Australian startup wins an award for its augmented reality soundscapes

4:59AM | Friday, 24 April

An innovative augmented reality app called Arboretum, which overlays location-aware soundscapes over the National Arboretum, has been named as one of the joint winners of NICTA’s Digital Canberra Challenge.   The ARboretum app was created by APositive, a digital design studio focused on augmented reality experience design. It shares the $12,500 prize with Link Digital, which created a whole of government open data repository for Canberra images and videos that will be opened up to the public.   ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr presented the prize to APositive at the DCC Awards Day and Innovator Showcase at the National Gallery of Australia.   APositive chief executive Amber Standley told StartupSmart the app charts your location in the National Arboretum and plays wild sounds native to the country of origin of nearby trees. So, for example, standing near a cedar will produce a Himalayan soundscape, while cork oaks trigger a Portuguese soundscape.   “The brief for the Canberra Challenge was to create a digital art installation, and it was a fairly open brief. A few years earlier, we had the idea of creating a geolocation app for the arboretum,” Standley says.   “We really felt we didn’t need to overlay visuals in the Arboretum, as it is already very visually rich. But there is a lack of sound compared to what you would find in a real forest, especially with the noise from the Tuggeranong Parkway and other visitors.”   The sound library the app draws on was created by a professional sound designer. It uses mini soundscapes within larger ones that change randomly, giving each visitor a unique experience. The app also allows users to immediately access information about specific trees, their origins and significance.   ARboretum from Amber Standley on Vimeo.   “We’ve been around officially for two years, and for a year before that as a sole trader. I originally studied for a masters in digital design. I moved into a research cluster where we were bombarded with requests about augmented reality, and eventually turned it into a commercial venture.   “We offer custom augmented reality apps, AR experience design and AR Design Thinking workshops to help our clients grasp this new technology and solve problems using AR. We provide AR services to government, art galleries, heritage, small and large businesses,” Standley says.   Standley says APositive has worked with businesses on marketing collateral, including overlaying data over signage, posters and digital exhibits. But its projects have also included recreating an 18-pound gun for a World War I exhibition and working with television personality Wil Anderson and a green screen to create a moving artwork.   Standley says augmented reality glasses, such as Microsoft’s Hololens, are set to lead to a boom in the augmented reality sector over the coming years.   “I am looking forward to the time when wearables like Microsoft Hololens and Meta’s glasses are more mainstream. These devices will allow us to interact with data in a more natural and social way,” Standley says.   “We can use our hands again, look ahead not down and share experiences with our peers more freely. Augmented reality will be the interface in which we interact with the data served on these devices.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Why everyone should watch Shark Tank

4:06AM | Friday, 24 April

This year saw the debut of Shark Tank Australia, the latest version of a reality TV franchise where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to wealthy entrepreneurial investors, seeking funding and partnership. Starting in Japan (Money Tigers), most versions are based on the UK version (Dragon’s Den).   My initial reaction to hearing about the Oz version of Shark Tank was “oh no, here we go again”. This was primarily informed by the sometime raucous, loud and adversarial nature of the US version. While entertaining at times, the voyeuristic reality angle was overplayed and the action was too often over the top (for me).   I enjoy talking business, life and startups with James Crawford, CEO of Beanhunter (world’s best app to find the best coffee) — and I listen to his counsel. He urged me to watch Shark Tank, which I did and now regularly do.   And here’s why I think everyone should watch it.   Welcome to Business 101   Shark Tank covers a number of fundamental business concepts, complete with examples and counter-examples of execution. These aren’t theoretical: they’re actual practice, giving rise to real questions.   Where do I start:   Business model Valuation Defensibility Costs / Revenue / Profit / Cash flow Assets and liabilities Equity structures   It’s all wrapped up in real pitches and conversations around real products, real entrepreneurs and real investors.   I tell friends and family to watch so they can understand what’s up with all those startups and business. I tell aspiring entrepreneurs to watch it to learn what’s being asked and what you should be able to answer.   And I watch it to learn how the sharks reason about opportunities and respond to them.   How business is   In terms of pitching your business and investment: this is how it is. These are the types of great products and services being put out there, the work put in by the entrepreneurs, the questions that are asked of them, the business models, and the excitement and caution felt by investors.   It’s a great way for everyone to understand a bit of what’s actually happening in business out there — not just the wave of tech startups, but all the different types of businesses. It’s a small but vivid window into the world of entrepreneurs and business.   (The sharks don’t decide on the basis of a 10-15 min pitch; it’s more like a 60-90 min pitch — which is reasonable — that’s edited down for TV drama and shock value. Which could explain some of the sudden turns in the conversations.)   Great school of sharks   I love our sharks. They are complementary and complimentary towards each other. They’re also honest with each other and the entrepreneurs. They’ll tell you when they’re moved — or when they’re not impressed — and they go straight to the real questions without messing around. They’re respectful and constructive in their advice.   The hero shots on the promos and episode lead-in feel over the top. I understand the motivation behind making the sharks intimidating, but  they’re actually passionate, gracious entrepreneurs who get on with it. In contrast, the US sharks can appear overblown and predatory.   I’m asking myself: which example do I want to emulate?   Business = People   Shark Tank sinks the common misnomer that business is about this clever product, or making money, or living out your passion – in fact, it’s all of these things.   Most importantly, it reminds me that business is about people: buying from people, selling to people, working with people, dealing with people and overall, how you treat people.   Nowhere is this clearer than in pitch sessions where the business gets a big tick, but the sharks have questions around how the entrepreneurs are behaving: from how they’re being respected in the deal (or not) to whether they’re simply listening to the shark’s advice (or not).   And sometimes it means none of the sharks want to make a deal.   Fundamentally, business comes down to an investment in people. Shark Tank reminds me that how you deal with — and think about people — is absolutely crucial.   Hey, this is what I do!   At a completely self-centred level, Shark Tank gives me a handy reference that I can sling out in conversation that explains a chunk of what I’ve done and continue to do.   “If you go watch Shark Tank …”   These are the questions I’ve had to answer and also ask. These are the types of businesses that I’ve seen or maybe tried. These are the concerns that investors reasonably have.   And we pitch. Always be pitching.   Going back to basics: I think of a pitch not just as a presentation to give to investors to win money. It is a tight story of your product and business: where it’s been, how it works and where it’s going.   It’s just sometimes that you’re asking for money.   Most often, you’re pitching to hires, partners, suppliers and customers. And yes, you’re also pitching to yourself and your co-founders. What is this business we’re trying to do? No – what is it, really? And are we really convinced there’s something there? To pitch well is to know your business.   I like to think that pitching is good, not because you can get up and spruik your business, but that the work needed to compile a pitch, understanding all facets of the business and summing it up succinctly, pays off well beyond the pitch.   Striving for the best of business   I enjoy Shark Tank’s tone and hope it continues like this.   It tilts towards business behaviour that strives to be fair, emotional, sound, personal and professional. Sometimes, people and products are tested by fire — this is how life and the market works — but I haven’t seen sharp or predatory practice. However, I have seen a lot of advice handed out.   I hope others will take away something each week, as I’ve been able to – ideas that challenge and that appeal to the better angels of our nature.   Life’s too short to not strive to do our best to build things that matter and in a way that matters.   Dr Daniel May is a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded LIFX and is an advisor to Beanhunter, EnergySolaris and Chuffed. He is the co-founder of Launch48 Australia startup events (WeTeachMe, Shark Tank season 1, episode 8, was founded at Launch48). His next startup thankfully does not involve hardware.   This article originally appeared on Medium.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Airbnb will only be “a small part of” the tourism industry, claims Flight Centre executive

4:59AM | Friday, 24 April

A senior Flight Centre executive has dismissed Uber and Airbnb, claiming that despite people talking about share economy platforms “as if they are going to take over the world” the services will only “be a small part of the [tourism] industry”.   The comments dismissing the potential of startups to disrupt industries were reportedly made by Flight Centre’s general manager of product, advertising and customer experience, Keith Stanley, at a travel industry conference organised by marketing industry website Mumbrella.   “We have grown every single year since then and I am still looking for the profits from the other guys. I am not undermining the OTAs but, a little bit like Uber and the others, they are not the major part of the distribution channel,” Stanley said.   “Yes they are disruptive and it keeps us sharp and keeps us aware, but to think that 90% of people are going to stay at someone else’s house is just ludicrous.”   Stanley’s comments come despite figures published by British bank Barclays in January showing the number of rooms available through Airbnb increased from 300,000 in February 2013 to around a million in December. By contrast, the Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott also have around 700,000 rooms each.   The feat is all the more impressive considering the Hilton Hotel chain was founded in 1919, Intercontinental in 1946 and Marriott in 1927, while Airbnb was only launched in August 2008.   Inventor and entrepreneur Mark Pesce told StartupSmart it is still too early to know the impact services such as Airbnb will have on the broader economy.   “Clearly the revenue that is going through Airbnb is not going to Flight Centre – although if I were him, Airbnb is a partnership I’d want to tie up,” Pesce says.   “If he’s commenting about how the share economy will impact the pure economy, then it’s very, very early days. For example, look at how San Francisco has recently revised lease regulations because of Airbnb. And I think it’s certainly not clear that we have seen all the reordering has already taken place.   “If you compare now to 15 years ago, there was next to no ordering done online. If a bricks-and-mortar retailer has survived that amount of reordering, it’s most likely because there’s a solid base to their business.   “But at the same time, it’s not like they’re in the position they would have been if that reordering hasn’t taken place.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five things every entrepreneur should do to ensure digital marketing success

4:14AM | Friday, 24 April

Every entrepreneur knows that they should be using digital marketing to grow their business but many are intimidated by the jargon and complexity of the industry. Each of the points below only skim the surface of what is possible but they will give you some guidance and food for thought.   1. Define business goals   Whilst it sounds so simple, the biggest mistake companies make when investing in digital marketing is not to have a clearly defined set of business goals.   Ask yourself the following questions and until you have the answers you should not be spending a single cent:   What are we trying to achieve as a business? What can we afford to pay per sale? Who is going to manage this project from start to end? What does success look like? How much marketing budget are we going to spend?   2. Set up Google Analytics   Google provides a number of free tools to help you succeed on the web. The most useful is Google Analytics (GA). It is imperative that every single website has GA installed and configured correctly.   GA enables users to measure the success of each digital channel. There is no point investing money in a channel if you cannot understand how many sales that channel has provided.   Every time a customer completes a transaction on your site they should be shown a thank you page. Firstly set up your GA account, then create a GA goal and place the code on to your thank you page. This code will fire every time a transaction is completed, registering a goal completion in Analytics. You can then log into Analytics, look at the conversion report and see which channel (SEO, AdWords, Facebook, etc) has provided the most conversions for your product/service.   3. Email database   Every company should be building an email database. This will consist of people that have either bought or are interested in your company’s products/services. Your email database will drive your cheapest possible cost per acquisition as you are marketing to people who have already used or shown interest in your product/service.   It is important to always obey the latest privacy laws regarding email. To brush up on your knowledge you can find them here.   You should email your database enough to maintain contact but not so much that they decide to unsubscribe. When deciding if to send an email consider if the content that you are providing will be interesting and informative to your users. If the answer is yes, send it. Emailing uninformative information more than once a month is likely to lead to a large number of users unsubscribing.   4. Search engine optimisation (SEO)   SEO will always provide your second cheapest cost per acquisition after email and is an essential part of any digital strategy. Google’s algorithm is extremely complicated. However, it can be distilled into three basic parts: technical, onsite content and links.   If you do not have the budget to hire a specialist SEO agency you can still improve your SEO rankings.   Google loves fresh content. You should be blogging as much as you possibly can about your chosen industry and then posting links to your content on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).   Google also loves high quality, contextually relevant sites linking to your website. Your first stop for links should be to ask your existing partners/clients to link back to your website. Next make a list of every software/digital supplier that you use and offer to write them a testimonial if they link to your site.   Signing up for a MOZ subscription will provide a great starter toolset to guide you on how to improve your site for technical SEO.   5. Paid media (Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)   The type of product/service that your business offers will define which of these mediums will work best for you. In most cases Google AdWords and Facebook adverts will provide your highest return on investment.   The key to all paid media is ensuring that it’s tracked correctly so that you can measure your ROI. In addition to Google Analytics tracking, each form of paid media will have its own conversion pixel. It’s absolutely essential to install each of the medium’s tracking pixel on your thank you page. Not only will it count the number of conversions, but it will also allow you to optimise the campaign towards the best performing keywords, demographic or advert.   Retargeting should also form part of your paid media strategy. In its simplest form, a user visiting your website is cookied. You can then retarget the users that do not buy your product/service with a message encouraging them to do so.   If you take one message away from this blog post it should be that business planning and tracking return on investment are the most important digital marketing factors. If digital marketing acronyms leave you confused check out my list of meanings here.   Tom Sadler is sales and marketing director at indigo digital.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Newly launched Apple Watch poses unique challenges for app developers

4:02AM | Friday, 24 April

With the Apple Watch having now officially launched in Australia, developers and businesses releasing apps for the platform are describing a number of unique challenges posed by the device, including dealing with a smaller screen, unreliable Bluetooth links and new contexts for apps.   The highly publicised launch of Apple’s wearable device will see the number of companies with smartwatch apps explode. The list of companies committing to apps on the platform includes Domain, REA, CBA, Fairfax, Qantas, Woolworths, OzLotteries, Westpac, St George and Zova.   They join startups such as Rewardle and Freelancer which are already operating on smartwatches via Google’s Android Wear platform and, in some cases, created apps even before the Apple Watch was officially announced.   Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford says many more businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to the platform.   “At the moment as a digital agency, we’re not seeing a lot of demand for apps, but there is a lot interest in the business community. A lot of businesses are watching the launch very closely,” Bradford says.   Bradford says screen size is one of the major user interface issues developers need to consider when designing an app.   “In general, smartwatch keyboards are unusable and on the Apple Watch it’s non-existent. That creates a number of UI challenges. So for example, for an app that relies on communicating between two people, instead of a keyboard, Apple allows you to use predetermined emoji, draw on the screen or call them by voice. That means the whole UI needs to be rethought,” he says.   “The other issue is processing power and the necessity of being synced to the iPhone for many of the features. So, for example, the watch can’t access the internet directly, meaning you need to have your phone nearby – in a pocket, a bag or on a desk – when you want to call someone.   “That means if you have a fitness app, there’s a good chance the user won’t have their phone in their pocket when they go running – and you won’t be able to get data onto the internet in real time. So you really need to consider the context as well as the UI.”   Among the Australian startups preparing to launch an Apple Watch app is mobile ordering and payments platform AirService. Its chief executive and co-founder, Dominic Bressan says it’s important to be mindful of battery life, and that design elements work differently on a smaller screen.   “It’s a new platform, a new experience, and you can’t just shrink an iPhone app down to a smaller screen. So you have to pick which elements you bring from the iPhone to the Watch,” Bressan says.   “So notifications are something that naturally flows from the phone to the watch. I don’t see the full ordering experience translating to the watch, at least this stage. We will allow users to save a couple of favourite orders, but a full browse of venues with photos will remain on the iPhone.   “It has been really tricky developing an app without a device to test on and needing to do everything in a simulator. You have to remember things like the Bluetooth Low Energy connection is prone to drop out on the real device, but always works flawlessly in the simulator.   Likewise, Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung says notifications are likely to be a key focus for the startups forthcoming Apple Watch app.   “For us, the benefits of an Apple Watch app are proximity and immediacy. Most of our Apple Watch app features are worker-centric features. We’re looking at scheduling, alerts and notifications that will allow them to move quickly and respond to an alert,” Fung says.   “When it comes to posting tasks, at this stage the interface just isn’t strong enough. That will change over time, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Over the long term, we’re looking at things like using voice-to-text for tasks.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five tips for student startup success

4:35AM | Thursday, 23 April

I was recently asked to sit on the judging panel at the Macleay College Enterprise Exhibition Day – which is basically a ‘Shark Tank-style’ event where students get to pitch their business ideas to panel of established entrepreneurs.   With a recent influx in student entrepreneurs and young Australian startups gaining prominence, it got me thinking about everything I wish I would have known back then as a young aspiring entrepreneur.   So for all the students out there who dream of being a startup success, here are a few things I wish someone would have told me: 1. Listen It’s no secret that the young do not like to be told ‘no’, especially when you have what you believe is a game-changing business idea. While this bulletproof mentality provides the great confidence and self-belief that you need, you really do have to let the criticisms in and learn from those who know best. Surround yourself with mentors that have your best interests at heart and be open to suggestions and advice. Don’t take the ‘my way or the high-way’ attitude so early on. 2. Bootstrap This is a term from my earlier days in business, meaning ‘be resourceful’. Relying on funding alone is not best practice when starting out. In the first year, many entrepreneurs are faced with unexpected challenges, therefore it’s so important to have a financial plan in place and not rely on funding alone. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, most investors will not back an idea unless they have seen it hit some initial milestones. 3. Document everything I can’t express enough how important it is to keep on top of your paperwork. Document everything as you go. It will make life so much easier if any future issues arise months, or even years, down the line. Having your paperwork in order gives you the upper hand and saves a lot of time if confronted with a legal situation, for example. I see so many young entrepreneurs make this rookie mistake. 4. Location matters While many successful businesses have grown out of a parent’s garage, to be on the front foot I believe that networking is key, and a good way to combine networking with your day-to-day grind is to set up in a co-working or collaborative space. Work hubs such as River City Labs, Fishburners or Regus are great starts, where you can find yourself surrounded and inspired by like-minded people, plus potential mentors, suppliers and customers, or even just supporters. This can have a huge impact on your business, from how fast you grow it, to the business model itself. 5. Be a student So many student entrepreneurs are quick to tell me how they can’t wait to finish studying and get out into the ‘real world’. I think they’re looking at it wrong. If you’re studying, you’re naturally surrounded by people that can be your mentors; including your lecturers, guest speakers and older students. Not only do great people surround you, but also great opportunities. There are so many clubs, hackathons, events and competitions – such as the Macleay Enterprise Exhibition Day - that you’re actually already in the best place, so take advantage of it.   Ronan Healy is an entrepreneur and lecturer in entrepreneurship and business economics at Macleay College. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

This Aussie startup wants to stop drivers looking at their phone while they’re behind the wheel

4:09AM | Friday, 24 April

An Australian voice recognition startup is looking to reduce driver distractions and make it safer for people to receive calls and texts while behind the wheel.   Otto, which recently graduated from the National Roads and Motorists’ Association’s first accelerator program, allows users to take calls or reply to text messages without touching their phone.   As part of the initiative the startup snapped up $30,000 in funding in exchange for a 10% stake in the company.   Founder Alex Kain told StartupSmart the idea for the software initially came from being “brought up on shows like Knight Rider”.   “We investigated the distracted driver scene and understood that even though 98% of people agree texting while driving is dangerous, 74% of people continue to do it,” he says.   “That created the idea that there’s a gap in the market. While there’s Siri and Google Maps, they are lacking in some areas to be a completely intuitive solution for when you’re behind the wheel.”   Kain says after entering the accelerator program he decided to scale back Otto’s features and just focus on messaging and calls in order to “fill the gaps” in other voice recognition features.   “If you ask Siri to read out your text messages, unless one has just come in it says there are no new messages,” he says.   “So it won’t go back and read your old messages. And with Google when you verbally dictate a text message it won’t verbally confirm what it’s going to send before it sends it. That’s fine when you’re looking at your phone, but not when you’re doing 100 kilometres on a freeway.”   While the NRMA accelerator program has officially come to an end, Kain says it is just the beginning of the startup’s next stage of growth. The focus now will be on getting the product to market and scaling quickly.   When asked whether the accelerator program was useful, Kain says it was very helpful in validating the product and figuring out a market fit – something that early-stage startups often need a lot of help with.   “What it did was exactly as the name says – it accelerated our entry into the market,” he says.   “But it is has also enabled us to get the basics right, so really validating our product and all the assumptions we had. It also enabled us to find specific niches… we’ve been able to target some enterprise customers and other niches such as motorcyclists.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

That Startup Show surpasses 130,000 downloads 24 hours after launching on BitTorrent

4:06AM | Thursday, 23 April

Melbourne-based web series That Startup Show has released all six episodes of its first season on BitTorrent, surpassing 130,000 downloads within 24 hours.   The show focuses on the issues facing Australian entrepreneurs and the local startup ecosystem and has caught the eye of people such as Google’s director of engineering Alan Noble and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure.   For the show’s final episode, which was filmed on Wednesday night as part of the Connect 2015 festival, stand-up comedian Simon Taylor replaced Dan Ilic as the show’s host. Ilic is now working for Al Jazeera in San Francisco as the media company’s chief satirist.   Since launching in August last year, the web series has attracted more than 200,000 viewers across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia. The show has also received a capital injection from angel investor Alan Jones and technology foundry Digital4ge.     Well, we just hit 55,000 downloads! #whoa #amazing #tsushow — That Start Up Show (@tsushow) April 22, 2015     Co-producer Sally Gatenby told StartupSmart as of this morning the show has been downloaded 133,000 times.   “It’s a wonderful testament to the desire for this type of entertainment and content but also for the particular model of the way we’ve done it,” she says.   “By going via BitTorrent we’re able to deliver it to people directly. It’s a waiting audience who are very much in this space – they’re online constantly and entrepreneurs or tech people themselves.”   More than 300 people were in the crowd for the filming of the season’s final episode, which was shot at Melbourne’s Savoy Tavern.   The episode saw Josh Young from AUUG Motion Synth win the program’s PitchDown competition – which means he will be sent to the US to pitch his startup to investors.   “We will follow the winner to the states and film them on their journey because invariably you never see what happens after people win pitch events or get funding,” Gatenby says.   “It’s great we’re having pitch events and people wining pitch events, but it would be awesome to see what people are learning. So we’re really keen to bring that insight – we’re trying to bring a little bit more experience and transparency to what it’s like to be in a startup.”   Planning for the second series of That Startup Show is underway.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple could ship Apple Watches to customers sooner than expected

4:53PM | Wednesday, 22 April

Customers who have pre-ordered the Apple Watch can expect to see their new gadgets at their doorsteps sooner than expected.   Customers in the US who pre-ordered the device were originally told their orders would not ship until May or April. However, many have received an email notification saying their orders are “processing”.   “We’re happy to be updating many customers today with the news that their Apple Watch will arrive sooner than expected,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.   “Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.” Professional certification startup Simplilearn raises $US15 million Professional certification startup Simplilearn has raised $US15 million in Series C funding, according to TechCrunch.   The startup specialises in online self-learning and corporate training, with analytics, project management, marketing and programming courses proving the most popular among consumers.   To date the startup has raised $US27 million and plans to have one million users by the end of 2015. Facebook launches new app to identify unknown callers Facebook has launched a new Android app to identify mystery callers, Re/code reports.   Called Hello, the app taps into information publically available on Facebook to identify who’s calling you – even if you aren’t friends with the person calling on Facebook.   The application only works if the person calling you has shared their number publicly on the social media platform. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 88.64 points, rising 0.49% to 18,038.27. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Mobile and full-stack creators set to power the new age of content

4:41AM | Wednesday, 22 April

“Full stack creators” are the future of entertainment as the number of mobile devices is expected to reach six billion by 2019, according to Lowercase Capital managing director Matt Mazzeo.   Lowercase Capital is a venture capital firm based in the United States which focuses on seed-funding and has invested in the likes of Uber, Twitter, Kickstarter and Stripe.   Speaking at Slush Down Under, a part of the Connected Expo in Melbourne on Wednesday, Mazzeo says there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to create technology that will attract the attention of those billions of mobile users.   “Machines are helping us define what makes great content in ways that were never possible before,” he says.   “It’s no longer OK to just put your content to the world and let it fly. You’ve have to control the entire process now. You have to be fluent in creation to distribution, to the analytics behind them.”   Thanks to the commoditization of cloud technologies and dropping bandwidth costs, Mazzeo says full stack creators like Netflix and live-streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat are reframing the entertainment industry.   “Netflix has a ton of data and insight into exactly what you consume,” he says.   “They know you like Kevin Spacey. They know you binge watch political dramas. They know exactly who’s watching and measure success based on that. Not necessarily based on ratings coming from a third party. They don’t even report the views on this content. They can measure it by a totally different metric that’s important to them.   “Subscriber growth. Churn. Retention numbers. And it's working, their growth is astronomical.   “For those that think Netflix is a replacement for HBO you’re soon going to realise that this is actually a very different type of company that is trying to build a global platform for content.”   Mazzeo doesn’t see Periscope and Meerkat as competitors, rather two startups heralding the arrival of the next great innovation: the ability at the touch of a button to broadcast to the entire globe.   “I think we’re at the precipice of global moments,” he says.   “In the US there was a moment with Kennedy and Nixon where that presidential debate was totally floored by the fact that television had come along and Kennedy was just better on stage. I think the next generation of politicians, of leaders and entertainers, of explorers will have a moment with live streaming.   “That idea of connectivity in the moment and transportation through this device that we all have in our pocket that connects us all in a far more global way.   “Imagine all six billion connected handsets watching Elon Musk hit Mars. I think that moment is not out of the realm of possibility today.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter cracks down on violent trolls

4:38PM | Tuesday, 21 April

Twitter has rolled out several updates aimed at combating online abuse.   The changes will see a broadening of the definition of violent behaviour, as well as giving the social media giant the power to suspend accounts for a specific period of time.   The company’s director of product management, Shreyas Doshi, said in a statement that users must feel safe on Twitter in order to really express themselves.   “We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation,” he says.   “And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.” Facebook revamps the newsfeed to prioritise updates from friends and family Facebook is rolling out major changes to the news feed so that people will see more updates from their friends instead of all the other useless shit we are bombarded with while on the platform.   The company’s product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors said in a joint statement the changes were implemented in order to show content that matters to users.   “This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and community organisations you are connected to,” they said.   “This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right.” MyTime raises $US9.25 million in Series B funding Online appointment booking startup MyTime has raised $US9.25 million in Series B funding in order to expand its sales and operations team.   The round was led by existing investors Upfront Ventures, as well as Khosla Ventures, Daher Capital, Accelerator Ventures and others.   Founder and chief executive of MyTime, Ethan Anderson, said in a statement the startup is helping small businesses save time and money by streamlining customer appointments.   “This new funding allows us to expand our focus from being the most popular consumer destination for finding and booking appointments online to providing our merchants with the tools they need to enable online booking and communication with their clients 24/7,” he said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 85.34 points, falling 0.47% to 17,949.59. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Listen to customers but don’t chase your own tail, says Xero exec

4:39AM | Tuesday, 21 April

Tweaking your product and improving the customer experience all comes down to keeping an ear close to the ground while executing a larger vision, according to the Australian manager of cloud accounting platform Xero.   Chris Ridd told StartupSmart the company’s tweaks and software updates have rolled out more often over the years – ranging from highly visible changes to minor adjustments in the backend that aren’t noticeable to most users.   “We find that regular cadence is a really good way to go,” he says.   “It’s part of our agile development philosophy which is release regular and often and some grad improvements while you work on the bigger releases. Our users log in on a Monday morning and they have new features – they don’t have to worry about compliance issues that some of our desktop companies have to worry about.”   Ridd says it’s important for startups to listen to their customers when making improvements to their platform, however this has to be balanced with the company’s larger vision.   “If we were to try and implement every request we would be chasing our tails,” he says.   “You’ve got to make the right calls. We’ve obviously got a community site where our customers and partners can use votes to vote on features and we obviously look very carefully at that – we had nearly 900 feature requests last year and implemented close to 200 of those. But you’ve got to balance it as well.”   Michael Nuciforo, the co-founder of Parkhound, agrees. On Tuesday the parking startup – which recently won best Victorian startup at the 2015 StartupSmart Awards – launched a new mapping feature which allows users to see where they should park before getting in the car.   “Listen to your customers but don’t necessarily do what they say because if we listened to our customers they would have said redesign the street signs and that’s not the solution,” he says.   “The solution was to forget about the physical signs and put them online. Give them what they don’t know they want.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

Unpaid internships a thing of the past for Sydney startup Buziebee

4:15AM | Tuesday, 21 April

Sydney-based startup Buziebee wants to do away with unpaid internships.   It has developed a platform which allows businesses to post projects, whether it be content writing, competition analysis, or something similar, and then allows students and graduates to apply to complete those projects. The business then selects one of the applicants to undertake the project.   Co-founder Yige Ma says the idea is that business can save money by avoiding the need to pay costly consultants to do work that students or graduates could complete.   “The problem we’re trying to address is the skills gap students have when they graduate. You need experience to find a job, and a job to get experience,” she says.   Ma is acutely aware of both sides of the problem. As a university tutor she often heard about students struggles with unpaid internships and the need to get industry experience. At the same time she was working at a business that needed on-demand help, but couldn’t get it outside of experienced, and by extension expensive, consultants.   “We thought it would be fantastic to outsource those tasks to eager students,” she says.   “All the projects on the platform are paid, we’re really trying to challenge the unpaid internship structure.”   Ma says traditionally internships have been set for a time-frame, without a specific task in mind. As a consequence businesses aren’t getting the most out of their interns, and the interns themselves are having to give up substantial amounts of their time, for no pay. The project-based nature of Buziebee allows businesses to “try before they buy”.   “Instead of one intern for six months with unclear tasks, you can structure a project so that three people do three specific parts. That enables you to figure out who is the best person to hire at a later stage,” Ma says.   Following the completion of each project, Buziebee facilitates the payment and takes a 10% cut from both the employee and employer. Businesses are also required to complete a questionnaire rating the performance of the worker, which can be used to secure more projects, or as references for future job applications.   Buziebee launched about three weeks ago and currently has nine projects up for grabs.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

This Brisbane startup wants to make it easier for travellers to meet one another

4:49AM | Tuesday, 21 April

A Queensland startup is looking to help travel bugs find and connect with other travellers and attend local events or simply catch up for a drink.   Outbound, based in Brisbane, hopes to make it easier for people to make friends and meet new people when they are overseas.   The app allows users to create a profile and specify what kinds of travellers they are interested in connecting with – whether they be backpackers, corporate travellers, families or speak a particular language.   The platform also allows users to find events they wish to attend such as concerts, hiking tours or sporting matches.   Mark Cantoni told StartupSmart both he and his co-founder Ryan Hanly have travelled fairly extensively and have lived abroad in cities like London.   “That was several years ago but last year Ryan and I were talking and felt like it was a good idea for an app,” he says.   “So it just sort of spawned from there – it’s a social network for travellers because we felt that problem when we were travelling.”   Outbound launched in mid-January and has since been downloaded more than 4000 times. The app is free and available on iPhone and Android, with users in more than 90 countries.   Cantoni says while he would like to monetise the platform in the future, the priority at the moment is on getting people onto the platform.   “We’ve got an event section so we can have sponsored events or deals in any given location and we envision companies to pay to put their event or deal on there for a small fee,” he says.   “And one day a user might pay to upgrade the app to get access to these deals.”   Both founders come from non-tech backgrounds and enlisted an agency last year to build the app for them. The pair are now looking to bring on a technical co-founder.   Cantoni says he would encourage budding entrepreneurs who aren’t from a tech background to get themselves a mentor because it is “what we didn’t do”.   “We came through the school of hard knocks,” he jokes.   “I know there’s networks out there and we’ve just starting to network with some guys in Brisbane, which is great but we took it head-on and learnt along the way.”   Australia is seeing a number of niche social media startups crop up, including a social networking platform for neighbours and even one for people working in the mining industry.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber facing court action for discriminating against the blind

4:34PM | Monday, 20 April

Uber will have to defend itself against a lawsuit which claims the company is discriminating against the blind by refusing to transport guide dogs.   A San Jose court has ruled the plaintiffs in the case can pursue their claims because Uber is a travel service and therefore subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.   Aaron Zisser, a lawyer for a disability rights group who helped bring the case to court, told Reuters the plaintiffs were pleased with the decision.   “Uber is a very popular service, and it is important for riders with service animals to be able to use it like anyone else,” he said.   Guess who’s back – back again   Nokia is quietly planning to return to the phone market in 2016, Re/code reports.   The Finnish company – which was a household name due to its popular mobile phones during the 90s and early 2000s – is also planning to explore the virtual reality market according to insiders.   Microsoft finalised a takeover of Nokia’s devices and services business in April 2014 worth more than $7 billion.   Nokia is prevented from selling phones under its name until the end of this year.   You can now message someone who doesn’t follow you on Twitter Twitter is now allowing users to private message people who don’t follow them.   “We hope these changes help you connect more easily – and directly – on Twitter with the people, causes and businesses you care about most,” the company says.   “If you do receive a Direct Message from someone you don’t want to privately converse with, you can still take steps to stop them.”   The updates are rolling out worldwide from today and require users to change their settings before strangers are able to message them.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How your bottom line can make a difference to society

4:05AM | Monday, 20 April

Startups should think about how their product contributes to the well-being of their customer, not just for the good of society, but for the good of their bottom lines, according to the Shared Value Project’s Mark Kramer.   The Shared Value Project advocates a new way of thinking about the role of business in society, encouraging business to find opportunity in solving social problems in ways that contribute to their profitability and growth.   Kramer says startups should build their products so they contribute to, and incentivise, the well-being of their consumers. They should be targeting markets that are being underserved and attempt to solve some of the social problems that foundations, development agencies and governments are grappling with.   “Shared Value is really about competitive strategy. It’s not just adding on something nice for the sake of being a good citizen, or adding a marketing pitch to what you do,” he says.   “It’s really about differentiating your company by finding a competitive advantage in creating benefit for your customers.”   Kramer gives the example of South African insurance company Discovery Health. To encourage its members to live healthier, it immediately reimburses them 25% of whatever they spend at the supermarket on fresh fruit and vegetables. It also pays their gym club membership, provided they go to the gym twice a week.   “They started with a very simple idea of using behavioural economics, financial incentives to encourage healthier behaviour on behalf of their members,” he says.   “Using a whole range of incentives, they found that over a decade or more their members had a higher life expectancy, six years longer than the average. Got sick less often, recover quicker and have about 14% lower medical costs.”   The company also encourages members to wear Fitbits, so it can track their healthy behaviour and offer rebates and adjustments for their insurance premiums based on that behaviour. For auto insurance if offers members the chance to install a device that tracks driver behaviour, using that data it judges how safely members are driving and reimburses up to half of their petrol bill every month.   “Their population has half the number of traffic fatalities, which of course saves them money not only on auto insurance but health insurance.   “So it’s not CSR (corporate social responsibility) it’s not philanthropy. It’s really looking at many things businesses saw as externalities, social problems outside their purview, and finding that business can actually tackle and make a meaningful difference on those problems, in ways that contribute to their bottom line.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Sharks circle in on ridesharing safety fears

4:03AM | Monday, 20 April

Oliver Du Rieu, the founder of Melbourne-based La Mule, was confronted with the safety concerns all transportation network startups must grapple with when pitching on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.   In the latest episode, Du Rieu sought a $50,000 investment in exchange for 5% equity in startup La Mule, a marketplace where users can find fellow travellers to share the costs of road trips. Drivers can post a start and end point, the number of seats available for the trip, and the price of each seat. Travellers can then book a seat for the ride. La Mule then takes a 15% cut of each booking.   While the Sharks appreciated the concept, they did raise potential safety concerns, one shark, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis was particularly blunt.   “The reality is 99.9% of the population is fantastic. 0.1% is Ivan Milat,” she says.   It’s an important point, user safety is a problem transportation network startups like Uber have been grappling with. Fellow shark Steve Baxter queried whether or not Du Rieu had any mechanisms built in to address those concerns. According to Du Rieu it relies on reviews, a Facebook and email verification process, hardly a foolproof safety plan.   Eleven UberX drivers have been charged with operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence. But Du Rieu says La Mule’s drivers don’t require taxi licences simply because they are a marketplace for people to connect and share the costs of rides, rather than specifically setting out to earn money for giving people lifts.   He left the show without investment, encouraged to look into addressing those safety issues, but with a general endorsement from all the sharks that La Mule is an interesting idea.   Five months has passed since Du Rieu appeared on the show, and in that time it’s grown its network of Facebook followers from 1500 to over 3000 and has on average between 20 and 30 rides per week being facilitated on the platform. Over 100 rides have been organised since Shark Tank aired on Sunday night. Du Rieu has spent much of the past five months working to develop partnerships with businesses that could give La Mule a steady source of ongoing users and revenue, at the urging of Baxter, who has remained in contact with Du Rieu.   “We just need to prove to everyone that people want to use it, rides being posted on the platform and people sharing as many rides as possible. Whether or not that involves partnering up with someone that will help us get regular rides over a long period of time,” Du Rieu says.   “We did about a month of negotiations with investors in January. But we got to a point where we need to build some traction, really prove the concept, just to show that carpooling does work in Australia.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

National innovation agency and relaxed visa rules among recommendations to develop startup ecosystem: StartupAus report

4:35PM | Monday, 20 April

Australia still lacks the required conditions for a successful startup ecosystem, according to a report released today by peak not-for-profit group StartupAus.   While there is an explosion of startup activity globally, the second annual Crossroads report says it will take several years and bipartisan support to create the right environment for the Australian startup sector.   At the moment, the ecosystem is hampered by issues ranging from education and expertise to access to capital and regulatory environments.   The report recommends establishing a national innovation agency as well as relaxing visa restrictions in the next one to two years so local companies can hire skilled overseas ICT workers to meet the skills shortage.   In the medium to long-term, the local ecosystem needs an injection of young talent in order to boost the number of Australian entrepreneurs. This is critical because – despite the stereotypical view of startup founders being in their 20s – Australian founders are largely in their 30s and 40s and an individual’s risk-tolerance generally decreases over time due to family and financial pressures.   To address this, the report recommends supporting scholarship programs and student startup incubators so that more young people are aware that building startups is a viable career path.   Founder and chief executive of BlueChilli, Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, told StartupSmart he thinks the biggest thing the startup community needs to build the right ecosystem is awareness.   “We need to make the community outside of the startup ecosystem more aware of what we’re doing so startups become part of the Australian ecosystem, not just the startup ecosystem,” he says.   “The best thing we can do as entrepreneurs within the ecosystem is be awesome and tell everyone about it. The more stories we have the more people will be inspired to come join the community, the more venture capital comes our way… It’s time to get out of the bedrooms and into the streets and tell people what we’re doing.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know.  

THE NEWS WRAP: Dutch prosecutors launch criminal investigation into Uber

4:26PM | Sunday, 19 April

Dutch authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Uber because the company is providing an illegal taxi service that violates a court order, according to Reuters.   The investigation is the latest setback for the ridesharing service in Europe. Last month a German court issued a nationwide ban on unlicensed taxi drivers with fines of up to $300,000 for violating the law.   The move saw Uber bowing to pressure and agreeing to pay for transport licences for its UberX drivers.   To date Dutch police have fined 23 Uber drivers more than $2000 for operating without a licence. In Australia, unregistered taxi drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. French senate supports law requiring Google to reveal its algorithm The French senate has supported a law that would require search engines to reveal their algorithms in order to ensure fair and non-discriminatory search results, according to TechCrunch.   The chamber’s amendments to a draft economy bill could also see search engines forced to include a minimum of three rivals on the first page of search results. Google, which owns an overwhelming chunk of the search engine market, has always kept its search algorithm top secret.   The draft legislation comes at a time when Google is coming under tough scrutiny in Europe for allegedly abusing its dominance of the internet to the detriment of competitors.   The French upper house will vote on the legislation and its amendments next month before it has the opportunity to be passed into law. WhatsApp reaches 800 million users worldwide Messaging platform WhatsApp has reached 800 million monthly users.   The company’s current rate of growth puts it on track to reach one billion users by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The messaging app has grown by 100 million active monthly users every four months since August 2014.   Facebook purchased WhatsApp last year for just over $28 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Regional Queensland startups get a boost with ilab roadshow visits, Mentor Blaze coming to Cairns and Townsville

4:06PM | Sunday, 19 April

Entrepreneurs in regional Queensland are set to receive a boost, with ilab planning a series of Regional Startup Roadshow seminars in Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone and Maryborough, while Mentor Blaze events will run in Cairns and Townsville on the same day as Brisbane.   The Regional Startup Roadshow will be hosted by ilab director Bernie Woodcroft and MPT Innovation Group director Gary Morgan. They will discuss technology startups and how regional cities can establish successful ecosystems, along with the risks and opportunities that come with entrepreneurs developing technology-based business ideas.   The seminars will run between 7.30am to 9.30am in Mackay on April 27, Rockhampton on April 29, Gladstone on April 30, Maryborough on May 1.   “We are doing this to identify and promote startups in Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone and Maryborough. My goal is to get those guys involved in a statewide conversation about startups in regional areas,” Woodcroft says.   Woodcroft says he hopes the events inspire entrepreneurs in those communities to begin developing their own startup ecosystems. He cites 2015 StartupSmart Regional Startup Award winner SafetyCulture, as an example of a highly successful regional startup.   Along with the Regional Startup Roadshows, ilab is also running simultaneous Mentor Blaze events on April 23 from 4-6pm in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns.   “Mentor Blaze is where we get a lot of mentors together in one place at one time with many different skills, including investors, founders, and experts in areas like legal, IP and tax,” Woodcroft says.   “We’ll have 10 mentors in Townsville, 10 in Cairns and 40 in Brisbane, and then close to double the number of mentees. So in Brisbane, we’ll have 30 mentors and 50 mentees. It allows people to road-test ideas in a concentrated timeframe with experienced mentors and it generates a really amazing buzz.   “The mentees can be students, parents – anyone really – at the ideas stage. It builds the ecosystem and networks, and we’ll do it in three places twice a year, and in five places next time.”   Startup Townsville organiser Richard Sazima told StartupSmart education and resources for small businesses are often not appropriate for startups.   He says while first-generation regional startups such as Safety Culture had to figure everything out for themselves, they can help second generation startup entrepreneurs to succeed faster through mentoring, support, infrastructure and investment.   “We’re trying to collaborate statewide with the startup ecosystems on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba and elsewhere. Any we’re trying to foster a larger ecosystem group including local government, educational institutions and the local chamber of commerce,” he says.   “So an event [like Mentor Blaze] really serves two purposes. One, it’s a great education event, and two, it’s a call to action. When entrepreneurs have problems, it’s a chance to talk to people who have gone through that same experience or have contacts who can help.   “We’re not a big centre – we can’t compare with Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney – but we are catching up fast!”   Click here for more information about the Regional Startup Seminars is available here, and more details about Mentor Blaze are available on its official website.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.