Before Seek was a household name, the go-to platform for job seeking and one of Australia’s biggest start-up success stories, it was a couple of guys around a table scheming about how to make it happen. Co-founder Matt Rockman told StartupSmart there were some tough moments he didn’t think it was going to work, but the scariest period was in the first few years as they clambered their way towards profitability. “The scariest bit for every start-up is that couple of weeks, months or years of wondering if the revenues come. I definitely had days where I thought maybe we wouldn’t get there,” Rockman says. “You spend a long period of time biting your nails waiting for the market to pay you for the value of your service, and that was years not months.” As a marketplace model business, the Seek team had focused on building up users and customers on both sides of the offering. But leveraging their user base into viable revenue streams was proving to be challenging. Rockman says they were focusing on converting free trial ads from recruiters and corporates into paid ones to create the habit and the relationship between their two user groups. “We were a total afterthought for our first clients, a completely marginal business. They had such a long habit and strong relationship with newspaper advertising. They didn’t get us, weren’t sure it was going to work. You’d go knocking on doors saying ‘Hi I’m Matt Rockman from Seek’ and they’d say ‘yeah cool, what’s a Seek?’.” He adds it was especially stressful as locking in consistent revenue streams is how founders know they have a business, and they were grappling with huge competitors. “Our biggest risk was taking on News Limited and Fairfax. They could’ve and should’ve squashed us. But you can’t really be in two places at once, and they were still print rather than digital,” Rockman says. “And credit where credit is due, we were obsessed.” According to Rockman, keeping your paranoia about competitors in check is a skill founders need to learn fast and never forget. He adds Seek now is probably as paranoid about LinkedIn and Google as the original team was about the major news media groups who used to dominate classifieds. “You don’t want to be looking backwards not forwards because you’ll run into walls. But you don’t want to be so full of confidence or arrogance that you feel like the challenge is over when it’s not. Always play as number two in the game, because if you play as number one for too long, guess what?” Rockman says. The other fundamental skill start-ups need to make it through the early terrifying days is the ability to maintain their confidence, tempered with a strong sense of reality. “You’ve got to careful, there is a lot of confidence and blind enthusiasm that is good, but there is a level of confidence, arrogance and hubris that is not good. You’ve got to get the balance right,” Rockman says. While the newspaper groups’ monopoly on classifieds was one of the early casualties of the internet, Rockman says there are still plenty of industries ready for a shake up by tech-enabled start-ups who are up for the hard work. “This internet thing was a very powerful disrupting force then, as it is in many other market segments today,” Rockman says. “Was making Seek work a smooth-sailing, risk free, easy ride? No way. Were the tough parts worth it? Absolutely.” This is the fifth instalment in our week-long Start-ups are Scary series, which included the toughest and most terrifying moments of younger, successful companies 99designs, Canva, Thank You Water and Vinomofo. We will be continuing the Start-ups are Scary stories as a weekly series. If your start-up has survived a difficult period, please get in touch so we can celebrate and share your story with the wider start-up community: rpowell at startupsmart dot com dot au
After another chaotic day in Taskmaster Towers, your humble correspondent commutes home to the Taskmaster Ranch in Parts Unknown. Aside from the Fairfax and News Limited local papers, the nearby local town – in the valley overlooked by Taskmaster Towers – has a semi-regular community-owned paper. Many miles from the glistening office towers of the mainstream media, the local paper in Parts Unknown is created in a room in the fading 1930s weatherboard and fibro shack beside the local Uniting Church. It is largely staffed by elderly volunteers from the church and local Country Women’s Association and filled with the writings of any local who submits a column before the generous, apparently monthly deadline. That said, no one is ever too surprised when it ends up being sent out a week or three late. Now, to call this a news paper is a bit of a stretch. The local historical society’s column, for example, covers the current events of a century ago. The local footy club regularly submits what could be described as a work of creative fiction when it comes to their predictions of upcoming victories against nearby rivals. Especially when judged against recent form, if the author were a clairvoyant, she or he would probably be sued for malpractice! Also included amongst its pages are reports written by people from the local schools, the police station, the volunteer country fire service, the arts society, a local MP, a shire councillor, the town chamber of commerce and a few of the local cranks. Some are pseudonymous – a practice your old Uncle Taskmaster can’t stand! Flicking through the pages, it becomes apparent two key things keep this valuable local institution afloat. The first is, of course, the labour of its small and greying crew of volunteers. Rain, hail or shine, they trundle down on the days between their volunteering at the local op-shop and the when the grandkids come around. The other is the support of local small businesses. Almost all the local businesses – around 90% at an educated guess – advertise with their local community rag. Yes, you can have all the volunteers, cranks and civic goodwill in the world, but at the end of the day, unless someone pays the printer and the power company, no newspaper will arrive on anyone’s doorstep. So is there a community-owned newspaper or radio station in your hometown or suburb? If so, it might be time to build your brand awareness locally by putting a couple of ads in your local community paper. Alternatively, if you already maintain a business blog, it might be worthwhile contributing some of your blogs as columns to a local newspaper or community group newsletter. Especially if you already sponsor or support a local community organisation, re-enforcing it through the local paper can help reinforce your image as a community-focused business. Get it done – locally!
Labor is in turmoil today after senior frontbencher Simon Crean called for a leadership spill, and announced he’d run for deputy. Refresh for rolling updates … 4.46pm: Julia Gillard remains PM. No one challenged her. ALP spokesman Chris Hayes MP has emerged from the caucus meeting to formally announce that there was only one nomination each for the role of prime minister and deputy prime minister; Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan respectively, “Both were duly elected unopposed and unanimously by the parliamentary caucus,” Hayes said. ”It puts beyond doubt the issue of leadership in the parliamentary Labor party.” 4.21pm: Kevin Rudd has just faced the media to announce he will not stand in the leadership ballot. Flanked by supportive colleagues in the corridor of Parliament House, Rudd said he had previously pledged he would only stand if the overwhelming majority of the party requested his return and the top position was vacant, circumstances, he said, which had not been met. Rudd said he would adhere absolutely to his commitment; “I take my word seriously”. He called on the party to unite to ensure Tony Abbott did not walk into the Lodge. 4.16pm: Labor MPs are expected to start filing into the leadership spill any minute. Meanwhile, spare a thought for the people affected by the forced adoption of children in the 20th century. They received a heartfelt and long-awaited apology from Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott this morning, but that’s been eclipsed by the #spill. 3.40pm: We still don’t even know if Rudd will nominate for leader at the spill at 4.30pm. This update from ABC reporter Latika Bourke: SkyNews reckons the following Labor MPs have been spied in Rudd’s office: Ed Husic, Tony Zappia, Richard Marles, Stephen Jones. Confusion reigns in Parliament House. Normally MPs would be getting ready to head to the airport and leave Canberra as the sitting week wraps up. Not this time. They’re frantically phoning around and changing their flights. 3.25pm: Sportsbet has Rudd the frontrunner at $1.30 with Gillard at $3.00. But she’s fighting back — she was at $6.00 half an hour ago. And she just now dropped to $2.80. And she’s got this vote sewn up — outspoken Labor MP Steve Gibbons tweets this (Gillard’s winning the race on Twitter FYI): 3.11: Treasurer Wayne Swan weighs in. He is highly likely to go down with Gillard should she lose today's ballot. 2.56pm: Bernard Keane writes: Question Time has come and gone, with an attempt by the opposition to suspend standing orders to move a motion of no confidence failing. The motion was supported by independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie but failed to achieve the necessary absolute majority of the House. A motion of no confidence — Tony Abbott’s first — may not have been particularly interesting given Gillard remains Prime Minister and thus her agreements with Oakeshott and Windsor remain in place. Wilkie has indicated he will only vote no confidence in the case of a major scandal. The Prime Minister’s speech in response to Tony Abbott’s motion to suspend remarks contain little of her usual back-against-the-wall fire, but relied on outlining her achievements and warning that she had more left to do. Meantime the counting game is on in earnest, with attention focusing on how many numbers Simon Crean can bring over to the Rudd camp, estimated to be no more than 35-40 MPs. The problem for Gillard is that a victory will do nothing to address Simon Crean’s defection or the persistence of a core of Rudd supporters of around a third of the caucus. 2.42pm: Julia Gillard has shut down question time after Abbott’s move to have a no-confidence motion in her failed. 2.25pm: Tony Abbott, in question time, tells Gillard: “I say to the current Prime Minister, for your party’s good you should go. For your country’s good, you should go.” Gillard is now firing back at Abbott. Note that Kevin Rudd is in the chamber, as is Simon Crean; but Crean has gone to the backbench after precipitating today’s dramatic events. Remember the last time this happened, when Rudd and Gillard faced off in February 2012? Key Rudd supporters were Anthony Albanese, Martin Ferguson, Chris Bowen and Kim Carr. Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Wayne Swan, Stephen Conroy and Simon Crean all backed Gillard. Crean has now shifted — and who else? 2.17pm: We’re in question time. Tony Abbott has moved a no-confidence motion in the PM, and is listing what he says is a litany of Labor failures. Meanwhile, Labor MPs have started to tweet how they’ll vote. Here’s ACT Senator Kate Lundy: 2.04pm: News Limited journalist Phillip Hudson tweets: 2.01pm: Prime Minister Julia Gillard tells question time there will be a ballot for the leadership at 4.30pm today. 1.45pm: Labor frontbencher and former leader Simon Crean has pulled the trigger on the Labor leadership crisis, calling for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to spill all leadership positions and backing Kevin Rudd with himself as deputy leader. Crean’s intervention comes as the climax for an extended leadership dilemma for Labor, with Rudd’s camp unable to muster the numbers to defeat Gillard despite a dreadful start to the year in the polls. However, there are important process issues to be addressed. Crean has indicated he doesn’t expect the Prime Minister to accept his plea to spill leadership positions, in which case it will be up to her opponents to muster the 35 votes to successfully call a spill in caucus via the caucus chairman before MPs leave tonight (prospects of Parliament sitting tomorrow have evaporated with the withdrawal of the media reform bills). Crean, who has been a strong supporter of the Prime Minister, said he wanted a circuitbreaker for the continuing destabilisation and that Labor’s problems would not be solved by simply swapping leaders. Labor needed to demonstrate it believed in something, he said. The move by the former leader (and persistent critic of Rudd) breaks the impasse Labor found itself in with the Rudd camp unable to muster anywhere near sufficient numbers to defeat Gillard and Rudd himself repeatedly, in private and in public, saying he would not challenge under any circumstances. With a leadership spill initiated by Crean, Rudd now has the chance to stand; indeed, there is no way Rudd can avoid standing. Crean also portrayed himself as a deputy capable of ensuring Rudd, whose wretched management style was one of the key reasons for his downfall in June 2010, would be a more inclusive leader if he takes over again as prime minister. That has been a persistent problem for Rudd backers, with the memory of Rudd’s behaviour as leader still strong in many backbench minds, as well as being a reason why a number of cabinet ministers indicated either publicly or privately they could not work with him again. Crean also ruled out seeking the treasurership, which has long been rumoured to be promised to the New South Wales Right’s Chris Bowen, who backed Rudd last February and is his highest-profile ministerial backer. There are disputed media reports that the NSW Right will back Rudd, which combined with Crean’s support would make Rudd very difficult to stop in a leadership contest. Crean has said he wishes to retain his ministerial position pending the outcome of the current contest. This story originally appeared on Crikey.com.au.
I attended a business lunch yesterday where Kim Williams, the head of News Limited in Australia, was the keynote speaker.
Sydney-based taxi booking app Ingogo has secured a fresh round of funds from a host of new, high-profile investors, with founder Hamish Petrie flagging plans for a national rollout.
News Limited will double its stake in Foxtel within a fortnight after Consolidated Media shareholders approved a $1.94 billion takeover deal yesterday.
Community sporting network SportingPulse, which is now majority-owned by News Limited, has acquired content management system BellvueIT.
News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch has indicated he is preparing to “hit back” at what he describes as the “lies” directed towards his business.
Shopping centre giant Westfield is reportedly introducing a charge clause in lease agreements for its retailers to offset the costs of the carbon tax, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected the claim.
Niche group-buying site Kid U Not has acquired three of its competitors less than three months after launching, as the company seeks to ramp up its membership base of cost-conscious parents.
Australia’s online parenting market is becoming increasingly competitive for start-ups, with new research revealing the majority of sites in the industry selling local products instead of importing from overseas.
Media conglomerate News Limited has acquired online parenting start-up Kidspot, and its related companies, for an undisclosed sum.
Digital publishing solutions provider Mogeneration has successfully completed its first multimillion dollar round of capital raising, enabling the company to continue its national and international expansion, namely the rapid rollout of its Oomph solution for the mobile market.