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Melbourne startup Tiger Pistol closes $3.1 million funding round

11:16PM | Wednesday, 26 November

Melbourne-based social marketing startup Tiger Pistol has closed a $3.1 million round of funding led by domain registration company Melbourne IT.   Tiger Pistol is a social marketing platform for small to medium sized businesses, allowing them to harness the power of big data to conduct sophisticated advertising campaigns.   The raise will see Melbourne IT become a white label reseller of the Tiger Pistol platform, providing the social marketing software to an additional 500,000 small businesses in Australia. Other participants in the investment include Liberty Financial chief executive Sherman Ma, former Channel Seven managing director Michael Harms and other private individuals.   The funds will be used to accelerate the startup’s 20-30% month-on-month growth in Australia and the US market. The company will hire 40 more staff members in Los Angeles and a further 30 in Australia.   Co-founder and chief executive Steve Hibberd told Private Media Tiger Pistol centralises a small business’ social marketing strategy and in doing so “solves the problem” a lot of SMEs face but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to solve on their own.   “Social marketing is moving so quickly that it’s virtually impossible for companies, and small companies in particular, to keep up,” he says.   “Without Tiger Pistol a small business would have to create and manage a presence across up to eight social networks and directory sites, using countless other platforms for content creation, monitoring, ad management and scheduling.”   In October 2013 Tiger Pistol closed a $1 million funding round. Hibberd says he believes the most recent round of investment was so successful because people saw the company’s commitment to executing its long-term plan.   “We understand that small businesses want real business incomes,” he says.   “They want leads, inquiries, foot traffic and sales. They’re less and less excited with likes and comments. The things you need to do to achieve real business outcomes are not straightforward – it’s not as simple as posting content.”   Hibberd says 2014 has been a “monumental year” for Tiger Pistol. He says the company’s latest raise shows how startups can rely on either organised or private capital. He points out that in a country like Australia – where the pool of organised capital is relatively small in comparison to other countries – private capital could be tapped into more effectively to help give local tech startups the investment they need to grow.   “There are some great funds out there, but they only have a certain level of capacity and profile,” he says.   “I’d encourage businesses, if they believe in what they’re doing, to get into … private capital.”   In August, Tiger Pistol launched a Do It For You package, making it the first platform in the world to help small businesses with a full social media marketing suite that includes organic posts, advertising and reputation management. The service starts from $249 a month.   Tiger Pistol was founded in 2012 and currently has 30 employees based in Melbourne and Los Angeles. It is one of two global Facebook marketing partners for small businesses.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Play games, earn rice for the poor: JellyChip’s plan to disrupt charity sector

11:22AM | Wednesday, 26 November

Melbourne-based startup JellyChip wants to “gamify social good”.   Early next month it will be launching a closed beta for its market research platform and has partnered up with World Vision Australia to help direct some of the profits it generates from that research to charitable causes.   The platform enables its users to answer survey questions in return for in-app points, which can in turn be spent on those charitable causes.   Co-founder Eric Chang says the old ways of charitable giving and traditional market research need to be disrupted.   “We’ve always wanted to do something with technology that would benefit people,” Chang says.   “So we talked about how we can leverage market research to do that.”   Co-founder James Downing has some experience creating a similar socially minded app, a trivia game which directed advertising revenue to help purchase rice for the needy in the developing world. The duo combined that idea with Chang’s own experience helping develop a market research app for PricewaterhouseCoopers clients and came up with the concept for JellyChip.   JellyChip also connects all of its users’ social media accounts in one place, Chang says, in the hope of becoming the first page its users visit when they head online. Users can earn points for logging on, interacting with others, and inviting new people to the platform. It’s similar to the manner in which Dropbox offers rewards and expanded features to its users for performing certain tasks. Those points can be spent in the JellyChip store which will go to the platform’s charitable partners. Between 25% and 30% of its profits will go to charity.   “We believe innovation, social good and business needs can all be met if everyone wins,” Chang says.   The startup has raised investment from private individuals, Chang won’t say exactly how much, but it’s a bit less than $500,000. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Let bitcoin grow before you regulate: US expert tells Australian Senate inquiry

11:02AM | Wednesday, 26 November

The G20 nations, including Australia, need to take the lead when it comes to producing a regulatory framework for bitcoin that recognises it is unlike anything the world has seen before, according to the US Chamber of Digital Commerce president Perianne Boring.   Boring was one of a number of experts giving evidence before an Australian Senate inquiry into digital currency on Wednesday.   She told the inquiry it’s important to follow a path similar to the way in which government treated the internet in its infancy: allow bitcoin to grow and flourish before racing to regulate it. She admits that striking a balance between regulation that protects interested parties and doesn’t stifle innovation is tricky.   “The best way to do that is to provide regulatory clarity in existing laws,” she says.   “I would go through and clarify which types apply to these (digital currency) tech companies and which ones don’t.   “This is about strengthening the existing finance system. Nobody is trying to replace existing government currencies.”   Others giving evidence to the inquiry included Ron Tucker from the Australian Digital Commerce Association, entrepreneur Mark Pesce, Clayton Utz partner Andrew Sommer and the founder of Australian bitcoin startup ABA Technology, Chris Guzowski.   Inquiry chair Senator Sam Dastyari told the witnesses the government was looking for the best way to maximise the potential opportunities that bitcoin represents to the economy, but at the same time ensuring it doesn’t expose the country to “potential downfalls” or actions that could stifle the Australian bitcoin industry.   “The lack of a regulatory framework or regulatory oversight is one of the key drivers for lack of investment in this space,” Guzowski told the inquiry.   Senator Bill Heffernan told the panel of experts the Australian bitcoin industry should return to discussions with government on regulation when it can classify the digital currency as being a bag of wheat or a bag of coins.   The question Heffernan ultimately wants answered is whether or not bitcoin is property or currency. Earlier this year the Australian Tax Office gave guidance that bitcoin would be treated as property and as such GST would be applied. Heffernan was particularly concerned with how this might relate to corporate tax avoidance and “the redefinition of sovereignty”.   Both Pesce and Boring pointed out that in the United States, various government bodies had taken different views on that question, based on common sense regulation about how bitcoin is predominantly used, rather than global “harmonisation” that Heffernan was after.   All of the witnesses spoke of the inevitability of digital currencies becoming mainstream in the future, regardless of whether or not such harmonisation occurs.   “Within a decade, every networked device will have some version of blockchain technology running inside it, serving as the first line of defence against network attacks, providing badly needed security and authentication capabilities,” Pesce says.   “Blockchain technology will be everywhere, in everything, so pervasive it becomes invisible. Digital Currencies such as bitcoin are at the start of a transformation that will leave our world more open and more secure.”   Sommer built on that point of openness, describing bitcoin blockchain’s public ledger as an auditor’s dream.   “As a regulator, the amount of information that is available through the documentation of transactions on the blockchain is unprecedented,” he says.   “The blockchain can distinguish between a transaction that’s supply for a GST purpose, and a supply that’s GST free.”   He said it could be an additional tool to improve transparency in the finance industry.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

New web series to uncover the secrets of Melbourne’s successful startups

11:41PM | Wednesday, 26 November

A new web series has launched with the aim of lifting the lid on Melbourne’s growing startup scene.   Startup Nation, an offshoot of funproject.org – a startup aimed at promoting a positive lifestyle – is a series of short 10-minute documentaries that profile different startups that call Victoria’s capital city home.   So far Startup Nation has released two videos taking a look at 99Designs and WeTeachMe, with a third documentary on CoinJar to be released next month.   Startup Nation - WeTeachMe from Funproject on Vimeo.   Isaac Carne, co-founder of funproject.org, told StartupSmart the aim of Startup Nation is to tell local stories in a quick and accessible format.   “I consider myself an entrepreneur, so this was always a topic that was of interest to me,” he says.   “We had the idea of interviewing companies that were doing something in the tech field from Melbourne and starting up or in their first few years [of operation]. 99deisgns are already well set up, but they are a good example of a successful company from Melbourne that went overseas.”   Carne says the short documentaries will give an overview of how the startups got off the ground and won’t shy away from the challenges the founders faced.   “Hopefully that can be something worthwhile for people out there wanting to start their own startup,” he says.   “Ten minutes might be too long for some people if they’re not into this topic, but we didn’t want to be too broad either.”   Startup Nation is planning to release a further three episodes in the next three months, and is looking to “reach out” to startup incubators for potential partnerships.   Startup Nation - 99designs from Funproject on Vimeo.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Meet the Adelaide startup looking to bring augmented reality to cemeteries and war memorials

11:43AM | Wednesday, 26 November

A South Australian startup is looking to bring together two unlikely companions: augmented reality and the humble gravestone.   Eternal Memoria, based in Adelaide, aims to add digital content to the traditional memorial or cemetery experience. The startup allows visitors to use a QR code on a gravestone to access photos, videos and online dedications online.   Users can also use the QR code to download an app so that when they look through their smart device – preferably a tablet – a video is overlayed across the headstone.   The startup recently won second place at the New Venture Institute’s eNVIes awards. As part of the prize, founder Nizar Rasheed will receive a $5000 travel scholarship to the US in 2015 to explore the international market.   Rasheed told StartupSmart Eternal Memoria is about applying 21st century technology to something that has “pretty much remained the same for thousands of years”.   “We are excited about it because it drags this old technology into the 21st century, which for some reason that has been neglected,” he says.   “People can get a virtual experience while they’re there – videos, photos… A much more interactive experience rather than just looking at the stone.”   Rasheed says the startup has entered negotiations with one of the major cemeteries in Adelaide. He plans to test the technology there before expanding to other cemeteries around Australia.   The startup plans to make money through a subscription model. Rasheed is also looking at exploring the potential opportunities with war memorials to make them “more immersive” for visitors and family members.   Joel de Ross, founder of the Australian Virtual Reality Industry Association, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for virtual reality platform IMERSO VRE – and says preserving the memory of a loved one in a virtual reality environment could be one of the platform’s uses.   De Ross told StartupSmart people are already paying money to remember deceased family members through death notices in the newspaper, however, new technology offers a more comprehensive way of keeping someone’s memory alive.   “What we felt with virtual reality is it presented a unique opportunity not just to remember but [act] as a kind of therapy,” he says.   “Someone’s memory – photos or stories – can be embedded into a virtual reality environment that that person can visit whenever they want to. We feel it is going to be a powerful, therapeutic way of dealing with loss.”   De Ross says he can see augmented reality headstones being utilised in the future.   “In terms of augmented reality headstones, I can absolutely imagine that this is going to be something that people use to deal with loss.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five things you need to know about managing a software build

11:26AM | Wednesday, 26 November

Developing bespoke software is increasingly crucial to achieving business goals, but specifying software and managing programmers can be daunting and ripe with challenges.   Knowing what to expect from software developers and how to effectively collaborate with and manage a team can make or break a product.   Here are five things that founders can do to lead a software build more effectively.   1. Build trust   Establishing trust between founders and developers is key to ending up with a successful project.   You want to make sure that you trust your developers are working effectively and you build this trust by getting them to deliver working software on a regular basis.   In a startup environment, the only way to build software that effectively works is iterative development. You want to break down the project into manageable pieces and build incrementally, focusing on the highest value things.   Ask your developers to deliver the core capability quickly to provide the main functionality you need. Once you feel comfortable with their work, have them refine the build so that it covers more and more edge cases.   2. Specify the right software to be built    It’s not just a matter of building software right; it’s about building the right software, with functionality that customers actually care about.   Develop user stories so that you are specifying features that have a real benefit to the user. Your user stories are the units of work that will flow through the system.   It’s important to help developers to make better decisions about what to build so that they can solve the business problem with less engineering effort.   Founders should give developers the specifications they need without overwhelming them with unimportant details.   When translating business goals into technical requirements, take into account the limits of predictability. Focus on developing a lean product that you can build upon later when you see how customers respond.   This is particularly the case when developing software in highly uncertain spaces where a startup is not yet sure of what their customers want.   The shorter the software development cycle, the less deep a rabbit hole you’re getting into.   3. Track progress    It’s especially important to track progress with both project management tools and systems like GitHub that allow you to keep up to date with what your developers are working on.   For a small team of developers, software like Pivotal Tracker, Trello or Lighthouse provides a simple way of keeping track of the user stories that need to be built.   Founders should register a GitHub account and have their developer create a repository within it where they will commit code. This allows you to keep a copy of the software being built under your control. Your code is one of your startup’s most valuable assets so you always want to have access to it.   By looking at the commits section in GitHub you’ll also see every time code has been uploaded. If you’re paying for programming and haven’t seen a recent upload it’s time to check in with your developers and see what they’ve been working on.   4. Undertake acceptance testing    Having your developer team run automated acceptance tests is essential to ensure the software performs the way you expect.   As there’s so much complexity in software, it’s very easy for a developer working on one feature to break something elsewhere in the code.   Your developers should be using end-to-end testing frameworks like Selenium or Cucumber to make sure all of the application’s functionality works as it should.   5. Continue to learn    There has been an explosion of methodologies, open source languages, frameworks, libraries and tools to make developers substantially more productive.   Lean about best practices to improve the way you manage a software build and stay informed about the latest technologies that can transform the pace of development.   Most importantly, take time to get hands-on experience with new tools to find out what works best for your project’s particular requirements.   Peter Bell will be speaking at the YOW! Conference in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, organising CTO Summits in Melbourne and Sydney and presenting a workshop on managing a software build in Melbourne. For more information, head over to the event page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Silicon Valley interns reportedly earning up to $US10,000 a month

11:09AM | Wednesday, 26 November

According to a compilation of apparent monthly payments at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest technology companies, interns are allegedly being paid anything from $US6000 ($A7000) to $US10,400, with additional stipends for housing costs.   Engineers interning at Pinterest are apparently paid $US7500 a month and given a monthly $US1500 stipend for housing. StartupSmart contacted Pinterest to confirm the amount, but they said they did not wish to comment. Other examples on the list include interns at Dropbox, who are being paid $US8500 per month and given a healthy housing stipend. Dropbox did not respond prior to publication.   Intern salaries at tech comp.  Interesting in light of today's PEP discussion. How does education compete for best? pic.twitter.com/wrIttypg8A — Tom Miller (@TomMillerBES) November 24, 2014   According to its website, Pinterest is looking for interns for its summer 2015 intake based in San Francisco. Applicants are expected to be able to “write clean code”, come up with “efficient and creative algorithms for complex problems” and “implement new features from scratch” – however, the company’s website does not specify exactly how long the internships last or how much interns are paid.   Tin Alley internship program coordinator Miguel Wood told StartupSmart the reality is that Australian startups cannot compete with the capital of Silicon Valley companies.   “In America, particularly in the Valley, it’s all about supply and demand it’s a very competitive environment,” he says.   “They’re clearly not disclosing what they’re offering their interns for fear of losing them for better conditions elsewhere.”   Wood says the Melbourne University students that go through the Tin Alley program generally receive somewhere between $10-12,000 over the summer.   “The students and companies are very happy with that – they think that’s very fair,” he says.   “Most of the time interns are pleased to be paid because there’s a bit of negative culture of unpaid internships [in Australia].”   However, Wood says he “couldn’t stress enough” how much internships are not just about the money.   “It’s about relationships,” he says.   “Success for startups is all about people. And [with an internship] you get direct exposure to working with very talented people who can both mentor you and support you in realising your own dreams if you wish to stay on with that company or go off and found your own.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

New online community launches for entrepreneurs and investors

11:39AM | Tuesday, 25 November

A new website has launched to help entrepreneurs and investors succeed in the startup industry.   Learn.Onvest.com is a free peer-to-peer learning platform that focuses on giving advice to emerging and established entrepreneurs and investors. Users are able to sort through advice by topic, as well as search for the most popular videos and articles.   The website is an offshoot of Onevest, an investment platform connecting startups with investors based in the US.   Co-founder and chief executive Alejandro Cremades describes the site as “like Reddit or HackerNews” for startups.   He told Crowdfund Insider its mission was to create “high performing founders” and investors by establishing a robust and vibrant online community.   “It will be a place where early stage investors can strengthen their foundation and knowledge of this emerging investment category to make educated investment decisions,” he said.   “Our goal is for Learn.Onvest to become the go-to learning platform for the startup community.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Is the blockchain the future of ownership?

11:15AM | Tuesday, 25 November

One day, the blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin and other digital currencies, could be the proof that you own your house rather than a paper title, according to smart contract lawyer Pamela Morgan.   “If you’ve ever purchased a house, or owned an asset like a car, you have title and you have all these hassles where you need to go down to the government municipality, you have to register it and you have to do all these things,” Morgan says.   The “tokenisation” of assets, could lead to a host of innovations in peer-to-peer lending.   “So if for example you own a piece of property, you can not only prove instant ownership of that property, you can actually create micro lien transactions,” she says.   “Where I could give you a loan for a piece of property you had for a week. And register that lien on the blockchain and then when you paid me back, we can remove that lien. We can do that instantaneously, amongst ourselves without banks and weeks of waiting, months of waiting.   “So I really think it opens up the credit market for individual lending to individual people. Once we get property on the blockchain, once we’re able to tokenize title, then those applications are going to naturally grow from that.”   Morgan was in Melbourne on Monday night speaking at a bitcoin Melbourne meetup with Andreas Antonopoulos and Tatiana Moroz.   She says what excites her most about bitcoin is that it opens up the possibility of smart contracts. She defines a smart contract as one which includes an arbitration clause and a payment mechanism using bitcoin. These could be useful for allowing individuals to include third parties, without any special knowledge or skill, in contracts to oversee their enforcement. It’s done by using multisig bitcoin transactions.   “As we move into smart assets and we tie smart assets together with bitcoin and the payment network, we’re going to see smart contracts,” she says.   “I think the tipping point… is when you can use this technology easily, seamlessly on a day-to-day basis.”   She gives the example of a musician who signs a contract to get paid for a performance. If once they’ve performed, the second party refuses to pay, the musician can go to that third party and they can facilitate payment. Any further disputes can be handled in arbitration, a quicker, cheaper option than the courts.   “Large multinational corporations are already doing this, they’re already doing it through commercial arbitration,” she says.   “150 nations have already signed up to a commercial arbitration treaty. What that means is you can bypass the traditional judicial system; you can include an arbitration clause in your contract. You can go to arbitration which is typically, way less expensive, way faster and you get to pick your own judges.   “You can do that and it’s enforceable around the world. That’s a really powerful point.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Hackagong announces $100,000 prize pool

11:10AM | Tuesday, 25 November

Hackagong has announced a prize pool of more than $100,000 as part of its annual weekend competition for entrepreneurs, developers and designers.   Hackagong is an annual hackathon based in the NSW regional city of Wollongong. The competition started in 2012 as a way to raise the profile of the local startup scene and promote regional startups and promoting technological innovation outside of Melbourne and Sydney.   The hackathon will run this weekend from November 29 to 30 for the third year in a row. More than 100 people are expected to attend.   The overall winner of Hackagong 2014 – awarded to the team with the most viable and validated product and business model – will receive $5000 in cash to help launch their startup.   The team will also receive up to $24,000 in web hosting from Rackspace, as well as allowances for a co-working space, mentoring, coding courses and legal advice from additional sponsors.   Additional prizes include the people’s choice award, which will receive $2000 cash, and most innovative and creative 3D prints – with the winning teams receiving a 3D printer and filament pack.   Nathan Waters, founder of Hackagong, previously told StartupSmart he started Hackagong because a lot of students in Wollongong have strong technical skills but may not have the confidence to launch their own product or start a tech company.   “Unlike Startup Weekend and Angel Hack where it’s all about validating your idea in a weekend, ours is more about just making something really awesome,” he says.   “And we’ll give you a little push along, saying: ‘Hey you made something really cool, why don’t you make a startup now?’”   Hackagong will have a strong focus on 3D printing this year, with Waters quick to point out the competition is not just for coders and web developers.   “The response has been really strong, so much so that we have been, for a number of weeks now, organising weekly 3D printing workshops for those wanting to sharpen their skills ahead of the big weekend.”   Hackagong 2014 is being run as part of Tri-Hack, which brings together three separate hackathons – in Wollongong, Canberra and Bega – to demonstrate the skills and talent regional areas have to offer.   Tickets for Hackagong cost $30 and are available online.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Your small business or multinational corporation is not a startup

11:37AM | Tuesday, 25 November

Just the other day, your humble correspondent noticed a new coffee shop had just opened up on the main street of Parts Unknown. While toiling away at frothing a skinny soy cappuccino, the barista proudly exclaimed, “We’re the most exciting startup in town!”   Kids these days. They all want to play startup in the sandpit – but they don’t want to pick up the pieces afterwards!   Later that same day, Old Taskmaster was at a conference organised by a multi-billion-dollar 100-year-old ASX-listed multinational corporation. During a keynote speech, its chief executive proudly exclaimed, “We’re the most exciting startup in town!”   It was then that an odd sense of déjà vu struck the Taskmaster. An unnerving apparition – the kind that strikes a bloodhound that’s sure it’s being followed, but when it turns around only sees its own tail.   It was a flashback to the 1980s, and all that jargon about diversification. And the early 1990s were all about corporate downsizing and expanding into Asia. And the late ‘90s when every company decided it was really a dot com. And the early 2000s when every business deal had “synergies”. And the late 2000s when everyone became a “solutions provider” ready for “web 2.0”. Gah!   For the record, a startup is a high-growth business that takes advantage of recently developed technology, often based on “lean startup” methodology. Also a business name made up solely from consonants that, if said literally, sounds like something in Narn or Klingon.   Contrary to popular myth, it most certainly is not just ‘a new small business’. Nor is it a hollow buzzword for multinationals.   Frankly, if your business plan does not involve achieving world domination via an Android or iPhone app, there’s a good chance you’re not a startup – and you need to get your kiester off the Taskmaster’s lawn now!   “But we like investing in startups,” the chief executive protests. “And besides, we’re applying new startup methodologies to developing our new divisions! Every one of our new products is an MVP and validated in the marketplace!”   At this point, we need to get one thing straight. Admiring something or sharing some characteristics of something is not the same as being that thing.   For example, your humble correspondent can endure tedious tasks like an Olympic athlete and rather enjoys baked goods. However, Old Taskmaster is certainly not a marathon-running cheesecake!   In fact, you know what’s just as absurd as Old Taskmaster being a marathon-running cheesecake? Your small business or multinational corporation being a startup!   So is your business a startup? Really? If not, don’t call yourself one!   Get it done – today!   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Yik Yak app raises $US62 million in latest funding round

11:30PM | Monday, 24 November

Anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, a platform which is available specifically to students on US college campuses, has raised $US62 million ($A72 million), The Wall Street Journal reports.   Sequoia Capital has led the investment round, the Atlanta-based startup’s third funding round this year, and values Yik Yak between $US300 million and $US400 million, according to people familiar with the matter.   Jim Goetz, the partner who led Sequoia’s investment in WhatsApp three years ago, will join Yik Yak’s board. iPhone 6 release drives US App Store downloads to all-time high in October The launch of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 drove record download volumes for the most popular apps, according to research from marketing technology firm Fiksu, Venturebeat reports.   Download volumes were up 42% from September and 39% year-on-year. Fiksu’s App Store competitive index, which tracks the average aggregate daily download volume of the top 200 free iOS apps, hit an all-time high in the United States at 7.8 million. ESPN plans to release its first web video subscription service Sport broadcaster ESPN’s efforts to sell streaming video subscriptions for some sports programming, without requiring its viewers to pay for cable TV, could begin next year at the Cricket World Cup, Re/code reports.   The broadcaster plans to sell US viewers live digital access to the Cricket World Cup. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 7.84 to 17,817.90. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US86 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Interest grows in Australia’s booming finance industry startup sector

11:29AM | Tuesday, 25 November

Fintech accelerator AWI is organising an expo for self-directed investors amidst booming interest in Australia’s booming finance industry startup sector.   Open to both investors and those interested in learning about the sector, the 2014 Self Directed Investor Expo will run from 9am to 4pm on November 27 in the theatre under the ASX Exchange Centre in Bridge Street, Sydney.   AWI head Toby Heap told Private Media the past 12 months has been a period of rapid growth for the sector, which includes peer-to-peer lending, equity crowdfunding, and other financial services.   “When we started earlier this year, when I told people about fintech they would look at me blankly. Now everyone knows what fintech is, and the momentum is exciting,” Heap says.   “Financial services were slow to be disrupted compared to other things being disrupted by the internet and the cloud. That’s why, when it comes, it happens fast.   “The big innovation is to cut out the middle man. Until now, there was a sense people had to outsource control of their financial future. Now there’s a range of products that allow people to take control of their own finances.”   It is this growing interest among consumers keen to take control of their own finances that led its accelerator demo day to morph into a full-blown expo.   “We run an accelerator program specifically focused on financial services startups. Each six months, we take on another bunch of startups,” Heap says.   “So this day started out as a demo day for our first batch of startups, but fintech has been getting so big lately that we asked a bunch of other businesses to come along as well.   “We spoke to the ASX and they like what we’re doing, so they’re supporting us.”   The first intake, announced back in July, included Simply Wall St, Debt to 10k, MacroVue, and Equitise, while the second intake closed in September.   Aside from the graduates, companies such as Sharesight, SelfWealth, LiveWire, Intelligent Investor and Stock Spot will also make presentations at the expo.   In the afternoon, there will be a panel on P2P investing featuring Society One, ThinCats and RateSetter.   People interested in attending the event are advised to click here for more information or to obtain tickets.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

GST on bitcoin would be “monumentally stupid” says digital currency expert

11:40AM | Monday, 24 November

Taxing bitcoin with sales tax is a “monumentally stupid” idea, according to digital currency expert Andreas Antonopoulos.   Earlier this year the Australian Tax Office released its guidance on bitcoin, announcing that it did not consider the digital currency to be money, or a foreign currency. The decision means the Goods and Service Tax (GST) applies twice to some bitcoin transactions – firstly on the goods and services being supplied and secondly on the ‘supply’ of bitcoins as payments.   “It’s as monumentally stupid as it would have been in 1994 to classify the internet as a fax machine service, and put it under the control of telecom companies,” Antonopoulos said at a Bitcoin Melbourne meetup on Monday.   “Or to classify it as a CB radio, a fancy CB radio and ask every user of the internet to pass a Morse code exam and have an operator’s licence.   “Those things didn’t happen at the time because regulators took a wait and see approach and decided to let the technology itself flourish for a while before trying to apply regulations.   “By doing regulation in that way, Australia’s not making bitcoin slow down, what they’re doing is making bitcoin move out.”   He says governments should take a similar approach to the rise of digital currency.   “(It’s) a good idea. Because the truth is very few people really understand what bitcoin is exactly, and how it works,” he says.   “And I don’t mean a few politicians; I mean very few people in general really really understand bitcoin.   “I would count myself as one of them. I understand parts of bitcoin, but I don’t think I can predict where this thing is going. I don’t think I can predict even a fraction of the applications that are likely to be built on bitcoin. None of us know. This is unchartered territory. The reason it’s unchartered territory is because nothing like bitcoin has ever happened before.   “The idea of a trusted decentralised network that allows any individual anywhere in the world to transmit value or establish ownership over digital networks and transmit that in a matter of seconds anywhere in the world, transparently, safely, almost instantaneously, and for less than a third of a penny.”   Antonopoulos speculates on what the development of digital currency could mean when combined with the rise of the internet of things. The blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, which contains a database of all confirmed transactions, could be used to inform objects of their true owners, through smart contracts.   “For example, a car could use the blockchain to identify its owner,” he says.   “So instead of being presented with a physical key, you can present it with a key that’s a mobile wallet, for example, which proves ownership to your car every time you step inside, over Bluetooth with your mobile wallet. The interesting thing here is you could sell your car to someone, and transfer that total in a bitcoin transaction. We create a transaction that has two parts. One part has $10,000 and the other part of the transaction transfers the key token from my car (to the new owner).   “As soon as that transaction is recognised on the blockchain, the car can validate that transaction itself. The car says this transaction says I have a new owner, this transaction has proof of work behind it, and has been included in the block, therefore I believe it because it’s on the blockchain.   “I basically not just sold the title and transferred it, but I also transferred electronic control of the car.   “The internet of things, combined with the internet of money, you have this incredible potential for creating tokens that transfer ownership, for anything you can imagine. And that’s a really exciting thing.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How a T-shirt can help build a team

11:26AM | Monday, 24 November

Education marketplace startup WeTeachMe had a secret weapon when it came to building trust and a sense of ownership with its virtual team – T-shirts.   The startup, which earlier this year was a joint winner of Oxygen Ventures’ The Big Pitch event, is a marketplace for education classes. It allows users to find local cooking classes, painting classes, dancing courses and just about any other informal education course you can think of.   Co-founder Demi Markogiannaki says once WeTeachMe reached a point where the team felt they could justify hiring people, they couldn’t afford to hire a team locally. So they looked to the Philippines and built a virtual team, which came with its own challenges.   “I’ve never done anything about building teams or anything like that, so that was another learning process,” Markogiannaki told a Pulse Melbourne event last week.   “When you’re not talking to someone in person, but you’re seeing them once or twice a day – like through Skype – you need to establish a close relationships, you need to make them part of your team.   “You need to make them follow you and believe in your vision. And part of that was really hard.”   So the WeTeachMe team purchased its entire staff branded T-shirts, and while Markogiannaki says it’s not the be-all and end-all of team building, it made a difference.   “They would wear it of a morning and say, at least I know which company I am working for,” she says with a laugh.   “We made sure they had everything they needed, all the resources required, and slowly we scaled the team up.”   WeTeachMe was founded following a Launch48 startup event in Melbourne. Markogiannaki says she was involved for no more than a bit of fun.   “We started with no funding at all, we didn’t even fund it (ourselves), we all had different skills that allowed us to pretty much bring this product to market,” she says.   “We worked from cafés, city libraries, anywhere there was a space to get it up and running. We’d take turns going to each other’s house.   “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come so far.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Health tech partnership helps new mothers and partners Mind the Bump

11:47AM | Monday, 24 November

Beyondblue and Smiling Mind have released a new iPhone and Android app that aims to reduce the risk of developing postnatal depression and other mental illnesses among new parents.   The free app, titled Mind the Bump, was released alongside Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, which runs from November 16 to 22. It comes against the background of growing interest in both health tech and social entrepreneurship.   It provides mindfulness meditations to both mothers and their partners for the period between the earliest stages of pregnancy through to when a child is 24 months old.   Smiling Mind general manager Lucy Richards told Private Media there are potential therapeutic uses of apps, wearables and cloud services to help treat conditions such as post-natal depression.   “Certainly there’s been a lot of research lately about how tech is taking over our lives and overstimulating us. But it can also use it to engage in the real world,” Richards says.   “Through our psychologists and psychiatrists, we’ve identified the key stresses that come with pregnancy: change, identity and a changing relationship with your partner. There are exercises in this app that can help new parents overcome those stresses.”   According to Richards, apps are a cost-effective way of delivering services, while partnerships between social entrepreneurship startups and traditional charities can help to avoid duplication.   “So Smiling Mind is a new non-profit founded in October 2012 that is trying to get mindfulness added to the curriculum by 2020. We think that stress management and resilience are invaluable when taught at a young age,” she says.   “So we teamed up with Beyondblue, which has been fantastic at driving awareness.   “It’s a nice combination of old school and – very much startup – skills sets.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Symantec researchers uncover spook malware’s reign of surveillance

11:26PM | Sunday, 23 November

Computer security researchers at Symantec say they have discovered a Trojan piece of malware likely built by a nation-state, which has spied on business and governments since 2008, Re/code reports.   While the origin of the sophisticated piece of malware, dubbed “Reign”, is unclear, a shortlist of capable countries would include the United States, Israel and China.   Researchers say Reign has an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target. It provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organisations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals. Yahoo acquires photo startup Cooliris Photo app-maker Cooliris has announced that it has been acquired by Yahoo, TechCrunch reports.   Founded in 2006, the startup was originally known for creating a 3D wall for navigating photos and other media content. It also created a platform for mobile ads called Adjitsu, which it sold to Singtel’s Amobee division in 2012.   Recently the company shifted focus to a mobile app that allowed users to browse photos from across services like Facebook, Flickr, and Dropbox.   “Yahoo has a clear vision and unwavering commitment to making mobile an intuitive and effortless experience,” the company says in a statement on its website.   “This makes Yahoo the perfect partner for Cooliris, and we are excited to come together to bring indispensable products to a worldwide audience.” The secret life of passwords Passwords don’t just protect data; they reveal our hopes, dreams, secrets, fears and memories, The New York Times reports. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 91.06 to 17,810.06. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Blood in the water? App developer alleges WA government jumped the shark and stole his idea

11:07AM | Friday, 21 November

A Perth app developer alleges Western Australia’s Department of Fisheries stole the idea behind his shark alert app, with the state government interpreting the allegations as a legal threat.   In March, Paul Holliday launched iKoast, an iPhone and Android app that allows beachgoers to pin real-time shark sightings and coastal warnings on a map, claiming to have spent $140,000 developing the app.   Holliday claims he began developing the app in 2012, following a series of meetings with the WA Department of Fisheries, as well as Surf Lifesaving WA. He also claims that since its launch, 250 shark sightings have been reported on iKoast.   In January, the WA government launched a new website called SHARKSMART as part of its $22 million Shark Hazard Mitigation Policy, which initially offered education about shark risks. In a statement issued at the time, fisheries minister Ken Baston promised it would soon offer “technology providing world-first, satellite-based live shark tracking information”.   “The development of that feature is well under way, and once we know that the data it provides is reliable and well tested, it will be added to the site,” Baston said.   This week, the WA government launched the shark tracking features of the website, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $370,000.   Holliday told Private Media the first he heard about the government’s shark tracking app was by watching the evening news.   “When the story ran last week on Seven News, it was like watching an ad for my app. It was very upsetting to see they’ve done the same thing, claiming to be the first in the world,” he says.   In comments to The West Australian newspaper, Holliday went further, claiming he has already spoken to an intellectual property lawyer over the matter, but that he doubted he could afford to take legal action.   Holliday clarified to Private Media he would not take legal action, saying: “We did speak to a solicitor friend, but there’s nothing we can do. There’s no legal course of action we can take.”   In a statement Department of Fisheries executive director regional services, Bruno Mezzatesta told Private Media that comments by Holliday in The West Australian newspaper are being viewed as a legal threat.   “The Department of Fisheries understands from the information published in The West Australian today (21 October) that the developers of the iKoast app are contemplating legal action. In these circumstances the department will not be making any further comment,” Mezzatesta says.   According to Holliday, there has been a silver lining to the controversy. He points out that his app has a range of other features beyond spotting sharks, including mapping whales, rips, dolphins and good sea conditions.   “Our app only sends out notifications within a 100 kilometre radius of a shark being spotted, and their app doesn’t even do that,” he says.   “Since the story ran, I’ve never had so much positive feedback from Spacecubed and the startup community.”   He also says the app has attracted a paid customer since the story broke, and that are other opportunities for the technology, including creating versions for the US and South African markets. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Government report identifies six disruptive tech trends to watch

11:07PM | Sunday, 23 November

Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority.   The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”.   Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report:   1. Communications go over the top   Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype.   According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013.   Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million.   However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion.   2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies.   Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day.   The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.   3. Wearables are set to boom   On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years.   The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018.   It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate.   4. Online content is going mainstream   The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate.   According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies.   In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube.   Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services.   5. Multistreaming is now mainstream   In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones.   The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34.   Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%).   Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%).   6. TV is still the one for news   Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014.   While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time.   Image credit: Flickr/alvy   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startup Weekend Australia gains new sponsorship and launches platform, making events easier to organise

11:07PM | Sunday, 23 November

Startup Weekend Australia has launched a new national platform at an event held last Thursday at Sydney’s Tank Stream Labs.   Theopening speech for was delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, who told Private Media the Startup Weekend program is a means by which people interested in becoming entrepreneurs can dip their toe in the water in an accelerated way.   “I think there’s no doubt the Abbott government wants to see a vigorous startup community in Australia – there’s a growing sense of momentum gathering,” Fletcher says.   Event organiser Darcy Naunton told Private Media the new platform comes at a time Startup Weekend events are “gathering more and more startup people than there’s ever been before”.   “Startup Weekends have obviously been around far longer internationally than they have in Australia – they first started out in Seattle – but we’ve been running them in this country for about three-and-a-half-years now,” Naunton says.   “The first was in May 2011 at the Melbourne Sensis office and the second was in the York Butter Factory in November 2011. Since then, we’ve rolled out events in Sydney and Brisbane in late 2011 and 2012, and from there we’ve had local champions to organise events in other cities.   “Now what we’re doing through Startup Weekend Australia is bringing a little more coordination and help with sponsorships to help make those local events viable.   “Every one of them is run by a volunteer, venues are donated for the event, and tickets often only cover around one-third of the cost of organising an event. We think sponsorships can help out a lot.”   Startup Weekend events run for 54-hours spread over three days. After pitching ideas on Friday night, aspiring entrepreneurs and developers are grouped into teams and given 54-hours to turn their ideas into a minimum viable product.   According to Naunton, the platform will help people looking to organise events, as interest grows in hosting events at regional and rural incubators.   “We’re a support network for local Startup Weekends, so we’re not going to go out and start Startup Weekend Horsham – say – ourselves, but if someone in Horsham wants to organise an event in Horsham, there’s a number of ways we can help them out.   “We can help them find a co-ordinator that has helped to organise Startup Weekends in the past. We can help with the format of that event, and we can help to make that first event a good one.   “If that works, they can be more autonomous for the next one, and we’ll help them out more with sponsorships.”   Citing the recent success of Startup Weekend Toowoomba, Naughton says Queenslanders have been especially enthusiastic about organising and attending Startup Weekends in regional cities.   “In other states, it’s dominated by an event in the capital city, but in Queensland people have been to events and then come back and organised one in their home town,” he says.   Recently, the Toowoomba Startup Group recently held its first Startup Weekend event, while Cairns is preparing to link up with events in Townsville and the Gold Coast.   Toowoomba entrepreneur David Masefield, who organised the event with fellow entrepreneur Leanne Griffin, says Toowoomba’s first startup event was a big success.   “It was fantastic, a very successful event. We had around 30 participants and around 20 ideas pitched. And as far as participation goes, there was a 50:50 gender split, so we had 15 male and 15 female participants,” Masefield says.   “Greg [Burnett] from Startup Weekend and Startup Lakes said it was one of the best participation rates in Queensland outside female-only events. And out of the 30, maybe two had participated in a Startup Weekend before, so we expect an event bigger turnout next time.   “We were impressed with all five of the teams that formed, especially the three teams on the Global Startup Battle Track. They included Roll Call Global, which is developing a device that signals accidents on quad-bikes in the event of a rollover or a flip; Checker Style, a fashion app at an economic price; and Time Trade, which is developing a gamified method for people what want to volunteer.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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