The web represents huge opportunities for start-up entrepreneurs to humanise their organisations. This makes us much more likable and trustworthy than the bigger corporates we may face as competitors. International speaker Jay Baer was the social media keynote at the recent National Growth Summit and he introduced a brilliant concept called the ‘humanisation highway’. It is simply a five-step journey that we go on where we gradually humanise our businesses: 1. Ignoring This what most companies are doing right now. Nearly everyone has heard of social media but most simply don’t use it yet. It may be fear, anxiety, lack of time, lack of resources or simply lack of interest. Or perhaps you have set yourself up with social media accounts but they are lying dormant and neglected. 2. Listening All this involves is setting up Google Alerts and logging into your accounts on a regular basis to see what is going on. If you’re at this stage of the journey you are likely to be following a handful of people you like of Twitter, Facebook and you may follow certain blogs. If you simply listen, you’re putting yourself ahead of most of your competition because at least you know what is going on. This stage can be very exciting because you can see the power of the community and you’re possibly thinking about taking the next step. 3. Responding This is where you stop lurking and you get involved. It’s often the scariest step mentally because you’re no longer anonymous and you’re putting yourself out there for all the world to see. It’s also the shortest stop because you realise there was nothing to worry about. It’s actually quite fun and the business benefits are enormous. Tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search make it really easy to keep track of what people are talking about, so you are in the position to respond to conversations, which normally means replying to tweets or leaving comments on a blog. 4. Participating If you have a blog and you use all the usual social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn on a regular basis, then you’re a rock solid participant. The key difference with this phase is that you are ‘contributing content’. The rule of thumb online is that 90% lurk, 9% respond and 1% contribute. Congrats on being in the top 1%. 5. Story Telling The final and ultimate stop on the ‘humanisation highway’, and it is where you are actively contributing and sharing compelling stories. Stories that take the shape of blog posts, YouTube videos, e-books, podcasts, emails, infographics and webinars that people simply ‘have to’ share with their friends and colleagues. This is how you earn your true fans, and the reward is that they start spreading the word for you via tweets, Facebook likes, email forwards and blogging. When you become a master storyteller, then you’ve well and truly humanised your organisation! For more information to guide you on this humanisation journey, you may like my free e-book Web Strategy Secrets.
Storyberg co-founder Michael Dijkstra has revealed why the start-up surprisingly folded, shortly after being accepted into the 2013 Startmate program, but insists it’s “definitely not the end” of his start-up adventures. Storyberg, which helped app owners align product development with key metrics, was founded by Dijkstra and Kevin Nguyen, both of whom previously worked for Pollenizer. In addition to being selected as one of eight start-ups for the Startmate class of 2013, Storyberg was shortlisted for season two of the Optus Innov8 Seed Program. But less than three months into the Startmate program, Dijkstra confirmed in a blog post Storyberg is closing down. “In January 2013 [Nguyen and I] both went full-time. By that time, over 120 people had signed up, however, the data showed that we were the only ones to validate our features,” Dijkstra wrote. “People signed up but were only using our tool for task management, not hypothesis validation. “We decided that we did not want to build another project management tool that’s got a better design/UI so we pivoted to focus on the validation part of the lean start-up workflow. “We quickly relaunched our product as an analytics tool.” Storyberg’s pitch was: “Google Analytics tells you something happened, KISSmetrics tells you who did it, Storyberg tells you who did and why”. But the team quickly realised there was not enough value in the “why” on its own, without all of the additional information attached to the “who”, offered by services such as KISSmetrics. “We did not have the resources or desire to build all the baseline features of a product like KISSmetrics and then add our own unique value proposition on top,” Dijkstra said. “In the end, as a team, Kevin and I believed we had exhausted our possibilities with Storyberg and did not have anything else to firmly ‘pivot into’.” Dijkstra told StartupSmart the response from Startmate was “all very positive”, with co-founder Niki Scevak in full support of the team’s decision. Dijkstra is quick to point out Storyberg did not fold as a result of any disagreements between Nguyen and himself, saying he and Nguyen will potentially work together again in the future. But he is adamant nothing could be done to save Storyberg, insisting a second pivot was not possible. “The key to a real pivot is, they say, to plant one foot on the ground and then turn on it… There was nothing we could do to pivot into the space we had identified,” he says. “We weren’t ready to start from scratch again and do everything from day one because it’s a massive undertaking.” Dijkstra says if it hadn’t been for Startmate, it might have taken Storyberg a lot longer to make this realisation. “I think if we didn’t do Startmate we might have been in this situation six or 12 months later. [Startmate is] an accelerator and that’s what it does – it speeds everything up,” he says. “It was a great experience. The learning around the whole process of pitching, demo days, dealing with investors – you get a lot of support in that area, which is all new to us.” When asked about his involvement in the Australian start-up scene, Dijkstra says it’s “definitely not the end”. “Through Pollenizer and Startmate and everything, you become part of the start-up family in Australia,” he says. Startmate could not be reached for comment.
Bigcommerce was created after the two founders met in an online chat room. Four years on, the Aussie eCommerce start-up has secured $35 million in venture capital funding, built offices in Sydney and Texas and attracted 30,000 customers. Here, co-founder Eddie Machaalani passes on his top tips on customer profiling. Most marketing plans fail because they don’t focus on anyone and try to attract everyone. As a result, companies are selling products that customers don't want. Sadly, most customers aren't at the centre of the feedback loop. Sadder still, most customers will tell you what they want if you just ask. In the first instalment of this series http://www.startupsmart.com.au/strategy/the-seven-marketing-steps-that-landed-us-with-30000-clients/201303119130.html my colleague and co-CEO Mitchell Harper presented a seven-step marketing plan that can almost certainly double your sales in 12 months and get you on your way to seven figures in revenue. Those steps were: Create your typical customer profile Position your products to appeal to your ideal customer Spread the word to people who fit your typical customer profile Wow them immediately after buying Follow up with lots of free, useful stuff Ask for a (video) testimonial Repeat steps 3-6 infinitely The first step of the plan: Create your typical customer profile Obviously, this works best when you already have a few dozen customers, because you’ll be surveying your existing client base (no matter how small) to understand future buyers better. Understand that this doesn’t have to be a costly process. There are free tools such as Google Docs and MailChimp that let you create a survey and mass email it easily and affordably. Let’s say you sell customised sports apparel. Get into the heads of your customers with a survey that gives you information to help build a typical profile of someone who is likely to buy from you. Useful information includes: Sex Age range Salary Marital status Job Hobbies How did they find you? Why did they buy from you? What problem did your product help them solve? Would they recommend you to a friend? And so on. The results of this survey will let you literally write a profile of your typical customer. I mean really write it out. For example: “John is 29 years old, has brown hair, green eyes, weighs 197 pounds and is 5 foot 11 inches tall. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and works in an office all day. He loves to watch the game with his buddies on weekends and found our website via a referral from a friend at work.” “He bought from us because of our large selection of products, has recommended us to at least one friend and was happy with his purchase so would buy from us again. He also loves video games, playing poker and has a high school education.” That makes your next step easier: Position your products to appeal to your typical customer Put yourself in John's shoes. Ask yourself, "If I were John, what would grab my attention and make me either sign up for information or buy something, instead of closing my web browser?" Some ideas: An email newsletter about his favourite AFL team with little-known facts about players. A free shipping coupon that he can use on his first order. Photos or videos of other customers (who look and sound like John) wearing your product. Remember, your goal is to become relatable to John. Anything and everything you write or display on your website, in your emails — any communication — must feel like it's speaking directly to him. You’re building a personal rapport with John (even though he’s a profile of a typical customer). That’s crucial, because people buy from people they know, like or respect. Next time, we look at how to spread the word to people who fit your customer profile with some proven guerrilla marketing tactics.
Above: Ben Sze, Duncan Anderson and Jeremy Cox from Tutor on Demand Yesterday, we profiled three of the restless young start-ups that are aiming to become the next Aussie tech superstars, with a little help from the Startmate accelerator program. There was the SME tech help service, the communication tool for parents and child minders and the security crowdsourcers. Below, we speak to three more of the Startmate class of 2013, which have been lavished with $50,000, intensive mentoring and a trip to the US. Tutor on Demand Website: https://tutorondemand.com.au/ Founders: Ben Sze, Duncan Anderson and Jeremy Cox What if you were a student wanting to top up your studies with some learning via your smartphone? And what if you were a teacher after a little extra cash and the chance to help a wider pool of students? These two elements are drawn together for Tutor Demand, which features video content of 18 different teachers discussing 15 different topics, to help high school students. Where did this idea spring from? Anderson: Ben, Jeremy and I all worked together at Goldman Sachs and then did our own thing. We kept in touch and Ben was tutoring a bit. He had an idea to set up Skype, so we have tutors one side of a city and students the other side of the city. He spoke to me about an idea in South Korea called MegaStudy, which is an on-demand resource with multiple teachers. It has a market cap of $1 billion. We thought the business model could work here in a similar way. Why hasn’t this happened until now? It seems like quite a simple idea. Sze: Internet speeds weren’t so good until about 10 years ago. But, also, schools are slow moving beasts. We are focused on finding great teachers and empowering them to teach more than the 50 students they normally teach. Another barrier to entry is the time teachers would have to take to build and then sit and upload content – there’s a lot of time commitment there and not a lot of time. How does it work? Sze: We record teachers doing video lectures over a week period and show it in bite-sized pieces, five or six videos. The focus is high school at the moment. There’s a really good opportunity as no one rewards good teachers – you get the same regardless of whether you are a good or bad teacher, unlike, say, a lawyer. We have a recording studio, so the teachers come to us, do a Powerpoint presentation and walk away. There’s no need for them to have equipment, so there’s no hassle for them. Students get access online through a referral or their school purchases access on their behalf. They might use it for just Year 12 physics or five other subjects, for example. Four weeks before exams, we expect to see lots of students watching all the videos and doing a crash course. Who are you selling this to, exactly? Anderson: Initially, we saw this as additional to the schools – there’s a big market for top-up lectures and here you get great teachers at great price points. But we had teachers come to us and say they want to purchase for a class and a few libraries asked the same. So two schools purchased from us. We are currently looking at all channels – directly to students and parents and some to schools. What’s the business model? Anderson: We sell subscriptions to get access to a subject for an entire year, over two parts. So you get, say, chemistry for $25 for one part. That gives you unlimited access. We’ve found that students usually buy more than once. Schools can then buy access for all subjects, for a price per student. We are still trying to figure that out. Sze: One school we piloted with had nearly 50% of students using the videos getting an A or A+ in their final exams. Only 25% get an A or A+ usually. We were quite pleased with that. So far, we’ve reached 2,700 students across 350 different schools. For schools, it adds another level of teaching. Students get access to a great teacher whenever they need it. They have an iPhone app they can use wherever they go and consolidate what they’ve learned. None of you has a tech background, which is strange for a tech start-up. Anderson: Yes, it is a bit unusual. But we did get it designed and get it all done, so I’d view us as project managers that have an understanding of tech, but didn’t build the core project. We had people help us out with recording, generally multimedia students. The back-end was initially built by friends of Ben, while the design came from a few different places. What would your advice be to anyone applying to Startmate? Anderson: If you’ve built a lot of start-ups in the past, you’ll probably have an easy time. But if you haven’t, get traction first. It helped us that we had customers, product and revenue. It wasn’t just talk. If you apply, don’t just have a great idea. Go out there and build something. You all had comfortable jobs. Why do this? Anderson: Building your own thing is much more interesting and engaging than working for other people. Tutor on Demand can have strong, positive effects on society. Good education allows people to make better decisions. We feel we can empower great teachers and build something that is riskier but the reward is completely different. As Steve Jobs says, do something you love that doesn’t feel like work. You end up really caring about what you’re doing. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Shiftr Website: http://www.shiftrapp.com/ Founders: Adrian Dean and Ludek Dolejsky Shiftr is a very modern start-up story. The founders discovered each other via Google and launched a simple but clever idea for an app despite only meeting each other a couple of times – mainly due to the fact Dean’s Canberra base was a little far from the Czech Republic, where Dolejsky was living. The start-up’s app allows workers to swap shifts without lengthy phone calls and organisation. What’s the benefit of being in Startmate? It’s a big learning curve, having seen the calibre of our peers. Startmate has given us $50,000 – which is 50,000 $1 experiments we can make to run and iterate our ideas. We want to get into a tight cycle of rapid change, while companies don’t change so quickly. We want bang for our buck in every way, such as getting a place rent-free in Sydney. A friend agreed to this if we arranged to move his stuff in, which I did. It saved us around $10,000. So how did you meet Ludek? I was in San Francisco when I first made contact, via a Google search. I had another idea called MyMyke, which was a distributed microphone app. He’d created software for that so I contacted him. He’d developed something to just spy on friends, something fun, and I said let’s retool it. We worked on it for a month and then I shared a Pilsner with him when I went backpacking. I then floated the idea of Shiftr maybe 18 months ago. My girlfriend couldn’t get out of work and had the whole hassle of calling around and getting a replacement. She had the threat of not getting work if she dropped out without getting someone to cover her. I thought there was a real opportunity there to create an app that was easy for staff to use. I didn’t want to create a full rostering system, as it’s hard for businesses to change those big processes, but employers weren’t bridging to smartphone very well when swapping shifts, they’ll use Facebook or text. How does it work? Any employee can download the app and invite co-workers in. We include managers in this too, as they are on the front line, having to deal with this pain with tools lumped on them by IT departments; people who have never flipped a burger. Employees jump in and can create a shift – it takes you about 10 seconds. You push ‘swap’ and it notifies everyone in workplace that they want to swap and other staff have the option to grab it. The manager gets to choose the winning employee. How will you monetise it? We are going to charge managers when they want to claim their workplace as official workplaces. We’ll add features such as group messaging and store ‘walls’. Obviously they get control over swapping too. It doesn’t require everyone in the business sign up, but catching point is around 40% of a workplace. We trialled a McDonald’s store and it had a 60% take-up in the first few hours. We’ll have a subscription model with a 30-day trial. The charge depends on the business, we’re looking at $30 to $40 a month. We are looking at a flat site fee. We found workplaces want that, rather than pay $1 per employee or anything like that. We’re actually a small part of these massive rostering systems. We are filling that pain point when someone calls up to say ‘I can’t make it’ because it costs a lot of time to coordinate. Eventually, we’d like to be able to match people who are skilled casual workers with different workplaces. That’s the long-term vision – complete labour flexibility. How did you persuade Ludek to move here? Well, Australia has a certain allure to it. Every European thinks Australia is a beautiful place with beautiful people and beaches. He has a tech consultancy company and felt he could take it as far as he could. This way, he gets to learn more and challenge himself. I think we complement each other well. I’m not overly technical, while he’s not someone to sit in front of a client. How many workplaces have signed up? We started on one site with a trial. We had a terrible product but the look on the manager’s face was ‘wow, staff can see shifts in their phone’. He recommended it and it grew rapidly to eight workplaces in Canberra. We’ve now got 18, with another three coming on board – I’ve had calls from businesses in Hobart and the Central Coast. We feel a lot of these companies have this problem. This initial roll out works well with McDonald’s, but we’re also looking at Woolworths and Walmart – big brand names. We have interest from nurses and doctors too. We have just had the app on the app store and have done no marketing, so people are obviously searching for it. Managers say ‘we need this.’ Next, we’ll target industry groups and thought leaders that are talking about absenteeism. We’re starting to ramp the marketing up. We’re getting a lot of fanatical support from managers in McDonald’s –one guy got us into five different stores as he was raving about it. What are your ambitions for the business? Niki (Scevak) gave us a pep talk and said you need to accelerate to five to 50 to 100 stores quickly, otherwise you’ll lose out. The longer term goal is to crack into the US market. We’ve had to be very careful when choosing our words – shifts works well across countries, where roster in US means sports roster. I hope to get into the US by May. If we’re not hitting our targets, we’ll see if the value proposition is strong enough and if we can continue. We don’t want to be stuck with a stillborn company, earning enough to pay salary but not growing.
This article first appeared on April 12th, 2012. If you manage all your email through Microsoft Outlook then you probably deal with the Outlook calendar as well. But if you’re using an external calendar, it can be a nuisance to sync the two.
Above: Chris Raethke, Damien Brzoska and Saxon Fletcher from Supportie (Image: Zach Kitschke). Startmate may have evolved from a trailblazer in the start-up accelerator scene to one of several incubators offering broadly similar things, but it is still regarded as the gold standard by many aspiring tech entrepreneurs. The Sydney-based program, now in its third year, hothouses web and mobile ventures by throwing an army of top-notch mentors and $50,000 at them, as well as providing them with a handy trip to Silicon Valley. The participants for the 2013 iteration of Startmate were picked back in December, with Niki Scevak, co-founder of the scheme, declaring “we have been looking for those unique ‘two shit’ teams – those which get shit done, and also give a shit about the customer and their problems”. So which of the class of 2013 are set for riches in Australia and beyond? We spoke to this year’s participants to get their insights and will be profiling them in two parts on StartupSmart: Supportie (formerly GetStall) What? Technical help for your small business. There are experts online waiting to help. · Founders? Chris Raethke, Damien Brzoska, Saxon Fletcher Website: http://www.supportie.com/ Why did you apply to Startmate? We remember seeing BugHerd being accepted into the first intake and saying, “Wow, that’s a really cool product. This Startmate thing sounds exciting.” Before applying we were running our own web company, building out MVPs for other people’s start-ups, and we really wanted to pursue an idea of our own. So late last year we had saved up some money and felt we had a good product (GetStall) to apply with. So we did. What was the application process like? As a tech team this was the hardest part for us. The application had a lot of tough questions around sales, marketing, finances, etc. Getting answers for these meant a lot of whiteboard sessions, reading and learning for us. It really helped us to grow as a team, and thankfully we have a really strong tech team so we were able to get through (even though our business skills were a bit light on). How are you finding the program so far? The program is great – there are a lot of really smart people here and some really interesting problems that people are solving. It is definitely an emotional roller-coaster, as any start-up could relate with. Some days are up, some days are down. The big thing we have learnt is that this doesn’t end mid-April when we go to the States. This is something which will continue on for at least the next four to five years. Why did you pivot? We were four weeks into pushing GetStall out to the masses and, while we were getting quite a few shops signing up, we weren’t getting many sales. We spent a few days going over what we had achieved and learnt so far, and the numbers didn’t show us anything which we could get too excited about so we chose to move onto something new. In hindsight, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be performing quickly. Things take time and unfortunately we learnt that the hard way. A day off, and a chance to breath and get some sleep, would have been a good idea. How do you make money? Like many marketplace-type businesses, the plan has always been to clip the ticket. We are actually only three weeks into this business, so the actual pricing will need to be refined once we have more data. What is your vision for Supportie? Supportie is still very much in the early stages and we are still doing a lot of discovery. We have been focusing on a small segment of the market at the moment, so we can’t say too much more just yet. How do you plan to achieve your vision? We’ve already spent two weeks assessing two markets within the Supportie space. The current plan is to spend a bit more time looking at possibilities in this space and then decide where we want to specifically focus. So the current plan is to learn more and then make a plan. Kinderloop What? A simple and secure way for child carers to communicate with parents. Founders? Dan Day and Daniel Walker Website: http://www.kinderloop.com/ What was the inspiration for Kinderloop? Dan Day: After having my two children in daycare for three years, I was frustrated by the lack of communication. Collecting them at the end of the day, it was impossible to find out what they learnt, ate or did. The carers were always so time-poor as well. Why is this needed? Kinderloop solves this problem by allowing carers to record events as they happen during the day. This saves them valuable time reporting, saves money in consumables and keeps them fully engaged with parents. What is your revenue model? Each carer pays a monthly fee and the parents pay for premium add-ons. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Why apply for Startmate? We liked the idea of an accelerated program, the mentor list was attractive and it fitted nicely with where we were at in Kinderloop’s lifecycle. What was the application process like? We found it relatively straightforward. The one-minute video pitch was great practice and the demo interviews were fun – it really made us refine our spiel. How are you finding the program so far? We are enjoying it – you work as hard as you desire (which is hard, let me tell you!) It’s great sharing the highs and lows with the other teams, and there is so much learning each day. Are you hoping to raise additional funds for Kinderloop, either here or overseas? Yes we are. We will raise a round of $850k from both here and overseas to help build the team. Where do you see yourselves in a year from now? We aim to be the go-to communication tool for anyone who cares for children, from preschool to sports clubs, worldwide. Bugcrowd What? Crowdsourced security testing. We run managed bug bounty programs for business. Founders? Casey Ellis and Sergei Belokamen Website: http://bugcrowd.com/ What was the inspiration for Bugcrowd? Ellis: Bugcrowd was the result of a series of conversations with customers of my previous business, a security testing consultancy, where the bug bounties run by Google, Mozilla, Facebook and others kept coming up in conversation. I started asking the question, if you think these are such are good idea, why aren’t you running one? Off the back of that, I had the idea to create a business that handles those objections and runs bug bounties as a fully outsourced service. You’ve described yourself as “Kaggle for security vulnerabilities”. How so? One of the mentors at Startmate called us that. We are similar to Kaggle or 99designs in that we crowdsourced, meaning our customers pay for the results they want, not the effort that went into the results. The way Bugcrowd works: The client sets a reward pool, a duration for the bounty, and tells us what they’d like the crowd to test. The crowd is notified and starts testing. The first person to find each security flaw wins a reward, and there are higher rewards for the most creative or severe flaws. At the end we take the findings and validate them, then produce a developer-friendly report of things to fix. We then manage the payouts to the crowd. What’s your revenue model? We take a percentage of the reward pool offered in each bounty. We also have premium paid features, such as our Crowdcontrol system (which controls testing traffic) and private bounties (where only the top-ranked researchers are invited). Why apply for Startmate? Bugcrowd is a great idea but, despite our experience in running businesses, we knew we’d need help taking it from being a great idea to being a great business. The Startmate mentor network is built for this purpose. What was the application process like? Hectic! I left applying a little bit late (like the day before) so I had a lot to do to get something sensible submitted in time. How are you finding the program so far? Excellent. The focus it brings is fantastic. The mentor network is invaluable and the money we got from them is letting us work full-time on making Bugcrowd awesome. Niki (the founder of Startmate) is a very focused guy who knows what it takes, and you can tell that he’s gone to great lengths to impart his experience into the program. You’ll be heading to San Francisco a bit later. What are you hoping to achieve there? The main purpose of the trip will be to pitch for seed capital to take the business to its next stage. Apart from that, I'll be doing a bunch of business development and meeting up with a bunch of industry friends who I’ve only known through Twitter for years, which I am really looking forward to. What’s your overall goal? Our overall goal is to connect the global white-hat security research community with companies of all shapes and sizes through the Bugcrowd platform. Our aim is to become synonymous with the concept of crowdsourcing your security testing. Another goal is to continue and expand our charity bounty program, where we do bounties for charities for free, and make that the first port of call for charities wishing to have their security tested.
It's been a while since the tech industry has seen a massive takeover deal, but this weekend delivered: cloud-storage group Dropbox agreed to acquire the popular new email app Mailbox for a price rumoured to be as high as $US100 million. The price is a huge premium for the app, which has only been available for a few weeks. But it also shows businesses in Silicon Valley are still willing to shell out massive amounts of money for very early, or even premature, ideas. Mailbox has become popular for its mail system, which allows users to delay receiving messages until certain times to help clear inboxes as quickly as possible. Mick Liubinskas, the co-founder of Australian start-up incubator Pollenizer, says email has become "one of the biggest areas of opportunity". "There are a lot of people attacking this in many different ways and it's a very good one to crack as well," he says. "But it's also a problem, because how do you disrupt something that's so embedded?" Reports, first from The Wall Street Journal, started emerging over the weekend that Dropbox had acquired Mailbox, where the company confirmed Mailbox would remain a separate app. Dropbox chief Drew Houston said he believed the acquisition would help the app grow "much faster". Houston also said he believed the deal would help Mailbox add new features quickly, such as handling attachments. In a blog post, he said the app's simplicity caught the company's attention. "Dropbox doesn't replace your folders or your hard drive: it makes them better. The same is true with Mailbox. It doesn't replace your email: it makes it better. Whether it's your Dropbox or your Mailbox, we want to find ways to simplify your life." With both Dropbox and Mailbox working so closely with cloud-based services, an acquisition makes sense. Mailbox is created by Orchestra, which was founded by Gentry Underwood. The app caused a splash during its release by creating a digital queue, with users having to wait days or even weeks to access the app – the company wanted to avoid any downtime caused by a rush of users. It was a smart move, bringing attention to the app's main feature – the ability to not only archive email quickly, but also tell email messages when they should be sent. For instance, users can decide to read an email later that day, or even in a few days. The Mailbox servers handle the message in the meantime, and then send the message back as per the user's instructions. Orchestra had already raised $5 million in funding from Charles River Ventures, SV Angel, Kapor Capital and Crunch Fund. The app already has 1.3 million users. The amazing part of the deal is the price, with TechCrunch claiming the deal was done for "well over" $50 million, to as high as $100 million, although All Things Digital says the structure of the deal makes an actual valuation difficult. The deal is in many ways a throwback to the past few years when small, relatively unproven businesses won millions in funding, such as the $1 billion Facebook-Instagram deal. More recently, however, those deals have become rarer. Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda says the acquisition is a smart one, as email has been ripe for innovation – it's essentially the same product as it was 20 years ago. "It was designed for simple messages that weren't time-critical. It was never designed for collaboration and sorting in the sense that a structured data application would be." Some have tried to advance the email process, such as Google with Google Wave, although the tech giant eventually shut that project down due to poor usage. The biggest change, Gedda says, is the move to cloud-based services. "The challenge now is to build upon that base line of email to make it more functional, collaborative and user-friendly, and then extend it to any device." This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
You might have seen the news this week Google will be shutting down its popular RSS aggregation service, Google Reader.
Three Business Enterprise Centres in regional areas have each received $200,000 government grants to provide coaching and mentoring to small businesses, but it’s unknown whether other BECs will receive similar support.
The other day, Old Taskmaster met an entrepreneur whose view of the cloud was somewhat up in the clouds, to say the least.
Adam Giles has been appointed the new Northern Territory chief minister, following a party room coup against Terry Mills.
Google is rolling out a major update to Street View in Australia today, with the search giant now displaying photos inside shopping centres and other buildings, giving local businesses a chance to boost their rankings.
Time is money when you're a business owner. The more efficient you are with your time, the more profitable your work and the more time you have to bring in new income.
Earlier today, an entrepreneur attempted to explain to the Taskmaster what “cloud computing” is.
A ride-sharing service that uses oversized pink moustaches to distinguish itself has spoken of its success at South by Southwest 2013, having raised $7 million from a number of investors.
A glove that lets people write in mid-air could spell the end of the keyboard and pen. Its creator claims it could even be woven into clothing so people can type anywhere.
The latest updates to Facebook’s News Feed are not only crucial progress from the company as it faces more competitors, but a call to action for SMEs, experts warn.
Queensland businesswoman Yvette Adams will take part in a study tour in Silicon Valley along with nine other women, two years after appearing in the 2011 StartupSmart Awards Top 50.
Over the coming weeks, StartupSmart will be running a five-part series that covers the legal basics involved in starting a business. This first instalment, by Lachlan McKnight, CEO of LegalVision, looks at the crucial decision of choosing a legal structure for your venture. Launching a new business is all-consuming. Unfortunately, in the rush to develop a viable product and sales strategy, many entrepreneurs forget to complete a crucial task: choosing an appropriate legal structure. As with anything in life, choosing a legal structure requires trade-offs. The simpler structures (sole trader or partnership) are cheaper and easier to set up but less flexible in the long term. Setting up a company, and potentially a family trust to hold your shares in it, is more complicated and expensive, but if your start-up does turn into the next Instagram you will benefit from your foresight. This article will give you a brief rundown on the benefits and drawbacks of the three most popular structures in Australia – sole trader, partnership and company. We will then discuss the benefits of using a family/discretionary trust structure to hold the shares in your company. Small and simple – sole trader A sole trader is an individual who operates a business in their own name. There are very few legal or taxation requirements to setting yourself up as a sole trader. A sole trader controls and manages the business. Any profits made during the operation of the business, as well as on its sale, are counted as the income of the individual who is the sole trader. Setting yourself up as a sole trader can make sense if you’re launching a business that will generate limited revenue, you don’t plan on taking on many liabilities and you are operating in an industry where the risk of being sued is low. A good example would be a PR consultant who works by herself. The key downside to being a sole trader is the fact that you, as an individual, take on all the risk of the business. This means that, for instance, you personally owe suppliers and lenders any unpaid amounts. Additionally, if you have a great year and generate over $180,000 in profit, a portion of your earnings will be taxed at the top marginal rate. If you’re more successful than expected you could end up with a huge tax bill! All together now – partnership A partnership is a group of individuals and/or entities that run a business together as partners. Although a partnership is not a separate legal entity (and as a consequence each partner pays tax on their proportion of the partnership income in a financial year), it must have a TFN and an ABN and it must lodge a tax return. Setting up a business as a partnership is cheap and easy, but only a limited number of businesses should consider this structure. The key downside to a partnership is the fact that each partner is legally responsible for all the liabilities and losses of the business (including taxation obligations and superannuation contributions), even if another partner incurs those liabilities. This means that each partner’s assets are at risk. When launching your business with a partner you will probably think nothing will ever go wrong – but this is rarely the case! If businesses start to fail it is not unusual for entrepreneurs to take on risks, hide these from their partners, and end up saddling the partnership with huge liabilities. Unfortunately, if you’re in a partnership, the debts your partner incurs become yours. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. From SME to behemoth – company A company is a legal entity that is separate from its shareholders or members. The shareholders are therefore not liable for the liabilities and losses of the company. This protects the assets of the shareholders. A company is a more complex, and consequently more expensive, way of structuring your business compared to a sole trader or partnership structure. There are initial establishment costs, regulatory costs (e.g. annual fees payable to ASIC) and compliance costs (e.g. accounting and other expenses relating to tax reporting). Incorporating is, however, the best way to go if you’re building a business that is going to take on liabilities, employees or investors. A company is a flexible structure which allows you to raise capital easily and ensures you are not personally liable for your businesses debts. The additional costs and complexity of setting up and running a company are heavily outweighed by its benefits. Reduce taxes and protect yourself – family/discretionary trust When launching a start-up which you’re aiming to build into a multimillion dollar company, it’s also a great idea to set up a discretionary or family trust. A discretionary trust is a trust in which the trust fund is held by a trustee and administered in accordance with the terms of a trust deed. In each financial year, the trustee determines which beneficiaries (if any) will receive distributions of income and/or capital from the trust, and in what proportions. Using a trust to hold shares in your company is a great option for a few reasons. The first relates to tax. If you end up selling your start-up to Google for $10m you will receive an extremely large windfall over one or two financial years. If you hold shares in your company personally, your tax bill will be immense given the top marginal rate in Australia is 45%. Holding your shares through a trust structure allows your clever accountant to significantly reduce your tax liability. Secondly, using a trust structure will reduce the risks associated with being a director of a company. Although it is unusual for a company director to be sued, it is not unheard of. If you set up a family trust and transfer all of your assets into it (including your shares in your company), suing you becomes a thankless task; you are penniless! Future-proofing Before you get into the details of product and marketing strategies it is crucial that you think about your company structure. Choose the structure that will work for you now, but more importantly, make sure it will work in the years to come. Lachlan McKnight is the chief executive of LegalVision, a start-up that provides SMEs with access to online legal services, including customised legal documents.
The pundits who have been waiting for Apple to come up with a new product category may just get their wish. New reports today suggest Apple is working on a wristwatch that could be released as soon as the end of the year.