Putting a startup on the map: Simon Hackett joins investors pouring $5 million into Spookfish

12:05AM | Monday, 1 December

Internode founder and BlueChilli investor Simon Hackett has joined a group of investors who are injecting $5 million in capital into geospatial mapping firm Spookfish.   Spookfish is undertaking final testing on its aeroplane-mounted geospatial mapping system, which integrates camera systems, data storage, processing and flight operations. It is planning a commercial release next year.   The deal is the latest in a string of investments from Hackett, which include BlueChilli, graphite miner Oakdale, battery storage firm RedFlow, electric vehicle venture EV Race Systems, cloud-based ecommerce firm UltraServe and aviation software developer AvSoft.   Spookfish executive director Jason Marinko told Private Media Hackett is joining Hoperidge Capital, along with investors Brent Stewart and Tony Grist, as a cornerstone investor.   “The vast majority of the fully committed raising has been taken up by these four cornerstone investors. We were also encouraged to received strong demand from existing Spookfish shareholders who include industry users of geospatial imagery,” Marinko says.   The investors are making the investment by purchasing the ASX-listed small-cap mining firm White Star Resources, which in turn has an option to acquire the geospatial mapping firm.   “White Star is acquiring Spookfish via the exercising of its option and as a result undertaking a recompliance listing and capital raising via prospectus to change its activities from a resource company to a technology company,” Marinko says.   The plane-mounted imaging technology operates at a high altitude, allowing it to capture images at a high resolution and with high accuracy at a relatively low cost per capture.   “Three pioneers in the geospatial and aerospace engineering sectors with complementary skills saw a massive opportunity to make a significant step change in geospatial imagery,” Marinko says.   “This was by controlling the whole end-to-end process, with the aim of providing the highest quality aerial imagery at significantly improved levels of resolution, accuracy, cost effectiveness and consistency compared to current industry offerings.”   When asked about Google Maps or drone (UAV) aircraft-based mapping systems, Marinko says the technologies are not direct competitors to Spookfish.   “Google and the like are mostly acquirers of geospatial data such as ours so we don’t view them as a competitor. UAV’s are currently uneconomic, highly regulated and impractical for large area captures. If a suitable UAV platform ever emerges then we could simply use it ourselves,” he says.   At the moment, the company is working on a tech demonstrator that will test the technologies the company will use in its commercial offering.   “The Spookfish Technology Demonstrator will test all aspects of the camera system, data storage, processing and flight operations which will be scaled up and deployed in our commercial offering,” Marinko says.   “Next year will involve low altitude commercialisation with a pilot program using the tech demonstrator, then testing for scaled up productivity and the preparation for large area capture with full commercial launch of our large area offering in early 2016.   “Our target market is government and large corporate clients, who are the major customers of geospatial data but ultimately our images will be processed quickly and available via a simple customer portal so anyone in the market for high quality imagery with frequent updates will be able to subscribe to our service.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Atlassian on the hunt for best tech talent

12:17AM | Monday, 1 December

Atlassian is searching Australia for the nation’s best tech talent, as it looks to fill 150 Sydney-based mainly tech vacancies over the next six months.   Over the past week the company has held pop-up networking events for interested applicants, in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. The tour is in Brisbane on Monday, December 1 and finishes up in Adelaide on Tuesday, December 2.   Roughly 40 potential employees gathered at Friends of Mine in Richmond last week, many of whom worked for startups in Melbourne. It was an exclusive event, not all those that registered interest were invited to attend.   Head of APAC recruiting at Atlassian, Caitriona Staunton, says there’s world class talent in Australia, but not enough of it. The company finds about a third of its employees via traditional job applications, the rest come from other avenues, like referrals and headhunting. About 1000 people registered their interest in meeting Atlassian in one of the five cities it was holding recruiting events.     “We know that great people are often very happy at their jobs. A lot of the people we hire at Atlassian were very happy in their jobs until we call them and tell them about a new opportunity and they’re open to hearing from us,” Staunton says.   “Just look at the startup scene in Sydney, where we’re based these days, it’s just crazy the amount of amazing talent that has come through, from Google Maps, to Canva, Atlassian, Shoes of Prey.   “Unfortunately, there’s just not enough graduates. That means we need to have a dual strategy, both domestic and international. But still most of our employees are in Australia when we hire them.”   Friends of Mine had been decorated to look like an Atlassian office. Posters emblazoned with Atlassian’s values like “Open company, no bullshit”, adorned the walls, along with t-shirts “Coders Gonna Code” and “Powered by you”.   “We brought some of the magic of the office. The games, the t-shirts, and definitely the beers, are very reminiscent of our office in Sydney,” Staunton says.   It’s the first time the company has held a hiring tour that didn’t focus on graduates in Australia. Providing a taste of the company’s culture to these experienced candidates is valuable, Staunton says, as it helps ensure it’s a fit for both parties.   “Our own employees are fantastic at referring people they just know would be a great fit for Atlassian, that would work really well in our environment. Because the environment’s not for everyone,” she says.   “Work hard, play hard.”   While tech companies Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Melbourne-based Envato publicly release diversity figures, Atlassian has yet to take that step, but Staunton says diversity in the tech industry is an issue the company is acutely aware of and is taking steps to address.   “Diversity is extremely important, and again the challenge is the labor market,” she says.   “Just like finding local talent, local female talent is again harder. I think something like 10% of grads are female.   “We hire the best person for the job no matter what, but we do invest a lot in the earlier stages, encouraging girls to study computer science is a really big piece for us.   “All our hiring is done with a diversity lens, when we think about our office, we always try to be as inclusive as possible, so everybody can feel like they can bring their whole selves to work.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What to do when your biggest friend is also a foe – a lesson from Mozilla

11:31AM | Thursday, 27 November

This past week Mozilla, the developer of the popular Firefox web browser amongst a number of other products, announced that Yahoo!, rather than Google, will become the company’s default search index in the US. In China, the default search engine will be Baidu, it will be Yandex in Russia, and it will remain as Google in all other markets. Hiding within this announcement, however, is a valuable case study for any business on what to do when your biggest paying customer turns into a competitor.   As I discussed in this column back in February, around 90% of Mozilla’s revenues come from Google, which pays a commission for searches originating from the search field in the Firefox tool bar.   As incredible as it might sound, that little search field in the top-right hand corner of Firefox on a PC or a Mac is worth around $US280 million ($327.5 million) per year in revenue.   To find out why that deal initially came about, we need to go back in time nearly a decade to when an engineer named Mitchell Baker – one of the most overlooked female leaders in Silicon Valley – launched Mozilla from the ashes of a company called Netscape.   Back when Firefox launched in September 2012, such an arrangement between Mozilla and Google was ideal for both sides. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominated the web, shipping by default on every PC and every Mac, and used MSN Search (now Microsoft Bing) as a default search engine.   As Firefox’s user base grew, so did the number of users it directed to Google. For Google, that growth in terms of users meant its lucrative search ad revenue grew, making the deal lucrative for both sides.   But a decade is a long time in the tech world. In that time Google released its own web browser, known as Chrome, and Google became the default on more than 1 billion devices using its Android or Chromebook platforms. Not only does Google now no longer need Firefox, but Firefox is now its chrome-covered competitor.   This put Mozilla in an incredibly awkward position: Its main source of income was now also its biggest rival. What Mozilla did next is rather counter-intuitive.   First it released Firefox OS, a slimmed down operating system based on the Firefox web browser primarily aimed at low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, it announced a smartphone that runs Firefox OS that sells for just $US25 outright. It was now competing head-to-head with Android devices at the very moment low-cost smartphones became a key growth market for Google.   Then it launched its own app store – known as the Mozilla Marketplace – that sells apps for any PC, Mac or smartphone that runs either Firefox or Firefox OS.   It followed this with the announcement of a string of devices running the platform, including tablets, smart TVs in partnership with Panasonic, low-cost computers and – most recently – a Chromecast-like HDMI stick called the Matchstick.   The new products and the app store will potentially create a new source of revenue for Mozilla, but also saw Firefox jump right in the path of Google’s mobile computing juggernaut, Android. That same Google – keep in mind –was also still Mozilla’s main source of income.   To paraphrase Sir Humphrey from Yes Minister, it was potentially a very “courageous” move. However, there was one strategic masterstroke by Baker and her team that hadn’t been revealed yet.   Google is not the only company on the internet that’s willing to pay to have a large number of web searches sent in its general direction. This is where the deal with Yahoo! comes in.   Better still, Yahoo! has no ambitions as far as making smart TVs, web browsers, HDMI sticks or app stores. In fact, if it leads to more people searching with Yahoo!, the online media giant has a good reason to promote those efforts.   As I said near the start of this article, there’s an important lesson hidden in this for any business or organisation whose biggest customer is also a competitor. In fact, it’s almost a case study on what to do (or try to do) in a very tricky commercial predicament, as Mozilla was.   That is to make sure you leave the door open for another customer or backer (in this example, Yahoo!) to potentially step in, while at the same time developing new sources of revenue over the longer term. Also, so long as your business has a Yahoo! waiting in the wings, it potentially matters less if those new revenue sources put you in direct conflict with your biggest customer (Google).   Because sometimes in business, your best friend can quickly turn into your biggest enemy.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Blocking piracy websites is bad for Australia’s digital future

11:07AM | Tuesday, 25 November

  Rumours are flying that the government will introduce legislation before Christmas aimed at blocking certain websites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, as part of a range of efforts to reduce copyright infringement in Australia.   Although the details are unclear at this stage, it looks like the law will allow copyright owners such as movie distributors and record labels to seek a court order to block sites that facilitate peer-to-peer file sharing, providing access to copied content.   This looks like a good idea, and it’s certainly a less intrusive approach than “extended authorisation liability”, the last copyright reform which the government proposed in July and then hurriedly dropped in the face of almost universal condemnation.   The problem is that website blocking always fails.   The technical problems with website blocking are the most obvious. Basically, you can block at the domain name level, or at the level of the internet address.   Blocking domain names means that the content owner convinces a court to tell internet service providers (ISPs) to drop problematic domain names from their name servers. This means that when a copyright scofflaw like, well, me, tries to get access to The Pirate Bay nothing happens. The domain name doesn’t resolve correctly, and so it’s like the site doesn’t exist.   There are some good policy reasons to be troubled about this type of action — essentially it breaks the guarantee of internet connectivity — but even if the government ignores that principle, the bigger problem is that it just doesn’t work.   The Pirate Bay will just change its domain name, forcing a constant game of Whack-A-Mole for the content companies and the courts. In any event, I can still get access to The Pirate Bay by getting a virtual private network (VPN) or change my domain name system (DNS) lookup server. (It sounds complicated, but trust me, every 15-year old will know how to do this if the government introduces domain name blocking.) Blocking is a technical nightmare Blocking websites at the internet address level is trickier. This involves stopping all traffic from a given IP (internet protocol) number or a given block.   The problem with this type of action is that it inevitably catches and stops some innocent content. For networking reasons numerous websites can share the same IP number or address block, and so shutting down one IP address can wipe out other sites that are completely fine.   Back in 2013, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) applied a little-used section of the Telecommunications Act to block three websites that were hosting investment scams. ASIC ended up with egg on its face when the block also wiped out Australian access to around 250,000 innocent websites that happened to be hosted on the same address.   The other really serious technical problem is that you actually can’t block many of the places where infringing content is hosted. When I download a movie using BitTorrent (a peer-to-peer file transfer protocol), a huge swarm of computers from all over the internet is responsible for sending me bits and pieces of the movie file.   Although a court could order ISPs to block sites like The Pirate Bay that aggregate the initial seed for the torrent files, there is no way to block all the computers that eventually provide me with the movie.   So all in all, blocking is a technical nightmare. However, these problems pale compared with the policy problem of how you write a law that catches only the “bad guys”.   The law can’t just block sites that host infringing content, because sites such as The Pirate Bay actually don’t host infringing content. But if you draft the law to catch sites like this which help me find movie torrents, then you’re going to shut down Google.   Beyond Google – who will never let a law like this get through – a poorly drafted law will inevitably be used to threaten Australia’s nascent cloud computing industry, because cloud storage is where a large number of infringing files are found these days.   So, once again, we’ll have laws that favour US content industries at the expense of Australia’s digital future.   At best, blocking laws might be slightly effective to reduce the access to overseas movie streaming sites. Maybe. This should make Foxtel and Australian market newcomer Netflix happy because a small number of people will buy a subscription because they can no longer get programs like Game of Thrones free on the internet.   But after a while you have to ask whether it’s worth spending the amount of time, money, and effort that the government keeps expending to keep the copyright lobby happy.   Dan Hunter 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.

Government report identifies six disruptive tech trends to watch

11:07PM | Sunday, 23 November

Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority.   The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”.   Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report:   1. Communications go over the top   Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype.   According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013.   Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million.   However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion.   2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies.   Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day.   The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.   3. Wearables are set to boom   On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years.   The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018.   It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate.   4. Online content is going mainstream   The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate.   According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies.   In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube.   Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services.   5. Multistreaming is now mainstream   In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones.   The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34.   Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%).   Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%).   6. TV is still the one for news   Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014.   While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time.   Image credit: Flickr/alvy   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How Martin Hosking built Redbubble into a $59 million design marketplace

11:29AM | Thursday, 20 November

Martin Hosking first saw the internet 19 years ago. A year later the now 54-year-old Melburnian became involved in his first online venture, search provider and one of the darlings of the dot com era, LookSmart. After serving as chairman of soon-to-be-listed software construction company Aconex, Hosking teamed up with two friends in 2006 to launch Redbubble, an online design marketplace dedicated to connecting shoppers with thousands of artists who produce one-off designs for everything from t-shirts to tote bags and doona covers. Last year Redbubble grew by 77% and turned over $59 million. More than five million people visit the website each month.   I’ve been working with the internet since 1996, really since the start. When I got involved in 1996, Netscape hadn’t even launched.   I first saw the internet in 1995. I realised it could change the world and I wanted to be part of that. I was looking for different ways to become a part of the internet when I got involved in LookSmart.   When we started Redbubble in 2006 I was chairman of Aconex, which has been in the news lately as it is getting ready to IPO in the next few weeks.   We originally thought about Redbubble as a service to provide personalisation for people who wanted a product with an image or words they had created. But we soon realised that was quite a bad idea.   With my friends Paul Vanzella and Peter Styles, what we realised was that we could serve the needs of the artists instead. So the technology was the same but the artists became our primary customers.   I provided a lot of the early funding for Redbubble but we all had a share in the business. Paul has his own design company now but he still does some work for us. Peter has left the company.   We were among the first to think about how the internet can serve creative artists on a global basis. It is extremely difficult to make something on a bespoke basis for individual customers but it is possible using new technology, especially print on demand. Each product on Redbubble is for a single customer and the distribution model could not be any leaner or smarter. Our artists are designing everything from artworks about extremely obscure evolution to physics or mermaids.   People talk a lot in Silicon Valley about companies pivoting but you only need to pivot when something isn’t working. We haven’t pivoted around our values of serving artists; we’ve just gotten better at doing that.   We have a much wider range of products now – we’ve just launched mugs and duvet covers and the products are becoming more and more diverse. But our core idea of high quality content from artists hasn’t changed.   My background in the internet was incredibly useful when launching Redbubble. It helped me realise the skills I needed in the business and we had a high quality designer from the start. We built a very scalable solution from the start, we didn’t just hack it together.   I think often it is your naivety that is incredibly helpful when starting a business. If you come from a retail background, you would always be thinking ‘how can I sell this product to as many people as possible?’ But I didn’t have that. I had a naïve mindset of providing customers with what they want.   My university studies also helped. A general arts degree, while not necessarily popular these days, does give you a long-term view of historical problems and a perspective about what’s going on. I can talk to people about where Redbubble sits in the history of the arts movement or how it relates to what Picasso did because I have that broad background.   All businesses experience different phases of growth and I don’t think any startup has not had a period when they are looking out into the abyss. During the global financial crisis we had one of those periods. It was one of the most difficult periods because it became clear that money from investors just wasn’t there. We had to create a traditional company where revenue is higher than expenses and that forced discipline on us as a company.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. We had a period of very strong growth coming out of the GFC as e-commerce started to take off. We had also re-written our programs.   Now we are focused on achieving growth through user loyalty and repeat customers. Our engagement with users is now about more than just the transaction; we want people to have a great experience.   We first tried to expand into the US in 2008 but that was a bad idea as the whole world was collapsing. We made another run at it in 2010 and we now have offices in San Francisco.   We are actively looking at expanding to Europe, with the UK as a starting point. Some of our production partners are in Europe and it is a big and important market for us.   Continually diversifying our product range is also important for growth, as is continuing to improve the customer experience on Redbubble so it is genuinely engaging and people have a reason to come back.   We want to encourage genuine word-of-mouth marketing. As an online marketing place you have to embrace diversity. A lot of people are coming to the website and those people in and of themselves should be what drives the growth. When an artist joins Redbubble, they bring people with them and when a buyer engages with the site, they will bring people too.   We encourage our artists and buyers to share their experience with Redbubble and this means there are thousands of people talking about what we do on Twitter and Facebook. We do paid media on Google and Facebook, as well as events such as the upcoming Art+Mel, but these are supplementary.   A business plan is useful in terms of setting the direction in which you’re going but the internet has learnt that a plan doesn’t last a lot longer after it is written. Instead, I’m keen on setting an operating rhythm in my business. At Redbubble we work to a six week cycle. It gives us the capacity to revisit plans on a very iterative basis and you learn things as you go along. It also prevents you from doing things that are expensive or difficult and allows you to devote resources to new opportunities.   My business does not keep me awake at night. You need to have enough perspective on your business so it doesn’t ruin your life. Many business owners lose that perspective but that’s not good for them or for the company. Eating well, meditating and keeping perspective make me a better person as well as a better businessman.   The culture at Redbubble is based on some core principles inspired by the work of Daniel Pink, which we use with a great deal of flexibility. We employ over 100 people.   Autonomy is important; people have to have some control over their work life. Mastery is important; team members need to feel that they are getting better at something, that they have learnt something. Purpose is important; they feel like they are contributing to a higher goal. And finally accountability, they report back and are not a lone operator.   Ultimately you want to get to a stage where if someone is spending eight hours a day working at Redbubble, those hours should be well spent. There is nothing more depressing to me than the idea that people might work here and don’t think it is worthwhile.   I continue to invest in other companies, including Aconex and other private investments, but I don’t see Redbubble as simply a deal or a transaction. I am engaged with this business for the long term.   But you have to be open to new opportunities. There will always come a time when someone else may be able to lead Redbubble better than me and I’m not interested in setting up a Rupert Murdoch-generational type of thing. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Robert Scoble thinks Australia’s WattCost should be Google’s next purchase

11:42AM | Monday, 17 November

Could WattCost be the next Australian startup acquired by Google? Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble believes so.   The startup has developed a device which attaches to a household’s power meter and provides homeowners with real-time power usage data, and uses that data to help them save power, money, and reduce their carbon footprint.   The WattCost team is currently in the United States meeting with Scoble, who is Rackspace’s startup liaison officer, after winning the company’s 2014 Small Teams Big Impact Pitching competition.   WattCost co-founder David Soutar says the trip to Silicon Valley has been fantastic so far, and praised the job Scoble and Austrade have done in introducing the WattCost team to investors, advisers and other successful Australian founders.   “Silicon Valley investors seem to value what we’re doing at a much higher level than back home, but we would really like to work with Australian investors if possible,” he says.   “We believe we’ve developed a world-class product, that will change the way consumers interact with their homes to control their electricity costs, and people over here are opening their doors on short notice to listen to us.”     Scoble described WattCost as the most interesting new startup he’s seen all year. He says Google is leading the race to become the dominant home IoT platform.   “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says.   “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.”   WattCost works by monitoring fluctuations in power usage and uses machine learning to iron out any ambiguities.   “Every appliance has its own unique digital signature, so we’ve learnt what those signatures are,” Soutar says.   “Some things you can talk about instantaneously because of the load, but when I talk about digital fingerprints, that’s how it is used over time. If you imagine a microwave, say you put it on for a minute, it runs through a certain power signature cycle.”   When something is plugged into the home network that WattCost isn’t familiar with, it prompts the user through its smartphone app to let the system know what it is. That smartphone app is where users can find real-time power consumption information on their home. It can make suggestions like delaying using the dishwasher until off-peak times, or updating a fridge that is consuming more energy than it should be.   “We want to help people save money and lower their carbon footprint,” Soutar says.   “There’s never been a way to do that from a personal point of view, so we’re really passionate about helping people do that.”   That passion, Soutar says, will eventually lead to WattCost releasing its own API.   “The consumers should own the data and they should be able to use it in whichever way they want,” he says.   The WattCost energy monitor is available for pre-order for $149 (the first 1000 can be pre-ordered for $99) and it’s expected to ship in the middle of 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Why this early-stage Aussie startup decided to jump ship and move to Poland

11:13PM | Sunday, 16 November

Ever thought of leaving Australia behind and moving to another country?   That’s exactly what Andre Joachim did with his co-founder and wife, Maya Joachim. The pair sold their house in Sydney in August this year, and moved to Poland, to self-fund FarmerFinder – a startup aimed at connecting people with food and agricultural products while at the same time empowering farmers.   Maya’s brother Mark Santoso joined them and eventually the three co-founders set up shop in Krakow.   Andre Joachim told StartupSmart moving to Europe was a decision that was made with the startup’s best interests at heart.   “We all have EU passports [through ancestry] and Maya and I really liked living in Europe,” he says.   “The original plan was to move to Berlin. But finding an apartment long-term was very difficult. It’s 30% cheaper in Krakow.”   Joachim says reducing the startup’s overheads was always top of mind, particularly because it is self-funded. And while he says the startup scene is a lot stronger in Berlin, the move to Poland has worked out quite well.   “Google have an office here and a lot of international companies have a presence in Krakow. There are events on every week, everybody speaks English – it’s a beautiful city.”   Joachim and his wife were originally going to set up a coffee roasting business in Sydney. However, after meeting farmers overseas to build working relationships and business connections, they realised it was hard to find farmers and buy from them directly.   “All farmers have this problem,” Joachim says.   “The truth is not all things grow in all places. If you want mangoes in Victoria they come from Queensland. And the economics don’t always work unless you can scale it down. Vanilla beans grow in Madagascar or saffron in Iran. These countries always provide unique kinds of produce.”   While many Aussie startups set up shop overseas in order to scale and tap into international talent, convincing himself and family members that it was a good idea wasn’t always easy.   “Most people have great opportunities but they tend to put self-imposed limitations [on themselves]. We had to change our way of thinking to not be scared. A lot of people think we’re crazy – but I didn’t listen to them.”   Joachim says he and his co-founders haven’t committed to staying in a single place overseas – or ruled out returning to Sydney.   “Basically we have a ‘free and flexible’ mindset that means we will do whatever is best for FarmerFinder to succeed.”   He says and his co-founders might also go to India to set up a temporary office, or eventually go to Berlin or San Francisco to seek investment. He says this ties in with the need to “get more done with less” and also complements the startup’s ultimate vision.   “Why just help Australian farmers? They all have the same problem. In every single country farmers are doing it tough. We allow them to bypass the middle man, sell direct – there’s lots of benefits.”   FarmerFinder is in a beta testing phase, with a launch date planned for early 2015.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

How these six new technology predictions fared in 2014: Control Shift

11:03AM | Thursday, 13 November

Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences.   Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms.   In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare?   Here’s what happened:   1. Curved and flexible displays   This first pick came with a caveat:   “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.”   Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia.   Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge.   As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode).   The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen.   The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017.   2. Smart TVs   Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front.   The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs.   Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May.   Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April.   So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia.   It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014.   3. Smartwatches   Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more?   Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others.   These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is.   4. Augmented reality glasses   Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone.   But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR.   You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers.   5. Home automation   Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest.   Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads.   6. Low-end smartphones   This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China.   The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable.   Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright.   Conclusion   Forget about waiting for that flying car.   From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014.   When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Melbourne semiconductor startup closes $US6 million Series A

11:39PM | Thursday, 13 November

Melbourne-founded Indice Semiconductor has closed a $US6 million ($A6.9 million) Series A funding round that will help accelerate the distribution of its power-saving technology.   Its Continuous Sigma encoding method has the potential to reduce power consumption while increasing performance in everything from wearables, to headphones, computers and smartphones, co-founder James Hamond explains.   “Digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital encoding methods are found in just about all modern electronic devices, from wearables, audio equipment, space probes, phones and so on,” he says.   “Indice’s patent-pending Continuous Sigma encoding method has the potential to reduce the device’s power consumption while increasing performance. For the end user this could mean headphones with more effective noise cancelling and crisper audio than ever before.   “Our advanced algorithms are game changers in other areas as well, including enabling the world’s smallest solar inverter – which is why we’ve entered Google’s Little Box Challenge.   “Eventually Indice hopes this will lead to more powerful and efficient electric motor control and car chargers, helping boost performance and consumer uptake of electronic vehicles.”   The Series A round was led by Allen Alley, founder of semiconductor company Pixelworks, who will join the startup, and Australian venture capital firm Rampersand. Hamond says a number of private individuals who make up the “old silicon guard” also invested. He declined to name those investors.   Founded in Melbourne in 2008, Indice Semiconductor has since relocated to Oregon in the United States. It’s sold one million of its Continuous Sigma powered chips to date, and plans to use the investment to scale up, targeting the Asian market.   So how was a startup that had received just $2.5 million in funding before this round able to create a solution that other big semiconductor makers couldn’t? Co-founder Aaron Brown says it has a lot to do with the fact the startup was bootstrapped.   “It’s quite amazing, but the large companies and other semiconductor manufacturers were using mathematics algorithms that are incredibly old, from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘60s, and their refining process relied on sheer brute force,” Brown says.   “We didn’t have the luxury of a large silicon foundry or design foundry, so we had to forge ahead to find a really elegant solution that could be applied to almost any semiconductor.”   But it was not an easy path, Hammond adds.   “Aaron and I like to joke if we knew how hard it was going to be we probably wouldn’t have started,” he says with a laugh.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The future of e-commerce is about one-touch buying

11:21AM | Wednesday, 12 November

If you’re an e-commerce startup and you’re not building for one-touch buying, you’re already behind, according to Braintree’s general manager of mobile, Aunkur Arya.   “What we’re seeing now, in terms of disruptive forces in mobile is one-touch buying is becoming the standard,” Arya says.   “If you’re not doing that, you’re behind.”   Braintree recently conducted a survey of 224 business owners from across Australia and found that just 54% have a website, and only 24% have a mobile-optimised site or mobile app. Arya says that is evidence of how much room there is for growth in the online payments sector, and particularly on mobile.   “We believe the future of commerce is online, and more specifically, on mobile,” he says.   “The growth of e-commerce, the advances in mobile and the impact that the smartphone has had on daily human behaviour and consumption of goods and services all support this.   “One of that statistics I think about is if you take all the commerce that happens in the world, 10% of that commerce is online, and 10% of that commerce is on mobile. So 1% of the world’s entire commerce is on mobile.   “Yet it’s the most ubiquitous device, it’s the primary computing device for a lot of people now, in some markets people are leapfrogging the PC wholesale and going directly to mobile.”   That gap represents a huge opportunity for startups that think mobile first.   “If you take the US as one data point, all the really, really big valuations in the tech space are companies that are focusing on mobile. Uber is an $18 billion company now – it’s mobile only. Airbnb is mobile and desktop, but is very heavily invested in mobile.   “It’s not a choice anymore. If you’re a startup and you’re building something, you need to be focusing on mobile.”   Arya says payments will begin to fade into the background as startups increasingly focus on providing consumers with the best possible mobile experience. One-touch payments are part of that, so is giving consumers as much control as possible, by allowing them to pay in whatever way they choose.   Before arriving at Braintree, Arya worked at a number of startups, most notably as an early director at AdMob, which was acquired by Google in 2010. He says the successful founders he’s been around have all aimed big and stayed true to their convictions.   “The thing I’ve learnt most is don’t be encumbered by facts, especially if you’re a founder,” he says.   “When you’re a founder you need a certain sense of just being able to cut through things that seem impossible to overcome. That’s one of the qualities that I’ve seen. I’ve worked for many startups that have failed, and fortunately in the last several years I’ve worked for startups that have been tremendously successful.   “The difference in the entrepreneurs I’ve seen is the ones that have been successful are the ones that really cut through everything and had conviction about their ideas and their business.   “They weren’t deterred by some of the facts on the ground, they just went straight through it and said either this is going to be really big or it’s going to fail miserably.   “Those are the ideas that people should be working on.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Easy ways to measure your marketing ROI

11:31AM | Wednesday, 12 November

There are two critical questions you need to ask when embarking on a new marketing campaign: 1. What results are you expecting from marketing? 2. How will you measure marketing effectiveness?   When we’re going through this process with clients at Marketing Angels, we then break question one down into fundamentals:   What’s the total number of sales you need? What value do they need to be? To achieve that many sales based on your conversion rate, how many leads do you need to generate?   We then work out how marketing is measured and if we need to implement new measurement tools and reporting processes.   So often these two aspects of marketing have not been thought through previously or implemented in the businesses we work with.   There are some easy ways to measure your return on investment on marketing and subsequently enhance your marketing effectiveness. Tracking leads and sales   Leads and sales are usually in the short term what most businesses owners and marketers are measuring their marketing effectiveness on. These tools provide important data to help maximise ROI on any marketing campaigns.   Google Analytics   Implementing Google Analytics on your site is a must and then subsequently analysing your reports at least monthly. Makes sure your Google Analytics account is set up to measure not just where your traffic is coming from but also measuring which tracking converts through setting up goals and conversion tracking.   Google call tracking   Google has just made website call conversions available to Australian AdWords customers. So if you are buying pay per click advertising through Google, you can now identify and measure calls to your business up to 90 days after a visitor has clicked on a Google ad and arrived at your website.   Other call tracking and call recording services   If you are not using Google AdWords it is still possible to implement call tracking by acquiring unique phone numbers to be used on different marketing activity. You can also implement call recording so that you can judge how calls are handled and the quality of leads. The subsequent data that results can help you optimise your marketing activity, and also your conversion rates through better call handling. Many IP telephony systems have these functions built in or you can work with specific call tracking service companies.   Unique URLs   Use unique URLs wherever possible. Unique URLs work best as a specific call to action on online ads. If using them to measure offline activity (e.g. print, TV, radio or outdoor) advertising, you might be better off creating a micro-site relating to your specific campaign or promotion e.g. – so that it’s easy for any punters responding to your ad to remember. Engagement and awareness   Before you can create a sale or generate a lead, you need prospects to be aware of you and increasingly engaging with your brand in other ways. Brand awareness and engagement are important indicators of marketing effectiveness that leads to sales in both the short and the long term.   Email marketing measurement   Measure number of opens, reads, forwards or social shares to your email marketing. If you don’t use an email marketing platform that allows you to measure this activity then it’s important you review your email marketing platform. Personally I’m a big fan of MailChimp predominantly because of their excellent measurement tools.   Social media following   If you are using social media then you should also be measuring your follower growth. A growing following means growing brand awareness.   Stats available on age, sex, location and seniority of followers will show you who your brand is resonating most strongly with and subsequently help you create offers and content to suit or target your any ads to attract the followers you want.   Social media clicks, shares and comments   Tracking engagement with your content to help you devise content that is likely to grow your brand through social shares and interaction is critical.  Content is expensive and time consuming to create so you want to make sure it is working for you. Social media tools like Hootsuite and others can help you combine your engagement scores into a useful dashboard. The final piece of the puzzle   Often businesses have many of these measurement tools in place but no one is responsible for presenting the results in a meaningful way, suggesting changes to marketing and then enacting those changes.   Make sure you have someone internal or external who “owns” marketing and is accountable for results and you’ll have a marketing model that works and delivers real return for your investment.   Since starting her outsourced national marketing consultancy Marketing Angels in 2000, Michelle Gamble has helped hundreds of SMEs get smarter marketing. Michelle helps businesses find more effective ways to grow their brands and businesses.   This article was originally published on SmartCompany.

We need to put high-growth tech companies on the G20 agenda

11:49PM | Tuesday, 11 November

The world was a very different place in December 1999 when the first G20 met in Berlin. Steve Jobs had just taken back the reins at Apple, but Facebook, Google, Twitter and the dot-com bust were figments of imagination. When government and central banking leaders meet in Brisbane this week, they will have a very different set of concerns, as well as a different set of levers to achieve the goal of “stable and sustainable world growth that benefits all".   The path of least resistance is to make small adjustments in an effort to re-balance and re-ignite growth. Instead, they should be considering how to stimulate and harness the power of digital disruption to create companies that can grow fast and create jobs we can not even imagine.   The continued growth of the start-up culture and the “overnight” success of new businesses such as Uber, AirBnb and Dropbox demonstrate the economies of tomorrow are being shaped by companies which have became global players overnight. Rather than focusing on a few adjustments to re-stabilise the world’s economy, the G20 leaders need to understand the impact of digital disruptions on nations and industries. All will be impacted; none will be spared.   Deloitte Digital’s latest report, “Harnessing the bang”, identifies some of the impacts of this “digital disruption” to existing companies. It notes that 13 industries comprising 65% of the Australian economy are facing significant disruption by 2017. Google, for example, has revolutionised advertising, Amazon has re-invented the book publishing industry, streaming services like Netflix have changed the movie and entertainment sector, and internet banking has changed financial services.   It’s clear this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just one facing Australia. Digital disruption belongs on the G20 agenda.   Threat or opportunity?   As ancient Chinese wisdom says, every threat contains the seeds of opportunity. The democratisation of markets brought about by the rise of technology represents boundless opportunities for companies that are innovative.   Henry Ford heard people say they wanted to travel faster, but instead of breeding a faster horse, he used new technology to create a motorised vehicle – and a manufacturing industry no one had imagined. Automobiles disrupted traditional modes of transportation and required workers to have new manufacturing skills. New companies were born and new hard infrastructure required: roads, bridges.   The same is happening with digital technology. The digital products and services require new skills, will generate new companies and need a different kind of infrastructure to support them (broadband internet, global paths to market, venture funding etc.)   Australia has some great start-up success stories: Atlassian provides software to the software makers all over the world, and Canva is reaching 1,000,000 customers. Both are carving a global path to success in their particular industries.   The G20 Global Café in Brisbane will showcase several more companies that are digital disruptors of traditional industries, are already going global and have the potential to grow big.   Some are concerned that tech companies don’t create jobs – they underestimate the impact that tech start-ups have on wealth and job creation. The IPOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter together created nearly 4,000 millionaires.   As for job growth, high-tech companies create a disproportionate share of high-value jobs. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, 6% of UK businesses with the highest growth rates created 50% of the new jobs. Professor Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, notes that for every job a tech company creates, five new jobs are created in other sectors – a multiplier effect three times higher than for extractive or traditional manufacturing industries.   The focus should be start up, then grow up   So it’s pretty simple: entrepreneurs whose businesses use digital technology to develop or deliver products and services that customers need and want will grow the fastest, create the most jobs and have the highest probability of success. This in turn has numerous economic benefits for countries that encourage and foster an entrepreneurial mindset and a high-tech-friendly environment.   Smart governments that have already figured this out are beginning to provide resources and support their start-up ecosystems. From science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and entrepreneurial education, through to direct government funding at the venture capital stage, they are placing a premium on developing more high-growth technology companies, teaching CEOs how to start and grow companies, and removing the barriers to growth.   So what does Australia, in particular, need to do to create the environment in which our digital disruptors can quickly become high-growth, global players? It’s pretty simple:   Encourage more people to start companies and make jobs, not just take a job. Teach people the entrepreneurial mindset and support those who see opportunities and want to start and grow companies. Provide more funding for research and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Revamp systems that support the commercialisation of research with the goal of developing more technology companies. Support the development of an ecosystem that provides entrepreneurs with what they need to grow companies: access to knowledge, talent, money and space. Have a workforce ready and able to work in companies that make widespread use of technology. Help existing businesses adapt to the world of digital disruption.   The Australian government is beginning to understand that the future must include high-growth technology companies, as well as mining, gas and agriculture. It is beginning to engage with bodies such as StartupAUS (of which I am a board member). We are hopeful that the Department of Industry’s Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program and additional programs will spur the development of more venture capital and more disruptive technology companies in Australia.   The G20 countries need to understand the power of digital disruption and develop economic and financial policies that actually capitalise on that disruption. Creative destruction of old industries is the norm; the internet is an accelerant to the pace of disruption. Innovation, digital disruption and entrepreneurship are not passing fads – they are the solution to the economic problems we are experiencing. Countries that understand this and develop polices and programs to support it will benefit the whole world.   This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Photo: Peter Dasilva/EPA/AAP   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Despite Darknet drug market arrests and seizures, can they be stopped?

11:47AM | Tuesday, 11 November

In an operation involving 17 countries, law enforcement agencies arrested 17 people believed to be involved with Darknet markets. The operation, code named “Onymous”, first came to light with the announcement by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations of the arrest of Blake Benthall (also known as “Defcon”) the operator of Silk Road 2.0. This arrest was followed up with news that a number of other Darknet sites had been seized. These sites dealt with the sale of drugs, firearms, stolen credit cards and money laundering.   In addition to the arrests in the US and Europe, US $1 million of Bitcoin was recovered, along with 180,000 Euro, gold, silver and drugs. The FBI also claimed that 27 sites with 400+ addresses pointing to those sites, have been siezed. Is Tor all you need? The actions of these law enforcement agencies mark a turning point in the battle against Darknet markets, which up until last week, seemed to be stacked in favour of the Darknet merchants. Using the anonymising and encrypting software Tor , Darknet users had become complacent about their ability to operate without threat of discovery or arrest. Even now,many in that community still hold that the law enforcement organisations succeeded not because of any particular sophistication in their detection, but because those arrested slipped up, and became lax with their “operations security” , or “opsec”. The Darknet law enforcer’s investigative toolkit Although this may be a factor in how certain people were arrested, it underestimates the range of approaches that law enforcement, especially with collaboration amongst different countries, have to bring to bear against criminals in the Darknet.   In their arsenal, law enforcement in the US and elsewhere may have found a way to break the anonymity of Tor and through this trace people’s use of sites back to their computers. There is of course no evidence that this is the case but it is theoretically possible, and attacks on the Tor network have previously been discovered.   More likely however is that law enforcement agencies used a more traditional approaches to track down the administrators of the Darknet markets. Darknet system administrators talk too much Infiltration of sites by undercover agents has been a tried-and-tested technique used by law enforcement for some time. Then, once arrests are made, it seems that most cyber-criminals are only too happy to inform on others in exchange for leniency in sentencing. Finally, there is the simple technique of participating in discussion forums and waiting for people to reveal too much information about themselves, something that a great deal of those arrested seemed to have been only too willing to do.   This last point is probably one of the more surprising ways of getting information about the “kingpins”behind the sites. One commenter on the discussion site Reddit, made the observation “I can’t believe how much information he gave about himself online” in referrence to Ross Ulbricht, the administrator of the original Silk Road who was arrested in 2013. It seems that Benthall, or Defcon, administrator of Silk Road 2.0 was little different. When Darknet criminals come up for air A significant weakness that criminals on the Darknet face in protecting their anonymity comes when they have to actually deal with the “real world”. This happens when they have to buy services like server hosting, deal with their Internet service provider and exchange Bitcoin for a currency they can actually use elsewhere. For drug vendors, there is the actual task of buying and shipping physical objects around the world which again presents a time when they reveal themselves.   It is at these points that Darknet criminals are at their most vulnerable and most likely to make an error giving law enforcement a chance of catching up with them. The Darknet market drivers Despite the success of operation Onymous, Darknet markets are still around and will continue to grow to meet an obvious and growing demand. Despite these services being on the so-called Dark Web, finding them is as simple as using Google and downloading the software package Tor. Darknet markets have driven easier access to cheaper and more reliable delivery of drugs to a global audience. The demand for these services is likely to be unaffected by the arrests because for every market that is taken down, someone will see the opportunity to take their place.   Already, markets like Evolution will have taken the clients and sellers from Silk Road 2.0 and other seized sites. Evolution in particular has become much more security conscious, implementing a range of techniques to frustrate law enforcement agencies' attempts to shut them down.   The drivers for these markets is the enormous amounts of money behind what is a simple business proposition. Silk Road 2.0 drove US $8 million in monthly sales. Assuming other sites were comparable, this represented an annual turnover of US $3 billion for all of the sites that were in operation before the bust. Coincidentally, this is roughly the same amount as annual trading volume of Bitcoin in US dollars, showing how much of Bitcoin’s current use is tied to the drug trade.   Europol chief, Troels Oerting has claimed that sites like Evolution are next in line for closure. Saying that it was only a matter of time before they got to them. Only time will tell if this turns out to be the case.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Payments provider BlueSnap raises $US50 million in latest funding round

11:23PM | Wednesday, 5 November

Global payment services provider BlueSnap has raised $US50 million ($A58 million) in growth financing, TechCrunch reports.   BlueSnap’s technology helps online companies maximise customer acquisition and retention through its global payment gateway and checkout pages.   The startup has been growing rapidly on the back of new technologies for buying and new types of shopping, which is driving the adoption of processing technologies. Stainless steel Apple Watch reportedly priced at $500, Gold version $4000+ French website is reporting that pricing for the stainless steel Apple Watch may start at $US500, while Gold Apple Watches will be available for between $US4000 and $US5000.   As MacRumors points out, the website has been a reliable source of information in the past, most recently reporting the dimensions of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pre-launch. Google Maps revamped Google Maps for iOS and Android has been revamped with new features including Material Design, restaurant booking through OpenTable, and Uber ride estimates. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 100.57 to 17,484.41. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US86 cents.

Meet the startup that could help promote your app

11:10PM | Wednesday, 5 November

When entrepreneur Stuart Hall wanted a way to track reviews for his app Discovr, he went and built one himself.   When he finished up at Discovr late last year, the track reviewing project became his new startup, Appbot.   Over 40,000 apps are using Appbot to track Google Play and Appstore reviews, rankings and keywords for all countries, with a daily email. AppbotX is the premium version of the app, which allows developers to communicate with their users, sending push notifications when problems arise, increasing user satisfaction, and in turn, the amount of positive reviews.   Eighteen months ago, Appbot co-founder Hall wanted to test some of the lessons he’d learned from developing Discovr, so he built a test app, 7 Minute Workout, in the fitness industry, a sector he knew nothing about. That app has grown to over 2.2 million downloads, and Hall says once he integrated Appbot revenue grew by 200%.   Earlier this year, Claire McGregor joined Appbot as co-founder and helped develop the startup’s monetization plan, which launched three months ago.   “The key challenge was identifying the specific features or elements of the product that our users attach a lot of value,” she says.   “It’s really a stats game to work out which users get value from which parts.”   After some consideration they settled on a freemium model, offering Appbot’s basic review tracking service for free, while Appbot X’s communication system is offered as part of a tiered subscription. It’s free for apps with less than five thousand API requests per month, and after that it’s $8 per month plus an additional $1 per month for every additional 100,000 requests.   McGregor says those subscriptions are tailored to cater for the different levels of enterprise, and while she won’t disclose how many of the 40,000 apps using Appbot are using the subscription feature, they’re happy with the results so far.   “From my point of view we’re going extremely well,” she says.   “We’ve got a very low touch point with paying customers, despite that, we’ve got a very strong early conversion rate and had no churn so far.   “So that’s really awesome, and despite introducing a paid element to the service, the sign-up rates aren’t slowing up at all.   “Often you find after charging people, the level of interest has dropped, but we haven’t really found that at all. “   The startup has been bootstrapped up until recently, when Hall says it received a small seed investment.   “All our growth so far has been organic, so we’re just starting to try out some advertising and some paid means of engaging users,” he says.   Stuart Hall's 5 things to think about when developing an app   1. The hard work starts after you've made the app.   2. Like any business, consider the market for your app really carefully.   3. Great reviews are really important.   4. Communicate with your users.   5. Just do it! Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Google now accepting third-party apps for Android TV via Google Play

11:44AM | Tuesday, 4 November

Google has opened up its Android TV streaming video platform to third-party app developers through its Google Play app store, as it begins shipping its Nexus Player device to selected markets.   Android TV apps, as with other Google Play apps, are submitted through the Developer Console.   However, in a post on its official Android developer blog, Google’s Android TV developer advocates Tarjei Vassbotn and Dan Galpin warn the tech giant will maintain high standards for apps on the platform.   “Even if you have already uploaded your app to the Google Play Developer Console, you will need to add TV graphics and screenshots, and opt-in to distribution on TV on the Pricing & Distribution page,” Vassbotn and Galpin say.   Google has also published detailed guidelines for app developers on creating TV quality apps, including details such as navigation, controller layout, advertising, web content, games and media playback for Android TV apps.   For example, the company insists TV apps are to be primarily accessed through the use a remote control, five-way direction pad or game controller rather than a touch interface, and developers need to include this information in their app manifest.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Five steps for a killer presentation

11:14AM | Tuesday, 4 November

So you’ve been asked to make a presentation and the thought alone is nearly enough to get your blood pressure soaring. We’ve all been there. Presentations can be daunting and nerve wracking.   Whenever it comes to public speaking, we tend to focus in on the negatives. What if I lose my way and forget what I’m saying? What if I embarrass myself? What if people find my presentation boring?!   These thoughts plague even the most experienced presenters. But if you set enough time aside for preparation and planning, and really get to know your material, you’ll be well on your way to turning this around and producing a killer presentation. With enough practice, you’ll never fear the podium again. Here’s five simple steps to get you started.   1. Purpose   One of the hardest things about giving a presentation can be just figuring out where to start. It’s easy to spend hours tossing up which image to open with or waste hours procrastinating. A simple step to figure out where to start is to first define the purpose behind your presentation. Make sure that your first point of call is setting out the reason for presenting that topic and the outcome you aim to achieve. If the purpose seems unclear or you’re unable to narrow down one key motive, ask yourself what would or wouldn’t happen if you didn’t give the presentation. Once you have the purpose down pat, you will find it a lot easier to structure your main ideas, and the final product will flow better. Think deep, reflect and spend as much time as you need to get really clear on this.   2. Planning   Unstructured and poorly prepared presentations are confusing and do nothing more than cause audiences to quickly zone out. Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and start to map out your ideas. Using a mind map, start to break down your presentation into 3-5 key groups and then order your content in these groups.   This will ensure that your content flows and makes sense at the big picture level. Rather than skipping forward to create your visual aid, spend time planning in this way. It will also help you generate ideas to create powerful content and ensure that you haven’t forgotten to include any important points.   Preparing proof points that substantiate your ideas will add credibility and grab your audience’s attention. People hold onto genuine, bold facts and figures and are likely to remember them in the future. Regardless of how interesting or impressive your ideas are, if you don’t provide material to support them, they are likely to get lost along the way – especially if your presentation is anything longer than about half an hour. Consider integrating various types of proof points, whether these are statistics, infographics or case studies that illustrate your point.   3. Engagement   The opening of a presentation is the opportunity to capture your audience’s attention and give them a reason to engage with your ideas. All too often, presenters take the easy way out and open with an agenda and then an ‘about us’ slide. This approach is not only boring, it’s also a little rude. It’s the equivalent of meeting someone for the first time and spending the first five minutes entirely talking about yourself. Instead, try opening your presentation by defining the problem your product or service solves, provide examples of where it has been successful, and then quantify the outcome it delivers – all in 60 seconds. Test out this approach in your next presentation and watch the difference it makes on your audience. Most presenters struggle to keep an audience engaged for longer than half an hour. Don’t wait for a question slide at the end of this. Take time out to prepare regular, engaging interactions and discussions points to capture your audience's attention.   4. Visuals   Incorporating visual aids into your presentation is the most effective way to make your message memorable. According to developmental molecular biologist Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules, we are incredible at remembering images. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll only remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. But make sure to use your visuals wisely – they should be used to create a stronger presentation, not be the presentation.   Only use relevant images that support your ideas and act as proof points. Using too many visuals or unrelated ones will only distract your audience and deter their attention from your ideas. Remember, the aim of including visual aids is to have tools on hand that support you as a presenter, rather than being the focal point of your presentation. So make sure your visuals on the screen or board behind you are in sync with your verbal ideas – not the actual speaking notes you’re talking from.   Be creative in your choice of visuals and move away from the stale stock Google images. Sources I recommend include:   Create awesome layouts and designs on: Beautiful free high res images from: Custom icon creation from: Create PDF documents from website with:   5. Practice   Many people spend too much time writing their presentation and don’t save any time for practice and refinement. Practising a presentation may seem unnecessary but it’s a crucial element of a strong delivery. Many errors or improvements are only picked up once a presentation is spoken out loud. And you will feel far more confident and natural during your presentation if you have already run through it.   When practising, it’s important to deliver the presentation exactly the way you would on the day. People often do a last minute run through by reading off the computer screen or off a piece of paper. But when it comes to the actual presentation, they aren’t prepared to speak in front of a large group of people and don’t project their voice or use their body language properly. When practising, stand on the other side of the room from your computer and deliver your speech as though there is an audience in front of you. Use a wireless clicker to practice referring to your presentation whilst addressing your audience.   Whether in the office, in the classroom, or otherwise, people are giving you their time. So pay them respect and put in the appropriate time and planning to make sure your presentation effectively conveys your message, and does so in the most engaging way possible. Put in the effort to follow these five simple rules and in no time you’ll be presenting like a pro.   Kris Flegg an Official Accredited Prezi expert and with his team has spent the last four years helping individuals and corporations such deliver visually pleasing and highly effective presentations.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple executive signals US spring for Watch launch

11:39PM | Monday, 3 November

The Apple Watch launch is scheduled to arrive later than originally anticipated, according to Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts.   Ahrendts told retail employees in a video message the launch is scheduled for the US spring, according to 9to5mac.   “We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring,” she says in the video.   Spring begins on March 20 in the US and lasts until June. Apple has consistently said the Apple Watch will ship in early 2015.   Publicis buys Sapient for $3.7 billion Publicis Groupe SA has agreed to purchase Sapient Corp for $US3.7 billion ($A4.26 billion), pushing the world’s third-largest advertising company deeper into digital offerings and the United States, Bloomberg reports.   The French company is moving on from a failed $35 billion merger with Omnicom, which was abandoned after executives clashed about how to run the combined entity.   Google updates Calendar app   Google has updated Google Calendar app, features include automatic event creation from emails, and a new Schedule View that includes photos and maps of the places its users are going.   The new Google Calendar works on all Android 4.1+ devices.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 24.28 to 17,366.24. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

Seven keys to success in SEO in 2014

10:21AM | Thursday, 30 October

SEO may seem like a complex concept, but it’s actually pretty simple. Just think of Google as a concierge whose job is to connect its users with what they are looking for. It has to assess the user’s intent and list the results it feels will be most helpful.   SEO is the process of making your website the most helpful to the user and sending Google these signals. So how do you send Google the signals? The first step is to make your website the most helpful in your niche! This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Often businesses want to ‘do’ SEO without changing their online strategy or considering the user experience. Or in other words, take an ordinary website and make it miraculously rank well in Google.   But there is more to it than that. Along with improving the website and user experience, you need to communicate that to Google and this comes in the form of relevant links to the website, quality site architecture and fresh content.   What does this mean for SEO in 2014 and beyond? Well, with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update at the start of this year the trend is now towards natural language search. These keys will help your site to rank well in search results.   1. Natural language – diversify keywords Figure 1: image source from   Google removed exact-match searches in its Keyword Planner in its recent update for the tool, and it is a big problem for us SEOs because it is more difficult to calculate the performance of a certain keyword, making it harder to identify which keywords we need to focus on.   Google is trying to drive us towards using keyword themes rather than exact-matched keywords. Google doesn’t want us to put the stress on exact-match keywords too much as it also leads to irrelevance when you target a certain keyword even if the relevance is unclear, just because it has a significant volume of searches.   A survey conducted by Kelton Research shows that 65.4% of adult Americans spend more than two hours online searching for information on specific topics, with 72.3% experiencing search engine fatigue when searching websites. However, when the study was conducted SEO focused on exact keyword searches.   Google is trying to take its keyword searching to the next level, by improving it to better understand natural language queries. This is also likely to solve the “search engine fatigue” problem caused by the implementation of the Hummingbird update.   According to Danny Sullivan in his post, “FAQ: All About the New Google ‘Hummingbird’ Algorithm”, Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. This means that pages that match the meaning do better, rather than pages with matching keywords.   Key takeaways:   Use natural language in keyword targeting Target keyword themes, not just specific keywords Use Google’s suggestions for what people are searching for Avoid slapping exact match keywords together, if they don’t read well Try predicting the intent of the searcher when judging a keyword’s importance 2. Use links more cautiously – but still use them Figure 2   A few years ago, building links for the sake of it worked very well – I tried it too, but moved on from that practice out of necessity. In years past even a low-quality website could outrank better ones through building links using the targeted keywords and spam link building tactics.   Now more than ever Google is guarding its search results, trying to ensure the most relevant and high-quality results possible.   With that being said, Google has implemented the Penguin algorithm to help it fight spam by penalising websites that were over-optimised for certain keywords, and websites who practice buying links that passed link juice.   Key points to optimise your website better for Penguin:   Avoid using link building software that creates content for you and posts it everywhere Avoid participating in link networks Diversify link sources Build links from trusted websites Aim to build links (relationships) to website owners/webmasters (it may result in higher quality links in the future) Aim to create value. Otherwise, don’t do it. 3. Quality content is king Figure 3: Image sourced from    Quality content has always been king, and writing content just for the sake of it is futile. If you use your valuable time to create content without having a goal or knowing your audience, chances are it will get you nowhere.   When creating content, you have to consider your audience, what matters to them, and if the content is good enough for them to share with people they know.   Writing content for SEO is tied to content marketing, as it needs to perform well, by giving valuable and relevant information. As the Content Marketing Institute says: Figure 4: Source from Content Marketing Institute   When you don’t think about your audience when creating an article, it’s likely that it won’t matter to them and they won’t share it. This just wastes your time without giving back something in return.   How do you know when your content matters to your audience?   It gains editorial links It gets shared Visitors are likely to stay on page to read the entire content and post their comments Increase in newsletter subscriptions   You can track the performance of your pages/contents through tracking software, with Google Analytics the tool most commonly used. Always remember to track, analyse, reassess, and tweak if necessary.   Writing content without prioritising quality will backfire and cause Google Panda to kick in and devalue your website.   Key takeaways:   Write content that will matter to your audience Write content that educates and sells your services to a normal degree It’s OK to publish content on a regular basis (weekly or even monthly) as long as it’s useful Creating content for the sake of it is a waste of time Always track the performance of your content and tweak if necessary.   4. Leverage local search Start using local optimisation as one of your strategies, if you aren’t already. According to Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, 57% of users search online for a local business more than six times a year, 39% search online for local businesses at least once per month, and 15% search online for a local business almost every day. Figure 5: Source of image and information from    Benefits of local SEO:   Visits from local searches are more likely to convert More targeted audience Fewer competitors (depending on the niche) Attract more people in your area   If you have done local SEO properly, the visits you get are more likely to convert into customers. If you have served those customers right, they are also going to become returning customers.   The customers who loved your business will share their experience and impressions with their colleagues, family, and friends in neighbouring places, thus giving you free advertising. Just imagine if those colleagues, and friends of theirs, do the same thing. Doing local SEO is like killing two birds with one stone. If you are a starter business, ranking in top organic searches is hard so stay in your local, but don’t limit yourself to it.   Having little competition is another advantage, as opposed to targeting global audiences. This is going to save you a lot of money in your investment to SEO.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Value proposition – what is your website worth? Figure 6   SEO is a very challenging investment to put your money into. If the SEO campaign you invested in returned a negative ROI, then it is considered a failure. What’s the purpose of initiating SEO if you are not getting a positive ROI?   Before blaming SEO, however, make sure your website is adding value for your customers. Consider SEO as just part of your overall sales pitch.   Improving your website’s value is hard. Especially when you have to come up with great headlines that visitors will notice and get them enticed. Some guidelines to creating website copy that will increase the value of your website for your visitors include:   Stating the problem you will help them to solve Educating them in what you do Showing them what your other customers have to say about your services.   Be relevant   Relevance is one factor that increases website value and depends on if the visitors to your site find what they are looking for. They won’t find your website valuable if you don’t provide what they’re trying to find.   Highlight benefits, not features   One of the things that matters to consumers are the benefits they will get from you, so state them. As opposed to the traditional method of stating the features of your services, stating the benefits is effective marketing. Save the features for later.   State the problem you will help them solve   Is there a problem that your business will help your customers solve? Write it in your website copy. The users that reach your website are probably looking for a solution to the problem they need help solving.   Key takeaways:   Don’t assume your website visitors understand your website copy. Test and refine. Feature the benefits your customers will receive Remember to tell them what you do Provide customer reviews 6. Conversion optimisation – leveraging current success Figure 7: Image source from    Conversion optimisation and search engine optimisation are different concepts. In order to see the fruitful efforts of your SEO campaign, you need to optimise your website for conversion. There’s a very thin line that separates SEO and CRO. One will optimise your website to drive more traffic to it, and the other one optimises your website to convert those visitors into customers.   As industry expert Kate Morris said in her post, “CRO and SEO: SEM Civil War”: “Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is simply focusing on the conversion as the core metric when optimizing any particular page.”   A search engine optimiser will usually know how to optimise your website for conversion if they are truly experienced. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to judge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign without optimising your website for conversion.   Failing to do so leads to false judgement as to whether or not your SEO is effective as some faults may lie with how the website treats its visitors.   Key takeaways:   SEO (search engine optimiser) is different from CRO (conversion rate optimiser) You need a CRO to boost your SEO campaign and to help you get more out of your investment. 7. Traffic strategy, opposed to just rankings Figure 8: Data source from    According to online advertising network Chitika, having the top position in search results will give you 33% of search traffic.   This research proves the value of SEO for online businesses. Just imagine your website ranking with a keyword that is highly searched, resulting in say, 18,000 searches per month and your website receives 33% of that traffic every month.   While this provides great value to online businesses, ranking in top search results is not guaranteed.   As an SEO, traffic is one of my main goals as it opens the floodgates for conversions – assuming that your customers are satisfied with your services and you have great reviews, along with several other factors.   With that said; our main goal is to generate more traffic and then achieve rankings. It might sound in reverse but it’s true, and that is what makes our career more challenging.   The only way to do this is by adding value with each link we create. Remember that value is also quality, and in today’s SEO, quality is better than quantity.   Getting 12 links per month that drives traffic is more important than getting more links that only aim to improve rankings. Again, no one can guarantee you top rankings because of unpredictable algorithmic changes, but increase of traffic is always possible.   Key takeaways:   SEO is important to online businesses Ranking is not the only means of traffic When building links, think of the traffic you will get from each link you build Adding value to the places you build links from, as they are more likely to drive traffic to your site A balance of quality and quantity is important No one can guarantee rankings SEO – keeping you on top 2014 has been an exciting time for SEO and it is now much more about quality than ever. Apply these tips and make the most of your online presence.   What are your thoughts about SEO in 2014? Add a comment below.   Scott Donald runs CreativSEO and has worked with successful start-ups and established businesses alike, helping them succeed online.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.