What makes a good accountant for a start-up?

4:50AM | Tuesday, 8 April

What makes a good accountant for a start-up? A lot of them seem to be very focused on the corporate end of town.

Meet the finalists for the Best Startup Idea award at the 2014 StartupSmart Awards

3:29AM | Wednesday, 26 March

All startups begin as ideas and, sadly, the vast majority stay that way. This award celebrates those who have started to turn their idea into something.   With over 400 applications for this round, judges were seeking innovative and promising ideas.   The winner will be announced at the StartupSmart awards night. You can follow the awards night with the hashtag #susawards.   JobAdvisor   JobAdvisor is a marketplace seeking to stop companies from being deluged with applications after posting a job ad and aspiring employees from lurking about the recruitment boards of their dream company.   Employers still pay, but rather than listing jobs, they create a profile about what it’s like to work with them, including anonymous employee reviews. Clients include Telstra and Westpac.   Founded by Justin Babet, they’ve recently raised funds and grown the team to five people. They launched version three of their product two months ago.   StartupSmart covered JobAdvisor when it first launched here.   Musio   This platform connecting amateur musicians to professional reviewers burst onto the startup scene late last year after winning Startup Weekend Adelaide.   With more music being produced than ever before, accessing expert mentoring or even one-off feedback is challenging. Promos and demos are usually sent via email with attachments and download links or CD mailers, all of which become unwieldy to manage.   Musio co-founders Mal Chia and Oli Young describe the platform as a hybrid of LinkedIn and Gmail applied to the music industry.   Chia shared his plans for the app with StartupSmart the day after they won Startup Weekend.   CareMonkey   CareMonkey is a software for schools, clubs and businesses that enables these groups to access parent-controlled emergency and medical forms. From permission slips to serious medical information, the app is designed to ensure carers have access to the information they need to make the right decision for children.   The app was part of a Startup Leadership Program and has rolled out into 21 schools in 2013.   Launched by Troy Westley and Martin Howell, they’ve been building their sales team and are looking to expand into the UK and US later this year.   Epark   While this idea is still only that, it’s a promising one to solve the constant clutter of cars trying to get out of car parks.   Epark will be a software, possibly deployed as a mobile app, that scans sensors as vehicles enter and exit car parks to calculate the right fee. The amount is then deducted from the credit card or pre-paid account linked to the scanned vehicle.   Alphatise   This online marketplace aims to help sellers assess actual market demand for their product through a series of wish lists with a twist. For each item listed, the buyer also indicates how much they would be willing to pay.   Sellers on Alphatise can then use the data shared and offer deals to pre-qualified buyers, or target new buyers with push advertising. The app also allows time-based deals, geo-targeting and competitor targeting.   Co-founded by Paul Pearson and Richard Frey, the team has now grown to four including chief technical officer Linus Yong and chief operations officer Kent Hume.   They recently raised $1.5 million and spoke to StartupSmart about their plans.

Three funny startup Twitter accounts you should follow for the LOLs

11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November

Even the most ardent startup advocates have to admit there is lot of scope for humour in the heady realm of tech, big goals and new businesses.   So perhaps it’s unsurprising that there are a host of satiric startup Twitter accounts out there, making light of serious issues or sending up the stereotypes.   Here are our top three to follow:   PHP_CEO   A send-up of a chief executive at a fictional programming company, this account taps into the crazy expectations of startups as well as the perennial tension and misunderstandings between developers and non-technical team members.   YOU DEVELOPERS MIGHT CALL IT "REINVENTING THE WHEEL", BUT I CALL IT "CREATING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY"— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 24, 2014   With every tweet delivered in all-caps, following this account is a good way to jolt your day with a friendly reminder of startup angst.   OK THIS BUSINESS UNIT IS GOING TO OPERATE LIKE A STARTUP. HAHA NO IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU GET EQUITY YOU JUST WORK EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS NOW— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 28, 2014   PanderDaily   Part startup satire and part startup media satire, @NextTechBlog makes fun off the way startups get covered and the themes often explored by startup publications.   The account pokes fun at overused headlines:   SCOOP-SCLUSIVE: I Checked Up On A Start-Up No One Else Cares About Anymore— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014 Why The Most Predictable Tech Headline Of 2013 Arrived In February 2014— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014   And people who inspire these stories:  LinkedIn Notifications From Q3 2014: Congratulate your bro on his promotion from social guru to brand prophet.— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 7, 2014   Startup L. Jackson   Back on the rougher end of the humour spectrum, Startup L Jackson sends out edgy tweets and occasionally profanity laden missives about startups and technology.   For example, this was his contribution to the leading startup conference South by South West’s hashtag.   Crowds, like drunk people, are very rarely wise. This is why drunk crowds make such great customers. #protip #sxsw— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 12, 2014   With a sense of humour built around the ‘everyone is thinking it’ style, he also offers fashion advice for founders dithering between looks and the thought process thousands must go through when a startup makes it big:   Dear sportcoat and t-shirt guy, pick a fucking side.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 13, 2014 #1 That idea is stupid. #2 It's $1bn a year in digital kittens, dude. #1 They're making how much money? Doing what? #1 I'm old.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 11, 2014

Making lazy millions and are you happy or just app-y?: Best of the Web reads

2:25AM | Friday, 28 February

How laziness can drive you to millions: Lazy doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In fact, laziness can be a driver to success and early retirement, argues CEO Brenton Hayden in this article for Entrepreneur.   The doctor is in – online: The internet has made just about everything and anything available at the click of a mouse or tap of a finger. Even something like therapy you might have thought impossible to provide online is now on offer. This article in Fast Co explains how.   Outsourcing our lives to apps: While apps that automate our lives with reminders and encouragements may appear helpful at first glance, what will their impact be on our relationships with others? This piece in Wired argues that the more we outsource to technology, the more of ourselves we lose.   Healthy advice for the brain: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? For holistic health guru Deepak Chopra it was what makes a healthy brain. In this post on LinkedIn he explains the seven dishes that make up a “healthy mind platter”.

Five top lead generating tips for 2014

2:50AM | Tuesday, 18 February

Generating leads is an all-important task for businesses and especially so for solo traders, start-ups and smaller businesses.   Too many businesses end up taking a haphazard approach to lead generation, so here are five simple strategies you can use to find quality leads for your business this year.   1. Start with a strategy   So many people in business take a scattergun approach to lead generation, going for mass marketing to spread their message, without really knowing if the message is getting through to their target market.   Start at the very beginning, and decide who you want to target, advises Peter Griffith, the Asia-Pacific director of training and consultancy firm for businesses, rogenSi.   “Determine the look and feel of your ideal customer. Who are they, where do they live, work and play? Also, consider their habits and lifestyle, and think about what they buy and from which companies, how they shop, how they access information and how they make decisions. Also, think about their business and personal needs, and how you help fix these,” he says.   The best lead generation technique depends on the company, their industry, the products/services they sell, who they want to sell them to, how they differentiate from competitors and the brand they want to promote, he says.   Ask anyone even moderately tech savvy and they’ll tell you there are only two options – search engine optimisation and Google AdWords, he says.   2. Make your website work harder   Your company website should be working hard to generate leads for your business, so make sure it’s up to date and has all the bells and whistles.   This should be the central hub for all your marketing and lead generation, says Marnie Ashe, head of consulting for Reload Consulting.   “Not only will this allow for greater tracking of where your leads come from, what makes them inquire and ultimately what makes them become a customer, but also provides a central point for inquiry, allowing your potential customers’ details to be fed into a marketing database for future use,” Ashe says.   Increasing enquiries on your website can be easily achieved by making sure it’s easy to find your contact details, with a phone number on every page a good idea, and your contact page easily accessible from your navigation, she says.   “Also, have an enquiry form on every page. The easier it is to enquire, the more chance you have of a prospect inquiring. But keep the enquiry form short and sweet, you can collect more information when you follow up.”   Also, consider adding a live chat service to your website, which is like having a friendly sales consultant greet people and offer them live assistance about your service, and can cost around $10 a day. Check out Web Reception or Live Chat Monitoring, which both offer this service.   3. Get social   One of the best things you can do for your personal brand and business is to take social media seriously. When done well, building and communicating with your network of followers will build loyalty and trust in your business, and ultimately build sales.   A compelling and active LinkedIn profile can also work well to generate new leads, according to Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency, Studio Culture.   “There are so many opportunities that people are missing by simply not updating their LinkedIn profiles and networking with other business owners or potential customers on the platform,” he says.   Catriona Pollard, director of Sydney’s CP Communications agrees, saying LinkedIn is without a doubt the best place for b2b lead generation.   “A basic account on LinkedIn will allow you to build relationships and maintain contacts, as well as give you a lot of transparency into your extended professional network. You can generally contact your first degree and second degree connections using LinkedIn InMail, even if you don’t have their email address,” Pollard says.   By upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, you can contact people outside of your network and gain further insights into who is viewing your profile, she says.   “You can also directly target new leads using LinkedIn’s advanced search, which allows you to drill down and filter people by role type, company or industry, leading to high quality leads.”   Facebook is another great tool. Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound suggests offering a free report on your Facebook business page to get people into your sales funnel.   “Make sure that whatever you are offering is really useful and alleviates some sort of pain for your target market, such as ‘5 biggest mistakes people make when starting out in business’, or ‘how to get your baby sleeping through the night’, for example. There’s lots of software out there to help you do this, such as lead pages,” Pollard says.   4. Do the little things   Understanding why and how you help people, and focusing on what problems you’re solving for them and how you solve them is paramount, says Frances Pratt, who explains sales to non-sales people.   “Use this information to get your message out there. This should be the central thing you talk about in your advertising and promotions. Use this information to tell them about what you do and to ask questions when you’re meeting people,” Pratt, of Metisan says.   Also, always ask for repeat business, she says. Once you’ve got something great for someone, ask if there’s something else you can help with.   “It’s amazing once you have achieved something, how people will open up with more problems that they need help with.”   Also, make sure you’re talking to the right people, who have the budget and power to spend with you.   “So many business owners spent time on people who aren’t the decision maker, or aren’t willing to pay, which is a huge waste of time and energy,” she says.   Businesses should shake their approach up a bit. Replicate what works 80% of the time using lead generation sources that have previously proven to lead sales. But 20% of the time, be inventive and try new lead sources, recommends Susanne Mather, executive director of Employment Office.   “One example in the recruitment sales business is that 80% of the time, we source leads from recruitment advertising, calling businesses that are advertising for staff themselves.   “But 20% of the time, we do things like take photos of the tent lists in the foyer of CBD high rise buildings and cold call them all. Or take photos of the logos on the sides of buildings and trucks when we’re out and about, and cold call these,” Mather says.   5. Get serious about content management   It’s crucial to have a robust content management system as a place to conveniently store, manage and access both new leads and leads you’re revisiting, says Mather.   Every team member at Employment Office starts the day with exactly 20 new leads entered in the CMS, which are sourced from a variety of channels, no excuses, she says.   “It’s important for lead generation to be a carefully thought out part of the sales process, and it needs to be executed with consistency.   “Investing in a program that really works for your business is something you will thank yourself for again and again, and has the capacity to repay the initial expense many times over.”   Once you’ve got a great way to manage your leads, adopt the ‘find, wash, enter’ process, This refers to finding leads strategically and consistently, washing leads to make sure they’re not being approached by colleagues and entering those leads into a content management system so they are easily accessible and manageable, she says.

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

1:44AM | Tuesday, 28 January

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

New year, fresh start

1:19AM | Tuesday, 21 January

There’s something about the new year that feels … well, new.   It’s as if all the errors of action and inaction and the unexpected and unwanted events of the past year have been wiped away. Here is a chance to start again.   Harnessing the power of the number that must now be written on everything for the next 12 months, I have made some Decisions, (but note, not resolutions). These are:   1. Me before media   I will do what is precious and meaningful for me, before I check my email, look at a screen or slip down the rabbit hole of lost time that is LinkedIn. I would like to do at least three chunks (see point 2) before I head to the Black Mirror and check my emails.   I have tried this for a week or so and I notice that because I have been for a walk (15 minutes) read a section of an inspirational book (15 minutes) and written my own stuff (15 minutes) before I check my email, it seems to have less power to draw me in, set me off, or otherwise frazzle me. Interesting …   2. Chunking   Chunking big tasks down into small ones helps me attack, grapple, get on with overwhelmingly large projects. I realised that if I had been culling, tidying and updating my contact database for 15 minutes every day last year it would have all been done by now. And it’s not.   Since I know that 15 minutes of filing is about all I can do anyway before my attention falters, (well actually it is more like six minutes but I can contemplate doing 15) I have chunked all my tasks and aspirations into these bite sized time squares.   Not a new idea, (how do you eat an elephant?) but I have never really put the effort into setting the timer and having a go.   Astonishing what I can get done in such a small space of time, for example a blog post. And there are four of them in an hour. Wow.   3. Layering   Layering sounds a bit like multitasking, but enables me to focus mindfully on how two things can be achieved at the same time, minimising effort.   Once again, not a new idea, it’s in every self-help book since Think Big, but I am now consciously looking for ways this can work more effectively for me. For instance, I want to write my own stuff about what I am thinking and reading, and the course of study I am currently finishing asks me to write what I am thinking about what I am reading.   So, all this writing and thinking effort, which belongs to me, can be used for my own publishing as well as a course requirement. Gosh - that means I have practically written a book already! Yes, soloists can create duets with themselves. How about that?   So what Decisions are you making about how to get the most out of your days this year?

Apps I can’t live without: Five entrepreneurs reveal their top three

1:59PM | Monday, 20 January

With so many apps available and created every day, how do you know which ones are the best for your purposes?   We asked five entrepreneurs to tell us which apps they can’t live without and why.   There are some that were common – nearly everyone listed Dropbox – and others a little more for the times when they aren’t working.   Are there any other apps you can’t live without?     Mark McDonald – co-founder and managing director of app developer Appster   EverNote – The perfect app for capturing ideas and concepts between meetings and while travelling. I love that it syncs up to my Macbook Pro as well, so wherever I am I can find important ideas.   ZombieRun – Staying fit sucks. But when you are running from zombies it's more fun, I really love how this app gamified the process of jogging.   Things 2 – I'm a workaholic but also have the attention span of a small child, that's why using Things 2 as a way to manage my daily activities, projects and responsibilities in a really simple interface has doubled my productivity.     James Wakefield – co-founder and managing director of online tailoring firm InStitchu   Asana – Asana is an excellent app that helps our entire team manage and organise tasks and projects across all areas of the business. Before we used Asana, we had so many unnecessary emails going back and forth across members. Now, each individual project has a to-do list, saved in the cloud, enabling each of us to view updates and changes as they’re made. Asana is also fully integrated with our CRM, which is an additional bonus!   Evernote – Evernote is the perfect note-taking app for every entrepreneur. Because it syndicates across all of your devices, I’m able to make notes and save attachments on the go, using my iPhone and I’ll later revisit these on my laptop or iPad. It's saved me many times when I have been travelling and haven’t had access to the internet. There was an instance where I had saved my hotel reservation form to Evernote, and was able to access it from the back of a taxi in Shanghai on a sourcing trip. Without it, I wouldn’t have had a clue where I was heading!   Dropbox – We back up everything on Dropbox, again because the cloud is such an integral part of our business. Dropbox provides us the storage that we need to save large files too, like high-resolution images of suits and shirts. Every single program we use at InStitchu is cloud based and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the freedom to jump on any computer, anywhere in the world to access all of my programs and via Dropbox, all of my files!   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Tim Fung – co-founder and chief executive of online tasks outsourcer Airtasker   Dropbox – An oldie but a goodie. I use DB across all the companies that I work in and love the fact that I can access my files from anywhere, including from my iPhone. The app can be a little bit pervasive (trying to get you to store and sync all of your personal photos, etc) but it does make life pretty easy and is good risk management in case you lose your device.   GoCatch – A really good taxi hailing app. I use these guys to grab taxis between meetings and the office to make sure I'm not waiting outside on busy days. It's a super simple app and also lets me keep track of my taxi receipts, which is a plus.   Pocketbook – An easy to use app for tracking your personal budget. You just link up your bank accounts and credit cards and then PB sends you an update each week to let you know if you're overspending or within budget. They also have a bunch of features to monitor and analyse where you're spending and where you could save.     Andrew Ward – managing director of online investment community SelfWealth   LinkedIn app – As an entrepreneur, LinkedIn on your iPhone/on the move is invaluable. Each time you read a media story about other entrepreneurs, or a story related to your target market, connecting to these related parties ASAP is a must.   Ingogo – The taxi booking app. This is a must for an entrepreneur getting around in the boondocks and racing to get to that next meeting.   Cricket Australia’s "Live" app – I'm a cricket tragic; enough said.     Ben Cohn – co-founder of mobile self-storage firm TAXIBOX   Swann View – Swann View gives us live, streaming access to our surveillance systems through an iPhone. It’s an incredible feeling waking up every morning and seeing the entire company running smoothly – without us!   Dropbox – The Dropbox app seamlessly integrates with Dropbox Desktop and allows us to run a large portion of TAXIBOX’s operational processes without having to be near a computer.   Face Swap – Because there’s nothing quite like seeing your parents swap genders!

Top mentor lessons to take into 2014

1:22AM | Thursday, 2 January

One of the most common pieces of advice for people setting out on the road to starting their own business is how important it is to find a mentor.   Most founders and small business people can’t stress enough how valuable it was for them to have someone they could bounce ideas off and who could help clarify their thinking.   At StartupSmart we’ve got some of Australia’s top mentors who offered compelling advice on a range of topics.   Here we’ve collected some of the most popular that resonated with readers in 2013.   Setting up a sales commission structure   How to set up a sales commission structure for a business was one of the most popular posts of the year from mentor Vicki Crowe.   But she explained that a key question to clarify is whether it’s a commission structure you actually want or a bonus scheme.   “A commission structure usually applies when you are offering someone a piece of the action. For example: X % of the gross revenue or an amount for selling X amount of product(s). A bonus scheme, however, is based on meeting fixed monthly and/or annual targets,” she writes.   She goes on to outline how she structured her own sales commission structure.   Why LinkedIn is hot   LinkedIn has become more than an online resume and Rolodex, writes social media expert Adam Franklin. In this post he sets out six reasons why it’s the best social media platform for start-ups.   He notes it’s becoming the “go-to” place for business news and is a content sharing platform that can get your articles in front of your entire contact base.   Using LinkedIn like a pro   LinkedIn topics were favourites for readers, and this one, again from Adam Franklin, about how to use it effectively, was also popular.   Here he guides LinkedIn novices through the basics of connecting with other professionals, through to building a profile and getting proactive.   Follow his advice and soon you’ll be able to apply the platform to helping others and yourself.   Pitching to new customers   There are many things to get your head around when you’re running a new business, from branding to stock control, writes Michelle Bowden.   “But a key skill you need to become brilliant at, and quickly, is pitching for business,” she says. “If you can fast-track your ability to bring new customers in the door and keep them as loyal clients you’ll be creating very strong foundations for your start-up business.”   In this post she explains her seven secrets to pitching to new clients, from building relationships to making sure you make a good first impression.   What’s the worst thing you can do in business – and life?   For Rebekah Campbell, never ever telling a lie was one of the best bits of advice she’s been given and that she can offer. Something so simple and yet so powerful.   “I seldom adopt esoteric business philosophies but its impact has been such that I believe this powerful secret should be talked about,” she writes.   “Truth and its relationship to creativity, peace and ultimately success have played on my mind in the past couple of months. If you've read this post and thought, "that doesn't relate to me – I never tell a lie", then you're probably lying to yourself.”   Some others worth reading and thinking about: Franz Madlener explored the discussion around calls to change the threshold on when GST should be applied to overseas online purchases and what impact it could have; Scott Robinson offered some advice on dealing with a bad review on social media; and Lauren Ridgway looks at what social media platform might be best for your business.

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

11:45AM | Friday, 22 November

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

Six reasons why LinkedIn is still the hottest social network for entrepreneurs

10:21AM | Tuesday, 8 October

LinkedIn is way more than just your online resume and Rolodex. LinkedIn is now a go-to source of business news, a content publishing platform and a contact relationship manager (CRM).   Find out why LinkedIn is the best social media platform for start-ups, hands-down. If you’re undecided, check out these six reasons to get on-board straightaway!   1. LinkedIn is your auto-updating Rolodex   Back before LinkedIn we’d all keep a Rolodex or maybe an online database of contacts, but if that person changed jobs or businesses, we’d lose contact when their details changed. Nowadays, LinkedIn means we don’t need to worry about losing contact with people or losing their business cards.   2. Now it’s your free CRM   Since the recent rollout of ‘contacts’ functionality, you can now tag contacts, add notes and reminders, and record how you met them.  That is a huge improvement in how we can manage our ever-growing network of business contacts.   Note: you can install this new functionality on your LinkedIn for free, but it doesn’t happen automatically.  You’ll be prompted to install it when you login, and it takes a few minutes to process all your contacts into this new format.  The invite to install it does look like a banner ad, so keep an eye out for it and don’t accidentally ignore it!   3. It’s the place for business news   LinkedIn is fast becoming the go-to place for business news. You can read unique articles written by a wide range ‘influencers’ and well-known business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington.   In addition, it also has the LinkedIn Today feature where they publish popular content from all around the web.   4. LinkedIn is your free content-sharing platform It is now as easy as ever to share your content with your entire professional network. You can also submit your best articles to LinkedIn Today and if they decide to publish your work, you’ll be exposed to thousands more readers.  And publishing your articles to LinkedIn Groups is the perfect way to introduce your content to new readers, and engage with them.   5. You can connect with fellow professionals   My colleague Selina Power got me thinking about better ways to use LinkedIn in her recent podcast. Until my subsequent discussions with Selina, I’d been quite closed in my approach as to who I accept as a ‘connection’ on LinkedIn.   My reluctance to accept people that I did not know personally lay in the fact that it may be seen an as endorsement of that person, when in reality I didn’t know any more about these people than what they say in their bio. I was initially sceptical about connecting, but since LinkedIn is becoming much more of a content publishing platform, it makes sense to broaden my network, so more people can read and interact with my content.   After all, we are marketing a business, and this is the perfect content marketing tool.  My rule of thumb now is to accept people if they have written a personalised request.   6. LinkedIn is improving everyday   LinkedIn continues to get better and I’m sure there are many exciting improvements in the pipeline. I still wish that LinkedIn had the ‘follow’ functionality for individuals like it does for Company Pages, because it would allow for people who you don’t know to still opt-in to receive your content. That way it would still mean you could limit your connections to people you actually know but share your content far and wide.  Maybe that will be next.   To help your LinkedIn marketing you may also like to download the LinkedIn 5-Minute Daily Marketing Plan – there’s a version for beginner, intermediate and advanced.

The pros and cons of using employees to promote your business on social media

10:46AM | Friday, 4 October

More and more businesses rely on social media to advertise their products and services. Many now use their employees to promote their businesses through their blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and on Facebook.   The pluses to this are great as it is essentially free advertising, having employees engage on another level with clients and to have employees more actively and directly involved in the promotion of the business. But beware: there are risks that go with the benefits.   1. Plus: Social Media can be inexpensive effective advertising   Employees are good ambassadors for promoting your business. They can give your business both personality and a human face.   Businesses have been using employees more and more as a means of promoting and advertising their products. They primarily do this through their personal social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It has proven to have some great success and the benefits can be enormous. But you need to be aware of the potential problems with this.   2. Minus: Impact of social media personal accounts   For the benefits that businesses are seeing with their employees promoting the company through their social media accounts and interacting with clients, there are also potential negatives:   Time wasted on social media for non-work, non-productive activity Inappropriate use of social media for personal negative comments such as defamation, harassment, etc causing reputational impact as well as other legal implications for the company.   Management of social media risks is becoming an increasingly critical area to maintain control over the numerous consequences that arise from the unrestricted and undefined use of social media by employees. But this is not the only major consideration that businesses have to deal with. It can get worse.   3. Problem: What happens when the employee leaves?   What do you do if your employee who is leaving your company has LinkedIn, Twitter and other personal social media accounts which they use to communicate with clients?   Who actually owns the account and the correspondence on the employee’s personal social media account?   These social media accounts often contain business information and client contacts. This is an increasing area of litigation with it being more difficult as the regulations have not yet caught up.   In addition, there has been very little to no judicial commentary in Australia regarding the ownership of social media accounts. There has always been clear law that client lists belong to employers when their employees leave the company but there is no clear direction of precedent cases either in Australia or other countries to follow.   It is now clearly under the microscope, with companies attempting to terminate employees for inappropriate comments about the company on social media but there has been no clear direction as yet and each has been determined on a case-by-case basis involving other external factors which sets no clear guidelines. So how can businesses minimize their risk?   Here is what businesses can do:   Ensure you have a social media policy for work. Otherwise it’s difficult to show its use at work/during work hours (even excessive) as grounds for dismissal. The social media policy should define the scope of “acceptable use” and ownership of content. This means employers specify that any social media used during hours of or in the course of employment is owned by the employer and indicate that social media accounts are given up or terminated when the employee leaves the business. Ensure all your employees are aware of company policy in relation to social media and that they are enforced within the company.   And keep up with the latest developments - they, like social media, are a moving feast!

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter files papers for $US1billion IPO

10:25PM | Thursday, 3 October

Social networking giant Twitter has filed papers with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission ahead of an IPO in which it seeks to raise $US1 billion.   The company revealed that it had 218 million users as of June 30, compared to around 1.2 billion for Facebook and 240 million for LinkedIn.   Twitter also revealed it lost $US69.3 million during the first half of 2013, compared to a $US49.1 million loss for the same time last year, but revenues grew to $US254 million from $US122 million.   Turnbull names Switkowski as new NBN chairman   Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named former Telstra and Optus chief executive Ziggy Switkowski as the chairman of NBN Co.   The German-born nuclear physicist replaces current NBN chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, while also temporarily replacing Mike Quigley as chief executive until a full-time replacement is appointed.   “In appointing Dr Switkowski to the board as chairman, we're appointing one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia ... someone who's been the CEO of not just Telstra but Optus as well, a very distinguished company director and chairman," Turnbull says.   Retailers renew calls for GST threshold cut as online shopping figures are released   The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing consumers spent more than $7.6 billion on online retailers on purchases below the $1000 GST threshold, prompting calls to remove the low-value threshold.   Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says the higher than expected sales point to an uneven playing field in the sector between local retailers and overseas-based online retailers.   “The concern isn't that people are spending money online – either locally or overseas. The concern is that it's not a level-playing field,” Zimmerman says.   “We believe that the firm of online [shopping] generally will grow, and as that figure grows, there will be a bigger loss of income to the states and territories if they don't do something about the low-value threshold.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down .9% to 14996.48. The Aussie dollar is at US93.96 cents.

Finalists announced in the Australian Mobile Awards

10:36PM | Tuesday, 1 October

Six finalists, including a couple of start-ups, have been announced as finalists in the 2013 Australian Mobile Awards competition.   The finalists were selected from over 200 projects, based on scores achieved from industry review and crowdsourced scores.   Awards director Mark Bergin told StartupSmart the two-tier scoring system allowed them to stay ahead of the curve with design trends and in touch with the market.   “The finalists are decided from both what the industry and the marketplace is looking for. Rather than having a grand jury of judges and making all the decisions, we open it up to voting. This way we get a much broader perspective but also divide the results up to understand the difference between what the industry and marketplace think are best,” Bergin says.   The finalists include a range of companies such as Milipede Creative Development, Oneflare, Nomad, Evolution 7, Falinc and Willow Ware Australia Pty Ltd.   Bergin says while the apps cover a range of topics, those that are the most user-focused and human perform better.   “Generally the projects that do extraordinarily well have one attribute ahead of their contemporaries, excel at being people-focused and making people’s lives better,” Bergin says. “Mobile apps are very close to your personal space, and in many ways you may have more reliance on key apps than your closest friends. You rely on them to get your through life.”   Bergin recently returned from the London Design Festival and says next year they will be offering a category exclusively for start-ups.   “They’ve all been on the same playing field this year but next year we’ll be looking at making an emerging organisation category. We’re not going to have someone with less than a million downloads and less than $5 million in turnover up against something like LinkedIn or Spotify,” Bergin says.   Bergin says they’re exploring how to celebrate app ideas that are still in development or beta testing.   The winners will be announced in two weeks at the awards ceremony in Sydney.   Bergin says the awards are about celebrating new ideas and the courage to experiment.   “We’ve avoided a prize pool style competition because this is about celebrating the courage of everyone who has been involved in proposing their projects and seeing them rated by their industry,” Bergin says.

How to catch the eye of an international VC: Bill Tai dissects his Australian investment decisions

9:16PM | Tuesday, 24 September

Australian start-ups are increasingly attractive to international investors as the technology and start-up sector evolves, especially if they’re leveraging their geographical location and have solid plans to go global, says internationally renowned venture capital investor Bill Tai.   Tai is in Australia as part of the OzAPP roadshow, giving a series of talks about big data and entrepreneurialism around the country.   He told StartupSmart it mattered less and less where tech start-ups were based.   “In the past, it wasn’t really viable to have start-ups that were competitive with those in the USA because the kind of start-ups that are happening generally speaking today are different,” Tai says.   The first few overlapping waves of start-ups (from the late 70s to the early 90s, and the late 80s the late 90s) usually required more than $50 million in start-up funding and required larger teams of specialised skills.   “These waves laid the foundation for the kind of start-ups that are possible now, because now everything start-up is essentially a user interface (UI) for data from the cloud. So LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, they’re just UIs. And you can start UI companies anywhere,” Tai says. “So now the big question is can you scale it into a big company or not.”   Two of Tai’s Australian investments have been design software Canva and customisable online fashion site Shoes of Prey. Tai says both jumped out as unique, well-timed ideas with global potential.   “Because the market here is small, the start-up companies that succeed will have to be players in the broader English language markets,” he says.   “Shoes of Prey was amazing because the people were fantastic and had a good heritage as they had been very successful at what they had done in the past and had a very unique business model at the time and proof that they could execute because they had already developed revenue without any venture money,” Tai says, adding Shoes of Prey had a competitive advantage over US-based start-ups with similar ideas given Australia’s proximity to China.   “Shoes of Prey is in a geographic position to leverage heavy manufacturing assets in China on the same timezone. If you tried to execute the same business in the USA, and had your team having to work in the middle of night, it’s just not workable so they had a natural competitive advantage,” Tai says.   Tai says his questions for Shoes of Prey before signing the cheque were about how much venture capital they would need to scale to a point where they would become self-sufficient.   Tai says both Shoes of Prey and Canva stood out because both founder teams had business experience.   “I’ve funded many, many extraordinarily smart entrepreneurs in the United States with basically valuable outcomes that have never made a penny before, but these two had built a business and knew what it meant,” Tai says.   He adds the educational system, well developed gross domestic product, a high standard of living, and mobile phone penetration means Australia is a good test market for software and tech start-ups.   “There is proof you can scale companies from Australia, such as Atlassian, which is a world-class leader in its space but started here,” Tai says. “Now we’re in a world where if the cloud infrastructure really becomes commoditised, then it really is possible for Australian start-ups.”   Given the need for Australian start-ups to go global from day one, Tai says aspiring founders should stop wasting their time not going for big markets.   “It takes the same amount of time to build an app for five family members as it does to build one that will serve a billion people,” Tai says. “Because if it works you’ll have a shot at a really big outcome rather than a huge success in a small market, so I’d encourage Australian start-ups to think big.”

Who wants an intern? New platform launches to enable connections

9:47AM | Tuesday, 24 September

99interns, an online platform to enable easier access for interns and start-ups, has launched this week in Sydney.   The five co-founders – Yvonne Lee, Sarah Maloof, Dave Michayluk, Alex Rahr and Javier Temponi – all enrolled in the most recent program of the Sydney chapter of international accelerator program The Founder Institute with their own start-up ideas.   Lee, who started the program with an online classifieds platform idea, told StartupSmart they combined forces to focus on an intern connection platform as they each struggled to locate good interns to help them launch their idea.   “We found we wanted interns to help us with our start-up, and as we spoke to more new companies we realised it wasn’t just us. When we started interviewing interns, we realised they were keen to get involved but there was no easy way to connect,” Lee says. “It’s very frustrating to look at the job ads that all say needs experience, and this will also help the start-up community.”   Connecting start-ups to interns is an increasingly popular idea at the moment, with the launch of the Tin Alley program in Melbourne and universities increasingly creating direct connections for students with start-ups.   Lee describes the brand name as a nod to successful Australian design marketplace start-up 99designs, and says they’ve spoken with the team there who weren’t concerned, but the name is still subject to change.   The platform is currently a newsletter that goes out to 250 students who are keen to intern. The students apply to 99interns, who sort out applications and forward them to a small but growing group of start-ups.   “With start-ups we’re going a bit slower because we don’t want a deluge of requests without enough interns,” Lee says, adding the start-ups involved in this beta round have come from their own networks.   The 99interns team will be developing the platform and automating this process, as well as reaching out to universities in the next few months.   “We’re going to build up the user base and the product,” Lee says. “We’re going to create an intern program that start-ups can just plug in so we know the interns are getting a good experience.”   Interns graduating from the program will receive badges they can display on their LinkedIn profile.   Lee adds while they’re still exploring business models, the fees for the platform will be paid by the start-ups.

Best of the web reads: Tweet like New York fashionistas

9:41PM | Sunday, 15 September

Lessons from the catwalk: Models in skyscraper heels on New York Fashion Week runways may seem a far cry from running a boots-on-the-ground business in Australia, but there is a big lesson to learn from how the world’s best style-setters use social media.   Writing for, Stephanie Meyers unearths six of the best tricks they use to keep their fans, far and wide, captivated on their every move.   Embrace rejection and five other business lessons: Columnist and New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs writes on LinkedIn that some of the best things we can learn and do for our businesses can be inspired from the most unlikely places and figures from history.   Soap in a pump, who thought of that? The man’s name was Robert R. Taylor, and his simple idea revolutionised people’s behaviour across the world. He was also behind Calvin Klein’s famous fragrance, Obsession, and the ground-breaking advertising style that promoted it. The New York Times reports that he died this week aged 77, but his entrepreneurial spirit has certainly left a mark.   Forget the four-hour work week, 72 is the new norm: Most people respect and admire Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour work week for encouraging businesspeople to work smarter, not harder. But Jennifer J. Deal writes for Harvard Business Review Blog Network that, in the US, some professionals are connected to work 72 hours a week. Demands by the boss to have meetings at 9pm on Friday night or be responsive to communication on weekends are key to this. As a business owner, where do you draw the line?

It takes a village: Why multiple mentors might be the key to a thriving start-up

7:27AM | Tuesday, 30 July

Entrepreneurs can grow faster and better with more than one mentor, according to Jon Bebo, a management consultant and international start-up mentor.   Bebo told StartupSmart entrepreneurs need to seek a variety of mentors suited to their needs and the stage of their business.   “It often takes a village to get a company off the ground,” he says.   “The type of support the entrepreneur should seek will depend on what stage they’re at in the cycle. At the very start, entrepreneurs might seek mentors that can help with product-market fit or how best to tell their story in a pitch.   “Later on, mentors with greater specific domain expertise come into play, depending on the challenges the entrepreneur is facing at the time.”   Bebo coordinated a “Mentor Relay” via telecast from Silicon Valley at the Melbourne Launch48 start-up event over the weekend.   “All start-up ideas change as the company develops, but by holding this interaction early in the weekend, Launch 48 makes sure they get maximum impact from their mentors,” says Bebo, who adds early stage mentoring and feedback is key.   Join the community to connect to possible mentors   Taking part in start-up weekends, incubators and co-working spaces is the easiest way to meet a variety of possible mentors, Bebo says.   “In terms of finding a mentor, the best way is to join in. All put you in the right environment to meet a whole variety of potential mentors and people who can support your project.”   Put the work in to connect with the right mentor   Bebo says it pays to do your homework before approaching possible mentors.   “It takes five minutes to look at a mentor’s LinkedIn profile so you can explain in your introductory email why you want to talk to that person. Sometimes, it helps to ask for help on a specific question first and then see if the relationship develops naturally into a mentoring one.”   Remember your mentor is human too   “Don’t expect a mentor to necessarily have all the answers, or to be right. Remember that you will have spent days and weeks thinking through your idea, so the mentor won’t necessarily grasp the details as well as you do,” Bebo says.   “Ultimately, launching a start-up is about testing your assumptions as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and mentors can be invaluable in doing that.”

Six ways time-poor entrepreneurs can get more mileage from content marketing

7:31PM | Sunday, 14 July

Content marketing is being hailed as the holy grail for marketers and start-ups everywhere.   But what we often overlook is that it’s hard work and time-consuming, so it’s easy to see why time-poor entrepreneurs simply don’t get around to it.   That’s why there’s an easier way to reap the benefits of content marketing without needing to do all the grunt work yourself. Here are six tips:   1. YouTube interview   Too busy to dream up your own content? One of the oldest tricks in the book, and still one of the best, is to interview someone. Some people use this technique to build entire careers and they never have to create their own content!   If you’re in person, use your smartphone to record it – there’s no technology excuses anymore. If you’re not in the same location, you can use Skype for free and Skype Call Recorder for $20 to record it. Then use a low-cost online service like Elance or Fiverr and get someone to convert it to a YouTube video. Or use iMovie if you want to do it yourself.   2. Use the audio version as a podcast   You can also just take an audio version of your interview and embed it on your website as a podcast for people to listen to.   3. Get a transcription for your blog   Take the YouTube URL of the interview and use a tool called Speechpad to transcribe it for you.   From $1 per minute of audio, this sure beats hitting play and rewind and typing it all up yourself. You can spend that time running your business or lining up the next interview.   4. Take a handful of transcriptions and turn it into an eBook   You’ve already got all the content you need to release an eBook and you don’t need to pick up a pen (or open your laptop). Compile four or so video interview transcripts and shoot it off to your designer on Elance or Odesk to whip it into a PDF eBook.   Some of the bestselling books of all time are just interviews. This format means you’re the author, but your guests have provided all the content – perfect for us time-poor entrepreneurs!   5. Email the top five insights to your subscribers   You wouldn’t usually send 40 pages of content via an email but why not send the ‘eBook highlights’ via email and attach the entire eBook for people who want to read the whole thing?   6. Do the final 1% of sharing it around   My final tip is to remember that the “easy wins” occur after you hit publish (which is when most people think their job is done). It takes minimal extra effort to post your content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram once it’s live.   And the biggest goldmine of all is LinkedIn groups. Share your valuable content in the appropriate LinkedIn groups you’re a member of and interact with the readers who are kind enough to leave a comment.   It’s no secret that it’s hard work running a business and hard to do good content marketing, but leverage your time and use these tips and it gets easier. Feel free to download this free editorial calendar template to help keep yourself on track too!

Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Which social media platform is right for my business?

6:55AM | Monday, 3 June

One of the biggest challenges small businesses face with social media is finding the time to actually using it. Most businesses never get around to developing a full social media strategy, opting to use just one platform (usually Facebook) or none at all.   Last week’s release of the annual Sensis Social Media Report revealed that just 30% of small businesses have a social media presence. Of this group, 88% are using Facebook.   (For a detailed review into how SMEs are using social media based on this research, read this article published on StartupSmart last week.)   With 95% of Australian social media users on Facebook, it’s a no-brainer that your business should have a presence here. It’s not even a nice-to-have anymore; it’s a huge opportunity missed if you don’t have a Facebook Page, especially if your business does B2C selling.   But there’s so much more to the social media landscape than just Facebook.   The following table taken from the report shows the breakdown of social media sites used in Australia by gender and age.     Quite often, Twitter is seen as the next priority channel after Facebook. But with 20% of all social media users on LinkedIn, this channel is clearly overlooked. All businesses – small and large – should be set-up on LinkedIn with a Company Page.   A Company Page allows you to post updates on behalf of the business, raise awareness of your brand, develop a follower community and showcase your products and services. For an added cost, you can also set up a Careers Tab on your Company Page for recruitment purposes.   OK, so I’ve said that pretty much all businesses should have a Facebook Page and a LinkedIn Company Page.   Now, what else? This really depends on your target market.   Instagram: This photo-sharing platform is hugely popular with 16% of all social media users uploading and adding filters to their photos of food, sunrises and selfies. The site is most popular with the under 30s, with a whopping 41% of 14-19 year olds using it. If this is your target market and your business has a visual element (think fashion, food and travel), then Instagram should definitely be considered a part of your social media marketing mix.   Twitter: 15% of social media users are on Twitter, with more males (19%) than females (12%). The site is popular across a broad demographic between 20 and 64 year olds. However, the most popular age group is 40-49. Twitter is definitely worth considering for a wider range of target markets, especially males in their forties. Given the short life of a tweet, it’s only worth pursuing if you have lots of regular content to share.   Google+: With 15% of all social media users claiming to be on Google+ it’s certainly not a social media network to sneeze at. However, with it’s largest demographic being the over 65 group (32%), I have to wonder whether our seniors had confused Google+ with the Google search engine.   According to the report, this channel is not worth pursing if your target market is under 30 years old, though it has a respectable 18% of social media users in its community between the ages of 30-49.   Pinterest: Last year’s social media superstar Pinterest has the lowest numbers with an average of 7% of social media users pinning. However, these numbers have been rapidly growing since the site first launched in 2010 and is largely dominated by the fairer sex (11% of females to just 1% males).   If your business has anything to do with weddings (think flowers, bonbonniere, decorations, etc), fashion or home décor, then Pinterest is a must for you.   What’s great about this insight is if you know your target market well, you are able to start building a strategy based on their social media habits and behaviour.   What social media channels do you use for your business?