Sydney startup GoFar heading to Switzerland for international pitching competition

1:45AM | Tuesday, 27 January

A Sydney startup is heading to Switzerland to battle it out for the chance to win $US500,000 in funding.   Car-monitoring startup GoFar will represent Australia at the Seedstars World Final Competition in Geneva, pitching against 36 other startups after winning the Australian competition in October last year.   Participants will take part in a three-day bootcamp and have international investors and mentors coach them on their business models prior to the final pitch-off.   GoFar hopes to use an in-car display and corresponding phone app to help drivers make smarter and safer decisions – saving them money on both fuel and insurance in the process.   Danny Adams told StartupSmart while he and his co-founder Ian Davidson have refined their pitch over the years, encouraging potential investors to get onboard is never an easy task.   “It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you are pitching, it always seems like you’re starting from scratch every time,” he says.   “For people coming into pitching for the first time, you’ll be nervous the whole way through no matter how skilled you are or how comfortable you are with it. The main thing with pitching is practise and practising as much as you can.”   Adams says entrepreneurs should pay more attention to how they plan to make money in order to improve the pitches.   “Certainly early on it was a problem I ran into where you talk about the product or project you’re working on because that’s what you’re really excited about,” he says.   “And usually early on you haven’t spent a lot of time on traction.”   Adams says he closed a seed funding round last month after working on GoFar on the side for a number of years. He encourages those in a similar situation to form networks and friendships before deciding to work on a startup full-time.   “I was unaware for a number of years of the entrepreneurial and startup communities that exist in Sydney and in the other cities around the country,” he says.   “I reached out to a few meetup groups and had a few false starts, and then came across Fishburners and soon enough decided to go full-time on this thing. That was the best thing I have done – that’s when the networks started to be made and things really started to happen.”   The focus for GoFar after the international pitching competition, according to Adams, will be getting the product ready to deliver and expanding the number of trials ahead of a launch in the third quarter.   “We’re also looking for partners in the insurance space and in the fleet space,” he says.   “Lots of corporates have fleet vehicles and we’d be interested in speaking with them if they’re interested in safety and the efficiency side of things.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How much equity should an accelerator take? BlueChilli defends its Disrupt@Scale program

1:30AM | Tuesday, 27 January

BlueChilli is looking to invest in early-stage startups as part of its Disrupt@Scale program. However, some Australian entrepreneurs have raised concerns over the amount of equity the Sydney-based accelerator is asking for.   As part of the program, four teams will each receive a $50,000 investment initially in exchange for 30% equity, and then a further $25,000 upon completion. In addition, the winners will take part in a six-month accelerator program and receive support from a large Australian financial institution which is yet to be announced.   Alan Jones, chief growth hacker at BlueChilli, told StartupSmart the accelerator is looking for startups that focus on mobile and online communications.   “We think is the first opportunity for the people at the idea stage to get their idea backed – and that $75,000 is a pretty substantial backing,” he says.   “It’s not just about the cash, you get to enter the BlueChilli accelerator program and spend time with us. And we can actually build the startup technology for you as part of the program.”   Jones says he hopes the program will encourage new people into the startup ecosystem who might not otherwise make the jump from the corporate world.   “Blue Chilli exists to serve a particular problem that Australia has, in that we have a shortage of entrepreneurs but we do have a real shortage of technical co-founders and early-stage people.”   Jason Seed, president of, told StartupSmart he thinks there are a combination of issues with the Disrupt@Scale program.    “There is not enough money to build anything worthwhile combined with too much of the company given away,” he says.   “There is no chance that you can both build a product and release it commercially for that much money. The consequence of this is that the founders will likely lose their control of the company at the next round and in that situation it is very rare for a startup to succeed.”   Seed says startups should not be giving away more than 20% of their company each time they raise money in order to build a product based on their own vision.   “It is critical for the founders to control the company in the early days,” he says.   “It is their vision that they are following and if they can no longer set the direction or feel at risk of loss of their company or position, the company will flounder… good quality investors understand this.”   However, Jones says while there are a number of accelerator programs in Australia that ask for less equity in exchange for investment, Disrupt@Scale is different for a number of reasons.   “In all those programs you can’t just be at an idea stage because competition in those programs is increasing all the time – this program addresses people much earlier in the cycle,” he says.   “The way the investment stage works is the earlier it is, the risker the investment is, and they [the investors] can rightly claim they have a larger stake in the business. We’re asking them to put their brains behind the business and make it work, so it has to be worth their time as well.   “The most important thing is that people apply for the program which is best for them and we don’t want to pretend for a moment this program is right for all startup founders.”   Entries for BlueChilli’s Disrupt@Scale program close on Friday, January 30.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australia’s sporting advantage key to startups tackling global markets

1:32AM | Tuesday, 27 January

Australia is a world leader when it comes to sporting technology but more could be done to support its sports-tech startups, according to the founder of a company that specialises in helping athletes and individuals recover from injuries.   Andrew Ronchi, a former physiotherapist for the AFL, founded dorsaVi in 2000 in order to accurately measure people’s movement and deliver real-time information to medical professionals. In 2008 the startup raised a round of venture capital and around 12 months ago became a public company.   Ronchi told StartupSmart Australia is at the forefront of sporting technology and has the capacity to tap into international clinical and occupational health and safety markets.   “I’ve travelled extensively through Europe and the United States, and Australia is absolutely one of the world leaders,” he says.   “I think it comes from three areas – one is we have a passion for sport and so we have a big interest and therefore a lot of injuries. The second is that the clinicians we have trained up in Australia are world standard. The third is that it’s the support we have from the industry but also the government towards innovation – but this does go up and down a bit depending on who’s in.”   The executive director of the Australian Sports Technology Network, Craig Hill, previously told StartupSmart the sector has “been on a roller coaster” thanks to governments changing hands – however, collaboration and partnerships are the key for success.   “We continue to grow and nurture and are seeing increasing collaboration right across those key players,” Hill says.   “You look at some of the leading industries and countries around the world, they have very strong clusters of innovation and we see ourselves building one in this capacity.”   Ronchi says the future of sports technology in Australia excites him because the industry has not been around for long and technology is advancing at a rapid rate.   “When we started back in 2000 I’d never heard of a gyroscope and now they’re the chip types that are put in everyone’s phones and iPads that allow you to steer a car in a car game,” he says.   “When we were using them they were really only used in helicopters and missile guidance systems. The chips used to be the size of a sugar cube – now they’re the size of a match head. The technology is miniaturising and at the same time the market is ready for this type of information.”   Ronchi advises entrepreneurs looking to break into the sports tech space to really understand their target market.   “If you’re going to build something that only a couple of people use, then that’s going to be a long hard road,” he says.   “Make sure you understand the market and can make a business model around it.”   As for what the future holds for dorsaVi, Ronchi says the company will now focus on the US.   “The US is our biggest opportunity and where most medical devices are sold – it’s certainly our focus in the long term.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook testing basic app for low-end Android devices

11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November

Facebook is testing a new standalone app designed for low-end Android devices in emerging markets.   TechCrunch reports the app quietly launched in a number of countries in Asia and Africa over the weekend – including Vietnam, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.   The app is believed to be aimed at fast-growing markets in Africa and Southeast Asia, and has been built to accommodate Android devices of 252 KB in size and those on poor internet connections. Oculus turns to making virtual reality movies Oculus has announced it is exploring “VR cinema”, with an internal team focusing on the potential of virtual reality storytelling.   The internal team, known as Oculus Story Studio, will aim to make the cinema experience even more compelling, according to The Verge.   The news comes as the group’s first movie, Lost, debuts this week. Pluralsight acquires online learning startup Code School for $36 million Online technology training platform Pluralsight has acquired Florida-based startup Code School for $36 million.   The acquisition is Pluralsight’s sixth in the past 18 months and part of an aggressive expansion into the online learning space.   Founder and chief executive of Pluralsight, Aaron Skonnard, said in a statement the acquisition will allow the company to reach developers at all stages of their careers – including those with limited coding experience.   “Together we will continue to help professionals remain relevant and ensure businesses stay on top of the latest trends and technologies,” he said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.07%, falling 12.68 points to 17,659.92. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US0.79 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taxi and payment platform Ingogo expands nationally ahead of IPO

1:00PM | Monday, 26 January

Taxi app and payments platform Ingogo is preparing to roll out its services nationally ahead of an anticipated initial public offering. Founder Hamish Petrie told Private Media the Sydney-based startup is set to expand to Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, having completed an earlier expansion to Melbourne in May of last year.   "We started up in Melbourne a year ago, that was a success. Now we're building our network of drivers before launch. In Brisbane we've established an office, and we're building our driver footprint before launching the passenger offering," Petrie says.   "We've been working on getting our pay system robust and lots of other things behind the scenes. The mobile apps, systems for hotels and restaurants and various business systems are solid to the point of rolling them out nationally."   In August of last year, the company expanded beyond its original taxi booking niche when it launched a portable payment and accounting platform aimed at SMEs in partnership with Xero.   Since then, it has been implementing a more professional management structure ahead of an IPO. The restructure has included the appointment of new chief commercial officer Craig Hopper and chief financial officer Trent Jerome.   "It's imperative that you have a professional team in place to scale up and you've got to do things in a credible way. Getting the business to that point will be helpful in the corporate market," Petrie says.   Petrie says Ingogo is predominantly interested in the IPO to improve its access to capital.   "We haven't set an exact date, except that it will happen this year. We've grown our payments business rapidly. We thought we'd do $100 million in payments and we're past that point now," he says.   Far from being a hindrance, Petrie says recent controversies at rival Uber has helped Ingogo to grow, and it is unlikely that Apple Pay will be a direct rival to its payment services.   "There's been quite a bit of negative sentiment about [Uber]. In contrast, we're safe, we're insured, our drivers are licensed, and our prices are fixed. That's something both our corporate and private passengers say is important to them.   "We think [Apple Pay] is fantastic. It brings faster, more convenient digital payments, and we're already set up and ready for digital payments.   "The thing is that even if Apple is very successful, 100% of payments will not go through its platform. Our value proposition to a taxi driver is that no matter what method a passenger wants to pay with, we'll be able to do it in a cost effective, efficient fashion." Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Crowd Mobile completes $3.8 million funding round, an overseas takeover and an IPO

1:01PM | Monday, 26 January

Think your day has been busy? Spare a thought for Crowd Mobile, which announced the takeover of a Hong Kong-based company on the same day as its initial public offering, after completing a $3.8 million pre-IPO funding round.   Launched in 2009, Crowd Mobile operates a platform where users pay a small fee to receive crowdsourced answers to their questions. The fees, in turn, can either be paid through direct carrier billing, the Apple app store or Google Play.   While its best known brand is its Bongo app, where users ask entertainment-related questions, the company offers a range of apps covering a range of topics including fashion, religion, and gossip about friends.   Since launching, the Australian-based company has expanded its services to a range of markets, including New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Poland.   Chief executive Domenic Carosa told Private Media the 2014 financial year, Crowd Mobile charged for more than 3.4 million questions, generated more than $9.8 million in revenue and made circa $2.2 million in EBITDA.   "Basically, there's a big opportunity for us. In FY2014, English-speaking countries were our big markets. Since July, we're in multiple markets and multiple languages," Carosa says.   Immediately ahead of its IPO, Crowd Mobile completed a $3.8 million funding round, which included $363,000 through the VentureCrowd equity-based crowdfunding platform.   It then completed a back-door listing on the Australian Securities Exchange through former resources company Q Limited.   "Part of our growth strategy is making acquisitions, and there are a number of acquisitions we're exploring at the moment. Being a publicly-listed company helps facilitate acquisition growth and also allows us to share the upside with our team."   Shortly after listing the company announced it had just purchased a Hong Kong-based start-up called Kiss Hugs, its first move into the Asian market. Crowd Mobile anticipates the Kiss Hugs intellectual property will form the foundation of its expansion into Asian markets.   Carosa anticipates the company will use its funds to further push into more countries and launch new products.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Why technology hasn’t made life more stressful; Meet the woman who wants to make the “Starbucks of nail salons”: Best of the Web

1:06AM | Friday, 23 January

Among New Year’s resolutions this year unplugging digitally seemed to be almost as popular as losing weight and quitting smoking. It is all in response to the notion that digital technology — like round-the-clock email and friends’ envy-inducing Instagram photos — is stressing us out and making us unhealthy.   As Claire Cain Miller argues in The New York Times, ‘Technology Has Made Life Different, but Not Necessarily More Stressful’.   Miller cites research which shows frequent internet and social media users do not have higher stress levels than those who use technology less often. And for women, using certain digital tools decreases stress.   Meet the woman who wants to make Miniluxe the “Starbucks of nail salons”   Fragmented industry? Ripe for disruption? Tick and tick. In this FastCompany interview, Lydia Dishman speaks to Miniluxe chief executive Sue Thirwall about her plans to roll out nail salon franchises across the United States.   Thirlwall aims to elevate the hasty, daub-and-dry experience found at many a corner shop. That includes new level of individual attention, even for walk-ins, and hyper-vigilant hygiene.   The best digital business models put evolution before revolution Your business doesn’t need to be like Apple or Uber, according to Didier Bonnet and George Westerman in the Harvard Business Review.   The pair say business model innovation is hard. But they argue managers make it harder when they think about it only as radical industry reinvention. While revolutionary business model changes can be valuable, you don’t necessarily need to transform your industry.   You don’t need to destroy your current business model. There is another way to make money from business model innovation. Sometimes it’s better to think a bit smaller so you can set yourself up for big results. Image credit: Flickr/ mtaphotos Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Liquorun tackles the Sydney market

1:49AM | Thursday, 22 January

On-demand alcohol delivery service Liquorun has expanded into the Sydney market on the back of its success in Victoria.   Sydneysiders will now be able to get beer, wine and spirits delivered straight to their door within 30 minutes to an hour. The service will start in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with other regions to follow.   Joel Macdonald, founder of Liquorun, told StartupSmart the customer uptake in Melbourne has been “overwhelming”.   “Expanding to Sydney was the next logical step for us,” he says.   “We received lots of feedback after launching in Melbourne and a lot of people wanted the service available in Sydney. Sydney’s boutique fast-food culture is growing quite quickly and we wanted to be there to provide that last mile delivery service that some of the smaller boutique outlets can’t do on their own.”   Liquorun expanded its delivery options to include fast food in July last year in response to customer feedback. Macdonald says the startup has partnered with popular outlets like Ribs and Burgers, Zambrero and Mad Pizza E Bar in Sydney.   “We also deliver from the common outlets like Maccas, KFC, Boost Juice and Grill’d. We can even pick things up from the local grocery store.”   Macdonald says Liquorun supports the responsible service of alcohol and will fully comply with NSW liquor laws.   “Liquorun gives consumers an on-demand delivery option for when they can’t get to the shops themselves, and if early demand is an indicator, there’s stacks of people that fall into that category.”   Macdonald plans to launch Liquorun in Brisbane and Adelaide “in the near future”, and hopes the on-demand delivery service will eventually be running nation-wide.   Title image: Former AFL star Joel Macdonald.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Good news for startups as Aussies turn to flexible hours and additional income

1:16AM | Thursday, 22 January

More than 90% of Australians are looking for ways to supplement their income this year and startups are in a good position to reap the benefits, according to research released by job marketplace Airtasker.   The survey, conducted by Pureprofile, also shows Australians want to shift away from the traditional 9-to-5 office model in favour of freelancing and more flexible working hours.   Eighty-five per cent of working Australians agree that traditional office hours are inflexible for workers in today’s day and age. Meanwhile, 92% are looking to supplement their existing income in 2015 and 68% are considering earning extra money through online platforms such as UberX, Airbnb and 99designs.   Tim Fung, founder and chief executive of Airtasker, told StartupSmart Australians are increasingly embracing flexibility and tech startups should jump onboard in order to play a pivotal role in job creation.   “On a global basis I think that the shift towards flexible labour is pretty much a global trend,” he says.   “If you look at the US there is a massive growth [in flexible labour], close to seven to eight per cent year on year. And it doesn’t seem to be a cyclical trend but a fundamental shift from full time to flexible.”   According to the research, Australians view flexibility as the second most important aspect of their job after pay. Fung says this is part of the movement towards a flexible way of working.   “Australia typically is an extremely expensive country to live in and because of that it’s forcing people to find new ways to make money,” he says.   As for his advice to tech startups that use crowdsourcing, Fung says the key is standing out from your competition.   “You really have to find a point of difference, especially if you’re involved in the services economy,” he says.   “The big marketplaces like Freelancer, O-Desk and hopefully now Airtasker are building a community. When we launched, O-Desk was around but Airtasker was around physical proximity and local jobs.”   “But at the same time, I don’t believe in the next couple of years that the niche marketplaces will work effectively as the broader marketplaces. For example, with they didn’t start a… they focused on how do we build the broadest marketplace that we can.”   Airtasker processes more than $10 million worth of jobs per annum for more than 200,000 users.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startups looking for more support from both LNP and Labor in QLD election

1:28AM | Thursday, 22 January

More than 80% of Queensland startups think the Newman government is not doing enough to support the state’s startup ecosystem. However, only 19% believe Labor’s policy on startups is up to scratch, according to research conducted by River City Labs.   The survey, which collected responses from 200 entrepreneurs, investors and startup employees, paints a bleak picture for the technology and startup policies of the major political parties.   Steve Baxter, founder of River City Labs, says the Queensland government – regardless of whoever wins the election – needs to pay more attention to the startup sector.   “Governments the world over are investing time, energy and resources to understand and support technology startups,” he says.   “They have become accepted as key drivers of employment opportunities and economic growth. Ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurship are not finite resources, and with a little elbow grease and a lot of government support, I truly believe Queensland has the potential to be a powerhouse for global innovation.”   Baxter says Queensland tech startups want to see a government committed to “doing things smarter, faster and more agile”.   “Startup and technology are not exactly simple areas to understand, and traditionally Australian politicians have struggled to get their heads around where they fit into the government agenda,” he says.   “In recent years we have seen some market improvement steps, but based on our straw poll it appears the report card says ‘more effort required’.”   The survey also identified the policies the Queensland startup community wanted the state government to focus on. Topping the wishlist was the establishment of financial and regulatory incentives to attract more Australian and international tech startups to Brisbane.   Wanting startup funding grants and a Queensland startup precinct in the state’s capital to bring the ecosystem together also ranked highly.   River City Labs is not the only organisation lobbying Queensland political parties to pay more attention to tech startups. Yesterday, the Australian Computer Society called on both major parties to commit to making Queensland the leading digital economy in Australia.   Chair of the ACS Queensland Branch, Dr Nick Tate, said in a statement digital technologies are “critical drivers” of productivity, growth and innovation and therefore higher standards of living.   “We need to use digital technologies to help create new industries, help existing industries retain a competitive advantage, and provide new opportunities for employment and growth,” he said.   Chris O’Halloran, founder of Queensland startup Grapple, told StartupSmart it’s not easy for entrepreneurs to find the support they need. He says Labor’s promise of a $40 million fund to help startups only scratches the surface when it comes to solving the issues facing the local tech ecosystem.   “I don’t know if just having a fund is going to fix the problem because we still need to have an ecosystem that helps startups thrive – particularly in the early days – and there isn’t a lot of support out there,” he says.   “At the moment as a startup one of my key levers to getting resources is giving away equity, which causes a lot of issues for taxation purposes. Those roadblocks need to be removed.”   Kelsey-Lee Stay, a Queenslander who works for local startup Cohort Solutions, says she definitely thinks government could do more to drive innovation and therefore create more jobs.   “In comparison to our competitors overseas and what their governments are doing… we’re lagging behind,” she says.   “If we could get some decent funding that would be the number one thing. But also understanding the tech sector and encouraging people to explore new technology and providing help for them to do that.”   Queensland Innovation Minister, Ian Walker, told StartupSmart the LNP Government has strongly encouraged, supported and planned for “a turbo-charged startup community”.   “Three years ago, Queensland was borrowing money at unsustainable levels,” he says.   “This government has reduced that debt, and has a strong plan to balance the books and provide the most vibrant and innovative entrepreneurial climate in Australia.”   Walker pointed to the Startup Queensland fund, as well as the $90 million Research to Reality fund which was announced at the recent LNP campaign launch.   “In addition, If re-elected, the LNP’s $500 million Entrepreneurial and Innovation fund will make Queensland the best place in Australia for a startup company,” he says.   “Queensland’s entrepreneurs start with a problem and create job-generating businesses. We’re intending to do the same.”   Labor’s opposition spokesperson for innovation and IT, Dr Anthony Lynham, was contacted for comment but did not respond prior to publication.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The Founder Institute opens applications for its four-month program

1:45PM | Wednesday, 21 January

Startup launch and entrepreneur training program The Founder Institute has opened up applications for its first 2015 semesters in Sydney and Melbourne.   The four-month program helps would-be startup founders investigate their startup ideas and aims to give them the knowledge required to adequately assess whether or not the idea is worth the risks involved in starting up.   The Founder Institute Melbourne director Matt Allen, who’s a graduate of the program himself, says the program is aimed at people working full-time that think they want to start something big, but have constraints that are holding them back.   “They’re people that are not quite sure they’ll rock and roll with it yet,” Allen says.   “In the 14 weeks they’ll know whether or not the idea has legs, or if they have the stamina to run a fast-paced startup.   “The two outcomes are either you get to the idea believing your idea is amazing, and knowing you’ve got the tenacity to get on with it. Or you bail out halfway through because your idea wasn’t as good as you thought it was.”   The program costs $US1100 ($A1345)and it takes 3.5% equity in the startups that graduate, which is claimed at a liquidity event, if that startup makes it to one. One third of the funds raised from that equity go to the members of that startup’s Founder Institute class, another third goes to the mentors of that class, and the final third goes back to the Founder Institute organisation.   Allen says last semester in Melbourne 24 people began the course and eight finished.   “Eight pulled their own parachute, a lot of them thought their idea wasn’t as good as they thought, or the feedback they got from mentors was not what they expected,” he says.   Allen leads the Melbourne chapter, along with Envato development manager Sebastian von Conrad, and That Startup Show’s Sally Gatenby. While the Sydney chapter is headed up by Right Click Capital and Sydney Seed Fund partner Benjamin Chong, and startup consultant Daniel Ringrose.   For more information, visit The Founder Institute Melbourne or Sydney pages. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Latest funding round sees Collaborate Corporation move to scale and develop platforms

1:45PM | Wednesday, 21 January

Collaborate Corporation, which operates a number of peer-to-peer marketplaces, including DriveMyCar Rentals, Caramavan, Rentoid, and has a significant stake in Marketboomer, has raised $1.26 million.   Chief executive officer Chris Noone says the funding – its second round in the last six months – will be used to help scale up its marketplaces, and develop its platforms to enable the company to easily move into other product categories.   “The way we look at the world, is there’s a number of assets that are currently sitting idle, because there’s no way to monetise them,” Noone says.   “We turn those assets into something that’s monetisable, by adding renters, trust and security. So we’re constantly on the lookout for large groups of idle assets.”   Founded in 2010, DriveMyCar Rentals provides the blueprint for Collaborate Corporation’s marketplaces. Through its platform, vehicle owners are able to rent out their cars to individuals who have undergone ID verification and credit checks. Caramavan applies the same concept for caravans, while Rentoid allows individuals to rent just about anything – coffee tables, cherry pickers, notebooks or digital cameras.   Collaborate Corporation’s marketplaces all operate in Australia, but Noone says given they are easily scalable, the funding will allow the company to look at expanding into other markets, as well as support a relaunch of the DriveMyCar website.   “We’ve seen consumers develop their understanding of the model,” he says.   “And we’ve witnessed a quite massive change in the awareness of the opportunity.   “In the US we have recently seen peer-to-peer businesses such as Airbnb, Uber, Lending Club and RelayRides achieve extraordinary valuation increases and it’s pleasing to see that Australian investors are now are of the potential for collaborative consumption to disrupt multi-billion-dollar industries.”   Noone wouldn’t disclose exactly who participated in the round, but did say it came from institutions and high net worth investors, and the round was “heavily oversubscribed”.   “Collaborate is now well placed to improve its position as the leading ASX-listed company exploiting collaborative consumption opportunities,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

An aide Bemoir: startup aims to use NFC to make social media more intimate

1:34AM | Wednesday, 21 January

An Australian startup is looking to leverage near field communications (NFC) technology to allow people to tell stories through their most beloved possessions.   Bemoir, based in Melbourne, hopes to become a social network that is more intimate and personal than other platforms currently on the market.   Founder and chief executive Patrick Beraud told StartupSmart Bemoir will allow users to link videos, photos and sound to physical objects by using NFC technology or QR codes.   “The biggest problem we are having with social media right now is it enables you to talk a lot but it doesn’t enable you to express who you really are,” he says.   “It also creates a distance between your physical world and your digital world. We are fusing your digital world and physical world into one.”   The startup is running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter with the aim of raising £25,000 ($46,000).   “We need a little bit more money to push us over the finish line and to launch we need to build support,” Beraud says.   “Kickstarter gives us the ability to start building that base and be making the right noise we need to make.”   Bemoir would be ideal for users wishing to add an additional experience to a family heirloom, artwork or childhood toy, according to Beraud. Should the crowdfunding campaign be unsuccessful the startup will turn to the investors it is currently in discussions with.   “One of the main hurdles for us is to make our product very simple and easy to use,” Beraud says.   “There’s a little bit of education we need to bring to the customers along with it because it’s totally different to any social media out there now.”   A number of Australian startups have been leveraging NFC technology, including contactless communications startup Tapit and a South Australian company looking to bring modern technology to traditional memorials.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Four things for founders to consider when completing a shareholders’ agreement

1:17AM | Wednesday, 21 January

Most startup founders hit a point where they need to put a shareholders’ agreement (SHA) in place for their company. For many this can be a daunting task, with around 40 pages of legal language and terms to read and comprehend. Many entrepreneurs are unfamiliar and often out of their depth without knowing it.   Whilst they are not a legal requirement, having an SHA in place can help to prevent future disputes. They provide more flexibility than a company constitution. In most cases, a constitution, along with company records, is available to the public. However, an SHA is a private document. Once in place it will as act as a source of truth for the governance of your company.   There are quite a few options in the market place today where you can grab a template agreement and get started. I would recommend if you haven't prepared an SHA before that you take the time to understand what they include and what they don't. This may prevent you from making mistakes and learning the hard way. Seek good legal advice to help you get it right the first time around.   Things you might want to consider before you get started:   1. How will you protect your own rights to remain a director as the founder of the company in the future?   This might sound a little strange but you need to forward think. For example, your SHA may include a clause for shareholders to hold a 20% shareholding to have a right to a board seat. But what happens if, after several rounds of investment, you dilute yourself to below that percentage? You may wish to consider including a clause specific to the founders for a lower percentage than your investors.   2. Give thought to your role within the company as a founder and how this relates to the SHA.   If you have a co-founder, do you intend to be share the role of chief executive? Will you share the responsibilities set out in the agreement for a CEO? This may include financial reporting to the board and record-keeping obligations for the business.   3. Are you aware of possible associated costs?   Most SHA's expect a D&O (directors & officers) insurance policy to be in place. These policies can be expensive depending on the nature your business. Bear this in mind and get some quotes so there are no nasty surprises waiting for you that you didn't budget for.   4. Consider if you should include clauses for drags and tags.   These aren't always standard terms but they can be important to include. For example in the event of an exit, having drag along provisions will allow the majority shareholders to insist on the minority shareholders selling their shares too.   Don't do it alone, there have been many entrepreneurs who have done this before you! Look to others for help. Ask other founders what they learned from their experience? Take the time to prepare and familiarise yourself. Finally, engage a good lawyer to review or draft your agreement and ensure you have what you need.   Clare Hallam is a startup operations specialist. Follow her on Twitter.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Three ways to improve your pitch deck

1:07AM | Wednesday, 21 January

The difference between a good pitch and an average one can see your startup either getting much-needed venture capital or the cold shoulder from investors.   A critical aspect of a pitch is the pitch deck – the slideshow that outlines essential details about the business, the problem it’s solving, competitors and market size.   StartupSmart spoke to two industry experts for their thoughts on how to improve your pitch deck.   1. Tailor the pitch to the investor and keep it simple   Mick Liubinskas, from muru-D, told StartupSmart it’s firstly important to recognise that there are different kinds of pitch decks and they serve very different purposes.   “A pitch deck sent is completely different to a pitch deck presented,” he says.   “Unfortunately for an entrepreneur, you’re going to end up with 50 different versions of your pitch deck over time.”   Liubinskas says one of the biggest mistakes people make is to put too much information in their presentation.   “You’ve really got to consider your audience and objectives,” he says.   “If your objective is to get another meeting or interest you don’t have to do everything – you only have to do enough to get another meeting. If you’re pitching to an event where there are multiple pitches, it’s important to get the one message across and reiterate that like crazy until it sinks in.”   Alan Jones, chief growth hacker at Blue Chilli, agrees.   “Too much information in a deck makes it hard to find the essential investment information,” he says.   “Investors don’t have the time to re-read in detail, and you reduce the chances they’ll recall this information when discussing your pitch with others influential in the investment decision.”   Jones also says he sees far too many pitch decks that follow the class VC pitch deck template.   “Do you want to blend in, or stand out?” he asks.   2. Show confidence and deliver on your promises   Investors are looking to see if there is a big opportunity in your startup, Liubinskas says, and one thing they look for when considering an investment is whether the team has something that makes them stand out from the crowd.   “Does the team have a significant differentiator? Does the team have some momentum?” he asks.   “A lot of people use future language… ‘We are going to try.’ But they [the investors] need to have supreme confidence.”   The other thing to keep in mind is that investors typically invest in startups after they establish that there has been a track record of some kind.   “Unless you’ve done business with them before, you need to show them you’ve already executed and they’re probably going to want to see you execute three to four times,” he says.   “What I encourage people to do after a pitch is to communicate to the investors once a week… go back and show you can do what you say you can do.”   Jones says while it’s important to give investors the information they need to make an informed decision about your startup, you should also play to your strengths and understand that emotion also plays a role in the pitching process. This could mean cracking a joke if you’re naturally funny, or having a strong narrative arc if you’re good at telling a story.   “Plan to engage their emotions,” Jones says.   “If you’re successful, you can raise a round on better terms than your competitors, give yourself more runway, and have a little more breathing room. Maybe even buy a foosball table.”   3. Don’t just talk about the product and avoid buzzwords   Sometimes as an entrepreneur it is easy to get caught up explaining how a new product or service works instead of explaining why people need it, according to Liubinskas. A good way to test out your pitch deck is to present to a stranger and see if there is any jargon that stops them from understanding.   “Most people spend far too much time on the product,” he says.   “If I don’t think there’s a problem worth solving then I won’t think the product is worth it.”   Liubinskas says it is also crucial to talk about the market. However, too many entrepreneurs only do a top-down analysis in their pitches.   “So they say the total market for this product is $10 billion, but they should also do a bottom-up analysis which says if we get 10,000 in sales at $100 each that’s a million dollars in revenue.”   Jones says entrepreneurs should avoid using buzzwords in their pitch decks whenever possible.   “Repeated use has blinded your audience to these words,” he says.   “Buzzwords try to describe what your solution is but that’s not really important. It’s not as important as explaining what it does for your customer, and how much your customer cares about that being done for them.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Publishing startup Tablo launches app to help readers find authors

1:53AM | Wednesday, 21 January

Publishing startup Tablo has launched an iOS and Android app in a bid to help people discover and follow authors on the platform with ease.   The Tablo Reader app, available on both the iTunes and Google Play stores, allows users to browse books by scrolling through opening lines and synopses and swipe at their favourites to read more.   Readers are also able to follow particular authors and see their works being written in the cloud. The aim is to allow writers to build up a fan base in a similar way to how musicians can create a large following on YouTube and then draw the attention of record labels and industry heavyweights.   Ash Davies, founder and chief executive of Tablo, told StartupSmart the new app is a “big step forward” for the startup’s goal of helping authors share stories and connect with readers.   “Authors now have a wonderful place to publish their work and readers have a never-ending library of the best up-and-coming books,” he says.   “We’ve worked hard to create an experience where you can’t judge a book by its cover.”   Davies says the app was developed in response to consumer demand, and he hopes it will mean the next generation of bestselling authors will be discovered on the platform.   “We’ve always had a plan to enter the mobile space, but lately this has been pulled by our users,” he says.   “The demand for a reading app from our users has been very, very high.”   Tablo currently has around 20,000 authors from 130 countries using its platform to publish more than a million words a day.   Davies says he could never have imagined when he first founded the startup in 2012 that it would be this successful. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to focus on their product because if they get the product right, then growth will come naturally.   “The past few months have been extraordinary and not something I would have expected,” he says.   “The thing that’s got Tablo to this stage is focusing relentlessly on our product and focusing on our users. In an early stage company there is a trend for people to focus on their pitch deck, partnerships, pitching and PR – but the thing that’s helped us is aiming to have the best publishing product in the world.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How startup culture has ruined me for corporates

1:48AM | Wednesday, 21 January

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty weird fit within corporate culture. Having never adhered very well to corporate dress codes, understood the reason for having a meeting to discuss a meeting or put the person who works the longest hours on a pedestal. It’s always been a little irregular for me to enjoy “office life”.   A little over a year-and-a-half ago, I was working for a pseudo-government company when I decided it was time for a change. I interviewed for a marketing role within Melbourne startup ‘BugHerd’. Attending the interview in my usual corporate regalia, a grey suit skirt and shirt, I prepped with answers to the “usual” interview questions. “Why my greatest weakness would have to be that sometimes I pay too much attention to detail” (barf).   I realised I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.   The people in the office played loud music, they wore t-shirts and jeans, they talked to each other in casual tones and there weren’t any partitions, cubicles or meeting rooms in sight. My interviewers didn’t ask me the usual questions I’d prepped for and instead told me a little about the history of the company. What they’d been working on, what they were looking for and, most importantly, they wanted to know about me. Not about my “top 5 Marketing Strategies” but about what kind of person I was. (Of course we eventually covered my skill-set but not in the first interview).   It was really refreshing and I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of it, even though I knew nothing about startups, little about the tech industry and even less about web development. However, I was technically proficient in digital marketing, had a good background in traditional marketing and have always had a roll-up-my-sleeves and ‘get shit done’ mentality. I got the job and started nice and fresh, waltzing in incredibly eager to make a big difference.   I had a lot to learn.   Other than the obvious differences between corporate and startup culture such as the lack of dress code, the plethora of beard styles and the casual working environment (thumbs up to all these things). I started to realise that I had to adapt my style of working, quickly. Things can change on a dime in less than 24 hours flat. I’d never heard of the term ‘pivot’ before but it sure makes sense in the startup world. You need to be able to adapt and move on as fast as you can.   It was the first time my Google Analytics code was stripped from the site during the middle of a campaign that I was confronted with one of the challenges of the ever-changing nature of a startup. “That’s going to affect how I prove ROI?!” I would cry. I had to come to terms with, unlike in the corporate world, there being no “chains of command” or “hierarchy of reporting” in a startup and often the only person really interested in your very important reporting and analytics is you.   Losing my data was the least of my troubles, it merely pointed to missing processes and protocols that I had the opportunity to implement along the way. Processes you can sometimes take for granted when you work with a corporate company. Marketers who can look to Brand Guidelines or Communications Strategies for guidance or have wonderful procedure manuals to turn to should be pretty thankful these documents exist. I’m thrilled to help create such resources, but will never again look the proverbial horse in the mouth for having them in the first place.   Startup marketing can be lonely.   Going from a marketing team to one person is challenging. Marketing folks are often outgoing, type-A kind of people who love to have a chin wag about what they’re doing with the rest of the marketing team. This is a luxury busy devs scarcely have time or inclination for, unless it’s within the realm of real time messaging services such as Hipchat or Slack. It can get very loud in a chat room (usually sharing amusing cat gifs) whilst you can hear a pin drop in the office. The blessing with such a small and accessible team is you can gain insight from people with whom you’d not normally have access to within the corporate world. It’s not often that marketing would have access to the IT team on a daily basis.   In startup culture the term ‘marketing’ is oft referred to as ‘growth hacking’ (I don’t love the term). You’re looking for opportunities to grow the company as quickly and efficiently as possible. Scalability is key and it often feels like you’re in a constant state of test and learn, learn and test. A lack of historical data existing and having to rely on information such as peer recommendation or gut feelings can be very exciting though incredibly daunting at first. So many articles I’ve seen on Growth Hackers bang on about quick wins, constant iterating, testing and quick hacks. Though it’s so rewarding to get that first data in yourself and being optimising.   I’m not proud to admit it, but in big corporate companies it’s sometimes easy to get away with being a bit slack. Depending on your career level (though I’ve known plenty of managers with questionable work outputs) you’re possibly just one tiny cog in a big machine. Despite the clichéd image of startup employees sitting around playing Nintendo all day, there really isn’t anywhere to hide. People without the aforementioned ‘get shit done’ attitude won’t go much further than the door.   If you slack off, it’s noticed.   Comparing the realm of corporate culture to venture into startup land is like comparing apples and Winnebagos. I do wonder if I’ll ever make it back to the land of the corporate and be able to hold down my job.   Chanie Hyde is the marketing manager at Macropod. This piece was originally published on Medium. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Cloud market to reach heights of $650 million by 2020, as businesses look to the skies

1:39AM | Wednesday, 21 January

Australian businesses will help grow Australia’s cloud communications market to reach $650 million by 2020, according to research released yesterday by technology analyst firm Telsyte.   The Australian Enterprise Communications Market Study 2015 found more Australian businesses are adopting modern communications options like cloud communications, forecasting the industry will exceed 30% penetration in the next five years.   The popularity will be driven by more options from traditional telco and non-telco service providers, according to the research.   Telsyte also looked at the rise in popularity of other innovative communication offerings, such a softphones; a software program for making telephone calls over the internet.   The study found most organisations (88%) now have staff who use a softphone at least once a week, with Skype the most popular application.   A further 40% of organisations are looking at docking solutions to enable mobile devices to act as a desk phone replacement while in the office.   Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda said in a statement organisations need to find the best ways to integrate services for holistic enterprise communications.   Gedda said the solutions would increasingly involve mobile devices and wearables.   “Instant messaging, presence and email integration are the most deployed UC [Unified Communication] applications, but web collaboration and BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] integration are becoming more important as organisations look to modernise their business and support next generation employees,” Gedda said.   The article originally appeared at SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Indian company lures female customers after alleged Uber assault

1:37PM | Tuesday, 20 January

An Indian taxi company is appealing to female customers worried about their safety following the alleged rape by an Uber driver in the country’s capital last month.   The Australian reports Meru Cab is now offering female customers in Delhi pink cars with female drivers and pepper spray.   The service, called Meru Eve, has an initial fleet of 20 vehicles fitted out with panic buttons. The company says it is rolling out the service in response to customer demand.   Earlier this month an UberX driver from Melbourne was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting his teenage passenger.   Facebook to crack down on fake news stories and scams Facebook has announced it is cracking down on hoaxes in order to improve its customer experience.   The social media platform today rolled out an update allowing users to flag posts as a hoax, which adds an annotation to the post when it appears in other people’s timelines.   “We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy,” the company says.   Twitter acquires Indian startup ZipDial   Twitter has formally announced it is acquiring Indian marketing startup ZipDial for an undisclosed amount in order to grow the social media platform’s user base.   ZipDial allows customers to dial its number and hang up before connecting, in turn receiving free app notifications in exchange for advertisements. Twitter plans to use the service to reach users who do not have access to the internet.   The deal is the latest in a string of Indian startups acquired by US companies wishing to capitalise on one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets in the world.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 0.04%, rising 6.81 points to 17,518.38. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US81.73 cents.

Lack of diversity and ambition still big problems: Startup Muster survey

1:35PM | Tuesday, 20 January

The results from the latest Startup Muster survey indicate Australia still needs work when it comes to diversity in tech, as well the ambition of founders, according to a number of investors.   BlueChilli chief growth hacker Alan Jones says it’s “maddening” to see 27% of startup founders estimating their market size is less than $10 million. The figure is so startling that it makes Jones wonder whether or not respondents understood the question and thought they were estimating the current valuation of their startup.   “Because if you aim to steal 5% of a $10 million market, even if your net margin is huge, that’s never going to be worth the risk of doing a startup – you’d be better off opening a café or a plumbing business,” Jones says.   “Startups should be shooting for the Moon, but it sounds like we’re still guilty of shooting for Moonee Ponds.”   That number also had Colin Kinner, the author of the Crossroads report and director of Spike Innovation, wondering whether the survey had picked up a lot of non-startups that are lifestyle businesses. Startup Muster organiser Murray Hurps says in addition to the validation steps, he manually reviewed the companies to ensure they were leveraging technology to create something scalable, the correct definition of a startup, and there didn’t seem to be any misunderstanding of the term.   It’s a concerning figure, given startup academic Steve Blank’s advice that startups are either born global or die local and certainly could be a factor contributing to another survey finding – 18% of startups had tried and failed to raise capital. As Jones points out, few investors are going to take on investments with such limited upside.   Blackbird Ventures managing director and founder of the Startmate accelerator program Niki Scevak agrees a lack of ambition was the most striking of the survey’s findings.   “What sadly stands out is the lack of ambitious founders creating global startups and chasing huge markets,” Scevak says of the survey results.   “We created Blackbird and Startmate to provide capital and a network of likeminded founders to help those who dare to make a big impact but there is a long journey ahead. It’s easier in my opinion to build a large ambitious company than a small unambitious one.   “It’s harder to get great employees, investors and partners when you are doing something uninspiring. So hopefully in five years’ time the numbers will be flipped. Come on Australia!”   AirTree Ventures partner Craig Blair says the figure leads him to believe that this survey is a sample of early stage startups.   “The opportunity for the Australian startup ecosystem is to convert these into Series A funded business. This will require addressable markets of more than $10 million, product market fit achieved and distribution starting to work,” he says.   Blair was surprised that just 6% of startup founders were under 25, and encouraged that the number of female founders had increased from 16% in 2011 to 19% in 2013. Jones was frustrated at the slow pace of progress.   “It’s frustrating to see we’ve made so little progress in changing the gender balance in the Australian startup industry but that might be because we need more girls studying STEM and entrepreneurialism to create more female startup founders, which would mean we won’t see the fruits of those efforts for another 5-10 years,” Jones says.   “I’d like to see if the percentage of women in senior exec roles in Australian startups has changed in the near term, and the proportion of women holding equity or options in Australian startups.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.