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Why increasing your marketing budget is lousy advice

2:48AM | Friday, 7 February

If you’re like many entrepreneurs I know, you are sick to death of hearing: “You just need to increase your marketing budget!”   Unfortunately the default response to declining results is to spend more. What rot.   The simple answer is don't spend money on marketing that depreciates in the first place.   If you need to reach into your pocket next week to get the same “hit”, you are on a slippery slope.  It will be increasingly hard to get the same results, which means you will be forking over more and more money, but spinning your wheels and getting no traction.   The litmus test is: Will your marketing be around next month?   If it won’t be around, don't do it.  Your Google Ads, Facebook ads and banner ads won’t be around once you put your credit card away.   In fact, anything where you are renting attention will vanish as soon as the money runs dry.   Invest in enduring marketing   In contrast, invest in marketing that will be around tomorrow, next week and next year. For example, write an article and post that on your blog because that blog post will still be there next month. Create a YouTube video or release an e-book because these will still exist in six months’ time.   Good marketing investments appreciate in value   The blog article that you posted last month is likely to be more valuable today than it was when you published it. If people have tweeted it, it will have more social proof than it did the day it went live.   It someone’s linked to it, it will have more authority than it did the day it went live and it someone has left a comment, then it will enrich the content and add value to the reader’s experience.   All these factors increase the value of that blog post and you can see how it compounds over time. The more you publish sustainable content the more you’ll be creating a marketing asset that appreciates in value.   If you pour money into marketing that depreciates, you will be chasing your tail until your money runs out.   Be the owner not the renter   Many marketers are hooked on the quick-fix of renting attention, but then struggle because there is nothing left to show for it at the end of the day. My experience suggests that focusing on being the publisher (owner) is infinitely better approach than being the advertiser (renter).   Publish your own content, be generous, help people and your audience will grow.  Then you can communicate with them for free anytime you like.  This is what building a marketing asset is all about.   The Web Strategy Planning Template helps you visualise and plan your marketing asset.

A decade of Facebook: 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network

2:37AM | Tuesday, 4 February

Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network.   1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs   Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs.   In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”.   2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat   In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer.   3. Paper has just launched   Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources.   “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states.   4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter.   “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook   The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother.   6. It’s set to compete with Google   Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have.   He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant.   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google.   7. Users are a devoted bunch   Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours.   8. Facebook is targeting developing countries   Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson.   The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones.   Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking.   He has described early tests as “promising”.   9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline   Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”.   “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review.   Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction.   10. It’s king of social referred traffic   Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report.   But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.

How to install the Amazon app store for your Android smartphone or tablet

2:54AM | Tuesday, 4 February

If you run an Android smartphone or tablet, did you know that there’s a good chance you might be able to run Amazon’s app store as well as Google Play? Here’s how to set it up.   First, in your settings menu, look through the Applications and Security menus for an option called “Install apps from unknown sources”. If you can find it, make sure you tap it to switch it on.   Next, visit this page and press the yellow “Download the Amazon App Store” button in the middle of the screen.   When the download is complete, you’ll get a notification saying “AmazonApps-release.apk. has installed”. Tap the notification, tap install, and then tap open. It’s now ready to run.

THE NEWS WRAP: Google Glass coming with new frames, prescription lenses

1:22PM | Tuesday, 28 January

Google has announced a series of new frame designs for its Google Glass augmented reality headset, as well as the option of getting prescription lenses fitted, ahead of its launch later this year.   The tech giant has announced a deal with US-based optical health insurance provider Vision Service Plan that will see prescription lenses fitted to the device.   The company has also unveiled its “Bold” and “Curve” frame designs, which will retail at $US225, as well as a range of different sunglass-style designs for $US150.   Morry Schwartz to launch a new broadsheet newspaper   Morry Schwartz, the publisher of the Quarterly Essay and the Monthly, has announced he will launch a new weekly print newspaper on March 1.   The newspaper, named the Saturday Paper, will feature a range of prominent columnists including David Marr, Christos Tsiolkas, Robert Manne and Kirsty Simpson.   It is set to be sold in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, with the first issue coming out on the same day Fairfax converts its weekend editions of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers to a compact format.   Abbott pushes for ABCC return as CFMEU corruption allegations mount   Prime Minister Tony Abbott has argued for the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) as allegations of bribery, extortion and threats of violence rock the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).   The building industry watchdog, which was originally created under the Howard government, was abolished by former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2012.   “What today's revelations demonstrate is the absolute pressing need for the reestablishment of the [ABCC] with full power, full authority, full funding," Abbott says.   "If the Labor Party is serious about tackling corruption again they will stop standing in the way of the reestablishment of a strong cop on the beat in that particular industry.   “The commission should have full authority to ensure that the law is upheld. Full authority to ensure that the law is upheld in an industry which has been long marked by lawlessness.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 15932. The Aussie dollar is up to US87.75 cents.

Six new year image boosters for your business

1:38AM | Tuesday, 28 January

This quieter time of the year is the ideal time to put your brand overhaul plans in place. Here are six business image boosters to give your business a professional facelift.   1. Assess your brand attributes   The first step to any brand overhaul is to understand what you want to be and how you want your brand to be perceived, says Dan Ratner, managing director of branding and communications agency, Uberbrand.   “Organisations are often so wrapped up in their own feelings about their brand that they often lose sight of how it is actually perceived by their customers. If there is disconnect between the brand perception an organisation wants to convey and how the public actually sees it, there is a problem,” Ratner says.   You need to consider strengthening or changing your brand strategy if a group of the public is asked to describe your brand and they all come back with different answers.   Or, if staff has different perceptions of the brand, an overhaul could be the answer.   “If people within the organisation have differing perceptions of the brand, it makes it impossible to communicate consistent messages externally that will help build your brand equity,” he says.   2. Get your website right   Look at your website objectively and ask people to give honest opinions of it. Also, compare it with the competition,” says Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency Studio Culture.   “There are countless businesses out there – what are you doing that’s different?” he asks.   Consider if the language on your website is easy to read, if the site is cluttered, and if there’s room for an online store. Also, consider if users would feel safe making a transaction through your site and if not, how to fix that, he says.   “The position of a button, the colour of text and the subjects of your imagery have all been known to influence purchases online, so conduct thorough testing,” Fox says.   Using social media effectively is also crucial for anyone in business, Fox says. “Use the right tools for the right market and create a story about your brand that people want to listen to and appreciate – don’t just sell, sell, sell.”   3. Assess your marketing footprint   It’s a great time to assess everything that represents your business brand, including your voice mail message, website and business cards. Also assess eNewsletter templates, new business presentations, company profile documents and make sure any testimonials you use are up to date.   Be sure these areas represent your business well and cater to the preferred style of your audience, says Phoebe Netto, of PR and consulting firm Good Business.   Good or bad, businesses are constantly creating impressions about their business to others.   “Often it’s the seemingly small aspects of their business brand that create a lasting impression, such as business cards, phone manner, email signature, staff uniform, presentation of invoices and proposals.   “Ensure that your unique selling points and key values come across simply and clearly, and that it’s obvious that your business addresses a need or desire that your ideal customer has,” Netto says.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 4. Clear out the communication pipeline   Take a step back and map out your current communication process that includes the standard points of contact that someone might have with your business, from making an enquiry through to having an invoice followed up, continues Netto.   It’s important to ensure there are deliberate steps in place with templates and consistent standards, she says.   “Identify any roadblocks that make it hard for people to do business with you, or even make it difficult for people to give you more business,” Netto says.   “Also, look for any gaps in your communication and areas for improvement. For example, decide how many hours or days someone will have to wait receiving a response to an enquiry made through your website, and set a standard of what that response will include.”   Netto adds that lots of business opportunities are lost simply by ignoring customers after they have made a purchase. “By documenting your communication process, you can address any bottlenecks, missed opportunities and weak spots before your customers and potential customers experience them.”   A secret shopper experience could be valuable during the assessment process, she says.   5. Play customer for a day   Putting yourself in your customers' shoes is the perfect way to identify what needs to be done in your business to improve it.   Stan Gordon, the CEO of Franchised Food Company, says business owners need to step away from their business for a day and see what it’s like to do business with your firm.   “Read over your website and marketing materials with fresh eyes, dine in your restaurant, call your phone number as someone else, test your email address and response time, Google yourself and walk through the customer entrance. Then, do the same for your competitors.”   Learn from this experience by listing areas you can improve on, he says.   “Decide what you can do to make the experience better, easier or more exciting,” Gordon says.   6. Give yourself a business retreat   All the major Australian corporations do it via planning time away from the office or national sales meetings, so why shouldn’t your business?   A business retreat gives you and/or your team time to assess the year ahead and put plans in place to achieve your goals.   Professional organiser Karen Koedding of A Little Elf recommends booking an office off-site, or better still, a house in the mountains or down the coast for at least two full days. If you book an office in town, book a hotel to stay in overnight as well, so you’re thought pattern is different, she says.   “Bring all of those ideas you’ve had over the past year, those articles you never read, your financial reports showing results and details of your top clients and plan out your year.   “If possible, turn off the phone and the internet. Allow yourself to think, dream and plan. Do this at least twice a year,” she says.

Google announces search update, starts rolling out additional information feature in search results

1:15PM | Thursday, 23 January

Google has announced that it is beginning to roll out changes to its search results that add information about website owners to its results.   In a post on the company’s official Inside Search blog, software engineer Bart Niechwiej says the results for selected websites will have additional information about the publisher appear alongside the results.   “As you choose the right search result for you — be that about the American Civil War or back pain — you want to know where the results come from.   “To help you learn more about the websites you see in your search results, starting today you may see more information about them directly on the results page when you search on your desktop.   “You’ll see this extra information when a site is widely recognized as notable online, when there is enough information to show or when the content may be handy for you.”   The new feature will present the name of a source of additional information about a particular website or organisation, such as Wikipedia.   By clicking on the link, additional information about the website from that source will appear alongside the result.   “The information you’ll see is based on the Knowledge Graph, Google’s interconnected understanding of the things that exist in the world.   “As we expand the Knowledge Graph, we expect to give you more information about more websites - making it easier for you to choose the right result.”   The tech giant has also set up a form to report any website linking to incorrect details through the new site information feature.   News of the rollout comes on the heels of a blog post by Google’s spam czar, Matt Cutts, warning the search giant is planning a crackdown on backlinks in guest blog posts.   “If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.   “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there… I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.   “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging [for backlinks] is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”   The blog post has led to speculation that a major Google update could be in the pipeline in the near future.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

How to attract and retain top talent to a company with no track record

1:44AM | Tuesday, 28 January

Talent is one of the most important, and heftiest, investments for start-ups. But start-ups often struggle to attract top talent to their team because of their lack of demonstrated success.   Recruitment specialist Julie Seletto says founders need to think outside the obvious channels to bring the best people to their team.   “For your first few hires, you need to take the time to find the best possible people. Don’t necessarily go through Seek or the standard options,” Seletto says.   “Go through your own networks, on LinkedIn and via recruiters to find strong, entrepreneurial sales people at the top of their game, as these people are rarely looking for jobs.”   She shares her top three tips with StartupSmart.   Have a clear vision and sell the story   Seletto says the most compelling and important thing start-ups can do to attract the kind of talent they need is excite people by having a clear vision.   “You’ve got to sell a story to your employees because if you’re building from nothing it’s all you’ve got. You don’t have the brand or turnover, so you need to excited them with a vision,” Seletto says.   She adds being able to articulate the vision for the next few months as well as up to five years or beyond will enable your potential employees to see themselves in your story.   Build your own brand   Another way to overcome the new business equals no credibility issue is to develop your own reputation and brand.   “Because the business is new, you’re selling and attracting people to yourselves rather than the business,” Seletto says.   Attending and hosting industry events, speaking at conferences, obtaining strong recommendations on LinkedIn and developing your social media followings are all tactics start-up founders can use to create a personal track record that’s discoverable online.   “Anyone worth hiring will use Google and social media to check you and your credibility out, so get out there and start developing your online presence so you’re able to show you’re worth joining and likely to be successful,” Seletto says.   Leverage your small size and fresh approach As a capital constrained start-up, you probably won’t be able to offer top rates so founders need to get creative about what they can offer instead.   Seletto says as a small business, you have the capacity to individualise your employment offer around each new team member.   “You can partly overcome the challenge of attracting leading talent by having flexible offerings and structures of salaries,” Seletto says. “Look into offering additional leave, the opportunity to work from home, as well as incentives such as equity, profit share or vouchers.”

I spy with my little…FBI!

1:33AM | Monday, 20 January

Have you heard the latest about website privacy policies?   Have you heard that the latest draft Australian privacy laws will soon want you to advise your visitors where you may be sending their information, including if you send it overseas using a service provider located in another country?   Thanks to the US and its far-reaching access to other country’s information, this new proposed requirement may come as no surprise to any frequent internet user (or anyone watching the news frankly!). The US seems to have been ‘breaching’ normal privacy laws of other countries for some time, with the FBI accessing information from Australia as well as other countries.   In other words, this means that personal information obtained by your website about your customers and even some visitors may be shared with a US government entity if, for example, you use a US service provider. And you have little control over this happening.   In addition, if the FBI decides to access your own personal information from a US website that you may have used yourself, you do not have the right to be advised of such and cannot object! However, they do inform us that if, in fact, for some reason, they did decide to access this information, it would remain strictly confidential. Hmmm ... so that makes it okay?   Personal information in other countries – and the use thereof   Other countries have varying regulations relating to the taking and use of personal information.   For example, the US patriot and anti-terrorism law gives the FBI extensive investigative powers in many aspects of life and business, including the power to use personal information collected on websites.   The UK on the other hand, is more protective of personal information and requires website owners to advise each visitor of any cookies being dropped on a visitor’s browser collecting information about their use of the site.   New Australian draft regulations regarding privacy policies:   New Australian draft regulations, which would require users be informed specifically on how their information is used and stored, does not fit in with US requirements. These new proposed laws are very privacy-oriented and require a website that collects personal information to be completely transparent in how that particular data is collected, stored, used, and if it is shared, to inform the user that their information will be shared. This new draft Australian regulation goes as far as stating that if this information is shared with someone overseas, this needs to be made clear in a privacy policy. Apparently, this law aims to protect consumers’ rights to data protection.   It is quite difficult to reconcile this need to inform customers exactly how their information is used if the material is then shared with a US service provider, and then potentially being used secretly by the FBI.   Stay with me here!   Now, somewhere in the clouds, there are still other issues   Another issue that needs to be considered in conjunction with the protectionist stance of Australian privacy policies is the implication caused by cloud services and where the data is stored exactly.   Cloud services including Facebook, Dropbox, Google, Gmail and Hotmail are perhaps the most pervasive examples of storing information somewhere out in the internet world. However, the problem with this is that there are multiple servers across the world that they all use, where different privacy laws apply.   How can you know exactly where your information may be stored on cloud services, and in turn, you may then not be complying with Australian requirements to notify your customers. So how can you be expected to manage this?   You need to know what your website business does and what you collect as well as what the service providers you employ do and store your website information. This is continuing to become a bigger issue that is being transferred by governments and regulators to individual internet business owners.   So, what does this mean for my website?   Quite apart from being alarming, this proposed law poses problems for Australian website privacy policy requirements and how you may decide to set up your online business.   Australia is now trying to ensure that any website that uses US or other country’s services, notifies their visitors to enable them to make an ‘informed’ decision (or at least are aware) when they are using your website. This may affect how and where you source your service providers for your business. So…   Be aware!   Conduct due diligence in investigating how information is stored and shared, both by your website and your potential service providers before deciding on who to use. Then you can attempt to ensure your privacy policy covers all potential issues and any changes that may arise by the constantly moving Australian privacy laws.   More information on these changes is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

Google+ and Gmail integration can boost your email database

1:26AM | Monday, 13 January

Businesses using Gmail now have access to a whole new contact base, as Google allows Gmail users to directly email any of their Google+ connections.   Google lets users opt out of the function, however, the new default setting lets individuals or businesses email “anyone on Google+”.   However, it doesn’t provide businesses with endless opportunities to spam consumers. Businesses or individuals can only email strangers once using the new feature, unless the person then replies, or adds them to their circles.   This said, Seedling Strategy director Shu Yap told SmartCompany it does provide businesses with new opportunities.   “Google+ is basically Google’s version of Facebook, which also really helps businesses with their search engine optimisation… I still see Facebook as being more predominant, but it will have some additional benefits,” she says.   “I’m always amazed by how clever email marketing is these days when it’s done well. It can get very annoying… but when done well it’s a really clever form of communication.”   Yap says if emails are targeted and displayed well, people like receiving useful information.   “People actually want to receive information which is relevant to them, even if it is uncanvassed or from someone who they didn’t opt-in to receive emails from,” she says.   “Lots of platforms now exist which help businesses be relevant and helps them integrate information into emails for time poor people.”   If businesses can perfect their email marketing strategy, the new Gmail feature could help them expand their customer base, especially as the social network’s user numbers continue to grow.   Yap says it can be difficult for small businesses to “get their head around” the number of social media sites now in existence.   “In some regards I feel the social media world is getting so saturated …I think it will be the widgets which will be more popular than the actual channels themselves,” she says.   “As more platforms come on board it gets more confusing for small business owners, there will be more of a market for tools which can integrate and streamline this information for the time poor.”   Yap says social media is challenging for small business owners because many don’t have the resources to employ someone full-time to manage it.   “They’re their own IT, marketing and finance departments. Unless they’re very savvy it’s challenging. But the ones which are adopting it in an industry conducive to their product and services have found great results… although it does depend on the business and its audience,” she says.   “One consideration is how the legal system and spam legislation is going to change to account for social media. How it’s controlled and policed will be something to consider in the future.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

The iPhone is seven years old today – what’s next in mobile phone technology

1:37AM | Friday, 10 January

It’s seven years today since the launch of Apple’s first iPhone and since then it’s brought about new sectors of business, increased connectivity around the globe and forced its competitors to innovate.   On this day seven years ago (January 9 in the United States), Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in a keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.   It wasn’t the first smartphone, it didn’t have the best hardware, but its software and usability quickly made it the dominant phone on the market and Apple challenged the positions of other phone manufacturers and telecommunications companies.   With the introduction of the iPhone, opportunities for businesses emerged which had never before been realised. Social media became pervasive, app businesses emerged and new payment technologies were developed.   When the iPhone launched on the market in November 2007, thousands of people queued around the world to secure their first iPhone. Many of these people are still devout Apple users today.   Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi told SmartCompany in the past seven years consumers have adopted smartphone technology at a rapid rate.   “This has created both opportunities and challenges for businesses. On the app side of smartphones, it’s provided a new platform for businesses to sell and interact with customers which is more engaged and it’s also facilitated micro-transactions,” he says.   “But it’s also created additional requirements for businesses to have mobile websites and to actually develop these apps.”   Technology expert Paul Wallbank told SmartCompany the iPhone also challenged the business models of telecommunications companies.   “The iPhone broke down the telco model of trying to lock us into their proprietary applications… Apple went behind the backs of the telcos and they’ve never really forgiven it for it,” he says.   “The iPhone has been a huge thing for business. Apple created an app store and showed businesses they can help drive sales and productivity. It’s helped businesses both as technology consumers and by allowing them to create their own apps to capture further business opportunities.”   Thanks to the rise of the smartphone, driven largely by the success of the iPhone, businesses such as Appster, Smart50 winner Outware Mobile and AppsPro have come to exist.   Businesses have also been forced to up their customer engagement via social media, new banking methods have been developed to allow people to transfer money and monitor their accounts on the go, and increasingly businesses are developing payment technologies which allow people to pay for things like their morning coffee while in transit.   But Wallbank says the best innovation has been the most simple – making business mobile.   “It’s liberated people from the office and automated a lot of field workers systems. At the time the iPhone was released I was running an IT support business and I was struggling to find something which would let my field technicians do their paperwork on the road,” he says.   “Smartphones have changed the way many industries can work with their mobile workers. Before the iPhone, the mobile revolution was stunted by the telcos and companies like Blackberry and Nokia, but Apple opened up the platform.”   Both Fadaghi and Wallbank agree in the next five years smartphones will become integrated with other smart devices.   “What we’ll see is an extension of the smartphone to a number of connected devices and smart accessories. Their functionality will be extended through wearable devices, docking solutions and software which lets it integrate with other devices,” Fadaghi says.   “When it reaches maximum penetration innovation will be around its integration with other devices… There is a pent up demand for Google Glass and these kinds of products at certain price points.”   Fadaghi says the success of wearable devices will depend on their price.   “Longer term, one thing which will occur is the computing part of the technology will get smaller and smaller. You’ll have the full functionality of a smartphone in wearable devices, SD card-sized computers and smart computing units will be applied in different ways like wearables and sensor type devices.”   Wallbank says the current International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has shown there will be more integration between smartphones and in-car navigation and entertainment systems, fitness equipment and medical devices.   “Smartphones and tablets are becoming the centre of our digital lives. They’ll be the remote control for everything from home security systems to fitness watches,” he says.   “The trend prior to smartphones was phones getting smaller. I think the form factor of the phones will evolve as we use them. It could go back to tiny phones if we use them to engage with things like Google Glass and smart TVs predominantly.”   Wallbank says just as the motorcar changed the twentieth century, “the smartphone will change the twenty-first”.

Five technology trends small businesses need to consider in 2014

1:50PM | Monday, 13 January

With technology always and rapidly evolving, it can be tough for small businesses to keep up.   While nearly all small and medium-sized businesses in Australia have a computer, according to Sensis’s 2013 e-Business Report, more are acquiring laptops and tablet devices, how effectively they use that technology can influence how successful they’ll be.   As Australians increasingly access the internet on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, businesses should factor that into their digital planning for 2014, says Sensis’s advertiser insights manager Christena Singh.   “When people come in (to a business website) on a mobile device they need to get a mobile experience,” Singh says, warning that if a customer doesn’t get a mobile experience they will probably go to another business that does.   Australians using the internet on their mobile phones continued to grow over the past year at 68%, up from 58% last year, and half of Australians accessed the internet on a tablet, the Sensis report says.   Here, Singh shares the top five technology trends small businesses should prepare for in 2014:   1. Making sure websites are optimised for mobile   With more and more people using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones to access the internet, it’s become essential for businesses to ensure their web presence appears and functions well on those screens.   It’s called “mobile optimisation”. “The proportion of small to medium enterprises with a website that’s optimised for mobile has gone from 5% two years ago to 17% this year,” Singh says.   She says start-ups and small businesses should make ensuring their websites are optimised for mobile devices number one on their list of things to do in 2014.   Singh says optimised sites could include buttons that use a smartphone’s maps function to locate the business or a button to dial its phone number.   2. Consider the devices that customers use to access a business’s website   Singh says if a business is targeting a population demographic that uses tablet devices then they should consider putting in place features that cater to that audience.   She says businesses may look at having apps created that work on particular devices, adding that 5% of businesses have an app and 13% are looking at having one next year.   3. Cloud   Software and data storage in the cloud is becoming increasingly accessible and attractive for small businesses that don’t want to pay the costs of expensive hardware or computer program tools.   “It (the cloud) can save you costs and give businesses access to any number of utilities without purchasing them outright,” Singh says.   She says businesses could use the cloud to access software such as word processing and store files which can be accessed from almost any location.   4. Considering innovative technology such as apps, wearable technology   Singh suggests businesses should consider what technology is gaining traction with consumers and investigate ways it can be applied in their own business.   She says wearable technology is an area that’s emerging as popular with consumers, noting that Google Glass, Google’s wearable computer, is a device that’s eagerly anticipated.   “Look at technologies and how they might be able to draw people into your business,” Singh says.   She says a tourism-based business may look at using wearable technology in some way to enhance a customer’s experience.   Location-based technology is also innovative and could be used in stock handling, Singh says.   “Taking a leaf out of the consumer book and seeing how some of the new technology can give you benefits and how you can flexibly do business,” she says.   5. Strategy   Singh says one of the most important things start-ups and small businesses need to have when adopting new technologies is to have a strategy to back up what they’re doing with it.   “Small businesses are spending on average $15,800 on technology. That’s quite a lot of money for business to be spending,” she says, noting that only about 19% of businesses had a digital strategy.   Singh says a business may spend money and time on social media but without a strategy behind it, that money and time could be wasted.   “There should be strategies in terms of website presence, social media and how they work and develop leads,” she says.

Make suppliers fight for your business

12:59AM | Thursday, 19 December

Pick a bill. It might be your phone bill, your utility bill or your stationery bill.   Now get on Google and start searching for five companies that could replace your supplier.   Give them a call, tell them you are looking to switch suppliers and get them to quote for your business.   Now, let the battle for your business begin.   Most entrepreneurs know from experience that you need to be willing to wheel and deal to get a sale across the line. And yet too many passively accept the prices they get from suppliers of non-core services such as utilities and telecommunications.   However, your goal should always be to drive cost out of your business at every opportunity, so every one of these supply arrangements should be regularly reviewed and put out to a competitive tender (even if it’s only an informal one).   You’ll lower your costs and get a reputation as someone who is always looking for the best deal.   Get it done – today!   This article first appeared on January 20, 2011.

Five marketing lessons from 99designs chief executive Patrick Llewellyn

12:33PM | Thursday, 12 December

With new figures from Sensis revealing 67% of businesses expect to see an increase in sales in 2014, 99designs chief executive Patrick Llewellyn saysrefreshing your business’s image could be the key to boosting sales.   Just as you need streamlined back-end technology in business, a company’s image is also fundamental to its success and longevity.   Llewellyn told SmartCompany if a business is underperforming, or if it wants to address a new market, it needs to consider changing its image.   “If things are going great, I wouldn’t be changing up your look for the sake of it. You need to have a purpose for why you’re doing something and have a clear reason,” he says.   “But if your brand feels and visually looks dated, you should clean up and use flattering design principles. It’s an element of taking stock and having a good look at all of your materials and asking yourself hard questions about how your design represents your brand and reflects you.”   For businesses in need of a facelift, Llewellyn has the following advice:   1. How does your design translate?   Llewellyn says businesses need to consider how their design works on the different mediums.   “Think about how it looks on social media, on mobile devices, on websites and whether or not your site needs to be more responsive. All of these things need to be considered,” he says.   Llewellyn says when thinking about redesigning, businesses should find out what customers think of the brand.   “Think about it as though you’re taking stock of yourself. Survey your customers and ask them what they think of the brand, how they perceive it and what values it represents to them. This process can give you a springboard,” he says.   2. Start with a clear vision   Businesses need to start with a good understanding of what they want to achieve through the redesign process.   “Spend some time trying to articulate this and engage others in this process,” Llewellyn says.   “When coming up with a vision about making these changes, engage with your staff and try and involve as many stakeholders as possible.”   Llewellyn says businesses can have fun with the process and use it as a way to bring everyone in the business together.   3. Think about the future   When redesigning, businesses need to think about what they want their brand to present going forward.   “Think about the future and your audience going forward and combine the best of the old and the new elements of the brand,” Llewellyn says.   “Any new brand needs to be able to work on mobiles and also consider how the brand will interplay with the importance of content marketing. We will continue to see the rise of this in 2014 and any new branding effort needs to take this into account.”   From here, businesses need to construct a design brief.   “Talk about what the industry is, who the customers are, your mission and vision, and what visual styles you’re looking to represent,” Llewellyn says.   “Look at brands you inspire to be like and where you want to go and really articulate this.”   4. Refresh all brand interaction points   Llewellyn says brands now need to consider how they’re presented on every medium.   “You also need to refresh your social and visual representation – so things like Facebook covers, blogs, emails and different interactions points with the brand could benefit from a redesign, rather than just your logo,” he says,   “With content marketing a key trend, also think about repurposing existing content and turning it into something else, like an infographic or video.”   Llewellyn says the notion of needing to stay relevant and be present on a “myriad of devices” is only just starting to take hold.   “The trend is starting to permeate down to smaller and smaller businesses. The old paradigm of small businesses just caring about how their advertising looked in the Yellow Pages is changing. Small businesses now also care about SEO and SEM,” he says.   “Every time there is a new device, your design needs to be rethought and redone. We’ll continue to see an evolution of these trends going forward as lots of small businesses still need to go online.”   5. Aspirational businesses   Llewellyn says businesses big and small are reinventing in positive ways.   “Looking at the big players, Google has done a really great job of enhancing its individual style. There’s been a noticeable change and it’s brought its products together in a more unified way with a good aesthetic and responsive design,” he says.   “In terms of smaller sites, The Next Web and TechCrunch are trying to reinvent pretty often. They’ve done an okay job with their latest reiterations and their visual design styles continue to evolve.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Google Glass creates opportunities app-plenty for start-up developers

12:21PM | Wednesday, 11 December

Australian app developers Appster have one of the few Google Glass devices in Australia and see the technology as offering huge potential for start-up app developers.   Appster co-founder Mark McDonald told StartupSmart wearable technology such as Google Glass was destined to be as disruptive as mobile computer devices such as smartphones were to desk top computers.   “Wearable technology is going to be huge,” he says, adding the device will work best for people who are on the move doing different things.   Google Glass is being tested by developers around the world and is expected to be commercially released in 2014.   McDonald says there are “first mover” advantages for developers that create apps for Google Glass, noting it was a similar time to the early days of the iPhone when there were few apps available.   He says the device will be “awesome” in the business-to-business space, enabling training videos to play in the corner of a worker’s eye while they carry out they what they’re learning with their hands.   However, he’s not convinced that the average consumer will be wearing them down the street any time soon.   “The debate is whether Google Glass will become fashionable enough,” he says.   McDonald says Google Glass, which responds to voice commands and swiping hand actions, feels like wearing an ordinary pair of glasses.   His favourite feature is that it plays sounds against the wearer’s cheek, rather than directly into their ear through headphones.   McDonald says Appster is working on apps for the device, but declined to go into detail.

10 events and trends that shaped the tech industry in 2013

12:02AM | Friday, 6 December

The tech sector has always been hyper-competitive, and never has this been truer than in 2013.   For the likes of Twitter, Samsung and Google, the harvest of 2013 was bountiful.   However, from the perspective of Nokia, Microsoft, BlackBerry or the PC industry, it was a year to forget.   Here’s a look back at 10 of the big events and trends that shaped the tech sector in 2013.   1. One billion smartphones sold this year – and counting   The most important tech story of 2013 didn’t take place with a major product announcement or a Steve Jobs-style keynote speech.   Instead, it took place without fanfare at an ordinary mobile phone retailer somewhere deep in suburbia.   It was there that a consumer decided to purchase the one billionth smartphone to be sold during 2013.   To put that number in perspective, it is projected that 227.3 million tablets shipped worldwide during 2013, 158 million television sets, 180.9 million portable PCs and 134.4 million desktop PCs.   Meanwhile, figures from market analysts IDC show smartphones also outsold featurephones worldwide for the first time in history during the first quarter of 2013.   What this means is that while smartphones now account for more than half of the 418.6 million mobile phones shipped worldwide each quarter, there are still millions of old-fashioned featurephones being sold each year.   Especially in the low-end of the market and in emerging economies, that means there’s plenty of extra room for growth in the future – especially at the low-end of the market.   Make no mistake about it. The smartphone industry is big – far bigger than the PC or TV business. And it’s only going to get bigger in 2014.   2. Google Android and Samsung: The juggernaut rolls on The biggest winners from the spectacular, ongoing growth of the smartphone market have been Samsung and Google.   Last year, smartphones running Google Android outsold Apple. In 2013, that trend morphed into total industry domination.   For example, of the 261.1 million smartphones shipped worldwide during the third quarter of 2013, 211.6 million or over 80% ran Google’s Android operating system.   That compares to just 33.8 million iPhones, representing around 12.9% of the market, and a measly 3.6% for Windows Phone.   Samsung managed to ship 72.4 million smartphones during the second quarter of 2013 alone, representing around 30.4% of the market – more than double Apple’s sales during the same period.   Those device sales also mean increased component orders flowing through the various divisions of the South Korean tech conglomerate, which manufactures everything from semiconductors to batteries and smartphone displays.   The growing strength of the South Korean electronics behemoth is demonstrated by its advertising and marketing budget, which has been estimated at around $US14 billion worldwide.   To put that figure into perspective, as of 2011, North Korea’s entire national economy was estimated to stand at $US12.385 billion.   3. The PC industry bloodbath   While Google and Samsung have had a stellar year in 2013, the same certainly can’t be said for the PC industry.   The September quarter was the sixth consecutive quarter of falls, according to Gartner, with shipments falling to 80.2 million units for the quarter from 87.8 million a year earlier.   Figures released by IDC forecast PC shipments for the full year to fall 9.7% in 2013.   More alarmingly, it appears the emerging middle class in China, India and Brazil aren’t keen on buying computers, with total PC shipments in emerging markets expected to drop from 205.2 million to 185 million this year.   Australia and New Zealand led the trend, with a massive 21% year-on-year fall in shipments for first quarter in Australia, along with a more astounding 27% fall in New Zealand.   The implosion of the PC market was disastrous for a number of PC makers, including Dell, HP and Acer.   In August, HP announced a major shake-up of its senior management team after announcing a large 15% year-on-year drop in net earnings and a 22% drop in revenue from consumer devices during its quarterly results.   That same month, Dell reported a massive 72% year-on-year collapse in quarterly earnings, while a consortium including founder Michael Dell, Silver Lake Capital and Microsoft successfully fought off high-profile investor Carl Icahn’s bid for control of the company.   And at Acer, founder Stan Shih made a surprise return as interim chairman and president, following the resignation of former chief executive JT Wang and president Jim Wong after the company recorded a record third-quarter loss.   The resignations came after Acer announced its consolidated revenues for the third-quarter of 2013 fell 11.8% year-on-year to $US3.11 billion, resulting in an operating loss of $US86.6 million.   4. Surface falls flat   On top of falling PC sales and 3.6% Windows Phone market share, the news was dire for Microsoft on another front in 2013.   Late last year, Microsoft launched its Surface series of tablets as a first step towards making devices, with the company believed to have manufactured around six million units.   The release of the Surface instantly made Microsoft a direct competitor to many of its already struggling PC partners, straining relations in the process.   Fast forward to July of this year when Microsoft announced a massive $US900 million writedown on its inventory of unsold tablets. The writedown came less than a week after Microsoft announced a large price cut of $US150 for the struggling product line.   Adding insult to injury, Microsoft also revealed it has spent $US898 million advertising the tablets, while only generating $US853 million in sales.   According to many leading analysts, the company was believed to have sold just 1.7 million of the six million tablets it had built.   To put those numbers in perspective, Apple sells around 14.6 million iPads each quarter, while Samsung sells around 8.8 million.   5. Steve Ballmer resigns   During the 1990s, Microsoft was undeniably the 800-pound gorilla of the tech industry.   Then, in January 2000, founder Bill Gates stood aside as chief executive, in favour of Steve Ballmer, in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts.   Since then, the company has lost much of its former dynamism, and has failed to become the dominant player in a range of new technologies that have emerged since then, including search, tablets, smartphones or social media.   In August last year, Vanity Fair magazine journalist Kurt Eichenwald ran a feature exploring why Microsoft fell behind its rivals. A management technique called stack ranking was almost universally blamed.   “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” a former software developer told Eichenwald. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”   Add the low market share for Windows Phone, poor sales of the Surface and the PC industry bloodbath, and it became clear something had to give at Microsoft.   In July, the company announced a major management restructure, with the company’s strategy shifting to focus on “devices and services”.   Then, just one month later, Ballmer resigned as chief executive, with stack ranking dumped as a management technique soon after.   The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant is currently searching for his replacement.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 6. Nokia sold for a song   Soon after Ballmer’s resignation, the news was overshadowed by an even bigger story.   In September, Microsoft announced it was buying Nokia’s smartphone and devices businesses for $US7.2 billion, with the Finnish telecommunications company retaining its Nokia-Siemens services network equipment business and the Nokia brand name.   The deal came after Nokia announced its smartphone sales had slumped 27% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2013, with an overall loss of €115 million ($A190 million) for the quarter.   The sales plunge was led by the company’s Windows Phone-based Lumia smartphone unit, where shipments fell 27% from 10.2 million units during the second quarter of 2012 to just 7.4 million for the same quarter in 2013.   To put that number into perspective, it was a little over one-tenth the number of smartphones sold by Samsung during the same quarter.   It was an inglorious end to a company that absolutely dominated the mobile industry through the 1990s and 2000s. As recently as 2010, when Apple sold 47 million smartphones, Nokia managed to sell 104 million.   According to prominent industry analysts, such as former Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen, the fateful moment came in February 2011, when then chief executive Stephen Elop made the decision to switch its smartphones to the Windows Phone operating system.   Soon after, a leaked internal letter from Elop known as the “burning platform” memo likened the company’s situation in the mobile phone market to a person standing on a burning oil platform.   After the takeover was announced, Elop was named as one of the top contenders for the position of Microsoft chief executive.   7. BlackBerry’s failed comeback and takeover attempt   It wasn’t just Nokia that had a tough time in the smartphone market at the hands of Samsung and Google.   In January, BlackBerry launched its new, all-touch BlackBerry 10 smartphone operating system. The platform, originally scheduled for late 2011, had been delayed by a year, preventing the company launching a flagship phone in 2012.   The Australian launch for the first smartphone to run the new platform, the Z10, came in March at a gala event in Sydney hosted by Adam Spencer. A second device using a traditional BlackBerry keyboard, called the Q10, came soon after.   While the reviews were generally positive, the new devices failed to be the big comeback success the company’s then-chief executive, Thorsten Heins, had hoped for.   By August, the company formed a special five-member panel to examine takeover options after director and Canadian investment guru Prem Watsa quit the board.   In its September quarter results, the full carnage was laid bare. The Canadian smartphone maker reported just $US1.6 billion in revenues for the quarter, down 45% year-on-year and 49% quarter-on-quarter.   The company also revealed it sold just 3.7 million smartphones for the quarter – and less than half of those ran BlackBerry 10.   Total losses came in at $US965 million, including a massive $US934 million inventory writedown against unsold stock of the company’s Z10 smartphone.   The company announced more than 4500 staff layoffs, representing nearly 40% of its global workforce, while Heins bought a new private jet.   Meanwhile, the company’s rollout of its Messenger app for Android and iOS was frozen due to technical issues with its release.   In early November, with banks uncertain of the company’s long-term future, Watsa failed to raise the requisite $4.7 billion for a buyout, instead lending the company $US1 billion.   As part of the deal, Heins stood aside as chief executive, replaced by former Sybase chief executive John Chen, with Watsa rejoining the board.   Heins received a $US22 million golden parachute for his efforts, significantly less than the $US55.6 million he would have received had the sale gone through.   8. The Twitter IPO   Last year, Facebook’s disastrous IPO ended in tears – followed by lawsuits.   Thankfully, the outcome was not repeated when its social media rival, Twitter, listed on the New York Stock Exchange in November.   After opening at $US26 per share, the company’s share price surged 72.69% in its first trading session.   It closed at $US44.90 per share, before dropping slightly to $US44.44 in after-hours trading.   Making the result even more amazing was the state of its balance sheet.   While the tech giant has revenues of $US534.46 million and around 230 million users worldwide, it has never posted a profit.   Despite this, the company now has a market capitalisation north of $US20 billion, with chief executive Dick Costolo claiming the company’s long-term investment strategy has prevented it from chasing profits in the short term.   9. iOS7, iPhones and iPads   For Apple, 2013 was a solid if somewhat unspectacular year.   In June, the company released a redesigned version of its smartphone and mobile operating system, iOS7, alongside a new version of its Mac OS X desktop operating system, known as Mavericks.   It was the year that Apple finally unveiled a low-cost version of its iPhone, known as the iPhone 5c, alongside a new 64-bit flagship smartphone called the iPhone 5s, complete with a 64-bit processor and a fingerprint sensor.   Then, in October, the company unveiled a lighter version of its iPad, known as the iPad Air.   None of the products had the industry-shaking impact of the unveiling of the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone or iPad.   That said, with billions in profits each quarter, a solid second place in the smartphone market and the world’s biggest selling tablet, solid and unspectacular for Apple is better than most companies could dream of.   10. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch   Last, but certainly not least for gamers, 2013 marked the introduction of next generation games consoles from both Sony and Microsoft.   Coming a year after Nintendo launched its Wii U system, Sony announced one million first-day sales of its PlayStation 4 system, but the launch was marred by a number of angry consumers taking to social media to complain about non-functional systems.   Sony’s first-day sales were soon matched by the first-day sales of Microsoft’s new Xbox One system.   So how will the two new devices perform over the long term? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out!   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Home delivery alcohol start-up emerges from beta and begins to grow

12:55AM | Monday, 2 December

Liquorun, a start-up that delivers alcohol to metropolitan Melbourne homes within two hours, has emerged victorious from their beta testing phase and just passed their first weekend of trading.   Launched in July by Melbourne Football Club players Joel Macdonald, James Strauss and Rohan Bail, the Blue Chilli-backed company will be focusing on growing their customer network and online community in Melbourne with a view to launch in Sydney and Brisbane in early 2014.   Macdonald told StartupSmart their fundamental partnerships are functioning well and they’re learning a lot.   “We got probably more orders than we expected. The bottle shops are really happy, and that partnership is crucial to our growth as they’re pumping our brand in store and we’re leveraging each other’s databases, so the long term prospects are looking good,” Macdonald says.   He adds the most challenging part of their launch so far has been making sure the agreements with the bottle shops were up to scratch.   “Most challenging has been making sure that the agreement is tight with the bottle shop and our own licensing documents, because they’re putting huge faith in us,” Macdonald says.   The first weekend involved 300 customers and three drivers. The Liquorun team are focusing on tightening the processes and systems they rely on.   “The learning has been great, and we’re trying to implement everything we hear that makes sense straight away,” Macdonald says. “Now we’re in the validation through growth phase. We need to tighten up the model and boost our distribution and delivery reach.”   They’ll be focusing on customer acquisition and developing their online communities in the coming months with Facebook advertising, Google AdWords campaigns and editorials in hyper-local news sites.   Macdonald adds one of the best bits of the business so far is how delighted people are when the delivery team turns up.   “We’re working on protocols for our drivers as we grow, because everyone wants you to come in and have a beer with them when you rock up,” Macdonald says. “But we’re going to keep it really professional and hopefully soon the drivers will have too many orders to hang around at any spot.”

How finding a solution to a problem brought Pixc to life

12:23AM | Tuesday, 3 December

Despite being kicked out of a Founder Institute entrepreneur training program in its early weeks, Pixc founder Holly Cardew wasn’t discouraged.   “He didn’t like my pitch,” she tells StartupSmart of the reaction of a Founder Institute mentor to her idea for a business.   But she refused to be discouraged by the feedback on Pixc, a web-based service that Photoshops the background out of pictures of products online retailers want to display on their websites within 24 hours.   “I knew this was a big problem for shop owners,” she says.   Cardew, 26, discovered a need for a service such as Pixc’s while running her Country & Co. marketplace website and finding retailers in country areas needed help with their sites, especially pictures.   She launched Pixc in May and soon had an order asking for 800 images to be edited and, after relaunching around September/October, is now processing hundreds of images a week, with a goal to process thousands next year.   Last month, Cardew pitched Pixc as part of the Telstra Digital Summit and won a scholarship to visit San Francisco and the SXSW festival in Austin next year.   She says she’ll be visiting payments giant PayPal, as well as marketplace eBay and Google.   Pixc charges $US2 for each image it edits, with designers around the world accessing them from the cloud to work on them and then return the image when it’s finished for the customer to access.   Cardew says a product displayed on a contrasting background can increase sales online by 39%.   She says she’s been selling products on the internet since she was 13, but this year feels like she’s solved a problem faced by retailers.   “I’m really passionate about helping people sell online and get a thrill out of seeing sales increase.”   Cardew has experienced the ups and downs of starting up in the online world.   When she was 18, she tried to develop an online travel website and spent all her savings on a digital agency that couldn’t build what she wanted. As a result, she says she taught herself Wordpress to build her own sites.   Cardew says her ambition for Pixc is for it to process thousands of images a day, create thousands of jobs in developing countries, and to one day be acquired by a larger online retailer.

SafetyCulture closes $3 million fundraising round

11:39PM | Thursday, 28 November

Workplace health and safety start-up SafetyCulture has this week closed a $3 million fundraising round.   The round is made up of $1.79 million from Commercialisation Australia, $1 million from Blackbird Ventures and $210,000 from angel investors.   Launched in 2011, over six million workplace health and safety inspections have been logged through the app created by Safety Culture. The app has been downloaded over 200,000 times and has over 25,000 active daily users.   Co-founder and chief executive Luke Anear told StartupSmart the funding will go towards doubling its team of 38 by mid-next year.   “We’re recruiting 40 new team members, about half of which will be in software engineering. We’ve had to get pretty innovative about how we attract these guys because we’re competing with Google and Microsoft,” Anear says.   The SafetyCulture team is offering to relocate people from anywhere in the world, support them rent-free while they get settled and if it doesn’t work out, they will fly them home after 12 months.   Anear says it’s working, as they’ve got applications rolling in from all over the world, including start-up hot spots such as the United States and Israel.   Anear says he thinks the company is attractive to investors as it has built up significant traction, with very little energy invested in the product.   It’s a disruptive product for a global market that’s got a lot of traction that’s been self-propelling,” he says. “We just built an app, put it in the app store and launched a website. That’s it for marketing so far.”   The SafetyCulture team was surprised to discover the adoption of its enterprise software solution was being worker-driven.   “We didn’t anticipate the worker-driven model. Usually enterprise software comes from the top and pushed down. But we found workers are our quickest adopters because they want to be safer at work and they’re convincing their management to embrace it,” Anear says.   It’s working on a suite of complementary apps to release in the next six to 12 months. Anear adds the successful uptake of the app is opening up new opportunities.   “This has now become a big data project, which we never anticipated. There is so much data in the back-end that we’re beginning to explore the uses for.”

Outsourcing: Why it’s not a dirty word

11:39AM | Wednesday, 27 November

In this column, a dirty word will be used. A word seldom used in polite conversation. The kind of word people fear to use around children or in the company of the elderly.   That’s right, this is an article about outsourcing.   Now while your humble correspondent is not a mind reader, I can already tell what you’re thinking. The poorly trained call centre staff in some far off land who robotically read scripts. Don’t worry – Old Taskmaster is more than familiar with the call centre shuffle.   Of course, all outsourcing means is contracting out a business task to another company, rather than doing it in house. That’s all.   Contracting a job out to someone else doesn’t have to mean “offshoring”, or sending jobs offshore. You can outsource a job to a company in Australia if you so wish. Likewise, it doesn’t even have to be about minimising your costs – although that is one common benefit of the practice.   The reason for doing it is to focus your resources on what your business is truly good at – your core competencies – and then hiring someone else to do the rest.   For example, if you’re launching a tech start-up, there are probably some things relating to smartphones and computers that you are exceptional at. Perhaps it’s database management, server-side scripting, or coding apps for Android or iOS.   Of course, as soon as you start, you will inevitably need to do a whole range of tasks you’re not so good at. You might know how to write PHP code with a blindfold on, but you might not know the first thing about accounting, payroll management, graphic design or business law.   If you try to build your own accounting team in-house, you’re left attempting to manage a team of people whose industry you know nothing about. Your staff will suspect you’re a clueless boss who doesn’t know the first thing about accounting – and they’ll be right.   Meanwhile, as long as there’s a tax office and a government, there will be long and pointless forms you need to fill out. Why should you waste your time with data entry work or bookkeeping? Why not spend your time getting your apps onto Google Play, something that will earn you money?   As your business grows and revenue comes in, do you invest more resources into the things your business is good at – such as computer programming – or the stuff you’re not good at – like accounting?   Well, it’s time to take a moment to think about exactly what it is that you or your business can do exceptionally well. What are the core areas where you can add value for your customers and turn a profit? What are core competencies you need in-house to deliver your products to your customers?   As your business grows, this is what you should invest your capital in. This is the area you should hire new staff in. This is what you should be focusing your time and energy on as a manager.   For everything else? It’s time to hit Google, the Yellow Pages, Freelancer.com and 99 Designs to get it outsourced!   Get it outsourced – today!

Seek’s scariest period and pushing through the fear: Start-ups are Scary series

11:45AM | Friday, 22 November

Before Seek was a household name, the go-to platform for job seeking and one of Australia’s biggest start-up success stories, it was a couple of guys around a table scheming about how to make it happen.   Co-founder Matt Rockman told StartupSmart there were some tough moments he didn’t think it was going to work, but the scariest period was in the first few years as they clambered their way towards profitability.   “The scariest bit for every start-up is that couple of weeks, months or years of wondering if the revenues come. I definitely had days where I thought maybe we wouldn’t get there,” Rockman says. “You spend a long period of time biting your nails waiting for the market to pay you for the value of your service, and that was years not months.”   As a marketplace model business, the Seek team had focused on building up users and customers on both sides of the offering. But leveraging their user base into viable revenue streams was proving to be challenging.   Rockman says they were focusing on converting free trial ads from recruiters and corporates into paid ones to create the habit and the relationship between their two user groups.   “We were a total afterthought for our first clients, a completely marginal business. They had such a long habit and strong relationship with newspaper advertising. They didn’t get us, weren’t sure it was going to work. You’d go knocking on doors saying ‘Hi I’m Matt Rockman from Seek’ and they’d say ‘yeah cool, what’s a Seek?’.”   He adds it was especially stressful as locking in consistent revenue streams is how founders know they have a business, and they were grappling with huge competitors.   “Our biggest risk was taking on News Limited and Fairfax. They could’ve and should’ve squashed us. But you can’t really be in two places at once, and they were still print rather than digital,” Rockman says. “And credit where credit is due, we were obsessed.”   According to Rockman, keeping your paranoia about competitors in check is a skill founders need to learn fast and never forget. He adds Seek now is probably as paranoid about LinkedIn and Google as the original team was about the major news media groups who used to dominate classifieds.   “You don’t want to be looking backwards not forwards because you’ll run into walls. But you don’t want to be so full of confidence or arrogance that you feel like the challenge is over when it’s not. Always play as number two in the game, because if you play as number one for too long, guess what?” Rockman says.   The other fundamental skill start-ups need to make it through the early terrifying days is the ability to maintain their confidence, tempered with a strong sense of reality.   “You’ve got to careful, there is a lot of confidence and blind enthusiasm that is good, but there is a level of confidence, arrogance and hubris that is not good. You’ve got to get the balance right,” Rockman says.   While the newspaper groups’ monopoly on classifieds was one of the early casualties of the internet, Rockman says there are still plenty of industries ready for a shake up by tech-enabled start-ups who are up for the hard work.   “This internet thing was a very powerful disrupting force then, as it is in many other market segments today,” Rockman says. “Was making Seek work a smooth-sailing, risk free, easy ride? No way. Were the tough parts worth it? Absolutely.”   This is the fifth instalment in our week-long Start-ups are Scary series, which included the toughest and most terrifying moments of younger, successful companies 99designs, Canva, Thank You Water and Vinomofo.     We will be continuing the Start-ups are Scary stories as a weekly series. If your start-up has survived a difficult period, please get in touch so we can celebrate and share your story with the wider start-up community: rpowell at startupsmart dot com dot au

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