LG will partner with Microsoft on the Internet of Things, in a deal that will see the consumer electronics giant develop new products and services based on Microsoft’s cloud computing platforms. According to reports in the Korea Times and the Korea Herald, the agreement was struck between senior LG executives and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella during a dinner meeting at the InterContinental Hotel in Seoul. The agreement will see LG unveil new products aimed both at consumers and the business market at a Microsoft event in Las Vegas, Nevada, next year. Both LG and Microsoft are members of the AllSeen Alliance, an industry body which is working on open standards for Internet of Things devices. The agreement comes just a day after Microsoft agreed to peace talks with Samsung over ongoing patent infringement litigation between the companies. However, it is unclear whether LG is planning to build smartphones in the future running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, with its plans subject to change due to “market conditions”. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..
Australian mobile payment startup Clipp has appointed former Microsoft executive Todd Forest as its new chief executive. The startup, which describes itself as Uber for bar tabs, has experienced rapid growth this year and is now used in 270 venues across the country. Clipp’s co-founder Greg Taylor told StartupSmart the decision to bring Forest on as chief executive came about after examining where the business was at and where it needed to be. “The first step is sitting down and saying what do we do really well, what areas we are lacking in and where we need help,” he says. “Everyone should be doing what they do best. For some co-founders it can be difficult to let the reins go a little bit but that comes down to who the candidate is.” Taylor says bringing onboard external, experienced talent can make a startup more rounded. For Clipp, the priorities are improving the point of sale as well as getting venues and consumers on board. “As we head into that space, Todd’s experience fits really nicely and positions the business really well as we head into that second phase of growth,” Taylor says. “It’s an opportunity more than anything to work under and work with someone with that level of experience.” Australia’s geographical distance from startup hubs like San Francisco has not stopped local startups from building strong relationships with international talent, according to Taylor. The most important thing is that the new team member fits with the startup’s culture. For example, earlier this year Guy Kawasaki joined Sydney design software startup Canva. “Cream rises to the top and if there’s a good business and there’s a good business model there will be a natural attrition into that space,” Taylor says. “The world is flat in that regard.” In a statement, Todd Forest said he was looking forward to cementing Clipp as Australia’s go-to mobile payment solution. “I join Clipp at a time when the mobile payments space is beginning to heat up,” he said. “2014 has been an incredible year for Clipp and we’re looking to continue that momentum right through to next year with some product updates and other big news which I can’t wait to share with you all.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Vending machines full of free Apple products, fully catered meals, band rooms, huge cafeterias that look like any on-trend café; the offices of Yammer, Dropbox and Stripe leave a lasting impression on anyone that is lucky enough to score a look-in. As part of the AngelCube tour of San Francisco, this year’s startups got a small taste of what “non-corporate” could look like. In a bid to attract the best talent – the number one priority that all startups identified as their pain point – tech companies have reimagined work life. And it looks good. But perks are only a small part of what creates a culture at these companies. For Stripe, whose home in an old trunk factory in the Mission District of San Francisco, the focus is on employing people that they would happily spend time with outside of work. They’ve made internal transparency a big focus and keep all email “open” which means that anyone within the company can access all communication in order to find out what is happening elsewhere and reduce the inclination for teams to work in silos. A “nombot” also announces lunch where everyone heads to the kitchen to spend time together. Meetings are kept to a minimum. At 150+ employees and growing fast, it’s still much smaller than Dropbox at around 800. The scale of Dropbox is evidenced by the fact it takes up an entire floor of a large building based down near the Giants ballpark that spans almost a block. It’s not uncommon for employees to be spotted on scooters getting from one side of the building to the next. Like everyone else experiencing huge growth, Dropbox is investing a lot of time making the right hires, and trying not to compromise on that even when departments are crying out for more staff. Yammer has probably had the most interesting journey in that it was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, just after it had moved into its new headquarters on Market St, in the same building as the Twitter office. As a result the desks that were put aside for growth remain empty, but most importantly they have tried to resist the Microsoft mentality (or the perceived “old business thinking”) and keep things as close to the original Yammer vibe as possible. For those who have been with the company from the beginning that has not always been an easy battle, and the slightly barren vibe indicates they have not had an outright win on this front. For now though, the bright blue and green common areas are inviting enough for groups to sit down and relax together, or talk at length about a new feature. Indeed, holding on to that startup heart seems like a worthwhile pursuit. For myself, it was good to see that big companies still aspired to be little companies too. Well, ones with great internal restaurants attached to them at least.
Prominent venture capitalist Bill Gurley, a general partner at VC firm Benchmark, has told The Wall Street Journal over the past year Silicon Valley may have taken on more risk than it can handle. “I think that Silicon Valley as a whole, or that the venture capital community or startup community, is taking on an excessive amount of risk right now – unprecedented since ‘99,” he says. “In some ways less silly than ‘99 and in others ways more silly than in ‘99. I love the Buffett quote because it lays it out. No one’s fearful, everyone’s greedy and it will eventually end.” Minecraft founders to leave company Markus “Notch” Persson, Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser, co-founders of Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, have announced they will leave the company after its $2.5 billion acquisition by Microsoft. In a statement announcing the move, Mojang’s Owen Hill and Lydia Winters confirmed the trio were leaving, but it’s unknown what they’re planning to do next. “Minecraft will continue to evolve, just like it has since the start of development,” the statement says. “We don’t know specific plans for Minecraft’s future yet, but we do know that everyone involved wants the community to grow and become even more amazing than it’s ever been. Stopping players making cool stuff is not in anyone’s interest.” Microsoft announces Windows 9 event for September 30 Microsoft has confirmed rumours that it would be unveiling Windows 9 later this month, announcing it will be holding a “Windows event” in San Francisco on September 30, The Verge reports. The company is expected to deliver a Windows Technical Preview at the event or soon after so that developers and enterprise customers can evaluate a number of changes the company is making. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 43.63 to 17,031.14. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US90 cents.
Microsoft will unveil a $2.5 billion bid to buy Mojang, the Swedish developer of Minecraft, Monday morning US time, sources have told Reuters. Minecraft has over 100 million players and the deal is aimed at pulling users onto Microsoft’s mobile platform, as opposed to its PC systems, or Xbox console. Minecraft is the top paid app on both the iOS and Android. After launching five years ago on PC, about 40% of copies are now downloaded onto phones and tablets. Product Hunt raises $6 million Aggregations site Product Hunt, which helps surface new tech products and startups, has raised $6 million in Series A funding, TechCrunch reports. According to the report, the round was led by Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of $22 million although sources were unsure whether that valuation was pre or post money. The startup raised $1 million in seed funding in August. Before $100 million raise, Square was in talks with Apple Mobile payments platform Square has raised another $100 million in capital, according to a filing obtained by VCExperts, TechCrunch reports. Multiple sources have told TechCrunch that Square and Apple were in acquisition talks recently, but Square walked away, the sticking point being price – Apple wanted to buy Square for less than half of the $6 billion valuation it would eventually raise at. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 61.49 to 16,987.51. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US90 cents.
A United States federal court judge is considering whether or not to hold Microsoft in contempt for defying orders to give the US government e-mails stored on a server overseas. It is the first case that is testing the Obama administration’s position that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, regardless of where the content is stored. The US government is after email stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland that it believes is associated with drug trafficking. Samsung reveals the latest additions to its Note series The fourth smartphone in Samsung’s Note series, the Galaxy Note 4, has been revealed. It features a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560x1440 Super AMOLED) display, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera, a 2.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with a 600MHz Adreno 420 GPU, and 3GB of RAM. The phone will be available in October, although the price has not yet been set. The Galaxy Note Edge includes many of the same features, albeit a slightly smaller screen at 5.6 inches. Where it differs is with its sloped edge screen, which includes a default quick launcher that gives users access to a bunch of their most used apps. Isis rebrands The US mobile wallet platform Isis backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon is rebranding and in a few weeks will become Softcard. The startup announced a few months ago that it would be changing its name in an attempt to distance itself from any potential association with the Islamic militant group of the same name. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 10.72 to 17,078.28. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Apple is expected to launch the latest version of the iPhone at an event it is hosting at the Flint Center for Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, next week. Apple has already sent invitations to an event taking place on September 9th at 10am, local time. In a curious move, there are reports the notoriously secretive tech giant has gone so far as to construct its own multi-storey structure alongside the venue. The choice of location is particularly significant because it is the venue where Apple launched its first Macintosh computer in 1984. It is also significantly larger than the Yerba Buena Center or the theatre at Apple’s corporate headquarters, where the tech giant normally makes its major new product announcements. Speculation about the new device hasn’t escaped its key rivals, with a list of consumer electronics giants including LG, Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola – and possibly others – all gearing up for major product launches of their own over the next month. So what can we expect to find from the iPhone 6? Here are some of the more credible rumours about what we can expect from the device: 1. A larger screen and, perhaps, a phablet As far back as November last year, there have been persistent and credible reports Apple has been working on two different models of the iPhone 6. According to most reports, the first model is set to feature a 4.7-inch display, while the second will include a 5.5-inch screen. This would make them close in size to the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.7-inch display used on the Galaxy Note 3. Along with the move to two screen sizes, Apple is reportedly moving away from the plastic casing used on its current low-end device, the iPhone 5s. Aside from the usual Apple rumours sites, reports about the two screen sizes have appeared in a number of credible business publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Unfortunately, it is not clear if both versions of the iPhone will be available at launch, with some speculation the larger 5.5-inch phablet version could be on hold until next year. 2. Mobile payments According to a second credible rumour, Apple has been working on its own mobile payments platform centred on the iPhone 6. During the past week, a number of respected publications including The Information, Re/Code and Bloomberg have independently confirmed with sources that Apple has struck a number of deals with major payment providers, retailers, and banks. Those signing up to the payment platform include credit card and payments giants American Express, Visa and MasterCard. The reports suggest the iPhone 6 will include an NFC (near-field communications) chip, a technology used to power tap-and-pay credit cards and public transport systems. It will allow iPhone 6 users to make purchases with their smartphones, rather than by using a credit card or by paying with cash. While NFC-chip technology has long been a standard feature of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones, Apple has long held out on using it in its devices. 3. Does Apple have anything up its sleeve? For years, it has been rumoured Apple has had a smartwatch, or iWatch, up its sleeve. In recent years, the hype surrounding wearable devices, including smart bracelets and smartwatches has grown, with many expecting Apple to eventually join the market. Following the release of the Pebble in January 2013, a number of consumer electronics and device manufacturers have dipped their toes in the market, including Sony, LG, Motorola and Samsung, among many others. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are believed to be working on wearables of their own. At the Google I/O developer conference, the search and mobile giant unveiled its Android Wear device platform. Meanwhile, rival consumer electronics makers are working on smartwatches with their own SIM cards, as well as round clockfaces. The growing speculation is that the time is right for Apple to release its smartwatch – before it’s too late. 4. iOS8 Whether or not the iPhone 6 comes in a larger form, accepts mobile payments or is partnered to a smartwatch, one thing is for certain: it is set to run iOS8. First unveiled during the company’s WorldWide Developer Conference during June, iOS8 will bring along a number of new features for users. The new version of the mobile operating system is designed to be interoperable with the new version of Mac OS X, known as Yosemite. The improved interoperability means users will be able to use their Mac as a speakerphone for their iPhone, read and send their iPhone messages from their Mac, or use a feature called Handoff to pass activities from one device to another. It will also come with a new health tracking app called Health, which uses a new underlying API called Healthkit to gather health tracking data from a range of third-party health tracking apps and devices. iOS8 also includes the foundations of Apple’s Internet of Things home automation platform, known as Homekit. 5. A sapphire display In August, some photos of the new device leaked showing a thinner, lighter version of the iPhone. But one feature in particular was notable: the use of sapphire, rather than glass, for the screen. While the choice of material is likely to make the device significantly more expensive, a less shatter-prone iPhone will certainly be music to the ears of anyone who has ever accidentally busted a mobile phone screen. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple. The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months. The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says. Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Coin apologises to customers Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay. The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched. Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications. Facebook most popular app in US In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin. The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Former Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer has announced he will be stepping down as a board member at the company. Ballmer, who retired six months ago, has been a member of the Microsoft board for the past 14 years. He recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise and plans to focus on running that team. In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, he says his confidence that the company is heading in the right direction, combined with a “multitude of new commitments” made it impractical to continue to serve on the board. “I have confidence in our approach of mobile-first, cloud-first, and in our primary innovation emphasis on platforms and productivity and the building of capability in devices and services as core business drivers,” he says. “I bleed Microsoft – I have for 34 years and I always will. I continue to love discussing the company’s future.” Uber hires top Obama adviser as new campaign manager David Plouffe, who ran United States president Barack Obama’s breakthrough 2008 election campaign, has been named Uber’s new SVP of policy and strategy, Re/code reports. Last July, Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick was closing in on hiring a high profile manager to head its policy and strategy and fight “an asshole named Taxi”. Lyft COO leaves company Travis VanderZanden has left his post as COO of transportation network startup Lyft after “some level of tension with its founders, sources told Re/code. VanderZanden arrived at the company after it acquired his on-demand car wash service Cherry last year. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 80.85 to 16,919.59. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
ECAL, a global events marketing platform, has raised $2 million from investor and former Dodo Internet founder Larry Kestelman’s Oxygen Ventures, after winning The Big Pitch. Oxygen Ventures offered up to $5million worth of funding to startups who won its Big Pitch competition, the final of which was held in Melbourne in June. Joint winner WeTeachMe is still in negotiations with Oxygen Ventures, as is People’s Choice winner Black Delta and finalist etaskr. ECAL, founded by Patrick Barrett in 2012, delivers on-time marketing information into consumers’ calendars, driving increased awareness, engagement and sales. It serves more than 6 million calendar activities each day, a figure growing month on month. ECAL has over 100 major clients across the US, Europe and the Asia pacific. Its initial focus was major sports and has big name American clients like the NFL’s New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and the NBA’S Boston Celtics. The $2 million will drive new product development outside of major sports, the launch of a Software-as-Service version of the platform and expand the sales in North America. “The capital will enable us to expand our geographic footprint, to service new markets, and to develop our product further,” he says. “By having someone with Larry’s experience involved in the next phase of growth, we will be the beneficiary of far more than the $2 million on investment Oxygen brings to the business.” Kestelman says he’s thrilled to be involved in the company. “ECAL is such a terrific idea, brilliant in its simplicity, and we see great potential for its use beyond sport and entertainment,” he says. “At Oxygen, we back great teams, big ideas and bold plans, and we are very much looking forward to our partnership in ECAL.” Joining Barrett and Kestelman on the E-DIARY Pty Ltd Board is former is iSelect CEO Matt McCann and Oxygen Investment Director Ilya Frolov. The company has also recruited an advisory board that includes Microsoft’s Chris Bernard and David Riemer, formerly of Yahoo, in addition to current MYOB CTO Simon Raik-Allen. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
In my last article I responded to an interview in Vox with Marc Andreessen. Andreessen lamented that, in spite of a historic gold rush in technology companies, the IPO is dying in the United States due to zealous over regulation in the form of Sarbanes–Oxley, for example. As a result, the general public is missing out on the incredible gains that were experienced in the listed US technology companies of yesteryear. Yes, the regulators have gone too far and it is creating serious friction in the IPO pipeline. However I argued that perhaps the real reason that technology companies appear to Marc to be listing later and later is because, not surprisingly, the top venture capitalists are keeping these returns all for themselves. It's been a relatively recent phenomenon that US technology companies have been waiting longer and longer to go public. In the US, technology IPOs of yesteryear companies went public much earlier, with market capitalisations in the hundreds of millions of dollars instead of the tens of billions. As a result, the general public had the ability to share in the spectacular returns that technology companies can generate over time as software eats the world and industry after industry is being wholesale remapped and reshaped, with revenue growth at a speed unprecedented in history. Even though eBay's share price went up a spectacular 163% on opening day, if you bought shares on market after this rise and held on until today you'd have made over 3500%. If you bought Amazon the day after it listed, you'd be up over 27,000%. If you'd bought Microsoft at IPO in 1986, you'd be up 66,500% today and 3000% in the first eight years alone. Unfortunately for investors in the US, the general public is missing out. You only have to look at Facebook listing at $104 billion and Twitter listing at $24 billion to get a feeling for just how late these companies are going to market. So who is making all the money as the stocks go from the tens of millions of dollars in market capitalisation to the tens of billions? The answer, not surprisingly, are the venture capitalists. You can't blame them for doing so, because of course their business model is to make as much money as possible for their limited partners. There is another stock market, however, outside the US that is not subject to Sarbanes–Oxley and where technology listings are about to boom. This market is already quite a large market for equity capital issuances. In fact, as much money was raised there in the last five years as NASDAQ. The only problem from a technology company perspective is that most of the money raised there has been for resources companies. I am, of course, talking about the Australian Securities Exchange. Now let me tell you how this has all come about, and why now. There is a disaster in venture capital in Australia with only around $30 million per annum for the whole of seed stage investments, $40 million in early stage and $20m in late stage. AVCAL reports there were 16 "investments" done with this grand sum of $20 million in late stage venture capital in 2013. I am quite perplexed about how they defined "late stage" here, because the very definition of a late stage round size is usually greater than $20 million in one single investment, let alone 16. The only conclusion I can make is that these investments were triaged into bleeding zombie companies – hardly a sign of a successful late stage industry. Either that, or AVCAL has now taken up reporting of late stage investments to include lemonade stands. Atlassian, one of Australia's most successful technology companies, just raised $US150 million in a late stage round. The entire Australian venture capital industry simply isn't big enough to fund that single round. In addition to the lack of venture financing, a major terraforming of the economy is needed. Although we have $1.5 trillion dollars in the fourth largest pool of retirement funds (superannuation) in the world, these funds don't invest very much in Australian venture capital because none of the VCs to date have demonstrated that they can generate a return. It's hard to claim that venture capital is even an asset class in this country, as it's missed every single major technology success story this country has produced all the way back from Radiata: Atlassian, Kogan, Big Commerce, RetailMeNot, Campaign Monitor, OzForex. The list goes on and on. For the life of me, I can't think of one they actually invested in. The funds being invested into Australian VC come roughly equally from corporates, government and high net worth individuals. Corporate investment in VC in Australia is in decline, and with the government recently turning its tap off with the cancellation of the IIF program, I don't see a path to resurrecting a domestic venture capital industry any time within the next decade or two without a serious change in philosophy, which is not going to come from either of the two major political parties. The incumbent Liberal party is currently implementing a program of austerity, and the previous Labor government was, at best, only interested in trying to win union votes from bailing out the inefficient and dying local manufacturing sectors. The biggest impact Labor had on the sector during their tenure was to change the laws on the taxation of option schemes, which wiped out the primary incentivisation mechanism for the technology industry (and, ironically, the primary means by which wealth is redistributed from owners to workers). While I personally was not sorry to see the IIF go, I was hopeful that the axing of the program would be replaced with something more effective for financing technology companies down under. A better way would be through taxation reform for investors in qualifying risky technology ventures –front-end relief in the form of tax credits or a reduced rate of tax and back-end relief in the form of capital gains tax reductions or exemptions like the UK's Enterprise and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes. At the end of the day, the Australian government only provided $25 million a year into the IIF program, which is paltry when you consider Singapore, with a population of 5.4 million, has committed $SG16 billion ($US12.8 billion) into scientific research and development over a four year period from 2011 to 2015. So how are Australian companies getting financed? Whilst the big US VC brands like Accel, Sequoia, Spectrum and Insight are actively prospecting down here, they are mostly just looking for cheap deals by value investing in late stage companies outside the hot money Silicon Valley market. The investments that they have made to date, and which have been trumpeted in the media, have for the most part been majority buyouts or exits (Campaign Monitor, 99designs, RetailMeNot, etc). A notable exception to this has been Accel's investment in Atlassian. However, the lack of funding has not deterred Australia's entrepreneurs from building world class technology companies. Instead, they have focused on raising funds from the best source possible: selling something valuable to their customers. This story continues on page 2. Please click below. Almost all of Australia's best technology companies have bootstrapped all the way through. Those that did take outside funding, for the most part, didn't take it until they reached quite a late stage. As a result, we have some very well run technology companies, and some world class companies in the making. Although I am pretty active in the startup community, every second week I am shocked to discover yet another Australian technology company that I have never heard of generating $10 million, $20 million, $50 million or more in revenue per annum. Until recently, I had never heard of companies like RedBubble, Nitro, and Pepperstone. The latter of which has, in just three years, become the 11th biggest forex broker in the world, turning over $70 billion a month through their online platform). Because the Australian technology industry is mostly bootstrapped, it took longer to get here, but coming down the pipeline are an incredible number of great technology companies. So if the Australian VC industry is dead, then how are these great companies going to raise funds when they need them? Well, I believe the answer is staring them right in the face. It's called the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). After all, what better way to fund a company than by crowdsourcing it? This is what the resources industry already does today, via the ASX. If you have an early stage speculative mining company, you don't go begging down Coal Hill Road pitching to mining VCs and spending six months negotiating a telephone directory thick preferred stock structure. No, you write a prospectus detailing what you're going to do with the money and list it on the ASX. Likewise if you're BHP or Rio Tinto, you can go to the ASX and the market is deep enough to raise billions. Crowd sourcing equity from the public has been done successfully for decades in resources. The ASX is in the top five globally for the total amount of money raised for equity issuances from 2009-13. There is no Sarbanes–Oxley in Australia, and listing costs are quite low. (In Freelancer's IPO, the underwriting fees were $450,000, legal fees were around $100,000, and investigating accountants cost about $50,000.) Why go to a venture capital middleman unless they are a rockstar with solid operating experience that can add demonstrable value in some way? I believe that Malcolm Turnbull will bring in legislation to allow the general public to crowdfund early stage ventures without a registered offering document, as is starting to happen elsewhere around the world. This will generate further interest and appetite in investing in technology companies from the general public which already actively takes a punt on speculative, early-stage mining companies (not to mention the Melbourne Cup). At the moment, to invest in companies without a registered offering document you need to be a "sophisticated investor", which is curiously defined as a person having income of $250,000 per annum in each of the last two years, or net assets of $2.5 million. I don't know why being rich makes you automatically sophisticated, and being poor means you’re incompetent with your money, but I'm sure that something sensible will happen here. If, by miracle, we see some taxation relief for technology investments, then this will be accelerated. But I'm not holding my breath, even though the Australian government used to provide some form of taxation relief for investors in the mining industry. When we were considering listing Freelancer on the ASX, many people gave us the usual regurgitated responses as to why it wouldn't work; investors here don't understand technology and that we would trade at a discount compared to US markets. Professor George Foster from Stanford Graduate School of Business showed some time ago that country specific factors were a lot less important than company-specific financial statement-based information in explaining valuation multiples in an international setting. Markets are increasingly globalised. It's almost as easy for a US investor to buy Australian shares as US ones. Money flows to where it gets the greatest return for a given risk profile; basically if arbitrage exists, someone will take it. Our stock going to $2.50 from a 50 cent issue price in the biggest opening in the last 14 years and third biggest opening ever on the ASX for an issuance larger than seed size is testament to the amount of pent up interest amongst the general public to invest in technology. We took a calculated risk – nobody wants to be the first to try something new. But so far it has paid off. It’s great to see the sector now heating up with recent listings from companies like Ozforex, iSelect, iBuy and MigMe (up 95% yesterday on their IPO, and like I did, broke the bell), and with WiseTech Global, Vista Group, 1-page, Covata, BPS Technology, Grays Australia imminently coming down the pipeline. I suspect Ruslan Kogan will also be considering his options given the tremendous effort he has done bootstrapping Kogan to date. What surprised me is that the process was significantly easier, quicker and resulted in a more equitable and transparent capital structure than what I have experienced in any of the dozen venture capital financings I have been involved with in the past. Projecting forward, I think that the ASX will be the primary way in which technology companies raise equity in this country in the future. The ASX realises this as well, and is moving to position itself as a regional hub for the Asian technology sector. If it is successful—and I think there is a good chance it will be—it will cover a massive market. There are significantly more people in Asia (with dramatically rising incomes), significantly more micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It’s a much bigger market for many industries, and there are a lot more mobile phones than the US, to draw comparison to just a few metrics. The ASX is in a fantastic position to capture this opportunity. In the second half of 2013 a total of 14 technology companies listed on the ASX. Since January 2014 there has been 55. In the entirety of 2013, a total of 59 companies were financed by Australian venture capital. This is the future for financing technology companies in Australia. Matt Barrie is chief executive at Freelancer.com
Starting your own company can be the hardest thing you ever do, but a few words of wisdom never go astray. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to inspirational quotes for people who want to set up their own business. Here at StartupSmart we decided to trawl the web for eight of the best. 1. “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft Nadella is the chief executive of Microsoft and has been with the company for 22 years. This particular quote is exemplified in his push for Microsoft to embrace cloud computing. On the company’s website, Nadella says Microsoft must continue to transform and bring innovative products to customers more quickly. 2. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are a few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, American engineer and entrepreneur Bushnell is an American entrepreneur renowned being the cofounder of Atari Inc, a company that helped pioneer arcade and home video games. Interestingly, Steve Jobs and Al Alcorn used to work for him in the 1970s. 3. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” – Anthony Volodkin, founder of Hype Machine Volodkin founded Hype Machine – an online music database – while he was still a computer science student. The website aggregates the most recently posted songs from a range of music blogs, and markets itself as a way to find “new music worth listening to”. Speaking of blogs, Volodkin has a personal Tumblr where he often posts about startups. 4. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos.com Despite being a workaholic himself, Tony Hsieh is renowned for promoting a fun workplace culture that involves everything from a man dressing up in a hot-dog suit and doing backflips to “Tutu Tuesdays” (yes, yes you did just read that correctly). 5. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of having the courage to take risks, and this quote by Steve Jobs sums it up rather nicely. 6. “A culture that supports women doesn’t come about spontaneously; it only happens when the leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture. In my experience, mentoring women into leadership is fundamental.” – Naomi Milgrom, chief executive of the Sussan Group Let’s face it: the majority of startup quotes floating around the internet are by men. Milgrom is a refreshing voice and renowned champion for women – particularly when it comes to flexible work practices. 7. “There is a whole myth about super people. That super people can do everything and they do it on their own.” – Therese Rein, founder of Ingeus While entrepreneurship is often stereotyped as a lonely pursuit, Rein’s quote is important because it highlights that even the most talented people cannot do everything by themselves. Often it takes a skilled co-founder or co-working space to really make a startup the best it can be. 8. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox Houston is the founder and chief executive of online storage service Dropbox. If anyone knows about only needing to be right once, it’s Houston – before Dropbox he worked on a number of startups and is now worth $1.2 billion.
Perth-based startup Prezentt has launched its cloud-based slideshow service which it hopes will complement, rather than compete with, existing presentation apps such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or Apple Keynote. Co-founder Jeff Robson told StartupSmart the new service is designed to work in a web browser. “Before a presentation, [the presenter] uploads a PDF of their slideshow,” Robson says. “Then, during the event, while the presenter shows off their PowerPoint presentation, the attendees can view the slides on their own smartphone or tablet, take notes on their mobile device, or request a contact. In the future, you will also be able to share your presentation on social media.” Because it works in a web browser, Robson also says that aside from Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, Prezentt will also work on a range of other platforms, including BlackBerry and Windows Phone. According to Robson, a number of high-profile customers having already signed up to use the product, including News Corp, RSM Bird Cameron, SaaSu, Access Analytic and Pitcher Partners. “We have about 200 people signed up from a range of different industries – big businesses, small businesses, consultants who present, and even charities. There’s directors who use it for meetings and presentations,” Robson says. “At our launch event, we had a number of people from local universities, so tertiary education is an obvious market. But there’s no reason it couldn’t be used in high schools or even schools at more junior level.” In terms of monetisation, the cloud-based service uses a subscription-based model rather than advertising. Robson justifies the strategy, saying if it manages to land a presenter one extra sale per year, the subscription price pays for itself. “There’s nothing worse than having your slides with your competitors’ ads on your slides,” he says. “So it’s subscription-based, where it’s free for the attendees, presenters get their first four presentations free per year… But if you want to do more than that, the subscription is $20 per month if you pay annually.” The service has already won critical acclaim, taking out the development domain prize at Western Australia’s premier Information Technology awards event, the WAiTTA Awards. Prezentt will now represent WA at the National ICT iAwards in Melbourne later this month. Looking ahead, Robson says slideshows are a market ripe for disruption over the coming years. “We see this as the future of presentation – a little like mobile banking. Seven years ago, no-one did mobile banking. Now, if you went into a bank branch and told you they don’t have an iPhone or Android app, you’d think they were a little backward, he says. “We think it will be the same thing with presentations.”
I wrote an article in May which commented that the rest of the world was not sure how the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling would be managed outside of the European Union. Now, thanks to privacy and data protection groups, EU regulators are pushing for the EU court ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten’ to be extended worldwide. Brief background After the EU Court of Justice ruling requiring search engines to comply with ‘take down’ requests from individuals, Google has been trying to comply with the more than 90,000 requests it has received. It has removed approximately half of these so far from its European searches. It’s been a struggle since the ruling: how to decide who and what should have a right to be taken down, how to identify the person requesting the take down, the sheer numbers of requests, etc. And companies, newspapers, journalists and other media outlets have been openly against this ‘take down’ move as their articles are no longer appearing in search engine searches. ‘Right to be removed’ causes flood of requests First, after going through the massive task of removal requests that Google managed, there was widespread criticism about the links Google removed. So they reinstated some of the links. The search engines have continued to struggle to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people’s identities. They are dealing with a difficult process thanks to the vague EU Court of Justice ruling. But still the EU regulators are not happy. EU regulators unhappy with Google Google had included a notice on search results pages where links were removed alerting people when stories or information was removed. Regulators and data protection groups were not happy with this so, instead, Google’s European search results now show a message on nearly every search on a ‘name’ that results ‘might’ have been removed. Google also did the right thing and alerted websites and businesses that the links were being removed. This, in some instances, ironically resulted in more publications writing about it and brought it back into the public eye. So, job well done, EU courts. The EU wants to set regulation worldwide The EU summonsed representatives from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to argue that the removals should be global and not just in Europe. And that the search engines should stop notifying websites if their stories were removed. This push is primarily coming from privacy groups complaining that the removal of content on EU search engines only is ineffectual and that it must be across international search engines to be effective. Can the EU set worldwide regulation of the internet? The thought that EU courts can dictate content and how search engines work around the world seems ludicrous. A court that seems to think it can dictate how websites work in other countries will end up in a jurisdictional chaotic mess. If they also block sites from being informed, this would seem to go against basic transparency principles and websites will be left wondering what happened to their articles that are now no longer available in Google searches around the world. The issue and problem is still with the original EU ruling: that people should have the right to require removal of embarrassing, criminal, political or otherwise historical information they are not proud of on the internet. The result of the privacy groups, data protection groups and regulators in the EU pushing may well result in Google ending up in European courts faced with legal action by member EU countries for many years to come. We can only hope it stays there.
Snapchat is in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba for a round of financing that may value the company at $10 billion, sources told Bloomberg. Talks are ongoing and the terms of the funding may change, one of the sources said. If the funding is completed, Snapchat would join an elite group of technology startups, including Airbnb and Dropbox, valued at or above $10 billion. People send more than 700 million disappearing “snaps” a day and more than 500 million stories are viewed daily. Tablet sales crashing? Best Buy chief executive officer Hubert Joly has told Re/code that the company has seen a revival in PC sales in the company’s first quarter. Joly puts attributes the growth in PC sales at least in part to Microsoft’s decision to stop supporting Windows XP, and says tablet sales have dropped off. “The tablets boomed and are now crashing,” he says. “The volume has really gone down in the last several months.” He says the issue facing tablets is that once you have a tablet of a certain generation, it’s not clear that you have to move to the next gen. Twitter acquires Madbits Madbits, a deep-learning-based computer vision startup, has been purchased by Twitter. Details of the acquisition are unknown, but Madbits confirmed the purchase in a statement on its website. Over the past year the company has been building visual intelligence technology that “automatically understands, organizes and extracts relevant information from raw media”. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 31.75 to 16,880.36. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
An Australian startup is looking to help office workers write cleaner, sharper documents and in doing so boost productivity in the workplace. Credosity, the brainchild of Magneto Communications, is a virtual writing coach for Microsoft Word. Co-founder Petrina Buckley told StartupSmart the idea for the software came from the desire to create a tool that will help people write more effectively. “Credosity will not only give simple, visual feedback on the readability and professionalism of your Microsoft Office documents, but also use interactive eLearning to teach the principles behind its suggestions,” she says. Buckley says one in three employees could write better, saving both themselves and their boss time by not having to go back and rework draft letters and other documents. “People spend up to 75% of their week writing, so the cost to business is huge,” she says. “It includes inefficiencies, lost sales and degraded brand image and reputation.” Buckley and the team hope to utilise their experience at Magneto Communications – which has involved combining copywriting psychology with business writing – and apply that to Credosity. “Good writing is not just about getting the spelling and grammar right,” she says. “It is about the thinking behind your communication.” The reason for pairing the software with Microsoft Office came down to research and common sense, says Buckley. “Microsoft office has 95% market share so it was a logical step as to how to add the most value in a corporate environment,” she says. The startup is currently undertaking private beta testing. Buckley says they have been lucky enough to have key clients that have been involved from the start in order to provide them with important feedback. “It’s a massive journey to do enterprise software,” she says. “We know from our experience with Magneto just how important it is to create something that hits the mark and is professional when it is going into the enterprise space.” Buckley is one of three co-founders and says the right partnership can make or break a startup. “We just have a really nice match of skills and that’s what allowed us to bootstrap,” she says. “When you get that little mix of skills so right that, between us, we can pick up most things because someone has done it before or learnt from a mistake, that’s really valuable.” Buckley and her two other co-founders have received support from the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Brisbane for about a year, although they have not worked on Credosity for all of that time. “Microsoft Innovation Centre and Microsoft have been really helpful,” says Buckley. “Just being in the Microsoft protégé program has given us great internal support and helped us build a robust marketing plan.” Buckley says Credosity has just received a Commercialisation Australia grant and is in discussions with a potential investor. Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs would be to constantly ask how to improve. “That honesty audit I think is really, really important,” she says. “Do that honesty audit from every angle: about yourself, about your business, about the idea, about your team.”
Twitter stocks have surged by almost 30% in after-hours trading following the announcement of its second quarter financial performance, which included revenue of $312 million and $0.02 earnings per share. The figures beat analysts’ estimates, with Wall Street expecting Twitter to post revenue of $283.07 million and losses of $0.01 per share. Its revenue for the quarter is up 124% from the same period a year ago. Eighty-one per cent of revenue in the period came from mobile advertising. Its average monthly active users (MAUs) increased by 24% year-over-year, to 271 million, while Mobile MAUs reached 211 million, an increase of 29% year-over-year and made up 78% of the company’s total MAUs. Twitter chief executive officer Dick Costolo says the strong financial and operating results show the company’s continued momentum. “We remain focused on driving user growth and engagement, and by developing new product experiences, like the one we built around the World Cup, we believe we can extend Twitter’s appeal to an ever broader audience.” New Microsoft Windows phones arriving soon Microsoft is planning to launch two new Windows 8.1 devices shortly, The Verge reports. Sources told The Verge that Microsoft Devices chief Stephen Elop revealed the two handsets, a “selfie phone” and an “affordable high-end phone” at an internal company meeting this week. E-commerce company Jet raises $55 million Marc Lore, the former CEO of Diapers.com parent company Quidsi, which was sold to Amazon for $550 million, has raised $55 million to build out a new e-commerce company called Jet, Re/code reports. Little is known about what Jet plans on selling, but sources tell Re/code that the startup will be extremely tech focused and is working on innovating around its logistics network. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 16,912.11 down 70.48. The Australia dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Serial venture capitalists Daniel Petre and Craig Blair announce $60 million fund for tech businesses7:38AM | Tuesday, 29 July
Former tech executives Daniel Petre and Craig Blair are planning to use the $60 million they’ve raised for their AirTree Ventures Fund to support the growth of 15 local technology startups. While it was revealed Petre, a former Microsoft executive, and Blair, formerly of Expedia, were seeking to raise $50 million from private investors earlier this year, the duo said today they decided to extend the fund to $60 million and closed the fundraising early after attracting “significant interest from investors”. “We were surprised at how quickly it happened and how quickly we met the target,” Blair told SmartCompany. “I think it is a function of investors realising that technological disruption is not going away any time soon, we’re just starting, and that venture capital is not broken.” Blair says AirTree will invest between $2 million and $5 million in up to 15 technology businesses over the next three to four years. He says the businesses chosen by AirTree will likely have already received some seed funding, and AirTree will provide their first professional round of funding. “We’re looking for businesses that, broadly speaking, are using the internet to disrupt the digital market,” says Blair, who says the retail, media, finance and online marketplace sectors will be among the area AirTree looks closely at. “We are quite agnostic there and we’re not necessarily looking for the next big global players to come out of Australia,” he says. Blair says AirTree is looking for companies which have already gotten some “traction” and which understand their KPIs and the direction they are heading in. “With the explosion of incubators and accelerators around the country, they are spawning dozens and dozens of companies, and not all of them will make it,” says Blair. “But the ones that do emerge who have their product and team right, we want to be the guys to help them.” AirTree does not have a strict timeline for when its first investment will be made, with Blair saying “it’s more important to make the right decision rather than a fast decision”. This is not the first time Petre and Blair have partnered to invest in new businesses, having previously run the Netus investment fund along with eBay Australia managing director Alison Deans, which invested in nine companies over six years. AirTree is the third investment fund for Petre, who established and later sold Ecorp, which invested in eBay Australia and ninemsn. “The Australian startup space is expanding significantly with a wide variety of accelerators and incubators helping bring more companies on stream than ever in the past,” said Blair in a statement. “AirTree will complement this effort by being able to commit growth capital to the best of this new class of ventures. Great startups, once they have worked out what their product or service offering is, need the capital to fuel growth but they also need investors who can bring proven experience in helping to build successful companies. We feel this combination of funding and expertise is something that AirTree can provide.” But while smaller startups will likely welcome the presence of the AirTree fund, the announcement of the fund did not impress some members of the startup community earlier this year. “This isn’t a breakthrough,” Nitro co-founder and chief executive Sam Chandler told Private Media in March. “We still need more later-stage funding from funds in the $200 million plus range who can invest more like up to $20 million over the lifetime of the investment.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Amazon is reportedly set to launch its own mobile credit card reading technology, according to internal documents from the office supply store Staples, obtained by 9to5mac. The documents say Staples stores are preparing to stock a new product called the “Amazon Card Reader” alongside existing card readers from Square, PayPal, and Staples’ in-house brand. Amazon recently launched a new wallet app for smartphones and 9to5mac speculates that Amazon’s card reader will likely connect to that. Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi raises $40 million Easy Taxi, a taxi calling app from Rocket Internet, has raised $40 million in a Series D funding round. The company launched in 2011 and has roughly 185,000 drivers, with 150,000 of those added over the past year. It’s available in 160 cities across 30 countries predominantly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Easy Taxi co-CEO Dennis Wang says the funding will allow the startup to continue its growth in existing markets, while also scaling its operations and improving its service so as to appeal to “more audiences and geographies”. US cable companies say Google and Netflix biggest threat to net neutrality In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission, Time Warner Cable claimed that the controversy over internet providers potentially charging websites for access to “fast lanes” on the internet is a “red herring”. It says the real danger is that Google or Netflix could start demanding payments from internet providers, as customers expect access to the most popular websites, an internet provider would have no choice but to pay. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says a relatively connected group of large internet companies such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook have enormous and growing power over people’s ability to access what they want on the net.
Tablet sales surged by 11% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2014, despite sales of Apple’s iPad plunging by 9.3% over the same period, according to new figures from IDC. The figures, compiled from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, shows total shipments of tablets grew to 49.3 million units during the second quarter, up from 44.4 million a year earlier. The figures include sales of both traditional slate tablets, as well as “two-in-one” devices such as the Microsoft Surface. Apple remains the largest competitor with a market share of 26.9%. However, its worldwide shipments for the quarter dropped to 13.3 million units, down from 14.6 million for the same quarter a year earlier. Despite Apple’s falls, Samsung’s sales remained close to flat, growing from 8.4 million units a year ago to 8.5 million for the same quarter this year. Despite the small increase in volume, the South Korean tech giant’s market share dipped from 18.8% to 17.2%. The big winner in the market was third-place Lenovo, which saw its tablet volumes grow 64.7%, from 1.5 million units during the second quarter of 2013 to 2.4 million this year. Rounding out the top five were Asus, which shipped 2.3 million units during the quarter, and Acer, which shipped 1 million. The 21.9 million units is divided between a range of smaller Android and Windows tablet makers, including Microsoft, with each shipping less than 1 million units. In a statement, IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani says Apple and Samsung’s stranglehold over the tablet market is slipping. “Until recently, Apple, and to a lesser extent Samsung, have been sitting at the top of the market, minimally impacted by the progress from competitors," Ubrani says. "Now we are seeing growth amongst the smaller vendors and a levelling of shares across more vendors as the market enters a new phase.” Image credit: Flickr/ m01229