THE NEWS WRAP: Kickstarter simplifies campaign rules

6:58PM | Tuesday, 3 June

Kickstarter has simplified rules for campaigns in an attempt to make the service easier to use than ever before.   It’s announced Launch Now, a new feature which gives creators a choice to launch their projects whenever they’re ready, or to get feedback from one of Kickstarter’s community managers first.   Kickstarter’s guidelines have also been boiled down to three basic principles: projects must create something to share with others; projects must be honest and clearly presented; projects cannot fundraise for charity, offer financial incentives, or involve prohibited items.   Google is making end-to-end encryption easier Google has launched an alpha version of a new tool called End-to-End, a Chrome extension that is intended for users who need additional security.   End-to-End encryption means the data leaving a user’s browser will be encrypted until the message’s intended recipient decrypts it.   Zenefits raises another $66.5m After raising $15m in a series A funding round four months ago, cloud-based human resource startup Zenefits has raised an additional $66.5m from return investor Andreessen Horowitz along with Institutional Venture Partners.   The startup was founded on the idea of simplifying the process of HR companies by providing a simple user interface for personnel departments as well as the rank and file, making it easier to keep track of their pay and benefits.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 21.29 to 16,722.34. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple unveils iOS 8

6:27PM | Monday, 2 June

Apple has unveiled iOS 8 in what it says is its biggest release since the launch of the app store.   Some of the main features include:   Interactive notifications which gives users the ability to respond to notifications within the notification pane, without having to switch apps. An improved mailbox with Mailbox-style actions enables users to easily tag or dismiss emails without needing to open them. Spotlight now lets you search for apps you haven’t installed yet, along with songs in the iTunes store, movie location times and more. HealthKit, which is a one-stop shop for all the health tracking apps on your phone.   No Microsoft Start Menu until 2015   Microsoft won’t be delivering a new Start Menu for Windows 8 with its coming Windows 8.1 Update 2, sources told Zdnet.   Microsoft’s operating systems group has decided to hold off on delivering a Microsoft-developed Start Menu until Threshold, the next major release for Windows, expected to be released in April next year.   Google scraps Zavers   The tech giant has decided to discontinue Zavers, a service that lets shoppers clip coupons online and get those savings when they purchase products in the stores of retailers.   The service had been running for 17 months, launching in January of last year following Google’s acquisition of a startup called Zave Networks.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 26.46 to 16,743.63. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US92 cents.

Can Google convince us that an oversized golf cart is the car of the future?

6:23AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Google have recently shown us a car of sorts. The self-driving Google Car is the internet giant’s latest foray into physical products.   Visually it’s a cute cross between a golf cart and a Japanese anime character, with an obvious ‘face’ and round, soft features that exude friendliness and care. However, ideologically the driverless vehicle is more akin to an escalator than a car.   Interestingly, in developing a car that doesn’t need a driver, Google are venturing into completely virgin territory and as a result they have exaggerated the friendliness of the product to make it appealing to the public. The Google Car’s cuddly aesthetic is designed deliberately as a counterpoint to the abject fear most people would have in handing over control of their car to a computer.   The Google Car does contain amazing technology, even at a prototype level. The autonomous, self-learning vehicle has sensors that can remove blind spots by detecting multiple distinct objects simultaneously in all directions for hundreds of metres and hopefully react safely. Sound impossible? So did the iPod before Steve Jobs and Jony Ive put their minds to it.   Watching the publicity video clearly illustrates Google’s ideas on the target demographic, with older people, the blind and children the focus. At least initially, they seem to see the car as a device for people who can’t drive or don’t want to. Unsurprisingly, everyone appears to be having a ridiculous amount of fun.   Like all designers of products that create a paradigm shift, Google’s team needs to answer questions that others haven’t tackled before. Who would use it, how and why? Can current technology deliver a suitable solution? How much actual driver control should be relinquished? In discussing the Google Car in our studio, debate raged about what would happen in a crowded street. How would the Google Car react to a random mistake by another driver or pedestrian? These are the unknowns that still need to be worked through.   Therein lies the most important aspect of this project. The Google Car is a big innovation, but it really is only the first foray into the unknown. This prototype will challenge what we think and allow people to test the technology in the semi-real world. No doubt it will fail some tests, but it’s sure to provide insights that we don’t expect, and lead to innovations that most can’t imagine right now.   Like Apple and Nike before them, Google is applying their massive resources to looking outside their comfort zone for bigger opportunities. In doing so, they are risking failure and ridicule (look no further than the backlash against Google Glass), but they also open the opportunity for enormous rewards as the first into a new market.   Perhaps the biggest hurdle to acceptance of the Google Car may not be confidence in the technology, but people’s love affair with the glamour of a fast car. The ability to be reckless, to feel the power of the engine or to show off to your peers may still be that intangible desire that an oversized golf cart could never deliver.   Although many will scoff at the idea of a self-driving car, pointing to countless issues and dangers with the concept, the fact is that it seems almost inevitable in some form or other. If we look to science fiction we could expect these types of vehicles to be very much part of our lives sooner than we imagine.   In the words of the great Henry Ford, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” Perhaps the Google Car represents the first small step towards one of the biggest changes to our society since the internet was invented.   Nathan Pollock is director at Katapult Design Pty Ltd.

Spreets and StyleTread co-founders take a shine to jewellery startup Gemjoli

5:06AM | Friday, 30 May

Spreets co-founder Justus Hammer and StyleTread co-founder Bjorn Behrendt have joined Australian online jewellery startup Gemjoli as advisory board members, as the company looks to expand.   Hammer describes Gemjoli as the 99designs of jewellery – it enables customers to design made-to-order jewellery.   It offers users the chance to use the Gemjoli platform to tinker with a number of customisation options, or work directly with designers in order to create exactly the type of jewellery they’re after.   Both Behrendt and Hammer participated in Gemjoli’s seed funding round.   Gemjoli co-founder and CEO Sundeep Maheshwari says the company was lucky to have access to Hammer and Behrendt’s knowledge.   “They kind of experience they bring to the venture is going to add immense value,’’ he says.   “The idea of getting these guys into the venture was to increase scale.   “It’s a question of the reach that we want and obviously a new concept takes time before you climb the ladders of Google.”   Gemjoli launched in January and while Maheshwari would not disclose how many people had used its service, he says there had been steady growth and the company was generating revenue.   “The cost of acquisition of a customer is about what you would expect from a startup,’’ he says.   “Right now our customers are from Australia but the technical architecture makes it possible to replicate the model without replicating the establishment costs.”   Maheshwari says the goal is develop ‘portals sites’ for Gemjoli across the globe. They’ve got a partner in Europe who will help create one of these portals with local branding in France.   “In Australia, the key next step for us would be to expand the designer community,’’ he says.   “That’s the concept we want to work on, we want more and more designers, more and more people who are creative.”

Disruptive Investment Group taps into bathroom startup’s potential

5:31AM | Wednesday, 28 May

Disruptive Investment Group (DVI) has negotiated an option to increase its stake in bathroom component manufacturer and e-commerce startup Allure Bathrooms to 50%, in exchange for $2 million of growth capital.   It follows an agreement in March that gives DVI an initial option to provide $1.5 million of investment in return for 40% equity.   The Melbourne-based startup was co-founded by Tony Nguyen and Vinh Luong in 2010 and began as a humble eBay store.   Nguyen says the decision to potentially give up 50% equity was a difficult one.   “It was a tough negotiation,” he says.   “I guess after starting up our business, giving up half of it was never our intention. But after the initial stage, after discussions we looked at the bigger picture.   “After a good talk with the DVI guys, it was matter of understanding where they were heading with the company, and we think it’s a good match.”   Luong and Nguyen began the business after deciding they’d had enough of their 9-5 jobs.   Following a visit to Vietnam with his parents, Nguyen had been investigating the prices of various products compared to those back in Australia, and was quite surprised by how cheap bathroom fixtures were there, considering the relatively similar standard in quality.   Soon they had their own stock of product, but their initial plans to sell them locally backfired when they found no takers, so they decided to list the products on eBay.   The stock, which they’d initially found difficult to move, sold quickly online and after getting a feel for the market, the duo decided they would team up with a designer and launch their own range of products.   “From there it’s been growing, we were quite confident with the online business and the exposure that goes with it, the feedback we were getting from customers gave us the confidence to open up a retail store,’’ he says.   “We’ve been selling online for about two years and then for the retail for about a year now.”   They had a record breaking month in March, reaching almost $180,000 in revenue.   Nguyen says the company is now planning to open up a number of physical stores around the nation and expand their online services.   “We’ve learnt from eBay and also Google there’s demand Australia wide,’’ he says.   “DVI see the big potential of online, that’s their area of expertise as well.   “We’ve noticed there’s been little done online with these types of product so that’s a big area we want to look at.”

Five ways to make your marketing more strategic

5:59PM | Monday, 26 May

Too often businesses take an unplanned approach to their marketing, either following the crowd or acting on a hunch they decide to "try it and see". But it's the fastest way to blow your marketing budget.   True marketing magic happens when the right product or service, with the right message meets the right people, at the right time, on the right marketing platform. Though, to do that, you need a strategy, and you need to test and measure your results.   So stop doing what you think you should be doing, what the company down the road is doing or what you heard would be good to try and start strategising the best way to create the marketing magic for your business. Here are five tips to get you started.   1. Qualify your marketing efforts   In order to make the most of your marketing campaign and investment you need to: Check there is a need for your products or services Craft messages that are relevant and emotionally engaging with the audience that have the need Ensure the platform or strategy you use will reach a large number of the audience you are targeting By evaluating your marketing efforts, strategies and opportunities on the simple criteria of relevance, target and reach, you can quickly protect your budget from marketing strategies that "everyone is doing" and decide what you will and won’t do. 2. Know the purpose   Whatever marketing or advertising you do, there needs to be a clear purpose for it. You need to know what you want someone to do after reading or hearing the specific message you have created, as this will impact the call to action you use.   Is it to call you? Go to your website? Sign up to the mailing list? Buy immediately? Once you know what you need them to do, you can then make sure your copy, call to action and incentive all work together to make it happen.   3. Ensure there are real benefits or an opportunity to get a return   It sounds obvious, but many marketing campaigns proceed under the guise of "increasing brand awareness" (sponsorship can be an ideal example of this), which is fine if you already have brand awareness, have a large marketing budget to play with or if it's a highly relevant and targeted opportunity, but it's impact is very hard to measure.   Whatever you look to invest your marketing dollars in, there needs to be real benefits and return. So, to use the sponsorship example, find a way to proactively reach your audience in a measurable way like sponsoring a prize and getting the business cards of those who enter.   4. Test your message on a smaller campaign   Before you embark on a larger marketing or advertising campaign test your headline and message on a smaller one.   It could be through a focus group, survey, Facebook advertising campaign, a Google AdWords advertisement or a smaller mail out to test and measure the results. Better to find out a message doesn't work on a small scale with a small investment rather than a large one.   5. Don't confuse persistence with foolishness   While you need to allocate a set amount of time to tell if a product, message, platform or strategy is working, you don't want to keep wasting time, money and effort on something that isn't.   To prevent this from happening, set a cap or measurement on your efforts. It could be a time limit, or a set amount of mail outs you do in order to test the product or service, message or platform to see if it is getting a response.   As entrepreneurs we need to be mindful that sometimes business ideas, products or services and marketing campaigns don't work out.   When this is the case, it is important for your business and your bottom line to stop instead of persisting, put it down to education and move on to the next thing.   How do you ensure your marketing is strategic?

Watches, thermostats and fridges: Where next for advertising?

5:26AM | Tuesday, 27 May

Google has predicted advertisements could soon be featured on places such as refrigerators and watches, in a bid to capitalise on the roll-out of ‘smart’ appliances.   In a December 2013 letter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, released earlier this week, the tech giant said it expects to see itself and other companies develop advertising on devices beyond mobile phones.   “We expect the definition of ‘mobile’ to continue to evolve as more and more ‘smart’ devices gain traction in the market,” the letter reads.   “For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses and watches, to name just a few possibilities,” said the company.   In the letter, Google described this approach as “device-agnostic”. This means rather than traditional desktop or tablet marketing campaigns, advertisers’ campaigns will not be tied to a particular device.   Michelle Gamble, founder and chief executive of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany she isn’t shocked by Google’s suggestion that advertising could intrude further into the home.   “I think we’re already seeing it,” says Gamble.   “It’s the price you pay for having amazing technology offered to you very cheaply. As things have gotten cheaper and moved to the cloud, you’re starting to see advertising being integrated into your applications more and more,” she says.   Gamble says consumers could react negatively at first, but examples such as Facebook jumping on the advertising bandwagon show that if the product is good enough, people will eventually get used to the idea.   “I think there will be a bunch of early adopters that will rally against it, but much like anything else they’ll eventually accept it,” says Gamble.   “Consumers are always going to protest against more advertising. But they’re certainly not going to stop paying for a service they’re hooked on,” she says.   They key here is striking a balance between the advertiser and consumer, says Gamble.   “One thing Google has always done though is put the user first,” she says. “They’re great at technology and rolling out new ideas, and quickly canning them if they don’t work. I’m sure they’ll somehow find the right balance between pushing advertising onto the consumer and interrupting the consumer too much.”

SurveyMonkey and asking the right questions

5:35PM | Wednesday, 21 May

SurveyMonkey, one of the great survivors of the original dot com boom, announced on Wednesday it is opening a Sydney office as its first branch in the Asia-Pacific region.   SurveyMonkey chief executive David Goldberg told Private Media the online survey company is setting up in Sydney because “we’re very big here in Australia.”   “It’s our third largest market after the US and the UK. On a per-capita, basis it’s our best market,” Goldberg said.   SurveyMonkey’s Sydney office will be its third location outside its Silicon Valley base, after Goldberg announced a London office to supplement its Portuguese development team late last year.   As with London, the Sydney office won’t be employing any developers. Instead, the Australian staff will work on sales, marketing and support, with a focus on launching the company’s new Audience product, which provides interview panels for enterprise customers.   SurveyMonkey’s global expansion is being funded by an $800 million dollar capital raising last year that values the privately held company, with investors including Google and Goldberg himself, at $1.3 billion.   The company itself is one of the survivors of the original dot com boom having being founded in 1999. It’s a world that Goldberg is very familiar with as the founder of LAUNCH, one of the world’s first online music businesses, which was founded in 1994.   After selling LAUNCH to Yahoo! and becoming the online media giant’s music director, Goldberg later joined the venture capital world and was appointed SurveyMonkey’s chief executive in 2009. Before launching his own business, he was a Bain & Co consultant and spent some time living in Sydney during the early 1990s.   Goldberg sees the company needing that warchest as the industry develops, “I think we’re still very early in a lot of the changes that are happening. We’re going to really see the advantages of tying these services together. That’s still early on but we’re beginning to see that as customers begin to tie SurveyMonkey together with other applications so they are integrated rather than siloed.”   “We’re also really early on in mobile,” Goldberg muses. “We’re doing in mobile what we did in the early days of the web where we just took things we were used to in the analogue world and put them online, we’re still in that stage of putting the web onto mobile.”   For entrepreneurs and small businesses, Goldberg’s advice in dealing with a rapidly changing economy and a world awash in big data is to ask the find the right tools to ask the right questions. “I think people should figure out what are the questions you are trying to answer and then find the tools that help you answer those questions.”

Envato’s Tuts+ gets a makeover

5:07AM | Wednesday, 21 May

Melbourne-based Envato has just completed a relaunch of its Tuts+ service that was a year in the making.   Tuts+ is an online learning service that helps five million monthly visitors learn creative and technical skills.   What began as a single blog ballooned into 16 different learning sites and Envato CEO and co-founder Collis Ta’eed says the relaunch brings those sites together on the Tuts+ platform.   “It’s been a long time coming, we started Tuts+ some years ago, early in the company’s life and it was just meant to be a single site publishing tutorials,’’ he says.   “We basically proliferated a little too far.   “We’ve pulled it all together so there’s a single clear navigation system. It’s a cleaner more usable product which in itself will lead to more users and help people understand what the brand does.   “For a long time it was difficult to describe Tuts+ in a sentence.”   Tuts+ is the largest free education platform of its kind, but it also offers individual courses that can be bought in addition to subscriptions, which give users access to more content starting from $180.   Even so, Ta’eed says Envato sees the free programs as more of a public service.   “The free content is not a very profitable business to be honest,’’ he says with a laugh.   “It’s okay, but overall it’s a loss maker. But our company mission statement is to help people learn and earn online, and as a founder of Envato I learnt a lot of my design skills online for free.   “Part of it is giving back to the community in a way that is accessible.   “We want as many people as possible to learn useful creative skills, so they can earn a good living and shape the working lives they want.”   Ta’eed says the relaunch was a complicated process, which is why it’s taken close to a year to complete.   “Because we were moving domains around, when you’re as large as Tuts+ is, with about five million visitors a month, thousands of tutorials, tons of content, we wanted to shift around being hit by Google,’’ he says.   “So it’s a bit like refuelling a jet in flight.   “We did it in small pieces, moved on and then watched for a while to make sure it didn’t fall apart.”

The age of holistic product development

5:56AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Over the last decade a few major themes have dominated the evolution of product development, particularly software development: A shift towards agile practices, customer-centric decision-making, and better integration and collaboration across disciplines. The last of those – the increasing porousness between the “big three” disciplines of product management, design, and engineering – is evolving the most rapidly.   The tenets of Agile development are fairly mature at this point. Customer development and Lean practices are now considered conventional wisdom. But the ways in which designers, product managers, and engineers work together are in flux. The boundaries between the Big Three pillars of product development are just beginning to blur.   Design has changed the most dramatically and had the most significant impact on engineering and product management. A decade ago, design was little more than static mockups or graphic treatments of engineering output. Today, not only is design key to creating successful products at all stages of the lifecycle, it has also become a viable strategic differentiator for the companies that do it best.   Design as a discipline has always encompassed more than just the façade (the “chrome” as we called it before Google appropriated the word). In software, however, only recently has design been acknowledged as a major strategic input. Product managers are the voice of the customers, but designers are the voice of the humans.   Designers in software have also become more rigorous and technically proficient. A shiny mockup that gives a good first impression was all a good designer used to have to make. Today we expect the design process to start from a clear set of first principles derived from a deep understanding of the people using the product.   We expect designers to understand information architecture and to create a consistent, reasoned visual vocabulary and a sensible flow. We expect designers to intimately understand the capabilities of the technologies used to implement their ideas, and increasingly we see designers with substantial software development experience working with the same tools as engineers.   The evolution of design has impacted product managers and engineers as well. Product managers are now expected to understand and utilize design thinking. Engineers need to be conversant in the design vernacular and are becoming increasingly skilled in basic design principles.   These cross-pollinations are a healthy development, and as the last vestiges of linear, waterfall-style processes fall away, teams are looking for ways to integrate their efforts and break free of assembly-line metaphors (GANTT charts are not exactly in fashion in software development). Classic Scrum orthodoxy has also left teams looking to loosen the bottleneck created by a single Product Owner who must be the conduit between the entire business and the Team. At the previous two Products Are Hard conferences, for example, we saw a great deal of interest in talks about ways to better integrate designers into the development process.   We use the world “holistic” to describe this evolving approach because of the convergence of disciplines, processes, and strategies that are all based on integrating across disciplinary boundaries. Designers, product managers, and engineers are influencing each other and are working more closely than ever before.   We have built new processes to favor responsiveness and experimentation over predictability and certainty. We have pushed our business strategy to be more informed and harmonized with the human needs and desires of those we build for.   We’re curious about your experiences. Are you seeing a similar trend? Different trends? Let us know: @productsarehard. Nathan Dintenfass is a product executive living in San Francisco.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter gets musical with proposed deal to buy SoundCloud

5:35AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Twitter is considering a deal to buy music and audio-sharing service SoundCloud.   If the proposed deal goes ahead, it will be Twitter’s largest acquisition ever.   At the beginning of the year, SoundCloud announced a $60 million funding round that valued the company at $700 million.   YouTube to acquire Twitch Google-owned YouTube has agreed a deal to buy popular videogame–streaming service Twitch for more than $1 billion.   The acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube.   Twitch lets users upload and watch free, live gameplay videos streamed from Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles.   It claims it has more than 45 million monthly users.   Chinese military unit charged with cyber-espionage   Five members of the Chinese military have been accused by the US Justice Department of conducting economic cyber-espionage against American companies.   It’s the first time the United States has brought such charges against members of a foreign country’s military.   The Justice Department says the hacking occurred for no other reason than to give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.55 to 16,511.86. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

EU privacy ruling the latest legal blow for Google

5:23AM | Monday, 19 May

Last week’s ruling by the European Union (EU) Court of Justice that citizens have a right to request search engines remove information about them from their search results is already causing chaos in Google’s operations with the new flood of requests.   What is the actual ruling?   The EU Court of Justice ruling immediately affects 500 million citizens from 28 European countries. It means that an individual can ask Google or other internet search services to remove information and links to web pages that are published by third parties, such as newspapers, containing information relating to them. Failure by the search service to remove the links can result in fines. However, it does not mean the publisher or website is required to alter or remove the actual article.   The EU is defending the ruling by stating that in cases where the public interest case is more important and vital than the individual’s privacy rights, the links should not be taken down.   What does this mean for an individual?   This means that a person can remove some of their ugly past from Google and the public internet reach even if the facts are true. An individual can demand that a search engine take down certain information and results that they say infringes their privacy or is no longer relevant. If the search engine chooses not to remove the link, the person has a right to request a court order.   What does this mean for Google?   The ruling has significant implications for Google. Prior to this judgment, Google was receiving approximately 5.3 million removal requests per week for copyright infringement alone.   With this new take-down requirement, Google will potentially have to hire an army of experts just to manage, assess merits of each request and remove any controversial links.   One of the main issues with this court decision is that the criteria for determining which take-down requests are legitimate is not clear, particularly where public figures are involved and public interest may be argued. With the right of individuals to seek a court order to enforce their request, this means search engines are likely to act on the side of caution and remove more links than necessary to avoid liability.   The other issue that may prove difficult is that the search engine will have to be able to authenticate the request, to ensure the person asking for the link’s removal is actually the person they claim to be.   And the third issue is the most disturbing. Many of the recent requests since this judgment include those from convicted criminals: a man convicted of possessing child pornography; a man convicted of trying to kill his family; and a man convicted of running a tax scam are all among those requesting links and articles about their convictions be wiped.   The BBC reportedly learned that more than half the requests from UK individuals sent to Google after the ruling involved convicted criminals.   If Google refuses or ignores an individual’s takedown demand, Google could potentially face substantial litigation costs as well as fines. Not only is this a large compliance burden for Google but it means any search results compiled for analysis or general information purposes will be affected. This is a huge setback for Google and there is no appeal process for this decision.   Does this affect the rest of the world?   It is not year clear how this ruling affects countries outside of Europe.   Currently, it means that if you are in the US and do the same search on Google for something in the EU that has deleted links, you still may be able to access and find the articles and references which were removed from the EU search engine.   However, the court specifically stated that companies cannot get out of complying with the judgment by stating that their servers are outside of Europe. As it’s not yet clear to Google how far reaching this ruling will be applied, so we may see the implications of this in the US, Australia and the rest of the world at some point.   It seems there is a direct conflict between the right to be forgotten and a right to know. One wonders if this is not a case of wide-sweeping censorship.

YouTube reported to have bought Twitch for $1 billion

5:50AM | Monday, 19 May

Google’s YouTube has reached a deal to buy videogame streaming company Twitch for more than $US1 billion ($A1.06 billion), according to a report in Variety.   Variety reports the deal, an all-cash offer, will be announced imminently.   If completed, the acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion.   SmartCompany contacted YouTube, which declined to comment.   “We don't comment on rumours or speculation," the spokesperson said.   Twitch did not respond prior to publication.   Twitch’s website describes it as “the world's leading video platform and community for gamers with more than 45 million visitors per month”.   The site aims to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play.   It hit a million monthly broadcasters in February this year after it was launched in June 2011 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, co-founders of, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video.   Twitch has raised about $35 million in funding since its launch, with investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Alsop Louie Partners, WestSummit Capital, Take-Two Interactive Software, Thrive Capital and Draper Associate   Most recently, Twitch announced a $20 million investment in September last year.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Mozilla Firefox DRM decision prompts warning from former Kazaa CTO

5:49AM | Thursday, 15 May

Mozilla has announced it is embracing the W3C Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) digital rights management standard in Firefox, prompting a warning from the former chief technical officer of peer-to-peer sharing service Kazaa.   Phil Morle, the chief executive and cofounder of startup incubator Pollenizer, was previously the chief technical officer for peer-to-peer file sharing service Kazaa. The service was shut down following a series of lawsuits from the recording industry.   Morle told StartupSmart digital rights management has historically been a problematic technology.   “I think DRM as a feature historically fails and will continue to do so because the user experience is implicitly poor. It stops customers doing things,” Morle says.   “After a while customers can't track which media will still work and which will not. Then they give up trying or buying. DRM goes against the nature of the web which gives media a powerful channel to reach customers.   “As Tim O'Reilly [an open source advocate] says, the biggest problem for creators is not piracy; it's obscurity. Adopting DRM says that your customer is your enemy and not to be trusted. Customers understand that.”   EME is a protocol designed to prevent anyone other than people legally licensed to watch video or music files from viewing that content in their web browser.   In a statement posted on Mozilla’s official blog, cofounder Mitchell Barker says it is joining Apple, Microsoft and Google by implementing the protocol in its Firefox web browser.   “People want to watch video, including movies and TV shows. Browsers must provide the ability to watch video or the browser becomes less and less the tool users need,” Barker says.   “A number of content owners (in particular film and TV studios) require technical mechanisms to reduce the ways in which people can use that content, such as preventing people from making copies.   “This technical mechanism is generally called ‘DRM’ for ‘digital rights management.’ Browsers must implement DRM in a way that makes the content owners comfortable. Otherwise they won’t allow their content to be viewed through that browser.”   The EME standard insists on a closed-source solution, with Mozilla’s adoption of the standard meaning there will be a HTML5 standard across all major web browsers for DRM.   Barker says Mozilla is implementing the protocol in its open source Firefox browser through an optional restricted content module to be developed by Adobe.   In a separate blog post, Mozilla’s chief technology officer provides technical details on how its implementation will work.   “The W3C EME specification defines how to play back such content using the HTML5 element, utilizing a Content Decryption Module (CDM) that implements DRM functionality directly in the Web stack. The W3C EME specification only describes the JavaScript APIs to access the CDM.”

Budget makes US look even more appealing, startups say

5:59PM | Wednesday, 14 May

We asked some Australian startups what they thought of the budget and how it might affect them. Here’s what they had to say.   Michael Fox, CEO, Shoes of Prey:   It's a challenge for tech startups raising capital in Australia and the temptation to move to the US where it's significantly easier to raise funding is high, and a lot of startups move for this reason. The IIF and CA were both designed to help fill this funding gap in the Australian market, so with both of them gone we'll lose a lot more Australian tech startups to the US. The reduction in the refundable percentage of the R&D tax credit will further exacerbate this.   Alan Jones, head of marketing, BlueChilli:    Support for the tech startup industry is not about handouts to lazy businesses, it's about arresting the innovation brain drain. In five years we can build a $50m tech startup with a team of 10 and a few laptops and mobiles. But unlike a manufacturer or a miner, that IP is highly mobile and can be based anywhere the industry support is greatest. This budget is the right step forward if what we want to do is create more Atlassians – creating most of its value for the US economy and paying most of its tax in the UK.   Bosco Tan, co-founder, Pocketbook:   The impact for early stage and fast growing startups is staggering. The pulling back of government support makes our companies immediately less competitive to economies like Singapore. The temporary R&D cutback conditions and the scrapping of CA & IIF to start a new program means that there will be at least one year where funding sources will be even tighter. In our world, all startups look for is a supportive and stable environment for us to compete globally. This also means a tax system around employee share schemes that actually works for companies of our size. It should be in our government’s interest to help build economic value and jobs like how Facebook and Google have contributed to the US economy.   Damien Andreasen, co-founder, LawPath:    Technology in Australia is a developing industry with the potential to create over half a million jobs in the next 2 decades*. Reducing funds available to support innovation and early stage tech businesses shows a lack of foresight. Reducing the R&D incentive by 1.5% will hurt startups like LawPath, we depend on the rebate to plan product development, staffing levels and even a slight reduction can have a big impact. The upside of the 1.5% reduction in company tax won't offset the R&D loss, most startups are yet to hit breakeven. The loss of the CA and IIF grants are regrettable but shouldn't stop Australian entrepreneurs getting on with the job of bringing innovative new tech business to life.   Shane Greenup, co-founder, Rbutr:    The largest companies in Australia are all mining, banking and supermarket conglomerates, and BHP has an annual revenue of $72 billion, followed by Rio Tinto at $59.8 billion and Wesfarmers at $58 billion. Then you look at the tech giants in the USA: Microsoft’s revenue is $77.8 billion; Google is $59.8 billion; and Apple is $170 billion. There is really no reason why companies as large and successful as these couldn't be founded in Australia and grown here. Tech doesn't require resources like mining does, and isn't limited to the local Australian market like supermarkets tend to be. You would think that investing in the development of companies like these would be a huge priority for any government.

“Uber for tennis” launches

5:02AM | Monday, 12 May

Tennis Buddy an app that promises to help users find a tennis partner in less than 10 minutes is billing itself as “Uber for Tennis”.   Co-founded by Australian-educated entrepreneur Marius Kraemer, Tennis Buddy is a location-based app that enables users to find strangers close by and available to have a game of tennis. The app is available in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.   “When building Tennis Buddy, I wanted to especially help busy people such as business travellers who often only have a two hour window of spare time that opened up due to a cancelled meeting for instance,’’ he says.   “With a user base of over several hundred users in cities like London, Sydney or even 900 in LA already, the broadcast always finds that one person who is available at that very moment.   “This is what makes Tennis Buddy so fast, as it brings down the average response time for a broadcast to under 10 minutes.”   Kraemer studied a Masters of Information Technology at the University of Sydney, during which he launched his first startup, Matewire, a local events finder which was backed by Australian accelerator Pushstart in 2012.   Kraemer, who was studying in Australia on exchange, struggled to find and market-fit for the product and, coupled with visa troubles, had to shut Matewire down.   His latest effort was co-founded with Sophia Vogt, a former professional tennis player, and together they’re chasing the lucrative US tennis industry.   He says he was inspired by Uber’s ‘get what you want at the press of a button’ mentality.   “Similar to Uber, which is going after the $10 billion US taxi industry, we are going after the $5.6 billion US tennis industry,’’ Kramer says.   “By the end of the year, (we) aim to have 500 users in over 100 cities each, so that we can connect people across all the international cities of the world.”

Pandora jewellery founder backs major online legal player LawPath

5:01AM | Monday, 12 May

Lawpath, a “one stop-shop” for individuals and businesses with legal needs, has announced the closure of a new funding round, with the full investment coming from Brook Adcock, the founder of the jewellery business Pandora Australia.   Adcock has invested $600,000 into LawPath, which is Australia’s largest online legal services business.   “I look for businesses that are truly disruptive and have the potential to scale, not only in Australia but globally – LawPath is such a business,” Adcock says.   LawPath offers two main services: connecting people with legal issues to lawyers with the right expertise, and a revolutionary new way of documenting legal arrangements at a fraction of the normal cost.   According to LawPath CEO Paul Lupson, the platform greatly reduced costs for its users.   “Using the unique LawPath process people can get their own specific legal document, be it a will, an employment agreement, whatever, produced with lawyer sign-off for 10% to 20% of the cost of going to a normal lawyer,” Lupson says.   Co-founder and head of lawyer partnerships Damien Andreasen says LawPath reversed the way that legal documents were usually created by clients getting the document first (through the platform) and adding specifics before sending it back to a lawyer to approve for a fixed price.   “People can pay as little as $999 for a customised document that would otherwise cost them $10,000,” Andreasen says.   Standard templates at a lower cost (from $49-$299) can also be purchased on the site.   For legal problems that can’t be solved through a document, users of the platform can be connected to the right lawyer for their issue and get a 30 minute consultation for free.   “From a consumer perspective what we’re offering is a simple solution to what was often an overly complicated and expensive problem,” he says.   Andreasen says that they will use the investment to focus on above-the-line marketing and improving their product offering. On the lawyer connect side of the business, there are over 400 lawyers on the LP network and they are joining at the rate of two or so a day.   In the last year, over 3000 legal questions were dealt with by the website.   “On big days, we can have 40 to 50 legal enquiries coming through the site,” says Lupson.   “We see the opportunity to help both the users seeking legal advice and the lawyers. The users get connected with a lawyer who is both close by and has exactly the right skills for their issue.   “The lawyers love it – we introduce them to quality new clients quickly. Marketing is hard for lawyers – time consuming and hit and miss – we make it easy.”   LawPath charges lawyers between $49 and $89/month for membership and it is free for users.   “We have based the business on some very successful online legal models out of the US, where online legal is hot,” Lupson says. “Google is investing heavily in online legal – as are others.”   As for Adcock, he believes “this is a once in a generation opportunity to change a market”.   “I hope to apply some of the marketing lessons we learnt from Pandora to help LawPath become a household brand in Australia,” he says. “It feels like the right idea at the right time with the right people.”   Other investors in LawPath include co-founder and former head of sales at daily-deal sensation Spreets, Damien Andreasen; incubator Pollenizer; and Nick Abrahams, the APAC technology practice leader for global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. LawPath also has a partnership arrangement with global legal powerhouse LexisNexis.   Adrock connected to LawPath through a Pollenizer pitch night. Andreasen says it took about three months to close the deal, but they were very happy with the outcome and the experience that Adrock brought with him.

Startup Weekend gets the female treatment

5:00AM | Tuesday, 13 May

When Startup Weekend Melbourne Women gets underway this weekend, it will be the first time a startup weekend event has catered specially to Australian women.   Event organiser Marina Paronetto says for too long startup weekend events have had a significant male influence.   Paronetto has founded her own startup, PowerHouseHQ, a company which helps businesses organise their own hackathons.   “I’ve been part of (Startup Weekend Melbourne) since 2011 and there’s always around 10-11% of attendees are women; it’s something I thought we should do something about,’’ Paronetto says.   “One of the main ideas for this event is to start an event from scratch, and understand what makes great conditions for women.   “One of them is making the space and the nutrition really tailored to empower people.   “Good quality food with a lot of options; there’s usually just beer and pizza. We want everybody really nurtured for the weekend.”   Looking forward to #40forward. @jo_1660 will kick-off a week of activities encouraging women into #tech #Adelaide — Jen Hassam (@RhetoricComms) May 12, 2014     Last weekend organisers held a pre-event, the Startup Weekend Melbourne Bootcamp Brunch, which gave participants a chance to meet and explore their startup ideas a week in advance.   “We’re focusing on three main elements, networking, collaboration and learning,’’ Paronetto says.   “We thought the best way to give all the applicants to do those three things was to run a pre-event.”   Geek Girl Academy organiser Tammy Butow is also part of the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organising team and Paronetto says she’s a big reason the weekend will be so rewarding.   The attendees will pitch their ideas on Friday night, form teams to work on the best ideas, before pitching their creations before a panel of judges on Sunday night that includes Susan Wu of Stripe, entrepreneur Leni Mayo, CEO of Scale Investors Laura McKenzie, and StartupSmart editor Bronwen Clune.   Both the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women and last weekend’s brunch were sponsored by Nitro and chief operating officer Gina O’Reilly says there are real benefits to a diverse workforce.   “Nitro are firm believers in the complementary skills women bring to the workplace and are imperative to every business,’’ she says.   Last year a study by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency found women occupy less than 20 per cent of positions in the majority of information and communication technology occupations.   According to Google, women-led tech companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, and when backed by venture capital bring in 12% more revenue than their male counterparts.   The low participation of women in the ICT sector is a problem Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organisers are not alone in trying to fix.   Google is spearheading a worldwide campaign known as #40forward and is challenging its partner organisations to increase the representation of women in tech communities.   This month @StartupGrind will be hosting 60 events w/60 awesome female entrepreneurs around the world. Great, eh? #40Forward #startupgrind — karlie krieger (@karliekrieger) May 7, 2014     Startup Grind, an event which gives established business owners a chance to mentor the next generation of startups and is part of the #40forward campaign, will see DVE Business Solutions director Jo Schneider host an event in Adelaide on May 26.   “I’m looking forward to telling my personal story, how I achieved 300% growth in three years and giving highly practical advice on building businesses by using technology to achieve growth, develop relationships and goal setting,’’ Schneider says.

Five reasons why Apple has bought headphone company Beats (by Dr Dre)

5:42AM | Monday, 12 May

As first announced by the Financial Times it seems almost certain that Apple will buy premium headphone and audio company Beats for $3.2 billion. Apple was expected to announce the news next week but have been pre-empted by an indiscrete Dr Dre, the rapper, hip hop producer and founder of Beats, who confirmed the deal in public.   $3.2 billion is a premium for a company that was valued at around a $1 billion in 2013 after HTC sold a 25% holding in Beats for $265 million. The general media commentary on the deal has surrounded the question of what Apple would want a company like Beats for. Opinions have ranged from the reflected “cool” of having the brand which is very popular to benefiting from the acquisition of Beats’ music streaming service “Beats Music” that was launched earlier this year. What is likely is that Apple will take advantage of the sum of benefits from the purchase. Five of the major benefits that Apple will be getting are the following:   1. The premium headphone market   The premium headphone market is currently worth about a $1 billion a year. Beats by Dr Dre headsets are currently a very popular item for sale in Apple’s own stores and so by buying the company, Apple can profit directly from the sale of the headphones and portable speaker on a worldwide basis. What would be interesting is if Apple buys any other companies that have products selling well through its stores.   2. Audio technology   Apple gains the design and manufacturing experience that Beats brings to the audio market. Other than headsets, the audio is used in computers and other devices. Although Apple computers have good quality speakers, the audio on Macs has always been limited with no system level equalizer for example. Apple can immediately improve the quality of the headsets it ships with its phones and tablets and the audio in its laptop computers.   3. Music streaming service   Beats Music has received good reviews and so Apple will be able to roll its service into improving its own music streaming service iTunes Radio. This will have assumed more importance with the accelerating shift in the music market from digital downloads to streaming.   4. Boosting Apple’s cool   The Beats brand has achieved a level of popularity through its association with rap founder Dr Dre and other music stars that the company has used to promote its products. There is no denying that Apple’s brand as the icon of cool has been tarnished through its own success and it evolutionary approach to product development it has adopted over the past 4 years. The Beats by Dr Dre brand and products will definitely help in reestablishing some of that lost image within a certain demographic. Whether that demographic is really core to Apple’s market is another matter altogether.   5. Wearables   It is remotely possible that Apple is thinking about the possibility of smart headphones. Given that the use of voice is becoming much more functional as a way of interacting with a computing device, it is again possible that headphones could become independent devices. Although having headphones that could stream music independently of a phone would be a useful product in its own right, smart headphones could theoretically do so much more, rivalling most of the functionality of technologies like Google Glass.   The sums of money being paid for recent tech company acquisitions have made multi-billion dollar deals the new normal. Because of this, it is not really necessary to look for too much significance in these purchases. Whilst Apple buying Beats make sense from a number of perspectives, it is just a tiny part of its overall product strategy and is not going to distract those waiting for Apple to do the next big thing. David Glance is the director of innovation at the Faculty of Arts and the director of Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article

Google Glass: Eyes and ears for sight and hearing impaired

5:52AM | Thursday, 8 May

Imagine a device that provides subtitled conversations for the hearing impaired in real life.   Thanks to Google Glass, Telstra and Australian app developer b2cloud, such a device is a reality.   For the past six months, Telstra and b2cloud have been working to create apps on Google Glass for the vision and hearing impaired.   One app uses Google Glass’ microphone and heads-up display to transcribe speech for the hearing impaired, presenting real-time subtitles of a conversation.   It will enable users to be more active participants in conversations or meetings with multiple people in a room, rather than having to rely on a laptop or computer.   Another enables those who are vision impaired to receive audio descriptions of objects in front of them.   B2cloud managing director Josh Guest gives the example of a vision impaired person holding two cans of the same size, one of spaghetti, the other of baked beans, the only way to tell the difference is the label, and Google Glass is able relay that information back to the user by giving them an audio description.   For the vision impaired, it’s a feature that can make common tasks like shopping at the supermarket, an awful lot easier.   “It all works, these are real apps, they’ve been trialled amongst users, people who are hearing and vision impaired,” Guest says.   “The point is not to look at it like a product, but what it is an experiment, and it just shows what the potential is, in a brilliant connected future, what does that actually look like.”   Guest says when the device was tested by a group of Telstra employees with vision and hearing impairment and their reactions were “jaw dropping”.   “It’s super rewarding,’’ he says.   “If it’s just about building stuff, then it gets forgotten, but if you are able to markedly change someone’s life, it’s remembered, it changes society.”   B2cloud is one of a select group of developers given access to Google Glass and is projecting revenue from wearables to grow from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of its business within 12 months.   “One of the points for us is we’re a mobile developer and we’ve started to realise mobile isn’t all about the phone,’’ he says.   “It’s your watch, it’s your fitness band, mobile is changing and as a business we’re changing.   “To think it took five years from when app started to get to this point.   “Wearables are only going to take a year. It’s really important for businesses to understand now what they’re customers are going to be using in six months or 12 months’ time.’’