Becoming a successful business blogger is a lot harder than many people think and overnight successes are rare. However, with hard work and the right strategies, anyone can find their online niche and start to build an audience. World-renowned blogger and Social Media Week Sydney special guest, Jeff Bullas, examines his key learnings from five years of blood, sweat and tears, online. 1. Find your passion and purpose Blogging about something you’re passionate about gives you the fuel and drive to persist and keep going. So when considering the content of your blog, you should consider the point where your passions and skills merge; writing about a topic you are ambivalent about is a sure-fire way to lose interest and make what should be a fun and interesting process, into something that is an effort. 2. Identify your target audience Observe the audiences of your competition: the major bloggers, websites and influencers. Watch how they interact, and make sure you read their comments and responses. Now think about your own skills and identify who would benefit from your own knowledge. Everyone wants to reach out to the whole internet, but finding an audience that cares about the content you have to offer and trusts your expertise is key to keeping them engaged. When you’re clear about who you’re reaching out to, it makes creating content so much easier as you understand your audience and know what they want to read. 3. Creating free content Creating content has to come after finding your passion. Identify your topics and then put yourself in your reader’s shoes and ask yourself: what are their problems, their challenges and their aspirations. The content you produce should meet the answers to those questions. Monitor the reaction to your content and continue experimenting and marketing it relentlessly. If you are struggling with what to write about there are blogger topic databases that can be used to spark an idea. Other than that, pick a key topic, and what industries that topic could be used for, and write a tailored article for some different industries. When it comes to actually writing content, I try to set aside some time every working day before distractions get in the way. For me, that is early in the morning. I also have guest writers, which help free up my time to focus on other important tasks. 4. Building your distribution network The key to marketing your blog is in building the largest distribution network through social media and email that your time and resources will allow. These days there seems to be a reduction of organic reach on social networks, so instead of solely focusing on social media to build a distribution network, it is important to build your email list as well. When doing this, there are a few key points to remember. Firstly, make it easy for people to subscribe; give them options on your home page and at the end of your blog posts, and create non-annoying pop ups. Secondly, give readers an incentive to subscribe, even if it’s in the form of exclusive reports or white papers. And finally, write good content with added-value, on a consistent basis. That’s what makes readers want to keep up with your blog. 5. Creating and packaging your knowledge Blogging can be a great source of revenue, but for that to be the case you have to properly ‘package’ your knowledge. The key is looking at innovative and compelling ways to share your passion and skills. For example, why not look at writing a short e-book or demonstrate your skills through an online video? Or could you host a Google Hangout? 6. Building joint ventures Joint ventures can help amplify your marketing efforts; they let you reach out to other networks of readers by working with other bloggers and businesses. The important thing with joint ventures is that content must be high quality and produced with care, as there is a lot of credibility and trust on the line. When looking to build a joint venture it is important to find relationships with both competitors and non-competitors that have very similar audiences, but that also have large social networks and substantial email lists. 7. Launching and marketing your products Using social media to launch and market your products gives you multiple platforms to reach different communities and share your messages. Marketing for your blog happens on three main levels: social media, email and optimising for search engines, so think about how you can leverage these channels. The best advice I can offer when it comes to being a successful blogger is to start, learn and persist. Put simply: “Being done is better than being perfect.” Jeff Bullas is hosting a number of seminars and master-classes at Social Media Week Sydney. For ticketing details, visit www.socialmediaweek.org/sydney. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
PayPal and Braintree’s Startup Blueprint, a global program to support startups making mobile web software or services, has launched in Australia. The program was also launched in seven other markets in the Asia-Pacific including Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Taiwan. The Startup Blueprint program partners with startups from incubators and accelerators around the globe to help the next generation of mobile and web companies to monetise their businesses and connect with 152 million active account holders. Its Australian partners include Startmate, Blackbird Ventures, ATP Innovations and Oxygen Ventures. Through the program startups get free payment processing for up to a transaction value of $US1.5 million with PayPal and $US100,000 with Braintree. The startups will also get access to a team of startup advisors who will provide one-on-one mentorship, workshops and support. To be eligible for the program startups must focus on making mobile or web software or services, be privately held and make less than $US3 million annually or be less than five years old, and be nominated by a Startup Blueprint partner. The program has been operating since late last year and has helped nurture successful startups including Memebox, Blitsy, Telnyx and Swivl. Founder of Startmate and Blackbird Ventures Niki Scevak says both are thrilled to be Startup Blueprint partners. “It’s programs like these that give our startups an edge when launching global businesses from Australia.” Senior global director, PayPal and Braintree developer and Startup Relationships, John Lunn says it’s a way for the companies to give back to the startup community. “We know every cent matters and we do not expect anything in return. PayPal and Braintree are driving Startup Blueprint because we have been there,” he says. “We want to help startups get up and running. This program empowers payment capabilities and supports each startup’s growth.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has the power to boost the amount of funding available from equity crowdfunding overnight, without any need for new legislation, according to Australian Small Scale Offerings Board chief executive officer Paul Niederer. Since 2005, the Australian Small Scale Offerings Board has raised $140 million in funding for more than 300 startups and small to medium enterprises through equity crowdfunding. Last week reports emerged that Treasury officials were concerned about crowdfunding schemes and as a result the government will delay the details of new policy after consultation with the industry and the community. Some startups argue that caps of $10,000 of investment from individual retail investors across four startups, and a maximum of $2 million raised per startup, as suggested by the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, are unnecessary. Niederer says while it would be great to have hundreds of people investing up to $2500 in startups, in reality it’s unlikely, and to build policy with such a goal in mind is misguided. “For a new startup or growth company to do a whole raise in that area, they would have to be incredibly attractive to the general public, and it’s not something I’ve seen any evidence for,” he says. “And in reality you’ve got to look at the fact that a startup doesn’t really want hundreds of investors. And the chances of them getting it are not that high, unless they’re targeting an exit in Silicon Valley.” Niederer says the smarter approach would be to increase the number of retail investors allowed to invest through the Small Scale Offerings Legislation from 20 to 100. He says ASIC has the power to make such a change, but had deferred any decision until a broader review of crowdfunding was completed by CAMAC. CAMAC released the findings of that review in June, but Niederer says while those behind the report did a great job, despite a number of submissions suggesting the change should be looked at, it was not examined in detail. “CAMAC and participants should start looking at an Australian solution rather than the best potpourri they can manage from looking around the world at ‘best practices’,” he says. “A simple change from 20 to 100 investors in small scale offerings regulations would do 95% of the job.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian Senate inquiry into bitcoin set to be announced, as industry group ADCCA advocates self-regulation9:53AM | Monday, 22 September
Digital currency industry body Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association (ADCCA) has advocated a self-regulatory framework, ahead of a Senate inquiry into cryptocurrency. Private Media understands federal NSW Senator Sam Dastyari is set to announce the Senate Economics Committee inquiry into bitcoin next week. In a submission to the federal government’s Financial System Inquiry (FSI) published ahead of the Senate inquiry, ADCCA advocates the use of the self-regulation model used by Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA) for cryptocurrencies. After launching in April with four initial members – Digital B2C, Australian bitcoin ATMs, Bit Trade Australia and BitPOS – ADCCA has been collaborating with government officials on policy. A key focus for the group has been the development of a self-regulatory framework and code of conduct based on industry best practice. It is working on professional development and accreditation programs, and will soon announce an industry membership certification designed to give comfort to regulators and other financial institutions. In its submission, the group acknowledges a number of potential challenges identified in the FSI’s Interim Report. These include risks to the safety of funds, investor protection issues, the potential for illegal activities and the uncertainty of regulation. “ADCCA considers that the growth of digital currencies in Australia, in particular Bitcoin, is likely to increase dramatically in the near future,” the report states. “To that end, ADCCA supports comments in submissions to the FSI which recognise the desirability for increased regulatory focus on digital currencies. “An increased regulatory focus will help to facilitate certainty, transparency and economic growth. However, so as not to ‘chill’ the future development of this nascent industry, it is necessary to ensure that an appropriate balance is achieved between certainty of regulation and future innovation.” The submission also cites a number of benefits to APCA self-regulation model as a solution. These include that it is “capable of managing and addressing risk in a rapidly changing environment”, it can “draw on the expertise, experience and industry-specific knowledge of industry participants” and “does not stifle innovation”. ADCCA chairman delegate Ronald Tucker told Private Media Australia could become a global leader in digital currency by taking “a few forward-thinking agile steps”. “By taking a few agile steps, we can grab the low-hanging fruit and become a global leader in digital finance for decades to come. That’s going to lead to a lot of jobs growth and innovation,” he says. However, Tucker warned the overburden of poor regulation or overregulation would have a “chilling effect” on the local industry. “The first domino has already fallen with the decision to tax cryptocurrencies as a commodity, as happens with barter transactions,” he says. “This means we apply a consumption tax to purchasing bitcoins and then an additional 10% GST for fixed transactions at some exchanges – it’s double taxation. And also, dual invoicing is required in barter transactions. “Something like that does chill the innovation. It’s something we need to avoid, either through the ATO or other regulatory bodies.” While Private Media attempted to contact the office of Senator Dastyari, no official comment was available prior to publication. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Apple has now released its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in Australia, and the near inevitable crowds are – once again – lining up around the block. So what does the news mean for Australian software studios and app developers? Is this likely to be an “insanely great” development that will boost revenues and sales for local startups? Perhaps it will mean more headaches for developers? Or will this mean less than some would anticipate? We asked a number of developers and entrepreneurs to find out: Clipp co-founder and chairman Greg Taylor It looks like a bigger iPhone 5s – but with some amazingly beautiful and innovative new rounded edges! The best part for Clipp is Apple Pay. Apple Pay will provides our customers with another payment option to credit card and PayPal, the major benefit being customers not having to enter their credit card, overcoming any concerns of credit card security. Apple Pay will be a huge driver to mobile payment adoption, which is great for Clipp. Anytime Apple releases a new iOS, I get very nervous, particularly a major release like iOS 8. There is a strong history of many apps not working on each major release. I have already received an email from a widely used app this morning warning customers not to upgrade to iOS 8. Apple don't give developers much time at all from releasing the final version until consumers can download it. If something does not work, there is not enough time to fix it, test it and put it through the App store approval process (approximately two weeks) prior to it hitting the market. Tapit co-founder Jamie Conyngham The fact that NFC is in the iPhone 6 is a huge reversal for Apple, and we are super excited by it. As recent as 12 months ago TechCrunch reported that Apple was never going to take NFC up so we're really glad to see it's there. The fact that they have put it in for payments is amazing for the industry and we are already feeling the shock waves. People now understand that everything is going to be NFC payments in a short amount of time. We have been waiting for the banks, credit card companies and retailers to begin educating the mass market about NFC for payments for a while, as it was always going to be a big driver for the technology so it will be a great opportunity. Organisations are finally realising that NFC services are coming and they are all going to start planning for it. Unfortunately, it won't be available for other great NFC applications like tag reading/pairing and apps for about 12 months. In the meantime, Tapit will continue working with open NFC partners like Samsung to improve and innovate on new ways to use NFC, as well as executing bigger information and advertising projects. Tapit will also continue using beacons and QR for Apple users in the meantime as well. Outware Mobile director Danny Gorog “iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are an incredible opportunity for Outware. Many of our clients including ANZ, Telstra, AFL and Coles are excited about the new larger displays and the added flexibility that iOS 8 provides. We’re already well underway to ensure our clients apps are fully iOS 8 and iPhone 6 compliant. As specialists in large scale finance and insurance apps, we believe the new NFC capabilities in iPhone 6 will change the mobile payment landscape and the way Australians want to pay and shop. Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of tap and go terminals in the world so we are a perfect fit for this technology.” Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath Devices like the iPhone 6 are a response to the consumer demand for easier access to more content. In the last four years, the average webpage size has nearly tripled while average connection "speeds" have only doubled. This is putting great pressure on website owners to utilise better ways of delivering increased content to these devices but still maintain a quality user experience. The challenge to keep pace and make use of the attributes of these devices is now being pushed back onto website owners. Higher resolution screens mean images need to be sharper and improved processing capacity means laggy web content delivery is more noticeable for a user. We expect the consumer demand for content to grow at an exponential rate and platforms like the "six" are the hardware manufacturers' answer. The pressure is on website owners now for sure. The ones who are responding are setting themselves apart from their competition. Will Heine, Wicked WItch Software Again the new iPhone launch has been very successful, so there will be more iPhones in the marketplace and new consumers that can enjoy our games like Catapult King. As well as more users, the new devices are again more powerful, which allows more advanced features of our game engine technology to run on mobile and tablet devices, resulting in improved graphical and gameplay quality in all of our upcoming titles. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Delivering the goods: This Melbourne startup wants to break the Coles and Woolworths supermarket duopoly9:55AM | Monday, 22 September
A Melbourne based startup, one of the 12 companies chosen for the Tin Alley Beta Summer program, is preparing for a “David and Goliath” battle using technology to help independent food retailers compete against Coles and Woolworths. YourGrocer founder Morgan Ranieri told Private Media the idea came about when he tried to visit local retailers after becoming “fed up with shopping at the big supermarkets”. “When I wanted to go to the local greengrocer and butcher, they were always closed because I work full-time. There was a big disconnect – these shops were closed when I needed them – and also a big opportunity there to get these businesses online,” he says. “So we’re building a business that does personal home deliveries from independent local shops, such as your local butcher, greengrocer, bakers, delis or independent supermarket. For the shops, we allow them to do e-commerce well and offer deliveries. “And on the customer side, we make it convenient to shop locally. We think people like and prefer local shops but need convenience, and that’s why they end up at Coles and Woolies.” Ranieri says YourGrocer offers independent retailers and customers a “full-stack e-commerce” and same-day delivery model, rather than just an online ordering system. “We do – or facilitate – the deliveries, we help to get shops online, we do marketing as well, and we’re an online marketplace. We’re setting up a model where a local driver can facilitate deliveries, so a local driver goes to the shops once a day, picks up the orders and does the deliveries,” he says. “We launched in May of last year, and now do about 100 deliveries per week with around $35,000 in sales per month. We’re just in the northern suburbs of Melbourne at the moment based out of Brunswick, we also cover surrounding suburbs including Coburg, Northcote, Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Melbourne. Aside from the inner-northern suburbs, YourGrocer hopes to add a second run in the coming months, and hopes to expand the service to 10 runs by the end of next year. “Online grocery is growing at over 20% per year globally, it’s the fastest growing segment in the food and grocery sector. There’s lot’s to be discovered – and lots of disruption. The future, I believe, is in omni-channel retailing that connects online and in-store in a seamless way,” Ranieri says. “I believe grocery is one of the biggest untapped opportunities in e-commerce. There’s lots of eyes, but still a low penetration rate compared to clothing and electrical... The big guys know this – and they’re scrambling on online delivery. “Independent retailers also know online grocery is happening. But they’re not online marketers, and many say they lack the time, capital or expertise to do it, so we empower them to do it well.” This week, YourGrocer is among the 12 companies selected for the 2014-15 Tin Alley beta Summer Tech Internships program. The other successful candidates are 121cast, MetaCDN, Xcheque, Rundl, Edrolo, Stacks, JDLF International, the City of Melbourne’s CityLAB, Whispir.com, Gyde and Hobart-based Sense-T. With strong growth prospects ahead of it, Ranieri says there will be a variety of tasks open to the interns at YourGrocer. “We have a small and experienced team and believe in T-shaped people, who have expertise in certain skills but are also capable of working in a broader perspective,” he says. “The intern we are looking for could be working in improving our backend systems built in Ruby on Rails, develop new UI capabilities with AngularJS or help us with the mobile apps we are planning on developing. “This is an exciting opportunity for someone who wants to get their hands dirty writing software from concept to cash and help us change the grocery industry in Australia.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
For years, the overnight success story he was craving eluded Nic Blair. The digital entrepreneur has 10 startups to his name, and has personally lost $43,000 along the way. “Failure is how you learn, though. It’s all part of the journey,” he says. Blair began turning his ideas into business ventures in 2007, and spent the next year juggling his time between six startups with a couple of business partners. These included a Facebook app, a directory for a martial arts business, online marketing agency NSM Digital and online content network Luscious Media, which included Knockout Bids and Play Free Online Games. But none of the ideas worked, and the trio walked away from all the businesses and returned to the traditional workforce. The 28-year-old Brisbane man had lost $25,000 all up, though landed a job in online marketing for Flight Centre and wanted to repay his debts. “I had to accept that I needed a job to pay the bills. It was hard, because I had so many ideas.” He started his seventh startup, SEO and SEM agency Search Factory, on his own in 2011 after quitting Flight Centre, and it has been successful. Search Factory has grown to employ a team of 27 people and a further 25 contractors (all based in Australia). It has almost quadrupled turnover from around $560,000 in their first year to $2.2 million in their third year. “We’re constantly cleaning up digital messes for clients, getting penalties removed so they’re ranking again, that sort of thing. We focus on high quality search, so we don’t outsource to overseas, which is a model that has worked well for us.” At the same time, he launched number eight – a network of 25 travel websites called the All Site Network – which he hoped to turn into a lead generation business, though this ultimately failed. “The whole concept was good, but I wasn’t practising what I was preaching about lead generation, so it fell over. Google changed its algorithms, which hurt the business, too. I sold it cheaply and walked away with an $18,000 loss.” In September 2012 he launched yet another startup, mobile apps business Brus Media, which has also been a success. This was his ninth startup. Brus Media is an affiliate network focused on performance-based advertising for mobile apps. It helps clients monetise and grow their iPhone, iPad and Android apps. In a nutshell, Brus Media offers promotional opportunities for advertisers and game developers. Blair and his co-founders have helped grow some of the largest gaming apps, including Candy Crush Saga, Castle Clash, Clash of Clans and Slotomania. Back on the very first day of business, Brus Media generated just $1 in revenue. Fast forward, and its generating $1 in revenue every 7.6 seconds, which equates to almost $4000 per day, based on an eight-hour work day. In March this year, Brus Media had over 19,000,000 clicks for mobile apps, over 550,000 installs and made over $225,000 in revenue. Both Brus Media and Search Factory were launched with no capital and present huge overseas growth opportunities, which Blair is focused on now. He was recently named in the 2014 Australian Anthill 30 Under 30 list. A recent opportunity to purchase FreeRiderMX magazine (print circulation of around 8000) also presented itself, which Blair seized upon. He’s trying to revive it by focusing on a stronger digital strategy to grow print sales, which marks his tenth business, which he’s rebuilding from the ground up. The biggest lesson he’s learned has been the importance of focusing on one startup at a time. “The gap between closing down and opening a new business hasn’t really existed for us. Sometimes if the idea strikes, we’ve just gone out there and launched a new startup. I probably wouldn’t do that again. It’s far better to focus on one thing at a time,” Blair says. “I’ve also learnt that you don’t need a bunch of money to start a business. The marketing side of business is definitely a skill learnt, because that’s going to make the startup, or not.” Don’t put barriers between yourself if you’re thinking of starting a business, he says. “Most people I speak to are thinking about starting a business, but tell me all the reasons why they can’t do it now. Don’t wait until everything is perfect to get started. Particularly in the tech world.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Speaking in front of a healthy crowd of entrepreneurs at a Startup Grind Melbourne event at the NAB Atrium on Tuesday, Carsales.com.au founder and managing director Greg Roebuck gave his top three tips for startup founders to consider when pitching to investors. 1. Don’t expect to be an overnight success “The chances of someone being an Instagram, two or three years of hard work, a billion dollars; sorry, it’s unlikely. You’ve got to have the view you’re going to be doing this for years. I don’t want someone that’s built something that’s enough to get some money and then walk away. In my view, people say why are you still working in the same business all these years later, they ask why haven’t you done something else?” “It was never a let’s build it to a point where we can flick to someone else and move on. I like businesses that the people have a genuine passion for, and have passion for it for a longer period of time. It doesn’t mean a great idea can’t be sold to a Google or a Facebook or a Twitter, but it’s probably not how I think about businesses.” 2. Belief and passion “Nobody will tell you it’s a good idea, otherwise they would have done it themselves. Everyone will tell you a bad idea, and it’s always easy to say no. I like people that are prepared to get a few noes and are prepared to keep giving it a go.” 3. Solve a real-world problem “Car sales were broken. And a lot of things we do in Carsales people take for granted now: like list until sold. We were the first people in the world, certainly in Australia, to offer listing until sold for a classified. I love the old classified model. It was put an ad in The Age on a Saturday it’ll cost you $70 bucks. If it doesn’t sell, well give me another $70 bucks. If it still doesn’t sell give me another $70 bucks. The problem with that model is they made more money if they did a bad job. Then I came along and said give me your money and my job is to get you a sale and you never have to pay me again because you’ve given me the money for the job I have to do. So solving real-world problems that help people.” Startup Grind Melbourne’s next event will feature Envato co-founder and CEO Collis Ta’eed on Wednesday, October 29. For tickets, head over to Startup Grind Melbourne’s Eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian mobile payment startup Clipp has appointed former Microsoft executive Todd Forest as its new chief executive. The startup, which describes itself as Uber for bar tabs, has experienced rapid growth this year and is now used in 270 venues across the country. Clipp’s co-founder Greg Taylor told StartupSmart the decision to bring Forest on as chief executive came about after examining where the business was at and where it needed to be. “The first step is sitting down and saying what do we do really well, what areas we are lacking in and where we need help,” he says. “Everyone should be doing what they do best. For some co-founders it can be difficult to let the reins go a little bit but that comes down to who the candidate is.” Taylor says bringing onboard external, experienced talent can make a startup more rounded. For Clipp, the priorities are improving the point of sale as well as getting venues and consumers on board. “As we head into that space, Todd’s experience fits really nicely and positions the business really well as we head into that second phase of growth,” Taylor says. “It’s an opportunity more than anything to work under and work with someone with that level of experience.” Australia’s geographical distance from startup hubs like San Francisco has not stopped local startups from building strong relationships with international talent, according to Taylor. The most important thing is that the new team member fits with the startup’s culture. For example, earlier this year Guy Kawasaki joined Sydney design software startup Canva. “Cream rises to the top and if there’s a good business and there’s a good business model there will be a natural attrition into that space,” Taylor says. “The world is flat in that regard.” In a statement, Todd Forest said he was looking forward to cementing Clipp as Australia’s go-to mobile payment solution. “I join Clipp at a time when the mobile payments space is beginning to heat up,” he said. “2014 has been an incredible year for Clipp and we’re looking to continue that momentum right through to next year with some product updates and other big news which I can’t wait to share with you all.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australia is at risk of becoming one of the last developed markets in the world to act in support of equity crowdfunding, according to the founder of equity crowdfunding platform Equitise, Chris Gilbert. Sources told The Australian that Treasury officials have concerns about crowdfunding schemes and the government will delay the details of new policy until after the department consults with industry and the community. Gilbert says he’s been told by a prominent government source that there’s a chance regulation might not be in place until July 1 next year, and a small chance that it might not happen until July 1, 2016. Equitise, one of four startups in the AWI Ventures accelerator program, is working towards its New Zealand launch in four weeks’ time. Unlike Australia, New Zealand has introduced laws which allow retail investors to participate in equity crowdfunding and enable startups like Equitise to operate. Gilbert says Equitise would not be impacted too much if regulation was delayed until next year. He says while they would have liked to launch in Australia first, the startup is content focusing on that market for the time being. However, a delay until 2016 is a different matter. “It’s looking like legislation and licensing will be released in the first of July next year, and Australia will be one of the last developed markets in the world to support equity crowdfunding,” he says. “We can deal with the 1st of July next year, but if it were the 1st of July the following year that would be pretty bad for us.” Earlier this year the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC) called for the government to make it easier for startups to raise capital through online crowdfunding platforms. Currently, crowdsourced equity funding is only available to wholesale investors with more than $2.5 million in investable assets or annual earnings of around $250,000. CAMAC recommended Australia introduce legislation which allowed retail investors to invest up to $10,000 a year, across at least four startups, in equity crowdfunding, and allow companies to raise up to $2 million per year on such platforms. The Australian reported that some government ministers regard these caps as too low, and Gilbert agrees. He thinks Australia should follow New Zealand’s lead and allow investors to invest as much as they want. “If they understand the risks they should be able to invest,” Gilbert says. “I think it’s important to have a cap, but $10,000 is way too low. It’s difficult to say exactly what that cap should be. In New Zealand where we’re launching in about four weeks’ time, they don’t have caps. If you look at that market they’re leading the way globally in terms of legislation at the moment. “We’re required to have disclosure statements, warning statements, all through the site, it’s quite up front and you really can’t miss it. That’s how they’re dealing with the risk.” He also believes companies should be able to raise up to $5 million per year through equity crowdfunding. “$2 million is far too low. New Zealand has the same limit, although it is bringing in a micro-cap market on the stock exchange. The Australian Stock Exchange has a minimum market cap of $10 million, so there’s an $8 million difference that needs to be filled.” The chief operating officer of VentureCrowd and Artesian Capital Management, Tim Heasley, says while there is broad political support for the liberalisation of equity crowdfunding in Australia, that’s where agreement ends. He believes it’s inevitable that reform won’t occur until mid-2015 at the earliest. Among CAMAC’s recommendations were that crowdfunding platforms should be prohibited from having a financial interest in a startup or platform, or being paid in shares of startup or according to the amount of funds raised. He says those recommendations are “nonsensical” and give strength to the argument that CAMAC failed to consult properly with industry before releasing its report. “Neither is required to protect against conflicts of interest and each would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for platforms to be run profitably,” he says. “There has been some criticism on the low caps placed on individual investors by which they can invest only $10,000 in any year and this must be spread over at least four startups. VentureCrowd favours any recommendation that requires diversification of investment across a number of start-ups instead of allowing investors to put their eggs in one basket. “While the overall limit could be increased, we see no harm in starting somewhat cautiously now with a view to higher limits in the future as this form of funding grows in popularity.” Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive Yasser El-Ansary says irrespective of what the caps are, the more pressing issue for the government should be the development of a new national innovation policy. “Private investment whether through crowdfunding, angel, venture capital or private equity funding needs to be accompanied by a national innovation policy that has a focus on the translation of research into commercial outcomes,” he says. “Our weakness is in the D of R&D, we need a new translational innovation fund to attract matching private capital. We have recommended a new $500 million translational innovation fund funded by 10% of the proposed Medical Research Future Fund. “Also, the government needs to address a range of tax issues including ESOP structures. Without such a holistic approach at the policy level, we’ll continue to major in the minors and innovation will not deliver for the economy.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Bennett Blank’s three principles on staying fresh and relevant: “We’re trying to turn Intuit into a company of 8000 entrepreneurs”9:31AM | Thursday, 18 September
It’s not direct competitors that keep the folks at Intuit up at night; it’s all the startups they don’t know about, according to Intuit innovation catalyst Bennett Blank. The financial software company describes itself as the “30-year-old startup” and Blank says for the last six years it’s been trying to instil startup values in its employees through its Design for Delight program. “There’s lots and lots of pressure from all different angles for established players like Intuit,” Blank says. “In general, being in tech is extremely challenging because it’s changing so rapidly. We like to say it’s not the company’s market competitors that keep us up at night, it’s the kid in a garage outside Stanford that could be about to launch in 30 days. “Which is why we’re trying to turn Intuit into a company of 8000 entrepreneurs.” The program is based on three principles that Blank says can apply to startups and businesses of all shapes and sizes: 1. Deep customer empathy “We try to understand the customer by observing them in the real world,” Blank says. 2. Going broad to go narrow “This is about helping people to employ many solutions until they dive onto the final solution that actually works: brainstorming until they settle on the final option.” 3. Rapid experiments “We’re out there developing experiments in the wild, showing those products. And figuring out through those experiments how to learn new things about the customer. “There’s no success, no failure, just the experiment. Seeing what you learn.” Of the company’s 8000 strong workforce, there are 200 employees that are known as innovation catalysts, specifically trained to help instil Design for Delight values in their colleagues. “We have a rich tradition of entrepreneurship that gives us a head start from other corporations,” Blank says. “We’re somewhat unique in that Intuit has been around for 30 years or so and our founder is still active. “One benefit we’re seeing from Design for Delight is we’re able to react much faster to other companies.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
If you’re starting out as an entrepreneur you’re likely to be a PHD: poor, hungry and driven, according to last night’s panel of serial entrepreneurs at the SmartCompany and Crowe Horwath Smart50 awards. In a discussion hosted by Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, the crowd heard from Freelancer founder Matt Barrie, Harteffect and Unigrad founder Andrea Culligan and startup veteran Susan Wu, one of the original investors in Twitter and Square. Barrie says if you’re a PHD you’ve got nothing to lose by starting a business. “What’s the worst that is going to happen, in two years you are exactly where you are now?” he says. Barrie’s entrepreneurial spark stemmed from realising he was “fundamentally” unemployable. “Being an entrepreneur is like crawling on your hands and knees through broken glass staring into the abyss,” Barrie says. “One day you are on top of the world, the next day everything is going wrong. It is like two steps forward and one step back.” His advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to ignore the doubters. “A lot of people will tell you, you should do this with your life, you should do that, get a good job. You’ve just got to ignore all of that,” he says. Wu agrees that being an entrepreneur can be tough, describing it as generally “an incredibly lonely experience”. “You basically have to ignore 99% of what people are telling you and figure out exactly what you believe in yourself and commit to that,” she says. Culligan also advocates taking a risk by starting a business, testing an idea, putting it out there, marketing it and testing whether there is value in it. She says you can do all of this without spending a dime. “If you do have a concept or you do have an idea, don’t hide it, share it, because if you are sharing it and you have some success then build it,” she says. “You are going to build your tribe quicker that way rather than hiding your idea first and then finding out once you spent $150,000 on all the technology that goes with it.” For Culligan, being a serial entrepreneur is about picking yourself back up and finding opportunities for regeneration and learning from them. “I think we need to celebrate those failures a lot more often to become more successful and to do it a lot more quickly,” she says. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..
Leading Australian bitcoin startup CoinJar has begun trialling Australia’s first bitcoin EFTPOS card, which co-founder and chief executive officer Asher Tan says is a “huge step” for adoption of the cryptocurrency in Australia. Users open a CoinJar bitcoin wallet, activate the card, then they can set it up to automatically top up with an amount of Australian dollars they’re comfortable with. It effectively enables CoinJar users to use their Coinjar wallet funds in any store that accepts EFTPOS. Customers can also manually top up their CoinJar Swipe if they prefer that to automation. CoinJar teamed up with prepaid payments solution provider emerchants to develop the card. “I think it’s a huge step in terms of answering the question, where can I spend and how can I use bitcoin,” Tan says. “One of the biggest criticisms of bitcoin is that it is not widely accepted. “We created Swipe because we simply wanted to make it easier for our customers to spend their bitcoin. “We’ve been working on this for a while. We’ve working on ways where our users can get better coverage around Australia and this is a long-time coming.” Some 100 CoinJar DNA members will receive their cards next week. The CoinJar team will take any feedback on board before making the cards publicly available by late October. To select those that would receive a card, CoinJar asked its users “What would you do with your CoinJar Swipe?” Answers ranged from paying bills to buying a sausage roll and iced coffee for lunch. “Swipe demystifies bitcoin and makes it accessible to everyone through a secure platform,” he says. “Our team is really excited about Swipe, and we look forward to receiving feedback from customers.” CoinJar estimates bitcoin is being used by 500,000 Australians. Over the past 12 months the startup has processed more than $50 million worth of bitcoin transactions for more than 30,000 individual and business customers. Customers can pre-register for further releases of the card here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Online web series That Startup Show has been shortlisted for the Best Innovation Award at the 2014 Online Video Awards, as its creators negotiate with possible distributors. The second episode of the web series was released on Wednesday and looks to build on the success of the pilot. The first episode, released on YouTube in August has had over 36,000 views with a global reach across Asia, Canada and the USA. That Startup Show co-producer Sally Gatenby says the team was negotiating with a number of possible distributors, including TV. “We’re looking at both traditional and online,” she says. “Given the amount of views we’ve had in a short amount of time, we’re looking forward to seeing how we can leverage that and reach a larger audience.” Episode two, which you can (and should!) watch below, features Oxygen Ventures general manager and investment director Ilya Frolov, IntelligenceBank co-founder Tessa Court, and AngelCube co-founder and lead investor Adrian Stone. They, along with the host, comedian and tech commentator Dan Ilic examine the Australian venture capital landscape, the perceived lack of funds in Australia, and examines why “bizarre” innovations like Yo manage to raise capital. “We’re really happy with how the episode has come across,” Gatenby says. “We really wanted to demystify the role of venture capital in Australia.” Show creator Anna Reeves, a former business affairs manager for cult TV show Rockwiz in its early seasons is thrilled with how That Startup Show has been received so far. “For us, it’s also about actively engaging our audience on this journey in a unique a fun way, which adds vaue and foster connections with the amazing startup culture we have in Australia,” she says. “That’s actually what we love most about it.” That Startup Show episode three and four will be filmed back-to-back in late October as part of StartupAus’ Startup Spring Festival. Tickets are available at That Startup Show’s Eventbrite page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne startup Appster has opened a capital raise to fund its ambitious vision to create “an unprecedented development hub for the greatest ideas and innovations in the world”, according to co-founder Mark McDonald. The startup has offices in Australia, India and the USA. “We aspire to be the world’s first ideas company, that sounds lofty but working in San Francisco you are exposed by osmosis,” he says. “It’s also our beachhead into the US market which we’ve been growing month on month.” The software development startup is raising capital to achieve that goal, although it’s in no rush. As the business is profitable, it’s in the position to wait for the right partner to help it “scale aggressively”. That innovation hub will be AppsterX, the company’s product arm. McDonald says the company is looking to partner with a select few companies, between one and two per year, and takeover everything – commercialisation of intellectual property, building executive teams, raising capital, growth and product engineering. “It’s different to an incubator or accelerator in that we’re not nurturing talent but instead starting these companies for them and taking a lion’s share of the equity,” McDonald says. “We believe this model will work better than an incubator one as we are most vested in the ideas; bring world-class execution and only present VCs with startups that have incredible traction already, “Appster is uniquely positioned to pull this off because we have a large development team, global reach and growing capabilities with finance and growth hacking.” McDonald says the startup has always been slightly different to other app developers, describing its role similar to that of being a technical co-founder without equity, as opposed to a fee-for-hire digital agency. “We’ve worked hard to build a brand and operational economies of scale globally to build the technology behind many of Australia and the world’s most disruptive technology startups.” Recently, former PayPal executive David Jacques and the former chief commercial officer at Virgin Australia, Liz Savage, joined Appster as strategic advisers. “We believe we have incredible executive skills but one weakness was experience in the US capital markets,” McDonald says. “David is a financial and operational expert and a very well-respected person in the industry.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Westpac Group, in conjunction with accelerator BlueChilli, is offering $40,000 to the Australian startup that can create the most useful and disruptive business solution for its SME and commercial real estate customers. “The Westpac Innovation Challenge” is an opportunity for Australian startups to develop new ideas to help the bank’s business customers. The winner of the round will receive $40,000 cash to develop their idea and a six month placement in BlueChilli’s startup accelerator program and the potential of further investment opportunities. BlueChilli founder and chief executive officer Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin says it’s a great opportunity to advance the development of new business services in the marketplace. ”We want to boost startups that use technology in smart ways in order to expand the services available to professionals and consumers within their industry,” he says. The challenge is open to Australian residents who either have an existing early-stage venture or a new concept that can help Westpac’s business customers prosper and grow. Westpac general manager commercial banking Alastair Welsh says the company is looking for ideas that could potentially transform their real-estate customers’ businesses. “Westpac, like our customers, knows that innovation and entrepreneurship are the engines of growth and vital for sustained performance in a rapidly changing, digital economy,” Welsh says. The challenge launches one week after the opening of Westpac Group’s new innovation centre – The Hive – and is part of the bank’s effort to deliver innovative products and services to its customers. There will be future challenge rounds which focus on solving business problems for other Westpac business customers from various industries. Commercial real estate was selected as the first area for the challenge as it is a rapidly growing part of the Australian economy and a key focus area for the Westpac Retail and Business Bank. Applications close at 11pm on Sunday, October 19. For more information and to apply, visit the BlueChilli website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A diverse range of startups make up the 23 tech companies that are set to compete at Tech23 2014. The conference has been the launch pad for a number of successful Australian startup entrepreneurs, including Local Measure founder Jonathan Barouch, BugHerd founders Alan Downie and Matt Milosavljevic and bigtincan founder David Keane. The 23 startups operate in everything from cloud services to robotics and e-health, and include founders with a diverse range of backgrounds from across the country, according to Slattery IT director Rachel Slattery. “People are innovating across Australia, and it’s great to see the breadth of the nation represented amongst the clever technologies being presented at Tech23 this year,” she says. “When Tech23 started six years ago, it was all about creating connections. It’s great to see this happening even more now. As Tech23 alumni companies and founders, industry leaders, sponsors and supporters go out of their way to help the next wave of innovative companies.” Tech23 takes place in Sydney on October 23. The 23 tech companies will each present five minute presentations before being questioned by industry leaders Michelle Deaker, Leni Mayo, David Spence and Richard White. For more information, visit www.tech23.com.au. The Tech23 2014 startups are as follows: Appbot – better app reviews and more sales AUUG – make music through motion Bluedot Innovation – precise, battery-friendly location services Clevertar – avatars for innovative aged care Clipp – the bar tab app Doarama – 3D GPS track visualisation GeoMoby – proximity platform for mobile apps Global and Smart – the story behind good GoFar – cutting car costs through informed driving Intelligent Fleet Logistics – vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation LEAPIN Digital Keys – a smartphone-enabled access control system Maestrano – one-click interconnected business apps for SMEs Mika Compliance – aged care management software/resource portal Oar Inspired – make every stroke count Peepable – liberating online through search and share Pop Tech – transact instantly and control your data Red Eye – cloud-based engineering drawing management solution Robologocial – robotics in the cloud and beyond Skrydata – discovering the value in big data Sound Scouts – harnessing games for health Statsilk – interactive mapping and visualisation software Tzukuri – beautiful wearable technology uSig – breakthrough in password and identity management Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Vending machines full of free Apple products, fully catered meals, band rooms, huge cafeterias that look like any on-trend café; the offices of Yammer, Dropbox and Stripe leave a lasting impression on anyone that is lucky enough to score a look-in. As part of the AngelCube tour of San Francisco, this year’s startups got a small taste of what “non-corporate” could look like. In a bid to attract the best talent – the number one priority that all startups identified as their pain point – tech companies have reimagined work life. And it looks good. But perks are only a small part of what creates a culture at these companies. For Stripe, whose home in an old trunk factory in the Mission District of San Francisco, the focus is on employing people that they would happily spend time with outside of work. They’ve made internal transparency a big focus and keep all email “open” which means that anyone within the company can access all communication in order to find out what is happening elsewhere and reduce the inclination for teams to work in silos. A “nombot” also announces lunch where everyone heads to the kitchen to spend time together. Meetings are kept to a minimum. At 150+ employees and growing fast, it’s still much smaller than Dropbox at around 800. The scale of Dropbox is evidenced by the fact it takes up an entire floor of a large building based down near the Giants ballpark that spans almost a block. It’s not uncommon for employees to be spotted on scooters getting from one side of the building to the next. Like everyone else experiencing huge growth, Dropbox is investing a lot of time making the right hires, and trying not to compromise on that even when departments are crying out for more staff. Yammer has probably had the most interesting journey in that it was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, just after it had moved into its new headquarters on Market St, in the same building as the Twitter office. As a result the desks that were put aside for growth remain empty, but most importantly they have tried to resist the Microsoft mentality (or the perceived “old business thinking”) and keep things as close to the original Yammer vibe as possible. For those who have been with the company from the beginning that has not always been an easy battle, and the slightly barren vibe indicates they have not had an outright win on this front. For now though, the bright blue and green common areas are inviting enough for groups to sit down and relax together, or talk at length about a new feature. Indeed, holding on to that startup heart seems like a worthwhile pursuit. For myself, it was good to see that big companies still aspired to be little companies too. Well, ones with great internal restaurants attached to them at least.
Sitting at The Creamery,“deal central for techies”, in San Francisco’s tech heart Soma, App.io’s CEO Diesel Laws feels the decision to leave Melbourne was the right one. “The mentality here that’s so different to Australia is that you don’t need to get to profitability straight away,” Laws says. Two years after they went through AngelCube’s program, and were then accepted into 500 startups and completed a $1.2 million raise, App.io is aiming to shake up mobile game advertising, allowing potential app buyers to play games for 30 seconds, without downloading anything. App.io claims their tests have shown they can increase conversion by up to three times. “You listen to a song before buying it, or watch a trailer for a film, we’re doing that for apps,” Laws says. “It’s a try before-you-install mobile advertising solution.” App.io requires no extra work on the part of game makers to run previews, which App.io refers to as “ads”, with a patent pending on the tech they’ve been developing for two years. There are a couple of competitors in the space, Voxel and mNectar, but Laws believes that they have the competitive advantage. “For us it’s really important we get the experience right,” Laws says. “We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on that, where others haven’t.” App.io started out as Kickfolio in the AngelCube program, where Laws was working as senior designer at the time, but he became so excited by the opportunity of what Kickfolio was trying to do that he joined them. At that time they were using third party software to allow apps to be previewed in a web browser, eventually becoming unsatisfied with what it could achieve they decided to invest time developing their own tech. They also moved away from their original model of streaming apps in a browser, officially announcing App.io Ads in April. “It become very evident to us that the opportunity lies in the consumer market,” Laws says. One of the original founders, Chris Nolet, recently left, deciding that early stage companies were his passion, rather than those heading into growth. App.io has also brought in a business manager to nail down partnerships with game companies and set the company up for growth, bringing the team to six, across San Francisco and Melbourne. “We’re pretty happy with how things have gone,” says Laws. “We’re looking forward to seeing where this all takes us.” Bronwen Clune is in San Francisco as a guest of Angel Cube. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Twenty Australian entrepreneurs will get the chance to learn from Steve Blank, the academic who launched the lean startup movement, when he visits Australia next month. Blank will be hosting an innovation workshop alongside the founding executive director emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, Jerome Engel, in Melbourne on October 20. The 10 best pitches to the Australian Sports Technologies Network’s Investment Pitching Competition will be invited to the workshop. Another 10 entrepreneurs who submit the 10 best pitches to The $50,000 IT Invention test, hosted by ICT Geelong, will also get the opportunity to take part. Both Blank and Engel will also be keynote speakers at the ASTN’s annual conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, October 21. The conference will focus on ‘The Next Steps to Global Sports Innovation’ and look at how sports innovations developed by Australian companies can tap into the $600 billion global sports market. Engel and Blank will be joined at the conference by representatives from FIFA, the Australian Sports Commission, AFL, Catapult Sports, Vic Health, 2XU, Yachting Australia and the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce Australia. ICT Geelong manager and ASTN executive director Craig Hill was thrilled to be able to bring Blank and Engel to Australia. “Essentially we’re trying to build on Australia’s innovation capacity through the leadership of our sport system,” he says. “Three years ago the Sports Commission released their ‘Winning Edge’ strategy, which highlighted the importance of innovation across sport, not only from a gold medal perspective, but the way we’re managing sport. “There’s not really that many easily accessible sports innovation clusters around the world. The sports sector, manufacturing sector, retail sector, and government, we’re bringing them together and investors to the table. “We want to build on the reputation we have in Australia.” Hill says Geelong is uniquely positioned as a city with easy access to everything that’s required to build a sports technology startup cluster. The Geelong-based Headstart accelerator, which launched earlier this year, aims to incubate and invest in up to 40 new sports technology and IT businesses over the next four years. It’s already taken on startups in a non-investment capacity. The best startups from the two competitions will also get the chance to apply to become one of five startups resident in the accelerator’s October intake. “We’re speaking to a number of prospective investors and are hoping to raise a couple of million for an accelerator fund, by the first quarter of next year,” Hill says. “We’re making some good process with that and are quite confident people are starting to see the competitive advantage that’s here. Applications for ASTN’S Investment Pitching Competition close at 5pm on October 2 and all sports technology startups are encouraged to apply. In addition to the invite to the Innovation Workshop given to the top 10 startups, the winning and second placed pitches will receive $10,000 and $5000 cash respectively. The deadline for the $50,000 IT Invention Test is also at 5pm on October 2pm. Prizes include $10,000 for the best overall pitch, $5000 for the best Geelong region industry pitch, and $5000 for the best RFID technology pitch. For more information or to apply, visit www.itinventiontest.com.au/ or the ASTN’s website. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.