is much more painful to think of someone spending $1,000 doing the same.   Once again, we are seeing the enormous power of the psychological and social drivers behind being an Apple fan. Buying one of these watches is not an impulse purchase and it is not necessarily something that those buying these devices can actually afford.   In the US in 2013, households were spending 17% of their budget on technology. In Australia, an average family with 2 children spends about $6,000 a year on technology that ranges from telecommunications (mobiles, Internet connection, landlines) to streaming services for music and video. Within this context, it is even harder to justify spending the amount of money Apple is asking people to spend, on a watch that for the most part will simply be used to tell the time.   What may determine the success of the Apple Watch is its social acceptance by people who are not Apple Watch owners. Google Glass suffered from a view that a socially unaccepted technology was at the same time made exclusive, and therefore exclusionary, through its price. Although smart watches are less of a social imposition than a pair of glasses with a camera, looking at a watch in the company of others may be considered rude or signifying that the wearer is looking to be somewhere else. These social cues will need to be adapted for the case when people are looking at their wrist to see who is calling or texting and whether it is worth breaking a conversation to respond. Although society may adapt to this behaviour, it will take some time.   Whether the sales of the Apple Watch extends beyond the initial wave of early adopters is yet to be seen. It is hard to see how this will be sustained and the more conservative users will wait until at least next year, along with the possibility of price drops in the technology. Until then, the success of the watch will be easy to gauge by the number of people who are compulsively and continually staring at their wrists.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Aussie startup eCal sets up shop in New York

4:36AM | Thursday, 2 April

Calendar marketing platform eCal has established US headquarters after receiving a $2 million capital injection from Oxygen Ventures.   The startup received the funding as part of a reward for co-winning last year’s Big Pitch competition.   eCal founder and chief executive Patrick Barrett told StartupSmart the company had been servicing clients in America for some time but recently decided to set up shop in New York.   “We investigated both options – east coast and west coast – and spoke to other Australian companies in the sport entertainment space as well and asked their advice,” he says.   “We certainly came to the conclusion that the east coast was better for us. We established around 80% of our targets were located around the east coast – whether that’s New York, Boston, Atlanta… it certainly isn’t easy to travel to but that’s why we have a dedicated office and a dedicated team.”   eCal is just one of many Australian startups escaping the herd mentality and shunning San Francisco in favour of the Big Apple. While Silicon Valley is home to tech giants such as Apple and Facebook, New York is close to media and finance companies.   “There’s a big move in New York to bring tech companies in, particularly in Midtown,” Barrett says.   “We have access to the sports clients, but also importantly a lot of major media companies – the likes of NBC are just around the corner. We’re also close to the advertising media agencies, so when we extend into new verticals beyond sport those relationships are key to give us access to major brands.”   Barrett says he would encourage entrepreneurs thinking about setting up overseas operations to have the right people on the ground.   “The reality is you get what you pay for, and that’s the biggest piece of advice I give people,” he says.   “The other key message I tell people is you need to be there yourself – there’s no two ways about it. That’s why I’m going back to the US on Monday. The ideal case is where you have a co-founder or someone in the business who’s prepared to move over there… I think that’s the ideal scenario.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple chief slams workplace discrimination

3:37PM | Monday, 30 March

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has slammed so-called “religious freedom” laws in the US that allow employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of personal beliefs.   In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Cook said that America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination in all its forms is not just morally wrong but bad for business.   “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open,” he says.   “Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Phhhoto now has more than 1 million users Camera app Phhhoto has broken the 1 million user mark.   The startup launched an app last year that allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a public feed.   Co-founder Omar Elsayed told TechCrunch the next stage for the app is to improve the user experience.   “The product has gotten to a point where the Phhhoto media type is something that our users are enthusiastic about, so now it’s about how we can loop that into new ways of communicating, and perhaps even new content types,” he says.   To date the startup has raised $US225,000 ($A294m) in seed funding. Drifty announces $US2.6 million capital injection Software startup Drifty has raised $2.6 million in order to fund its product development, TechCrunch reports.   The round was led by Chicago-based firm Lightbank with participation from Founder Collective and previous investor Arthur Ventures.   Drifty is a graduate of the TechStars Cloud 2013 incubator. Last year the startup raised $1 million in seed funding. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 263.65 points, rising 1.49% to 17,976.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The four reasons this is a magical time for entrepreneurs: Matt Barrie

3:15AM | Wednesday, 25 March

We are living in a “magical time” for entrepreneurs according to Matt Barrie, founder of Freelancer.com, and SmartCompany advisory board member.   Speaking at yesterday’s Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne, Barrie said we are living in a period of “unprecedented growth” powered by the internet. He outlined four global macro trends that he says have led to “a remarkable period of disruption”. 1.  Software is eating the world   Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, famously said software is eating the world. “Every business is waking up to realise it’s a software business,” Barrie said.   He says the world’s biggest book company, Amazon, is a software company, the world’s biggest video service, Netflix, is a software company.   2.  Most of the world’s population are yet to use the internet   Barrie says there are tremendous opportunities for growth as more and more of the world’s population gets online.   “There are 4 billion people not yet online,” Barrie said. “There as twice as many people on the internet in China as the entire population of the United States.”   Facebook and Google are working hard to enable more and more people to access the internet while simultaneously, Barrie says, every industry is now being digitised.   For digital businesses like Freelancer, this means increasing numbers of clients. “We are in the early stages of replicating a country in software,” he said. “We have a population the size of Belgium”.   3.  Distribution is unprecedented   Technology adoption speed is increasing as distribution gets faster and faster, according to Barrie.   Facebook went from zero to a billion users in eight years, the Apple iPhone got to 40 million units in two years, and the iPad ramped even faster.   “Consumers are adopting faster and faster but distribution is also occurring faster and faster,” Barrie said.   Technology enables “distribution fire hoses” to reach the potential clients more and more quickly.   4.  Stuff is free, stuff is cheap   Barrie says it’s cheaper than ever to build a business.   “The great thing about this is everything you need to build a business is free …  if it’s not free it’s virtually free,” Barrie said.   He cites tools such as Google docs, MailChimp and Canva as all providing free or close-to-free business services.   “You can start a business off the back of a credit card,” Barrie said.   For example, RetailMeNot was built with $30 in one weekend, bootstrapped to $30 million in revenue and then sold to WhaleShark for $90 million five years later. Now, RetailMeNot is listed in the United States and has a market capitalisation of several billion dollars. The original founders were clever enough to retain shares.   All these factors mean that businesses can succeed at a quicker pace than ever before, Barrie says.   “It took Apple eight years to reach $1 billion in revenue, Google five years, companies are doing this faster and faster,” he says.         This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.

Apple Watch shows the craft in new tech and the limits of 3D printing and crowdfunding

3:48AM | Thursday, 19 March

Ahead of its launch the Apple Watch has been criticised for its price and upmarket focus, but the product shows how traditional industries are being enhanced by new technologies.   In its Watch Craftsmanship videos Apple shows off some of the workmanship that goes into manufacturing the device and the Atomic Delights blog has a deep look at the processes and the design decisions behind the company’s choice of techniques.   What Apple’s series shows is that making top end devices is capital intensive and very, very hard. It also puts lie to the idea that raising a few thousand, or even million, dollars on Kickstarter will get a luxury item to market.   Greg Koenig, the author of the Atomic Delights blog, gushes about Apple’s attention to detail and high quality manufacturing.   I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed. This isn’t a supply chain; it is a ritual Apple is performing to bring themselves up to the standards necessary to compete against companies with centuries of experience.   It’s clear Apple isn’t stepping back or making any compromises in making its mark on the watch industry, even though the entire global market for timepieces is less than one quarter’s income from the iPhone.   At the other end of the market the 3D printing revolution continues with Feetz raising $3 million for its customised shoemaking operation.   While Feetz is an impressive and quirky business with great promise, it shows the rough-and-ready face of the makers’ movement and the businesses relying on 3D printing services; it’s a world away from the Apple Watch.   While both crowdfunding and 3D printing are going to have a massive effect on business and manufacturing, the truth is that other manufacturing methods are still going to be used by deep pocketed companies. Nothing is ever as simple as we think.   For business owners and managers, particularly those in manufacturing, concepts like 3D printing and crowdsourcing are worth investigating to see how they can help, rather than disrupt, existing work practices.

Technology and fashion converge in the Apple Watch

3:18AM | Thursday, 12 March

Apple’s ability to mesh technology with beautiful design will be put to the test when it finally releases the much-anticipated Apple Watch. The tech giant is taking a super-advanced piece of technology and packaging it as a fashion statement.   Although the iPhone-compatible wearable watch is still more than a month from its official release date, the hype is building among Apple enthusiasts and fashionistas alike as they anticipate the first product Apple has designed to be worn.   On April 24 this year, the new smartwatch will find its way on to store shelves in a dazzling variety of colours and styles to trump even the options for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There will be 38 Apple Watch choices with a range of changeable faces – including an animated Mickey Mouse face. Apple says the watch is designed to be “highly customisable for personal expression”, allowing the owner to make a unique statement.   The watch is all about personalisation, even more so than previous Apple products, which have sported various colour possibilities plus the option of engraving the iPhone, iPod and iPad, which will also be available for the watch. With six band types and 18 interchangeable colours, you can don the sport band for a gym session and switch effortlessly to the Milanese loop for a night out. Wearable technology But is the world ready for wearable technology? We can hardly forget the moment when fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg put Google Glass on the runway in 2012.   But the Google Glass project is currently on hold. This head-mounted optical display was seen as somewhat dorky, giving rise to the opinion that technology belongs on our desks and not on our bodies.   So the question remains: will the Apple Watch succeed as a fashion item in a way that Google Glass has not? The emphasis on creating a fashionable product is readily apparent, with Apple leaning heavily on fashion insiders and retail gurus throughout the development phase. Apple is betting big on the success of its watch.   Apple’s senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, even introduced the device to iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld and a 12-page spread is reportedly being prepared for Vogue.   In case we needed further evidence that Apple is taking the fashion aspect seriously, super model Christy Turlington Burns appeared alongside Apple CEO Tim Cook to spruik the watch. She went so far as to call the Apple Watch a chic fashion accessory at the official launch. The price of design Given the emphasis on luxury, it is perhaps not surprising that the Apple Watch comes with a designer price tag for the 18-karat solid gold edition, which also has a top-of-the-line computer inside it. Apple says prices for these top-of-the-range models start from A$14,000.   For those of us who are not prepared to take out a loan on what is essentially a piece of jewellery, the entry-level Apple Watch Sport with its aluminium body and rubber strap starts at A$499 for the 38mm version and A$579 for the 42mm.   One step up from there is the Apple Watch, which has a A$799 or A$879 price tag for the 38mm and 42mm versions respectively.   Depending on the band you choose, be it classic leather or the Milanese loop, expect to pay up to A$1629. Apple has never been shy of setting premium prices. What can the watch do? Given the hefty price tag, you may well be inclined to ask: what does the Apple Watch actually do (after telling you the time)? Quite simply, the watch aims to get us moving.   Like the Fitbit -— an early leader in the fitness tracking market -— the Apple Watch is an activity tracker that counts our steps and measures our heart rate. And let’s not forget, it’s also a timekeeper and rather novel communication device.   Despite similar products on the market, Apple is betting that it can do it better, thanks to its ecosystem of hardware, software and services. Coupled with a loyal fan base and the watch’s status as a fashion item, Apple is likely to be on to another winner in terms of sales.   But despite its potential to help us achieve our fitness goals and perhaps curb obesity rates in Australia (three in five adults and one in four Aussies children are overweight), will we see Apple move from a well-loved consumer brand to the next big name in fashion?   There does seem to be a convergence of technology with fashion.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Soon smartwatches will listen to your body to work out how you’re feeling

3:25AM | Wednesday, 11 March

Final details of Apple’s new smartwatch have finally arrived at the firm’s glitzy Spring Forward event. But while the hype machine steps up another notch, there are other issues regarding health and self-tracking and, possibly even more important, over wearable tech companies' interest in our emotional lives.   Apple’s Watch records exercise, tracks our movements throughout the day, assesses the amount of time we are stood up and reminds us to get up and move around if we have been sat for too long – let’s not forget Tim Cook’s “sitting is the new cancer” line. It achieves this by means of an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, WiFi and GPS. There are already many smartwatches on the market such as the Pebble and offerings from LG, Sony, Samsung and Motorola, among others. Of course, these haven’t had the Apple marketing Midas touch.   Whether the Watch will be a flop or success, Apple’s entry is a significant contribution to industry-wide attempts to get us using wearable devices. The market is predicted to grow from 9.7m units in 2013 to 135m in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables. Information is power   To understand the significance of Watch and other self-tracking wearables, we should look to Silicon Valley and the Quantified Self movement. This began in San Francisco around 2007 as the editors of Wired magazine, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, initiated a group of like-minded people interested in “self-knowledge through numbers”, a motto and philosophy of sorts for the Quantified Self movement. It entails a deeply libertarian outlook of de-centralisation, a shrunken state, autonomy and self-reliance, and pre-emptive and preventative measures based on the use of data.   Apple’s move into wearables is inevitable as the market grows, but the broader interest in health is also notable. It reflects an interest from corporations and national health providers alike in promoting preventative and anticipatory technologies. The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers' and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.   This has ushered in an age of medical self-interrogation, in real time and real life contexts, whether this be from office pressure, in relationships, or the impact of disease or physical stresses on the body. Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines. Think and act   Beyond health, Apple’s interest in emotion is key to understanding the significance of its watch. Apple’s website promises that we will reach out and connect in ways we never have. Watch will allow us to draw doodle pictures and observe others as they create theirs, give loved ones a “tap” on the wrist to show we are thinking of them, send real-time heartbeats to others, and so on.   The message is to use connectivity to be intimate even at a distance, with the language Apple uses an attempt to claim intimacy and sociability from afar, and to humanise and make palatable what are essentially tracking technologies.   There is however a more literal emotional dimension to biometric technologies: the Watch is an example of what I term empathic media – machines able to assess, collect and make use of data about our emotions. This can be achieved through interpretation of speech patterns and tone, gesture, gaze direction, facial cues, heart rates, and respiration patterns. While Apple’s product does not offer all this (although earlier iterations of Watch made similar promises), it still sits within a wider context of technologies that quite literally feel our bodily reactions.   Until now the online world has understood our preferences through the search term keywords we use and what we click; empathic media will quite literally feel our reactions. This is important because if companies can understand moods, emotions or states of arousal, they have access to information that may sway the decisions we make.   We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?   *This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple gives $US50 million to improve diversity in tech

3:35PM | Tuesday, 10 March

Apple is donating $US50 million ($A65m) to organisations that strive to improve diversity in the tech sector.   Apple’s head of human resources Denise Young Smith has told Fortune the company was partnering with several not-for-profits in order to increase the workplace participation of women, people of colour, and people with diverse sexualities and genders.   “We wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple,” she said.   “There is a tremendous upside to that and we are dogged about the fact that we can’t innovate without being diverse and inclusive.”   The news follows Apple’s announcement that the Apple Watch will launch worldwide on April 24. What’s happened to Yik Yak? Anonymous messaging app Yik Yak has quietly disappeared from the Google Play charts.   An investigation by TechCrunch found the startup was delisted from Google Play in October 2014, suggesting Google has taken action against the platform.   The company has previously come under fire for publishing “demeaning” and “sexually explicit” language and imagery.   Yik Yak brought on $US62 million in capital late last year in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital – valuing the startup at between $US300 million and $US400 million. Google’s CFO to retire Google’s chief financial officer Patrick Pichette has announced he is retiring in order to spend more time with his family.   In a post on his Google+ page, Pichette said he will hand over the role in the coming months after the company finds a suitable replacement. “Life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade-offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community,” he said.   “And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 332.78 points, falling 1.85% overnight to 17,662.94. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.26 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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