Just a week after announcing it will begin publishing news articles straight into users’ newsfeeds, Facebook has revealed plans to add the next level of editorial content to the platform: critics' reviews of restaurants, according to The Verge. When users browse through restaurants on the platform, critics’ reviews from popular media outlets will now show up next to their friend’s reviews and reviews from other Facebook users. The feature is currently only available for a select number of restaurants in the US and includes reviews from publishers Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Eater, New York Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle to begin with. "Since reviews are such an important part of helping people make informed decisions about what to do locally, we're excited to be incorporating a new way for people to use Facebook to find the best real-world experiences," a Facebook spokeswoman told The Verge. Facebook confirmed it would display negative reviews if the publishers provide them but most of the reviews so far come from "best of" lists. There is no information on when the feature might be rolled out to Australian restaurants. This article was originally published at SmartCompany.
The term “fintech” – the marriage of financial services with technology companies – has only recently come into vogue in Australia, with venture capital starting to flow into the sector. It was only around October 2014 that the term fintech started to appear in Australia’s mainstream media – rather late given it was just two months later peer-to-peer lending platform LendingClub listed on the New York Stock Exchange. LendingClub reached a valuation of US$8.5 billion in the closing days of 2014, making it the 15th largest US lending institution by market capitalisation at the time, the company’s estimated. Taken at face value, it would seem Australia has simply been late to the fintech party. But that is not really the case. There are four roles that financial services companies perform in any economy: they facilitate payments; create credit; manage wealth through investment platforms; and assist with risk mitigation through either insurance or facilitating price discovery in the traded financial markets. Outside of Australia – in the US particularly – startup fintech companies have launched a relentless assault on all of these functions. In every case, they have succeeded by offering customers a cheaper, simpler product, more suited to exactly the type of transaction customers were looking to undertake. This is the classic model of business disruption. To be clear, fintech companies are not just online banking platforms. Their products are unique. First, many platforms directly match buyer and seller, taking out the finance middleman and large balance sheets. Second, most innovate new ways to use personal information for product creation and sales – such as mining social media sites to support customer identification and credit scores. Finally, fintech platforms often cross-sell other, non-financial products to their customers, accruing value to the platform rather than to the product itself. This is an inversion of the traditional financial services model that asks customers to pay for products, and uses product revenue to subsidise its “free” distribution platform of branches, offices, salespeople and online transaction platforms. Australian banks have held back the tide Fintech companies have sprouted like mushrooms across the payments, credit, investment and markets space outside of Australia. Why are the first green shoots in Australia only starting to appear now? Three reasons spring to mind. One is that Australian financial services firms have been innovating from within, reducing the incentive for their customers to go in search of cheaper, more convenient options. Second is that traditional financial institutions have used their market power to maintain market share. Finally, Australia’s regulatory settings have been too restrictive, making it difficult for young startups to enter the market. This last point was particularly noted in the Murray Financial Services Inquiry, which recommended a more finely attuned regulatory structure to promote greater competition in the financial services sector. Perhaps the most noteworthy absence of fintech startups in Australia is within the payments system space. This stands in contrast with countries like the US, where PayPal’s dominance in online payments is unquestioned. Customers choose PayPal in the US because its banks never created a unified national online payments system and were too late to realise customers would rather transact online than write out and mail cheques. But PayPal is not alone. Google has launched Google Wallet, Facebook and WeChat in China have announced debit cards for online “sharing money", and AliPay in 2014 announced it had facilitated nearly US$150 billion in mobile transactions. Not all of these startups have entered Australia, and the reason may be that Australia already has one of the most advanced online and cashless payments systems in the world. The system – which most Australians will know as Eftpos (electronic funds transfer at point of sale), PayAnyone (online account-to-account transfers) and its compatriot BPay (online bill payments system) – are innovations created by a consortium of Australia’s major banks around the same time as PayPal’s founding in the US. Australian banks have remained competitive in this part of financial services. Where the gaps are The gap in the payments space is in international money transfers, where anti-money laundering regulations and compliance reporting are so onerous that the major Australian banks have closed their doors to remittance businesses. In their absence, we see firms such as CoinJar utilising digital currencies like bitcoin to transmit across borders. CurrencySpot offers a more traditional foreign exchange service, but also anti-money laundering compliance reporting on foreign exchange transactions. Competition is even hotter in credit markets. On what seems like an almost daily basis, another peer-to-peer (P2P) lender announces it is entering the Australian market. Local player SocietyOne has in the last 12 months been joined by RateSetter (UK), OnDeck (US) and Kiva (US), among others. But the P2P lending industry in Australia is still niche, emerging only in the spaces where the large Australian banks have voluntarily withdrawn: consumer lending and small business lending. The chart below highlights the extent to which banks have preferred to grow their loan books through mortgage lending – almost certainly driven, at least in part, by the preferential risk weighting on capital assigned to mortgage lending under the Basel III framework. Lending and credit aggregates in Australia In contrast, this chart below highlights the rather slow growth of business lending. Moreover, since the global financial crisis, new business credit has increasingly gone into loans of a size in excess of A$500,000 - a loan amount much more suggestive of a large corporate than a small or medium-sized business. In aggregate, the data suggests that credit from the banking system has not been flowing to either consumers (outside of housing) or the smaller end of the business market. Australia’s business credit flow by loan size The space left by banks is where P2P lenders are entering the market. SocietyOne (Australia) and RateSetter (UK) are operating in the consumer lending space, while OnDeck (US) and ThinDeck (UK) specialise in small business loans. MoneyPlace (Australia) handles both consumer and small business lending. A key advantage of P2P lenders – aside from their generally lower cost of capital and ability to use unstructured sources of data – is that they are able to vary the interest rate offered to individual borrowers in a way that is unrealistic for a large bank. While now a relatively small share of overall credit growth in the Australian economy, there is no question that the ability of the financial system to meet the credit needs of smaller borrowers – especially SMEs – is critical for economic growth. The experience in the US has suggested that, over time, established banks can work with the P2P community, using P2P platforms to identify new customers and benefit from a superior online customer experience. Similar trends are being seen in the financial investment market with “robo-advice” - investment advice that is online and automated by the use of algorithms to produce an individual’s optimal portfolio allocation. Other investment start-ups include names like Macrovue, which helps unsophisticated retail investors to diversify their portfolios and easily track returns. The number of robo-advice providers in the Australian market is still relatively small, but suits the estimated 80% of Australian superannuation fund holders who do not seek professional financial advice. The future here may also be one of accommodation, where financial advisers look to take advantage of tools made available by robo-advice to find a less expensive way to service their customers. Either way, it’s a competitive gain for consumers, and a productivity boost for the Australian economy. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Being the best possible founder comes down to having strong skills in one or two areas and mitigating your weaknesses by hiring the right people, according to the head of Stripe for Australia and New Zealand, Susan Wu. Speaking at The Sunrise conference in Sydney on Monday, Wu said if we only live once then we “may as well do some pretty big stuff”. With that in mind, here are four tips from the serial entrepreneur and investor on how to become a better founder. 1. Hire well instead of hiring quickly Wu says one of the most important things she has learnt in her career so far is the importance of taking the time to hire the right people instead of snapping up employees after raising money. “There’s nothing more important than hiring well,” she says. “Sometimes that means hiring very slowly. Whenever I hear a company say we just hired 20 people last month it’s always a red flag. It demonstrates to me a lack of understanding of culture and how organic team collaboration happens. So I would never, never make that mistake again of hiring too quickly.” When asked what employee retention rate founders should be aiming for, Wu said in an ideal situation well over half of a startup’s employees should be staying with the company for 12 months. “Obviously you’re going to make hiring mistakes and if you’re a first-time founder you don’t know what you’re looking for,” she says. “And when you’re hiring for an early-stage startup most of the roles are so loose and undefined… but 70% sounds about right to me.” 2. Understand the technology behind your product It is possible for your startup to succeed even if you don’t have the technical skills to build it yourself, according to Wu. However, she says founders really should be familiar with the technology behind their company in order to better understand the user experience. “Your chances of success are much higher if you have a hands-on knowledge of your product and how your customers are interacting with that product,” she says. “What is that internal, unconscious relationship your user has with that product? For example, when I wake up am I thinking about Twitter? Am I thinking about Facebook? What product am I thinking about when I go to bed? I don’t think you understand that unless you have a deep understanding of your product.” 3. Focus on your long-term vision and don’t get distracted by competitors Wu used to read industry news “religiously”. She now admits she hardly pays attention to what is making headlines and who is raising money. “I really go out of my way to not pay attention to what other people are doing,” she says. “I find it creates noise… I think really great founders and really great leaders know what they’re going to build. To some extent what my competition are doing or the rest of the industry is doing may impact that in the short term, but not the long-term strategy, what users really need, what customers are feeling or what their pain-points are.” 4. Embrace diversity Wu says women are “untapped” resources not just in the startup ecosystem but the economy more broadly. “There are gender differences and barriers to women succeeding in the startup world,” she says. “There are barriers for women succeeding in life in general. And it’s a personal passion of mine to level the playing field for not just women but all minorities generally… women are one of the great untapped resources.” 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.
Coffee Meets Bagel, the startup which entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban offered to buy for $US30 million on the US version of Shark Tank earlier this year, has launched in Australia. The matchmaking app offers its users a daily match with a Facebook friend of a friend. Users then have 24 hours to decide whether or not to like or pass on that match. In-app currency, coffee beans, can be used to unlock additional information, like who the mutual friend is. Global expansion is a key part of Coffee Meets Bagel’s business plan. On their Shark Tank appearance, which was filmed in the middle of 2014 and aired in January, the startup’s co-founders – sisters Arum, Dawoon and Soo Kang – said they were planning to add four million users by the end of 2015. At the time Coffee Meets Bagel had between 100,000 and 500,000 users, and was projecting $1 million in sales for 2014. Its goal of an additional 4 million users by the end of 2015 would bring a projected $10 million in sales – at which point the startup would break even. Its three founders were all taking $US100,000 salaries. Speaking to StartupSmart ahead of its Australian launch, Dawoon Kang would not provide specific details about the startup sales and user growth. “We’re tracking well. There are of course challenges,” she says. “For example our international expansion, I wanted to do that earlier. A lot of other cities have been delayed to the third quarter, and one of our big growth strategies is international expansion. Things never go as you planned.” Australia is the second market Coffee Meets Bagel has entered outside of the United States, following its launch in Hong Kong in March. In February, shortly after its Shark Tank episode aired, the startup raised $US7.8 million in Series A funding, led by DCM Ventures and including Quest Ventures and Azure Capital. Australia, and more specifically Sydney, is an appealing market for Coffee Meets Bagel, Dawoon says. It’s online dating market is estimated to be worth $113 million. According to the ABS, 50% of Sydney residents over 15 are single and 38% are migrants – a section of the community more willing to meet new people. Dawoon says appearing on Shark Tank was a move the team thought long and hard about. “It was one of the best decisions we’ve made, we closed our Series A not long after we aired and one of the investors saw us on Shark Tank and really liked our attitude. The consumer exposure you get is also phenomenal, I highly recommend it for any consumer focused startups,” Dawoon says. Title image: Mark Cuban. 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.
Appetite for disruption: Founders Institute founder Adeo Ressi on why Australia needs to embrace risk to grow5:39AM | Monday, 25 May
Australia has the talent, the money, and needs only the risk appetite for its startup ecosystem to thrive, according to Founders Institute founder Adeo Ressi. Ressi is in Australia for Sydney’s Vivid Ideas festival and has been meeting with Australian investors, at the invitation of Unstoppables founder Julio De Laffitte, to help them understand the opportunity that startups present to investors. “You can have all the policies in the world, all the incentives in the world, but people still need to understand what they’re doing, take some money out of very conservative investments, and consider very high growth investments,” Ressi says. “I think to date in Australia, because there’s been such a boom in conservative investments, it’s much easier to make them by comparison. But there’s a slowing growth rate and you’re seeing surrounding economies really booming. Australia is now falling further behind, rather than leading the pack.” Australia’s digital readiness stalling That’s true, according to the latest Digital Evolution Index, which measures a nation’s readiness for a digital economy from 2008-2013. Australia was one of the “stall out” countries – a nation that has achieved a high level of digital evolution in the past, but is losing momentum and risks falling behind. Neighbours Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Korea all fell under the “standout” category, countries that have shown high levels of digital development and are continuing on an upward trajectory. China, Malaysia, Thailand were all categorised as breakout nations, countries with potential to develop strong digital economies. Ressi, who recently founded Expansive Ventures, a venture capital firm that will leverage off the Founder Institute network, says there’s no doubt there’s a lack of funding in Australia. “That’s part of the reason I’m coming to Australia: To bring together as many investors as possible and really explain the process and opportunity. Because, as I mentioned, Australia has the talent and it has the money, but right now there isn’t the willingness to take the risk that comes with investing in startups,” he says. “The truth of the matter is today, hundreds of billions of dollars a year is being made by investors betting on these young companies. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago companies might go public sooner and that gives an opportunity for more conservative investors to ride the value creation. “But you get a company like Uber, Facebook, Twitter, and even Rocket Internet, many others. They’re waiting quite a long time, many years before they consider going public. As a result the wealth created is being concentrated in the hands of the investors that are willing to look at them as a serious investment opportunity.” Fixable problems The upside, Ressi says, is that the problems facing Australia’s startup ecosystem are all fixable. “Australians as entrepreneurs rank well against the rest of the world. Some of the most important companies of our time have been founded or run by Australians, so there’s no question the talent is there,” he says. “I think the ecosystem of Australia is still weak, but that presents more of an opportunity than a detriment. There are unfixable problems and fixable problems and Australia has more fixable problems than the other kind.” 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.
Australian virtual reality production company Jumpgate Virtual Reality has released a 90-second trailer for the upcoming Cyan Films horror film Scare Campaign, which will be the first Australian movie to be accompanied by a virtual reality experience. Jumpgate Virtual Reality’s head of production, Piers Mussared, told StartupSmart the pioneering effort is designed to help uncover the value proposition for the new technology. “We started a company called Convergen about eight years ago. That’s an animation company that designs visuals for infrastructure projects,” Mussared says. “I first became aware of Oculus Rift DK1 [development kit] a few years ago, and began talking to architects and builders to see if it was relevant. They loved it and thought it was novel, and we began searching for a value proposition. The problem was the first headset was very low resolution, but it was indicative of what the technology could do. “In the past year, you’ve had a number of big developments, including Facebook buying Oculus, the DK2 has been announced, and Samsung has released its own headset. “We decided to start another company, called Jumpgate VR, that’s a production company specialising in virtual reality. We pulled across a few people from Convergen and began working on entertainment, events, AFL clubs and symphony orchestras to try to find the value proposition of virtual reality.” Jumpgate Virtual Reality’s latest VR production is titled Scare Campaign: The VR Experience, and includes an elaborate set (the decommissioned Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in north-eastern Victoria) and a storyline. A 90-second trailer, free for anyone with a compatible headset, is now available on the company’s website. “The main story is a conventional feature film by the two directors who did [2012 film] 100 Bloody Acres – Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes – and stars Olivia DeJonge,” Mussared says. While not disclosing at this stage what the AFL project involves, Mussared says Jumpgate VR is working on interactive virtual reality projects for a major toll road operator and an induction training project. The company has also created virtual reality films of live concerts and events. “One of our early pieces was a concert by [chamber music ensemble] Seraphim Trio… We shot them at the Melbourne Recital Centre in full 3D, and we’ve also recorded a few earlier proof-of-concept concerts,” Mussared says. Mussared says the technology is moving very fast. The aim of the projects is not to just “do a piece here and there”, but to explore the technology and help Australia remain at the cutting edge of the virtual reality industry. “The way we look at it is this: look at smartphones. At first, people wanted one because of the novelty. After seven or eight years on the scene, it’s only now that something like Uber has emerged, and that’s a massively disruptive development.” 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.
Like all digital media startups, The House of Media and our first publication, Sinoway, is working hard to build up readership and viewers on a daily basis. Moreover, like all new media companies, we understand that the value of our publications increases with readership and accessibility. Obtaining readership across the world wide web takes time because a publication needs to build up quality and relevant content that presents a point of difference. To succeed, digital publications require a combination of breaking stories and quality analysis on issues of the day. For a process that usually takes years and decades to achieve, Facebook has the power to do it in months. With over 1.4 billion users, Facebook has become the most popular go-to place for news, updates and stories across all technological platforms. In order to get more users to stay on its site, developing partnerships to host media articles is an innovative way to go. For media organisations, getting more eyeballs to their stories and content is an attractive option. To make this option more appealing to news publishers, Facebook has outlined initiatives for publishers to make more money from advertising that would run alongside its content on its site. A few months ago, sources revealed that Facebook was in talks with a number of news organisations about hosting their content inside the social media site rather than making users tap a link to visit an external site. The initial news organisation partners interested in Facebook’s proposal are the National Geographic, Buzzfeed and The New York Times. Facebook has announced publicly its intention to enhance the streaming experience of news content. Currently, news articles on Facebook link to the media publication’s own website normally taking an average of eight seconds to load. Facebook has claimed it can reduce the load time to quicken the delivery of articles to readers. As a new digital publication fresh on the scene, it is difficult to break into a competitive market, a market dominated by only a few main media players in the Australian market. For a company like The House of Media, Facebook’s proposal is very attractive to build more readership and catch up to our more established competitors. Facebook’s proposal does carry a number of risks for media organisations. The first and most obvious one is the loss of consumer data. When readers click on an article, analytics and tracking tools allows the website to obtain information on who they are, how long they stayed on the website, the topic they are reading, what device they are reading it from and how often they visited. For media organisations, consumer data is a valuable source of information to attract investors, sponsorships and advertisements. If news publications take up Facebook’s proposal, this valuable information will most likely go to Facebook leaving publications with the loss of a critical revenue stream. Speaking at the 2015 International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in New York, Australian futurist Ross Dawson warned publishers to be cautious in handing over their content to Facebook. By doing this, he warned publishers may well be “giving them your future.” Dawson is right. While media publications may get a boost in readership and accessibility, they are giving away the two most important aspects that make them valuable and profitable: consumer data and content. For Facebook, it sees the long-term potential and benefit to increase visitation time by providing news content and stories. Unfortunately, it is unable to achieve this in the short run because Facebook does not possess the journalistic and media expertise within its operations to generate quality news and content. While faster online accessibility is a plus, established writers and journalists working in publications do have a strong following from readers. This is something that Facebook simply does not have. Therefore, my advice to established and startup digital new media organisations is do not give in to the Facebook temptation. You should focus on developing your own strategic online platforms to involve readers, advertisers and investors. We have the expertise to develop independent quality content to keep readers and society informed on what’s happening around us. We do not need help from external platforms to do this, even if it does boast a membership of 1.4 billion users. Jieh-Yung Lo is a new media entrepreneur and founder of The House of Media. Follow him on twitter at @jiehyunglo 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.
Jokes about scientists, an explanation about how statistics can be manipulated and arguments about the sustainability of eating meat are just some of the topics on Bill Gates’ reading list this American summer. The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft puts out a list of book recommendations this time each year and his endorsements usually carry weight: the books climb up the bestseller charts as soon as Gates spruiks them on his personal blog. This summer Gates has picked seven holiday reads, making an effort to “pick a few more things that are on the lighter side” compared to last year. “Each of these books made me think or laugh or, in some cases, do both,” Gates says. Here’s Gates’ annual summer reading list: How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff Gates has already made it known how much he likes this book for investors, having recommended it to everyone at TED earlier this year. Huff’s book for investors was first published in 1954 but Gates says apart from a couple of examples that are no longer relevant, he says the book “doesn’t feel dated”. “One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons—a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days,” Gates says. “[This books is] a useful introduction to the use of statistics and a helpful refresher for anyone who is already well versed in it.” Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh Gates promises readers will “rip through” this book in just a few hours, “but you’ll wish it went on longer because it’s funny and smart as hell”. The book is based on Allie Brosh’s popular Hyperbole and a Half blog, which is part-comic and part-memoir, told in short vignettes about her life. “The adventures [Brosh] recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public,” Gates says. “I have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made me laugh out loud.” The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins Gates says Richard Dawkins has “a gift for making science enjoyable”. Gates describes Dawkins’ book as “an engaging, well-illustrated science textbook offering compelling answers to big questions, like ‘how did the universe form?’ and ‘what causes earthquakes?’”. “This book is as accessible as the TV series Cosmos is for younger audiences—and as relevant for older audiences,” Gates says. “It’s also a plea for readers of all ages to approach mysteries with rigor and curiosity.” “Dawkins’ antagonistic (and, to me, overzealous) view of religion has earned him a lot of angry critics, but I consider him to be one of the great scientific writer/explainers of all time.” What if? and XKCD by Randall Munroe Gates has included two books by Randall Munroe on this year’s reading list: What If? is full of Munroe’s answers to “absurd hypothetical questions” from all fields of science and XKCD is a collection of cartoons that poke fun at scientists and computers. In What If? Gates says Munroe provides funny answers to the questions, but “the science underpinning his answers is very accurate”. “It’s an entertaining read, and you’ll also learn a bit about things like ballistics, DNA, the oceans, the atmosphere and lightning along the way,” he says. When it comes to the jokes in XKCD, Gates says not everyone will love Munroe’s sense of humour, but he definitely does. On Immunity by Eula Biss Gates says he thought this book from Eula Biss would be a worthwhile read but he had “no idea what a pleasure reading it would be”. “Biss, an essayist and university lecturer, examines what lies behind people’s fears of vaccinating their children,” Gates explains. “Like many of us, she concludes that vaccines are safe, effective and almost miraculous tools for protecting children against needless suffering. But she is not out to demonise anyone who holds opposing views.” “This is a thoughtful and beautifully written book about a very important topic.” Should We Eat Meat? by Vaclav Smil Gates admits this book is “probably the least beach-friendly” book on his list but says it is a “timely” read. “The richer the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet,” Gates says. “How do we square the circle? Vaclav Smil takes his usual clear-eyed view of the whole landscape, from meat’s role in human evolution to hard questions about animal cruelty.” This article was originally published at SmartCompany.
A Sydney-based startup is looking to help people all over the world who are interested in skiing and snowboarding connect online and plan trips together. GoSnow is a social media app set to launch on iOS and Android devices for those with a passion for snow sports. Founder Sean Bellerby told StartupSmart he started working on the social networking platform because he wanted to combine his love of skiing with his software skills. “I’ve done a lot of snowboarding in my time, and my mum used to run a skiing school, for example,” he says. “And through all of these trips I’ve done I’ve realised people end up skiing or snowboarding on their own for whatever reason. And the reality is that skiing or snowboarding is so much more fun with friends, which is a huge driver for what I’m doing. There’s been trips I haven’t done because I couldn’t find people to go with – they were tied up due to work, family or finances.” Bellerby says he believes there is strong demand for his app, with the startup already snapping up more than 20,000 likes on Facebook without a publicly available product. “We’ve got full integration with Facebook so you can see if you’ve got shared friends and interests and we look at if you have skied in the same place in the past,” he says. “The people you are going to connect with are either going to be in the same ski town as you or you’re going to be planning the same trip with them. I believe the timing is right for it – if you can potentially go and meet a life partner from an app, why not go and meet a potential new friend who you can go skiing or snowboarding with?” The GoSnow app is set to launch on iOS devices this week and an Android version will be rolled out shortly after. Bellerby says he’ll be teaching snowboarding in Queenstown during this year’s snow season, which will be an opportunity to validate user demand and gain feedback to improve the user experience. “We’ve done a small amount of advertising with Facebook which has worked really, really well for us in terms of validating that there is a market out there for what we’re doing,” he says. “I’ve already got attention from investors, but we’re just waiting to prove the business model over the next three months.” 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 has unveiled its native publishing initiative Instant Articles after speculation swirled for months about whether the social media giant would release a platform allowing users to bypass publishers’ websites. At the moment the platform hosts stories from The New York Times, National Geographic and Buzzfeed. The company’s product manager, Michael Reckhow, said in a statement the Instant Articles tool allows publishers to create “fast, interactive articles”. “Web articles in the Facebook app take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” he said. “Using the same technology that loads photos and videos quickly in our mobile app, Instant Articles load as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles, so you get to the stories you want to read instantly. Once there, new features like tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, embedded audio captions, and interactive maps let you explore the story in beautiful new ways.” Uber snaps up Google’s communications chief Google’s head of communications has been snapped up by Uber in a bid to improve the fast-growing startup’s public image following a number of public relations blunders. Rachel Whetstone started at Google in 2005, and has been responsible for witty and humorous responses to criticism – including this blog post in response to critical coverage by the Murdoch press. The communications chief will begin her new role in June, according to Re/code, with Uber rumoured to be looking to raise another $US1.5 billion which could lead to a $US50 billion valuation. On-demand laundry service Cleanly raises $US2.3 million On-demand laundry delivery service Cleanly has raised $US2.3 million in seed funding in order to kickstart its growth. The round included investments from Ludlow Ventures, Initialised Capital, 500 Startups and Soma Capital, according to TechCrunch. “We’re excited to announce our recent funding, and to continue delivering clean undies to the people,” the New York-based company said on its Facebook page. 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.
Startups specialising in on-demand storage solutions are battling it out as entrepreneurs increasingly look at storage as one of the next sectors ripe for disruption. The self-storage industry is worth more than $750 million in Australia and startups are keen for a slice of the market. Earlier this year SpaceWays launched in Sydney, promising to deliver customers heavy-duty containers on demand before storing them in a secure location for $9.90 per box per month. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, storage startup Boxly is hoping to snap up customers by tapping into their hunger for on-demand services and a great user experience. Now MyStorage has joined the fray, believing on-demand storage is an up-and-coming sector that also has the potential to remove the friction usually associated with storing belongings in a location away from the home. The industry has even caught the eye of investors and accelerators, with Blue Chilli’s Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin telling StartupSmart that self-storage carries all of the signs of a sector ready to be disrupted with new technology. “There are two thematics for disruption,” he says. “Anywhere where the middle man is required to facilitate a transaction or where there exists a centralised commodity which could be distributed by the use of technology. Storage sits in the middle of these two so is ripe for disruption.” Co-founder of MyStorage, Simon Guerin, told StartupSmart his company launched last month and will be “very social media focused” in the coming months in order to snap up customers. “A lot of the target market we’re looking at are savvy, inner-city urban dwellers,” he says. “They’re on social media most of the day – whether that be Twitter or Facebook. We will be trying to get users by word of mouth to encourage their friends to use us as well.” Guerin says the majority of startups in the space at the moment are focusing on delivering boxes for long-term storage. However, he expects customers to eventually want a broader – and perhaps more short term – offering. “We’ve already opened up the facility to store other items, whether that be your typical cricket bats, bikes, that sort of stuff,” he says. “But going past that we’ll look at other services we can offer based on what our customers are wanting from us. Being a service-based business we always ask them for feedback because at the end of the day, they’re going to drive what we do as a business.” 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.
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 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.
Google has acquired scheduling app Timeful in a bid to integrate the startup’s technology into Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs. Google’s product management director, Alex Gawley, said in a statement the company decided to snap up Timeful because it was impressed by its ability to help people organise their life and understand their “schedule, habits and needs”. “You can tell Timeful you want to exercise three times a week or that you need to call the bank by next Tuesday, and their system will make sure you get it done based on an understanding of both your schedule and your priorities,” he said. “We’re excited about all the ways Timeful’s technology can be applied across products like Inbox, Calendar and beyond, so we can do more of the work for you and let you focus on being creative, having fun and spending time with the people you care about.” Facebook jumps on the live streaming bandwagon Meerkat has rolled out an update that will allow users to share a link to their live broadcasts directly to their Facebook page. It is the first time a live-streaming app has linked up with Facebook, with most broadcasts publicised on Twitter. The update follows news last month that Twitter, which owns rival live-streaming app Periscope, was urging celebrities to stop using Meerkat. Victoria’s Premier embraces Periscope for budget announcement In other live-streaming news, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will be the first political leader in Australia to try his hand at live-streaming app Periscope, according to Fairfax. Andrews will host a Q&A session on Periscope after his Treasurer, Tim Pallas, hands down the government’s first budget tonight. Victorians are being encouraged to tweet their questions to the Premier for the 6.30pm Q&A. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 46.34 points, rising 0.26% to 18,070.40. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 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.
SurveyMonkey’s chief executive Dave Goldberg has died unexpectedly, leaving many in Silicon Valley to mourn an admired entrepreneur and angel investor. Goldberg, who previously worked at Yahoo, was the husband of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, according to Re/Code. Goldberg’s sudden death was announced on Facebook by his brother, Robert Goldberg. “No words can express the depth of loss we feel, but we want his children to learn how much he meant to all of you,” he wrote. “In lieu of donations, we want to celebrate his life in a manner that respects the family’s privacy as they cope with this tragic, life changing event: Sheryl, their children, and our family would be grateful if people would post their memories and pictures of Dave to his Facebook profile.” Australia’s slow and expensive internet hurting the economy The economy is being left behind thanks to the government failing to drive digital innovation and therefore improve business and the lives of everyday Australians. The damning report, published by accounting firm Ernst & Young, says Australia needs to make massive improvements when it comes to innovation if it is to catch up with countries such as the UK, Singapore and New Zealand. Australia’s slow and expensive internet is hurting “all aspects of business, government and the community”, according to the research. May the fourth be with you International Star Wars Day kicks off around Australia this morning, with fans celebrating in all manner of ways – including hosting movie marathons and even dressing up as their favourite characters. In Melbourne, a father-and-son team of professional Lego builders have constructed the world’s largest Millennium Falcon model out of 200,000 Lego bricks. The franchise’s new film The Force Awakens will hit cinemas on December 18. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 74.61 points, falling 0.41% to 18,035.53. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 80 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.