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.
The world was a very different place in December 1999 when the first G20 met in Berlin. Steve Jobs had just taken back the reins at Apple, but Facebook, Google, Twitter and the dot-com bust were figments of imagination. When government and central banking leaders meet in Brisbane this week, they will have a very different set of concerns, as well as a different set of levers to achieve the goal of “stable and sustainable world growth that benefits all". The path of least resistance is to make small adjustments in an effort to re-balance and re-ignite growth. Instead, they should be considering how to stimulate and harness the power of digital disruption to create companies that can grow fast and create jobs we can not even imagine. The continued growth of the start-up culture and the “overnight” success of new businesses such as Uber, AirBnb and Dropbox demonstrate the economies of tomorrow are being shaped by companies which have became global players overnight. Rather than focusing on a few adjustments to re-stabilise the world’s economy, the G20 leaders need to understand the impact of digital disruptions on nations and industries. All will be impacted; none will be spared. Deloitte Digital’s latest report, “Harnessing the bang”, identifies some of the impacts of this “digital disruption” to existing companies. It notes that 13 industries comprising 65% of the Australian economy are facing significant disruption by 2017. Google, for example, has revolutionised advertising, Amazon has re-invented the book publishing industry, streaming services like Netflix have changed the movie and entertainment sector, and internet banking has changed financial services. It’s clear this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just one facing Australia. Digital disruption belongs on the G20 agenda. Threat or opportunity? As ancient Chinese wisdom says, every threat contains the seeds of opportunity. The democratisation of markets brought about by the rise of technology represents boundless opportunities for companies that are innovative. Henry Ford heard people say they wanted to travel faster, but instead of breeding a faster horse, he used new technology to create a motorised vehicle – and a manufacturing industry no one had imagined. Automobiles disrupted traditional modes of transportation and required workers to have new manufacturing skills. New companies were born and new hard infrastructure required: roads, bridges. The same is happening with digital technology. The digital products and services require new skills, will generate new companies and need a different kind of infrastructure to support them (broadband internet, global paths to market, venture funding etc.) Australia has some great start-up success stories: Atlassian provides software to the software makers all over the world, and Canva is reaching 1,000,000 customers. Both are carving a global path to success in their particular industries. The G20 Global Café in Brisbane will showcase several more companies that are digital disruptors of traditional industries, are already going global and have the potential to grow big. Some are concerned that tech companies don’t create jobs – they underestimate the impact that tech start-ups have on wealth and job creation. The IPOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter together created nearly 4,000 millionaires. As for job growth, high-tech companies create a disproportionate share of high-value jobs. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, 6% of UK businesses with the highest growth rates created 50% of the new jobs. Professor Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, notes that for every job a tech company creates, five new jobs are created in other sectors – a multiplier effect three times higher than for extractive or traditional manufacturing industries. The focus should be start up, then grow up So it’s pretty simple: entrepreneurs whose businesses use digital technology to develop or deliver products and services that customers need and want will grow the fastest, create the most jobs and have the highest probability of success. This in turn has numerous economic benefits for countries that encourage and foster an entrepreneurial mindset and a high-tech-friendly environment. Smart governments that have already figured this out are beginning to provide resources and support their start-up ecosystems. From science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and entrepreneurial education, through to direct government funding at the venture capital stage, they are placing a premium on developing more high-growth technology companies, teaching CEOs how to start and grow companies, and removing the barriers to growth. So what does Australia, in particular, need to do to create the environment in which our digital disruptors can quickly become high-growth, global players? It’s pretty simple: Encourage more people to start companies and make jobs, not just take a job. Teach people the entrepreneurial mindset and support those who see opportunities and want to start and grow companies. Provide more funding for research and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Revamp systems that support the commercialisation of research with the goal of developing more technology companies. Support the development of an ecosystem that provides entrepreneurs with what they need to grow companies: access to knowledge, talent, money and space. Have a workforce ready and able to work in companies that make widespread use of technology. Help existing businesses adapt to the world of digital disruption. The Australian government is beginning to understand that the future must include high-growth technology companies, as well as mining, gas and agriculture. It is beginning to engage with bodies such as StartupAUS (of which I am a board member). We are hopeful that the Department of Industry’s Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program and additional programs will spur the development of more venture capital and more disruptive technology companies in Australia. The G20 countries need to understand the power of digital disruption and develop economic and financial policies that actually capitalise on that disruption. Creative destruction of old industries is the norm; the internet is an accelerant to the pace of disruption. Innovation, digital disruption and entrepreneurship are not passing fads – they are the solution to the economic problems we are experiencing. Countries that understand this and develop polices and programs to support it will benefit the whole world. This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Photo: Peter Dasilva/EPA/AAP Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Ello, Swarm, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – if you thought there was no room for any more social networks, think again. The latest – Melbourne-based startup Incogo – is a social media platform that wants to make online interactions more “powerful, purposeful and personal”, according to founder Daniel Millin, and he’s going to do that through “emotional crowdsourcing”. Incogo’s platform officially launched last week, after almost two months in beta, and aims to fill the “gap between social media and professional media”. It’s been designed specifically to enable friends and family to share everything they’re doing in their personal lives through “journeys”. Users post journeys, like ‘conquering my fear of heights’, then their friends are able to follow and support them on their quest to fulfil that journey. Millin says it’s not about lifetime goals, but for everyday life, and he doesn’t see Facebook or Twitter as competitors (though it’s more likely they don’t see him as one, given the domination of these players). Users can post journeys, which by default are set to private, and choose those friends they’d like to share them with, or make them public if they wish. “There can be real beauty in a public journey,” Millin says. “My vision is around the world, any ordinary person could do something extraordinary and the whole world could come on board and support them in that journey. It’s like emotional crowdsourcing.” Millin founded Incogo in 2013 and has since brought on three co-founders, former PwC partner Karen Crawford, designer Marty Jonas and investor Edward Wittenberg of Melbourne-based EGW Investments. Wittenberg provided the startup with seed funding, although Millin would not to disclose the terms. In 2008 Millin founded Mediaverse, a company news media evaluation and digital reporting service for brands, and it’s since grown to count the Australian government, Telstra and AAMI as clients. It’s this knowledge of corporate brands that Millin says has the potential to provide the path to monetisation for Incogo. He says the platform will always be free, and he wouldn’t look to advertising like Facebook, rather corporates could start their own journeys, as a very particular brand of advertising. “They could create a unique journey that matches their campaign’s values,” he says. “The corporates that will win on Incogo will be the ones that create the most meaningful content.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is negotiating a capital raise of $US1.5 billion ($A1.75 billion), at a valuation of $US40 billion, in the largest private financing for a venture-backed company since Facebook in 2011. The company is speaking with investors including DST – the Russian internet company that also backed Alibaba, Facebook and Airbnb, with a deal yet to be finalised, sources told CNBC. Both Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors are largely uninvolved in the Xiaomi raise, instead the company is hoping to secure funds from Asia-based investors. Uber seeking to raise $1 billion at a valuation over $17 billion Transportation network startup Uber is in early talks with investors about raising $1 billion in new capital, the Financial Times reports. The talks come less than six months after Uber received $1.2 billion in funding at a valuation of $17 billion. After strong interest from investors, the company is looking to take the opportunity to build a balance sheet “proportionate” to the scale of its business, a source told the Financial Times. Microsoft completes Minecraft purchase Microsoft has completed its $2.5 billion acquisition of Minecraft developer Mojang, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division Phil Spencer says. Spencer had previously confirmed that although Microsoft was making Mojang a first-party developer, it had no intention of forcing a halt to Minecraft development on any non-Microsoft platforms. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.46 to 17,573.93. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
Social media aggregation startup Stackla has raised $2 million on the bet that consumers care more about what fellow consumers think than top-down advertising. Founded in 2012, the startup provides a tool for businesses and brands that aggregates social media content about their products, so it can then be used in marketing materials and even in-store at point-of-sale. Investors include Venture Capital firm Rampersand and a consortium led by Tony Faure and Grant McCarthy. Stackla had been bootstrapped by its founders Damien Mahoney and Peter Cassidy, and has been generating revenue for the past 18 months. Mahoney, who is also the startup’s chief executive officer, says Stackla was travelling well without funding, but the capital raise will help accelerate growth in the United States and United Kingdom. Stackla will double its staff headcount, mainly in its new UK and US offices to help facilitate that growth. “We’ve already got a small footprint in the US and UK, but this is really about helping us attack those markets in a big way over the next 12 months,” he says. “We believe our technology is well ahead of market trends and the wave of interest in what we do is far from peaking.” It’s that potential for growth that Mahoney says appealed most to investors. “The fundamentals of what we do are still not in mainstream marketing yet,” he says. “We’ve always had a very strong product and invested very heavily in our product teams. That’s allowed us to build a product that is market leading, and we’ll continue to do that. “The space has a lot of room for growth and I think we’re just starting to see its potential. We also had a big client base already and have been generating revenue for well over 18 months. Stackla has more than 300 clients across a broad range of industries including Comcast, Myer, Toyota, Holden, Lego, Manchester United and Red Bull, just to name a few. Mahoney and Cassidy came up with the concept for Stackla while helping NRL teams develop content for social media. “We noticed a growing trend at the time,” Mahoney says. “Consumers now have a voice, and with the growth of social networks and proliferation around the smartphone, there was great content being generated around football clubs and other businesses. We came up with a way to harness that content for clubs to use to power their own websites. “Content is very expensive to produce, and what it provides is a platform to generate that content for them. “Fans and customers are recommending brands and products to their friends on social media – these are money-can’t-buy endorsements. The problem is social endorsements are fleeting and hard to capture. “Stackla solves that problem by helping marketers cherry pick the best content on the social web and showcase it where their customers are – on websites, apps and at venues.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
YouTube is considering offering paid ad-free subscriptions, according to chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki. The company is in the early stages of exploring new subscription services, Wojcicki told Re/code at the Code/Mobile conference overnight. “YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users; but there are going to be cases where people are going to say, ‘I don’t want to see the ads, or I want to have a different experience’,” she says. Google X is developing an early disease detection system Google’s research arm, famous for taking ‘moon shots’ and running some of the most ambitious projects in the technology industry, is creating a system for early detection of disease, Wired reports. The system involves ingesting specially “painted” nanoparticles that target various molecular signs of disorder. When they detect such signs of disease they send out signals that will be picked up by wristbands. The early alerts mean potentially deadly ailments could be caught and treated sooner. Facebook beats earning projections, user growth slows Social media giant Facebook released its financial results and for the ninth quarter straight it beat earning projections. Facebook earned $US3.203 billion ($A3.62 billion) in revenue with earnings per share of $US0.43. Total user count grew 2.27% to 1.35 billion monthly users, slower than its 3.125% user growth in the previous quarter. Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 66% of advertising revenue, up from 49% year-on-year. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 187.81 to 17,005.75. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US89 cents.
Media startup Newzulu is looking to the crowd to make breaking news cheaper for large media organisations. The startup, founded in Australia in June 2012, by Alex Hartman and Peter Scarf, is a crowdsourced media platform for the distribution of verified news photos, videos and text. Co-founder and executive chairman Hartman says the nature of news is changing, and sees Newzulu becoming a big part of the traditional wire service. “AP (Associate Press) has 6500 full-time journalists around the world, sitting in bureaus, waiting for things to happen, and we think those days are long gone,” he says. “There’ll still be a place on the global news wire for most of the capabilities of AP, for instance the White House would never allow a crowd-sourced reporter to travel with the president. We feel those agencies have an important role in those local media landscapes. “But with most of the breaking news, we’re using the crowd with 600 editors, to do what 6500 editors would do.” With the proliferation of smartphones, Newzulu says the likelihood of a journalist being the first person to document a breaking news story nowadays is slim. “Breaking news on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the pervasiveness of smartphones in pockets is disrupting the media,” he says. “We can harness the power of the crowd to report, not just any news but validated news.” What that means is Newzulu has an editorial department of 50 staff, working around the clock in English and French to validate news submissions from the crowd. Newzulu was founded by Matilda Media, which last year acquired a French startup called Citizenside that was founded in 2006. Citzenside had developed a platform that can “rapidly review and validate” crowdsourced material, detecting if photos have been edited or altered in any way. It’s that platform that enables Newzulu to validate crowdsourced material within 30 minutes of its submission. Contributors are then paid on a case-by-case basis. Last week, Newzulu announced it had entered an agreement to purchase Canadian company Filemobile, a software company that provides solutions to media outlets for the gathering, curation and publishing of user-based content. Its customers include Fox News, Wall Street Journal, USA Today/Garnett, The Weather Network, Hearts TV, iTV, London Live, Network Ten, CTV, CBC and Canadian Geographic. The proposed purchase price – roughly $5 million, will be funded by an upcoming capital raise. “Newzulu and File Mobile will together form the world’s foremost crowdsourced media company,” Hartman says. “The acquisition of Filemobile is consistent with Newzulu’s growth strategy and further strengthens the company’s product solutions and global directory platform.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children. The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions. It turns out that “possessions” is actually a misnomer. We actually don’t own the music, books and movies we “buy” from Apple and Amazon. As Amazon puts it in its license terms, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. In other words, we are allowed to read the content but we are not allowed to pass it on. It comes as no surprise then that 93% of Americans surveyed were unaware or misinformed when asked about what digital assets they were able to pass on in the event of their death. But the problems don’t stop there. Relatives of the recently deceased are frequently left with a range of decisions and challenges when it comes to dealing with their online accounts, especially social media. This is not made easier by the fact that every company implements different strategies in dealing with accounts belonging to a deceased user, coupled with the fact that in the UK in 2012 at least, the average user had 26 accounts. In most cases, getting an account shut down requires close family to produce a range of documentation to prove that they have the right to request that the account is terminated. This doesn’t allow for those relatives to get access to the content of the accounts however. Taking a lead in making the process of handling accounts of the deceased simpler, Google has implemented their Inactive Account Manager. This allows anyone to specify what should happen in the event that an account has not been accessed for at least 3 months. Up to 10 people can be notified and the contents of the accounts, including services such as YouTube and Google+, shared with them. Alternatively, the accounts can simply be automatically deleted. Facebook will, on request, “memorialise” a person’s Facebook page. This freezes the page with the same permissions as it had when it was last accessed by the user but will stop the page from being discovered in a search and will not actively promote the page to others. The role of social media in the bereavement process has been the focus of an increasing amount of research. Generally, it is thought that social media can help in the bereavement process, although the persistence of a person’s profile online may make final acceptance of the passing more difficult. An interesting finding has been that when people post on a memorial page, they frequently do so in the present tense as if the person was still alive. In the UK, a survey has found that 36% of people would like their profiles to continue being available online after they die, with a larger proportion of 18-24 year olds preferring this option than over 55s. It doesn’t have to stop there. There are now services which allow you to continue Tweeting after you die using a bot that has studied your tweeting style. Other services allow users to send final messages via Facebook and LinkedIn. Digital estate planning is starting to become more of the norm and people are being prompted to think about what they want done with their digital assets and accounts after they die. This is going to be a significant issue for social media companies in the future. Since Facebook started, about 10-20 million users will have died. This number will increase and eventually overtake the number of living users on the site, by one estimate, in 2060. In one humorous envisioning of the future, Tom Scott has produced a disturbing possibility in his video “Welcome To Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers”. In it, he describes a corporate sponsored network as a resting place for the digital version of your consciousness, that is, of course, ad sponsored. In this case as with the question today, it is perhaps best for all if your online social presence ends when you do. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Aeeris, the company that operates Australia’s only national location-based weather and hazards early warning service, is seeking to raise $6 million through an initial public offering (IPO) on the ASX. Aeeris executive chairman and chief executive Kerry Plowright told Private Media the original idea for the company and its Early Warning Network (EWN) came in 2006, while he was working on an e-commerce collaboration project. “I looked out the window at storm clouds – this was a year that was a bad one for bushfires and natural disasters – and I asked ‘why doesn’t anyone warn people about disasters based on location’,” Plowright says. “So we spent the year in development and rolled it out at the end of 2007 with an operational system. It was the first system for severe hazards in the world, and it’s been in operation since then. Since launching, Plowright says there have been over 20,000 separate events the company has sent alerts for, covering everything from solar flares and bushfires to floods and cyclones. “No one understood what we were doing at first, so we made it free for the first two years. Brisbane City Council was one of our first customers. They piloted it for a year and then tendered that out. We won the tender to provide services for their residents,” Plowright says. The company now boasts 185,000 subscribers, over 43,000 app and Facebook users and over 100 paid corporate and government clients. It provides bespoke services across a number of industry verticals including local government, construction, mining, containers, heavy haul/freight and rail. The system delivers warnings through SMS, voice, email, push notifications, Twitter, directly into the client’s own IT systems. Aside from preventing loss or damage, this allows businesses to save money by continuing operations without being overly cautious. With company directors increasingly liable for the safety of their employees, it’s unsurprising the EWN has attracted interest both at home and abroad. “Initially, an IPO wasn’t on our mind, but with our company growing internationally and piloting successfully with a company in North America. We have huge opportunities, and we needed to resource those opportunities appropriately,” he says. “You could potentially go down the route of bringing in new investors, but [an IPO] was the cleanest opportunity for us.” Plowright says while he would not have been comfortable with taking a company to an IPO three or four years ago because it would have been a speculative investment, he now feels he has a mature business model. “We’re different to a lot of the tech companies you see out there, because we’ve got a rapidly growing revenue base. We have a mature and proven business model and over 100 customers,” he says. He also says assembling the right team and accurate costings going into the IPO has been “most important” as it has prevented a cost blowout. The IPO is being managed by Veritas Securities and the listing application for the ASX will be lodged in the next few weeks once the prospectus has approval from ASIC. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With a focus on growth, Australian startup Canva has launched an iPad app version of its easy to use graphic design platform, its most requested feature to date. The app uses a simple drag-and-drop design interface with a library of more than one million photographs, graphics and fonts, and it makes creating graphics fast and easy. The advantage of the iPad app is that photos taken can be immediately integrated with design. “In the past year since our launch we have been overwhelmed by the many ways people are using Canva every day. Our new app brings everything people love about Canva to the iPad,” says Canva chief executive Melanie Perkins. Canva’s iPad app is free to download and provides access to Canva’s library of millions of stock photographs, illustrations and layouts. Users can upload photos from their device or Facebook account, or pay $1 per premium element when they publish their design. Canva also provides professional designers with a faster way to create layouts and collaborate with clients, removing the need for frustrating back-and-forth email exchanges. The iPad app makes it especially easy to collaborate on the go. Canva has been backed by investors including Facebook director of engineering and co-founder of Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen, Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman, and funds including Matrix Partners, InterWest Partners, and 500 Startups. Canva will be available in the app store starting from today. Find out more here.
With all the new mobile devices come the potential new methods for advertisers to keep track of you across all your devices. They are given access through deals done by the large platforms and gatekeepers of your information. Here are a few of the ways the big social media and tech companies are accessing your data and using it for profit. Facebook: It has access to enormous amounts of very personal metadata collected from all of its users, including everything from employment, family, hair colour, friends, travel, home location and many other details. Mined from its users, this information is considered very valuable for advertisers and marketers. Another way Facebook tracks your movements is when you use your Facebook sign-in for other websites. This is also tracked by Facebook. And Facebook owns a number of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, that collect your information through your usage of the app. Facebook is large and looking to expand both its platform and ability to track your movements. It will keep purchasing and creating new ways to find and sell your information as this is its greatest income source. Apple: Its main tracking is through your email address and iTunes account, which tracks your credit card data and usage. When you purchase anything through an Apple device or using any Apple system, this information is used so the ads you see are normally reflecting your past activities. Google: When you log in to any Google account, you are then tied into the massive Google network. It also uses an Android mobile operating system which assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Google has many ad products and services such as AdSense, which access your ad identifier and compile the information with all the other YouTube, Gmail, Search and other personal digital history information, irrespective of what device you may be using. So why don’t they have to notify you of the use of your personal information? Because when you sign up to their services, you agree to their terms which include using your personal data as they please for advertising purposes. However, Google is still involved in class-action suits in various states in the US regarding its right to analyse message content and sell byproducts to advertisers. It is argued as beyond the scope of what is intended by the use of personal information. Google maintains it has the right to collect even your most sensitive data as long as it flows across an open Wi-Fi network. Google has been doing a lot more than its lobbyists and executives are disclosing when they are defending their initiatives. They could easily make collection of information for advertising more privacy-friendly if they wanted or were forced to, but at the moment we are at the mercy of the dominant operating system vendors who are not required to do so. Be aware: deals are being struck selling your information As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has struck a deal to sell access to your data to MasterCard. It claims it is not your ‘personal data’ but it includes your location, spending, connections and much more. This may not be personal data to some but it still seems very ‘personal’. This is likely the first of many deals to help monetise the ‘free’ Facebook model and seems to be the model for many large platform service providers on the internet. It is likely not to be the last. One thing that is important to remember about all this: it does not matter whether you are using an Android or an iOS device; you can still turn off many of the tracking mechanisms in the menu settings. Yet it still makes one wonder what is left under the ‘personal data’ legal definition anymore.
It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it’s already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled people and of course advertising and shopping. The big three tech companies have all invested heavily in research and development in the AR domain. Google will be releasing Google Glass later in the year, Microsoft has been working on its own AR device and not long ago Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus Rift. The notion of AR that these companies are proposing is a kind of “smartphone for the eyes”, as traditional AR and VR converge in the optic realm. The reality boost We are moving into an era where we will, on a commercial scale, be taking our visual information in real time and integrating this with a wealth of external information to transform our daily lives. This will give us some degree of control over how we see the world, in the fundamental sense. For example, we might be offered information about people or objects as they pop into our field of view. Or it could introduce into our visual field view things that don’t exist at all in the real world to potentially filter out of our vision things that are in fact there, such as giant advertising billboards (see below). But this is not just another article about the radical changes that AR is likely to bring about. Rather it’s a call to begin thinking critically about the possibilities AR presents and the idea that perhaps instead of merely augmenting reality, we could transform it. The unspoken future Extrapolating from the recent history of technology gives us a glimpse of what the future of AR is likely to look like in the hands of the big tech companies. First, the idea of the “app” will extend into the visual domain, giving us apps that aid us in all the things we already do: building a house, studying at a distance, travelling in a new city and even making love. Second, the price for access to these new services and of having information at our fingertips is likely to involve surrendering ever more of our personal information. Critically, it will open up new markets for advertisers to promote their products and services in both tacit and explicit ways – an extension of the world of “advertising everywhere”. The increased human consumption of advertising – driven perhaps largely by the increase of screens in the world – has begun to be referred to by some as the pollution of the mental environment. By surrendering control over our immediate field of vision, advertising no longer needs to be limited to a screen or a surface but could become truly ubiquitous. Transformed reality? The name “augmented reality” gives it away. The vision of AR that we are seeing in the media and in press releases for products such as Google Glass is a vision of our world as we know it, but perhaps made a little easier through this technology. In contrast, this technology, that can change what we sense in real time, has the potential to fundamentally change how we live. Do we have the imagination to dream about how instead of merely augmenting reality we could be aiming to transform it? The transformative potential of this technology has begun to be envisioned by a number of different artists. In the Artvertiser project, artists have developed an application that replaces billboards within the visual field with images of art. So instead of subconsciously consuming giant advertisements on a billboard from the bank, users could perhaps be consuming artworks by Banksy. The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of a built environment do you want to inhabit? Your AR has the potential to change both the cityscape and the horizon, to overlay worlds upon worlds. Other artists have begun experimenting with ways that the technology could be used to add extra dynamics to public artworks, bringing them to life. The advent of AR presents a significant choice. Through detection, replacement and synthesis AR has the potential to both add to and subtract from our sensations. Aspects of the environment, even buildings and people could potentially be filtered in or out based on personal preference – our generation is the first in human history that holds this possibility. The proposal is that rather than simply waiting to see what purposes are dreamed up by the purveyors of this technology, we need to begin thinking about how we want to use it. Now is the time to start dreaming about how the advent of ubiquitous AR could not merely augment society, but transform it for the better. Nick Kelly does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
A new social network called Mothers Groupie aims to reduce the isolation felt by many new mothers by helping them to meet both face-to-face and online, with the site also recently adding a directory of "helpers". Co-founder Leanne Sexton told StartupSmart the idea for Mothers Groupie was born out of necessity and frustration after moving from Sydney, where she had previously worked in the media industry on titles such as Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan and Madison. “When I fell pregnant with our first child, we decided to have a change of lifestyle and moved away from family and friends to the [NSW] Northern Rivers at Lennox Head,” Sexton says. “There was honestly nothing for a pregnant mother until you had a baby, when you were put in a mothers’ group by the hospital with a group of women you might have nothing else in common with. When I searched online, there were mothers trying to find each other by posting messages on online forums, but those messages date quickly.” Sexton says the experience led her to develop a social network to facilitate face-to-face meetups with local mothers, allowing for online catch-ups in between. The site began as a local service, before expanding its reach and features, and eventually adding apps for the iPhone and Google Play app stores. “Within a month we had over 40 mothers in Lennox Head. That was at the start of the year, after having a baby late last year and we’ve been refining the product since. We started basic and then have been refining it based on feedback from mothers on features they’d like to see,” Sexton says. “A couple of months ago we added an app. Mothers are incredibly time poor – many don’t have time to even use a laptop. They have their baby in one hand and a smartphone in the other, where many do much of their admin. The website now has close to 2000 members and around 300 groups with very little marketing. According to Sexton, privacy concerns, especially the risk of baby photos being shared with strangers, is drawing many mothers away from established social networks such as Facebook. “Women in general are very social beings. When they become mothers, they become active on social media. I can understand first hand, going from working in the media on Cosmo to being at home in Lennox Head. It’s such a growing space, and privacy is a big concern,” she says. “We find there’s a real mix of ages. You go from young mums to mums in their 30s to a growing proportion over 30. There are many demographics that need something like this, such as mothers in rural areas or with FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) partners.” “Post-natal depression is a real issue, and research shows isolation and a lack of support can be a key cause. We’re creating a platform for people to catch up face-to-face and online in between to reduce that isolation.” A feature Mothers Groupie recently added is a directory of reputable "helpers" such as nannies, babysitters, au pairs, cleaners, lactation consultants, child sleep consultants and fitness experts. Mothers can post job ads or search for helpers, read ratings and testimonials, and can pay a small fee to see the contact details of helpers they like. “From a business perspective, it’s a demographic that’s sought after by brands, and it’s a closed and very trusted environment. “We’ve tested the model, it’s working well, and we’re now looking for $500,000 in seed funding to really push marketing, fine-tune development and expand to the US where there’s nothing quite like it.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Stimulating startups, innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is critical for Australia’s economy. But we need to challenge some of our beliefs about who can and can't do these things if we want to lay the groundwork for substantive change. I'm confident there is a growing sense of urgency around the critical link between startups, STEM and technology and Australia’s future prosperity, with tangible initiatives, focus and metrics in how these are stimulated appearing in many corporate, education and community initiatives. If Australia is truly going to increase innovation and leverage digital tech on a global scale, then we must make some key changes. "Start ups" and "STEM" are stereotypically synonymous with a younger generation. These stereotypes are unnecessarily narrow. At some stage our ideas of who can and can’t innovate with technology (which currently exclude corporate, small business and those outside their 20s or 30s) will become self-fulfilling and self-defeating. We need to invest in building a nation that leads in STEM and critical thinking. Australia invested just $4.5 per capita in venture capital for startups last year, compared with $120 in Israel, $85 in the US, $20 in South Korea and $15 in the UK. We must also take steps to stimulate innovation beyond the stereotype of the young, tech-enabled crowd. Here are three stereotypes we’d do well to reverse. Stereotype #1 – Young entrepreneurs belong only in startups Young entrepreneurial types start from the beginning with building a customer base or idea, and without the constraints of towing caravans of what they should adhere to. We know that a lack of business skills, networks and scale are the main reasons startups often fail, and venture funds look for these very things – previous attempts in the form of second-time-around founders, or those with prior business exposure. What if we took entrepreneurs starting out and gave them a position in large corporates? Switch the assumption that young entrepreneurs only belong in startups and create an employment construct where, say for two years, they have a direct reporting line into leadership to work on new services or products. It’s possible to find the right balance of new thinking, to create options from alternate perspectives, and in delivery, to combine the skills and diversity of that approach with leveraging the commercial, scale, marketing and regulatory expertise of a large corporate. Stereotype #2 – People who work in corporates can’t innovate and don’t have a startup persona It’s evident that after a few years’ experience and building expertise, there are corporate or medium-sized business employees who have a good balance of business experience and feel an urgency to fill a gap in the market. If they don’t, it’s often because they have financial commitments or dependents and fear if they leave the paid workforce, they’ll be locked out. According to a Kauffman Org report, the average age of successful founders is 40, with twice as many successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are under 25 years of age. Experienced entrepreneurs will probably have had experience in people management, scale and financial management to assist the odds in expanding. We'd do well to reverse the cliché that those of middle age are too late to the game. Such people are experienced in business, scale and leadership and have strong relationship networks to leverage, as well as second nature digital literacy. The suggestion is to offer more middle management the opportunity to take a leave of absence to focus on a new startup idea. Benefits to the sponsor organisation are many. An employee who has been with you for eight years would be revived and focused when they returned after 12 months establishing their own business idea. The sponsor organisation may offer a program, part salary, grant or leave without pay for the employee to have that opportunity. It could then take first right to buy, bring the idea into the organisation under terms, partner or procure. It could be the organisation's data or API is leveraged. We know corporates aren’t short of ideas or highly intelligent people, and we know Australia needs more successful startups. As a quick litmus test, in the PwC innovation team 80% have had their own successful startups or been working in the startup scene, with each returning to corporate life passionate about re-inventing Australia’s corporates and governments. Stereotype #3 – More experienced people are neither innovative nor technology literate, and the business of solving problems is best left to younger generations There’s nearly everything wrong with this perception. Reversing it, and providing the missing link, could have a profound network effect. By the time many in this older generation retire they will have been using smartphones, downloading apps – with higher mobile adoption rates than most countries in the world – and using Google, Amazon, eBay, for example, for 15-20 years. The size of the generation ranging 50-60+ years is increasing as a percentage of population. This generation consists of people who are mostly still fit and active, will live 20 more years after retiring, have good business networks and employment experience, have paid off their assets and have access to their super funds. As Bernard Salt pointed out in The Australian recently, the way we think about 55+ year olds is now different in an age when we live to beyond 85. Most aren't retiring, but adopting "portfolio lifestyles". How great would it be to see this generation of entrepreneurs celebrating a new phase of their lives, and instead of being positioned as a social services consumer, becoming the innovator or mentor or partner with young Australians in business: An architect in her 60s combining with a manufacturing tech-savvy person in a 3D printing venture; or a semi-retired doctor using augmented reality for remote patient diagnosis. Reversing these three myths and providing the missing support will stimulate innovation across the nation, leverage established human capital and accelerate Australia to fire on all innovation cylinders. Reversing each stereotype embodies diversity of thought. It would help accelerate a nation of innovators and create momentum in the economy for technology-literate people and jobs. Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.
Cloud-storage provider Box has decided to delay its planned initial public offering until 2015. Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the IPO, which Box filed for in March, won’t occur until next year because of volatile market conditions. Box chief executive officer Aaron Levie gained some financial flexibility in July by raising $150 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion, after delaying the IPO in May. One of the sources says the next logical time for an IPO is during the company’s fourth quarter, which ends in January. Facebook to refine name authentication process Facebook says that it would be building new authentication tools to verify accounts flagged as fake, amid protests by members of the LGBT community regarding the need to be able to use pseudonyms. The protests arose two weeks ago when Facebook cracked down on several hundred drag performers whose accounts had been reported as fake. The site’s only process for verifying accounts involves asking for some form of ID as evidence of a real name. Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox says the policy had done a good job up until recently, and that Facebook wants people to use the name they use in real life, rather than their legal name. Houzz raises $165 million Fast-growing US-based home-remodelling site Houzz says it has raised a $US165 million ($189 million) Series D round, led by Sequoia Capital. The funds will be used to accelerate the startups global expansion plans. It’s already opened offices in Berlin and London, and more recently Sydney. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 238.19 to 16,804.71. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
Complaints have never really had a specific home on the internet. They’ve always just been kind of everywhere. Melbourne social network startup Vent wants to change that. It’s providing a platform that is specifically for people to moan, rant or complain about whatever might be upsetting them. Users sign up, choose one of five moods which comes with a corresponding colour, for example red matches up with anger, and then post their complaint. The platform is much like Twitter, users can follow people they know and curate their own feed of Vents, or browse posts from the wider Vent community. It’s the community that Vent is building that co-founder Dean Serroni says is where the startup’s value lies. “We don’t want to become a junky place for people to discuss random things. We want people who have problems or complaints to come to our app, where they’ll be associating with people in similar situations,” he says. Serroni and co-founder Duncan Turner came up with the idea over coffee last year. It was around the time of the Essendon Football Club supplements controversy and the last throes of the Gillard/Rudd Labour government. They didn’t want to launch their complaints into the internet ether on general purpose social networks like Twitter and Facebook, nor did they want to damage their “online personalities” either. So they decided to build Vend. After launching a beta version on the Apple App Store in January the platform grew to 3000 users in July, before more than tripling the two months since to over 10,000 users. To date they’ve raised $100,000 in funding from an investor Serroni is unable to name yet. What Serroni and Turner didn’t expect was the warmth of the community they had created. Serroni says users are supportive of one another and help each other through tough times. “It’s been really comforting to be honest. People are able to share their experiences and come out feeling comforted. A negative experience can become a positive one,” he says. “People understand they’re not alone in their issues. People share in their miseries and feel better for it. Protecting that supportive vibe, and the value that come with it, is one of Vent’s greatest challenges. As it scales it becomes more and more difficult to police the site. Many websites require users to link Facebook accounts in an attempt to encourage civilised debate. Vent asked that of its users initially, but was inundated with requests to remove that requirement. Anonymity is key to venting they said. Now anyone can sign up to an account; all that’s needed is an email address. The startup is rolling out new features in the coming weeks that will give users more control over what they do and don’t see. Serroni says they’re also considering providing individual users with powers that allow them to curate and moderate other users. It’s also adding more emotions and a feature which allows users “hugs” or “WTFs” in a similar manner to Facebook ‘likes’ as a way to endorse and sympathise with posts. As for monetisation, Serroni says the startup is examining a number of options, none of which will be advertising. “As our user base shapes up and we start to understand it better, we’ll start to think about it more he says. We want to understand them to ensure when we do monetise we’re providing value rather than spamming with ads,” Serroni says. “We’ve got some ideas at the moment, one idea being professional counselling services that can be engaged directly through the app. And a few others that I’d prefer not to mention.” Vent comes out of beta later this week and is available on iOS with an Android release slated for December. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.