Speaking in front of a healthy crowd of entrepreneurs at a Startup Grind Melbourne event at the NAB Atrium on Tuesday, Carsales.com.au founder and managing director Greg Roebuck gave his top three tips for startup founders to consider when pitching to investors. 1. Don’t expect to be an overnight success “The chances of someone being an Instagram, two or three years of hard work, a billion dollars; sorry, it’s unlikely. You’ve got to have the view you’re going to be doing this for years. I don’t want someone that’s built something that’s enough to get some money and then walk away. In my view, people say why are you still working in the same business all these years later, they ask why haven’t you done something else?” “It was never a let’s build it to a point where we can flick to someone else and move on. I like businesses that the people have a genuine passion for, and have passion for it for a longer period of time. It doesn’t mean a great idea can’t be sold to a Google or a Facebook or a Twitter, but it’s probably not how I think about businesses.” 2. Belief and passion “Nobody will tell you it’s a good idea, otherwise they would have done it themselves. Everyone will tell you a bad idea, and it’s always easy to say no. I like people that are prepared to get a few noes and are prepared to keep giving it a go.” 3. Solve a real-world problem “Car sales were broken. And a lot of things we do in Carsales people take for granted now: like list until sold. We were the first people in the world, certainly in Australia, to offer listing until sold for a classified. I love the old classified model. It was put an ad in The Age on a Saturday it’ll cost you $70 bucks. If it doesn’t sell, well give me another $70 bucks. If it still doesn’t sell give me another $70 bucks. The problem with that model is they made more money if they did a bad job. Then I came along and said give me your money and my job is to get you a sale and you never have to pay me again because you’ve given me the money for the job I have to do. So solving real-world problems that help people.” Startup Grind Melbourne’s next event will feature Envato co-founder and CEO Collis Ta’eed on Wednesday, October 29. For tickets, head over to Startup Grind Melbourne’s Eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian mobile payment startup Clipp has appointed former Microsoft executive Todd Forest as its new chief executive. The startup, which describes itself as Uber for bar tabs, has experienced rapid growth this year and is now used in 270 venues across the country. Clipp’s co-founder Greg Taylor told StartupSmart the decision to bring Forest on as chief executive came about after examining where the business was at and where it needed to be. “The first step is sitting down and saying what do we do really well, what areas we are lacking in and where we need help,” he says. “Everyone should be doing what they do best. For some co-founders it can be difficult to let the reins go a little bit but that comes down to who the candidate is.” Taylor says bringing onboard external, experienced talent can make a startup more rounded. For Clipp, the priorities are improving the point of sale as well as getting venues and consumers on board. “As we head into that space, Todd’s experience fits really nicely and positions the business really well as we head into that second phase of growth,” Taylor says. “It’s an opportunity more than anything to work under and work with someone with that level of experience.” Australia’s geographical distance from startup hubs like San Francisco has not stopped local startups from building strong relationships with international talent, according to Taylor. The most important thing is that the new team member fits with the startup’s culture. For example, earlier this year Guy Kawasaki joined Sydney design software startup Canva. “Cream rises to the top and if there’s a good business and there’s a good business model there will be a natural attrition into that space,” Taylor says. “The world is flat in that regard.” In a statement, Todd Forest said he was looking forward to cementing Clipp as Australia’s go-to mobile payment solution. “I join Clipp at a time when the mobile payments space is beginning to heat up,” he said. “2014 has been an incredible year for Clipp and we’re looking to continue that momentum right through to next year with some product updates and other big news which I can’t wait to share with you all.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australia is at risk of becoming one of the last developed markets in the world to act in support of equity crowdfunding, according to the founder of equity crowdfunding platform Equitise, Chris Gilbert. Sources told The Australian that Treasury officials have concerns about crowdfunding schemes and the government will delay the details of new policy until after the department consults with industry and the community. Gilbert says he’s been told by a prominent government source that there’s a chance regulation might not be in place until July 1 next year, and a small chance that it might not happen until July 1, 2016. Equitise, one of four startups in the AWI Ventures accelerator program, is working towards its New Zealand launch in four weeks’ time. Unlike Australia, New Zealand has introduced laws which allow retail investors to participate in equity crowdfunding and enable startups like Equitise to operate. Gilbert says Equitise would not be impacted too much if regulation was delayed until next year. He says while they would have liked to launch in Australia first, the startup is content focusing on that market for the time being. However, a delay until 2016 is a different matter. “It’s looking like legislation and licensing will be released in the first of July next year, and Australia will be one of the last developed markets in the world to support equity crowdfunding,” he says. “We can deal with the 1st of July next year, but if it were the 1st of July the following year that would be pretty bad for us.” Earlier this year the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC) called for the government to make it easier for startups to raise capital through online crowdfunding platforms. Currently, crowdsourced equity funding is only available to wholesale investors with more than $2.5 million in investable assets or annual earnings of around $250,000. CAMAC recommended Australia introduce legislation which allowed retail investors to invest up to $10,000 a year, across at least four startups, in equity crowdfunding, and allow companies to raise up to $2 million per year on such platforms. The Australian reported that some government ministers regard these caps as too low, and Gilbert agrees. He thinks Australia should follow New Zealand’s lead and allow investors to invest as much as they want. “If they understand the risks they should be able to invest,” Gilbert says. “I think it’s important to have a cap, but $10,000 is way too low. It’s difficult to say exactly what that cap should be. In New Zealand where we’re launching in about four weeks’ time, they don’t have caps. If you look at that market they’re leading the way globally in terms of legislation at the moment. “We’re required to have disclosure statements, warning statements, all through the site, it’s quite up front and you really can’t miss it. That’s how they’re dealing with the risk.” He also believes companies should be able to raise up to $5 million per year through equity crowdfunding. “$2 million is far too low. New Zealand has the same limit, although it is bringing in a micro-cap market on the stock exchange. The Australian Stock Exchange has a minimum market cap of $10 million, so there’s an $8 million difference that needs to be filled.” The chief operating officer of VentureCrowd and Artesian Capital Management, Tim Heasley, says while there is broad political support for the liberalisation of equity crowdfunding in Australia, that’s where agreement ends. He believes it’s inevitable that reform won’t occur until mid-2015 at the earliest. Among CAMAC’s recommendations were that crowdfunding platforms should be prohibited from having a financial interest in a startup or platform, or being paid in shares of startup or according to the amount of funds raised. He says those recommendations are “nonsensical” and give strength to the argument that CAMAC failed to consult properly with industry before releasing its report. “Neither is required to protect against conflicts of interest and each would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for platforms to be run profitably,” he says. “There has been some criticism on the low caps placed on individual investors by which they can invest only $10,000 in any year and this must be spread over at least four startups. VentureCrowd favours any recommendation that requires diversification of investment across a number of start-ups instead of allowing investors to put their eggs in one basket. “While the overall limit could be increased, we see no harm in starting somewhat cautiously now with a view to higher limits in the future as this form of funding grows in popularity.” Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive Yasser El-Ansary says irrespective of what the caps are, the more pressing issue for the government should be the development of a new national innovation policy. “Private investment whether through crowdfunding, angel, venture capital or private equity funding needs to be accompanied by a national innovation policy that has a focus on the translation of research into commercial outcomes,” he says. “Our weakness is in the D of R&D, we need a new translational innovation fund to attract matching private capital. We have recommended a new $500 million translational innovation fund funded by 10% of the proposed Medical Research Future Fund. “Also, the government needs to address a range of tax issues including ESOP structures. Without such a holistic approach at the policy level, we’ll continue to major in the minors and innovation will not deliver for the economy.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Bennett Blank’s three principles on staying fresh and relevant: “We’re trying to turn Intuit into a company of 8000 entrepreneurs”9:31AM | Thursday, 18 September
It’s not direct competitors that keep the folks at Intuit up at night; it’s all the startups they don’t know about, according to Intuit innovation catalyst Bennett Blank. The financial software company describes itself as the “30-year-old startup” and Blank says for the last six years it’s been trying to instil startup values in its employees through its Design for Delight program. “There’s lots and lots of pressure from all different angles for established players like Intuit,” Blank says. “In general, being in tech is extremely challenging because it’s changing so rapidly. We like to say it’s not the company’s market competitors that keep us up at night, it’s the kid in a garage outside Stanford that could be about to launch in 30 days. “Which is why we’re trying to turn Intuit into a company of 8000 entrepreneurs.” The program is based on three principles that Blank says can apply to startups and businesses of all shapes and sizes: 1. Deep customer empathy “We try to understand the customer by observing them in the real world,” Blank says. 2. Going broad to go narrow “This is about helping people to employ many solutions until they dive onto the final solution that actually works: brainstorming until they settle on the final option.” 3. Rapid experiments “We’re out there developing experiments in the wild, showing those products. And figuring out through those experiments how to learn new things about the customer. “There’s no success, no failure, just the experiment. Seeing what you learn.” Of the company’s 8000 strong workforce, there are 200 employees that are known as innovation catalysts, specifically trained to help instil Design for Delight values in their colleagues. “We have a rich tradition of entrepreneurship that gives us a head start from other corporations,” Blank says. “We’re somewhat unique in that Intuit has been around for 30 years or so and our founder is still active. “One benefit we’re seeing from Design for Delight is we’re able to react much faster to other companies.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Leading Australian bitcoin startup CoinJar has begun trialling Australia’s first bitcoin EFTPOS card, which co-founder and chief executive officer Asher Tan says is a “huge step” for adoption of the cryptocurrency in Australia. Users open a CoinJar bitcoin wallet, activate the card, then they can set it up to automatically top up with an amount of Australian dollars they’re comfortable with. It effectively enables CoinJar users to use their Coinjar wallet funds in any store that accepts EFTPOS. Customers can also manually top up their CoinJar Swipe if they prefer that to automation. CoinJar teamed up with prepaid payments solution provider emerchants to develop the card. “I think it’s a huge step in terms of answering the question, where can I spend and how can I use bitcoin,” Tan says. “One of the biggest criticisms of bitcoin is that it is not widely accepted. “We created Swipe because we simply wanted to make it easier for our customers to spend their bitcoin. “We’ve been working on this for a while. We’ve working on ways where our users can get better coverage around Australia and this is a long-time coming.” Some 100 CoinJar DNA members will receive their cards next week. The CoinJar team will take any feedback on board before making the cards publicly available by late October. To select those that would receive a card, CoinJar asked its users “What would you do with your CoinJar Swipe?” Answers ranged from paying bills to buying a sausage roll and iced coffee for lunch. “Swipe demystifies bitcoin and makes it accessible to everyone through a secure platform,” he says. “Our team is really excited about Swipe, and we look forward to receiving feedback from customers.” CoinJar estimates bitcoin is being used by 500,000 Australians. Over the past 12 months the startup has processed more than $50 million worth of bitcoin transactions for more than 30,000 individual and business customers. Customers can pre-register for further releases of the card here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Online web series That Startup Show has been shortlisted for the Best Innovation Award at the 2014 Online Video Awards, as its creators negotiate with possible distributors. The second episode of the web series was released on Wednesday and looks to build on the success of the pilot. The first episode, released on YouTube in August has had over 36,000 views with a global reach across Asia, Canada and the USA. That Startup Show co-producer Sally Gatenby says the team was negotiating with a number of possible distributors, including TV. “We’re looking at both traditional and online,” she says. “Given the amount of views we’ve had in a short amount of time, we’re looking forward to seeing how we can leverage that and reach a larger audience.” Episode two, which you can (and should!) watch below, features Oxygen Ventures general manager and investment director Ilya Frolov, IntelligenceBank co-founder Tessa Court, and AngelCube co-founder and lead investor Adrian Stone. They, along with the host, comedian and tech commentator Dan Ilic examine the Australian venture capital landscape, the perceived lack of funds in Australia, and examines why “bizarre” innovations like Yo manage to raise capital. “We’re really happy with how the episode has come across,” Gatenby says. “We really wanted to demystify the role of venture capital in Australia.” Show creator Anna Reeves, a former business affairs manager for cult TV show Rockwiz in its early seasons is thrilled with how That Startup Show has been received so far. “For us, it’s also about actively engaging our audience on this journey in a unique a fun way, which adds vaue and foster connections with the amazing startup culture we have in Australia,” she says. “That’s actually what we love most about it.” That Startup Show episode three and four will be filmed back-to-back in late October as part of StartupAus’ Startup Spring Festival. Tickets are available at That Startup Show’s Eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne startup Appster has opened a capital raise to fund its ambitious vision to create “an unprecedented development hub for the greatest ideas and innovations in the world”, according to co-founder Mark McDonald. The startup has offices in Australia, India and the USA. “We aspire to be the world’s first ideas company, that sounds lofty but working in San Francisco you are exposed by osmosis,” he says. “It’s also our beachhead into the US market which we’ve been growing month on month.” The software development startup is raising capital to achieve that goal, although it’s in no rush. As the business is profitable, it’s in the position to wait for the right partner to help it “scale aggressively”. That innovation hub will be AppsterX, the company’s product arm. McDonald says the company is looking to partner with a select few companies, between one and two per year, and takeover everything – commercialisation of intellectual property, building executive teams, raising capital, growth and product engineering. “It’s different to an incubator or accelerator in that we’re not nurturing talent but instead starting these companies for them and taking a lion’s share of the equity,” McDonald says. “We believe this model will work better than an incubator one as we are most vested in the ideas; bring world-class execution and only present VCs with startups that have incredible traction already, “Appster is uniquely positioned to pull this off because we have a large development team, global reach and growing capabilities with finance and growth hacking.” McDonald says the startup has always been slightly different to other app developers, describing its role similar to that of being a technical co-founder without equity, as opposed to a fee-for-hire digital agency. “We’ve worked hard to build a brand and operational economies of scale globally to build the technology behind many of Australia and the world’s most disruptive technology startups.” Recently, former PayPal executive David Jacques and the former chief commercial officer at Virgin Australia, Liz Savage, joined Appster as strategic advisers. “We believe we have incredible executive skills but one weakness was experience in the US capital markets,” McDonald says. “David is a financial and operational expert and a very well-respected person in the industry.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Westpac Group, in conjunction with accelerator BlueChilli, is offering $40,000 to the Australian startup that can create the most useful and disruptive business solution for its SME and commercial real estate customers. “The Westpac Innovation Challenge” is an opportunity for Australian startups to develop new ideas to help the bank’s business customers. The winner of the round will receive $40,000 cash to develop their idea and a six month placement in BlueChilli’s startup accelerator program and the potential of further investment opportunities. BlueChilli founder and chief executive officer Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin says it’s a great opportunity to advance the development of new business services in the marketplace. ”We want to boost startups that use technology in smart ways in order to expand the services available to professionals and consumers within their industry,” he says. The challenge is open to Australian residents who either have an existing early-stage venture or a new concept that can help Westpac’s business customers prosper and grow. Westpac general manager commercial banking Alastair Welsh says the company is looking for ideas that could potentially transform their real-estate customers’ businesses. “Westpac, like our customers, knows that innovation and entrepreneurship are the engines of growth and vital for sustained performance in a rapidly changing, digital economy,” Welsh says. The challenge launches one week after the opening of Westpac Group’s new innovation centre – The Hive – and is part of the bank’s effort to deliver innovative products and services to its customers. There will be future challenge rounds which focus on solving business problems for other Westpac business customers from various industries. Commercial real estate was selected as the first area for the challenge as it is a rapidly growing part of the Australian economy and a key focus area for the Westpac Retail and Business Bank. Applications close at 11pm on Sunday, October 19. For more information and to apply, visit the BlueChilli website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A diverse range of startups make up the 23 tech companies that are set to compete at Tech23 2014. The conference has been the launch pad for a number of successful Australian startup entrepreneurs, including Local Measure founder Jonathan Barouch, BugHerd founders Alan Downie and Matt Milosavljevic and bigtincan founder David Keane. The 23 startups operate in everything from cloud services to robotics and e-health, and include founders with a diverse range of backgrounds from across the country, according to Slattery IT director Rachel Slattery. “People are innovating across Australia, and it’s great to see the breadth of the nation represented amongst the clever technologies being presented at Tech23 this year,” she says. “When Tech23 started six years ago, it was all about creating connections. It’s great to see this happening even more now. As Tech23 alumni companies and founders, industry leaders, sponsors and supporters go out of their way to help the next wave of innovative companies.” Tech23 takes place in Sydney on October 23. The 23 tech companies will each present five minute presentations before being questioned by industry leaders Michelle Deaker, Leni Mayo, David Spence and Richard White. For more information, visit www.tech23.com.au. The Tech23 2014 startups are as follows: Appbot – better app reviews and more sales AUUG – make music through motion Bluedot Innovation – precise, battery-friendly location services Clevertar – avatars for innovative aged care Clipp – the bar tab app Doarama – 3D GPS track visualisation GeoMoby – proximity platform for mobile apps Global and Smart – the story behind good GoFar – cutting car costs through informed driving Intelligent Fleet Logistics – vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation LEAPIN Digital Keys – a smartphone-enabled access control system Maestrano – one-click interconnected business apps for SMEs Mika Compliance – aged care management software/resource portal Oar Inspired – make every stroke count Peepable – liberating online through search and share Pop Tech – transact instantly and control your data Red Eye – cloud-based engineering drawing management solution Robologocial – robotics in the cloud and beyond Skrydata – discovering the value in big data Sound Scouts – harnessing games for health Statsilk – interactive mapping and visualisation software Tzukuri – beautiful wearable technology uSig – breakthrough in password and identity management Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Sitting at The Creamery,“deal central for techies”, in San Francisco’s tech heart Soma, App.io’s CEO Diesel Laws feels the decision to leave Melbourne was the right one. “The mentality here that’s so different to Australia is that you don’t need to get to profitability straight away,” Laws says. Two years after they went through AngelCube’s program, and were then accepted into 500 startups and completed a $1.2 million raise, App.io is aiming to shake up mobile game advertising, allowing potential app buyers to play games for 30 seconds, without downloading anything. App.io claims their tests have shown they can increase conversion by up to three times. “You listen to a song before buying it, or watch a trailer for a film, we’re doing that for apps,” Laws says. “It’s a try before-you-install mobile advertising solution.” App.io requires no extra work on the part of game makers to run previews, which App.io refers to as “ads”, with a patent pending on the tech they’ve been developing for two years. There are a couple of competitors in the space, Voxel and mNectar, but Laws believes that they have the competitive advantage. “For us it’s really important we get the experience right,” Laws says. “We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on that, where others haven’t.” App.io started out as Kickfolio in the AngelCube program, where Laws was working as senior designer at the time, but he became so excited by the opportunity of what Kickfolio was trying to do that he joined them. At that time they were using third party software to allow apps to be previewed in a web browser, eventually becoming unsatisfied with what it could achieve they decided to invest time developing their own tech. They also moved away from their original model of streaming apps in a browser, officially announcing App.io Ads in April. “It become very evident to us that the opportunity lies in the consumer market,” Laws says. One of the original founders, Chris Nolet, recently left, deciding that early stage companies were his passion, rather than those heading into growth. App.io has also brought in a business manager to nail down partnerships with game companies and set the company up for growth, bringing the team to six, across San Francisco and Melbourne. “We’re pretty happy with how things have gone,” says Laws. “We’re looking forward to seeing where this all takes us.” Bronwen Clune is in San Francisco as a guest of Angel Cube. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Twenty Australian entrepreneurs will get the chance to learn from Steve Blank, the academic who launched the lean startup movement, when he visits Australia next month. Blank will be hosting an innovation workshop alongside the founding executive director emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, Jerome Engel, in Melbourne on October 20. The 10 best pitches to the Australian Sports Technologies Network’s Investment Pitching Competition will be invited to the workshop. Another 10 entrepreneurs who submit the 10 best pitches to The $50,000 IT Invention test, hosted by ICT Geelong, will also get the opportunity to take part. Both Blank and Engel will also be keynote speakers at the ASTN’s annual conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, October 21. The conference will focus on ‘The Next Steps to Global Sports Innovation’ and look at how sports innovations developed by Australian companies can tap into the $600 billion global sports market. Engel and Blank will be joined at the conference by representatives from FIFA, the Australian Sports Commission, AFL, Catapult Sports, Vic Health, 2XU, Yachting Australia and the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce Australia. ICT Geelong manager and ASTN executive director Craig Hill was thrilled to be able to bring Blank and Engel to Australia. “Essentially we’re trying to build on Australia’s innovation capacity through the leadership of our sport system,” he says. “Three years ago the Sports Commission released their ‘Winning Edge’ strategy, which highlighted the importance of innovation across sport, not only from a gold medal perspective, but the way we’re managing sport. “There’s not really that many easily accessible sports innovation clusters around the world. The sports sector, manufacturing sector, retail sector, and government, we’re bringing them together and investors to the table. “We want to build on the reputation we have in Australia.” Hill says Geelong is uniquely positioned as a city with easy access to everything that’s required to build a sports technology startup cluster. The Geelong-based Headstart accelerator, which launched earlier this year, aims to incubate and invest in up to 40 new sports technology and IT businesses over the next four years. It’s already taken on startups in a non-investment capacity. The best startups from the two competitions will also get the chance to apply to become one of five startups resident in the accelerator’s October intake. “We’re speaking to a number of prospective investors and are hoping to raise a couple of million for an accelerator fund, by the first quarter of next year,” Hill says. “We’re making some good process with that and are quite confident people are starting to see the competitive advantage that’s here. Applications for ASTN’S Investment Pitching Competition close at 5pm on October 2 and all sports technology startups are encouraged to apply. In addition to the invite to the Innovation Workshop given to the top 10 startups, the winning and second placed pitches will receive $10,000 and $5000 cash respectively. The deadline for the $50,000 IT Invention Test is also at 5pm on October 2pm. Prizes include $10,000 for the best overall pitch, $5000 for the best Geelong region industry pitch, and $5000 for the best RFID technology pitch. For more information or to apply, visit www.itinventiontest.com.au/ or the ASTN’s website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Build and they will come. Except everybody knows that’s not how it happens. It was the harsh reality for AngelCube’s 2014 intake that this was also the case for their San Francisco demo day. Out of the 80 people that RSVPed for Friday night, there were only eight that rocked up, and not one of them investors. It's not a dissimilar experience to many outsiders holding their demos here. It was on Monday after they’d all regrouped following a tour of the Dropbox office, that their collective fustration was aired. But there was no backing away from the journey they had committed to make. “This is the real world,” AngelCube founder Nathan Sampimon told the troops. “In Australia you’re one of a few hundred startup companies launching this year. “The reality here is that there are hundreds launching every day and it’s hard to cut through that noise.” He encouraged the startups to spend the rest of their trip hustling as many meetings as they could. “Warm intros are the best, leverage your network, those of our mentors and mine, but whatever you do, don’t stop,” he told them. All the pitches on the night had delivered, many of them giving their best one yet. Moodswing, a social network for people to share their emotions, had rewritten their pitch the night before to emphasise the impressive traction they’d had in just five weeks. They managed to extract the most excitement from the small crowd, some of whom had taken the time to download and play with the Moodswing app. “It’s a pretty cool design,” said someone on the night. For Moodswing, the demo day had been seen as a pivotal part of their trip, aware that their likelihood of getting funding in Australia is limited. But lessons were learned. “The demo day reinforced that we need to hustle ourselves and nobody is going to do it for us. It’s up to us, and us alone,” says Moodswing co-founder Jake McKeon. Ediply, a concierge service for students looking to study abroad, had also spent the day before throwing out parts of their pitch, after getting some frank feedback. For them the lack of interest in the demo day did not affect how they feel about their product. “The demo day was just part of what we had to do,” says Ediply chief executive Peter Chapman. “The week in general has been beneficial. Just being here and being immersed in the culture around startups has been inspiring. “Things can happen really quickly. We spent some time at Yammer, which has a pretty impressive office, and it was only a few years ago they won TC Disrupt.” For Drop-In app cofounder Simon Rahme, which plans to monetise the last minute appointment market, there were no regrets. “It’s a dog eat dog world,” he says. “If it was easy everybody would be doing it.” With that, everybody headed to a co-working spot for the day and got down to hustling. Bronwen Clune is in San Francisco as a guest of AngelCube. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A growing and engaged database of subscribers is what led to Allure Media investing $3 million in beauty subscription service startup bellabox, according to co-founder and chief executive officer Sarah Hamilton. The startup was founded by Hamilton and her twin sister Emily Hamilton and launched in October 2011. Each month its subscribers receive a premium selection of beauty and lifestyle samples that the bellabox team puts together. Its subscriber base has doubled to over 40,000 monthly members in Australia and Singapore, since the startup began talking about the possibility of raising more capital late last year. Allure Media publishes Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Business Insider and POPSUGAR. “We had a lot of interest from a lot of media, because we’ve got impressive numbers and a super engaged data base of subscribers,” Hamilton says. The $3 million from Allure Media follows the $1.3 million bellabox raised from a range of investors in early in 2013, including Square Peg Capital, Apex Capital, Monash Capital and a number of angel investors. “What we’ve done here with Allure, is we were looking for strategic partnerships. It was never just about money. It’s always about who we could bring on board,” Hamilton says. “Our first round of investors were excellent, allowed us to focus and pushed us to where we are now.” Hamilton was unable to elaborate on the terms of the deal. Bellabox will use the funding to scale and maximise the potential of its e-commerce platform, hire new staff, expand into new markets, and refresh branding for the website and packaging. Hamilton says refreshing the branding and updating the website, which was completed recently, is something the startup had never really had the capital to do. She laughs when explaining how far the startup –named after the sisters’ first dog, a black Labrador named bella – has come in the three years since founding. While the startup has plans to expand in the Asia-Pacific region, Hamilton says they still haven’t settled on which markets to launch in next. They say they’re in no rush. “Our first business plan saw us in a million markets in three weeks,” she says. “We definitely see the opportunity in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why we launched in Singapore. We saw that as the doorstep to Asia. “Strategically we’re in a much better position to look at other opportunities and investigate other markets.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
New South Wales independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich says he finished a two week stint at Sydney co-working space Fishburners with more awareness of the problems facing Australian startups. Greenwich, whose electorate encompasses startup hotspots Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Ultimo, was based at the co-working space for two weeks in August. “I found it to be quite inspiring,” he says. “It was great to be around so many people with great ideas, who are turning those ideas into products and apps, and making things happen. “It was great to hear first-hand from various entrepreneurs what their concerns were and for them to explain the issues to me.” Those issues included immigration policy, education, employee share option schemes and competition for government grants and tenders. And he’s already endeavouring to tackle some of them. He says he’s asked the New South Wales Minister for Education to include coding in the school curriculum, something which he says the government is working on. “The reason for that is, I understand we have a bit of an education gap here, and we’re falling behind countries around the world that are teaching coding and promoting entrepreneurship as a career,” he says. “I was also able to hear some of the issues caused by ESOPs and some of the other barriers the government puts in place. I heard so many stories from people saying we’ve got this great idea, it’s already successful, but because the Australian government and state governments need to work on issues around education, immigration and employment, because it becomes prohibitive to operate in Australia.” Greenwich says a number of startups spoke about the lack of startup specific grants and how it’s basically impossible for a startup to compete for a government tender. He’s pushing for a number of government tenders to be made available exclusively to startups. During his time at Fishburners a number of startups caught his eye, including shopping app Stashd, which he’s downloaded, and Uber competitor Ridesurfing. But the one that impressed him the most was eClosure, a platform that helps families shut down the social media sites of deceased relatives. “Those sites become a hunting ground for people engaging in identify theft, so it’s a really important service to tackle that,” he says. The New South Wales state election is scheduled for early next year and Greenwich says, should he be re-elected, he’s strongly considering basing himself at Fishburners once-a-month. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Failure is not the first word that comes to mind when looking at the career of Rod Drury, co-founder of online accounting software company Xero. But like many entrepreneurs before him, failure led him to his success. Recently he was hosted by Startup Grind Sydney and spoke about how he lost money on his document management startup and gave some tips on how to negotiate successfully. Check out his story in the videos below. On Tuesday, September 16, Startup Grind Melbourne will be hosting Greg Roebuck, the founder and managing director of Australia’s number one automotive internet site carsales.com. The event will be held at The Atrium at NAB HQ in Docklands from 6pm to 9pm. For tickets, head over to Startup Grind’s eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Applications have opened for the next Carnegie’s Den, as two of the finalists from its last event remain locked in negotiations for investment. Carnegie’s Den, a regular event, gives startups a platform to gain media exposure and funding from a network of prospective investors. The best applicants are chosen to pitch to a room full of potential investors and a panel of expert judges. Social media analytics startup Digivizer took home $15,000 in prize money and a $1 million investment opportunity after winning the judge’s choice award at Carnegie’s Den in May. M.H Carnegie and Co head of new business ventures Nigel Hawtin says Digiviser and fellow finalist Selera Labs are still negotiating regarding possible investment. Selera Labs is a software developer that has developed data analytics that improves financial governance, ensures transactional compliance and automates internal auditing processes. Hawtin says investment has not been finalised yet, as investors do their “due diligence” and negotiations regarding valuation continue. A new set of judges join Mark Carnegie on the judging panel for the latest event, including Fishburners general manager Murray Hurps, Scale Investors founder Laura McKenzie, 4Cabling founder Nicole Kersh, and muru-D entrepreneur-in-residence Mick Liubinskas. “We’ve gone for a younger judging panel, more aligned to the startup space,” Hawtin says of the judges. M.H Carnegie and Co is looking for later stage startups. Hawtin says while startups which haven’t been to market or haven’t raised capital won’t be ruled out, it’s more likely the finalists will be further along. Recently a number of Australian investors highlighted that while they receive plenty of applications, often the quality of startups is a problem. Hawtin says the experience of Carnegie’s Den is similar. “We end up getting enough, but absolutely, they have not been as advanced as it would be in other countries,” he says. “We have engaged, spoken to incubators, and they feel like they’re doing a better job. I think it’s just one of those younger spaces in Australia and most people go abroad if they want funding.” Applications close on October 10, with finalists set to be announced on October 27, before pitching at Carnegie’s Den on November 21. To apply, visit mhcarnegie.com/carnegiesden. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Google is giving startups $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform Credit and 24/7 support to help them take advantage of resources in the cloud, and use those resources to quickly launch and scale their ideas. Google senior vice president Urs Hölzle announced Google Cloud Platform for Startups at the company’s Google for Entrepreneurs Global Partner Summit recently. Sydney co-working space Fishburners is one of a number of the world’s top incubators, accelerators and investors, whose startups will have access to the program. Google says it’s working with 50 such partners to roll out the service, and that number is expected to increase over time. Partners include the likes of Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Startup Grind. It will be available to startups that are less than five years old and have less than $500,000 in annual revenue. In a statement announcing the offer, Google director developer relations Julie Pearl says it supports the Google Cloud Platform’s philosophy. “We want developers to focus on code; not worry about managing infrastructure,” Pearl says. “Thousands of startups have built successful applications on Google Cloud Platform and those applications have grown to serve tens of millions of users. “It’s been amazing to watch Snapchat send over 700 million photos and videos a day and Khan Academy teach millions of students. We look forward to helping the next generation of startups launch great products.” Other prominent startups that have built their applications on Cloud Platform include car-sharing service Getaround, and Leanplum, a platform for optimising the mission-critical metrics of mobile apps. Startups wanting to apply should contact their accelerator, incubator or VC about the offer. Google says if they’re not in the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get them added. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Could your Nest do with a little more Zen? Meet the Aussie startup building a simpler, smarter thermostat9:51AM | Friday, 5 September
Melbourne-based startup Planet Innovation has raised nearly $50,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in just days for a device called Zen, which it claims is the first thermostat that is not either “extremely unattractive” or “too complicated to use”. Zen, a smartphone-controlled thermostat, is designed to work over Wi-Fi with iControl’s OpenHome Labs and other smart home systems such as Apple HomeKit. Aside from being controlled through an app, the thermostat can be controlled with a touch screen on the front of the device, rather than through push-buttons. It features a minimalist design, and is attached to the wall using magnets, unlike other thermostats that are attached with screws. Since starting the Indiegogo campaign on August 31, as of publication, as of publication, Planet Innovation has raised $47,895 of its $50,000 target from 333 funders with 26 days to go. While the device is likely to draw comparisons to Google Nest, Planet innovation marketing manager Roger Langsdon says it is likely to find a different market segment. “I think Nest has helped to take thermostats out of the dark ages, but it’s gone too far and become too complicated,” Langsdon says. “With Zen, it’s a simple design and the smarts are in the app, not in the device… There’s a whole market for people who want a beautiful thermostat, but who aren’t particularly technical. And Nest can be intimidating for them.” Principal industrial designer at Planet Innovation, Ben Druce, told Private Media Zen aims to be “smart” in the sense that it is simple to install and easy to use. “Another difference between us and Nest is the removal of a lot of the in-depth functionality. What we’ve done is present users with the bare minimum of what they need to do, and that’s control the temperature,” Druce says. “It did come about independently,” Langsdon says. “We’ve been playing with home technology and other thermostats for around three or four years now, we ended up putting the two together.” The crowdfunding campaign comes with most of the development work on the device already completed, with assistance from key staff from US-based firm MMB. “The product is well developed at this point. Don’t get me wrong – the money will be useful in setting up the factory tooling for mass production – but we’re mostly using it for market validation. “This is the easiest way of getting feedback quickly by putting it in front of hundreds of users all around the world in order to get feedback.” Langsdon says he would like to see Zen available on a mass scale, with the device already attracting attention from potential channel partners in both North America and Australia. “At the moment, we’re hoping to meet our target in the next few hours. For the team, it’s been an amazing journey. We finished in December and ship in January,” Langsdon says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Popular community-driven online newsletter The Fetch has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with founder Kate Kendall saying it is an important opportunity for the community to help it succeed. Originally launched as a side project in March 2011, The Fetch is a weekly newsletter that curates the best events, news, jobs and must-reads for its community of professionals. Having started in Melbourne, editions were added covering cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. There is also a ‘global’ edition for those living further afield. Kendall told Private Media The Fetch community has grown organically through word of mouth as regular readers recommend it to their friends and colleagues. “From Melbourne, there were volunteers to help it spread to cities around the world,” Kendall says. “There were editions in 10 cities across Asia, the US and Europe. It became a dependable local resource for work life. “So part of The Fetch ethos is that it’s community driven with people volunteering their time to curate it. That’s very time consuming, and a lot of that time is spent on the admin side of things. At the same time, there’s a lot of community love from people saying they love The Fetch and miss it when it doesn’t come.” Now, in a bid to grow the community further, Kendall is seeking to raise $25,000 through Kickstarter, with 41 backers already pledging $2566 to the campaign. If successful, the funds will be used to create a community platform incorporating a mobile-optimised web app, new editions in 66 additional cities, better event categories, new features such as calendar syncing and increased customisation. In addition, aside from its current focus, covering business, tech and creative industries, the crowdfunding campaign will allow for the creation of industry-specific editions. These will cover verticals such as the marketing industry, the arts community, the media, the sharing economy and sustainability. “We really want the platform to allow users to customise their fetch feed, drill down into more industry verticals, see when similar people and friends are going to events and simplify posting events,” Kendall says. “The community platform will allow people to see events in real time rather than waiting for the weekly newsletter. Kendall describes the campaign as currently being “very much in the pre-outreach phase”, with a long initial deadline for the campaign of 40 days. “So far, it’s been internally driven and we’ve raised 10% of our target. We’re really to have 40 backers generated through our internal networks and contacts. From Monday, we’ll go more public and begin our outreach efforts through email,” she says. “Part of a community-driven platform is that it should be up to the community to see it succeed if it is valuable and useful. This is the one opportunity to see it continue to exist. “If it doesn’t succeed, The Fetch will become a global newsletter of interesting articles, without the events section.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Last week, StartupSmart asked six successful Australian entrepreneurs and startup community leaders for the best piece of business advice they’ve received. The response to that article was so overwhelming that we’ve decided to ask six more entrepreneurs for their best business tip: Niki Scevak, Blackbird Ventures I think the best piece of advice I received was around how to receive advice itself. Make sure you understand who is giving the advice and why they might be giving it to you. Much like in poker, play the player not the cards. Understanding the context always gives the advice much more richness and usefulness. Also, when someone, even if they're rich or smart, gives you advice, unless it 'chemically reacts' with you, don't feel bad about throwing it away and not using it. You'll only be successful by being the best version of yourself. And as always, test the advice with customers for the final verdict of whether it's good or not. Pete Cooper, SydStart Two important ones for me: Keep asking yourself what is the most leveraged activity you can undertake. I got this from Ash Fontana (Angel List, originally from Sydney) when he spoke at SydStart last year. Don't pour money in (or quit your day job) until you look like getting product-market fit (i.e. until customer interviews or pre-orders show you have something people want to address a real problem). Laura Mariakinaite, Startup Grind Australia Have you got a business idea? Talk it out. And I mean it, open your mouth and let other people know. Pitching to yourself in your mind DOESN'T COUNT. Chances are you won't be able to verbalise your idea properly the very first time you talk about it. And if the first person you mention it to is a potential investor, co-founder, channel partner or a customer, your one minute elevator pitch might become a mess full of "hmm", "you know", "maybe", "I just want to". That's dismissive. If you want anyone to join your journey, let your assertive skills shine. Moreover, every single time you talk to someone about your idea, you may receive some invaluable feedback and questions that will help you shape your pitch further! That's a bonus. I have pitched different things in the last year, from Startup Grind sponsorship, to "Hey, if you like windsurfing, check out this new Vic Wind app", to approaching media to gain interest in Zen Thermostat that's being successfully crowdfunded on Indiegogo at the moment. Now I'm working with retailers to help them reach out to local office workers using Equiem portals designed for commercial buildings. Is it challenging? Yes, it is. But with time you become more familiar with what works and what doesn't. Finally, I was once told that if you are from overseas and have an accent, find someone local to do sales and pitching for you. That's a myth. But that's another story. Trust yourself and let the world know about your idea. Paris Buttfield-Addison, Secret Lab I think the best piece of business advice I’ve heard is to learn about tax, accounting, and budgeting for your company early on. Don’t leave it to the last minute, when things could go wrong – understand how money works in a business from the get-go, and plan your products and business from there – if you don’t at least attempt to understand this sort of stuff from the beginning, you’ll run into big problems down the track. David Mah, Blue Sky Shopping The best advice I've ever received was "focus, focus, focus”. Sounded simple when I first heard it but now I understand the critical importance of focusing relentlessly on a smaller set of high priority tasks and doing them really, really well. As an entrepreneur with a million things to worry about, it's easy to get side-tracked and distracted by 'new and shiny objects'. Learning to focus and say no to distractions has transformed the way I run my startup. Steve Orenstein, Zoom2u My best piece of advice is to just get out there and do it. It’s easy to waste a lot of time planning and talking about an idea. In just a few months, I’ve gone from having an idea to developing the unique technology to make it happen. If you have an idea, get out there and do it. Image credit: Flickr/laughlin Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.