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Five things every entrepreneur should do to ensure digital marketing success

4:14AM | Friday, 24 April

Every entrepreneur knows that they should be using digital marketing to grow their business but many are intimidated by the jargon and complexity of the industry. Each of the points below only skim the surface of what is possible but they will give you some guidance and food for thought.   1. Define business goals   Whilst it sounds so simple, the biggest mistake companies make when investing in digital marketing is not to have a clearly defined set of business goals.   Ask yourself the following questions and until you have the answers you should not be spending a single cent:   What are we trying to achieve as a business? What can we afford to pay per sale? Who is going to manage this project from start to end? What does success look like? How much marketing budget are we going to spend?   2. Set up Google Analytics   Google provides a number of free tools to help you succeed on the web. The most useful is Google Analytics (GA). It is imperative that every single website has GA installed and configured correctly.   GA enables users to measure the success of each digital channel. There is no point investing money in a channel if you cannot understand how many sales that channel has provided.   Every time a customer completes a transaction on your site they should be shown a thank you page. Firstly set up your GA account, then create a GA goal and place the code on to your thank you page. This code will fire every time a transaction is completed, registering a goal completion in Analytics. You can then log into Analytics, look at the conversion report and see which channel (SEO, AdWords, Facebook, etc) has provided the most conversions for your product/service.   3. Email database   Every company should be building an email database. This will consist of people that have either bought or are interested in your company’s products/services. Your email database will drive your cheapest possible cost per acquisition as you are marketing to people who have already used or shown interest in your product/service.   It is important to always obey the latest privacy laws regarding email. To brush up on your knowledge you can find them here.   You should email your database enough to maintain contact but not so much that they decide to unsubscribe. When deciding if to send an email consider if the content that you are providing will be interesting and informative to your users. If the answer is yes, send it. Emailing uninformative information more than once a month is likely to lead to a large number of users unsubscribing.   4. Search engine optimisation (SEO)   SEO will always provide your second cheapest cost per acquisition after email and is an essential part of any digital strategy. Google’s algorithm is extremely complicated. However, it can be distilled into three basic parts: technical, onsite content and links.   If you do not have the budget to hire a specialist SEO agency you can still improve your SEO rankings.   Google loves fresh content. You should be blogging as much as you possibly can about your chosen industry and then posting links to your content on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).   Google also loves high quality, contextually relevant sites linking to your website. Your first stop for links should be to ask your existing partners/clients to link back to your website. Next make a list of every software/digital supplier that you use and offer to write them a testimonial if they link to your site.   Signing up for a MOZ subscription will provide a great starter toolset to guide you on how to improve your site for technical SEO.   5. Paid media (Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)   The type of product/service that your business offers will define which of these mediums will work best for you. In most cases Google AdWords and Facebook adverts will provide your highest return on investment.   The key to all paid media is ensuring that it’s tracked correctly so that you can measure your ROI. In addition to Google Analytics tracking, each form of paid media will have its own conversion pixel. It’s absolutely essential to install each of the medium’s tracking pixel on your thank you page. Not only will it count the number of conversions, but it will also allow you to optimise the campaign towards the best performing keywords, demographic or advert.   Retargeting should also form part of your paid media strategy. In its simplest form, a user visiting your website is cookied. You can then retarget the users that do not buy your product/service with a message encouraging them to do so.   If you take one message away from this blog post it should be that business planning and tracking return on investment are the most important digital marketing factors. If digital marketing acronyms leave you confused check out my list of meanings here.   Tom Sadler is sales and marketing director at indigo digital.   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: Twitter cracks down on violent trolls

4:38PM | Tuesday, 21 April

Twitter has rolled out several updates aimed at combating online abuse.   The changes will see a broadening of the definition of violent behaviour, as well as giving the social media giant the power to suspend accounts for a specific period of time.   The company’s director of product management, Shreyas Doshi, said in a statement that users must feel safe on Twitter in order to really express themselves.   “We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation,” he says.   “And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.” Facebook revamps the newsfeed to prioritise updates from friends and family Facebook is rolling out major changes to the news feed so that people will see more updates from their friends instead of all the other useless shit we are bombarded with while on the platform.   The company’s product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors said in a joint statement the changes were implemented in order to show content that matters to users.   “This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and community organisations you are connected to,” they said.   “This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right.” MyTime raises $US9.25 million in Series B funding Online appointment booking startup MyTime has raised $US9.25 million in Series B funding in order to expand its sales and operations team.   The round was led by existing investors Upfront Ventures, as well as Khosla Ventures, Daher Capital, Accelerator Ventures and others.   Founder and chief executive of MyTime, Ethan Anderson, said in a statement the startup is helping small businesses save time and money by streamlining customer appointments.   “This new funding allows us to expand our focus from being the most popular consumer destination for finding and booking appointments online to providing our merchants with the tools they need to enable online booking and communication with their clients 24/7,” he said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 85.34 points, falling 0.47% to 17,949.59. 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.

Facebook cracks down on fake ‘likes’

4:13AM | Tuesday, 21 April

Don’t fall for dodgy deals offering your business hundreds of fake ‘likes’ – you may be forking out the money for nothing in return.   Facebook has said it is making “big strides” against fraudulent activity on the platform, including cracking down on those selling fake ‘likes’.   The social network said in a blog post new advances in its pattern recognition technologies have helped it “halt many of the major exchanges that promote fake like activity on Facebook originating from click farms, fake accounts and malware”.   “When we see suspicious patterns of likes coming from or to a specific account, we thoroughly investigate the situation in order to determine whether there is fraudulent activity taking place,” said Facebook.   Over the last six months, Facebook said it has tripled the number of likes it has detected and has blocked them before they ever reached a page.   “Because of this effort, a large number of the vendors that were attempting to sell inauthentic likes to Facebook Page administrators have closed their businesses,” Facebook said.   “We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: don’t buy fraudulent likes! They may be tempting, but fraudulent likes are going to do more harm than good for your Page.”   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.

Sharks circle in on ridesharing safety fears

4:03AM | Monday, 20 April

Oliver Du Rieu, the founder of Melbourne-based La Mule, was confronted with the safety concerns all transportation network startups must grapple with when pitching on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.   In the latest episode, Du Rieu sought a $50,000 investment in exchange for 5% equity in startup La Mule, a marketplace where users can find fellow travellers to share the costs of road trips. Drivers can post a start and end point, the number of seats available for the trip, and the price of each seat. Travellers can then book a seat for the ride. La Mule then takes a 15% cut of each booking.   While the Sharks appreciated the concept, they did raise potential safety concerns, one shark, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis was particularly blunt.   “The reality is 99.9% of the population is fantastic. 0.1% is Ivan Milat,” she says.   It’s an important point, user safety is a problem transportation network startups like Uber have been grappling with. Fellow shark Steve Baxter queried whether or not Du Rieu had any mechanisms built in to address those concerns. According to Du Rieu it relies on reviews, a Facebook and email verification process, hardly a foolproof safety plan.   Eleven UberX drivers have been charged with operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence. But Du Rieu says La Mule’s drivers don’t require taxi licences simply because they are a marketplace for people to connect and share the costs of rides, rather than specifically setting out to earn money for giving people lifts.   He left the show without investment, encouraged to look into addressing those safety issues, but with a general endorsement from all the sharks that La Mule is an interesting idea.   Five months has passed since Du Rieu appeared on the show, and in that time it’s grown its network of Facebook followers from 1500 to over 3000 and has on average between 20 and 30 rides per week being facilitated on the platform. Over 100 rides have been organised since Shark Tank aired on Sunday night. Du Rieu has spent much of the past five months working to develop partnerships with businesses that could give La Mule a steady source of ongoing users and revenue, at the urging of Baxter, who has remained in contact with Du Rieu.   “We just need to prove to everyone that people want to use it, rides being posted on the platform and people sharing as many rides as possible. Whether or not that involves partnering up with someone that will help us get regular rides over a long period of time,” Du Rieu says.   “We did about a month of negotiations with investors in January. But we got to a point where we need to build some traction, really prove the concept, just to show that carpooling does work in Australia.”   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 EC’s case against Google is a bad application of outdated laws

4:17AM | Monday, 20 April

On one level, the European Commission’s argument with Google is unsurprising. The EC’s commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager’s job is to investigate possible breaches of EU competition law. That is exactly what she is doing with her official complaints against Google’s use of its Google Shopping service. Equally unsurprising, is the investigation of Google’s other possible breaches of its monopoly position with how it controls the use of its mobile operating system, Android.   One should also set aside the melodrama that accompanies such cases. News reports of the case have highlighted calls for the break up of Google as suggested by the European Parliament last year. The reports have also focused on the possible massive Euro 6 billion fine Google faces if the antitrust complaints are upheld. Finally, there is the fact that the case is the result of a conspiracy of competitors, led by Microsoft.   All of the drama however, masks what is going to be a protracted process that could take years, during which time the entire landscape that is being fought over could have changed, not once, but several times. Google themselves were at pains to respond to the accusations that they were harming consumers by pointing out that search was quickly being superseded, and that:   “People are increasingly using social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to find recommendations, such as where to eat, which movies to watch or how to decorate their homes”   Whilst it may be true that Google has a monopoly on search of the Internet as a whole, that is certainly not the case when it comes to the “social web” which is well and truly dominated by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. Likewise, Google may have dominated advertising on the desktop but that is increasingly not the case on mobile.   Law and trade policy operate on timescales that are always going to significantly lag technological change. As if understanding the full impact of an existing technology on consumers and competition was already not challenging enough, attempting to do this in the context of what will happen in even a few years is almost impossible. In fact, even determining monopoly in a technological market is not always straightforward. For example, even though Android controls over 80% of the world’s smartphone market compared to Apple’s share of 15%, in terms of mobile e-commerce, users of Apple’s mobile devices account for 5 times the value of Android users.   For all of the EC’s past actions against Microsoft, they were irrelevant in shaping what eventually happened in the market. The actions had no effect on Microsoft’s behaviours, and came as little-to-no benefit to consumers. As with the EC’s complaint against Android, the fact that software comes pre-installed does nothing to preclude a consumer’s ability to run alternative software.   The EC’s objections against Google again raises the more general issue that it is a futile exercise to use antitrust law to retrospectively try and influence the way the technology companies, and the digital economy as a whole, work. As with copyright and patents, the law has simply not been able to adapt and keep pace with the disruptive change brought about by technology and society at a global scale. It has led policy and law makers, and companies not wanting to adapt to change, to focus on the past and act as a break, rather than an enabler, of progress.   It would be a far better use of the EC’s time and resources if their energies were spent creating policy that enabled the digital economy that they profess to want rather than keeping their vision of it restricted to a time that has long since passed.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Dutch prosecutors launch criminal investigation into Uber

4:26PM | Sunday, 19 April

Dutch authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Uber because the company is providing an illegal taxi service that violates a court order, according to Reuters.   The investigation is the latest setback for the ridesharing service in Europe. Last month a German court issued a nationwide ban on unlicensed taxi drivers with fines of up to $300,000 for violating the law.   The move saw Uber bowing to pressure and agreeing to pay for transport licences for its UberX drivers.   To date Dutch police have fined 23 Uber drivers more than $2000 for operating without a licence. In Australia, unregistered taxi drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. French senate supports law requiring Google to reveal its algorithm The French senate has supported a law that would require search engines to reveal their algorithms in order to ensure fair and non-discriminatory search results, according to TechCrunch.   The chamber’s amendments to a draft economy bill could also see search engines forced to include a minimum of three rivals on the first page of search results. Google, which owns an overwhelming chunk of the search engine market, has always kept its search algorithm top secret.   The draft legislation comes at a time when Google is coming under tough scrutiny in Europe for allegedly abusing its dominance of the internet to the detriment of competitors.   The French upper house will vote on the legislation and its amendments next month before it has the opportunity to be passed into law. WhatsApp reaches 800 million users worldwide Messaging platform WhatsApp has reached 800 million monthly users.   The company’s current rate of growth puts it on track to reach one billion users by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The messaging app has grown by 100 million active monthly users every four months since August 2014.   Facebook purchased WhatsApp last year for just over $28 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How children view privacy differently from adults

4:40PM | Thursday, 16 April

Have you seen the how-to video of a teenage girl styling her hair that went disastrously wrong? She was obviously very disturbed by what happened, yet still uploaded the footage onto YouTube. Do you think a 45 or 50 year-old would upload an equivalent video of themselves?   The majority of young people now share lots of things online that many adults question and feel uncomfortable about: their likes, dislikes, personal views, who they’re in a relationship with, where they are, images of themselves and others doing things they should or maybe shouldn’t be doing.   In fact, a study undertaken in the US by Pew Research found that 91% of 12-to-17-year-olds posted selfies online, 24% posted videos of themselves. Another 91% were happy posting their real name, 82% their birthday, 71% where they live and the school they attend, 53% their email address and 20% their mobile phone number. Overstepping Children’s fondness for online sharing is a global phenomenon, and in response governments internationally have initiated awareness campaigns that aim to ensure children are more private online.   In the UK, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recently launched a Share Aware campaign. This includes the recent TV advertisement, called I saw your willy, which depicts the ill-fated consequences of a young boy who as a joke, texts a photo of his penis to his friend.   The ad emphasises to children the need to keep personal information about themselves offline and private.   Similarly the Australian Federal Police have launched Cyber safety and ThinkUKnow presentations for school students, which highlights the social problems that can arise when you’re having fun online.   Adults often interpret children’s constant online sharing to mean that they don’t care about privacy and/or don’t understand the potential longer-term issues. There is some truth to this perspective. But simply labeling children as either disobedient or naïve is too simplistic. There is an important need to understand why children are overstepping adult-defined marks of privacy online. Shifting attitudes In the words of Facebook, our relationship status with privacy can be summed up as: it’s complicated.   Part of the complexity comes down to how privacy is defined. Many adults understand privacy to mean being selective about what one reveals about themselves so as not to reveal too much personal information. We often assume that children will adopt the same conceptualisation, but should we?   Privacy is a fluid notion. Think of Victorian times and the imperative for women to keep their ankles hidden. Part of the reason its definition is shaped and reshaped is due to the changing social environment in which we live. This idea is useful for thinking about why children divulge so much information online.   Children are growing up in public (not private) times, in which people freely and constantly reveal themselves on their screens. This is not solely associated with physical nudity and the stream of semi-clad women that constantly inhabit advertisements, music videos and the like. An environment that idolises nudity certainly contributes to children seeing such behaviour as the norm. Privacy, however, is not just about nudity and sex.   Given the exponential growth of reality shows and social media, children now have unprecedented access to the inner thoughts and personal actions of others. Children are growing up watching real people freely share their deep personal ideas, experiences, opinions and actions. The very purpose of these mediums is to encourage such sharing of information!   Children watch everyday people in the Big Brother house openly discuss their sexual experiences, develop friendships, go to the toilet, get ready after their morning shower and, explain deep personal childhood issues.   Similarly, they watch Survivor and The Bachelor where people can reveal the darker side of their ambitions, world-views and ways of dealing with others. Their revelations are under the guise of competition however they offer subliminal messages about what we can and should share publicly share.   Consistently watching others reveal themselves on screen feeds children’s understanding of what is private information and what isn’t. Its impact is strengthened because children watch these revelations on their personal screen such as their tablet or mobile, which can make it more of an intimate, one to one connection for the child. Generation gap Add to this, the dynamic stage in life young people are at, which is characterised by risk-taking behaviour. This combination results in the understanding that sharing what many adults might consider to be private ideas, is really just part of life.   In previous generations it was assumed that the average person wouldn’t want to give up privacy. But for this generation, giving up privacy for a social life, fame (or infamy for some), easy access to shopping and studying or working from home is the norm.   Children’s penchant for online sharing is a much larger cultural transformation than it’s given credit for. The whole idea of what is private and what is public is being disrupted and reshaped by new screen-driven interests and activities.   There is a need to move away from simply judging and reprimanding for their online sharing habits. There is always a need for safety and awareness campaigns, although it is also important to move beyond older and outmoded views of privacy so that we can actually understand young people’s privacy negotiations.   In this way we might have more of a chance to meaningfully support negotiations that are transparent, equitable and foster children’s well-being.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Want to share a lift to work? This Perth startup is here to help

4:08AM | Tuesday, 14 April

A new ridesharing service has launched in Western Australia with the aim of pairing up people who regularly drive along a similar route.   Hitch a Ride, a new startup based in Perth, hopes to save people money and reduce traffic by getting people to share lifts and split the costs of petrol and parking.   Unlike with on-demand services such as Lyft and Uber, payment is optional and negotiated directly between the driver and passenger.   “It’s more of a social network than just an on-demand service like Uber,” co-founder Ben Rattigan told StartupSmart.   “You can log either a hitch or a drive and then once you do that, it comes up for your Facebook friends and if they are going in the same direction you can organise when and where to meet up and you can share a ride.”   Rattigan says while he is aware of Lyft Line – a US service for people who want to share a car with someone going in the same direction – the idea for Hitch a Ride came about when one of the co-founders needed to get home but couldn’t.   “He had one-too-many drinks and couldn’t drive home,” he says.   “There were so many people driving past but he had no way to let them know he needed a lift.”   While concerns have been raised over people getting into strangers’ cars through apps such as Uber, Rattigan says Hitch a Ride is simply helping to facilitate what already happens in the community.   “Most people want to ride with people they know or have some sort of introduction to through Facebook or whatever social media it is,” he says.   “We’re in the very early stages… we need to get the Android version built and improve the user experience. Once that’s all done we’re going to go out and raise more funds for our marketing budget and see where it takes us from there.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Agtech key to feeding the world by 2050

4:51AM | Monday, 13 April

Agricultural technology startups are the key to feeding the world’s booming population, according to the founder of a Brisbane-based startup specialising in helping farmers maximise their crop yields.   Paul Turner, the founder and chief executive of data processing and analytics startup AgDNA, told StartupSmart the intersection between technology and crop producers is a space to watch.   “At a macro level the industry is having to double production output between now and 2050 as we go from seven billion to nine billion people,” he says.   “All the forecasts are saying we’re going to have to double our food output but we’re not doubling land. Farming has to get more productive and do more with less. To get that double production you have to get smarter, make smarter decisions and maximise the yield in every single hectare.”   That’s where AgDNA comes in. According to Turner, his startup helps farmers make smarter decisions and not only increase their yield but also minimise their production costs in order to become more efficient and profitable.   Launching in 2012, AgDNA has since pivoted from a record-keeping website to a data processing platform that sends information straight to farmers’ mobiles. The company has raised more than $400,000 in seed funding and is now looking for a Series A through American-based investment platform AgFunder.   Despite agriculture being perceived as a very traditional industry, Turner says the sector is very innovative.   “The large manufacturers have done a fantastic job of imbedding all of these sensors into the tractors, combine harvester sand sprayers and now they have the means of capturing all that data,” he says.   “We’re moving from a world of human-generated data to machine-generated data. So no longer does a farmer have to sit in the evenings and type all of his records into a spreadsheet… now it’s coming off a machine. It’s all of this data that’s coming through 24-7 and now it’s creating a lot of value but creating its own problems with data overload.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

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.

Social media enters the social video broadcasting age

3:23AM | Monday, 30 March

Social media has entered what is likely to be a wildly popular new phase with the advent of live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow people to broadcast live video and sound from their phones to other people on Twitter. Periscope allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster in the form of text messages and sending “hearts”, the equivalent of Facebook likes, by tapping on the video.   On the surface, making everyone a “broadcaster” is a grand idea. As the announcement for Periscope proclaimed   What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?   And it is true, live stream video from anyone around the world, has the capacity to bring the experience of ordinary people around the world, in raw and undiluted form, to anyone on Twitter.   The idea is not necessarily new. Ustream for example has been providing a live streaming service for the past 8 years. The Occupy Wall Street movement showed the potential of live stream video to great effect by broadcasting demonstrations, live action, and interactions with the police. As immersive an experience it was, the problem with Ustream was that it wasn’t integrated with social media platforms and so discovering what was going on and reaching a large audience was difficult.   Twitter recognised this problem and solved it by buying Periscope for a reported $100 million. Twitter and Facebook have both recognised that video is is the next area of growth in social media. Although YouTube has long been held up as the service to beat, it is far less of a social platform than what Periscope is likely to be. From that perspective, Twitter has taken the lead in this space over Google and Facebook.   The problems facing these services however, are substantial. Already, the technical issues are surfacing with difficulty in viewing the livestreams because of the demand. Very few of the livestreams currently play, and simply say Loading before changing to Ended. Periscope, at least, offers the option of watching the recorded version. The cost of providing this service will be substantial and it is certainly not clear how Twitter will be able to monetise the service. From the user’s perspective, broadcasting using the phone’s cellular data is likely to limit the length of the streams and certainly have the mobile network providers seeing a surge in demand.   More challenging however, will be the social problems that a world of live streams. Encouraging millions of people with phones to broadcast what is going on around them to the rest of the world is going to raise enormous privacy issues. Already, videos with titles like “My Girlfriend Taking a Shower” suggest the potential direction this service could take as people race to the bottom in search of viewers. As in many other cases, social media has   Admittedly, these are early days for Periscope and it is possible that they were forced to release the service early because of the launch of rival service Meerkat. Although Meerkat has been reported to have raised another $12 million in funding, it is clear that as a service it is effectively dead when compared to Twitter’s offering. Twitter has already moved to block Meerkat from having access to information from Twitter vital to its social networking service. Meerkat’s only chance of survival is for Facebook to buy it in competition to Twitter.   Despite the problems, video is going to be the future of social networks. Mainstream media have yet another challenge to face with this new service and it is unlikely that they will deal with this any better than they have dealt with the rising challenge of Vine and YouTube celebrities.   As academic Clay Shirky predicted in his book “Cognitive Surplus”, everyone is capable of becoming their own version of a mainstream media producer. As Shirky said however, for every serious project that is created by the world’s cognitive surplus, there will be the cat videos. On Periscope, cat videos abound along with curiously a preoccupation with fridges.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian developers cautiously optimistic about Facebook Messenger becoming an apps platform

3:04PM | Sunday, 29 March

Australian developers are cautiously optimistic that Facebook’s decision to turn Facebook Messenger into an app platform will help strengthen the app industry.   Facebook announced the decision during its F8 conference in San Francisco, with third party developers able to develop apps that extend the messaging platform’s functionality.   Full details of Facebook’s new Messenger Platform API are available on its developers site. The announcement was made alongside the unveiling of its new Business on Messenger customer service functionality and also comes a little over a week after Facebook added a feature allowing users to transfer money directly to their friends’ debit card accounts.   While BlackBerry’s rival secure mobile messaging platform BBM (which is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone as well as on BlackBerry 10 devices) has long offered similar functionality, its platform APIs are restricted to BlackBerry devices. (Ironically, Facebook is among the apps to take advantage of this API.)   Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford told StartupSmart the Facebook Messenger Platform API is very exciting news for app developers.   “From an app developer’s perspective, this is very exciting. It looks like, instead of having to roll out their own messaging system, they’ll be able to piggyback off Facebook Messenger to provide that messaging functionality,” Bradford says.   “So for example, say you were developing a jobs marketplace app. Instead of needing to write your own code from scratch to facilitate that functionality, you can just plug and play Facebook’s messaging API.   “It actually reminds me a bit of a similar service a few months ago the developer community was very excited about, by a company called Layer.com. The only problem is that users had to create a second account to send messages. Because 98% of app users will already have a Facebook account with a friend list already, getting people to log in once with their Facebook account won’t be an issue.”   Marcus Lim, co-founder and chief executive of online marketplace Oneflare, told StartupSmart he was already looking at integrating a mobile messaging platform, such as WhatsApp, even before Facebook’s announcement.   “One of the issues is communications between customers and service providers before a job is carried out, and after they use the Oneflare platform. The issue is that businesses ring customers, but customers aren’t always available to take the call.   “Messaging works well because it’s less intrusive. The communications are often quite brief – such as when and where a particular job needs to be performed – and messaging avoids the issues of both parties needing to set up a call.”   However, realAs chief executive Josh Rowe told StartupSmart while there are advantages to Facebook opening up its APIs, there are also risks.   “My initial view is that being able to tap into the massive user database of Facebook is a good thing. After all, realAs is a community of people looking to buy houses, and being able to tap into those databases could be advantageous to the community,” Rowe says.   “However, the con side is how much we can trust Facebook, and to what degree we control our data. We’ve seen in the past the way big companies have opened up their platforms to outside developers, only to cut off access to those APIs down the track.   “And just look at the way Apple has copied people’s app ideas and created its own versions of them. So there needs to be assurances that Facebook will remain a neutral player and won’t end up competing with the startups that use this.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Amazon to re-launch its on-demand services marketplace next week

3:41PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Amazon will launch its new on-demand services marketplace on Monday in order to compete with US-based crowdsourcing startups such as Angie’s List.   TechCrunch reports the platform, which has been rebranded from ‘Amazon Local Services’ to ‘Amazon Home Services’, has recently expanded its service categories as well as the cities it will be available in.   The new platform will offer services including lawn mowing, gardening, automotive services and one-on-one lessons. IoT startup raises $US38 million in Series B funding August, a startup which produces smart door locks, has raised $US38 million ($A48m) in Series B funding in order to launch new products and expand its San Francisco-based team.   The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners and brings the startup’s total funding to date to $US50 million.   Co-founder Jason Johnson said in a statement the latest capital injection will allow for a runway much larger than he ever anticipated.   “With this new financing, our team will define a new product category in the smart home, aiming to solve what we call the ‘last five foot problem’,” he says.   “With our smart lock, mobile apps, and cloud-based access control, we offer homeowners, property managers, and guests a sophisticated and trusted way to control home access, bridging the gap between service providers and homeowners.” Facebook launches new service for marketers Facebook has announced a new tool that will allow marketers to analyse how successful their campaigns are based on aggregated social data.   The service – called Analytics for Apps – will allow users to see how their marketing campaigns performed across different demographics such as age groups or gender, according to TechCrunch.   Previously, marketers using Facebook to analyse their marketing efforts could only view who clicked on an ad instead of being able to see which demographics they could best target. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 292.60 points, falling 1.62% overnight to 17,718.54. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.4 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Employee share scheme changes “unashamedly” aimed at early stage startups

3:43PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Early stage tech startups are the focus of changes to the employee share scheme legislation introduced into Parliament on Wednesday.   Small Business Minister Bruce Billson tabled the bill on Wednesday morning, saying the reforms will “restore and rebuild” startup incentives, which were taken away by the previous Labor government.   Speaking to StartupSmart after the second reading, Billson said an effective employee share scheme framework is an important ingredient to any healthy economy.   “There has been a consistent and loud chorus calling for change,” he said.   “The incoming government recognised that and we’ve set out not only to correct the harm of those 2009 changes, but stepping forward with new concessions to bolster support and engagement for employee share schemes.”   The changes   Companies and employees who are issued with options will generally be able to defer tax until they exercise the options (convert the options to shares), rather than having to pay tax when those options vest.   Eligible startups will be able to issue options or shares to their employees at a small discount, and have that discount exempt (for shares) or further deferred (for options) from income tax.   The maximum time for tax deferral will be extended from seven to 15 years.   The maximum individual ownership limit for accessing employee share scheme tax concessions will be increased from 5% to 10%.   Eligible startups need to have an annual turnover of less than $50 million.   In the event a startup raises venture capital, that will not affect the eligibility threshold.   If a startup is acquired before it has operated for three years, its original shareholders will still get their 15% tax deduction on the sale of the shares.     Billson says the changes are on track to come into effect in the new financial year.   “I’ve had encouraging early responses with opposition members and I’m optimistic that will all be implemented as per a tight and demanding timetable which is exactly what the startup industry were calling for,” he said.   StartupSmart understands there is support from within the Labor party to overhaul the current rules governing employee share schemes.   The legislation tabled in parliament today not only allows employees at eligible startups to receive tax concessions, but also ensures the regulatory burden faced by young tech companies is significantly reduced.   Billson says there will be “good-to-go template tools and documents” from the ATO available to help businesses wanting to set up an employee share scheme.   Reuben Bramanathan, senior lawyer at Adroit Lawyers, told StartupSmart there were some “key issues” with the draft bill that have carried over to its current form.   “If an employee resigns from a company on good terms, and they keep their vested shares, they still have to pay income tax at that time,” he said.   “This taxing point applies even if they are unable to sell the shares at that point, for example, due to lockup restrictions in the shareholders’ agreement.”   Billson says this was identified as an issue during the consultation process.   “This was an issue that came up and we consulted quite widely on that as we knew it was an issue of some interest,” he said.   “We extended the tax refund provision to cover situations where an employee is forced to pay when those options lapse or cancel. That’s what we’ve sought to do to alleviate that concern.”   Another part of the legislation that has been criticised is the exemption for startups turning over more than $50 million, as well as companies listed on the ASX. That means companies like Atlassian and Freelancer will not be able to access the scheme.   However Billson defended this, saying issues around employee share schemes “most visibly” affect smaller players.   “It’s unashamedly focused on startups and smaller enterprises,” he said.   “We’ve got to work within a frugal budget climate, therefore we’ve had to target these measures where they can best make a difference.”   Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has criticised that position, telling SmartCompany last month it’s a bit like saying Facebook and Google don’t need to give employee share options “which I think they would disagree with”.   The new employee share scheme rules are due to come into effect on July 1 should they pass both houses of parliament.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Obama hires former Twitter product manager

3:14PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman will become the White House’s first chief digital officer as part of the Obama administration’s bid to grow its tech staff.   Goldman is best known for his work on Twitter, Medium and Blogger and will now lead the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy.   “Goldman brings new energy and coveted expertise as someone who’s helped shape the digital age,” President Obama told Politico.   The announcement follows a string of recent appointments, including former Facebook engineering director David Recordon being brought on as the White House’s director of technology.   Facebook is looking to host news content directly on its site   Facebook is in discussions with several media partners including BuzzFeed and National Geographic in order to “make the experience of consuming content online more seamless”, according to The New York Times.   The new format will be tested in the next few months and will see Facebook directly host content, rather than users having to click through to a link to read a news story.   Facebook has 1.4 billion users worldwide.   Wearables are coming   Wearables will soon be the new smartphones, according to Telstra’a chief technology officer Vish Nandlall.   “I think the curve starts to bend around probably 2020 leading into 2025,” he told Fairfax.   “That’s where we’re going to see a lot more industries start to come in, and then you’re going to see much more penetration of these services across the population.”   The Apple Watch will launch worldwide on April 24.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 104.90 points, falling 0.58% overnight to 18,011.14. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 79 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Open source operating system startup raises $US80 million

3:28PM | Monday, 23 March

Cyanogen, a startup that distributes software based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, has raised $US80 million in series C funding in order to hire talent and accelerate software development.   The round was led by PremjiInvest and included participation from other investors such as Twitter.   "We’re committed to creating an open computing platform that fundamentally empowers the entire mobile ecosystem from developers to hardware makers, and most importantly, consumers around the world,” Cyanogen’s chief executive Kirt McMaster said in a statement.   “We’re excited to have the backing of an amazingly diverse group of strategic investors who are supporting us in building a truly open Android.”   The startup has received a total of $110 million in funding to date. The company reportedly rejected a buyout offer from Google last year. Instagram launches standalone photo-editing app Instagram has launched a standalone photo-editing app in order to give users the ability to make collages or mirror effects before uploading them to the photo-sharing app or other sites, such as Facebook.   “From imagining mirrored landscapes to sharing multiple moments from an entire adventure, we’ve seen these kinds of visual storytelling happening on Instagram and we’re inspired by it,” the company said.   “With Layout, it’s easier than ever to unlock your creativity — and we can’t wait to see what you’ll make next.”   Layout is currently available on iOS and will be available on Android devices in the next few months. Twitter testing autoplay videos on iPhone and iPad apps Twitter has started testing a new feature in the US that will mean videos in a user’s timeline play automatically.   “We’re running a small test on a few variations on the video playback experience,” a Twitter spokesman told Advertising Age.   The autoplay test will apply to video advertisements. Facebook has had autoplay videos since September 2013. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 11.61 points, falling 0.06% overnight to 18,116.04. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.89 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter facing gender discrimination lawsuit from former employee

3:38PM | Sunday, 22 March

A former software engineer has filed a class action lawsuit against Twitter, alleging the company unfairly favours men.   Tina Huang filed the law suit in San Francisco last week according to Reuters, saying the promotion process at Twitter involved a “shoulder tap” policy that meant few women were brought into top-level positions.   The news follows a lawsuit by Chi Hong, a former Facebook employee who is suing the company for alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Uber’s future in China at risk Uber’s future in China is at risk thanks to the merger of two popular taxi apps Kuaidi and Didi which claim to process book up to 6 million rides a day.   In comparison, Uber hit 1 million daily users late last year according to Forbes.   Together Did and Kuaidi control more than 99% of the Chinese market, with more than 150 million people in China using their smartphones to book taxis. iiNet on the back foot with shareholders over TPG deal iiNet’s management will hold a teleconference with investors today to defend the proposed takeover deal by rival TPG Telecom.   The proposed buyout has enraged some shareholders according to Fairfax, with one major shareholder saying the deal was “appallingly incompetent”.   TPG announced its $1.4 billion acquisition plan earlier this month. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 168.62 points, rising 0.94% overnight to 18,127.65. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.83 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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