Checking your smartphone for an email from your boss could be a thing of the past with the number of high-profile advocates who argue for a ban on after-work contact growing. German employment minister Andrea Nahles is considering introducing “anti-stress” legislation, which would completely ban companies from contacting employees after hours, having commissioned a report to investigate the viability of such legislation in late August, reports the Guardian. It follows a move by Volkswagen to agree to not send emails outside of work hours when workers complained of home and work life blurring. Car maker Daimler followed suit, installing software in August this year to automatically reply to and then delete emails sent to workers who are off duty. Germany’s employment ministry also established guidelines in August 2013 that banned its managers from calling or emailing staff after work so public servants could avoid burnout that comes from being switched-on 24/7. In Australia, research by accounting software firm Intuit Australia in 2013 found 49% of SME business owners admit balancing work and home is a problem and feel they wear too many hats. Professor Andrew Noblet of the Deakin Graduate School of Business conducts research in the area of work/life balance. He told SmartCompany the blurring of lines between work and home has been taking place for some time. He says technology makes it easy for people to be contacted anywhere, anytime and this makes it hard for workers to ‘switch-off’ and recharge the batteries. Noblet says research in the field shows looking after workers’ mental and physical health requires them to have time to wind down, and if people aren’t able to do this, it can upset their relationships and work performance and affect their ability to resolve complex issues. “With people having access to us [anytime] we can be checking emails at the kid’s cricket and sporting events and it makes it difficult for us to enjoy what we’re doing outside of work,” Noblet says. “People need to be going home and leaving work and spending time with family and friends, and certainly having a good night’s sleep so energy levels are replenished for the next day’s activities.” Noblet says the trade-off is one of the difficult dilemmas we face in a global market but companies need to be mindful of the impact work practices may be having on employees’ social relations and wellbeing. He says it starts from the top down and senior members of an organisation need to realise harmony between work and home is also beneficial to an organisation. “If staff can see management working well into the night and not attending to their responsibilities outside of work, employees will think that’s what they should adopt,” Noblet says. “We need to have policies so there’s a consistent message being delivered and respect and acknowledge the end of the working day for people’s health and wellbeing.” This article originally appeared at SmartCompany. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Escaping the herd mentality: why some Aussie startups are choosing the Big Apple over Silicon Valley12:49AM | Thursday, 18 December
A growing number of Australian startups are moving to New York rather than Silicon Valley in order to chase partnerships with major brands and shake off the group-think of San Francisco. Yesterday, contactless communications startup Tapit announced it was expanding into the US market by opening an office in New York. Co-founder and chief executive of Tapit Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the startup has previously collaborated with major international brands and wanted to position itself close to its clients. “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there,” he says. “So it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than in San Francisco.” Tapit has recently undergone a rapid international expansion – with offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai – and Conyngham says a headquarters in New York will allow his team to pitch to brands face-to-face (because Skype “only takes you so far”). Kate Kendall, the founder of Cloud Peeps, moved to San Francisco from Melbourne in 2010 and has been living in New York for the past two years. She says a combination of industry and market-reach factors influenced her decision to remain in New York while working on her startup. “San Francisco is amazing because it’s the equivalent of Hollywood – it’s where you have a lot of tech talent and tech giants – but the drawcard for New York is you’ve got eight million plus people,” she says. “San Francisco is a baby city in comparison to New York.” However New York was also a personal preference for Kendall, who says positioning herself away from San Francisco allowed her to challenge herself. “When I first went there [San Francisco] there were a few Aussies and then it exploded,” she says. “I wanted something new and challenging and San Francisco felt like another Melbourne. People want diversity and the thinking about the tech space in New York is … instead of it being a tech ecosystem, it’s tech within other ecosystems – media, finance, art. “There is a very big bias in Silicon Valley of what constitutes a tech company and what constitutes a problem you should be solving, and after a while everyone can be working on the same thing and solving problems for what is a niche area and niche problem set.” Kendall also points out that in New York, she doesn’t realise she is a female entrepreneur. “When I first moved here and started going to events there were so many incredibly talented, ambitious, driven, funded women in the room. It’s funny because it does feel like nowhere else on earth in terms of tech and startups.” Kendall is involved with Down Under New York, a tech meetup designed for Australians living and working in the Big Apple. The acronym for the meetup – DUNY – doesn’t escape the attention of attendees, either, and sparks a few conversations about Australian slang. Kendall says in the last few months she has seen an “absolute onslaught of Aussies move into New York”. Although there is a notable downside: the weather. “It does get to minus 15 degrees in winter, so sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong choice,” she says. “The weather does suck – it’s absolutely freezing.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A Netflix executive has ruled out offering customers the ability to view popular television shows and films offline. “It’s never going to happen,” Netflix’s director of corporate communications and technology Cliff Edwards told TechRadar. The statement has shot down hopes the popular video streaming service would allow customers to download videos to watch offline in a similar fashion to music streaming service Spotify. Instead, Edwards argues better Wi-Fi coverage – particularly on public transport – is a more suitable long-term solution as opposed to offline viewing. Last month Netflix confirmed it would expand into Australia and New Zealand in March 2015. The company has more than 50 million members worldwide. Leaked emails reveal Snapchat acquisitions Emails leaked during the Sony Pictures hack have revealed multimillion-dollar acquisitions made by Snapchat, as well as the startup’s plans to include a music feature. TechCrunch reports that emails leaked between Sony Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton and Snapchat board member Mitch Lansky reveal the picture and video-sharing app acquired QR scanning startup Scan.me for $14 million in cash, $3 million in restricted stock units and $33 million in Class B common Snapchat stock. Other emails reveal Snapchat reportedly paid $10 million in cash and $20 million in stock and bonuses for startup AddLive. Dating startup Zoosk puts IPO plans on hold Online dating platform Zoosk has backed away from its IPO plans and will revisit its options at a later date, according to TechCrunch. The company launched in 2007 and filed for a $100 million IPO in April. The news comes at the same time as a leadership reshuffle, with chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg replacing cofounder Shayan Zadeh as chief executive. Zadeh will be taking up a position on the company’s board. According to IBIS World, the dating services market is work $113 million in Australia. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 312.33 points or 1.83% to 17,381.2. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US81 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The startup scene continues to flourish in Australia, with hundreds of new startups launching this year and many scaling nationally and overseas. Here is StartupSmart’s pick of some of the startups to keep an eye on in the new year. 1. Bitcoin Group Melbourne-based Bitcoin Group, the entity behind bitcoin arbitrage fund Bitcoins Reserve, has big plans for 2015. The company plans to raise $20 million at 20 cents a share by listing on the ASX. On top of that, the startup is a big supporter of the local bitcoin community. Chief financial officer Allan Guo previously told StartupSmart Bitcoin Group hopes to raise the profile of bitcoin in Australia and make sure more people understand digital currencies. “There are people building exchange platforms, as well as payment systems, wallets, all the technology, but for us we see the biggest problem with bitcoin is the lack of understanding, the lack of trust,” he says. “The transparency, the legitimacy, that’s what we want to bring.” 2. Swift Swift is a Melbourne startup that grew out of after-hours alcohol delivery service Liquorun, and allows retailers and other businesses to deliver their products to consumers within one hour. Swift is a classic example of an Aussie startup taking a niche concept and applying it to the broader market. “Shopping online is very convenient until it comes down to accepting delivery of the item,” founder Joel Macdonald previously told StartupSmart. “You know where you’re going to be in the next 60 minutes but you don’t necessarily know where you’re going to be the next day. Everyone’s time poor.” Swift was one of five companies to recently secure funding from BlueChilli’s $10 million venture capital fund and is in talks with a number of US retailers. 3. Stashd Fashion-discovery startup Stashd launched earlier this year and allows users to swipe left or right on an item depending depending on whether they would like to ‘stash’ or ‘trash’ it. The app features more than 100,000 items and users in more than 80 countries. Co-founder Jessica Wilson says 30% of the apps users are “power users” and have engaged with the app more than 100 times since downloading it. “I think a lot of it is you become super addicted to it,” she says. “Internationally we’ve grown well because it is different, and we’re one of the first people in the fashion app space.” Stashd has plans to grow the product range to include items from the likes of Zara, The Iconic and Asos.com. The startup will likely announce a seed investment round in the next few months. 4. Wattcost Aussie startup WattCost has developed a device that can be attached to a household’s power meter to provide home owners with real-time data on power usage. Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble says WattCost was the most interesting startup he has seen all year and Google could very well buy the company in the race to become the dominant Internet of Things platform. “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says. “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.” 5. TalkLife Global social network TalkLife was founded in Adelaide and this year announced a collaboration with a London-based business accelerator. The startup allows young people to discuss issues such as depression and suicide and support one another online. It has grown rapidly since its launch in 2012, with currently more than 100,000 users worldwide. Founder Jamie Druitt previously told StartupSmart the startup is working with Harvard and MIT research teams to investigate how data can be used to predict high-risk mental health episodes in young people. “I think it is fantastic that TalkLife can give them the opportunity to see data on mental health in real time,” he says. “I think we need to look at how we can grow TalkLife now – it has only ever grown organically but we’re not even scratching the surface of mental health. We’ve got a long, steep road ahead.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A Queensland health startup is looking to raise $700,000 in order to fund a tech-enabled, wireless stethoscope for home use. Stethee, based in Brisbane, has turned to Kickstarter and within five days has already cracked the $100,000 mark. Founder and chief executive of Stethee, Dr Nayyar Hussain, told StartupSmart he hopes to revolutionise the humble stethoscope by allowing people to monitor their heart rate from the comfort of their own homes. “There’s nothing like it at the moment,” he says. “Around the world, doctors and researchers have not been able to get their hands on the data because there is simply no device to capture it.” Stethee comes with a LED ring that pulses in sync with a person’s heartbeat. The device also vibrates with the pulse of the heart and can be paired to a smart device in order to access high-quality audio of heart, lung and other body sounds. “You can compare someone’s heartbeat to a sample of 100,000 heartbeats and get a good insight into what condition the patient might have,” says Hussain. “Technology is at the stage now where we can miniaturise the vibration device and it all works seamlessly – you can effectively feel the heartbeat. You get a really intimate profile, which is something you could never do before.” The startup turned to crowdfunding because of the relatively slow uptake of health tech in Australia. “For a small startup company you have to speak to the big medical device companies, but they are so big and often US-based so the turnaround is a long time,” Hussain says. “If you look at what we are trying to achieve we are trying to get product validation. Reaching almost $100,000 in five days is a clear sign people are interested.” Hussain says it is okay if the startup does not reach its $700,000 crowdfunding goal by the end of January, because he considers the crowdfunding campaign a “success already”. “We want to really get the attention of some venture capitalists or people in the health space,” he says. “We see it not just as something for the Australian market but something for the global market – there are no cultural or language barriers. Even if we get to only $500,000, not many businesses or people can raise that amount of money in a month’s time.” Stethee’s Kickstarter campaign expires on 29 January 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Today we’ve got a case study of the corporate kind, bringing you up close and personal with David Chung, co-founder of etaskr – an online resourcing platform that is an enterprise software version of sites such as freelancer and oDesk. It aims to connect those looking for workers inside an organisation to those looking for work. The etaskr story is an interesting one because its roots stem from the corporate world, a world many consider to be diametrically opposed to the world of startups. Unlike many startup stories you hear emanating from entrepreneurship hubs like Silicon Valley – where the founders are college dropout computer hackers who built an app over a beer-driven weekend – etaskr was founded by two work colleagues who left the security of corporate life to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs. I had the chance to sit down with David and find out what it was like to move from corporate to startup, how it helped, what adjustments needed to be made, and what he would have done differently if he had his time over. AN: Firstly David, can you give us a quick idea of your background? DC: I went along a pretty well-trodden path of good marks, a double degree in commerce and law then getting a few graduate offers of which I chose a management consultancy position at KPMG. I quickly realised that this was not going to work for me and I made the life-changing decision to resign. Serendipitously, I was recruited for a position in the innovation department at KPMG as an innovation analyst, and that I feel is the key moment that has led me to this great path of building a startup. AN: Interesting. So what was working in the innovation department of a large corporation like? DC: At the time, it was really exciting. We had a framework that was heavily directed by your own creativity that moved projects from ideation to testing as quickly as possible. Then if we got the right signals we would go to pilot and then production. Looking back on it now though, it’s a much more conservative approach to building a startup but you’re solving your company’s problems and things move a lot slower because of how many stakeholders you have. It was certainly much more suited to me than consultant life though. AN: OK. And how did you manage that transition? DC: My manager and mentor Tom was really helpful, plus some books he recommended I read, namely: The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, and The Little Black Book Of Innovation by Scott Anthony, the latter dealing with corporate entrepreneurship. I think my people skills helped too as I got on really well with one key product developer, Pat, who helped teach me about product management, and we built some really cool things together. He eventually became my co-founder! AN: So what triggered you to leave corporate innovation and get into startups? DC: Well, funnily enough, I was researching an idea for work that involved co-working spaces. I made a visit to Inspire9 and while I was there I was explaining to Nathan (co-founder of AngelCube) what I do. He asked me if I had any ideas of my own and that if so I should apply to AngelCube as applications would be open for another week. Well, that got me thinking and back at work I asked Pat if he would be interested in joining me. He did, we drew up our plans for world domination, googled how to pitch and a few weeks later got in! AN: Sounds like it all happened rather quickly! DC: Yeah, it was crazy. We had to commit to AngelCube full-time, but to do that we had to resign from KPMG with one week’s notice! Thankfully, my boss at KPMG was really understanding. He told us that he knew that we would one day apply everything we’d been doing and learning to the big bad world and we’d fly the coop. I felt like Anakin Skywalker saying goodbye to Obi-Wan – before he turned to the dark side of course. We still keep in touch and he’s one of our biggest supporters. AN: And the idea for etaskr was one you picked up whilst at work? DC: So we got into AngelCube with a different idea, but they invested in us as a team, not the idea. So we decided to park it for a couple of days and just throw ideas around to see if we could come up with something a bit juicier. And so etaskr was born. The idea was heavily based on solving our own problem of working as consultants and being ‘on the bench’. It’s exactly what it sounds like – there’s not enough work and you sit on the sidelines trying to look busy. Not having much work might not sound like a big problem to those who haven’t worked inside a big firm, but it’s a nightmare. You go from being motivated and ambitious to frustrated and anxious – but you’re told it’s all part of the job. What we’ve realised in the startup world though is that you don’t just have to accept that – you can build crazy solutions that can change behaviour. AN: How did you find the shift from corporate life to startup life? DC: Pretty huge. First your mindset around ‘work’ completely changes. You no longer clock on, do your structured tasks that are managed and reviewed then clock off. You’re constantly thinking about creative, meaningful things you can do for your startup. It doesn’t really feel like work anymore – well apart from the compliance stuff – but you bring so much more energy into it because you don’t see it as doing something for a pay cheque. You’re doing something you’re crazy about! AN: Cool. This has been great! Just lastly, what advice would you give to people working in the corporate world who are at this moment thinking about doing a startup? DC: If you’re feeling underappreciated, disengaged and underutilised at work – well first off you should pitch etaskr to your boss because you’ll begin discovering awesome opportunities inside your company you never knew existed. But secondly you should trust yourself to go out and build your own dream instead of someone else’s. It’s a huge learning curve, or learning cliff face as I like to call it – but startups bring the best out of you. To sum up – smart people should build things! Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part five of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Working in a startup can be harsh, fast paced and often extremely chaotic. Nothing is certain. A startup won’t provide the same comforts offered by the 9 to 5 job in a large corporation, yet more and more ‘intrapreneurs’ are choosing to escape the corporate cubicle to join the entrepreneur revolution that is occurring across the globe. So what is it that attracts us to startups? I imagine there are quite a few that aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, others that seek the freedom of being their own boss. And others who simply just land a job in a startup because they meet a founder who offered them something that looked kind of interesting. I got into startups by accident, I was at a point in my life where my kids were quickly growing into beautiful adults and I was looking for a new challenge to throw myself at. I was asked if I’d be interested in helping out a startup, a day or so a month and that was my introduction to a whole new way of thinking and working. I had to quickly adapt, being amongst smart entrepreneurs, pushing ideas, testing the status quo, challenging everything and anything in order to find leaner, smarter solutions meant that I too, needed to start to think the same way. In large organisations, bureaucracy and layers of governance slow thinking and the ability to act at speed. Working in a startup empowers you to make changes, to shake up the old school way of doing things in order keep up with the speed of change that is happening around you. Of course there are down sides, often you work long hours, spinning many plates, seven days a week. Although it can be gruelling, the feeling of working together to make a difference and create something amazing keeps you pushing forward. Yesterday I mentioned the subject of this article to several entrepreneurs, they each smiled at me and agreed that startups are addictive. I didn’t ask them why they thought that as I think we all know our own reasons why we each get sucked into this space. There is an extremely fine line between loving your work and being addicted to it. I wonder how many people working in startups stop and ask themselves if they have a healthy balance between startups, family, friends and themselves? I thought I was smart enough to just keep that balance and that I didn’t need to question myself. I thought I had it under control; I was wrong, I’d crossed that fine line without knowing. Getting the balance back takes a lot of hard work. Looking back as another year draws to a close my biggest regret is not stopping regularly to check in on my balance. I’m finding that by allowing myself time for stillness my balance is slowly returning. As you break for festive season ask yourself are you addicted to startups? Allow yourself to unplug from the internet and check in on your personal balance. Clare Hallam is a Startup Operations Specialist. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
New York-based video journalism startup NowThisMedia has raised $6 million in Series C funding lead by previous backer Oak Investment Partners, TechCrunch reports. The capital raise follows an investment by NCB Universal News Group earlier this year. The startup, founded by BuzzFeed chairman Kenneth Lerer and Huffington Post chief executive Eric Hippeau in 2012, aims to reinvent video journalism in the smartphone era by producing short news clips than can be distributed across mobile and social media platforms. The company’s videos were watched around 40 million times during the month of November. Samsung considers taking on Apple Pay Samsung is in talks with a startup that would help it unveil a wireless mobile payments system that could rival Apple Pay in 2015. The smartphone manufacturer is in talks with mobile payments startup LoopPay and a prototype has been created, according to Recode. The partnership could see Samsung customers pay for items by waving their phone instead of swiping their card or paying with cash. Apple Pay was launched in September this year, using near field communication technology in the iPhone 6 to do away with credit cards and overcrowded wallets. Jury rules Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006 An American jury has decided Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006, letting the company walk away from a case that could have seen them pay $1 billion in damages. The Verge reports the plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued Apple’s iTunes 7.0 reduced competition by making it less easy for consumers to purchase music for their iPod that wasn’t from Apple. The eight person jury delivered a unanimous verdict that the update was a genuine product improvement and did not adversely harm consumers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 51.18 points or 0.3% to 17,129.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Entrepreneurship program 3 Day Startup could be coming to Australia. The program targets university and high school students, educating them about entrepreneurship and encouraging them to create startups of their own. Each program focuses on a particular theme, such as social innovation, energy, hardware, and more. 3 Day Startup is speaking with a number of Australian universities, including the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and the University of Technology, Sydney to gauge interest in running 3DS events in Australia. Speaking to StartupSmart from the United States, 3 Day Startup program manager, enterprise, Jackson Dyre-Borowicz says the goal of a 3DS programs is to nurture the development of more startup founders. “Most students typically see two paths, after they graduate from university. One is to go and get a job in corporate America, and the second is to go back into academia. What we’d like to introduce, keeping with that theme of threes, is that third part, the ability to start your own startup,” he says. “We’re about making people aware of that.” It was founded by two grad students at the University of Texas in 2008, disenfranchised with the lack of hands-on learning in their studies. It’s grown massively and to date it’s held over 132 programs in 18 countries. It charges universities, governments and corporations to deliver its programs. 3DS alumni have gone on to launch 79 companies, 29 of which have been accepted into accelerators and incubators, and have raised $US49 million. While there have been challenges expanding the program into markets outside the US, Dyre-Borowicz says the only issue they have to tackle in Australia is its geographical distance. “When we expanded in Asia, there were a lot of culture differences. One of our core beliefs is build fast, fail fast. Learn from failure and do it better the next time,” he says. “In Asia, we couldn’t necessarily say that because the culture was less tolerant of failure in general. But we made some progress in changing how people thought.” Dyre-Borowicz’s fellow program manager at 3 Day Startup, Alexis Taylor, says any Australian program would provide a valuable link between students and startup mentors. “We can connect entrepreneurs with students. The more they see success stories, the more they see that there are entrepreneurs out there, the more they see that being a startup founder can be a reality,” she says. Taylor says she’s noticed the strength of both the Sydney and Melbourne startup ecosystems and 3 Day Startup is keen help them grow even stronger. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Technology is a constant factor in everyday life and should be leveraged more often to tackle mental health issues, according to a clinical psychologist who started her own wellbeing app. Dr Lisa Patterson-Kane, principal psychologist at Changing Ways Psychology, has been specialising in psychology-based care for people in rural and remote areas for around 10 years. After seeing how geographical issues were preventing people from accessing weekly consultations, she decided to build an app that would have a similar effect as a psychologist tapping someone on the shoulder “each and every day”. “It was never meant to be the top app in the world, but for quite a long period of time it was in the top 10 health and fitness apps,” she says. “I’ve had many clients who have been my past or present clients saying, ‘It’s just like I’ve got your voice in my ear.’” Patterson-Kane launched Get Happy in 2012 after using Appster to develop the app and get it up and running. “They were very honest about the functions that it could have and we worked through the goals I had for it,” she says. “They were very honest with me for the need for marketing. I found them to be a really good company to work with because I don’t’ have very much tech knowledge but I do have very specific skills in what I do.” Patterson-Kane says often people can be intimidated if they don’t have specific knowledge about technology, however that shouldn’t stop health professionals from using apps and the internet to solve problems they come across in their particular industry. “I don’t believe you need to be tech savvy [to start your own app],” she says. “You need to look at what your own strengths are and have other people help you with what aren’t your areas of strength.” Modern day technology can be “either your friend or foe”, according to Patterson-Kane. “Technology can have an extremely negative effect on someone’s mental health in a lot of ways,” she says. “People can become disconnected from family and their environment because they’re always watching devices. But then again, we also need to acknowledge it [technology] has a lot of positive qualities and use those too.” These can include crowdsourcing tips for managing chronic disease, reminders to take medication as well as positive tips to help get through the day. Patterson-Kane says 10 years ago the idea of a smart device buzzing in your pocket to assist with a person’s overall wellbeing was “an abstract concept”. “It’s totally achievable and acceptable these days.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Sydney-based startup Bidz Direct has developed a new shopping platform that’s attempting to give consumers more control over pricing. Co-founder Phil Tran told StartupSmart Bidz Direct lets buyers select an item, name the price and get an immediate list of agreeable sellers. He says the instant match means buyers can score discounts without having to search through Google for cheaper prices or endure waiting for an auction to end “You can walk in to a Harvey Norman and see the camera you want for $200. You take a photo of it and upload it to the site for $180 and it will show you sellers that match,” he says. Tran says the concept is based on special bid pricing for large enterprises where clients negotiate better deals on multi-million dollar accounts. After an extensive career in this field at IBM, he decided to apply it to consumers in the retail market. Tran hopes Bidz Direct will help people save on products in a global market while making the shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable. “If you think about the way we shop physically, now, you don’t want to haggle but you don’t want to pay the retail price so you end up walking away because you fear rejection. We’re removing that emotional fear of haggling with shopkeepers,” he says. Tran says retailers would benefit from fee structures lower than eBay and enhanced productivity through features like auto-approval delegation where a price range is set for an item and sold automatically to any interested buyer. Bidz Direct is set to go live in February 2015 and has raised $150,000 from private investors so far. Tran says meetings with AngelCube and investors in Silicon Valley are planned for early next year before they expand to the Asia Pacific region. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Can you believe the end of the year is right around the corner? To help you gear up for a bigger, better year with your business, here are five words to put into action to help boost your marketing in the year ahead. 1. Strategise Now is the time to review. What worked, what didn’t and what can be made better? Will you be aiming for a different market this coming year? What do they need and want? What problems, worries and frustrations do they have? If you aren’t changing target markets, are your messages working or do you need to change your approach? 2. Personalise We are doing business in an increasingly global, faceless environment, don’t underestimate the need to personalise your marketing. People want and need to feel as though you are talking just to them, but to do this you need to be more aware of your audience and more targeted in your marketing approach. It might be a case of doing three specific marketing or advertising campaigns to key target markets as opposed to one general one. While it can sound like more effort, you will get far better results being specific. 3. Theme Make your marketing easier in the new year by theming your content and campaigns. Grab a large wall planner and write down all key dates, events and tradeshows within your business and industry. Then write in all related causes, awareness days, weeks or months, and public holidays. If you are planning public relations and advertising campaigns in the new year, request the media kits of the publications you want to target and write down the editorial themes they will be covering. Very soon you will start to see possible themes emerge within your calendar. Then once you’ve decided you can theme your social media, marketing material and promotions around these making it easier to find content and identify the best marketing activities. 4. Care There is no marketing strategy more powerful than genuinely caring for your customers. Go the extra mile, help where you can and take the time to answer questions. Build relationships with your customers don’t just bank transactions. 5. Authenticity Customers don’t just want to purchase a product or service from a business anymore they want a genuine, transparent experience from a business that knows who they are and what they stand for. For this reason, you need to be authentic and transparent in your marketing and in the way you do business. If you make a claim, back it up. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Be real, at the end of the day most people are buying the people behind the business, not a product or service. How will you be shaking up your marketing in the new year? Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has opened an office in New York as part of its expansion into the US market. Tapit, founded in 2011, has been finding new ways for consumers to access information instantly on their phones – all off the back of an aggressive international expansion. Earlier this year the startup collaborated with the likes of Google and HBO to allow people to access film and television-related content on their smartphones by scanning event posters. In September, Tapit entered the Chinese market via a partnership with mobile commerce giant 99 Wuxian. Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the company opened an office in New York because it wanted to position itself where its clients were. “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there, so it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than San Francisco,” he says. Conyngham says the startup has been using Australia as a “launchpad” for global deals, which has worked well because it can bring those case studies to the US. “If you do a deal with Google or Microsoft in Australia you have that case study and you can then go to their global teams,” he says. “You can’t do that unless you do those deals in the US – Skype only takes you so far.” The company has been helped by the fact that Australia is ahead with contactless communication in comparison to other countries, according to Conyngham. “You’ve seen the massive take-up of tap and pay with credit cards and that has put us ahead in the contactless ecosystem. So we’ve been lucky to have headquarters here in that regard because the US is a bit behind – even in the UK.” Tapit also has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. The fast-growing startup has pioneered contactless communications for brands such as Telstra, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Sony. There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world, and Tapit expects that number to grow to one billion by 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne Angels has led a syndicated investment worth more than $750,000 in Metaverse Makeovers, a wearable tech startup whose primary product is augmented reality nail accessories. Other investors include a number of private individuals in China, as well as QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s Creative Enterprise Fund. Metaverse Makeovers is a company aimed at bringing together wearable technology and fashionable consumables. Its leading wearable technology product, Metaverse Nails, are fashion nail accessories that interact with a mobile app using augmented reality technology. Using the app consumers can take selfies with augmented reality 3D holograms on their fingers. How to Wear Metaverse Nails (Chinese version) from metaverse-makeovers on Vimeo. Melbourne Angels deal lead Maurice Grasso told StartupSmart the investment in Metaverse Makeovers was exactly the kind of opportunity his team seeks. “It’s really new technology, it’s a large overseas market and you’ve got world class entrepreneurs in the space,” he says. “If you can tap into that, the requirement for you to make a further investment is probably lessened. Your money will tend to go a little bit further and you may not need a follow up round or, if you do, hopefully it’ll be a smaller one.” Metaverse Makeovers co-founder and chief executive Thea Baumann said in a statement the investment will help the startup navigate “the unique challenges of bringing our wearables to a rapidly growing emerging market”. “The wearable tech and augmented reality space is hotting up,” she says. “The time is right for Metaverse Makeovers, as an interdisciplinary team, to shape the face of this emerging sector and directly position our augmented reality wearables into and onto the hands of a mobile-only generation.” The startup plans to tap into the Chinese market, where there are around 93 million young women who are increasingly embracing mobile technology. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Online survey platform SurveyMonkey has raised $250 million in equity financing, meaning the company is now worth around $2 billion. The company, which is based in California, will use the latest capital raise to pursue future acquisitions, according to Fortune. New investors include Morgan Stanley Investment Management and T Rowe Price, joining existing investors such as Google Capital and Tiger Global Management. In May this year the company announced it was opening an office in Sydney as the first step in its expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. Skype rolls out real-time translation software Skype has unveiled its live translation software for people speaking English and Spanish. The Skype Translator program is also available for more than 40 languages via instant messaging, and will be available to customers who have signed up for the software and are using Windows 8.1 on their desktop or portable device. In a statement on Skype’s website, corporate vice president Gurdeep Pall said the company is continuing to break down geographical barriers. “Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate; people will no longer be hindered by geography and language,” he said. Nest thermostat now links to Google apps In a step forward for the Internet of Things, Nest thermostat owners can now control their home’s temperature through Google’s self-titled iOS and Android apps. VentureBeat reports users are also able to use voice commands to ask Google to change or set their house’s temperature. In June, Nest launched its Works with Nest program to drive innovation by opening up the platform to developers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 69.07 points or 0.4% to 17,211.76. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A Victorian startup is looking to shake up the online car buying space and has already secured $2 million in seed funding. Cardeals2u has only been trading for four weeks, but has already quoted close to $20 million worth of vehicles. Unlike other online car sales sites, Cardeals2u allows users to receive offers directly from car dealers instead of spending time trawling through classifieds. Co-founder Kevin Durston told StartupSmart he has always been “a car guy” and felt like the current way of looking for car deals online was “a little frustrating”. “If the buyer knows what they want why do they have to look at photos online?” he says. “The online car market has been built around online classifieds. We’ve moved from the old trading post days and essentially put photographs to those advertisements and put them in an online environment. We thought there’s an opportunity to take it to the next level.” The startup recently received $2 million in funding, led by Jason Wyatt from The Exchange Group and Aidan Clarke, founder of the 2XU performance sports clothing company. Durston says the funds will be used primarily to scale the business into a platform that can compete with some of the more established car sales websites. “The plan for those funds is to scale obviously in Australia and potentially offshore to reach bigger markets,” he says. “This model doesn’t seem to be well represented in overseas markets, so we believe there is a strong opportunity offshore.” Durston says while most consumers still prefer to purchase their car from a physical dealership due to the high cost of a vehicle, around 90% of people do their research online first. He says the trick is to mould these two processes together and that it will only be a matter of time before more consumers who know what they want buy a car online in the same way that they might purchase a vehicle over the phone. “It’s just about consumer uptake and getting in-line with what’s happening globally,” he says. “You can already buy a car on eBay. There are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs out there in the tech space to look at how something is done and bend their minds to look at how it can be done better.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Brisbane-based bitcoin startup Living Room of Satoshi has reopened, two months after suspending operations in the wake of the Australian Tax Office’s decision to treat bitcoin as property. The startup offers a free service allowing users to pay BPAY bills using bitcoin and makes a small profit based on the price movement on bitcoin exchanges. When Australian-based exchanges were forced by the ATO’s decision to charge users that buy bitcoin 10% of the amount that is being purchased, it gave users a large disincentive to pay bills using bitcoin. Since, exchanges based in other markets have made it easier for Australian consumers to use their services, and avoid that extra cost, which Living Room of Satoshi co-founder Daniel Alexiuc says has made the service feasible again. “There are now many more options for small Australian businesses like ours to buy and sell bitcoins internationally and locally in compliance with the tax ruling, which has allowed us to reopen for business,” he says. Over the past two months Alexiuc had investigated moving the startup offshore, to Singapore or Hong Kong, until it became apparent that international exchanges would make the business viable again. “It’s pretty much running the same as it was before, with the same sort of service. We’ve got approval from ASIC to operate in this way, so it seems like it’s going to be sustainable for now,” he says. “We’ve got an app coming soon which will also make things easier. But the GST is still a problem for us because businesses in Australian can’t use bitcoin the way it needs to be used. And if businesses can’t use it in Australia that makes it difficult for us in the long term. “We still firmly believe that the double GST needs to be repealed for bitcoin to be ultimately useful as a currency in Australia, but for now we can continue operating as before.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A NSW startup is leveraging cloud-based software in order to shake up the local solar energy market. Solar Monitoring Australia – based in Koolewong, NSW – aims to help solar companies optimise their energy output of solar installations and, in turn, give owners the maximum return on investment. The startup does this by using a cloud-based platform that enables both installers and customers to monitor their solar panels and ensure they are always feeding the grid. Chief executive Mark Elliott told StartupSmart Solar Monitoring Australia solves the “install and forget” problem associated with investing in solar panels. “Solar monitoring in Australia to date hasn’t taken off because the devices have been very expensive – between $500 and $1000 – in a lot of cases,” he says. “And they’ve been very complicated to set up. The third issue is that most monitoring solutions use the customer’s internet to connect the data back to the cloud.” Elliott says most solar monitoring solutions are manufacturer aligned, however, his startup’s product will allow installers to connect multiple inverters to the one platform to create a single view of their customer base. Customers will also be able to log in to a web portal to see how their system is performing. “Customers want monitoring so the installer will know when the system fails or underperforms and can take corrective action so they don’t lose the savings,” he says. “Ultimately customers are buying a solar system to reduce their energy costs.” Solar Monitoring recently raised $1.5 million in private equity financing and employs 11 people. Elliott says the plan now is to scale the business and look for potential opportunities overseas. “Next year it’s really about ramping up market penetration and ramping up the partner base so that we can scale the business,” he says. “The opportunity in front of us is global in nature and there is a significant amount of interest overseas in what we’re doing here.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The creators of shared living app Fairshare have released a new version of the app customised for parents to make the management and organisation of their households easier. Melbourne-based co-founder and CEO Jules Malseed-Harris told StartupSmart OurHome is a private social network for families which lets parents allocate tasks and positively reinforce children for contributing to housework. “The main problem it addresses is parents don’t need to nag their kids to do small chores,” he says. OurHome lets parents add tasks, such as tidying the bedroom, for children to complete. Parents can set deadlines and both parties are notified when a chore is due. Unlike Fairshare where roommates get equal admin rights, OurHome is designed for the parent-child relationship. Instead of a bookkeeping section to track payment of bills and rent, OurHome features a reward section and a smart shopping list, a household inventory tool that predicts which grocery supplies are low based on previously bought items. Within four weeks of release, OurHome has gained more than 1000 users with active members accessing it seven to eight times a day. “It has been growing 90%, week over week,” he says. Children using it range from 4 to 16 years old but the majority of users are in primary school, aged 5 to 13. He says the hook for children is the subtle form of gamification in collecting points for chores. “Rewards could be pocket money or a family trip to the beach,” he says. Malseed-Harris says the original household organiser app, Fairshare, was developed for roommates and has about 2000 active users mainly in the US, Germany and Australia. Most of the growth for OurHouse has come from the US but interest has grown in Europe and Asia. The app is available in English, French, German, Japanese, simplified Chinese and Spanish. Malseed-Harris and his co-founder Oliver May have funded the venture through bootstrapping and small contributions from friends and family. In the New Year, they plan to commence seed funding rounds and grow the user base. “We are hoping that it becomes the primary platform through which families communicate and coordinate activities with each other,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A common refrain in Silicon Valley is ‘manual first’, referring to all the different approaches you can take to validate and grow your startup idea before putting any time into building a web or mobile application. The reason this approach is so popular is due to the speed at which you can accomplish things. Speed is everything for a startup. It is one of your few natural advantages over pre-existing competition. Because you’ve invested so little in your idea to this point, it will never be quicker or easier to change what you’re doing, be it slight changes or drastic ones. Big companies have mass, and with mass comes momentum. Momentum is great if you know where you are going, but crippling if you need to change directions suddenly. So how does ‘manual first’ equate to getting the ball rolling on your startup? The answer lies with an MVP. That’s not a sports reference mind you, rather in this context MVP stands for minimum viable product. That’s startup lingo for doing what you have to in order to learn whether the assumptions around your idea are valid. What this means in practice depends on the type of startup you’re creating and the particular hypothesis you’re hoping to test. Typically, you want to test the biggest assumptions in your business first, which usually equates to “will anyone use my product/service?” A good assumption to validate before going out and dedicating your life to making it happen, don’t you think? In fact, everything we try to do as entrepreneurs, be it speaking to people, creating a lean canvas, and testing the various hypotheses within, is geared towards de-risking the startup as quickly as possible. So, what might an MVP look like for your idea? If your idea is for a product that you plan to sell and distribute online, one clever MVP is known as the ‘smoke and mirrors’ technique, which involves setting up a landing page for your ‘product’ (including relevant information such as price, benefits, feature set, etc), sending people to said landing page (often via some paid ads on Google, Facebook, or whatever platform is relevant for your target audience) and seeing how many people actually click the purchase button. The point of this exercise is that you find out relatively cheaply – whatever money you spent getting people to your ‘product’ website – if anyone wants what you have to offer. If no one bites then there’s not much point in building out the product. You’ve invalidated the hypothesis that your product is the solution for a certain group of people, whom you believe suffer from a certain type of problem. From this you can deduce that: 1. The people who came to your site weren’t the correct subsection of people (change your advertising). 2. The people coming to the site were OK but the positioning of the product was not (change the content of the landing page). 3. The offer wasn’t compelling enough for the price (change the price). 4. People aren’t really interested in the product (put more work into researching the problem – is it really a problem?) If your idea is more service than product, then you can utilise ‘the Wizard of Oz’ technique to validate your assumptions (the name bears homage to the old man who hides behind a curtain pretending to be a powerful wizard in the children's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). If your startup revolves around some type of service, the Wizard of Oz technique means physically complete the service by emulating the actions of what you would eventually code and automate. As an example, say you had an idea for an online gift recommendation service. Manually emulating the service in this case may take the form of finding potential gifts for a user by personally going through shopping catalogues looking for gift ideas that match said users preferences, then returning the results online as files in an email. To the user, there is no difference between an algorithm sourcing the gifts automatically and you working behind the scenes doing the same job. This approach often involves creating a site that is slightly more complicated than setting up a simple landing page and some ads, but generally not much more than an extra form field or two. Note that if you are completing manually what you intend to offer as an automated service, you shouldn’t be shy about taking money for said services. Some tools that you might find useful for this part of the process include: Balsamiq – a wireframing tool that lets you sketch out your website or mobile application. Unbounce – a tool that lets you create, publish, and test landing pages for your startup. FluidUI – similar to Balsamiq, but with a later stage focus, higher resolution designs and the ability to put your prototype onto your mobile and test it out directly. Google AdWords – you know Google, you know ads on Google, this is where you go when you want to put your own ads on Google. Facebook have a similar platform you can find via https://www.facebook.com/advertising Wufoo – a customisable online form builder with no coding required. Regardless of what tools and techniques you use for the job, keep in mind that speed is the essential ingredient. The faster you can prototype, iterate and prove an assumption, the faster your idea transforms into a viable startup. So, get out of the building, speak to customers, figure out what they want, what it looks like, put that online, and see if anyone buys! From there it’s wash, rinse, repeat… with one caveat which we’ll cover in the next article! Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part four of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.