“Don’t leave us”: Mark Carnegie launches second pitching comp to keep Australian startups here

3:52PM | Sunday, 23 March

Venture capitalist Mark Carnegie will host a second live pitching event for 10 startups and a host of investors in early May in a bid to connect local startup talent to the capital they need to stay in the country.   After last week’s public conversations about Australia’s startup funding, Carnegie told StartupSmart he was bringing together investors for a pitch evening to try and get bigger cheques going to young companies who may otherwise have to head overseas.   “We know companies hit a funding wall,” Carnegie says. “For a whole lot of companies it’s a not a problem because they get funded in the US, but I reckon it’s a huge issue for Australia because most of our promising companies move offshore to get the funding they need.”   The event will put 10 startups in front of a room of private investors and funds.   Carnegie and Co investment consultant Zachary Midalia told StartupSmart they’re looking for the next “gazelle” company, as defined by a McKinsey Global Institute report.   Defined as a high-growth company increasing its revenue by more than 20% each year for four years, the report found there about 8,000 such companies worldwide with just over 2% (180 companies) in Australia   Carnegie and Co have put no restrictions on the industries startups are operating in.   “The next massive startup idea is going to come out of left field,” Carnegie says. “The fact is eBay started with people selling beanie babies and Facebook started as a rich person’s MySpace. So we are not going to say we’re predisposed to anything.”   Two startups were crowned at the last Carnegie’s Den pitching event, one by the people’s choice and one by the judging panel.   Online cattle trading platform Cloudherd got the judges nod, while farmer to chef connection platform Food Orbit took out the People’s Choice.   Carnegie says the judges picked CloudHerd because it would bring significant efficiencies to a large addressable market that was mired in industry inertia.   Applications for the next Carnegie’s Den close on March 28.

Social media and the law: Starting your business on Facebook does not exempt you from the law

3:57AM | Friday, 21 March

Facebook is a great, inexpensive way to test interest for your startup idea and to informally promote your business. But just because you are starting your business on Facebook does not mean you are exempt from legal or regulatory requirements.   The law still applies   You still need to comply with Australian regulations even if you start your business through social media.   Just because you are starting your business on Facebook, other social media or even setting up a shop via one of the large online shops, does not mean you don’t need to comply with the Australian regulations, including consumer law.   You not only need to ensure you comply with your chosen social media channel’s own terms of use for your ad and promotional campaigns but also all the Australian rules, regulations, industry codes and standards relating to advertising, privacy and all things consumer law related.   Otherwise you may be fined or without a business at all. Last year, Bendon did a promotion encouraging people to upload photos of themselves and their best friends (in Bendon lingerie) to win a prize on Facebook. This was quickly shut down by Facebook and considered a breach of ethical code.   There is no special or specific law yet relating to social media in Australia. Despite this, it is covered by general consumer law, rules, regulations and contained in advertising and industry codes and we are beginning to see cases in court which will form the precedents for new regulations.   Social media terms and conditions protect them not you   Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are increasingly being recognised as legitimate marketing tools. All the social networking sites along with the large shopping e-commerce platforms such as Etsy, Big Commerce and Amazon all have terms and conditions-but they protect them and not you.   And if you read the terms carefully, you will see that you are actually indemnifying them for any claims, litigation or issues that an individual may have with any content associated on your account site. This is true even if you didn’t put it there yourself.   Did you know Facebook owns your customer list?   Facebook is a great way to start a business and access a large customer base. But did you know Facebook owns your customer list? They can close your Facebook page at any time without notice and overnight and your business is gone. They don’t need a reason. This is one reason why you should consider setting up a website ASAP with your goods and services and reading their terms of service.   Minimize your risk   You are responsible for all content on your website and social media accounts.   Don’t make ‘over-statements’ or claims on your Facebook or other social media pages that you wouldn’t make in any other type of advertising. Monitor your social media pages and remove any posts or advertisements that may be false, misleading or deceptive as soon as you become aware of them. This is what the ACCC would expect you to do with any other type of advertisement and they expect it on social media as well.   And don’t allow others to make misleading claims or defamatory comments on your website or social media. You are responsible for posts or public comments others make on your social media pages also.   You should establish clear ‘house rules’ that apply to the actions of your fans, friends and followers when using your social media pages. These rules should be prominent on your social media pages. You then need to block users who breach those rules.   There are no specific or different consumer laws or rules in place for social media. Consumer protection laws which prohibit businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive claims about their products or services have been in place for decades. These laws apply to social media in the same way they apply to any other marketing or sales channel.

Get started on a new business with this one day action plan

3:11AM | Tuesday, 25 March

This is an action plan to get a new business started. As long as it stays is in your mind and not in the world, your business will stay a dream. You will never know if it could have been real. So let’s begin.   Starting a new business is huge and the fear of this can be a common block to getting started. I hope that this post provides some practical steps you can perform and smash through.   Breaking it down into stages makes this process less painful. Your only commitment is to get through this stage. As time goes by, the stages get more complex and take longer to complete, but this first stage can be done fast. We’ll give ourselves one day for this stage. Our goal is validate the core idea. We want to check that you are not the only person that that loves this opportunity. Will other people love it too and pay you for it?   While a business is just an idea in your head it is in the riskiest state it will ever be in. Nothing is proven and every detail could be a reason it will fail. In this single day, we will remove some of those risks. Every small proof of value will help you (and others) take bigger and bigger steps towards making the business real.   Things not to do when you have an idea Keep it a secret. Write a patent application Trademark your logo Do a three-year financial projection Do market sizing   These are all a waste of time until you have tried your idea against a real customer.   You don’t need external capital yet, you don’t need a cofounder. You don’t even need to quit your job. But you must start. Today.   Pick a day   Put a day in your calendar and call it “start business”. Make sure you have no distractions and no excuses. When the day comes, commit to getting everything in this post done. Tell you friends that you are going to do it and that you may be calling on them for feedback. It’s like giving up smoking: A bit of peer pressure will go a long way.   When the day begins, here’s what you’re going to do:   Understand: Create a one page business plan using a lean canvas Experiment: Ship something and put it in front of at least one customer Dream: Know where you are heading with a news story from the future   These tasks set the tone for how you will continue.   Startups become successful by learning faster than their competition. We are learning how to make something that customers will value. We do this by:   Building something Measuring what people do with it Learning from what we see Repeat   We are going to do all of these things in just one day.   Ready? Let the day begin.   Understand: Create a one page business plan using a lean canvas   We use a lean canvas to describe our business plan. Everything is on a single page. Use our online version here or print off this one and scribble. Quickly complete a first draft. Complete every cell. A business that can’t complete every cell has a weakness. Don’t over think. Execute!   Problem: what is the problem your business will solve? e.g. tourism can be generic and boring Customer: who has this problem the most? e.g. students in a gap year Unique Value Proposition: how will you describe the business so that it stands out to customers? e.g. unique travel plans just for you so that you can see the world through new eyes and support a developing market Solution: clear explanation of product functionality e.g. personality survey > local commissioned to build itinerary >  mobile application with daily suggestions custom for you Channels: where will you reach the customers? e.g. Facebook campaigns targeting people at university with viral travel personality quiz Revenue: what do you want to charge each sale? e.g. $50 per itinerary Costs: What will each sale cost you? e.g. $30 to local itinerary builder Metrics: what will you measure to show a sustainable business emerging? e.g. Conversion % from quiz to sale Unfair Advantage: what can you manufacture today that will give you an unfair advantage against competition? e.g. partnership with freelancer.com to reach the local itinerary builders at scale. Review. Does it make sense? Does the relationship between what you have written in each cell make sense?   Now go and share the business plan with somebody. Anybody you like. Walk them through your lean canvas in order. Ask them if they understand it and if it feels valuable. Note, this is a fairly weak validation, but saying it out loud helps make sense of it in your own mind.   This is your first version of the product. You have your hypothesis. Feel free to make a few lean canvases until you find something your are happy with but don’t over think it. There is practically nothing that you know (i.e. you need to prove for it to be known) about this business so you just need this good enough to go to the next task.   Now, we start validating.   Experiment: Ship something and put it in front of at least one customer   The temptation is to delay this stage but it is vital that you don’t. Most people do. Don’t be one of them. Take the plunge. Build something that customers can interact with to start validating your assumptions. Right now we are just going to validate the unique value proposition off your lean canvas.   Here’s my design.   The experiment begins with the simple hypothesis that the value proposition is something that customers would agree is valuable. I am going to build an experience online as quickly as I can that will get a potential customer to engage with the value prop. Note that I am not asking them an opinion in a survey. I am trying to motivate them to do something. I am going to use the 'Wizard of Oz' technique and off-the-shelf tools to build something that we can watch customers use and learn from.   Remember. Build > Measure > Learn.   In The Wizard of Oz, we discover that the great and powerful Oz is, in fact, an old man behind a curtain controlling a puppet. A ‘humbug’, as Dorothy would say. But this did not stop the citizens of Oz thinking he was a wizard with magical powers. The illusion was enough.   Inspired by this, I am going to make a puppet version of your product idea. Most business ideas can be tested in this way, they just need lots of manual work behind the scenes to give the illusion of the amazing product you are imagining. The full business could never work this way because it wouldn’t scale. But why build all that stuff if no one wants it?   For this startup, I am going to use three tools so I don’t need to do any coding.   Strikingly for content and main website. Strikingly makes it very simple to make a gorgeous website in minutes that works on mobile and big screen. All I need to do is figure out what I want to say and what the call to action is. I describe the value proposition and ask the user to take the free travel personality quiz.   Typeform for my forms. The link in the page goes to a form I made on Typeform. This site allows me to create lovely web forms that feel like a full-on web application. I use it to create my travel personality quiz. When forms are submitted, Typeform sends an email thanking the user for taking the quiz and inform them that they will get a suggestion of something to try in the next 24 hours. This I will do manually. The manual email that comes then upsells them to a full package for $50.   Facebook for my marketing. I then start the ball rolling by posting onto Facebook that I have just taken a travel personality quiz with a photo of something unique and extra-ordinary of something I am going to try. This links through to the Strikingly site so that others can validate the idea.   I can modify my experiment easily and use the analytics baked into Typeform and Strikingly to see how people are converting through the experience.   Not every business is the same and yours may not be able to use these tools as simply as I did. There are a bunch of other tools you can use for your startup. Here’s some we collected. Mix and match what you need to create the illusion that you want.   Build. Measure. Learn. I have built my experiment and now I leave it in the field to measure what potential customers do. It is possible to get sales on the same day you build something like this. Push yourself to do it. It’s quite a thrill and gets you focussed on building a BUSINESS on the first day.   If you don’t believe your idea can be validated this way, leave me a comment and I will try to help.   The experiment above is inspired by a real business in the Pollenizer incubator right now called GlobeHop. Go and check out what they are doing and help them to validate their business.   Dream: Know where you are heading with a news story from the future   While your experiment is out there, let’s make sure it is worth all the pain and hard work through clarity on the dream. When this business is really kicking, what will it look like? I like to create a story by imagining a news story that the world will read in the New York Times in 3 years from now.   I like to do this because it strikes the balance between running experiments that keep it real and keep the business moving forward in small steps while also heading towards a vision that can create a big impact. We’r enot trying to make a small family business here. We’re trying to build something huge.   If you have a great idea but you are blocked, I hope you will give this a try.   Phil is the CEO of Pollenizer. He works with startups and corporates all over the world to bring Pollenizer's startup science to their practice. He has co-founded a great many companies. In former lives, Phil has been the CTO of Kazaa and a theatre director.   This article first appeared on Pollenizer.

THE NEWS WRAP: Chinese online retail giant prepares for massive US float

3:25PM | Monday, 17 March

Chinese online retail giant Alibaba is set to file for an IPO in the US as soon as April, after the company ruled out a listing in either Hong Kong or London, with the company set to raise $US10 billion in the industry’s largest listing since Facebook.   Despite a loss of market share, the company’s Taobao platform is estimated to account for a massive 90% of all consumer-to-consumer transactions in China.   “This will make us a more global company and enhance the company's transparency, as well as allow the company to continue to pursue our long-term vision and ideals,” the company states.   Newspapers, magazines and radio lose advertising share   Australian newspapers, radio stations and magazines all saw their share of the advertising market fall during February, according to the latest Standard Media Index figures.   Overall, $521.3 million of ads were booked across all advertising forms during February, down $7.9 million from a year earlier, although the total figure is expected to be revised upwards once online display and search ad revenues are confirmed.   While television advertising rose 4% year-on-year to $257 million, there was a 3.5% year-on-year fall in radio advertising, a 15.2% drop in magazine ads and newspaper advertising collapsed by 22.4%.   New car sales up in January   Australians purchased a seasonally adjusted total of 93,000 motor vehicles during February, with the figure down 3.5% year-on-year but up 0.1% from a month earlier, according to new figures from the Bureau of Statistics.   Sales of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) fell 0.3% month-on-month to 27,261, while sales of ‘other’ vehicles fell by 1% to 18,890.   Meanwhile, passenger vehicle sales, including sedans, hatchbacks and wagons grew by 0.8% to 46,648 cars.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16247.2. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.93 cents.

Everyone wants a technical cofounder: Here’s what drives them away

3:36AM | Tuesday, 18 March

Finding a technical cofounder is one of the biggest issues in the startup community, where the number of developers can’t match those with the next big idea. But the constant deluge of pitches is fatiguing developers who are more often than not either working on their own thing, or stretched with current projects.   Web Directions founder John Allsop told StartupSmart any technical cofounder worth engaging should be sceptical of an entrepreneur at first.   “Anyone who is technically proficient enough to be a cofounder will have learned a lot of lessons,” he says. “Tech cofounders are not just your own coder, they’re going to need to be involved in hiring and growing teams.”   According to Allsop, the quickest way to make a potential tech cofounder bolt is to approach them claiming to have the next Facebook, which just needs a developer and with no mention of funding.   “It just shows no respect,” Allsop says. “There is a concern expressed generally by technical folk that non-technical folk are looking to get cheap labour. It’s not always true, but it does set off alarm bells. I do think it’s getting worse in the tech start-up bubble environment.”   The recent explosion of tech start-ups has created a developer’s market.   Pat Allen, coordinator of Melbourne’s Ruby on Rails meet-up, told StartupSmart no talented developer is without well-paying options so non-tech cofounders need to compete.   “We want to know what makes you so good we should go with you. It’s hard to communicate credentials across skill sets but you both need to know what you bring to the table.”   Wanting to address the issue, Startup Victoria is coordinating Co-founder Connect, a monthly event to bring aspiring tech and non-tech entrepreneurs together that will launch on Wednesday, April 2 at Melbourne coworking space Inspire9.   Event coordinator Scott Handsaker told StartupSmart the Melbourne startup community had almost doubled the number of non-tech founders to tech founders.   “It’s incredibly hard to find a tech cofounder. I reckon it is a billion dollar problem as it’s almost the biggest pain point in any ecosystem all over the world.”   Handsaker says aspiring startup founders should expect a 12 month timeframe for their hunt to find the perfect partner.   “Make sure you spend a few months on a side project. If you haven’t killed each by the end of that, maybe you’ll make good cofounders.”

Two things I’ve learned working in a rapidly scaling tech start-up in the US

3:10AM | Friday, 14 March

Canberra-born Jack Aldridge has been working with United States-based enterprise uShip since it was a start-up and says he’s learned a lot as the company has taken off.   This week, uShip signed a deal with eBay to be their preferred freight shipping solution.   Dean Xeros, the vice-president who spearheaded the partnership negotiations, told StartupSmart they expect the partnership to have a significant impact on their bottom line.   “The challenge for us was crystallizing the value proposition for eBay,” Xeros says. “Items that aren’t easily shippable make up a very small percentage of units sold through eBay, but the selling price is much higher. Given eBay’s fee structure, once we could show that it became the catalyst to the agreement.”   Aldridge spoke to StartupSmart from the US about the two things he’s learned so far.   Love the vision, not the details   Aldridge says uShip’s goal from day one has been to make transportation more efficient and transparent. It’s taught him to hold tightly to the vision but loosely on how you get there.   “That premise holds true, but the dirty details of getting there have literally been all over the map. In other words, what you think you know as a strategy you’ll inevitably discover is wrong,” Aldridge says. “The vision and path toward efficiency hasn’t changed in 10 years but the details have.”   Constantly try putting yourself out of business   Facebook may have pioneered the public understanding of “move fast and break things” as a company mantra, but Aldridge says it works for most start-ups.   “If it’s not broken, break it – because someone else will or is trying.  We are constantly testing and innovating, attempting to improve what we’ve built, even testing our most basic assumptions about product details, usage and metrics,” says Aldridge, adding one of their core values was never stand still.

Stanford start-up tutors share the top five myths about scaling tech start-ups

3:35PM | Tuesday, 11 March

By definition, every start-up plans to get global sooner or later. But scaling a business poorly is one of the fastest ways to kill it, according to two Stanford lecturers.   Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have recently released Scaling up Excellence, which explores how companies from tech superstars to fast food chains have grown and gotten stronger.   “Start-ups need to start thinking about scaling a lot earlier than they do,” Sutton says, who adds you don’t need to a perfect organisation to scale well.   “A lot of times when people think of scaling up, they think they’re going to focus on the great stuff and spread it. But when you look at organisations that have nailed scaling, they’ve gone from bad to great.”   Sutton spoke to StartupSmart from San Francisco about the five biggest myths about scaling and how to overcome them.   Myth 1: Scaling is all rapid growth through fast decisions   While the scaling story of tech superstars Twitter, Google and Facebook can make it sound like every decision was instant and the implementation took only a tiny bit lower, Sutton says all scaling companies slow down to take the time they need to make the decisions where it matters.   “In every case we’ve looked at, including those three, this notion they rushed all the time is just not true. From Google to even Starbucks, all successful global companies go slow sometimes.”   A key time to focus on results rather than execution time is hiring staff.   “From the very beginning, Google was always very picky about hiring. They only hired very technically skilled who also had the leadership skills to grow with the company no matter how badly they needed a warm body in that chair,” Sutton says.   He adds founders shouldn’t shy away from the arrogance these decisions and the corresponding belief the company could become massive requires.   Myth 2: Conflict will kill a company   As companies grow, arguments are inevitable as teams choose what to focus on. Sutton says learning how to argue well is a critical skill for a scaling company.   “To make the best decisions, you need to be clear on how you argue and when you stop arguing. Good teams can have blazing arguments and then move on.”   Sutton says part of the success of many tech superpowers has come down to having founders, and later managers and executives, who are willing to model vigorous arguments followed by a resolution all commit too.   “Firefox’s John Lilly (chief executive 2008 to 2010) oversaw the company’s growth from 12 to 500,” Sutton says. “He told me he started realising at about 80 people that people had begun to act as though they were afraid of their boss. So he just started having arguments with his immediate team whenever he could. He’d be right or wrong but would always end respectfully and move on.”   Sutton says making sure everyone shares an understanding of what medium-term success looks like makes it easier to resolve disagreements and unites a team.   Myth 3: Scaling means building the team as quickly as possible   According to Sutton, one of the most dangerous myths about start-ups is the belief bigger is better when it comes to teams.   “The notion that scaling mandates adding more people is a myth. There is lots of evidence that when you bring on board the wrong people too quickly, it’s deadly.”   The pressure to build the team often comes from investors who are keen to see their money put to work.   “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a start-up still in the product development stage kill itself by hiring sales staff before they’re ready. These guys need to sell, so they sell a product that’s not ready and it’s over,” he says.   Sutton says actions such as Israeli start-up Waze’s hiring freeze after raising $20 million should remind start-ups about the virtues of staying lean, as the company went on to be acquired by Google.   Myth 4: Our culture will suffer and we need to stay small   While cultural death by growth was the fate of Yahoo! and eBay (who later turned it around), Sutton says rapid growth won’t kill a start-up if they’re smart about it.   The key to a culture thriving, as well as smarter working, is to keep teams small.   “One of the mantras at Amazon is you shouldn’t have a team that can’t be fed by two pizzas,” Sutton says. “The difference between a five person team and say an 11 person team is huge. From battlefields to big corporates, all the evidence shows the maximum is seven before it dissolves into interpersonal contests and missed communications.”   Small teams organised in pods is an emerging trend in start-ups. Australian start-up 99designs has used a pod approach for over a year. Sutton adds that scaling can make deeper cultural issues more significant as the organisation widens and effective communications requires more effort.   “When you’re trying to scale an organisation and you have destructive behaviour or people, the first order of business is to nip that in the bud because otherwise it’s impossible to grow well.”   Myth 5: Bureaucracy and hierarchies should be shunned as they stifle innovation and productivity   One of the joys of start-ups is team flexibility. But start-ups need to implement some structure and processes if they want to become global companies.   “Staying entrepreneurial and easy to get things done is admirable, but there is a lot of evidence that shows companies need managers, hierarchy and processes,” Sutton says.   “There is a fine art of adding just enough process or bureaucracy so you can actually get all the work done. I think it’s admirable that entrepreneurs resist adding that stuff, but if you don’t it’ll turn into an unruly, out of control organisation.”   For early stage ventures, Sutton adds it’s essential to work out the leadership structure early or risk confused strategy direction and in-fighting.

On risk and competition: Why I’m launching a business in a crowded marketplace

3:31PM | Monday, 10 March

The issues of Qantas and Virgin might be hogging headlines at the top end of town, but Australian start-up Skybid is looking to shake things up further down the travel industry food chain.   The new platform, which allows consumers to bid for seats on flights, is set for take-off and Skybid founder Karis Confos says even though it is a crowded market, the platform would manage to differentiate itself from competitors.   She told StartupSmart the market for Australians seeking the best price on flights was already large enough for a new contender, and growing.   “The ability to bid for flights is so new, and I can see huge potential from both a growth and profit perspective,” Confos says.   Being first doesn’t guarantee a start-up’s success: Google wasn’t the first search engine and Facebook wasn’t the first social network.   Confos says she checked out her future competition closely and was encouraged by what she discovered.   “I looked at what was out there and thought I could do it better. We’re yet to find out if we’re right, but I feel like there are so many more opportunities that the businesses already in this space aren’t taking advantage of.”   While Confos says the social media potential for travel-focused companies is a largely untapped commercial advantage they’ll explore, her focus is on customer retention.   “Pay-to-bid models can be wearying for customers and there is a lot of scope to reward customers on these services more. It’s significantly easier to keep a customer than get a new one. They’re the core of your business, so it’s a small tragedy when one walks away,” she says.   The idea for Skybid has developed considerably for Confos, who says collaborating with others and discussing the idea with as many people as possible helped her shape an offering she’s confident in.   “At first I was more concerned about accessing flight data and supply, but realised through conversations that I should be focused on traffic and reach. Marketing is my main concern and challenge right now,” she says.   She adds critical feedback made her realise which answers she needed to know, and which weren’t critical at this stage.   Skybid is set to launch within the next month or two. Even if it fails, Confos says she’s never been more excited about a project.   “Even if it does fail completely, the experience will be so worth it. Don’t let something stop you if you’re gung-ho and committed to making it work.”

THE NEWS WRAP: ACCC blocks Macquarie Generation sale

3:26PM | Tuesday, 4 March

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has blocked a $1.5 billion takeover of New South Wales government-owned power generator Macquarie Generation by AGL, citing market concentration concerns.   “The proposed acquisition would result in the largest source of generation capacity in NSW being owned by one of the three largest retailers in NSW,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims says.   “With this acquisition the three largest retailers in NSW would own a combined share of up to 80% of electricity generation capacity.   “This is likely to raise barriers to entry and expansion for other electricity retailers in NSW and therefore reduce competition.”   Building approvals jump nearly 7% in January   Building approvals have jumped by nearly 7% seasonally adjusted during January, a faster rate than many economists had expected, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   Approvals for detached houses were up by 8.3%, while apartments and other dwellings were up 4.6%.   In another piece of good news, the ABS figures also show Australia’s current account deficit shrank by 19% to $10.1 billion during the December quarter, with increasing exports and declining imports.   Facebook looks to purchase drone aircraft maker   Facebook is gearing up for another major takeover, with TechCrunch reporting the company is planning to launch a $60 million takeover of Titan Aerospace.   Titan manufactures solar-powered near-orbital drones that can fly for up to five years continuously, with the social media giant reportedly interested in the aircraft in a bid to bring affordable internet access to 5 billion people worldwide who still lack connectivity.   The project is set to compete against Google’s Project Loon R&D program, which aims to use hot air balloons to provide connectivity to remote areas.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16416.8. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.52 cents.

Tech Girl Movement launches to boost the number of women in tech

3:15AM | Tuesday, 4 March

An IT academic is calling for a coordinated strategy to boost the number of women in the technology industries, starting with girls in primary school.   Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen lectures in IT and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University. In her current class, there are 13 men for every one woman.   “We all know it’s a problem. Tech now touches every aspect of our lives but we don’t have the diverse workforce we need to move it forward. There is no doubt we need more women,” Beekhuyzen told StartupSmart.   The lack of women in start-up accelerator programs has been noted for some years now. But there are a growing number of events targeted at women in tech.   “A lot of people are doing things but we need to launch a coordinated effort. We need to go big and bold and loud and make it clear it needs to be changed and we’re ready for it,” she says.   Two of the most frequently cited issues holding women back from tech careers are a lack of role models and confusion about what a tech career actually entails.     According to Beekhuyzen, the rise Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Meyer and Facebook chief of operations Sheryl Sandberg have been great for encouraging women, but Australia needs to do more to encourage girls of school age to explore tech.   The Tech Girl Movement will target girls aged between 10 and 16 with a series of in-school programs, workshops and resources.   It will also include a series of short chapter books to be launched this weekend. The Tech Girl Superheroes series was written to introduce technology and what it looks like to young female readers.   “I wanted to create archetypes about tech girls, such as the explorer, the daredevil, the sophisticate. It’s a bit like the Spice Girls of IT. Not everyone liked the Spice Girls but it works because you can relate to one,” Beekhuyzen says.   Beekhuyzen was today invited to meet with the Federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne to discuss these issues and says she’s in this campaign for the long haul, even if it takes 20 years.   The government is aware of the lack of women in IT degrees and the broader IT skills shortage.   An ICT Workforce Study published in July 2013 by the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency noted the low numbers of women in ICT and recommended target support programs including a code of best practice and mentoring support.   While these strategies are targeted at retaining tech women, the report also notes programs such as these send the right message to prospective female employees.

How can I get traffic to my website cheaply?

3:31AM | Tuesday, 4 March

How can I traffic to my website cheaply? Is it all about advertising banners and buttons?   So you don’t have much money to spend, but you want to get some traffic to your website.   Sure, you are going to reinvest in your website after you rollout the first stage and make some money, but you need that first bump of cash to get you started.   Top three cheap ways to get traffic to your website are:   1. Google Adwords:   Here is where you are going to need to search for a $100 voucher for Adwords in Google. Find one, sign up and start paying for some traffic. This is going to give you traffic in one hour. It’s going to cost you but you will get traffic.  Cost benefit – This tactic is a sure way to get qualified traffic but if your niche is competitive it can cost you more money than a new customer is worth. Test it – What you want to do with this one is test it. Spend only a small amount of money and then find out what works. You will probably need to tweak your website or form a little and then you want to load up another $100 or so from your credit card and try again. You have to treat this business expense as part research and part marketing. The end outcome you want to achieve is a channel of traffic that is coming in and making you money day in day out. That way you can spend more time trying each of the cocktails on the drinks menu as your website keeps making you money.   2. Search Engine Optimisation:   SEO is a time consuming and slow build process in your business that can bring in serious traffic once you crack some big keyword rankings. Here are four quick wins:  Keywords – Ensure your website has the keywords you want to rank for in the content of your homepage and unique title tags for each page of your website. There are loads of other things you can do but if you just start with these two things it will help get you to that first 100 visits.  Get some listings – You need a few early win links to your site, some directories, a link from a friend and any other links you can scrounge up. List your business in an Australian directory as opposed to an American one. It gives you a better chance to get actual relevant traffic and will help you more with your rankings.  Add some new content – Add some new content to your website that is about topics in your niche. Spend $35 on some new articles with a writer from oDesk or Elance and build out your website.   3. Email:   Sending emails to people inviting them to your website for a high valuable reason is a great way to start. For example: All the daily deals websites at present work by sending people emails of the latest deal. The only way you can become one of those deals is by offering an insane price and offer that will cause you to lose money, otherwise the deals website will burn their list as it wasn’t a deal. You could try a daily deal site but its best to do some maths first to see if you can handle the volume. Here are some other ways to get email traffic:  Send an email to your peers – Collect up all your business cards and put them in a list, send an email announcing your new site and ask your colleagues for feedback on what they think of it. The sheer process of researching your site will imprint it in their minds and they might refer your site to someone else in need!  Write an article – Add a helpful article to a friend’s business eNewsletter and you will get a few residual visits from their site. Make sure you make your article 100% dedicated to their customers and just educate and inform. The keen visitors will come through.  Forward an email – If you find an email or some article that is helpful, forward it to someone who might use it. Ensure you have a call to action in your email signature and you might get some residual traffic if it’s forwarded on again.  Build a database – You will also want to be getting email subscribers from your website, so ensure you have a form on there. Offer a free guide or eBook if they sign up and you will probably get a better response.   Here are some of the other ways you can get traffic but you might want to consider them after you have around 100,000+ visitors.   Banner ads   – Banners are pricey and their click-through rates are low; around 0.1% yes that is 0.001! People do click on them. But you have to buy a lot of them. Top tips to try when starting with this:  Use cost per click – Buy your banners so you pay each time someone clicks, not by the number of impressions.  Pay per sale – If you can get a deal set up like this through the performance media channels of the different networks, try it!   Facebook ads   Everyone is on Facebook but they aren’t on it for the same reason as Google. On Google you are searching to find something and take action. On Facebook you are there to hang out with your friends. Use Facebook ads when you have a competition or timely campaign that is relevant and catchy. For example: If you are a charity and you are having a toga party to raise money, you might want to try Facebook ads and target young single males.  Test it – You can burn money FAST on Facebook but it’s again worth testing.  Basic metrics – Facebook’s advertising reports aren’t quite as sophisticated as Adwords, although you can still set up conversion metrics with it. It’s messy, but worthwhile.   Twitter, Viral, Facebook and that social stuff:   Social media and getting traffic from it is again a slow build. You need to build your profile and interact. Think of it like going into a new town, you want to meet people and become friends with them before you ask them over to your house for a BBQ. The best ways to do this are:  Help people – Be helpful. Helping others makes you a go-to person. The more helpful you are the more people like you and the more influential you will become.  Regular – Keep plugging away. Keep helping people. Short no talk stints are ways to get your tweets and status updates ignored. Be interesting – Boring tweets and links get ignored and you unfollowed.   Offline:   Don’t forget that people aren’t online all the time. People who come from offline media to your website needed to remember your URL and have made the effort to turn their computer on and go to your site. Market to offline media like: PR and magazines – A good story and bring in a solid amount of qualified traffic.   Leaflet drops – If you want local customers, just canvass everyone house in your local area. Eventually they will see your leaflet!   Signboards – If it’s cheap or free to put a sign somewhere, put up an ad, it’ll just tick away! Business cards – Put your domain name on there and a reason to go to your site. Get a free phone, free eBook or free video.   Events – Speaking at an event makes you authoritive, some people in the audience will really resonate with you and you need to put your website up so they can get more of you! What specifically you give them when they arrive needs to connect to what you were talking about otherwise you will lose them.

Opportunities abound in start-ups partnering with corporates, but beware the risks

3:54AM | Monday, 3 March

Partnering with a large corporate may appear attractive for start-ups, but a co-founder of Facebook marketing platform Tiger Pistol says there are important issues to consider.   Tiger Pistol recently partnered with National Australia Bank to help small businesses expand their brand online and establish online stores.   “There’s a number of them (large corporates) that are looking for opportunities to partner with more nimble partners,” Tiger Pistol co-founder and chief executive Steve Hibberd told StartupSmart.   “In our case it was the right timing and we were a natural fit for NAB’s strategy.”   But Hibberd warns there are risks for start-ups when partnering with corporates, such as trying to change direction and diverting staff’s core work to suit a large corporate’s needs.   He says the best way to attract the attention of a large company to partner is to have a clear plan.   “The thing that allows you to get the attention is when you’ve got a clear vision and plan for what you’re doing that the large corporate can understand.”   Hibberd says Tiger Pistol pitched what it was doing to NAB after the bank’s head of social media came across them. He says the bank decided the company fit their own strategy around small businesses.   “Our business is focused on helping micro and small businesses be successful,” he says, adding that Tiger Pistol was impressed with NAB’s strategy of stepping out of traditional banking and adding value for their customers.   Tiger Pistol creates Facebook marketing plans for small businesses by analysing what’s been successful in the past for other similar businesses and applying the results.

The eight biggest announcements from the 2014 Mobile World Congress

2:47AM | Friday, 28 February

This week in Barcelona, the GSMA – the peak global standards body for the mobile phone industry – is hosting its annual industry trade event, the Mobile World Congress.   The MWC is arguably the largest annual event in the telecommunications industry. It brings together carriers with mobile phone makers, equipment makers and app developers.   It’s where handset manufacturers make the big pitch to mobile carriers for the year ahead. A strong presentation can bring your products to the attention of mobile carriers the world over.   Perhaps more than the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the MWC is the big event where mobile phone makers unveil their new smartphones and other products for the year ahead.   This year’s event certainly hasn’t underwhelmed, with major announcements from some of the industry’s biggest players.   It’s time to take a look at eight of the biggest announcements from this year’s show:   1. Samsung Galaxy S5   Samsung is now easily the biggest handset maker in the industry. According to IDC, for the full year of 2013, it shipped a massive 313.9 million smartphones worldwide – that’s three out of every 10 smartphones shipped anywhere in the world.   Forget about Apple versus Samsung, it’s not even a race anymore at this point. Apple shipped 153.4 million units in 2013, meaning that for every handset Apple shipped, Samsung shipped more than two.   In fact, with the exception of the US and Japan, Apple is not even really competitive with Samsung anymore. That race was lost two years ago.   In addition to manufacturing smartphones, it also supplies itself with almost every component, from batteries and processors to cameras, memory chips and displays.   It is both the world’s second biggest chip builder, and the world’s second biggest ship builder.   So when Samsung unveils its main, flagship smartphone for the year, you better believe that everyone in the industry – from carriers to competitors – is watching very closely.   This year’s flagship, the Galaxy S5, was largely an incremental improvement on its predecessor, with the South Korean tech giant confirming speculation the new device is both dust-proof and waterproof.   Needless to say, both Telstra and Optus have already announced they’re carrying the new smartphone.   Aside from the Galaxy S5, Samsung shocked the industry when it snubbed Google for the latest version of its Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Instead of Android, the new devices will be powered by its own operating system, known as Tizen.   2. Microsoft’s Nokia X smartphones – powered by Android   For nearly two decades, Microsoft’s Windows operating system had battled an open source rival, known as Linux. While Linux has struggled to make inroads in the desktop PC market, it has emerged as the dominant operating system for servers.   Linux also forms the basis of Google Android, which competes head-to-head with Microsoft Windows Phone.   Meanwhile, in September last year, Microsoft bought the mobile assets of Nokia, along with a licence to use its patents, for $US7.2 billion.   In light of this, there was some scepticism when rumours first surfaced that Nokia was gearing up to release a series of smartphones powered by Android.   At MWC, Nokia confirmed the rumours by unveiling a new smartphone product line powered by Android called the Nokia X series. The new devices will come with Microsoft’s cloud-based apps and services pre-installed and won’t come with the Google Play app store.   Nonetheless, when Microsoft takes control of Nokia in April, it will be selling a consumer product based on Linux. Who would have thought it? 3. Facebook buys WhatsApp for $US16 billion   A week before the MWC, Facebook announced it is taking over mobile messaging service WhatsApp for an incredible sum – $US16 billion.   With both WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive Jan Koum and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivering keynote speeches at MWC, the tech world was certainly going to pay attention.   During the keynote, Koum did not disappoint, announcing WhatsApp was launching free voice calls through its app during the second quarter, once the takeover by Facebook has been completed.   No doubt some of the mobile carriers were a little edgy about the prospect of Facebook launching an all-out assault on their lucrative voice call and text message businesses.   4. Mozilla unveils a $25 smartphone   This year’s Mobile World Congress marked the one year anniversary of the debut of Mozilla’s smartphone platform, Firefox OS.   For those unfamiliar with the platform, Mozilla is best known for its Firefox web browser. Last year, it announced it was creating a mobile operating system based on Firefox that would compete head-to-head with Google Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.   In Firefox OS, all apps basically work like interactive websites and are coded in web standards, including HTML5 and CSS. Since this is less demanding than running a “full” operating system with apps, the theory went that Firefox OS would perform well on low-end devices aimed for emerging markets.   In practice, some of the first Firefox OS smartphones, including the ZTE Open, have left a lot to be desired.   As I explained in Control Shift last week, Mozilla’s expansion drive has left it in a precarious position in the marketplace:   As if the situation weren’t already urgent enough already, Mozilla’s lucrative deal with Google expires in November of this year. In a sense, it’s fitting that [Mozilla founder Mitchell] Baker has taken up trapeze as a hobby, because Mozilla’s in the middle of a high-wire act. It might be that, over the coming months, one of Mozilla’s growing number of Firefox OS-driven side-projects gains traction in the market place. However, it could also backfire spectacularly, endangering its main source of revenue in the process.   Aside from the seven new smartphones on display, Mozilla also announced that a smartphone costing just $25 would hit the market this year.   Given that, up until the fourth quarter of last year, more than half of all mobile phones sold worldwide were still featurephones, mostly in emerging markets, the $25 phone might just be the big hit Mozilla’s looking for.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Major updates for BlackBerry enterprise customers   BlackBerry chief executive John Chen’s bid to turn around the fortunes of the smartphone pioneer were filled out in a series of major product announcements at MWC.   Up until now, enterprises using BlackBerry Secure Work Spaces on BYOD (bring your own device) smartphones needed to use different versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) depending on whether staff used newer BlackBerry 10/Android/iOS devices, or older BlackBerrys.   That has been cleared away with the release of BES 12, in the process clearing away many headaches for IT administrators. As an added bonus, it supports Windows Phone devices too.   The company also unveiled a new flagship phone with a full keyboard called the Q20 and an enterprise version of its BlackBerry Messenger service called eBBM Suite.   6. At least Sony’s new products are water-tight   Earlier this month, Sony announced it is selling its VAIO PC business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, spinning off its Bravia TV business into a separate subsidiary and slashing its global headcount by 5000 as part of a major restructure.   At the time, the Japanese tech giant announced it’s setting its sights on the smartphone, tablet and wearables markets for its future growth. Suffice to say, the company is hoping it delivered a hit with the products it unveiled at MWC.   The company unveiled a new flagship smartphone called the Xperia Z2, a 4G Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor. The company is proclaiming its 20.7-megapixel camera capable is the most ever used in a waterproof smartphone.   Which I’m sure is fantastic news for scuba-diving photographers.   The company also unveiled a 10.1-inch tablet called, imaginatively enough, the Z2 Tablet. The tablet is being marketed as the lightest ever used in a waterproof tablet.   Finally, the company unveiled a smart wristband called the SmartBand.   7. Opportunity knocks for LG?   The highlight for LG was an update of the KnockON security system called “Knock Code”, which uses a series of knocks rather than a password to secure a device. The new feature will appear on the LG G Pro 2 phablet, a new six-inch phablet set to go head-to-head with Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note devices.   The company also unveiled its “L Series 3” range of low- to mid-range smartphones at the show.   That said, most of LG’s big announcements came at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, including its LG Lifeband Touch activity tracking bracelet, LG Heart Rate headphones, and webOS-powered smart TVs.   8. Tickets please!   With the rapid growth of mobile ticketing, it’s no surprise the world’s largest telecommunications show would embrace NFC tickets.   Telstra was one of a range of carriers to trial NFC badge technology for tickets to this year’s event.   The badges use information stored by a mobile carrier, including name and telephone number, to help verify an attendee’s identity. The validation process also includes a photo ID check.   This year’s show also features an NFC Experience demonstrating NFC-based mobile commerce systems for payment, retail, transport, mobile identity and ticketing/access.   In addition, there are 61 NFC-enabled Tap-n-Go Points providing event news, schedules, documents, presentations, videos and other information.   According to figures published by ABI research, in the next five years, 34 billion tickets to be sent to mobile devices,. In terms of technology used to authenticate tickets, the figures show 48% will rely on QR codes, near-field communications (NFC) will be used on 30%, while SMS or other technologies will be used on 22%.   If the forecast is accurate, it suggests using our smartphones to touch on for events, public transport or entry into secure areas could soon be a part of everyday life.

Finding cash for a business by re-mortgaging your home: Start-ups are Scary

2:43PM | Thursday, 27 February

Belinda Jennings is building a business empire around the challenges of being a mum, but had to run her fair share of risk to launch the business, including re-mortgaging her home and quitting her job with two kids aged under three.   “Entrepreneurs talk about skin in the game a lot. I had everything on the line, my career, my home and my family to make Australian Baby Bargains and Mum Central happen,” Jennings told StartupSmart. After receiving a monthly eBay bill for selling second hand baby goods that included over $200 worth of fees, new mum Jennings created a Facebook page for parents who wanted to sell their second-hand baby wares without fees in late 2010.   It turned out to be a popular idea. More than 2000 mums joined the page in the first month and 47,000 by the end of the year.   With the page facilitating connections creating thousands of dollars in transactions and conversations flowing, Jennings returned to work as an executive assistant.   But once online momentum begins, it can quickly escalate and take over. She realised if she dared, she could turn the burgeoning community into a business if only she could find the right model.   “Everyone kept telling me a free community would never work from a commercial point of view. But free access for mums was why I started the whole thing, so I had to find another way,” she says.   She began to bring on advertisers in early 2011.   “With a toddler, full time job and evenings full of Baby Bargains, I was getting overwhelmed. We were getting traction and I needed to act on it. Then I discovered I was pregnant with my second son. It was now or never,” Jennings says.   Jennings took maternity leave. But she needed money to grow the business. She and her husband decided to re-mortgage their Adelaide home for a $150,000 line of credit.   “We made a massively scary decision. My husband has always supported me but that was so far outside his comfort zone. Mine too actually. It was an intense conversation. But he got it,” she says.   After a couple of website development hassles that kept her up overnight with churning panic and her family home on the line, she launched the national site in August 2012.   “We had just graduated from the Innovyz Accelerator, we were racking up debt and the available balance was shrinking. And my leave was almost up. It was taking off and I was breathing a bit better every day,” Jennings said.   Late 2012 was a turning point for Jennings, who realised the time had come to give the company her all.   “Mortgaging the house was scary, but quitting my job and cutting away that safety net was terrifying,” she says. “I was again putting myself out on a limb because even though you plan everything, you’re always a bit at the mercy of the universe.”   The make-or-break moment came as Jennings read over the contract her three investors were about to sign.   “I kept putting off quitting, but once I took on investors, I realised I could never go back to my full time job and had to just get it done.”   Two years into her entrepreneurial journey and in July 2012, Jennings cut the cord to employment.   “I felt massive relief, but it’s all or nothing. The pressure is heavy. You’re making a big commitment to your family and to your investors. They all bought into your potential so you had better deliver,” she says.   Being brave but not gung-ho allowed her the time to test her idea and grow a supporter base into the hundreds of thousands, but more importantly, it helped her learn to trust herself.   “A start-up always requires a leap of faith, but you don’t need to go full throttle into it straight away. I’ve changed so much in my belief in myself and confidence. I’m doing all kinds of things now that had you asked me two years ago, I would have freaked out,” Jennings says.   Jennings went on to launch a content-driven advice site in late 2013 called Mum Central. The additional brand opened up swathes of new advertisers who aren’t exclusively focused on babies or bargain products.   With two full-time and seven part-time staff, Australian Baby Bargains and Mum Central are about to become cash-flow positive.

Why a Melbourne app company is moving to New York and planning to open over 40 offices

2:11AM | Thursday, 27 February

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 keeps revenue growing while aiming for over “one billion users”

2:11AM | Thursday, 27 February

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.

Weekly digest: All the stories we published this week in one easy to check place

2:40PM | Sunday, 23 February

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.

Three tips from Facebook’s head of e-commerce on how to turn your followers into customers

2:32AM | Tuesday, 25 February

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.

Five top lead generating tips for 2014

2:50AM | Tuesday, 18 February

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.

Cheesy popover lightboxes bite into customer experience

2:56AM | Thursday, 13 February

Recently, after a long day in Taskmaster Towers, your humble correspondent decided to order a pizza.   Of course, not one to regularly indulge in junk food, Old Taskmaster decided to take a look at the website of the friendly local pizza shop in Parts Unknown.   It turns out they had recently redecorated their website. It looked quite spiffy. Unfortunately, that was the problem.   This pizza shop’s website included a popover lightbox (some people know these things as a modal window) that demands the user either enter their username and password or sign up for a free Parts Unknown pizza account.   There is no third option.   Greyed out underneath this popover was the regular website with all the information someone ordering a pizza might want to access. This included things like the menu, links to this shop’s Facebook and Twitter pages, what appeared to be a Google Map pointing out where in Parts Unknown this pizza shop is located, and the like.   There was one itsy bitsy, teeny weeny problem with this popover. There was no immediately apparent way to close it – at least without logging in or creating an account.   There was no cross on the top right-hand corner to click – nor for that matter was there one on any other corner. No close link or button. Clicking on the greyed out background didn’t make it go away. Neither did clicking an empty area in the popover. Hitting reload didn’t either – the popover returned when you did.   Setting up an account involved another popover where you had to enter your name, address, phone number (home and mobile), email, credit card number, credit card expiry and credit card expiry. All these fields were marked as mandatory.   In other words, the kind of information you really wouldn’t feel safe giving out to someone who can’t work out how to put a close button on a popover. Seriously, if they don’t know what a close button is, would you trust them to properly salt and hash a database with credit card information?!   As it turns out, Old Taskmaster’s whole purpose in visiting their website in the first place was to see what specials they offer. Sometimes they offer a free garlic bread and bottle of soft drink when you order two large pizzas. Sometimes the special is pick-up only. Other times, you get a free lasagne and they’ll deliver.   Given this, how friggin’ obnoxious is it to demand a credit card upfront?! Seriously, when was the last time you went to a supermarket or a fashion store and they took your credit card before you even had a chance to have a look at their merchandise?! Sometime around about never, right?! Well, that’s what this pizza shop was demanding!   Now, some people will be screaming at their computer: “Taskmaster, why not just block javascript?!” Well, Old Taskmaster tried that. Their website broke altogether!   Thankfully, there was a simple workaround for all these annoyances: Visiting the website of the other pizza shop down the road.   Now, take a look at your website. Popovers have their place in web design – just make sure they don’t drive away your customers! If your site has anything half as obnoxious on it as this pizza shop’s popover, make sure you get rid of it!   Get it done – today!