Entrepreneurs need to stop being distracted by “bright shiny objects” if they want their companies to scale successfully, according to the founder of Invoice2Go. On Tuesday the company revealed it now processes around one million invoices every month. The milestone follows a $35 million raise last year in a bid to rapidly grow the platform’s customer base. Founder Chris Strode told StartupSmart that since the raise, Invoice2go’s team has grown from around 35 staff to 100. “We love seeing engineers and tech guys who are so passionate they’re spending their free time working on interesting projects,” he says. As for how to scale rapidly without the wheels coming off, Strode says the trick is to not get distracted by “bright shiny objects”. “Staying focused is the key and even within the organisation people have to keep me focused too,” he says. “In this day and age in technology the focus should be on solving one problem really well. There’s a lot of people that need that solution, and invoicing definitely falls under that with 100 million small businesses worldwide… while we’ve been tempted to do other things, we’ve constantly focused on making sure our users are satisfied with our product and that it works and is optimised for every platform.” Startups in regional areas less likely to be distracted Strode founded the company in 2002 in regional New South Wales. He says while the majority of startup activity occurs in Sydney and Melbourne, entrepreneurs in regional Australia are actually at an advantage. “I think there’s a lot of benefit to being out of the scene when you’re starting out as there’s so many distractions,” he says. “You can get distracted just by going to meet-ups all the time when a lot of the time you can get the information just by being online. All these distractions go away when geographically they’re not as accessible. So I think that was a big advantage.” Invoice2go has more than 200,000 customers worldwide and is available in languages ranging from Portuguese to Finnish. 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.
An avid online shopper, Sharon Clark was often comparing products she wanted to buy. But she grew frustrated there were no tools available to help her save and compare those items easily. The best Clark could manage was taking screenshots on her smartphone. Not ideal. In fact she ended up with over 4000 screenshots of products she was considering buying. So she and co-founder Charles Young created Clinch, a mobile web browser which is designed specifically for online shopping. Clinch allows users to store items they find online, organise them in a library to find and compare later. They can also create a canvas, grouping items that fit together for whatever reason, style, inspiration, or event planning. “What it does is gives the user a better browser experience and increases the conversion rate for retailers. And the way we do that is by offering a really empowered engaging mobile browsing experience,” Clark says. Clinch launched recently and is currently only available on iPad, however, there are plans to develop apps for all mobile devices. Young says Clinch is relying on an advertising revenue model, so success will require lots of users. The startup plans to grow its user base by leveraging the networks of its online retail partners. “The way this thing will make money is by creating a large and active user base and affiliate revenues from brand partners. We have about 2000 and are steadily growing partners worldwide. “Out of those 2000 affiliate brands around the world, we’ve found it’s a really valuable tool for increasing the conversion rates of those brands. “We’ll also have the ability to really mine the data we’re collecting. We’ll be able to understand what people are considering buying. It’ll have the ability to have laser-focused opt-in advertising opportunities for these brands. And down the track, in-app purchases.” The startup is currently being funded by Young and Clark but the duo are about to head to the Echelon Asia Summit 2015, after being selected as a Top 100 startup, where they’ll begin searching for seed investment. 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.
Federal Liberal MP Wyatt Roy will travel to Israel in October to find out what makes the Israeli startup ecosystem tick. The trade mission, which will occur over the course of a week, will see the youngest member of Parliament accompanied by Marita Cheng – the founder of Robogirls and 2012 Young Australian of the Year. Roy has spearheaded the Abbott government’s discussion of tech startups this year, urging Australia to look “beyond just the farm gate or the mine head” in a parliamentary speech supporting the changes to the taxation of employee share schemes. Speaking to StartupSmart this morning, Roy said Australia’s future economic prosperity will rely on increasing the number of startups and making the nation as entrepreneurial as possible. “Future jobs for Australians will depend on our ability to do that,” he says. As for why Israel was chosen for the trade mission, Roy says for quite a small country Israel produces more startups than Japan, India, Korea, Canada or the UK. “They attract more per capita in venture capital than any other country on earth,” he says. “They spend more per capita on R&D than any other country… and they have more companies on the NASDAQ than Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, India and all of Europe combined.” Australia should adopt an innovation and entrepreneurial policy just as it does for industry and competition, according to Roy, with strong collaboration between multiple government departments, the private sector and higher education. “In terms of growing the ecosystem, as a country there are three areas we need to focus on, like the changing of the [risk-averse] culture,” he says. “The attraction of capital is a massive, massive thing and a big part of the Israel trip – and talent as well. And finally that cooperation between government, higher education and business which many countries do very well but obviously I think Israel does better than anyone else.” Both sides of politics have shown a keen interest in startups this year, with Labor announcing it wants coding taught in every primary and secondary school by 2020. “People are very cynical about politics but this is an area I’m optimistic about,” Roy says. “I think we need to put the national interest above partisan interests and this is an area we have huge potential to work on. Of course there will be disagreements around the edges, but the goals, aspirations and the bulk of the policy aspiration is something that could be bipartisan.” 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.
Promoting the value of entrepreneurship to the Australian economy will be the focus of new StartupAUS chief executive officer Peter Bradd. On Friday, StartupAUS announced Bradd, a foundation member of its board, would become the organisation's first ever CEO. Prior to joining StartupAUS, Bradd was a founding director of Sydney co-working space Fishburners and the founder of personalise postcard startup ScribblePics. Bradd says he wants to work to change the perception of entrepreneurship in Australia. “People say things like those entrepreneurs are good at selling the dream and putting their hands out, but what do they really contribute to economic growth?” he says. “People in government ask things like why support technology entrepreneurs when nine out of 10 fail and those that don’t go overseas. I really want to change that conversation. It’s the wrong conversation to be having. PwC estimated tech could create 500,000 jobs by 2034.” Bradd argues that narrative makes it sound like startup founders are segmented from the broader Australia community. “Entrepreneurs are a group of people with similar needs. Innovators across every industry, be it financial services, mining, agriculture, aged care, health services, transport,” he says. “You’ve got people creating apps and websites to aggregate or provide services through tech enablers. People creating high technology, like Wi-Fi, which was created in Australia. Then you’ve got a whole heap of different things. “They need venture capital. A higher percentage of their staff need to have technology skills. They’re entrepreneurial, they need entrepreneurship skills and education. There’s a whole heap of things they all need, but they do work in industry.” Bradd says Australia’s startup ecosystem is growing organically but could do with a push. “Australia is quite far behind and the way that ecosystem’s grow is they need to grow the ball and push it down the hill and it will then pick up speed and size,” he says. “That’s the PayPal effect, and before that the GE effect. The IPOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google created 4000 millionaires. And those 4000 went and created new businesses, they had money, they had knowledge. They knew how to work in a high growth startup and they knew each other. They knew how technology worked and they spawned some amazing companies. “Australia’s ecosystem is growing organically, we just need a bit of support.” StartupAUS also announced that Steve Baxter would retire his position on the board to become the organisation’s chief advocate. Andrew Larsen, investor, and founder of co-working space SyncLabs, joins the board. 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 seven startups selected to pitch at RiverPitch next week all had one thing in common – traction. The bi-yearly pitching event, supported by Morgans and organised by co-working space River City Labs, takes place next week and is one of the key investment events for startups in Brisbane. The goal of the event is to provide investors with a batch of solid pre-vetted startups and in turn provide those startups with a real shot of landing investment. River City Labs general manager Peta Ellis says while RiverPitch always receives plenty of applications, the latest batch was particularly strong. “There were a lot of actual viable businesses to choose from. We always have plenty of applications, but a lot of them are nowhere near even close to being able to be judged because they’re just ideas. We can’t assess them because they’re concepts,” she says. Ellis says the finalists all have strong ideas that have moved beyond just being concepts, which was what made them stand out. “All of the teams that were chosen have traction, they’ve got existing customers and they’re looking to grow further. “Some of them are in trial mode. They’ve got users and customers so they’ve validated their idea. Some are yet to monetize, others have actual paying customers, have been trading for quite some time and have reached a place in growth where they need investment to step it up to the next level.” The seven RiverPitch finalists are: 1. StreetEats: Allows users to order and pay for street food using their smartphone, then track their order before being notified about when it’s ready. 2. Hire-Hive: A marketplace for film & video gear rentals. 3. Outbound: A social network for travellers. 4. Medical Medial: Connects doctors with doctors. 5. TrackActive Health technology: Builds innovative exercise prescription and monitoring solutions for the medical, health and fitness industry. 6. Men on the Moon: Delivers ‘engagement as a service’ for bricks-and-mortar retailers to their consumers via a smartphone app and a patented smart security tag with their products Pin and Point and Rocket Buy . 7. Obzervr: Next generation environment monitoring software. 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.
All members of retail and industry superannuation funds should be given the opportunity to ‘opt-in’ to support Australian innovation, according to the managing director of OneVentures, Dr Paul Kelly. The opt-in clause would operate in a similar way to the opt-in clauses some superannuation funds provide for sustainable investing, and divert a small amount of their superannuation assets to ‘sustainable funds’ like properly constituted Venture Capital Limited Partnerships. Kelly says such a change would go a long way towards strengthening the local venture capital market. The solution was examined in OneVentures latest Thought Leadership paper, which examined the role that venture capital and private equity investment could play in helping Australia meet the goals set in the Intergenerational Report. Read more: Tapping the super funds “Even if just a small proportion of people allocated 1% of their superannuation to innovation, whether its private equity or venture capital, it would have a massive impact,” he says. “There’s a relatively small amount of venture capital available in this country, in the hundreds of millions. You would transform the industry into one which is much more competitive and makes much more capital accessible.” The One Ventures paper points out many of the largest superannuation funds are too big relative to Australia’s venture capital and private equity industry. Meaning it’s easier for those funds to invest in venture capital and private equity overseas. Kelly believes that the vast majority of the public would be disappointed to learn that so few of their dollars support Australian innovation. “I think there would be a very strong appetite for it. The average individual from our experience and anecdotally, we haven’t done a detailed market analysis yet, but there’s strong support for a transition to the innovation economy,” he says. Much has been made recently of the federal governments change’s to the Significant Investor Visa and the impact those changes could have on the venture capital and private equity market in Australia. The changes require wealthy individuals wishing to gain permanent residency in Australia have to invest $500,000 in venture capital. The hope is that the change will pour millions of dollars into venture capital and private equity. Between November 2012 and March 2015 751 Significant Investor Visas were granted. If the new rules applied that would have resulted in an additional $375.5 million to invest. Kelly hopes that sort of impact will occur, but is less optimistic. He is waiting to see if the venture capital and private equity industry will have to bear the cost of complying with anti-money laundering laws. He’s also concerned about whether or not there’s a disconnect between the expectations of those investors and the time it takes to see returns in the venture capital industry. “One of the challenges is they need to educate the Significant Investor Visa investors as to the various risks and benefits of that asset class,” he says. “How this shapes up over the next two years is going to be interesting to watch. There’s potential for a large administrative burden, and misalignment of investor expectations and what those funds can deliver.” 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.
I’m going to say something you might not like to hear. Why? Because it’s probably the easiest way to excuse all of your problems. Not getting enough leads? Sales are sluggish? No people signing up to your newsletter? Haven’t acquired a new user in weeks? Traffic isn’t high enough, we need more visitors. Quick, spend more money on ads and the best SEO guy your limited amount of money can get and make sure MORE people come because that means MORE money, right? Wrong. The answer to your woes is not always the amount of traffic you are getting, rather the amount of conversions coming from this traffic. Conversion rate is, quite simply, your conversions (sales, signups, downloads) divided by the amount of website visitors. So, yes you need a level of traffic you can convert on your website, BUT... All traffic is not good traffic What do we mean by this? Well, let’s say you sell an awesome B2B CRM platform. You’ve spent all this time, money and effort on driving traffic to your sleek, modernist, perfectly-designed landing page. There are so many hits! So many new visitors! We are going to make so much money off this game-changing CRM, finally! And yet only one person converts. Only one person hands over their credit card. One out of thousands. Why? Because the traffic you had driven was not good traffic. It was not qualified. It was not comprised of business owners looking to better manage their customer relations; it was comprised of teenage girls and uni students (NOT your target market). Therefore, NOT helpful and most of all not qualified! And this is why a tonne of traffic is not always the best goal to have. So, how do you become a magnet to your target market, then? Step 1: Do your research. Talk to potential customers. Find out where they hang out, what they read, and what they think about goats grazing their overgrown lawns. Do they google stuff or ask their Twitter and Facebook friends? What words do they use? There are tools for these, by the way. SEMRush and Social Mention is a good start. Step 2: Use this information to your advantage. Hang out where they hang out. If they’ve never heard of Twitter, no point hanging around there either. Be seen where they are. Speak their language. Sooner or later they’ll want to talk to you about your products or services. Also, it’s not enough to push raging rapids of people to your site when it’s like a bucket that has holes, is it? Make sure your bucket doesn’t have holes Buckets? Sorry, what? Your bucket is your website. Imagine filling a bucket with water when it is riddled with 50 holes anyway. Why are you filling it with water? It is pointless. It’s all going to run out again. This holey-bucket could be your website if all you are doing is focusing on traffic instead of optimizing it for your visitors. The water is your traffic in the form of lost leads. Plug those holes. Here are the absolute basic conversion tactics every marketer needs to nail. 1. Make sure your website is super-fast because speed is a killer Did you know that visitors expect your website to load in just 2 seconds? They also tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds! 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online. And guess what? Kissmetrics says that once you lose a conversion from a visitor, they are almost CERTAIN to pass on the negative experience to their friends and colleagues too. That’s a lot of lead loss due to a simple sluggish load time. 2. Have a compelling value proposition Why would customers use your new CRM platform over well-established brands? Answer that question. 3. Make it easy to find stuff If anything is more than one click away, you’ve lost more than half of your web traffic. Why? Because people are busy and want everything instantly, and they are easily annoyed if they have to work hard. Do some usability testing to eliminate annoying experiences for your customers. Don’t test it as you, test it as them. Their annoyance threshold is much lower than yours! 4. Look like someone that can be trusted Show off your happy customers and what they have to say about your service. An ecommerce site needs to have an SSL Certificate or trust badges that tell people you’re legit and that their information is safe and secure. 5. Do some A/B testing If you change the colour of your “buy now” button to green, do you get more sales? Does a $1 offer work better than “free”? Test it. Test everything. So, which is more important then? That is the question. We say plug your bucket. Optimise your website so you know it will convert. Make sure you have done everything possible on your site to capture your leads. Then focus on driving those few people who want your goats eating their lawn into your intact bucket. And they will convert. Optimise first, drive traffic second. Gary Tramer is CEO at LeadChat – a Melbourne-based tech startup that helps businesses turn their web visitors into hot leads around the clock. For more info, visit www.leadchat.com or tweet @leadchat. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Charity crowdfunding platform Chuffed has raised $3 million in donations, with one million of that being donated in the last three-and-a-half months. Chuffed launched in October 2013, with almost $500,000 in funding from the Telstra Foundation, provides a place where non-profit and social enterprise projects can be funded. It doesn’t charge any fees; instead, donors decide how they would like to contribute to the platform when they give money to projects. It took almost a year for Chuffed to see $1 million donations made on the platform, 16 months to crack the $2 million mark, and a little under 20 months to reach $3 million. Chuffed co-founder Prashan Paramanathan says it’s the first sign of non-profits changing the way they raise money. “Not-for-profits and social enterprises in Australia are embracing crowdfunding in record numbers,” he says. “While we’re excited about the 750 plus organisations we’ve supported to date, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are at least 600,000, but probably a lot more, social cause organisations out there in Australia that could benefit from crowdfunding.” Paramanathan says Chuffed is also seeing use cases the startup didn’t expect. Like a research initiative from the University of Western Australia, disaster relief for Cyclone Pam and the Nepal earthquake, as well as various projects at local schools. International expansion has always been in Chuffed’s plans and Paramanathan is currently in London overseeing the startup’s international beta program, which launched in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe in April. “Already, 15% of our campaigns are from international organisations,” he says. “We think there’s a ripe opportunity for us to transform how people think of giving not just in Australia, but globally.” 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.
Online learning platform OpenLearning has signed a deal to deliver the Australian government’s first ever massive open online course (MOOC). The Office of Best Practice Regulation in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has commissioned OpenLearning to deliver a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) MOOC that will train thousands of public servants over the next four years. It follows OpenLearning signing an agreement with the Malaysian government to deliver 15% of the countries public university courses online. It’s all part of OpenLearning’s ambitious plan to offer MOOCs as a viable way for organisations, more than just universities, to deliver training to thousands of people. In February the muru-D graduate raised $1.7 million in seed funding, $1 million of which came from entrepreneur Clive Mayhew. In the months since, it has grown the number of students using its platform from 125,000 to over 200,000 and grown its team from eight to 20. It has an ambitious goal of reaching a million students by the end of the year, which co-founder Adam Brimo says is possible as more users sign up as part of the Malaysian government deal. “It’s really starting to ramp up and this is just the beginning, the second half of this year is going to be quite aggressive growth,” he says. “We’re really ramping up what we’re doing in Malaysia, with a lot of traction we’re seeing there, we’re expecting hundreds of thousands of students to join OpenLearning later this year.” Brimo says the deal with the Australian government is particularly important as it is an example of government taking MOOCs seriously as a training tool. “At the moment people don’t think about using MOOCs for professional development; they think they’re just the domain of the university,” he says. “What we’re seeing now is the government taking them seriously. They can see the potential of the MOOC to create an effective learning environment for policymakers, for the public, for employees worldwide.” The startup is now beginning the process of drumming up interest in a Series A funding round. “What we’re looking to do is raise a substantial amount of funding to really execute on all the opportunities we’re seeing in Australia, Malaysia and China. We’re hoping that funding comes from Australia, but we’re talking to investors in Singapore, Malaysia, and China and we’ll see where that comes from,” he says. 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.
Facebook has launched a ‘lite’ version of its Android app that works well on poor networks and outdated phones and is designed specifically for the developing world. TechCrunch reports the app doesn’t offer data-intensive features like videos or Nearby Friends. These stripped-back features allow Facebook users to access the app quickly and cheaply from some of the most remote corners of the globe. It’s part of a long-running push from Facebook to grab users from the developing world. Five years ago it launched Facebook Zero, a text-only version of Facebook that aimed to encourage people to use the internet. Recently it’s been running Internet.org a program which plans to bring five billion people online. Uber celebrates 5th birthday Transportation network startup Uber has celebrated its fifth birthday where founder and chief executive officer Travis Kalanick outlined his broad vision for the company. The Verge reports Kalanick told the audience in plain terms Uber wants to make its service so inexpensive that it’s not just cheaper than owning a car, but even public transport. TechCrunch writer joins 500 Startups TechCrunch writer Ryan Lawler is joining 500 Startups as venture partner. He describes the decision to move from TechCrunch to 500 Startups as choosing from “two delicious pieces of cake”. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 170.69 to 17,905.58. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US77 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.
Subscription services are becoming more popular in Australia but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build up a loyal following, according to the founder of an online retailer with more than 250,000 subscribers. DailyJocks specialises in men’s underwear and swimwear and is on track to turn over $2.5 million this year, up from $1.5 million the previous year. Founder Nicholas Egonidis says the business’s subscription service – which ships new underwear to subscribers’ doors each month – was a result of a lot of hard work, patience and trial and error. In particular, Egonidis says social media has been critical to the subscription service’s success. “For me, that was priceless – getting people’s ongoing feedback really shaped what we were doing,” he says. “What people need to accept is social media might start free but it’s never free if you want a really big response. Companies need to make it part of their marketing budget and be prepared to spend money on advertising.” Subscription services are taking off in Australia as consumers become accustomed to the likes of Spotify and Netflix. Egonidis says this represents an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs – and not just in the content space. “It’s a win-win for the customer but also the retailer or company,” he says. “For the customer often it will offer value, so they may be paying less if they’re a regular customer. But it also offers convenience – there’s a lot of convenience delivery services on subscription. And then for a business it’s a great model because you can forecast a lot more easily if you know how many customers you’ve got.” DailyJocks launched its subscription service in 2012, signing up 2000 users within the first month. Egonidis says he has learnt a lot since then, encouraging other entrepreneurs looking to leverage a subscription model to find a good web developer and look beyond the Australian market. “It can also be a cash flow intensive model too, especially if you’re having to pre-purchase significant amounts of stock for customers if they haven’t paid for it yet,” he says. “It’s definitely something businesses need to factor in. You need to be able to grow sustainably because fast growth without the cash flow or margins can be very difficult as I found initially.” 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.
Health tech and manufacturing technology companies make up the majority of recipients of the first round of funding offered by the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program. The program is part of the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program, which replaced Commercialisation Australia – a program which funded the likes of Canva, Ingogo and goCatch. The government has allocated $484.2 million to the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program, but it has not explained exactly how much of that will be available via Accelerating Commercialisation grants. Accelerating Commercialisation differs only slightly from its predecessor. Grants are capped at $1 million as opposed to $2 million, and gone are the old grant categories like Skills and Knowledge grants, or Experienced Executive grants, instead replaced with one pool of funding that will support any type of commercialisation activity. Read more: Understanding the new Accelerating Commercialisation grants Among the first batch of companies to receive funding were pathology startup MyHealthTest, manufacturing company AquaHydrex, Internet of Things technology developer Clarinox Technology and 3D printing startup Makers Empire. The thread connecting them all is the potential to solve problems with significant intellectual property (full list of funding recipients). While this first batch lacks a Canva or Ingogo, startups are still encouraged to apply for grants, even if they are not the specific focus of the program. BlueChilli chief startup advisor Catherine Eibner was unsurprised by the types of companies that received funding. “The updates for the new program revisions clearly highlighted that the focus of the program was going to be on: advanced manufacturing, food and agribusiness, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, mining equipment, technology and services, oil, gas and energy resources or any technologies that were enabling these areas,” she says. “While there is a sprinkling of technology solutions mixed in, it is certainly not as strongly represented as the other areas. But keep in mind that the Accelerating Commercialisation program isn’t designed to solely support technology-based startups. There is a lot of innovation happening across the above industries in Australia with startups in those areas doing some really amazing things – so it is good to see them getting access to support at the crucial stage of early commercialisation.” A spokesperson for the Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane wouldn’t reveal exactly how much funding has been allocated to Accelerating Commercialisation but says the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Program as a whole would grow to over $100 million each year over the next four years. “(The program) is a firm example of the government’s commitment to improving the productivity, competitiveness and targeted growth of Australian industry,” the spokesperson says. “This will help to create new high growth businesses, generate greater returns from research and drive business growth and competitiveness.” 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.
Students from Swinburne University will represent Australia at the Microsoft Imagine Cup world finals, following in the footsteps of an Australian team which took out the top prize last year. Opaque Multimedia, a team of four Melbourne students looking to create better health outcomes for people living with dementia, won the Asia Pacific qualifying round and will soon set off to Seattle where they will battle it out for the chance to snap up a spot in a Microsoft Venture incubator. The team has developed a virtual reality platform to replicate what it is like to have dementia, thereby teaching people to be empathetic with those living with the condition. More than 300,000 people are living with dementia in Australia alone, with around 56 million living with the disease worldwide. Opaque Multimedia team member James Bonner told StartupSmart it was exciting to win the regional qualifying round but the US would be an even tougher challenge. “Seattle remains a big hurdle,” he says. “We’ve been invited to go from one level of competition to something that’s on a completely different level with some of the best teams around the world. Even if we don’t win there’s going to be a great selection of people from a huge variety of backgrounds and projects to mingle with.” Bonner says the idea for the VR platform came from a discussion with Carol Bennetts, the chief executive of Alzheimer’s Australia. “We were having a chat to her at a conference and she was talking to us about games as education,” he says. “And we were saying games are the best educators in the world because they’ve got 15 minutes to introduce and teach to an audience… so we took that and the skills we had as game designers and tech people and developed this product.” Virtual Reality technology has a wide range of practical uses Virtual reality technology may seem like an abstract concept to the everyday person, according to Bonner, but his team is showing it actually has a range of practical uses ranging from health to training people for high-risk situations. “The key advantage is the level of emergence,” he says. “So the ability to transport you into the situation of other people is a fantastic tool for empathy – everything from medical education to career education… The average person will never experience what it’s like to be an astronaut, but with virtual reality they can.” The 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup will be held in Seattle in mid-July. 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 games are the perfect tool for education and more entrepreneurs should jump into the space, according to the founder of an app designed to teach people about the environment and conservation. A few years ago Natalie Kyriacou knew very little about what it takes to build an app and was working in the tourism and conservation sectors. However, in the next few weeks she will be launching a mobile game she hopes will teach people about everything from oil spills to how to best help endangered animals. The budding entrepreneur has poured $80,000 of her own savings into developing and testing Wild Earth – even going as far as to sell her car. Now she is turning to crowdfunding platform Pozible in order to get her labour of love over the finishing line. “It’s basically a game where you build your own virtual world or habitat,” Kyriacou says. “In that world you need to rescue animals and wildlife, plant trees, clean up oil spills – all with the aim of saving endangered species.” Kyriacou says as games often top the App Store, closely followed by education apps, it’s only logical the two should come together. “A lot of current games don’t have much in the way of connecting fun game play with education, but there’s such a clear interest in that,” she says. “There’s a strong interest in games – they’re so powerful, constantly talked about and all over social media.” Wild Earth is also partnering with 16 charities in order to educate people about its work. Kyriacou says this was a light bulb moment because she didn’t fit into just the startup or charity sectors. “By taking information from both the charity sector and the startup sector you’re able to bridge them together and I’m seeing that happen a lot more,” she says. “More businesses are having a charitable focus and raising the next generation of social entrepreneurs… it’s an exciting time.” 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.
Blood sugar startup magic: How Simon Carter’s startup is giving Type 1 diabetes sufferers peace of mind6:49PM | Wednesday, 3 June
People found startups for a variety of reasons. Some see a problem that needs solving. Others are chasing a big exit. Simon Carter founded his startup, ManageBGL, to help is daughter live a safer life. Both Carter and his daughter have Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas, a gland which produces blood sugar-regulating insulin, stops working. Type 1 diabetics need to inject insulin, doses of which are worked out by manually measuring blood sugar levels, several times a day. Incorrect dosage can lead to either too little or too much blood sugar in the body, both of which can be life threatening. ManageBGL’s PredictBGL app, which launched in April, takes data from fitness wearables, digital insulin pens, insulin pumps, blood sugar meters and continuous glucose monitors to predict the blood sugar levels of users. For those with diabetes, and the parents of children with diabetes, this helps predict, and in turn, avoid low blood sugar levels overnight. “Current technology is inject and hope for the best,” Carter says. “The patient has no guidance, and typically only the doctor changes the doses, and only once every six months at that” It’s been a tough slog for Carter, who has a technical, not health, background. Recently he experienced one of his worst startup days, followed by his best. He’s been bootstrapping ManageBGL for the last two years and recently competed in the MedTech’s Got Talent pitching competition in Melbourne. Five finalists each received $20,000 with a $40,000 grand prize for the winner. Of roughly 100 applicants, 30 were invited to pitch in a rapid fire round. Carter and ManageBGL were among the 16 best who went on to pitch to become a finalist and get a shot at $10,000. Unfortunately they didn’t make it. Carter returned home saddened he’d missed a chance to get the startup’s first external funding, outside of a matched $50,000 government grant he received. The next morning he woke up to an email from 500 Startups saying his application to its new accelerator prep program had been accepted. “We’re really rapt to get in, it’s really a positive for us, and we’re hoping significant traction will come out of it,” Carter says. The program, a partnership with General Assembly, runs for a month in San Francisco and aims to fast track those startups for the full 500 Startups accelerator program. It was looking for between 10 and 20 startups to take part. Startups taking part receive $8000 in funding and a $2000 tuition waiver from 500 Startups in exchange for 2% equity. “They’ll help get us structured for investor readiness, which is a key part of dealing in the US. Part of the course is UX design, which is really helpful, and growth hacking – how to acquire more customers so we’re ready for the (500 Startups accelerator). “We’ll get listed first on the pile to be considered for the subsequent class.” 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.
Car monitoring startup GoFar has smashed its crowdfunding target, raking in $205,000 from more than 1000 backers. The young tech company uses an in-car display and corresponding phone app to help drivers save money and petrol and make smarter decisions behind the wheel. Its founders had originally set a goal of $US50,000 over 30 days but snapped up that amount within 50 hours. As a result the Sydney startup has caught the eye of the international press, with GQ naming its product one of the “coolest things in the world”. GoFar co-founder Ian Davidson told StartupSmart the campaign was a success because the local startup community really rallied behind the product. “We got a lot of grassroots support and Fishburners was fantastic,” he says. “We had a lot of support from the Founders Institute and SydStart, so there was a good network there and that was probably the key driver. We also got some good press in Australia.” User feedback was always the ultimate goal Davidson says it also didn’t hurt that people have been crying out for smart technology to help improve their driving. He also points out that user feedback was always the ultimate goal of the crowdfunding campaign, irrespective of whether or not the team reached its target. “I think we made a product that people want and are prepared to wait six months for which is great,” Davidson says. “It has been very useful for us to have those interactions with the backers – which is probably where the value is with Kickstarter more so than the money.” GoFar snapped up seed funding in December last year before heading to Switzerland for the Seedstars World Final Competition in Geneva. 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.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker Three weeks ago, I took our combined team to an off-site in the Blue Mountains. We passed two-and-a-half days discussing our strategy and brainstorming big ideas for the future. We also cooked together, played pool, socialised, went on a bush walk, played laser-tag – and began to lay the foundation of a thriving company culture. Late last year we brought together Posse, Beat the Q, and E-Coffee Card – three products, two teams, and two very different company cultures. We moved into a makeshift office for six months as we planned ahead. We’ve focused on product, recruitment, fundraising, and growth. With so much going on, it’s hard to prioritise culture. But as the founder of modern management, Peter Drucker, once exclaimed, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Our new company has a great strategy. We must nail culture too. I’ve run my own businesses since I left uni, except for one year when I worked as someone’s assistant. Early on, I wasn’t great at culture. I thought that if I hired good people then they would naturally succeed. I was wrong, and spent several years fretting about office politics and why no one worked as hard as me. It wasn’t until the rise of Google that I started to think about company culture. At first, the concept seemed like a big intangible challenge. The Harvard Business Review describes culture as “the glue that binds companies together, and the hardest thing for competitors to copy”. How does a leader create glue that unites team members? Glue that promotes a set of productive, winning behaviours? How can we create a welcoming environment that people can’t wait to enter every morning? How do we keep a growing team aligned, motivated to deliver on our strategy as if they owned the company? And however can we do it on a startup budget? I read every book I could on the topic and asked friends and mentors for their advice. Everyone had different suggestions. I thought I'd have to revolutionise the way I led the company, but found that most ideas for culture transformation were simple and easy to implement. Of course there’s the fundamental stuff – hire the right people, be transparent, be performance focused, celebrate wins – and all the tricks that help to achieve these things. The benefits of an off-site One of the best ideas has been regular company off-sites. We hire mini-vans, a house to sleep fifteen people for two nights – and away from distractions, we focus on the big picture. We run our strategy and goals on three-monthly loops with review and planning workshops at the end of each quarter. Every second quarter, at the beginning of April and September, we go away together and think. Since I haven’t seen anyone else run an off-site, I’ve developed my own style. This time we arrived on Wednesday night and finished on Friday afternoon. I broke the time into sessions, combining business reflection, brainstorming, team activities and fun. The objectives are to reinforce company culture and values, encourage cross-pollination of ideas and understanding and to align on goals and strategy for the next quarter. Here’s some of what I think makes a great off-site: 1. Radical transparency We start with an honest reflection of the last quarter. Over this time, what worked and what didn’t. I find it hard but important to ensure that each team reports on reality – no vanity metrics! This sets a foundation to build on. 2. Include everyone at beginning We always start with an exercise that gets each team member to speak in front of the group. It tends to help get the quieter folks more comfortable speaking up. 3. Guest speakers I usually invite two guests to join by video conference and talk about a particular topic. This year Sizhao Yang (founder of Farmville) joined to talk about hyper-local marketing and Lars Rasmussen (Google Maps) spoke about the need to be aggressive. Inviting guests enables the whole group to hear firsthand knowledge and ask questions of advisors who usually only speak with the CEO. 4. Team brainstorming We break into groups of four or five made up of people from different parts of the business. This time, each group created ideas for product, sales, marketing and company culture and had to present back to the rest of the team. We made sure everyone presented on a topic that wasn’t their regular role (so, sales people presented on product, engineers on company culture). It’s crucial for the team to accept that there are no bad ideas, so people are free to dream. 5. Personal goal setting The final task is to set a personal and a professional goal for the quarter and share with the group. We take these down and measure at the end of the quarter. 6. Have fun Location is important, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Our place was less than $800 per night. There needs to be a big kitchen to cook together and a place to hang out and project presentations. 7. Follow-up Off-sites can be a lot of fun, but they create negative impact if you don’t follow-up. The week after, I pooled everyone’s ideas into a strategy document for the quarter and explained why some made it and others didn’t. We then set week-to-week goals and tracked our progress accordingly. If culture is the glue that binds a team together then, as team leaders, it’s important that we’re always thinking about how to strengthen it. Like all aspects of a startup, culture should be developed iteratively over time. As an entrepreneur, I can feel intimidated to compete with the company culture of companies like Google with their free buffets and fancy slides. However, there are many little things we can do to create our own special glue, and that can’t be copied. I’ve found that regular off-sites are an awesome way to harness the team’s creativity and create a unique and strong company culture. We’re hiring! If you like the sound of our company then we’d like to hear from you. We’re hiring superstar engineers, a senior graphic designer, senior product manager, sales teams in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and a finance and operations manager. For more info or to make a recommendation, please email me directly at Rebekah@posse.com. 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.
A startup based in Sydney is encouraging people to stay fit by earning rewards through their existing running app. Running Heroes partners with apps such as RunKeeper, Nike Running, Strava and Map My Run to offer users discounted products and services based on their progress. The free online platform launched late last month and has already snapped up more than 500 users. Director of Running Heroes Australia, Alex Auroux, told StartupSmart the idea was based around bridging the gap between sporting brands and the sporting community. “At the moment there’s a lot of things that help you find a trainer or find work-out but it’s hard to get on that journey and nothing to reward you for it,” he says. “The principle is everyone is a hero and we are helping you find the motivation and inspiration.” Originally Auroux was going to create a stand-alone app, however, he soon realised there was too much competition in the space and he needed to do something different. “We’ve decided to partner with existing apps and looking at the data you create on those apps and give you points that match your efforts,” he says. “The more you train the more points you get… the idea of motivation becomes really powerful.” How the Australian startup scene compares to Europe The platform relies on technical support from a parent company in France, however Auroux says the Australian arm is otherwise a standalone operation which is bootstrapping and using a different approach for the Australian market. Auroux moved from France to Australia four years ago and says Sydney is a fantastic place to work on a startup. “In France it’s quite dynamic as well in the startup world and Europe more generally,” he says. “Germany is a good place to create a startup. But I would say from the investor side of things, it’s a bit more tricky in Europe. You’ve got a bigger market, so your chances of success can be faster – but at the same time there’s a lot of people and when you’re pitching to investors you’re competing with hundreds of other startups.” Auroux says Australia’s smaller population and high mobile penetration makes it a “better market” in a lot of ways for early-stage technology companies, with Sydney a particularly good place to launch a startup thanks to the abundance of meet-ups and co-working spaces. “I’ve been following the startup ecosystem here in Sydney for about two years, and I’ve got the feeling now it’s getting to a mature position where you’re seeing more and more startups being created.” 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.
A university student from NSW has been recognised for his efforts in designing a bushfire detection system for residential properties. Max Glanville, a student at the University of New South Wales, was named the Hills Young Australian Designer of the Year at a ceremony last week for his invention which tracks subtle changes in heat and wind direction. The aim of Fire Front is to alert home owners about dangerous fire conditions through an app, improving the overall safety of communities that live in fire-prone areas. Speaking to StartupSmart this morning, Glanville said the house-mounted detection system and corresponding phone app were developed as part of a final project during his last year of university. “The main thing it’s trying to solve it to have people respond rapidly to an emergency – both the residents and the fire services – to ultimately help residents to confidently make the decision about whether they have to stay or evacuate,” he says. “A lot of the time people are making the decision too late, but a product like Fire Front could help them make that decision earlier.” The invention uses thermal imaging cameras and ultrasonic wind sensors in order to provide detailed data to determine if a homeowner should evacuate. However, it will need to be funded and jump regulatory hurdles before it is put into the market. “All of these detectors will be talking to each other and pretty much be able to estimate the time of arrival of a fire on a property and monitor the random nature of fire, which is really hard to do at a ground level,” he says. “So it’s trying to give some confidence back to the residents – my whole concept was built around the fact we rely on the fire services to give us information during an emergency but we far outweigh the number of fire-fighters. So why aren’t we the information gatherers?” Glanville says Fire Front was developed partly because of his own experiences with a bushfire growing up near Canberra. “It ended up burning half the backyard down,” he says. “So that was a bit of a wakeup call. And every year bushfires happen and often in the same areas as well, which we can see in the Blue Mountains fires and in Victoria as well. So I thought something has to be done.” As for whether universities are doing enough to promote entrepreneurship, Glanville says UNSW was a really supportive environment. “They’ve got a whole innovation and entrepreneurial part of the uni which has really helped me out and helped out other people wanting to get their products to market,” he says. “I guess uni encourages you to think large because at uni it’s the best time and best experience you can have to push all the boundaries of design, because in the real world you have a strict design brief – you have an opportunity to push the boundaries and this may be your only time to do it.” 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.
Augmented reality startup Magic Leap has announced it is launching an augmented reality developer platform, according to TechCrunch. Last year Google invested more than $600 million in the company, which says it can project light and graphics into the human eye alongside what it sees naturally. Speaking at the MIT EmTech Digital conference, Magic Leap chief executive Rony Abovitz said the company was ready to start training developers. “We’re out of the R&D phase and into the transition to real product introduction,” he said. “There is no off-the-shelf stuff that does what we’re describing.” Native Americans and domestic violence survivors protest Facebook’s naming policy Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, drag queens and others have come together to protest at Facebook’s headquarters in response to the company’s policy of only allowing people to use their “real” names. Fairfax reports more than 50 protesters held up picket signs and chanted outside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Facebook says people need to use their real names in order to prevent instances of bullying or inappropriate behaviour on the social network, but has softened that position after complaints from the LGBTIQ community. However, the protesters said they wanted Facebook to do more by not putting the onus on vulnerable groups to prove their identity. Apple chief lashes out against companies that compromise customer privacy Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has lashed out at companies that make a trade-off between customer privacy and security, according to TechCrunch. Speaking at the EPIC Champions of Freedom event in Washington, Cook said people have the fundamental right to privacy. “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” he said. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 28.43 points, falling 0.16% to 18,011.94. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.72 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.