The Cairns startup community is set to link up with events in Townsville and the Gold Coast as part of Startup Weekend Queensland later this month, as the local startup scene goes from strength to strength. The city’s startup scene is centred on a coworking space called theSPACE Cairns, which will host the local leg of Startup Weekend Queensland on November 21-23. The event, held as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, is a week after Toowoomba holds its first Startup Weekend. The founder of theSPACE Cairns, Troy Haines, told Private Media the local startup community continues to gather momentum. “We’ve had a coworking space since 2012. Just recently, in 2013, we moved to a bigger premises. This year in August, we had a Startup Weekend with Wotif founder Graeme Wood, which was a great success,” Haines says. “We’re working with the local university to establish an innovation centre, working with lecturers to help them to teach about entrepreneurship and working with high-net worth individuals to show them the value of early stage startups. “We’ve got good support from local and state government, and we’ve got local legal services that know about the challenges of entrepreneurship.” Haines says forging relationships between entrepreneurs and other stakeholder groups is one of the big challenges of getting a regional startup community off the ground. “The big challenge is building relationships with the key stakeholders. Now they’re established, the limits become less and less.” “The NBN means being regional is less of a barrier. Accelerators are a problem, so we’re building our own. Seed funding can be an issue, but that’s a problem anywhere. “Educating people on what is a startup and how it’s different from a small business can be an issue. It’s just as challenging to work on a big concept as a small one, so why not give it a go?” An example of an innovative startup to emerge from Cairns is Inspection Apps, whose smartphone app makes it easy for workers to enter data and photographs from the field into a secure database, replacing paper checklists. In turn, the data can be used to generate reports at the click of a mouse button. “There’s Inspection Apps, who won the 2012 Tropical Innovation Awards with $10,000 prize money, and they have customers nationally,” Haines says. “We also have Picphony, who are working on a concept to add a new dimension to photos by giving them a musical signature based on colours, where each colour has a note associated with it. “WhyNot Tours are a solution to help organise social travel. Bucks parties, end-of-season trips and the like can be hard to organise. Their platform makes the job a lot easier.” Looking into the future, Haines hopes more entrepreneurs find out about Cairns’ vibrant local ecosystem and move there to work on their innovations. “It’s really exciting and there’s never been a better time to startup,” Haines says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Technology isn’t changing humanity, certain parts of what make us human have always been changing, according to Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell. “What I want to suggest is that sometimes it’s really easy to be taken with all the things that change, and you forget the things that don’t,” she says. “The reality is there are things that make us humans, that have made us human for an incredibly long time that move slowly. “In fact, the way to think about it in my mind is there are some things about being human that make us very stable, and some things that make us human that have been in flux forever. Or at least as long one might want to contemplate.” Bell says startups that want to make a product aimed at satisfying those stable traits are on a good path to success. They include the importance of relationships, shared values, meaning beyond our individual lives, things that help us talk about who we are, and the need to keep secrets and tell lies. “Big longstanding technologies of the arcs of our lifetime have aimed here and been successful,” she says. “And technologies that play to one of those things usually endure.” However, where Bell believes there is a real opportunity for “flashes of sudden brilliance” is in some of those human traits that are constantly in flux. They include reputation, the desire to be bored or surprised, the need to be different, the desire to feel time, and an ability to be forgotten. “If you can be the person to crack the code in one of these spaces, or find a new way of thinking about it, a new approach to that set of problems, or a new way of assuaging those anxieties, there is extraordinary work to be done there,” she says. “It’s in some ways easy to say people care about friends and family, we’re just going to build things that let you have more friends. “What it would mean to think about crafting a new generation set of algorithms that deliver the delight and surprise and wonder is a very different kind of project. “It’s different intellectual work, it’s different design work, it’s different regulatory work.” Over the next 10 years, Bell says she’d like to see the tech industry have a conversation about the fact that there are things about being human in multiple cultural contexts that are stable. But also there are parts that are in flux. And those things that aren’t changed by the internet, but by electricity and lots of other things before it. “These technologies were made by us, and as a result they will encode all of our preoccupations and biases and in some ways blind spots,” she says. “And we have an obligation as human beings, as citizens, as builders, as designers as creators, to make sure we’re asking the harder questions and doing the hard work.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A Perth-based entrepreneur cancelled his startup’s Kickstarter campaign, which had raised its target in three days, after the crowdfunding platform insisted he disclose detailed technical information that exposed his idea to being copied. Aurora Labs launched a crowdfunding campaign last month for what it called the cheapest 3D metal printers in the world. The startup met its $100,000 target within three days, hitting the $300,000 mark before cancelling the campaign on October 9. David Budge, the startup’s founder and chief executive, told StartupSmart he pulled the crowdfunding campaign in favour of selling directly from his startup’s online store, after Kickstarter put pressure on him to disclose more information. “They essentially wanted us to give them and everyone else a tour of every inner working of our machine. After various discussions back and forth it just wasn’t enough. I understand they have to protect their position and model… but I decided to pull the site down,” Budge says. Budge advises entrepreneurs who are looking to crowdfund their product to double-check with Kickstarter that there is enough information about their product before going ahead with the campaign. “We just jumped on onboard and said, ‘Woohoo away we go’. There is a process where you can get moderated – so check your model before you launch.” Budge says he wishes there was clearer upfront communication about what he was required to reveal about his product, but he has no regrets about using Kickstarter as it had “helped us a lot.” “It is a fantastic model for getting new businesses and products up and running,” he says. “The way they phrased it, we weren’t disclosing enough information about what the product could do or how it worked.” Budge says he understands that Kickstarter wants to protect its users and ensure that people have a clear idea of what they’re getting, but it came down to the risk that someone might steal his idea. “I’m well aware of the fact as of four weeks ago when I first launched this program there would be a lot people out there trying to copy what we’ve done,” he says. “We’ve quite deliberately limited what we’ve shown because it’s going to take us a little bit of time to put these things onto the market properly.” Brian Goldberg, intellectual property lawyer at Premier IP Ventures, told StartupSmart the main concern in this instance relates to the intellectual property rights, or potential intellectual property rights, that may be put in place to protect an innovator in the marketplace. “Both patents and designs registrations need to be new and not disclosed or shown to the public,” he says. “So there is definitely a risk that showing one’s product with the technology exposes that product to the public and if there’s no IP in place, then unfortunately the public can do what it chooses with the information and there’s little action available.” Goldberg says he understands the potential costs and time associated with filing for intellectual property rights, and so can understand why investing in a patent is not good for every project. “However, I do strongly recommend that before publically disclosing elements of the innovation that consideration has been made of the intellectual property rights,” he says. “So if you review and choose not to file any, at least an informed decision has been made. But just to publicly disclose it hoping that no one will copy it and you’re not quite wanting others to do it is a high risk.” StartupSmart attempted to contact Kickstarter for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Independent game developers are crucial for an “amazing, innovating” industry, according to Chris Charla, the director of the Independent Developer Program for Xbox One. Charla is in Melbourne for the PAX 2014 festival, and said the Independent Developer Program for Xbox shows Microsoft is committed to supporting independent and emerging developers. The program allows qualified game developers to self-publish digital games on Xbox One and also assists them with some of the costs that would normally be a barrier for small development studios. “We think independent developers are crucially important,” Charla told StartupSmart. “We want to make sure when someone turns on their Xbox they have access to the broadest, most diverse range of games on the planet. It’s really hard to make a game and if you talk to a game developer they put their heart into it.” The Independent Developer Program also assists developers in promoting their products. Charla says they initiative has already see a “broad array” of independent games released onto the Xbox platform – everything from horror games to pinball. As for the Australian independent gaming community, Charla says it is “amazing”. “It’s not surprising that when it comes to video games the country is able to punch above its weight in terms of its cultural impact.” Charla praised co-working spaces and the way the gaming community comes together without government or large corporations telling them to. “All these developers know each other, they can help each other out… it’s an amazing spirit,” he says. “Worldwide we are seeing local groups of independent developers coming together to support each other, whether it’s through nights where they come together to drink beer and play each other’s games or attend co-working spaces. “It’s a really exciting time in the gaming industry both to be a player with awesome new choices with consoles and games... and as a developer. It makes me excited to get up in the morning.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The Victorian government and Airbnb have announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the provision of accommodation for people displaced in emergencies and natural disasters. Under the MOU, Emergency Management Victoria will partner with Airbnb to prepare Airbnb hosts in Victoria to provide free accommodation in the event of a significant emergency. “Victoria is leading the way and using technology to benefit everyone. Today, the sharing economy is giving more people the freedom to start their own businesses and pursue their dreams and it’s helping make communities more vibrant and resilient,” said Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Emergency Management Victoria.” Specifically, Airbnb and EMV will work together to: Identify Airbnb hosts who will commit to opening their doors to displaced persons and emergency services workers and volunteers when an emergency occurs and accommodation options are required or limited. Provide emergency preparedness educational materials and facilitate access to community education programs for Airbnb hosts to ensure that they are well prepared within their communities. Use Airbnb technology to notify hosts and guests about significant emergencies and that the Airbnb Disaster Response Service is available. "We welcome any avenue which helps strengthen existing arrangements for people who are forced to flee their homes during major and significant emergencies including fire and flood,” said Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley. “Arrangements with Airbnb will be in place during this summer season and we welcome this initiative which provides another way for generous Victorians to connect with one another in times of need. “Today’s announcement builds upon Airbnb’s disaster relief work in other cities, and will help the community collaborate with regional disaster relief organisations in advance of an event, as well as reach a broader audience and help more people during an emergency. We also are collaborating with the Victorian government to the support the Victorian entrepreneurial community, so that more residents of Victoria can benefit from the sharing economy.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
SEO may seem like a complex concept, but it’s actually pretty simple. Just think of Google as a concierge whose job is to connect its users with what they are looking for. It has to assess the user’s intent and list the results it feels will be most helpful. SEO is the process of making your website the most helpful to the user and sending Google these signals. So how do you send Google the signals? The first step is to make your website the most helpful in your niche! This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Often businesses want to ‘do’ SEO without changing their online strategy or considering the user experience. Or in other words, take an ordinary website and make it miraculously rank well in Google. But there is more to it than that. Along with improving the website and user experience, you need to communicate that to Google and this comes in the form of relevant links to the website, quality site architecture and fresh content. What does this mean for SEO in 2014 and beyond? Well, with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update at the start of this year the trend is now towards natural language search. These keys will help your site to rank well in search results. 1. Natural language – diversify keywords Figure 1: image source from researchperspectives.org Google removed exact-match searches in its Keyword Planner in its recent update for the tool, and it is a big problem for us SEOs because it is more difficult to calculate the performance of a certain keyword, making it harder to identify which keywords we need to focus on. Google is trying to drive us towards using keyword themes rather than exact-matched keywords. Google doesn’t want us to put the stress on exact-match keywords too much as it also leads to irrelevance when you target a certain keyword even if the relevance is unclear, just because it has a significant volume of searches. A survey conducted by Kelton Research shows that 65.4% of adult Americans spend more than two hours online searching for information on specific topics, with 72.3% experiencing search engine fatigue when searching websites. However, when the study was conducted SEO focused on exact keyword searches. Google is trying to take its keyword searching to the next level, by improving it to better understand natural language queries. This is also likely to solve the “search engine fatigue” problem caused by the implementation of the Hummingbird update. According to Danny Sullivan in his post, “FAQ: All About the New Google ‘Hummingbird’ Algorithm”, Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. This means that pages that match the meaning do better, rather than pages with matching keywords. Key takeaways: Use natural language in keyword targeting Target keyword themes, not just specific keywords Use Google’s suggestions for what people are searching for Avoid slapping exact match keywords together, if they don’t read well Try predicting the intent of the searcher when judging a keyword’s importance 2. Use links more cautiously – but still use them Figure 2 A few years ago, building links for the sake of it worked very well – I tried it too, but moved on from that practice out of necessity. In years past even a low-quality website could outrank better ones through building links using the targeted keywords and spam link building tactics. Now more than ever Google is guarding its search results, trying to ensure the most relevant and high-quality results possible. With that being said, Google has implemented the Penguin algorithm to help it fight spam by penalising websites that were over-optimised for certain keywords, and websites who practice buying links that passed link juice. Key points to optimise your website better for Penguin: Avoid using link building software that creates content for you and posts it everywhere Avoid participating in link networks Diversify link sources Build links from trusted websites Aim to build links (relationships) to website owners/webmasters (it may result in higher quality links in the future) Aim to create value. Otherwise, don’t do it. 3. Quality content is king Figure 3: Image sourced from blog.joelx.com Quality content has always been king, and writing content just for the sake of it is futile. If you use your valuable time to create content without having a goal or knowing your audience, chances are it will get you nowhere. When creating content, you have to consider your audience, what matters to them, and if the content is good enough for them to share with people they know. Writing content for SEO is tied to content marketing, as it needs to perform well, by giving valuable and relevant information. As the Content Marketing Institute says: Figure 4: Source from Content Marketing Institute When you don’t think about your audience when creating an article, it’s likely that it won’t matter to them and they won’t share it. This just wastes your time without giving back something in return. How do you know when your content matters to your audience? It gains editorial links It gets shared Visitors are likely to stay on page to read the entire content and post their comments Increase in newsletter subscriptions You can track the performance of your pages/contents through tracking software, with Google Analytics the tool most commonly used. Always remember to track, analyse, reassess, and tweak if necessary. Writing content without prioritising quality will backfire and cause Google Panda to kick in and devalue your website. Key takeaways: Write content that will matter to your audience Write content that educates and sells your services to a normal degree It’s OK to publish content on a regular basis (weekly or even monthly) as long as it’s useful Creating content for the sake of it is a waste of time Always track the performance of your content and tweak if necessary. 4. Leverage local search Start using local optimisation as one of your strategies, if you aren’t already. According to Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, 57% of users search online for a local business more than six times a year, 39% search online for local businesses at least once per month, and 15% search online for a local business almost every day. Figure 5: Source of image and information from BrightLocal.com Benefits of local SEO: Visits from local searches are more likely to convert More targeted audience Fewer competitors (depending on the niche) Attract more people in your area If you have done local SEO properly, the visits you get are more likely to convert into customers. If you have served those customers right, they are also going to become returning customers. The customers who loved your business will share their experience and impressions with their colleagues, family, and friends in neighbouring places, thus giving you free advertising. Just imagine if those colleagues, and friends of theirs, do the same thing. Doing local SEO is like killing two birds with one stone. If you are a starter business, ranking in top organic searches is hard so stay in your local, but don’t limit yourself to it. Having little competition is another advantage, as opposed to targeting global audiences. This is going to save you a lot of money in your investment to SEO. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Value proposition – what is your website worth? Figure 6 SEO is a very challenging investment to put your money into. If the SEO campaign you invested in returned a negative ROI, then it is considered a failure. What’s the purpose of initiating SEO if you are not getting a positive ROI? Before blaming SEO, however, make sure your website is adding value for your customers. Consider SEO as just part of your overall sales pitch. Improving your website’s value is hard. Especially when you have to come up with great headlines that visitors will notice and get them enticed. Some guidelines to creating website copy that will increase the value of your website for your visitors include: Stating the problem you will help them to solve Educating them in what you do Showing them what your other customers have to say about your services. Be relevant Relevance is one factor that increases website value and depends on if the visitors to your site find what they are looking for. They won’t find your website valuable if you don’t provide what they’re trying to find. Highlight benefits, not features One of the things that matters to consumers are the benefits they will get from you, so state them. As opposed to the traditional method of stating the features of your services, stating the benefits is effective marketing. Save the features for later. State the problem you will help them solve Is there a problem that your business will help your customers solve? Write it in your website copy. The users that reach your website are probably looking for a solution to the problem they need help solving. Key takeaways: Don’t assume your website visitors understand your website copy. Test and refine. Feature the benefits your customers will receive Remember to tell them what you do Provide customer reviews 6. Conversion optimisation – leveraging current success Figure 7: Image source from consummo.com Conversion optimisation and search engine optimisation are different concepts. In order to see the fruitful efforts of your SEO campaign, you need to optimise your website for conversion. There’s a very thin line that separates SEO and CRO. One will optimise your website to drive more traffic to it, and the other one optimises your website to convert those visitors into customers. As industry expert Kate Morris said in her post, “CRO and SEO: SEM Civil War”: “Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is simply focusing on the conversion as the core metric when optimizing any particular page.” A search engine optimiser will usually know how to optimise your website for conversion if they are truly experienced. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to judge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign without optimising your website for conversion. Failing to do so leads to false judgement as to whether or not your SEO is effective as some faults may lie with how the website treats its visitors. Key takeaways: SEO (search engine optimiser) is different from CRO (conversion rate optimiser) You need a CRO to boost your SEO campaign and to help you get more out of your investment. 7. Traffic strategy, opposed to just rankings Figure 8: Data source from chitika.com According to online advertising network Chitika, having the top position in search results will give you 33% of search traffic. This research proves the value of SEO for online businesses. Just imagine your website ranking with a keyword that is highly searched, resulting in say, 18,000 searches per month and your website receives 33% of that traffic every month. While this provides great value to online businesses, ranking in top search results is not guaranteed. As an SEO, traffic is one of my main goals as it opens the floodgates for conversions – assuming that your customers are satisfied with your services and you have great reviews, along with several other factors. With that said; our main goal is to generate more traffic and then achieve rankings. It might sound in reverse but it’s true, and that is what makes our career more challenging. The only way to do this is by adding value with each link we create. Remember that value is also quality, and in today’s SEO, quality is better than quantity. Getting 12 links per month that drives traffic is more important than getting more links that only aim to improve rankings. Again, no one can guarantee you top rankings because of unpredictable algorithmic changes, but increase of traffic is always possible. Key takeaways: SEO is important to online businesses Ranking is not the only means of traffic When building links, think of the traffic you will get from each link you build Adding value to the places you build links from, as they are more likely to drive traffic to your site A balance of quality and quantity is important No one can guarantee rankings SEO – keeping you on top 2014 has been an exciting time for SEO and it is now much more about quality than ever. Apply these tips and make the most of your online presence. What are your thoughts about SEO in 2014? Add a comment below. Scott Donald runs CreativSEO and has worked with successful start-ups and established businesses alike, helping them succeed online. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A Sydney-based startup is using photo-recognition technology to make it easier for Australians to note and share their favourite wines. Vinus uses photo-recognition software to identify wine bottles that its users snap. The app also stores pictures, ratings and notes so people can keep track of their favourite labels. Founder Alex Martell told StartupSmart the idea for the app came after noticing how overwhelming the wine market can be for the uninitiated, with more than 30,000 different wines produced in Australia each year. “There are very few product categories that have that level of choice,” he says. “Functionally, we’re a wine scanner. But as we’ve learned over the past few months we are breaking down barriers for people to enjoy wine.” Martell says this is one of the reasons why the app has such a strong social aspect. Users are encouraged to follow their friends, as well as wine professionals and restaurateurs to learn the tricks of the trade. The idea is to leverage technology so people no longer have to rely on the one friend who has a strong knowledge of wine. “Rather than being constrained to one or two people you know who like wine, we’ve got 2-3000 people who like wine and are giving tips and sharing their discoveries.” Martell says Vinus is doubling its user base every several weeks. The challenge for the business – like many other early-stage startups – is to keep pace with its level of growth while its level of capital is constrained. “That’s what we spend quite a lot of time thinking about. Our plan is to use the growth we’re getting and data we’re getting to present to investors a pretty coherent case as to why we should be funded in the next leg of our growth.” The startup received a small amount of seed funding earlier this year, after launching an early prototype in 2013. “In terms of a business model, ultimately the angle will likely involve selling wine in some form but it’s something we’re not fully focused on at the moment,” Martell says. “At the moment we’re primarily showing there’s a behaviour there which we’re confident we can latch onto.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Online publishing platform startup Tablo will soon start helping a major publisher find new writing talent. Tablo is a cloud-based e-publishing platform that allows authors and readers to create, share and discover new e-books. The startup has partnered with Momentum, the digital arm of major Australian publishing house Pan Macmillan, to uncover new authors. In November, Tablo will be looking closely at the numbers of readers, followers and overall engagement books on the platform receive and will pass on the five most promising books to Momentum. Tablo founder Ash Davies says as the platform has started to grow the team has noticed that “the best books” on the platform are also the ones with the most engagement. He says the month long competition is very much a test for Tablo and the partnership has the potential to be implemented as an ongoing feature of the platform. “Being an open platform where anyone can create and share their content, good work will naturally be found on the site,” he says. “Already on Tablo we see that readers are most engaged with the best books. So through that engagement we’re able to look at what books are most likely to be a success. “I would love to show you in the next 12 months a host of authors who started on Tablo and have landed publishing deals.” The terms of any potential deals would be negotiated on a case-by-case basis between the author and publisher and Tablo has no plans to be involved in that process. Momentum was not the only publisher that has shown interest in running such a talent search with Tablo, but Davies says it appealed to the startup the most because it’s one of the most innovative publishers in the world. The competition coincides with National Writing Month, an annual event that calls on professional and amateur writers around the world to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. “It’s the closest we’ve come to a democratised publishing model,” Davies says. “Incredible musicians have been uncovered on platforms like YouTube and, this month, we’ll be uncovering the next generation of talented writers on Tablo.” Momentum’s publisher Joel Naoum says the partnership is part of the company’s search to find new ways to discover talented authors. “Tablo’s innovative model is a fantastic way for authors to get feedback and build an audience before a manuscript is completed,” he says. “We’re excited about kicking off this new relationship and even more excited about finding the next bestselling author. “ Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Social media aggregation startup Stackla has raised $2 million on the bet that consumers care more about what fellow consumers think than top-down advertising. Founded in 2012, the startup provides a tool for businesses and brands that aggregates social media content about their products, so it can then be used in marketing materials and even in-store at point-of-sale. Investors include Venture Capital firm Rampersand and a consortium led by Tony Faure and Grant McCarthy. Stackla had been bootstrapped by its founders Damien Mahoney and Peter Cassidy, and has been generating revenue for the past 18 months. Mahoney, who is also the startup’s chief executive officer, says Stackla was travelling well without funding, but the capital raise will help accelerate growth in the United States and United Kingdom. Stackla will double its staff headcount, mainly in its new UK and US offices to help facilitate that growth. “We’ve already got a small footprint in the US and UK, but this is really about helping us attack those markets in a big way over the next 12 months,” he says. “We believe our technology is well ahead of market trends and the wave of interest in what we do is far from peaking.” It’s that potential for growth that Mahoney says appealed most to investors. “The fundamentals of what we do are still not in mainstream marketing yet,” he says. “We’ve always had a very strong product and invested very heavily in our product teams. That’s allowed us to build a product that is market leading, and we’ll continue to do that. “The space has a lot of room for growth and I think we’re just starting to see its potential. We also had a big client base already and have been generating revenue for well over 18 months. Stackla has more than 300 clients across a broad range of industries including Comcast, Myer, Toyota, Holden, Lego, Manchester United and Red Bull, just to name a few. Mahoney and Cassidy came up with the concept for Stackla while helping NRL teams develop content for social media. “We noticed a growing trend at the time,” Mahoney says. “Consumers now have a voice, and with the growth of social networks and proliferation around the smartphone, there was great content being generated around football clubs and other businesses. We came up with a way to harness that content for clubs to use to power their own websites. “Content is very expensive to produce, and what it provides is a platform to generate that content for them. “Fans and customers are recommending brands and products to their friends on social media – these are money-can’t-buy endorsements. The problem is social endorsements are fleeting and hard to capture. “Stackla solves that problem by helping marketers cherry pick the best content on the social web and showcase it where their customers are – on websites, apps and at venues.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Federal Labor MP Ed Husic has called on the federal government to introduce equity-based crowdfunding regulation as quickly as possible. During the tabling of a report into the Reserve Bank by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Husic, the shadow parliamentary secretary to the shadow treasurer, expressed concern that businesses were leaving Australia for more favourable regulatory environments, while the government considered reform. “The government has failed to meaningfully respond to calls for reform of the regulatory environment around crowdsourced equity funding – a platform that is providing access to valuable, much-needed capital for startups,” Husic told Parliament. “For now, I’m very mindful that the sector is demanding of this government a formal statement on where it is at in developing this framework. They’re seeing colleagues leave Australia and head to New Zealand because there’s a more accommodating regulatory environment there. “It’s now up to the government to get its act together and deliver this.” The government indicated in its Industry Innovation and Competiveness Agenda that the assistant Treasurer will consult widely on a regulatory framework to facilitate crowdsourced equity funding, to build on the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee’s report. That report was released in June and recommended the government make it easier for Australian businesses to raise capital through online crowdfunding platforms. It said that the government should change the legislation to allow all Australian adults to invest in companies through equity-based crowdfunding, albeit with a limit on retail investors of $10,000 per year and $2500 per startup. Wholesale investors are able to participate in equity-based crowdfunding under current regulations. Recently, transportation network and mobile payments startup Ingogo raised $1.2 million from such investors through equity-based crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd. The Australian Small Scale Offerings Board has also funded more than 300 startups and SMEs through equity crowdfunding since 2005. “While numerous ministers have told us how they’re big fans of crowdsourced equity funding, we haven’t seen a response to the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee report proposing a way ahead for this funding platform,” Husic says. Recently, the founder of equity crowdfunding startup Equitise, Chris Gilbert, who has launched the platform in New Zealand while waiting for Australian regulation, said he was told by a prominent government source that regulation might not be in place until July 1, 2015 and there’s a chance it might not happen until July 1, 2016. Husic told StartupSmart in addition to the delay, he’s concerned the CAMAC report’s recommendations, including limits on retail investors, are too conservative. “The concern that startups have expressed if those types of limits are imposed is that it wouldn’t really raise the type of money that, in some cases, [startups] need to access for the whole exercise to be viable,” he says. “We have not landed on a figure yet because we want to be able to talk widely. “So we’re consulting with startups about what they believe is a more workable, more viable investor cap. And the different models that might exist.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
To create a successful startup, it’s important not to fall in love with your product, according to Running Lean author Ash Maurya. Maurya has founded a number of startups, with varying degrees of success, and is a mentor at a number of startup accelerators around the world, including Mozilla Foundation, Year One Labs, MARs, Ideally and Capital Factory. He was in Sydney this week running workshops and events to educate service providers, founders and corporate innovators on his particular brand of lean startup. “When people first have an idea, they do one of two things. They rush towards building a product out, or rush to an investor and say look what I’ve built and look how awesome it is,” Maurya says. “And the investor looks and says, ‘No, I don’t see any customers here’. “Founders often prematurely fall in love with their solutions, and we only realise our mistake when we build something not enough people want.” That principle is at the heart of the lean startup methodology that many founders would be familiar with. However, Maurya says while many founders say they’re doing lean startup, they’re often not doing it right. “One mistake is they oversimplify lean startup and big powerful ideas like MVP. I see a lot of people using buzzwords, saying they iterated quickly. All they’re doing is disguising changes to their product because it’s not working,” he says. Maurya says it’s important to take an almost scientific approach to testing, and really nail down the critical assumptions that need to be tested, while ensuring that customers remain the focal point. “Customers don’t care about the solution,” he says. “They only care about their problems and what the solution can do to make those problems go away. An example might be if you’re building a new iPhone app: go and build the landing page, show what the app would look like, what the app would let users do, and test demand.” It’s a balancing act, Maurya says, between being passionate enough about a potential solution to put the effort in to make it work, while still being responsive to the wants and needs of customers. “You don’t want to compromise on vision,” he says. “But on the other hand the need to challenge those opinions is critical. Run these tests and let your customers decide. In the end it’s not about being right, but building the right product.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
BlueChilli last night launched its first venture capital fund of $10 million, the minimum under ESVCLP (Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships program) rules, with the aim to invest in vetted companies that have gone through its incubator program. In launching the fund, BlueChilli CEO Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin told the crowd the fund allowed investors to support early stage startups with “mitigated risk”. He says BlueChilli has developed a model that worked to create a system that de-risked the four key areas it looked at in a startup in order to invest; namely team (it supports the founders with its own internal team), technology (companies are built on its own internal platform), traction (elevated through partnerships) and term sheets (something the new fund was addressing). The first batch of investments was also named, receiving a total of $700,000 (a breakdown of how much went to each company was not available) with funding going to Comwriter.com, GiggedIn.com, TokenOne.com, GetSwift.co, and Cuzin.com. The idea is that those companies find other sources of investment too. BlueChilli chief growth hacker Alan Jones told StartupSmart the fund would also see all graduating startups that launch a minimal viable product (MVP) receive $25,000 in funds. To date, all companies going through the program have paid to have their startups built, with BlueChilli charging its services at a “cost price” of $116/hour for the team. Jones says it differs from a design agency in that startups have access to the BlueChilli curriculum, as well as office space and other services. All startups built by BlueChilli are developed on their own proprietary platform called “ChilliSource” (a .net framework), though Jones indicates that startups can graduate to other platforms if and when necessary. Eckersley-Maslin says it’s hoped the fund will invest in between 60 and 100 startups over the course of five years, something he believes is achievable given 45 startups have already been launched in two-and-a-half years. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Media startup Newzulu is looking to the crowd to make breaking news cheaper for large media organisations. The startup, founded in Australia in June 2012, by Alex Hartman and Peter Scarf, is a crowdsourced media platform for the distribution of verified news photos, videos and text. Co-founder and executive chairman Hartman says the nature of news is changing, and sees Newzulu becoming a big part of the traditional wire service. “AP (Associate Press) has 6500 full-time journalists around the world, sitting in bureaus, waiting for things to happen, and we think those days are long gone,” he says. “There’ll still be a place on the global news wire for most of the capabilities of AP, for instance the White House would never allow a crowd-sourced reporter to travel with the president. We feel those agencies have an important role in those local media landscapes. “But with most of the breaking news, we’re using the crowd with 600 editors, to do what 6500 editors would do.” With the proliferation of smartphones, Newzulu says the likelihood of a journalist being the first person to document a breaking news story nowadays is slim. “Breaking news on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the pervasiveness of smartphones in pockets is disrupting the media,” he says. “We can harness the power of the crowd to report, not just any news but validated news.” What that means is Newzulu has an editorial department of 50 staff, working around the clock in English and French to validate news submissions from the crowd. Newzulu was founded by Matilda Media, which last year acquired a French startup called Citizenside that was founded in 2006. Citzenside had developed a platform that can “rapidly review and validate” crowdsourced material, detecting if photos have been edited or altered in any way. It’s that platform that enables Newzulu to validate crowdsourced material within 30 minutes of its submission. Contributors are then paid on a case-by-case basis. Last week, Newzulu announced it had entered an agreement to purchase Canadian company Filemobile, a software company that provides solutions to media outlets for the gathering, curation and publishing of user-based content. Its customers include Fox News, Wall Street Journal, USA Today/Garnett, The Weather Network, Hearts TV, iTV, London Live, Network Ten, CTV, CBC and Canadian Geographic. The proposed purchase price – roughly $5 million, will be funded by an upcoming capital raise. “Newzulu and File Mobile will together form the world’s foremost crowdsourced media company,” Hartman says. “The acquisition of Filemobile is consistent with Newzulu’s growth strategy and further strengthens the company’s product solutions and global directory platform.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Communication is of the utmost importance when collaborating with freelancers to develop apps, according to Freelancer product director Ilter Dumduz. Freelancer has recently launched its iOS app and Dumduz worked closely with freelancer developers on its development. “The whole planning phase is important, developing a detailed brief for those freelancers,” Dumduz says. “Once the planning is in place, then it’s a matter of collaborating and communicating. Being transparent and clear and setting the right milestones. “Freelancers are obviously experts at what they do, so they can help employers break down the project into smaller pieces.” Why freelancers? Dumduz says startups and small businesses are increasingly turning to freelance developers for two major reasons. With large corporates flooding into the mobile space they’re taking and paying all the best developers, making hiring a developer an expensive prospect. And secondly, it provides a scalable solution for businesses that aren’t quite sure if there’s a need for an app or not. “The corporates, like the big banks, they suck up all the good app developers because they can pay top dollar,” he says. “For Australia, that’s especially important because finding a good dev is quite rare. “Some businesses are not quite sure whether or not they should be building an app or not. Using a freelancer helps minimise that initial investment. It’s a solution that’s scalable and flexible.” When deciding to build an app, Freelancer looked at the needs of both its freelancers and customers who were looking to hire a freelancer. Recognising the need to build up their workforce of freelancers, many of whom are in emerging markets, or are freelancing as a lifestyle choice, preferring the flexibility freelancing affords. Should my startup be building an app? “The devil is in the detail, if you look at that data, most businesses would see that a big chunk of their traffic would be coming from mobile devices, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean you need an app, it does indicate there’s a demand in the market,” Dumduz says. “Whether it’s an app or a mobile website, it depends on the business. If you’re a service business or ecommerce platform, where you sell products online, I would recommend having an app as it provides a more fluid user experience. If there’s a transaction, it’s easier to transact using an app. “In our case we looked at our numbers and it was very clear that we needed to go mobile. We are a global business, and in some of the emerging markets we are growing in, mobile is growing so rapidly that a generation are connecting to the internet for the first time and skipping desktop entirely. “That generation is coming and joining the workforce in those markets, looking for freelancing jobs, and we need to make sure we offer them a solution and bring their talent onto the platform.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
If you want to flag a trend in Australian startups, then Tech23 is a good place to spot it. From the line-up last week it looks like Australian startups have embraced enterprise software, something it seemed reluctant to do for a long time, preferring to try to make more ‘sexy’ consumer plays, despite the success of Atlassian. The line-up showcased a huge mix of companies from “smart” rowing equipment, to GPS-enabled sunglasses that promises you can never lose them, to aged care avatars that help remind you to take your medication, but undoubtedly the theme seemed to be around enterprise solutions – getting down to the basics of helping industries and businesses become more efficient. Intelligent Fleet Solutions, Maestrano, and Red Eye kicked off the Tech 23 event, setting the tone for the types of technology companies that dominated the day. The three were joined by Peepable, the only truly consumer focused software startup of the day, which is aiming to make video more searchable. The day really belonged to Tzukuri’s 20-year-old founder Allen Liao, who stole the show with his cool and collected presentation on sunglasses you can’t lose, taking away the Tech23 2014 People’s Choice Award. Liao has already been approached by Apple to distribute his product through Apple stores next year, and is working on partnerships with large fashion brands. He’s not currently taking investment. Now in its sixth year, Tech23 2014 confirmed the event’s status as a benchmark for the Australian startup community. Industry leaders, enterprise and start-up sponsors, and Tech23 alumni companies came together to donate prizes including thousands in cash, meetings with influential people and trips overseas, after government funding for the event was pulled. “The scope and impact of Tech23 continues to grow exponentially,” says event founder Rachel Slattery. “This year we had companies from six states representing products and services that range from big data technology to location services, enterprise applications to healthcare.” “I’m consistently amazed by the level of innovation and ambition our Tech23 show. The technology on display today boasted benefits for business and community alike.” The Tech23 Innovation Excellence Award went to Intelligent Fleet Logistics for their vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation technology. The Tech23 Greatest Potential Award was won by Clipp for their bar tab app. They also won a $5000 cash prize from PayPal. Doarama, creators of a 3D GPS track visualisation program, has won a trip to Silicon Valley thanks to ATP Innovations. Bluedot Innovation, a technology for precise, battery friendly location services, has won a trip to Boston thanks to Bigtincan; and $5000 cash from REA Group. REA Group also awarded a second $5000 cash prize to Sound Scouts, a game which detects hearing loss in children. Clevertar was awarded $3000 cash from NRMA; Global and Smart won $2500 from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An increase in the number of investments and acquisitions but a decrease in the average value of those transactions from Q3 2013 to Q3 2014, according to the latest Internet Dealbook report, is evidence of “more companies getting a slice of the pie”, Right Click Capital’s Benjamin Chong says. Internet Dealbook is a global database that tracks angel, venture capital and private equity investment, as well as merger and acquisition activity across technology-related private companies. Online Agility, a Right Click Capital company, has been publishing the report since 2011. The data used in the report is obtained via public news sources. The latest report found that there was $US43.8 billion ($A50 billion) worth of deals tracked in Q3 2014, down from $US62.72 billion, in Q3 2013. The total number of deals tracked was up to 1175, in Q3 2014, from 945 in Q3 2013. “There are more companies being acquired or more companies that have been funded, and more deals of a smaller nature, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Chong says. “It means more companies are getting a slice of the pie. “Anecdotally, having spoken with folks in various regions – we chat with people to check out numbers, it does seem there’s a greater number of smaller companies that are being funded, and that’s been driving the increase in deals on the investment side. We also haven’t had as many mega acquisitions.” The number of deals in the games sector grew by 178%, while at the other end of the spectrum was the media industry, where deals declined by 32%. Chong says the figures reinforce the opportunity that is out there for Australian games startups. “It’s great news for Australian game developers and those that are providing infrastructure around the games space,” he says. “Because large corporations have made acquisitions cross border. There once was a view that Australia was a bit too far, but if you do have a loyal fanbase, a good number of installs and active users, you’re going to get on the radar.” As for the decline in deals in the media sector, Chong says it should come as no surprise that it’s a competitive space. “I would suggest, having spoken to other investors, it has to do with folks really wanting innovative ideas,” he says. “If it’s a ‘me too’ idea it’s really difficult to find that funding. There really needs to be an innovation, whether it’s super niche targeting, or a new spin on advertising or subscriptions.” The Asia-Pacific was the region with the greatest deal number growth, up 75% from Q3 21013 to Q3 2014, compared to 5% in Europe, 21% in North America. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Ninja Blocks, makers of the home automation product of the same name, today announced a $US700,000 investment from local and international investors including SingTel Innov8, Blackbird Ventures and 500 Startups. Ninja Blocks started in 2012 after selection into the high profile Australian startup incubator Startmate. The company has since gone on to become a leader in the burgeoning smart home industry. Ninja Blocks plans to use the investment to propel the launch of their next product – the Ninja Sphere – and scale up their sales and marketing efforts globally. In a statement, Ninja Blocks chief executive Daniel Friedman says he’s “thrilled at the opportunity to work with such a high calibre group of investors on the upcoming launch of the Ninja Sphere. “The early success of our first product, the Ninja Block, opened our eyes to the scope and possibilities of home intelligence. What started as a simple idea has grown into a product we believe has true global appeal,” Friedman says. “Today’s investment will help with the first step towards realising this goal.” The big difference between the Ninja Sphere and other smart home products is that it learns about the user, and their environment. It uses data from sensors and actuators to build a model that can inform users if something is out of place. It can monitor temperature, lighting, energy usage, people or a pets' presence, and anything else connected to the Ninja Sphere. By combining all this data the Ninja Sphere is the first device able to deliver truly intelligent control of the home. Niki Scevak from Blackbird Ventures says he was simply blown away when the team gave us an early sneak peek at the Ninja Sphere. “The combination of sensors, gesture controls and intelligence put the Ninja Sphere is a league of its own,” Scevak says. “It’s not really about home automation anymore it’s all about home intelligence, that’s where we see the next frontier. We believe Ninja Blocks have the right team and product to become the industry leader.” SingTel Innov8 chief executive Edgar Hardless says: “We are excited about Ninja Blocks’ vision to make homes smarter. With Ninja Blocks’ product and team, they have the opportunity to make a significant impact in this emerging space.” Friedman says initially the company will focus on the US market with the launch of a San Francisco office in early 2015. “Our focus right now is on making the Ninja Sphere a household name in the US. To achieve this we will be setting a local presence, expanding the local team and focusing on delivering home experiences that feel truly magical,” Friedman says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Microsoft officially launched two Australian data centres today as part of its Azure cloud computing platform at the start of the tech giant’s 21st TechEd Conference in Sydney. The launch comes after Azure cloud platform became the first public cloud service in Australia to pass an Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Industry Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) compliance assessment. The announcement was delivered at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion by Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow. It marks part of a major push into the Australian government, businesses, independent software vendors (or ISVs) and startup market by the company. The launch sees two data centres or "Azure Geos" go live in Australia, with one each located in Melbourne and Sydney, which are now available to all Australian Azure customers. The local cloud computing regions mean local Azure accounts will be hosted in a data centre within Australia, in turn allowing businesses to be able to assure customers their key data will never leave Australia. Each data centre building is roughly the same size as a rugby field and can hold two jumbo jets or 600,000 servers. In turn, both locations are large enough to allow 16 data centres to be built next to each other. In addition to local data centres, Microsoft announced it would allow businesses to get a dedicated fibre-optic link to an Azure data centre through either Equinix and Telstra through its ExpressRoute service. "Today is a historic day, a monumental day, because it's the first day Australian customers can log on and choose the Azure Australian Geo," Marlow said. "The data centre is up and running in Australia for the first time." "The time and the tools are here and now to concentrate on what it is you do everyday." Globally, Azure is signing up 10,000 new customers per week. It currently hosts 1.2 million SQLdatabases, 30 trillion objects, 350 million users, 18 billion authentications per week, over 2 million registered developers and 60% of customers are using higher level services. Executive vice president of Microsoft's cloud and services group, Scott Guthrie, predicted the cloud computing marketplace will eventually shrink to three key players in Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure. Guthrie said a key differentiating feature of Azure compared to other services is its large size (or "hyper-scale") including the ability to scale-up services based on demand. It also includes enterprise grade support, as well as hybrid cloud support, meaning on-premises servers can connect any on-premises server to the cloud. "We plan to differentiate from the other two based on our level of enterprise support," Guthrie says. "Going forward, we believe all our customers will need to take advantage of this hyper-scale activity and that elastic capability to save costs." Guthrie also highlighted the recently launched Azure Marketplace, similar to a smartphone app store, allows a range of both Linux and Windows server images to be installed on virtual machines at the click of a mouse button, along with higher-level cloud-based services. "It's a strategy where you can take the best of the Windows ecosystem and the best of the Linux ecosystem," Guthrie says. Microsoft revealed 19 regions will get local datacentres by the end of 2014, which is twice the number offered by Amazon AWS and six times the number offered by the Google Cloud. Amazon currently has one region in Australia. One company mentioned during the keynote speech was event management software developer Centium Software, a Brisbane-based company with 70 staff that helped organise the London Olympic Games. Centium chief executive Trevor Gardiner told StartupSmart it will help his Brisbane-based company of less than 70 staff to scale up for major events. "Our customers range from small event organisers right through to significant world events," Gardiner says. "Historically, the world event space has been difficult for us because of the infrastructure involved with that, and customers being unwilling to pay for that scale in the early days. "What Azure is doing for us is that it's allowing us to say to our customers that you don't need to pay for a lot of expensive infrastructure in the early days, you can scale up and have that data locally." Andrew Sadauskas attended TechEd as a guest of Microsoft. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Aviation app developer Avsoft is gaining altitude across Australia, New Zealand and the US following an investment from entrepreneur Simon Hackett, with the company recently releasing an entry-level version of its CASA-approved app for Android devices. Avsoft chief executive Bevan Anderson says before the company’s AvPlan EFB iPad app, pilots used to carry bags filled with flight and gadget manuals. “Traditionally, pilots did all their flight planning using rulers on maps. They used rulers and protractors to measure distances and headings to fly. They then needed to manually take into account winds and other factors when flight planning,” Anderson says. “All this information, maps, airport diagrams and others then needed to be carried into the cockpit. Depending on the flight to be undertaken, this could be kilos of paper.” Following the release of the Apple iPad in April 2010, Anderson started thinking about how a flight book could be compressed into next to no weight in the form of an electronic flight bag app, or EFB, for the new device. “I imagined an app on the device which replaced my pilot’s kneeboard. On my kneeboard I clipped my flight plan on one side and the maps, charts and airport information used for the flight on the other. AvPlan EFB was to be an electronic replacement for this, and that is what it has become (and a whole lot more),” Anderson says. “These days, AvPlan EFB replaces all this, plus more calculations and other performance optimisation functionality in a small device weighing 100s of grams. We can then take it everywhere with us, so no matter where a pilot is, we have all the tools at our disposal. Over the past few years we gained approval from CASA for pilots to use AvPlan EFB instead of carrying all this bulky paper.” The app came to the attention of Australian entrepreneur Simon Hackett soon after he purchased his Pilatus PC-12 aeroplane. In November last year, Hackett invested in a 40% stake in the company, allowing it to expand overseas. “As he got familiar with it and saw what we had achieved, he reached out to us and offered us some investment to assist us to add capability and to grow the product into new markets. Since Simon came on board we have expanded into the United States and New Zealand, and begun the process of bringing AvPlan EFB to a new platform, in Android,” Anderson says. Hackett explains that a key distinction between AvPlan and its rivals is that it began life as a flight planning and flight management application for high end/professional/commercial pilots. “It offers functions that are extremely sophisticated, and that are hugely valuable to this type of pilot. It also works wonderfully well right down to a 'weekend warrior' flying his two-seat sports aircraft to the next airfield for a Saturday BBQ,” Hackett says. “The latter usage model is a perfect fit to our 'Lite' (entry level) version, and the software then lets you unlock more and more features via additional/optional subscription packs, to turn on all the professional pilot tools if you need them. “Because we started life at the high end, AvPlan does these sophisticated things really well (by design, and by intent). Some of our competitors started out as a cheerful tool for the weekend warrior and have grown more sophisticated features later, and in a far more haphazard manner – and we think the result is far less effective than our 'designed-in' sophistication. “In effect, we started at the high end of the industry and we're reaching down toward simpler mission support, where our competitors started simple and have bolted stuff on over time to climb 'upward' to the harder stuff. We think the way around we did it creates a better outcome.” The new Android version, dubbed AvPlan Lite 1.0, is an entry-level version of the app available as a free one-month trial from the Google Play store, with a full subscription costing $69 per year in Australia. “We only exist today as the companies who produced flight planning software for the PC never adapted their businesses when mobile devices began to appear,” Anderson says. “This example is a lesson to us to never rest on your accomplishments, and never bet your business on what is currently the big thing. Always look for new opportunities and respond to market demands, and in our case, the market demands multiple platform support.” “We certainly feel that we have only just begun. With what we are doing, and with the assistance of our fantastic industry partners we expect to see mobile devices bringing more efficiency to aviation: A future where aviation is more accessible to existing and new pilots.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Local services marketplace Oneflare has secured an additional $1 million in funding as the service begins preparations for international expansion. It comes after a group of three principal investors, Les Szekely of Equity Venture Partners, Garry Visontay of the Sydney Seed Fund and Dr Jeffrey Tobias of The Strategy Group, invested $500,000 into the online marketplace in May of last year. Founder Marcus Lim told Private Media that since then, Oneflare has seen rapid growth as consumers looking for local services increasingly turn away from traditional print classifieds. “We’ve grown 300% over the past 12 months, as people leave print classifieds behind as they become obsolete. We add a lot of value for customers and unlike print classifieds we provide a clear return on investment for businesses,” Lim says. “We’re a marketplace for local services, such as cleaners, electricians, plumbers, removalists, painters, accountants and gardeners. A consumer visits our site with a job that needs to be done, and then we package that info up and send it to local service providers. “The consumer gets several quotes and chooses the most suitable provider for them. Then when the job’s done, the consumer can provide feedback which we pass on to the service provider. Since launching in 2011, the service has grown to 50,000 businesses registered in over 200 categories with almost 500,000 visitors per month. Seeing the rapid rate of growth, Lim says Oneflare’s three principal investors have poured an additional $1 million into the business, bringing the total amount raised to $1.5 million. “The three main things we’re looking at funding is international expansion, hiring more staff and scaling our sales and marketing team,” he says. In terms of international expansion, Lim expects Oneflare to launch in the UK within the next 12 months. “We’ve identified the UK as the biggest opportunity for us at the moment. It has a market three times the size of Australia’s, and it’s also similar in terms of language and how trades and services are handled,” he says. “For the past three-and-a-half years, we’ve refined our user acquisition offering. Past of what we’re looking at is that we can scale across countries. So we’ve set seven KPIs for our UK expansion, and once we’ve hit those, we’ll look at other overseas markets.” “The US is crowded marketplace and many of our counterparts are secure in their positions. New Zealand is geographically the closest market to Australia, but online, that’s not really a relevant consideration. “The UK has two times the market size of Canada, so the highest yield in terms of reward for effort.” Aside from its international plans, it also wants to grow its share of the local market. “We had a very lean operation and have been ramping up recently. We’ve had five hires in the past month,” he says. “We want to become the most trusted source for high quality local services in Australia.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.