Privacy is often thought of as the right to be left alone. Yet, our lives are embedded in relationships – with people, with corporations, with government, and with technological devices – that can’t be pursued without some amount of privacy loss. Sometimes that loss is unexpected, large scale, and with unpredictable impact. Donald Sterling thought he was having a private conversation. Edward Snowden unveiled the government’s trove of corporate data. And everyday tech devices are ubiquitous collectors of our personal information - with analysts predicting 2.5 billion global smart phone users by 2015. On the whole, consumers say they want their data to be left alone – but only sometimes. The New Yorker recently published a story about an artist who offered chocolate chip cookies during an arts festival in Brooklyn in exchange for personal information, such as a mother’s maiden name, home address, the last four digits of a Social Security number, or even fingerprints. Surprisingly, nearly 400 people gave up sensitive personal information in exchange for a cookie. If our own behavior is inconsistent with preserving privacy, how can we expect laws to effectively protect it? This contradiction is particularly problematic for privacy laws that seek to balance the government’s interests in surveillance and protecting the country against terrorism with a citizen’s right to be left alone. And judges are noticing. During a recent conference at Georgetown University Law Center, Judge Margaret McKeown of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reportedly offered the following view: “With much of US [Fourth Amendment] privacy law based on a reasonable expectation of privacy, it’s difficult … to define what that means when people are voluntarily sharing all kinds of personal information online.” This contradiction is also problematic for privacy laws that seek to balance society’s interest in preserving and analyzing posted content with an individual’s right to information privacy. The rules, regulations, and best practices for companies dealing with obligations to “erase” data are no less seamless than the imperfectly reconcilable desires of consumers. That is because there are different privacy requirements for different age groups under both federal law and state law. And even within state law, there are so many qualifiers around what content does not need to be erased that it’s unclear that the law will protect much privacy at all. An “erasure service” for minors Take, for example, the new California Rights for Minors in the Digital World Act, which comes into effect January 1, 2015. This new law gives minors, defined as users under the age of 18, the right to remove or request removal of content and other information, including images, from online or mobile application postings. Although the new law protects only California minors, it applies broadly – including to companies outside of California. More specifically, the law will apply to any company that owns a website or mobile application that is either: (i) directed to minors – meaning it was created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominantly comprised of minors; or (ii) directed to a general audience if the company has actual knowledge that a minor is using the site or application. This new law, which essentially mandates an “erasure service for minors,” also requires that companies provide notice to minors that the removal service is available as well as clear instructions on how to use it. Sounds straightforward. Yet, it’s not. Protecting 13 to 18 year olds Longstanding privacy rules and regulations, such as the 1998 federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) have been designed to protect the privacy of minors within a certain age group – those under age 13. COPPA gives parents control over what information is collected from their children online including, for example, by requiring that companies obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information online and by essentially prohibiting companies from disclosing that information to third parties. COPPA also gives parents access to their children’s personal information so they may review or delete it. The new California erasure law, however, is designed to protect the privacy of everyone under age 18. Former California Senator Darrell Steinberg, the sponsor of the law, proposed the extension of COPPA-like protections to teens under age 18 because he believed that these teens are more susceptible to revealing personal information online before they comprehend the consequences. Information privacy laws have long been comprised of an irregular patchwork of federal and state rules and regulations. But the new California law will further complicate corporate compliance for those companies that want to balance a corporate or social interest in preserving and analyzing big data with an individual’s right to information privacy. Come January 1, 2015, companies such as General Mills and McDonalds will have to continue to comply with COPPA for users under the age of 13 while simultaneously working with a different privacy regime under the new California state law for California users under the age of 18. Under COPPA, for example, companies must provide parents a mechanism to access and delete personal information about their children under the age of 13. Under the new California law, companies must provide users who are under 18 a mechanism to remove or request themselves the removal of content and information – but only if they themselves have posted it. Corporate compliance under the new California law is further complicated by several qualifiers around what content must be removed. For example, the law does not require companies to remove content copied or posted by a third party. So if an Instagram user posts an embarrassing image of a fellow Instagram user who is fifteen years old, Instagram would not have to honor the fifteen year old’s request to remove the embarrassing image because she did not post the image herself. And even if the embarrassing image was originally posted by the fifteen year old and then reposted by another Instagram user, Instagram would still not have to remove the image. Confusing? That’s not all. The new law does not require companies to remove content posted by a minor for which the minor was paid or otherwise compensated. It doesn’t make companies remove content if they are able to de-identify it so that the minor could no longer be identified with the content. It doesn’t ask companies to remove the “erased” data from their servers, so long as they delete it from their websites and/or mobile applications. The California Rights for Minors in the Digital World Act is going to be, in other words, one difficult law to implement. And as applied it won’t necessarily always result in any meaningful erasure of content, let alone provide enhanced privacy rights for the minors it was designed to protect. As The New York Times reported in 2013, there are certainly good reasons to provide enhanced privacy rights to users between the ages of 13 and 18. Take this case as an example: The rash revelations by a Texas teenager, Justin Carter, on Facebook last February — a threatened school shooting his family insists was sarcastic, made in the heat of playing a video game — landed him in a Texas jail on a felony terrorism charge for nearly six months. However, when privacy rules and regulations lead to inconsistent outcomes, privacy rights can, as seen in the Instagram example, be compromised — even for those who only sometimes want to be left alone. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A common refrain in Silicon Valley is ‘manual first’, referring to all the different approaches you can take to validate and grow your startup idea before putting any time into building a web or mobile application. The reason this approach is so popular is due to the speed at which you can accomplish things. Speed is everything for a startup. It is one of your few natural advantages over pre-existing competition. Because you’ve invested so little in your idea to this point, it will never be quicker or easier to change what you’re doing, be it slight changes or drastic ones. Big companies have mass, and with mass comes momentum. Momentum is great if you know where you are going, but crippling if you need to change directions suddenly. So how does ‘manual first’ equate to getting the ball rolling on your startup? The answer lies with an MVP. That’s not a sports reference mind you, rather in this context MVP stands for minimum viable product. That’s startup lingo for doing what you have to in order to learn whether the assumptions around your idea are valid. What this means in practice depends on the type of startup you’re creating and the particular hypothesis you’re hoping to test. Typically, you want to test the biggest assumptions in your business first, which usually equates to “will anyone use my product/service?” A good assumption to validate before going out and dedicating your life to making it happen, don’t you think? In fact, everything we try to do as entrepreneurs, be it speaking to people, creating a lean canvas, and testing the various hypotheses within, is geared towards de-risking the startup as quickly as possible. So, what might an MVP look like for your idea? If your idea is for a product that you plan to sell and distribute online, one clever MVP is known as the ‘smoke and mirrors’ technique, which involves setting up a landing page for your ‘product’ (including relevant information such as price, benefits, feature set, etc), sending people to said landing page (often via some paid ads on Google, Facebook, or whatever platform is relevant for your target audience) and seeing how many people actually click the purchase button. The point of this exercise is that you find out relatively cheaply – whatever money you spent getting people to your ‘product’ website – if anyone wants what you have to offer. If no one bites then there’s not much point in building out the product. You’ve invalidated the hypothesis that your product is the solution for a certain group of people, whom you believe suffer from a certain type of problem. From this you can deduce that: 1. The people who came to your site weren’t the correct subsection of people (change your advertising). 2. The people coming to the site were OK but the positioning of the product was not (change the content of the landing page). 3. The offer wasn’t compelling enough for the price (change the price). 4. People aren’t really interested in the product (put more work into researching the problem – is it really a problem?) If your idea is more service than product, then you can utilise ‘the Wizard of Oz’ technique to validate your assumptions (the name bears homage to the old man who hides behind a curtain pretending to be a powerful wizard in the children's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). If your startup revolves around some type of service, the Wizard of Oz technique means physically complete the service by emulating the actions of what you would eventually code and automate. As an example, say you had an idea for an online gift recommendation service. Manually emulating the service in this case may take the form of finding potential gifts for a user by personally going through shopping catalogues looking for gift ideas that match said users preferences, then returning the results online as files in an email. To the user, there is no difference between an algorithm sourcing the gifts automatically and you working behind the scenes doing the same job. This approach often involves creating a site that is slightly more complicated than setting up a simple landing page and some ads, but generally not much more than an extra form field or two. Note that if you are completing manually what you intend to offer as an automated service, you shouldn’t be shy about taking money for said services. Some tools that you might find useful for this part of the process include: Balsamiq – a wireframing tool that lets you sketch out your website or mobile application. Unbounce – a tool that lets you create, publish, and test landing pages for your startup. FluidUI – similar to Balsamiq, but with a later stage focus, higher resolution designs and the ability to put your prototype onto your mobile and test it out directly. Google AdWords – you know Google, you know ads on Google, this is where you go when you want to put your own ads on Google. Facebook have a similar platform you can find via https://www.facebook.com/advertising Wufoo – a customisable online form builder with no coding required. Regardless of what tools and techniques you use for the job, keep in mind that speed is the essential ingredient. The faster you can prototype, iterate and prove an assumption, the faster your idea transforms into a viable startup. So, get out of the building, speak to customers, figure out what they want, what it looks like, put that online, and see if anyone buys! From there it’s wash, rinse, repeat… with one caveat which we’ll cover in the next article! Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part four of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian business woman Jayne Powell is battling the Comite' Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CICV) in the Federal Court today over her use of the name ‘Champagne Jayne’. Powell has gone from being awarded the prestigious ‘Champagne Dame’ status (Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne) by the champagne industry to being sued by CICV, the French body which represents the interests of wine growers and producers in France’s Champagne region. Powell has been running master classes, tasting, tours, and speaking about champagne for several years now. She has a website, blog and social media presence using the name Champagne Jayne and has established herself as an expert on the subject. Powell successfully registered the trademark “Champagne Jayne” in July 2012 but the CIVC opposed the trademark in November that year. The CIVC claims Powell has unlawfully made a living off the name, deceived clients and tarnished the brand by referring to sparkling wines which are not champagne alongside the genuine article. It wants the Federal Court to force Powell to cancel the business name Champagne Jayne, withdraw her trademark for the name and dump her website, Facebook and Twitter accounts all bearing the brand. Powell says her business turns over less than $100,000 a year and says while she does also reference sparkling wines this is for the purpose of comparison. “All I can say is that although litigation is a challenging exercise both financially and emotionally for an individual such as myself, I am defending the claim and have every confidence that the decision that the court will ultimately make will be the right one," she said in a statement to SmartCompany. Other businesses likely to be impacted by the outcome of the case include the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain, which has registered the mark ‘Strawberries & Champagne’ in Australia in relation to its line of body care products, and many smaller businesses including Diamonds in Champagne and Champagne Life on a Beer Budget. Richard Hoad, partner at law firm Clayton Utz, told SmartCompany businesses need to be careful when selecting a name as battling litigation after the fact is costly. “It is definitely worthwhile conducting searches of the trademarks register to make sure you are not treading on other people’s toes,” he says. “Some people are more vigilant about protecting their rights than others and the French wine regions are particularly vigilant.” The CIVC failed to respond to SmartCompany’s request for comment prior to publication. The four day Federal Court hearing is before Justice Beach in Melbourne. This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.
The Financial System Inquiry has taken a “slow and steady” approach to financial crowdfunding, despite perceptions that Australia is lagging behind in this area. While acknowledging the wide range of global crowdfunding models, the report focuses on securities-based crowdfunding such as crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) or debt, and peer-to-peer lending (P2P), recommending: Graduate fundraising regulation to facilitate crowdfunding for both debt and equity and, over time, other forms of financing. The aim is to eventually have a holistic regulatory setting that can facilitate internet-based financing, including crowdfunding. For the moment, it will be an “adjust-as-you-go” approach with the regulations, but the focus will be on disclosure requirements of issuers and protection of retail investors. Since CSEF has far more regulatory requirements than P2P, the inquiry recommended a consultation on CSEF regulations, leading Treasury to immediately release a discussion paper on CSEF. The government’s measured approach is justified if we realise we are looking at the tip of a very huge iceberg. Crowdfunding is a whole new market with its own ecosystem. Just like we have emerging markets, frontier markets and so on, this financial crowdfunding market is expected to disrupt financial intermediation similar to what Amazon did to bricks-and-mortar bookshops. Tagging on keywords like collaborative finance, fintech, platforms, algorithms, networks, engagement, equity slices, social validation and momentum-investing, this market is projected to reach US$93 billion by 2025 and an astonishing US$300 billion once the developing countries release their crowd. With the new market comes new asset classes such as venture capital for retail investors. Take the case of Australian entrepreneurs Dan Joyce and Jared Mooring, now living in London, who pitched their venture My Mate Your Date (MMYD) on the UK equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube with a target of reaching £130,000 representing 20% equity by 21 December 2014. The project was pitched on the platform around 29 October 2014 (according to its Facebook entry). By 9 December MMYD had raised £110,550 (representing 85% of funds) from 97 investors, with the largest investment being £20,000. The pitch’s links to MMYD’s Facebook and Twitter, the stream of messages, “likes”, and “shares” and “comments” matter as much as the financials and key data. The social validation of a venture can make a casual observer become a curious investor, and then a self-appointed brand ambassador, passionately following the firm as it grows and into a possible IPO. This is the power of a networked, engaged crowd. The returns in these ventures are clearly much more than financial which explains the rush by even banks and large companies to back these ventures. SocietyOne Australia is backed by Rupert Murdoch and James Packer as well as Westpac’s Reinventure Group. Financial crowdfunding is a brilliant solution for the small and medium-sized enterprises’ funding gap issue, as well as for the economy’s innovation and industry competitiveness agenda, while delivering along the way the gift of efficient risk-return transactions to the crowd. That’s a lot of wins and doesn’t justify the slow approach. But, here’s why one needs a steady approach too - new market, new risks. Recently, Aurora Labs, a Perth-based startup that launched on Kickstarter on 23 September 2014 cancelled the campaign on 9 October despite receiving $304,755 from 122 backers - three times its $100,000 target - due to the company’s concerns over protecting its intellectual property (IP). Aurora had failed to understand Kickstarter’s disclosure requirements: When a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, like a gadget, we require projects to show a prototype of what they’re making, and we prohibit photorealistic renderings. The funders want as much detail as possible, while the issuer wants to protect IP. Questions around what “showing a prototype” really means and the level of detail required in its disclosure, need to be addressed. Other risks such as cross-jurisdictional/cross-border complexities, securitisation of unsecured loans, and a lack of disclosures of “real” returns have been highlighted in recent reports from Infodev/World Bank and the International Organization of Securities Commission. We also need to understand the “real” business model of these Fintech companies. LendingClub debuted this week on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol LC with a highpoint value of US$5.7 billion, but rose to more than US$9 billion on the first day of trading. Is it a “fin” or a “tech”? It is being valued as a technology company. We are back to the question: “What’s this fintech’s business model”? Well, that explains the “understand before you regulate” perspective of the inquiry. After all, we don’t need a regulation that turns out to be a lemon. This article originally appeared at The Conversation.
Instagram has surpassed Twitter’s 284 million active users, hitting the 300 million mark nine months after recording 200 million users. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys,” the company said in a statement. Instagram also announced it would be rolling out verified badges for celebrities, athletes and brands – in the same way that Facebook and Twitter has verified users. The social network is also cracking down on spam accounts in order to “improve” the user experience. As a result, the company has warned that some users’ follower counts may change. Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. More than 70 million photos and videos are shared on the platform each day. Apple and IBM launch their first wave of apps for enterprises Apple and IBM have launched the first apps resulting from their partnership today, in a bid to bring mobile analytics to enterprises. The software includes apps made for companies such as Air Canada, Citi and Sprint. Senior vice president of IBM’s Global Business Services, Bridget van Kralingen, said in a statement the new enterprises will see businesses be able to unlock big data and drive individual engagement in a mobile-first world. “Our collaboration combines IBM’s industry expertise and unmatched position in enterprise computing, with Apple’s legendary user experience and excellence in product design to lift the performance of a new generation of business professionals,” she said. Google tells Android developers to watch this face Google has opened up watch-face creation to third-party developers for the Android Wear community, according to TechCrunch. The tech giant has also created a dedicated section of the Google Play store so that users can download watch faces just as they do with apps. The updates will be rolled out over the next week. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 267.7 points to 17,533.47. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US83 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I wouldn’t have to work another day if I received a dollar for every time someone told me they ‘had an idea for an app’. And I'd live like a king if I got one for every time an aspiring 'apptrepreneur' buckled when I asked: What is the commercial model, how are you going to finance it, and do you know how to make an app? Apps are like restaurants, the customer doesn’t see all the prep that happens in the background before they are presented with the final product. Out the back is the kitchen. It holds all the ingredients and the chef knows how to make the perfect combination, communicate it to the waiter and present the final product. When an order is placed, the kitchen checks the order is in the right format, i.e., the hamburger is on the menu that day and they have the stock to make it. The chef then proceeds to create the product and deliver it in perfect condition. A patron does not see any of this; ideally, they see a pretty menu at the table in the restaurant and receive the perfect product in a few short minutes from placing the order. Despite being the founder of two apps, I am not very technical. So I’m going to explain to those who are like me, what it takes to build a good app. Three tips before we start building: Apps cost a lot of money to build, maintain and expand functionality. So be prepared to keep funding or find funding very quickly! You don’t need impressive revenue figures from day one to get the big guys interested, but you do need a clear model on how your app is going to make money. There are some extreme outliers to this, take Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $20 billion as an example. However, this isn’t a definite, so ensure you have a very clear plan on how your app is going to make money! There are various parts to building an app and you might need several people to do so. You need someone to build the app (an iOS and Android version) and someone to build the ‘backend’. The backend developer builds the database, which is what the app talks to, and works in a specific technical language such as .net or Java. Steps to building an app 1. Developing the idea Firstly, ask yourself if your app is solving a problem. So many apps I’ve seen have been based on great ideas, but don’t solve a problem anyone has. Test the idea with friends and ask for honest opinions. This can be tricky because your friends don’t want to put down your idea, so honest feedback is key here. 2. Research Imagine you spent thousands of dollars and months of time to develop an app that you soon find already exists. It would suck! Do your research, talk to people in the space, and be sure no one else is doing the same thing. 3. Have a business plan Treat your app like a regular business. What is your business model, plan and strategy on how it’s going to make money? 4. Work out costs You need to be financially prepared, or at least be sure that the cost of building your app can be loaned. You should develop a very detailed handle on how much the app is going to cost to build. Some very basic apps can cost over $100,000. 5. Sketch it Lay out what you anticipate your app to look like and what you want it to do. A road map is a great way to visualise every step of the app and how it interacts. Here is the very first wireframe of Clipp and next to it the version 1.0 of the app. 6. Build the backend Here’s the part you might need to outsource. You can look into app development studios like Project Create. There is also always the option to get an app developer on the team and offer a stake in the company. 7. Develop the consumer-facing skin Once the app’s backend is finalised, it’s time for the fun stuff! What do you want your users to see when they open your app? What is the personality and voice of your brand? It’s a great idea to start with several ideas and develop your favourite from there. 8. Test it and have others test it Your app needs to work, and the best way to find out is by putting it in the hands of people who don’t know a thing about its development. You’ll quickly find out what’s wrong with it! It’s very important you continue to evolve your product, watch people use the app and ensure it’s intuitive, we made some big changes to Clipp 2.0 from 1.0 which made a huge difference to our conversion rate. Hopefully this will give you a starter’s guide to building your app. If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @mrgregtaylor. Greg Taylor, creator of eCoffeeCard, and creator and co-founder of Clipp.co, the bar tab app. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It would be no news to business owners who are actively using Facebook that making sure your followers actually see your posts is getting more difficult as Facebook reduces the organic reach of most content, and it’s about to get tougher. Facebook recently issued a strong warning to brands, advertisers and marketers to steer clear of promotional posts if they don’t want to disappear from users’ news feeds. In a blog post published last month, Facebook announced that beginning January 2015 they are launching a crackdown on posts deemed too promotional such as: Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads Businesses that continue to bombard users with posts lacking relevance and value, and just sell all day long, will be pushed out of users’ news feeds regardless if these people have previously liked your page. Here are examples of posts that could spell doom for your page’s organic distribution: Facebook explained the latest tweak in their algorithm is a result of users’ desire to see less promotional content and more stories “from friends and Pages they care about”. Not surprisingly, ads are safe from this crackdown. Why? According to Facebook, “News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts.” What does this change mean for your business? Content is more important than promotion If you want organic content to be seen then you need to make sure it’s genuinely engaging. Think infographics, blog posts, how-to videos, etc. Encourage “liking” and sharing of posts from your team members Posts that are “liked” and shared have higher engagement scores and Facebook is more likely to show these organically to a broader audience. Including photos of team members and staff celebrations in “behind the scenes” posts are a great way of enrolling and engaging your team in sharing social activity. Be prepared to spend If you want your posts to be seen you must dedicate budget to sponsoring your posts, plain and simple. The days of high reach on Facebook without sponsoring are over, plain and simple. Get your video on Native Facebook videos are still performing well organically in the social network’s news feed algorithm so investing in some video content is a worthwhile exercise. So rethink and develop a new content marketing strategy now, and don’t wait for January to come. There are already reports of brands experiencing significant drops in their organic reach prior to this announcement – so don’t risk it. Facebook delivers substantial traffic to businesses and this is something you can’t afford to lose. Just play by the rules and develop a smart marketing strategy for your brand. Since starting her outsourced national marketing consultancy Marketing Angels in 2000, Michelle Gamble has helped hundreds of SMEs get smarter marketing. Michelle helps businesses find more effective ways to grow their brands and businesses. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
In conjunction with AngelCube, this December StartupSmart is challenging all those would-be founders out there to turn their ideas into reality. Here’s the first in a series of articles we’ll be running over the next two weeks that we hope will provide some inspiration for those that need that extra push. Be sure to follow along, support one another, and share your journey using the hashtag #2015istheyear. Greetings and salutations! It’s that time of year when we look back on what was, and ahead to what’s next. It has been a huge year for startups, from Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion to Melbourne’s own LIFX raising a $12 million A round from Sequoia. There’s been more than a few local success stories, and we’ve been lucky enough here at AngelCube to count some of our alumni amongst those. Australia has even got its very own Startup Show. The local startup scene is rocking! No doubt you’re looking forward to some well-earned R&R over the Christmas/New Year period, spending time with the family, spending money on the family, eating enough food to feed a small family… And as you sit there, eyes glazed over in a food induced coma, you think about how the years fly by, each faster than the last. You start reflecting on what’s going on in your life, what you’ve achieved and accomplished, and what you haven’t. Chances are good that if you’re reading this, one of those unfulfilled ambitions is to run a startup. The good news is, now is the best time, bar none, to do something about it! You’re already set to make some New Year’s resolutions right? Make one of those resolutions the commitment to starting. Do something about that frustrating problem at work. One thing that would make your life, or the life of someone close to you, that much better. That stroke of genius which will change the world and make you so rich that you could literally buy Christmas next time it rolls around. Now for the bad news: if you stay on the couch, nothing much will change (surprise surprise). This isn’t a 12-month gym membership that you give up on by February, nor is it 12 months without drinking that you forget by Friday. It’s simply a resolution to start. We’ll cover what you need to know to get your startup off the ground over Christmas with some follow-up articles. But for now it’s on you to make that commitment. Write it on your hand. Tape it to the back of the toilet door. You can even tweet about it – we’ve got you covered with a snazzy hashtag – #2015istheyear – should you decide to do so. Remember; there’s no idea too crazy; no idea too small; no idea too ambitious. No one is saying your idea has to change the world. No one is saying you have to make the next Facebook, or be the next Elon Musk. But you have to do something. Otherwise it will be the end of 2015 before you know it, and you’ll be sitting on your couch, eyes glazed over in a food induced coma, reflecting on how the years pass by ever faster, and your startup dreams remain unrealised. Committed and ready to get started? Good. Our next instalment in the series is ‘How to validate your idea over Christmas’ and it will be out shortly. Remember: #2015istheyear Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
When trolls strike in website comment sections and across social media, we tend to look to curtail the perpetrators and help their targets. But what of the moderators – the often nameless and invisible people caught in the middle trying to police the flow of abusive, and often very offensive, material? Unlike for professions such as forensic investigators, there does not currently appear to be any research into the impact of all this on moderators. It’s time there was. As someone who once enjoyed hate reading comments sections, I thought I was prepared when, in 2011, I started moderating comments on social media at the ABC. I was so wrong. My expected post-outrage glow was instead replaced with a desire to shower in scalding water – a lot. This is largely because of the following: you have to read all the comments – even the ones no-one else sees because they’re so bad you’ve removed them you have to do that until it’s time to go home you have to do that every time you go to work. As a moderator I’ve dealt with the following: rape threats, racial slurs, hate speech against people who identify as LGBTI or are non-Christian or immigrants or refugees, and that old staple – misogyny that makes the Middle Ages look enlightened. I’ve also been abused for not getting comments down fast enough, for deleting or hiding them, been called a left-wing ideologue, a right-wing apparatchik, a “f—ing moron” and told to (insert sexual act of choice here). But it’s not like it was personal – “haters gonna hate” as the meme goes – and I should probably just get over it, right? The moderator toll It’s very easy to think that trolling is only a problem for those who are specifically targeted. We, rightly, question the impact on their victims' mental health as in the case of Charlotte Dawson earlier this year. We talk about the personality traits of trolls and offer advice on the best ways to deal with them. As recent articles on sites such as Salon and Wired note, there is a toll on moderators, and it’s often high. In an open letter to parent company Gawker Media after months of inaction on their “rape gif problem”, staffers from feminist site Jezebel explicitly noted: In refusing to address the problem, Gawker’s leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel’s staff […] The problem is getting worse as organised groups targeting specific content get involved. When that occurs the constant river of comments can become a flash-flood. Earlier this year, for example, a post (now deleted) on the ABC News Facebook wall was targeted by an anti-Mosque group. Within minutes of their call to arms the comments were flooded with hate speech, much of it cut-and paste. It was almost impossible to keep up with the flow of horribly racist, religiously intolerant rants in the comments. It was almost a week before things settled down. For all the moderators involved it was exhausting and dispiriting. Recently we’ve seen heavy trolling of companies who make Halal food by anti-Muslim groups. There’s been similar targeting of posts on Gamergate, and it’s an expected feature of articles on feminist issues or climate change or asylum seekers. What’s to be done? Most of the suggested solutions are aimed at trying to end trolling and incivility. Admirable though this is, it’s doomed to failure. Pandora’s Box is well and truly opened on this one and that means we need to think damage control. Tweaking the algorithms that automatically block offensive content, where you can, is a potential solution – but algorithms can be gamed. In the end, as a recent article in Mashable points out: […] new rules don’t necessarily mean moderators will see less awful content. Steering clear of posting troll-bait items, while tempting, is self-censorship and a very slippery slope indeed. We could get rid of comments on those articles, but the jury’s still out on that tactic. I’m sceptical about how well ending anonymity will work. That assumes people don’t do things like make fake Facebook profiles – I’m looking at you the United States' Drug Enforcement Agency. We need research into the potential psychological impacts of moderation on those who do it. It’s very difficult to come up with effective strategies without it. Platforms such as Facebook and, particularly, Twitter need to be better about responding to and acting on concerns when raised. Employers can take a proactive approach – have regular and open conversations with moderators and take their concerns seriously. Offer support and properly resource them. Track and appropriately address the volume of comments – when and on what sites and posts they occur and how they are enabled. Still, for all the bile, there are the diamonds – comments that reaffirm your belief in humankind and leave you floating on air. For those, on behalf of moderators past and present, thank you. Jennifer Beckett will be answering questions between 10am to 11am AEDT today, December 8. Ask your question in our comments (below) and please take note of our Community standards on comments. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has responded to comments by his counterpart at Apple, Tim Cook, who recently stated that “when online service is free, you’re not the customer”. In an interview with Time, Zuckerberg responded by saying he was increasingly frustrated that “a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers”. “I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!” Zuckerberg said. Uber driver faces rape allegations Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested an Uber cab driver accused of raping a customer, with authorities saying they will take action against the US ridesharing startup for failing to run background checks on the man. Reuters reports a 26-year-old woman has accused the driver of sexually assaulting and beating her after using the service during a trip home from a work function. “Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we will go for legal recourse,” Delhi police deputy commissioner Madhur Verma said. Amazon to continue iterating the Fire Phone Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has said the online retail giant will continue making new smartphones, despite the company making $US170 million in writedowns on its Fire Phone, Recode reports. “I have made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com … literally. You might remember Pets.com or Kozmo,” Bezos said. “None of those things are fun. They also don’t matter. Companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, eventually get [desperate and] make a Hail Mary bet at the end of their corporate existence.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 58.69 points to 17958.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US83 cents.
Global payments platform Stripe has raised a $70 million investment and is now valued at $3.5 billion, according to Re/Code. The $3.5 billion figure is double the last valuation Stripe received after raising $80 million in January this year. The startup has partnerships with Apple, Twitter and Facebook – allowing businesses to accept local and international payments from customers without a complicated matrix of bank accounts or third-party software. Stripe launched in Australia in July, with the head of Stripe in Australia and New Zealand, Susan Wu, telling StartupSmart the platform was the “best thing since Vegemite”. Twitter tackles online trolls Twitter is improving its harassment reporting processes and has promised faster response times for people who flag abusive tweets. A number of new controls and features will mean users can view which accounts they have blocked from their setting menu. In addition, people who block users will be able to rest easy knowing that the accounts in question will not be able to view their profile. In an online statement, the social media giant said its users can expect to see further improvements to reporting abusive accounts in coming days. “We’ll continue to work hard on these changes in order to improve the experience of people who encounter abuse on Twitter,” the company said. The updates are currently available to a small group of users but will be rolled out to all Twitter users in the coming weeks. US businesses warned of more cyber attacks following Sony hacking The FBI has warned businesses that hackers have used malicious software to launch cyber attacks in the United States, according to Reuters. The FBI did not say how many companies have been affected. Last week, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer systems were hacked – resulting in several unreleased movies being leaked online and employee data being breached. The attack is being described as the “first major destructive cyber attack” on US soil. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92.42 points to 17,869.22. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 84 US cents.
Come up with something people want, get them to pay for it while you make a profit, and figure out how to scale. Follow that blueprint and you’re well on your way to building a successful startup, according to 500 Startups’ Dave McClure. Speaking at Lean Startup Melbourne, McClure, the founder of the US-based seed fund and accelerator program, says if founders do two of those three things, they will “probably be fine”. “If you don’t do more than one of those things right, you’ll ultimately fail,” he says. “Another thing that pisses me off is when people say we’ve achieved this level of traction, and we’ve spent absolutely no money on marketing. “In fact almost by definition, if you’ve built a product that is valuable to anyone and has any amount of margin whatsoever, it’s most likely the case that you can probably use some of that margin to acquire more customers. “And if you haven’t spent time to try and figure that out, you’re kind of not being very smart.” Interesting industries The types of startups McClure finds interesting, reluctant as he was to answer the question, only responding after banging his head on the microphone several times, include those “selling shit online”, video commerce – “the ability to combine video with direct commerce”, mobile video, and anything in emerging markets. “We tend to do a lot of investments in the Spanish-speaking market, we’re working on doing a lot of investments in the Arabic-speaking market,” he says. “Most people think that’s absolutely fucking crazy. They’re two of the top five languages in the world. The relative size of the markets and the number of entrepreneurs and investors is really huge,” he says. There’s a lot less competition. But there’s challenges finding investors in those markets. “There’s 300 to 500 million Arab speakers, depending on how you cut the market, there’s probably like 1% of content, for 5 to 10% of the world’s population. So that’s a big arbitrage opportunity.” hello Melbourne geeks / Startup Victoria! cc @ga @AngelCubeMelb @500Startups pic.twitter.com/x2YIEunWUc— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) December 1, 2014 “Your friends buy shit” While the primary monetization model for online content is through search or display advertising, “which is even more brain dead” – McClure says that’s somewhat counterintuitive, given that’s not how people behave offline. Away from the internet few people do original research. Instead they’re influenced by friends and those they admire. “You probably have a friend who’s smarter than you about which phone to buy, which sneakers are cool, which dress or designer, or car or whatever (is cool),” McClure says. “Those are the people who should make all the fucking money.” Platforms like Twitter and Facebook, with product purchase information should be able to shift a huge amount of dollars online, to whoever has that influence, McClure says, and while celebrity endorsements are a “really brain fucking dead” form of that which is currently taking place, it should only occur at the end of a long list of other influences. How to become a 500 Startups company Don’t email McClure. Simple as that. His inbox is full of “qualified” introductions so don’t expect to get anywhere with a cold pitch via email. In fact, cold pitches won’t work in any manner, there’s a good chance those will just piss him off. “It’s hard to take a cold pitch,” he says. “The reality of the situation is I have a lot of qualified referrals from people in my inbox and I can’t even read those. Why the fuck should I pay attention to you? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be an asshole. “How do you get into the 500 Network or how do you get money from someone in the 500 Network? There’s a large number of people who are (involved) a bunch of which are in Australia, so you can probably get to know people who are founders in our network. “If you can convince them we’ll usually pay attention.” Key takeaways: Startups need to get two of the following right, in order to be successful. Create something people want. Get them to pay for it while making a profit, and figure out how to scale. Relying on organic growth is stupid. Very few businesses are built on purely organic, reliable acquisition. Interesting sectors include: Selling anything online, video commerce, mobile video, and anything in emerging markets. To pitch to 500 Startups, don’t email. Find a 500 startups company, get an introduction, and try and convince the founder that you have a good idea. McClure says if you can convince one of their own startups, they’ll usually listen too. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian company DigitalCC has given up the rights to the domain name bitcoin.com.au, just a few months after buying it for $US23,000 ($A27,000). As reported by qntra.net, the domain was purchased earlier this year by Digital CC, which trades as digitalBTC, from Magna Fortis Pty Ltd, a company associated with digitalBTC’s executive chairman Zhenya Tsvetnenko. DigitalBTC is a startup operating in bitcoin mining, two way markets for bitcoin companies, and the development of retail consumer products including digital currency mobile applications. On Monday the bitcoin.com.au domain name was auctioned off by domain trading platform Netfleet and purchased by Domenic Carosa for $A39,930. Carosa is the chairman of Dominet Digital, an investment and consulting group whose investments include the bitSIM, the Future Capital Bitcoin fund and BitcoinCloudMining.com. Tsvetnenko says digitalBTC dropped the rights to the domain name because it had a reputation as a site which contained malware and as a consequence had been banned from Facebook, significantly reducing its value. “The domain in question was acquired with the possibility of being used for marketing purposes. Unfortunately it was discovered the domain has some serious issues not disclosed by the original vendor, which make it severely restricted in use if not valueless for any purchaser – I’m reserving my rights of recourse in that respect,” Tsvetnenko says. “As a result I chose to refund DCC (Digital CC) so the company would not need to get distracted by those issues. The domain has now been dropped. I’m highly pleased that DCC has since secured the superior coin.org domain.” A spokesperson for digitalBTC confirmed the purchase price was fully refunded. "The domain in question was disposed from our portfolio immediately after the company became aware that there were serious issues with the domain, as the domain has been banned from various social media sites including Facebook.com. The company returned the domain name and was fully refunded," the spokesperson says. Carosa says he was unaware that digitalBTC was the previous owner or the concerns the company had with the domain. “I had no idea who owned the domain name until after I successfully bid for it on Netfleet.com.au when people started emailing me about it and telling me the backstory,” he says. “I have already had offers in the six figures for the domain name. I have no intention to sell the domain name as we are investors in the bitcoin space and will announce our intentions for it shortly.” auDA chief operations and policy officer Jo Lim says it does not comment on specific cases but was able to provide some general advice to help others avoid domains being deregistered unintentionally. “The secondary market in .au domain names is not directly regulated by the auDA,” Lim says. “People are able to buy and sell domain names on a number of platforms, and it is up to a prospective purchaser to do their own due diligence and make sure that 1) the person selling the domain name is the current registrant, and their WHOIS details are valid; and 2) after sale, the domain name is properly transferred and all the WHOIS details are updated (not just the contacted details). “In the case where a registrant’s WHOIS details are found to be invalid or out of date (such as a cancelled ABN), under auDA policy the registrant is given 14 days to correct or update their details. “The domain name will only be detailed if the registrant is ultimately unable to provide updated details, or fails to respond to the request to provide updated details. Note that the onus is on the currently listed registrant to update their details, which is why it is important that the purchaser of a domain name makes sure that the WHOIS details are properly updated after the purchase.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based social marketing startup Tiger Pistol has closed a $3.1 million round of funding led by domain registration company Melbourne IT. Tiger Pistol is a social marketing platform for small to medium sized businesses, allowing them to harness the power of big data to conduct sophisticated advertising campaigns. The raise will see Melbourne IT become a white label reseller of the Tiger Pistol platform, providing the social marketing software to an additional 500,000 small businesses in Australia. Other participants in the investment include Liberty Financial chief executive Sherman Ma, former Channel Seven managing director Michael Harms and other private individuals. The funds will be used to accelerate the startup’s 20-30% month-on-month growth in Australia and the US market. The company will hire 40 more staff members in Los Angeles and a further 30 in Australia. Co-founder and chief executive Steve Hibberd told Private Media Tiger Pistol centralises a small business’ social marketing strategy and in doing so “solves the problem” a lot of SMEs face but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to solve on their own. “Social marketing is moving so quickly that it’s virtually impossible for companies, and small companies in particular, to keep up,” he says. “Without Tiger Pistol a small business would have to create and manage a presence across up to eight social networks and directory sites, using countless other platforms for content creation, monitoring, ad management and scheduling.” In October 2013 Tiger Pistol closed a $1 million funding round. Hibberd says he believes the most recent round of investment was so successful because people saw the company’s commitment to executing its long-term plan. “We understand that small businesses want real business incomes,” he says. “They want leads, inquiries, foot traffic and sales. They’re less and less excited with likes and comments. The things you need to do to achieve real business outcomes are not straightforward – it’s not as simple as posting content.” Hibberd says 2014 has been a “monumental year” for Tiger Pistol. He says the company’s latest raise shows how startups can rely on either organised or private capital. He points out that in a country like Australia – where the pool of organised capital is relatively small in comparison to other countries – private capital could be tapped into more effectively to help give local tech startups the investment they need to grow. “There are some great funds out there, but they only have a certain level of capacity and profile,” he says. “I’d encourage businesses, if they believe in what they’re doing, to get into … private capital.” In August, Tiger Pistol launched a Do It For You package, making it the first platform in the world to help small businesses with a full social media marketing suite that includes organic posts, advertising and reputation management. The service starts from $249 a month. Tiger Pistol was founded in 2012 and currently has 30 employees based in Melbourne and Los Angeles. It is one of two global Facebook marketing partners for small businesses. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The next social network your business needs to think about: Tumblr overtakes Instagram and Facebook as fastest growing social site11:52AM | Wednesday, 26 November
The multimedia micro-blogging website Tumblr has overtaken Instagram as the fastest growing social platform, according to research released today by the Global Web Index. Instagram had topped the list as fastest growing social network just six months ago. The report suggests businesses need to look outside traditional social networks to reach new users. Facebook continues to be the world’s largest social network with 1.35 billion active monthly users, but when it comes to getting new users, it has reached a saturation point, reports TechCrunch. Tumblr’s active user base in the last six months ballooned by 120%, while Facebook’s grew by only 2%. Pinterest had the biggest growth in overall members, expanding 57%, while Facebook’s member base only grew by 6%. Nearly every other social platform, including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and even Google+ grew faster than Facebook. Snapchat, an app used largely by a millennial user base, was the fastest growing social app, growing 56% in a year. TechCrunch suggests Facebook may look to acquire other apps, as it previously did with Instagram, or develop them in-house to fuel its growth, regardless of the slowdown trend in its core Facebook app. Jason Mander, author of the Global Web Index report, said Facebook faced some major challenges. “Firstly, people are growing tired of it, with 50% of members in the UK and US saying that they’re using it less frequently than they used to (rising to 64% among teens),” Mander said. “Since the start of 2013, we’ve seen behaviours like sharing photos and messaging friends fall by around 20 percentage points.” However, the report shows Facebook is still the most frequently visited social platform and that four in five internet users outside of China have a Facebook account. This article was originally published at SmartCompany. Follow SmartCompany on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Computer security researchers at Symantec say they have discovered a Trojan piece of malware likely built by a nation-state, which has spied on business and governments since 2008, Re/code reports. While the origin of the sophisticated piece of malware, dubbed “Reign”, is unclear, a shortlist of capable countries would include the United States, Israel and China. Researchers say Reign has an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target. It provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organisations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals. Yahoo acquires photo startup Cooliris Photo app-maker Cooliris has announced that it has been acquired by Yahoo, TechCrunch reports. Founded in 2006, the startup was originally known for creating a 3D wall for navigating photos and other media content. It also created a platform for mobile ads called Adjitsu, which it sold to Singtel’s Amobee division in 2012. Recently the company shifted focus to a mobile app that allowed users to browse photos from across services like Facebook, Flickr, and Dropbox. “Yahoo has a clear vision and unwavering commitment to making mobile an intuitive and effortless experience,” the company says in a statement on its website. “This makes Yahoo the perfect partner for Cooliris, and we are excited to come together to bring indispensable products to a worldwide audience.” The secret life of passwords Passwords don’t just protect data; they reveal our hopes, dreams, secrets, fears and memories, The New York Times reports. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 91.06 to 17,810.06. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority. The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”. Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report: 1. Communications go over the top Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype. According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013. Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million. However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion. 2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies. Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day. The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014. 3. Wearables are set to boom On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years. The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018. It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate. 4. Online content is going mainstream The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate. According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies. In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube. Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services. 5. Multistreaming is now mainstream In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones. The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34. Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%). Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%). 6. TV is still the one for news Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014. While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time. Image credit: Flickr/alvy Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Martin Hosking first saw the internet 19 years ago. A year later the now 54-year-old Melburnian became involved in his first online venture, search provider and one of the darlings of the dot com era, LookSmart. After serving as chairman of soon-to-be-listed software construction company Aconex, Hosking teamed up with two friends in 2006 to launch Redbubble, an online design marketplace dedicated to connecting shoppers with thousands of artists who produce one-off designs for everything from t-shirts to tote bags and doona covers. Last year Redbubble grew by 77% and turned over $59 million. More than five million people visit the website each month. I’ve been working with the internet since 1996, really since the start. When I got involved in 1996, Netscape hadn’t even launched. I first saw the internet in 1995. I realised it could change the world and I wanted to be part of that. I was looking for different ways to become a part of the internet when I got involved in LookSmart. When we started Redbubble in 2006 I was chairman of Aconex, which has been in the news lately as it is getting ready to IPO in the next few weeks. We originally thought about Redbubble as a service to provide personalisation for people who wanted a product with an image or words they had created. But we soon realised that was quite a bad idea. With my friends Paul Vanzella and Peter Styles, what we realised was that we could serve the needs of the artists instead. So the technology was the same but the artists became our primary customers. I provided a lot of the early funding for Redbubble but we all had a share in the business. Paul has his own design company now but he still does some work for us. Peter has left the company. We were among the first to think about how the internet can serve creative artists on a global basis. It is extremely difficult to make something on a bespoke basis for individual customers but it is possible using new technology, especially print on demand. Each product on Redbubble is for a single customer and the distribution model could not be any leaner or smarter. Our artists are designing everything from artworks about extremely obscure evolution to physics or mermaids. People talk a lot in Silicon Valley about companies pivoting but you only need to pivot when something isn’t working. We haven’t pivoted around our values of serving artists; we’ve just gotten better at doing that. We have a much wider range of products now – we’ve just launched mugs and duvet covers and the products are becoming more and more diverse. But our core idea of high quality content from artists hasn’t changed. My background in the internet was incredibly useful when launching Redbubble. It helped me realise the skills I needed in the business and we had a high quality designer from the start. We built a very scalable solution from the start, we didn’t just hack it together. I think often it is your naivety that is incredibly helpful when starting a business. If you come from a retail background, you would always be thinking ‘how can I sell this product to as many people as possible?’ But I didn’t have that. I had a naïve mindset of providing customers with what they want. My university studies also helped. A general arts degree, while not necessarily popular these days, does give you a long-term view of historical problems and a perspective about what’s going on. I can talk to people about where Redbubble sits in the history of the arts movement or how it relates to what Picasso did because I have that broad background. All businesses experience different phases of growth and I don’t think any startup has not had a period when they are looking out into the abyss. During the global financial crisis we had one of those periods. It was one of the most difficult periods because it became clear that money from investors just wasn’t there. We had to create a traditional company where revenue is higher than expenses and that forced discipline on us as a company. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. We had a period of very strong growth coming out of the GFC as e-commerce started to take off. We had also re-written our programs. Now we are focused on achieving growth through user loyalty and repeat customers. Our engagement with users is now about more than just the transaction; we want people to have a great experience. We first tried to expand into the US in 2008 but that was a bad idea as the whole world was collapsing. We made another run at it in 2010 and we now have offices in San Francisco. We are actively looking at expanding to Europe, with the UK as a starting point. Some of our production partners are in Europe and it is a big and important market for us. Continually diversifying our product range is also important for growth, as is continuing to improve the customer experience on Redbubble so it is genuinely engaging and people have a reason to come back. We want to encourage genuine word-of-mouth marketing. As an online marketing place you have to embrace diversity. A lot of people are coming to the website and those people in and of themselves should be what drives the growth. When an artist joins Redbubble, they bring people with them and when a buyer engages with the site, they will bring people too. We encourage our artists and buyers to share their experience with Redbubble and this means there are thousands of people talking about what we do on Twitter and Facebook. We do paid media on Google and Facebook, as well as events such as the upcoming Art+Mel, but these are supplementary. A business plan is useful in terms of setting the direction in which you’re going but the internet has learnt that a plan doesn’t last a lot longer after it is written. Instead, I’m keen on setting an operating rhythm in my business. At Redbubble we work to a six week cycle. It gives us the capacity to revisit plans on a very iterative basis and you learn things as you go along. It also prevents you from doing things that are expensive or difficult and allows you to devote resources to new opportunities. My business does not keep me awake at night. You need to have enough perspective on your business so it doesn’t ruin your life. Many business owners lose that perspective but that’s not good for them or for the company. Eating well, meditating and keeping perspective make me a better person as well as a better businessman. The culture at Redbubble is based on some core principles inspired by the work of Daniel Pink, which we use with a great deal of flexibility. We employ over 100 people. Autonomy is important; people have to have some control over their work life. Mastery is important; team members need to feel that they are getting better at something, that they have learnt something. Purpose is important; they feel like they are contributing to a higher goal. And finally accountability, they report back and are not a lone operator. Ultimately you want to get to a stage where if someone is spending eight hours a day working at Redbubble, those hours should be well spent. There is nothing more depressing to me than the idea that people might work here and don’t think it is worthwhile. I continue to invest in other companies, including Aconex and other private investments, but I don’t see Redbubble as simply a deal or a transaction. I am engaged with this business for the long term. But you have to be open to new opportunities. There will always come a time when someone else may be able to lead Redbubble better than me and I’m not interested in setting up a Rupert Murdoch-generational type of thing. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
With social network startups popping up in numerous industry verticals, leave it to a Perth-based startup to create a social marketplace for miners. Mineler launched last week, a web-based platform soon to be available on iOS and Android, where people can discover mining locations around the world, bid for work and contracts, build a global mining work profile and connect with others via LinkedIn-style interaction. It says it had over 60,000 pre-registered members at the date of launch, with members from as far as Colombia, Peru and Canada. Geolocation is at the heart of the platform. Users can share their work history and experiences individual mining sites, and interact with others who might be connected to those sites. Mineler marketing manager Cam Sinclair says the location of mining sites, and the communities that pop up around those sites, is an aspect of mining that sets it apart from other industries. @MiningOnline @MinelerApp I see Facebook to LinkedIn, to Mineler to be a natural progression for mining professionals, so yes it will work. — Larry Ting (@Larrynoi) November 7, 2014 “Essentially, the idea behind Mineler is to give people in the mining industry a social marketplace where they can share ideas, and interact on a site-based geographic basis,” he says. “The mining industry is kind of unique in that it’s based around remote and distant projects. Often, you’ll find people sharing ideas based on what sites they’re on, and you get a sense of community there.” The startup will encourage people working in those communities to move those interactions onto the Mineler platform. Once there, users can search for jobs, post contract work, and share content specifically related to the mining industry. The startup has raised $500,000 in seed funding, which helped push it to launch, and is currently in the midst of a $3 million round, according to co-founder Paul Faix. “The idea was always that mining, which is perceived as very innovative on one side, in the mining technologies, mining machines and everything that comes with it,” he says “But it’s also very antiquated when it comes to people, management, labour and how it does those things. “What we really wanted to do is actually help mining companies digitise the latest management practices, including the outsourcing of labour and people, by creating a global marketplace.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences. Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms. In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare? Here’s what happened: 1. Curved and flexible displays This first pick came with a caveat: “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.” Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia. Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge. As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode). The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen. The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017. 2. Smart TVs Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front. The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs. Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May. Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April. So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia. It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014. 3. Smartwatches Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more? Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others. These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is. 4. Augmented reality glasses Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone. But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR. You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers. 5. Home automation Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest. Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads. 6. Low-end smartphones This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China. The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable. Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright. Conclusion Forget about waiting for that flying car. From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014. When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.