Pin Payments announces $50 million in transactions and plans for a Series A round

11:42AM | Tuesday, 11 November

As large online payment startups increasingly turn their attention to Australia, Melbourne and Perth-based startup Pin Payments continues to grow both in terms of revenue and merchants on its platform.   Stripe launched in Australia earlier this year, while PayPal and Braintree brought their Startup Blueprint program to Australia in September in an attempt to encourage more Australian startups using their platform.   Pin Payments director of sales and growth Chris Dahl says the size of the opportunity in online payments is so vast – a recent NAB state of the net report estimates online retail in Australia is the equivalent of 6.7% of traditional bricks and mortars retail, a figure that’s growing with no signs of slowing down, that there’s room for many players.   “What we’re finding is that lots of small businesses are starting to take payments for the very first time,” Dahl says.   “We know Stripe launched a few months ago, and in developer circles that might affect us a little bit, but with all our metrics increasing, it’s hard for us to say what’s had an impact when things are going up. That plays to just how big the opportunity in online payments is here in Australia.”   Last week Pin Payments passed $50 million in annualized transactions, which Dahl says is an important milestone, and one they’ll use as evidence of traction when pitching to investors for an upcoming Series A investment round. The startup says its transactions have been growing at over 300% per annum.   Pin Payments, which was founded in 2011, has raised two separate seed rounds, the first at the end of 2012, and the second at the end of 2013, totalling roughly $1.5 million. It’s looking to raise $5 million in Series A capital.   “We’ve started talking to interested parties over the past couple of weeks, and will be pitching in the next couple of months,” Dahl says.   “For us, what we’re looking to do here is really bed down Australia; penetrate the market here a lot more than we already have. We think there’s a lot more opportunity to get merchants here in Australia.   “But we’ll be looking to expand to Asia as well, markets like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, they’re very attractive to us. We’ve been getting requests from there, but haven’t extended out to get into those regions yet.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Best of the Web: This app can’t make you smarter; How Yelp’s CEO created a revolutionary product

10:52AM | Friday, 31 October

Neuroscientists are fed up with the brain training industry, Michael Byrne reports in Motherboard.   According to Byrne, neuroscientists object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do.   Sorry Lumosity, Fit Brains and Brain HQ.   Sadly there doesn’t appear to be an app which can make you smarter. How Yelp revolutionised customer feedback Yelp’s presence in Australia may still be small compared to the United States but David Kamp’s article in Vanity Fair ‘How Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman created a revolutionary product’ is still a fascinating read.   Kamp reports that “something funny happened shortly after Stoppelman’s project at PayPal, Yelp went live: its users embraced the site’s “Write a review” feature to a degree far greater than anticipated.”   “A few weeks of hasty re-coding later, Yelp was reconfigured to make reviewing its raison d’être, and Stoppelman has never looked back.   “Ten years after its founding, Yelp is the web’s premier site and app for customer reviews—not just of restaurants, but of shops, kiosks, food trucks, parks, bus lines, funeral homes, D.M.V. offices, and even human attractions. (The Naked Cowboy in Times Square was averaging four stars out of five at press time.)” Dealing with toxic people In Inc, Jessica Stillman outlines ‘7 Ways To Deal With Toxic People.’   She says the sad reality is that toxic people are common.   “Equally troubling is the effect those individuals – who like to push others' buttons, stymie projects, and inject pessimism into every situation – can have on their better-adjusted co-workers,” Stillman says.   She outlines seven strategies for managing this noxious breed. Tim Cook’s personal statement Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a step away for a moment from the rigours of running one of the biggest companies in the world to write in Bloomberg Businessweek about being gay.   “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”   It’s an understated but proud proclamation by Cook about his sexuality and about his pride in Apple’s history and continued commitment to human rights and equality.

The nine website features that make your retail business hum

10:07AM | Wednesday, 29 October

Some time back, I created a list of website features – or more accurately website platform features – required by retailers to run a professional e-commerce operation. But like all things digital, the landscape soon changes, so I thought it worth re-visiting just to ensure retailers had the latest information at their fingertips.   This list is by no means exhaustive – each retailer has different specific requirements. But for the smaller retailer embarking on their online journey, or perhaps streamlining it, this will provide a handy guide to what online tools you are going to need to make a fist of your e-commerce website.   As their business model is relatively similar, wholesalers are likely to require similar functionality.   1. Content management system (CMS) An absolute fundamental for your website. Having your web professional alter and edit your website whenever you need it adds unnecessary cost and delays when a CMS makes this relatively easy and convenient.   In fact, a CMS is so easy to operate these days that a reasonably computer-savvy shop assistant should easily be able to do this task if you don’t wish to do it yourself. Don’t even consider arranging a website without this fundamental editing and website management tool.   2. Integrated email marketing system (EMS or EDM) Despite social media very much being the flavour of the month, not everyone uses social media regularly, unlike email, which most people use on a very regular basis.   But the days of sending your specials to a group within Outlook are long gone. An EMS or electronic direct mail system ensures your email campaign will look great, be personalised and be integrated with the statistics you need to ascertain its effectiveness.   And by being integrated with your website platform, you cut out considerable time in having to keep lists up to date and synchronised. Better still, your customers can alter their details themselves, saving you even more time.   3. Integrated customer relationship management system (CRM) Of course an EMS without a CRM is a wasted opportunity and something of a waste of time. A good CRM will allow you to integrate your customers so that you can seamlessly send emails, keep purchase records and have a record of website visits, among other things.   This approach saves having to keep such data in a myriad of different unconnected places and the time involved in maintaining each one.   4. Secure shopping cart It goes without saying really, though for those not quite confident enough to take this plunge, they can start with basic product information via a CMS before going the whole cart route.   Just ensure that your website platform allows you to upgrade to cart/e-commerce functionality very easily and affordably. Your cart will need to be hooked up to a payment gateway – the secure encryption technology that allows funds to be transferred securely and safely. At its most basic, PayPal provides a great and affordable way to do this.   5. Auto-homepage capabilities There are few things worse in the online world than visiting a website some time after your previous visit, only to find that nothing has changed and that the so-called “coming soon” specials have never eventuated.   Auto-homepage capabilities allow you to bring new product, specials and so on to the front page of your website without having to physically alter it. In other words, by literally ticking a box the featured item brings itself to the front page of the website and keeps it fresh, interesting and above all, likely to result in more sales.   6. Australia Post delivery integration Managing delivery costs can be a major frustration for website operators as they constantly need to be updated to reflect changes in postal charges and product dimension, etc. But a good cart system will be integrated with Australia Post delivery charges. This allows real-time integration of the latest delivery charges so that you never need to alter it beyond your initial inclusion of the product leading to fantastic time and cost savings.   7. Currency conversion The truth is very few Australian retailers consider making interstate sales let alone those from overseas.  But why not? A customer is a customer is a customer, no matter where they’re located. And if they’re prepared to pay the delivery charge, even better. If you can’t achieve automatic currency conversion, at least have a prominent link to one so they can do the math themselves.   8. Financial software integration This capability is not critical to many retailers because online sales can be categorised as such on their financial software and entered periodically with a refer online sales report memo. Others prefer complete integration with their software.   Either way, such an integration is becoming increasingly viable with today’s cart solutions.   9. Social network integration Every retailer should fundamentally not let a customer leave their store – online or on-street – without either selling them something or getting their contact details. Just because they didn’t buy this time, doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you later.   Social networks provide a convenient, seamless and affordable way for customers to engage with you and for you to promote your wares for essentially nothing. So links to the major social networks should be prominent on your page.   Miscellaneous others There are numerous other website features a retailer could benefit from depending on the level of sophistication / automation required. Some of these include:   Inventory management – this can be used for all stock whether sold online or in-store Gift vouchers – an automated gift voucher system which bypasses the need to send a physical voucher Affiliate programs – others can promote your product and earn a commission for doing so Drop shipping management – orders can be despatched automatically to manufacturers and wholesalers for drop shipping Download sales – sell an audio, pdf or other file and allow immediate download following purchase. Product image zoom – allows you to zoom in on a product image for detail Wishlists – allows visitors to create a wishlist for gifting, etc, purposes Larger retailers will find this list somewhat primitive as they embark on exciting new capabilities like personalisation, virtual fitting and so on.   But smaller retailers will certainly be able to operate a professional online outlet if they ensure their website includes these capabilities.   The fantastic news about so much wonderful functionality is that it is so affordable these days. There really is no excuse not to make your product available for online purchase.   Don’t forget too that these websites are invaluable at promoting in-store purchase as well for those who are in your vicinity. In fact, the sales generated in-store from your website may well exceed those made online, giving you even more online bang for your buck.   In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Tech 23 signals Australian startups are moving towards providing enterprise solutions

10:55AM | Tuesday, 28 October

If you want to flag a trend in Australian startups, then Tech23 is a good place to spot it. From the line-up last week it looks like Australian startups have embraced enterprise software, something it seemed reluctant to do for a long time, preferring to try to make more ‘sexy’ consumer plays, despite the success of Atlassian.   The line-up showcased a huge mix of companies from “smart” rowing equipment, to GPS-enabled sunglasses that promises you can never lose them, to aged care avatars that help remind you to take your medication, but undoubtedly the theme seemed to be around enterprise solutions – getting down to the basics of helping industries and businesses become more efficient.   Intelligent Fleet Solutions, Maestrano, and Red Eye kicked off the Tech 23 event, setting the tone for the types of technology companies that dominated the day. The three were joined by Peepable, the only truly consumer focused software startup of the day, which is aiming to make video more searchable.   The day really belonged to Tzukuri’s 20-year-old founder Allen Liao, who stole the show with his cool and collected presentation on sunglasses you can’t lose, taking away the Tech23 2014 People’s Choice Award. Liao has already been approached by Apple to distribute his product through Apple stores next year, and is working on partnerships with large fashion brands. He’s not currently taking investment.   Now in its sixth year, Tech23 2014 confirmed the event’s status as a benchmark for the Australian startup community.   Industry leaders, enterprise and start-up sponsors, and Tech23 alumni companies came together to donate prizes including thousands in cash, meetings with influential people and trips overseas, after government funding for the event was pulled.   “The scope and impact of Tech23 continues to grow exponentially,” says event founder Rachel Slattery. “This year we had companies from six states representing products and services that range from big data technology to location services, enterprise applications to healthcare.”   “I’m consistently amazed by the level of innovation and ambition our Tech23 show. The technology on display today boasted benefits for business and community alike.”   The Tech23 Innovation Excellence Award went to Intelligent Fleet Logistics for their vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation technology.   The Tech23 Greatest Potential Award was won by Clipp for their bar tab app. They also won a $5000 cash prize from PayPal.   Doarama, creators of a 3D GPS track visualisation program, has won a trip to Silicon Valley thanks to ATP Innovations.   Bluedot Innovation, a technology for precise, battery friendly location services, has won a trip to Boston thanks to Bigtincan; and $5000 cash from REA Group.   REA Group also awarded a second $5000 cash prize to Sound Scouts, a game which detects hearing loss in children.   Clevertar was awarded $3000 cash from NRMA; Global and Smart won $2500 from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Payhero plans to save the day for business billing services

10:36AM | Wednesday, 15 October

An Adelaide-based startup is looking to make it easier for businesses to turn regular customers into recurring revenue.   Payhero, the latest product to be launched by software startup Getyo, is aimed at helping companies start their own recurring billing and subscription services.     Co-founder Chhai Thach told StartupSmart Payhero is “filling the gap” left by services such as PayPal, Etsy and others by allowing businesses to set up and manage a subscription or recurring billing service.   Thach says he has experienced first-hand how difficult and time-consuming it is to send out membership or subscription renewals. In a previous job he would first customise the invoice, generate the PDF from the members’ database and then somebody else would print it out and post it in the mail. In all, it was a very laborious process.   “It’s an expensive task and for them to automate something like that would cost them thousands,” he says. “This automates the processes for the business as well as the customer. It frees up your time so you can enjoy things you want to do with your friends and family instead of worrying about the little things.”       The startup is in an early stage beta and plans to build up “a really strong brand” before scaling accordingly.   Thach says while smaller businesses and sole operators would benefit greatly from Payhero, the product is not aimed at a particular sector – big or small.   “All sorts of businesses can take advantage of this,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Braintree and PayPal launch a blueprint for startups

9:05AM | Monday, 22 September

PayPal and Braintree’s Startup Blueprint, a global program to support startups making mobile web software or services, has launched in Australia.   The program was also launched in seven other markets in the Asia-Pacific including Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Taiwan.   The Startup Blueprint program partners with startups from incubators and accelerators around the globe to help the next generation of mobile and web companies to monetise their businesses and connect with 152 million active account holders. Its Australian partners include Startmate, Blackbird Ventures, ATP Innovations and Oxygen Ventures.   Through the program startups get free payment processing for up to a transaction value of $US1.5 million with PayPal and $US100,000 with Braintree. The startups will also get access to a team of startup advisors who will provide one-on-one mentorship, workshops and support.   To be eligible for the program startups must focus on making mobile or web software or services, be privately held and make less than $US3 million annually or be less than five years old, and be nominated by a Startup Blueprint partner.   The program has been operating since late last year and has helped nurture successful startups including Memebox, Blitsy, Telnyx and Swivl.   Founder of Startmate and Blackbird Ventures Niki Scevak says both are thrilled to be Startup Blueprint partners.   “It’s programs like these that give our startups an edge when launching global businesses from Australia.”   Senior global director, PayPal and Braintree developer and Startup Relationships, John Lunn says it’s a way for the companies to give back to the startup community.   “We know every cent matters and we do not expect anything in return. PayPal and Braintree are driving Startup Blueprint because we have been there,” he says.   “We want to help startups get up and running. This program empowers payment capabilities and supports each startup’s growth.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Apple iPhone 6 release: Australian app developers and startups react

9:54AM | Monday, 22 September

Apple has now released its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in Australia, and the near inevitable crowds are – once again – lining up around the block.   So what does the news mean for Australian software studios and app developers?   Is this likely to be an “insanely great” development that will boost revenues and sales for local startups? Perhaps it will mean more headaches for developers? Or will this mean less than some would anticipate?   We asked a number of developers and entrepreneurs to find out:   Clipp co-founder and chairman Greg Taylor   It looks like a bigger iPhone 5s – but with some amazingly beautiful and innovative new rounded edges!   The best part for Clipp is Apple Pay. Apple Pay will provides our customers with another payment option to credit card and PayPal, the major benefit being customers not having to enter their credit card, overcoming any concerns of credit card security.   Apple Pay will be a huge driver to mobile payment adoption, which is great for Clipp.   Anytime Apple releases a new iOS, I get very nervous, particularly a major release like iOS 8. There is a strong history of many apps not working on each major release. I have already received an email from a widely used app this morning warning customers not to upgrade to iOS 8. Apple don't give developers much time at all from releasing the final version until consumers can download it. If something does not work, there is not enough time to fix it, test it and put it through the App store approval process (approximately two weeks) prior to it hitting the market.   Tapit co-founder Jamie Conyngham   The fact that NFC is in the iPhone 6 is a huge reversal for Apple, and we are super excited by it. As recent as 12 months ago TechCrunch reported that Apple was never going to take NFC up so we're really glad to see it's there.   The fact that they have put it in for payments is amazing for the industry and we are already feeling the shock waves. People now understand that everything is going to be NFC payments in a short amount of time. We have been waiting for the banks, credit card companies and retailers to begin educating the mass market about NFC for payments for a while, as it was always going to be a big driver for the technology so it will be a great opportunity. Organisations are finally realising that NFC services are coming and they are all going to start planning for it.   Unfortunately, it won't be available for other great NFC applications like tag reading/pairing and apps for about 12 months. In the meantime, Tapit will continue working with open NFC partners like Samsung to improve and innovate on new ways to use NFC, as well as executing bigger information and advertising projects. Tapit will also continue using beacons and QR for Apple users in the meantime as well.   Outware Mobile director Danny Gorog   “iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are an incredible opportunity for Outware. Many of our clients including ANZ, Telstra, AFL and Coles are excited about the new larger displays and the added flexibility that iOS 8 provides. We’re already well underway to ensure our clients apps are fully iOS 8 and iPhone 6 compliant.   As specialists in large scale finance and insurance apps, we believe the new NFC capabilities in iPhone 6 will change the mobile payment landscape and the way Australians want to pay and shop. Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of tap and go terminals in the world so we are a perfect fit for this technology.”   Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath   Devices like the iPhone 6 are a response to the consumer demand for easier access to more content. In the last four years, the average webpage size has nearly tripled while average connection "speeds" have only doubled. This is putting great pressure on website owners to utilise better ways of delivering increased content to these devices but still maintain a quality user experience.   The challenge to keep pace and make use of the attributes of these devices is now being pushed back onto website owners. Higher resolution screens mean images need to be sharper and improved processing capacity means laggy web content delivery is more noticeable for a user.   We expect the consumer demand for content to grow at an exponential rate and platforms like the "six" are the hardware manufacturers' answer. The pressure is on website owners now for sure. The ones who are responding are setting themselves apart from their competition.   Will Heine, Wicked WItch Software   Again the new iPhone launch has been very successful, so there will be more iPhones in the marketplace and new consumers that can enjoy our games like Catapult King. As well as more users, the new devices are again more powerful, which allows more advanced features of our game engine technology to run on mobile and tablet devices, resulting in improved graphical and gameplay quality in all of our upcoming titles.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Appster’s grand capital-raising plans for “world’s first ideas company”

9:56AM | Wednesday, 17 September

Melbourne startup Appster has opened a capital raise to fund its ambitious vision to create “an unprecedented development hub for the greatest ideas and innovations in the world”, according to co-founder Mark McDonald.   The startup has offices in Australia, India and the USA.   “We aspire to be the world’s first ideas company, that sounds lofty but working in San Francisco you are exposed by osmosis,” he says.   “It’s also our beachhead into the US market which we’ve been growing month on month.”   The software development startup is raising capital to achieve that goal, although it’s in no rush. As the business is profitable, it’s in the position to wait for the right partner to help it “scale aggressively”.   That innovation hub will be AppsterX, the company’s product arm. McDonald says the company is looking to partner with a select few companies, between one and two per year, and takeover everything – commercialisation of intellectual property, building executive teams, raising capital, growth and product engineering.   “It’s different to an incubator or accelerator in that we’re not nurturing talent but instead starting these companies for them and taking a lion’s share of the equity,” McDonald says.   “We believe this model will work better than an incubator one as we are most vested in the ideas; bring world-class execution and only present VCs with startups that have incredible traction already,   “Appster is uniquely positioned to pull this off because we have a large development team, global reach and growing capabilities with finance and growth hacking.”   McDonald says the startup has always been slightly different to other app developers, describing its role similar to that of being a technical co-founder without equity, as opposed to a fee-for-hire digital agency.   “We’ve worked hard to build a brand and operational economies of scale globally to build the technology behind many of Australia and the world’s most disruptive technology startups.”   Recently, former PayPal executive David Jacques and the former chief commercial officer at Virgin Australia, Liz Savage, joined Appster as strategic advisers.   “We believe we have incredible executive skills but one weakness was experience in the US capital markets,” McDonald says.   “David is a financial and operational expert and a very well-respected person in the industry.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Amazon boosts payments options in fight against Square and PayPal

8:19PM | Wednesday, 13 August

Amazon has unveiled its mobile payments product – Amazon Local Register, a credit card reader and app combination that will enable small businesses to take payments on a smartphone or tablet.   The e-commerce giant is undercutting both Square and PayPal offering a flat charge of 1.75% payment until 2016.   Square and PayPal ask for 2.75% and 2.7% respectively.   It’s priced at $10 and available for Android, iOS and the company’s own Fire devices. raises $25 million   Programming startup, which allows users to make mobile apps using JavaScript, has raised $25 million in additional funding and added high profile investor Jerry Murdock to its board, Re/code reports.   The round follows two others – one for $1.1 million and another for $4 million.   The San Francisco-based company is aimed at using JavaScript to create a product that’s easy to use by a range of developers and the non-tech savvy.   GetTaxi raises $150 million   Taxi hailing company GetTaxi has raised $150 million that will allow the company to launch business services in New York and expand its services in London.   Most of the 24 cities where GetTaxi operates are in Israel.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 91.26 to 16,651.80. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Winning BattleHack not as easy as (Raspberry) Pi

7:48AM | Tuesday, 29 July

A late night hunt for a replacement Raspberry Pi and a sleepless night led to victory for a team of developers known as Gearbox in PayPal and Braintree’s Sydney BattleHack.   The team won the 24-hour hackathon with an Internet of Things solution that allows users to open a secure box, which would be placed in public parks and enable access to sports equipment that could be paid for using PayPal.   The team cooked the Raspberry Pi they were using during the hack, which sparked a frantic online search for a replacement.   A shout out on social media found an eBay seller willing to meet them late on Saturday night and the project was saved.   #GearBox just blew a @Raspberry_Pi at the @PayPalDev #battlehack in Sydney. Can anyone locally sell us one?— Tom Frauenfelder (@tomfrauenfelder) July 26, 2014   The senior global director of the PayPal and Braintree Developer Network, John Lunn, who was also one of the competition judges, chuckles when recalling the team’s frantic search, but says it’s all part and parcel of a hackathon.   “We had some dramas, but we had a fun time,” he says with a laugh.   BattleHack Sydney is one of 14 BattleHacks around the globe and the Gearbox team will now be flown to San Francisco to compete in the BattleHack World Finals in November with a $US100,000 prize up for grabs.   It’s the second year BattleHack has been running, but the first time it’s visited Australia, and Lunn says the Gearbox team should have a good chance in the world finals.   “We didn’t know what to expect, but were happy to get the a variety of different people, from young university students to more senior people from university, people that worked corporate jobs at large companies in Sydney and people who were working on their own startups,” he says.   “The quality was fine. We had a nice mixture of hardware and software and a good completion rate, the hacks we saw were finished.”   Midnight is here and so are many of the hackers #BattleHack #Sydney 13hrs to go.— Jason Cartwright (@techAU) July 26, 2014   BattleHack teams were tasked with coming up with a solution to a local problem that would make their city a better place to live, using a mobile application that incorporates PayPal or Braintree.   Lunn says there was a great mix of ideas, including a number of which aimed to help the homeless, one of which looked at how homeless people could take donations once the world moves away from physical money, while others dealt with street art and crowdfunding.   “I am so pleased we could bring BattleHack to Australia this year to give Aussie developers a chance to show off their skills,” he says.   “The creativity and quality of code we saw proved that Australia has world-class developer talent.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

THE NEWS WRAP: Internal documents reveal Amazon plans for credit card reader

7:24PM | Sunday, 27 July

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.

The great smartphone internet shift

7:07AM | Thursday, 17 July

During the ‘90s and most of the 2000s, there was little doubt about which device was primarily used to access the internet: the PC.   Sure, there were other devices you could use to access the internet. The web has been accessible in some form on mobile phones since the early 2000s. There were also early tablets, some PDAs and web TV devices with internet capabilities.   But the office desktop, laptop or home computer was the primary device – and often the only device – most people used to surf the web.   During the recent Google I/O developer conference, the tech giant revealed that it now views smartphones, rather than PCs, as the primary device people use for accessing the internet.   Of course, mobile-first doesn’t mean that people aren’t choosing to use other devices when they have the choice – quite the opposite. It is certainly far more comfortable editing an Office 365 document on a PC or laptop than on a mobile. Likewise, reading an e-book is far more enjoyable on a tablet than on a smartphone.   But people aren’t likely to be carrying these devices with them at all times. For most people, assuming nothing better is available, the first device they’ll grab to check for new emails, quickly look up a fact in Wikipedia, take a photo of their restaurant meal or send a tweet will be their smartphones. In other words, their mobile is their first “go-to” device for accessing the internet.   Just to be clear, by “the internet”, I’m not just talking about the web. I also mean email, cloud-based services, apps, streaming video, and everything else on the internet.   This shift has taken a number of years – it’s certainly not a new trend – and has a number of profound implications for how people use the internet. In turn, these implications have massive implications for many businesses.   Here are five of the fundamental and profound differences between the old PC-first internet and the new mobile-first internet:   1. It’s always on and always connected   The first is that the internet – including apps, the web, emails, cloud services – is now always instantly accessible. The smartphone – and through it, the internet – is permanently connected, always on and always carried.   In the past, even if people carried their laptop around with them in a bag, few would bother to pull out a laptop and boot it up to quickly look something up in the middle of a dinner party. But with a smartphone, whipping it out and quickly checking Google to settle an argument is an everyday occurrence.   So long as your customer is awake, you can now assume they have almost immediate internet access.   2. Built-in billing   Aside from always being available, by its very nature, there’s also a number of billing systems built-in to smartphones.   At the most basic, there’s the carrier bill or the prepaid credit. On top of this, there are the various app stores, as well as services such as PayPal. Unlike on the PC, a purchase is always potentially just a tap away.   3. Tap for customer service   Likewise, tapping on a phone number in many mobile browsers will result in a phone call being made. This means making a call is potentially part of the built-in experience of every mobile app or website, unlike when PCs dominated the internet.   So placing an order or a customer service phone call from a website is now just a tap away.   4. A location-aware personal media form   Unlike on a PC, where people often shared a device or even an account, the smartphone is a strictly personal media form.   Smartphones, by their very nature, are also location aware. Even the most basic of ‘90s 2G feature phones had to know which cell tower it was connected to at any given moment. This ability to target consumers by location at all times just wasn’t there in the days when most people relied on a desktop PC. It is now.   5. Incredibly accurate audience information   The combination of the mobile as a strictly personal media form and information about the location and context of media that is being consumed means smartphones can produce the most accurate audience information of any media form in history.   TV ratings or newspaper readership (the number of people to read a paper, rather than the number of copies circulated) was always a best guess effort. Smartphone analytics tell you the precise number, location, device type and time your customers view your content. And all in real time.   Massive opportunities   As a result of the ubiquity of the smartphone – and recent ACMA figures show 12.07 million Australians now own a smartphone – it can now almost be assumed that anyone accessing the internet also has access to all the functionality of the internet on a mobile device.   So here’s a question: Is your web presence built for the old PC-first internet in mind? Or do you have mobile (or responsive) websites and apps that take advantage of the mobile-first internet?   If you don’t have a mobile- first strategy, there are a range of opportunities your business is missing out on.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Australian startups need growth capital funding to thrive: FSI interim report

7:38AM | Tuesday, 15 July

Medium and small businesses, including startups, need better access to growth capital funding, including venture capital and private equity, the Financial System Inquiry interim report has found.   The report, which was released Tuesday morning, says Australian venture capital funds have not provided investors with adequate compensation for associated risks.   Australian venture capital funds formed between 1985 and 2007 had a pooled internal rate of return -1.4%.   It says barriers to generating significant investor interest include the aforementioned underperformance of VC funds, as well as the fee structures of VC and private equity funds, the tax treatment of venture capital limited partnerships, and scale.   “The Australian market may be too small for some ventures to be viable, particularly when it comes to commercialising a product,” the report says.   “In addition, certain cultures, particularly relating to risk, and extensive networks need to be developed to facilitate a thriving venture capital industry.”   The inquiry notes it received submissions suggesting superannuation funds should be encouraged to invest in securitised SME loans and venture capital funds.   “A mandate requiring superannuation funds to do so may also involve an implicit guarantee by the Government, which the enquiry does not consider to be appropriate,” it says.   “Superannuation funds could consider investing in venture capital funds as part of a broader approach to diversifying their asset portfolios.”   It says changing the research and development tax credit system to a quarterly basis for new ventures, which VC funds argue would help alleviate cash flow constraints, is an issue that should be considered as part of the Tax White Paper process.   In a statement, Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive Yasser El-Ansary says if those barriers are removed, private equity and VC funds could play a more significant role in supporting startups.   “Australian venture capital funds are currently invested in around only 200 startups and early stage ventures,” El-Ansary says.   “There is substantial scope for the industry to play a greater role in building Australian businesses and creating new employment opportunities – especially in new high innovation industries of the future – if the enquiry makes recommendations for changes to some existing policies and regulations later in the year.”   Technology and the financial system The report also highlights the role technology is playing in opening up the financial sector to non-traditional players.   “Incumbents in the Australian payments industry are facing competitive challenges from new market entrants, such as PayPal, POLi, PayMate and Stripe,” it says.   “Closed-loop pre-paid systems operated by companies outside the financial sector outside the financial sector, such as Apple, Skype and Starbucks, are holding growing amounts of customers’ funds.   “Apple has also recently signalled its interest in mobile payments more broadly and recently developed fingerprint biometric authentication for its phones.”   The inquiry received a number of submissions highlighting the potential risks virtual or crypto-currencies like bitcoin present to the current financial system.   Those risks include the safety of the funds stored in such a way, which it says are at risk of system collapse or fraud, the highly speculative nature of virtual currencies which could lead to investor protection issues, their pseudonymity and the money laundering potential that comes with it, and their cross-jurisdictional nature.   “Whether new entrants should be brought within a regulatory perimeter depends on the nature and scale of the risk they present, and who bears the risk,” the report says.   “Government needs to strike a balance that allows the benefits of innovation to flow through the financial system, while maintaining stability.”   The report concludes that government and regulators should take a flexible and technologically neutral approach to regulation, which is not currently the case as some federal and state regulations require the use of certain forms of technology.

$US100,000 up for grabs at PayPal and Braintree Sydney Hackathon

7:36AM | Wednesday, 2 July

PayPal and Braintree will be hosting a 24-hour hackathon in Sydney on July 26 and 27, where developers compete for the chance to win a trip to Silicon Valley and $US100,000 ($A105,000).   The hackathon is part of the global BattleHacks competition that visits 14 cities around the world before culminating at the World Finals event in November.   During the Sydney Battle Hack, developers will be tasked with building a mobile application that solves a local problem of their choice and incorporates the PayPal API or Braintree SDK.   Developers can compete as individuals, as a team or find people to collaborate with on the day, with a maximum of four people to a team.   The winner of the Sydney Battle Hack will be flown to the finals at PayPal’s headquarters in Silicon Valley to battle it out for the $US100,000 prize and “battle axe” trophy.   The Sydney judging panel for the Sydney Battle Hack will include John Lunn, global director of the PayPal Developer Network, and influencers within the Sydney tech scene to be announced in the coming weeks.   John Lunn, global director, PayPal and Braintree Developer Network says they are excited to be able to bring Battle Hack to Australia.   “Battle Hack is designed by developers for developers. We see it as a way to reward the best and brightest developers,” Lunn says.   “Additionally, we hope to change the lives of the winning team through the prize money we offer, whether it’s helping a sick relative like one of our Moscow winners did or building their own business.   “Unlike many other hackathons, we aren’t looking to take equity in their companies or influence their work in any way.”   The first prize up for grabs at the 2014 Sydney Battle Hack includes flights and accommodation to the World Finals in Silicon Valley, and a chance to win the grand team prize of $100,000 USD.   For more information and to register, visit

Bigcommerce confirms Magento deal with store migration plans ready

7:51AM | Wednesday, 2 July

Australian e-commerce company Bigcommerce has confirmed reports eBay-owned Magento has named it as the software-as-a-service migration provider for its ProStores and Magento Go platforms, which will be discontinued on February 1, 2015.   Magento and Bigcommerce have carefully coordinated the design of a migration program to ensure that ProStores and Go retailers can begin making plans to migrate their stores well before the critical holiday season.   The eBay Enterprise senior vice president of product and strategy, Mark Lavelle, says the company chose Bigcommerce to help with the transition because of their shared commitment to client success and their proven track record of migrating large groups of merchants onto their platform.   In a statement announcing the deal, eBay says Magento is a “natural choice” because of its client-centric culture, tight integration with PayPal and the ability for its clients to sell on eBay.   “Magento is dedicated to helping fast-growing retailers succeed,” he says.   “Throughout this transition period, we will fully support both ProStores and Go, and clients will receive the same level of customer service they’ve come to expect.”   Bigcommerce has previously migrated more than 6000 ProStores retailers onto its platform and has migrated an additional 6000 stores from other platforms, which it says gives it the industry’s deepest expertise in terms of in-house professional services and tools to help clients successfully relaunch their stores.   Bigcommerce chief executive officer Eddie Machalaani, one of the company’s two Australian co-founders, says the team is excited to work with the new merchants they’re acquiring in the deal.   “We understand that the to-do list for small business owners is never-ending, and our teams are standing by to deliver the very best migration and onboarding experience so merchants can focus on growing their businesses,” he says.

Last call for bar tabs? Clipp has a shot

6:14AM | Wednesday, 25 June

The introduction of pin-and-chip regulations for credit card purchases on August 1 threatens to do away with the traditional pub bar tab forever.   Under the new regulations, signatures will no longer be valid as a method of payment confirmation. This means publicans won’t be able to charge the credit cards of patrons who leave without closing off their bar tab at the end of the night.   The situation has created a big opportunity for a new Australian app named Clipp, which looks set to cash in on a market that has suddenly found itself thirsty for new pre-authorisation and payment systems.   Its co-founder, Greg Taylor, has experience in the area, having been the co-founder and chief executive of mobile coffee card loyalty app eCoffeeCard, a venture he sold to Beat the Q earlier this year.   Taylor told StartupSmart his latest venture “is like Uber for bar tabs”.   “You don’t need to hand over your driver’s licence and credit card. Instead, you download the app for iOS or Android and connect your credit card through PayPal. It integrates through the bar’s point-of-sale system to your phone, which has a tab number,” Taylor says.   Taylor says the app allows customers to split a bill, close off a tab without needing to flag down a waiter, or leave a tip.   “For corporate hospitality, this is perfect. One of the big challenges is for people who have to record expenses. The great thing about Clipp is that a tax receipt is emailed directly to the customer” Taylor says.   The startup has already signed up 140 venues, including The Argyle, Mrs Sippy, The Lobo Plantation, Martin Place Bar, Gin Palace, and Bar Ampere.   According to Taylor, the app has even gained the attention of Woolworths-controlled ALH Group.   “ALH is the biggest group to trial the app. It recently finished a pilot in some of its venues in Melbourne…They own 250-odd venues and it needs solutions in terms of pre-authorisation,” he says.   “The reason why that trial was successful was because of operational efficiency – it’s about 20 seconds quicker for them than the alternatives.”

Web Directions celebrates 10 years with a star line-up

6:38AM | Thursday, 19 June

The internet ain’t what it was in 2004 and on the tenth anniversary of Web Directions, the conference organisers are taking the time to remember just how far it’s come.   “When we started Web Directions, we were just looking at ‘the web’, but now it’s the foundation for almost everything,” says Web Directions co-founder John Allsopp.   “It’s powering major financial institutions.”   The conference has two tracks, engineering and product, and its status as one of Australia’s premiere web events is highlighted by some of the big local and international names Allsopp and fellow Web Directions founder Maxine Sherrin have managed to attract.   Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and vice president of Intel Labs, as well as director of User Experience Research at Intel Corporation, is delivering a keynote. Bell leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists focused on people's needs and desires to help shape new Intel products and technologies.   On the product side, Douglas Bowman, who just recently left Twittier as its creative director, is one of the big names they’ve managed to attract.   Also on the product line-up is Scott Thomas, who famously worked on the Obama campaign, but also for the likes of Fast Company, Apple, IBM, HP, Nike, Patagonia, Levis, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and Craigslist.   Younghee Jung from Nokia’s corporate research team, focusing on enablers of social development through mobile technology, will also be speaking at the conference.   On the engineering side, Bill Scott, senior director of business engineering at PayPal, will be speaking, along with Railsbridge founder Sarah Mei and Jake Archibald who works in Google Chrome's developer relations team.   Allsopp says he feels the calibre of speakers makes it the best line-up they’ve had and competitive on an international level.   “These are world class speakers by anyone’s standard,” he says.   This year also means a change of venue, moving from the Convention Centre to the Seymour Centre.   “It’s got a good vibe and it’s both edgy and accessible, which makes sense for us,” Allsopp says.   Allsopp says they’ve always advocated the benefit for teams and individuals to get out of the office and become rejuvenated by immersing yourself in the amazing work so many in the industry are doing.   “We want to create that feeling when you can’t wait to get back to work because you’re just pumped with ideas,” he says.   “For a lot of people who come from all over Australia, it’s the one chance in a year to catch up with people in the industry.”   The full program can be found here.

App launched by eBay does the selling for you

6:52AM | Thursday, 19 June

Using eBay just got a whole lot lazier, with the company today launching a new app that will sell your items for you.   This is the latest release for the company after having recently launched its Pinterest-style eBay Collections in Australia.   The eBay Valet app takes every step of the selling process – from determining an item’s value to listing it online and shipping it when sold – and handles it on behalf of users, according to TechCrunch.   The company already had a similar web-based platform named, Sell For Me, and Valet is set to make online selling even easier and more approachable, for both first-time buyers and those who find the eBay process time consuming.   The process will now only require sellers to take a picture of their item and enter a description.   The item then gets sent to one of eBay’s ‘valets’, someone who works for eBay, and within 30 minutes the seller will receive a valuation range and be asked if they still want to sell the item, reports TechCrunch.   If you have a box handy, eBay will send you a shipping label. If not, the company can send you a free, prepaid box instead.   Then you simply log on and watch the sale happen, typically via a seven day listing.   After the items are sold, you pocket 70% of the profits straight into your PayPal account.   Valets are vetted by eBay to rigorous standards, according to Business Insider.   Valets must be able to:   List 100,000 eBay listings each month, have storage capacity to hold and manage items received for at least 21 days, List items across all eBay categories, Have a physical presence in all major metropolitan hubs in the US, Have a demonstrated ability to reach Top Rated Seller status within 90 days of starting valet services.

Your end of financial year business checklist: Five steps to save time and money

6:23AM | Tuesday, 10 June

We’re also a startup business at – just like you. And so as we approach the end of the financial year we’d thought we’d post some helpful advice about what’s on our “to do” list with June 30 fast approaching.   1. Change from monthly to annual subscriptions: review your services   Pre-paying expenses is an often repeated end-of-year tax strategy, so pay as many of your expenses pre-June 30 to minimise your tax bill. This is one of the more obvious items you are likely already doing.   But as an online business we use a lot of subscription-type services, which are mostly billed monthly to a company credit card. These expenses are usual for most businesses: web hosting, video hosting, website analytics packages, social media monitoring services, backup plans, etc.   However, most of these services offer discounts for committing to an annual subscription – in the order of 10-15%. It’s worth checking out and this is the time to do it.   So we reviewed all of our monthly subscriptions and services. First of all, we made sure we were going to stick with the service, and if not, found an alternative service or dropped the activity entirely. Then we checked and applied for any annual discounts. Dollars saved are dollars made.   2. Get ready for cloud accounting on July 1   At Legal123, we actually moved onto cloud accounting two years ago. This made such a huge difference to our business, we think it is worth mentioning for this year.   We can’t speak highly enough about cloud computing. For us, the advantages were threefold:   No spreadsheets and end-of-year panic Better communication and up-to-the-minute advice from our accountant Real-time reporting and knowing exactly where we are financially   If you’re not using a product like Xero, you should be. And if you’re thinking of using such a product, get ready and do it now. Transferring over at the beginning of the financial year will make your life a lot easier.   As it was, we transferred over two months after the year started and there’s quite a lot of work importing transactions from bank accounts, PayPal, etc. A lot of this could have been avoided with a neat and tidy switch over on July 1.   3. Outsource those small, nagging projects   This is another part of the pre-paying expenses idea which also takes advantage of the “end of year get it done now” euphoria that small business owners experience pre-June 30.   I don’t know about you, but I love that buzz.   We’ve got six or so smallish projects that have stalled. Plus we’re in the middle of a website re-design. It’s a great time to knock those projects over now.   Publish the project online – we use eLance and 99designs – pick a freelancer, give them all the information they need and let them get the job done. And don’t forget to ensure you pay their costs pre-June 30.   4. Purchase any small assets or consumables   As a 100% online business, we’re surprised how little we spend on office consumables, etc. Almost all our documentation is electronic, we share files, send email (sometimes with massive attachments), almost never go into the Post Office, and we hold Skype meetings rather than battle rush hour traffic.   But we still needed better Wi-Fi in one of our back offices – so it’s a great time to buy a Wi-Fi repeater. We also wanted to upgrade our business iPads and every year we upgrade our computers – so off to the Apple store. And we thought we’d also ‘pre-load’ our online advertising budget, which is probably our biggest consumable expense.   That’s it. Not a lot, but worth doing a check around the office to see what needs upgrading or pre-paying and doing it now.   5. Review our financials and plan for next year   Lastly, we always have a mid-June discussion with our accountant. Just to ensure they know the lay of the land and there are no surprises; they can confirm the superannuation and other payments that need to be paid, etc.   And of course they can just log into our Xero cloud accounts and see everything for themselves. Brilliant. It has saved a lot of time and money, ours and the accountant’s.   But it’s also a good time for us to review the whole year, assess progress. We don’t have set budgets, but we do have a very clear strategic direction and financial goals, so it’s good to review those.   And then the fun stuff – planning the next year and visualising what it will be like. What new products will we add, which will we drop, how will our positioning change, what the message will be, what extra help do we need, where will we find those new members of the team, etc.   Let the heated debates and coffee drinking begin!

THE NEWS WRAP: Bitcoin merchant raises $30 million in funding, reviving crypto-currency’s fortunes

5:38PM | Tuesday, 13 May

US-based bitcoin merchant processor Bitpay has raised $US30 million ($A32m) in Series A funding, the largest amount ever raised in a financing round for a bitcoin company.   Investors include Index Ventures, Yahoo founder Jerry Lang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Felicis Ventures, PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Horizon Ventures, RRE Ventures, Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson and TTV Capital.   Cheaper Kinect-free Xbox One announced   Microsoft has announced it will be releasing an Xbox One without the Kinect sensor, resulting in a significantly lower cost.   The console launched in Australia last year for $599, the new Kinect-free version will be $100 cheaper, retailing for $499 when it’s released on June 9.   Split-screen multitasking coming to iPad?   In an effort to match Microsoft Surface’s “snap” feature, Apple appears likely to add a new split screen multitasking feature to iOS 8.   Overnight   The Down Jones Industrial Average is up 19.97 to 16,715.44. The Australian dollar is trading at US93 cents.