Australians gamble more on the Melbourne Cup ($200 million, $9 per capita) than the entire venture capital industry invests in startups in a year ($100m, $4.55 per capita). This disparity is especially concerning when we consider that in the US, three companies (Apple, Facebook and Google) contribute $1.3 trillion to GDP, which is higher than the value of our entire ASX. All three of those businesses were once startups with the youngest being Facebook founded a mere 11 years ago. We rightly celebrate the success of Atlassian and REA Group, however, we need to create the conditions to drive a thriving and substantial ecosystem of startups. With this in mind Salesforce is supporting the recommendations of the StartupAUS Crossroads Report 2015, which provides an action plan for how Australia can develop a vibrant tech-startup ecosystem. According to the report, the impact that tech startups could have on the Australian economy, if nurtured and supported, is huge. Two key findings that struck me are: Each new technology-based job created adds five additional jobs in other sectors (3x a new job in manufacturing or extractive industries) 73% of a nation’s future wealth can be predicted by its Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – a measure of a nation’s ability to produce a range of goods varying in complexity from extracting and selling unprocessed natural resources to building and selling complex industrial products/services. Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, which means unless we start driving more innovation, we would predict low future GDP growth. Not only do tech startups positively impact the economy, they also provide the growth of the ecosystem through creating ‘unicorns’ – startups valued at over $US1 billion. The existence of unicorns raises the profile of entrepreneurship and creates a market of experienced and cashed-up employees who create and support new companies, attracting other hopeful entrepreneurs who want to be where the action is. Australia’s tech ecosystem has seen huge progress over the last three years and with just a few tweaks there could be a tremendous wave of growth in the nation’s Silicon Beaches. While all of the eight action items recommended in The Crossroads Report are important, in my opinion, there are two that are most pressing: Increase the number of people with ICT skills Improve access to startup expertise Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills. However, enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily. There is an increasing gap in the skills we need and the type of workforce Australia is producing. If we act now to produce the right work force and build our startup ecosystem, graduates educated in STEM will find many of their future jobs with the unicorns. Key to building up this ecosystem for the workforce of the future is providing the right support to our existing startups. Initiatives like York Butter Factory, Fishburners, and our own Salesforce for Startups program are all aimed at providing the right conditions, expertise and technology to startups as they scale. While the support currently available is valuable, there’s still more work to be done. If we want to build the next generation of unicorns we need both industry and government of all levels to work in concert to provide the right framework and support. Australia is now at a crossroads, it’s time for the nation to foster a viable environment for startups to not only operate in, but to thrive and succeed. Tom Karemacher is the regional vice president for mid-market and SMB at Salesforce APAC.
It's the stuff that makes you look good, and your life and job easier, that really matters when it comes to technology. Online tools that are not only easy to use, but fun and enjoyable at the same time. Things that offer a smooth, intuitive and beautiful end-user experience that don't require a short course or YouTube clip to master. And I'm so happy to see that two such tools are being developed locally, and led by female entrepreneurs. This fact alone proves that tech companies (like all companies) will see their products benefit from a diverse range of inputs during development. Increasingly, truly scalable ideas must have a feminine touch, or risk missing 51% of it's target market. So who are these women doing some seriously disruptive work? Well they're not the household names you already know about. On Tuesday, online design tool Canva announced it completed a $6 million investment round ($7.7 million), and launched its suite of design tools for business www.canva.com/work. It already has 2.4 million users worldwide (65% who've signed up in the last six months), three global offices (including in Sydney) and a team of 42. Canva's CEO and co-founder is Melanie Perkins, who came up with the idea for creating simple-to-use design tools for non-designers which teaching graphic design at the University of Western Australia. She originally partnered with Cliff Obrecht to launch Fusion Books, an online program for schools to create year books. Later, they connected with former Google guy Cameron Adams to go one step further and 'empower the world to design'. Canva's on the list of online tools that have actually made my life and work better. Yes, designers might be horrified by what I've produced using the platform (which can manage everything from presentations to infographics and other images) but it gets the job done quick and easy for me. Also on the list of seriously useful online tools is all-in-one event management platform Ivvy. Ivvy's Brisbane-based creator Lauren Hall has her eyes set on a $1 billion exit for the business. She's been working on it — albeit in different version — for seven years, after experiencing frustrating challenges while organising her own events. Having just secured a number of global venue chains, Ivvy looks set to change how we manage, procure and secure event-based services and suppliers. Away from Melanie Perkins and Lauren Hall, there are many, many other women doing some seriously disruptive work in technology in Australia. All at varying stages of their startup journeys and with different problems to solve. Two I want to mention here are Marnie Shanahan and Sarah Liu. These two had just the barebones of a business idea back in November when they pitched in front of our panel of judges at the Rexona Clinical Women's Agenda Pitch Off. But they were good ideas with serious potential, inspired by personal needs and stories. Less than six months later, those ideas are gearing up for launch, with significant milestones reached in the last couple of weeks. Shanahan's business is The New Kid, is a platform that connects safe and legal internships with students. Still in her early twenties, Shanahan has taken the idea to New York in recent months, where she's developing it further and has just launched its website. Liu's business is Gemini3, a platform promoting, educating and connecting people around job sharing opportunities. Gemini3 (initially called 'The Dream Job' when she pitched it) is the latest in a series of initiatives for Liu, who is running a number of companies and fast proving herself as a formidable entrepreneur. A great idea solves a serious challenge. Liu and Shanahan, like Melanie Perkins and Lauren hall before them, are determined to offer solutions. And a great solution has a feminine touch. This article was originally published at Women's Agenda.
Guy Kawasaki made his name as Apple’s “chief evangelist” a term he says was coined by the marketing team. He was one of Apple’s first employees and was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984 under Steve Jobs. Now he’s the chief evangelist for Australian design business Canva which just announced an extra $6 million in funding. Whoever he’s working for, Kawasaki is passionate about being an evangelist for your business rather than just marketing it. Ahead of his keynote address at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Kawasaki spoke to SmartCompany about how you can be an evangelist for your business. 1. Ignore the doubters Kawasaki says working with Steve Jobs at Apple taught him if entrepreneurs want to create truly innovative products they need to ignore what everyone else is saying. “Most of those people will tell you they just want better things,” he says. “If Steve Jobs had listened to the advice in the 1980s he would have just made a better Apple 2.” 2. Have the other person’s interests at heart “An evangelist has the other person’s best interest at heart also and, primarily, most sales people are trying to make a quota and commission,” Kawasaki says. “Evangelists want to get people more creative and productive, which is good for them and which is also good for the evangelist.” 3. Trust is essential Kawasaki’s first job after he finished his MBA was working for a small family-owned jewellery manufacturer. “The jewellery business is intensely personal, reputation is everything; it’s hand to hand combat and I really learnt how to sell,” he says. “It’s all about how to get people to trust you.” 3. Be prepared for hand-to-hand combat “When you had a computer like Macintosh and you had no precedent it too was hand-to-hand combat,” Kawasaki says. “We literally met with companies one at a time, like selling a $35,000 ring you had to sell people on creating software for the Mac.” 4. Have an underlying purpose Kawasaki describes his time at Apple as “the best days of my life”. “We were on a mission to prevent worldwide domination by IBM and it got closer to a religion than to a business,” he says. “I believe the essence of what Apple did back then was it democratized computers.” Kawasaki says he finds Canva’s mission equally inspiring. “For me it’s empowering people for design like Macintosh empowered people for computers.” 5. Have a magnificent enemy “I can’t tell you that every product and every service can find as magnificent an enemy as IBM,” Kawasaki says. “There are not that many magnificent enemies and if you are a small business, in particular, it’s harder to define a magnificent enemy.” 6. Use technology Kawasaki says the tools available now make evangelism even easier. “Back in 1983 I had a car, an airplane ticket and a copper-based telephone system,” he says. “Now you have email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google hangouts on air and Skype.” 7. Remove barriers to entry Canva operates using a freemium model where the basic product is free although the company is getting ready to launch the paid service Canva for Work. Kawasaki says a freemium model makes life easy for him as an evangelist. “The benefits are that it presents a very low barrier to buy something; it’s kind of a land grab,” he says. “You want to give people a very slippery slope.” “Remove all the barriers for adoption and make it as easy as possible to fall in love with your product,” he says. “One barrier many companies make is that you have to download an app.” 8. Eat what you kill “You should eat what you kill,” Kawasaki says. “I have never seen a company die because it couldn’t scale fast enough but I have seen many die because they scaled too quickly.” CeBIT starts today at Sydney Olympic Park. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Google has acquired scheduling app Timeful in a bid to integrate the startup’s technology into Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs. Google’s product management director, Alex Gawley, said in a statement the company decided to snap up Timeful because it was impressed by its ability to help people organise their life and understand their “schedule, habits and needs”. “You can tell Timeful you want to exercise three times a week or that you need to call the bank by next Tuesday, and their system will make sure you get it done based on an understanding of both your schedule and your priorities,” he said. “We’re excited about all the ways Timeful’s technology can be applied across products like Inbox, Calendar and beyond, so we can do more of the work for you and let you focus on being creative, having fun and spending time with the people you care about.” Facebook jumps on the live streaming bandwagon Meerkat has rolled out an update that will allow users to share a link to their live broadcasts directly to their Facebook page. It is the first time a live-streaming app has linked up with Facebook, with most broadcasts publicised on Twitter. The update follows news last month that Twitter, which owns rival live-streaming app Periscope, was urging celebrities to stop using Meerkat. Victoria’s Premier embraces Periscope for budget announcement In other live-streaming news, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will be the first political leader in Australia to try his hand at live-streaming app Periscope, according to Fairfax. Andrews will host a Q&A session on Periscope after his Treasurer, Tim Pallas, hands down the government’s first budget tonight. Victorians are being encouraged to tweet their questions to the Premier for the 6.30pm Q&A. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 46.34 points, rising 0.26% to 18,070.40. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Every entrepreneur knows that they should be using digital marketing to grow their business but many are intimidated by the jargon and complexity of the industry. Each of the points below only skim the surface of what is possible but they will give you some guidance and food for thought. 1. Define business goals Whilst it sounds so simple, the biggest mistake companies make when investing in digital marketing is not to have a clearly defined set of business goals. Ask yourself the following questions and until you have the answers you should not be spending a single cent: What are we trying to achieve as a business? What can we afford to pay per sale? Who is going to manage this project from start to end? What does success look like? How much marketing budget are we going to spend? 2. Set up Google Analytics Google provides a number of free tools to help you succeed on the web. The most useful is Google Analytics (GA). It is imperative that every single website has GA installed and configured correctly. GA enables users to measure the success of each digital channel. There is no point investing money in a channel if you cannot understand how many sales that channel has provided. Every time a customer completes a transaction on your site they should be shown a thank you page. Firstly set up your GA account, then create a GA goal and place the code on to your thank you page. This code will fire every time a transaction is completed, registering a goal completion in Analytics. You can then log into Analytics, look at the conversion report and see which channel (SEO, AdWords, Facebook, etc) has provided the most conversions for your product/service. 3. Email database Every company should be building an email database. This will consist of people that have either bought or are interested in your company’s products/services. Your email database will drive your cheapest possible cost per acquisition as you are marketing to people who have already used or shown interest in your product/service. It is important to always obey the latest privacy laws regarding email. To brush up on your knowledge you can find them here. You should email your database enough to maintain contact but not so much that they decide to unsubscribe. When deciding if to send an email consider if the content that you are providing will be interesting and informative to your users. If the answer is yes, send it. Emailing uninformative information more than once a month is likely to lead to a large number of users unsubscribing. 4. Search engine optimisation (SEO) SEO will always provide your second cheapest cost per acquisition after email and is an essential part of any digital strategy. Google’s algorithm is extremely complicated. However, it can be distilled into three basic parts: technical, onsite content and links. If you do not have the budget to hire a specialist SEO agency you can still improve your SEO rankings. Google loves fresh content. You should be blogging as much as you possibly can about your chosen industry and then posting links to your content on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Google also loves high quality, contextually relevant sites linking to your website. Your first stop for links should be to ask your existing partners/clients to link back to your website. Next make a list of every software/digital supplier that you use and offer to write them a testimonial if they link to your site. Signing up for a MOZ subscription will provide a great starter toolset to guide you on how to improve your site for technical SEO. 5. Paid media (Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) The type of product/service that your business offers will define which of these mediums will work best for you. In most cases Google AdWords and Facebook adverts will provide your highest return on investment. The key to all paid media is ensuring that it’s tracked correctly so that you can measure your ROI. In addition to Google Analytics tracking, each form of paid media will have its own conversion pixel. It’s absolutely essential to install each of the medium’s tracking pixel on your thank you page. Not only will it count the number of conversions, but it will also allow you to optimise the campaign towards the best performing keywords, demographic or advert. Retargeting should also form part of your paid media strategy. In its simplest form, a user visiting your website is cookied. You can then retarget the users that do not buy your product/service with a message encouraging them to do so. If you take one message away from this blog post it should be that business planning and tracking return on investment are the most important digital marketing factors. If digital marketing acronyms leave you confused check out my list of meanings here. Tom Sadler is sales and marketing director at indigo digital. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With the Apple Watch having now officially launched in Australia, developers and businesses releasing apps for the platform are describing a number of unique challenges posed by the device, including dealing with a smaller screen, unreliable Bluetooth links and new contexts for apps. The highly publicised launch of Apple’s wearable device will see the number of companies with smartwatch apps explode. The list of companies committing to apps on the platform includes Domain, REA, CBA, Fairfax, Qantas, Woolworths, OzLotteries, Westpac, St George and Zova. They join startups such as Rewardle and Freelancer which are already operating on smartwatches via Google’s Android Wear platform and, in some cases, created apps even before the Apple Watch was officially announced. Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford says many more businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to the platform. “At the moment as a digital agency, we’re not seeing a lot of demand for apps, but there is a lot interest in the business community. A lot of businesses are watching the launch very closely,” Bradford says. Bradford says screen size is one of the major user interface issues developers need to consider when designing an app. “In general, smartwatch keyboards are unusable and on the Apple Watch it’s non-existent. That creates a number of UI challenges. So for example, for an app that relies on communicating between two people, instead of a keyboard, Apple allows you to use predetermined emoji, draw on the screen or call them by voice. That means the whole UI needs to be rethought,” he says. “The other issue is processing power and the necessity of being synced to the iPhone for many of the features. So, for example, the watch can’t access the internet directly, meaning you need to have your phone nearby – in a pocket, a bag or on a desk – when you want to call someone. “That means if you have a fitness app, there’s a good chance the user won’t have their phone in their pocket when they go running – and you won’t be able to get data onto the internet in real time. So you really need to consider the context as well as the UI.” Among the Australian startups preparing to launch an Apple Watch app is mobile ordering and payments platform AirService. Its chief executive and co-founder, Dominic Bressan says it’s important to be mindful of battery life, and that design elements work differently on a smaller screen. “It’s a new platform, a new experience, and you can’t just shrink an iPhone app down to a smaller screen. So you have to pick which elements you bring from the iPhone to the Watch,” Bressan says. “So notifications are something that naturally flows from the phone to the watch. I don’t see the full ordering experience translating to the watch, at least this stage. We will allow users to save a couple of favourite orders, but a full browse of venues with photos will remain on the iPhone. “It has been really tricky developing an app without a device to test on and needing to do everything in a simulator. You have to remember things like the Bluetooth Low Energy connection is prone to drop out on the real device, but always works flawlessly in the simulator. Likewise, Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung says notifications are likely to be a key focus for the startups forthcoming Apple Watch app. “For us, the benefits of an Apple Watch app are proximity and immediacy. Most of our Apple Watch app features are worker-centric features. We’re looking at scheduling, alerts and notifications that will allow them to move quickly and respond to an alert,” Fung says. “When it comes to posting tasks, at this stage the interface just isn’t strong enough. That will change over time, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Over the long term, we’re looking at things like using voice-to-text for tasks.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian voice recognition startup is looking to reduce driver distractions and make it safer for people to receive calls and texts while behind the wheel. Otto, which recently graduated from the National Roads and Motorists’ Association’s first accelerator program, allows users to take calls or reply to text messages without touching their phone. As part of the initiative the startup snapped up $30,000 in funding in exchange for a 10% stake in the company. Founder Alex Kain told StartupSmart the idea for the software initially came from being “brought up on shows like Knight Rider”. “We investigated the distracted driver scene and understood that even though 98% of people agree texting while driving is dangerous, 74% of people continue to do it,” he says. “That created the idea that there’s a gap in the market. While there’s Siri and Google Maps, they are lacking in some areas to be a completely intuitive solution for when you’re behind the wheel.” Kain says after entering the accelerator program he decided to scale back Otto’s features and just focus on messaging and calls in order to “fill the gaps” in other voice recognition features. “If you ask Siri to read out your text messages, unless one has just come in it says there are no new messages,” he says. “So it won’t go back and read your old messages. And with Google when you verbally dictate a text message it won’t verbally confirm what it’s going to send before it sends it. That’s fine when you’re looking at your phone, but not when you’re doing 100 kilometres on a freeway.” While the NRMA accelerator program has officially come to an end, Kain says it is just the beginning of the startup’s next stage of growth. The focus now will be on getting the product to market and scaling quickly. When asked whether the accelerator program was useful, Kain says it was very helpful in validating the product and figuring out a market fit – something that early-stage startups often need a lot of help with. “What it did was exactly as the name says – it accelerated our entry into the market,” he says. “But it is has also enabled us to get the basics right, so really validating our product and all the assumptions we had. It also enabled us to find specific niches… we’ve been able to target some enterprise customers and other niches such as motorcyclists.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based web series That Startup Show has released all six episodes of its first season on BitTorrent, surpassing 130,000 downloads within 24 hours. The show focuses on the issues facing Australian entrepreneurs and the local startup ecosystem and has caught the eye of people such as Google’s director of engineering Alan Noble and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure. For the show’s final episode, which was filmed on Wednesday night as part of the Connect 2015 festival, stand-up comedian Simon Taylor replaced Dan Ilic as the show’s host. Ilic is now working for Al Jazeera in San Francisco as the media company’s chief satirist. Since launching in August last year, the web series has attracted more than 200,000 viewers across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia. The show has also received a capital injection from angel investor Alan Jones and technology foundry Digital4ge. Well, we just hit 55,000 downloads! #whoa #amazing #tsushow — That Start Up Show (@tsushow) April 22, 2015 Co-producer Sally Gatenby told StartupSmart as of this morning the show has been downloaded 133,000 times. “It’s a wonderful testament to the desire for this type of entertainment and content but also for the particular model of the way we’ve done it,” she says. “By going via BitTorrent we’re able to deliver it to people directly. It’s a waiting audience who are very much in this space – they’re online constantly and entrepreneurs or tech people themselves.” More than 300 people were in the crowd for the filming of the season’s final episode, which was shot at Melbourne’s Savoy Tavern. The episode saw Josh Young from AUUG Motion Synth win the program’s PitchDown competition – which means he will be sent to the US to pitch his startup to investors. “We will follow the winner to the states and film them on their journey because invariably you never see what happens after people win pitch events or get funding,” Gatenby says. “It’s great we’re having pitch events and people wining pitch events, but it would be awesome to see what people are learning. So we’re really keen to bring that insight – we’re trying to bring a little bit more experience and transparency to what it’s like to be in a startup.” Planning for the second series of That Startup Show is underway. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
On one level, the European Commission’s argument with Google is unsurprising. The EC’s commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager’s job is to investigate possible breaches of EU competition law. That is exactly what she is doing with her official complaints against Google’s use of its Google Shopping service. Equally unsurprising, is the investigation of Google’s other possible breaches of its monopoly position with how it controls the use of its mobile operating system, Android. One should also set aside the melodrama that accompanies such cases. News reports of the case have highlighted calls for the break up of Google as suggested by the European Parliament last year. The reports have also focused on the possible massive Euro 6 billion fine Google faces if the antitrust complaints are upheld. Finally, there is the fact that the case is the result of a conspiracy of competitors, led by Microsoft. All of the drama however, masks what is going to be a protracted process that could take years, during which time the entire landscape that is being fought over could have changed, not once, but several times. Google themselves were at pains to respond to the accusations that they were harming consumers by pointing out that search was quickly being superseded, and that: “People are increasingly using social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to find recommendations, such as where to eat, which movies to watch or how to decorate their homes” Whilst it may be true that Google has a monopoly on search of the Internet as a whole, that is certainly not the case when it comes to the “social web” which is well and truly dominated by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. Likewise, Google may have dominated advertising on the desktop but that is increasingly not the case on mobile. Law and trade policy operate on timescales that are always going to significantly lag technological change. As if understanding the full impact of an existing technology on consumers and competition was already not challenging enough, attempting to do this in the context of what will happen in even a few years is almost impossible. In fact, even determining monopoly in a technological market is not always straightforward. For example, even though Android controls over 80% of the world’s smartphone market compared to Apple’s share of 15%, in terms of mobile e-commerce, users of Apple’s mobile devices account for 5 times the value of Android users. For all of the EC’s past actions against Microsoft, they were irrelevant in shaping what eventually happened in the market. The actions had no effect on Microsoft’s behaviours, and came as little-to-no benefit to consumers. As with the EC’s complaint against Android, the fact that software comes pre-installed does nothing to preclude a consumer’s ability to run alternative software. The EC’s objections against Google again raises the more general issue that it is a futile exercise to use antitrust law to retrospectively try and influence the way the technology companies, and the digital economy as a whole, work. As with copyright and patents, the law has simply not been able to adapt and keep pace with the disruptive change brought about by technology and society at a global scale. It has led policy and law makers, and companies not wanting to adapt to change, to focus on the past and act as a break, rather than an enabler, of progress. It would be a far better use of the EC’s time and resources if their energies were spent creating policy that enabled the digital economy that they profess to want rather than keeping their vision of it restricted to a time that has long since passed. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Dutch authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Uber because the company is providing an illegal taxi service that violates a court order, according to Reuters. The investigation is the latest setback for the ridesharing service in Europe. Last month a German court issued a nationwide ban on unlicensed taxi drivers with fines of up to $300,000 for violating the law. The move saw Uber bowing to pressure and agreeing to pay for transport licences for its UberX drivers. To date Dutch police have fined 23 Uber drivers more than $2000 for operating without a licence. In Australia, unregistered taxi drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. French senate supports law requiring Google to reveal its algorithm The French senate has supported a law that would require search engines to reveal their algorithms in order to ensure fair and non-discriminatory search results, according to TechCrunch. The chamber’s amendments to a draft economy bill could also see search engines forced to include a minimum of three rivals on the first page of search results. Google, which owns an overwhelming chunk of the search engine market, has always kept its search algorithm top secret. The draft legislation comes at a time when Google is coming under tough scrutiny in Europe for allegedly abusing its dominance of the internet to the detriment of competitors. The French upper house will vote on the legislation and its amendments next month before it has the opportunity to be passed into law. WhatsApp reaches 800 million users worldwide Messaging platform WhatsApp has reached 800 million monthly users. The company’s current rate of growth puts it on track to reach one billion users by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The messaging app has grown by 100 million active monthly users every four months since August 2014. Facebook purchased WhatsApp last year for just over $28 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
AgFunder, part of 500 Startups’ 12th batch, wants to make it easier for agricultural technology startups to source funding. Australian entrepreneur Michael Dean, the co-founder of agriculture technology investment platform AgFunder, hopes his startup will help speed up the development of technologies that will be necessary to feed the world’s fast-growing population. “Agriculture is by its nature a very fragmented marketplace to invest in as obviously the money is located in the cities and quite often the developers are based in the country where the farmers are,” he says. “Connecting the two has traditionally been a very difficult exercise. By creating an online platform – a precursor for an investment bank – we’re able to offset the fragmented nature of the market.” Dean says most of the technologies tipped to become game-changers in the near future are already being utilised or tested in agriculture. “If you look at agriculture and all of the new technologies that are emerging – whether they be robotics, internet of things or big data – the whole precision agriculture sphere of development is really being reflected in agriculture technologies,” he says. “We’re talking about Google coming up with driverless cars. Well, we’ve had farmers turn to driverless tractors. We need to feed probably more than 9 billion people by 2050 with no more land and no more water – probably less of both. So it’s absolutely important that we are applying these technologies to agriculture.” The best thing about 500 Startups, according to Dean, is the “collegial” nature of the program. “The team make a big thing about talking about their 500 family and you really do feel like a family,” he says. “It’s been very useful to have that exposure to previous batches and just benefit around their experience and knowledge, pitching and people we should be talking to.” When asked what his advice would be for entrepreneurs wanting to try their luck at getting into the 500 Startups program, Dean says having a good team is crucial. “The important thing is to make sure you’ve got the right team,” he says. “A good team is crucial and most investors invest in a team [rather than an individual]. You need to understand your market, you need to understand your product and express that when you’re pitching. You should have a clear vision of where you’re going as well – that’s not to say you might not pivot once you get into the accelerator because that does happen – but the important thing is being clear with your objectives and what you’re doing.” 500 Startups has invested in more than 800 companies from more than 40 countries. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.
Within hours of the pre-order launch, the initial batch of Apple Watches were showing shipping times of two months. Not only had the cheapest Apple Watch Sport at AUD $499 sold out, but so had the Apple Watch Edition with a rose gold case and retailing at AUD $17,000. And all of this for a watch that reviewers have given decidedly mixed reviews. The fact that people are willing to spend that much money on a device that they have no forehand knowledge of is a testament to the power that Apple devices have over their customers. The Apple Watch does nothing that other, far cheaper devices have done for many years. The Pebble watch, available for the past 2 years, covers most of the same functionality as the Apple Watch and retails for just AUD $89. The truth of the matter is that the majority of people don’t actually know the difference. It has been a long standing joke about the number of people asking if the Pebble watch people are wearing is, in fact, an Apple Watch. For those that have worn a Pebble, or Android Wear or other smart watch, the reality of the usefulness, or otherwise, of these devices will have been long apparent. It is a useful thing to get notifications of text messages on your watch, but the novelty of having your wrist buzz every time one of the 200 hundred a day emails arrives, rapidly wears off. Rejecting calls from your watch is also a useful feature, but answering the call and speaking into your watch is as socially acceptable as wearing Google Glass. Switching on the fitness functions on most smart watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 does a much poorer job of hear rate measurement than a dedicated fitness devices like the Fitbit. The Apple Watch, although aesthetically more attractive perhaps than other devices, is in essence the functional equivalent of an AUD $350 Fitbit Surge. Whether the Apple Watch works as well as the Fitbit in terms of fitness tracking is yet to be seen. According to Finder.com.au, 800,000 Australians, or 4.2% of the adult population, are intending to buy an Apple Watch. This is a similar number to those in the US that are intending to buy a watch, although this number has dropped from the nearly 10% of iPhone users who were intending to buy one back in December 2014. Whilst it is easy to think of people stopping wearing an $89, or even an $300 device, as nearly 40% of wearable owners in the UK have done. It is much more painful to think of someone spending $1,000 doing the same. Once again, we are seeing the enormous power of the psychological and social drivers behind being an Apple fan. Buying one of these watches is not an impulse purchase and it is not necessarily something that those buying these devices can actually afford. In the US in 2013, households were spending 17% of their budget on technology. In Australia, an average family with 2 children spends about $6,000 a year on technology that ranges from telecommunications (mobiles, Internet connection, landlines) to streaming services for music and video. Within this context, it is even harder to justify spending the amount of money Apple is asking people to spend, on a watch that for the most part will simply be used to tell the time. What may determine the success of the Apple Watch is its social acceptance by people who are not Apple Watch owners. Google Glass suffered from a view that a socially unaccepted technology was at the same time made exclusive, and therefore exclusionary, through its price. Although smart watches are less of a social imposition than a pair of glasses with a camera, looking at a watch in the company of others may be considered rude or signifying that the wearer is looking to be somewhere else. These social cues will need to be adapted for the case when people are looking at their wrist to see who is calling or texting and whether it is worth breaking a conversation to respond. Although society may adapt to this behaviour, it will take some time. Whether the sales of the Apple Watch extends beyond the initial wave of early adopters is yet to be seen. It is hard to see how this will be sustained and the more conservative users will wait until at least next year, along with the possibility of price drops in the technology. Until then, the success of the watch will be easy to gauge by the number of people who are compulsively and continually staring at their wrists. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Twitter is urging celebrities to stop using rival live-streaming app Meerkat in favour of their recent acquisition Periscope, according to TechCrunch. Periscope launched in March as Twitter’s answer to Meerkat, after acquiring the startup in January last year. At the time of the launch, Periscope said it wanted to “build the closest thing to teleportation”. “While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video,” the company said. Hillary Clinton confirms she is entering the 2016 US presidential race Hillary Clinton has confirmed she is running for US president, announcing the presidential bid over Twitter after an email explaining the campaign to supporters was leaked online. The former US secretary of state is tipped to run a tech-heavy campaign after she snapped up a former Google executive last week to be her chief technology officer. Stephanie Hannon – Google’s former director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – will now oversee a team of software engineers who will manage websites and apps for Clinton’s campaign. Winter comes early for Game of Thrones fans The first four episodes of Game of Thrones season five have been leaked online, with thousands of people downloading the files from popular torrent sites within hours of the leaks appearing online. The leaked episodes appear to have originated from review or translation copies, according to Fairfax. Game of Thrones is the most-pirated television series in the world, with Australians among the top offenders. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 98.92 points, rising 0.55% % to 18,057.65. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.7 US cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.
Taxation experts have warned against unilateral action on corporate tax avoidance, telling a Senate Economics Committee Australia should be proactive and show leadership in the OECD and G20 tax processes already underway. The inquiry, initiated by Greens leader Christine Milne, is exploring tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia. Treasurer Joe Hockey has hinted that a diverted profits or “Google tax”, similar to that introduced in the UK is being considered by the Australian government. However Richard Vann, Challis Professor of Law at Sydney University told the committee he was somewhat cynical about such a tax, suggesting it would collect very little revenue in the UK. “They don’t even know how they’re going to try to calculate the revenue that they’re going to collect from Google,” Professor Vann said. Professor Vann said the government was sending a “mixed message” to the multinationals that presented the biggest tax avoidance problem to Australia, by suggesting in the tax discussion paper that we needed to cut our corporate tax rate, and at the same time highlighting the problem of tax avoidance by multinationals. “There are no simple single-country solutions, it does require coordinated action, he said. “I’m not saying the diverted profits tax or something like it is a bad idea, but if everyone introduced one that would be a problem. They would all be different, they wouldn’t be harmonised and then we would have breakout.” QUT taxation Professor Kerrie Sadiq agreed, and said Australia must collaborate internationally and not act “hastily or unilaterally”. “Personally, I believe we should strive to fix the current system, particularly the transfer pricing regime.” Transfer pricing sees multinationals make intra-company transactions, such as billing a subsidiary company, for the purposes of avoiding tax in higher taxing jurisdictions. However Antony Ting, Associate Professor at University of Sydney, said while the ideal solution was international consensus, the US appeared to be undermining the OECD BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) project. “I think Australia should continue to support the OECD project, we will get something out of it, but we should also think about plan B.” Advice from the Parliamentary Budget Office has suggested if Australia was to introduce a diverted profits tax it risked breaking international tax treaties. But Professor Ting said it was possible for Australia to design a version of a diverted profits tax, different to that applied in the UK, that would not override international tax treaties. Professor Vann disagreed that the US was undermining the BEPS project. “The BEPS outputs are being designed very carefully to inoculate it against US inaction.” He said for a country like Australia “staying within the pack” was a good strategy, with the caveat that we should consider the national interest of doing so. Professor Vann said Australia should be pushing for the OECD and G20 to “keep the political census”, and give the ATO more resources to help it implement reforms agreed on at a multilateral level. Professor Ting said the ATO was fighting an “unfair battle” with multinationals given it did not have the same amount of information about tax structures as the multinationals it investigates. Professor Vann said even if Australia was successful at implementing the BEPS reforms it would be “doing very well” to get a billion dollars a year in additional tax revenue. “The reason we collect so much corporate tax is because we have a lot of iron and coal and our corporate tax revenue is going to be dependent on the prices we get for our natural resources. That’s going to have a much better impact than anything that comes out of BEPS.” Professor Sadiq said while the current tax regime had no basis for addressing morally wrong behaviour, it was clear appropriate taxes were not being paid in the location of the economic activity, and that current laws were inadequate and out of date. “There is a lack of confidence in the corporate tax system and the public is calling for corporate social responsibility in relation to tax not just compliance with tax obligations. Unfortunately, very few corporations view tax as an economic contribution to public finances.” This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, who is tipped to announce her presidential candidacy in coming weeks, has snapped up a Google executive to be her chief technology officer. Clinton has hired Stephanie Hannon – Google’s director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – in order to develop new ways to engage voters through technology, according to The Washington Post. Hannon will oversee a team of software engineers and developers who will build websites and apps for the campaign. The move comes after a string of technology hires in US politics. Last month the Obama administration brought on Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman as the White House’s first chief digital officer. YouTube confirms plans to launch an ad-free subscription service YouTube has today confirmed it will be launching an ad-free subscription service for users in exchange for a monthly fee, according to TechCrunch. In an email to YouTube partners, the company said it would be creating “a new paid offering” following the success of its Music Key service and YouTube Kids app. “We’re excited to build on this momentum by taking another big step in favour of choice: offering fans an ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee,” the email reads. “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue.” Twitter drops discover stream in favour of trends Twitter is dropping its “Discover” stream in favour of a “Trend” section in order to give users a better understanding of what people are talking about on the social media platform. The new stream will have brief descriptions of trending hashtags, along with other details such as how many tweets have been sent about a particular topic. The updates are being rolled out on Twitter for iOS and Android. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 5.43 points, falling 0.03% to 17,875.42. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.4 US cents.
Have you ever texted somebody saying how “ducking annoyed” you are at something? Or asked Siri on your iPhone to call your wife, but somehow managed to be connected to your mother-in-law? If you have, you may have been a victim of a new challenge in computing: that fine line where we trust a computer to make predictions for us despite the fact that it sometimes gets them wrong. For one hapless administrator with the Australian Immigration department, this level of trust has almost certainly led to major embarrassment (or worse), with it being revealed that during November last year they accidentally sent the personal details of the G20 leaders to the organisers of the Asian Cup Football tournament due to an autofilled e-mail address that went horribly wrong. We trust the machines, but sometimes the machines let us down. So, what’s happening? Are the machines too dumb to get what we mean? Or are they just getting too smart for their own good? The uncanny valley of computing prediction It feels like we’re entering an uncanny valley of computer prediction. This is where computers seem almost human, make us start to trust them, but then suddenly make a mistake so galling that we get uneasy that we’ve trusted a machine so completely. The problem is that it’s all just so convenient. My typing speed has increased immeasurably since I started to trust my iPhone to autocorrect the vague words I type into it and just went with the flow. And services like Google Now that predict the information you want before you even ask for it are even more useful. But the trade-off is that sometimes it gets it wrong. And sometimes I find that I’ve inadvertently sent the wrong message to my wife, or had the phone make ridiculous suggestions like suggesting that my office is “home” (that went down well with the aforementioned wife!). So, why is it so hard for a computer to be human? Fool me once, computer … The challenge of making a computer seem human has been with us for quite a while. Ever since Alan Turing invented his computation machine to break the Enigma code during the second world war, we’ve striven to make a computer that can think like a human and act like a human. So much so, that we have even derived a test, called the Turing Test, to determine whether a computer can successfully fool somebody into thinking they are human. In his paper that proposes the Turing Test, Turing suggested that we don’t need to make a computer that can genuinely think – whatever that means – but rather just build a computer simulation for which we can positively answer the question: “can machines do what we (as thinking entities) can do?”, as cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad puts it. Through a test he called the “imitation game”, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine using a text-only channel. If the judge cannot tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. Since Turing’s original paper, many variations on the test have been proposed, adding perceptual capabilities like vision and audio, as well as extending the test with robotics. But so far, no computer has definitively passed the original Turing Test. Every time we come close, they stumble into that uncanny valley, fall short in some way that makes us start to feel uneasy, and then the whole tower of cards falls. This is not surprising. We are trying to make a machine deal with all the complexity of human processing and it’s bound to make mistakes. A classic example of this is the tank parable by Elieler Yudkowsky. Tanks, but no tanks To demonstrate the problem of teaching a computer to be human, Yudkowsky describes a situation where US Army researchers train a computer to recognise whether or not a scene has a tank in it. To teach the computer this, the researchers show it many images, some with tanks in them, some without, and tell the computer whether or not each image contains a tank. Through their testing, they determine that the computer has learnt to identify each scene correctly so they hand the system to the Pentagon, which then says it’s people couldn’t get it to work. After some head scratching, the researchers discover that the photos of tanks had been taken on cloudy days and the photos without tanks had been taken on sunny days. So rather than learning to see tanks, the system had learnt to spot cloudy or sunny days! Such are the hazards of teaching a computer a skill when it doesn’t have sufficient context to understand what you want it to do. Teaching a computer to know what we mean, not what we say So, after my mobile phone helpfully informed me that my workplace was “home” and I adjusted the address accordingly, I noticed my wife was quite quiet on the way home. I looked over at her and asked what was up and she said “nothing, I’m fine”, at which point I knew I was in trouble! But of course, that’s not what she said. She said she was “fine”, and a computer, without context, would take her at her word. Context is everything, whether it’s dealing with tanks or especially when dealing with a grumpy spouse. Sometimes context is easy, such as the system Google implemented a couple of years ago that checks if you say the word “attached” in an email and then whether you’ve actually added an attachment, and warns you if you haven’t done both. But sometimes context is harder, like when you type “Ian” and let it autocomplete, but end up with the wrong “Ian”. After all, how is Gmail supposed to know which Ian you wanted without a host of other knowledge based on the content of your email and what you know about who you’re emailing? Nonetheless, computers are getting better at it. The iPhone autocomplete now adds “well” without an apostrophe until it detects a few words later that you meant “we’ll” with an apostrophe, at which point it changes it. So it might not be long before it can tell you that you’re e-mailing the wrong “Ian” too. But for now we still need to be careful, because until computers can understand all the context of what we mean and what we do as humans – and there is no guarantee they ever will – we are still in that uncanny valley of presumptive computing. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
A portion of transportation network startup Lyft’s recent $500 million Series E capital raise will be allocated to an Australian launch, according to an executive of Moovit, a startup that has partnered with the Uber rival. Alex Torres, head of global product marketing at local transport app startup Moovit, which has partnered with Lyft, says the capital from its latest Series E round will be used to launch the startup around the world, including Australia. “They’re going to arrive. They’ve got funding of $500 million and they’re going to allocate that money to get here,” Torres says. While Rakuten, the lead investor in Lyft’s latest Series E round said the capital would be spent on international expansion, there’s been little indication from the startup where or when that might occur. Recently Lyft founder Logan Green said an international expansion could be happening soon, hinting that China and Japan are among its first destinations, but a spokesperson for the startup says it’s not planning to expand to Australia at this time. The Moovit app uses crowdsourced and publicly available information about public transportation networks to provide users with detailed information as to how to best get where they want to go. The Israeli startup is currently available in over 500 cities and 45 countries. It began operating in Australia in beta mode six months ago, but launched officially on Tuesday. The startup announced it had raised $50 million in a Series C funding round in January that valued the company at $450 million. The Moovit app is free to download and while it crowdsources information like congestion data, cancellations and services changes in order to make its directions more accurate, Torres says it will never sell its users’ data. Instead, monetisation will come via a number of integrations with private transportation networks like taxi companies. One such integration is Lyft. In the United States, Moovit has partnered with Lyft so its users can book a Lyft ride through the Moovit app. That partnership means that when Lyft does arrive in Australia, and there’s no indication when that might be, thanks to Moovit, the startup will have 200,000 potential customers, before any Australian has downloaded the Lyft app. “We have a lot of similarities because they believe in a community-based product too,” Torres says of Lyft and Moovit’s partnership. Torres, who joined Moovit six months ago after nine years working for Google on products like Google Maps, is pleased with Moovit’s entry into Australia. “We’re extremely happy with our initial results in Australia. We decided to a beta version of our product here. Have the product available, not properly launching it, nothing influencing it just to ensure that the data quality was going to be good. And also to get initial feedback from users,” he says. “That was, I would say, mission accomplished. It’s a very big number, if we compare (Australian adoption) to France, we’ve been there for two years. In France in two years we currently have 300,000 users; 200,000 or something, all in Paris. We’ve got 200,000 users in Australia. Without even saying anything about it, haven’t engaged with press or anyone. It’s very quick adoption.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the finalists in each of the categories in the 2015 StartupSmart Awards. Today, we examine the Fastest Growing category. Online marketplaces need to think about search engine optimisation from day one, according to the founder of a startup shortlisted in the Fastest Growing category at this year’s StartupSmart Awards. Karl Wyzenbeek, founder and managing director of LabFriend, says since launching in late 2013 he has learnt what it takes to run a successful e-commerce site. “We cut out the middle man to save Australian research organisations a huge amount of money to buy critical equipment,” he says. “Typically they [the customers] have to apply for government grants and are very restricted with their expenses. By doing all of our business online we’re able to give them high quality equipment at a much lower price. We look after customer service, they still get the warranty… but they were previously trying to buy those products overseas to save money.” A sister site has since sprung up called IndustryFriend, thanks to demand from businesses beyond the science and research sector. Wyzenbeek says it was much easier to set up the second e-commerce platform because of LabFriend’s existing backend infrastructure. “What I would say, especially to anyone who is looking to launch an e-commerce or online business, is from day one when you’re developing your website to keep the SEO front of mind,” he says. “We went and built this fantastic product and you fill this amazing store, but then no one finds you because the SEO isn’t there. When we launched IndustryFriend we designed it from day one to be friendly for Google, whereas when we started LabFriend we were still learning and trying to piece together that information.” Joining LabFriend as a finalist for the Fastest Growing Startup category in the 2015 StartupSmart Awards are Melbourne-based grocery deliver startup YourGrocer and workplace drug testing service Safe Work Laboratories. The winner of the Fastest Growing category will be announced at an event in Melbourne on April 16. You can buy tickets here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Fishburners will transform its garage into an “idea space” in order to siphon people with a great business idea into Sydney’s startup ecosystem. Fishburners is Australia’s largest co-working space, with 126 startups working together in Ultimo. The new ‘Idea Space’, which is sponsored by Google, means all four levels of the building are now used by entrepreneurs. Murray Hurps, the general manager of Fishburners, told StartupSmart technology is the future and it is critical that the startup ecosystem grows in order to create jobs. “It’s one thing to have a lot of desks in a building but it’s another to have a space you can invite people to have meetings and presentations that can inspire people so that they don’t have to sit in a cubicle their whole life,” he says. “It’s easier than ever to start a company and it’s getting even easier. It’s just a question of whether you’re willing to see what you can do.” Hurps says having to renovate the garage goes to show how desperate co-working spaces and startups more generally are to find space in inner-city Sydney. This was an issue highlighted during the recent NSW state election by independent MP Alex Greenwich, who was returned to the inner-city seat of Sydney with a swing of more than 8%. “The fact that we had to invest and convert a garage into useable space is a little bit of a reflection of how hard it is to get space in this area,” Hurps says. “We can fill 1000 square metres every nine month at the current rate. It’s a shame because we have the critical mass here and desperately finding other ways to continue our expansion because we don’t have any more garages to use.” Fishburners added 41 members in January and sees 400 visitors each week due to its popular startup events. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.
The digital economy contributed $79 billion to the Australian economy in 2013/14, representing 5.1% of Australia’s gross domestic product, while 22% of employees now work intensively with ICT, according to a new Deloitte Access Economics report. The report, titled The Connected Continent II: How digital technology is transforming the Australian economy, was commissioned by Google and follows up from a similar report in 2011. The $79 billion contribution is up from $50 billion or 3.6% of GDP in 2011, representing a 50% increase in real terms. It is forecast to grow further to $139 billion, or 7.3% of GDP, by 2020. To put that into perspective, mining currently represents 8.3% of the Australian economy, manufacturing is 6.4%, and construction is 8%. However, the digital economy is already a larger slice of the Australian economy than transport (4.7%), real estate services (2.7%), education (4.6%) and retail. A number of sectors that are larger, such as finance (8.3%) and health tech (6.4%) are in the process of being disrupted by tech startups or absorbed into the tech sector. Around 4% of Australia’s workforce is directly employed in specialist information and communication technology (ICT) roles, but this figure sells short how important the sector is in terms of the workforce. Less than 3% of all ICT workers are directly employed by the tech and media sectors. Meanwhile 2.5 million employees, or 22% of the workforce, are in positions that involve regularly dealing with ICT. These knowledge workers include accountants, accounting clerks, advertising, public relations and sales managers. According to the report, aside from direct economic activity involving ICT and tech workers, the sector plays an important role in accelerating the rest of the national economy. “We estimate that the economy was about $45 billion bigger in 2013 than it otherwise would have been because of the productivity impacts of digital technologies, approximately 3% of the Australian economy. Higher productivity means Australia has greater output for its inputs to production,” the report states. The full report can be downloaded here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.