New user onboarding turns signups into successful users as quickly and easily as possible. Done well, it generates excitement about future use, provides learning by using the product, and takes care of basic configuration in a fun and engaging way. As a designer on the Atlassian Growth team, one of my responsibilities is coming up with these onboarding flows for us to test in our products. We run A/B experiments to determine what ideas will increase various success metrics like conversion, monthly active users (MAU), and usage minutes. Popularised by consumer products like Facebook & Twitter and the work that Samuel Hulick has been doing, user onboarding is taking the product design world by storm. It seems every startup in the valley is focused on delivering an incredible onboarding and setup flow to beat all others, all in the name of increasing MAU. However, I believe if a product is intuitive by default it should require no onboarding flow at all. The days of RTFM are gone; the best products don’t require hand-holding to understand core functionality from the get-go. Which begs the question, what makes a product intuitive? 1. A clear value proposition A whisk is a steel instrument. A bowl is a concave surface. A chicken egg is the unfertilised gamete laid by a female bird. This is listing and describing features. Instead what you need to do is show your customer how she can make an omelette. (Thanks to Jay for the great metaphor.) If you haven’t heard of the Jobs-to-be-Done framework from Clayton Christensen, I suggest you check it out. In short, customers ‘hire’ your product for a job they want done, and you need to succinctly communicate how your product will do this job for them. In the example above, our customer is after an omelette, so you need to provide not just the tools and ingredients, but also the recipe so she gets what she’s after. 2. Unambiguous terminology Do you introduce a lot of bespoke terminology? Are you using words which most people associate with a different definition? Unless you’re Apple, you probably can’t invent a new word or change the definition of existing words. We have a product called Confluence which is a collaborative wiki and knowledge base. It’s kind of a hybrid between Google Docs, Wikipedia, and StackExchange for your company. Everything in Confluence lives within multiple ‘spaces,’ kind of like folders on a computer. The problem with the word ‘space’ is that it’s incredibly abstract and has many different definitions. Customers trialling Confluence are confused when they encounter it, so our onboarding flows spend a lot of time explaining what we mean by the term. Terminology like Share, Menu, Project, and Avatar all have distinct definitions within the context of software (and associated well-known symbols). When people interact with these words or icons in your interface, they expect one thing and are confused when you show them something else. Ensure your definition and usage is the same as what people expect, and try to use as little bespoke terminology as possible. 3. Well-designed affordances “An affordance is often taken as a relation between an object or an environment and an organism, that affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling.” — Wikipedia Put simply, affordances are the things your users interact with. Buttons, gestures, drop-downs, inputs. We have a Breville toaster and a Breville microwave at home. One thing I love about the toaster is this ‘A bit more’ button: This button is neat because it explains what it will do in a simple and human way, it is physically a button that can be pressed, it looks like a button differentiated against its surroundings, and it has a ring light that shows you when it’s on. It’s quite straightforward and simple. Contrast that with our Breville microwave: What’s the difference? The affordances on the toaster are clear and intuitive. I know what they’ll do; I don’t need a manual to tell me. The microwave on the other hand is interface voodoo: a myriad of bespoke icons on the display, inconsistent long presses and short presses, a multi-function contextual knob, and complex button labels. What does Time Weight Defrost do? Or the button simply labeled Microwave? It even has an oddly-specific, dedicated Potato button! Why? Does anyone cook potatoes in their microwave? It sounds obvious but it’s often overlooked: make sure your product has intuitive affordances like the toaster, and not the microwave. 4. Sane defaults There’s an old computer science saying that a computer should never ask you a question that it can answer for itself. In most cases your product should be able to determine a lot of configuration on its own; for example the user’s timezone and location. In the case of new users, you absolutely know that people don’t start with their own data in your product. When you create a new email account, it usually doesn’t come with a bunch of emails in your inbox. Your users will be looking at a lot of blank screens. Make sure you have well-designed empty states or sample data to catch them and highlight their next steps. For times when the product can’t easily know how to set itself up, rely on qualitative research and analytics to inform your default configuration. If you know most people have four steps in their workflow, the default column count on your task management app should be four. If you know most of your audience are signing up to design a newsletter, surface that above other options, like designing a birthday card. If you know most people are using two of your products together, perhaps connect and integrate them both by default. 5. Meeting expectations You have the ability to affect a potential customer’s expectations before they log in for the first time: you control the advertisements you run, the content on your marketing website, the emails you send, and what you post on your Facebook page. So if you’re saying one thing on your marketing website (“our product is great for thing x!”) and then don’t follow through in-product, you’re going to lose that customer because you’ve built up their expectations and then demolished them. How do you begin to address this? Conduct an audit of your whole customer journey from initial impression right through to success (whatever that is) and make sure you’re sending the same consistent message about what your product does the whole way through. This exercise is also a great way to surface differences of opinion in your organisation. Your marketing department might think your product does one thing well, whereas the product managers might disagree! You now have a good base for making your product intuitive. Once you feel that you’re satisfying most of the points I’ve outlined here, start iterating on the new-user onboarding experience through experimentation to further optimise each of these points. But if you’ve been nodding your head the whole way and saying, “yep, our product isn’t here yet”, then perhaps go back to the drawing board and aim to make your product more intuitive by default before throwing everything you have into new-user onboarding experiments. A/B experiments are useful for turning a good product into a great one through iteration, but not that useful when your product has a long way to go before it’s somewhat intuitive. Make sure you’re starting off at a certain level before iterating through experimentation, and remember, the best onboarding is an intuitive product by default. Benjamin Humphrey is a designer at Atlassian. If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same, you might consider following Designing Atlassian! This article first appeared on Medium.
Apple is developing a new iOS imitative code named “proactive” that will leverage Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and third-party apps to compete with Google Now. Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on user data and device usage patterns, but respect its users privacy preferences, a source told 9to5Mac. The feature will likely replace Apple’s Spotlight menu. Speculation suggests some form of Proactive will be introduced with iOS9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. Comcast restarts Vox Media acquisition talks Before Vox Media acquired Re/code, it had been engaged in acquisition talks with Comcast. Comcast has invested in both Vox Media and Re/code, and now following Vox Media’s purchase of Re/code, Comcast is ready to reopen acquisition talks with Vox Media, Quartz reports. Vox Media has raised about $US110 million over the last six years and has been seeking a Valuation close to $1 billion. Desktop internet is not in decline The amount of time spent online on desktop has remained steady for the past two years, according to data from comScore. Online mobile usage has grown steadily over that period and is adding to, not subtracting from the amount of time people spent online on desktop computers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 121.45 to 18,162.99. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US77 cents. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The term “fintech” – the marriage of financial services with technology companies – has only recently come into vogue in Australia, with venture capital starting to flow into the sector. It was only around October 2014 that the term fintech started to appear in Australia’s mainstream media – rather late given it was just two months later peer-to-peer lending platform LendingClub listed on the New York Stock Exchange. LendingClub reached a valuation of US$8.5 billion in the closing days of 2014, making it the 15th largest US lending institution by market capitalisation at the time, the company’s estimated. Taken at face value, it would seem Australia has simply been late to the fintech party. But that is not really the case. There are four roles that financial services companies perform in any economy: they facilitate payments; create credit; manage wealth through investment platforms; and assist with risk mitigation through either insurance or facilitating price discovery in the traded financial markets. Outside of Australia – in the US particularly – startup fintech companies have launched a relentless assault on all of these functions. In every case, they have succeeded by offering customers a cheaper, simpler product, more suited to exactly the type of transaction customers were looking to undertake. This is the classic model of business disruption. To be clear, fintech companies are not just online banking platforms. Their products are unique. First, many platforms directly match buyer and seller, taking out the finance middleman and large balance sheets. Second, most innovate new ways to use personal information for product creation and sales – such as mining social media sites to support customer identification and credit scores. Finally, fintech platforms often cross-sell other, non-financial products to their customers, accruing value to the platform rather than to the product itself. This is an inversion of the traditional financial services model that asks customers to pay for products, and uses product revenue to subsidise its “free” distribution platform of branches, offices, salespeople and online transaction platforms. Australian banks have held back the tide Fintech companies have sprouted like mushrooms across the payments, credit, investment and markets space outside of Australia. Why are the first green shoots in Australia only starting to appear now? Three reasons spring to mind. One is that Australian financial services firms have been innovating from within, reducing the incentive for their customers to go in search of cheaper, more convenient options. Second is that traditional financial institutions have used their market power to maintain market share. Finally, Australia’s regulatory settings have been too restrictive, making it difficult for young startups to enter the market. This last point was particularly noted in the Murray Financial Services Inquiry, which recommended a more finely attuned regulatory structure to promote greater competition in the financial services sector. Perhaps the most noteworthy absence of fintech startups in Australia is within the payments system space. This stands in contrast with countries like the US, where PayPal’s dominance in online payments is unquestioned. Customers choose PayPal in the US because its banks never created a unified national online payments system and were too late to realise customers would rather transact online than write out and mail cheques. But PayPal is not alone. Google has launched Google Wallet, Facebook and WeChat in China have announced debit cards for online “sharing money", and AliPay in 2014 announced it had facilitated nearly US$150 billion in mobile transactions. Not all of these startups have entered Australia, and the reason may be that Australia already has one of the most advanced online and cashless payments systems in the world. The system – which most Australians will know as Eftpos (electronic funds transfer at point of sale), PayAnyone (online account-to-account transfers) and its compatriot BPay (online bill payments system) – are innovations created by a consortium of Australia’s major banks around the same time as PayPal’s founding in the US. Australian banks have remained competitive in this part of financial services. Where the gaps are The gap in the payments space is in international money transfers, where anti-money laundering regulations and compliance reporting are so onerous that the major Australian banks have closed their doors to remittance businesses. In their absence, we see firms such as CoinJar utilising digital currencies like bitcoin to transmit across borders. CurrencySpot offers a more traditional foreign exchange service, but also anti-money laundering compliance reporting on foreign exchange transactions. Competition is even hotter in credit markets. On what seems like an almost daily basis, another peer-to-peer (P2P) lender announces it is entering the Australian market. Local player SocietyOne has in the last 12 months been joined by RateSetter (UK), OnDeck (US) and Kiva (US), among others. But the P2P lending industry in Australia is still niche, emerging only in the spaces where the large Australian banks have voluntarily withdrawn: consumer lending and small business lending. The chart below highlights the extent to which banks have preferred to grow their loan books through mortgage lending – almost certainly driven, at least in part, by the preferential risk weighting on capital assigned to mortgage lending under the Basel III framework. Lending and credit aggregates in Australia In contrast, this chart below highlights the rather slow growth of business lending. Moreover, since the global financial crisis, new business credit has increasingly gone into loans of a size in excess of A$500,000 - a loan amount much more suggestive of a large corporate than a small or medium-sized business. In aggregate, the data suggests that credit from the banking system has not been flowing to either consumers (outside of housing) or the smaller end of the business market. Australia’s business credit flow by loan size The space left by banks is where P2P lenders are entering the market. SocietyOne (Australia) and RateSetter (UK) are operating in the consumer lending space, while OnDeck (US) and ThinDeck (UK) specialise in small business loans. MoneyPlace (Australia) handles both consumer and small business lending. A key advantage of P2P lenders – aside from their generally lower cost of capital and ability to use unstructured sources of data – is that they are able to vary the interest rate offered to individual borrowers in a way that is unrealistic for a large bank. While now a relatively small share of overall credit growth in the Australian economy, there is no question that the ability of the financial system to meet the credit needs of smaller borrowers – especially SMEs – is critical for economic growth. The experience in the US has suggested that, over time, established banks can work with the P2P community, using P2P platforms to identify new customers and benefit from a superior online customer experience. Similar trends are being seen in the financial investment market with “robo-advice” - investment advice that is online and automated by the use of algorithms to produce an individual’s optimal portfolio allocation. Other investment start-ups include names like Macrovue, which helps unsophisticated retail investors to diversify their portfolios and easily track returns. The number of robo-advice providers in the Australian market is still relatively small, but suits the estimated 80% of Australian superannuation fund holders who do not seek professional financial advice. The future here may also be one of accommodation, where financial advisers look to take advantage of tools made available by robo-advice to find a less expensive way to service their customers. Either way, it’s a competitive gain for consumers, and a productivity boost for the Australian economy. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Sydney startup Qwilr has raised $500,000 from the Sydney Seed Fund and Macdoch Ventures to reinvent document software. Co-founder Mark Tanner says documents haven’t changed in a very long time, whether it be Microsoft Office or Google Docs, or PDFs. “They’re still just A4 pieces of paper that are very static and quite deliberately unintelligent,” he says. “Qwilr wants to be halfway between word documents and PDFs, and tools like Squarespace and Weebly.” Tanner says Qwilr will unlock the “full power of the web” for documents. That includes everything from embeddable video and audio, and importantly, analytics. “Everyone just expects basic analytics (online), but documents today, you have no idea what’s happening to them,” Tanner says. “You could send out three quotes this week, or an invite to a party, and see it has been viewed this many times, this particular client didn’t even open the document. It would change the way you write to them, how you view the client and your interactions with them.” Tanner returned to Australia after working in New York for Google to start work on Qwilr with co-founder Dylan Baskind. Baskind came up with the idea while working as a freelance artist, designer and engineer. When freelancing he was competing against larger firms, and built Qwilr as a means to help his proposals stand out from the pack. “Often a freelancer or agency will spend hours and hours on a proposal, only to dump it into a text-heavy, long, ugly document,” Tanner says. “With Qwilr, that same proposal can look stunning, be done dramatically faster and include all kinds of images including pictures, photos, gifs and videos. In addition Qwilr pages have analytics running in the background so you can track how many times your proposal was opened (if at all!) and which sections your clients cared about the most.” Users can sign up and create Qwilr documents for free, and can upgrade to a $29, or $89 monthly subscriptions for access to features like advanced analytics and password or time limited security. Tanner wouldn’t say exactly how many users have signed up, or how many are paying for the premium products, but says it has “thousands of users” in over 30 countries. “The big thing for us is it has been global from day one. We’ve had to deal with right to left writing styles, things you don’t think about initially. And the real metric is there are tens of thousands od documents that have been made on Qwilr,” he says. “At the moment, a reasonable amount of people, freelancers and digital agencies, they’re converting really quickly, because they’re seeing the value. At the moment we’re very happy rate, and while it’s a starting number, we are very happy.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Bill Shorten’s recent announcement that, if elected, a Labor Government would “ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia” has brought attention to an increasing world trend. Estonia introduced coding in primary schools in 2012 and the UK followed suit last year. US-led initiatives such as Code.org and the “Hour of Code”, supported by organisations such as Google and Microsoft, advocate that every school student should have the opportunity to learn computer coding. There is merit in school students learning coding. We live in a digital world where computer programs underlie everything from business, marketing, aviation, science and medicine, to name several disciplines. During a recent presentation at a radio station, one of our hosts said that IT would have been better background for his career in radio than journalism. There is also a strong case to be made that Australia’s future prosperity will depend on delivering advanced services and digital technology, and that programming will be essential to this end. Computer programs and software are known to be a strong driver of productivity improvements in many fields. Being introduced to coding gives students an appreciation of what can be built with technology. We are surrounded by devices controlled by computers. Understanding how they work, and imagining new devices and services, are enhanced by understanding coding. Of course, not everyone taught coding will become a coder or have a career in information technology. Art is taught in schools with no expectation that the students should become artists. Drag and drop A computer program is effectively a means of automating processes. Programs systematically and reliably follow processes and can be used to exhaustively try all the possibilities. The languages used to program computers have evolved in the 70 years we have been building computers. Interfaces and programming environments have become more natural and intuitive. Language features reflect the applications they’re used for. What is needed to easily express a business process, scientific equation, or data analysis technique is not necessarily the same as what is needed to rapidly develop a video game. However, throughout the evolution of programming languages, the fundamental principles have remained the same. Computer programming languages express three essential things: The order in which a sequence of instructions is performed A means of repeating a sequence of instructions a prescribed number of times And tests as to whether or not a sequence of instructions is performed. While personal preference influences which computer language a programmer uses, there is a greater understanding of which languages work well for teaching introductory programming. For example, Scratch is popular for primary school students and is quick to learn. Alice has been used to help students quickly build computer animations. Python is increasingly used for scientific applications. Visual programming languages – where students can drag-and-drop icons rather than type code – allow for rapid development of simple programs. At Swinburne University of Technology we run workshops to introduce school students to program NAO robots. Students use the Choregraphe environment to link robot actions from a library. Students previously unused to programming can develop interesting robot projects in a couple of days. More sophisticated development of the robot requires students to use a more detail-oriented language, such as Python or C++. The simpler options lead to positive student experience. Computational thinking Writing and then executing a program gives immediate feedback as to whether you have correctly expressed instructions for the computer. Ultimately, the understanding of how to express concepts so that a computer can perform tasks accurately and efficiently is far more important than the details of the programming language. Underlying all computer programs are algorithms, which specify in a more abstract way how a task is to be done. Algorithmic thinking – also called computational thinking – underlies computer science, and there has been a growing movement on algorithmic thinking in schools. The new national curriculum reflects algorithmic processes, and materials are being developed to help teachers with the new curriculum. Victoria has recently developed a new subject for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) entitled Algorithmics. There are even materials for teaching algorithmic thinking without computers. The Computer Science Unplugged movement, led by Tim Bell and colleagues at the University of Canterbury, has developed resources that teach students concepts through movement and fun activities. Teaching for the this century Teaching computer coding in schools is very different from initiatives that advocate for computers in the classroom. I was not, and am still not, supportive of compulsory laptop programs in schools. The idea is not necessarily to expose students to the technology itself, which is almost inevitable these days with the wide penetration of mobile phones. Rather, students are exposed to the skills needed to develop computer applications. While IT skill shortages is a contentious topic, there is no doubt that not enough of the best and brightest are studying computer science at university. A significant factor is insufficient exposure to the topic at schools. Teaching coding at schools is aimed at addressing the lack. It might be said that whatever programming language is taught will be obsolete by the time the students enter the workforce. My experience is that, if taught properly, students can rapidly transfer the principles of one language to another. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the challenge was to understand the physical world, and harness force and energy. This understanding percolated into the school curriculum. In the 21st century, the challenge is to understand and harness data, information and knowledge. Computer programming is a necessary way of introducing students to these concepts. Leon Sterling is Pro Vice Chancellor Digital Frontiers at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
On trains. In parks. At traffic lights. So many of us are buried deep in our phones, gulping down pixels of information and entertainment like a thirsty desert pilgrim gulps down water. And it seems many of us can’t get enough of one particular aspect of smartphones; mobile gaming. In fact over half a billion people have downloaded one game alone*. In order to convince us to spend so much of our time playing, game design relies heavily on behavioural psychology and it seems the industry is doing a lot right. In the UK 46% of internet users now play games on a mobile phone, up from 39% in 2012. In the US the number of smartphone gamers is expected to reach 70% of smartphone users in 2015 (that’s a whopping 116.0 million people), with players on average spending $4.58 a month on games. The industry is projected to reach revenues of $30.3 billion (US) in 2015, surpassing traditional console gaming, is huge, growing and a very interesting case study on influencing behaviour. So what are a few of the techniques they’re using to acquire and retain users? Effort vs. Reward equation Before we dive in, remember that behaviour boils down to what I call the “Effort vs. Reward equation”. When Effort exceeds Reward, behaviour doesn’t happen. When Reward exceeds Effort, it does. In other words, is all the stuff I have to outlay in this decision (time, money, status, effort) less than the payoff I expect? So what are a few of the techniques game designers are using in make R > E? Free and freely available Getting people to download your game is make or break for game designers, so to reduce “Effort” most are free or have free versions – no money on the line means no risk. Having the games freely available in the iTunes and Google Play stores is also vitally important because it means users don’t have to go out of their way to find them. Nirvana for a game designer is of course having it pre-loaded on the phone so there’s not even a download step required. This reminds me of the old Coca-Cola vision of being “in arm’s reach of desire”. Be where people are already. Positive and negative tension I often talk with my clients about the use of positive and negative tension when creating pitches, presentations, websites and campaigns. Negative tension is the anxiety people feel about doing business with you. Positive tension is the anxiety people feel if they don’t do business with you. Let’s look at a couple of examples from the world of mobile gaming. Image A on the left uses negative tension (Loss Aversion) in a couple of ways. Most obviously, telling you that you didn’t get to meet Cinderella. In other words, you’ve failed on what you set out to accomplish. Accompanying this statement, a sad mouse face that looks you right in the eye to dial up the feeling of disappointment. Not only are you sad, but this character is too. You’ve let others down. Ouch. The good news? The positive tension? The dream doesn’t have to be over! You can still meet Cinderella and it’s as simple as clicking “Continue”. Image B on the right trades on similar techniques, albeit in a slightly different sequence. This time instead of starting with negative tension - playing on what you missed out on (Cinderella), it uses positive tension as the lead statement, focusing on the small step to success (‘You only need 3 ingredients”). The negative tension whammy comes a little later in this example, waiting to hit us with the super combo of “Give Up” button with broken heart icon. Path of least resistance We are inherently lazy creatures, following the path of least resistance most of the time. When in doubt our tendency is to opt for the default setting, the easiest button to press. Look again at the screens shots. In image A note how the “Continue” button is large and in the very place your eye and finger would naturally travel. The option not to continue? Well, that’s the “X” icon you have to click in the top right of the screen, a long way from where your attention was. (Lots of pop-up and pop-over ads do this too.) Image B does things a little differently. First it makes the option not to proceed a little easier to find, instead relying on language to make it psychologically harder to click (after all, no one likes to ‘give up’), and second, it makes sure the button to proceed is bigger than the alternative. Key take-aways to apply to your business I could go on for hours about game design, but some central messages for you in your business; If you are developing an App you need to spend as much time on your behavioral strategy to get the App on people’s phones as you do on the App’s functionality. Just because Apps are something the cool kids are doing doesn’t mean your business needs one. They can be expensive to develop, need constant attention and have a short lifespan (wow, sounds like dating). What will convince your target market to download your App? Is R > E? Think about how you are using positive and negative tension. Too much negative tension without any positive will just bum your customer out. Insufficient negative tension will mean they are too comfortable with leaving things as they are. P.S. You can read more about the Effort vs Reward equation here and here. *And that game is Candy Crush. Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.
An Australian social network for neighbours has snapped up events listing platform AroundYou six months after launching. Nabo, based in Surry Hills, Sydney, acquired the community guide for an undisclosed amount in order to expand its offering to users and help local communities connect with one another. Neighbourhood social networks such as Nextdoor are kicking off in the US and now Australia, with Nabo scoring $2.25 million in funding from Seven West Media and Reinventure Group late last year. Nabo co-founder and chief executive Adam Rigby told StartupSmart he jumped at the chance to make the company’s first acquisition because AroundYou’s purposed aligned with his own. “It really has a fantastic coverage of local events in Australia and that’s something we know our Nabo members really enjoy seeing,” he says. “These aren’t just ticketed events, they’re grassroots things happening in your local area such as local classes. It’s a perfect fit.” Since rolling out pilot schemes in 19 Suburbs in 2014, Nabo now has users in more than 4000 suburbs across Australia. Rigby says the key to the startup’s growth has been forming partnerships with trustworthy organisations such as local councils and community groups. “We’ve been embraced by a number of local councils in Queensland as well as the City of Perth and the lord mayor over there has been very supportive,” he says. “And the same goes for NSW and Victoria and so on. By working with these local councils they have access to local residents. And we are also introducing Nabo to those markets whether it be through our partners at Chanel 7, Seven West Media, or through traditional means.” The startup will soon rollout its platform on the App and Google Play stores as part of its push to scoop up more users. “That’s a very important step even though our website is fully responsive,” he says. “We want to give our users and members a better experience, so releasing the apps on Android and iOS is a high priority for us. As well as that it’s just about ongoing improvements to the platform – we want to make the user experience better and more appropriate.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Facebook has unveiled its native publishing initiative Instant Articles after speculation swirled for months about whether the social media giant would release a platform allowing users to bypass publishers’ websites. At the moment the platform hosts stories from The New York Times, National Geographic and Buzzfeed. The company’s product manager, Michael Reckhow, said in a statement the Instant Articles tool allows publishers to create “fast, interactive articles”. “Web articles in the Facebook app take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” he said. “Using the same technology that loads photos and videos quickly in our mobile app, Instant Articles load as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles, so you get to the stories you want to read instantly. Once there, new features like tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, embedded audio captions, and interactive maps let you explore the story in beautiful new ways.” Uber snaps up Google’s communications chief Google’s head of communications has been snapped up by Uber in a bid to improve the fast-growing startup’s public image following a number of public relations blunders. Rachel Whetstone started at Google in 2005, and has been responsible for witty and humorous responses to criticism – including this blog post in response to critical coverage by the Murdoch press. The communications chief will begin her new role in June, according to Re/code, with Uber rumoured to be looking to raise another $US1.5 billion which could lead to a $US50 billion valuation. On-demand laundry service Cleanly raises $US2.3 million On-demand laundry delivery service Cleanly has raised $US2.3 million in seed funding in order to kickstart its growth. The round included investments from Ludlow Ventures, Initialised Capital, 500 Startups and Soma Capital, according to TechCrunch. “We’re excited to announce our recent funding, and to continue delivering clean undies to the people,” the New York-based company said on its Facebook page. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based startup Infiniti Technology has claimed the top prize in CeBIT’s 2015 Startup Pitchfest after debuting a ground-breaking smartwatch keyboard that makes typing messages on a smartwatch both fast and intuitive. Unveiled at CeBIT the new keyboard, called TouchOne, works on Android smartphones, along with both round-screen and square-screen Android Gear smartwatches. The innovative design consists of two parts: a large inner circle for gestures, and the outer circle, which is used to type letters. In the inner circle, swiping from the centre to the left is backspace, swiping up is shift, swiping down is enter and swiping to the right toggles the outer circle between letters, numbers and characters. Around the outer circle, letters are grouped alphabetically in finger-size buttons, each containing three or four letters. So, for example, the top-left has “ABC”, the top button is “DEF”, the top right button is “GHI”, the button on the right has “MNO”, and so on. In a manner somewhat akin to how letters are entered on an old Nokia featurephone, the keyboard figures out which word the user intends to type based on the letters. In case there’s any confusion, tapping an area at the bottom of the screen displays possible words. Unlike some smartphone keyboards, which attempt to shrink a full smartwatch keyboard down to the size of a smartwatch, this arrangement creates a series of reasonably-sized buttons that can be comfortably typed by a user. The watch also has a number of hidden advanced gestures, so – for example – quickly swiping in the middle to the left deletes the last letter, while a faster swipe deletes the whole word. Infiniti Technology chief executive Jingtao Hu told StartupSmart that in a short amount of time, most users end up typing faster on a 3cm smartwatch screen than they do on a smartphone. “Our record at CeBIT was one guy who managed to type at 32 words-per-minute – with 100% accuracy. After five minutes playing with the watch, he was able to reach an average typing speed, and within 15 he reached the record,” Hu says. Hu says Infiniti Technology already has two utility patents on the keyboard for the bootstrapped app. It has also achieved strong interest from developers after being posted to the popular Android developer site XDA-Developers. After launching at CeBIT, Infiniti Technology beat out the following startups to claim the top prize in the PitchFest competition: Appee Blrt CareMonkey Fewzion Prezentt Networking Break Safe Mate Service Paradigm – Gen Swipe Teazl Wattblock Click here to download TouchOne from the Google Play app store. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australians gamble more on the Melbourne Cup ($200 million, $9 per capita) than the entire venture capital industry invests in startups in a year ($100m, $4.55 per capita). This disparity is especially concerning when we consider that in the US, three companies (Apple, Facebook and Google) contribute $1.3 trillion to GDP, which is higher than the value of our entire ASX. All three of those businesses were once startups with the youngest being Facebook founded a mere 11 years ago. We rightly celebrate the success of Atlassian and REA Group, however, we need to create the conditions to drive a thriving and substantial ecosystem of startups. With this in mind Salesforce is supporting the recommendations of the StartupAUS Crossroads Report 2015, which provides an action plan for how Australia can develop a vibrant tech-startup ecosystem. According to the report, the impact that tech startups could have on the Australian economy, if nurtured and supported, is huge. Two key findings that struck me are: Each new technology-based job created adds five additional jobs in other sectors (3x a new job in manufacturing or extractive industries) 73% of a nation’s future wealth can be predicted by its Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – a measure of a nation’s ability to produce a range of goods varying in complexity from extracting and selling unprocessed natural resources to building and selling complex industrial products/services. Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, which means unless we start driving more innovation, we would predict low future GDP growth. Not only do tech startups positively impact the economy, they also provide the growth of the ecosystem through creating ‘unicorns’ – startups valued at over $US1 billion. The existence of unicorns raises the profile of entrepreneurship and creates a market of experienced and cashed-up employees who create and support new companies, attracting other hopeful entrepreneurs who want to be where the action is. Australia’s tech ecosystem has seen huge progress over the last three years and with just a few tweaks there could be a tremendous wave of growth in the nation’s Silicon Beaches. While all of the eight action items recommended in The Crossroads Report are important, in my opinion, there are two that are most pressing: Increase the number of people with ICT skills Improve access to startup expertise Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills. However, enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily. There is an increasing gap in the skills we need and the type of workforce Australia is producing. If we act now to produce the right work force and build our startup ecosystem, graduates educated in STEM will find many of their future jobs with the unicorns. Key to building up this ecosystem for the workforce of the future is providing the right support to our existing startups. Initiatives like York Butter Factory, Fishburners, and our own Salesforce for Startups program are all aimed at providing the right conditions, expertise and technology to startups as they scale. While the support currently available is valuable, there’s still more work to be done. If we want to build the next generation of unicorns we need both industry and government of all levels to work in concert to provide the right framework and support. Australia is now at a crossroads, it’s time for the nation to foster a viable environment for startups to not only operate in, but to thrive and succeed. Tom Karemacher is the regional vice president for mid-market and SMB at Salesforce APAC.
It's the stuff that makes you look good, and your life and job easier, that really matters when it comes to technology. Online tools that are not only easy to use, but fun and enjoyable at the same time. Things that offer a smooth, intuitive and beautiful end-user experience that don't require a short course or YouTube clip to master. And I'm so happy to see that two such tools are being developed locally, and led by female entrepreneurs. This fact alone proves that tech companies (like all companies) will see their products benefit from a diverse range of inputs during development. Increasingly, truly scalable ideas must have a feminine touch, or risk missing 51% of it's target market. So who are these women doing some seriously disruptive work? Well they're not the household names you already know about. On Tuesday, online design tool Canva announced it completed a $6 million investment round ($7.7 million), and launched its suite of design tools for business www.canva.com/work. It already has 2.4 million users worldwide (65% who've signed up in the last six months), three global offices (including in Sydney) and a team of 42. Canva's CEO and co-founder is Melanie Perkins, who came up with the idea for creating simple-to-use design tools for non-designers which teaching graphic design at the University of Western Australia. She originally partnered with Cliff Obrecht to launch Fusion Books, an online program for schools to create year books. Later, they connected with former Google guy Cameron Adams to go one step further and 'empower the world to design'. Canva's on the list of online tools that have actually made my life and work better. Yes, designers might be horrified by what I've produced using the platform (which can manage everything from presentations to infographics and other images) but it gets the job done quick and easy for me. Also on the list of seriously useful online tools is all-in-one event management platform Ivvy. Ivvy's Brisbane-based creator Lauren Hall has her eyes set on a $1 billion exit for the business. She's been working on it — albeit in different version — for seven years, after experiencing frustrating challenges while organising her own events. Having just secured a number of global venue chains, Ivvy looks set to change how we manage, procure and secure event-based services and suppliers. Away from Melanie Perkins and Lauren Hall, there are many, many other women doing some seriously disruptive work in technology in Australia. All at varying stages of their startup journeys and with different problems to solve. Two I want to mention here are Marnie Shanahan and Sarah Liu. These two had just the barebones of a business idea back in November when they pitched in front of our panel of judges at the Rexona Clinical Women's Agenda Pitch Off. But they were good ideas with serious potential, inspired by personal needs and stories. Less than six months later, those ideas are gearing up for launch, with significant milestones reached in the last couple of weeks. Shanahan's business is The New Kid, is a platform that connects safe and legal internships with students. Still in her early twenties, Shanahan has taken the idea to New York in recent months, where she's developing it further and has just launched its website. Liu's business is Gemini3, a platform promoting, educating and connecting people around job sharing opportunities. Gemini3 (initially called 'The Dream Job' when she pitched it) is the latest in a series of initiatives for Liu, who is running a number of companies and fast proving herself as a formidable entrepreneur. A great idea solves a serious challenge. Liu and Shanahan, like Melanie Perkins and Lauren hall before them, are determined to offer solutions. And a great solution has a feminine touch. This article was originally published at Women's Agenda.
Guy Kawasaki made his name as Apple’s “chief evangelist” a term he says was coined by the marketing team. He was one of Apple’s first employees and was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984 under Steve Jobs. Now he’s the chief evangelist for Australian design business Canva which just announced an extra $6 million in funding. Whoever he’s working for, Kawasaki is passionate about being an evangelist for your business rather than just marketing it. Ahead of his keynote address at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Kawasaki spoke to SmartCompany about how you can be an evangelist for your business. 1. Ignore the doubters Kawasaki says working with Steve Jobs at Apple taught him if entrepreneurs want to create truly innovative products they need to ignore what everyone else is saying. “Most of those people will tell you they just want better things,” he says. “If Steve Jobs had listened to the advice in the 1980s he would have just made a better Apple 2.” 2. Have the other person’s interests at heart “An evangelist has the other person’s best interest at heart also and, primarily, most sales people are trying to make a quota and commission,” Kawasaki says. “Evangelists want to get people more creative and productive, which is good for them and which is also good for the evangelist.” 3. Trust is essential Kawasaki’s first job after he finished his MBA was working for a small family-owned jewellery manufacturer. “The jewellery business is intensely personal, reputation is everything; it’s hand to hand combat and I really learnt how to sell,” he says. “It’s all about how to get people to trust you.” 3. Be prepared for hand-to-hand combat “When you had a computer like Macintosh and you had no precedent it too was hand-to-hand combat,” Kawasaki says. “We literally met with companies one at a time, like selling a $35,000 ring you had to sell people on creating software for the Mac.” 4. Have an underlying purpose Kawasaki describes his time at Apple as “the best days of my life”. “We were on a mission to prevent worldwide domination by IBM and it got closer to a religion than to a business,” he says. “I believe the essence of what Apple did back then was it democratized computers.” Kawasaki says he finds Canva’s mission equally inspiring. “For me it’s empowering people for design like Macintosh empowered people for computers.” 5. Have a magnificent enemy “I can’t tell you that every product and every service can find as magnificent an enemy as IBM,” Kawasaki says. “There are not that many magnificent enemies and if you are a small business, in particular, it’s harder to define a magnificent enemy.” 6. Use technology Kawasaki says the tools available now make evangelism even easier. “Back in 1983 I had a car, an airplane ticket and a copper-based telephone system,” he says. “Now you have email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google hangouts on air and Skype.” 7. Remove barriers to entry Canva operates using a freemium model where the basic product is free although the company is getting ready to launch the paid service Canva for Work. Kawasaki says a freemium model makes life easy for him as an evangelist. “The benefits are that it presents a very low barrier to buy something; it’s kind of a land grab,” he says. “You want to give people a very slippery slope.” “Remove all the barriers for adoption and make it as easy as possible to fall in love with your product,” he says. “One barrier many companies make is that you have to download an app.” 8. Eat what you kill “You should eat what you kill,” Kawasaki says. “I have never seen a company die because it couldn’t scale fast enough but I have seen many die because they scaled too quickly.” CeBIT starts today at Sydney Olympic Park. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Google has acquired scheduling app Timeful in a bid to integrate the startup’s technology into Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs. Google’s product management director, Alex Gawley, said in a statement the company decided to snap up Timeful because it was impressed by its ability to help people organise their life and understand their “schedule, habits and needs”. “You can tell Timeful you want to exercise three times a week or that you need to call the bank by next Tuesday, and their system will make sure you get it done based on an understanding of both your schedule and your priorities,” he said. “We’re excited about all the ways Timeful’s technology can be applied across products like Inbox, Calendar and beyond, so we can do more of the work for you and let you focus on being creative, having fun and spending time with the people you care about.” Facebook jumps on the live streaming bandwagon Meerkat has rolled out an update that will allow users to share a link to their live broadcasts directly to their Facebook page. It is the first time a live-streaming app has linked up with Facebook, with most broadcasts publicised on Twitter. The update follows news last month that Twitter, which owns rival live-streaming app Periscope, was urging celebrities to stop using Meerkat. Victoria’s Premier embraces Periscope for budget announcement In other live-streaming news, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will be the first political leader in Australia to try his hand at live-streaming app Periscope, according to Fairfax. Andrews will host a Q&A session on Periscope after his Treasurer, Tim Pallas, hands down the government’s first budget tonight. Victorians are being encouraged to tweet their questions to the Premier for the 6.30pm Q&A. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 46.34 points, rising 0.26% to 18,070.40. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Every entrepreneur knows that they should be using digital marketing to grow their business but many are intimidated by the jargon and complexity of the industry. Each of the points below only skim the surface of what is possible but they will give you some guidance and food for thought. 1. Define business goals Whilst it sounds so simple, the biggest mistake companies make when investing in digital marketing is not to have a clearly defined set of business goals. Ask yourself the following questions and until you have the answers you should not be spending a single cent: What are we trying to achieve as a business? What can we afford to pay per sale? Who is going to manage this project from start to end? What does success look like? How much marketing budget are we going to spend? 2. Set up Google Analytics Google provides a number of free tools to help you succeed on the web. The most useful is Google Analytics (GA). It is imperative that every single website has GA installed and configured correctly. GA enables users to measure the success of each digital channel. There is no point investing money in a channel if you cannot understand how many sales that channel has provided. Every time a customer completes a transaction on your site they should be shown a thank you page. Firstly set up your GA account, then create a GA goal and place the code on to your thank you page. This code will fire every time a transaction is completed, registering a goal completion in Analytics. You can then log into Analytics, look at the conversion report and see which channel (SEO, AdWords, Facebook, etc) has provided the most conversions for your product/service. 3. Email database Every company should be building an email database. This will consist of people that have either bought or are interested in your company’s products/services. Your email database will drive your cheapest possible cost per acquisition as you are marketing to people who have already used or shown interest in your product/service. It is important to always obey the latest privacy laws regarding email. To brush up on your knowledge you can find them here. You should email your database enough to maintain contact but not so much that they decide to unsubscribe. When deciding if to send an email consider if the content that you are providing will be interesting and informative to your users. If the answer is yes, send it. Emailing uninformative information more than once a month is likely to lead to a large number of users unsubscribing. 4. Search engine optimisation (SEO) SEO will always provide your second cheapest cost per acquisition after email and is an essential part of any digital strategy. Google’s algorithm is extremely complicated. However, it can be distilled into three basic parts: technical, onsite content and links. If you do not have the budget to hire a specialist SEO agency you can still improve your SEO rankings. Google loves fresh content. You should be blogging as much as you possibly can about your chosen industry and then posting links to your content on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Google also loves high quality, contextually relevant sites linking to your website. Your first stop for links should be to ask your existing partners/clients to link back to your website. Next make a list of every software/digital supplier that you use and offer to write them a testimonial if they link to your site. Signing up for a MOZ subscription will provide a great starter toolset to guide you on how to improve your site for technical SEO. 5. Paid media (Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) The type of product/service that your business offers will define which of these mediums will work best for you. In most cases Google AdWords and Facebook adverts will provide your highest return on investment. The key to all paid media is ensuring that it’s tracked correctly so that you can measure your ROI. In addition to Google Analytics tracking, each form of paid media will have its own conversion pixel. It’s absolutely essential to install each of the medium’s tracking pixel on your thank you page. Not only will it count the number of conversions, but it will also allow you to optimise the campaign towards the best performing keywords, demographic or advert. Retargeting should also form part of your paid media strategy. In its simplest form, a user visiting your website is cookied. You can then retarget the users that do not buy your product/service with a message encouraging them to do so. If you take one message away from this blog post it should be that business planning and tracking return on investment are the most important digital marketing factors. If digital marketing acronyms leave you confused check out my list of meanings here. Tom Sadler is sales and marketing director at indigo digital. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With the Apple Watch having now officially launched in Australia, developers and businesses releasing apps for the platform are describing a number of unique challenges posed by the device, including dealing with a smaller screen, unreliable Bluetooth links and new contexts for apps. The highly publicised launch of Apple’s wearable device will see the number of companies with smartwatch apps explode. The list of companies committing to apps on the platform includes Domain, REA, CBA, Fairfax, Qantas, Woolworths, OzLotteries, Westpac, St George and Zova. They join startups such as Rewardle and Freelancer which are already operating on smartwatches via Google’s Android Wear platform and, in some cases, created apps even before the Apple Watch was officially announced. Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford says many more businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to the platform. “At the moment as a digital agency, we’re not seeing a lot of demand for apps, but there is a lot interest in the business community. A lot of businesses are watching the launch very closely,” Bradford says. Bradford says screen size is one of the major user interface issues developers need to consider when designing an app. “In general, smartwatch keyboards are unusable and on the Apple Watch it’s non-existent. That creates a number of UI challenges. So for example, for an app that relies on communicating between two people, instead of a keyboard, Apple allows you to use predetermined emoji, draw on the screen or call them by voice. That means the whole UI needs to be rethought,” he says. “The other issue is processing power and the necessity of being synced to the iPhone for many of the features. So, for example, the watch can’t access the internet directly, meaning you need to have your phone nearby – in a pocket, a bag or on a desk – when you want to call someone. “That means if you have a fitness app, there’s a good chance the user won’t have their phone in their pocket when they go running – and you won’t be able to get data onto the internet in real time. So you really need to consider the context as well as the UI.” Among the Australian startups preparing to launch an Apple Watch app is mobile ordering and payments platform AirService. Its chief executive and co-founder, Dominic Bressan says it’s important to be mindful of battery life, and that design elements work differently on a smaller screen. “It’s a new platform, a new experience, and you can’t just shrink an iPhone app down to a smaller screen. So you have to pick which elements you bring from the iPhone to the Watch,” Bressan says. “So notifications are something that naturally flows from the phone to the watch. I don’t see the full ordering experience translating to the watch, at least this stage. We will allow users to save a couple of favourite orders, but a full browse of venues with photos will remain on the iPhone. “It has been really tricky developing an app without a device to test on and needing to do everything in a simulator. You have to remember things like the Bluetooth Low Energy connection is prone to drop out on the real device, but always works flawlessly in the simulator. Likewise, Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung says notifications are likely to be a key focus for the startups forthcoming Apple Watch app. “For us, the benefits of an Apple Watch app are proximity and immediacy. Most of our Apple Watch app features are worker-centric features. We’re looking at scheduling, alerts and notifications that will allow them to move quickly and respond to an alert,” Fung says. “When it comes to posting tasks, at this stage the interface just isn’t strong enough. That will change over time, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Over the long term, we’re looking at things like using voice-to-text for tasks.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian voice recognition startup is looking to reduce driver distractions and make it safer for people to receive calls and texts while behind the wheel. Otto, which recently graduated from the National Roads and Motorists’ Association’s first accelerator program, allows users to take calls or reply to text messages without touching their phone. As part of the initiative the startup snapped up $30,000 in funding in exchange for a 10% stake in the company. Founder Alex Kain told StartupSmart the idea for the software initially came from being “brought up on shows like Knight Rider”. “We investigated the distracted driver scene and understood that even though 98% of people agree texting while driving is dangerous, 74% of people continue to do it,” he says. “That created the idea that there’s a gap in the market. While there’s Siri and Google Maps, they are lacking in some areas to be a completely intuitive solution for when you’re behind the wheel.” Kain says after entering the accelerator program he decided to scale back Otto’s features and just focus on messaging and calls in order to “fill the gaps” in other voice recognition features. “If you ask Siri to read out your text messages, unless one has just come in it says there are no new messages,” he says. “So it won’t go back and read your old messages. And with Google when you verbally dictate a text message it won’t verbally confirm what it’s going to send before it sends it. That’s fine when you’re looking at your phone, but not when you’re doing 100 kilometres on a freeway.” While the NRMA accelerator program has officially come to an end, Kain says it is just the beginning of the startup’s next stage of growth. The focus now will be on getting the product to market and scaling quickly. When asked whether the accelerator program was useful, Kain says it was very helpful in validating the product and figuring out a market fit – something that early-stage startups often need a lot of help with. “What it did was exactly as the name says – it accelerated our entry into the market,” he says. “But it is has also enabled us to get the basics right, so really validating our product and all the assumptions we had. It also enabled us to find specific niches… we’ve been able to target some enterprise customers and other niches such as motorcyclists.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based web series That Startup Show has released all six episodes of its first season on BitTorrent, surpassing 130,000 downloads within 24 hours. The show focuses on the issues facing Australian entrepreneurs and the local startup ecosystem and has caught the eye of people such as Google’s director of engineering Alan Noble and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure. For the show’s final episode, which was filmed on Wednesday night as part of the Connect 2015 festival, stand-up comedian Simon Taylor replaced Dan Ilic as the show’s host. Ilic is now working for Al Jazeera in San Francisco as the media company’s chief satirist. Since launching in August last year, the web series has attracted more than 200,000 viewers across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia. The show has also received a capital injection from angel investor Alan Jones and technology foundry Digital4ge. Well, we just hit 55,000 downloads! #whoa #amazing #tsushow — That Start Up Show (@tsushow) April 22, 2015 Co-producer Sally Gatenby told StartupSmart as of this morning the show has been downloaded 133,000 times. “It’s a wonderful testament to the desire for this type of entertainment and content but also for the particular model of the way we’ve done it,” she says. “By going via BitTorrent we’re able to deliver it to people directly. It’s a waiting audience who are very much in this space – they’re online constantly and entrepreneurs or tech people themselves.” More than 300 people were in the crowd for the filming of the season’s final episode, which was shot at Melbourne’s Savoy Tavern. The episode saw Josh Young from AUUG Motion Synth win the program’s PitchDown competition – which means he will be sent to the US to pitch his startup to investors. “We will follow the winner to the states and film them on their journey because invariably you never see what happens after people win pitch events or get funding,” Gatenby says. “It’s great we’re having pitch events and people wining pitch events, but it would be awesome to see what people are learning. So we’re really keen to bring that insight – we’re trying to bring a little bit more experience and transparency to what it’s like to be in a startup.” Planning for the second series of That Startup Show is underway. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
On one level, the European Commission’s argument with Google is unsurprising. The EC’s commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager’s job is to investigate possible breaches of EU competition law. That is exactly what she is doing with her official complaints against Google’s use of its Google Shopping service. Equally unsurprising, is the investigation of Google’s other possible breaches of its monopoly position with how it controls the use of its mobile operating system, Android. One should also set aside the melodrama that accompanies such cases. News reports of the case have highlighted calls for the break up of Google as suggested by the European Parliament last year. The reports have also focused on the possible massive Euro 6 billion fine Google faces if the antitrust complaints are upheld. Finally, there is the fact that the case is the result of a conspiracy of competitors, led by Microsoft. All of the drama however, masks what is going to be a protracted process that could take years, during which time the entire landscape that is being fought over could have changed, not once, but several times. Google themselves were at pains to respond to the accusations that they were harming consumers by pointing out that search was quickly being superseded, and that: “People are increasingly using social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to find recommendations, such as where to eat, which movies to watch or how to decorate their homes” Whilst it may be true that Google has a monopoly on search of the Internet as a whole, that is certainly not the case when it comes to the “social web” which is well and truly dominated by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. Likewise, Google may have dominated advertising on the desktop but that is increasingly not the case on mobile. Law and trade policy operate on timescales that are always going to significantly lag technological change. As if understanding the full impact of an existing technology on consumers and competition was already not challenging enough, attempting to do this in the context of what will happen in even a few years is almost impossible. In fact, even determining monopoly in a technological market is not always straightforward. For example, even though Android controls over 80% of the world’s smartphone market compared to Apple’s share of 15%, in terms of mobile e-commerce, users of Apple’s mobile devices account for 5 times the value of Android users. For all of the EC’s past actions against Microsoft, they were irrelevant in shaping what eventually happened in the market. The actions had no effect on Microsoft’s behaviours, and came as little-to-no benefit to consumers. As with the EC’s complaint against Android, the fact that software comes pre-installed does nothing to preclude a consumer’s ability to run alternative software. The EC’s objections against Google again raises the more general issue that it is a futile exercise to use antitrust law to retrospectively try and influence the way the technology companies, and the digital economy as a whole, work. As with copyright and patents, the law has simply not been able to adapt and keep pace with the disruptive change brought about by technology and society at a global scale. It has led policy and law makers, and companies not wanting to adapt to change, to focus on the past and act as a break, rather than an enabler, of progress. It would be a far better use of the EC’s time and resources if their energies were spent creating policy that enabled the digital economy that they profess to want rather than keeping their vision of it restricted to a time that has long since passed. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Dutch authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Uber because the company is providing an illegal taxi service that violates a court order, according to Reuters. The investigation is the latest setback for the ridesharing service in Europe. Last month a German court issued a nationwide ban on unlicensed taxi drivers with fines of up to $300,000 for violating the law. The move saw Uber bowing to pressure and agreeing to pay for transport licences for its UberX drivers. To date Dutch police have fined 23 Uber drivers more than $2000 for operating without a licence. In Australia, unregistered taxi drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. French senate supports law requiring Google to reveal its algorithm The French senate has supported a law that would require search engines to reveal their algorithms in order to ensure fair and non-discriminatory search results, according to TechCrunch. The chamber’s amendments to a draft economy bill could also see search engines forced to include a minimum of three rivals on the first page of search results. Google, which owns an overwhelming chunk of the search engine market, has always kept its search algorithm top secret. The draft legislation comes at a time when Google is coming under tough scrutiny in Europe for allegedly abusing its dominance of the internet to the detriment of competitors. The French upper house will vote on the legislation and its amendments next month before it has the opportunity to be passed into law. WhatsApp reaches 800 million users worldwide Messaging platform WhatsApp has reached 800 million monthly users. The company’s current rate of growth puts it on track to reach one billion users by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The messaging app has grown by 100 million active monthly users every four months since August 2014. Facebook purchased WhatsApp last year for just over $28 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
AgFunder, part of 500 Startups’ 12th batch, wants to make it easier for agricultural technology startups to source funding. Australian entrepreneur Michael Dean, the co-founder of agriculture technology investment platform AgFunder, hopes his startup will help speed up the development of technologies that will be necessary to feed the world’s fast-growing population. “Agriculture is by its nature a very fragmented marketplace to invest in as obviously the money is located in the cities and quite often the developers are based in the country where the farmers are,” he says. “Connecting the two has traditionally been a very difficult exercise. By creating an online platform – a precursor for an investment bank – we’re able to offset the fragmented nature of the market.” Dean says most of the technologies tipped to become game-changers in the near future are already being utilised or tested in agriculture. “If you look at agriculture and all of the new technologies that are emerging – whether they be robotics, internet of things or big data – the whole precision agriculture sphere of development is really being reflected in agriculture technologies,” he says. “We’re talking about Google coming up with driverless cars. Well, we’ve had farmers turn to driverless tractors. We need to feed probably more than 9 billion people by 2050 with no more land and no more water – probably less of both. So it’s absolutely important that we are applying these technologies to agriculture.” The best thing about 500 Startups, according to Dean, is the “collegial” nature of the program. “The team make a big thing about talking about their 500 family and you really do feel like a family,” he says. “It’s been very useful to have that exposure to previous batches and just benefit around their experience and knowledge, pitching and people we should be talking to.” When asked what his advice would be for entrepreneurs wanting to try their luck at getting into the 500 Startups program, Dean says having a good team is crucial. “The important thing is to make sure you’ve got the right team,” he says. “A good team is crucial and most investors invest in a team [rather than an individual]. You need to understand your market, you need to understand your product and express that when you’re pitching. You should have a clear vision of where you’re going as well – that’s not to say you might not pivot once you get into the accelerator because that does happen – but the important thing is being clear with your objectives and what you’re doing.” 500 Startups has invested in more than 800 companies from more than 40 countries. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.