The issues of Qantas and Virgin might be hogging headlines at the top end of town, but Australian start-up Skybid is looking to shake things up further down the travel industry food chain. The new platform, which allows consumers to bid for seats on flights, is set for take-off and Skybid founder Karis Confos says even though it is a crowded market, the platform would manage to differentiate itself from competitors. She told StartupSmart the market for Australians seeking the best price on flights was already large enough for a new contender, and growing. “The ability to bid for flights is so new, and I can see huge potential from both a growth and profit perspective,” Confos says. Being first doesn’t guarantee a start-up’s success: Google wasn’t the first search engine and Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Confos says she checked out her future competition closely and was encouraged by what she discovered. “I looked at what was out there and thought I could do it better. We’re yet to find out if we’re right, but I feel like there are so many more opportunities that the businesses already in this space aren’t taking advantage of.” While Confos says the social media potential for travel-focused companies is a largely untapped commercial advantage they’ll explore, her focus is on customer retention. “Pay-to-bid models can be wearying for customers and there is a lot of scope to reward customers on these services more. It’s significantly easier to keep a customer than get a new one. They’re the core of your business, so it’s a small tragedy when one walks away,” she says. The idea for Skybid has developed considerably for Confos, who says collaborating with others and discussing the idea with as many people as possible helped her shape an offering she’s confident in. “At first I was more concerned about accessing flight data and supply, but realised through conversations that I should be focused on traffic and reach. Marketing is my main concern and challenge right now,” she says. She adds critical feedback made her realise which answers she needed to know, and which weren’t critical at this stage. Skybid is set to launch within the next month or two. Even if it fails, Confos says she’s never been more excited about a project. “Even if it does fail completely, the experience will be so worth it. Don’t let something stop you if you’re gung-ho and committed to making it work.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has blocked a $1.5 billion takeover of New South Wales government-owned power generator Macquarie Generation by AGL, citing market concentration concerns. “The proposed acquisition would result in the largest source of generation capacity in NSW being owned by one of the three largest retailers in NSW,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims says. “With this acquisition the three largest retailers in NSW would own a combined share of up to 80% of electricity generation capacity. “This is likely to raise barriers to entry and expansion for other electricity retailers in NSW and therefore reduce competition.” Building approvals jump nearly 7% in January Building approvals have jumped by nearly 7% seasonally adjusted during January, a faster rate than many economists had expected, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Approvals for detached houses were up by 8.3%, while apartments and other dwellings were up 4.6%. In another piece of good news, the ABS figures also show Australia’s current account deficit shrank by 19% to $10.1 billion during the December quarter, with increasing exports and declining imports. Facebook looks to purchase drone aircraft maker Facebook is gearing up for another major takeover, with TechCrunch reporting the company is planning to launch a $60 million takeover of Titan Aerospace. Titan manufactures solar-powered near-orbital drones that can fly for up to five years continuously, with the social media giant reportedly interested in the aircraft in a bid to bring affordable internet access to 5 billion people worldwide who still lack connectivity. The project is set to compete against Google’s Project Loon R&D program, which aims to use hot air balloons to provide connectivity to remote areas. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16416.8. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.52 cents.
An IT academic is calling for a coordinated strategy to boost the number of women in the technology industries, starting with girls in primary school. Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen lectures in IT and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University. In her current class, there are 13 men for every one woman. “We all know it’s a problem. Tech now touches every aspect of our lives but we don’t have the diverse workforce we need to move it forward. There is no doubt we need more women,” Beekhuyzen told StartupSmart. The lack of women in start-up accelerator programs has been noted for some years now. But there are a growing number of events targeted at women in tech. “A lot of people are doing things but we need to launch a coordinated effort. We need to go big and bold and loud and make it clear it needs to be changed and we’re ready for it,” she says. Two of the most frequently cited issues holding women back from tech careers are a lack of role models and confusion about what a tech career actually entails. According to Beekhuyzen, the rise Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Meyer and Facebook chief of operations Sheryl Sandberg have been great for encouraging women, but Australia needs to do more to encourage girls of school age to explore tech. The Tech Girl Movement will target girls aged between 10 and 16 with a series of in-school programs, workshops and resources. It will also include a series of short chapter books to be launched this weekend. The Tech Girl Superheroes series was written to introduce technology and what it looks like to young female readers. “I wanted to create archetypes about tech girls, such as the explorer, the daredevil, the sophisticate. It’s a bit like the Spice Girls of IT. Not everyone liked the Spice Girls but it works because you can relate to one,” Beekhuyzen says. Beekhuyzen was today invited to meet with the Federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne to discuss these issues and says she’s in this campaign for the long haul, even if it takes 20 years. The government is aware of the lack of women in IT degrees and the broader IT skills shortage. An ICT Workforce Study published in July 2013 by the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency noted the low numbers of women in ICT and recommended target support programs including a code of best practice and mentoring support. While these strategies are targeted at retaining tech women, the report also notes programs such as these send the right message to prospective female employees.
How can I traffic to my website cheaply? Is it all about advertising banners and buttons? So you don’t have much money to spend, but you want to get some traffic to your website. Sure, you are going to reinvest in your website after you rollout the first stage and make some money, but you need that first bump of cash to get you started. Top three cheap ways to get traffic to your website are: 1. Google Adwords: Here is where you are going to need to search for a $100 voucher for Adwords in Google. Find one, sign up and start paying for some traffic. This is going to give you traffic in one hour. It’s going to cost you but you will get traffic. Cost benefit – This tactic is a sure way to get qualified traffic but if your niche is competitive it can cost you more money than a new customer is worth. Test it – What you want to do with this one is test it. Spend only a small amount of money and then find out what works. You will probably need to tweak your website or form a little and then you want to load up another $100 or so from your credit card and try again. You have to treat this business expense as part research and part marketing. The end outcome you want to achieve is a channel of traffic that is coming in and making you money day in day out. That way you can spend more time trying each of the cocktails on the drinks menu as your website keeps making you money. 2. Search Engine Optimisation: SEO is a time consuming and slow build process in your business that can bring in serious traffic once you crack some big keyword rankings. Here are four quick wins: Keywords – Ensure your website has the keywords you want to rank for in the content of your homepage and unique title tags for each page of your website. There are loads of other things you can do but if you just start with these two things it will help get you to that first 100 visits. Get some listings – You need a few early win links to your site, some directories, a link from a friend and any other links you can scrounge up. List your business in an Australian directory as opposed to an American one. It gives you a better chance to get actual relevant traffic and will help you more with your rankings. Add some new content – Add some new content to your website that is about topics in your niche. Spend $35 on some new articles with a writer from oDesk or Elance and build out your website. 3. Email: Sending emails to people inviting them to your website for a high valuable reason is a great way to start. For example: All the daily deals websites at present work by sending people emails of the latest deal. The only way you can become one of those deals is by offering an insane price and offer that will cause you to lose money, otherwise the deals website will burn their list as it wasn’t a deal. You could try a daily deal site but its best to do some maths first to see if you can handle the volume. Here are some other ways to get email traffic: Send an email to your peers – Collect up all your business cards and put them in a list, send an email announcing your new site and ask your colleagues for feedback on what they think of it. The sheer process of researching your site will imprint it in their minds and they might refer your site to someone else in need! Write an article – Add a helpful article to a friend’s business eNewsletter and you will get a few residual visits from their site. Make sure you make your article 100% dedicated to their customers and just educate and inform. The keen visitors will come through. Forward an email – If you find an email or some article that is helpful, forward it to someone who might use it. Ensure you have a call to action in your email signature and you might get some residual traffic if it’s forwarded on again. Build a database – You will also want to be getting email subscribers from your website, so ensure you have a form on there. Offer a free guide or eBook if they sign up and you will probably get a better response. Here are some of the other ways you can get traffic but you might want to consider them after you have around 100,000+ visitors. Banner ads – Banners are pricey and their click-through rates are low; around 0.1% yes that is 0.001! People do click on them. But you have to buy a lot of them. Top tips to try when starting with this: Use cost per click – Buy your banners so you pay each time someone clicks, not by the number of impressions. Pay per sale – If you can get a deal set up like this through the performance media channels of the different networks, try it! Facebook ads Everyone is on Facebook but they aren’t on it for the same reason as Google. On Google you are searching to find something and take action. On Facebook you are there to hang out with your friends. Use Facebook ads when you have a competition or timely campaign that is relevant and catchy. For example: If you are a charity and you are having a toga party to raise money, you might want to try Facebook ads and target young single males. Test it – You can burn money FAST on Facebook but it’s again worth testing. Basic metrics – Facebook’s advertising reports aren’t quite as sophisticated as Adwords, although you can still set up conversion metrics with it. It’s messy, but worthwhile. Twitter, Viral, Facebook and that social stuff: Social media and getting traffic from it is again a slow build. You need to build your profile and interact. Think of it like going into a new town, you want to meet people and become friends with them before you ask them over to your house for a BBQ. The best ways to do this are: Help people – Be helpful. Helping others makes you a go-to person. The more helpful you are the more people like you and the more influential you will become. Regular – Keep plugging away. Keep helping people. Short no talk stints are ways to get your tweets and status updates ignored. Be interesting – Boring tweets and links get ignored and you unfollowed. Offline: Don’t forget that people aren’t online all the time. People who come from offline media to your website needed to remember your URL and have made the effort to turn their computer on and go to your site. Market to offline media like: PR and magazines – A good story and bring in a solid amount of qualified traffic. Leaflet drops – If you want local customers, just canvass everyone house in your local area. Eventually they will see your leaflet! Signboards – If it’s cheap or free to put a sign somewhere, put up an ad, it’ll just tick away! Business cards – Put your domain name on there and a reason to go to your site. Get a free phone, free eBook or free video. Events – Speaking at an event makes you authoritive, some people in the audience will really resonate with you and you need to put your website up so they can get more of you! What specifically you give them when they arrive needs to connect to what you were talking about otherwise you will lose them.
Partnering with a large corporate may appear attractive for start-ups, but a co-founder of Facebook marketing platform Tiger Pistol says there are important issues to consider. Tiger Pistol recently partnered with National Australia Bank to help small businesses expand their brand online and establish online stores. “There’s a number of them (large corporates) that are looking for opportunities to partner with more nimble partners,” Tiger Pistol co-founder and chief executive Steve Hibberd told StartupSmart. “In our case it was the right timing and we were a natural fit for NAB’s strategy.” But Hibberd warns there are risks for start-ups when partnering with corporates, such as trying to change direction and diverting staff’s core work to suit a large corporate’s needs. He says the best way to attract the attention of a large company to partner is to have a clear plan. “The thing that allows you to get the attention is when you’ve got a clear vision and plan for what you’re doing that the large corporate can understand.” Hibberd says Tiger Pistol pitched what it was doing to NAB after the bank’s head of social media came across them. He says the bank decided the company fit their own strategy around small businesses. “Our business is focused on helping micro and small businesses be successful,” he says, adding that Tiger Pistol was impressed with NAB’s strategy of stepping out of traditional banking and adding value for their customers. Tiger Pistol creates Facebook marketing plans for small businesses by analysing what’s been successful in the past for other similar businesses and applying the results.
This week in Barcelona, the GSMA – the peak global standards body for the mobile phone industry – is hosting its annual industry trade event, the Mobile World Congress. The MWC is arguably the largest annual event in the telecommunications industry. It brings together carriers with mobile phone makers, equipment makers and app developers. It’s where handset manufacturers make the big pitch to mobile carriers for the year ahead. A strong presentation can bring your products to the attention of mobile carriers the world over. Perhaps more than the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the MWC is the big event where mobile phone makers unveil their new smartphones and other products for the year ahead. This year’s event certainly hasn’t underwhelmed, with major announcements from some of the industry’s biggest players. It’s time to take a look at eight of the biggest announcements from this year’s show: 1. Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung is now easily the biggest handset maker in the industry. According to IDC, for the full year of 2013, it shipped a massive 313.9 million smartphones worldwide – that’s three out of every 10 smartphones shipped anywhere in the world. Forget about Apple versus Samsung, it’s not even a race anymore at this point. Apple shipped 153.4 million units in 2013, meaning that for every handset Apple shipped, Samsung shipped more than two. In fact, with the exception of the US and Japan, Apple is not even really competitive with Samsung anymore. That race was lost two years ago. In addition to manufacturing smartphones, it also supplies itself with almost every component, from batteries and processors to cameras, memory chips and displays. It is both the world’s second biggest chip builder, and the world’s second biggest ship builder. So when Samsung unveils its main, flagship smartphone for the year, you better believe that everyone in the industry – from carriers to competitors – is watching very closely. This year’s flagship, the Galaxy S5, was largely an incremental improvement on its predecessor, with the South Korean tech giant confirming speculation the new device is both dust-proof and waterproof. Needless to say, both Telstra and Optus have already announced they’re carrying the new smartphone. Aside from the Galaxy S5, Samsung shocked the industry when it snubbed Google for the latest version of its Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Instead of Android, the new devices will be powered by its own operating system, known as Tizen. 2. Microsoft’s Nokia X smartphones – powered by Android For nearly two decades, Microsoft’s Windows operating system had battled an open source rival, known as Linux. While Linux has struggled to make inroads in the desktop PC market, it has emerged as the dominant operating system for servers. Linux also forms the basis of Google Android, which competes head-to-head with Microsoft Windows Phone. Meanwhile, in September last year, Microsoft bought the mobile assets of Nokia, along with a licence to use its patents, for $US7.2 billion. In light of this, there was some scepticism when rumours first surfaced that Nokia was gearing up to release a series of smartphones powered by Android. At MWC, Nokia confirmed the rumours by unveiling a new smartphone product line powered by Android called the Nokia X series. The new devices will come with Microsoft’s cloud-based apps and services pre-installed and won’t come with the Google Play app store. Nonetheless, when Microsoft takes control of Nokia in April, it will be selling a consumer product based on Linux. Who would have thought it? 3. Facebook buys WhatsApp for $US16 billion A week before the MWC, Facebook announced it is taking over mobile messaging service WhatsApp for an incredible sum – $US16 billion. With both WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive Jan Koum and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivering keynote speeches at MWC, the tech world was certainly going to pay attention. During the keynote, Koum did not disappoint, announcing WhatsApp was launching free voice calls through its app during the second quarter, once the takeover by Facebook has been completed. No doubt some of the mobile carriers were a little edgy about the prospect of Facebook launching an all-out assault on their lucrative voice call and text message businesses. 4. Mozilla unveils a $25 smartphone This year’s Mobile World Congress marked the one year anniversary of the debut of Mozilla’s smartphone platform, Firefox OS. For those unfamiliar with the platform, Mozilla is best known for its Firefox web browser. Last year, it announced it was creating a mobile operating system based on Firefox that would compete head-to-head with Google Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10. In Firefox OS, all apps basically work like interactive websites and are coded in web standards, including HTML5 and CSS. Since this is less demanding than running a “full” operating system with apps, the theory went that Firefox OS would perform well on low-end devices aimed for emerging markets. In practice, some of the first Firefox OS smartphones, including the ZTE Open, have left a lot to be desired. As I explained in Control Shift last week, Mozilla’s expansion drive has left it in a precarious position in the marketplace: As if the situation weren’t already urgent enough already, Mozilla’s lucrative deal with Google expires in November of this year. In a sense, it’s fitting that [Mozilla founder Mitchell] Baker has taken up trapeze as a hobby, because Mozilla’s in the middle of a high-wire act. It might be that, over the coming months, one of Mozilla’s growing number of Firefox OS-driven side-projects gains traction in the market place. However, it could also backfire spectacularly, endangering its main source of revenue in the process. Aside from the seven new smartphones on display, Mozilla also announced that a smartphone costing just $25 would hit the market this year. Given that, up until the fourth quarter of last year, more than half of all mobile phones sold worldwide were still featurephones, mostly in emerging markets, the $25 phone might just be the big hit Mozilla’s looking for. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Major updates for BlackBerry enterprise customers BlackBerry chief executive John Chen’s bid to turn around the fortunes of the smartphone pioneer were filled out in a series of major product announcements at MWC. Up until now, enterprises using BlackBerry Secure Work Spaces on BYOD (bring your own device) smartphones needed to use different versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) depending on whether staff used newer BlackBerry 10/Android/iOS devices, or older BlackBerrys. That has been cleared away with the release of BES 12, in the process clearing away many headaches for IT administrators. As an added bonus, it supports Windows Phone devices too. The company also unveiled a new flagship phone with a full keyboard called the Q20 and an enterprise version of its BlackBerry Messenger service called eBBM Suite. 6. At least Sony’s new products are water-tight Earlier this month, Sony announced it is selling its VAIO PC business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, spinning off its Bravia TV business into a separate subsidiary and slashing its global headcount by 5000 as part of a major restructure. At the time, the Japanese tech giant announced it’s setting its sights on the smartphone, tablet and wearables markets for its future growth. Suffice to say, the company is hoping it delivered a hit with the products it unveiled at MWC. The company unveiled a new flagship smartphone called the Xperia Z2, a 4G Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor. The company is proclaiming its 20.7-megapixel camera capable is the most ever used in a waterproof smartphone. Which I’m sure is fantastic news for scuba-diving photographers. The company also unveiled a 10.1-inch tablet called, imaginatively enough, the Z2 Tablet. The tablet is being marketed as the lightest ever used in a waterproof tablet. Finally, the company unveiled a smart wristband called the SmartBand. 7. Opportunity knocks for LG? The highlight for LG was an update of the KnockON security system called “Knock Code”, which uses a series of knocks rather than a password to secure a device. The new feature will appear on the LG G Pro 2 phablet, a new six-inch phablet set to go head-to-head with Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note devices. The company also unveiled its “L Series 3” range of low- to mid-range smartphones at the show. That said, most of LG’s big announcements came at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, including its LG Lifeband Touch activity tracking bracelet, LG Heart Rate headphones, and webOS-powered smart TVs. 8. Tickets please! With the rapid growth of mobile ticketing, it’s no surprise the world’s largest telecommunications show would embrace NFC tickets. Telstra was one of a range of carriers to trial NFC badge technology for tickets to this year’s event. The badges use information stored by a mobile carrier, including name and telephone number, to help verify an attendee’s identity. The validation process also includes a photo ID check. This year’s show also features an NFC Experience demonstrating NFC-based mobile commerce systems for payment, retail, transport, mobile identity and ticketing/access. In addition, there are 61 NFC-enabled Tap-n-Go Points providing event news, schedules, documents, presentations, videos and other information. According to figures published by ABI research, in the next five years, 34 billion tickets to be sent to mobile devices,. In terms of technology used to authenticate tickets, the figures show 48% will rely on QR codes, near-field communications (NFC) will be used on 30%, while SMS or other technologies will be used on 22%. If the forecast is accurate, it suggests using our smartphones to touch on for events, public transport or entry into secure areas could soon be a part of everyday life.
Belinda Jennings is building a business empire around the challenges of being a mum, but had to run her fair share of risk to launch the business, including re-mortgaging her home and quitting her job with two kids aged under three. “Entrepreneurs talk about skin in the game a lot. I had everything on the line, my career, my home and my family to make Australian Baby Bargains and Mum Central happen,” Jennings told StartupSmart. After receiving a monthly eBay bill for selling second hand baby goods that included over $200 worth of fees, new mum Jennings created a Facebook page for parents who wanted to sell their second-hand baby wares without fees in late 2010. It turned out to be a popular idea. More than 2000 mums joined the page in the first month and 47,000 by the end of the year. With the page facilitating connections creating thousands of dollars in transactions and conversations flowing, Jennings returned to work as an executive assistant. But once online momentum begins, it can quickly escalate and take over. She realised if she dared, she could turn the burgeoning community into a business if only she could find the right model. “Everyone kept telling me a free community would never work from a commercial point of view. But free access for mums was why I started the whole thing, so I had to find another way,” she says. She began to bring on advertisers in early 2011. “With a toddler, full time job and evenings full of Baby Bargains, I was getting overwhelmed. We were getting traction and I needed to act on it. Then I discovered I was pregnant with my second son. It was now or never,” Jennings says. Jennings took maternity leave. But she needed money to grow the business. She and her husband decided to re-mortgage their Adelaide home for a $150,000 line of credit. “We made a massively scary decision. My husband has always supported me but that was so far outside his comfort zone. Mine too actually. It was an intense conversation. But he got it,” she says. After a couple of website development hassles that kept her up overnight with churning panic and her family home on the line, she launched the national site in August 2012. “We had just graduated from the Innovyz Accelerator, we were racking up debt and the available balance was shrinking. And my leave was almost up. It was taking off and I was breathing a bit better every day,” Jennings said. Late 2012 was a turning point for Jennings, who realised the time had come to give the company her all. “Mortgaging the house was scary, but quitting my job and cutting away that safety net was terrifying,” she says. “I was again putting myself out on a limb because even though you plan everything, you’re always a bit at the mercy of the universe.” The make-or-break moment came as Jennings read over the contract her three investors were about to sign. “I kept putting off quitting, but once I took on investors, I realised I could never go back to my full time job and had to just get it done.” Two years into her entrepreneurial journey and in July 2012, Jennings cut the cord to employment. “I felt massive relief, but it’s all or nothing. The pressure is heavy. You’re making a big commitment to your family and to your investors. They all bought into your potential so you had better deliver,” she says. Being brave but not gung-ho allowed her the time to test her idea and grow a supporter base into the hundreds of thousands, but more importantly, it helped her learn to trust herself. “A start-up always requires a leap of faith, but you don’t need to go full throttle into it straight away. I’ve changed so much in my belief in myself and confidence. I’m doing all kinds of things now that had you asked me two years ago, I would have freaked out,” Jennings says. Jennings went on to launch a content-driven advice site in late 2013 called Mum Central. The additional brand opened up swathes of new advertisers who aren’t exclusively focused on babies or bargain products. With two full-time and seven part-time staff, Australian Baby Bargains and Mum Central are about to become cash-flow positive.
Like most entrepreneurs, Josiah Humphrey and Mark McDonald, both 22, are planning world domination, starting with a move to New York as the first international outpost of their start-up and app development empire. Their company Appster was launched in January 2013 and employs over 150 people, including 65 developers in its Indian office. Humphrey will head to New York to set up the office within the month. McDonald will join him later this year, when they plan to also launch a Silicon Valley office. “We want to find a strong start-up scene that needs an execution partner,” Humphrey told StartupSmart. Rather than tapping into markets with fewer developers, they chose two cities with well-developed tech and start-up ecosystems. “We don’t see app developers as competition. We’re more about facilitating the entrepreneur through the whole process, from product strategy to app deployment.” Appster has used virtual offices before, but the co-founders realised the power of the human connection in problem-solving and collaborating. It’ll soon be three offices launched and 39 to go if Humphrey and McDonald – who were named in StartupSmart’s Future Makers list of young entrepreneurs to watch last year – are to reach their goal of 42 offices in the next three to four years. “The 42 offices plan keeps us focused on our bigger vision. The international offices will work as a filtering and searching system to find the best ideas to help develop,” Humphrey says. He adds their biggest challenge will be finding the right people. They’ve hired 150 so far, will be hiring another 36 before April and are hoping to add over 900 developers to their Indian office by the end of the year. “Recruitment needs to become a core competency of ours fast. We’re focusing on getting the right exec as we’re really two kids, we’re just 22,” says Humphrey, adding recruitment is easier now they’re not a brand new start-up. “It’s easier to poach people from the big guys like Google and Facebook now we have the track record and a clear vision.” Another reason for expanding to the United States first is Appster will need to raise capital in the coming year to reach its ambitious goals. The company has been bootstrapped so far. “We’re going to raise once we get over there, because we’re going to have to expand fast. It’s a lot better for us to be over there as there is more finance and more disruptive projects to partner with,” Humphrey says.
Freelancer.com, which became a public company in November 2013, has released its first full year annual report, revealing a net profit of $753,000, up 3% on the previous year. The online freelance marketplace, started by Matt Barrie in 2009, had pre-tax profit of $600,000 and achieved net revenue of $18.8 million, up 77% against the prior corresponding period figure of $10.6 million. It reported its operating net profit was $1.1 million, up 46% from 2012, exclusive of IPO expenses. Freelancer’s gross payment volume was $84.4 million, up 66% on the prior corresponding period. The site’s users increased to 9.7 million. However, Barrie told SmartCompany this morning that figure had already gone over 10 million two months into this financial year. He says the aim is to get to over “one billion users as quickly as possible” on the platform. “There is no reason why all the users of Facebook can’t be on Freelancer,” he says. “We are land grabbing now…getting into new countries…the challenge is how do we get to a billion quickly and be cost-effective.” The site facilitated 5.3 million projects in 2013, up from just over four million in 2012. Barrie says the company is “still in the early days in the space” but shareholders are “very happy” with the inaugural report figures. “We are reinvesting every dollar we made back into the business,” he says. “All of our metrics are improving…we are disciplined and focused on breaking even.” He says the shareholders were supportive of this approach, rather than chasing fast profits. Barrie says in 2013 much investment went into building new product platforms for users, expanding into international markets and acquiring expert staff. “We have opened an office Vancouver, in Manila and our Sydney office is getting too small.” He says the company now has 350 staff internationally. Last week it appointed Daniel Oertli as vice president of products, a former chief executive and co-founder of Roomz. His role will be to head up a global team of product managers and designers. Barrie says that in 2014 the focus will be on scaling up, hiring more expert staff, innovative product development and continuing to reach new territories. It is expanding its range of languages and currency offering. Freelancer floated on November 15 last year, selling around $14.2 million worth of shares, or 6.7% of the company. At the time, Barrie told SmartCompanythis was not going to be an exit plan. “I’m not selling a single share,” he said. “I love this company.” Freelancer is a crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace, offering work in around 600 fields such as website development, logo design, marketing, copywriting, astrophysics, aerospace engineering and manufacturing.
This week was a busy one for Australian start-ups, with two crowdsourced equity platforms launching in Australia and a couple of big discussions taking place online. Israeli-based OurCrowd launched on Monday and Artesian Ventures-backed VentureCrowd launched on Thursday. Our story that received the most comments this week explored why Australian tech start-ups are leaving the country and if we can solve the issues driving them overseas. But it’s not all doom and gloom for Australian government support for start-ups, with supporting start-ups on the agenda and an election issue in South Australia with both parties targeting them. In other investment news, an angel investor warned against quick capital rounds, two start-ups have banded together to offer a start-up scholarship for uni students and a Brisbane start-up won $100,000 at Perth’s West Tech Fest. One of Australia’s leading start-ups, the founders of e-commerce platform Bigcommerce, shared how they had to overcome their fear of taking on external capital and getting big too quickly before they could really take off. In other growth news, this start-up shared how they grew 200% by eschewing a gung-ho entrepreneurial approach to business and heard from a start-up taking on big players in the science lab supplies space. For those looking to grow, we reported on three education opportunities including the return of Melbourne’s only private accelerator AngelCube, Australia’s first ever all-female hackathons and Sydney University’s incubator program announcing its latest intake. We looked to the future and explored three emerging trends that will transform business, and heard from REA’s CIO about why individuals will play a bigger role than ever before. Getting customers was also a theme of this week with some lead generating advice and Facebook’s head of e-commerce shared his top tips for turning followers into return customers. We also explored how to keep the customers you have, with tips on how to master customer service, prevent PR disasters online and why this start-up copped flack for their internship ad.
It’s hard to gauge the return on investment and effort for social media activities, especially when many social media consultants say the focus should be on building communities rather than on making a profit from your followers. Facebook’s head of e-commerce, Stephen Scheeler, told StartupSmart there are a series of misconceptions that hold start-ups and small businesses back from making the most of their social media communities. Focus on individuals rather than mass campaigns The fact your community has a number on it doesn’t mean you should focus on how many followers or get caught up in planning how to reach all of them with each post. “The way to think about your audience on Facebook is not as one big crowd, but as individuals. There are over 9 million Australians on Facebook every single day, but Facebook allows you to break this audience down so that you can focus on talking to the people that matter most to your business,” Scheeler says. Understand Facebook is just one part of the media ecosystem As your target customers move through a densely populated content landscape every day that probably includes other social media platforms, TV, radio and online news, you need to push yourself to genuinely capture people’s attention. “It’s vital to think about your customers on Facebook not in isolation, but in terms of their total media journey throughout the day,” Scheeler says, adding their stats reveal Australians visit the platform on average 14 times a day, but often while watching TV or while doing another task. Know the difference between community building and sales Most business owners know firsthand that even excellent social media engagement doesn’t necessarily equal revenue. Being strategic about the kinds of content you’re sharing and balancing sales drivers with engagement boosters is key. “A lot of small businesses make the mistake of thinking that good content equals a sales pitch. A non-stop flow of information about your products and services, a constant ‘advertisement’, however, is not the best way to engage potential customers,” Scheeler says. While every start-up should include the occasional post about their offerings, smart marketers need to make sure they’re balancing it with interesting and useful information. “The formula for building a following on Facebook is really no different than “traditional” marketing – it’s about creating a compelling story around your product, service and brand, and then connecting with your customers in a way that is relevant to them,” he says. Here are Scheeler’s tips for boosting engagement on your page: Say more with less: When posting Facebook content, keep updates to 90 characters or less. People are more likely to browse short updates, so it’s no surprise that posts following this rule see 60% more engagement. A picture says a thousand words: Engage fans visually by using photos. If you’re stuck on a subject, try snapping pictures of your latest products or personalise the page with pictures of yourself and your workplace. Posts with images receive 120% more engagement than those without. Be searchable: Make sure your business address, phone number and hours are up to date on Facebook. As more users start using Graph Search, a product that enables people to find information through the filter of their friends, having relevant and up-to-date information on your page will help your business be more discoverable. Find the right audience: When sharing a post, make sure you’re targeting the right people. Select the asterisk on the right side of your post to determine the audience receiving it by age and location. Do you own a local floral shop? Use Facebook’s targeting option to drive increased traffic around Valentine’s Day by targeting people in a relationship in your city.
Generating leads is an all-important task for businesses and especially so for solo traders, start-ups and smaller businesses. Too many businesses end up taking a haphazard approach to lead generation, so here are five simple strategies you can use to find quality leads for your business this year. 1. Start with a strategy So many people in business take a scattergun approach to lead generation, going for mass marketing to spread their message, without really knowing if the message is getting through to their target market. Start at the very beginning, and decide who you want to target, advises Peter Griffith, the Asia-Pacific director of training and consultancy firm for businesses, rogenSi. “Determine the look and feel of your ideal customer. Who are they, where do they live, work and play? Also, consider their habits and lifestyle, and think about what they buy and from which companies, how they shop, how they access information and how they make decisions. Also, think about their business and personal needs, and how you help fix these,” he says. The best lead generation technique depends on the company, their industry, the products/services they sell, who they want to sell them to, how they differentiate from competitors and the brand they want to promote, he says. Ask anyone even moderately tech savvy and they’ll tell you there are only two options – search engine optimisation and Google AdWords, he says. 2. Make your website work harder Your company website should be working hard to generate leads for your business, so make sure it’s up to date and has all the bells and whistles. This should be the central hub for all your marketing and lead generation, says Marnie Ashe, head of consulting for Reload Consulting. “Not only will this allow for greater tracking of where your leads come from, what makes them inquire and ultimately what makes them become a customer, but also provides a central point for inquiry, allowing your potential customers’ details to be fed into a marketing database for future use,” Ashe says. Increasing enquiries on your website can be easily achieved by making sure it’s easy to find your contact details, with a phone number on every page a good idea, and your contact page easily accessible from your navigation, she says. “Also, have an enquiry form on every page. The easier it is to enquire, the more chance you have of a prospect inquiring. But keep the enquiry form short and sweet, you can collect more information when you follow up.” Also, consider adding a live chat service to your website, which is like having a friendly sales consultant greet people and offer them live assistance about your service, and can cost around $10 a day. Check out Web Reception or Live Chat Monitoring, which both offer this service. 3. Get social One of the best things you can do for your personal brand and business is to take social media seriously. When done well, building and communicating with your network of followers will build loyalty and trust in your business, and ultimately build sales. A compelling and active LinkedIn profile can also work well to generate new leads, according to Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency, Studio Culture. “There are so many opportunities that people are missing by simply not updating their LinkedIn profiles and networking with other business owners or potential customers on the platform,” he says. Catriona Pollard, director of Sydney’s CP Communications agrees, saying LinkedIn is without a doubt the best place for b2b lead generation. “A basic account on LinkedIn will allow you to build relationships and maintain contacts, as well as give you a lot of transparency into your extended professional network. You can generally contact your first degree and second degree connections using LinkedIn InMail, even if you don’t have their email address,” Pollard says. By upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, you can contact people outside of your network and gain further insights into who is viewing your profile, she says. “You can also directly target new leads using LinkedIn’s advanced search, which allows you to drill down and filter people by role type, company or industry, leading to high quality leads.” Facebook is another great tool. Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound suggests offering a free report on your Facebook business page to get people into your sales funnel. “Make sure that whatever you are offering is really useful and alleviates some sort of pain for your target market, such as ‘5 biggest mistakes people make when starting out in business’, or ‘how to get your baby sleeping through the night’, for example. There’s lots of software out there to help you do this, such as lead pages,” Pollard says. 4. Do the little things Understanding why and how you help people, and focusing on what problems you’re solving for them and how you solve them is paramount, says Frances Pratt, who explains sales to non-sales people. “Use this information to get your message out there. This should be the central thing you talk about in your advertising and promotions. Use this information to tell them about what you do and to ask questions when you’re meeting people,” Pratt, of Metisan says. Also, always ask for repeat business, she says. Once you’ve got something great for someone, ask if there’s something else you can help with. “It’s amazing once you have achieved something, how people will open up with more problems that they need help with.” Also, make sure you’re talking to the right people, who have the budget and power to spend with you. “So many business owners spent time on people who aren’t the decision maker, or aren’t willing to pay, which is a huge waste of time and energy,” she says. Businesses should shake their approach up a bit. Replicate what works 80% of the time using lead generation sources that have previously proven to lead sales. But 20% of the time, be inventive and try new lead sources, recommends Susanne Mather, executive director of Employment Office. “One example in the recruitment sales business is that 80% of the time, we source leads from recruitment advertising, calling businesses that are advertising for staff themselves. “But 20% of the time, we do things like take photos of the tent lists in the foyer of CBD high rise buildings and cold call them all. Or take photos of the logos on the sides of buildings and trucks when we’re out and about, and cold call these,” Mather says. 5. Get serious about content management It’s crucial to have a robust content management system as a place to conveniently store, manage and access both new leads and leads you’re revisiting, says Mather. Every team member at Employment Office starts the day with exactly 20 new leads entered in the CMS, which are sourced from a variety of channels, no excuses, she says. “It’s important for lead generation to be a carefully thought out part of the sales process, and it needs to be executed with consistency. “Investing in a program that really works for your business is something you will thank yourself for again and again, and has the capacity to repay the initial expense many times over.” Once you’ve got a great way to manage your leads, adopt the ‘find, wash, enter’ process, This refers to finding leads strategically and consistently, washing leads to make sure they’re not being approached by colleagues and entering those leads into a content management system so they are easily accessible and manageable, she says.
If you’re like many entrepreneurs I know, you are sick to death of hearing: “You just need to increase your marketing budget!” Unfortunately the default response to declining results is to spend more. What rot. The simple answer is don't spend money on marketing that depreciates in the first place. If you need to reach into your pocket next week to get the same “hit”, you are on a slippery slope. It will be increasingly hard to get the same results, which means you will be forking over more and more money, but spinning your wheels and getting no traction. The litmus test is: Will your marketing be around next month? If it won’t be around, don't do it. Your Google Ads, Facebook ads and banner ads won’t be around once you put your credit card away. In fact, anything where you are renting attention will vanish as soon as the money runs dry. Invest in enduring marketing In contrast, invest in marketing that will be around tomorrow, next week and next year. For example, write an article and post that on your blog because that blog post will still be there next month. Create a YouTube video or release an e-book because these will still exist in six months’ time. Good marketing investments appreciate in value The blog article that you posted last month is likely to be more valuable today than it was when you published it. If people have tweeted it, it will have more social proof than it did the day it went live. It someone’s linked to it, it will have more authority than it did the day it went live and it someone has left a comment, then it will enrich the content and add value to the reader’s experience. All these factors increase the value of that blog post and you can see how it compounds over time. The more you publish sustainable content the more you’ll be creating a marketing asset that appreciates in value. If you pour money into marketing that depreciates, you will be chasing your tail until your money runs out. Be the owner not the renter Many marketers are hooked on the quick-fix of renting attention, but then struggle because there is nothing left to show for it at the end of the day. My experience suggests that focusing on being the publisher (owner) is infinitely better approach than being the advertiser (renter). Publish your own content, be generous, help people and your audience will grow. Then you can communicate with them for free anytime you like. This is what building a marketing asset is all about. The Web Strategy Planning Template helps you visualise and plan your marketing asset.
Launching a business is always hard work but it’s even more of a whirlwind when you have a new baby. Despite the extra challenge, entrepreneur Chloe Brookman says new mums should seize the opportunity of flexible time and a period of change and just go for it. “If you wait for every element to be in order before you start then you will be waiting a very long time. Get started. Launch right now,” she says. “Launching a new business while being a full-time mum is hard work, I'll be the first to admit it. But it's so very doable as many women have shown, it's just a matter of being passionate, organised and focused.” Brookman founded baby furniture company Olli Ella in 2010. They now distribute across the world to a wide range of retailers and directly. She shared her top five tips with StartupSmart below. 1. Don’t fret about the perfect business plan A new business is a lot like a new baby. You may understand what it could entail but it’s not until you’re dealing with the day-to-day challenges and changes that you get a feel for what you’re nurturing. “A business plan is just that: a plan. We never did one, and I think that this one of the factors that has enabled us to propel our brand; we were completely flexible,” Brookman says. 2. Set goals to stay nimble and sharp Setting goals in six month batches helps an evolving start-up stay nimble and on target. “We knew where we wanted to be in the next six months and once we got there, we reassessed and set loose goals for the next year,” Brookman says. “A very basic plan with an outline of your business vision, goals and next steps is all you really need, that is unless you are going to be asking for outside investment.” 3. Start small and self-fund if you can Once you take on investors, your flexibility is limited by external expectations that need to be met. “If you can, self-fund your business venture without seeking outside investment,” Brookman says. “Have a look at your business, a good honest look and you will see that doing it yourself is actually doable.” Olli Ella chose to manufacture their products locally to make it more manageable. “We had two options: to manufacture overseas in high volumes, low cost but with large profit margins for us. This would involve hefty start-up capital, a warehouse, costly trips overseas – the list goes on. Our other option was to manufacture locally in small volumes, high cost and low profit margins for us. We opted for the latter,” she says. 4. Build the right community around you For new business owners, surrounding yourself with the right advisers is the most important thing you can do. “Whether or not you are an expert in your field or, as in our case, are entering a new field in your new business, you will need advisers. Speak to as many people as you can who are experts in their field, write out a list of questions, and sit down with these experts and pick their brains,” Brookman says. Developing a supportive community goes beyond just advisers. It should also include a network of business owners. “Navigating the launch of a new business is daunting at best; it's unknown waters and can be very lonely, even when working with a business partner. To help combat this start your own network of fellow female entrepreneurs; these can be people that you know, meet at networking events, or find through Gumtree or Facebook,” Brookman says. She adds that keeping the group to fewer than 10 people and meeting monthly creates a sustainable approach. 5. Learn from your mistakes “This is the greatest adventure that you are about to embark on. Love the lows as much as the highs, welcome mistakes because you will grow from them.”
I’m starting a new retail business and I’m not very techy. Can I survive without having to adapt to all this modern day hoo-ha? Once in a generation, retail goes through a change that could never have been predicted – and cannot be ignored. Here are a few examples of such change: In 1984, we rushed into the shops on Saturday morning knowing that if we didn’t buy what we needed by 12pm, we wouldn’t be able to shop again until Monday morning… Very few of us would have believed Sunday would become the second biggest trading day of the year for most retailers just 30 years later. In 1954, supermarkets as we know them today didn’t exist, with 90 cents of every dollar spent at a small, independently owned business... Very few of us would have believed that just 60 years later, they would take 80 cents in every dollar spent on consumable goods. In 1904, horse feed, rum, coffee, coal and clothing was all purchased at the same store, usually on an account or “appro” (on approval)... Very few of us would have believed that up to 80% of purchases would be spent on a plastic debit or credit card just one generation later – some of it by just touching the card against a pole. In 2014, any retailer that says online shopping, e-tailing, retail-apps, or social networking is just a trend they can do without may well be reminded of the above. Today’s generation research product and price on the web, read online forums for tips where to shop, use mobile apps to find a coffee or clothing (and maybe even horse feed), pre-pay with PayPal, and use their phone to store their ‘frequent coffee’ credits. Facebook is The Argus of today (look it up kids), Instagram is the Christmas catalogue that was once stuffed in the mailbox, Twitter is today’s radio advert telling you that 20% off all stock starts in 15 minutes, and blogging has just about replaced ‘word-of-mouth’ as the best way to give and get feedback on good service or a yummy muffin! So before you think we are in the middle of a short-lived trend, think again about the once-in-a-generation paradigm shift that is really going on – with or without us! My suggestion: bring your kids, nieces, nephews, friends and staff around for a BBQ, and pick their brains as to how to adapt, sustain, evolve and grow your business by being a part of the new world that has emerged. To answer your specific question: Can you survive? Of course, you can ‘survive’ – the way a weed manages to survive in the cracks of the footpath for far too long. But you won’t thrive in the way the manicured and well-fed garden bed thrives growing right next to the same footpath!
No matter how fast your start-up is growing and how impressive your download stats are, if you want to build a thriving and sustainable business you need to focus on developing active, repeat users. Event coordinating software start-up Attendly’s “founder apprentice” Michael Calle has been working in marketing and user acquisition for years, first in a digital agency and then as a freelancer for a range of Melbourne start-ups. “A lot of start-ups focus on getting users in, which distracts start-ups from retaining them. But without a strategy to keep your customers or users on board, you’re dead in water,” Calle says. He shared the top three tips he learned on the customer acquisition frontline with StartupSmart. The first impression matters most and tutorials or guides are key While start-up budgets are almost always tight, scrimping on investing in onboarding processes such as guides or video tutorial is never worth it. “It’s really important to be very clear about what the user will do next. If it’s not immediately obvious and you haven’t been helped through the process, that’s an issue and you can probably just say bye to that user,” Calle says. He says supporting users through their first experience of the product through video or animated tutorials or guiding comments will boost retention from the very beginning. Reach out to users after their first experience Whether a user found you via search, a free offer or personal networks, it’s important to follow up with them shortly after they finish with your product to encourage them to try it again. Calle says he’s modelled a couple of campaigns on start-ups such as car hire group Uber or payment gateway Stripe, which use free or trial offers to attract new users to the product and then follow up comprehensively. “Once you’ve got an activated user, you want to make the re-engagement process seem as organic as possible. Automating emails, asking feedback or with the follow-up offer or both, is a great way to encourage them back,” Calle says. He adds start-ups are increasingly using an email framed as a “personal letter from the CEO” as a way to re-engage users and build their loyalty to the start-up. Recognise the value ex-users can provide and don’t stalk them “If you’ve already burned through a range of users, it’s really hard to get them back and it’s almost not worth the effort,” says Calle. “You’d need a very compelling offer, either a big discount or introducing a new feature these users said they needed.” But just because they’re probably not going to use the app or product again doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Calle says one of the most revealing campaigns he’s ever run for a client was a recent one for Attendly, where they exported emails of ex-users and contacted them through Facebook to ask for their feedback on why they stopped using the service. “Not too many re-engaged with the product, but we got a lot of really interesting feedback we’ll keep using as we iterate the product,” Calle says.
Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network. 1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs. In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”. 2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer. 3. Paper has just launched Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources. “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states. 4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter. “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.” Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother. 6. It’s set to compete with Google Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have. He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant. Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google. 7. Users are a devoted bunch Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours. 8. Facebook is targeting developing countries Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson. The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones. Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking. He has described early tests as “promising”. 9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”. “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review. Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction. 10. It’s king of social referred traffic Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report. But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.
StartupSmart received over 100 entries to be part of its So You Think You Can Start-up pitching competition.
Have you ever let someone else use your tablet? Perhaps you’ve been concerned they could pry through sensitive personal information you’ve saved on websites or your bookmarks? If so, the latest version of Firefox for Android smartphones and tablets has a new feature called private guest browsing you should try. This feature runs a ‘special’ session of Firefox that allows your guest to view websites and pages while preventing them from looking through your personal accounts on websites such as Facebook. To start a private guest session, just tap on the menu button: When the menu pops up, tap on the Tools menu, and then the New Guest Session option: Now it’s safe to let someone else use your tablet– without them prying through your private accounts!