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Online advertising: What’s the future for small business?

4:12AM | Tuesday, 22 April

Facebook’s latest changes to its layout creates more problems for small business using social media, as the real estate available on its site for eyeballs gets smaller.   The social media giant has been catching criticism recently for changes to its algorithm that make it harder for businesses to be seen online.   In the hospitality industry, discontent was articulated by the Eat 24 website, which closed down its Facebook Page after finding the problems too hard.   With the changes to the online advertising feed, it makes it even harder for small business to be seen on the platform as reduced space means higher prices for the space that remains available.   It’s hard to see small businesses getting much traction with the changes when they’re up against big brands with large budgets.   On the other hand for the big brands, the importance of proper targeting becomes even greater.   A challenge for small business   The big problem now for small business is where do you advertise where the customers are?   A decade or so ago, this was a no-brainer – the local service or retail business advertised in the local newspaper or Yellow Pages. Customers went there and, despite their chronic inefficiencies, they worked.   Now with Facebook’s changes, it’s harder for customers to follow small business and this is a particular problem for hospitality where updates are hard.   The failure of Google   Google should have owned this market with Google Places, however the service has been neglected as the company folded the business listing service into the Plus social media platform.   Today, it’s hard to see where small business is going to achieve organic reach – unpaid appearances in social media and search – or paid reach as the competition with deep pocketed big brands is fierce.   Services like Yelp! were for a while a possible alternative, but increasingly they are stitching up deals with companies like Yahoo! and Australia’s Sensis, which marginalises small business.   So the online world is getting harder for small business to get their message out onto online channels.   For the moment that’s a problem although it’s an interesting opportunity for an entrepreneur – possibly even a media company – to exploit.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Canva to get the Kawasaki treatment: how the Sydney startup snared Apple’s former chief evangelist

4:21PM | Wednesday, 16 April

Communications powerhouse Guy Kawasaki is joining the team at fledgling design software startup Canva, under the “chief evangelist” title he made famous at Apple, thanks to a tweet.   Kawasaki had tweeted a design created on design software several month ago. A fellow Canva user asked him if he had used the platform.   Cofounder Cliff Obrecht then followed up on Twitter, and the relationship grew from there.   Kawasaki will stay in the US but work closely and in a full-time capacity with the Sydney-based Canva team.   He told StartupSmart he loved the Canva product and the impact it could have.   “I love what Canva does. I’m into democratizing stuff such as Apple and computers, Google and information, and now Canva and design.”   The media landscape has changed significantly from Kawasaki’s Apple days with the rise of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Kawasaki has over 8 million social media followers.   “Some people may have a bigger following but don’t know how to use it. But no one has a bigger following, knows how to use it, and is willing to use it,” he says.   He adds the growth of the startup so far doesn’t appear to be hampered by Canva being based in Australia.   Canva launched late last year and has 330,000 registered users. Over one million designs have been created on the platform already. Canva’s communications team wouldn’t confirm how many of the 330,000 users are   Cofounder and chief executive Melanie Perkins told StartupSmart Kawasaki joining the team would make it easier for Canva to take off in the US market, which is already one of their biggest.   “Cliff and I spend a lot of time travelling to and from the US, so having feet on the floor over there will help speed us up,” she says. “We couldn’t have planned on this, but our whole company was set up to solve a problem, and every single little bit along the path we haven’t been able to plan any of it.”   Kawasaki will be involved in the marketing and promotion of Canva, speaking at events and driving a planned evangelist program with influencers.

Innovation could add $6 billion to the economy but we need look beyond startups: Microsoft report

4:11AM | Tuesday, 22 April

Microsoft has today released a report calling for an urgent review of how the Australian innovation ecosystem works, in order to make the most of the burgeoning tech innovation movement.   Joined-Up Innovation outlines seven steps Australia can take to boost the fragmented innovation workforce.   The recommendations included breaking down silos within the innovation community, fixing slow-moving processes, improving knowledge sharing, proactive upskilling programs and encouraging mobility.   The third recommendation of the seven was to “look beyond startups” when it comes to innovation, as a vibrant and productive innovation system needed to transcend just young businesses.   This is despite the fact the report defined innovation as new businesses built around breakthrough ideas.   The fourth recommendation, transforming our culture, is one the Australian startup ecosystem has been campaigning about for years.   The report includes a number of cultural obstacles that are already preventing our innovation ecosystem from operating as smoothly as it could.   “These include low acceptance of business failures, which can make potential; innovators reluctant to launch ventures for fear of harming their reputations,” the report finds.   This fear of failure seems to emerge early, with president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Alan Finkel claiming the flow from university into startups is a pressure point.   “We’ve cut it off at the knees by having this tendency to think it’s a failure if you leave university and go into industry – and it’s a double failure if you go from university to a startup and the startup isn’t a successful one.”   The report also cited either the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ or ‘fear of being placed on BRW’s Rich List’ may be having a net result of few equivalents of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Microsoft’s Bill Gates.   The report was created from roundtable discussions of over 15 innovation experts including Microsoft Australia’s managing director Pip Marlow, Commercialisation Australia’s Doron Ben-Meir, Australian Information Industry Association’s Suzanne Campbell, ATP Innovations’ Hamish Hawthorn and consultant Sandy Plunkett.   In a statement, Marlow says Australia had amazing strengths but untapped potential.   “But if we want to maintain – and preferably improve – our competitive position, we need to reinvent our innovation ecosystem for the information age rather than sticking with models developed in the industrial age,” Marlow says.   The report also included new findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers that demonstrate how equipping Australia’s significant small to medium sized business community with greater tech skills could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%).   Image: Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Google steals drone aircraft maker Titan Aerospace from under Facebook’s nose

4:13AM | Tuesday, 15 April

Google has announced the takeover of drone aircraft manufacturer Titan Aerospace, outmanoeuvring Facebook in the process.   As SmartCompany reported in early March, Facebook was believed to be interested in launching a $60 million bid for the drone aircraft maker.   At the time, it was believed the social media giant was primarily interested in Titan’s technology in a bid to launch affordable, low-cost internet services in emerging markets.   Titan’s drones – dubbed “atmospheric satellite platforms” by the company – fly at an altitude of nearly 20 kilometres and are equipped with solar panels, allowing them to continuously remain in flight for up to five years without needing to land.   While most of the content on its website has been removed since the announcement, the New Mexico-based drone aircraft manufacturer originally described its primary market as being for high-resolution imaging.   “Titan Aerospace provides persistent solar atmospheric satellite platforms to global customers for easy access to real-time high-resolution images of the earth, voice and data services, and other atmospheric-based sensor systems,” the company stated on its website as of March this year.   A Google spokesperson emailed SmartCompany and said providing internet access was one of the key benefits of purchasing Titan.   “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.”   In June of last year, Google announced Project Loon, a project using hot air balloons to deliver broadband services to remote areas.   Meanwhile, interest in drone aircraft has intensified after online retail giant Amazon announced plans to deliver customer orders using unmanned aircraft in December of last year.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Is another tech wreck coming? Some insights from Netslaves author Bill Lessard

4:17AM | Tuesday, 15 April

In recent weeks, many commentators have pointed out the similarities between the current Silicon Valley scene and the tech boom of the late ‘90s. Meanwhile, recent falls in tech related stocks have led some to fear that another dot-com crash could be around the corner.   A first-hand witness of the tech boom of the late ‘90s was author and web pioneer Bill Lessard.   In 1999, Lessard and his co-author, Steve Baldwin, wrote a book about the experience of being an ordinary IT worker at a startup during the tech boom, titled Net Slaves: True Tales of Working the Web. It was followed-up by a book chronicling the experience of those same IT staff after the bubble, titled Net Slaves 2.0: Tales of Surviving the Great Tech Gold Rush.   The books led to the creation of a pioneering and now defunct online community called Netslaves.com, which bought together many people connected with the tech startup scene.   StartupSmart spoke to Lessard about how the current US tech startup scene compares to the ‘90s tech boom.   Working the web in the ‘90s   According to Lessard, working in a tech company in the US during the late ‘90s was often the opposite of the hype portrayed by many in the media.   “For every [Netscape founder and venture capitalist] Marc Andreesen getting rich quick, there were thousands of people getting old fast. The situation was ridiculous. It was akin to saying that everyone who moves to Hollywood becomes Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie,” Lessard says.   “And it wasn't just your mom who was falling for such nonsense, either. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people I'd meet at parties would gush when I told them what I was doing for a living.   “After a while, I wanted to punch such people on sight. Working the Web 1.0 was 14-hour days, not cleaning your apartment for six months, having three different jobs in the course of a year.”   Many people cite the infamous takeover of media giant Time Warner by tech company AOL as representing the pinnacle of the hype surrounding the early web.   Lessard says it was the experience of a round of layoffs at Swiss bank UBS that led him to write the Netslaves books.   “I was getting downsized from my seventh job in seven years when I looked up a friend of mine from Time Warner. I was 32 at the time. I was way past my Web 1.0 due-by date.   “I wanted to do something different. It was Steve's idea to write about this industry. I added the Studs Terkel aspect of profiling the real people who power tech.”   The books led to the creation of Netslaves.com, an online community filled with the tales of disgruntled employees from tech start-ups. However, it wasn’t just IT workers who visited.   “It was a sterling example of online community in the pre-Facebook era. There were disgruntled techies, sure. But there were also members of the investor and executive classes.   “There were also garden-variety freaks, fruitcakes and lunatics. It's fun to remember the site now, but back then, it was a mess. What started out as an outlet for tech industry workers devolved into a mosh-pit of post-9/11 political extremes.”   Lessard explains how, in some ways, the Netslaves website was a forerunner to modern tech startup sites such as TechCrunch, StartupSmart and Valleywag.   “We took the bitchiness of Suck.com and brought it to tech. TechCrunch and StartupSmart are definite influences in their willingness to question the sacred cows of the industry.   “But Sam Biddle at Valleywag, who criticizes West Coast tech cultist insanity from his Brooklyn perch, seems the closest to what we were doing as New York guys (and gals) with a digital axe to grind.”   A particularly notable contributor to the Netslaves website was freelance journalist and pioneering US political blogger Steve Gillard.   Gillard, who passed away in 2007, was cited by progressive blogger and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas as a being a key influence on his work.   “Steve was a gentleman. He was an educated, honest person in a world where educated, honest people are in too-short supply. Steve appeared out of nowhere. First he was on the mailing list that was the precursor to the bulletin board, then he was sending us reams to stuff to publish, then he was posting even more material directly when we got ourselves a proper CMS.   “Steve brought history and a strong sense of social justice to what we were doing. He had no tolerance for the whole rich-kids-messing-around ethos of the industry because he was a moral person and a black dude from Harlem who had witnessed the consequences of such foolishness.   “I was so glad to see him taking off as a political blogger. My only regret is that he didn't live longer to enjoy it.”   The problems with Web 1.0   Lessard recalls a common complaint from many on the site was that tech startups were often started by young people straight out of college, and the founders lacked basic management skills or training.   “It's okay to get some pizza and code all night when you're in college, but if you've got millions in venture and employees with bills to pay and some even with families and mortgages, it's not a good look, particularly if the company is going to be out of business in six months. And your best option seems to be to get another job just like the one previous.”   Reclining upmarket office chairs by Aeron came to be a symbol of the tech startups that failed during the ‘90s tech crunch.   “In an industry that had rejected suits and ties and other traditional symbols of corporate power, the Aeron was the seat of power in the Web 1.0 ‘game of thrones’.   “The closest contemporary equivalent is Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie, where the ultimate expression of authority resides in the rejection of authority. It's all very American. And it's all very rock-n-roll.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Key differences to the ‘90s tech crunch   Lessard points out there are several crucial differences between now and the tech wreck on the late ‘90s.   The most important is the frequency with which companies file for an IPO.   “Back in the Web 1.0 Boom, you had dozens of companies going public every week. Every company seemed dumber than the last, but that didn't stop them from going to market and jumping to 90 bucks a share on their first day of trading.   “These days, there are offerings, but there are fewer and the companies have stronger fundamentals. Also, another difference is that acquisition is an accepted exit strategy. In the '90s, it was IPO or bust.   “If nothing else, it seems like companies are more careful today because they have to be. There's money out there, but not a plethora of dumb money willing to throw cash at anything with a "dotcom" in its name.”   Life after startups   Since the tech boom of the late ‘90s, Lessard has returned to the public relations industry, with his company counting startups amongst its clients.   “I did PR before I got into tech, right after I got out of grad school... I run my own shop, so I get to pick and choose the projects I work on.   “I have a great job because I get to advocate for things I believe in. I don't represent crooks and hucksters. I represent people who are trying to make a difference in their own little way. I have worked with videogame charities who distribute used games to kids in hospitals and cancer wards.   “I have gotten a street named after a favourite jazz artist. I have partnered with major sports franchises and food startups to get fresh food to people in underserved communities. I choose people as much as they choose me. It's not going to make me rich, but that's okay. My wealth is the satisfaction of being able to live the way I was intended to live.”   Four tips for startup founders   According to Lessard, there are four key lessons from the tech wreck that startup entrepreneurs should apply to their businesses:   1) Create a company that will make the world a better place. There are already enough apps for simulating fart noises.   2) Failure will teach you the lessons that you need to know the most.   3) Take better care of yourself. Cut out all the pizzas and the all-night coding marathons. That bro stuff is nonsense, and it will kill you.   4) Figure out what kind of person you are: Are you an overdog who needs to run stuff? Are you an underdog who just wants a check and weekends off? Are you a lone wolf who neither wants to run things nor be told what to do? These are important questions. The world is the way it is because it is full of people who are trying to fit themselves into slots they don't belong in.

Three social media trends every startup should know about

4:30AM | Tuesday, 15 April

There’s a golden saying that networking is about getting someone else’s business card, not giving away your own. When you meet someone you want to connect with; someone who inspires you, a potential business partner, a future employee; your mission is to intrigue them enough that they want to connect again with you.   Taking this advice on board, we recently packed our bags and headed to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World, the world’s biggest conference for social media marketers. With a bag of t-shirts, stickers, and a few business cards, we were off to meet and learn from some of the top social media experts from around the world. Without a sponsor booth or speaking session, our goal was to meet as many people as we could.   Unsurprisingly, social media is just like networking. You want to provide enough unique value that you stand out from the rest of the pack. The first time someone visits your page, you want them to give you permission to keep them updated – have them ask for your business card.   But what else can you do to spice up your social media presence? Here are some of the top things we took home from this year’s Social Media Marketing World conference.   Visual social media is growing fast   There’s no question about it, visual social media is on the rise. According to new research announced by Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner, 70% of marketers plan on using more visual content in 2014. It’s really no wonder. The brain can process visuals faster than text. Visuals have the power to inspire an emotional reaction. They’re easier to understand and they’re shareable.   The biggest social networks – from Facebook to Pinterest, Google+ to Instagram – are all centred on visual content. Even Twitter has joined the visual game by allowing people to add embedded content to their tweets. In fact, Buffer found that tweets with images received 150% more retweets than those without. There’s more you can do to maximise the engagement of your social posts.   When considering your visual content calendar, aim to build consistency with your content. You can do this by using the same colours, fonts, brand photo filters and templates for different posts. Each time your content appears on a follower’s News Feed, it will stand out to your followers because it reflects a consistent brand. If you see a similar looking post from the same brand each day, it’s more likely to make an impact.   Slideshare expert and speaker Todd Wheatland suggested considering visual content as part of your brand’s marketing funnel. For example, if you’re releasing a big research report, break it down into bite-sized content that you can share across different social networks. Leverage your existing content by being strategic about the way you share on social media. Entice people to give you their email address by promising the full or extended version if they provide their email. You can also Facebook and tweet individual graphics with links to your Slideshare presentation or blog.   Good content must be shareable and snackable   That brings us to an important question: does good content exist if no one can find it? Well, it’s certainly not living up to its potential. Many of the speakers at Social Media Marketing World revealed that spreading their content was one of the most important things they do as a content creator. Good content needs to be put out into the world.   A good tip from Australian blogger Donna Moritz was to make your content shareable and snackable. If you’ve produced a blog post with social media tips, then take individual tips and share them as image posts on social media. You can share these bite-sized tips at different times over the course of a week, of course linking back to your original blog post.   So you’re wondering: how often can you tweet a tweet? There’s actually some interesting research that suggests repeating your tweet. As the New York Times found, sharing the content several times over a day or week generates more clicks and helps keeps your content in the feed so people don’t miss it.   Another thing to consider is making sure you’ve included shareable content in all your blog posts. Did you know that more than 80% of content on Pinterest is re-pinned? That means people are looking for content they can re-share on their own Pinterest page. Pinterest is also one of the top traffic drivers on the Web. In your next blog post, try including a few of the taller Pinterest-style graphics in your posts that people can easily share.   The customer is the hero of your story Don’t forget that social media is, well, social. The best online relationships are just like any offline relationship. It’s important to invest time and energy building relationships with people in your industry. If there’s a topic you’re interested in, whether it’s social media or fashion, there’ll be a community online that you can tap into. Figure out how you can contribute.   Razor Social’s Ian Cleary advocated spending time building a network of influencers. Over time this network of people in your industry will be useful as a second opinion for new ideas, and can also help you get content out to the world. Focus on building relationships with people in that community. You never know what potential there may be for you to work together. You truly do need to “go offline to build online.”   We set up a simple Google Spreadsheet to use during Social Media Marketing World to keep track of people that we met. Every time we were given a new business card, we added that person’s details to the spreadsheet and make a note about anything we talked about as well as ways in which we could help them out or work together. This made it a lot easier to follow up after the event.   Tools like Grouphigh, Littlebird and Mention can be helpful to find people talking about particular topics online. Tapping into conversation in your industry is a great way to build relationships with the right people. Put simply, it all comes back to having a coordinated plan for any marketing activities you undertake, whether they’re online or offline. Seek out influencers, produce great content, and invest time in getting the word out there.   It’s important that you look at your startup’s objectives when planning your social media strategy. Good content takes time. Are you trying to attract new users or build a community for your existing customers? What topics does your brand need to be talking about online? Knowing the answers to these questions will help get started on the right track.   How are you incorporating these trends into your startup’s social media strategy? Share your suggestions below.   Zach Kitschke is head of communications at Canva.com.

Switch off from your startup this May

4:30AM | Tuesday, 15 April

Technology is developing exponentially, and at the click of a button we can access an infinite amount of information. With this privilege, comes the potential cost of information overload, increased distractibility and low-grade background anxiety as we try to keep on top of things.   With invisible umbilical cords connecting us to our devices, staying focused is an increasing challenge. Our attention buzzes around with the restlessness of a mosquito fluttering between, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages. Many of us are suffering from what Dr Ed Hallowell, specialist psychiatrist in ADHD, coined as Attention Deficit Trait.   If we wish to remain healthy, happy and clear-minded we need to upgrade our "inner technology" to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. We are standing on the precipice of a potential paradigm shift with an exciting dialogue unfolding at the intersection of science, technology and the world of wisdom.   From the outside, meditation can look like a whole lot of nothing, but you only need to try it for a few minutes to realise just how challenging it can be to develop our attention and sharpen our focus.   In the start-up community in particular there are never enough hours in the day and so bringing any extra habit into your life needs to be worthwhile.   Meditation is not about becoming passive or giving up on your goals or future plans. In fact, it's a perfect companion to developing your capacity to think more clearly, be more effective and find wiser solutions to challenging problems.   Leading companies in the world, including Google are offering mindfulness training to their employees, recognising the benefits of meditation in supporting more clarity, innovation and productivity.   Science is supporting the fact that just two weeks of regular mindfulness meditation can have significant benefits. When regularly practiced, meditation has been shown to increase our immune function, grow our prefrontal cortex (required for strategic thinking and problem solving), and increase an enzyme called Telomerase, which functions to protect our chromosomes from age-related damage.   To really benefit from meditation, the problem is you actually have to do it. Meditation commonly falls by the wayside for even the most enthusiastic amongst us. Just like physical exercise, bringing a habit of regular meditation into your life can be quite a challenge. So often it seems like there's not enough time or we just "don't feel like doing it”. The thing is there is research to suggest that even 10 minutes of meditation, five days a week can improve our attention and focus.   Sometimes we need support to follow through on our intentions. Having the support of others or doing something that helps us feel we're making a meaningful difference in the world, and can boost our motivation. This logic has fuelled the creation of Mindful in May, a one-month meditation campaign starting on May 1, and delivered online.   It will teach you how to meditate and at the same time help bring clean water to those in developing countries. To date the Mindful in May global community has raised enough money to build water projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda helping transform the lives of thousands of people. You’ll get a one month meditation program including 10-minute guided meditations on a weekly basis, access to exclusive video interviews with global experts in the field of meditation and mind wellbeing.   The challenge starts on May 1 so register before then, donate and invite your friends or colleagues to create a meditation fundraising team to help bring clean water to those in need. Together, let's see how far we can spread this Mindful Ripple.   Elise Bialylew is a doctor, coach and wellness innovator with a background in psychiatry. She is the founder of Mindful in May.

Twitter announces new profile page design and features, AFL early off the mark for an upgrade

11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November

Twitter has announced a new layout and new features for its profile pages, in a change set to roll out over coming weeks, with the AFL among the first accounts to receive the upgrade.   The redesigned layout will initially be made available for new users and a small group of selected existing users, including the AFL.   Key features of the new layout include the introduction of a Facebook-style banner and larger profile images.   The upgrade will also mean users to pin a ‘favourite tweet’ to the top of their Twitter feed, while tweets with more user engagement will appear larger than those without.   AFL social media manager Tyson Densley told StartupSmart the new changes will help users better engage with the game.   “We're fortunate enough to have many great moments to share with our social community every weekend, and Twitter's new profile pages will enable us to extend the lifespan of some of the great videos and photos produced by our team,” Densley says.   “Our game also delivers a great number of talking points every day and footy fans can now discover our most engaging tweets with ease. We look forward to having some fun with the new design and continuing to bring our fans closer to the game.”   Aside from the AFL, film stars Zac Efron and Channing Tatum, US First Lady Michelle Obama, boxer Floyd Mayweather, musician John Legend and the band Weezer have all seen profile page upgrades.   According to web marketing expert and StartupSmart contributor Adam Franklin, one of the problems many users experienced as the service grew increasingly popular is that users found themselves with a growing number of real-time tweets clogging up their accounts.   “As it’s been getting more popular is that you had an increasing amount of content in your feed. Now, aside from being just a real time system, it categorises tweets by year and month, so you can go back and make sense of it all – to go back and see what’s what,” Franklin says.   Franklin says the new look is likely to draw in businesspeople who had held off on using the service.   “I think it will make Twitter much more approachable, in the sense of being more familiar like Facebook.   “Especially for newbies, until you actually start to use it, it can be difficult to make sense of what’s what, so I think it certainly will be more familiar for newbies.   The similarities to Facebook have not been missed by existing users either:   I don't know if I wanna use Twitter anymore now that it looks oddly similar to Facebook, a site I absolutely don't like. #NewTwitter— Shady Prim Amour (@Moyopri) April 9, 2014   I see @Twitter is changing their looks once again.... Seen it somewhere before? Ah yes! #Faceebook LOL Check out @Weezer's page #NewTwitter— Brent ツ (@Brent_F1) April 9, 2014   #NewTwitter Is twitter trying to be as bad as facebook? So glad I use tweetdeck and it stays old school— R e e D F o r C e (@reed_tiburon) April 9, 2014

THE NEWS WRAP: Turnbull claims 300,000 properties will miss out if NBN plan doesn’t change

4:21PM | Tuesday, 8 April

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to claim up to 300,000 premises outside the NBN’s fixed line footprint will miss out on broadband without changes, in a speech to be delivered today.   In a speech to be delivered at the CommsDay conference in Sydney, leaked to Fairfax Media’s Matthew Knott, Turnbull will say that the number of properties requiring a satellite or fixed wireless connection has been dramatically underestimated.   “The problems mean that without policy changes, the project as planned would not be able to service an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 premises outside of the fixed line footprint,” Turnbull will say.   “If the NBN were to take steps to eliminate the 'coverage gap', the company faces a deterioration of operating cash flows of its satellite and fixed wireless networks of up to $1.2 billion by 2021.”   Twitter unveils user profile redesign   Twitter has unveiled a redesign of its user profile pages, with the changes coming in response to new user growth hitting an all-time low during the last quarter.   The features, currently available to a select number of users, include the ability to pin posts to the top of a users’ feed, as well as the introduction of Facebook-style banners and larger profile pictures.   Business confidence falls as conditions improve   Business confidence fell to its lowest level since the federal election during March, despite an improvement in business conditions, according to the latest NAB Monthly Business Survey.   The survey shows that while conditions improved from zero points to one, confidence fell to a score of four, down from seven in February and nine in January.   “It appears as though firms are responding to the ongoing sluggishness in business activity, which has not quite reflected the exuberance of firms in past months," NAB chief economist Alan Oster says.   “The stubbornly high Australian dollar, uncertainty over the global economy and the potential for significant 'belt tightening' in the upcoming budget, could all have contributed as well.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16256.1. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.61 cents.

Pet price comparison app launches to disrupt booming industry

4:27AM | Tuesday, 8 April

Man’s best friend may also be one of man’s best business opportunities, with another startup targeting the pet industry re-launching this week.   With rapidly growing startups in the space like award-winning Paws for Life disrupting the industry, it was only a matter of time before a startup entered the market to enable consumers to make the most of the price competition that’s heating up.   99PetShops is designed to do exactly that. The free web app allows pet owners to compare prices from over 60 online stores.   Cofounder Edward Chan told StartupSmart prices differ significantly, with a popular tick and flea treatment ranging from $79.95 to $144.95.   The idea emerged when his pet pug developed skin problems. He needed lots of different foods and products, and high prices drove Edward online, where he could always find a better deal.   “I could always find a cheaper price online, but there wasn’t a good comparison tool that was comprehensive enough,” Chan says.   A year of building the app in the evenings after clocking off from his full-time job saw him launch the app late last year.   He and cofounder Daniel Ng are planning to charge an affiliate link on each sale, but want to build up their traffic before approaching the stores to discuss the opportunity.   “We’ve got about 20 people using it a day, so it’s a bit of waste at the moment,” Chan says.   They’ve been experimenting with Facebook advertising and want to explore Google AdWords campaigns in the future, but are saving up the budget for it first.   The pet industry is a big one. Market research group IBISWorld says the Australian pet products and services industry earned about $6 billion in revenue last year and has grown by 0.9% each year since 2008.   The industry report also details that over 60% of households own a pet, with over 50% owning either a dog or a cat.

What makes a good accountant for a start-up?

4:50AM | Tuesday, 8 April

What makes a good accountant for a start-up? A lot of them seem to be very focused on the corporate end of town.

$28 billion mobile gold rush: Consumers spend two hours and 19 minutes each day using apps

4:46AM | Tuesday, 8 April

The average smartphone user now uses apps for an average of nearly 11 minutes for each minute they spend looking at a mobile website, according to recent figures from mobile analytics firm Flurry.   The figures show consumers spend an average of two hours and 42 minutes per day on either apps or mobile websites during the quarter to March, up four minutes year-on-year.   Of that time, 86% or two hours and 19 minutes is spent each day on apps, with just 22 minutes spent on mobile websites, down from 20% for the same quarter a year earlier.   The figures suggest consumers are increasingly choosing to interact with online services through apps than through mobile websites.   According to Flurry, consumers are increasingly viewing their mobile web browsers as just another app, rather than as their primary means of accessing online content on their mobiles.   Mobile game apps accounted for 32% of all app or mobile web usage, followed by Facebook (17%), mobile browsers (14%), mobile messaging apps (9.5%), utility apps (8%), entertainment apps (4%) and YouTube (4%).   The Flurry figures echo projections, made in a Gartner report late last year, forecasting the total number of apps download each year would reach 268 billion by 2017, including 253 billion free apps and 14 billion paid apps.   This is a significant increase from the 102 billion apps estimated to have been downloaded in 2013 and 63 billion in 2012.   Gartner’s figures also show total revenue from apps hit $US26 billion ($28.187 billion) worldwide in 2013, up from $US18 billion ($19.5 billion)a year earlier.   Dennis Benjamin from app development firm Appswiz told StartupSmart apps allow for faster and more convenient to access to content than the mobile web.   “Mobile apps allow for ready access to the information you want, at your fingertips 24/7. Combine this with the fact that a range of app features will still operate on your phone without an internet connection (unlike mobile web) and the advantages become clearer,“ Benjamin says.   “Having a mobile app can allow for a choice of alerts to be received, a feature not available from a mobile website. These alerts, for example special offers, time critical messages or updates all build customer engagement.   “Mobile websites in general provide one way communication to the user whereas mobile apps facilitate two way dialogue and engagement.”   Benjamin advises businesses to develop versions of their apps for smartphones running Google Android as well as for Apple iPhones.   “In the third quarter of 2013, Android made up some 81% of devices shipped and now far exceeds the downloads of the Google Play Store compared to the iTunes App Store,” he says.”   Today, just because an executive thinking about an app for their company has an iPhone doesn't mean that most of their customers do – they don't.”

Social media law part three: Can I post whatever I want on Facebook?

4:05PM | Thursday, 3 April

In part one of my series on social media and the law, I looked at the legal implications of launching a startup on social media, and in part two I examined the employment law implications of social media. In this installment, I’ll discuss how to manage your social media.   Do we have specific social media laws in place in Australia?   There is no specific or rules in place for social media. There are some general laws that apply to capture things like false and misleading advertising on social media under Consumer law.   But some Australian laws cannot protect thanks to overseas laws protecting them. For example, the Privacy Act does not cover you for things others may reveal about you in public on social media unless the social media organisation is based in Australia.   However, even then, it does not protect individuals acting “in a personal capacity” so people posting on social media sites in a personal capacity would likely be exempt from the coverage of the privacy legislation.   So what do you need to know and why:   If you have a business, you need to know:   What can you do about individuals writing damaging things on social media? If it’s about your business, it could damage your reputation. In a recent case, (Madden v Seafolly Pty Ltd [2014] FCAFC 30), swimwear company Seafolly sued a woman who claimed on social media that Seafolly copied her designs. They sued for false and misleading advertising, trade libel and copyright infringement. Know about your rights as a business regarding incorrect or damaging posts about you and your products or services on social media so you can protect your reputation. What if individuals post damaging comments on your own business social media channels? A company/business may be liable if they knew or should have known that a statement posted on their social media site is defamatory and if it is not removed. You and your business may be sued for something you didn’t post or write if you don’t have a process in place to monitor and remove offensive or damaging posts. Can I say what I want on Social Media? The argument ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘I am entitled to my own opinion’ doesn’t work anymore. This March, Australia’s first Twitter and Facebook defamation case was awarded $105K to the victim. The former student tried to argue it was his belief that the comments were true and that it was his opinion which he had a right to post. It didn’t work. Now individuals need to be careful and consider before posting what they think.   How to manage your social media   Recognize that you are responsible for what goes up on social media and your own platform. Review your own Terms and Conditions to ensure you can take down and regulate what users post. Get your own copyright ‘house’ in order-ensure you have clear rules and regulations for your employees about sharing, posting and using images and text in your own advertisements and on all social media outlets so you don’t get caught out. Also make sure you register all valued intellectual property with IP Australia. With the growth of the internet, its more important than ever before.   With Bullying, defamation, commercial disputes, copyright infringement, social media challenges will continue to grow and the law will need to keep up. So will we,,,

How one Aussie startup is bringing augmented reality to the web

4:58AM | Thursday, 3 April

Augmented reality (AR) is often understood in terms of wearable technology and device-driven capabilities, but an Australian technology company, buildAR, has built technology to enable it in your browser.   Often thought of as a futuristic play, the augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) markets are expected to grow 15.18% from 2013 to 2018, reaching $US1.06 Billion in 2018, and that’s excluding mobile based AR and non-immersive VR.   It puts some perspective into Facebook’s recent $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift – a VR play in that it creates a virtual world, where AR lets you see the world with more information overlaid on what you’re looking at.   According to TechCrunch, Microsoft is also reported to have bought the augmented reality-related intellectual property of wearable tech company Osterhout Design Group for between $US100 and $US150 million.   What makes buildAR unique is that they are “augmenting the web” and bringing the experience into your browser.   BuildAR founder Alex Young says there was a lot of fragmentation in the app world when it comes to augmented reality, but using it in a browser got around this problem and democratised the technology for everyone.   It has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that makes it possible for anyone to deliver AR using standard Web browsers, but their focus is on utility based applications, particularly in education.   The Kickstarter campaign will allow anyone to “create a project and embed it directly in their webpage as easily as you do with a YouTube video.”   The campaign highlights some of the uses of the technology:   “If you back us as an educator, we'll give you the tools to create experiences such as an AR treasure hunt or historical exploration that'll have your students running around your school or campus having fun while they learn.   “If you back us as a curator, we'll give you the tools to enable your visitors to point their phone at items in your exhibition to unlock extra information that extends your collection beyond what's physically on show.”   The buildAR platform enables anyone to create digital content into the physical world around you by linking it to images, locations and more. When it comes to education this could mean using the technology to bring learning objectives to life.   The technology will work on smartphones and tablets, as well as wearable devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift.   There are limitations in the use of the technology on Apple devices though, something the buildAR team wants to draw attention to, claiming that “commercial decisions made by Apple have put the [iTunes] App Store ahead of their customers”. As Young points out, Apple have consciously decided not to support the latest open web standards.   buildAR have created a demo for their technology to show that how you can run augmented reality within your standard web browser, presenting the "Projects We Love" newsletter as AR images, floating in the real world.   If you open this on a modern Android device using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Opera you'll see a rich combination of augmented reality and the web, which is called the augmented web.   However, if you open the exact same page using an iPhone or iPad, you'll find that it works but that you can only see a very limited user experience.   Young says the company has a much higher profile overseas, than locally, but were committed to staying in Australia if it can. They have also launched some local meetups for those interested in Wearable tech, in both Sydney and Canberra.

Oculus Rift’s sale was a missed opportunity in equity for early backers

4:52PM | Tuesday, 1 April

When Facebook bought virtual reality headset startup Oculus VR for $US2 billion ($A2.15b), it took most people by surprise. It also angered many of the early supporters of the startup, who backed the game on Kickstarter but were not happy with news Facebook had acquired it.   The Oculus CEO said they anticipated a backlash from their core audience, but they were shocked at how extreme some of it went. Founder Palmer Luckey posted a comment in a Reddit stream about the backlash:   “We expected a negative reaction from people in the short term, we did not expect to be getting so many death threats and harassing phone calls that extended to our families. We know we will prove ourselves with actions and not words, but that kind of shit is unwarranted, especially since it is impacting people who have nothing to do with Oculus.”   This Reddit stream details the many of the concerns about the impact the partnership could have on the experience of using Oculus.   The company raised $2.4 million from on the crowdfunding platform before taking $16 million from investors, followed by a further $75 million leading venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.   Part of what Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns thrive on is the engagement and sense of ownership backers get.   As equity crowdfunding takes off, this sense of ownership is likely to continue to be a source of friction, according to Jeremy Colless, a managing partner of Australian online equity crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd.   “At first glance I think it is easy to dismiss the Kickstarter backers of Oculus Rift as being disingenuous, they paid for a product and received it,” Colless told StartupSmart.   “But their frustration isn’t entirely misplaced, as startups have definitely been exploiting crowdfunding platforms as a cheaper and potentially more accessible alternative to raising equity capital from equity investors.”   Crowdfunding campaigns are increasingly used by emerging businesses to get customer validation, exposure and funds to get started. But the backers have no leverage to demand a better deal.   But as its close cousin crowdfunded equity gathers momentum, customer expectations are likely to change. If early backers received equity in an idea, there is little doubt supporters, such as those who backed Occulus VR, would be disappointed.   “The irony of the situation is that as a crowd, the Kickstarter backers could easily demand a greater return for their combined capital contribution,” Colless says.   Greater return ideas could include more significant discounts to a tiny pool of equity set aside for early backers to reward them for support.

Affordable online services for startups

4:14AM | Tuesday, 1 April

Australian start-ups are turning to cheap online services in growing numbers to run their business. Here are eight popular services that save time and money.   1. Fiverr.com   All the services listed on fiverr.com set you back just $5, and include everything from graphic design, online marketing, video and animation and business card design.   This site is hugely popular among Australian business owners, who are prepared to risk a few bucks to see what they can get done at such a low price.   Digital marketing and self-publishing speaker and author Pam Brossman has used the service for transcribing, editing, formatting, book covers, video editing, voice overs, video intros and more and has been happy with the outcome.   “Many entrepreneurs have acquired their full-time contractors from using fiverr.com services. They test their work, turnaround time and professionalism by giving them a $5 job, and then if they deliver exceptional service, they hire them,” Brossman says.   “I really like this service because it’s like a resume of experts out there showcasing their wares.”   2. Hiring a virtual assistant   Hiring a virtual assistant for jobs like updating Instagram eight times a day has been a really cheap and effective outsourcing technique for the founder of fashion and beauty brand Cherry Blooms, Jellaine Ross.   She’s used oDesk and Elance to track down virtual assistants for times when no one was in the office, enabling the business to virtually trade around the clock. There are also a range of virtual assistant websites to help you track down the best person for the job, including virtualcoworker or virtualassistants.com   “You can’t get rich doing minor tasks, and you need a lot of mental power and energy to have a successful business, so I recommend delegating as much as you can to virtual assistants or interns and to be very precious about your energy. Good enough is better than not done when it comes to small tasks,” Ross says.   3. Salmat MicroSourcing   Renovator Store founder and MD Scott Pendlebury talks constantly to his Manila-based web developer and customer service manager from his Victorian headquarters via Skype.   Outsourcing these jobs to people based overseas has saved Pendlebury about 70 per cent of the cost of employing the equivalent people in Australia, enabling him to commit more cash to sales and promotion. Salmat MicroSourcing helped him find the right talent for the job.   “I think there’s a perception that offshoring is about cutting Australian jobs, but really, it’s a great way for small business to start playing in the same space as the big end of town,” Pendlebury says.   Renovator Store is one of about 80 Australian SMEs using the offshore services of Philippines-based Salmat MicroSourcing.   4. Cloud technology   A cloud solution can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your business, and most cost next to nothing. In basic terms, the cloud refers to the ability to access your applications, information and data over the internet via a third-party provider, which means you don’t have the store this information yourself.   Business consultant and publisher of The Big Smoke, Alexandra Tselios, researched individual features, capability and simplicity before opting for DropBox.   “This service allows my team to remotely access our files and ensure that all employees work on the most current document at any one time. It also allows us to share resources without the traditional barriers of time zones or convoluted filing systems getting in the way of service delivery and operations,” Tselios says.   5. PicMonkey   The ability to customise images for social media or to use on your website can be a huge plus for business owners.   The founder of My Kitchen Garden, Alice Faeth, has turned to PicMonkey to create branded images for social media and website graphics, which is completely free. Some of these images have been widely shared on her Facebook page.   Creating these images herself saves a lot, particularly given a graphic designers costs around $120 an hour, which was beyond her budget for jobs like this.   “I still use professionals for material I want to get printed, but I really like being self-sufficient for social media images, especially when you want to capture an idea quickly.   “You can also play around with images and designs without wasting valuable time and money trying to get the right look,” Faeth says.   6. 15five.com   This cloud-based weekly team reporting app has revolutionised internal communications for online wine retailer Vinomofo.com, according to CEO and co-founder, Andre Eikmeier.   The app allows him to create questions for his team each week, which each staffer fills in, allowing him to read and respond.   Eikmeier goes through this process every Monday, which takes just 15 minutes.   “We use it partly to see how people are going in their roles, and partly to understand how they’re feeling generally and to see if there are any issues or obstacles.   “It means little things are getting bought to my attention every week, often before they escalate, and I can action them,” Eikmeier says.   7. Freelancer.com and elance.com   This is a staple site used by many small business owners, particularly to track down freelancers for website development, design jobs, content writing, research and lead generation and sales and marketing, with more than 600 job categories.   According to freelancer.com, Australians are awarding their projects to professionals in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the US, Vietnam, the Philippines, as well as to fellow Australians.   Another great way to track down appropriately experienced freelancers at reasonable rates is via elance, which Business in Heels CEO Jac Bowie relies on for design and programming.   It also appeals because the site also allows for feedback and escrow payments, she says. It’s also worth checking out 99 Designs and DesignCrowd for logo design.   8. Odesk   Having access to a virtual team able to complete tasks in various time differences was a big bonus for Emilia Rossi, co-founder of fashion jewellery store emiliarossi.com.au and second hand wedding classifieds site, capriess.com.au.   Being able to work with a virtual team of graphic designers, web designers, social media experts has been a huge bonus, Rossi says.   “I’ve trialled and tested these services, and know it works,” she says.   A word of advice   While often very cost effective, avoid wasting money on these sorts of sites by following a few rules.   The founder of management advisory business, BRS, Nicole Williams minimises her risk when outsourcing in a number of ways. Firstly, avoid language issues by only giving jobs that require a good grasp of English to people whose first language is English. “Also, I would never outsource anything of high value or importance. There’s always a risk when you outsource anything, and typically you get what you pay for, so your expectations need to be realistic,” she says.   Williams says some freelancers have been fabulous for the first few jobs, but then over time, become less reliable and take a long time to provide what she needs, or don’t respond.   She also admits that she finds long-term relationships much harder to find on these outsourcing websites.   “Make sure you keep track of what software and technology your freelancers have access to, so that if jobs go pear-shaped, you can easily change passwords, so that your content isn’t compromised.”

Cybersecurity: Time to think like a fox to fend off the hedgehogs

3:26AM | Monday, 31 March

A report into cybercrime and stolen data has highlighted the risks for online companies saying that “the ability to stage cyber-attacks will likely outpace the ability to defend against them”.   The Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data report says  “attackers can be hedgehogs (they only need to know one attack method, but do it well) while defenders must be foxes (they need to know everything; not just technical knowledge, but knowledge of networking, software, law enforcement, psychology, etc)”.   It also says big companies will be able to secure themselves and follow new Payment Card Industry Guidelines (e.g. use of chip and PIN systems), "but smaller retailers will be hurt because they may not be able to keep up with these new security requirements imposed on them”.   Drew Sing, platform engineer for Bugcrowd – an Australian startup that offers bounties on behalf of companies to discover website vulnerabilities – says attackers can be beaten by fighting fire with fire – the good guys who think like bad guys.   “By incentivizing security researchers to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities through bug bounty programs, it allows them to utilize their specialized testing skills sets (the "hedgehogs") to help make a company more secure,” Sing says.   “This helps level the playing field against malicious attackers, and has been a successful strategy utilized by companies such as Facebook, Google, and Github.”   The approach has worked for Bugcrowd, which was referenced as a successful example of preventing cyber-attacks at least three times in the cybersecurity report.   Sing acknowledges that smaller companies sometimes don't have the resources to pay bounties, but says that by setting up a responsible disclosure policy, they can still benefit from the knowledge of security researchers without having to provide a sum of money.   “A disclosure policy provides a scope of what can be tested, and gives researchers permission to submit vulnerability information to your company without the fear of legal action,” he says.   It's important to remember security researchers want to help companies, but often aren't offered a simple way to communicate this information.   This necessity was highlighted when 16-year-old Joshua Rogers, a self-described white-hat hacker, found a security hole in the Public Transport Victoria website and reported it to the site.   Rogers hacked the site using an unspecified hacking technique to access a database that held personal data including full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, seniors' card ID numbers, and nine-digit credit card extracts of customers of the Metlink public transport online store.   The site didn't respond, so Rogers reported it to the media, who in turn contacted PTV, who in response reported Rogers to the police.   The increased risk to businesses has also seen growth in the cybercrime insurance industry, with Allianz today launching a cybercrime insurance product and saying that cybercrime costs the Australian economy over $1 billion annually.   According to its research, Allianz says cybercrime moved into the top five risks faced by Australian business in 2014.   The new Cyber Protect insurance product will cover up to $50 million to enable businesses to protect themselves against cyber criminals and data loss.   Insurance expert Allan Manning says cybercrime insurance had been around for a while now, but the Allianz announcement was evidence this was an increasing trend with the cybercrime insurance now a billion dollar industry.   “In the future it will be a standard insurance policy that most companies take out,” Manning says. He mentioned that some policies cover bounty payments for people to find vulnerabilities.   Manning says the costs of the cybercrime insurance were not really prohibitive. He took out a policy for his own business which cost around $3000 for coverage between $300,000 and $500,000.   The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance will release a report comparing the different cyber insurance policies later this year.

Vend’s founder reveals how he scored $22 million from Valar Ventures and Square Peg Capital

3:07AM | Wednesday, 26 March

Point-of-sale software provider Vend today announced an additional $22 million in capital funding led by PayPal co-founder and the first outside investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel of Valar Ventures, and Square Peg Capital.   Vaughan Rowsell, founder and chief executive of Vend, told SmartCompany the software provider will use the new funds to expand its presence in the North American market through new partnerships, resellers, staff and customers across the continent.   “We are in high growth mode and now is the time to really put the foot on the accelerator and continue our growth,” Rowsell says.   “It really enables us to grow our channel, working with point-of-sale retailers in Australia and through channels like Apple, Zero and PayPal.”   Launched in late 2010 in New Zealand, Vend now has offices in Australia and the United States and turned over $5 million last year.   The operating system is used in over 10,000 stores in more than 100 countries but Rowsell has his sights set for further growth using the investment.   “It also allows us to grow our headcount to 20 or so people on the ground in Australia, which allows us to work with much larger accounts,” he says.   Rowsell says Vend was able to secure the funding from Valar Ventures and Square Peg Capital after establishing a relationship with Thiel.   “We’ve been a part of the San Francisco scene for the last three years, we’ve had an office there and I’ve spent a lot of time in the Valley and it is one of the amazing things about that place that everyone is so connected,” he says.   “We’ve been looking for the opportunity to work closely with [Valar Ventures] as they bring a whole lot of expertise in terms of understanding the payments space and helping us unlock the US market.”   Rowsell says the size of Vend’s private capital raising “really validates the big shift in businesses moving to the cloud”.   He claims there is a “resurgence” of independent retailers who have become more competitive against big chain stores by adopting cloud-based point-of-sale software.   “Cloud-based retail in Australia is now going much more mainstream,” Rowsell says.   Vend raised $NZ8 million ($A7.5m) in May 2013, and $NZ3 million between its  first two capital rounds in 2011 and 2012.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Disrupting market research with a crowd gathered from Facebook

3:13AM | Tuesday, 25 March

The idea for Daniel Martin’s second startup emerged from the conversations he kept having with the clients of his first startup.   He watched clients of his social media startup Aston Social struggle to get quality feedback without the investment of cash and time in professional market research companies. And he watched clients coordinate unwieldy social media call outs for feedback.   “I started checking out the market research industry and how it was done,” Martin told StartupSmart. “I realised there was a business opportunity to cut out the research agency and I guess lift the veil.”   After developing his software for 10 months, Martin launched AnswerCrowd in December 2013.   The software-as-a-service platform lets businesses target their questions to particular demographics, locations and numbers. Once the business pays, the questions are sent out to AnswerCrowd’s community of over 7000 Australians.   “We kept it really simple, there are only two clicks to respond and it’s available on every platform so answers come in really fast, and the businesses can see them straight away,” Martin says.   AnswerCrowd will live or die by the quality of the crowd and the feedback its members provide. The critical mass of the first few thousand was recruited via a broad Facebook advertising campaign.   “We thought we’d have to advertise specifically to particular demographics to balance out the crowd, but we haven’t so far,” Martin says. “It’s skewed ever so slightly to women, who make up 53% of the crowd. And the geographical breakdown matches the population spread.”   The crowd is incentivised to answer the questions with each answer being worth a cash value the respondents can claim.   “We thought initially that we would absolutely need the money to keep people engaged, but that’s almost become secondary,” Martin says. “We’ve been impressed by how much people want to be involved in making the products and services they use better.”   The AnswerCrowd team of four are now working with clients from Bunnings to Ganache chocolates.   In late 2013, AnswerCrowd took on $400,000 in capital from an individual investor. Prior to the launch, Martin intended to bootstrap the startup.   “Originally I had no intention of taking funds. I wanted to grow it organically but decided the opportunity was too great to sit on my hands so I decided we should get a fund injection.”   The funds will go towards developing the sales and marketing team to bring on new clients.   They’re also hoping to grow the crowd to 200,000 by the end of the year, but are holding back from growing it immediately to ensure the diversity and comprehensive nature of their current cohort.   “We could double that in four weeks if we needed to but we don’t want to yet as we’ve got a decent cross-section of Australia at the moment so there is little need to grow that at the moment,” Martin says.

Five Quora answers every startup founder should read

3:54AM | Monday, 24 March

Quora is a treasure trove of great advice for entrepreneurs. The Q and A site can be a terrific resource for your own questions, but its real value lies in the expertise thousands of existing answers.   Here are some of the top Quora answers every founder should read.   Q: How do you size up opportunity cost when deciding to start a startup?   Drew Houston, Dropbox cofounder/CEO:   There’s a full post, but here’s the highlights:   A: Rhetoric aside, most successful entrepreneurs I'm aware of either explored their idea and market carefully, or have toyed with a side project that happened to show massive and unexpected early promise and only then evolved formally into a company (Facebook, Google and many others fall into this category). Few were truly "leaps of faith – entrepreneurs tend not to seek out risk but are rather comfortable with uncertainty.   Dropbox got started in my spare time while working at another startup (be careful about properly separating intellectual property and such). My excitement grew quickly as I validated the idea with real people; jumping ship before that would have been unnecessarily reckless.   But it is possible to hedge your bets too much. The Facebook Effect (2010 book) amusingly recounts how Sean Parker begged Mark Zuckerberg to stop working on Wirehog (file sharing concept) as Zuck still wasn't sure this Facebook thing (even then one of the fastest growing websites on the planet) was going to pan out.   Q: What is the perfect startup team?   Bill Gross, CEO of Idealab:   A: The perfect startup needs a complementary team:   It needs a passionate and driven visionary who is the product person.   It needs a capable execution skill that can deliver the product or service against that vision.   It needs the people skills to make sure that the best staff are recruited and retained, and so that conflict in the company is resolved.   It needs administrative skill to make sure as the company grows the wheels stay on. (This skill can come a bit later – it’s not needed on day one.)   These skills do not need to be present in four distinct people, but most often it takes at least two, and usually three or four to lead these areas.   Q: What separates the top 10% of startup CEOs from the rest?   Robert Scoble, Rackspace   There’s a full list, but here is the first:   A: Good at hiring and firing. Whenever you find a really great CEO, you find someone who has a knack for hiring. That means selling other people on your dream or your business, especially when it doesn't seem all that important or seems very risky. I used to work for a CEO who was awesome at hiring, but couldn't fire anyone. It doomed the business. Many of the best CEOs get others to follow no matter what.   Q: What are the early symptoms that a startup is going to fail?   William Petri, serial entrepreneur There’s a full list of 10 great reasons, but here’s the first:   A: No demonstrated user need. For example, consider 3D movies and TV. If you ask people why they sometimes prefer stage to screen, nobody ever says, "Oh, movies are only 2D". 3D tech has novelty value, but even a little user testing would show its pushers that most people are perfectly happy to go back to 2D movies after experiencing 3D, and that many actively avoid 3D. That wasn't the case when sound or colour or fancier special effects were added.   Q: What is the proper definition of a startup?   Dave McClue, Tech investor   A 'startup' is a company that is confused about:   1. What its product is.   2. Who its customers are.   3. How to make money.   As soon as it figures out all three things, it ceases being a startup and becomes a real business.   Except most times, that doesn't happen.

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