Like most entrepreneurs, Josiah Humphrey and Mark McDonald, both 22, are planning world domination, starting with a move to New York as the first international outpost of their start-up and app development empire. Their company Appster was launched in January 2013 and employs over 150 people, including 65 developers in its Indian office. Humphrey will head to New York to set up the office within the month. McDonald will join him later this year, when they plan to also launch a Silicon Valley office. “We want to find a strong start-up scene that needs an execution partner,” Humphrey told StartupSmart. Rather than tapping into markets with fewer developers, they chose two cities with well-developed tech and start-up ecosystems. “We don’t see app developers as competition. We’re more about facilitating the entrepreneur through the whole process, from product strategy to app deployment.” Appster has used virtual offices before, but the co-founders realised the power of the human connection in problem-solving and collaborating. It’ll soon be three offices launched and 39 to go if Humphrey and McDonald – who were named in StartupSmart’s Future Makers list of young entrepreneurs to watch last year – are to reach their goal of 42 offices in the next three to four years. “The 42 offices plan keeps us focused on our bigger vision. The international offices will work as a filtering and searching system to find the best ideas to help develop,” Humphrey says. He adds their biggest challenge will be finding the right people. They’ve hired 150 so far, will be hiring another 36 before April and are hoping to add over 900 developers to their Indian office by the end of the year. “Recruitment needs to become a core competency of ours fast. We’re focusing on getting the right exec as we’re really two kids, we’re just 22,” says Humphrey, adding recruitment is easier now they’re not a brand new start-up. “It’s easier to poach people from the big guys like Google and Facebook now we have the track record and a clear vision.” Another reason for expanding to the United States first is Appster will need to raise capital in the coming year to reach its ambitious goals. The company has been bootstrapped so far. “We’re going to raise once we get over there, because we’re going to have to expand fast. It’s a lot better for us to be over there as there is more finance and more disruptive projects to partner with,” Humphrey says.
Freelancer.com, which became a public company in November 2013, has released its first full year annual report, revealing a net profit of $753,000, up 3% on the previous year. The online freelance marketplace, started by Matt Barrie in 2009, had pre-tax profit of $600,000 and achieved net revenue of $18.8 million, up 77% against the prior corresponding period figure of $10.6 million. It reported its operating net profit was $1.1 million, up 46% from 2012, exclusive of IPO expenses. Freelancer’s gross payment volume was $84.4 million, up 66% on the prior corresponding period. The site’s users increased to 9.7 million. However, Barrie told SmartCompany this morning that figure had already gone over 10 million two months into this financial year. He says the aim is to get to over “one billion users as quickly as possible” on the platform. “There is no reason why all the users of Facebook can’t be on Freelancer,” he says. “We are land grabbing now…getting into new countries…the challenge is how do we get to a billion quickly and be cost-effective.” The site facilitated 5.3 million projects in 2013, up from just over four million in 2012. Barrie says the company is “still in the early days in the space” but shareholders are “very happy” with the inaugural report figures. “We are reinvesting every dollar we made back into the business,” he says. “All of our metrics are improving…we are disciplined and focused on breaking even.” He says the shareholders were supportive of this approach, rather than chasing fast profits. Barrie says in 2013 much investment went into building new product platforms for users, expanding into international markets and acquiring expert staff. “We have opened an office Vancouver, in Manila and our Sydney office is getting too small.” He says the company now has 350 staff internationally. Last week it appointed Daniel Oertli as vice president of products, a former chief executive and co-founder of Roomz. His role will be to head up a global team of product managers and designers. Barrie says that in 2014 the focus will be on scaling up, hiring more expert staff, innovative product development and continuing to reach new territories. It is expanding its range of languages and currency offering. Freelancer floated on November 15 last year, selling around $14.2 million worth of shares, or 6.7% of the company. At the time, Barrie told SmartCompanythis was not going to be an exit plan. “I’m not selling a single share,” he said. “I love this company.” Freelancer is a crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace, offering work in around 600 fields such as website development, logo design, marketing, copywriting, astrophysics, aerospace engineering and manufacturing.
This week was a busy one for Australian start-ups, with two crowdsourced equity platforms launching in Australia and a couple of big discussions taking place online. Israeli-based OurCrowd launched on Monday and Artesian Ventures-backed VentureCrowd launched on Thursday. Our story that received the most comments this week explored why Australian tech start-ups are leaving the country and if we can solve the issues driving them overseas. But it’s not all doom and gloom for Australian government support for start-ups, with supporting start-ups on the agenda and an election issue in South Australia with both parties targeting them. In other investment news, an angel investor warned against quick capital rounds, two start-ups have banded together to offer a start-up scholarship for uni students and a Brisbane start-up won $100,000 at Perth’s West Tech Fest. One of Australia’s leading start-ups, the founders of e-commerce platform Bigcommerce, shared how they had to overcome their fear of taking on external capital and getting big too quickly before they could really take off. In other growth news, this start-up shared how they grew 200% by eschewing a gung-ho entrepreneurial approach to business and heard from a start-up taking on big players in the science lab supplies space. For those looking to grow, we reported on three education opportunities including the return of Melbourne’s only private accelerator AngelCube, Australia’s first ever all-female hackathons and Sydney University’s incubator program announcing its latest intake. We looked to the future and explored three emerging trends that will transform business, and heard from REA’s CIO about why individuals will play a bigger role than ever before. Getting customers was also a theme of this week with some lead generating advice and Facebook’s head of e-commerce shared his top tips for turning followers into return customers. We also explored how to keep the customers you have, with tips on how to master customer service, prevent PR disasters online and why this start-up copped flack for their internship ad.
It’s hard to gauge the return on investment and effort for social media activities, especially when many social media consultants say the focus should be on building communities rather than on making a profit from your followers. Facebook’s head of e-commerce, Stephen Scheeler, told StartupSmart there are a series of misconceptions that hold start-ups and small businesses back from making the most of their social media communities. Focus on individuals rather than mass campaigns The fact your community has a number on it doesn’t mean you should focus on how many followers or get caught up in planning how to reach all of them with each post. “The way to think about your audience on Facebook is not as one big crowd, but as individuals. There are over 9 million Australians on Facebook every single day, but Facebook allows you to break this audience down so that you can focus on talking to the people that matter most to your business,” Scheeler says. Understand Facebook is just one part of the media ecosystem As your target customers move through a densely populated content landscape every day that probably includes other social media platforms, TV, radio and online news, you need to push yourself to genuinely capture people’s attention. “It’s vital to think about your customers on Facebook not in isolation, but in terms of their total media journey throughout the day,” Scheeler says, adding their stats reveal Australians visit the platform on average 14 times a day, but often while watching TV or while doing another task. Know the difference between community building and sales Most business owners know firsthand that even excellent social media engagement doesn’t necessarily equal revenue. Being strategic about the kinds of content you’re sharing and balancing sales drivers with engagement boosters is key. “A lot of small businesses make the mistake of thinking that good content equals a sales pitch. A non-stop flow of information about your products and services, a constant ‘advertisement’, however, is not the best way to engage potential customers,” Scheeler says. While every start-up should include the occasional post about their offerings, smart marketers need to make sure they’re balancing it with interesting and useful information. “The formula for building a following on Facebook is really no different than “traditional” marketing – it’s about creating a compelling story around your product, service and brand, and then connecting with your customers in a way that is relevant to them,” he says. Here are Scheeler’s tips for boosting engagement on your page: Say more with less: When posting Facebook content, keep updates to 90 characters or less. People are more likely to browse short updates, so it’s no surprise that posts following this rule see 60% more engagement. A picture says a thousand words: Engage fans visually by using photos. If you’re stuck on a subject, try snapping pictures of your latest products or personalise the page with pictures of yourself and your workplace. Posts with images receive 120% more engagement than those without. Be searchable: Make sure your business address, phone number and hours are up to date on Facebook. As more users start using Graph Search, a product that enables people to find information through the filter of their friends, having relevant and up-to-date information on your page will help your business be more discoverable. Find the right audience: When sharing a post, make sure you’re targeting the right people. Select the asterisk on the right side of your post to determine the audience receiving it by age and location. Do you own a local floral shop? Use Facebook’s targeting option to drive increased traffic around Valentine’s Day by targeting people in a relationship in your city.
Generating leads is an all-important task for businesses and especially so for solo traders, start-ups and smaller businesses. Too many businesses end up taking a haphazard approach to lead generation, so here are five simple strategies you can use to find quality leads for your business this year. 1. Start with a strategy So many people in business take a scattergun approach to lead generation, going for mass marketing to spread their message, without really knowing if the message is getting through to their target market. Start at the very beginning, and decide who you want to target, advises Peter Griffith, the Asia-Pacific director of training and consultancy firm for businesses, rogenSi. “Determine the look and feel of your ideal customer. Who are they, where do they live, work and play? Also, consider their habits and lifestyle, and think about what they buy and from which companies, how they shop, how they access information and how they make decisions. Also, think about their business and personal needs, and how you help fix these,” he says. The best lead generation technique depends on the company, their industry, the products/services they sell, who they want to sell them to, how they differentiate from competitors and the brand they want to promote, he says. Ask anyone even moderately tech savvy and they’ll tell you there are only two options – search engine optimisation and Google AdWords, he says. 2. Make your website work harder Your company website should be working hard to generate leads for your business, so make sure it’s up to date and has all the bells and whistles. This should be the central hub for all your marketing and lead generation, says Marnie Ashe, head of consulting for Reload Consulting. “Not only will this allow for greater tracking of where your leads come from, what makes them inquire and ultimately what makes them become a customer, but also provides a central point for inquiry, allowing your potential customers’ details to be fed into a marketing database for future use,” Ashe says. Increasing enquiries on your website can be easily achieved by making sure it’s easy to find your contact details, with a phone number on every page a good idea, and your contact page easily accessible from your navigation, she says. “Also, have an enquiry form on every page. The easier it is to enquire, the more chance you have of a prospect inquiring. But keep the enquiry form short and sweet, you can collect more information when you follow up.” Also, consider adding a live chat service to your website, which is like having a friendly sales consultant greet people and offer them live assistance about your service, and can cost around $10 a day. Check out Web Reception or Live Chat Monitoring, which both offer this service. 3. Get social One of the best things you can do for your personal brand and business is to take social media seriously. When done well, building and communicating with your network of followers will build loyalty and trust in your business, and ultimately build sales. A compelling and active LinkedIn profile can also work well to generate new leads, according to Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency, Studio Culture. “There are so many opportunities that people are missing by simply not updating their LinkedIn profiles and networking with other business owners or potential customers on the platform,” he says. Catriona Pollard, director of Sydney’s CP Communications agrees, saying LinkedIn is without a doubt the best place for b2b lead generation. “A basic account on LinkedIn will allow you to build relationships and maintain contacts, as well as give you a lot of transparency into your extended professional network. You can generally contact your first degree and second degree connections using LinkedIn InMail, even if you don’t have their email address,” Pollard says. By upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, you can contact people outside of your network and gain further insights into who is viewing your profile, she says. “You can also directly target new leads using LinkedIn’s advanced search, which allows you to drill down and filter people by role type, company or industry, leading to high quality leads.” Facebook is another great tool. Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound suggests offering a free report on your Facebook business page to get people into your sales funnel. “Make sure that whatever you are offering is really useful and alleviates some sort of pain for your target market, such as ‘5 biggest mistakes people make when starting out in business’, or ‘how to get your baby sleeping through the night’, for example. There’s lots of software out there to help you do this, such as lead pages,” Pollard says. 4. Do the little things Understanding why and how you help people, and focusing on what problems you’re solving for them and how you solve them is paramount, says Frances Pratt, who explains sales to non-sales people. “Use this information to get your message out there. This should be the central thing you talk about in your advertising and promotions. Use this information to tell them about what you do and to ask questions when you’re meeting people,” Pratt, of Metisan says. Also, always ask for repeat business, she says. Once you’ve got something great for someone, ask if there’s something else you can help with. “It’s amazing once you have achieved something, how people will open up with more problems that they need help with.” Also, make sure you’re talking to the right people, who have the budget and power to spend with you. “So many business owners spent time on people who aren’t the decision maker, or aren’t willing to pay, which is a huge waste of time and energy,” she says. Businesses should shake their approach up a bit. Replicate what works 80% of the time using lead generation sources that have previously proven to lead sales. But 20% of the time, be inventive and try new lead sources, recommends Susanne Mather, executive director of Employment Office. “One example in the recruitment sales business is that 80% of the time, we source leads from recruitment advertising, calling businesses that are advertising for staff themselves. “But 20% of the time, we do things like take photos of the tent lists in the foyer of CBD high rise buildings and cold call them all. Or take photos of the logos on the sides of buildings and trucks when we’re out and about, and cold call these,” Mather says. 5. Get serious about content management It’s crucial to have a robust content management system as a place to conveniently store, manage and access both new leads and leads you’re revisiting, says Mather. Every team member at Employment Office starts the day with exactly 20 new leads entered in the CMS, which are sourced from a variety of channels, no excuses, she says. “It’s important for lead generation to be a carefully thought out part of the sales process, and it needs to be executed with consistency. “Investing in a program that really works for your business is something you will thank yourself for again and again, and has the capacity to repay the initial expense many times over.” Once you’ve got a great way to manage your leads, adopt the ‘find, wash, enter’ process, This refers to finding leads strategically and consistently, washing leads to make sure they’re not being approached by colleagues and entering those leads into a content management system so they are easily accessible and manageable, she says.
If you’re like many entrepreneurs I know, you are sick to death of hearing: “You just need to increase your marketing budget!” Unfortunately the default response to declining results is to spend more. What rot. The simple answer is don't spend money on marketing that depreciates in the first place. If you need to reach into your pocket next week to get the same “hit”, you are on a slippery slope. It will be increasingly hard to get the same results, which means you will be forking over more and more money, but spinning your wheels and getting no traction. The litmus test is: Will your marketing be around next month? If it won’t be around, don't do it. Your Google Ads, Facebook ads and banner ads won’t be around once you put your credit card away. In fact, anything where you are renting attention will vanish as soon as the money runs dry. Invest in enduring marketing In contrast, invest in marketing that will be around tomorrow, next week and next year. For example, write an article and post that on your blog because that blog post will still be there next month. Create a YouTube video or release an e-book because these will still exist in six months’ time. Good marketing investments appreciate in value The blog article that you posted last month is likely to be more valuable today than it was when you published it. If people have tweeted it, it will have more social proof than it did the day it went live. It someone’s linked to it, it will have more authority than it did the day it went live and it someone has left a comment, then it will enrich the content and add value to the reader’s experience. All these factors increase the value of that blog post and you can see how it compounds over time. The more you publish sustainable content the more you’ll be creating a marketing asset that appreciates in value. If you pour money into marketing that depreciates, you will be chasing your tail until your money runs out. Be the owner not the renter Many marketers are hooked on the quick-fix of renting attention, but then struggle because there is nothing left to show for it at the end of the day. My experience suggests that focusing on being the publisher (owner) is infinitely better approach than being the advertiser (renter). Publish your own content, be generous, help people and your audience will grow. Then you can communicate with them for free anytime you like. This is what building a marketing asset is all about. The Web Strategy Planning Template helps you visualise and plan your marketing asset.
Launching a business is always hard work but it’s even more of a whirlwind when you have a new baby. Despite the extra challenge, entrepreneur Chloe Brookman says new mums should seize the opportunity of flexible time and a period of change and just go for it. “If you wait for every element to be in order before you start then you will be waiting a very long time. Get started. Launch right now,” she says. “Launching a new business while being a full-time mum is hard work, I'll be the first to admit it. But it's so very doable as many women have shown, it's just a matter of being passionate, organised and focused.” Brookman founded baby furniture company Olli Ella in 2010. They now distribute across the world to a wide range of retailers and directly. She shared her top five tips with StartupSmart below. 1. Don’t fret about the perfect business plan A new business is a lot like a new baby. You may understand what it could entail but it’s not until you’re dealing with the day-to-day challenges and changes that you get a feel for what you’re nurturing. “A business plan is just that: a plan. We never did one, and I think that this one of the factors that has enabled us to propel our brand; we were completely flexible,” Brookman says. 2. Set goals to stay nimble and sharp Setting goals in six month batches helps an evolving start-up stay nimble and on target. “We knew where we wanted to be in the next six months and once we got there, we reassessed and set loose goals for the next year,” Brookman says. “A very basic plan with an outline of your business vision, goals and next steps is all you really need, that is unless you are going to be asking for outside investment.” 3. Start small and self-fund if you can Once you take on investors, your flexibility is limited by external expectations that need to be met. “If you can, self-fund your business venture without seeking outside investment,” Brookman says. “Have a look at your business, a good honest look and you will see that doing it yourself is actually doable.” Olli Ella chose to manufacture their products locally to make it more manageable. “We had two options: to manufacture overseas in high volumes, low cost but with large profit margins for us. This would involve hefty start-up capital, a warehouse, costly trips overseas – the list goes on. Our other option was to manufacture locally in small volumes, high cost and low profit margins for us. We opted for the latter,” she says. 4. Build the right community around you For new business owners, surrounding yourself with the right advisers is the most important thing you can do. “Whether or not you are an expert in your field or, as in our case, are entering a new field in your new business, you will need advisers. Speak to as many people as you can who are experts in their field, write out a list of questions, and sit down with these experts and pick their brains,” Brookman says. Developing a supportive community goes beyond just advisers. It should also include a network of business owners. “Navigating the launch of a new business is daunting at best; it's unknown waters and can be very lonely, even when working with a business partner. To help combat this start your own network of fellow female entrepreneurs; these can be people that you know, meet at networking events, or find through Gumtree or Facebook,” Brookman says. She adds that keeping the group to fewer than 10 people and meeting monthly creates a sustainable approach. 5. Learn from your mistakes “This is the greatest adventure that you are about to embark on. Love the lows as much as the highs, welcome mistakes because you will grow from them.”
I’m starting a new retail business and I’m not very techy. Can I survive without having to adapt to all this modern day hoo-ha? Once in a generation, retail goes through a change that could never have been predicted – and cannot be ignored. Here are a few examples of such change: In 1984, we rushed into the shops on Saturday morning knowing that if we didn’t buy what we needed by 12pm, we wouldn’t be able to shop again until Monday morning… Very few of us would have believed Sunday would become the second biggest trading day of the year for most retailers just 30 years later. In 1954, supermarkets as we know them today didn’t exist, with 90 cents of every dollar spent at a small, independently owned business... Very few of us would have believed that just 60 years later, they would take 80 cents in every dollar spent on consumable goods. In 1904, horse feed, rum, coffee, coal and clothing was all purchased at the same store, usually on an account or “appro” (on approval)... Very few of us would have believed that up to 80% of purchases would be spent on a plastic debit or credit card just one generation later – some of it by just touching the card against a pole. In 2014, any retailer that says online shopping, e-tailing, retail-apps, or social networking is just a trend they can do without may well be reminded of the above. Today’s generation research product and price on the web, read online forums for tips where to shop, use mobile apps to find a coffee or clothing (and maybe even horse feed), pre-pay with PayPal, and use their phone to store their ‘frequent coffee’ credits. Facebook is The Argus of today (look it up kids), Instagram is the Christmas catalogue that was once stuffed in the mailbox, Twitter is today’s radio advert telling you that 20% off all stock starts in 15 minutes, and blogging has just about replaced ‘word-of-mouth’ as the best way to give and get feedback on good service or a yummy muffin! So before you think we are in the middle of a short-lived trend, think again about the once-in-a-generation paradigm shift that is really going on – with or without us! My suggestion: bring your kids, nieces, nephews, friends and staff around for a BBQ, and pick their brains as to how to adapt, sustain, evolve and grow your business by being a part of the new world that has emerged. To answer your specific question: Can you survive? Of course, you can ‘survive’ – the way a weed manages to survive in the cracks of the footpath for far too long. But you won’t thrive in the way the manicured and well-fed garden bed thrives growing right next to the same footpath!
No matter how fast your start-up is growing and how impressive your download stats are, if you want to build a thriving and sustainable business you need to focus on developing active, repeat users. Event coordinating software start-up Attendly’s “founder apprentice” Michael Calle has been working in marketing and user acquisition for years, first in a digital agency and then as a freelancer for a range of Melbourne start-ups. “A lot of start-ups focus on getting users in, which distracts start-ups from retaining them. But without a strategy to keep your customers or users on board, you’re dead in water,” Calle says. He shared the top three tips he learned on the customer acquisition frontline with StartupSmart. The first impression matters most and tutorials or guides are key While start-up budgets are almost always tight, scrimping on investing in onboarding processes such as guides or video tutorial is never worth it. “It’s really important to be very clear about what the user will do next. If it’s not immediately obvious and you haven’t been helped through the process, that’s an issue and you can probably just say bye to that user,” Calle says. He says supporting users through their first experience of the product through video or animated tutorials or guiding comments will boost retention from the very beginning. Reach out to users after their first experience Whether a user found you via search, a free offer or personal networks, it’s important to follow up with them shortly after they finish with your product to encourage them to try it again. Calle says he’s modelled a couple of campaigns on start-ups such as car hire group Uber or payment gateway Stripe, which use free or trial offers to attract new users to the product and then follow up comprehensively. “Once you’ve got an activated user, you want to make the re-engagement process seem as organic as possible. Automating emails, asking feedback or with the follow-up offer or both, is a great way to encourage them back,” Calle says. He adds start-ups are increasingly using an email framed as a “personal letter from the CEO” as a way to re-engage users and build their loyalty to the start-up. Recognise the value ex-users can provide and don’t stalk them “If you’ve already burned through a range of users, it’s really hard to get them back and it’s almost not worth the effort,” says Calle. “You’d need a very compelling offer, either a big discount or introducing a new feature these users said they needed.” But just because they’re probably not going to use the app or product again doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Calle says one of the most revealing campaigns he’s ever run for a client was a recent one for Attendly, where they exported emails of ex-users and contacted them through Facebook to ask for their feedback on why they stopped using the service. “Not too many re-engaged with the product, but we got a lot of really interesting feedback we’ll keep using as we iterate the product,” Calle says.
Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network. 1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs. In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”. 2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer. 3. Paper has just launched Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources. “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states. 4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter. “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.” Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother. 6. It’s set to compete with Google Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have. He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant. Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google. 7. Users are a devoted bunch Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours. 8. Facebook is targeting developing countries Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson. The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones. Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking. He has described early tests as “promising”. 9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”. “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review. Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction. 10. It’s king of social referred traffic Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report. But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.
StartupSmart received over 100 entries to be part of its So You Think You Can Start-up pitching competition.
Have you ever let someone else use your tablet? Perhaps you’ve been concerned they could pry through sensitive personal information you’ve saved on websites or your bookmarks? If so, the latest version of Firefox for Android smartphones and tablets has a new feature called private guest browsing you should try. This feature runs a ‘special’ session of Firefox that allows your guest to view websites and pages while preventing them from looking through your personal accounts on websites such as Facebook. To start a private guest session, just tap on the menu button: When the menu pops up, tap on the Tools menu, and then the New Guest Session option: Now it’s safe to let someone else use your tablet– without them prying through your private accounts!
In the internet world of accelerating change, law reforms are being proposed and passed at breakneck speed. Much of the focus in Australia is on risk management as the internet is difficult to monitor and regulate. But with many disputes coming from overseas business sites, Australia is looking to the global initiatives in many of their proposals. Plus there is a large increase in online Australian businesses expanding offshore so it hard to ignore what’s going on in the rest of the world, especially if it may affect your business. Be prepared and plan ahead by watching out for some of the upcoming trends: 1. Privacy laws Privacy requirements for your business have and continue to be in the forefront of most western countries. The onus is now on business owners to ensure they know what their service providers are doing with respect to keeping and sharing your customers and business data both on and offshore. As well, you will need to be able to answer to both customers and regulators on the security measures your website ‘providers’ have in place for collection, storage and transmission of business and personal information. (More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website.) 2. Cookies policies and active notifications Notification requirements are being reviewed and regulation is making more business owners obtain active consents where certain customer information is collected and customer behavior is recorded. This means you need to know when you need your customer to actively agree to your terms rather than just post them on your website. It will also impact what your business collects, why you collect it and what you do with it. And if you are collecting information from cookies placed on your visitors or customers computers, be sure to notify them and actually be using it in your business analysis-otherwise you may find yourself breaching other laws such as the new Australian Privacy Principles. 3. Copyright reform Make sure you know where your content and images come from. This is becoming an increasingly monitored (and complained about) issue with the increase in ‘sharing’ in social media. The Australian Law Reform Commission report and recommendations to the Attorney General on this reform should be made public in March 2014 – watch this space. 4. New cyber security laws The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are trying to work on new policies to address cyber crime. The EU is working on reforms to get member countries to agree to have compulsory reporting of cyber attack crimes to national authorities. They want to have an arrangement that countries will give up nationals who commit such crimes against EU or US but this is meeting some resistance. All in all, a good initiative to protect your business! Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Data collection After the NSA fiasco and issues with Facebook and Twitter tracking individual’s preferences and behaviour, there is and will be more regulation in relation to tracking systems, particularly those permitted by large tech companies. Opting out of tracking will be more and more difficult as larger corporates will look to improve their ability to collect personal data for advertising databases. Singapore has already instituted legislation of which the main provisions come into effect in July 2014. The US announced through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs new data collection tool regulation to be proposed and the International Association of Privacy Professionals (a body that represents 83 countries and makes gov’t recommendations) has cross border/international online protection at the top of their conference agenda in April 2014. What does this mean for you? It will be harder to protect yourself and your customers’ information online. You are responsible for protecting your customer’s information so your security systems and those of your service provider will need to be robust particularly where international providers or customers are involved. 6. More Local Regulation for Online Businesses Australian regulators are hitting out as business use of the internet grows. Everything from tax collection, legislation compliance, consumer protection and privacy are all on the radar among some of the other legislative changes that are continuing to be examined in 2014. You can be sure that tax revenue will be top of the agenda! The best thing you can do is to be sure you are always updated and keep informed. You cannot afford to ignore it nor leave yourself and your business exposed. Your assets and your business are at stake. 7. Online businesses to be targeted for taxes in other countries With growth in sales at bricks-and-mortar shops shrinking, and purchasing on the internet growing daily, governments are looking to find ways to tap into the sales revenue. By 2017 global mobile commerce transactions will exceed US$3.2 trillion up from $1.5 trillion in 2013 (source: Juniper Research, Mediabistro). Be aware of the tax reform proposals where your online business has customers-you don’t want to be caught out. 8. Crowdfunding This new innovation is virtually unregulated so far in Australia and is growing faster than any other funding source for businesses. It’s making entry costs for individuals who want or have started businesses more feasible – it’s becoming a global way of accessing funding. Watch out for this new way that businesses are finding investors to help them grow. Don’t fall behind with your online business. Like any business, large or small, change is happening fast and you need to keep up with it.
The year of mobile and accessing Gen Y’s secret weapon: Telstra exec on how start-ups can make the most of 20141:51PM | Sunday, 19 January
This year is one of opportunity for start-ups and tech enabled small businesses able to navigate and exploit the rapid shift to mobile, says Will Irving, group managing director of Telstra Business. Irving says the move to mobile is a trend Telstra is well aware of, as they’ve been investing in their mobile capacity such as developing their 4G networks significantly over the last few years. In 2013, they invested an additional $1.2 billion in mobile capacity. “Businesses will start to see the benefit of investing in mobile technology, from professional services side and even in retail, being able to do valuable work anywhere will be a big productivity gain,” Irving says. “If you run a small business you are the business. So if you’re not here the business isn’t working.” Not only do mobile technology and the cloud boost productivity for business owners, mobile is also increasingly how consumers search and interact with brands, so businesses need to invest in mobile-ready websites. “The pace of investment in mobile across the board is incredible,” Irving says, adding the biggest uptake of tablet devices are among those over 45. “The demand is just so big and growing.” Irving says a big opportunity for start-ups and small businesses to boost their sales in 2014 is in mobile-enabled sites and social media. “Social media is a very cheap and effective way to tap into the mobile trend and reach your most loyal customers on it. It’s no longer just teenagers hanging out together,” Irving says, adding that this latter group is actually the smartest way to access the potential of social media promotion. “Gen Ys are incredibly powerful employees to spread messages and brands because they’re so well connected to each other and so comfortable online,” Irving says. The power of social media is especially exciting for start-ups, who tend to favour more organic approaches to marketing and recruitment. “Who you hire in small business is much more a function of someone who knows somebody than it used to be. This is true for vendor relationships and eventually customers too. Today, word of mouth could almost be called word of Facebook or Instagram,” Irving says.
Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has praised the potential for crowdfunded equity and said more needed to be done to encourage innovative companies, during a question and answer session on Facebook. Turnbull is touring leading start-ups in San Francisco. He conducted the session from Facebook’s Menlo Park offices. The 15-minute conversation can be seen here. “We need to do more to encourage innovative companies in Australia . . . an obvious area is rectifying the anomalous treatment of employee shares and options in Oz,” Turnbull wrote. “There is a lot of potential for crowdfunding-type models for aggregating venture capital. We need to think laterally on this critical issue.” Crowdfunded equity is an increasingly popular discussion in the Australian tech start-up ecosystem with the success of international platforms such as Israel-based OurCrowd becoming better known. OurCrowd founder John Medved said in October that Australia had “huge potential and room for growth in Australia” at an event on the emerging opportunity. “The people here in Australia have courage, they’re quirky and interesting. You’ve got a lot of money and everything going for you. When I come back here in five years, I reckon you’ll be a completely different ecosystem,” Medved said. VentureCrowd, an Artesian-backed platform to enable Australian crowdfunded equity, launched in December. Artesian managing partner and co-founder of VentureCrowd, Jeremy Colless, said the approach would enable more individual investors to be part of start-up opportunities. “This will help attract and retain a new generation of savvy tech investors who have been prevented in the past by the clubby nature of venture capital or the high hurdles in the space.” The previous federal government announced a review of the regulatory issues around employee share schemes and equity crowdfunding last year. A discussion paper on crowdfunded equity was released by the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee in September 2013. CAMAC deputy director Vincent Jewell told StartupSmart they were taking a “clean sheet” approach to the process and were anticipating considerable input given the interest in the area. “It’s a very active area that’s attracting lots of interest. We know there are people out there wanting to make use of these options, and there is an eagerness to raise funds through crowdfunding. The enthusiasm and frustration with the legal impediments at the moment means I think there will be enthusiasm to have some input into the process,” Jewell says. The next stage in the review process is the release of a report based on the submissions. A team member at CAMAC told StartupSmart this morning they have “no time or date for the release of the report as yet”.
Now, in the New Year, I can admit it: 2013 sucked and I’m glad it’s over. For the first eight months, I ran around the US trying to launch a start-up on no budget, build a product, raise capital, and run the team back in Sydney – all simultaneously. I was exhausted; sometimes I wondered whether the business or I would make it. Occasionally, I was so stressed that I was paralysed – unable to muster energy or focus to move. I asked myself repeatedly – why am I doing this to myself? Why can’t I get a normal job like normal people where I could go home at the end of the day and actually get some sleep! Well I’m happy to report that, in 2013, Posse and I didn’t die and that the year ended well. Yet throughout the year, ‘stress’ was my constant, unwelcome companion. I can’t help but wonder; am I more stressed than everyone else, and what is the underlying cause of this stress? How can I eliminate it in 2014? If you knew me personally, you’d discover I’m an exercise-obsessed, non-caffeine, virtually non-alcohol drinking, twice daily meditating, vegan, yogi. But I’m not about to preach stress-management techniques; thousands of articles tell us how to reduce the effects of stress. I’ve read many of them and, as you can tell by my controlled lifestyle, take on each suggestion with zest and commitment. This summer holiday I’ve been wondering; what are the causes of my stress? In 2014, I’ll address these causes, rather than adding more stress-control techniques. I’ve run out. Before revealing my thoughts about my own stress, I’ll share the conversation I had with my friend Chris over brunch this past Saturday morning. Chris works for an advertising agency in the city and he’s having trouble at work. Chris is a mid-level manager who runs a sales team for the agency. His boss in Melbourne just placed a family friend in his team who, rather than reporting to Chris, has been hired to co-lead the team and report directly to the manager. Chris is stressed because the new woman with whom he’s supposed to be working is becoming obstructive, undermining him to the team, and badmouthing him to the boss. Because they have a personal relationship, he can’t address the problem. He’s terrified he might be fired and lies awake at night, angry and frustrated. He looks worn out and I’m worried about his health. I’ve long assumed that being an entrepreneur with so much responsibility and risk, surrounded by uncertainty, must be more stressful than having a job. But even after my tumultuous 2013, when I look across the table at Chris, he may be a lot more stressed than I am. Can we access the key causes of stress? Instead of managing them, would it be possible to remove them from life altogether? Obviously, I’m not a doctor or psychologist. But as I sit at the kitchen table of my parents’ house on holiday, these are my thoughts. Control A lot of my stress comes from feeling out of control. Suppose I’m waiting for a funding round to close and a key investor goes silent. I feel there is nothing I can do and lie awake at night, heart thumping, waiting for an email. Chris is stressed because he can’t control his co-worker and her vindictive behaviour. He lies awake fretting about what she’s going to do next. Control is one area where we entrepreneurs have it much better. Sure, it’s stressful when we have to rely on other people, but there’s usually something we can do about it. The next day we can scope out new investors or cut costs. We’re never at the mercy of someone else. Chris feels as if he’s out of control but he’s a talented, hard working guy; he could always quit and find another job. To remove ‘control’ as a stress factor I must remember that I’m ultimately in control. There are always other opportunities. Expectation Another major cause of stress comes from worrying that things won’t work out the way I’d hoped. Much of the pain that I experience, lying in bed waiting on an investor to email, comes from a future I’ve created in my head – a future where our investment round closes smoothly – a future that may not exist. This feeling is similar to grief. When I suffered the loss of someone very close to me, much of the pain was for the loss of a future I’d imagined. I think it’s healthy to hope for an investment round to close or for a product to take off, to plan and work towards those goals. But I also think it’s important to remember that the future hasn’t arrived. The only thing that’s for sure is now. Perception Last year, I wrote a post about professional jealously. I was flooded with emails and Facebook messages, so obviously it struck a chord with many people. I find it difficult to avoid comparing myself to other people or worry about what others think of me. I know this is pointless, but it’s very hard to stop. When I compare myself to others, it always leaves me thinking that something’s wrong with me, which knocks my self-confidence. And it’s crazy to worry about what others think of me because no one actually cares much about what I’m doing. Everyone has their own stuff going on. The world is big and I am small. Self-esteem I’ve been thinking about self-confidence this holiday and it struck me; I might not have as much as I’ve thought. Often, people who seem the most confident externally (like entrepreneurs) are, behind it all, the least. They just act confident to compensate for that voice inside their head that tells them they’re not good enough. Self-esteem and self-confidence – that’s a whole other issue. I’ll write about that later. I do believe that, through cultivating a deep sense of self-belief, I could kill stress entirely. Stress is an invisible energy drain; it wears us down. It doesn’t matter if you’re a struggling start-up entrepreneur like me or you have a corporate job like Chris. We all suffer. With so much opportunity out there in the world, I want all the energy I can have. This year, rather than work on ways to manage stress, I’m going to address its root causes. Then I’ll be able to relax my stress-reducing routines and have a bit more fun as well.
Online hotel distribution company SiteMinder has received $US30million from Technology Crossover Ventures, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has also invested in Facebook, Expedia and Netflix. SiteMinder co-founder and chief executive Mike Ford told StartupSmart their experience and this breakthrough was a sign of the considerable increase in attention Australian tech start-ups are now receiving from major US venture capital firms. “There has definitely been an upsurge in interest from the US funds. When we raised our series A round ($5.5million from Bailador) just 18 months ago, the US market didn’t seem as interested. But several funds have reached out since then, which is exciting for the Australian tech company community,” Ford says. Launched in 2006, Ford says SiteMinder was bootstrapped and built on only $2 million of angel investment for the first six years. After their series A round in 2012, they began to grow rapidly. In 2013 they grew by 70% and processed over $5 billion in booking revenue for more than 11,000 clients. With its head office and 105 staff in Sydney, 70 in the United Kingdom and 12 in Bangkok, Ford says their major challenge in global expansion has been overcoming how far away Australia can seem to international hotel power players. “The challenge of going global with our technology was getting people over the idea we’re sitting on an island somewhere. To establish a global brand from Australia took a bit of work. We had to plonk ourselves down right in the middle of those markets, so we could turn up and show face,” Ford says. The funds will be used for product development, as well as consolidating and growing their global presence, entering the US market and setting up an office in Dallas. “Dallas is the last piece in the puzzle of our ‘follow the sun’ strategy,” Ford says. “Our target market is global accounts, so we’ve got all kinds of time zones and language to contend with. Between our three offices and now Dallas, we’ll be available 24/7.” SiteMinder launched its series B fundraising round last year to ensure it could grow quickly in the coming years, despite having surplus capital. “We hadn’t burned all the Bailador cash, but we decided to bring the money on now because the next two years are the critical point in hotels adopting this kind of technology,” Ford says. “Several consumer booking applications are pushing quite aggressively into the US market, and hotels are rapidly adapting to this tech and we want to be front and centre of that movement.” In a statement, TCV general partner David Yuan praised Australia’s entrepreneurial community tackling global business opportunities. “Australia has a wealth of pragmatic entrepreneurs who are attacking global markets with compelling products and SiteMinder is a great example of this,” he says. “We have been following SiteMinder for a number of years and have been impressed with the company’s rapid growth, market-leading product development, and a strong, talented team. As a pioneer, SiteMinder’s culture of innovation is unparalleled. We are excited about this partnership and look forward to working with SiteMinder in continuing its global expansion.” This is TCV’s first investment in an Australian company.
Businesses using Gmail now have access to a whole new contact base, as Google allows Gmail users to directly email any of their Google+ connections. Google lets users opt out of the function, however, the new default setting lets individuals or businesses email “anyone on Google+”. However, it doesn’t provide businesses with endless opportunities to spam consumers. Businesses or individuals can only email strangers once using the new feature, unless the person then replies, or adds them to their circles. This said, Seedling Strategy director Shu Yap told SmartCompany it does provide businesses with new opportunities. “Google+ is basically Google’s version of Facebook, which also really helps businesses with their search engine optimisation… I still see Facebook as being more predominant, but it will have some additional benefits,” she says. “I’m always amazed by how clever email marketing is these days when it’s done well. It can get very annoying… but when done well it’s a really clever form of communication.” Yap says if emails are targeted and displayed well, people like receiving useful information. “People actually want to receive information which is relevant to them, even if it is uncanvassed or from someone who they didn’t opt-in to receive emails from,” she says. “Lots of platforms now exist which help businesses be relevant and helps them integrate information into emails for time poor people.” If businesses can perfect their email marketing strategy, the new Gmail feature could help them expand their customer base, especially as the social network’s user numbers continue to grow. Yap says it can be difficult for small businesses to “get their head around” the number of social media sites now in existence. “In some regards I feel the social media world is getting so saturated …I think it will be the widgets which will be more popular than the actual channels themselves,” she says. “As more platforms come on board it gets more confusing for small business owners, there will be more of a market for tools which can integrate and streamline this information for the time poor.” Yap says social media is challenging for small business owners because many don’t have the resources to employ someone full-time to manage it. “They’re their own IT, marketing and finance departments. Unless they’re very savvy it’s challenging. But the ones which are adopting it in an industry conducive to their product and services have found great results… although it does depend on the business and its audience,” she says. “One consideration is how the legal system and spam legislation is going to change to account for social media. How it’s controlled and policed will be something to consider in the future.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany.