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Faking it ‘til you make it

4:15PM | Monday, 14 April

We asked a number of well-known Australian entrepreneurs to share their stories around “faking it ‘til you make it”. Here’s what they had to say:   “When I was 17 my friend and I got asked to install a 10 computer network at a local business. It was 1991 and the product they wanted was Lantastic with a 10 kilobyte coax bus network. We said we had done that a number of times and got the job. On Friday at 5pm they packed up and left. We opened the boxes and started reading the manuals. Monday morning at 4am after about four hours sleep all weekend we got it running. Scary. But fun.” – Mick Liubinskas, head coach at Muru-D.   “One day I find myself onstage in front of hundreds of tech people. I'm supposed to be sharing stories of building (and let’s face it – fucking up) a life and a business. Suddenly, I realise that I am an imposter. These folks know their shit. They sit tapping on their keyboards with furious determination, simultaneously tweeting, coding and I dunno, maybe internally figuring out some epic longstanding algorithmic problem in their head. These guys eat books of code for breakfast. I on the other hand can barely figure out how my iPhone works and have still never managed to successfully download a movie without my computer, or my face, exploding.   “The MC reads out my bio, who is this mythical creature he speaks of? Oh yeah, me. I think to myself, yep I've done all those things. I belong here. But still I feel like a fraud. Am I on glue? How the hell did I get here? Why the fuck did I agree to this? I'm so nervous I almost vomit on my shoes. But here’s the thing, half of them look bored anyways and it’s too late to back out now, so I just roll with it. Instead of telling them what they should do, I just rock up on stage, am more vulnerable than I ever thought possible and I simply tell these folks a story or two.   “And what do you know? They like it, they learn something, they laugh, they're inspired. I breathe a silent sigh of relief. But that doesn’t mean that it became easier. But I keep doing it. Constantly. With false bravado. People believe I'm a speaker. They believe I'm an entrepreneur. And one day I wake up and realise that all of a sudden, I am both.” – Avis Mulhall, serial entrepreneur and founder of Think, Act, Change.   “When I joined 99designs in January 2009, I was pretty much a one-man show. I worked out of my living room in San Francisco for over a year, building and moderating our designer community, meeting with potential partners, helping customers via a basic online chat system, writing press releases…you name it, I did it. Though 99designs launched in Melbourne, the company was focused on the US market from day one, with an American-English site and all transactions in US dollars. Little did our early customers know that the company’s US presence consisted of just one person working around the clock in a tiny San Francisco apartment! Patrick Llewellyn, our CEO, relocated to join me in 2010, and now I’m one of more than 50 staff in our SF office, with over 100 employees worldwide." –Jason Aiken, product manager, 99designs.   "If you sell a product or service to US companies, you need to look like a US company otherwise you'll have a lot of friction. Incorporate a US sub and print business cards with a US address and phone number and route the number to either voicemail, an answering service or your local mobile number. Just be prepared to take a few early morning calls!" – Matt Barrie, CEO Freelancer.com   “When I was a theatre director, I would design the brochure before the show. I would get thousands of them printed and tell everybody that this was what they would come and see in a few months. Because I did so, I needed to deliver. Because I did so, I defined my focus and something to target. Because I did so, people know what I was working on and knew how to help. I sung the world into existence.” –Phil Morle, CEO Pollenizer.”   And here’s a different perspective on the idea that we should “fake it ‘til we make it” from a blog post by The Fetch CEO Kate Kendall, who declined to share a story saying she didn’t think we should encourage the idea:   “I had a micro-epiphany the other day when it came to looking at how I tell the story of my company. For a while, something in my gut wasn’t quite right – I also couldn’t get my head around how to play the game. Then it hit me – that’s because 80% of startup land is bullshit and I hate bullshit. I just can’t do it. I can’t lie (well, not express my version of reality). It’s all vanity metrics, bloated achievements and boring same same. I was viewing a stream of old accelerator pitches the other day and was mesmerised by how impressive each founder was. It was like watching magic. But then I stood back and realised I’d heard of none of the companies and upon a Google DuckDuckGo search, found minimal product or press trails on the web. I questioned if many were still around.   “Remember: you can progress and tell it like it is.” – Kate Kendall, CEO The Fetch

Three social media trends every startup should know about

4:30AM | Tuesday, 15 April

There’s a golden saying that networking is about getting someone else’s business card, not giving away your own. When you meet someone you want to connect with; someone who inspires you, a potential business partner, a future employee; your mission is to intrigue them enough that they want to connect again with you.   Taking this advice on board, we recently packed our bags and headed to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World, the world’s biggest conference for social media marketers. With a bag of t-shirts, stickers, and a few business cards, we were off to meet and learn from some of the top social media experts from around the world. Without a sponsor booth or speaking session, our goal was to meet as many people as we could.   Unsurprisingly, social media is just like networking. You want to provide enough unique value that you stand out from the rest of the pack. The first time someone visits your page, you want them to give you permission to keep them updated – have them ask for your business card.   But what else can you do to spice up your social media presence? Here are some of the top things we took home from this year’s Social Media Marketing World conference.   Visual social media is growing fast   There’s no question about it, visual social media is on the rise. According to new research announced by Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner, 70% of marketers plan on using more visual content in 2014. It’s really no wonder. The brain can process visuals faster than text. Visuals have the power to inspire an emotional reaction. They’re easier to understand and they’re shareable.   The biggest social networks – from Facebook to Pinterest, Google+ to Instagram – are all centred on visual content. Even Twitter has joined the visual game by allowing people to add embedded content to their tweets. In fact, Buffer found that tweets with images received 150% more retweets than those without. There’s more you can do to maximise the engagement of your social posts.   When considering your visual content calendar, aim to build consistency with your content. You can do this by using the same colours, fonts, brand photo filters and templates for different posts. Each time your content appears on a follower’s News Feed, it will stand out to your followers because it reflects a consistent brand. If you see a similar looking post from the same brand each day, it’s more likely to make an impact.   Slideshare expert and speaker Todd Wheatland suggested considering visual content as part of your brand’s marketing funnel. For example, if you’re releasing a big research report, break it down into bite-sized content that you can share across different social networks. Leverage your existing content by being strategic about the way you share on social media. Entice people to give you their email address by promising the full or extended version if they provide their email. You can also Facebook and tweet individual graphics with links to your Slideshare presentation or blog.   Good content must be shareable and snackable   That brings us to an important question: does good content exist if no one can find it? Well, it’s certainly not living up to its potential. Many of the speakers at Social Media Marketing World revealed that spreading their content was one of the most important things they do as a content creator. Good content needs to be put out into the world.   A good tip from Australian blogger Donna Moritz was to make your content shareable and snackable. If you’ve produced a blog post with social media tips, then take individual tips and share them as image posts on social media. You can share these bite-sized tips at different times over the course of a week, of course linking back to your original blog post.   So you’re wondering: how often can you tweet a tweet? There’s actually some interesting research that suggests repeating your tweet. As the New York Times found, sharing the content several times over a day or week generates more clicks and helps keeps your content in the feed so people don’t miss it.   Another thing to consider is making sure you’ve included shareable content in all your blog posts. Did you know that more than 80% of content on Pinterest is re-pinned? That means people are looking for content they can re-share on their own Pinterest page. Pinterest is also one of the top traffic drivers on the Web. In your next blog post, try including a few of the taller Pinterest-style graphics in your posts that people can easily share.   The customer is the hero of your story Don’t forget that social media is, well, social. The best online relationships are just like any offline relationship. It’s important to invest time and energy building relationships with people in your industry. If there’s a topic you’re interested in, whether it’s social media or fashion, there’ll be a community online that you can tap into. Figure out how you can contribute.   Razor Social’s Ian Cleary advocated spending time building a network of influencers. Over time this network of people in your industry will be useful as a second opinion for new ideas, and can also help you get content out to the world. Focus on building relationships with people in that community. You never know what potential there may be for you to work together. You truly do need to “go offline to build online.”   We set up a simple Google Spreadsheet to use during Social Media Marketing World to keep track of people that we met. Every time we were given a new business card, we added that person’s details to the spreadsheet and make a note about anything we talked about as well as ways in which we could help them out or work together. This made it a lot easier to follow up after the event.   Tools like Grouphigh, Littlebird and Mention can be helpful to find people talking about particular topics online. Tapping into conversation in your industry is a great way to build relationships with the right people. Put simply, it all comes back to having a coordinated plan for any marketing activities you undertake, whether they’re online or offline. Seek out influencers, produce great content, and invest time in getting the word out there.   It’s important that you look at your startup’s objectives when planning your social media strategy. Good content takes time. Are you trying to attract new users or build a community for your existing customers? What topics does your brand need to be talking about online? Knowing the answers to these questions will help get started on the right track.   How are you incorporating these trends into your startup’s social media strategy? Share your suggestions below.   Zach Kitschke is head of communications at Canva.com.

Switch off from your startup this May

4:30AM | Tuesday, 15 April

Technology is developing exponentially, and at the click of a button we can access an infinite amount of information. With this privilege, comes the potential cost of information overload, increased distractibility and low-grade background anxiety as we try to keep on top of things.   With invisible umbilical cords connecting us to our devices, staying focused is an increasing challenge. Our attention buzzes around with the restlessness of a mosquito fluttering between, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages. Many of us are suffering from what Dr Ed Hallowell, specialist psychiatrist in ADHD, coined as Attention Deficit Trait.   If we wish to remain healthy, happy and clear-minded we need to upgrade our "inner technology" to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. We are standing on the precipice of a potential paradigm shift with an exciting dialogue unfolding at the intersection of science, technology and the world of wisdom.   From the outside, meditation can look like a whole lot of nothing, but you only need to try it for a few minutes to realise just how challenging it can be to develop our attention and sharpen our focus.   In the start-up community in particular there are never enough hours in the day and so bringing any extra habit into your life needs to be worthwhile.   Meditation is not about becoming passive or giving up on your goals or future plans. In fact, it's a perfect companion to developing your capacity to think more clearly, be more effective and find wiser solutions to challenging problems.   Leading companies in the world, including Google are offering mindfulness training to their employees, recognising the benefits of meditation in supporting more clarity, innovation and productivity.   Science is supporting the fact that just two weeks of regular mindfulness meditation can have significant benefits. When regularly practiced, meditation has been shown to increase our immune function, grow our prefrontal cortex (required for strategic thinking and problem solving), and increase an enzyme called Telomerase, which functions to protect our chromosomes from age-related damage.   To really benefit from meditation, the problem is you actually have to do it. Meditation commonly falls by the wayside for even the most enthusiastic amongst us. Just like physical exercise, bringing a habit of regular meditation into your life can be quite a challenge. So often it seems like there's not enough time or we just "don't feel like doing it”. The thing is there is research to suggest that even 10 minutes of meditation, five days a week can improve our attention and focus.   Sometimes we need support to follow through on our intentions. Having the support of others or doing something that helps us feel we're making a meaningful difference in the world, and can boost our motivation. This logic has fuelled the creation of Mindful in May, a one-month meditation campaign starting on May 1, and delivered online.   It will teach you how to meditate and at the same time help bring clean water to those in developing countries. To date the Mindful in May global community has raised enough money to build water projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda helping transform the lives of thousands of people. You’ll get a one month meditation program including 10-minute guided meditations on a weekly basis, access to exclusive video interviews with global experts in the field of meditation and mind wellbeing.   The challenge starts on May 1 so register before then, donate and invite your friends or colleagues to create a meditation fundraising team to help bring clean water to those in need. Together, let's see how far we can spread this Mindful Ripple.   Elise Bialylew is a doctor, coach and wellness innovator with a background in psychiatry. She is the founder of Mindful in May.

Why business will lead the way in wearable tech: it’s too dorky for consumers

4:40AM | Wednesday, 9 April

There’s good news for Google Glass in Deloitte’s 2014 Tech Trends report, which predicts the wide use and business applicability smart glass technologies are likely to see devices such as Google Glass gain widespread acceptance in 2014.   However, the accountancy firm was more cautious about smart fitness bands and smart watches, which, it predicts, are unlikely to become mainstream this year.   The wearable tech market is likely to generate $3 billion this year, as 10 million units are sold, says Robert Hillard, Deloitte’s managing partner of technology agenda who wrote Deloitte’s Tech Trends report.   “In Australia alone, we anticipate 20% of 17-75 year olds will own a wearable by August this year,” he says. “It’s an interesting trend, but wearables will not replace smartphones, as the majority of wearable devices require smartphone tethering for connectivity and GPS.   Smart glasses free up the user’s hands. That’s why Hillard thinks they’ll catch on, particularly in enterprise. Workers in harsh conditions or those who need to be able to hold onto things for both hands for safety or other practical reasons can’t access mobile digital tools at the moment without putting everything down. Smart glasses could let them check things or access data without stopping what they’re doing.   Hillard thinks wearables are more likely to be embraced in the short term in workplaces than at home. Partly this is because of privacy concerns, and partly, because they look dorky, at least at the moment.   “As consumer devices, wearables represent a very personal buying decision in which aesthetics and fashion are almost as important as function,” Hillard writes. “But in the workplace, experience and engagement matter. Function can trump form – as long as a wearable is perceived as unobtrusive, safe, and not ‘creepy’.”   Indeed, there’s already some examples of this. Australian firefighters are already being kitted up with data-transmitting wearables that detect early signs of heat stress, for example. And Philips Healthcare kits out its surgeons with hands-free smart glasses, so they don’t have to turn away from the patient to monitor their vitals.   There are plenty of other applications. Deloitte envisions a world where factory workers check the metrics for nearby equipment on their smart-watch, or insurance companies who offer discounts for members that can prove a healthy lifestyle through wearing a fitness-tracking device.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Pet price comparison app launches to disrupt booming industry

4:27AM | Tuesday, 8 April

Man’s best friend may also be one of man’s best business opportunities, with another startup targeting the pet industry re-launching this week.   With rapidly growing startups in the space like award-winning Paws for Life disrupting the industry, it was only a matter of time before a startup entered the market to enable consumers to make the most of the price competition that’s heating up.   99PetShops is designed to do exactly that. The free web app allows pet owners to compare prices from over 60 online stores.   Cofounder Edward Chan told StartupSmart prices differ significantly, with a popular tick and flea treatment ranging from $79.95 to $144.95.   The idea emerged when his pet pug developed skin problems. He needed lots of different foods and products, and high prices drove Edward online, where he could always find a better deal.   “I could always find a cheaper price online, but there wasn’t a good comparison tool that was comprehensive enough,” Chan says.   A year of building the app in the evenings after clocking off from his full-time job saw him launch the app late last year.   He and cofounder Daniel Ng are planning to charge an affiliate link on each sale, but want to build up their traffic before approaching the stores to discuss the opportunity.   “We’ve got about 20 people using it a day, so it’s a bit of waste at the moment,” Chan says.   They’ve been experimenting with Facebook advertising and want to explore Google AdWords campaigns in the future, but are saving up the budget for it first.   The pet industry is a big one. Market research group IBISWorld says the Australian pet products and services industry earned about $6 billion in revenue last year and has grown by 0.9% each year since 2008.   The industry report also details that over 60% of households own a pet, with over 50% owning either a dog or a cat.

$28 billion mobile gold rush: Consumers spend two hours and 19 minutes each day using apps

4:46AM | Tuesday, 8 April

The average smartphone user now uses apps for an average of nearly 11 minutes for each minute they spend looking at a mobile website, according to recent figures from mobile analytics firm Flurry.   The figures show consumers spend an average of two hours and 42 minutes per day on either apps or mobile websites during the quarter to March, up four minutes year-on-year.   Of that time, 86% or two hours and 19 minutes is spent each day on apps, with just 22 minutes spent on mobile websites, down from 20% for the same quarter a year earlier.   The figures suggest consumers are increasingly choosing to interact with online services through apps than through mobile websites.   According to Flurry, consumers are increasingly viewing their mobile web browsers as just another app, rather than as their primary means of accessing online content on their mobiles.   Mobile game apps accounted for 32% of all app or mobile web usage, followed by Facebook (17%), mobile browsers (14%), mobile messaging apps (9.5%), utility apps (8%), entertainment apps (4%) and YouTube (4%).   The Flurry figures echo projections, made in a Gartner report late last year, forecasting the total number of apps download each year would reach 268 billion by 2017, including 253 billion free apps and 14 billion paid apps.   This is a significant increase from the 102 billion apps estimated to have been downloaded in 2013 and 63 billion in 2012.   Gartner’s figures also show total revenue from apps hit $US26 billion ($28.187 billion) worldwide in 2013, up from $US18 billion ($19.5 billion)a year earlier.   Dennis Benjamin from app development firm Appswiz told StartupSmart apps allow for faster and more convenient to access to content than the mobile web.   “Mobile apps allow for ready access to the information you want, at your fingertips 24/7. Combine this with the fact that a range of app features will still operate on your phone without an internet connection (unlike mobile web) and the advantages become clearer,“ Benjamin says.   “Having a mobile app can allow for a choice of alerts to be received, a feature not available from a mobile website. These alerts, for example special offers, time critical messages or updates all build customer engagement.   “Mobile websites in general provide one way communication to the user whereas mobile apps facilitate two way dialogue and engagement.”   Benjamin advises businesses to develop versions of their apps for smartphones running Google Android as well as for Apple iPhones.   “In the third quarter of 2013, Android made up some 81% of devices shipped and now far exceeds the downloads of the Google Play Store compared to the iTunes App Store,” he says.”   Today, just because an executive thinking about an app for their company has an iPhone doesn't mean that most of their customers do – they don't.”

The 11 rules of highly profitable companies: Best of the Web

4:54PM | Sunday, 6 April

The 11 rules of highly profitable companies   From the man who brought us the four-hour work week, self-described human guinea pig Tim Ferriss, is this pretty insightful list on what drives profitability.   “How do you generate the most profit with the least effort? How do you maximise margins without sacrificing quality?” Ferris asks.   There’s some strong advice here, that’s probably worth listening to:   “Many companies will sell direct-to-consumer by necessity in early stages, often through a simple website. Only later do they realise that their margins can’t accommodate resellers and distributors when they come knocking. This is true whether your ‘distributor’ is iTunes, a worldwide widget distributor, or Orbitz.”   The five competitive forces that shape strategy   In a follow up to his 1979 essay How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy, economist and associate professor, Michael E. Porter discusses the forces that shape strategy in a video interview for the Harvard Business Review. He addresses common misunderstandings, provides practical guidance for users of the framework, and offers a deeper view of its implications for strategy today.   “The strongest competitive force or forces determine the profitability of an industry and become the most important to strategy formulation. The most salient force, however, is not always obvious.”   Why the Trix rabbit looks down on you:   FiveThirtyEight, the new data blog by Nate Silver, looks at how marketing works.   “…[you] might not have thought much about the eye contact of cereal-box cartoon characters. Don’t fret: a new study investigated precisely that.”   Indeed, the study found comic characters depicted on the boxes of children’s breakfast cereals are almost always looking downwards. That’s because in supermarkets the boxes are typically displayed on shelves above a child’s eye-level; the characters, by looking downwards, appear to be looking at the children – in effect, making eye-contact, as a device for gaining attention and increasing trust.   How Gmail happened: The inside story of its launch 10 years ago   Gmail is 10 years old, and Time takes a look back at how it all happened.   When Google launched Gmail on April 1, 2004, the offer of 1GB free storage per user – 500 times what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered – seemed so implausible that some mistook it for a prank.   And so begun a revolution of sorts.   “If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Firefox chief Eich resigns over anti-homosexual controversy

4:41PM | Thursday, 3 April

Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich has resigned after becoming embroiled in a controversy around his support of anti-gay marriage bill Proposition 8.   The controversy escalated when popular online dating site OkCupid launched a series of notifications for users on their site via the Mozilla Firefox, urging them to use another browser.   Eich has resigned from both the for-profit business unit that manages the browser and the not-for-profit organisation in which it resides.   US tried to launch the Cuban Twitter to destabilise the government   The United States attempted to set up a social media site in Cuba, in order to stir unrest and potentially spur on a revolution similar to what was being seen across the Middle East during the Arab Spring.   Officials from the US Agency of Development, the same department that manages the US’s aid programs, even reached out to Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey for funding for the project.   Google announces overhaul of apps in preparation for the rise of wearables   Google has announced an overhaul of many of their apps in a move they’re calling ‘Google 2.0’ to ensure their apps are ready for a smooth transition to wearable tech platforms.   Reserve Bank calls for greater scrutiny of small business loans   In their submission to the Financial Systems Inquiry, the Reserve Bank of Australia has called for more attention to business loans rather than staying fixated on real estate.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16572.55. The Aussie dollar is up to US 92.32 cents.

Turning a mobile app into a wearable one: Pocketbook shares their first forays with Google Glass

4:56PM | Thursday, 3 April

We hear a lot about apps created specifically for Google Glass. But if Google has its way, the wearable smart glasses could become the main platform for apps one day.   Personal finance management app Pocketbook doesn’t want to get left behind, so its two founders obtained a Glass device a month ago and began to explore what they would need to do create a good experience for users.   Cofounder Bosco Tan told StartupSmart the impact Glass could have if it became the main way of consuming apps would be huge, but it’s still hard to imagine.   “It’s like asking web developers from a view years ago about the impact of mobile. It’s big, and they’re just grappling with it now.”   Tan says the biggest breakthrough for lifestyle apps like theirs can be integrated seamlessly into their user’s lives.   “It’s hard to conceive, but in broad strokes, apps and app developers will be in context with Glass. Your app can kick in without people even expressing or releasing they need it, so you could be more proactive.”   Pocketbook released the Android edition of their app recently. Tan says they can use the base code within it to create a glass app.   “A lot of the information is already accessible, we just need to rework how it appears and is used,” Tan says, adding they’re looking at other public data they could weave into the app to tap into the locational opportunities of wearables.   Pocketbook recently signed up their 50,000 user. They also took out the prize for Best New Startup at the 2014 StartupSmart awards, sponsored by DFK Australia New Zealand.

How one Aussie startup is bringing augmented reality to the web

4:58AM | Thursday, 3 April

Augmented reality (AR) is often understood in terms of wearable technology and device-driven capabilities, but an Australian technology company, buildAR, has built technology to enable it in your browser.   Often thought of as a futuristic play, the augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) markets are expected to grow 15.18% from 2013 to 2018, reaching $US1.06 Billion in 2018, and that’s excluding mobile based AR and non-immersive VR.   It puts some perspective into Facebook’s recent $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift – a VR play in that it creates a virtual world, where AR lets you see the world with more information overlaid on what you’re looking at.   According to TechCrunch, Microsoft is also reported to have bought the augmented reality-related intellectual property of wearable tech company Osterhout Design Group for between $US100 and $US150 million.   What makes buildAR unique is that they are “augmenting the web” and bringing the experience into your browser.   BuildAR founder Alex Young says there was a lot of fragmentation in the app world when it comes to augmented reality, but using it in a browser got around this problem and democratised the technology for everyone.   It has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that makes it possible for anyone to deliver AR using standard Web browsers, but their focus is on utility based applications, particularly in education.   The Kickstarter campaign will allow anyone to “create a project and embed it directly in their webpage as easily as you do with a YouTube video.”   The campaign highlights some of the uses of the technology:   “If you back us as an educator, we'll give you the tools to create experiences such as an AR treasure hunt or historical exploration that'll have your students running around your school or campus having fun while they learn.   “If you back us as a curator, we'll give you the tools to enable your visitors to point their phone at items in your exhibition to unlock extra information that extends your collection beyond what's physically on show.”   The buildAR platform enables anyone to create digital content into the physical world around you by linking it to images, locations and more. When it comes to education this could mean using the technology to bring learning objectives to life.   The technology will work on smartphones and tablets, as well as wearable devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift.   There are limitations in the use of the technology on Apple devices though, something the buildAR team wants to draw attention to, claiming that “commercial decisions made by Apple have put the [iTunes] App Store ahead of their customers”. As Young points out, Apple have consciously decided not to support the latest open web standards.   buildAR have created a demo for their technology to show that how you can run augmented reality within your standard web browser, presenting the "Projects We Love" newsletter as AR images, floating in the real world.   If you open this on a modern Android device using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Opera you'll see a rich combination of augmented reality and the web, which is called the augmented web.   However, if you open the exact same page using an iPhone or iPad, you'll find that it works but that you can only see a very limited user experience.   Young says the company has a much higher profile overseas, than locally, but were committed to staying in Australia if it can. They have also launched some local meetups for those interested in Wearable tech, in both Sydney and Canberra.

Five tips to make your employees enjoy work

4:59AM | Tuesday, 1 April

If you’re running a startup or a small business, you know that it’s extremely important to keep the team energetic and enthusiastic. The team at the startup I work with, DesignCrowd, are a group of friendly people, who love what they do and bring refreshed energy into the office every day. I think keeping the team motivated is one of the most important assets for any sized business. So I wanted to share some things we do at DesignCrowd with you, that could also work for your business.   1. Share your goals and strategies     You’ll obviously have a few goals and strategies that you want to achieve this year, and one of the best ways to motivate your team is to let them in on your plans. This makes it easy for them to understand how they’ll be contributing to the ‘bigger picture’ and how they fit in with the overall vision for the company.   Also there’s no better feeling than reaching a goal as a team and celebrating it!   Make sure your goals go beyond your products/services, too; while many of your plans will be about business/growth, others should focus on improving the company culture or providing employees with new incentives/perks.   2. What’s your role?   A big part of motivating your team will be to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities; failure to do this can lead to team conflict, low productivity and fissures in your team dynamic. Communication is key!   Clarifying job descriptions and functions up front is critical, particularly for smaller/startup companies who often overlook this, and setting individual performance expectations and objectives at this time will also be key for motivation.   3. Get on top of team building   Team-building activities can be an excellent way to get your team motivated. These exercises are lots of fun and give your team the opportunity to work out how to best communicate between themselves, as well as with other teams.   If your budget is tight and you can’t afford to hire an external expert, ask your team leader to run the workshop or take on the responsibility yourself. If your team hasn’t had much of a break over the holidays, holding your workshop away from the office can also be a refreshing motivator.   4. All work and no play…   Makes a dull team! Social events and activities are just as crucial to your business as your operations and goals; they also form an integral part of your culture. Holding regular social events is a fantastic way to acknowledge your team’s value, keep them motivated and help build better relationships amongst your team. Encourage your team to grab lunch together, play lunchtime sport together, or go out for a drink after work.   5. Make your workplace motivational   Bland workspaces do nothing for motivation, so focus on making your workplace a visually creative and motivational place to walk into each day.   You may not be able to replicate the Google offices just yet, but you can change the colour of your walls, or use whiteboard paint so teams can brainstorm easily.   Small moves like this can be affordable too; DesignCrowd, for instance, offers graphic design services from as little as $150. If in doubt, ask your team to get involved and contribute/execute ideas on how to make their workspace more motivating.   Jo Sabin is the community manager at DesignCrowd.com.au.

April Fools’ startup PR pranks: The good, the bad and the downright silly

4:09AM | Tuesday, 1 April

April Fools’ Day is a rallying call for the PR industry, which has whipped out would-be ideas for their clients. Here’s our pick of the five almost-stories that stood out.   Kogan Drone Broadband Network takes flight     The idea serial entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan has (allegedly) launched a Wi-Fi broadband network via drones, which are already in the air around you, is quite fun.   From the release: “The current Australian NBN rollout is going to cost an estimated $73 billion. Frustrated by the delays and cost blow-out associated with the NBN, our team of engineers decided to take matters into their own hands.”   With the ongoing angst about the withering NBN, and Google’s actual ambitions to spread internet via hot air balloon last year, this idea is the perfect combo of political statement meets market demand meets crazy. We actually wished this one was true.   OneShift launches JobSwap   Employment platform for retail and hospitality staff OneShift has launched JobSwap, a service to enable employees to swap employers and responsibilities for a couple of weeks.   From the release: “[Founder Gen] George said that although OneShift was focusing mainly on employer registrations at this stage, staff of participating businesses would be able to sign up via the website in a matter of weeks.”   This one goes into our April Fools’ lemon basket. In a business promoting themselves as pairing people with the right job, surely the idea of interchangeable staff-company fit is a bad one to promote? It’s also low on humour.   iiNet launches Pet-Fi: Wi-Fi-enabled pet collars     Another internet-related prank, iiNet has announced the launch of Pet-Fi to turn your pet into a mobile hot spot.   From the release: “Bringing you the latest advancement in Wi-Fi technology, we give you Pet-Fi, the world's first pet-powered mobile broadband solution. We know you love your pets and you love having them close-by, so why not take advantage of that? Use Pet-Fi to transform your pet into the ultimate – yet cuddly – Wi-Fi hotspot and mobile broadband modem.”   Water resistant, shock proof and almost definitely a joke, this April Fools’ prank is adorable with a hint of animal use that makes it uncomfortable enough to spur the conversation on. Though it loses points for being easily unbelievable.   Swiftly launches Fool your Friends offering     More of an enabler than a prankster in its own right, 99designs' new service Swiftly has launched a series of pictures demonstrating how the software can be used to doctor photos to fool your friends.   Unfortunately for Swiftly, which is fundamentally a design business, the images aren’t remotely convincing or aesthetically compelling. Again, an April Fools’ dud.   Google Maps launched Pokemon challenge     With ample resources and a history of fun gimmicks and Easter eggs, startup folk were quick to check the Google platforms for April Fool pranks.   This year, Google Maps released a video announcing a new position within their team: Pokemon Master.   {qtube vid:=4YMD6xELI_k}   To find the Pokemons, head to Google Maps and hit “start” without writing in anything. Quite frankly, we think the Pokemons should stay.

Cybersecurity: Time to think like a fox to fend off the hedgehogs

3:26AM | Monday, 31 March

A report into cybercrime and stolen data has highlighted the risks for online companies saying that “the ability to stage cyber-attacks will likely outpace the ability to defend against them”.   The Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data report says  “attackers can be hedgehogs (they only need to know one attack method, but do it well) while defenders must be foxes (they need to know everything; not just technical knowledge, but knowledge of networking, software, law enforcement, psychology, etc)”.   It also says big companies will be able to secure themselves and follow new Payment Card Industry Guidelines (e.g. use of chip and PIN systems), "but smaller retailers will be hurt because they may not be able to keep up with these new security requirements imposed on them”.   Drew Sing, platform engineer for Bugcrowd – an Australian startup that offers bounties on behalf of companies to discover website vulnerabilities – says attackers can be beaten by fighting fire with fire – the good guys who think like bad guys.   “By incentivizing security researchers to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities through bug bounty programs, it allows them to utilize their specialized testing skills sets (the "hedgehogs") to help make a company more secure,” Sing says.   “This helps level the playing field against malicious attackers, and has been a successful strategy utilized by companies such as Facebook, Google, and Github.”   The approach has worked for Bugcrowd, which was referenced as a successful example of preventing cyber-attacks at least three times in the cybersecurity report.   Sing acknowledges that smaller companies sometimes don't have the resources to pay bounties, but says that by setting up a responsible disclosure policy, they can still benefit from the knowledge of security researchers without having to provide a sum of money.   “A disclosure policy provides a scope of what can be tested, and gives researchers permission to submit vulnerability information to your company without the fear of legal action,” he says.   It's important to remember security researchers want to help companies, but often aren't offered a simple way to communicate this information.   This necessity was highlighted when 16-year-old Joshua Rogers, a self-described white-hat hacker, found a security hole in the Public Transport Victoria website and reported it to the site.   Rogers hacked the site using an unspecified hacking technique to access a database that held personal data including full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, seniors' card ID numbers, and nine-digit credit card extracts of customers of the Metlink public transport online store.   The site didn't respond, so Rogers reported it to the media, who in turn contacted PTV, who in response reported Rogers to the police.   The increased risk to businesses has also seen growth in the cybercrime insurance industry, with Allianz today launching a cybercrime insurance product and saying that cybercrime costs the Australian economy over $1 billion annually.   According to its research, Allianz says cybercrime moved into the top five risks faced by Australian business in 2014.   The new Cyber Protect insurance product will cover up to $50 million to enable businesses to protect themselves against cyber criminals and data loss.   Insurance expert Allan Manning says cybercrime insurance had been around for a while now, but the Allianz announcement was evidence this was an increasing trend with the cybercrime insurance now a billion dollar industry.   “In the future it will be a standard insurance policy that most companies take out,” Manning says. He mentioned that some policies cover bounty payments for people to find vulnerabilities.   Manning says the costs of the cybercrime insurance were not really prohibitive. He took out a policy for his own business which cost around $3000 for coverage between $300,000 and $500,000.   The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance will release a report comparing the different cyber insurance policies later this year.

Unlock the Developer menu in Android 4.4 KitKat

3:46AM | Friday, 28 March

Up until recently, Google used to include a developer menu under Settings in Android.   However, some users have been disappointed to discover that it appears to have gone missing in the latest update, 4.4 KitKat.   The good news is that it’s still there – and here’s how to find it.   In the Settings Menu, go into About Phone. Then tap the Build Number section seven or eight times in quick succession. The Developer menu should be unlocked and ready to go.

Googlers, Beliebers, Magicians, Little Monsters, Droogies or Yahoos: Naming your employees or user base

3:44AM | Friday, 28 March

It seems almost every singer, band, and popstar out there these days comes up with a name for their fans.   For example, Justin Bieber has Beliebers, Lady Gaga has Little Monsters, Katy Perry has Katy-Cats, One Direction has Directioners, and Mariah Carey has Lambs.   Now, Old Taskmaster’s natural instinct in response to this insanity is to yell out: “Kids these days! It didn’t used to be like this in the good old days, Sonny Jim Crockett!” Except even in the days of yore, when music was ever so slightly more tolerable, some artists insisted in employing such shameless marketing tactics.   The classic was the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads, but there were others. For example, Barry Manilow has Fanilows, Jimmy Buffett has Parrotheads, Aerosmith has a Blue Army, KISS has a KISS Army, Phish has Phans and Megadeth has Droogies or Rattleheads, amongst others.   According to the comments on a recent column, there’s even a term for fans of the king of trucker rock, the certainly-not-a-one-hit-wonder who came up with Convoy, CW McCall: Crispy Critters.   (See kids, yours truly does read your comments, so keep ‘em coming!)   Of course, it’s not just musicians inventing collective nouns – many Silicon Valley tech companies have terms for their employees.   For example, Google has Googlers, Atari had Atarians, IBM has IBMers, Yahoo! has Yahoos, Tropo has Tropons, Xerox has Xeroids, Subway has its Sandwich Artists, Disney has Cast Members, and Starbucks has Partners.   Your humble correspondent has it on good authority that the editorial staff of SmartCompany and StartupSmart are known as smarties.   Some of the employee names are admittedly rather witty. For example, General Magic had Magicians, Lockheed Martin apparently has Martians, and Telstra has “future redundancies”.   Now, what about your startup? Do you have a term you’ll use for your current or future employees? Or your user base?   If not, it might be a fun thing to think about as you plan or grow your business.   After all, you couldn’t call yourself a proper Taskapprentice (or StartupSmarter) if you didn’t, now could you?   Get it done – today!

Getting infrastructure right: How can startups build a scalable operational model?

3:54AM | Friday, 28 March

Growth can be a mixed blessing for startups. It’s great to have new customers knocking at the door, but only if your cost base and cash flow are up to the task of serving them. Otherwise, growth could actually be your downfall.   It’s therefore important for startups to build a scalable business model – i.e. where revenue growth can outstrip growth in costs.   Scalability is partly a question of what products you sell. But it’s also about having a scalable operational model: your sales, IT and workplace arrangements must permit growth with minimal upfront costs and delays. And, preferably, not require you to work 24/7. At Regus we’ve seen hundreds of our SME customers scale up their businesses in Australia, and here are a few of the lessons we’ve learnt from them over the years.   Sales   Sales arrangements that rely on the contacts and skills of a key individual can only take you so far. Instead, you need to develop sales processes as well as talent. For example,   Use CRM software to track sales activity and share information with colleagues.   Make sure no information goes to waste. Social media, website analytics and sales data are invaluable for tracking interest and conversion rates, helping you target marketing activity more efficiently.   Develop training materials to help new sales staff generate revenues more quickly.   Think differently. For example, Australian software giant Atlassian used transparent pricing on its website – not something usually associated with enterprise software – to drive sales, rather than employing a large salesforce.   IT   The major difference between starting a business now and doing it a couple of decades ago is technology. Cloud applications, open source software and ready-made e-commerce templates have facilitated both starting up and scaling up.   There’s no need to invest in expensive software like CRM packages from day one – there are plenty of free or low-cost options available. But you do need to think about IT solutions from day one – don’t just launch a business and then try to patch on IT solutions afterwards.   Workplace   Traditional office arrangements and leases often lock small businesses into too-small premises and prevent them from expanding when they need to.   In contrast, flexible workplace arrangements provide scalability. They allow businesses to take on new space without upfront capital investment; they also allow them the flexibility to grow rapidly, or if growth falters, to contract.   In addition, the global network of a flexible workplace provider like Regus enables businesses to open virtual or physical offices wherever they see an opportunity for growth – without upfront investment or a fixed lease required.   HR   Finally, a scalable business must be able to hire exactly the talent it needs as soon as it needs it. But finding the right personality is just as important as finding the right skills. As small businesses rapidly grow, being able to maintain that company culture is essential to finding success. When Regus helped Google set up it’s first Portuguese office in one of our Lisbon centres, we sourced a foosball table and helped identify the right local providers to provide the renowned Google catering for their employees. In the US, Netflix allow employees to choose their own holidays, with no cap on how much leave people take.   These flexible HR practices, such as letting staff choose where they work can help attract the right talent for your organisation- while keeping them engaged.

Garbage in, garbage out in the age of big data

3:04AM | Thursday, 27 March

As we move into the age of big data, it's important that we understand the limitations and risks of bad information and poor programming. UK tech site The Register reports that Google Flu Trends has been a dismal failure with the service over-reporting the incidence of influenza by a factor of nearly 12.   The reason for this problem is the algorithm used to determine the existence of a flu outbreak relies on people searching for the terms 'flu' or 'influenza' and it turns out we tend to over-react to a dose of the sniffles.   Google Flu Trends' failure illustrates two important things about big data – the veracity of the data coming into the system and the validity of the assumptions underlying the algorithms processing the information.   In the case of Google Flu Trends both were flawed; the algorithm was based on incorrect assumptions while the incoming data was at best dubious.   The latter point is an important factor for the Internet of Machines. Instead of humans entering search terms, millions of sensors are pumping data into the system, so bad data from one sensor can have catastrophic effects on the rest of the network.   As managing data becomes a greater task for businesses and governments, making sure that data is trustworthy will be essential and the rules that govern how the information is used will have to be robust.   In a small business environment, it's possible to see a situation where a bad bank feed flags customers as not having paid their bills, triggering the accounting program to send out late payment letters while warning the proprietor that the company is about to go broke.   That example alone should be a warning why we should be careful of bad data entering our business.   Hopefully the lessons of Google Flu Trends will save us from more serious mistakes as we come to depend on what algorithms tell us about the data.   Paul Wallbank is the publisher of Networked Globe, his personal blog Decoding The New Economy charts how our society is changing in the connected century.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

$30,000 Australian scholarship to study at Singularity University in Silicon Valley

3:09AM | Wednesday, 26 March

Silicon Valley-based training facility the Singularity University is offering a fully sponsored position in its graduate studies program to an Australian startup founder developing an idea or project in the climate and environment sector.   The Global Impact Competition Australia & New Zealand 2014 is inviting people with plans that could impact a million Australians in three years to propose ideas that could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, fossil energy use, or facilitate adaptation to climate change in any sector. The solutions can be social, policy or tech.   Part university, part accelerator and part research centre, the Singularity University is an unaccredited training centre located in the NASA Ames Research Centre. It was founded by startup gurus including Google co-founder Larry Page and inventor Ray Kurzweil.   The school’s Australasian ambassador, Dr Clarence Tan, says it’s impossible to get accredited as they update at least 50% of their content every year.   The graduate studies program is a 10-week program designed to improve the skills of people attempting to create social and humanitarian good.   Tan told StartupSmart they were looking for great people with big plans. “We look for academic skill level, although that’s not very important when you think of Jobs, Wozniak and Gates,” Tan says. “We really look for entrepreneurial and leadership skills, startup track record and your level of passion for fixing grand problems. We want you to want to impact a billion people in 10 years.”   The 2013 Australian sponsorship recipient was Zezan Tam, from Melbourne.   Applications close on April 25. The video below contains more information about the university.  

Why Australia is behind Vietnam when it comes to teaching programming to our children

3:38AM | Wednesday, 26 March

With an explosion in more jobs than there are computer science students, learning computer programming is as essential for the 21st century as learning to read or write.   Coupled with a drop in ICT graduates, there is an urgent need for something to change.   But there’s some good news, with a report in The Australian claiming that computer programming could become mandatory for schoolchildren from age eight, pending a government review.   The startup community has welcomed the announcement, with the general belief that such a move is long overdue.   Learnable investor Leni Mayo has been a passionate advocate for teaching early programming to children and said this was a welcome step in the right direction.   “Australia has a history of failure on this front and we’ve been screaming for something to be done,” Mayo says.   “There’s a current crisis in Australia with not enough skilled programmers to fill the need, and we’re addressing this through migration. What this proposal does is create opportunity for future generations.”   Mayo pointed to a post by Google engineer Neil Fraser, who visited Vietnam a year ago to see how they’re teaching computer science to students. Fraser writes that Vietnamese children begin basic programming lessons in second grade and in third grade they start learning how to use Microsoft Windows and how to type.   While that’s not dissimilar to current Australian curriculum, by fourth grade Vietnamese students are programming in Logo – starting with sequences of commands and then progressing to loops.   "By grade 5 they are writing procedures containing loops calling procedures containing loops," Fraser says.   Fraser’s post provides a window into what is possible, says Mayo, and is a good framework for Australia to teach its schoolchildren how to become computer programmers,   “By Year 11, kids should be writing programs,” he says.   It is hoped that getting children interested in computer programming from an early age will lead to greater interest in programming.   Mayo says building this interest was more important than skills they learnt in doing it.   “By year 9 and 10, kids already realise what it is they want to do, so getting in at primary school is the right move,” he says.   An immediate issue would be skilling current teachers to be able to teach computer programming.   “When you look at the research, most teachers in the system don’t have a STEM background or are even interested in it,” Mayo says.   “The issue is that fixing this could be a 10-20 year cycle.”   The Australian reports that 23,500 teachers would need training with a budget of $23 million.   In the meantime, Mayo says there are a lot of great programs out there for parents who want to help their kids learn to program. He played Robot Turtle with his own six and eight-year-olds.   The review is expected to be concluded by mid-year.

Introducing our Best Startup finalists for the 2014 StartupSmart Awards

8:03AM | Tuesday, 19 August

With so many excellent and diverse startups out there, picking only five startups to celebrate as candidates for the big title this year was never going to be easy.   The following were picked based on the strength of the idea and how well the company has performed on their early goals.   The winner will be announced at the StartupSmart awards night. You can follow the awards night with the hashtag #susawards.   b2cloud   Mobile app development is a booming industry, with this startup well placed to make the most of it, already working with major brands such as Virgin Mobile and the official Sydney New Year’s apps for Telstra.   Founded by Luke Smorgon and Josh Guest, b2Cloud brought in over almost $1 million last year. < The team are keen to stay ahead of the crowd and are already experimenting with apps for wearable technology such as Google Glass and Galaxy Gear.   Tommy Swiss   Online furniture retailer Tommy Swiss launched with a new way of buying furniture.   Founder Jimmy Du says there appeared to be only three options: aggregators and drop shippers; local focused offerings; and importer focused stores. All had their pros and cons, especially around delivery.   Du’s hybird model, where 50% is exclusive to his brand, is working for him: the company brought in over $2 million in revenue last year.   Paws for Life   Pet supplies may not sound like a rich opportunity for startups at first, but when you consider the prevalence of pets and how much their owners are willing to spend on them, it becomes a very attractive industry quickly.   For the Paws of Life cofounders Mike Frizell and James Edwards, it was too good an opportunity to miss, as they saw the millions of venture capital dollars being poured into similar online offerings in the US.   The company made $5 million in revenue last year and is growing rapidly.   The founders spoke to StartupSmart about their $1.5 million raise and growth plans last year.   Bugcrowd   Online security is a multibillion-dollar industry set to keep growing for years to come. Crowdsourcing is also a burgeoning phenomenon. This startup is right in the sweet spot to ride both waves. Founded by Casey Ellis and Chris Raethke, BugCrowd runs competitions, known as bug bounties, with professional hackers and testers for big clients who want to make sure their websites are as safe as possible.   Built on a marketplace model, the company made over $250,000 in revenue last year.   Ellis spoke to StartupSmart about their $1.6 million fundraising round, moving to the US and learning to speak American in September last year.   Wine Cru (Vinomofo)   After a couple of years trying to find the right business model to monetise their passion, wine deals site founders Andre Eikmeier, Justin Dry and Leigh Morgan have settled on one that brought in over $10 million in revenue last year.   Taking on the two biggest grocery sellers in the country, Vinomofo connects wine consumers to deals and a wider range of winemakers.   In the past six months, the user base has almost doubled, and their e-commerce rates have skyrocketed.   Eikmeier spoke to StartupSmart about the struggle to find the right business model and the risks they took to make it work in November last year.

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