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.”
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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!
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
Kat McArthur, winner of this weekend’s Startup Weekend, arrived at the weekend-long hackathon armed with an idea for a walking tour app and plans to recruit team members to make it happen. “Startup Weekends are intense so I pitched a fun idea. It was helping a local schoolies girl find the best route to get cider and burritos,” McArthur told StartupSmart. “The app is about instant satisfaction for the time poor and technologically enabled.” A team of six quickly formed around the app idea. Developer David Baker started building their minimum viable product version of the app, which is now available online and called Ambleabout.co. The app scrapes freely available information and connects it with Google Maps to create short walking tours defined by interests. During the build, marketers Bogdan Borungel, Ricky Baharwal, Chris Wambora and William Chen joined McArthur to start exploring who and how to promote it too. “The great thing about developing apps at hackathons is over the 64 hours of the Startup Weekend, we’ve smashed out eight or ten revenue stream options. The implementation of these will depend on the feedback we get about the app from our beta users, and if we can access investment,” McArthur says. Ambleabout.co has won a range of prizes including $3,000 in legal consulting and a meeting with investors. “As soon as the team has got a bit of sleep, we’re going to meet up and work out who’s in this for the long haul and wants to make it happen,” McArthur says, adding they’ll start seeking investment for the full build next week. The team plans to keep sourcing freely available information to fatten the offering and create better customisation functionality. McArthur says the plan was always to create a global app, and she’s looking forward to working towards that. “I’ve had the idea for six months, but until now I’ve been a one-man band. My biggest drive this weekend was to find people with expertise in building apps, and marketing and communications, and now we’re full steam ahead,” McArthur says.
It’s near impossible to cover everything that’s happening for Australian start-ups, but we’re giving it our best shot. While we’re busy capturing and sharing the Australian start-up community’s news, it’s nothing compared to the long days and sleepless nights that goes into running a start-up. Because you’re busy, we thought we’d start publishing a weekly summary of our daily newsletters so you can see all the news at a glance. Here’s what happened this week. Hot topics: Dynamic equity splits, free apps and crowdfunding We received a lot of emails on our exploration of why Australian start-up founders are exploring dynamic equity splits, and this article on why free apps may be damaging the commercial potential of the $53 billion industry. Crowd funding continues to be a hot topic, with one of our mentors exploring crowd funding firsthand; this start-up founder shares why they turned to Kickstarter rather than searching for an angel investor; and we reveal the top five tips of an ambitious new crowd funding campaign happening right now. We also heard from mentor Greg Ferrett about why the sales spiel is dead, and engagement is the sales strategy that actually works. Three companies announced successful investment rounds Design marketplace DesignCrowd raised $3 million and spoke to us about how their international expansion plans; budgeting app Pocketbook closed a $500,000 seed round and shared who and how they’re planning to hire their first employee; and Loke Digital, a tech company targeting the hospitality industry closed their second seed round, bringing their investment total to $1.1 million. Rapidly growing and now Silicon Valley-based start-up BugCrowd shared their steepest learning curve: getting over their Australian bashfulness and learning how to “speak American” to investors. We also heard from five experts about why Australian investment will continue to grow as Australia learns how to value tech companies better and explored new data that suggests investors are over games and are looking for a different kind of app these days. Founders and leadership So many start-ups fail, but we got advice from a business accelerator about why sheer determination and the ability to think on your feet could save yours; what business owners can do to support their employees with depression and reduce the stigma; and how retailers can ensure their supply chains are ethical. Posse founder Rebekah Campbell shared her tips for creating a start-up culture strong enough to rival Google’s; a project manager at a South Australian University was named Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year and Nina Hendy shared the five experts every sole trader needs to have on speed dial. And, we announced our top 20 entrepreneurs under 25 in our 2013 Future Makers list; found out why this entrepreneur decided to launch her first start-up in her 60s; and discovered why this founder wants more competition. New opportunities, competitions and grants Three major Australian cities will take part in the Global Startup Battle this weekend and Ford Motors has reached out to the Melbourne start-up community to be part of an upcoming hackathon. The chief executive of Bakers Delight shared their top tips for sourcing retail locations; a new franchise is coming to Australia and preparing for our feisty entrepreneurial culture; and new research reveals that only 19% of deals are now done in person. Two governments launched new start-up targeted initiatives with Parramatta City Council is seeking start-ups to re-awaken its CBD by offering $10,000 grants; and the NSW Government has appointed an advisor for creative start-ups. Topics to watch Wikileaks this week revealed Australian copyright may be in trouble, with the Federal Government possibly planning to adopt several problematic parts of the United State’s legislation, and Vanessa Emilio explains what you need to know about the incoming changes to privacy laws. If you’ve passed a major milestone and have news you want to share, please get in touch directly: rpowell at startupsmart dot com dot au You can sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.
Woolworths’ decision to sell Dick Smith Electronics for $20 million to Anchorage Capital Partners has been described as one of the worst in recent history, as the private equity firm files for a $345 million float before Christmas. “The electronics industry is coming out of several years of deflation and coming into some positive tailwinds,” Dick Smith chief Nick Abboud says. “And so if you look at it there is some inflation coming back into the category, you have got the launch of PlayStation 4 in December, the digital changeover for TVs for Victoria and New South Wales, that's happening over the next few months. “We have a very strong housing market, low interest rates, which is good for retail, the Reserve Bank have left open the door for a potential further interest rate cut and actually, from a timing point of view, there are some good things happening in retail.” Google wins landmark book-scanning lawsuit Google has won a major lawsuit in the US upholding its right to scan millions of books, with Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan upholding its argument the practice constitutes a “fair use” under copyright law. Advocacy group the Authors Guild first sued the tech giant in 2005, claiming that scanning books under copyright constituted a gross violation of the intellectual property rights of authors and publishers. It demanded $US3 billion in damages, or $US750 per book, from the tech giant. "This is a big win for Google, and it blesses other search results that Google displays, such as news or images," says James Grimmelmann, a University of Maryland intellectual property law professor who has followed the case. Bega raises its offer for Warrnambool Bega Cheese has increased its offer for Victorian dairy company Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, with its new offer coming just a day after an increased bid from rival Murray Goulburn. Bega increased its offer from 1.2 to 1.5 of its shares plus $2 for every share of WCB, which works out to be $8.87 at current market prices. The offer is significantly above Canadian food giant Saputo’s $8 per share bid for the company, but still less than the $9 bid from Murray Goulburn. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.36% to 15878.72. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.23 cents.
As crowdfunding continues to develop, so too does the information about how to run a successful campaign. With another platform, Indiegogo, launching in Australia this week, StartupSmart spoke to its Australian community consultant, Tony Been, who shared his top four tips for getting support beyond your immediate network. “The most important thing is to be smart about what you’re raising for. Don’t try to fund the whole project, break it into tangible pieces so you can hit the goal, and then keep re-engaging the same audience for each later goal,” Been says. Over 150,000 campaigns have been run on the platform since it launched in 2008. The site currently receives over nine million unique browsers a month. Been says the majority of projects take home cash, as people increasingly opt for more flexible campaigns compared to the traditional, all-or-nothing style crowdfunding range. He adds 70% of money donated in a campaign is “stranger money” from people outside the entrepreneur’s network, but it’s never the first 30%, so fundraisers need to plan campaigns carefully. Being proactive and updating regularly will boost your chances by over 200% Been says those embarking on a crowdfunding campaign need to give it their all, and not be too shy about encouraging momentum. “You need to be really proactive. Tell people about it constantly. We know people who update their campaign one to five times a week will raise 218% more than people who just let the campaign tick over. It’s about constantly engaging with the audience.” Being proactive can also catapult your campaign from your own networks to the Indiegogo home page, blog or social media channel. “We have an internal algorithm that kind of works like Google page rank. It’s about how active the campaign is, so every tweet, share, link in or out counts towards your chance to leap onto our front page,” Been says. Focus on the three levers to attract new donors People who get involved in campaigns run by people they don’t know do so for three reasons: perks, passion and participation. Been says campaigns that combine the three effectively are more likely to go viral. “If you can pair a perk or bonus to one of the more interesting elements of the project, you’re set,” Been says. “The key is to have a strong pitch, and the strongest is your own personal story and passion.” According to Been, the key to writing a compelling pitch is passion, but also about tapping the visionary potential within. “We often talk about engaging the ‘artist within’ with the people you’re trying to raise from. It’s about remembering how when we were all younger, we had huge unstoppable dreams. If you position your passion as part of that, you’ll wake up that part of your reader, and that’s really powerful,” Been says.
A debate about the role and size of the early stage venture capital community was sparked last week by David Gonski’s comments that Australian entrepreneurs are being driven overseas due to a lack of available funds. Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce event, the Australian Future Fund and Coca-Cola Amatil chairman declared the diaspora of Australian entrepreneurs heading overseas to find investment a “tragedy”. “We need an industry that is involved in early-stage investment and I don’t think we can get that when the major pools of money are being judged on 30, 60, 90 or 180 days because these things take much longer,” Gonski said. However, Venture Advisory executive director, Sydney Angels member, and investor Adrian Bunter told StartupSmart Gonski was incorrect in his assumption there is no adequate pool of funds. “In some respects he said there were no early stage funds and the only option was to leave Australia in the early stage. But the reality is start-ups don’t need to leave to raise funds and there is a lot of investment activity going on here,” Bunter says. According to a PwC and Google report on the start-up ecosystem released earlier this year, there are over 500 angel investors, 10 angel groups and one sidecar fund, and almost $600 million in management by 20 venture capital groups. “But there is always more money that can go into the system and he is right that a lot more needs to be done, especially from an institutional investor perspective. Most super funds don’t look at early stage start-ups and are more guided by those shorter couple of month return windows.” Bunter says encouraging super funds to back start-ups will not be an easy task. “It is very difficult for institutional groups to invest in start-ups because they’re so large. They’d need to allocate a significant proportion funds to see the returns their shareholders expect. “Venture capital here really started to grow during the dot.com phase, and towards the peak of it, so venture capital doesn’t have a great track record over the last ten years or so. Therefore the super funds aren’t allocating much money to venture yet.” Bunter adds the amount of early stage investing in Australia is probably considerably higher than the Google statistics imply, as much of the early stage investment comes from personal networks of family and friends rather than through networks and funds. “There is a huge amount of investors who are comfortable with that level of risk, so concerns about high-risk investments are not exactly the problem,” Bunter says. Concerns around the lack of funding at the series A-round level have largely been met, according to Kar-Mei Tang, head of research at national venture capital industry association AVCAL who addressed an event for venture capital investors in Sydney late last month. “The start-up sector has been an emerging force over the last three years and we’re starting to see more founder investors and super angel activity which will filter through to venture capital,” Tang said. Alan Jones is an investor and advisor for a range of start-ups including BugHerd, ScriptRock and through the Startmate accelerator program and Blackbird Venture Capital portfolio. He told StartupSmart investing in start-ups would become increasingly popular as people seek investment options not shackled to commodity prices but instead driven by smart people tapping into new trends. “People who are considering investing in start-ups often say it’s risky. But for those of us who are already doing it, we know we’re investing in people, technology and innovation. To me, that seems like a much safer investment than some of the other sectors where Australians invest such as mining, agriculture and aquaculture,” Jones says. Jones says the tendency of Australian investors to pour money into industries vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices needs to evolve. “As no one in Australia has any influence on the future of commodity prices, it’s all speculation,” Jones says. “Sure, we have different challenges about gaining capital and getting permission to shoot for the moon, but usually when you start-up here, you’re servicing a global market and there are lots of options.” While there is significant risk involved in investing in early stage companies, Jones says the early stage start-up investment community in Australia is growing as investors gravitate towards more personal connections with their investee companies. “I’d rather back someone with a great technological idea, because the risks there are much more about picking the sentiment of customers correctly. The biggest thing about the tech start-up industry is there is no such as thing as a unique idea, so you need to find and back the team that will be the best at executing on their plans,” Jones says.
After noticing how hard it was for friends and acquaintances to find the right lawyer to handle their legal issues, corporate lawyer Jeremy Tompkins created a platform to fill the gap. Tompkins has launched Brief It, a website that lets people post the legal work they need done, or “brief”, that lawyers in the network can pitch to work on. The client then chooses which lawyer they want to work for them based on their response on how to tackle the problem. “It’s about matching the problem with the expertise of the lawyer,” Tompkins told StartupSmart. He says the approach is similar to how large corporates deal with their legal issues by sending the problem out to a panel of lawyers who pitch for the work. Tompkins says he was partly inspired to create the site after being approached by friends for help with issues involving family, employment or property law. But because the issues were outside his field he couldn’t offer the advice they needed and while he might be able to refer them to other lawyers he knew in those fields, they may not be the right fit from an experience and cost perspective. He says Google searches for lawyers could also provide a large amount of information that was difficult to “cut through”. He told how he recently met a nurse who needed a property lawyer but could not find one who met her needs through internet searches. Tompkins says the site also carries feedback from past clients on a lawyer’s work, as well as indicators of expertise, value for money, reliability and an overall rating for the quality of service. “This is giving choice to the consumer,” he says. “The site is really aimed at the large number of people who want to research and make an informed decision. It’s providing the information that those consumers are demanding.” And from the lawyers’ perspective, they get to find work they’re interested in, Tompkins says. For people seeking a lawyer it’s free for them to post a brief on the site and free for lawyers to join. Lawyers pay a fee if they’re awarded a brief.