Australian platform linking students and social enterprises is heading to Washington, thanks to 177611:38AM | Friday, 28 November
A platform that connects university students with project-based internships from social enterprises and charities has been named among the four Australian startups set to participate in the 1776 Challenge Festival next year. Milaana was founded in July 2013 by Hollie Gordon during her final year studying a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of International Relations. Gordon told Private Media the inspiration for the site was drawn from her own experiences as a student. “I started Milaana during my last year at uni while I was doing volunteering and looking for internships,” Gordon says. “Milaana is a social business startup that connects uni students and jobseekers with the projects of community organisations… It’s a Hindi word meaning ‘to connect people’. “Students are looking for experience, charities need volunteers, and students are naturally good at things like social media.” After launching a minimum viable product in September of last year, Gordon launched a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible to help fund further development in April of this year. The campaign ended up raising $15,750, beating a target of $15,000. In May, Milaana joined the Bond University Incubate program, and in September organised an internship opportunity day with Brisbane-based social enterprise incubator Impact Academy. “With charities, a lot have come by referral, but we also run workshops where we ask them to join,” Gordon says. “We give them a free 30-day trial for their projects. They create an organisational profile, then fill in the scope of the project, the deliverables and what the positions are. “So, for example, an awareness campaign might list positions in PR, social media and design. “And then it’s all free for students to look through those position descriptions or look through the success stories, and then we have a number of tools to help them.” Milaana’s platform also offers a number of tools for students and organisations to help manage an internship. These include an itinerary and supporting materials at the start, a mid-internship review, a performance review, as well as the ability for both the intern and the community organisation to share its story following the internships. The social enterprise was recently named as one of four Australian winners of the Challenge Cup, and is set to participate in next years’ Challenge Festival, organised by global incubator 1776. The prize is the latest in a series of honours, which have also included Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneur Program prize earlier this year, along with participation in the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance. “The 1776 Challenge Cup looks at startups from 16 cities across four pillars: Education, health, energy and cities. We applied in Sydney and we were looking more to connect with community groups than win the competition,” Gordon says. “It was a really amazing surprise to win the Sydney Challenge Cup, which will take us to Washington in May for a week of collaboration and meeting with mentors. “One thing – and it’s something that doesn’t get said enough in startup circles – is that there’s an amazing team behind Milaana that helped make it possible – 22 students helped with Milaana. We’ve used our own tools to build our own team, and I want to thank the people who made it all possible.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Forget about vinyl – the next big thing among audiophiles could be suitcases reinvented as speakers, with a Melbourne-based startup raising $17,370 for the devices (against a target of $16,000) in just days on Pozible. Son Valise cofounder Vincent Corneille created the JukeCase – a set of speakers in a repurposed suitcase – after noticing portable MP3 players and smartphones with headphones encouraged people to listen to music in isolation. He knew he was on to a winner after seeing the look of joy on people’s faces while taking a prototype of the device to the Fitzroy Gardens. Son Valise soon began selling custom-made JukeCases through a shop on Johnstone Street in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Corneille told Private Media after making the devices for four years it became clear Son Valise needed a standardised version of the device. “About four years ago we started to make JukeCases. We wanted a portable music player for phones that sounded amazing and nothing else was quite there. So since then, we’ve been upcycling vintage products with vintage hi-fi components,” Corneille says. “We found we had a lot of interested customers, but we had a high price-range because of the time we took sourcing parts, which put off a lot of customers.” According to Corneille, it took a year to find the perfect component supplier. “We designed a standardised range with our brand look and feel, and after a year of sourcing supplies, we added the JukeCase Mini,” he says. “We needed startup capital for components and will construct them in Australia. So we decided to go down the crowdfunding route to gauge interest. It’s been a great response – we met our target in nine days.” When it comes to crowdfunded hardware, a perennial risk is that the actual process of manufacturing and shipping products ends up being far more difficult than entrepreneurs anticipate. This can lead to frustrating delays. “One of the beauties is that we’re standardising production and we’ve already been making these units for quite a while now, although we might step-up production by hiring extra hands,” Corneille says. “We’ve been quite transparent. By saying we’ll ship them in February 2015, we have time to iron out the bumps. “People asked if they’d be available at Christmas, and at one point we were looking at the turbo-charge option, but we didn’t want to risk causing someone to miss out on their present.” Having met the initial target, Corneille is looking at stretch goals such as creating a range of colours, with standardisation also paving the way to mass-distribution. “We want distribution in Australia and abroad as one of the next steps. We have been talking to distributors in Asia. We did look at distribution for our bespoke product in the past, but that was difficult to manage,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The chief executive and co-founder of taxi-booking app goCatch, Ned Moorfield, is calling for an urgent summit of transport ministers over the UberX ride-sharing service. Moorfield told StartupSmart the recent controversy at Uber (a competitor of goCatch), where one of its executives suggested digging dirt up on critical journalists such as Pando Daily's Sarah Lacy, is symptomatic of bigger cultural issues at the company. “It didn’t come as a surprise. It’s symptomatic of the culture in the company. It amazes me that they haven’t fired the employee who made those comments,” Moorfield says. Aside from company culture, Moorfield explains there is a fundamental difference between taxi-booking apps such as goCatch and the model used by UberX. “We use accredited drivers in accredited taxis and we vet our drivers and ask to see proof that they have a driver authorisation card and ABN. UberX uses someone’s own car and driver’s licence without accreditation,” he says. According to Moorfield, the continued operation of UberX in Australia poses regulatory challenges transport ministers need to clarify. “It’s certainly an offer that has regulatory challenges. Now, we’re not calling for UberX to be banned necessarily, but what we do want to see is clarification,” he says. “The legislation is black and white – you can’t deliver public transport services if you aren’t an accredited driver. But what we’re seeing is a lack of enforcement. “A recent newspaper article showed the Department of Roads and Maritime in NSW issued just fifteen $1000 fines for UberX drivers. That’s laughable given the number of drivers that UberX has. “So we want to get the transport ministers together and discuss whether they intend to accommodate a service like UberX or enforce the rules?” Reducing the government costs avoided by UberX is a strategy Moorfield identifies as potentially levelling the playing field. “There are substantial costs for plates in the taxi industry, and we think governments need to bring in lower-cost plates. There was a good innovation recently in Victoria recently where the state government is offering lower-cost ‘pre-booked-trip only’ plates,” Moorfield says. “But UberX is throwing that aside, pocketing as profit costs that everyone else has to pay.” Finally, Moorfield rules out launching an UberX-style service of his own without regulatory clarity on the matter. “We’re only looking to act within the regulations. However, if there’s a lower-cost option within the regulations, we’d welcome it,” he says. StartupSmart understands that Uber is paying the fines of any UberX drivers issued with an infringement notice. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Australian company DigitalCC has given up the rights to the domain name bitcoin.com.au, just a few months after buying it for $US23,000 ($A27,000). As reported by qntra.net, the domain was purchased earlier this year by Digital CC, which trades as digitalBTC, from Magna Fortis Pty Ltd, a company associated with digitalBTC’s executive chairman Zhenya Tsvetnenko. DigitalBTC is a startup operating in bitcoin mining, two way markets for bitcoin companies, and the development of retail consumer products including digital currency mobile applications. On Monday the bitcoin.com.au domain name was auctioned off by domain trading platform Netfleet and purchased by Domenic Carosa for $A39,930. Carosa is the chairman of Dominet Digital, an investment and consulting group whose investments include the bitSIM, the Future Capital Bitcoin fund and BitcoinCloudMining.com. Tsvetnenko says digitalBTC dropped the rights to the domain name because it had a reputation as a site which contained malware and as a consequence had been banned from Facebook, significantly reducing its value. “The domain in question was acquired with the possibility of being used for marketing purposes. Unfortunately it was discovered the domain has some serious issues not disclosed by the original vendor, which make it severely restricted in use if not valueless for any purchaser – I’m reserving my rights of recourse in that respect,” Tsvetnenko says. “As a result I chose to refund DCC (Digital CC) so the company would not need to get distracted by those issues. The domain has now been dropped. I’m highly pleased that DCC has since secured the superior coin.org domain.” A spokesperson for digitalBTC confirmed the purchase price was fully refunded. "The domain in question was disposed from our portfolio immediately after the company became aware that there were serious issues with the domain, as the domain has been banned from various social media sites including Facebook.com. The company returned the domain name and was fully refunded," the spokesperson says. Carosa says he was unaware that digitalBTC was the previous owner or the concerns the company had with the domain. “I had no idea who owned the domain name until after I successfully bid for it on Netfleet.com.au when people started emailing me about it and telling me the backstory,” he says. “I have already had offers in the six figures for the domain name. I have no intention to sell the domain name as we are investors in the bitcoin space and will announce our intentions for it shortly.” auDA chief operations and policy officer Jo Lim says it does not comment on specific cases but was able to provide some general advice to help others avoid domains being deregistered unintentionally. “The secondary market in .au domain names is not directly regulated by the auDA,” Lim says. “People are able to buy and sell domain names on a number of platforms, and it is up to a prospective purchaser to do their own due diligence and make sure that 1) the person selling the domain name is the current registrant, and their WHOIS details are valid; and 2) after sale, the domain name is properly transferred and all the WHOIS details are updated (not just the contacted details). “In the case where a registrant’s WHOIS details are found to be invalid or out of date (such as a cancelled ABN), under auDA policy the registrant is given 14 days to correct or update their details. “The domain name will only be detailed if the registrant is ultimately unable to provide updated details, or fails to respond to the request to provide updated details. Note that the onus is on the currently listed registrant to update their details, which is why it is important that the purchaser of a domain name makes sure that the WHOIS details are properly updated after the purchase.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The first research project into refugee entrepreneurs has secured $20,000 in funding from the Australian Research Council. Professor Jock Collins from the University of Technology Sydney and Dr Branka Krivokapic-Skoko from Charles Sturt University will seek to understand refugees’ contributions to innovation, productivity and trade. They will also look into the barriers facing refugee entrepreneurs and how they overcame them, with the aim of identifying particular strategies to assist existing and future startups. Factors such as gender and geographical location will be investigated. In a statement, Professor Collins said there was a rich history of immigrant entrepreneurship in Australia. However, until now there has been no study investigating humanitarian refugees who have turned to entrepreneurship. “The image of them is as a burden, rather than as contributing to Australian society and to the economy,” he said. “Refugees generally have limited financial capital and their human capital often isn’t recognised in Australia … in many ways they face the greatest challenges of any entrepreneur, and yet they overcome these challenges. It’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work and determination.” The research project will also look into how refugee entrepreneurs and their businesses create not just profits but social capital. It will run for three years. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Six of the young Queenslanders taking part in the Startup Catalyst mission to Silicon Valley have found themselves in the top three teams of San Francisco’s Startup Weekend. Startup Catalyst, which ran until November 26, was aimed at sending young Australian coders, startup founders and tech enthusiasts between the ages of 18-25 to Silicon Valley to learn from successful entrepreneurs and some of the biggest tech giants. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour challenge where teams from more than 200 cities around the world have to brainstorm startup ideas, validate them, build prototypes and eventually launch their product. The weekend is part of the Global Startup Battle, the world’s largest startup competition. The competition’s winning team – which included 22-year-old Queensland University of Technology student Kelsey-Lee Stay – pitched a startup called SubSnap, a cloud-based document and workflow management tool for the film and TV industry. In a statement, Stay said she was very happy with the win and thought it came down to a “really great idea and a strong team”. “I came over here to learn as much as I could but never expected to take home the top prize,” she said. “It’s really exciting to know that all of the 20 Aussies on this mission are competition with the best and holding our own.” Second place in the Startup Weekend challenge went to a team that included Startup Catalyst participants Mitch Pierias and 25-year-old Griffith University student Anthony Guevara for a startup called VisaTrak, an online tool for managing travel visas. Third place included a team made up of Larene Le Gassick, Elliot Smith and Alex Ghiculescu for a voice-controlled recipe narration called Yes Chef. Ghiculescu said the weekend gave both himself and the other Startup Catalyst participants a confidence boost. “Startup weekend reminded us that we really can compete with the best of them,” he said. “By the end of the competition, people in four different countries were using our app, Yes Chef, which was pretty exciting.” Startup Catalyst’s project director Colin Kinner described the trip as a “huge success”. “We’ve seen that the next generation of Australian startup entrepreneurs are ready to compete with the best on a world scale,” he said. “I believe we’ve really inspired these young Aussies to think big and learn that idea development through collaboration and teamwork is the key to success and progress.” Startup Catalyst ran from November 17 to November 26 and was an initiative of River City Labs. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A New South Wales startup is looking to improve the way businesses hire employees by allowing users to tap into their networks quickly and easily to fill a job vacancy. Sydney-based Reffind is a new venture by Australian incubator Digital4ge and aims to ease the “laborious process” of job referrals. Chief executive Brent Pearson told StartupSmart Reffind will be available as an iOS and Android app next year. “We are looking to solve one particular recruitment problem and doing it really well, and that is employee referrals,” he says. “Everybody understands employee referrals are the best way of hiring talent and there’s a lot of friction in the process and lots of companies aren’t doing it smoothly. We’re building the best employee referral solution out there to really help companies turbocharge that recruitment effort.” Pearson says the app will be especially suited to small business owners because they don’t necessarily have an HR team and may need to fill a role quickly. Because they are often time poor, the startup aims to make the entire recruitment process as simple and easy as possible. “They can download the app, put a job into there, access their contact list and push it out to their trusted networks,” he says. “When their network receives it they can download the app and refer to people they know.” Pearson says employee referrals already happen on a large scale, and the app will simply leverage technology to make the process smoother for everyone involved. “Employee referrals are the number one way companies do external hires,” he says. “It’s also rated in terms of the highest quality, best retention – it’s number one in any metric you want. It’s the undisputed king in terms of hiring.” The startup will stand-out from other recruitment startups because of its specific focus on job referrals and the way it leverages smartphones and social networking, according to Pearson. “What makes us different is when I show this to my network of senior recruiters and HR professionals, they can’t believe how simple and elegant the solution is. I believe we’re bringing the right solution to the market at the right time to solve this problem.” Reffind will charge a flat monthly fee for businesses to use the service, with a beta version available in January 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Could you be marketing to the wrong person or leaving off a key influencer and costing your business sales? While we spend most of our marketing budgets targeting the end user of our product or service, the truth is in many situations that one person rarely makes the purchase decision alone. They consult with someone else, present their findings and in some cases even ask for approval or make a joint decision to proceed. In other cases someone else (think of the child in the supermarket) can have far greater influence over the buying decision, convincing your potential customer to buy your products or services in a more persuasive way than you doing it direct. So how do you influence the influencer? Here are three tips to get you started. 1. Identify who your potential customers' influencers are There can be different influencers of a purchase decision depending on the product or service you provide. From business partners, colleagues, employers and different departments within their organisation, to husbands, wives, kids, mothers, fathers, extended family and friends. Not to mention the trendsetters, 'in crowd', celebrities and even the 'enemies' or competitors of your potential customer can influence the way they buy and determine if they'll do business with you over someone else. In order to influence the influencer you need to identify who else you are marketing to in addition to your potential customer. Ask yourself who will be in their ear? Who else will need to sign off on the purchase? Who else will have a vested interest in the purchase? Is my customer aware of this influencer and trying to convince them too? 2. Get in the mind of the influencer Marketing to an influencer often requires completely different messaging than marketing to your potential customer. They have different needs, frustrations and motivations and tend to be less engaged with your product or service. Normally only having the incomplete, second-hand information to go on, the influencer may even be wary and skeptical of how you can help, planting seeds of doubt in the mind of your potential customer. For this reason, you need to ensure you give them the information they need to get on board with the purchase. To do this ask yourself, what will your target markets influencer be saying in their ear? What concerns and objections will they have? What benefits will they want to see? What information do you need to share (either directly or give to your potential customer) to help the influencer to fall in love with your product too? 3. Target the influencer in your marketing Once you know the influencers you are targeting and what concerns and motivations they have, address them in your marketing messages. It could be as subtle as working in benefits and features that will appeal to them and address key objections, or it could be as obvious as a ‘how to convince your husband/wife/business partner' guide. How can you influence the influencer in your own business? Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Research released this week by the Diversity Council of Australia has found the stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent in the workplace, despite many employers taking steps to tackle the issue head-on. The survey found while 86% of businesses have carried out initiatives to address mental health in the workplace, the same amount of organisations report that mental health issues at work were common or very common. Australian tech startups are not exempt, with entrepreneurs describing mental health as the “black dog in the room” for the startup community. Long hours, financial pressure, isolation and fear of failure can be the unfortunate downsides to working on a startup – all of which have the potential to exacerbate mental health issues. Athula Bogoda, organiser of Melbourne Silicon Beach Drinks, told StartupSmart mental health is not given enough attention in the startup sphere. “It’s something we need to discuss,” he says. “The subject is something that has not been spoken about and in the US there has been about three or four known instances of founders committing suicide so it’s something we should talk about here.” Bogoda says meetups like Silicon Beach Drinks are important because they provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to get away from the computer and meet people are going through similar things. “Meet-ups like ours are in a position to bring up the subject [of mental health] and implement appropriate measures,” he says. “The culture of hackathons can be mentally and physically draining – you come in on a Friday evening and hardly get any sleep by Monday. It’s in the culture of startups, but I don’t know how effective the message is that you should work like that.” However, there is good news. Bogoda is quick to acknowledge that people are beginning to have conversations about startups and mental health and questioning whether practices that have been in place for a long time are ultimately good for people’s wellbeing. “People are now talking about doing exercise, meditation and mindfulness exercises to boost productivity,” he says. One Australian tech startup that is tackling the issue of mental health head-on is TalkLife, a global social network that allows young people to discuss issues such as depression and receive support from their peers. The startup has grown rapidly since launching in 2012, with around 105,000 users worldwide. Founder Jamie Druitt told StartupSmart startups can be hotbeds for mental health issues; however, it doesn’t need to be this way. “I think clear communication is critical and understanding the expectations in other co-founders,” he says. “If you are on your own, that’s where accelerators are beautiful because you can come in and you do have the support of other founders around you.” Druitt says people’s attitudes to mental health can slowly change by entrepreneurs recognising they may fail and for the media to give ample air-time to stories of failure. “A lot of people talk about the success stories but not a lot of people are talking about the failure stories. It gives you a much clearer understanding that you may fail or you may come out the other side. We do make it out that we are invincible.” Druitt says around 9000 people log on to TalkLife each day and the startup is working with a Harvard and MIT research teams to investigate how data can be used to predict high-risk mental health episodes in young people. “I think it is fantastic that TalkLife can give them the opportunity to see data on mental health in real time,” he says. “I think we need to look at how we can grow TalkLife now – it has only ever grown organically but we’re not even scratching the surface of mental health. We’ve got a long, steep road ahead.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Sony is developing a watch made out of electronic paper for release as soon as next year in a trial of the company's new venture-style approach to creating products, Bloomberg reports. The watch’s face and wristband will be made from a patented material that allows the entire surface area to function as a display and change its appearance, sources say. The watch will focus on style, rather than trying to outdo products like Apple Watch and Sony’s own SmartWatch technologically. Twitter to track user app downloads Twitter is set to start tracking which apps its users have downloaded, Re/code reports. The social media giant says it will only be collecting a list of applications users have installed, not any of the data contained within those applications. The feature will be opt-out, meaning Twitter will begin collecting the data from users unless they explicitly say otherwise. “To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in,” the company says. Lyft experiences best week yet Transportation network Lyft says it had record usage last week in the wake of the Uber controversy, VentureBeat reports. While the company isn’t releasing specific figures, it says it experienced its biggest week in terms of number of rides, beating a previous record week during Halloween. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 12.10 to 17,802.84. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US85 cents.
Melbourne-based social marketing startup Tiger Pistol has closed a $3.1 million round of funding led by domain registration company Melbourne IT. Tiger Pistol is a social marketing platform for small to medium sized businesses, allowing them to harness the power of big data to conduct sophisticated advertising campaigns. The raise will see Melbourne IT become a white label reseller of the Tiger Pistol platform, providing the social marketing software to an additional 500,000 small businesses in Australia. Other participants in the investment include Liberty Financial chief executive Sherman Ma, former Channel Seven managing director Michael Harms and other private individuals. The funds will be used to accelerate the startup’s 20-30% month-on-month growth in Australia and the US market. The company will hire 40 more staff members in Los Angeles and a further 30 in Australia. Co-founder and chief executive Steve Hibberd told Private Media Tiger Pistol centralises a small business’ social marketing strategy and in doing so “solves the problem” a lot of SMEs face but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to solve on their own. “Social marketing is moving so quickly that it’s virtually impossible for companies, and small companies in particular, to keep up,” he says. “Without Tiger Pistol a small business would have to create and manage a presence across up to eight social networks and directory sites, using countless other platforms for content creation, monitoring, ad management and scheduling.” In October 2013 Tiger Pistol closed a $1 million funding round. Hibberd says he believes the most recent round of investment was so successful because people saw the company’s commitment to executing its long-term plan. “We understand that small businesses want real business incomes,” he says. “They want leads, inquiries, foot traffic and sales. They’re less and less excited with likes and comments. The things you need to do to achieve real business outcomes are not straightforward – it’s not as simple as posting content.” Hibberd says 2014 has been a “monumental year” for Tiger Pistol. He says the company’s latest raise shows how startups can rely on either organised or private capital. He points out that in a country like Australia – where the pool of organised capital is relatively small in comparison to other countries – private capital could be tapped into more effectively to help give local tech startups the investment they need to grow. “There are some great funds out there, but they only have a certain level of capacity and profile,” he says. “I’d encourage businesses, if they believe in what they’re doing, to get into … private capital.” In August, Tiger Pistol launched a Do It For You package, making it the first platform in the world to help small businesses with a full social media marketing suite that includes organic posts, advertising and reputation management. The service starts from $249 a month. Tiger Pistol was founded in 2012 and currently has 30 employees based in Melbourne and Los Angeles. It is one of two global Facebook marketing partners for small businesses. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Melbourne-based startup JellyChip wants to “gamify social good”. Early next month it will be launching a closed beta for its market research platform and has partnered up with World Vision Australia to help direct some of the profits it generates from that research to charitable causes. The platform enables its users to answer survey questions in return for in-app points, which can in turn be spent on those charitable causes. Co-founder Eric Chang says the old ways of charitable giving and traditional market research need to be disrupted. “We’ve always wanted to do something with technology that would benefit people,” Chang says. “So we talked about how we can leverage market research to do that.” Co-founder James Downing has some experience creating a similar socially minded app, a trivia game which directed advertising revenue to help purchase rice for the needy in the developing world. The duo combined that idea with Chang’s own experience helping develop a market research app for PricewaterhouseCoopers clients and came up with the concept for JellyChip. JellyChip also connects all of its users’ social media accounts in one place, Chang says, in the hope of becoming the first page its users visit when they head online. Users can earn points for logging on, interacting with others, and inviting new people to the platform. It’s similar to the manner in which Dropbox offers rewards and expanded features to its users for performing certain tasks. Those points can be spent in the JellyChip store which will go to the platform’s charitable partners. Between 25% and 30% of its profits will go to charity. “We believe innovation, social good and business needs can all be met if everyone wins,” Chang says. The startup has raised investment from private individuals, Chang won’t say exactly how much, but it’s a bit less than $500,000. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The G20 nations, including Australia, need to take the lead when it comes to producing a regulatory framework for bitcoin that recognises it is unlike anything the world has seen before, according to the US Chamber of Digital Commerce president Perianne Boring. Boring was one of a number of experts giving evidence before an Australian Senate inquiry into digital currency on Wednesday. She told the inquiry it’s important to follow a path similar to the way in which government treated the internet in its infancy: allow bitcoin to grow and flourish before racing to regulate it. She admits that striking a balance between regulation that protects interested parties and doesn’t stifle innovation is tricky. “The best way to do that is to provide regulatory clarity in existing laws,” she says. “I would go through and clarify which types apply to these (digital currency) tech companies and which ones don’t. “This is about strengthening the existing finance system. Nobody is trying to replace existing government currencies.” Others giving evidence to the inquiry included Ron Tucker from the Australian Digital Commerce Association, entrepreneur Mark Pesce, Clayton Utz partner Andrew Sommer and the founder of Australian bitcoin startup ABA Technology, Chris Guzowski. Inquiry chair Senator Sam Dastyari told the witnesses the government was looking for the best way to maximise the potential opportunities that bitcoin represents to the economy, but at the same time ensuring it doesn’t expose the country to “potential downfalls” or actions that could stifle the Australian bitcoin industry. “The lack of a regulatory framework or regulatory oversight is one of the key drivers for lack of investment in this space,” Guzowski told the inquiry. Senator Bill Heffernan told the panel of experts the Australian bitcoin industry should return to discussions with government on regulation when it can classify the digital currency as being a bag of wheat or a bag of coins. The question Heffernan ultimately wants answered is whether or not bitcoin is property or currency. Earlier this year the Australian Tax Office gave guidance that bitcoin would be treated as property and as such GST would be applied. Heffernan was particularly concerned with how this might relate to corporate tax avoidance and “the redefinition of sovereignty”. Both Pesce and Boring pointed out that in the United States, various government bodies had taken different views on that question, based on common sense regulation about how bitcoin is predominantly used, rather than global “harmonisation” that Heffernan was after. All of the witnesses spoke of the inevitability of digital currencies becoming mainstream in the future, regardless of whether or not such harmonisation occurs. “Within a decade, every networked device will have some version of blockchain technology running inside it, serving as the first line of defence against network attacks, providing badly needed security and authentication capabilities,” Pesce says. “Blockchain technology will be everywhere, in everything, so pervasive it becomes invisible. Digital Currencies such as bitcoin are at the start of a transformation that will leave our world more open and more secure.” Sommer built on that point of openness, describing bitcoin blockchain’s public ledger as an auditor’s dream. “As a regulator, the amount of information that is available through the documentation of transactions on the blockchain is unprecedented,” he says. “The blockchain can distinguish between a transaction that’s supply for a GST purpose, and a supply that’s GST free.” He said it could be an additional tool to improve transparency in the finance industry. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A new web series has launched with the aim of lifting the lid on Melbourne’s growing startup scene. Startup Nation, an offshoot of funproject.org – a startup aimed at promoting a positive lifestyle – is a series of short 10-minute documentaries that profile different startups that call Victoria’s capital city home. So far Startup Nation has released two videos taking a look at 99Designs and WeTeachMe, with a third documentary on CoinJar to be released next month. Startup Nation - WeTeachMe from Funproject on Vimeo. Isaac Carne, co-founder of funproject.org, told StartupSmart the aim of Startup Nation is to tell local stories in a quick and accessible format. “I consider myself an entrepreneur, so this was always a topic that was of interest to me,” he says. “We had the idea of interviewing companies that were doing something in the tech field from Melbourne and starting up or in their first few years [of operation]. 99deisgns are already well set up, but they are a good example of a successful company from Melbourne that went overseas.” Carne says the short documentaries will give an overview of how the startups got off the ground and won’t shy away from the challenges the founders faced. “Hopefully that can be something worthwhile for people out there wanting to start their own startup,” he says. “Ten minutes might be too long for some people if they’re not into this topic, but we didn’t want to be too broad either.” Startup Nation is planning to release a further three episodes in the next three months, and is looking to “reach out” to startup incubators for potential partnerships. Startup Nation - 99designs from Funproject on Vimeo. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A South Australian startup is looking to bring together two unlikely companions: augmented reality and the humble gravestone. Eternal Memoria, based in Adelaide, aims to add digital content to the traditional memorial or cemetery experience. The startup allows visitors to use a QR code on a gravestone to access photos, videos and online dedications online. Users can also use the QR code to download an app so that when they look through their smart device – preferably a tablet – a video is overlayed across the headstone. The startup recently won second place at the New Venture Institute’s eNVIes awards. As part of the prize, founder Nizar Rasheed will receive a $5000 travel scholarship to the US in 2015 to explore the international market. Rasheed told StartupSmart Eternal Memoria is about applying 21st century technology to something that has “pretty much remained the same for thousands of years”. “We are excited about it because it drags this old technology into the 21st century, which for some reason that has been neglected,” he says. “People can get a virtual experience while they’re there – videos, photos… A much more interactive experience rather than just looking at the stone.” Rasheed says the startup has entered negotiations with one of the major cemeteries in Adelaide. He plans to test the technology there before expanding to other cemeteries around Australia. The startup plans to make money through a subscription model. Rasheed is also looking at exploring the potential opportunities with war memorials to make them “more immersive” for visitors and family members. Joel de Ross, founder of the Australian Virtual Reality Industry Association, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for virtual reality platform IMERSO VRE – and says preserving the memory of a loved one in a virtual reality environment could be one of the platform’s uses. De Ross told StartupSmart people are already paying money to remember deceased family members through death notices in the newspaper, however, new technology offers a more comprehensive way of keeping someone’s memory alive. “What we felt with virtual reality is it presented a unique opportunity not just to remember but [act] as a kind of therapy,” he says. “Someone’s memory – photos or stories – can be embedded into a virtual reality environment that that person can visit whenever they want to. We feel it is going to be a powerful, therapeutic way of dealing with loss.” De Ross says he can see augmented reality headstones being utilised in the future. “In terms of augmented reality headstones, I can absolutely imagine that this is going to be something that people use to deal with loss.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Developing bespoke software is increasingly crucial to achieving business goals, but specifying software and managing programmers can be daunting and ripe with challenges. Knowing what to expect from software developers and how to effectively collaborate with and manage a team can make or break a product. Here are five things that founders can do to lead a software build more effectively. 1. Build trust Establishing trust between founders and developers is key to ending up with a successful project. You want to make sure that you trust your developers are working effectively and you build this trust by getting them to deliver working software on a regular basis. In a startup environment, the only way to build software that effectively works is iterative development. You want to break down the project into manageable pieces and build incrementally, focusing on the highest value things. Ask your developers to deliver the core capability quickly to provide the main functionality you need. Once you feel comfortable with their work, have them refine the build so that it covers more and more edge cases. 2. Specify the right software to be built It’s not just a matter of building software right; it’s about building the right software, with functionality that customers actually care about. Develop user stories so that you are specifying features that have a real benefit to the user. Your user stories are the units of work that will flow through the system. It’s important to help developers to make better decisions about what to build so that they can solve the business problem with less engineering effort. Founders should give developers the specifications they need without overwhelming them with unimportant details. When translating business goals into technical requirements, take into account the limits of predictability. Focus on developing a lean product that you can build upon later when you see how customers respond. This is particularly the case when developing software in highly uncertain spaces where a startup is not yet sure of what their customers want. The shorter the software development cycle, the less deep a rabbit hole you’re getting into. 3. Track progress It’s especially important to track progress with both project management tools and systems like GitHub that allow you to keep up to date with what your developers are working on. For a small team of developers, software like Pivotal Tracker, Trello or Lighthouse provides a simple way of keeping track of the user stories that need to be built. Founders should register a GitHub account and have their developer create a repository within it where they will commit code. This allows you to keep a copy of the software being built under your control. Your code is one of your startup’s most valuable assets so you always want to have access to it. By looking at the commits section in GitHub you’ll also see every time code has been uploaded. If you’re paying for programming and haven’t seen a recent upload it’s time to check in with your developers and see what they’ve been working on. 4. Undertake acceptance testing Having your developer team run automated acceptance tests is essential to ensure the software performs the way you expect. As there’s so much complexity in software, it’s very easy for a developer working on one feature to break something elsewhere in the code. Your developers should be using end-to-end testing frameworks like Selenium or Cucumber to make sure all of the application’s functionality works as it should. 5. Continue to learn There has been an explosion of methodologies, open source languages, frameworks, libraries and tools to make developers substantially more productive. Lean about best practices to improve the way you manage a software build and stay informed about the latest technologies that can transform the pace of development. Most importantly, take time to get hands-on experience with new tools to find out what works best for your project’s particular requirements. Peter Bell will be speaking at the YOW! Conference in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, organising CTO Summits in Melbourne and Sydney and presenting a workshop on managing a software build in Melbourne. For more information, head over to the event page. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
According to a compilation of apparent monthly payments at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest technology companies, interns are allegedly being paid anything from $US6000 ($A7000) to $US10,400, with additional stipends for housing costs. Engineers interning at Pinterest are apparently paid $US7500 a month and given a monthly $US1500 stipend for housing. StartupSmart contacted Pinterest to confirm the amount, but they said they did not wish to comment. Other examples on the list include interns at Dropbox, who are being paid $US8500 per month and given a healthy housing stipend. Dropbox did not respond prior to publication. Intern salaries at tech comp. Interesting in light of today's PEP discussion. How does education compete for best? pic.twitter.com/wrIttypg8A — Tom Miller (@TomMillerBES) November 24, 2014 According to its website, Pinterest is looking for interns for its summer 2015 intake based in San Francisco. Applicants are expected to be able to “write clean code”, come up with “efficient and creative algorithms for complex problems” and “implement new features from scratch” – however, the company’s website does not specify exactly how long the internships last or how much interns are paid. Tin Alley internship program coordinator Miguel Wood told StartupSmart the reality is that Australian startups cannot compete with the capital of Silicon Valley companies. “In America, particularly in the Valley, it’s all about supply and demand it’s a very competitive environment,” he says. “They’re clearly not disclosing what they’re offering their interns for fear of losing them for better conditions elsewhere.” Wood says the Melbourne University students that go through the Tin Alley program generally receive somewhere between $10-12,000 over the summer. “The students and companies are very happy with that – they think that’s very fair,” he says. “Most of the time interns are pleased to be paid because there’s a bit of negative culture of unpaid internships [in Australia].” However, Wood says he “couldn’t stress enough” how much internships are not just about the money. “It’s about relationships,” he says. “Success for startups is all about people. And [with an internship] you get direct exposure to working with very talented people who can both mentor you and support you in realising your own dreams if you wish to stay on with that company or go off and found your own.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A new website has launched to help entrepreneurs and investors succeed in the startup industry. Learn.Onvest.com is a free peer-to-peer learning platform that focuses on giving advice to emerging and established entrepreneurs and investors. Users are able to sort through advice by topic, as well as search for the most popular videos and articles. The website is an offshoot of Onevest, an investment platform connecting startups with investors based in the US. Co-founder and chief executive Alejandro Cremades describes the site as “like Reddit or HackerNews” for startups. He told Crowdfund Insider its mission was to create “high performing founders” and investors by establishing a robust and vibrant online community. “It will be a place where early stage investors can strengthen their foundation and knowledge of this emerging investment category to make educated investment decisions,” he said. “Our goal is for Learn.Onvest to become the go-to learning platform for the startup community.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
One day, the blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin and other digital currencies, could be the proof that you own your house rather than a paper title, according to smart contract lawyer Pamela Morgan. “If you’ve ever purchased a house, or owned an asset like a car, you have title and you have all these hassles where you need to go down to the government municipality, you have to register it and you have to do all these things,” Morgan says. The “tokenisation” of assets, could lead to a host of innovations in peer-to-peer lending. “So if for example you own a piece of property, you can not only prove instant ownership of that property, you can actually create micro lien transactions,” she says. “Where I could give you a loan for a piece of property you had for a week. And register that lien on the blockchain and then when you paid me back, we can remove that lien. We can do that instantaneously, amongst ourselves without banks and weeks of waiting, months of waiting. “So I really think it opens up the credit market for individual lending to individual people. Once we get property on the blockchain, once we’re able to tokenize title, then those applications are going to naturally grow from that.” Morgan was in Melbourne on Monday night speaking at a bitcoin Melbourne meetup with Andreas Antonopoulos and Tatiana Moroz. She says what excites her most about bitcoin is that it opens up the possibility of smart contracts. She defines a smart contract as one which includes an arbitration clause and a payment mechanism using bitcoin. These could be useful for allowing individuals to include third parties, without any special knowledge or skill, in contracts to oversee their enforcement. It’s done by using multisig bitcoin transactions. “As we move into smart assets and we tie smart assets together with bitcoin and the payment network, we’re going to see smart contracts,” she says. “I think the tipping point… is when you can use this technology easily, seamlessly on a day-to-day basis.” She gives the example of a musician who signs a contract to get paid for a performance. If once they’ve performed, the second party refuses to pay, the musician can go to that third party and they can facilitate payment. Any further disputes can be handled in arbitration, a quicker, cheaper option than the courts. “Large multinational corporations are already doing this, they’re already doing it through commercial arbitration,” she says. “150 nations have already signed up to a commercial arbitration treaty. What that means is you can bypass the traditional judicial system; you can include an arbitration clause in your contract. You can go to arbitration which is typically, way less expensive, way faster and you get to pick your own judges. “You can do that and it’s enforceable around the world. That’s a really powerful point.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Hackagong has announced a prize pool of more than $100,000 as part of its annual weekend competition for entrepreneurs, developers and designers. Hackagong is an annual hackathon based in the NSW regional city of Wollongong. The competition started in 2012 as a way to raise the profile of the local startup scene and promote regional startups and promoting technological innovation outside of Melbourne and Sydney. The hackathon will run this weekend from November 29 to 30 for the third year in a row. More than 100 people are expected to attend. The overall winner of Hackagong 2014 – awarded to the team with the most viable and validated product and business model – will receive $5000 in cash to help launch their startup. The team will also receive up to $24,000 in web hosting from Rackspace, as well as allowances for a co-working space, mentoring, coding courses and legal advice from additional sponsors. Additional prizes include the people’s choice award, which will receive $2000 cash, and most innovative and creative 3D prints – with the winning teams receiving a 3D printer and filament pack. Nathan Waters, founder of Hackagong, previously told StartupSmart he started Hackagong because a lot of students in Wollongong have strong technical skills but may not have the confidence to launch their own product or start a tech company. “Unlike Startup Weekend and Angel Hack where it’s all about validating your idea in a weekend, ours is more about just making something really awesome,” he says. “And we’ll give you a little push along, saying: ‘Hey you made something really cool, why don’t you make a startup now?’” Hackagong will have a strong focus on 3D printing this year, with Waters quick to point out the competition is not just for coders and web developers. “The response has been really strong, so much so that we have been, for a number of weeks now, organising weekly 3D printing workshops for those wanting to sharpen their skills ahead of the big weekend.” Hackagong 2014 is being run as part of Tri-Hack, which brings together three separate hackathons – in Wollongong, Canberra and Bega – to demonstrate the skills and talent regional areas have to offer. Tickets for Hackagong cost $30 and are available online. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.