Facebook is testing a new standalone app designed for low-end Android devices in emerging markets. TechCrunch reports the app quietly launched in a number of countries in Asia and Africa over the weekend – including Vietnam, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The app is believed to be aimed at fast-growing markets in Africa and Southeast Asia, and has been built to accommodate Android devices of 252 KB in size and those on poor internet connections. Oculus turns to making virtual reality movies Oculus has announced it is exploring “VR cinema”, with an internal team focusing on the potential of virtual reality storytelling. The internal team, known as Oculus Story Studio, will aim to make the cinema experience even more compelling, according to The Verge. The news comes as the group’s first movie, Lost, debuts this week. Pluralsight acquires online learning startup Code School for $36 million Online technology training platform Pluralsight has acquired Florida-based startup Code School for $36 million. The acquisition is Pluralsight’s sixth in the past 18 months and part of an aggressive expansion into the online learning space. Founder and chief executive of Pluralsight, Aaron Skonnard, said in a statement the acquisition will allow the company to reach developers at all stages of their careers – including those with limited coding experience. “Together we will continue to help professionals remain relevant and ensure businesses stay on top of the latest trends and technologies,” he said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.07%, falling 12.68 points to 17,659.92. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US0.79 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Indian taxi company is appealing to female customers worried about their safety following the alleged rape by an Uber driver in the country’s capital last month. The Australian reports Meru Cab is now offering female customers in Delhi pink cars with female drivers and pepper spray. The service, called Meru Eve, has an initial fleet of 20 vehicles fitted out with panic buttons. The company says it is rolling out the service in response to customer demand. Earlier this month an UberX driver from Melbourne was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting his teenage passenger. Facebook to crack down on fake news stories and scams Facebook has announced it is cracking down on hoaxes in order to improve its customer experience. The social media platform today rolled out an update allowing users to flag posts as a hoax, which adds an annotation to the post when it appears in other people’s timelines. “We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy,” the company says. Twitter acquires Indian startup ZipDial Twitter has formally announced it is acquiring Indian marketing startup ZipDial for an undisclosed amount in order to grow the social media platform’s user base. ZipDial allows customers to dial its number and hang up before connecting, in turn receiving free app notifications in exchange for advertisements. Twitter plans to use the service to reach users who do not have access to the internet. The deal is the latest in a string of Indian startups acquired by US companies wishing to capitalise on one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets in the world. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 0.04%, rising 6.81 points to 17,518.38. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US81.73 cents.
Two of Scotland’s leading politicians illustrate an interesting phenomenon on Twitter. In the wake of the Scottish National Party’s surge in popularity following the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have both gained large numbers of followers. Both have now amassed more than 100,000 each, with Salmond out in front with about 139,000. A high proportion of them are fakes, however. These fakes might be what social media specialists call “sock puppets” – fake accounts of individuals pretending to be someone else. These online imposters often follow celebrities to make themselves look more authentic, along with other tricks that include constant automated re-tweeting and constantly following and un-following other users. What is the point of these sock puppets, you may be wondering. One obvious advantage is that they can be parcelled up and sold in batches to people and organisations seeking extra Twitter followers. Make me popular! Social media is one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing. One study in which I was involved concluded that there is indeed no such thing as negative publicity if Twitter is used effectively. Organisations and individuals realise that having a healthy social media following increases trust from prospective customers. You want everybody to know your business is popular. You can build a strong following by developing good content and relationships with other users, particularly those who will either help amplify your message or act upon it. This takes time, however, not to mention the human resources required to plan and engage with your following. So people are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts, including buying Twitter followers, retweets, Facebook likes or YouTube video views. You name it, it can be bought. Sometimes they might do it themselves; sometimes it might be the social media agency that manages their account, or even a sub-contractor. Nor does this cost a great deal. Visit some websites offering these services and you find that thousands of Twitter followers can be had for as little as £5. Such shortcuts certainly seem to be popular. Data from the Google AdWords keyword research tool shown below reveals that on average, more than 40,000 searches are conducted per month that use the keyword “buy twitter followers”. Is it worth it? If the followers are simply accounts that do not have any human interaction or just re-tweet everything that your account says, they are of very little value. A number of studies suggest that simply having a large number of followers does not indicate that you have an influential Twitter profile. What is more important is that viewers can see that the account has been recently updated and the content is not simply a monologue about the great things that the organisation offers. Twitter is a social platform and although there is room for sharing content, it is also about listening and engaging with others. If an account interacts and replies to its audience, it is usually much more useful and influential compared to an account with thousands of followers but does not tweet to them. A number of tools exist that can help people analyse the value of their Twitter profile. For instance Sprout Social looks at engagement and influence. Here’s what it makes of Alex Salmond (139,000 follows) compared to Salford Business School (2,000 follows): Salmond might have vastly more followers, but his account actually scores slightly lower than our business school. It is worth pointing out here that you would expect an account that has lots of fake followers to score badly on these metrics. Another good analysis tool is FollowerWonk. Here’s what it has to say about David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond: I’ve included the follower numbers for context, but you can see that criteria such as engagement, average followers per day, total tweets and average tweets per day are also used to show the success of an account’s performance. We can clearly see that Nicola Sturgeon is much more active compared to the other two accounts. David Cameron is still attracting more followers per day, however, which could be due to his high profile or because he is a more popular target for those celebrity-following sock puppets. It is worth adding that fake accounts are not something Twitter encourages, as its spamming rules make clear. Twitter wants to remove and suspend these accounts, partly because it could undermine its own advertising-based business model. This is backed up by advertising regulators such as the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice, whose non-broadcast-advertising code requires that any paid social-media endorsements be declared to the consumer of that information. In short, purchasing fake Twitter followers is both a waste of money and considered spam. It is not about your number of followers but how engaged they are and how useful these are in pursuing your objectives. On the other hand just because an account is not behaving as expected by the norm – not tweeting, for example – it is not to say it is a fake. The vast majority of internet users are “lurkers” – interested to read content but don’t want to share their views. If you are one of these lurkers, beware. Your account might be suspended or blocked if you don’t change your image from an egg to your profile and you don’t attempt to engage with others! This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Sydney-based babysitting app Kindy has acquired Melbourne startup Social Hands for an undisclosed fee, in a bid to expand its customer base. Kindy launched last year and is looking to disrupt the childcare industry by allowing users to find and contact trusted babysitters and nannies in their area. The aim is to give busy people more choice as well as reduce childcare costs. Since its launch the startup has grown to accommodate around 3200 users. Chief executive and co-founder of Kindy, Hugh Podmore, told Private Media he has seen “very sustained growth” except for the two weeks over Christmas, which was to be expected. “It’s not so much the amount of people that registered, it’s the engagement – using messages and the chat app,” he says. “Anyone can spend a lot of money and get people [onto their platform], but if you don’t have a product that works nobody will use it.” The startup has seen users send almost 10,000 messages to one another, and Podmore says the acquisition of Social Hands will help drive engagement because of the startup’s popularity in Melbourne. Podmore would not reveal the details of the acquisition. “We looked at Social Hands and said we could build in some of his [the founder’s] code,” Podmore says. “It made sense for us to acquire them because he hit on a good idea but didn’t quite have the experience we had.” Social Hands requires users to log in to the platform via Facebook, and Podmore says Kindy will be looking to integrate with the social network so that parents can easily see what they have in common with potential babysitters. “Anything you can do to engender trust in the person you’re talking to speeds up the vetting process,” he says. The next step for Kindy is to roll-out an on-demand babysitting service. The startup is currently trialling this in Sydney. “We have a pool of careers where we’ve stepped up their levels of checks and verifications,” Podmore says. “The parent goes into the app and books a job – for example looking for someone on a Saturday night for five hours – and we put that job out to this pool of qualified careers for them to accept.” “The parents know they’re going to be matched with someone great, they [the babysitters] turn up and do the job, and we earn a small commission.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With the recent acquisition by Facebook of voice-recognition company Wit.ai, all four major players in the post-PC market (Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook) now have a significant infrastructure for hands-free communication with your device. But what will that mean for our communication with our devices? Is voice just another method to talk to your computer, or are we on the cusp of a revolution in computer communication? How old is your keyboard, anyway? The humble computer mouse was created in the 1960s by engineer Doug Engelbart. The keyboard, through its ancestor the teleprinter, is even older, having been developed in the 1900s by mechanical engineer Charles Krum and connected to a video display terminal that owes its ancestry to a device developed in the 1930s. Despite the age of these devices, they still remain the main input devices for your personal computer on your desk or laptop. Sure, they have more buttons, or more colours, or higher resolution, but the basic input mechanism for the average home computer is the same now as it was in 1984 when the Macintosh became the first commercially available computer to provide a graphical user interface and mouse and keyboard input. Even the multi-touch screen, made famous by the iPhone and other devices in 2007, could be considered a direct descendant of the mouse, simply moving control of the pointer from an indirect method on your desk to a more direct method on the screen. But perhaps that is all about to change, with voice-recognition technology finally becoming important to the main players and other technology changing the way we interact with computers. Your voice is your password to a world of possibilities Like the mouse and keyboard, voice-recognition technology has been around for a number of years. Commercial voice-recognition software has been available for computers since the early 1990s. But it was only with the advent of technologies such as Apple’s Siri and Google’s Voice Search around 2010 that voice recognition became part of many people’s lives. Through a natural language, context-aware interface that is always connected to the Internet, technologies such as Siri allow users to address a vast range of needs while skipping touching their device altogether. Instead, they rely on their voice to set timers, check the weather, find movie times and even query where to hide a body. In 2014, Microsoft introduced Cortana, a Siri-like competitor, meaning that all three leading smartphone platforms had voice recognition. Also in 2014, Apple introduced the “Hey Siri” feature in iOS 8, allowing users to “hail” a smartphone from across the room (as long as it’s plugged in) and ask it a question without touching any buttons at all. Finally, in 2012 Google released Google Now, an extension to Google Voice Search that provides users with contextual information prior to them requesting it, such as providing traffic information as you leave the office or a list of good restaurants to eat at when you arrive in a new town. And it’s widely rumoured that both Google and Apple have plans for voice-recognition technology in their television products as well. While these solutions sometimes have a way to go (John Malkovich surely remains the only person in history to get Siri to correctly interpret “Linguica”), they present a starkly different view from the mouse-keyboard combination of old. It surely won’t be long before users can have a standard conversation with their device, talking it through a problem rather than frantically tapping the on-screen keyboard or clicking the mouse. Blending the digital and the physical world The revolution extends beyond our voice to other devices as well. It would appear that along with replacing old-fashioned input devices, output devices like the monitor are slowly being phased out. Earlier this year, before it acquired Wit.ai, Facebook made news for acquiring pioneering virtually reality company, Oculus VR for a staggering $US2.3 billion. The major product of Oculus VR is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that immerses you fully in a 3D virtual experience. Using positional sensors, the Oculus Rift can track your head movements to allow you to look around the environment. The device is still in development. Given the cost of the development kit at around $A400, it’s expected that the final product will retail for less than $A500, bringing virtual reality to the everyday consumer. Even if you don’t want full immersion, new output products are making it easier for us to step in and out of a digital world without needing a computer monitor. Google Glass, still in development but having been in beta for a number of years, provides a small display that you can view while wearing the glasses. Products such as the new Android Wear watches from Motorola and others, as well as the Pebble smartwatch and upcoming Apple Watch, provide us with small, customised views into the digital world. These can all put notifications, music control, sleep and activity monitoring and all the power of those voice-control systems literally at our fingertips, all without the need to use a full input or output device. Even in your car, Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay provide a glanceable, touchscreen and voice-controlled interface to your smartphone to ensure you’re always connected to the cloud. Sensors everywhere Beyond these standard options, input devices and data-gathering devices are continuing to pop up in places that we don’t expect, making it easier to interact with your devices and control your digital world. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this year, gadgets using Bluetooth Low Energy for communication with your home network abound, from a smart chair that helps you work out to a pot for your plants that monitors their vitals and allows you to apply water with a touch of a button. These add to items from the last year such as the connected toothbrush that monitors your brushing time and style and reports on how you’re doing and the Vessyl cup, a smart cup that can tell you the calorie and caffeine content of your beverages as well as keep track of your daily water intake. No longer are we tied to our keyboard and mouse to look up and record this data. Our devices will now do it for us automatically and let us know when something needs to be changed. This trend towards the Internet of Things has been brewing for a number of years, but if the CES is any indication, this year shows a real explosion in external input devices that collect data about us and feed it into the cloud. It will be interesting to see what the future brings. It could be argued that the new ways of communicating with your computer are already here, although just beginning. As the year progresses and these models mature, perhaps it won’t be long before we are speaking to our device using natural language while wearing a VR headset and being instantly alerted about the status of our plants and how much activity, sleep and caffeine we’ve had so far today. With all of these solutions, perhaps finally the old mouse and keyboard are looking mighty old-fashioned. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Facebook has begun trials of its Facebook at Work service, a cloud-based platform that allows business to create social networks for staff, with the project led by an engineer who launched one of Sydney’s most successful startups. Development on the project is being led by Lars Rasmussen, who was the cofounder of a Sydney-based mapping startup called Where 2 Technologies that was subsequently acquired by Google and rebranded as Google Maps. After his success with Google Maps, Rasmussen went on to lead the development of Google’s ill-fated Google Wave project, which was intended as a real-time collaborative document editing platform. TechCrunch reports an app for Facebook at Work has appeared on the iTunes app store, with an Android version set to go live shortly and another version accessible through the Facebook’s website. News of the service first leaked in November last year. Facebook at Work will also give employees the option of either using a single login for both their work and personal accounts, or the ability to keep both separate. Facebook at Work is set to compete against collaboration platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer. Microsoft announced it is combining its business-focused Lync video conferencing and instant messaging app with Skype to create a new package called Skype for Business late last year. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
THE NEWS WRAP: Founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter says site made five-figures in sales within 24 hours1:08PM | Wednesday, 14 January
The founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter, an Australian startup that took the internet by storm yesterday, says his website is for sale after turning over five figures in less than a day. Mathew Carpenter – who also founded the Bye Rupert web browser extension – took to Twitter to say he was willing to sell his website which allows people to send enemies glitter in the mail for $10. Everyone from The New York Times to Mashable ran stories on the startup after the website was featured on Product Hunt and Reddit. Carpenter claims the website received one million visits, 270,000 shares on social media and made six figures from glitter sales within one hour. ShipYourEnemiesGlitter with 1m visits, 270k social shares, $xx,xxx in sales, tonnes of people wanting to order. 24 hours old. For sale. — Mathew Carpenter (@matcarpenter) January 14, 2015 Facebook unveils Facebook At Work Facebook is making the leap into the enterprise market with the launch of its new Facebook At Work product. TechCrunch reports the platform will allow businesses to create their own social networks among employees in a manner that looks and operates just like standard Facebook. Facebook At Work is available on the iTunes and Google Play stores, and will also be accessible through the company’s main site. Employees can create separate accounts for the work accounts; however, they can then link this to their personal profile. Online education company Lynda raises $186 million Online education company Lynda.com has announced a $186 million capitals raise to accelerate acquisitions and new content initiatives. The capital raise was led by global investment firm TOG along with existing investors Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech. Chief executive of Lynda, Eric Robison, said in a statement the investment was a “tremendous vote of confidence” in the company’s ability to empower people through learning. Lynda.com offers thousands of online classes and video tutorials to its users in English, French, German and Spanish. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 172.43 points, falling 0.98% to 17,441.25. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With the pervasiveness of social media, it is still an unanswered question as to how fundamental a role it plays in everyone’s lives. Part of the complexity comes from the fact that we regard social media as being a uniform thing. That may be true in as much as what we are doing on social media is sharing something with one or more others, but actually that is not the case for most people. A large number of people never share anything directly themselves. In the case of Twitter, 44% of users have never tweeted. Of those that had, a further 43% had not tweeted in the last year. The situation with Facebook is similar, although as there are more ways to interact on Facebook, the number of people at least “liking” posts is higher than the number actually posting content themselves. Videos and photos drive our use Surveys carried out by the Pew Research Center all show that the majority of people, are consumers of content on social media platforms, not producers. Seeing photos and videos is given as the leading reason for women, and a major reason for men, for using Facebook. In the Pew Research’s annual social media survey, picture sharing site Instagram grew the most of any social media platform in 2014. Instagram is now more popular than Twitter. For Facebook, Instagram’s owner, this is welcome news because its main platform has stopped growing in the US, sitting on 71% of the US population of Internet users. % Adults using Social Media 2014 It is older Gen X that are leaving Facebook - not teenagers Although a large part of the growth in Instagram’s users has come from the 18 - 29 year olds, it is the 30 - 49 year olds who have abandoned Facebook, with a 6% decline over the previous year. This group seems to have moved to Instagram as well. Twitter hasn’t fared particularly well in another measure, that of the number of users who use the site daily. Whilst Facebook and Instagram have seen an increase in the number of users that use their sites daily, Twitter has seen a decline of 10% to only 36% of users admitting to using it daily. Frequency of social media site use (Pew Research Internet) Facebook rules as Twitter struggles The overall takeaway from the Pew’s social media survey emphasises Facebook’s dominance when it comes to social media. On the flipside, Twitter continues to struggle, which is bad news for a company that has yet to find a way of making money that doesn’t alienate its users even further. Right now, Twitter has launched its “sponsored tweets” which appear regularly in a user’s stream, interestingly, more frequently in the mobile version of Twitter than the web one. It also has started “sponsored following” that makes it look like people are following specific brands. This has drawn fire from celebrities in particular who claim that this makes it look like they are endorsing specific brands by following them, when they haven’t. The other key feature of the survey is the centrality of photos and videos as the favoured things people like to share and see. On this basis, a site like YouTube, which has 1 billion users would rival Facebook as the second most popular social media site. YouTube is not normally considered to be a social media platform, even though its purpose is to share content with other users. Facebook and Twitter turn to video Facebook is ramping up its efforts to compete with YouTube for video. Last year, it featured exclusively on its site, short films based on the “Twilight” story. It won’t be surprising to see Facebook compete with YouTube on the content production side as it continues to extend its platform into even more of a media site. Twitter is also planning to release its own video service in the next few weeks. Given the nature of the network, this is still focussed on people sharing video that they capture and edit themselves and so will presumably not encourage people to use it as a general video streaming service with shows and films like YouTube. Social media, not quite as revolutionary as claimed Social media has stopped short of the revolutionary technology that was supposed to transform society and our daily lives. It has become embedded as a good platform for content and information which overall, is largely positive. With new platforms like ello failing to gain traction, it is unlikely that Facebook’s dominance will be challenged. Any changes in the social media landscape are likely to come from new features that Facebook implement rather than newer players in the market. Twitter’s future is much more precarious and it is hard to see them being able to continue for very much longer in their current form. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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.