Negative reviews have been around just about as long as the internet itself. Now Brisbane-based startup SayBack is giving businesses the tools to monitor what’s been said about them online, and respond before too much damage is done to their brands. The platform, aimed primarily at restaurant and café owners, monitors reviews on a number of popular review websites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google+. When a negative review is posted about a user’s business, they are notified via text message, giving them a chance to respond quickly. SayBack launched about a month ago, and has between 30 and 35 businesses signed up to the service. Founder Kumar Lang, a restaurant owner himself who has bootstrapped the startup, came up with the idea for the platform after finding a negative review posted about his own business. “I only realised about a week later. During that one week, we don’t know how many people would have looked at the review,” he says. “If I was able to respond quickly and help take care of my customer’s needs, hopefully I can win back the client, and perhaps we can turn a negative into a positive review.” Similar services are offered by individual platforms like Trip Advisor, but Lang says he couldn’t find a service which watched over all the popular restaurant review sites. “The problem with Trip Advisor was it doesn’t notify you when there’s a bad review on Menu Log, a bad review on True Local, a bad review on Yelp,” Lang says. In addition to the notification service, SayBack also offers an online brand manager option, which essentially outsources the businesses responses to those reviews. “It’s not about deleting negative online reviews, but it’s about educating people about those negative reviews,” he says. “I’ve spoken to business owners. The reason they don’t want to respond themselves is because the business is very emotional for them. The way the respond is not always professional. So having some other people that are online reputation managers and can potentially respond on behalf of the business is valuable.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it’s already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled people and of course advertising and shopping. The big three tech companies have all invested heavily in research and development in the AR domain. Google will be releasing Google Glass later in the year, Microsoft has been working on its own AR device and not long ago Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus Rift. The notion of AR that these companies are proposing is a kind of “smartphone for the eyes”, as traditional AR and VR converge in the optic realm. The reality boost We are moving into an era where we will, on a commercial scale, be taking our visual information in real time and integrating this with a wealth of external information to transform our daily lives. This will give us some degree of control over how we see the world, in the fundamental sense. For example, we might be offered information about people or objects as they pop into our field of view. Or it could introduce into our visual field view things that don’t exist at all in the real world to potentially filter out of our vision things that are in fact there, such as giant advertising billboards (see below). But this is not just another article about the radical changes that AR is likely to bring about. Rather it’s a call to begin thinking critically about the possibilities AR presents and the idea that perhaps instead of merely augmenting reality, we could transform it. The unspoken future Extrapolating from the recent history of technology gives us a glimpse of what the future of AR is likely to look like in the hands of the big tech companies. First, the idea of the “app” will extend into the visual domain, giving us apps that aid us in all the things we already do: building a house, studying at a distance, travelling in a new city and even making love. Second, the price for access to these new services and of having information at our fingertips is likely to involve surrendering ever more of our personal information. Critically, it will open up new markets for advertisers to promote their products and services in both tacit and explicit ways – an extension of the world of “advertising everywhere”. The increased human consumption of advertising – driven perhaps largely by the increase of screens in the world – has begun to be referred to by some as the pollution of the mental environment. By surrendering control over our immediate field of vision, advertising no longer needs to be limited to a screen or a surface but could become truly ubiquitous. Transformed reality? The name “augmented reality” gives it away. The vision of AR that we are seeing in the media and in press releases for products such as Google Glass is a vision of our world as we know it, but perhaps made a little easier through this technology. In contrast, this technology, that can change what we sense in real time, has the potential to fundamentally change how we live. Do we have the imagination to dream about how instead of merely augmenting reality we could be aiming to transform it? The transformative potential of this technology has begun to be envisioned by a number of different artists. In the Artvertiser project, artists have developed an application that replaces billboards within the visual field with images of art. So instead of subconsciously consuming giant advertisements on a billboard from the bank, users could perhaps be consuming artworks by Banksy. The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of a built environment do you want to inhabit? Your AR has the potential to change both the cityscape and the horizon, to overlay worlds upon worlds. Other artists have begun experimenting with ways that the technology could be used to add extra dynamics to public artworks, bringing them to life. The advent of AR presents a significant choice. Through detection, replacement and synthesis AR has the potential to both add to and subtract from our sensations. Aspects of the environment, even buildings and people could potentially be filtered in or out based on personal preference – our generation is the first in human history that holds this possibility. The proposal is that rather than simply waiting to see what purposes are dreamed up by the purveyors of this technology, we need to begin thinking about how we want to use it. Now is the time to start dreaming about how the advent of ubiquitous AR could not merely augment society, but transform it for the better. Nick Kelly does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Third party Snapchat site Snapsaved has confirmed that its site was breached and 500MB of Snapchat images were leaked, The Guardian reports. Over the weekend thousands of photos and videos from the Snapchat service, a disappearing messaging app for smartphones, were put online. The photos and videos were apparently taken from sites including Snapsaved.com, which ask people to log in using their Snapchat username and password to offer desktop-based rather than handset-based access to Snapchat. Snapchat blamed third party apps for the breach. Reddit loses its GM Reddit general manager Erik Martin, who has been with the startup since its early days, is leaving having spent six years with the company, VentureBeat reports. Martin led some of the popular community news sharing site’s biggest moments, helping organise charity raises, lobbying against bad tech policy like the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Personal Information Protection Act, as well as making Reddit the largest Secret Santa gift exchange in the world. He confirmed the decision in a tweet. Hard decision, but after 6 outstanding yrs I’m leaving reddit. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way & made it an amazing ride! — erik martin (@hueypriest) October 13, 2014 Amazon is Google’s largest search competitor Speaking in Berlin this week, Google’s Eric Schmidt says the company’s biggest search competitor is Amazon. “People don’t think of Amazon as search but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon. They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering questions and searches, just as we are,” he says. However, he is more concerned about the development of an unknown Google-killer, which he says is inevitable. “…someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it,” he says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 223.03 points to 16,321.07. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s excruciating gaffe that women should not ask for a raise but trust in “karma” that they would be rewarded eventually has been met with widespread condemnation. He made the statement, ironically enough, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. The conference , dedicated to women in technology, had a largely female audience who were confounded when Nadella gave his advice. The statement was met with an instant reaction on social media and Nadella, realising the seriousness of his mistake, issued a retraction saying that his answer to the question on whether women should ask for a pay raise was “completely wrong”. Nadella’s statement is completely wrong for a whole host of reasons but in particular, it highlighted the fact that he seemed completely unaware of the context of the question given that Microsoft’s workforce is made up of just 29% women. When looking at the high status tech jobs at Microsoft, that number drops to 17%. Nadella also seemed unaware that the 17% of the female tech work force at Microsoft are likely to be paid salaries of around 87% the salaries of men. Of course, when you take merit-based bonuses into account, the gender pay gap is even greater, as women receive bonuses that are half the size of men’s. He must have been unaware of these facts, because if he was aware of them, how could he possibly have thought that a woman’s silence would result in the “right thing” happening? For Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft it is perhaps not surprising that he would have been unaware of the reality of being female and working at the company. The truth of the matter is that he may rarely have encountered women in his day-to-day job other than those employed in non-technical roles. As CEO of the company however, it is particularly revealing that he would have been insensitive to the challenges women face in that working environment. His statements perhaps point to the limitations of his abilities and will now remain as the “elephant in the room” when he is trying to navigate Microsoft from being relegated into irrelevance by its stronger rivals, Apple and Google. At the very least, Nadella joins the ranks of other CEOs who have made similarly public missteps, three of whom lost their jobs as a result: Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich eventually was forced to step down over his support of anti-gay marriage legislation Lululemon’s CEO Dennis “Chip” Wilson also stepped down after blaming the fact that some of their yoga pants became see-through on overweight women saying that “Some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon trousers” BP CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign after a series of PR bombs in dealing with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that included his famous quote “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” The fact that a CEO can lose their job over a single statement reflects the nature of the job. The perceived importance of the CEO to a company’s performance is highly debated, especially when it is framed in terms of how much pay they are worth. However, the consensus is that CEOs have little impact on the overall performance of a company. Nadella comes as a novice to the job of chief executive and his turn in this position follows on from a long reign of the founders running the company. A chief executive’s main role however is to present the public face of the company and to inspire the market and their customers as a visionary. Perhaps we should have expected less of Nadella given that his first email to Microsoft employees encapsulated this vision as Microsoft enabling people to “do more” and that staff should “believe in the impossible”. Presumably the latter was aimed at female staff wanting equal representation and pay at the company. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Popular online music and audio sharing platform SoundCloud’s rapid growth is seeing its costs runaway from its revenues, TechCrunch reports. The platform is now exceeding 175 million listeners each month, and is on track to reach 200 million. The company posted a turnover of $US14.1 million ($A16.2 million) in 2013, up 40% from 2012. However, its operating loss for the period more than doubled to $US29.2 million. The company says it’s trying to grow SoundCloud into the market-leading platform for listening to, creating and sharing sound. “This has necessitated investment in technology, headcount and marketing. Our overhead base has increased faster than our revenues,” it says. Raspberry Pi sales pass 3.8 million Sales of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer have now passed 3.8 million, dwarfing its creator’s original expectations. Its creators, the Pi Foundation, envisaged selling as few as 10,000 boards of the course over its lifetime. The Pi shipped just over a million in its first year on sale, and two and a half years later sales continue to trend upwards. Patent trolling pays Statistics published by the lawfirm Goodwin Protector as part of a manual that provides tips for fighting patent trolls show that in the US, from 2010 to 2013, non-practising entitles (patent trolls) received three times more in damages than real companies, Gigaom reports. Michael Strapp, one of the manual’s authors, says the result is because of patent trolls squeezing settlements from dozens of smaller companies and then suing larger companies like Apple or Google. He also says another factor is a dysfunctional feature of the American patent system, which allows the trolls to choose the venue of legal action. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.15 to 16,544.10. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
A new social network called Mothers Groupie aims to reduce the isolation felt by many new mothers by helping them to meet both face-to-face and online, with the site also recently adding a directory of "helpers". Co-founder Leanne Sexton told StartupSmart the idea for Mothers Groupie was born out of necessity and frustration after moving from Sydney, where she had previously worked in the media industry on titles such as Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan and Madison. “When I fell pregnant with our first child, we decided to have a change of lifestyle and moved away from family and friends to the [NSW] Northern Rivers at Lennox Head,” Sexton says. “There was honestly nothing for a pregnant mother until you had a baby, when you were put in a mothers’ group by the hospital with a group of women you might have nothing else in common with. When I searched online, there were mothers trying to find each other by posting messages on online forums, but those messages date quickly.” Sexton says the experience led her to develop a social network to facilitate face-to-face meetups with local mothers, allowing for online catch-ups in between. The site began as a local service, before expanding its reach and features, and eventually adding apps for the iPhone and Google Play app stores. “Within a month we had over 40 mothers in Lennox Head. That was at the start of the year, after having a baby late last year and we’ve been refining the product since. We started basic and then have been refining it based on feedback from mothers on features they’d like to see,” Sexton says. “A couple of months ago we added an app. Mothers are incredibly time poor – many don’t have time to even use a laptop. They have their baby in one hand and a smartphone in the other, where many do much of their admin. The website now has close to 2000 members and around 300 groups with very little marketing. According to Sexton, privacy concerns, especially the risk of baby photos being shared with strangers, is drawing many mothers away from established social networks such as Facebook. “Women in general are very social beings. When they become mothers, they become active on social media. I can understand first hand, going from working in the media on Cosmo to being at home in Lennox Head. It’s such a growing space, and privacy is a big concern,” she says. “We find there’s a real mix of ages. You go from young mums to mums in their 30s to a growing proportion over 30. There are many demographics that need something like this, such as mothers in rural areas or with FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) partners.” “Post-natal depression is a real issue, and research shows isolation and a lack of support can be a key cause. We’re creating a platform for people to catch up face-to-face and online in between to reduce that isolation.” A feature Mothers Groupie recently added is a directory of reputable "helpers" such as nannies, babysitters, au pairs, cleaners, lactation consultants, child sleep consultants and fitness experts. Mothers can post job ads or search for helpers, read ratings and testimonials, and can pay a small fee to see the contact details of helpers they like. “From a business perspective, it’s a demographic that’s sought after by brands, and it’s a closed and very trusted environment. “We’ve tested the model, it’s working well, and we’re now looking for $500,000 in seed funding to really push marketing, fine-tune development and expand to the US where there’s nothing quite like it.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australia’s national startup festival Startup Spring returns this week promising to build upon the gains it made last year, when it helped push the industry further out onto the national stage. The event, organised by StartupAUS, launches on Friday, with the full schedule of events getting underway on October 13 and running through to November 3. StartupAUS board member Peter Bradd says last year’s event has helped build awareness of Australia’s startup industry, which in turn has led to an increased level of influence with the federal government. Most recently, Bradd, representing StartupAUS, has met with Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson, and Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, with whom he discussed things like visa reform, digital education, employee share options and crowdfunding regulation. “We hope it raises awareness that we do have a strong startup ecosystem here in Australia,” Bradd says. “We want to tell the stories of what’s happening in the startup ecosystem here and take people on a journey that many are not familiar with. Show them what life is like as an entrepreneur. “I would encourage people to get down to the events. One thing I often hear from people outside the startup ecosystem is how welcoming it is. Everyone has an open door policy it’s very easy to connect and to go from knowing nothing, to knowing quite a lot. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone that has a business idea, or if they’re a university student wanting to know what it’s like to join a startup or go and found a startup.” This year there are 165 events taking place as part of Startup Spring all over the country. StartupAUS board member and Director of Engineering for Google Alan Noble says the festival is the perfect opportunity to place Australia’s startup sector centre stage and celebrate the startup community. “From coding sessions and bootcamps, to awards and networking drinks, there is an event for everybody who has an interest in tech startups,” he says. “We really hope that the Startup Spring festival will inspire the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs. Today’s startups can be tomorrow’s Tesla Motors, iRobot or Google. I believe that, with the right attitude to skills, innovation and entrepreneurship, we can create a very bright future for Australia.” For a full list of Startup Spring events visit www.startupspring2014.org. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
For some years now, I’ve been getting an email newsletter from an old colleague of mine who has his own web design business. The newsletter contains fairly standard fare from design businesses of this type – latest projects, staff tos and fros, even the latest work party. But if we weren’t friends, I would have well and truly unsubscribed from it a long time ago. Not so much because I already know about most of the news he includes, but because – despite working in a constantly evolving and information-rich area of business, the newsletter completely fails to provide any information or advice that the reader can learn from and apply to their business. Just when smaller businesses are crying out to be informed and educated about this complex and ever evolving world, this designer turns a blind eye and instead focuses completely on itself. In other words, they fail to create WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and instead create IAAU (It’s All About Us). Creating WIIFM Not only is that approach, dare I say, narcissistic, it also maximises its chances of being sent to the trash folder. Even the most reluctant computer user knows that the digital world is completely overwhelmed with information of all shapes, sizes and quality. Unfortunately they would also know that much of it is nothing more than storage-hogging junk. And because we are overwhelmed by so much information landing in our inboxes and social networks, the information that your business and my business releases better be damn good or it wont survive an inbox cull or social network scan. This means that anything that is even vaguely self-centred won’t even see the light of day. What is your content worth? It also means that we need to work extra hard to deliver content that is actually worth something. Content that will genuinely save or make your readers money, or give them an advantage in whatever world you are writing about. It may even be content that not so long back you would have been paid to provide. It’s this point that makes many hesitate. Why should I part with information that I can rightly charge for? Isn’t this my bread and butter? There’s one compelling answer to this and its name is ‘competition’. Cutting through the clutter The truth is that in the battle to gain critical ‘cut-through’ and to gain the position of ‘thought leader’, individuals and organisations are now releasing information that not so long ago, readers would have paid very handsomely for. Outstanding blogs, white papers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, presentations and even online courses are now widely available on websites throughout the internet, sometimes without so much as handing over your email address. And these resources are not from some backyarder. Some of the top brains and institutions in the world are freely providing this amazing content. If in doubt, pick a topic, any topic. Then Google search it to find out just how much free and quality content there is on that topic. All free. And all right there at your fingertips. Find the true value So if you think you will attract attention and subscriptions and most importantly conversions by releasing news about latest projects and staff milestones, it might be worth thinking again. Because your competitors are bound to be offering something far more valuable to your potential customers. So be honest with yourself. Just how valuable is the information you’re releasing into the online world? If its not, it may be a good time to re-evaluate this strategy, before you get unsubscribed or unliked for good. In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. This article was originally published at SmartCompany.
Twitter is suing the US government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say about government national security requests for data violate the company’s First Amendment rights, The Washington Post reports. Earlier this year five other technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure. Twitter vice president Ben Lee says it is the company’s belief that it is entitled under the First Amendment to respond to its users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of government surveillance. “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad inexact ranges,” he says. Blockchain raises $30.5 million Bitcoin wallet provider and software developer Blockchain is expected to announce it has closed a $US30.5 million ($AU34.6 million) fund-raising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital, The New York Times reports. The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date. Microsoft to hold cloud media event On October 20, Microsoft will be holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event in San Francisco. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will be both presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 272.52 to 16,719.39. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Stimulating startups, innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is critical for Australia’s economy. But we need to challenge some of our beliefs about who can and can't do these things if we want to lay the groundwork for substantive change. I'm confident there is a growing sense of urgency around the critical link between startups, STEM and technology and Australia’s future prosperity, with tangible initiatives, focus and metrics in how these are stimulated appearing in many corporate, education and community initiatives. If Australia is truly going to increase innovation and leverage digital tech on a global scale, then we must make some key changes. "Start ups" and "STEM" are stereotypically synonymous with a younger generation. These stereotypes are unnecessarily narrow. At some stage our ideas of who can and can’t innovate with technology (which currently exclude corporate, small business and those outside their 20s or 30s) will become self-fulfilling and self-defeating. We need to invest in building a nation that leads in STEM and critical thinking. Australia invested just $4.5 per capita in venture capital for startups last year, compared with $120 in Israel, $85 in the US, $20 in South Korea and $15 in the UK. We must also take steps to stimulate innovation beyond the stereotype of the young, tech-enabled crowd. Here are three stereotypes we’d do well to reverse. Stereotype #1 – Young entrepreneurs belong only in startups Young entrepreneurial types start from the beginning with building a customer base or idea, and without the constraints of towing caravans of what they should adhere to. We know that a lack of business skills, networks and scale are the main reasons startups often fail, and venture funds look for these very things – previous attempts in the form of second-time-around founders, or those with prior business exposure. What if we took entrepreneurs starting out and gave them a position in large corporates? Switch the assumption that young entrepreneurs only belong in startups and create an employment construct where, say for two years, they have a direct reporting line into leadership to work on new services or products. It’s possible to find the right balance of new thinking, to create options from alternate perspectives, and in delivery, to combine the skills and diversity of that approach with leveraging the commercial, scale, marketing and regulatory expertise of a large corporate. Stereotype #2 – People who work in corporates can’t innovate and don’t have a startup persona It’s evident that after a few years’ experience and building expertise, there are corporate or medium-sized business employees who have a good balance of business experience and feel an urgency to fill a gap in the market. If they don’t, it’s often because they have financial commitments or dependents and fear if they leave the paid workforce, they’ll be locked out. According to a Kauffman Org report, the average age of successful founders is 40, with twice as many successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are under 25 years of age. Experienced entrepreneurs will probably have had experience in people management, scale and financial management to assist the odds in expanding. We'd do well to reverse the cliché that those of middle age are too late to the game. Such people are experienced in business, scale and leadership and have strong relationship networks to leverage, as well as second nature digital literacy. The suggestion is to offer more middle management the opportunity to take a leave of absence to focus on a new startup idea. Benefits to the sponsor organisation are many. An employee who has been with you for eight years would be revived and focused when they returned after 12 months establishing their own business idea. The sponsor organisation may offer a program, part salary, grant or leave without pay for the employee to have that opportunity. It could then take first right to buy, bring the idea into the organisation under terms, partner or procure. It could be the organisation's data or API is leveraged. We know corporates aren’t short of ideas or highly intelligent people, and we know Australia needs more successful startups. As a quick litmus test, in the PwC innovation team 80% have had their own successful startups or been working in the startup scene, with each returning to corporate life passionate about re-inventing Australia’s corporates and governments. Stereotype #3 – More experienced people are neither innovative nor technology literate, and the business of solving problems is best left to younger generations There’s nearly everything wrong with this perception. Reversing it, and providing the missing link, could have a profound network effect. By the time many in this older generation retire they will have been using smartphones, downloading apps – with higher mobile adoption rates than most countries in the world – and using Google, Amazon, eBay, for example, for 15-20 years. The size of the generation ranging 50-60+ years is increasing as a percentage of population. This generation consists of people who are mostly still fit and active, will live 20 more years after retiring, have good business networks and employment experience, have paid off their assets and have access to their super funds. As Bernard Salt pointed out in The Australian recently, the way we think about 55+ year olds is now different in an age when we live to beyond 85. Most aren't retiring, but adopting "portfolio lifestyles". How great would it be to see this generation of entrepreneurs celebrating a new phase of their lives, and instead of being positioned as a social services consumer, becoming the innovator or mentor or partner with young Australians in business: An architect in her 60s combining with a manufacturing tech-savvy person in a 3D printing venture; or a semi-retired doctor using augmented reality for remote patient diagnosis. Reversing these three myths and providing the missing support will stimulate innovation across the nation, leverage established human capital and accelerate Australia to fire on all innovation cylinders. Reversing each stereotype embodies diversity of thought. It would help accelerate a nation of innovators and create momentum in the economy for technology-literate people and jobs. Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.
Hewlett-Packard plans to separate its PC and printer operation from corporate hardware and other units, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to announce the move as early as Monday in the US. It’s one H-P and its investors and analysts have long contemplated. In 2011, when H-P announced the acquisition of UK software company Autonomy Corp, the company said it was exploring a separation of its PC business. However, under pressure from shareholders the company reversed course two months later. Snapchat wanted MessageMe before Yahoo! acquisition Mobile messaging app MessageMe has been acquired by Yahoo. The deal, according to TechCrunch sources is a talent acquisition and the deal is worth between $US30 and $US40 million ($A34-46 million). Prior to the acquisition, Snapchat had shown interest in MessageMe, as well as European app maker Truecaller. MessageMe chose Yahoo! because they were planning on hiring eight people, more than Snapchat would have done, and the team will get to work together on a new messaging product. Google to make security guards employees Tech giant Google plans to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees rather than outside contractors. The move comes amid rising concerns about income disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The guards will be eligible for the same benefits as other Google employees, including health insurance, retirement benefits, on-site medical services, leave for new parents and more. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 208.64 to 17,009.69. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
A lawyer representing over a dozen celebrities whose iCloud accounts were hacked and nude photos were stolen has written a letter threatening Google with a $100 million lawsuit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The letter, written by lawyer Marty Singer, accuses Google of “despicable, reprehensible conduct in not only failing to act expeditiously and responsibly to remove the images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct”. “Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ motto is a sham,” he writes. A Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal the company had removed tens of thousands of pictures within hours of requests being made and has closed hundreds of accounts. “The internet is used for many good things. Stealing people’s private photos is not one of them,” the spokesperson says. Cyanogen Inc turned down Google buyout Cyanogen Inc, a startup that distributes software based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, is discussing a Series C round and seeking a valuation close to $1 billion. The news comes after the company reportedly rejected a buyout offer from Google. Glow raises $17 million San Francisco-based startup Glow, which develops apps designed to help women manage their reproductive health, has raised $17 million in a Series B round, as it looks to expand staff and develop more products, Re/code reports. The round was led by Formation 8, who was joined by previous investors Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 3.66 to 16,801.05. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Google has revealed the finalists for its first ever Australian Google Impact Challenge. The Google Impact Challenge invites Australian not-for-profits to pitch a project aimed at tackling some of the world’s biggest social challenges by leveraging modern technology. Ten organisations have made the shortlist, including the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Association (AIME), The Fred Hollows Foundation and Engineers Without Borders Australia. Their pitches range from creating an app that reports on real-time air quality data for asthma sufferers to an online game that inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to learn maths and science. Google is now asking Australians to vote for their favourite project. The most popular idea will receive $500,000 from the tech giant to help make their idea come to life. Three additional winners will be selected by an expert judging panel that will include Australian sporting legend Glenn McGrath, former News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams and Australian businesswoman and philanthropist Anne Geddes. Voting closes at 11.59pm on Monday, October 13. The winner of the Australian Google Impact Challenge will be announced on October 14. For a full list of finalists and their pitches visit the Impact Challenge Australia website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Brisbane startup Zova is hoping its contextual awareness will carry its female-focused health and fitness app to mainstream popularity. Zova launched for iOS two days ago, and thanks to its Apple Health integration, it is one of 14 apps being featured on Apple Health App Store page. Co-founder Niall McCarthy says while there’s no shortage of health and fitness apps available, none really make the most of a smartphone’s capabilities, nor the communities that want to use those products. The Zova team, in conjunction with its “Zova Ambassadors”, a bunch of exercise and lifestyle professionals, has created a number of exercise programs that combine custom-made music with “exercise science” to achieve better results. The app is also aware of the context. What that means, McCarthy explains, is when its user opens the app, it suggests workouts based on factors like time of day, weather, and location. “Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will recommend based on your time and location. For example, you can click on your workout stream, and follow immediately, visual and vocal cues, along with music and rhythm that will help you,” he says. The music and rhythm aspect of Zova was central to its development. McCarthy and his fellow co-founder James Tonkin originally came up with an idea to use rhythm to help kids exercise, while washing dishes at a pizza shop. They went on to develop a sports product which helped kids get active and rolled out the product to schools around the world. About a year ago they decided to pivot to enter the consumer fitness market with support from the investor and founder of health and fitness company Jetts, Brendon Levenson. “Health and fitness is the next thing to be disrupted, and the time is now with companies like Apple and Google providing wearables to help realise that,” McCarthy says. Users will be able to try the app for a week for free and after that they’ll be asked to pay $25 for a 12 week subscription, or $75 for a yearly subscription. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The cofounder of a pioneering Sydney-based robotics startup, with a Powerhouse Museum display and a successful crowdfunding campaign under its belt, says the sector is set to get much bigger but finance for projects remains an issue. Robological cofounder Damith Herath told Private Media there are a number of exciting robotics startups founded by Australians, including Marathon Robotics and Navisens, and the sector is gaining momentum globally. “It’s kinda like the ‘70s in computing and the ‘90s in the web. It’s the same feeling in the robotics community and the general consensus is it’s getting a lot bigger,” Herath says. “A few good examples are some of the startups Google has recently purchased, or Baxter, or Cynthia Breazeal, who quit her job at MIT to do a startup called Jibo and raised $2 million on Indiegogo. “But we have to be careful, because a lot of people over-promise and under deliver. Robots will move into other spaces, though not in the anthropomorphic sense. “One of the issues is finding people to finance you is tricky, especially for hardware. People are more comfortable with apps and things that get a quick return on their investment.” In January, Robological raised $3031 on Indiegogo for Ro-buddy, a pre-built board that integrates with an Android app, making it easy to build a robot without needing to learn a programming language such as C. Herath says the startup is finalising the board for fabrication in China. “You can build a Raspberry Pi robot straight away, plug in a camera and motors, and within 10 to 20 minutes you have a spy cam working with the Android app,” he says. “We think it’s useful because it’s in the pro-maker space, but it’s not as complex as Arduino. So if you’re building something in home automation, you can get something going with Android.” Aside from Ro-buddy, Herath says Robological does consulting and research work, including working as a research partner with the Australian distributor for Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot and on Curtin University’s Alternative Anatomies project. It is also “chipping away” on a variation of the cloud-based internet of things robotics ideas put forward by UC Berkley professor Ken Goldberg, although Herath is remaining tight-lipped about what the project involves. The startup began with a robotics display called the Articulated Head, which was on exhibit for two years at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. “The three founders – Zhengzhi Zhang, Christian Kroos and I – met at the University of Western Sydney six years ago on a project called Thinking Ahead, which was a project of the Australian Research Council into AI (artificial intelligence). “We each had a slightly different background, myself with robotics engineering, Zhang with software engineering and Christian with linguistic and cognitive science. “Stelarc is one of the top performing artists in the world; an Australian artist who’s done a lot of work with robotics on stage and theatre. And the project I worked on was conceived of by Stelarc.” The project ended when funding ended, but this allowed the team to develop valuable intellectual property on robots and human interaction. The founders decided to form Robological to continue their research. One of its first projects was called Adopt a Robot, a research project looking into interactions between humans and robots. “It got a lot of good publicity because it captured the public imagination. We gave away seven robots and over six months we changed its behaviour and added a face… Each person who got a robot had to care for it and fill out a questionnaire every four to six weeks,” Herath says. Next month, Robological will jointly organise a workshop on robots and art with Curtin University as part of the Sixth International Conference on Social Robotics in Sydney. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Businesses with digital projects have accepted that lean thinking and agile methodologies provide the best approach for their projects and ventures. Start-ups use them as a matter of necessity. Commonwealth Bank, Suncorp, Telstra, Fairfax and even the Australian government have realised the value in this new method. Lean thinking and an agile approach work by taking an iterative, evolving approach to developing an idea rather than the more traditional, stages of plan, develop and deliver as a whole. Lean and agile can shorten product development cycles, reduce the risk of misunderstanding user needs, increase the likelihood you create something that sticks and, if it doesn’t work, decrease the cost of the failed project. Lean isn’t for everyone and here are six watch outs to think about before embarking on your own lean project: 1. Lean is not the ‘no plan’ plan Far too often people say ‘we’re running agile, so we don’t write plans or requirements any more’ and the speed and low-cost benefits are used as an excuse not to invest time and money into thinking things through, opening up a project for failure. Going lean doesn’t mean doing away with planning. In one instance, we were brought onto a project with developers that had been coding away for months. No one had a list of completed or outstanding tasks. No one had documents, diagrams or mock-ups describing what needed to be done. Management was wondering why there were so many bugs and why things kept being delayed. Things turned around when we put some basic planning processes in place and some unimposing levels of documentation. Simple, but successful. You don’t need to spend months planning but you still need to plan, do requirements and think ahead to keep stakeholders on the same page. You may even choose to evolve your planning and requirements iteratively. 2. You and your stakeholders must accept things will go wrong Lean means that you would prefer to try, fail, learn, improve and repeat in small incremental and manageable investments. Failing is part of the process of understanding where things are going wrong. Demanding that things go smoothly is therefore false economy. Sure, there are mistakes that are avoidable but more often than not, if you have good team and you’re following the process correctly, the errors will be important. Errors mark a need to change approach, re-evaluate or, in extreme cases, kill the project – a much more favourable, low-risk outcome compared to an investment in something that isn’t going to work. But you need board, senior management, customers and suppliers to buy in. Google does this really well. They brand their products or features as “beta” or “labs” signalling that they’re trialling something and it may go wrong. People accept that these features may have errors because they know it’s part of the process of producing a better outcome for them. This might sound obvious, but when you’re innovating and outside your comfort zone the temptation to return to the comfortable can be strong, especially when the board or senior management is breathing down your neck demanding to know why things aren’t going smoothly. But if you succumb, you face a much greater risk: a project with the expectations of “lean” but none of the flexibility to experiment and learn. 3. Lean isn’t an excuse not to commit to things With the emphasis on trying, failing, learning and improving it is easy for teams to start avoiding any commitment but you can’t let lean or agile be a scapegoat. At the end of the day, your team is still operating in a commercial environment and results need to be delivered. 4. Accumulating technical debt Projects that use lean as an excuse to go as quickly as possible without much forethought tend to pile up what engineers call ‘technical debt’ that is an amount of future effort required to fix technical tasks that were done the quick way instead of the right way. We’ve seen entire systems are thrown away and written again because the quick and dirty approach has been used. 5. Lean doesn’t mean you can always change your mind and expect immediate results Lean can help move things along faster and can be better at dealing with change when compared to more traditional approaches. This is often how it is sold to management and stakeholders. However, lean and agile don’t mean you can repeatedly change your mind and expect immediate results. Software engineers make decisions and create logical structures based on the current requirements and future vision of the project. Some changes can easily slide inline with prior decisions and the existing logical structures but other changes may require a significant restructure which in turn results in a significant effort to make changes. 6. Knowing when to move away from lean The landscape may have changed; you may have thousands of users, new regulation to deal with or greater certainty that the project will succeed. Ignoring more “traditional” planning or risk mitigation strategies may result in missed opportunities or worse, in a damaged brand or fines. The lean methodology has already brought great rewards and better business practice to many firms, but like any other process, misunderstand it and it can go wrong. Knowing the things to look out for is half the battle. I hope these tips help in keeping your lean project on track. Scott Middleton is the CEO and founder of Terem Technologies, an Australian company that specialises in developing custom software and technology solutions for corporate innovations and high-tech ventures.
There are many more bad people hacking computer systems than good ones helping them not get hacked. Each week it seems that some huge institution reveals that their customer's financial information has been breached or passwords compromised. There was Target earlier this year and Home Depot in the US more recently and hundreds more that never see the light of media attention. So what do companies do to get help? Smooth sounding salespeople from trusted large organisations sell the time of security penetration testing consultants at a rate of $2000 per day. The client doesn't know if they'll be any good and the cost means they can't hire as many of them as they would like. Bugcrowd was setup to change the way this corner of the world works. Casey Ellis and Serg Belokamen had worked together in a small consulting firm selling their services one day at a time before starting Bugcrowd and joining Startmate last year. The premise of Bugcrowd was to pay for results not hours. Companies like Facebook and Google had pioneered the concept of a bug bounty program where good hackers would responsibly disclose vulnerabilities and the companies would reward them, first with t-shirts and now with serious cash. Bugcrowd would let all the companies in the world who weren't the size of Facebook and Google run similar bug bounty programs. The second insight was to help security testers build a reputation. By sitting in the middle of helping security problems get fixed, Bugcrowd could audit and verify if a security consultant was any good or not. The tester could then take that reputation and help win more consulting work, more reliably and not have to work for a big accounting firm. You can see an example here in Pinterest's bug bounty hall of fame, who use Bugcrowd's platform to manage their security testing. What was once a whacky idea is now a common practice, at least in Silicon Valley, and Bugcrowd has grown very quickly. But not without some heartfelt moments. The company decided to relocate to San Francisco to be nearer to its customers and Serg, the original co-founder, had to make the personal decision to stay in Australia and leave the company. Chris Raethke, who was a founder of another company in the same Startmate batch last year that had failed, joined the company as a founder. The company's growth though, meant they were able to raise a large multi-million dollar seed round from some great investors like Icon Ventures, Paladin Capital and Square Peg Capital, as well as a bunch of angels. We filmed an interview with Casey and Chris about their journey so far and the help Startmate gave them in this mini documentary. Applications for Startmate 2015 close next Tuesday and we'd love for you to begin your own story. Apply now. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Has Google finally decided to take total control of its Android destiny with the release of its Android One operating system? Aimed at “emerging markets”, such as India, Google will operate the smartphone device rather than handing over to hardware partners such as Samsung and HTC. Historically, Google has taken a hands-off approach to Android, providing it “free” to manufacturers as an open source product. These manufacturers have a reputation for adding on their own extra features such as the Samsung TouchWiz user interface. The assumed goal was that a better mobile experience for consumers would funnel them towards Google’s other products such as its popular search. In contrast, Android One will not allow that customisation, giving Google full control of the operating system users get. So perhaps the latest move represents a paradigm shift for the company? The life and times of Android The approach taken with the Android operating system has always been more open than that taken by rival Apple with its iOS operating system. In fact, in general Android has always been considered more open than iOS, starting from the very beginning before the company was acquired by Google and the original Android operating system was released open source to the community. That version of the operating system still exists today and is used by companies such as Amazon on its Kindle Fire tablet. This creates what software developers call a “fork”, with the base Android operating system sitting underneath the customisations that Amazon makes. But in recent times Google has begun to demonstrate a desire to take more control of its operating system. Starting with the Nexus phones and devices, which involved Google providing a reference design for both phone and operating system free of the extras added by the hardware manufacturers and the carriers. This has continued with the announcement of Android One, with Google starting to become more involved in the entire process and trying to own the user experience. Products such as Google Glass represent other forays into this vertical integration, an area traditionally embraced by their main competitor, Apple. But Apple is starting to change its approach as well. A more open Apple? Apple has always been a product focused company. Starting with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 and continuing with the iPhone and other iOS devices, Apple has always strived to control the whole experience of hardware, software and services. Earlier this month in a television interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple values vertical integration and wants to control their primary product. But looking at Apple, industry insiders can begin to see a shift in the way that the company operates. The most recent hardware and software announced by Apple (announced one week before the first Android One smartphones) provides a lot more control for developers and users than they’ve ever had before. Features such as extensions allow apps to communicate with each other and users to share data among apps through the share pane. Developers can add features to place small apps called widgets in the notification centre or to enable actionable notifications, allowing you to (for instance) respond directly to a Facebook message from within the notification. And, in an unprecedented move, users can replace the Apple provided keyboard with a third party alternative. While all of these sound like small changes, they represent Apple relinquishing control of some parts of their iOS experience back to developers, a major departure from when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007. In his interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook was also asked what companies Apple competed with and, without hesitation he nominated Google as the main competitor, even going so far as to downplay Samsung as a competitor as the Android operating system was created by Google. This is especially interesting given that Apple has slowly moved Google out of its phones, (in)famously replacing Google Maps with Apple Maps a couple of years ago as well as slowly enhancing the voice recognising personal assistant, Siri, to perform many of the functions that Google performs with search. Even though the Apple Maps launch was riddled with problems (with users claiming the experience was sub par compared to the Google offering and prompting Tim Cook to issue an apology), Apple is clearly looking to shed itself of Google and own more of this part of the experience too. A new battle for market (and mind) share So, over the course of September, both Google and Apple have shown a new side to themselves. Both are pushing into new markets, with Android One specifically targeted at the China/India market. Many analysts suggest that the iPhone 6 Plus is an Apple foray into the desire for “bigger phones” in the same market. To conquer this market and maintain a foothold on the market in existing developed countries, it would appear both companies are making some changes - with Google taking control of its destiny while Apple becomes more open. Both are baby steps for now, but perhaps this is the beginning of a new battle, for the market (and mind) of more and more consumers.
Becoming a successful business blogger is a lot harder than many people think and overnight successes are rare. However, with hard work and the right strategies, anyone can find their online niche and start to build an audience. World-renowned blogger and Social Media Week Sydney special guest, Jeff Bullas, examines his key learnings from five years of blood, sweat and tears, online. 1. Find your passion and purpose Blogging about something you’re passionate about gives you the fuel and drive to persist and keep going. So when considering the content of your blog, you should consider the point where your passions and skills merge; writing about a topic you are ambivalent about is a sure-fire way to lose interest and make what should be a fun and interesting process, into something that is an effort. 2. Identify your target audience Observe the audiences of your competition: the major bloggers, websites and influencers. Watch how they interact, and make sure you read their comments and responses. Now think about your own skills and identify who would benefit from your own knowledge. Everyone wants to reach out to the whole internet, but finding an audience that cares about the content you have to offer and trusts your expertise is key to keeping them engaged. When you’re clear about who you’re reaching out to, it makes creating content so much easier as you understand your audience and know what they want to read. 3. Creating free content Creating content has to come after finding your passion. Identify your topics and then put yourself in your reader’s shoes and ask yourself: what are their problems, their challenges and their aspirations. The content you produce should meet the answers to those questions. Monitor the reaction to your content and continue experimenting and marketing it relentlessly. If you are struggling with what to write about there are blogger topic databases that can be used to spark an idea. Other than that, pick a key topic, and what industries that topic could be used for, and write a tailored article for some different industries. When it comes to actually writing content, I try to set aside some time every working day before distractions get in the way. For me, that is early in the morning. I also have guest writers, which help free up my time to focus on other important tasks. 4. Building your distribution network The key to marketing your blog is in building the largest distribution network through social media and email that your time and resources will allow. These days there seems to be a reduction of organic reach on social networks, so instead of solely focusing on social media to build a distribution network, it is important to build your email list as well. When doing this, there are a few key points to remember. Firstly, make it easy for people to subscribe; give them options on your home page and at the end of your blog posts, and create non-annoying pop ups. Secondly, give readers an incentive to subscribe, even if it’s in the form of exclusive reports or white papers. And finally, write good content with added-value, on a consistent basis. That’s what makes readers want to keep up with your blog. 5. Creating and packaging your knowledge Blogging can be a great source of revenue, but for that to be the case you have to properly ‘package’ your knowledge. The key is looking at innovative and compelling ways to share your passion and skills. For example, why not look at writing a short e-book or demonstrate your skills through an online video? Or could you host a Google Hangout? 6. Building joint ventures Joint ventures can help amplify your marketing efforts; they let you reach out to other networks of readers by working with other bloggers and businesses. The important thing with joint ventures is that content must be high quality and produced with care, as there is a lot of credibility and trust on the line. When looking to build a joint venture it is important to find relationships with both competitors and non-competitors that have very similar audiences, but that also have large social networks and substantial email lists. 7. Launching and marketing your products Using social media to launch and market your products gives you multiple platforms to reach different communities and share your messages. Marketing for your blog happens on three main levels: social media, email and optimising for search engines, so think about how you can leverage these channels. The best advice I can offer when it comes to being a successful blogger is to start, learn and persist. Put simply: “Being done is better than being perfect.” Jeff Bullas is hosting a number of seminars and master-classes at Social Media Week Sydney. For ticketing details, visit www.socialmediaweek.org/sydney. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Oculus has unveiled its new prototype Crescent Bay. It’s not an official developer kit, rather a “feature prototype” designed to show off the future of what Oculus is doing. Crescent Bay features a faster frame rate and is lighter than previous prototypes, has 360-degree head tracking, and integrated headphones. The prototype was revealed at the Oculus Connect conference where Oculus also announced the new Oculus Platform, which is coming to the Samsung VR. The platform brings virtual reality to a large audience through mobile apps, web browsers and a VR content discovery channel. Getty launches image sharing app Getty Images, the company which sells image licensing rights, has launched an iOS app, Stream, targeted at non-professionals, Businessweek reports. The app lets people browse through Getty’s images from professional photographers, with a special focus on curated collections. Google Plus no longer mandatory for Gmail Google is no longer requiring Gmail users to connect their account to a Google+ profile, a move which Wordstream’s Larry Kim speculates could be another sign the end is close for the troubled social network. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13.75 to 17,279.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US89 cents.