Ellen Pao’s failed discrimination suit ‘shines a light’ on gender inequality

3:08AM | Monday, 30 March

Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins has won a three year legal battle against a former employee who claimed she was discriminated against because of her gender.     A jury at the San Francisco Country Superior Court found Ellen Pao had not been sexually harassed or held back in her career because of her gender, saving the venture capital firm from potentially millions of dollars in compensation.     After the verdict, Pao turned to Twitter to say she had been inspired by “the thousands of people” who have supported her over the past three years.     “I’ve heard from people in Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Australia, Malaysia, France, Argentina, Norway, Tanzania, Finland and beyond,” she wrote.     “Because of social media and live reports, the problem of gender discrimination in venture capital has received attention around the globe. While today’s outcome is a disappointment, I take consolation in knowing that people really listened. If we do not share our stories and shine a light on inequities, things will not change.”     The court case has been covered extensively in the media, grabbing headlines in the US as well as Australia.     Dr Elaine Stead, investment director for Blue Sky Venture Capital, told StartupSmart the drawn-out court case has brought phrases like “casual sexism” and “subtle sexism” into the vernacular.     “I think what it has done is bring additional attention to an increasingly talked about issue: gender diversity, or lack thereof in Silicon Valley or venture capital more broadly,” she says.     However, Stead is unsure whether the unsuccessful case will encourage more women in the venture capital industry to come forward.     “In VC, relationships are critical to success because it’s an industry that thrives on and is dependent on partnerships and networks,” she says.     “Overt sexism is often obvious, but the woman who is being discriminated against in a casual or subtle way is in my view less likely to raise this in her workplace in light of the verdict for Kleiner Perkins. We only need to look at the volume of commentary on the case in social media to see a microcosm of how such a stance is likely to be perceived — both positive and negative — in a workplace. And that is a huge risk for any employee, especially one for whom relationships are central to success.”     The Ellen Pao trial has raised the issue of gender diversity not just in venture capital but also in the startup ecosystem more generally.     Laura McKenzie, the chief executive of Scale Investors, previously told StartupSmart there is a funding gap between male and female founders.     “Women are less likely to pitch in public forums, and more likely to do so in a collaboration way building one-to-one relationships,” she said.     “So the big-ticket competitions are most likely to be awarded to men – particularly if they are judged by men. Women are also much more likely to bootstrap for longer and are risk rational, so often only seek to raise funds when they are very confident they will be able to service debt or repay investor equity.”     Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.  

Everybody needs good neighbours: Sydney startup looking to give suburbs their voice

3:45AM | Monday, 30 March

An Australian crowdsourcing platform has launched with the aim of helping people share news about their neighbourhood without relying on traditional media or printing out flyers and delivering them to people’s letterboxes.   Neighbour News Network, an offshoot of Sydney-based social networking platform Housenet, hopes to fill the gap in the market that local newspapers leave behind as they downsize or close down.   “Obviously there’s a global trend towards crowdsourced solutions to problems and we can see that print media is declining,” founder and chief executive Darren Moffatt says.   “This is starting to affect regional and rural populations in particular, so we see Neighbour News Network as not the whole solution but possibly part of it… a tool that local communities can use to essentially self-publish their local news and have their local conversations online.”   Moffatt says the site’s users can sign up for free and then write their own blog posts which are then visible to other users based on their location.   “So if you’re in, say, Bondi for instance you can then typically choose to syndicate out to five other suburbs and your article will appear in five surrounding suburbs,” he says.   “Really good stories we share out further. There is the opportunity to take a small neighbourhood story written by a local person and give it a massive reach right across a national audience.”   Neighbour News Network relies on a team of volunteer editors and will face stiff competition from social media platforms such as Nabo.   However Moffatt says he expects the model to work because it will bring together what is already happening in the community. While he would not reveal specific user stats as the startup only launched a few weeks ago, he says the platform has active members “in about 300 suburbs” so far.   “There’s probably thousands of small local blogs – whether they be in Cairns or Balaclava in Melbourne,” Moffatt says.   “We see the Neighbour News Network as a natural ally for those writers. The benefit of using our platform is we’ll connect them with a local audience, which is something they can struggle with.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Know your numbers: WeTeachMe co-founder grilled on Shark Tank

3:38AM | Monday, 30 March

The co-founder of education marketplace WeTeachMe learnt a valuable lesson on last night’s episode of Shark Tank: know your numbers.   Kym Huynh pitched his startup to the likes of Steve Baxter and RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson — seeking $200,000 in funding in exchange for a 2.5% stake in the company.   However the ‘sharks’ soon became sceptical after Huynh didn’t know the startup’s quarterly results or revenue for the previous month.   “You must know the figure,” Baxter told him.   “You’re not giving the figure which means you mustn’t know the figure — which is actually more worrying than not giving the right figure. You’ve come onto an investment forum where people want to invest and you can’t tell us what you’re selling. It’s a little disturbing if you don’t know.”   Eventually Huynh said the previous month’s revenue was $30,000. Janine Allis, the founder of Boost Juice, interjected and said the figure was “a guess”.   “See, you’ve lost all credibility in the number because you say ‘I don’t know’… now I don’t believe you,” she said.   We teach you how NOT to pitch to the Sharks #SharkTankAU — Andreana Walton (@AndreanaWalton) March 29, 2015   When asked why he didn’t know the numbers, Huynh said his co-founders were chasing deals in Melbourne and couldn’t be on the show with him. Naomi Simson said that particular answer “just told us we aren’t important”.   “You’ve come here looking for our address books and our knowledge and everything and you’re only prepared to give up 2.5% for $200,000,” she said.   “So I think you’ve come here to advertise, not really to look for investment. And for that reason I’m out.”   Another stumbling block during the pitch was Baxter’s observation that WeTeachMe had won Oxygen Ventures’ Big Pitch competition in 2014.   “If you’ve scared them off I’m probably going to get scared off as well,” he said.   Huynh said while the startup had not received investment from Oxygen Ventures as a result of winning the pitching competition – which saw $5 million in funding up for grabs – the company was “still in negotiations” with the venture capital firm.   Earlier this month Oxygen Ventures’ investment director Illya Frolov told StartupSmart the firm did not end up investing in WeTeachMe due to a “different alignment of which way the company was going to go in terms of growth”.   Speaking to StartupSmart this morning, Huynh said the episode had been filmed in December last year and as a result there was a lot of confusion on social media last night.   “There’s definitely a lot of valuable lessons we learnt from the experience and everyone has to start somewhere,” he says.   “The actual episode itself did show a lot of editing because the filming took place over three hours, so there was a lot of cut-and-paste. But I didn’t mind what was on air, although I was a bit taken aback by the reaction on social media… it did feel like bullying.”   I think he was glad the Cricket was on tonight ! @sharktankau #sharktankau — Steve Baxter (@sbxr) March 29, 2015   Huynh says as a founder you have to “wear multiple hats” and last night showed a particular knowledge gap that he had since taken steps to amend.   “We have a few big announcements to make in the coming weeks,” he says.   “We’re not allowed to release information at this time but after Shark Tank there have been significant developments with the company.”   Steve Baxter told StartupSmart this morning that last night’s episode had valuable lessons for startup founders.   “Know your numbers,” he says.   “Don’t walk in and talk to your investor without knowing your sales numbers. And don’t hide anything. It will be discovered during due diligence.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Tech sector now represents 5.1% of Australia’s GDP, 22% of the workforce

3:32AM | Monday, 30 March

The digital economy contributed $79 billion to the Australian economy in 2013/14, representing 5.1% of Australia’s gross domestic product, while 22% of employees now work intensively with ICT, according to a new Deloitte Access Economics report.   The report, titled The Connected Continent II: How digital technology is transforming the Australian economy, was commissioned by Google and follows up from a similar report in 2011.   The $79 billion contribution is up from $50 billion or 3.6% of GDP in 2011, representing a 50% increase in real terms. It is forecast to grow further to $139 billion, or 7.3% of GDP, by 2020.   To put that into perspective, mining currently represents 8.3% of the Australian economy, manufacturing is 6.4%, and construction is 8%.   However, the digital economy is already a larger slice of the Australian economy than transport (4.7%), real estate services (2.7%), education (4.6%) and retail. A number of sectors that are larger, such as finance (8.3%) and health tech (6.4%) are in the process of being disrupted by tech startups or absorbed into the tech sector.   Around 4% of Australia’s workforce is directly employed in specialist information and communication technology (ICT) roles, but this figure sells short how important the sector is in terms of the workforce.   Less than 3% of all ICT workers are directly employed by the tech and media sectors. Meanwhile 2.5 million employees, or 22% of the workforce, are in positions that involve regularly dealing with ICT. These knowledge workers include accountants, accounting clerks, advertising, public relations and sales managers.   According to the report, aside from direct economic activity involving ICT and tech workers, the sector plays an important role in accelerating the rest of the national economy.   “We estimate that the economy was about $45 billion bigger in 2013 than it otherwise would have been because of the productivity impacts of digital technologies, approximately 3% of the Australian economy. Higher productivity means Australia has greater output for its inputs to production,” the report states.   The full report can be downloaded here.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Social media enters the social video broadcasting age

3:23AM | Monday, 30 March

Social media has entered what is likely to be a wildly popular new phase with the advent of live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow people to broadcast live video and sound from their phones to other people on Twitter. Periscope allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster in the form of text messages and sending “hearts”, the equivalent of Facebook likes, by tapping on the video.   On the surface, making everyone a “broadcaster” is a grand idea. As the announcement for Periscope proclaimed   What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?   And it is true, live stream video from anyone around the world, has the capacity to bring the experience of ordinary people around the world, in raw and undiluted form, to anyone on Twitter.   The idea is not necessarily new. Ustream for example has been providing a live streaming service for the past 8 years. The Occupy Wall Street movement showed the potential of live stream video to great effect by broadcasting demonstrations, live action, and interactions with the police. As immersive an experience it was, the problem with Ustream was that it wasn’t integrated with social media platforms and so discovering what was going on and reaching a large audience was difficult.   Twitter recognised this problem and solved it by buying Periscope for a reported $100 million. Twitter and Facebook have both recognised that video is is the next area of growth in social media. Although YouTube has long been held up as the service to beat, it is far less of a social platform than what Periscope is likely to be. From that perspective, Twitter has taken the lead in this space over Google and Facebook.   The problems facing these services however, are substantial. Already, the technical issues are surfacing with difficulty in viewing the livestreams because of the demand. Very few of the livestreams currently play, and simply say Loading before changing to Ended. Periscope, at least, offers the option of watching the recorded version. The cost of providing this service will be substantial and it is certainly not clear how Twitter will be able to monetise the service. From the user’s perspective, broadcasting using the phone’s cellular data is likely to limit the length of the streams and certainly have the mobile network providers seeing a surge in demand.   More challenging however, will be the social problems that a world of live streams. Encouraging millions of people with phones to broadcast what is going on around them to the rest of the world is going to raise enormous privacy issues. Already, videos with titles like “My Girlfriend Taking a Shower” suggest the potential direction this service could take as people race to the bottom in search of viewers. As in many other cases, social media has   Admittedly, these are early days for Periscope and it is possible that they were forced to release the service early because of the launch of rival service Meerkat. Although Meerkat has been reported to have raised another $12 million in funding, it is clear that as a service it is effectively dead when compared to Twitter’s offering. Twitter has already moved to block Meerkat from having access to information from Twitter vital to its social networking service. Meerkat’s only chance of survival is for Facebook to buy it in competition to Twitter.   Despite the problems, video is going to be the future of social networks. Mainstream media have yet another challenge to face with this new service and it is unlikely that they will deal with this any better than they have dealt with the rising challenge of Vine and YouTube celebrities.   As academic Clay Shirky predicted in his book “Cognitive Surplus”, everyone is capable of becoming their own version of a mainstream media producer. As Shirky said however, for every serious project that is created by the world’s cognitive surplus, there will be the cat videos. On Periscope, cat videos abound along with curiously a preoccupation with fridges.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber bows down to regulators in Germany

3:28PM | Sunday, 29 March

Taxi-hailing service Uber has bowed down to regulators in Germany and will instead pay for the transport licences of its UberX drivers, according to Reuters.   The move follows a decision by a German court earlier this month to issue a nationwide ban on unlicensed UberX drivers.   Drivers operating in Germany without proper accreditation can face fines of more than $300,000 per violation of the law. The country is Europe’s largest economy. Pebble Time wraps up record-breaking $US20 million Kickstarter campaign Pebble Time, the smartwatch with up to seven days of battery life, has wrapped up its record-breaking crowdfunding campaign overnight – scooping up $US20,338,986 in funding from more than 78,000 backers.   The campaign is the most-funded Kickstarter project of all time.   Pebble Technology’s founders said in a joint statement on their Kickstarter page that the past month had been an “amazing” experience.   “We will be spending the coming months hard at work polishing every last detail of Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, finishing Pebble timeline, and ramping up the production process,” they said.   “Expect updates as we progress.” Mobile payments platform raises $US5 million Mobile payments startup MyCheck has raised $5 million in Series B funding in order to spearhead its growth into Europe and America.   The round was led by existing investors as well as the Spanish venture capital fund Santander Innoventures.   The chief executive of MyCheck, Shlomit Kugler, told TechCrunch the investment will help with marketing as well as hiring business development professionals in key growth markets.   “Merchants today are struggling to succeed and are looking for higher tickets, more traffic, cut expenses, and more effectively market themselves,” he said.   “Customers are looking for an ‘Uber-like experience’ – to use their smartphone to receive great offers, be able to pay and leave at will whilst leaving their wallet at home.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 34.43 points, rising 0.19% to 17,712.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.4 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Nitro’s Sam Chandler explains why it no longer makes sense for Australian startups to move to Silicon Valley

3:41AM | Friday, 27 March

Sam Chandler says there are two key reasons why it no longer necessarily makes sense for early-stage Australian startups to relocate their headquarters to Silicon Valley, as it did after he launched Nitro a decade ago.   Last week, in the first of a two part interview with StartupSmart, Chandler discussed what it was like to launch Nitro in 2005, during the early days of the Australian startup ecosystem. A couple of years after the launch, at the height of the global financial crisis, he decided to move the company’s headquarters to San Franchisco.   “We opened the office in January of ’09 with five of us, and it’s now around 105 people, so it’s been pretty amazing to see that growth. It was a talent issue and a capital market issue. We couldn’t find the talent we wanted in this market at the time. There was a real lack of experienced software sales professionals or certain kinds of web development professionals. We know the talent pool in the Valley was very rich and we knew if we ever wanted to raise we could,” Chandler says.   But Chandler says despite Nitro’s success, his advice to current generation entrepreneurs is that the reasons do not hold true today, for two key reasons.   “The first is the rest of the world has grown up. So if it was it was like the difference between civilisation and the dark ages between the Bay Area and Australia in 2005, it is not the case today,” he says.   “The relative difference between those locations and Bay Area locations are much, much less. There is such a wealth of content online and if you want to be an entrepreneur, you can teach yourself to be an entrepreneur. If you had to go to Silicon Valley to get that stuff in the old days, you don’t anymore.   “The second thing that has changed is that the Bay Area is now so expensive and so competitive that it probably doesn’t make sense for a lot of early stage startups to move there. If you’re already there, sure, start a company in Silicon Valley.   “But it is so expensive today that unless you have cash flow already, lots of investment, or some really specific reason or need to be in San Francisco as a base, you’re much better off using it as a strategic base for business development, partnerships or sales – something that leverages the unique place that Silicon Valley is. Because it is a very expensive place relative to every other location on Earth now – and it’s not going to slow down.   “There are a few companies in Silicon Valley that can afford to buy whatever talent they want. But the problem with any startup is that you are competing against those guys for talent. Sure, they guys who work for a startup that’s just three people in a room aren’t the same guys that work for Google, but once you get a little bit bigger, you are competing against the best funded companies on Earth.”   Chandler says the high price of Adobe’s editing software created an opening in the market.   “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says they want to start a PDF company. We didn’t – we launched Nitro Pro because we recognised that businesses were working really inefficiently.   “Whether it’s research we’ve commissioned, or it’s IDC or Gartner, all these reports say the same thing, and that’s most organisations waste around a day a week on document productivity challenges. Those bad habits have been in place as long as we’ve had the PC.”   Now with over half a million customers under its belt, Chandler says the company is shifting its focus from selling desktop computer software to the booming cloud-based document collaboration segment.   “We feel like we’ve had our first chapter and now this is our second chapter. Our first decade and first chapter we’re really proud of, but we’re even more excited about chapter two. And over the next decade, you’ll see us transition from what we were known for – desktop productivity tools – to a business solution that is really a platform that users trust to share their documents on.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Medtech’s Got Talent is back – and this year’s winner gets $60,000 in funding

3:04AM | Friday, 27 March

Applications are open for health tech pitching competition MedTech’s Got Talent, with Victorian startups encouraged to apply.   The program is run by incubator STC and follows the success of the first program last year. Chief operating officer Laura Faulconer told StartupSmart there has been a boost to the prize money on offer for the winners.   “One difference is this year, we have substantial industry support. We had some support last year, but more this year. Because of that, we’re offering a much bigger carrot at the end. This year, the top five get $20,000 each, with the overall winner getting an additional $40,000 on top of that,” Faulconer says.   It comes as interest in the sector grows, including meetup groups in both Melbourne and Brisbane, ilab hosting Australia’s first Startup Weekend for health, and Innovyz recently closing applications for its health tech accelerator program in Adelaide.   “I think Australia has a lot of innovative capacity, but there’s not a lot of support for actual commercialisation. There are a few missing gaps, especially around early-stage seed and VC funding. We’re trying to fill that gap,” Faulconer says.   “Victoria especially has strengths in devices, diagnostics, bionics and e-health, and they’re all eligible. We are also open to services, if it can be shown they are relevant.   “We’re not looking for late stage companies – if you already have substantial funding then this is not for you. This is distinctly not a research funding program for students – you’ve got to have market insights.   “But from napkin sketches right up to late-stage prototypes, you can use the program to refine the idea. What they need to do is to be commercialising the idea, and to show what the opportunity is and how it is a business or product opportunity.”   Startups that submit an early-bird application before March 30 can receive robust feedback on their application along with the opportunity to resubmit their application ahead of the final deadline. Applications for this year’s competition close April 8.   An expert review panel will select the top 30 contenders, who will each get a one-minute pitch in the Rapid Fire Round on April 16. Based on the pitches, eight mentors will choose the two teams they each want to work with.   Over the next month-and-a-half, each of the 16 semi-finalists will work with their mentors on refining their pitch, product development and understanding the intellectual property landscape.   Finally, at a gala dinner on May 21, the semi-finalists will pitch to a panel of 10 judges from major corporates and clinicians. Aside from the prize money, the top five will win a funded position in the STC Accelerator and will be able to present their ideas at a closed-door investor pitch.   Click here to find out more about the program or to apply.  Applications close April 8. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. uy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Australian developers cautiously optimistic about Facebook Messenger becoming an apps platform

3:04PM | Sunday, 29 March

Australian developers are cautiously optimistic that Facebook’s decision to turn Facebook Messenger into an app platform will help strengthen the app industry.   Facebook announced the decision during its F8 conference in San Francisco, with third party developers able to develop apps that extend the messaging platform’s functionality.   Full details of Facebook’s new Messenger Platform API are available on its developers site. The announcement was made alongside the unveiling of its new Business on Messenger customer service functionality and also comes a little over a week after Facebook added a feature allowing users to transfer money directly to their friends’ debit card accounts.   While BlackBerry’s rival secure mobile messaging platform BBM (which is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone as well as on BlackBerry 10 devices) has long offered similar functionality, its platform APIs are restricted to BlackBerry devices. (Ironically, Facebook is among the apps to take advantage of this API.)   Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford told StartupSmart the Facebook Messenger Platform API is very exciting news for app developers.   “From an app developer’s perspective, this is very exciting. It looks like, instead of having to roll out their own messaging system, they’ll be able to piggyback off Facebook Messenger to provide that messaging functionality,” Bradford says.   “So for example, say you were developing a jobs marketplace app. Instead of needing to write your own code from scratch to facilitate that functionality, you can just plug and play Facebook’s messaging API.   “It actually reminds me a bit of a similar service a few months ago the developer community was very excited about, by a company called The only problem is that users had to create a second account to send messages. Because 98% of app users will already have a Facebook account with a friend list already, getting people to log in once with their Facebook account won’t be an issue.”   Marcus Lim, co-founder and chief executive of online marketplace Oneflare, told StartupSmart he was already looking at integrating a mobile messaging platform, such as WhatsApp, even before Facebook’s announcement.   “One of the issues is communications between customers and service providers before a job is carried out, and after they use the Oneflare platform. The issue is that businesses ring customers, but customers aren’t always available to take the call.   “Messaging works well because it’s less intrusive. The communications are often quite brief – such as when and where a particular job needs to be performed – and messaging avoids the issues of both parties needing to set up a call.”   However, realAs chief executive Josh Rowe told StartupSmart while there are advantages to Facebook opening up its APIs, there are also risks.   “My initial view is that being able to tap into the massive user database of Facebook is a good thing. After all, realAs is a community of people looking to buy houses, and being able to tap into those databases could be advantageous to the community,” Rowe says.   “However, the con side is how much we can trust Facebook, and to what degree we control our data. We’ve seen in the past the way big companies have opened up their platforms to outside developers, only to cut off access to those APIs down the track.   “And just look at the way Apple has copied people’s app ideas and created its own versions of them. So there needs to be assurances that Facebook will remain a neutral player and won’t end up competing with the startups that use this.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Melbourne-based startup Fizeque targets fitness market with matched classes

3:10AM | Thursday, 26 March

A Melbourne-based startup is offering a helping hand to people who want to join local fitness classes and monitor their fitness levels.   Launched in October last year, Fizeque provides users the location and descriptions of fitness classes they can book. Features such as a body mass index tool and a calorie calculator are in the pipeline. Suppliers are charged a 12% booking fee based on the price of their classes to list on the website.   While the fitness industry is highly competitive in the United States, it is in its infancy in Australia. Startups like Classium, which filter results of local fitness classes by location, age group and difficulty level among others, and Fitness Calendar, which caters to people looking to book casual group fitness classes online, are some of the new entrants tapping into the market.   Co-founder Mark Sita says that Fizeque has a different model.   “Our mission is to help people live healthier and happier lives. No platform in Australia is doing what we are doing,” he says.   “Our design will be friendlier and we make it a lot easier to get to the class. The customer profile and log-in page is simple and easy. We have a dashboard for users to manage their fitness goals. We are initially targeting people who exercise regularly but the idea is to include people who want to become fit.”   Currently the website hosts up to 25 fitness professionals and suppliers. Sita says that a few people were booking themselves into free classes and the startup is looking to integrate payments into the platform.   “We want to extract more value and monetise it,” he says.   “It is a great product for suppliers and it manages supply and demand. We want to be in major Australian cities and are launching at the end of March in London, where we hope to have a strong presence. It is our intention to go global.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Startup Weekend to help Melbourne entrepreneurs crack into the fast-growing fintech space

3:51PM | Thursday, 26 March

Melbourne will host a fintech meet-up this weekend aimed at giving early-stage entrepreneurs an understanding of the skills they will need to disrupt the big banks and major financial institutions.   The event, which will run from Friday March 27 to Sunday March 29, is organised by Startup Weekend in partnership with Intuit Australia.   The event comes at a time when the fintech space is heating up in Australia, following the launch of multiple fintech hubs and fast-growing companies.   Darcy Naunton, the head of Startup Weekend Australia, told StartupSmart the meet-up is a perfect fit with Startup Weekend’s mission of empowering entrepreneurs.   “We just see fintech as being a really big growth opportunity,” he says.   “For me personally it’s the coming together of a recent career in finance and a more recent career in tech. There is a recognition by large banks and financial institutions that new forms of innovation and business models are going to come outside the four walls of their bank or company.”   Naunton says Startup Weekend has been running numerous themed events in Australia for some time and fintech was the perfect vertical to explore next.   “Startup Weekend been running for close to four years in Australia now and the point is to enable new entrepreneurs to understand what it is they can do in a short period of time and give them the confidence to start their own business,” he says.   “We’ve run verticals in health tech, tourism and had women-specific events and it just seemed to us a natural vertical to focus on. Melbourne’s a good place for fintech – we’ve had a lot of news come out of Sydney but we’re trying to put a bit of interest in Melbourne as well.”   The meet-up will allow entrepreneurs top pitch their ideas before forming teams and presenting their work on the last night to a panel of judges which will include Ryan Zhou, the co-founder of CoinJar, and Stuart Stoyan, the founder and chief executive of MoneyPlace.   Naunton says it is important entrepreneurs at the ideas-stage are exposed to the business opportunities that fintech can provide.   “I think it’s a matter of getting both parties along – you see that at other meet-ups and conferences,” he says.   “You’ve got grassroots meeting execs and embedded players. You need both parties because ultimately the financial industries have good reach and existing business models that work well, but this is about pushing the frontiers from the edges.”   The Startup Weekend fintech event is part of a national series of more than 24 “Startup Weekends” to be held across Australia this year.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Amazon to re-launch its on-demand services marketplace next week

3:41PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Amazon will launch its new on-demand services marketplace on Monday in order to compete with US-based crowdsourcing startups such as Angie’s List.   TechCrunch reports the platform, which has been rebranded from ‘Amazon Local Services’ to ‘Amazon Home Services’, has recently expanded its service categories as well as the cities it will be available in.   The new platform will offer services including lawn mowing, gardening, automotive services and one-on-one lessons. IoT startup raises $US38 million in Series B funding August, a startup which produces smart door locks, has raised $US38 million ($A48m) in Series B funding in order to launch new products and expand its San Francisco-based team.   The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners and brings the startup’s total funding to date to $US50 million.   Co-founder Jason Johnson said in a statement the latest capital injection will allow for a runway much larger than he ever anticipated.   “With this new financing, our team will define a new product category in the smart home, aiming to solve what we call the ‘last five foot problem’,” he says.   “With our smart lock, mobile apps, and cloud-based access control, we offer homeowners, property managers, and guests a sophisticated and trusted way to control home access, bridging the gap between service providers and homeowners.” Facebook launches new service for marketers Facebook has announced a new tool that will allow marketers to analyse how successful their campaigns are based on aggregated social data.   The service – called Analytics for Apps – will allow users to see how their marketing campaigns performed across different demographics such as age groups or gender, according to TechCrunch.   Previously, marketers using Facebook to analyse their marketing efforts could only view who clicked on an ad instead of being able to see which demographics they could best target. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 292.60 points, falling 1.62% overnight to 17,718.54. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.4 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Employee share scheme rules improved, but still behind the US and UK

3:42PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Australia’s startup community has welcomed improvements to the employee share scheme legislation, but raised concerns about exemptions for ASX-listed businesses and employees with more than a 10% stake in the company.   The Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Employee Share Schemes) Bill 2015, tabled in Parliament this morning, will wind back changes made by the former Labor government in 2009 and allow startup employees who are issued with options to defer tax until they convert them into shares.   The current legislation governing employee tax schemes has long been a headache for local startups wanting to attract talent to Australia.   Matt Barrie, the chief executive of Freelancer, told StartupSmart the tax regimes in America and the UK are “far better” than what is in the tabled reforms.   As it stands in the bill, companies with a turnover of more than $50 million will be exempt from the government’s tax concessions – as well as those listed on an approved stock or securities exchange.   “There’s more than just the $50 million [issue] … The ASX exemption is a disaster,” he said.   “Our government is paying lip service to supporting the technology industry.”   Reuben Bramanathan, senior lawyer at Adroit Lawyers, told StartupSmart it was disappointing the government had not addressed “some of the key issues” with the draft legislation that were raised by the startup sector during the consultation process.   “For example, the proper tax treatment is not available to employees with more than 10% of the company, which can cause problems for founders,” he said.   “Another real problem is that, if an employee resigns from a company on good terms, and they keep their vested shares, they still have to pay income tax at that time. This taxing point applies even if they are unable to sell the shares at that point, for example, due to lockup restrictions in the shareholders’ agreement.”   Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has defended the legislation, telling StartupSmart the bill was “unashamedly focused” on early stage startups and smaller enterprises.   Those concerns aside, the changes have been welcomed with open arms. Peter Bradd, the a director at StartupAUS, says it's encouraging to see the goverment recognise the potential of Australian startups and take steps to rectify the tax treatment of share schemes.   "Changes to the ESS will help Australian startups become strong drivers of increases in job creation and, because many help to drive technological change, this will lead to productivity gains and job creation for our economy," he says.   Meanwhile the chief executive of the Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, Yasser El-Ansary, said in a statement the tax treatment of share schemes has been “a major handbrake” on Australia’s startup ecosystem for almost six years.   “There have been countless stories of home-grown Australian entrepreneurs packing their bags and relocating overseas because our tax rules in this area have been such a problem – especially when other countries around the world are going to great lengths to lure our entrepreneurs offshore,” he said.   El-Ansary says all members of parliament should get behind the proposed changes now that they have been tabled.   “The strength of our economy into the future will depend on our capacity to foster a more entrepreneurial culture where we encourage startups to attract and retain the best talent here in Australia.”   The new rules governing employee share schemes are on track to come into effect on July 1.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Employee share scheme changes “unashamedly” aimed at early stage startups

3:43PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Early stage tech startups are the focus of changes to the employee share scheme legislation introduced into Parliament on Wednesday.   Small Business Minister Bruce Billson tabled the bill on Wednesday morning, saying the reforms will “restore and rebuild” startup incentives, which were taken away by the previous Labor government.   Speaking to StartupSmart after the second reading, Billson said an effective employee share scheme framework is an important ingredient to any healthy economy.   “There has been a consistent and loud chorus calling for change,” he said.   “The incoming government recognised that and we’ve set out not only to correct the harm of those 2009 changes, but stepping forward with new concessions to bolster support and engagement for employee share schemes.”   The changes   Companies and employees who are issued with options will generally be able to defer tax until they exercise the options (convert the options to shares), rather than having to pay tax when those options vest.   Eligible startups will be able to issue options or shares to their employees at a small discount, and have that discount exempt (for shares) or further deferred (for options) from income tax.   The maximum time for tax deferral will be extended from seven to 15 years.   The maximum individual ownership limit for accessing employee share scheme tax concessions will be increased from 5% to 10%.   Eligible startups need to have an annual turnover of less than $50 million.   In the event a startup raises venture capital, that will not affect the eligibility threshold.   If a startup is acquired before it has operated for three years, its original shareholders will still get their 15% tax deduction on the sale of the shares.     Billson says the changes are on track to come into effect in the new financial year.   “I’ve had encouraging early responses with opposition members and I’m optimistic that will all be implemented as per a tight and demanding timetable which is exactly what the startup industry were calling for,” he said.   StartupSmart understands there is support from within the Labor party to overhaul the current rules governing employee share schemes.   The legislation tabled in parliament today not only allows employees at eligible startups to receive tax concessions, but also ensures the regulatory burden faced by young tech companies is significantly reduced.   Billson says there will be “good-to-go template tools and documents” from the ATO available to help businesses wanting to set up an employee share scheme.   Reuben Bramanathan, senior lawyer at Adroit Lawyers, told StartupSmart there were some “key issues” with the draft bill that have carried over to its current form.   “If an employee resigns from a company on good terms, and they keep their vested shares, they still have to pay income tax at that time,” he said.   “This taxing point applies even if they are unable to sell the shares at that point, for example, due to lockup restrictions in the shareholders’ agreement.”   Billson says this was identified as an issue during the consultation process.   “This was an issue that came up and we consulted quite widely on that as we knew it was an issue of some interest,” he said.   “We extended the tax refund provision to cover situations where an employee is forced to pay when those options lapse or cancel. That’s what we’ve sought to do to alleviate that concern.”   Another part of the legislation that has been criticised is the exemption for startups turning over more than $50 million, as well as companies listed on the ASX. That means companies like Atlassian and Freelancer will not be able to access the scheme.   However Billson defended this, saying issues around employee share schemes “most visibly” affect smaller players.   “It’s unashamedly focused on startups and smaller enterprises,” he said.   “We’ve got to work within a frugal budget climate, therefore we’ve had to target these measures where they can best make a difference.”   Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has criticised that position, telling SmartCompany last month it’s a bit like saying Facebook and Google don’t need to give employee share options “which I think they would disagree with”.   The new employee share scheme rules are due to come into effect on July 1 should they pass both houses of parliament.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

A match made in brand heaven: startup to help likeminded businesses hook up

3:46PM | Wednesday, 25 March

There’s more than enough startups out there that help people looking for a romantic partner, but when it comes to businesses looking to develop relationships with other businesses, there’s not too much on offer.   Sydney startup Collabosaurus launches on Thursday hoping to change that. Collabosaurus is an online match-making platform for brands and businesses to “source and foster strategic brand collaborations”.   The service is particularly aimed at startups, small businesses and event organisers. Users sign up to the Collabosaurus platform, answer a few questions, and then are presented with a list of potential partners. The goal of the questionnaire is to narrow down the brands and businesses that are the right fit.   Users have the ability to remain anonymous right until both parties accept the partnership request. It’s a subscription-based model that starts at $30 per month for five connection requests and one active project, or $90 per month for a subscription with no limits.   The startup, which was founded in August last year by Jessica Ruhfus, has raised about $90,000 in funding from external investors. While working in public relations and marketing, Ruhfus says she often found herself looking for partners for clients and wondering why it was so hard.   “Last year I was running an event and I was trying to source partners on a super tight budget. I was trying to find anyone that was interested and what they might be able to offer. It was super time consuming and very frustrating because a lot of them came back and said they were not interested,” she says.   Unlike marketing collaboration tool like Hypetap, which targets a slightly different user, Collabosaurus does not include any sort of project-management features. Once a match is made and the businesses and brands are connected, it’s up to them to manage that relationship away from the platform, as they normally would.   “Collabosaurus is purely the matchmaker,” Ruhfus said.   “There’s not really a matchmaker out there at the moment. There’s small communities of people, networking groups, but nothing that offers anonymity.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Don’t rock the boat: Queensland startup to help boat owners find a place to dock

3:35AM | Wednesday, 25 March

An Australian startup is looking to connect boat owners with people who have a place to dock them.   Ejetty, based in Queensland, is an online marketplace launching next month for Australians who own a berth and are willing to rent it out to anyone who has a boat.   Founder Chris O’Halloran told StartupSmart the idea for the business came to him while he was walking along a stretch of water on the Sunshine Coast.   “I started thinking, why are there so many empty pontoons out the back of people’s houses? Surely they’d want to rent them out and make some money,” he said.   “So I did some research and it turns out there’s 10,000 boats in Queensland alone that don’t have a berth. I launched a quick landing page to attract conversion and got flooded with boat owners looking for a solution to berth their boats.”   The online platform is currently in private beta, however, it has processed around $6000 in transactions.   The website will go live next month, with the average boat owner paying $150 a week to rent a person’s berth. Both long-term renting and short-term stays are welcome.   “The berth owners select how much they want to charge, the facilities they want to have – if there’s a bridge or deep-water access – and we market that to our list and also to boat owners who come by looking for the solution,” O’Halloran said.   “The only way people do it currently is through ads on Gumtree or word of mouth and there’s no one-stop marketplace that connects the two together.”   O’Halloran says the startup is based out of Queensland, which is perfect because “there’s a good community” of boat owners and people who love to go fishing.   “We will take the marketing to the Gold Coast over the next few months and then move into Sydney, Melbourne and then New Zealand,” he said.   “Then we’ll look in the US … places like Florida, with strong boating communities.”   Like any early-stage startup, however, Ejetty didn’t come into the world without having to overcome a number of unique challenges – particularly when it comes to building a two-sided marketplace, according to O’Halloran.   “Getting the berths onboard is challenging,” he said.   “Berth owners aren’t actively searching for marketplace to rent their birth so we do have interesting campaigns under way … but we will be trying some non-traditional guerrilla campaigns to get the berth owners onboard.”   Another hurdle is one any short-term rental marketplace has to navigate: regulation.   “But that didn’t stop Airbnb or other marketplaces,” O’Halloran said.   “So while there are barriers there we can certainly overcome those and feedback from our customers to date has been very positive.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Five reasons to call your customers regularly

3:11PM | Wednesday, 25 March

The way to succeed in business is to be constantly in touch with your market. The moment you lose touch with them or start making business more about you than your customers is the time you risk becoming irrelevant.   While business can get busy, and email can seem like a quicker option, nothing beats picking up the phone and engaging in conversation. Don’t think you have the time? Here are five reasons you should be making the time to call your customers regularly. 1. Uncover needs and trends Businesses and people change over time. What they once valued or needed may no longer be valued or needed. The only way to prevent yourself from losing customers to competitors or becoming irrelevant in your industry is to be in contact with your customers and find out what is happening in their lives and businesses.   The more you genuinely care and want to help, the more they will open up to you about their struggles, worries, frustrations and challenges. This gives you valuable insight into the minds and needs of your customers and helps you find or create the right solution for them. It can also help you identify trends and market opportunities as similar struggles and needs appear through your discussions. 2. Upsell products and services As you uncover needs you will also uncover opportunities to upsell (increase the amount they spend), cross-sell (get them buying more) and resell (keep them coming back).   A customer won’t always think of you as their needs change, and may not even be aware of the other products and services you provide. Talking to them over the phone gives you the opportunity to educate them on all of the different solutions you can provide. 3. Gain testimonials and case studies Another key benefit of staying in touch with your customers is that you get to know the results they are achieving with your products and services. Customer testimonials and case studies are incredibly valuable in your sales process because they prove how you can help. This proof reduces the risk felt by potential customers and gives you powerful marketing messages to use.   As you are talking to your customers, casually ask them how your product or service has helped them. More often than not your customers will be flattered you value their opinion and be happy to give you a testimonial. 4. Identify improvements Some business owners fear their customers’ feedback, so much so that it prevents them from following up after purchases. But the feedback your customers share with you, whether it is positive or negative, is the key to building a better business.   Your customers, who have experienced your products and services firsthand, will provide priceless insight into the quality, affordability, customer service and benefits you offer compared to what else is available in your industry. And, if you choose to listen, they will help you create greater products and services that are more competitive and relevant to your market. 5. Build relationships Never underestimate the power of a trusting business relationship. You have already invested time, money and energy into getting your customers; why not do everything in your power to keep them as well?   People want to be valued for who they are and not just how much they spend with you. A quick phone call to see how they are going is a great way to build a relationship with your customers and inspire loyalty and trust.   These days so many businesses have an agenda when they contact their customers. However, you leave an indelible mark when you call just to see how they are going.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Employee Share Scheme legislation to be introduced to parliament today

3:13PM | Wednesday, 25 March

The Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson will introduce long-awaited changes to Employee Share Scheme legislation into parliament today.  In a statement Billson outlined the new scheme:   - For companies and employees who are issued with options will generally be able to defer tax until they exercise the options (convert the options to shares), rather than having to pay tax when those options vest.   - Eligible start-ups will be able to issue options or shares to their employees at a small discount, and have that discount exempt (for shares) or further deferred (for options) from income tax. - The maximum time for tax deferral will be extended from seven to 15 years.   - The maximum individual ownership limit for accessing employee share scheme tax concessions will be increased from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.   - Eligible startups need to have an annual turnover of less than $50 million.   In an interview with The Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey Billson gave a few more details.   - In the event a startup raises venture capital, that will not affect the eligibility threshold.   - If a startup is acquired before it has operated for three years, its original shareholders will still get their 15 per cent tax deduction on the sale of the shares.   StartupSmart is speaking to Billson at 12.45pm. If you’d like any clarification let us know and we’ll put your questions to the minister.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Obama hires former Twitter product manager

3:14PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman will become the White House’s first chief digital officer as part of the Obama administration’s bid to grow its tech staff.   Goldman is best known for his work on Twitter, Medium and Blogger and will now lead the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy.   “Goldman brings new energy and coveted expertise as someone who’s helped shape the digital age,” President Obama told Politico.   The announcement follows a string of recent appointments, including former Facebook engineering director David Recordon being brought on as the White House’s director of technology.   Facebook is looking to host news content directly on its site   Facebook is in discussions with several media partners including BuzzFeed and National Geographic in order to “make the experience of consuming content online more seamless”, according to The New York Times.   The new format will be tested in the next few months and will see Facebook directly host content, rather than users having to click through to a link to read a news story.   Facebook has 1.4 billion users worldwide.   Wearables are coming   Wearables will soon be the new smartphones, according to Telstra’a chief technology officer Vish Nandlall.   “I think the curve starts to bend around probably 2020 leading into 2025,” he told Fairfax.   “That’s where we’re going to see a lot more industries start to come in, and then you’re going to see much more penetration of these services across the population.”   The Apple Watch will launch worldwide on April 24.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 104.90 points, falling 0.58% overnight to 18,011.14. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 79 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Supporting grass roots entrepreneurship at UNSW

3:26PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Now in its third year, the UNSW Startups Games has given over 80 individuals an intense entrepreneurial experience – four full weekends over one month – and essentially a platform to launch a startup for the first time or, in some cases, use the experience to become employees with an entrepreneur’s skillset.   Some of the star alumni of the program include: Internet of Things smart-helmet entrepreneurs Alfred Boyadgis and Julian Chow of Forcite Helmet Systems; Brigitte Poletto of Community Insight Australia; Hassan Ahmad and Prashant Mehta of the New York City-based social startup Conscious Step; and Pasha Rayan of OperationsNext. Outside of this, we have had great feedback from student participants, who have singled out their experience with this program as a point of difference in the job application process.   From humble beginnings in a small lecture theatre on campus, the games now take place in the new UNSW business school’s state-of-the-art, flipped classrooms, and the final pitching and networking event is being hosted in the Deloitte Sydney offices on the afternoon of March 29.   Founder of ZeroMail (and previously Tjoos) Bart Jellema approached UNSW initially with the idea for the program and in partnership with UNSW Innovations a variety of mentors have supported the program with the aim of providing an avenue for entrepreneurial students who want to have a serious shot at a startup with motivations beyond the completion of a for-credit university course.   Diversity has also been an important challenge for the program. This year, females outweigh male mentors and female participant ratios have increased to 40%. The participants include stem cell PhD research students, MBAs, chemical engineering undergrad’s, art and design majors, physics students, business and computer science students and a medicine student, just to name a few.   Two young alumni passionate about providing platforms like this for students, Anatoly Logunov and Mitchell Kardan, have donated thousands of dollars in cash prizes for this year’s winners out of their own pockets.   So who are this year’s competing start-ups?   HideouslyDelicious – Sustainable eating Unbottled – Fresher drinks with a focus on you! FoodRunna – Peer-to-peer food delivery Join My Pact – Put your money where your mouth is AminoWater – The new way to consume protein adventurer – Unique short trips that suit your budget and schedule SimpliCity – Easier information upon arriving in a new city GoFlyer – Personalised event platform so you don’t miss a good time MyClassFit – Unlimited fitness. Unlimited options.   Mentors who participated across the four weekends include Jodie Fox, Sarah Riegelhuth, Julie Stevanja, Walta Kazzi, Todd Heslin, Nicole Kersh and Adam Brimo. Sydney Seed Fund, Kath Purkis and startup-facing Deloitte execs will participate in the judging at the final event.   There are still some seats available for this Sunday’s final, so please see registration page for further details.   Joshua Flannery is manager, student entrepreneur development at UNSW Innovations.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.