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Digital literacy in the developing world: a gender gap

7:44AM | Tuesday, 8 July

In the pervasively connected world of the 21st century, creating and sharing knowledge has never been easier. But the fact remains that many people still lack the skills required to access this information and an inequity gap is growing.   Consider this quote:   You know you’re from the ‘90s if you remember being disappointed when the CD’s leaflet didn’t have the lyrics to the songs. How else were you going to learn that damn line on track three?   For those of us with smartphones in our pockets, we simply Google the lyrics and voilà! The answer materialises in less than a second. Yet this is a privilege available only to those who have access to the internet and the means to use it.   Inequality of access   Two-thirds of the world’s population do not have access to the internet, many of whom are women. These 4.6 billion people rely on the lyrics in the CD case to learn that song, assuming they have a CD player at all. This is a representative issue on the far side of the great digital divide between the technically literate and illiterate.   The benefits of digital technology can only be realised if people are empowered with the knowledge and skills to access and use them. In developing countries, women are 25% less likely than men to be online. This gap soars to 45% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. By way of comparison, in both France and the US, women’s internet use exceeds that of men.   Illiteracy is a barrier to online access that affects women more than men. Averaged across all developing countries, 75% of women are literate compared to 86% of men. In India, as few as 51% of women are literate compared to 75% of men.   Internet-based economic activity in India accounts for more than 5% of GDP growth. Without access to the internet, and the fundamental skills required to use it, women cannot benefit from the tools, resources and opportunities that the internet affords.   Bringing women into the mainstream of the digital revolution can empower them with access, information, choices and opportunities that they have never had before. Not just for themselves, but for their families, communities and nation.   But what might this look like? Being digitally literate means more than simply knowing how to operate a computer. Digital literacy means having the ability to find resources, critically evaluate and create information, and to do this by using digital technology. UNESCO considers it a necessary life skill.   Technology is knowledge and power   Digital literacy promotes democracy by giving access to a vast repository of knowledge. It also provides a platform from which to speak out and make your views heard.   An Iranian woman, for example, who posted a scarf-less photo of herself on Facebook, now has over 230,000 followers who are supporting her crusade of bareheaded subversion. These women want to voice their opposition to the compulsory hijab. Facebook gives them the means.   Social networking sites greatly increase women’s understanding of what is possible, giving them a powerful tool that can be used to change their situation.   For women in developing countries, the internet is an open doorway to tangible benefits; education and employment opportunities. According to Plan UK, an extra year of education increases a woman’s income by 10-20%. It is a necessary step on the road to breaking the cycle of poverty.   A number of worthy initiatives are underway to develop women’s digital literacy skills. The Women’s Annex Foundation was established to train women in digital literacy so they can create a viable economic model for themselves and their families.   The She Will Connect project, an initiative by Intel, is similarly committed to improving the digital literacy skills of women in developing countries. Intel recognises the role that technology plays in improving the quality of and access to education.   Closing the gender gap   There is a recognised link between a woman’s level of education and the size of families. The more educated she becomes, the fewer children she is likely to have. With over-population being one of the principle difficulties faced by developing countries, digital literacy has the potential to give women access to education and the means to begin reversing the trend towards ever-expanding populations in the developing world.   The inequality of internet access around the world is compounded by where you live and your gender.   If you are a woman in a developing part of the world, you are likely to be coming up very short on access to the kinds of digital resources that are readily available elsewhere. This can make a big difference to the quality of life for your whole family.   The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian ticket resale market ripe with potential for global reseller Ticketbis

7:21AM | Monday, 7 July

Global online ticket seller Ticketbis has entered the Australian market, estimated to be worth around $90 million a year.   The online platform allows people to securely buy or sell tickets for all types of events, offering more than one million tickets for international events, claiming to make it easy to attend events anywhere over the world.   The business will spend the first year in Australia building its brand and becoming known as a secure platform, rather than trying to capture market share, country manager for Australia, Gonzalo Garoña says.   “Customers are constantly searching for more secure ways to make these types of transactions online, because in the past year there have been many cases of fraud on sites like Gumtree and eBay, and they are searching for platforms that offer security and guarantees.   “We want to become known as the best alternative to the problem of recuperating your money if you have a ticket for an event you can’t attend.”   The co-founder of Ticketbis, Jon Uriarte, says the Australian market has a lot of potential for the business.   “Firstly, Australians are known to be big consumers of live events, with over 80% of all Australians attending live concerts every year. Secondly, the biggest international tours and the world’s most important sporting competitions all take place in Australia’s biggest cities,” Uriarte says.   “We aim to put an end to unsafe scalping that takes place on the street, which is fraudulent, insecure and doesn’t have any guarantees. We provide a solution that’s secure, easy and offers complete guarantee for the buyer and the seller.”   Ticketbis, which made over $39 million in 2013, is mapping out an Australian marketing campaign using online campaigns, search engine marketing and affiliate marketing.   Uriarte says that Ticketbis offers a solution to two distinct problems. On the one hand, people can search for tickets for events that have sold out, or tickets in a situation that maybe aren’t available elsewhere, such as front row seats.   “On the other hand, there are millions of users on Ticketbis, meaning anyone who does have a ticket for an event they can’t attend can put the ticket up for sale and recuperate the money that would be lost otherwise,” Uriarte says. Even though the secondary ticketing market has been around for over 10 years in countries like the US, the challenge is to clearly explain that consumers can buy and safely sell tickets that can’t be used, Uriarte says.   “This was the case in many South and Central American countries such as Mexico, which is now one of our top performing countries.”   Ticketbis has nearly 300 staff. Hiring local talent with local knowledge of the market has been a key plank in its growth strategy, Uriarte says.   “Our strategy has always been to think global, act local. The local talent has been the key to expanding into new markets. They have helped us to understand the market and the details that are specific to every country, but without losing sight of our global strategy that guides the development of the company.   “For example in the majority of the world, Google is the most important search engine, but in South Korea, Naver is the most used, with almost 80% market share. Moving into South Korea, it was extremely important that we were appearing in those searches,” Uriarte says.   Ticketbis was founded in December 2009 and became a market leader in Spain in the first year.   It currently operates in 29 countries and is the market leader in Southern Europe and Latin America.

THE NEWS WRAP: YouTube gives slow video providers the name-and-shame treatment

7:06PM | Sunday, 6 July

YouTube has followed in the footsteps of Netflix and is now publicly shaming internet providers who provide slow video.   When videos have trouble buffering, blur or won’t play at all, YouTube offers a new service which allows them to find out why.   It takes you to a new Google website which displays video playback quality for internet service providers in your area.   Information gathered by NSA on ordinary internet users far outweighs specific targets   Nine out of 10 account holders found in a large cache of conversations intercepted by the NSA were not the intended surveillance targets, according to the results of a four month-investigation by the Washington Post.   The investigation reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted email and instant message conversations and included medical records sent from one family member to another, resumes from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren.   Facebook experiments had little oversight   Until recently, Facebook’s Data Science group operated with few boundaries, a former member of the team has told the Wall Street Journal.   At a university, researchers normally have to rely on consent from participants to conduct studies.   Facebook relied on its Terms of Service, which now say that user data may be used for research.   Former Facebook data scientist Andrew Ledvina recalled a minor experiment in which he and a product manager ran a test without telling anyone else at the company.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92.02 to 17,068.26. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Elite sports wearables maker Catapult Sports buys GPSports, no IPO plans at the moment

7:21PM | Sunday, 6 July

Catapult Sports, a Melbourne-based provider of tracking devices for elite athletes, has announced it has purchased Canberra-based counterpart GPSport.   Both companies manufacture wearable devices that monitor the performance of elite athletes, where any movement data is fed into its analytics software on a computer in real time.   Combined, the two companies count 450 elite teams worldwide as customers, with international clients including European football clubs AC Milan and Aston Villa, the New York Knicks NBA team, and almost half of the 32 teams in the NFL.   Catapult Sports media and marketing manager Boden Westover told StartupSmart the combined company’s customers will include every AFL, NRL and Australian Super Rugby club.   “In terms of AFL, Catapult had 17 clubs out of 18, while GPSport had one. We were split down the middle for both Super Rugby and NRL,” Westover says.   “We were the number one player in this field and were the first to come up with the technology. GPSport was our biggest competitor. We had an exclusive deal with the Australian Institute of Sport for a while, while they were the first to market. Our companies are the two pioneers in this space.”   Catapult Sports managed to raise $3.5 million in series A funding during the last quarter of 2013, taking total investment in the company to $6 million. Its backers include a number of high-profile investors, including as Dallas Mavericks owner and high-profile entrepreneur Mark Cuban.   However, despite reports to the contrary, Westover told StartupSmart Catapult Sports has no plans for an IPO this year.   “It’s one of those things where there was some uninformed speculation about an IPO in an article, and it quickly became accepted as fact. But we certainly don’t have any plans for an IPO in the next 12 months,” he says.   In its official statement, Catapult Sports chief executive Shaun Holthouse says the two businesses will continue to operate as separate entities for at least the next 12 months.   “Day one after the acquisition, we expect the only thing GPSports users will notice is an increased focus on customer service as we invest in this side of the operation,” Holthouse says.   “We know a lot of GPSports clients are very loyal to the brand and technology. The last thing we want to do is disrupt a good thing. Over the longer term we will be looking for synergies that bring added value to our combined customer base.”   Holthouse also says the deal was a response to consolidation in the athlete analytics industry, with his company’s focus shifting towards building global scale and distribution.   Wearable devices have recently come into focus following high profile announcements in the consumer end of the market, with Google recently unveiling its Google Fit API and Apple announcing HealthKit.   Despite the hype, Catapult Sports chairman Adir Shiffman told StartupSmart in May he remains a sceptic about the consumer end of the market, but sees little shortage in growth at the professional end of the market.

How to build a virtual reality system – in your living room

7:13AM | Thursday, 3 July

Virtual reality is no longer the expensive, cumbersome exercise it once was. Google Cardboard, launched at last week’s Google I/O conference, is a no-frills, cardboard frame that, when used with open software, transforms a smartphone into a basic virtual reality headset.   But for a more immersive experience, hobbyists can build their own virtual reality system in their living room using equipment they already have (and if not, can buy relatively inexpensively).   All you need to beam yourself onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise or into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment is:   a computer an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset a Microsoft Kinect for Windows motion sensor a battery headphones a tablet with software used to create and develop videogames (also know as a game engine).   A stroll through virtual reality history   The term “virtual reality” was initially coined by American computer scientist Jaron Lanier in 1989 to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which a person can explore and interact with.   Virtual reality quickly attracted media attention and inspired films such as the The Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Disclosure in 1994 – but this fuelled expectations of virtual reality that couldn’t be met by the technology available at the time.   Virtual reality gaming interfaces such as the Virtuality HMD headset in 1991, Cybermaxx VR in 1994 and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1995 left many enthusiasts of the technology disappointed, and often quite dizzy.   Systems that enable users to walk and interact in the space are generally expensive (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars), unsuited to routine use and obtrusive, so it’s unsurprising that virtual reality has mostly remained in the laboratory.   Virtual roaming at home   To make virtual reality practical for home use, you need a system that is inexpensive, easy to set up, does not encumber the user and works in a lounge room-sized area.   The availability of head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift, motion tracking devices such as the Microsoft Kinect and game engines such as Unity 3D or UDK are a step into the right direction.   The Kickstarter success of the Oculus Rift in 2012 reinvigorated the appetite for virtual reality experiences and paved the way for new wave of virtual reality head-mounted displays such as the Sony Morpheus and the Google Cardboard.   The Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Kinect have already started a revolution in home gaming by getting the gamer out of the chair. The Kinect tracks the user’s movement in the living room in seconds without the need for special markers or lengthy calibration.   Ultra-light tablet computers are also becoming more powerful and are now capable to render convincing three dimensional environments at acceptable frame rates.   Okay, I’ve got the goods. Now what?   SpaceWalk is a platform developed by researchers in the GEELab at RMIT University that allows a user to physically walk around and interact in a virtual environment. The platform uses two systems:   a virtual reality backpack a separate tracking station.   The tracking station consists of a standard desktop computer connected to Kinect. The Kinect has a practical tracking area of approximately 6m2, about the size of most people’s living rooms. It can track movements as little as 1.3mm when users are close to the sensor and 6mm at the end of its tracking range.   The user’s backpack contains an external phone charger battery pack [B] connected to the Oculus Rift controller box [C] via a USB to DC Barrel Jack [E] and provides the Oculus Rift [A] with power. The Oculus Rift connects via HDMI [G] to the tablet computer [D].   The platform is only meant at this point to serve as an experimental setup and users have to move slowly in the space as particularly fast movements have the potential to induce nausea. Frame rates, screen resolutions, tracking accuracy and latency are expected to improve with the availability of new hardware.   The Oculus Developer’s Kit 2 already promises refresh rates of up to 75Hz and a third higher screen resolution of 960 x 1080 pixels per eye. Similarly, the Kinect 2 for Windows features more accurate user tracking and a larger practical tracking area.   Moving and interacting naturally in virtual reality creates an extraordinary sense of immersion that cannot be experienced sitting down, and the experience of walking and interacting in a virtual game space has been explored by number of recent projects.   Apart from Architectural Visualisation and Industrial Training, defending yourself against a horde of zombies is a popular use case that has been explored by Project Holodeck and ZeroLatency.   On a similar vein, participants could experience vertigo using a setup developed by Inition at the 2013 Digital Shoreditch Festival.   If encountering your worst nightmare within the confines of a few square metres is not enough, users can explore the vast expanse of their virtual world on foot with an omni-directional treadmill.   To understand how virtual reality can be become a useful extension of our real world, the technology must break the boundaries of the dedicated virtual reality laboratory and become accessible by a wider user group with a variety of backgrounds and motivations.   We have just begun to realise the potential of virtual reality and there are many strange new worlds for us to explore. Stefan Greuter 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.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10 tips to evangelize your product

7:49AM | Thursday, 3 July

What is an evangelist and why does it matter for startup business?   Last night the chief evangelist of Sydney startup Canva, Guy Kawasaki, explained the importance of businesses telling their stories.   As Apple’s original Mac evangelist, Kawasaki brings a wealth of experience when it comes to promoting products.   “I was at Apple in the Wonder Years,” Kawasaki jokes. “Every day we wondered whether the company would survive.”   History shows Apple did survive despite many troubled times and part of its success was the strength of its brand, built largely on the back of an army of dedicated fans. Raising that army is the task of an evangelist.   In Kawasaki’s view, evangelism is different from sales. “Typically the salesperson has his or her best interests at heart,” says Kawasaki.   “Evangelism is quite different; evangelists have others’ best interests at heart.”   Kawasaki breaks down the art of evangelism into 10 steps, which he defines as ‘bringing the good news’.   Touch what’s gold   “It’s very hard to evangelise crap,” says Kawasaki. The key to being an evangelist is to promote something great. If the product is deep and captures customers’ imaginations, it becomes easy to extol the benefits.   Tell a story   An evangelist needs to tell the story of why the company or product exists. Kawasaki told of the iconic venture capital investor Mike Moritz’s criteria for putting money into venture – “I want to hear about two engineers making a product they want to use.” Tell that story.   Localise the pitch   Make the story relevant to the audience and pitch it to the individual. “Macintosh is about empowering one person to create a document they love,” explains Kawasaki.   Always enable test drives   Motor dealers know that letting customers drive the car is essential to making the sale and is something the software industry does very well with its trials and freemium business models. The customers are smart, so let them use your product and figure out how they can use it in their lives.   Remove speed bumps   Don’t put barriers in the way of customers; convoluted forms demanding too much information finishing with things like CAPTCHAS – the codes you have to enter to confirm you’re human – get in the way of sign ups. Make it simple for customers to engage with you.   Look for agnostics, ignore atheists   It is very difficult to get people to change religion, so don’t bother pitching to the competition’s fans or rusted-on users. “It was difficult to get MS-DOS people to switch to the Mac,” Kawasaki says. “They worshipped a false god.” If a potential customer doesn’t get it in five minutes then move on.   Ignore titles and pedigrees   “People need proxies to make judgements,” Kawasaki says and he believes you should ignore those things, if they get it and they want to help then embrace them. Don’t get stuck on people’s titles or what school they went to.   Let a hundred flowers bloom   The desktop publishing community saved Apple in the darkest days by encouraging groups of passionate fans in the design the company was able to keep going.   A third party product, Aldus Pagemaker, was Apple’s saviour. “If the market says that your computer is for desktop publishing, not for spreadsheets and databases. Take the money.”   Build an ecosystem   An ecosystem means that others are interested in your success. Think of Apple iOS or Google Android without app developers. There are things you should share.   Reciprocate   “I’m a big believer in karma,” says Kawasaki. “If people help you then you have an obligation to help them back.” By returning favours, people will help you out when you need it.   For Kawasaki, evangelism is a key part in promoting a business. For a startup, having evangelists telling your story is possibly one of the greatest assets you can have.

Tinder founders in sexual harassment case: Having a female co-founder “makes the company feel like a joke”

7:09AM | Thursday, 3 July

One of the co-founders of online dating app Tinder is suing the company for sexual harassment and discrimination, in a case that is drawing attention to the treatment of women in the technology industry.   Former Tinder marketing vice-president Whitney Wolfe filed the explosive suit against Tinder, its majority owner IAC and sister company Match.com in the California Superior Court on Monday.   According to the lawsuit, Wolfe alleges she was subject to ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination during a period of 18 months, beginning in late 2012, and leading up to her resignation in April.   She says co-founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen (pictured above) removed her title as co-founder of the company because of her gender, with Rad telling Wolfe having a young, female co-founder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” the company.   Wolfe claims Mateen, the company’s chief marketing officer who she briefly dated, repeatedly insulted her in public, including calling her a “whore” at a company party, while also harassing her via private text messages.   To make matters worse, Wolfe says Rad, who is the chief executive of Tinder, ignored her complaints about Mateen’s behaviour and at one point said in response to her complaints that her “employment continuing is not likely an option at this point”.   SmartCompany attempted to contact Tinder and IAC but did not receive a response from either company prior to publication.   IAC has released a statement saying Mateen has been suspended while an internal investigation is completed. The spokesperson said the company “unequivocally” condemns the private message sent by Mateen to Wolfe.   But IAC says it “believe[s] that Ms Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded”.   Wolfe said in a statement published in USA Today she had hoped to resolve the dispute confidentially, “but after months of failed attempts, I have decided to pursue this suit”.   The allegations have drawn more attention to how women are treated in the technology industry, following the release of damning diversity statistics by some of the world’s largest corporations, including Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Expert-curated music streaming service Songza acquired by Google

7:17PM | Tuesday, 1 July

Google has acquired music streaming service Songza.   Songza uses information about the user and context to determine the best playlists for its users at any given time, curated by music experts.   That human curation is Songza’s point of difference from other music services like Pandora and Spotify, which rely heavily on algorithms.   Google says it’s not planning to make any immediate changes to Songza, so it will continue to work like usual for existing users.   Virtually no governments off-limits for the NSA Australia is one of only four countries the US National Security Agency has not been authorised to intercept information from, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Washington Post.   A 2010 classified legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given the authority to intercept through US companies, not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well.   The certification, which was approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was included among a set of documents leaked by Edward Snowden and includes a list of 193 countries that would be of valid interest for US intelligence.   Vine to add loop counter Vine is adding a loop count feature to its web, iOS and Android apps, which will indicate how many times people have looped a video.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 129.47 to 16,956.07. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US95 cents.

Melbourne-based bitcoin fund lost $70,000 in a cyber-attack caused by US Marshals Service

7:30PM | Tuesday, 1 July

A mistake by the US Marshals Service has led to Melbourne-based bitcoin arbitrage fund Bitcoins Reserve losing 100 bitcoins, valued at around $70,000, in a cyber-attack, according to co-founder Sam Lee.   Lee’s contact details, along with the details of others interested in the auction of 30,000 bitcoins confiscated from the Silk Road black marketplace, were accidently leaked by the US Marshalls Service about two weeks ago.   Bitcoins Reserve was the victim of what Lee calls “a serious attack”, where an individual approached him on the leaked email address, purporting to be a journalist requesting an interview.   Lee says the address the attacker used was owned by a third party, which he believes has been compromised by the attacker, and used to share with him a Google Doc with what Lee believed to be interview questions.   He was then prompted with an input which required him to request access to Google Doc, but the link was actually requesting access to his own email account.   Once the attackers had gained access to his email account they were able to complete a password challenge, which then gave the attacker access to all the plain text passwords in his chrome web browser.   They then accessed Bitcoins Reserve’s domain register, added a new DNS record that confirmed with Google that they had ownership of the company’s Google apps admin account.   Through that they were able to access the email addresses of all the employees at Bitcoins Reserve.   They couldn’t gain direct access to Bitcoins Reserve’s bitcoins, Lee says, because it’s handled by a security expert “and they’re all locked down”.   Instead they sent an email from Lee’s email address, purporting to be him, to the company’s chief technology officer, requesting that 100 bitcoins be sent to a specific bitcoin address.   Lee says “naturally” the CTO’s response was to request a phone call from the attacker purporting to be Lee, to confirm that it was in fact Lee making the request, the attacker responded saying that’s fine, but the phone call would have to be later that afternoon as he was busy.   The CTO then called Lee’s co-founder and CFO who authorised the transaction, who mistakenly thought they were fulfilling an internal client withdrawal request.   In an unfortunate coincidence, Lee was busy on the morning of the attack, and unable to answer his mobile, which made the attackers claims more credible.   “Is it the US Marshals’ fault that the attack occurred? Absolutely! Is it their fault that we lost some Bitcoins? No,” Lee says.   “Bitcoin is still in its infancy, and the untraceable nature of it attracts very high profile hackers to jump on board and try to add to their incomes.”   Lee says he has spoken to other individuals whose details were also leaked by the US Marshals Service, who say they were also targeted.   “It’s supposed to be a confidential auction, they leaked the list, the hackers have got their hands on the mail list and made a very sophisticated attack revolving around this list,” he says.   “But people losing bitcoins could only because of their own lack of security procedures.   “I’m glad it’s happened sooner rather than later, as it’s made us aware of our vulnerabilities.   “It lets us know about our weaknesses in these kinds of areas.   “Bitcoin in general is such a new industry, things are happening at a lightening pace, and security gets left on the wayside and we leave our doors open to such social engineering, because these things happen so quickly.”   Lee says the individuals behind the attack followed it up with a blackmail attempt, requesting a further 200 bitcoins to ensure Lee’s last seven years of email correspondence isn’t leaked.   He says, they’ll cover the losses “out of our own pockets” and have no plans to contact Police, because he doesn’t believe there’s much they could do.   The attack had limited impact on the Bitcoins Reserve arbitrage fund, it resulted in the fund missing out on some arbitrage opportunities on the day the bitcoins were lost.   Lee will speak about the attack at Wednesday night’s Bitcoin Melbourne meetup event.   The US Marshals Service has announced that a single bidder has won all of the bitcoins being auctioned.   It did not identify the winner, or disclose the winning bid.

How Australia’s top internet companies compete globally

7:48AM | Tuesday, 1 July

With much news around about the lack of support for Australian startups, a new global survey sheds light on how globally competitive Australian startups can be.   According to the recent World Startup Report on the “internet hall of fame”, Australia’s top three internet companies by valuation are REA at $6.6 billion, followed by SEEK at $5.3 billion and Atlassian at $3.3 billion.   This puts Australia at eighth place in the valuation of its top companies, across 50 countries, behind the US, China, South Africa, Korea, Japan, Russia and Israel.   Only 29 countries have “billion dollar” companies, and Google’s valuation alone is higher than the combined valuation of the remaining 49 countries (outside of the US).     Internationally, eight of the top 10 companies are public, along with Alibaba, which has filed for an IPO. Both Seek and REA are public, with Atlassian rumoured to be considering IPO sometime this year.   Looking at all the data from 150 companies used in the survey, public companies are on average six times larger than private companies and over 60 times larger than the average acquisition value.   Globally, e-commerce and search (of which REA and SEEK are categorised) are the most popular industries across the top three companies from all countries, but companies in the communication field are by far the most highly valued. B2B companies (of which Atlassian is categorised) appear to be the fastest path to getting rich.   Authors of the report say there are three takeaways for internet companies:   Be realistic – only in a very few cases will you be able to outperform the ecosystem’s biggest companies. If you want to build a $100 billion company, you have to go to the US or China. Be patient – building a successful startup takes time. On average, it will take seven to 10 years to build a company worth over $1 billion. Solve “old” problems – opportunities could be closer than you think. Search and e-commerce might not be that “innovative”, but they are building blocks for every ecosystem.   Full data used in the report can be found here.

Bigcommerce coy on deal to acquire Magento’s Go service

6:07AM | Monday, 30 June

Australian e-commerce company Bigcommerce has refused to confirm or deny a report that it has negotiated a deal to acquire the customers of eBay-owned competitor Magento’s Go service.   Recently a source told Re/code that Magento was killing off Go, a platform which helps small businesses build an online store to sell their products and services, and the company had agreed a deal with Bigcommerce to move Magento’s Go customers to Bigcommerce’s service.   It follows eBay cutting close to 50 jobs at Magento in March.   Re/code sources say Go never gained traction against competitors like Bigcommerce and Shopify.   StartupSmart contacted Bigcommerce, but the company refused to comment.   Bigcommerce was founded in 2009 by Australians Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper and has offices in Sydney, San Francisco and Austin.   More than 50,000 companies use Bigcommerce’s services to manage all aspects of their online stores, from web design, through to checkout and growth services.   The company has raised $75 million to fuel its growth.   Last month former Google executive Tim Schulz joined the company as senior vice president of product management.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook study plays with users’ emotions

6:14PM | Sunday, 29 June

A Facebook data scientist, along with two university researchers, turned 689,003 users’ News Feeds positive or negative to see if it would elate or depress them.   The purpose of the study was to find out if emotions were contagious on social networks, which they are.   Facebook is able to conduct such a study because of a line in the site’s Data Use Policy which says users’ information could be used for research.   Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer helped run the study and says the company wanted to use the results to make Facebook better.   “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out,” he says.   “At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook… In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”   Silk Road bitcoins auctioned off When the FBI shutdown Silk Road, it seized a large amount of bitcoins, about 175,000 of which still remain in US government hands.   In an effort to cash in on these assets, the US government auctioned off nearly 30,000 of them, valued at around $US17.4 million.   The bitcoins were only available for bid in nine blocks, each containing around 3000 bitcoins.   The winning bidders will be notified early this week.   Google delays multi-language support in Google Now   The tech giant had previously announced multi-language support in Google Now would be arriving in the coming days, but a spokesperson has told CNET the company is holding back the feature because of software problems discovered in the final testing phase.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.71 to 16,851.84. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Australian virtual reality startup welcomes Google Cardboard, but warns of its limitations

6:37AM | Monday, 30 June

How would you react if Google announced it wants to compete in your sector? That’s the situation confronting virtual reality startup Phenomec, after Google unveiled its Cardboard virtual reality headset during its I/O developer conference.   The announcement of Google’s low-cost headset, which involves mounting a smartphone to a users’ head using a cardboard case, comes as the Australian startup develops its own VR headset, known as VRSmartview.   Watson says told StartupSmart having large companies, such as Google, Facebook or Samsung, getting involved in mobile VR is overall a good thing, as it gets more people interested in the technology. However, there are some significant limitations to Google’s design.   “I call it Occulus Thrift. I like that it’s cheap, made from recycled materials and it’s a smart design… But I’m not seeing much innovation, and it lacks an adjustable mechanism into pupil area distance, which is really important,” Watson says.   Using adjustable lenses so they sit in front of your eyes is essential, Watson explains, because it prevents users getting tunnel vision, which is disorientating.   It’s a key consideration in the design of VRSmartview, which is a head-mounted display case for a smartphone that allows people to use virtual reality in a manner similar to Occulus Rift.   “We’ve been doing a lot of research and development, and one of the most important considerations is creating a lense that can adjust to the individual so we’re developing a lot of innovations to our lense design,” Watson says.   The technology used in VRSmartview recently helped the startup take out the top prize at the recent Start Up Weekend on the Sunshine Coast, coming on top of the 17 teams competing and winning over $15,000 in prizes in the process.   “I’m a student here at USC, and we had an opportunity to pitch at the Startup Weekend on the Sunshine Coast… over the course of a weekend we went from underdogs to winning,” Watson says.   Before recently coming to prominence as a result of Facebook’s $US2 billion purchase of Occulus Rift, virtual reality technology had mostly been used for research and military purposes, aside from a brief period in the early 1990s.   According to Watson, innovations in smartphones mean the technology is now affordable for everyday users, without earlier problems such as pixelations.   “The main research we’ve had is smartphone innovation, in terms of screen display or processing power. Smartphone screens now have ridiculous pixel density so we can use these displays – that are light and portable – without pixilation,” he says.   While the startup is currently focusing on developing optimised head mounted displays, along with applications for their use.   Watson believes the technology is set to emerge as a “very interesting format” for delivering films, with nature film maker David Attenborough currently filming a documentary in Borneo in complete virtual reality.   “I also believe VR news reports would have a powerful impact in imparting a deeper message of the issue being communicated. It’s much more powerful when you can be positioned in the middle of the event,” he says.   “We’re the only guys in Australia working on these VR headsets and apps, so far as we’re aware, and getting others in Australia involved is part of our aim.”

Know when you’re “flearning”, not flying

6:30PM | Sunday, 29 June

As you will recall, last week your humble correspondent talked to a would-be entrepreneur whose big idea was to use drones to home deliver pizzas.   Despite not having a working prototype or even a pizza oven, they had invested a considerable sum of money – in designing the interface of their ordering app.   Of course, all this just begged the question: Is using a remotely controlled drone to deliver pizzas to a location based on Google Maps actually practical?   Well, if there’s one thing Old Taskmaster loves more than playing with a tech toy, it’s testing one out while slowly savouring a brandy old-fashioned. And helping an entrepreneur to “flearn” – that’s “learning by failing” – is always a motivation.   Anyway, your pizza-loving correspondent invited the would-be entrepreneur up to the Taskmaster Ranch in Parts Unknown, a sleepy hollow located in the Yarra Ranges east of Melbourne. A drone and several pizzas were purchased – then it was time for liftoff!   Almost immediately, a problem became apparent: Just how do you attach a pizza to a drone? Do you mount a pizza box on top, or do you need a pizza box carrier attached underneath? If it’s mounted underneath, how do you land the drone while making sure you don’t squash the pizza?   In an instant, as happens in the general vicinity of Melbourne, the weather snapped, turning as cold as your humble correspondent’s heart.   This immediately raised another issue: A cardboard pizza box on its own isn’t going to protect its contents from the elements. A pizza delivery bag with a box held in with Velcro – the kind pizza delivery drivers use – risks having a pizza slip out, falling on the peasants below. Meanwhile, anything more complex than a plastic tub risks confusing those customers who still haven’t worked out how to use a DVD player.   So a plastic tub with pizza inside was gaffer-taped to the drone, then sent into the skies. Unfortunately, much to Old Taskmaster’s amusement, the would-be pizza drone entrepreneur soon discovered another potential hazard: Unlike the flatlands known as Melbourne, there are many trees in Parts Unknown. Many, many trees. The kind hippies love to chain themselves to.   Worse, there are many of these trees hanging over each and every driveway and garden path in Parts Unknown. And “garden” often means “unmowable, overgrown patch of weeds and ferns”.   Well, like a lost footy after a suburban game of kick-to-kick, there was soon a drone with a pizza-filled plastic tub (attached with gaffer tape) stuck in the upper branches of an old-growth eucalyptus tree, teetering over the driveway to the Taskmaster Ranch.   “Hey entrepreneur! Your app is now buzzing! How are you going to collect your half-Hawaiian, half-Supreme?” Old Taskmaster says, tauntingly, to the would-be entrepreneur.   A few minutes later, there was a would-be entrepreneur climbing a rickety old step ladder, drenched from the pouring rain, trying to pick a pizza in a plastic tub tied to a model aircraft out of a tree.   “I think it’s time to pivot!” the entrepreneur says, looking uneasily at the uneven ground below.   The moral? By all means, think big, dream sky-high, branch out and test ideas. But also know when to admit defeat – that’s what “flearning” is all about. After all, you don’t want a broken pizza drone hanging over your head.   Get it done – today!   Image credit: Flickr/DonMcCullough

Ex-Googler wants to help you crowdsource everyday decisions

6:24PM | Sunday, 29 June

Feeling indecisive? Want to delegate making a decision based on what your friends on social media think? Is your choice in style determined by what everyone else is wearing? Did your mother ever ask you if you’d jump off a cliff if all your friends did it too?   If so, there’s a new Android app set to launch that’s set to answer all your questions.   Known as Vich One, the app will allow users to create snap polls about everyday questions and situations for their friends to answer.   Founder Manish Jain, who recently left Google, says that crowdsourcing everyday decisions can help people to make better choices.   “The concept is that many people have questions in their life that need to be answered. Which movie to watch? Which dress to wear? Which food or cuisine to eat?” Jain says.   “And right now, there’s no platform to ask your friends those everyday questions.”   Upon posing a question, all of that user’s friends will get a notification showing their friend needs help and they have just 10 seconds to answer. The time limit is designed to add a sense of excitement and urgency to each vote.   Jain says that while he is looking at releasing Vich One for iOS and the “emerging platform” of Windows Phone in the future, the initial release will be for Android.   “In Australia, Android is the most widely used operating system for smartphones, so it makes sense to develop a version for it first… It won’t be on the web because the capabilities [to do an app like this] aren’t on the web,” Jain says.   Jain, who recently moved to Australia, proudly shares his experience as a former Googler who worked for the tech giant in Mountain View, California.   “I went to Singapore for my higher education. While at NTU [Nanyang Technological University] doing computer science, I got hired by Google as an intern,” Jain says.   “After eight months as an intern, I was hired by Google in Zurich where I worked for two years, then moved to the US for four years… overall, I worked for Google for around six-and-a-half years.”   With the app set to launch, there is no shortage of people willing to vote their approval for the app.   “We have a lot of followers already on Twitter, including big names at tech companies… and there’s been quite a few signups for people wanting to know more,” Jain says.

OPINION: How Google Drive for business fits with a home security business

6:39AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s main developer conference for the year – Google I/O – has kicked off in California.   For weeks ahead of time, speculation about Android Wear smartwatches, new Google Nexus devices and a possible update to its Android or Chrome OS operating systems.   So Google raised a few eyebrows when, ahead of the conference, it announced it’s shilling out $US555 million (approximately A$591 million) for a company called Dropcam. The newly acquired business is being combined with Nest, the smart smoke detector and thermostat company Google purchased in January for $US3.2 billion.   The company makes small security cameras with built-in microphones and speakers that connect to the internet over Wi-Fi and stream encrypted video and video to the cloud.   Once the camera is set up, the user can use the company’s iOS, Android or web app to stream video and video from their camera, or speak through the camera’s built-in speaker, allowing for two-way communications.   The company also offers the option of recording up 30 days of continuous security video and share favourite clips with family and friends.   The deal sparked a lot of discussion and speculation. Was Google interested in monitoring people’s houses, shops and businesses to glean even more data for its search rankings?   No sooner had the ink dried on the contract when, in Australia, Telstra announced a security deal of its own.   Through a joint venture with firm SNP Security, called TelstraSNP Monitoring, the telecommunications giant will offer will offer monitored security for business and residential customers. While SNP will continue offering guard and petrol services, its video surveillance and security alarm arm will be swallowed by the new venture.   A secure solution   Now, certainly both Google and Telstra have long been interested in security. But it’s mostly been of the cybersecurity and network security variety. So why the sudden interest in catching real-life crooks?   The reason comes down to two topics I’ve discussed a fair bit in recent weeks: Cloud computing and the internet of things.   While people still often think about the “internet of things” as connecting fridges to the internet. However, a real-world example of a situation where there are practical benefits in hooking up a device to the internet is with security cameras.   As I’ve discussed previously, IoT is an evolutionary trend, rather than a revolutionary one. In this case, connecting security cameras and alarms to the cloud allows for easy off-site storage of footage (with a cloud provider), as well as the ability to monitor footage in real time from almost any device anywhere in the world.   In many cases, internet-connected cameras will allow for more flexibility than if all the cameras were physically wired back to a control room or stored at the original location on video tape. (That being said, you can still do both of those things if you stream the footage over the internet).   For reasons I’ve previously discussed, the cost of cloud-based services has fallen through the floor in recent times. Today's announcement of Google Drive for business, with unlimited cloud-based storage for $10 per user per month, is a perfect example.   The cloud adding value   With the cost of providing the underlying cloud computing and storage services falling, the real business opportunity for cloud providers such as Google and Telstra is in providing value added services over the top.   Centralised video camera monitoring and security footage storage over the cloud is one example of where cloud service providers like Google and Telstra can add value for customers.   And if you combine security camera vision in a cloud-based with real-time information from other devices, you begin to build a powerful platform that can be used to remotely monitor facilities and equipment, without physically needing to have staff on the ground.   What it means for you   So what does all this mean for your business?   Well, in many sectors – such as retail or property management – security cameras have long been a fact of business life. A cloud-based, IoT solution could be a far more effective yet cost-effective alternative to existing video surveillance systems.   And if loss prevention is part of your business, that’s certainly worth looking into.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

10 massive announcements from Google I/O: A new version of Android is coming for cars, smartwatches and TVs

6:48AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s head of Android, Sundar Pichai, delivered a keynote speech overnight to the tech giant’s annual developer conference, Google I/O.   In terms of big announcements, he didn’t disappoint, with key points including a new version of Android – called Android L – that will work with smart cars, wearables and TVs.   For small businesses, a major piece of news is Google Drive for Work, a new cloud computing product set to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Office 365 and OneDrive.   The new product will cost businesses just $US10 per user per month, and allow them to access unlimited storage. Where Microsoft bumped its storage limits to one terabyte earlier this week, Google will allow individual files of up to five terabytes in size.   Meanwhile, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are now able to create or save Microsoft Office files in both Android and Chrome Browser, with support coming soon to iOS.   Here are 10 other massive announcements from the Google I/O keynote:   1. Android is absolutely hammering Apple in the marketplace   Sorry Apple fans, but the iPhone has well and truly been left in the dust.   According to figures read out during Pichai’s keynote, the number of users to have actively used an Android smartphone in the past 30 days has grown to over a billion. This is up from 77 million in 2011, 233 million in 2012, and 538 million last year.   But it’s not just in smartphones that Apple is being left behind.   Google revealed that in 2012, 39% of all tablets ran Android, growing to 49% last year. This year, that has grown to 62%.   In even worse news for the iPad, those figures exclude non-Google Android devices such as Amazon’s Kindle.   As if Google needed to stick the boot in to Apple further, Pichai told the conference: “If you look at what other platforms are getting now, many of these things came to Android four, maybe five years ago.”   The quote was a reference to a number of features, such as maps, text prediction, cloud services, widgets and support for custom keyboards, which have long been features of Android since around version 1.5, but have only recently been added to iOS.   2. Android L, with a new app platform and interface   The biggest news out of the conference was, of course, the newest version of Android, codenamed “Android L”.   The latest version is designed to power a range of new devices, including wearables, cars and TVs. The assumption will be that while users will always carry their mobile around with them, they are increasingly likely to be simultaneously using a second device.   Cosmetically, the new version will be built around a new, “flat” design language called “Material”, which bears a slight resemblance to Microsoft’s tile interface. The new interface will be carried through Google’s mobile apps, including its Chrome web browser.   However, the biggest changes are under the hood, with Android L getting upgraded to 64-bit. It also adds BlackBerry-style containerisation separating work and personal apps.   Meanwhile Dalvik, the app runtime environment used in Android, is getting dumped in favour of the new Android Runtime Environment (ART). For most developers, the change will mean better performance with no need to change their code.   ART is also truly-platform, meaning developers will be able to write apps once and deploy them to devices running Intel x86, ARM or MIPS processors.   Android L will be available to developers starting from today.   3. Android Wear   One of the big growth areas for mobile device makers is in wearables. Google has developed a platform for these devices, known as Android Wear, which it demonstrated at the conference.   “Android Wear supports both round and square displays, because we think there will be a wide array of fashionable choices,” said Pichai.   As many have predicted, notification cards and Google Now integration are key features of its wearables platform.   LG has made its first Android Wear device, the LG G Watch, available for pre-order, while Samsung is releasing a version of its Gear smartwatches that runs Android Wear, known as “Samsung Gear Live”.   Meanwhile, Motorola’s smartwatch, with a round clockface, will be available later this year.   For developers, Google has made a software development kit (SDK) available allowing for customer user interfaces, support for voice actions, and transferring data to or from a smartphone or tablet. This article continues on Page 2. Please click below. 4. Android Auto   Google has also released its smart car platform, known as Android Auto. Google says it has now signed up 25 major auto makers to the platform, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Volvo, Volkswagen, Kia, Renault, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, Jeep, Suzuki and Nissan.   Android Auto will be able to be driven by voice commands, and is designed to make app development for cars as simple as developing apps for smartphones and tablets. Again, for developers, Google has released an SDK allowing for car and auto apps.   Key focuses for the platform are navigation (Google Maps), communications (both audio and messaging) and streaming audio services.   Android Auto also contains a screen that displays notification cards in real time.   5. Android TV   Google’s new smart TV platform, announced during the keynote, is known as Android TV. It can be used to power a range of different devices, from smart TVs to set-top-boxes and dedicated streaming sticks.   Android TV allows the user to use their smartphone, tablet or smartwatch as a voice-powered remote control for their TV.   Android TV devices will include all the functionality of ChromeCast, but also add the ability of directly running apps directly.   6. ChromeCast   Speaking of things TV related, Google says its low-cost ChromeCast sticks are currently outselling every other streaming device combined.   New capabilities coming to the sticks include a new section on the Google Play app store for apps designed with added ChromeCast capabilities.   ChromeCast owners will soon be able to mirror the screen of their Android smartphone or tablet wirelessly on their TV screen.   Users will also soon get the capability of sending content to a ChromeCast device by logging in with a PIN, even if they aren’t on the same WiFi network.   Another new feature is that users will be able to set a picture or photo as a wallpaper on their ChromeCast for when they’re not using the device.   7. Android L integration with ChromeBooks   Up until now, Google has maintained two separate operating systems: Android for smartphones and tablets, and Chrome OS for its ChromeBook series of laptops.   A massive update for Android L is that ChromeBooks will now be able to run Android apps.   Meanwhile, apps running on a users’ tablet or smartphone will be mirrored on the screen of their ChromeBook device.   8. Google Fit   At Apple’s WWDC, the introduction of a health framework was one of the largest announcements. Given the sheer volume of announcements at Google I/O, the introduction of Google Fit is almost an afterthought.   Basically, like Apple HealthKit, Google Fit is a single set of APIs that blends data from multiple apps and devices to create a comprehensive picture of a users’ health.   Google is promising a developer preview of Google Fit in the next few weeks.   9. Google Play   Already, I’ve noted one big upgrade to Google Play, namely the addition of a section dedicated to apps with ChromeCast playback. Presumably, there will be similar sections dedicated to Android Wear and Android Auto.   But there are other changes afoot for Google’s Play download store.   First, Google says that it has paid out $US5 billion to app developers over the past year, which is two-and-a-half times higher than a year earlier.   Second, Google also announced the takeover of a startup called Appurify, which will provide automation services for apps being developed either for Google Play and Android or iOS.   And thirdly, for those interested in games, Google Play is adding the ability to save a snapshot of your progress in a game to the cloud, as well as special quests for games.   10. Cloud tools and services   Last, but certainly not least, Google has added a range of new cloud tools and services.   These include Cloud Monitoring, which provides a dashboard with real time metrics for apps running in Google’s cloud services.   A second, called Cloud Dataflow, is a data pipeline service similar to Amazon’s Data Pipeline. And a third, called Cloud Debugger, allows developers to more easily trace slowdowns in cloud-based apps.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

Sneaky photo app to assist journalists and activists in documenting events

6:25AM | Thursday, 26 June

A new camera app is aiming to change the way journalists and activists report on events one cheeky snap at a time.   Sydney-based startup PicAway allows users to take photos and videos discreetly while directly uploading the files to a chosen cloud location. This means there is no trace of the files on the user’s device, allowing people to report on events without fear of their phone being confiscated, removed or lost.   PicAway founder Pedram Afshar said the app was inspired by the Manus Island riots and has already generated a lot of interest.   “Some people wanted to use it socially, some people said it was for sneaky photos with their girlfriend and we also had a lot of interest from journalists,” he says.   Afshar says the app has also caught the eye of Arab spring protestors.   “They’ve shared it with their friends and followers,” he says. “We’ve also had interest from Photography is Not a Crime.”   PicAway has been bootstrapping, however, Afshar says external funding wouldn’t go astray.   “We actually delivered this project within three weeks, which is quite a quick turnaround,” he says. “We’re looking for funding down the line because we think it can be more than just PicAway.”   Afshar says there is a lot of potential for cloud-sharing technology – for example sharing photographs with only a few family members or having a server where three or four work colleagues have access.   Another purpose of the app is to overcome issues arising from a tablet or iPhone having limited storage space. Afshar says users can choose between synching the app to Dropbox, Google Drive or an email account.   “There are issues around those memory or ‘no storage’ messages people often get,” he says. “People taking photos may miss that opportunity, but with Picaway they won’t lose those photos.”   The app also has a “secret swipe” feature. If users swipe to the right, a working Google page covers the screen – giving the impression the user is searching the web rather than taking photos.   Afshar’s previous ventures include a startup called eClosure, which closes down the social networks of deceased individuals. He says this passion for social justice was also the driving force behind PicAway.   “We saw reports of police officers confiscating phones on Manus Island and said ‘hey, let’s have a crack at making this app’,” he says.

To backup or not to backup – there really is no question

6:28AM | Thursday, 26 June

There’s a scandal brewing in the US – a scandal that might be as big as Watergate was. And it all hinges on NOT backing up.   The short story of the investigation: The Democrats (and potentially President Obama) might have been using the IRS (the US tax office) to target their political adversaries.   It all hinges on two years of emails that were ‘lost’ in a hard disk crash. The loss of emails is at best “convenient” for the Democrats – at worst it’s a cover-up that leads all the way to the top. Time will tell.   And the issue surrounds why such a large government department does not have a good (or any) backup system. They expect you to keep all your tax information for seven years but they don’t have a backup storage system in place?   There’s a lesson for every small business in this story. There is no excuse for not backing up your emails. In fact, there’s no excuse for not backing up ALL your electronic business assets.   Are you backing up your emails?   Losing emails is not only embarrassing, but it shows a lack of professionalism. Up until a few years ago – while we were all hooked on Microsoft software and Outlook to manage our emails – the best solution was to regularly export our emails, archive them and then save the files on a backup hard drive in the office.   For the most part, that was fine. But what if, heaven forbid, the office was burgled, flooded or burnt down. Don’t laugh, we received an email from a client last year whose front room office WAS destroyed by a runaway truck!   Today there’s a better solution. Manage your emails online. That doesn’t mean have a Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail email address but you can direct all your emails through an online service. Here at Legal123 we use Google Apps for Business. We pay a small monthly fee for each user and all our emails are automatically backed up.   And because we’re lawyers and we take these things seriously, we pay for another additional upgraded Google backup service, called Vault. You don’t need to do both but should consider at least one backup service.   Are you backing up your documents?   Now here’s a scary statistic: the annual failure rate of the average consumer hard drive is between 4-6%. I’ve experienced two hard disk failures in my working career – both were traumatic and lessons have been learned.   Happily the second time, we had online backup services to the rescue. They ensure that whenever your computer is connected to the internet, all the documents on your hard drive are backed up automatically, real-time.   After my last hard disk crash, I was able to recover all my documents – downloaded overnight from the online backup service – within 24 hours.   There are a couple of good high profile online backup services out there that we know of. We use Carbonite at Legal123 but there’s also Mozy and CrashPlan. For a small monthly fee you get peace of mind.   Are you backing up your website?   The most important backup should be your business website. It is your livelihood and it is worth the cost of a backup fee. With your website, the danger these days is not necessarily a hard disk crash but being ‘hacked’. It seems to be happening more and more frequently and it happened to us – out of the blue, one of our websites was peppered with online ads for Viagra!   Many website hosting services include website backup. But you need to check and often it is not included in the regular basic hosting fees but is an additional cost.   The most professional website hosting services will be taking “snapshots” of your website every day. You should be able to log into your host and see the backups and download them at any time, just in case. This way, if you are ‘hacked’ you’ll be able to roll-back to the last daily backup point before the hack and go from there.   Note: We’re not techies, we’re just lawyers. So please forgive us if some of the terms or details aren’t quite right in this article. But this is what we’ve learned over the years about the importance of backing up and not leaving it to chance. Take the time, spend the small amount and protect your business.

Take a prolonged holiday and pay dissatisfied workers to leave: four ideas to improve your startup’s productivity

6:14AM | Wednesday, 25 June

Startups are renowned for being especially innovative. So what are some quirky approaches to leadership that have paid off for Silicon Valley startups when it comes to workplace productivity?   StartupSmart compiled four of the best ideas Australian startups could consider to boost staff engagement.   Have an open vacation policy   Pure Storage, an all-flash enterprise storage company, takes a flexible approach to employees taking time off work.   Its ‘open vacation’ policy allows employees to choose how much annual leave they want rather than the employer deciding.   David Hatfield, president of Pure Storage, says this is one of the contributing factors to the business’s 700% year-on-year growth.   Hatfield told The Australian the policy is about employees having a work-life balance and bringing a refreshed energy and attitude back into the workplace.   “From our travel policy to holiday policy, people ultimately make decisions that are in the best interest of the company but also aligned with their interests as a family,” he said. “We want to support and create a culture where people have the ability to do that. People ultimately choose the holiday times they have and we encourage people to do so.”   Pure Storage’s approach is about cultivating the workplace culture they want to see, rather than laying down a strict set of rules. And at a time when employees are expecting greater flexibility and work/life balance, the company’s innovative approach to annual leave is sure to win over some of the best talent.   Get rid of email   At Automattic – the company behind popular blogging platform WordPress – time-consuming emails have been dispensed with. Instead, employees use Google Hangout in order to foster collaboration and get quick results.   The idea is to get rid of emails and in-person boardroom meetings that leave employees with more work but less time to do it.   According to research by Atos Origin, the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails.   All this spare time allows people to try new things and channel their energy into other areas of the workplace.   Rethink the 9-5 working day   Another innovative workplace policy from Automattic is their approach to work hours.   Employees are encouraged to ditch the 9-5 grind and work when they are feeling the most productive. The emphasis is on what people produce, rather than how long they spend at their desk.   Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO of Automattic, has written about the success of uncoupling his workforce from the traditional working day.   “I don’t care what hours you work,” he wrote. “I don’t care if you sleep late or if you pick up a child at school in the afternoon. I don’t care of you spend the afternoon on the golf course and then work from 2 to 5pm. What do you actually produce?”   Pay unhappy employees to quit   Riot Games, a games developer based in the US, is offering its employees up to $US25,000 in cash to quit their jobs after the first 60 days if they are unhappy with the company.   According to a statement on the business’s website, the policy is about retaining the best talent in order to preserve the company’s workplace culture.   “If someone gags on the unique flavour of our culture, they’d be doing themselves and the company a disservice to hang on just for the paycheck,” the statement reads. “Culturally aligned people and teams are more effective, and alignment around mission and values allows us to better serve players.”   Those who elect to leave their position after 60 days will be paid 10% of their annual salary, which is capped at $25,000.   Although the company has a Sydney office, the policy is only available to staff in the US.

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