Technology is developing exponentially, and at the click of a button we can access an infinite amount of information. With this privilege, comes the potential cost of information overload, increased distractibility and low-grade background anxiety as we try to keep on top of things. With invisible umbilical cords connecting us to our devices, staying focused is an increasing challenge. Our attention buzzes around with the restlessness of a mosquito fluttering between, emails, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages. Many of us are suffering from what Dr Ed Hallowell, specialist psychiatrist in ADHD, coined as Attention Deficit Trait. If we wish to remain healthy, happy and clear-minded we need to upgrade our "inner technology" to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. We are standing on the precipice of a potential paradigm shift with an exciting dialogue unfolding at the intersection of science, technology and the world of wisdom. From the outside, meditation can look like a whole lot of nothing, but you only need to try it for a few minutes to realise just how challenging it can be to develop our attention and sharpen our focus. In the start-up community in particular there are never enough hours in the day and so bringing any extra habit into your life needs to be worthwhile. Meditation is not about becoming passive or giving up on your goals or future plans. In fact, it's a perfect companion to developing your capacity to think more clearly, be more effective and find wiser solutions to challenging problems. Leading companies in the world, including Google are offering mindfulness training to their employees, recognising the benefits of meditation in supporting more clarity, innovation and productivity. Science is supporting the fact that just two weeks of regular mindfulness meditation can have significant benefits. When regularly practiced, meditation has been shown to increase our immune function, grow our prefrontal cortex (required for strategic thinking and problem solving), and increase an enzyme called Telomerase, which functions to protect our chromosomes from age-related damage. To really benefit from meditation, the problem is you actually have to do it. Meditation commonly falls by the wayside for even the most enthusiastic amongst us. Just like physical exercise, bringing a habit of regular meditation into your life can be quite a challenge. So often it seems like there's not enough time or we just "don't feel like doing it”. The thing is there is research to suggest that even 10 minutes of meditation, five days a week can improve our attention and focus. Sometimes we need support to follow through on our intentions. Having the support of others or doing something that helps us feel we're making a meaningful difference in the world, and can boost our motivation. This logic has fuelled the creation of Mindful in May, a one-month meditation campaign starting on May 1, and delivered online. It will teach you how to meditate and at the same time help bring clean water to those in developing countries. To date the Mindful in May global community has raised enough money to build water projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda helping transform the lives of thousands of people. You’ll get a one month meditation program including 10-minute guided meditations on a weekly basis, access to exclusive video interviews with global experts in the field of meditation and mind wellbeing. The challenge starts on May 1 so register before then, donate and invite your friends or colleagues to create a meditation fundraising team to help bring clean water to those in need. Together, let's see how far we can spread this Mindful Ripple. Elise Bialylew is a doctor, coach and wellness innovator with a background in psychiatry. She is the founder of Mindful in May.
Best of the Web: The collapse of Better Place; The 25-year-old CEO of Lonely Planet; Twitter co-founder tells all4:17AM | Friday, 11 April
A broken place: The spectacular failure of a startup that was going to change the world. The collapse last year of Better Place, the electric car company based in Melbourne and Israel is a “21st century cautionary tale”, according to Max Chafkin writing in FastCompany. Better Place had almost $1 billion in funding and ambitions to replace petroleum cars. Chafkin describes the business’ failure as “epic”. The 25-year-old at the helm of Lonely Planet. Last year media-shy billionaire Brad Kelley bought the troubled Lonely Planet travel-guide empire. He then appointed an unknown former wedding photographer to save the iconic business. Charles Bethea details how Daniel Houghton plans to turn the business around and the reaction to his appointment from the Lonely Planet team, which hasn’t always been welcoming. "I figured there had to be more to the story than 'reclusive billionaire hires 24-year-old with no known experience to run the joint," a veteran Lonely Planet author e-mailed me. "But I think it's as silly and fucked-up as it sounds." Out to lunch with Biz Stone. This Vanity Fair profile of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone discusses Stone’s new book, Things A Little Bird Told Me. Stone talks about his difficult childhood and his fledgling start up Jelly. John Heilpern observes that for someone best known for inventing the 140-character tweet, Stone turned out to be unexpectedly chatty. “I am chatty,” he agreed. “But I can be concise. Keep in mind, though, that you can write as many tweets as you want.”
Twitter has announced a new layout and new features for its profile pages, in a change set to roll out over coming weeks, with the AFL among the first accounts to receive the upgrade. The redesigned layout will initially be made available for new users and a small group of selected existing users, including the AFL. Key features of the new layout include the introduction of a Facebook-style banner and larger profile images. The upgrade will also mean users to pin a ‘favourite tweet’ to the top of their Twitter feed, while tweets with more user engagement will appear larger than those without. AFL social media manager Tyson Densley told StartupSmart the new changes will help users better engage with the game. “We're fortunate enough to have many great moments to share with our social community every weekend, and Twitter's new profile pages will enable us to extend the lifespan of some of the great videos and photos produced by our team,” Densley says. “Our game also delivers a great number of talking points every day and footy fans can now discover our most engaging tweets with ease. We look forward to having some fun with the new design and continuing to bring our fans closer to the game.” Aside from the AFL, film stars Zac Efron and Channing Tatum, US First Lady Michelle Obama, boxer Floyd Mayweather, musician John Legend and the band Weezer have all seen profile page upgrades. According to web marketing expert and StartupSmart contributor Adam Franklin, one of the problems many users experienced as the service grew increasingly popular is that users found themselves with a growing number of real-time tweets clogging up their accounts. “As it’s been getting more popular is that you had an increasing amount of content in your feed. Now, aside from being just a real time system, it categorises tweets by year and month, so you can go back and make sense of it all – to go back and see what’s what,” Franklin says. Franklin says the new look is likely to draw in businesspeople who had held off on using the service. “I think it will make Twitter much more approachable, in the sense of being more familiar like Facebook. “Especially for newbies, until you actually start to use it, it can be difficult to make sense of what’s what, so I think it certainly will be more familiar for newbies. The similarities to Facebook have not been missed by existing users either: I don't know if I wanna use Twitter anymore now that it looks oddly similar to Facebook, a site I absolutely don't like. #NewTwitter— Shady Prim Amour (@Moyopri) April 9, 2014 I see @Twitter is changing their looks once again.... Seen it somewhere before? Ah yes! #Faceebook LOL Check out @Weezer's page #NewTwitter— Brent ツ (@Brent_F1) April 9, 2014 #NewTwitter Is twitter trying to be as bad as facebook? So glad I use tweetdeck and it stays old school— R e e D F o r C e (@reed_tiburon) April 9, 2014
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to claim up to 300,000 premises outside the NBN’s fixed line footprint will miss out on broadband without changes, in a speech to be delivered today. In a speech to be delivered at the CommsDay conference in Sydney, leaked to Fairfax Media’s Matthew Knott, Turnbull will say that the number of properties requiring a satellite or fixed wireless connection has been dramatically underestimated. “The problems mean that without policy changes, the project as planned would not be able to service an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 premises outside of the fixed line footprint,” Turnbull will say. “If the NBN were to take steps to eliminate the 'coverage gap', the company faces a deterioration of operating cash flows of its satellite and fixed wireless networks of up to $1.2 billion by 2021.” Twitter unveils user profile redesign Twitter has unveiled a redesign of its user profile pages, with the changes coming in response to new user growth hitting an all-time low during the last quarter. The features, currently available to a select number of users, include the ability to pin posts to the top of a users’ feed, as well as the introduction of Facebook-style banners and larger profile pictures. Business confidence falls as conditions improve Business confidence fell to its lowest level since the federal election during March, despite an improvement in business conditions, according to the latest NAB Monthly Business Survey. The survey shows that while conditions improved from zero points to one, confidence fell to a score of four, down from seven in February and nine in January. “It appears as though firms are responding to the ongoing sluggishness in business activity, which has not quite reflected the exuberance of firms in past months," NAB chief economist Alan Oster says. “The stubbornly high Australian dollar, uncertainty over the global economy and the potential for significant 'belt tightening' in the upcoming budget, could all have contributed as well.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16256.1. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.61 cents.
Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich has resigned after becoming embroiled in a controversy around his support of anti-gay marriage bill Proposition 8. The controversy escalated when popular online dating site OkCupid launched a series of notifications for users on their site via the Mozilla Firefox, urging them to use another browser. Eich has resigned from both the for-profit business unit that manages the browser and the not-for-profit organisation in which it resides. US tried to launch the Cuban Twitter to destabilise the government The United States attempted to set up a social media site in Cuba, in order to stir unrest and potentially spur on a revolution similar to what was being seen across the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Officials from the US Agency of Development, the same department that manages the US’s aid programs, even reached out to Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey for funding for the project. Google announces overhaul of apps in preparation for the rise of wearables Google has announced an overhaul of many of their apps in a move they’re calling ‘Google 2.0’ to ensure their apps are ready for a smooth transition to wearable tech platforms. Reserve Bank calls for greater scrutiny of small business loans In their submission to the Financial Systems Inquiry, the Reserve Bank of Australia has called for more attention to business loans rather than staying fixated on real estate. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16572.55. The Aussie dollar is up to US 92.32 cents.
In part one of my series on social media and the law, I looked at the legal implications of launching a startup on social media, and in part two I examined the employment law implications of social media. In this installment, I’ll discuss how to manage your social media. Do we have specific social media laws in place in Australia? There is no specific or rules in place for social media. There are some general laws that apply to capture things like false and misleading advertising on social media under Consumer law. But some Australian laws cannot protect thanks to overseas laws protecting them. For example, the Privacy Act does not cover you for things others may reveal about you in public on social media unless the social media organisation is based in Australia. However, even then, it does not protect individuals acting “in a personal capacity” so people posting on social media sites in a personal capacity would likely be exempt from the coverage of the privacy legislation. So what do you need to know and why: If you have a business, you need to know: What can you do about individuals writing damaging things on social media? If it’s about your business, it could damage your reputation. In a recent case, (Madden v Seafolly Pty Ltd  FCAFC 30), swimwear company Seafolly sued a woman who claimed on social media that Seafolly copied her designs. They sued for false and misleading advertising, trade libel and copyright infringement. Know about your rights as a business regarding incorrect or damaging posts about you and your products or services on social media so you can protect your reputation. What if individuals post damaging comments on your own business social media channels? A company/business may be liable if they knew or should have known that a statement posted on their social media site is defamatory and if it is not removed. You and your business may be sued for something you didn’t post or write if you don’t have a process in place to monitor and remove offensive or damaging posts. Can I say what I want on Social Media? The argument ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘I am entitled to my own opinion’ doesn’t work anymore. This March, Australia’s first Twitter and Facebook defamation case was awarded $105K to the victim. The former student tried to argue it was his belief that the comments were true and that it was his opinion which he had a right to post. It didn’t work. Now individuals need to be careful and consider before posting what they think. How to manage your social media Recognize that you are responsible for what goes up on social media and your own platform. Review your own Terms and Conditions to ensure you can take down and regulate what users post. Get your own copyright ‘house’ in order-ensure you have clear rules and regulations for your employees about sharing, posting and using images and text in your own advertisements and on all social media outlets so you don’t get caught out. Also make sure you register all valued intellectual property with IP Australia. With the growth of the internet, its more important than ever before. With Bullying, defamation, commercial disputes, copyright infringement, social media challenges will continue to grow and the law will need to keep up. So will we,,,
Even the most ardent startup advocates have to admit there is lot of scope for humour in the heady realm of tech, big goals and new businesses. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that there are a host of satiric startup Twitter accounts out there, making light of serious issues or sending up the stereotypes. Here are our top three to follow: PHP_CEO A send-up of a chief executive at a fictional programming company, this account taps into the crazy expectations of startups as well as the perennial tension and misunderstandings between developers and non-technical team members. YOU DEVELOPERS MIGHT CALL IT "REINVENTING THE WHEEL", BUT I CALL IT "CREATING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY"— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 24, 2014 With every tweet delivered in all-caps, following this account is a good way to jolt your day with a friendly reminder of startup angst. OK THIS BUSINESS UNIT IS GOING TO OPERATE LIKE A STARTUP. HAHA NO IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU GET EQUITY YOU JUST WORK EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS NOW— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 28, 2014 PanderDaily Part startup satire and part startup media satire, @NextTechBlog makes fun off the way startups get covered and the themes often explored by startup publications. The account pokes fun at overused headlines: SCOOP-SCLUSIVE: I Checked Up On A Start-Up No One Else Cares About Anymore— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014 Why The Most Predictable Tech Headline Of 2013 Arrived In February 2014— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014 And people who inspire these stories: LinkedIn Notifications From Q3 2014: Congratulate your bro on his promotion from social guru to brand prophet.— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 7, 2014 Startup L. Jackson Back on the rougher end of the humour spectrum, Startup L Jackson sends out edgy tweets and occasionally profanity laden missives about startups and technology. For example, this was his contribution to the leading startup conference South by South West’s hashtag. Crowds, like drunk people, are very rarely wise. This is why drunk crowds make such great customers. #protip #sxsw— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 12, 2014 With a sense of humour built around the ‘everyone is thinking it’ style, he also offers fashion advice for founders dithering between looks and the thought process thousands must go through when a startup makes it big: Dear sportcoat and t-shirt guy, pick a fucking side.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 13, 2014 #1 That idea is stupid. #2 It's $1bn a year in digital kittens, dude. #1 They're making how much money? Doing what? #1 I'm old.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 11, 2014
The fat lady sung for Twitter’s music app when it was announced last week it was being pulled from the iTunes app store. But the announcement made no mention of the successful Aussie music startup that was acquired by Twitter to help develop the app. The acquisition, almost exactly a year ago, saw the popular We Are Hunted site shut down, with some of the team moving to San Francisco to work with Twitter. Details of the deal were kept under wraps. We Are Hunted allowed users to browse and discover trending music. It was a dream come true for the Brisbane-based startup, backed by Wotif’s Graeme Wood, which made international headlines at the time. A note posted on the We Are Hunted website, at the time of the acquisition, read: “We will continue to create services that will delight you, as part of the Twitter team. There’s no question that Twitter and music go well together. Artists turn to Twitter first to connect with fans, and people share and discover new songs and albums every day. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on at Twitter.” Despite the upbeat nature of the post, StartupSmart understands the acquisition effectively dissolved We Are Hunted, with not all the team wanting to make the move to the US and visa issues for others. It’s the first time Twitter has acquired a moderately successful company and effectively killed it off. StartupSmart understands from someone close to the project that no development work has happened on the music app for around nine months. The app linked social media and music, ranking songs that are currently trending on Twitter by various genres. It was successful on debut, coming in at fifth most downloaded app overall on iTunes and ranking number one in the music category. Things took a nosedive in the following month, when it plummeted to 1486th overall and continued to fade on the charts after that. While the Twitter music app was not a success, the We Are Hunted acquisition was a great vote of confidence in the local scene, proving Australians can create world class products. It’s understood some of the We Are Hunted team are still working at Twitter on the core product to improve its music experience, while others will be returning home. Stay tuned.
In celebration of its 8th birthday Twitter has launched FirstTweet, a tool that helps users find the very first message they sent. We take a look at what some of Australia’s top startup folk had to say in their first tweet. First off, here’s mine, clearly not aware of the location irrelevance of social media: Anyone here from Perth, Australia?— Bronwen Clune (@bronwen) February 3, 2007 And StartupSmart journalist Rose Powell took the opportunity to be excited about being on Twitter: @kirifarrell I know, I feel like this weekend went so fast. And looook, I'm on Twitter!— Rose Powell (@rosepowell) May 13, 2011 The Fetch’s Kate Kendall’s first tweet was in that awkward third person thing we used to do: is being a night owl— Kate Kendall (@KateKendall) June 15, 2008 Atlassian cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted about tweeting: is making his first twitter post - and feels like a twit - albeit a connected one apparently!— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) January 7, 2008 Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas wanted us to know where he was: Working from home in Woolloomooloo— Mick Liubinskas (@liubinskas) September 25, 2006 Canva Founder Melanie Perkins went for something fairly safe and vanilla: Enjoying San Fran and all the exciting tech events it has to offer.— Melanie Perkins (@MelanieCanva) June 5, 2011 Twitter has asked users share their initial messages using #FirstTweet.
How to scale a culture: Create organisational rhythms, remember silence is deadly and consider arguing drunk3:21PM | Sunday, 16 March
Growing a business may seem easy but screwing it up is even easier, especially if you don’t keep an eye on your company culture, says scaling expert Huggy Rao. Rao and fellow Stanford University lecturer Robert Sutton recently released Scaling Up Excellence, a guide to how big companies from McDonald’s to Apple built their business. Rao spoke to StartupSmart from San Francisco about his theory that the worst thing that can happen to any company is for the team to go quiet. “Silence is a very powerful enemy of companies. Businesses fail because of illusion, impatience and incompetence, and what enables these is usually silence,” he says. Just as silence is often a clue that a co-worker may be about to quit, in a start-up it can be a sign that staff have given up or don’t feel comfortable to talk. Not speaking up can become contagious, with fairly significant results. “When people become dumb, managers, who are less involved in the day to day, can fall prey to illusion and the incompetent people become vocal while the competent ones often stop talking,” Rao says. When an organisation begins to avoid hard conversations, brainstorming and arguing about issues in the company, founders have to act quickly to avert disaster. The key to getting conversation going again is to create a space where people feel it’s okay to raise issues. Founders can embrace the angst associated with issues as a way to open up the conversations that need to happen. “The Persians have great practices for solving issues like these. On the first day you debate the issue drunk, and on the second day you debate it sober,” Rao says. “It’s a great idea because when you’re drunk you put a lot of information on the table, but your ability to draw the right conclusion is limited. But sober, you’d never put that info on the table because you’re being so strategic.” Rao concedes that while many of the best discussions can take place after work in the pub, using exactly this practice often doesn’t work well in every workplace. Instead, founders can replicate this pattern of open, candid conversation followed by solutions-seeking discussion. Once conversations are flowing, managers should create workplace rhythms that align the goals of every team and the whole company together. Rao cites the example of Twitter, where thousands of engineers follow the same process. Each day starts with a huddle where they share what they’re working on today and that week. Each week is a sprint to a particular goal. The sprints cumulate in a demo every three weeks and a release every quarter. “Keep in mind scaling isn’t just about structure and team work, it’s also about story,” Rao says. “If you’re going to grow your team from five to 15 to 500, make sure you’ve got a story that binds together the company.”
By definition, every start-up plans to get global sooner or later. But scaling a business poorly is one of the fastest ways to kill it, according to two Stanford lecturers. Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have recently released Scaling up Excellence, which explores how companies from tech superstars to fast food chains have grown and gotten stronger. “Start-ups need to start thinking about scaling a lot earlier than they do,” Sutton says, who adds you don’t need to a perfect organisation to scale well. “A lot of times when people think of scaling up, they think they’re going to focus on the great stuff and spread it. But when you look at organisations that have nailed scaling, they’ve gone from bad to great.” Sutton spoke to StartupSmart from San Francisco about the five biggest myths about scaling and how to overcome them. Myth 1: Scaling is all rapid growth through fast decisions While the scaling story of tech superstars Twitter, Google and Facebook can make it sound like every decision was instant and the implementation took only a tiny bit lower, Sutton says all scaling companies slow down to take the time they need to make the decisions where it matters. “In every case we’ve looked at, including those three, this notion they rushed all the time is just not true. From Google to even Starbucks, all successful global companies go slow sometimes.” A key time to focus on results rather than execution time is hiring staff. “From the very beginning, Google was always very picky about hiring. They only hired very technically skilled who also had the leadership skills to grow with the company no matter how badly they needed a warm body in that chair,” Sutton says. He adds founders shouldn’t shy away from the arrogance these decisions and the corresponding belief the company could become massive requires. Myth 2: Conflict will kill a company As companies grow, arguments are inevitable as teams choose what to focus on. Sutton says learning how to argue well is a critical skill for a scaling company. “To make the best decisions, you need to be clear on how you argue and when you stop arguing. Good teams can have blazing arguments and then move on.” Sutton says part of the success of many tech superpowers has come down to having founders, and later managers and executives, who are willing to model vigorous arguments followed by a resolution all commit too. “Firefox’s John Lilly (chief executive 2008 to 2010) oversaw the company’s growth from 12 to 500,” Sutton says. “He told me he started realising at about 80 people that people had begun to act as though they were afraid of their boss. So he just started having arguments with his immediate team whenever he could. He’d be right or wrong but would always end respectfully and move on.” Sutton says making sure everyone shares an understanding of what medium-term success looks like makes it easier to resolve disagreements and unites a team. Myth 3: Scaling means building the team as quickly as possible According to Sutton, one of the most dangerous myths about start-ups is the belief bigger is better when it comes to teams. “The notion that scaling mandates adding more people is a myth. There is lots of evidence that when you bring on board the wrong people too quickly, it’s deadly.” The pressure to build the team often comes from investors who are keen to see their money put to work. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a start-up still in the product development stage kill itself by hiring sales staff before they’re ready. These guys need to sell, so they sell a product that’s not ready and it’s over,” he says. Sutton says actions such as Israeli start-up Waze’s hiring freeze after raising $20 million should remind start-ups about the virtues of staying lean, as the company went on to be acquired by Google. Myth 4: Our culture will suffer and we need to stay small While cultural death by growth was the fate of Yahoo! and eBay (who later turned it around), Sutton says rapid growth won’t kill a start-up if they’re smart about it. The key to a culture thriving, as well as smarter working, is to keep teams small. “One of the mantras at Amazon is you shouldn’t have a team that can’t be fed by two pizzas,” Sutton says. “The difference between a five person team and say an 11 person team is huge. From battlefields to big corporates, all the evidence shows the maximum is seven before it dissolves into interpersonal contests and missed communications.” Small teams organised in pods is an emerging trend in start-ups. Australian start-up 99designs has used a pod approach for over a year. Sutton adds that scaling can make deeper cultural issues more significant as the organisation widens and effective communications requires more effort. “When you’re trying to scale an organisation and you have destructive behaviour or people, the first order of business is to nip that in the bud because otherwise it’s impossible to grow well.” Myth 5: Bureaucracy and hierarchies should be shunned as they stifle innovation and productivity One of the joys of start-ups is team flexibility. But start-ups need to implement some structure and processes if they want to become global companies. “Staying entrepreneurial and easy to get things done is admirable, but there is a lot of evidence that shows companies need managers, hierarchy and processes,” Sutton says. “There is a fine art of adding just enough process or bureaucracy so you can actually get all the work done. I think it’s admirable that entrepreneurs resist adding that stuff, but if you don’t it’ll turn into an unruly, out of control organisation.” For early stage ventures, Sutton adds it’s essential to work out the leadership structure early or risk confused strategy direction and in-fighting.
How can I traffic to my website cheaply? Is it all about advertising banners and buttons? So you don’t have much money to spend, but you want to get some traffic to your website. Sure, you are going to reinvest in your website after you rollout the first stage and make some money, but you need that first bump of cash to get you started. Top three cheap ways to get traffic to your website are: 1. Google Adwords: Here is where you are going to need to search for a $100 voucher for Adwords in Google. Find one, sign up and start paying for some traffic. This is going to give you traffic in one hour. It’s going to cost you but you will get traffic. Cost benefit – This tactic is a sure way to get qualified traffic but if your niche is competitive it can cost you more money than a new customer is worth. Test it – What you want to do with this one is test it. Spend only a small amount of money and then find out what works. You will probably need to tweak your website or form a little and then you want to load up another $100 or so from your credit card and try again. You have to treat this business expense as part research and part marketing. The end outcome you want to achieve is a channel of traffic that is coming in and making you money day in day out. That way you can spend more time trying each of the cocktails on the drinks menu as your website keeps making you money. 2. Search Engine Optimisation: SEO is a time consuming and slow build process in your business that can bring in serious traffic once you crack some big keyword rankings. Here are four quick wins: Keywords – Ensure your website has the keywords you want to rank for in the content of your homepage and unique title tags for each page of your website. There are loads of other things you can do but if you just start with these two things it will help get you to that first 100 visits. Get some listings – You need a few early win links to your site, some directories, a link from a friend and any other links you can scrounge up. List your business in an Australian directory as opposed to an American one. It gives you a better chance to get actual relevant traffic and will help you more with your rankings. Add some new content – Add some new content to your website that is about topics in your niche. Spend $35 on some new articles with a writer from oDesk or Elance and build out your website. 3. Email: Sending emails to people inviting them to your website for a high valuable reason is a great way to start. For example: All the daily deals websites at present work by sending people emails of the latest deal. The only way you can become one of those deals is by offering an insane price and offer that will cause you to lose money, otherwise the deals website will burn their list as it wasn’t a deal. You could try a daily deal site but its best to do some maths first to see if you can handle the volume. Here are some other ways to get email traffic: Send an email to your peers – Collect up all your business cards and put them in a list, send an email announcing your new site and ask your colleagues for feedback on what they think of it. The sheer process of researching your site will imprint it in their minds and they might refer your site to someone else in need! Write an article – Add a helpful article to a friend’s business eNewsletter and you will get a few residual visits from their site. Make sure you make your article 100% dedicated to their customers and just educate and inform. The keen visitors will come through. Forward an email – If you find an email or some article that is helpful, forward it to someone who might use it. Ensure you have a call to action in your email signature and you might get some residual traffic if it’s forwarded on again. Build a database – You will also want to be getting email subscribers from your website, so ensure you have a form on there. Offer a free guide or eBook if they sign up and you will probably get a better response. Here are some of the other ways you can get traffic but you might want to consider them after you have around 100,000+ visitors. Banner ads – Banners are pricey and their click-through rates are low; around 0.1% yes that is 0.001! People do click on them. But you have to buy a lot of them. Top tips to try when starting with this: Use cost per click – Buy your banners so you pay each time someone clicks, not by the number of impressions. Pay per sale – If you can get a deal set up like this through the performance media channels of the different networks, try it! Facebook ads Everyone is on Facebook but they aren’t on it for the same reason as Google. On Google you are searching to find something and take action. On Facebook you are there to hang out with your friends. Use Facebook ads when you have a competition or timely campaign that is relevant and catchy. For example: If you are a charity and you are having a toga party to raise money, you might want to try Facebook ads and target young single males. Test it – You can burn money FAST on Facebook but it’s again worth testing. Basic metrics – Facebook’s advertising reports aren’t quite as sophisticated as Adwords, although you can still set up conversion metrics with it. It’s messy, but worthwhile. Twitter, Viral, Facebook and that social stuff: Social media and getting traffic from it is again a slow build. You need to build your profile and interact. Think of it like going into a new town, you want to meet people and become friends with them before you ask them over to your house for a BBQ. The best ways to do this are: Help people – Be helpful. Helping others makes you a go-to person. The more helpful you are the more people like you and the more influential you will become. Regular – Keep plugging away. Keep helping people. Short no talk stints are ways to get your tweets and status updates ignored. Be interesting – Boring tweets and links get ignored and you unfollowed. Offline: Don’t forget that people aren’t online all the time. People who come from offline media to your website needed to remember your URL and have made the effort to turn their computer on and go to your site. Market to offline media like: PR and magazines – A good story and bring in a solid amount of qualified traffic. Leaflet drops – If you want local customers, just canvass everyone house in your local area. Eventually they will see your leaflet! Signboards – If it’s cheap or free to put a sign somewhere, put up an ad, it’ll just tick away! Business cards – Put your domain name on there and a reason to go to your site. Get a free phone, free eBook or free video. Events – Speaking at an event makes you authoritive, some people in the audience will really resonate with you and you need to put your website up so they can get more of you! What specifically you give them when they arrive needs to connect to what you were talking about otherwise you will lose them.
Susan Wu is a start-up veteran and investor who has worked with some of the best founders in the business. She IPOed her first company at 24 and advised companies including Twitter, Square and Medium. Wu has recently moved from Silicon Valley to Melbourne to head up the Australian team for payment software Stripe and will be speaking at an upcoming Startup Grind event. She spoke to StartupSmart about some of the most important things she’s learned about start-ups so far, including focusing a team and vision around first principles rather than products. “I’ve found that the best companies I’ve ever been involved with were ones where the founders were committed to delivering genuine, lasting value (either in the form of happiness or improved quality of life) to their users above all else, and were committed to being patient in accomplishing this goal,” Wu says. For example, Stripe is a payment software, but the team are focused on boosting the GDP of the internet. At the moment this is through providing a frictionless payment system, but the scope to grow beyond that is unlimited. She says this approach has been shared by many of the founders she’s worked with, including Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, Flickr and Etsy founder Caterina Fake, Elad Gill from Google, and Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison. “When I reflect upon it, I think that what all of these people have in common is an unusual curiosity and drive towards understanding the world. Being a leader in our industry isn’t just about building products that generate billions of dollars of revenue, it’s also about illuminating new ways of thinking about products, users and communities that lead to entirely new ways of interacting or transacting online.” Focusing too much on generating revenue to the detriment of getting the user experience or core value proposition product can create a weak foundation she cautions. Having survived and thrived in start-ups for decades, Wu says getting the relationships right - whether it’s between co-founders, company and customers or product and users - is critical. “The most frequently repeated thing I counsel is that founding a start-up with someone is like getting married. In many ways, it’s just as emotionally intense, you’re stuck together for at least five to seven years (if the company goes well), and you had better make sure to do the same amount of diligence in figuring out that you want to be ‘married’ to your co-founder as you do your real life partner.” Comparing the local start-up ecosystem to Silicon Valley in 1996 and 1997, Wu adds there is great opportunity for Australia to build the community they want. “We don’t need to inherit all of Silicon Valley’s shortcomings. We can choose which parts we want to adopt and which parts we want to evolve,” she says. “It’s still relatively early days and there remains a lot of work we need to do to strengthen the community, but there’s plenty of promising talent and growing momentum.” Wu agrees with ongoing local commentary that one of the primary issues facing the sector is a lack of risk capital, adding investors here don’t look upon past start-up failure as a positive signal as many investors do in Silicon Valley. As an investor, team is the most important factor for Wu, who then looks at scope and slant or vision, and ability to execute. “Though I’ve never articulated it as such before, there’s a simple litmus test: Am I learning something by talking to this founder? Are they saying something insightful that helps me see the world in a new way? Are they saying things that force me to question some of my basic assumptions?” she says. Wu adds Australia has also reached the right time to make sure the community is doing everything possible to encourage female founders and engineers.
Today, like so many other days, your humble correspondent arrived and sat down at a desk in Taskmaster Towers. On the desk was a post-it note. Scribbled in the secretary’s handwriting, it appeared to say someone had called the office asking for the contact details of a well-known industry figure, who we’ll refer to as Jane Doe. As it turns out, many, many moons ago, a blog post was uploaded on to the Taskmaster Enterprises blog mentioning Jane Doe. If only someone invented some type of engine – a “search engine” if you will – that would allow you to type in a person’s name and receive a list of related links to websites. This magical, mystical website could be given a name like “Google”, “Yahoo!” or “Bing”. To make it extra easy for people, you could place the search field in the menu bar of just about every popular browser, including Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Such a service could even be funded by placing paid advertisements based on the search words. Then people could type in “Jane Doe” and find the official Jane Doe website, then click the link that says “Contact Jane Doe” where Jane Doe’s work number, email address and Twitter handle could all be conveniently listed. Of course, even if such a magical, mystical service existed, some people would outsource the effort to someone else! And by somebody, I mean poor Old Taskmaster! Blah! Humanoids! I swear, they annoy me some days! Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now. Still, the whole episode is a poignant reminder of a couple of key business lessons. The first is the value of quality content as a marketing strategy. It really is the gift that keeps on giving! Seriously, if you haven’t updated your blog or your social media lately, do it now! The second and more important lesson is that most humanoids are lazy. Exceedingly lazy. (Well, okay, often stupid as well, but mostly just lazy.) The desire to do more with less effort has been one of the driving forces of human progress. Why hunt or gather food when you can plant some seeds, enclose some animals and wait for them to be eaten? Why grow your own when you can go to the supermarket and buy it ready to cook? Why cook it when you can microwave it? Why microwave it when you can just get Maccas? Why get Maccas when the local pizza shop delivers? Why wait for a driver when a drone aircraft can deliver it quicker? (Do you doubt that last one will happen within the next five years?) If you’re looking for a business idea, you could do worse by thinking through the worthless chores that annoy you and devise products and services that can avoid them. Because if your business plan enables your fellow human beings to that little more idle, you’ve got a potential consumer base. Sloth is a vice, not a virtue. But it’s one you can exploit – for profit! Get it done – today!
I’m starting a new retail business and I’m not very techy. Can I survive without having to adapt to all this modern day hoo-ha? Once in a generation, retail goes through a change that could never have been predicted – and cannot be ignored. Here are a few examples of such change: In 1984, we rushed into the shops on Saturday morning knowing that if we didn’t buy what we needed by 12pm, we wouldn’t be able to shop again until Monday morning… Very few of us would have believed Sunday would become the second biggest trading day of the year for most retailers just 30 years later. In 1954, supermarkets as we know them today didn’t exist, with 90 cents of every dollar spent at a small, independently owned business... Very few of us would have believed that just 60 years later, they would take 80 cents in every dollar spent on consumable goods. In 1904, horse feed, rum, coffee, coal and clothing was all purchased at the same store, usually on an account or “appro” (on approval)... Very few of us would have believed that up to 80% of purchases would be spent on a plastic debit or credit card just one generation later – some of it by just touching the card against a pole. In 2014, any retailer that says online shopping, e-tailing, retail-apps, or social networking is just a trend they can do without may well be reminded of the above. Today’s generation research product and price on the web, read online forums for tips where to shop, use mobile apps to find a coffee or clothing (and maybe even horse feed), pre-pay with PayPal, and use their phone to store their ‘frequent coffee’ credits. Facebook is The Argus of today (look it up kids), Instagram is the Christmas catalogue that was once stuffed in the mailbox, Twitter is today’s radio advert telling you that 20% off all stock starts in 15 minutes, and blogging has just about replaced ‘word-of-mouth’ as the best way to give and get feedback on good service or a yummy muffin! So before you think we are in the middle of a short-lived trend, think again about the once-in-a-generation paradigm shift that is really going on – with or without us! My suggestion: bring your kids, nieces, nephews, friends and staff around for a BBQ, and pick their brains as to how to adapt, sustain, evolve and grow your business by being a part of the new world that has emerged. To answer your specific question: Can you survive? Of course, you can ‘survive’ – the way a weed manages to survive in the cracks of the footpath for far too long. But you won’t thrive in the way the manicured and well-fed garden bed thrives growing right next to the same footpath!
In business, you have some real dog days. For example, your humble correspondent recently read about a zoo in Luohe, China, that suffered a business dilemma. Namely, the resident African lion was taken off to a breeding facility. Of course, this created a problem for the zoo, because an empty big cat cage tends to look a little raw. Especially given their customers paid to have a roaring good time while seeing a lion. So how did they deal with this hairy situation? They decided to put a large, long-haired dog – a Tibetan mastiff – in a lion costume. No, this is not a tall tale from Old Taskmaster. Here’s the link if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately for the zoo, the patrons soon became suspicious – especially when the “African lion” began barking. Sure, some of the patrons might have thought they were going barking mad. However, based on a lifetime of experience, there are always tell-tale signs your lion’s bite might be less mighty than its bark. For example, a lion compelled to stay, sit, fetch or heel on command is generally a dead giveaway. A dog burying a bone is rather unthreatening – a big cat doing the same not so much. And, really, who wants to see a lion spending all day sniffing another lion’s hindquarters or slobbering all over the carpets?! While this example is well and truly a howler, the underlying business issue here is one of trust and expectations. Customers and consumers have expectations of the goods and services you provide. If a parent takes their son or daughter to the zoo, for example, it’s a reasonable expectation they’ll see a lion. When they purchase your product or service, they do so trusting that you will deliver their reasonable expectations. For example, the child as a consumer trusts they’ll see a real lion today, while the parent as a customer trusts that their children will be entertained enough not to terrorise the neighbours – or lionise the telly. By putting a dog in lion’s clothing, the zoo betrayed that trust. Sure, they faced a dilemma, but their solution really barked up all the wrong trees. So is there a prospect that your business, for whatever reason, won’t be able to deliver to your customers or consumers the product or service they expect? If so, you need to manage their expectations before they agree to buy, or let them know at the first possible opportunity. If you have a physical store, this might mean putting a sign in the front window saying you’ve sold out of a particular item. Or it might be placing a warning on your website that you are expecting delivery delays on a particular item, or a Twitter message saying your stock is currently limited. Because at the end of the day, no one wants to see a lion go whacko for a Schmacko! Get it done – today!
Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network. 1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs. In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”. 2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer. 3. Paper has just launched Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources. “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states. 4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter. “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.” Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother. 6. It’s set to compete with Google Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have. He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant. Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google. 7. Users are a devoted bunch Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours. 8. Facebook is targeting developing countries Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson. The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones. Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking. He has described early tests as “promising”. 9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”. “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review. Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction. 10. It’s king of social referred traffic Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report. But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.
In the internet world of accelerating change, law reforms are being proposed and passed at breakneck speed. Much of the focus in Australia is on risk management as the internet is difficult to monitor and regulate. But with many disputes coming from overseas business sites, Australia is looking to the global initiatives in many of their proposals. Plus there is a large increase in online Australian businesses expanding offshore so it hard to ignore what’s going on in the rest of the world, especially if it may affect your business. Be prepared and plan ahead by watching out for some of the upcoming trends: 1. Privacy laws Privacy requirements for your business have and continue to be in the forefront of most western countries. The onus is now on business owners to ensure they know what their service providers are doing with respect to keeping and sharing your customers and business data both on and offshore. As well, you will need to be able to answer to both customers and regulators on the security measures your website ‘providers’ have in place for collection, storage and transmission of business and personal information. (More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website.) 2. Cookies policies and active notifications Notification requirements are being reviewed and regulation is making more business owners obtain active consents where certain customer information is collected and customer behavior is recorded. This means you need to know when you need your customer to actively agree to your terms rather than just post them on your website. It will also impact what your business collects, why you collect it and what you do with it. And if you are collecting information from cookies placed on your visitors or customers computers, be sure to notify them and actually be using it in your business analysis-otherwise you may find yourself breaching other laws such as the new Australian Privacy Principles. 3. Copyright reform Make sure you know where your content and images come from. This is becoming an increasingly monitored (and complained about) issue with the increase in ‘sharing’ in social media. The Australian Law Reform Commission report and recommendations to the Attorney General on this reform should be made public in March 2014 – watch this space. 4. New cyber security laws The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are trying to work on new policies to address cyber crime. The EU is working on reforms to get member countries to agree to have compulsory reporting of cyber attack crimes to national authorities. They want to have an arrangement that countries will give up nationals who commit such crimes against EU or US but this is meeting some resistance. All in all, a good initiative to protect your business! Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Data collection After the NSA fiasco and issues with Facebook and Twitter tracking individual’s preferences and behaviour, there is and will be more regulation in relation to tracking systems, particularly those permitted by large tech companies. Opting out of tracking will be more and more difficult as larger corporates will look to improve their ability to collect personal data for advertising databases. Singapore has already instituted legislation of which the main provisions come into effect in July 2014. The US announced through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs new data collection tool regulation to be proposed and the International Association of Privacy Professionals (a body that represents 83 countries and makes gov’t recommendations) has cross border/international online protection at the top of their conference agenda in April 2014. What does this mean for you? It will be harder to protect yourself and your customers’ information online. You are responsible for protecting your customer’s information so your security systems and those of your service provider will need to be robust particularly where international providers or customers are involved. 6. More Local Regulation for Online Businesses Australian regulators are hitting out as business use of the internet grows. Everything from tax collection, legislation compliance, consumer protection and privacy are all on the radar among some of the other legislative changes that are continuing to be examined in 2014. You can be sure that tax revenue will be top of the agenda! The best thing you can do is to be sure you are always updated and keep informed. You cannot afford to ignore it nor leave yourself and your business exposed. Your assets and your business are at stake. 7. Online businesses to be targeted for taxes in other countries With growth in sales at bricks-and-mortar shops shrinking, and purchasing on the internet growing daily, governments are looking to find ways to tap into the sales revenue. By 2017 global mobile commerce transactions will exceed US$3.2 trillion up from $1.5 trillion in 2013 (source: Juniper Research, Mediabistro). Be aware of the tax reform proposals where your online business has customers-you don’t want to be caught out. 8. Crowdfunding This new innovation is virtually unregulated so far in Australia and is growing faster than any other funding source for businesses. It’s making entry costs for individuals who want or have started businesses more feasible – it’s becoming a global way of accessing funding. Watch out for this new way that businesses are finding investors to help them grow. Don’t fall behind with your online business. Like any business, large or small, change is happening fast and you need to keep up with it.
Four-month-old start-up tackling coupons, contests, Lady Gaga and seeing 100% monthly revenue growth1:19PM | Sunday, 12 January
Coupons have been a playground for start-ups for years, with one of Australia’s biggest start-up success stories, RetailMeNot, selling for $90 million in 2010. The team behind Gleam is also tapping into the power of coupons, to help small businesses get the most out of their social media networks. Launched in October 2013, Gleam is a software platform that businesses can use to run contests and share coupons such as discount codes. They recently ran a competition for Lady Gaga’s upcoming Australian tour, and co-founder Stuart McKeown told StartupSmart both their revenue and user engagement is growing by 100% month-on-month. McKeown told StartupSmart their recent growth is due to changes in Facebook’s algorithms, which have lobotomised the marketing plans of many small businesses that had previously been able to reach more of their followers for free. “One of the big problems in marketing and growth hacking at the moment is the drop in organic reach in Facebook. We’re working with businesses that have hundreds of thousands of fans but they’re only reaching 5% now,” McKeown says. The platform enables companies to run competitions on their social media profiles and own site. The competitions are commonly used as traffic or sign up generating tactics, or to convert Facebook page fans to Twitter followers or newsletter subscribers. “As a business, where you really want people is on your newsletter list. By running contests and offering coupons as rewards, we’re helping people to diversify their social portfolio so you don’t have all your eggs in the one social network basket,” McKeown says. The software as a service start-up has 15,000 users and runs on a freemium model with a conversion rate of just above 10%. McKeown’s co-founder John Sherwood is working on the business full time, and McKeown is hoping the business will continue to grow so he’ll be able to do the same later this year. This is their 9th project together. The team’s focus for the next few months will be on growing the business with both new products and partnerships, such as the one they recently signed with online ecommerce checkout company Shopify. “We’re doing a lot of growth hacking and we’re really focused on user acquisition. A key way we’re going to grow is through partnering with third party platforms, such as Shopify. We’re just getting started with leveraging that opportunity,” McKeown says. The Lady Gaga project with MCM Entertainment inspired the Gleam team to start developing a white label version of the software to be used by agencies for larger projects. They’re also developing a range of software plug-ins, and have started exploring referral and social review tools.