Five ways to make your marketing more strategic

5:59PM | Monday, 26 May

Too often businesses take an unplanned approach to their marketing, either following the crowd or acting on a hunch they decide to "try it and see". But it's the fastest way to blow your marketing budget.   True marketing magic happens when the right product or service, with the right message meets the right people, at the right time, on the right marketing platform. Though, to do that, you need a strategy, and you need to test and measure your results.   So stop doing what you think you should be doing, what the company down the road is doing or what you heard would be good to try and start strategising the best way to create the marketing magic for your business. Here are five tips to get you started.   1. Qualify your marketing efforts   In order to make the most of your marketing campaign and investment you need to: Check there is a need for your products or services Craft messages that are relevant and emotionally engaging with the audience that have the need Ensure the platform or strategy you use will reach a large number of the audience you are targeting By evaluating your marketing efforts, strategies and opportunities on the simple criteria of relevance, target and reach, you can quickly protect your budget from marketing strategies that "everyone is doing" and decide what you will and won’t do. 2. Know the purpose   Whatever marketing or advertising you do, there needs to be a clear purpose for it. You need to know what you want someone to do after reading or hearing the specific message you have created, as this will impact the call to action you use.   Is it to call you? Go to your website? Sign up to the mailing list? Buy immediately? Once you know what you need them to do, you can then make sure your copy, call to action and incentive all work together to make it happen.   3. Ensure there are real benefits or an opportunity to get a return   It sounds obvious, but many marketing campaigns proceed under the guise of "increasing brand awareness" (sponsorship can be an ideal example of this), which is fine if you already have brand awareness, have a large marketing budget to play with or if it's a highly relevant and targeted opportunity, but it's impact is very hard to measure.   Whatever you look to invest your marketing dollars in, there needs to be real benefits and return. So, to use the sponsorship example, find a way to proactively reach your audience in a measurable way like sponsoring a prize and getting the business cards of those who enter.   4. Test your message on a smaller campaign   Before you embark on a larger marketing or advertising campaign test your headline and message on a smaller one.   It could be through a focus group, survey, Facebook advertising campaign, a Google AdWords advertisement or a smaller mail out to test and measure the results. Better to find out a message doesn't work on a small scale with a small investment rather than a large one.   5. Don't confuse persistence with foolishness   While you need to allocate a set amount of time to tell if a product, message, platform or strategy is working, you don't want to keep wasting time, money and effort on something that isn't.   To prevent this from happening, set a cap or measurement on your efforts. It could be a time limit, or a set amount of mail outs you do in order to test the product or service, message or platform to see if it is getting a response.   As entrepreneurs we need to be mindful that sometimes business ideas, products or services and marketing campaigns don't work out.   When this is the case, it is important for your business and your bottom line to stop instead of persisting, put it down to education and move on to the next thing.   How do you ensure your marketing is strategic?

Watches, thermostats and fridges: Where next for advertising?

5:26AM | Tuesday, 27 May

Google has predicted advertisements could soon be featured on places such as refrigerators and watches, in a bid to capitalise on the roll-out of ‘smart’ appliances.   In a December 2013 letter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, released earlier this week, the tech giant said it expects to see itself and other companies develop advertising on devices beyond mobile phones.   “We expect the definition of ‘mobile’ to continue to evolve as more and more ‘smart’ devices gain traction in the market,” the letter reads.   “For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses and watches, to name just a few possibilities,” said the company.   In the letter, Google described this approach as “device-agnostic”. This means rather than traditional desktop or tablet marketing campaigns, advertisers’ campaigns will not be tied to a particular device.   Michelle Gamble, founder and chief executive of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany she isn’t shocked by Google’s suggestion that advertising could intrude further into the home.   “I think we’re already seeing it,” says Gamble.   “It’s the price you pay for having amazing technology offered to you very cheaply. As things have gotten cheaper and moved to the cloud, you’re starting to see advertising being integrated into your applications more and more,” she says.   Gamble says consumers could react negatively at first, but examples such as Facebook jumping on the advertising bandwagon show that if the product is good enough, people will eventually get used to the idea.   “I think there will be a bunch of early adopters that will rally against it, but much like anything else they’ll eventually accept it,” says Gamble.   “Consumers are always going to protest against more advertising. But they’re certainly not going to stop paying for a service they’re hooked on,” she says.   They key here is striking a balance between the advertiser and consumer, says Gamble.   “One thing Google has always done though is put the user first,” she says. “They’re great at technology and rolling out new ideas, and quickly canning them if they don’t work. I’m sure they’ll somehow find the right balance between pushing advertising onto the consumer and interrupting the consumer too much.”

SurveyMonkey and asking the right questions

5:35PM | Wednesday, 21 May

SurveyMonkey, one of the great survivors of the original dot com boom, announced on Wednesday it is opening a Sydney office as its first branch in the Asia-Pacific region.   SurveyMonkey chief executive David Goldberg told Private Media the online survey company is setting up in Sydney because “we’re very big here in Australia.”   “It’s our third largest market after the US and the UK. On a per-capita, basis it’s our best market,” Goldberg said.   SurveyMonkey’s Sydney office will be its third location outside its Silicon Valley base, after Goldberg announced a London office to supplement its Portuguese development team late last year.   As with London, the Sydney office won’t be employing any developers. Instead, the Australian staff will work on sales, marketing and support, with a focus on launching the company’s new Audience product, which provides interview panels for enterprise customers.   SurveyMonkey’s global expansion is being funded by an $800 million dollar capital raising last year that values the privately held company, with investors including Google and Goldberg himself, at $1.3 billion.   The company itself is one of the survivors of the original dot com boom having being founded in 1999. It’s a world that Goldberg is very familiar with as the founder of LAUNCH, one of the world’s first online music businesses, which was founded in 1994.   After selling LAUNCH to Yahoo! and becoming the online media giant’s music director, Goldberg later joined the venture capital world and was appointed SurveyMonkey’s chief executive in 2009. Before launching his own business, he was a Bain & Co consultant and spent some time living in Sydney during the early 1990s.   Goldberg sees the company needing that warchest as the industry develops, “I think we’re still very early in a lot of the changes that are happening. We’re going to really see the advantages of tying these services together. That’s still early on but we’re beginning to see that as customers begin to tie SurveyMonkey together with other applications so they are integrated rather than siloed.”   “We’re also really early on in mobile,” Goldberg muses. “We’re doing in mobile what we did in the early days of the web where we just took things we were used to in the analogue world and put them online, we’re still in that stage of putting the web onto mobile.”   For entrepreneurs and small businesses, Goldberg’s advice in dealing with a rapidly changing economy and a world awash in big data is to ask the find the right tools to ask the right questions. “I think people should figure out what are the questions you are trying to answer and then find the tools that help you answer those questions.”

Envato’s Tuts+ gets a makeover

5:07AM | Wednesday, 21 May

Melbourne-based Envato has just completed a relaunch of its Tuts+ service that was a year in the making.   Tuts+ is an online learning service that helps five million monthly visitors learn creative and technical skills.   What began as a single blog ballooned into 16 different learning sites and Envato CEO and co-founder Collis Ta’eed says the relaunch brings those sites together on the Tuts+ platform.   “It’s been a long time coming, we started Tuts+ some years ago, early in the company’s life and it was just meant to be a single site publishing tutorials,’’ he says.   “We basically proliferated a little too far.   “We’ve pulled it all together so there’s a single clear navigation system. It’s a cleaner more usable product which in itself will lead to more users and help people understand what the brand does.   “For a long time it was difficult to describe Tuts+ in a sentence.”   Tuts+ is the largest free education platform of its kind, but it also offers individual courses that can be bought in addition to subscriptions, which give users access to more content starting from $180.   Even so, Ta’eed says Envato sees the free programs as more of a public service.   “The free content is not a very profitable business to be honest,’’ he says with a laugh.   “It’s okay, but overall it’s a loss maker. But our company mission statement is to help people learn and earn online, and as a founder of Envato I learnt a lot of my design skills online for free.   “Part of it is giving back to the community in a way that is accessible.   “We want as many people as possible to learn useful creative skills, so they can earn a good living and shape the working lives they want.”   Ta’eed says the relaunch was a complicated process, which is why it’s taken close to a year to complete.   “Because we were moving domains around, when you’re as large as Tuts+ is, with about five million visitors a month, thousands of tutorials, tons of content, we wanted to shift around being hit by Google,’’ he says.   “So it’s a bit like refuelling a jet in flight.   “We did it in small pieces, moved on and then watched for a while to make sure it didn’t fall apart.”

The age of holistic product development

5:56AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Over the last decade a few major themes have dominated the evolution of product development, particularly software development: A shift towards agile practices, customer-centric decision-making, and better integration and collaboration across disciplines. The last of those – the increasing porousness between the “big three” disciplines of product management, design, and engineering – is evolving the most rapidly.   The tenets of Agile development are fairly mature at this point. Customer development and Lean practices are now considered conventional wisdom. But the ways in which designers, product managers, and engineers work together are in flux. The boundaries between the Big Three pillars of product development are just beginning to blur.   Design has changed the most dramatically and had the most significant impact on engineering and product management. A decade ago, design was little more than static mockups or graphic treatments of engineering output. Today, not only is design key to creating successful products at all stages of the lifecycle, it has also become a viable strategic differentiator for the companies that do it best.   Design as a discipline has always encompassed more than just the façade (the “chrome” as we called it before Google appropriated the word). In software, however, only recently has design been acknowledged as a major strategic input. Product managers are the voice of the customers, but designers are the voice of the humans.   Designers in software have also become more rigorous and technically proficient. A shiny mockup that gives a good first impression was all a good designer used to have to make. Today we expect the design process to start from a clear set of first principles derived from a deep understanding of the people using the product.   We expect designers to understand information architecture and to create a consistent, reasoned visual vocabulary and a sensible flow. We expect designers to intimately understand the capabilities of the technologies used to implement their ideas, and increasingly we see designers with substantial software development experience working with the same tools as engineers.   The evolution of design has impacted product managers and engineers as well. Product managers are now expected to understand and utilize design thinking. Engineers need to be conversant in the design vernacular and are becoming increasingly skilled in basic design principles.   These cross-pollinations are a healthy development, and as the last vestiges of linear, waterfall-style processes fall away, teams are looking for ways to integrate their efforts and break free of assembly-line metaphors (GANTT charts are not exactly in fashion in software development). Classic Scrum orthodoxy has also left teams looking to loosen the bottleneck created by a single Product Owner who must be the conduit between the entire business and the Team. At the previous two Products Are Hard conferences, for example, we saw a great deal of interest in talks about ways to better integrate designers into the development process.   We use the world “holistic” to describe this evolving approach because of the convergence of disciplines, processes, and strategies that are all based on integrating across disciplinary boundaries. Designers, product managers, and engineers are influencing each other and are working more closely than ever before.   We have built new processes to favor responsiveness and experimentation over predictability and certainty. We have pushed our business strategy to be more informed and harmonized with the human needs and desires of those we build for.   We’re curious about your experiences. Are you seeing a similar trend? Different trends? Let us know: @productsarehard. Nathan Dintenfass is a product executive living in San Francisco.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter gets musical with proposed deal to buy SoundCloud

5:35AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Twitter is considering a deal to buy music and audio-sharing service SoundCloud.   If the proposed deal goes ahead, it will be Twitter’s largest acquisition ever.   At the beginning of the year, SoundCloud announced a $60 million funding round that valued the company at $700 million.   YouTube to acquire Twitch Google-owned YouTube has agreed a deal to buy popular videogame–streaming service Twitch for more than $1 billion.   The acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube.   Twitch lets users upload and watch free, live gameplay videos streamed from Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles.   It claims it has more than 45 million monthly users.   Chinese military unit charged with cyber-espionage   Five members of the Chinese military have been accused by the US Justice Department of conducting economic cyber-espionage against American companies.   It’s the first time the United States has brought such charges against members of a foreign country’s military.   The Justice Department says the hacking occurred for no other reason than to give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.55 to 16,511.86. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

EU privacy ruling the latest legal blow for Google

5:23AM | Monday, 19 May

Last week’s ruling by the European Union (EU) Court of Justice that citizens have a right to request search engines remove information about them from their search results is already causing chaos in Google’s operations with the new flood of requests.   What is the actual ruling?   The EU Court of Justice ruling immediately affects 500 million citizens from 28 European countries. It means that an individual can ask Google or other internet search services to remove information and links to web pages that are published by third parties, such as newspapers, containing information relating to them. Failure by the search service to remove the links can result in fines. However, it does not mean the publisher or website is required to alter or remove the actual article.   The EU is defending the ruling by stating that in cases where the public interest case is more important and vital than the individual’s privacy rights, the links should not be taken down.   What does this mean for an individual?   This means that a person can remove some of their ugly past from Google and the public internet reach even if the facts are true. An individual can demand that a search engine take down certain information and results that they say infringes their privacy or is no longer relevant. If the search engine chooses not to remove the link, the person has a right to request a court order.   What does this mean for Google?   The ruling has significant implications for Google. Prior to this judgment, Google was receiving approximately 5.3 million removal requests per week for copyright infringement alone.   With this new take-down requirement, Google will potentially have to hire an army of experts just to manage, assess merits of each request and remove any controversial links.   One of the main issues with this court decision is that the criteria for determining which take-down requests are legitimate is not clear, particularly where public figures are involved and public interest may be argued. With the right of individuals to seek a court order to enforce their request, this means search engines are likely to act on the side of caution and remove more links than necessary to avoid liability.   The other issue that may prove difficult is that the search engine will have to be able to authenticate the request, to ensure the person asking for the link’s removal is actually the person they claim to be.   And the third issue is the most disturbing. Many of the recent requests since this judgment include those from convicted criminals: a man convicted of possessing child pornography; a man convicted of trying to kill his family; and a man convicted of running a tax scam are all among those requesting links and articles about their convictions be wiped.   The BBC reportedly learned that more than half the requests from UK individuals sent to Google after the ruling involved convicted criminals.   If Google refuses or ignores an individual’s takedown demand, Google could potentially face substantial litigation costs as well as fines. Not only is this a large compliance burden for Google but it means any search results compiled for analysis or general information purposes will be affected. This is a huge setback for Google and there is no appeal process for this decision.   Does this affect the rest of the world?   It is not year clear how this ruling affects countries outside of Europe.   Currently, it means that if you are in the US and do the same search on Google for something in the EU that has deleted links, you still may be able to access and find the articles and references which were removed from the EU search engine.   However, the court specifically stated that companies cannot get out of complying with the judgment by stating that their servers are outside of Europe. As it’s not yet clear to Google how far reaching this ruling will be applied, so we may see the implications of this in the US, Australia and the rest of the world at some point.   It seems there is a direct conflict between the right to be forgotten and a right to know. One wonders if this is not a case of wide-sweeping censorship.

YouTube reported to have bought Twitch for $1 billion

5:50AM | Monday, 19 May

Google’s YouTube has reached a deal to buy videogame streaming company Twitch for more than $US1 billion ($A1.06 billion), according to a report in Variety.   Variety reports the deal, an all-cash offer, will be announced imminently.   If completed, the acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion.   SmartCompany contacted YouTube, which declined to comment.   “We don't comment on rumours or speculation," the spokesperson said.   Twitch did not respond prior to publication.   Twitch’s website describes it as “the world's leading video platform and community for gamers with more than 45 million visitors per month”.   The site aims to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play.   It hit a million monthly broadcasters in February this year after it was launched in June 2011 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, co-founders of, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video.   Twitch has raised about $35 million in funding since its launch, with investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Alsop Louie Partners, WestSummit Capital, Take-Two Interactive Software, Thrive Capital and Draper Associate   Most recently, Twitch announced a $20 million investment in September last year.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Mozilla Firefox DRM decision prompts warning from former Kazaa CTO

5:49AM | Thursday, 15 May

Mozilla has announced it is embracing the W3C Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) digital rights management standard in Firefox, prompting a warning from the former chief technical officer of peer-to-peer sharing service Kazaa.   Phil Morle, the chief executive and cofounder of startup incubator Pollenizer, was previously the chief technical officer for peer-to-peer file sharing service Kazaa. The service was shut down following a series of lawsuits from the recording industry.   Morle told StartupSmart digital rights management has historically been a problematic technology.   “I think DRM as a feature historically fails and will continue to do so because the user experience is implicitly poor. It stops customers doing things,” Morle says.   “After a while customers can't track which media will still work and which will not. Then they give up trying or buying. DRM goes against the nature of the web which gives media a powerful channel to reach customers.   “As Tim O'Reilly [an open source advocate] says, the biggest problem for creators is not piracy; it's obscurity. Adopting DRM says that your customer is your enemy and not to be trusted. Customers understand that.”   EME is a protocol designed to prevent anyone other than people legally licensed to watch video or music files from viewing that content in their web browser.   In a statement posted on Mozilla’s official blog, cofounder Mitchell Barker says it is joining Apple, Microsoft and Google by implementing the protocol in its Firefox web browser.   “People want to watch video, including movies and TV shows. Browsers must provide the ability to watch video or the browser becomes less and less the tool users need,” Barker says.   “A number of content owners (in particular film and TV studios) require technical mechanisms to reduce the ways in which people can use that content, such as preventing people from making copies.   “This technical mechanism is generally called ‘DRM’ for ‘digital rights management.’ Browsers must implement DRM in a way that makes the content owners comfortable. Otherwise they won’t allow their content to be viewed through that browser.”   The EME standard insists on a closed-source solution, with Mozilla’s adoption of the standard meaning there will be a HTML5 standard across all major web browsers for DRM.   Barker says Mozilla is implementing the protocol in its open source Firefox browser through an optional restricted content module to be developed by Adobe.   In a separate blog post, Mozilla’s chief technology officer provides technical details on how its implementation will work.   “The W3C EME specification defines how to play back such content using the HTML5 element, utilizing a Content Decryption Module (CDM) that implements DRM functionality directly in the Web stack. The W3C EME specification only describes the JavaScript APIs to access the CDM.”

Budget makes US look even more appealing, startups say

5:59PM | Wednesday, 14 May

We asked some Australian startups what they thought of the budget and how it might affect them. Here’s what they had to say.   Michael Fox, CEO, Shoes of Prey:   It's a challenge for tech startups raising capital in Australia and the temptation to move to the US where it's significantly easier to raise funding is high, and a lot of startups move for this reason. The IIF and CA were both designed to help fill this funding gap in the Australian market, so with both of them gone we'll lose a lot more Australian tech startups to the US. The reduction in the refundable percentage of the R&D tax credit will further exacerbate this.   Alan Jones, head of marketing, BlueChilli:    Support for the tech startup industry is not about handouts to lazy businesses, it's about arresting the innovation brain drain. In five years we can build a $50m tech startup with a team of 10 and a few laptops and mobiles. But unlike a manufacturer or a miner, that IP is highly mobile and can be based anywhere the industry support is greatest. This budget is the right step forward if what we want to do is create more Atlassians – creating most of its value for the US economy and paying most of its tax in the UK.   Bosco Tan, co-founder, Pocketbook:   The impact for early stage and fast growing startups is staggering. The pulling back of government support makes our companies immediately less competitive to economies like Singapore. The temporary R&D cutback conditions and the scrapping of CA & IIF to start a new program means that there will be at least one year where funding sources will be even tighter. In our world, all startups look for is a supportive and stable environment for us to compete globally. This also means a tax system around employee share schemes that actually works for companies of our size. It should be in our government’s interest to help build economic value and jobs like how Facebook and Google have contributed to the US economy.   Damien Andreasen, co-founder, LawPath:    Technology in Australia is a developing industry with the potential to create over half a million jobs in the next 2 decades*. Reducing funds available to support innovation and early stage tech businesses shows a lack of foresight. Reducing the R&D incentive by 1.5% will hurt startups like LawPath, we depend on the rebate to plan product development, staffing levels and even a slight reduction can have a big impact. The upside of the 1.5% reduction in company tax won't offset the R&D loss, most startups are yet to hit breakeven. The loss of the CA and IIF grants are regrettable but shouldn't stop Australian entrepreneurs getting on with the job of bringing innovative new tech business to life.   Shane Greenup, co-founder, Rbutr:    The largest companies in Australia are all mining, banking and supermarket conglomerates, and BHP has an annual revenue of $72 billion, followed by Rio Tinto at $59.8 billion and Wesfarmers at $58 billion. Then you look at the tech giants in the USA: Microsoft’s revenue is $77.8 billion; Google is $59.8 billion; and Apple is $170 billion. There is really no reason why companies as large and successful as these couldn't be founded in Australia and grown here. Tech doesn't require resources like mining does, and isn't limited to the local Australian market like supermarkets tend to be. You would think that investing in the development of companies like these would be a huge priority for any government.

“Uber for tennis” launches

5:02AM | Monday, 12 May

Tennis Buddy an app that promises to help users find a tennis partner in less than 10 minutes is billing itself as “Uber for Tennis”.   Co-founded by Australian-educated entrepreneur Marius Kraemer, Tennis Buddy is a location-based app that enables users to find strangers close by and available to have a game of tennis. The app is available in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.   “When building Tennis Buddy, I wanted to especially help busy people such as business travellers who often only have a two hour window of spare time that opened up due to a cancelled meeting for instance,’’ he says.   “With a user base of over several hundred users in cities like London, Sydney or even 900 in LA already, the broadcast always finds that one person who is available at that very moment.   “This is what makes Tennis Buddy so fast, as it brings down the average response time for a broadcast to under 10 minutes.”   Kraemer studied a Masters of Information Technology at the University of Sydney, during which he launched his first startup, Matewire, a local events finder which was backed by Australian accelerator Pushstart in 2012.   Kraemer, who was studying in Australia on exchange, struggled to find and market-fit for the product and, coupled with visa troubles, had to shut Matewire down.   His latest effort was co-founded with Sophia Vogt, a former professional tennis player, and together they’re chasing the lucrative US tennis industry.   He says he was inspired by Uber’s ‘get what you want at the press of a button’ mentality.   “Similar to Uber, which is going after the $10 billion US taxi industry, we are going after the $5.6 billion US tennis industry,’’ Kramer says.   “By the end of the year, (we) aim to have 500 users in over 100 cities each, so that we can connect people across all the international cities of the world.”

Pandora jewellery founder backs major online legal player LawPath

5:01AM | Monday, 12 May

Lawpath, a “one stop-shop” for individuals and businesses with legal needs, has announced the closure of a new funding round, with the full investment coming from Brook Adcock, the founder of the jewellery business Pandora Australia.   Adcock has invested $600,000 into LawPath, which is Australia’s largest online legal services business.   “I look for businesses that are truly disruptive and have the potential to scale, not only in Australia but globally – LawPath is such a business,” Adcock says.   LawPath offers two main services: connecting people with legal issues to lawyers with the right expertise, and a revolutionary new way of documenting legal arrangements at a fraction of the normal cost.   According to LawPath CEO Paul Lupson, the platform greatly reduced costs for its users.   “Using the unique LawPath process people can get their own specific legal document, be it a will, an employment agreement, whatever, produced with lawyer sign-off for 10% to 20% of the cost of going to a normal lawyer,” Lupson says.   Co-founder and head of lawyer partnerships Damien Andreasen says LawPath reversed the way that legal documents were usually created by clients getting the document first (through the platform) and adding specifics before sending it back to a lawyer to approve for a fixed price.   “People can pay as little as $999 for a customised document that would otherwise cost them $10,000,” Andreasen says.   Standard templates at a lower cost (from $49-$299) can also be purchased on the site.   For legal problems that can’t be solved through a document, users of the platform can be connected to the right lawyer for their issue and get a 30 minute consultation for free.   “From a consumer perspective what we’re offering is a simple solution to what was often an overly complicated and expensive problem,” he says.   Andreasen says that they will use the investment to focus on above-the-line marketing and improving their product offering. On the lawyer connect side of the business, there are over 400 lawyers on the LP network and they are joining at the rate of two or so a day.   In the last year, over 3000 legal questions were dealt with by the website.   “On big days, we can have 40 to 50 legal enquiries coming through the site,” says Lupson.   “We see the opportunity to help both the users seeking legal advice and the lawyers. The users get connected with a lawyer who is both close by and has exactly the right skills for their issue.   “The lawyers love it – we introduce them to quality new clients quickly. Marketing is hard for lawyers – time consuming and hit and miss – we make it easy.”   LawPath charges lawyers between $49 and $89/month for membership and it is free for users.   “We have based the business on some very successful online legal models out of the US, where online legal is hot,” Lupson says. “Google is investing heavily in online legal – as are others.”   As for Adcock, he believes “this is a once in a generation opportunity to change a market”.   “I hope to apply some of the marketing lessons we learnt from Pandora to help LawPath become a household brand in Australia,” he says. “It feels like the right idea at the right time with the right people.”   Other investors in LawPath include co-founder and former head of sales at daily-deal sensation Spreets, Damien Andreasen; incubator Pollenizer; and Nick Abrahams, the APAC technology practice leader for global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. LawPath also has a partnership arrangement with global legal powerhouse LexisNexis.   Adrock connected to LawPath through a Pollenizer pitch night. Andreasen says it took about three months to close the deal, but they were very happy with the outcome and the experience that Adrock brought with him.

Startup Weekend gets the female treatment

5:00AM | Tuesday, 13 May

When Startup Weekend Melbourne Women gets underway this weekend, it will be the first time a startup weekend event has catered specially to Australian women.   Event organiser Marina Paronetto says for too long startup weekend events have had a significant male influence.   Paronetto has founded her own startup, PowerHouseHQ, a company which helps businesses organise their own hackathons.   “I’ve been part of (Startup Weekend Melbourne) since 2011 and there’s always around 10-11% of attendees are women; it’s something I thought we should do something about,’’ Paronetto says.   “One of the main ideas for this event is to start an event from scratch, and understand what makes great conditions for women.   “One of them is making the space and the nutrition really tailored to empower people.   “Good quality food with a lot of options; there’s usually just beer and pizza. We want everybody really nurtured for the weekend.”   Looking forward to #40forward. @jo_1660 will kick-off a week of activities encouraging women into #tech #Adelaide — Jen Hassam (@RhetoricComms) May 12, 2014     Last weekend organisers held a pre-event, the Startup Weekend Melbourne Bootcamp Brunch, which gave participants a chance to meet and explore their startup ideas a week in advance.   “We’re focusing on three main elements, networking, collaboration and learning,’’ Paronetto says.   “We thought the best way to give all the applicants to do those three things was to run a pre-event.”   Geek Girl Academy organiser Tammy Butow is also part of the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organising team and Paronetto says she’s a big reason the weekend will be so rewarding.   The attendees will pitch their ideas on Friday night, form teams to work on the best ideas, before pitching their creations before a panel of judges on Sunday night that includes Susan Wu of Stripe, entrepreneur Leni Mayo, CEO of Scale Investors Laura McKenzie, and StartupSmart editor Bronwen Clune.   Both the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women and last weekend’s brunch were sponsored by Nitro and chief operating officer Gina O’Reilly says there are real benefits to a diverse workforce.   “Nitro are firm believers in the complementary skills women bring to the workplace and are imperative to every business,’’ she says.   Last year a study by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency found women occupy less than 20 per cent of positions in the majority of information and communication technology occupations.   According to Google, women-led tech companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, and when backed by venture capital bring in 12% more revenue than their male counterparts.   The low participation of women in the ICT sector is a problem Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organisers are not alone in trying to fix.   Google is spearheading a worldwide campaign known as #40forward and is challenging its partner organisations to increase the representation of women in tech communities.   This month @StartupGrind will be hosting 60 events w/60 awesome female entrepreneurs around the world. Great, eh? #40Forward #startupgrind — karlie krieger (@karliekrieger) May 7, 2014     Startup Grind, an event which gives established business owners a chance to mentor the next generation of startups and is part of the #40forward campaign, will see DVE Business Solutions director Jo Schneider host an event in Adelaide on May 26.   “I’m looking forward to telling my personal story, how I achieved 300% growth in three years and giving highly practical advice on building businesses by using technology to achieve growth, develop relationships and goal setting,’’ Schneider says.

Five reasons why Apple has bought headphone company Beats (by Dr Dre)

5:42AM | Monday, 12 May

As first announced by the Financial Times it seems almost certain that Apple will buy premium headphone and audio company Beats for $3.2 billion. Apple was expected to announce the news next week but have been pre-empted by an indiscrete Dr Dre, the rapper, hip hop producer and founder of Beats, who confirmed the deal in public.   $3.2 billion is a premium for a company that was valued at around a $1 billion in 2013 after HTC sold a 25% holding in Beats for $265 million. The general media commentary on the deal has surrounded the question of what Apple would want a company like Beats for. Opinions have ranged from the reflected “cool” of having the brand which is very popular to benefiting from the acquisition of Beats’ music streaming service “Beats Music” that was launched earlier this year. What is likely is that Apple will take advantage of the sum of benefits from the purchase. Five of the major benefits that Apple will be getting are the following:   1. The premium headphone market   The premium headphone market is currently worth about a $1 billion a year. Beats by Dr Dre headsets are currently a very popular item for sale in Apple’s own stores and so by buying the company, Apple can profit directly from the sale of the headphones and portable speaker on a worldwide basis. What would be interesting is if Apple buys any other companies that have products selling well through its stores.   2. Audio technology   Apple gains the design and manufacturing experience that Beats brings to the audio market. Other than headsets, the audio is used in computers and other devices. Although Apple computers have good quality speakers, the audio on Macs has always been limited with no system level equalizer for example. Apple can immediately improve the quality of the headsets it ships with its phones and tablets and the audio in its laptop computers.   3. Music streaming service   Beats Music has received good reviews and so Apple will be able to roll its service into improving its own music streaming service iTunes Radio. This will have assumed more importance with the accelerating shift in the music market from digital downloads to streaming.   4. Boosting Apple’s cool   The Beats brand has achieved a level of popularity through its association with rap founder Dr Dre and other music stars that the company has used to promote its products. There is no denying that Apple’s brand as the icon of cool has been tarnished through its own success and it evolutionary approach to product development it has adopted over the past 4 years. The Beats by Dr Dre brand and products will definitely help in reestablishing some of that lost image within a certain demographic. Whether that demographic is really core to Apple’s market is another matter altogether.   5. Wearables   It is remotely possible that Apple is thinking about the possibility of smart headphones. Given that the use of voice is becoming much more functional as a way of interacting with a computing device, it is again possible that headphones could become independent devices. Although having headphones that could stream music independently of a phone would be a useful product in its own right, smart headphones could theoretically do so much more, rivalling most of the functionality of technologies like Google Glass.   The sums of money being paid for recent tech company acquisitions have made multi-billion dollar deals the new normal. Because of this, it is not really necessary to look for too much significance in these purchases. Whilst Apple buying Beats make sense from a number of perspectives, it is just a tiny part of its overall product strategy and is not going to distract those waiting for Apple to do the next big thing. David Glance is the director of innovation at the Faculty of Arts and the director of Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article

Google Glass: Eyes and ears for sight and hearing impaired

5:52AM | Thursday, 8 May

Imagine a device that provides subtitled conversations for the hearing impaired in real life.   Thanks to Google Glass, Telstra and Australian app developer b2cloud, such a device is a reality.   For the past six months, Telstra and b2cloud have been working to create apps on Google Glass for the vision and hearing impaired.   One app uses Google Glass’ microphone and heads-up display to transcribe speech for the hearing impaired, presenting real-time subtitles of a conversation.   It will enable users to be more active participants in conversations or meetings with multiple people in a room, rather than having to rely on a laptop or computer.   Another enables those who are vision impaired to receive audio descriptions of objects in front of them.   B2cloud managing director Josh Guest gives the example of a vision impaired person holding two cans of the same size, one of spaghetti, the other of baked beans, the only way to tell the difference is the label, and Google Glass is able relay that information back to the user by giving them an audio description.   For the vision impaired, it’s a feature that can make common tasks like shopping at the supermarket, an awful lot easier.   “It all works, these are real apps, they’ve been trialled amongst users, people who are hearing and vision impaired,” Guest says.   “The point is not to look at it like a product, but what it is an experiment, and it just shows what the potential is, in a brilliant connected future, what does that actually look like.”   Guest says when the device was tested by a group of Telstra employees with vision and hearing impairment and their reactions were “jaw dropping”.   “It’s super rewarding,’’ he says.   “If it’s just about building stuff, then it gets forgotten, but if you are able to markedly change someone’s life, it’s remembered, it changes society.”   B2cloud is one of a select group of developers given access to Google Glass and is projecting revenue from wearables to grow from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of its business within 12 months.   “One of the points for us is we’re a mobile developer and we’ve started to realise mobile isn’t all about the phone,’’ he says.   “It’s your watch, it’s your fitness band, mobile is changing and as a business we’re changing.   “To think it took five years from when app started to get to this point.   “Wearables are only going to take a year. It’s really important for businesses to understand now what they’re customers are going to be using in six months or 12 months’ time.’’

THE NEWS WRAP: Google acquires restaurant web tech business and systems infrastructure startup

5:31PM | Wednesday, 7 May

Google has bought Appetas, which is a website builder for restaurants.   In a blog post, the Appetas team announced they will be shutting down the service to work on “new endeavours, but will work with their customers to transition their websites to other platforms”.   Appetas didn’t elaborate on what exactly those “new endeavours” might be, but said “we now have an opportunity to help merchants on an even bigger scale”.   The company said they were excited to be joining Google, a company they believe shares their vision to bring “incredibly simply experiences to merchants that strengthen their business”.   Google also buys Stackdriver   Adding to its Appetas acquisition the tech superpower has bought Boston-based startup Stackdriver – a company creating intelligent monitoring infrastructure for systems and apps.   Google announced the move in a blog post from product manager Tom Kershaw.   “Stackdriver has built a leading service to help developers intelligently monitor the apps and services they’re building and running in the cloud,’’ he says.   “This allows customers to have more visibility into errors, performance, behaviour, and operations.   “The teams are going to be working to integrate Stackdriver's great functionality so that Google Cloud Platform customers can take advantage of these new advanced monitoring capabilities.”   Long-time Apple communications VP retires   Katie Cotton, who has spent almost 20 years as Apple’s VP of worldwide corporate communications, is leaving the company.   Cotton oversaw the announcements of some of the world’s most influential products.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 117.52 to 16,518.54. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Amazon turns Twitter into a shopping cart

5:25PM | Monday, 5 May

Amazon is giving English and American customers the chance to shop without leaving Twitter.   The online shopping giant is rolling out a new feature called #AmazonCart, which allows users to connect their Amazon and Twitter accounts and add products to their Amazon shopping basket by simply replying to any tweet containing an Amazon link, with #AmazonCart   Apple and Samsung damages recalculated   A US federal jury has recalculated the damages awarded in the court case involving the two smartphone competitors.   The jury raised the amount owed for some patent infringements and lowered it for others.   The changes offset each other meaning the total damages awarded in the new verdict stay the same as the original.   The court awarded Apple $US119.6 million for patent infringements and Samsung $US158,400.   Google and Facebook top three in tech by 2020, Apple not?   One of the world’s top tech investors, Fred Wilson of New York’s Union Square Ventures, believes Apple will cease to be important by 2020.   Wilson, speaking at the TC Disrupt conference in New York, said Apple is too rooted to hardware and isn’t invested enough in the cloud, something he says will provide the company significant challenges moving forward.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 17.66 to 16.530.55 and the Australian Dollar is trading at US93 cents.

“Short-sighted”: Startup community blasts Commission of Audit’s funding findings

5:39AM | Friday, 2 May

The National Commission of Audit report’s contention that government support of startups provides no real benefit to the community is flat-out wrong, according to a number of startup industry figures and two major reports into the industry.   Rui Rodrigues, investment manager of Tank Stream Ventures, says the commission’s suggestion is ridiculous.   “It’s a very short-sighted view and there isn’t any logic behind it,’’ he says.   “They’re essentially saying that the thousands of jobs created through startups and technology have had no impact on the economy.”   It’s an opinion echoed by Sydney Angels management committee member Richard Dale.   “The verdict’s been in for quite a long time, a startup, as long as it’s a high growth potential venture and not a lifestyle business, is a net creator of jobs,’’ he says.   Last month peak not-for-profit StartupAUS released its report Crossroads: An action plan to develop a vibrant tech startup ecosystem in Australia which highlighted that startups play a big role in job creation – three million new jobs are added to the US economy each year by new firms, while existing firms lose a total of a million jobs per year.   The Crossroads report noted Harvard professor of economics Ricardo Hausmann’s observation that Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, which he says will lead to Australia becoming one of the worst performers in the region in terms of GDP growth.   StartupAUS board member Bill Bartee, who is also a co-founder and managing director of Blackbird Ventures and Southern Cross Venture Partners, believes the commission is taking the wrong position.   “Well I don’t know where they’ve been or where they’re getting their data,’’ he says.   “It’s pretty clear when you look across the OECD and the US that there’s been lots and lots of job growth from startup and tech companies that build real businesses.   “The eBays of the world, all of these very, very large tech companies that drive the US economy in a lot of ways were once very small companies.   “It’s not as if the government is assisting a dying industry.”   artee says he’s a firm believer in the need to support tech startups by providing capital, both human and financial.   Last year, The Startup Economy, a report commissioned by Google and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found high-growth tech companies have the potential to contribute 4% of the Australia’s GDP by 2033 while adding 540,000 new jobs.   Currently, startups contribute just 0.2% to the nation’s GDP.   The commission’s recommendation that the government abolish Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation Investment Fund would leave Australian startups in a weaker position, says Dale.   “Do they benefit? The answer is yes, these programs are putting experience, talent and money into the startup ecosystem,’’ he says.   “Are they perfect? No. Do they help? Yes. Does taking them away have an impact? Yes, absolutely. Are they the best way of reducing barriers startups and early stage ventures face? Probably not.   “All programs, all solutions can be improved, but we have programs at the moment that are functioning, providing benefit – so don’t turn off the tap.   “The two years it will take to design, approve and implement a new program, that’s two years of lost opportunity.’’   Startup Victoria CEO Lars Lindstrom added to the chorus of startup community voices speaking out against the Commission of Audit’s recommendation.   “In our view CA (Commercialisation Australia) has been doing a good job and the IIF(Innovation Investment Fund) structure of government matching investment 1:1 mirrors successful initiatives elsewhere such as in Singapore,’’ he says.   “I don’t agree that it’s as simple as saying ‘finance can be acquired from the private sector’, VCs have had poor returns and therefore funding is in short supply.”   “It may be short-term cost-saving but in the long run it would be highly damaging to the Australian economy.’’

Google announces progress on self-driving cars

4:17AM | Tuesday, 29 April

Google has announced a shift in focus for its self-driving car program towards mastering the art of city driving, rather than driving along freeway.   The project team says it has now chalked up more than 700,000 miles or 1.126 million kilometres of autonomous control with its self-driving vehicles.   In a statement on the project’s progress, Google self-driving car project director Chris Urmson says city driving is much more complex than freeway driving on account of the number of moving objects.   “We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted,” Urmson says.   Urmson says the patterns of a crowded street are often far more predictable for a computer than they are to the human eye.   “As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it),” Urmson says.   “We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”   The program first allowed a visually impaired person to “drive” a car in April 2012, with the company first gaining its first licence for its autonomous vehicles from the state of Nevada a month later.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Virtual staff: Getting bang for your buck

4:33AM | Tuesday, 22 April

Growing numbers of Australian businesses are either allowing staff to work from home, or hiring workers located overseas to save costs.   But how can you be sure you’re getting real bang for your buck when they’re not sitting in an office beside you? Here are six ways to be sure virtual staff output is up to scratch.   1. Use time trackers   Pay your virtual worker by the project for an outcome, rather than by the hour.   Luke Chapman of hire car comparison site uses time tracking software Time Doctor, which gets the user to log the task they’re working on and tracks the websites and apps they’re using. It also takes screenshots every six minutes.   “The user can delete their screenshots, but that time is then taken away from the total time worked,” Chapman says.   Melbourne city manager for outsourcing platform Elance, David Hobson, says when hiring a graphic designer, agree on the outcome, deadline and project cost. Then, how long they spend on it is up to them.   Utilising Skye and Google Hangouts is a great way to communicate with virtual workers, he adds.   “I do project costs for most things, as it’s a very powerful accountability tool. I prefer to pay people well and reward them, rather than using bonuses, as they may come to expect it.”   Using platforms like Elance and Odesk also works well as they are very accountable to the agreement because people are concerned about the feedback left by those that hire them, he says.   2. Set strict KPIs   Andre Pinantoan is head of marketing at Australian start-up, Pocketbook. He favours key performance indicators over time-tracking tools.   Make sure there can be measurable outcomes with hard numbers so there’s no dispute whether or not the work is done, and whether it’s done well, he says.   “We pay our virtual staff by the hour, but we have a KPI for everyone to meet, which we can then compare to virtual staff doing the same task to judge performance.   “And if you’re trying to hire one virtual staff member instead of a team, then you should at least know the usual amount of work a productive staff would do in an office so you can compare this.”   But sometimes, it just doesn’t work out, he says.   “Working from home requires a lot of discipline and many of those who didn’t work out performed well at first, but their performance slowly deteriorated from there. We can see they log in less frequently, for example.”   Spend 15 minutes at the end of every day to look at the report sheet that virtual staff fill out, he adds.   “Having a short review cycle allows you to catch problems early and fix it early. If you review it weekly, a whole week worth of work might be lost before you catch it.”   Nicole Williams of management advisory business, BRS recommends fixing the price when hiring freelancers, so you know exactly what you’re up for.   “You really need to be outcomes focused when working with freelancers. But it’s important to highlight that, like anything in life, you get what you pay for. It’s not about finding the cheapest person to complete tasks you can’t do yourself,” Williams says.   3. Go through an agency   There are plenty of agencies out there that hire offshore virtual assistants you can go through to lessen the likelihood of running into issues.   Business coach Glenn Williams, of nLIVEn, says engaging an agency that can find and manage the relationship with you is a popular approach.   You interview candidates, choose one, contract with the agency, pre-pay a month at a time and monitor the worker’s performance, he says. Some people may pay performance incentives, he adds.   “This way, they’ve already done some of the matching work for you, by negotiating some of the terms and conditions such as rates, availability and mutual responsibilities.”   He recommends starting with a flat hourly rate with a fixed number of hours.   “Once you both understand the nature of the role, each other’s strengths and allow a pattern of work to emerge, you can then start to think about reward and incentive programs.”   Like any employee, review the relationship after three months again agreed and documented expectations, he adds.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 4. Set and follow your own procedures   The founder of cloud software Way We Do, Jacqui Jones, says it’s paramount that you don’t get taken off course by virtual staff.   She recently set a job on a fixed fee and posted it to Odesk, hiring a freelancer from New Zealand for the task. However, he argued that a fixed fee was no good in case she didn’t approve the final output and decided not to pay him. He also wanted to use a different tool to the one stated in the brief.   “We agreed for him to work on an hourly basis, and for him to use the tool that he was experienced with. After 11 hours of work, the output wasn’t usable and we paid over $US330. Needless to say, we ended the project.   “In hindsight, we should have stuck with the project fee and offered to pay a deposit to demonstrate that both parties were sharing the risk.” She also regrets not following her own procedures for hiring off-shore staff.   “I didn’t spend enough time with him upfront educating him about the project and standards required. And I didn’t get him to work on one small part of the project first to test his ability before proceeding.”   5. Value the input   After many trials and tribulations, Rob Whyte has good virtual staff. It’s imperative to motivate them and understand how different personality traits are crucial to the right selection of candidates, the director of The Mortgage Gallery says.   “Our staff is motivated by acceptance and respect within our business, and to know their input is valued and welcomed, like most staff.   “Through support and training, they grow pride in the job as they deem themselves a fellow staff member of an overseas business and proudly promote and support through their own networks,” he says.   6. Give them your trust   Like any staff member, you need to make sure you extend some trust to virtual workers.   Toney Fitzgerald has been using a virtual assistant since 1998.   “You’ve got to be gracious in business. You need to extend some trust toward them, or there’s no way it’s going to work out.   “That means that once you’ve got a good working relationship established, let them get on and do the job for you. Don’t constantly hassle them about minor things.”