Google has revealed the finalists for its first ever Australian Google Impact Challenge. The Google Impact Challenge invites Australian not-for-profits to pitch a project aimed at tackling some of the world’s biggest social challenges by leveraging modern technology. Ten organisations have made the shortlist, including the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Association (AIME), The Fred Hollows Foundation and Engineers Without Borders Australia. Their pitches range from creating an app that reports on real-time air quality data for asthma sufferers to an online game that inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to learn maths and science. Google is now asking Australians to vote for their favourite project. The most popular idea will receive $500,000 from the tech giant to help make their idea come to life. Three additional winners will be selected by an expert judging panel that will include Australian sporting legend Glenn McGrath, former News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams and Australian businesswoman and philanthropist Anne Geddes. Voting closes at 11.59pm on Monday, October 13. The winner of the Australian Google Impact Challenge will be announced on October 14. For a full list of finalists and their pitches visit the Impact Challenge Australia website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A number of Australian startups raising between $6 million and $35 million worth of funding in recent months is a result of the globalisation of venture capital and Australia’s increasing reputation as a startup creator, according to Australian investors. Last month Ingogo raised $9.1 million and Invoice2Go $35 million, in August ScriptRock raised $8.7 million, following LIFX’s $12 million raise in June and Hipages $6 million raise in May. The deals included investors from both locally and abroad. Blue Sky Venture Capital investment director Dr Elaine Stead and Tank Stream Ventures managing director Rui Rodrigues say raising capital in Australia is becoming easier than it was in the past. “The deals are a reflection of increasing globalisation, and it’s a great thing,” Stead says. “What I think we’re starting to see is in the old days funds invested locally and only locally, now venture funds from the United States are investing in not just the US, but other territories, where there’s great innovation and entrepreneurs. “What they bring is not just extra capital … it brings expertise in the key markets that a number of those companies are trying to access.” Stead says the factors of globalisation and the success of companies such as Atlassian and Freelancer – which have increased Australia’s reputation for creating globally scalable businesses – are leading to more venture capital firms casting their eyes to Australia. Tank Stream Ventures managing director Rui Rodrigues agrees and says the funding environment in Australia has improved considerably over the last few years. “Probably two or three years ago, it was relatively difficult to raise those $3 to $5 million rounds, and now that’s become a lot easier,” he says. “There’s been a shift towards the higher rounds too, while they are still much more difficult to raise than in the US, we can’t pretend there is as much capital in Australia as the US, but we’re seeing a slight shift in that we’re seeing bigger and bigger deals in Australia. “There’s definitely globalisation occurring in terms of the VC industry. Funds now have deal scouts all over the world looking for interesting deals, and one of the reasons is they are placed under huge pressure to allocate the capital they have available. We’re talking to multibillion-dollar funds. There’s only a limited amount of opportunity in big markets like the US to actually deploy that capital. “So Australia is a terrific option. There’s a very strong tech adoption rate, strong smartphone penetration, there’s a strong pool of talent – all of the parameters for the ecosystem to work. So although a lot of things can be improved in terms of funding, government support and education, in the very basic sense, we are fortunate to have some of the key factors in place that are required to create strong and global businesses.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian entrepreneur has produced the world’s first sand-resistant beach towel and now has plans to expand into a full beachwear brand. The Sandusa beach towel appears to be like any other towel – the only difference being that the underside is made out of nylon fibres constructed in such a way that sand does not easily stick to it. Gold Coast resident Baz Brown created Sandusa following a successful crowdfunding campaign last year where he raised more than $25,000 from backers in 25 different countries. Brown – who is an avid surfer with a background in civil engineering – told StartupSmart he came up with the idea for the towel after a day at the beach with his girlfriend. “I was sitting there and watched this guy stand up with a wet sandy towel and shake it and he literally showered these people nearby with sand,” he says. “I thought, ‘How come nobody’s solved this?’” Brown admits he is far from the stereotypical entrepreneur, but says startups are not just for technology geeks – all you need is passion. “I wouldn’t say I’m a serial entrepreneur, I just came up with this idea and really believe in it,” he says. “I’ve got some skills in management but I’d never launched a product before. When launching a product and doing website design you just have to learn as you go. You have to wear so many hats.” When asked what it takes to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, Brown says the trick is to be honest with people and find a way to make them care about your idea. “The best thing to do is to be open about what you’re doing,” he says. “You also have to put a lot of effort into marketing and branding. It’s one thing to have a really good idea but to put it out there and make it resonate with people is so important.” Since the crowdfunding campaign, Brown has had to navigate the patenting process and the complexities of dealing with overseas manufacturers. He sent his first order off in July and is now working on getting a new order through for the Christmas period before expanding the product range. “The thing that crowdfunding is great for is launching a product because you get to test the market,” he says. “But afterwards is when the circus really starts.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Complaints have never really had a specific home on the internet. They’ve always just been kind of everywhere. Melbourne social network startup Vent wants to change that. It’s providing a platform that is specifically for people to moan, rant or complain about whatever might be upsetting them. Users sign up, choose one of five moods which comes with a corresponding colour, for example red matches up with anger, and then post their complaint. The platform is much like Twitter, users can follow people they know and curate their own feed of Vents, or browse posts from the wider Vent community. It’s the community that Vent is building that co-founder Dean Serroni says is where the startup’s value lies. “We don’t want to become a junky place for people to discuss random things. We want people who have problems or complaints to come to our app, where they’ll be associating with people in similar situations,” he says. Serroni and co-founder Duncan Turner came up with the idea over coffee last year. It was around the time of the Essendon Football Club supplements controversy and the last throes of the Gillard/Rudd Labour government. They didn’t want to launch their complaints into the internet ether on general purpose social networks like Twitter and Facebook, nor did they want to damage their “online personalities” either. So they decided to build Vend. After launching a beta version on the Apple App Store in January the platform grew to 3000 users in July, before more than tripling the two months since to over 10,000 users. To date they’ve raised $100,000 in funding from an investor Serroni is unable to name yet. What Serroni and Turner didn’t expect was the warmth of the community they had created. Serroni says users are supportive of one another and help each other through tough times. “It’s been really comforting to be honest. People are able to share their experiences and come out feeling comforted. A negative experience can become a positive one,” he says. “People understand they’re not alone in their issues. People share in their miseries and feel better for it. Protecting that supportive vibe, and the value that come with it, is one of Vent’s greatest challenges. As it scales it becomes more and more difficult to police the site. Many websites require users to link Facebook accounts in an attempt to encourage civilised debate. Vent asked that of its users initially, but was inundated with requests to remove that requirement. Anonymity is key to venting they said. Now anyone can sign up to an account; all that’s needed is an email address. The startup is rolling out new features in the coming weeks that will give users more control over what they do and don’t see. Serroni says they’re also considering providing individual users with powers that allow them to curate and moderate other users. It’s also adding more emotions and a feature which allows users “hugs” or “WTFs” in a similar manner to Facebook ‘likes’ as a way to endorse and sympathise with posts. As for monetisation, Serroni says the startup is examining a number of options, none of which will be advertising. “As our user base shapes up and we start to understand it better, we’ll start to think about it more he says. We want to understand them to ensure when we do monetise we’re providing value rather than spamming with ads,” Serroni says. “We’ve got some ideas at the moment, one idea being professional counselling services that can be engaged directly through the app. And a few others that I’d prefer not to mention.” Vent comes out of beta later this week and is available on iOS with an Android release slated for December. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian transportation network and mobile payments startup Ingogo has raised $9.1 million, as it increases its focus on mobile payments, ahead of a planned ASX listing next year. The investment round was led by UBS and Canaccord Genuity, and brings on board new investors including MYOB co-founders Craig Winkler and Chris Lee, Pitt Capital, Janchor Partners’ John Ho and a number of Australian and Asian Institutional Funds. It takes Ingogo’s total funding to $16.2 million and values the startup at over $45 million. Interestingly, of the $9.1 million, $1.2 million was raised via equity-based crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd, the first deal facilitated though the platform. Almost 50 sophisticated investors took part in the raise through VentureCrowd, each investing at least $1000, and at least one individual investing $50,000. Australian legislation does not yet allow retail investors to participate in such raises. In August, Ingogo announced it was expanding beyond the taxi industry and had signed a partnership with Xero to roll out its mobile payments platform to small businesses. Ingogo founder and managing director Hamish Petrie says this pre-IPO funding round will help the startup get some “runs on the board” in the mobile payments space, before listing next year. “We talked about listing late this year, but then we reached the partnership with Xero and it seemed premature until we get runs on the board behind that partnership. “ he says. “The strategy is to go and build some momentum behind that opportunity and create more value in the businesses when it lists.” Despite this increased focus on the mobile payments portion of its business, Petrie says it’s not pivoting away from the taxi and transportation industry. “We’re still highly committed to winning the taxi space, and we’re putting a lot of resources into improving both the passenger and driver applications, and some of the smarts behind those applications,” he says. “We’ve divided the businesses in two essentially. To ensure we’re still firmly focused on the taxi opportunity, we’ve literally created a second arm of our business to take the advantages we have in mobile payments and start to broaden that into other verticals. “Xero was the way to take that next step. Our job is to make it easy and seamless for a merchant to accept as many forms as payment as they want.” As for the transportation network side of Ingogo, some of the funds raised will go towards expanding the platform outside of Sydney and Melbourne, the two cities in which it currently operates. Petrie wouldn’t say for sure which city that might be, but says a state capital like Brisbane would be a logical step. Meanwhile, VentureCrowd is hailing Ingogo’s raise as one of the first major examples of how equity crowdfunding can work to provide startups with capital. The platform, powered by Artesian Venture Partners, the firm behind the Sydney Angels Sidecar Fund, an early Ingogo investor, gave the startup access to a large amount of individuals who invested smaller amounts than might typically occur during a raise. Chief operating officer of Artesian Venture Partners, Tim Heasley says the fact that applications were oversubscribed, demonstrates VentureCrowd is a “robust, viable investment platform for startups and investors”. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Tinybeans, a social network that has amassed 500,000 users in its two years since launch, has raised $2 million. The Sydney-based startup allows parents to share family photos privately and securely while helping track their children’s development. Tinybean users sign up to the platform and can upload pictures via a web or smartphone app, and share those pictures privately with friends and family. Followers can access a user’s Tinybeans Journal, where all those moments are collated, via email, website, or the app. The $2 million investment comes from “a consortium of high network private investors” mostly based in Sydney but also London and Hong Kong. Eddie Geller, who co-founded the startup in 2012 along with Stephen O’Young and Sarah Jane Kurtini, was unable to elaborate on exactly who the investors were. Prior to this raise, its first round of institutional investment, Tinybeans had bootstrapped its way to over 500,000 users. More than 50% of those users are based in the US and the startup plans to set up operations there next year to help support its biggest market. Its project is to double its user base in the next three months, and reach a million users by the end of the year. “We’re ambitious but hopefully realistic,” Geller says. To achieve that target, Tinybeans is relying on its users sharing the platform with friends and family, growing via mutually beneficial partnerships with other companies, and by ramping up a public relations and marketing campaign, an effort made possible by the funding round. That funding will also be used to build out the Tinybeans team and develop new and existing features that help families raise their children. “Unlike other social networks we are so much more than just sharing pictures and updates – we’re a private social network focused around the well-being of a child,” Geller says. “Parents are creating a keepsake/journal rather than a timeline. Our users own their content and we provide value beyond printing services and sharing photos through our focus on helping families raise their children and support their child’s development.” Tinybeans does that by helping parents track not only their children’s general milestones, like their first Christmas, or first tantrum, but also developmental milestones based around things like gross motor skills and fine motor skills. It offers advice to parents by suggesting activities that will help their children develop those skills. “It becomes a tool for parents to help them understand the developmental stages of a child’s life and how they can help them,” Geller says. The idea for that feature came from co-founder O'Young's own experience parenting. He couldn’t find a solution to help his eldest child overcome speech delays. In addition he was reluctant to share photos of his children on Facebook. “As Tinybeans is a private social network you can confidently share your precious moments without risking alienating friends who may not like having their feeds clogged with your baby picture,” Geller says. Geller says the startup had no trouble securing investors and has several revenue models based primarily around brand partnerships. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Brisbane startup Zova is hoping its contextual awareness will carry its female-focused health and fitness app to mainstream popularity. Zova launched for iOS two days ago, and thanks to its Apple Health integration, it is one of 14 apps being featured on Apple Health App Store page. Co-founder Niall McCarthy says while there’s no shortage of health and fitness apps available, none really make the most of a smartphone’s capabilities, nor the communities that want to use those products. The Zova team, in conjunction with its “Zova Ambassadors”, a bunch of exercise and lifestyle professionals, has created a number of exercise programs that combine custom-made music with “exercise science” to achieve better results. The app is also aware of the context. What that means, McCarthy explains, is when its user opens the app, it suggests workouts based on factors like time of day, weather, and location. “Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will recommend based on your time and location. For example, you can click on your workout stream, and follow immediately, visual and vocal cues, along with music and rhythm that will help you,” he says. The music and rhythm aspect of Zova was central to its development. McCarthy and his fellow co-founder James Tonkin originally came up with an idea to use rhythm to help kids exercise, while washing dishes at a pizza shop. They went on to develop a sports product which helped kids get active and rolled out the product to schools around the world. About a year ago they decided to pivot to enter the consumer fitness market with support from the investor and founder of health and fitness company Jetts, Brendon Levenson. “Health and fitness is the next thing to be disrupted, and the time is now with companies like Apple and Google providing wearables to help realise that,” McCarthy says. Users will be able to try the app for a week for free and after that they’ll be asked to pay $25 for a 12 week subscription, or $75 for a yearly subscription. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Support in numbers is something I have learnt a great deal about this week when I reflect on my trip to Canberra to meet with various government officials to discuss the current execution timeline of crowd sourced equity funding (CSEF) in Australia. All in all it was a very positive day for the development of the industry and Equitise looks forward to continuing to work with government officials into the future to expedite the process of CSEF in Australia. The day kicked off with a 5.30am alarm ringing in my ear, I was on the dual prop flying Kangaroo by 7.40am and landing in Canberra by 8.40am with fellow industry stakeholders by my side James Bond (Chief Economist of the Financial Services Council) and Ben Heap (CEO of AWI Limited). Treasury The first meeting was with Treasury at 9.30am where we met with the team that is driving the review process of researching, analysing and assessing CSEF globally. These guys have also been pulling apart the CAMAC paper over the past four months and considering its recommendations. After meeting with Treasury it was obvious that they are advocates for the rollout of CSEF in Australia. For those that are wondering, the role Treasury play in the process (apart from forming a position on the current state of play globally) is to essentially draft the regulation impact statement when the federal government decides to take a stance and press forward with expediting the legislation. It really was a pleasure meeting with the team driving this in Treasury and sharing our collective thoughts as key stakeholders in the process from both an intermediary (Equitise), an investor (Ben Heap/AWI Limited) and an industry representative’s perspective (James Bond). The great news is that it seems the stakeholders and Treasury are very much on the same page with thoughts on the CAMAC proposal and potential paths forward for this exciting new asset class that I am very confident will be developing in Australia sometime next year. We left Treasury at 10.30am and made our way to the front doors of Parliament House. Industry Our next meeting was with the senior advisers to Minister of Industry, Ian Macfarlane, where we discussed the “potential” release of an innovation paper, the same paper I was chatting to Malcolm Turnbull about just a couple of weeks ago that summarises ways to improve/innovate our digital economy (including the issues with employee share options – ESOP). I got the strong impression that this will be released any day now and am guessing it has been held up due to other important breaking news – completely fair enough. It was hugely productive chatting with Minister Macfarlane’s senior advisers and hearing the government’s positive position on CSEF. Without being able to divulge much information about the exact position of industry, it was obvious that CSEF is being embraced internally and is 100% supported by industry. Small business We wondered across the hallways of Parliament House to meet with the Small Business Minister Bruce Billson and one of his senior advisers to discuss his thoughts on CSEF and its importance to the Australian small and medium-sized enterprise community. Minister Billson is understandably a huge advocate for this method of alternative financing for businesses across Australia. With more than 30% of the two million SMEs operating across the country not having access to expansion financing for their businesses last financial year, Minister Billson certainly understands first-hand the difficulties faced by fledgling Australian enterprise. After meeting with Minister Billson it quickly became apparent the support for CSEF was strong in a number of facets of Parliament House. I guess the question on everyone’s mind is, if there is huge support, why isn’t it moving faster? Essentially, it is in retrospect. Just not as fast as key stakeholders would hope for. What we need to understand is that this is a new asset class, it is risky for investors and the government just wants to ensure that they do it properly the first time around. As opposed to having a quick and dirty shot at it, not getting it right and then having to disrupt an emerging industry with another change in policy one year down the track. A word of advice though, key stakeholders in the CSEF space need to band together to grow the number of voices in this space. As you will likely take away from this blog post, government is well aware and very supportive of CSEF; however, what we are lacking is absolute urgency to get it pushed along faster, but in a positive way. Chris Gilbert is co-founder at Equitise. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Hackathons in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane aiming to turn “health data into information into knowledge”9:18AM | Friday, 26 September
With interest in health technology booming, an upcoming hackathon across three states is aiming to bring together tech experts and leading medical researchers. Running from October 24 to 26, the HealthHack events are being organised by the Open Knowledge Foundation, which was one of the groups responsible for the GovHack event in July that attracted a record 1400 participants across 11 sites nationwide. HealthHack organiser Kelvin Nicholson told Private Media the 2014 event comes at a time when, through wearables and other devices, we are collecting an increasing amount of data about ourselves and our health. “This event is about figuring out how to transform that data into information, into knowledge,” Nicholson says. “The purpose of the event is to bring together researchers with other people in the community who might have skills that the researchers don’t have, such as software development, data analytics and people who can do visualisations. “You might have – for example – a researcher who needs to develop an Android app, and you might get a software developer who can build a demo of an app as well as someone who can do visualisations.” Aside from medical researchers, event organisers are interested in finding tech professionals with a number of different skill sets. “The people who have signed up – and the people we’re interested in – are software developers, data analysts and statisticians and people who can create visualisations out of complex data sets,” Nicholson says. “And we’re also looking for people on the business analyst side who can talk to the researchers and developers and help to brainstorm ideas. It’s open to anyone interested in health and health research. The event kicks off on the Friday evening 6pm with drinks and food. After a short pitching session where researchers describe the medical issues they’re working on, teams will race until 4pm Sunday to create solutions. Nicholson warns there are limits to the amount of research that can be done over such a short timeframe. “You need a problem statement you can solve in a weekend, so usually it will be about taking data and transforming that into something useful. So building an artificial limb over a weekend might be difficult, but developing software to gather useful data from an artificial limb could be an interesting problem,” he says. The event is running for its second year, after attracting around 40 or 50 developers to a single event in Melbourne last year. The winners were Gene Machine, a web app allowing medical researchers to interactively explore the quality of genetic samples, and EPI View, an app for displaying genetic and epigenetic marks. It comes at a time when interest in the health technology scene is booming. As StartupSmart recently reported, Melbourne’s StartUp HealthTech Meetup group is amongst the fastest growing in the world. “It seems there are a lot of people and a lot of companies looking to get into the health tech sector. And there’s a lot of interest in this event, there’s a lot of meetups blossoming,” Nicholson says. “At this stage, with a month to go, we have eight to 10 researchers and 200 people have registered across the three cities. The Melbourne event looks like it will be the largest of the three, based on the number of registrations so far.” Registration for this years’ event is open. Medical researchers or tech professionals interested in participating can register here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
The cofounder of a pioneering Sydney-based robotics startup, with a Powerhouse Museum display and a successful crowdfunding campaign under its belt, says the sector is set to get much bigger but finance for projects remains an issue. Robological cofounder Damith Herath told Private Media there are a number of exciting robotics startups founded by Australians, including Marathon Robotics and Navisense, and the sector is gaining momentum globally. “It’s kinda like the ‘70s in computing and the ‘90s in the web. It’s the same feeling in the robotics community and the general consensus is it’s getting a lot bigger,” Herath says. “A few good examples are some of the startups Google has recently purchased, or Baxter, or Cynthia Breazeal, who quit her job at MIT to do a startup called Jibo and raised $2 million on Indiegogo. “But we have to be careful, because a lot of people over-promise and under deliver. Robots will move into other spaces, though not in the anthropomorphic sense. “One of the issues is finding people to finance you is tricky, especially for hardware. People are more comfortable with apps and things that get a quick return on their investment.” In January, Robological raised $3031 on Indiegogo for RoBuddy, a pre-built board that integrates with an Android app, making it easy to build a robot without needing to learn a programming language such as C. Herath says the startup is finalising the board for fabrication in China. “You can build a Raspberry Pi robot straight away, plug in a camera and motors, and within 10 to 20 minutes you have a spy cam working with the Android app,” he says. “We think it’s useful because it’s in the pro-maker space, but it’s not as complex as Arduino. So if you’re building something in home automation, you can get something going with Android.” Aside from RoBuddy, Herath says Robological does consulting and research work, including working as a research partner with the Australian distributor for Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot and on Curtin University’s Alternative Anatomies project. It is also “chipping away” on a variation of the cloud-based internet of things robotics ideas put forward by UC Berkley professor Ken Goldberg, although Herath is remaining tight-lipped about what the project involves. The startup began with a robotics display called the Articulated Head, which was on exhibit for two years at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. “The three founders – Zhengzhi Zhang, Christian Kroos and I – met at the University of Western Sydney six years ago on a project called Thinking Ahead, which was a project of the Australian Research Council into AI (artificial intelligence). “We each had a slightly different background, myself with robotics engineering, Zhang with software engineering and Christian with linguistic and cognitive science. “Stelarc is one of the top performing artists in the world; an Australian artist who’s done a lot of work with robotics on stage and theatre. And the project I worked on was conceived of by Stelarc.” The project ended when funding ended, but this allowed the team to develop valuable intellectual property on robots and human interaction. The founders decided to form Robological to continue their research. One of its first projects was called Adopt a Robot, a research project looking into interactions between humans and robots. “It got a lot of good publicity because it captured the public imagination. We gave away seven robots and over six months we changed its behaviour and added a face… Each person who got a robot had to care for it and fill out a questionnaire every four to six weeks,” Herath says. Next month, Robological will jointly organise a workshop on robots and art with Curtin University as part of the Sixth International Conference on Social Robotics in Sydney. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Bao-Minh Tran-Vo, the cofounder of fantasy footy app developer c8apps, might be in San Francisco, but being 12,658 kilometres from the MCG on AFL grand final day is unlikely to stop the sports aficionado from catching all the action on that one day in September. Tran-Vo told Private Media c8apps has been busy since securing $400,000 in funding from a group of prominent investors last month. “The c8apps team has been working hard on a new player vs player (PvP) feature where users can play a match against another user in real time. You can literally see your opponent trying to save your shot on goal,” Tran-Vo says. “We are currently talking to a few VCs about our next fundraising round.” Tran-Vo says he is expecting a surge in interest over the weekend for his AFL fantasy coaching app Footy Coach, with a further surge set to come for the NRL Grand Final for its rugby league counterpart on October 5. “We are expecting both the Footy Coach and League Coach games to see a spike in traffic,” he says. “Our leader board becomes quite competitive during the finals weekend. We also see our games being played well into the off season because users can still play simulated matches against their friends. Despite the expected surge in interest, Tran-Vo says he is not planning any specific promotion around the event this year. “Next year we are planning to give away a huge prize to the best Footy Coach and League Coach team at the end of the season,” he says. As for the match itself, Tran-Vo says he’s expecting a cracker of a game, led by Sydney’s star centre-half forward, Lance “Buddy” Franklin. “With the hype around Buddy and the two best teams, this is a dream AFL grand final. I think he is a great ambassador for the game no matter where he plays. I hope he bags six,” he says. “[Hawthorn midfielder] Cyril Rioli is a big inclusion for the Hawks and he will no doubt lift the team. I'm expecting a huge effort from [Hawthorn captain Luke] Hodge and under his leadership he could be the difference. “I think the Swans have no weakness with a lot of big names in all the key positions and their experience will definitely show in the big moments. “It will be a very fast and exciting game of AFL. However, two years in a row for the Hawks is a big ask; especially against the Swans. Swans to win this one.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Perth and Melbourne-based payments startup Pin Payments has announced it is introducing a new API that will allow small businesses to automatically schedule their payments. Co-founder Grant Bissett told Private Media he noticed the Australian e-commerce services market was failing to progress as fast as it should technologically while working in web design a few years ago. “Pin Payments has been in the market for a year and a half. We built Australia’s first credit card payment system that doesn’t need a merchant account,” Bissett says. “The first version was a multi-currency payment API. Now, while there’s a whole category of companies doing that, but we were the first to do it in Australia.” Pin Payments is now adding to the service, announcing a beta trial of a programmable JSON API allowing business owners to transfer payments into any Australian bank account. Bissett says the API will be flexible enough to be implemented by a range of businesses. “So the payouts are like the payments you do with online banking, except we add a developer API to them. We feel it’s a basic capability the banks should be offering by now,” Bissett says. “We’re running a private beta where we’re allowing people to register their interest in a trial that will allow us to scale-up the service. We’ll be announcing general availability in the coming weeks.” According to Bissett, the service is designed with online marketplaces in mind. He says it will allow them to automate the process of transferring payments to third parties and subtracting their percentage cut. “The most common use case is with marketplace environment, where someone’s operating a website with many vendors. With the API, you can replace bookkeepers and manual processing of those payments with automation,” he says. “We’ll reveal exact pricing when we announce general availability. However, it will be a small fixed fee per transaction, rather than a variable or percentage fee.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Perth co-working space Spacecubed has launched a crowdfunding campaign that will help it double the amount of space it can offer to entrepreneurs and startups. The extra space at Level 9 of 45 St Georges Terrace in Perth, will offer facilities targeted at startups with between two and eight members. Originally, the expansion plans had been for next year, but demand has brought them forward. Spacecubed founder Brodie McCulloch says there 450 members using the space including startups in the social, environmental, technology and creative industries. “Our co-working space is essentially full, so we were looking at how we fund our growth,” he says. “How do we grow now to provide more and better facilities for our members? We’re only just hitting the tip of the iceberg with the Perth startup community.” McCulloch says the best solution was to run a crowdfunding campaign and Spacecubed was a good fit for charitable crowdfunding platform Chuffed, an Australian startup itself. Spacecubed is a social enterprise that makes money from memberships, but puts all its profits back into the programs that support entrepreneurs. “There’s a growing interest in people getting their ideas up and running, so we’ve had a lot of interest from people looking at career changes, and this (expansion) helps lowers the barriers for people to do that,” McCulloch says. One day into the 30 day campaign, Spacecubed has raised $8455 of its $50,000 target. Through the campaign, startups and entrepreneurs can purchase co-working spaces and memberships. Options include $180 for 1 year of Spacecubed membership which comes with eight hours of co-working space per month, $300 for the one month of full-time Spacecubed co-working space access in November or December, or $500 for a one month resident desk in November or December. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
More than 2700 people have applied for what a Sydney-based startup is calling the “world’s best internship”, with some applicants taking extreme measures to stand out from the crowd. The internship will be offered to one Australian university student, with a $50,000 salary package and another $50,000 worth of shares in the company. The intern will also receive a brand new car, laptop and phone. Applicants are required to submit a minute-long pitch detailing why they are the right person for the job. In one video application, 19-year-old student Anna Bezuglova jumps out of a plane to show her desire to work for the company. Launched last month, Alphatise hopes to shake up the online retail space by putting consumers back in the driver’s seat. Co-founder Ben Nowlan said in a statement the startup decided to offer the internship because it was after someone who could bring a “fresh, digitally driven” perspective to the company. “Australia is currently suffering a youth unemployment crisis, and university students are arguably emerging from their degrees without the skillset needed to meet the needs of the businesses from the get-go,” he says. “Our internship package has created an opportunity for the successful applicant to develop their skills in whichever field they are passionate about. Whether it’s sales and marketing or being part of our world-class technology development team, we’ll help to make that happen for them.” Applications for the internship close on October 11, 2014. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A common problem among startups when pitching is a poor understanding of their business model, according to Will Deane, managing director of Exto Partners. Exto Partners is a diversified private investment firm based in Sydney and Deane sees about 20 pitches a month from startups seeking investment. The company has invested in Airtasker, Tuned Global and WhiteSky Labs. It typically invests in companies that are holding Series A fundraising rounds. On October 9 and 10, Deane will be one of a number of speakers at the Australian Computer Society’s youth festival of ICT, YITCON 2014. The conference will examine the importance of developing innovative skills for the future and the evolving nature of the ICT ecosystem. Among those joining Deane at the conference will be futurist Ross Dawson, OrionVM founder Sheng Yeo and entrepreneur Naomi Henn. Deane’s talk will examine some of the common mistakes he sees entrepreneurs making during pitches. Here are three ways Deane says startups can help make themselves more attractive to investors: 1. Build a great team “You need people around you that are passionate believers in the opportunity, but also sensible and rational about their expectations of the growth aspect of the business. They should be open to collaboration and willing to work with investors.” 2. Have a validated customer need “I think this is a key one, it is really critical. Has the startup really identified what the problem is, who the customer is, and are they getting traction with early adopters. Are they talking to customers, we love to see them getting involved with the customer.” 3. Understand the business model “A lot of people get this wrong in startups. A lot of people don’t understand the business is not the product. I think there’s lots of really exciting ideas, and a lot of really exciting technologies being developed. But what we think is critical is the business model. Understanding what it takes to get from a great idea or a great technology, to a scalable and successful business. We’ve all seen the great hockey stick projection, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it comes with serious validation. “Talk to investors early, and I mean sophisticated investors, who can really give some advice, not just around the product, but the business model. If you’re not clear about the business model, say we’ve got this great idea, help us. We spend a lot of time advising companies about ways of doing things in their business. “They may come back a year or two later, or they may take off and find capital elsewhere, and we’re fine with that.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A new online community for startups has sprung up, allowing entrepreneurs around the world to gain valuable feedback on a recorded 35-second elevator pitch. Twenty-year-old Melbourne-based entrepreneur Melvin Chee launched Go Pitch just under a fortnight ago with Canadian friends Rahul Goel and George Wong – both also in their 20s. “The reason why Go Pitch started is many entrepreneurs can’t pitch when they face a crowd,” Chee says. “When they write they can pitch it very well, but writing and voice are very different things.” What sets Go Pitch apart from other startup forums and online pitching communities, says Chee, is the fact users have to upload a 35-second audio clip of their elevator pitch. “Every entrepreneur thinks their ideas are the next big thing, so we want them to pitch it to the world and for people to give feedback on the things they need to do to make their idea better before they launch their product,” he says. The website was launched around a fortnight ago, and Chee says the site has already attracted close to 10,000 visitors. “It was started as a weekend project and we were building it just for fun,” he says. “We never thought it would get so much traction – we were just trying it out.” The three co-founders monitor the website to make sure the comments on people’s pitches are appropriate and focus on being constructive. The most popular pitch on the site has been listened to more than 1200 times. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian startup Social Check wants to stop drunken tweets and Facebook rants costing people jobs. The startup allows consumers to audit their social media accounts. For a fee of $89.95, Social Check produces a report that scans an individual’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ accounts, including profile data and the last 10,000 posts. It searches for profanity, misspellings, posts with a certain tone, inappropriate content, and incomplete and inconsistent information. It then gives that user a score out of 1000, based on comparison with peers and best practice, and provides recommendations on how to improve their “online personal brand”. It’s common knowledge that one of the first ports of call for employers in the recruitment process is googling a candidate’s name. Founder David Griffiths says it was with this in mind that he launched Social Check. “When I was growing up, I had it drummed into me how much that first impression matters, polished shoes, eye contact,” he says. “Behaviourally, what’s happening now is first impressions aren’t occurring when you meet them face to face, it’s when people are looking at your LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook profiles, and it’s at that point when they decide whether we get to meet them or not.” He says opting out of social media is no solution either, as increasingly companies are looking for people who embrace technology, are adaptive to change and can build and maintain relationships. Using social media well is an example candidates can use to meet such criteria. It’s not just job hunters that Social Check is aimed at. Griffiths says Social Check will also give companies a way to get ahead of any social media scandals that might arise from their employees social media habits. “(Social media) has occurred quite quickly, and most businesses only have a stick, an electronic communication policy where they say if you step out of line we’ll whack you over the head,” he says. “There needs to be greater awareness and understanding of how you look online and what it might say about you.” To help with this, Social check offers its customers content which includes recommendations, tips and tricks, to help avoid using social media in a way which damages their personal brand or their employer’s reputation. Social Check launched three months ago and is in the midst of its first capital raise. Griffiths was not willing to say exactly how many people are using the platform, but he says the number has been growing week on week and includes people from all over the world. “This is a universal problem, it’s not unique to Australia and we’re getting about 80% of our traffic and business from elsewhere,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
One of Australia’s first startup incubators Pollenizer is shifting its focus from helping individuals create startups, to assisting big corporates like Optus spin out their own startups. Pollenizer co-founder and chief executive officer Phil Morle says the most valuable asset is what it called its “startup science”, its knowledge of how to build and support startups. With more and more big corporates becoming interested in disrupting themselves, rather than waiting to be disrupted by others, Pollenizer is now focusing on offering them the know-how required to do just that. “Startups are still the heart of what we do,” Morle says. “We’re not putting suits on and going into Singtel and drawing things onto the whiteboard, we’re bringing the essence of what startups do to those sorts of companies. “Turning employees to entrepreneurs and helping companies that are exceptionally good at scaling things that are known, create and scale the unknown.” Pollenizer is helping Optus run a new innovation program which will see the company run a competition where 200 of its employees from around the world will compete to create their own startup. The best team will then spend three months with Pollenizer where they will attempt to create a successful business. Morle says it’s a “commercial agreement” with Singtel, and Pollenizer will have the opportunity to invest in the startup during the incubation process. The employees will retain ownership of the startup and Singtel will ultimately decide whether to invest. “We do look for and have the opportunity to invest in the businesses incubated out of the program, that’s very important to us because we are very entrepreneurially minded.” In addition to targeting big corporates, Pollenizer is also casting its eye to opportunities in south-east Asia. The company is currently active in Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore. It has partnered with Kickstart Ventures in the Philippines, and has designed a program called ideabox in Myanmar in conjunction with international telecommunications company ooredoo. Morle says Myanmar is a good example of the size of the opportunity that’s becoming available in developing economies in the region. Thanks to increased access to the mobile internet, the nation is moving from less than 1% of its population having access to the web, to over 80% in the not-too-distant future. “We’re very excited about south-east Asia as a burgeoning economy and a burgeoning startup ecosystem,” Morle says. “We’re excited by the pace of change and the opportunity that’s there to make internet companies for populations of 10s of millions of people.” And it’s for this reason that Morle sees other Australian incubators and accelerators looking to the region as a potential source of growth. “There’s a vast market for us all to join,” he says. “We’re already (in Asia) as a nation of entrepreneurs, and that’s only going to get more robust over the next few years.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Elance-oDesk has launched The Pulse, a new initiative aimed at bringing entrepreneurs together in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Events will be tailored to the local scenes in each city and feature monthly expert panels, networking events, practical workshops, pitch nights and Q&A sessions with startup founders. The Pulse organiser and Elance-oDesk country manager Australia, Kyri Theos, says he hopes the events can help build Australia’s startup ecosystem. “We believe in the startup scene in Australia. We believe it can grow into one of the most dynamic startup hubs in the world,” Theos says. “So we want to help unlock that by providing the tools that entrepreneurs need to bring that to life.” He says while there are many startup meetup-type events, the aim for The Pulse is to bring together a broader group of entrepreneurs, from startup founders and business owners to people who have thought about founding their own startup. “It’s a group for aspirational people,” he says. “What we’re trying to do here is really harness the energy and excitement surrounding startups at the moment. We want to include all entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurs usually spend a lot of time alone; they don’t live a 9-5 life. That can lead to isolation from friends and family. But entrepreneurs don’t have to be alone, and The Pulse is here to remind people of that and bring people together. “At its most fundamental level, a community creates human connections, forces you to be less afraid, and reassures you that worth you’re doing is worthwhile.” Events will focus on each city’s startup scene. “It’s hyper local, one community in each city focusing on local issues, with local experts and local success stories, people that you can relate to,” Theos says. Launch events were held in all three cities last week to a great reception. “We were absolutely astounded by the response,” Theos says. “We’ve had 650 RSVPs to our first event. We’ve sold out events in every city and have 220 people on our waitlist. “We’re really excited it has kicked off with bang. As a company it’s our way to give back to a community that has been so supportive of us.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian e-commerce player the Catch Group, the company behind Catch of the Day and Scoopon, has launched its latest digital venture, hoping to take a further slice out of the online market. YumTable allows diners to eat out at fine-dining restaurants at a discounted price, complementing the company’s takeaway ordering website, EatNow. In June, Catch Group also launched into the homewares space and operations manager Levi Aron says there’s no slowing down for the company. “There is always more exciting things happening, but we’re very careful with what we choose,” says Aron. He says EatNow has been a great success story for the group and it couldn’t look past the opportunity to complement a takeaway service with a dine-in service. “We wanted to capture the other side of market,” he says. But he says the new venture has its own merits as a “standalone” business. YumTable was created by Madewell Enterprises in 2011, an internet technology company founded by MYOB co-founder Craig Winkler. It has since been purchased by Catch Group, who according to Aron, have been waiting for the right time to re-launch the offering. Aron says they’ve turned the business model on its head in order to make it more appealing for restaurant owners. “Traditionally restaurants have been looked on outside of the industry as a cash cow,” he says. We’re not locking them into contracts, we don’t charge them a fee, and we charge the consumer a small fee. The reason why customers are happy to be charged is they’re paying $1 to get access to the discounts.” So far it has between 850 and 900 restaurants from around Australia using the platform. Aron says the site will not be a deals website like some of Catch’s other offerings and will provide something more consistent for consumers and restaurants. “This is a consistent offering throughout the year, which is quite different from anything else around.” Aron says the company will continue to further expand its offering and is often approached by “people with different ideas”. “We want to choose the options we believe are right for the consumer and the retailer and for us.” The group sells on average one item every second. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.