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Pet-focused daily deals site chows down on growing demand for doggie products

3:32AM | Friday, 6 March

A website that offers daily deals for pet products has launched nationwide.   For the Pet gives pet owners discounted rates for toys, treats, small bags of food, water fountains and the like for a period of two weeks. While shipping is free, the items take 2 – 3 weeks to arrive after the deal expires.   The website is primarily geared towards dog products with plans to stock items for cats and birds from May. Founder Daniel Carrington says that more people are going online as bricks-and-mortar pet stores register dwindling customer numbers.   “Consumers used to go to a pet store and receive one-on-one customer service,” he says.   “Our business model is to offer cheap products. There is no one that caters 100% to pets in Australia on a weekly basis. The new generation, or Generation Y, spend anywhere between $80 and $120 on deals online so that they can buy it cheap and get it delivered. Our price depends on what we can generate from the customers.”   After suppliers come to an agreement about the discounts on the products, the store purchases them in bulk. Once a deal is sold on the website, the suppliers are paid immediately, which reduces their costs, enabling consumers who took advantage of the discount. According to Carrington, different suppliers offer different prices with discounts ranging from 10% to 40%.   Carrington says his staff’s knowledge and experience in the pet industry makes them well-placed to predict and test products that will sell. The website has an email sign-up service and boasts some 55,000 subscribers. Subscribers are also emailed a daily deal.   “We have received very good responses from our users,” he says.   “There is a 25% to 30% open rate. For instance, if 25,000 to 30,000 people read the email that was sent to 100,000 people, only 5% to 8% of that number will actually buy items from the website.”   The website is currently bootstrapped and is aiming to make an impact in regional areas. It is working with marketing strategies which include Facebook, various pet-related organisations, referrals from people who have used their service and dog clubs, as 70% of their turnover rate comes from dog-related items.   Carrington hopes to hit 100,000 subscribers by the end of the year and begin advertising in newspapers in major cities once the website puts down stronger roots in the online marketplace.   “We are focused on the price point and weight of the product,” he says.   “As a new company, we are gifting people time to know us and order from us. Over the long term, we will shorten the time limit on deals to perhaps seven days. But first we want customers to talk about it (us) and purchase (from us) it.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

International Women’s Day: why we need more female investors as well as startup founders

3:31PM | Thursday, 5 March

International Women’s Day is this Sunday – a perfect opportunity to recognise the contributions women make to the Australian startup ecosystem.   However, like other industries, gender representation is far from perfect. In 2012, only 4.3% of Australian startup founders were women. There is also evidence to suggest men are more likely to receive venture capital than women – even when the content of their pitches are the same.   Rebekah Campbell, the founder and chief executive of online shopping network Posse, told StartupSmart she thinks there needs to be more female investors because you can’t “fix one side of the ecosystem without fixing the other”.   “The biggest roadblock [for female founders] is the lack of female investors,” she says.   “We have 102 shareholders and there is not one female investor in the group. Women also aren’t investing in companies – in my last capital round we did probably 50 meetings and out of every meeting we did, there was only one woman and she was a junior note-taker.”   Campbell launched Posse in 2012 and last year snapped up $1.5 million in funding in order to accelerate growth as well as the platform’s marketing efforts.   “Obviously I’ve done pretty well with raising money, so it’s not like I can complain,” Campbell says.   “But I definitely think [being a woman] has made it more lonely. Encouraging women to get interested in early stage companies will make a big difference. Scale – the angel investor group – is a great initiative.”   The federal government’s decision to wind back the gender reporting laws for companies of more than 100 employees isn’t a step in the right direction either, according to Campbell.   “I think it’s important we report those numbers to get a sense of what’s going on and so companies take it as a serious issue,” she says.   “And education… it’s a lot to do with education and how girls are taught to think of themselves as they grow up.”   Dr Elaine Stead, investment director for Blue Sky Venture Capital, told StartupSmart female founders face similar issues to men – access to the right skills, guidance and access to growth capital.   “I think the biggest challenges that female founders face are the same ones that male founders face, they just get asked the question a lot more,” she says.   “I think some sectors just attract a different gender profile. And what we need to make sure we’re doing in this industry is making sure we remove all the barriers to equal opportunity while at the same time not creating artificial protections or advantages.”   Stead says it’s important to also highlight the women in the industry – both founders and investors – who are doing well.   “There’s definitely women in that ecosystem who are absolutely doing all the right things and not necessarily letting a perceived disadvantage impact their ability to be successful.”   Here are StartupSmart’s top five female-led Australian startups to watch in 2015:   1. Canva 2. Oneshift 3. Posse 4. CloudPeeps 5. Stashd   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Is the price right? Five factors to consider when pricing products or services

3:51AM | Thursday, 5 March

Nothing can cause confusion and doubt in a business like pricing your products and services. While you don’t want to charge less than you are worth, you also don’t want to price yourself out of the market, so how do you know if your price is right?   Whether you are starting out or starting over, here are five factors to consider when pricing your products and services. 1. Costs First and foremost you need to be financially informed. Before you set your pricing work out the costs involved with running your business. These include your fixed costs (the expenses that will come in every month regardless of sales) and your direct costs (the expenses you incur by producing and delivering your products and services). 2. Customers Know what your customers want from your products and services. Are they driven by the cheapest price or by the value they receive? What part does price play in their purchase decision?   Also look at what you are selling, are your current customers buying high-end or low-end products and services? This information will help you determine if your price is right, what level of service or inclusions you should be offering and lastly if you are targeting the right market. It may be that you need to change your market to make your business more profitable. 3. Positioning Once you understand your customer, you need to look at your positioning. Where do you want to be in the marketplace? Do you want to be the most expensive, luxurious, high-end brand in your industry, the cheapest, beat it by 10% brand or somewhere in the middle? Once you have decided, you will start to get an idea of your ideal pricing. 4. Competitors This is one of the key times you can give yourself permission to do a little competitor snooping. What are they charging for different products and services? What inclusions and level of service are they offering for those prices? What customers are they attracting with their pricing? And how are they positioned in the marketplace? The answers to these questions will give you an industry benchmark for your pricing. 5. Profit One of the most important questions business owners neglect to ask themselves is "How much profit do I want to make?" They tend to look at what others charge and then pull a figure out of the air to be competitive without giving consideration to how much profit the want and need.   While you may be in business for the passion and to add value to the lives of others, you also need to add value to your own. So give careful consideration to what your time is worth.   How do you determine your pricing?   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber one step closer to making its first public acquisition

3:30PM | Wednesday, 4 March

Uber is close to making its first public acquisition, eyeing off San Jose-based mapping startup deCarta.   A spokesperson for the ride-sharing service told TechCrunch the acquisition will help improve the company’s mapping services.   “A lot of the functionality that makes the Uber app so reliable, affordable and seamless is based on mapping technologies,” they said.   “With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps – for example UberPOOL, the way we compute ETAs, and others – and make the Uber experience even better for our users.”   Uber is currently valued at around $40 billion. Social network Nextdoor raises $US110 million Nextdoor, the US-based social network for neighbourhoods, has announced $US110 million in funding in order to accelerate its growth.   The round was led by Redpoint Ventures and Insight Venture Partners, bringing the startup to a valuation of more than $US1 billion, according to The New York Times.   Chief executive of Nextdoor, Nirav Tolia, said in a statement more than 35% of US neighbourhoods rely on the service and the investment represents a significant milestone for the company.   “Every year at Nextdoor has been better than the last, and we are just getting started,” he said.   “Whether it’s finding a great babysitter, selling a used couch, or coming together in times of crisis – we are honoured that Nextdoor has become an essential lifeline to the neighbourhood.” Instagram launches click-through links for sponsored posts Instagram will start introducing click-through links for the first time in a bid to woo more advertisers to the platform.   TechCrunch reports the click-through ads are aimed at e-commerce companies after it initially launched advertisements on the platform in 2013.   The links will be part the social network’s new ‘Carousel ads’ feature, which allows people to view a number of sponsored images.   “Carousel ads give brands more flexibility in telling their stories by allowing people who view their ads to swipe left to see additional images and link to a website of the brand’s choice,” Instagram said in a statement. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 110.90 points, falling 0.61% overnight to 18,092.47. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.22 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Will Australians accessing American Netflix jump ship when the service launches Down Under?

3:05AM | Wednesday, 4 March

Streaming giant Netflix will launch in Australia on March 24, however, thousands of locals already have access to the company’s American service thanks to browser plug-ins and VPNs.   The exact number of Australians bypassing Netflix’s geo-block is unknown, but it is estimated that more than 200,000 people are accessing the American service.   These figures come from data collected by Pocketbook, which found Netflix was the second most popular paid content media company in Australia despite having not launched locally.   Foxtel has the largest market share, while Quickflix – which in 2012 had around 110,000 users – came in at third place. The number of Australians accessing Netflix via a VPN must therefore be somewhere in between, according to the Pocketbook survey.   However, will these users jump ship to the Australian service once it launches at the end of this month?   StartupSmart spoke to more than 10 people this morning who access the American Netflix service from Australia, and not a single one said they would be changing over on March 24. The reasons were primarily due to pricing and the availability of content.   “It’s much easier to access content and I feel better than I would if I was pirating them directly, even though it still exists in a legal grey area,” one person said.   “I almost certainly won’t change to the Australian one because I know they’re going to have an absolute dearth of content.”   Another person who uses a VPN service pointed out that price was a major sticking point.   “I think I will stay because I find using the VPN so convenient,” they said.   “The idea that I would have less content or pay more for a very slight amount of convenience doesn’t matter much to me. I’m pretty happy with the price I pay for American Netflix.”   Netflix Australia has not yet revealed the exact cost of the service. It has previously confirmed it would operate on a three-tier pricing plan: standard definition video, high-definition and 4K ultra-HD.   While most of the original programs to be released in Australia later this year will be available at the same time as in America, the timing of the Australian launch means locals have been missing out on the popular drama series House of Cards.   In addition, Netflix is refusing to say whether season three of Orange is the New Black will be available to Australians at the same time as America.   A spokesperson for Netflix told StartupSmart the company does not offer comment on the number of VPN users in Australia because they are just “speculation”.   “The use of VPN is against Netflix terms of service in countries we do not operate in and we abide to industry guidelines to prevent this happening,” he said.   “We are confident that when we launch here, members will enjoy the Netflix service we are bringing to Australia.”   In January, Torrent Freak reported that Netflix was cracking down on subscribers who were using VPN services to bypass the company’s geo-location restrictions.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Competition heats up in delivery space, as Shippit battles Parcel Point

3:30AM | Wednesday, 4 March

Missing a parcel will become a thing of the past if Shippit gets its way.   By integrating with online retailers and courier companies, the startup enables users to pick a three hour delivery time slot between 7am and 10pm. Buyers can track their purchase in real time through the website and have the ability to reschedule or reroute the delivery up to an hour before its arrival.   The startup is also developing a method to allow its users to change the delivery destination. Currently, Shippit’s service is available in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.   Founders Rob Hango-Zada and William On say their service is for anyone who has shopped online and had a missed delivery. They want to cater to people who are looking for convenience while retailers can focus on their products without worrying about shipping.   “This is a turn-key solution for retailers,” says Hango-Zada.   “We work with local retailers who sell products like designer goods, homeware, jewellery and artwork. We are aiming for a couple of orders a week.”   Hango-Zada says that as people are always moving about, there is an issue of the customer going to Australia Post to collect parcels within a limited timeframe. On says that consumers today have different expectations.   “The whole courier industry is built for business-to-business transactions,” he says.   “They are trying to retrofit that model for today’s world and that doesn’t work anymore. We are infrastructure antagonistic and leverage what’s out there, without the high capital expenditure of Australia Post.”   Both say that Parcel Point, an Australian competitor which recently raised $7 million and has built a network of stores that provide after hour delivery points, does not afford customers the ultimate in convenience either.   “It is solving the same problem. But people don’t need to make the journey to the stores to pick up their deliveries. They should get it when they want it and at a suitable time,” On says.   “One still has to travel to a physical location. They are offering a value service while we are comparatively a premium service,” adds Hango-Zada.   While the startup has received an Innovation MVP Grant worth $15,000 from the New South Wales Trade and Investment agency, it is currently bootstrapped. They were among the top four finalists at the Innovation Bay angel dinner in Sydney last week. They are halfway through their first round to secure seed funding and are looking into marketing and customer acquisition. According to On, the sky is the limit.   “In Australia, there is lots of geography (to cover), lots of people and the labour costs are high, unlike in the United States. We have to prove ourselves here first before going overseas,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Communications tech startup Tapit partners with security giant Gemalto

3:17AM | Wednesday, 4 March

Australian contactless communications startup Tapit has announced a partnership with international digital security company Gemalto in order to launch a new service called ‘Tapit and Buy’.   The deal will allow consumers to tap their smartphone against a Tapit-enabled object in order to buy a product or service, which is then charged to their phone bill.   Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the initial focus will be on digital content such as subscriptions, music and video games.   “It’s going to reduce the friction for people when they’re buying things,” he says.   “But the beauty is they can buy off any device Tapit has enabled – and there’s no app involved... You could buy off ads in the street, bus ads, food court tables – all these items once enabled with us become like point of sales system or cash register for the brands.”   Conyngham says the deal is significant because Gemalto’s size ensures operator billing is secure and transparent for users.   “We’ve always wanted to be a global company from day one, so this really helps us with a global footprint,” he says.   “It’s exclusive for Tapit, so no one else can work with Gemalto with this technology at all – that’s major. It gives Tapit a clear runway over any competitors so there won’t be any copycats because they won’t be able to do the carrier billing side of things.”   The deal with Gemalto has been in the works for two years, according to Conyngham.   “That’s the sort of length it takes to deal with huge companies, but the benefit speaks for itself,” he says.   “It’s the number one security company for SIMs worldwide – they sell SIMs into all sorts of carriers and have the operator billing side of things sown up internationally. Partnering with such a behemoth is really good for productivity and it’s good for business.”   Tapit launched in 2011 and has since expanded into the US as well as China. There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Speedlancer teams up with Canva for speedy designs with a twist

3:06AM | Wednesday, 4 March

Outsourcing startup Speedlancer has announced a partnership with design service Canva in order for customers to personalise professional designs within a short timeframe.   Adam Stone, the founder of Speedlancer, was recently accepted into the latest round of the 500 Startups accelerator program. The startup allows users to outsource tasks to experienced freelancers and have the work completed within a four-hour timeframe.   Stone told StartupSmart the partnership with Canva was “the perfect match” because it meant users could get a professional logo but at the same time keep control of the finished product.   “It enables customers to edit the designs themselves but still means they’re having a professional designer work on the task,” he says.   The partnership has been in the works for the past six months. However, Stone says he wanted to refine the Speedlancer product before entering any formal arrangement.   “I really wanted to make sure the Speedlancer product was at a level where we could deliver,” he says.   “Now that we have come into 500 Startups the supply side is a bit stronger, the product a bit tighter… I feel like it was the right time to launch [the partnership] from my perspective.”   Stone says his number one tip for entrepreneurs considering a partnership with a corporate or another startup would be to ensure there is a mutual benefit to the relationship.   “You need to make sure it’s not a one-sided partnership,” he says.   “Here we benefit both Speedlancer and Canva because we bring more customers to Canva. Not everyone has an eye for design, and even though Canva is easy to use, Speedlancer really helps not hinders that process.”   Speedlancer was featured on Product Hunt last week, coming in at the fourth most popular product or service for the day. The startup currently has around 150 freelancers using the platform and Stone hopes to see that number grow and the user interface refined while he is in San Francisco for 500 Startups.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How the digital age has changed our approach to death and grief

3:34AM | Wednesday, 4 March

In the days and weeks leading up to the death of Leonard Nimoy, the actor and director most known for playing the gravel-voiced Vulcan Mr Spock in Star Trek, knew he was dying. He used Twitter as a means to make peace with this fact, and to say goodbye to his friends, family and fans around the world with sayings, poetry, and wise words.   A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP — Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015   Don't smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP — Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) January 11, 2015   So is a new ars moriendi, or a new craft of dying, emerging in the digital age? Historians have argued that dying was a more public affair before the 20th century, when most people were cramped together in one room hovels. Even the rich in their grand houses lived more public-facing lives than we might tolerate today.   Improved housing offers greater privacy for living, including that provided by hospital or residential care, which is where our dying takes place – removed from most people’s sight. The result is not that death is taboo, but it has certainly become hidden – what historian Philippe Ariès called “unfamiliar”.   But that has been changing for a while now. The past 30 years have witnessed an explosion of auto-pathography: published autobiographies about the writer’s own dying, almost always of cancer. Art photographers also have got in on the act, documenting the withering bodies of people dying of cancer or AIDS, or portraits taken before and after death.   Nobody was obliged to read or view these offerings, but in the UK that changed in 2009. Jade Goody, who had come to fame as a contestant on Big Brother, did a deal with the tabloids and OK Magazine to cover her death from cancer, day-by-day, week-by-week. She wanted to die as she lived, in the full glare of the media. For several weeks it was impossible to go into any newsagent without being confronted with front-page images of a bald-headed Goody on her final and very public journey.   These days, the pervasive nature of social media can carry this several steps further. Anybody can now blog or tweet about their own dying – which can be remarkably educational for the doctors who read their patients’ blogs. Online mutual help groups of those with a fatal condition also enables them to communicate, anywhere, any time. Online, they can find emotional and practical support from one other.   Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere — Lisa Bonchek Adams (@AdamsLisa) February 17, 2015   After death, social media enable grief to become more shared, more public, than it generally was in the 20th century. Sufferers can express their suffering. And in so doing, they educate others about dying and mourning.   A mixed blessing   All this is not without its problems. In the 20th century, many people actually valued the privacy that removed their dying or grieving from the sight of others. Visibility, offline or online, creates the possibility of support, but it also requires the sufferer to put on a public face which may not mirror their internal torment.   Visibility also increases the chances of unhelpful comments and even censure. This is apparent in grieving, where mourners may be criticised for grieving too much or too little, too long or not long enough, for being too stoical or too expressive. Facebook, with its upbeat ethos, may not be where young people dying of cancer want to share their worst fears and deepest anxieties.   In the US, split between religious conservatism and liberal humanism, people’s very different ways of dealing with suffering and finding hope in mortality might once have stayed within their communities. But in the borderless online world they bang up against each other, often adding to the suffering. Fundamentalist sites discussing euthanasia or post-abortion grief can be profoundly unhelpful to those seeking advice and counsel. Liberal humanist sites may not be welcomed by some who are religious and after pastoral help.   This is why online groups restricted to particular age groups with particular conditions or particular religious beliefs, can be valuable. But online sites run by people living with certain life-threatening conditions – notably depression and anorexia – can disturb friends and family. Such sites may even embrace suicide pacts or a pro-anorexia ethos, and may get shut down, adding to their members' feeling not being understood. The one certainty   Humans have always been mortal, but cultures and subcultures around dying have never been static. The internet and new ways of communicating offer new ways of familiarising ourselves and others with death: printing, photography, sound recording, television, email, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Each new technology impacts existing tensions such as privacy versus sharing, freedom to die or grieve one’s own way versus surveillance and censure by others, power versus resistance to power.   We can all be certain we will die. But we cannot be at all certain, when our time comes, how technology and society will offer to accompany us on that final journey.   This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: Pebble Time becomes the most-funded Kickstarter project

3:28PM | Tuesday, 3 March

Pebble Time has become the most-backed Kickstarter project in the crowdfunding platform’s history, raising more than $US14 million with 24 days to go.   Just last week the startup was the third-most backed Kickstarter campaign. However, the startup has since surpassed the previous first-place holder the COOLEST Cooler – which raised $US13 million in August last year.   The startup is a customisable smartwatch that claims to have up to seven days’ battery life. The project’s original goal was to raise half a million dollars.   On-demand parking service raises $US20 million   On-demand parking startup Luxe has raised $US20 million in Series A funding in order to expand its services across the US.   The round was led by venture capital firm Venrock as well as Redpoint Ventures. The startup – which is based in San Francisco and Los Angeles – connects drivers with trained and vetted valets via a mobile app.   Co-founder and chief executive Curtis Lee said in a statement the service will be available in Boston, Chicago and Seattle by the end of April with further expansions planned for later in the year.   “The fact is, 90% of Americans have to drive to work or to daily appointments like visiting the doctor, and in major metropolitan areas parking costs have continued to rise as inventory in parking garages is reduced,” he says.   “Luxe’s model, where we bring a breakthrough business model together with the latest mobile technology creates efficiencies and cost savings for consumers.”   Twitter co-founder threatened by Islamic State militants   Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has been threatened by Islamic State militants, according to Fairfax.   The threat was posted online and comes after the social media network has shut down a number of accounts to stem the militant group’s propaganda and also comply with its policy of not allowing accounts to threaten others with violence.   Twitter has issued a statement saying it was investigating the legitimacy of the online threats and was cooperating with “relevant law enforcement officials”.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 98.48 points, falling 0.54% overnight to 18,190.15. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.19 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Stone and Chalk opens with hopes to accelerate fintech growth in Australia

3:12AM | Tuesday, 3 March

Stone and Chalk, a new fintech hub that promises to help accelerate the development of Australian fintech startups, was unveiled in Sydney on Tuesday.   The independent not-for-profit will be located on level 26, 45 Clarence Street in the Sydney business district. It will include 1230 square metres of office space with the potential to grow to 3000 square metres.   Stone and Chalk’s co-working space will open in May and can fit up to 150 entrepreneurs, as well as offering space for seminars, industry meetings and conferences. Corporates will also be able to rent space in order to collaborate with the startups working there.   New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who spoke at the hub’s launch yesterday, says it will encourage innovation and creativity in fintech.   “Stone and Chalk will provide fintech startups with subsidised office space to collaborate, network and investigate venture capital opportunities,” he says.   “The fast-growing fintech sector will further strengthen Sydney’s position as Australia’s business capital and a globally recognised and competitive finance sector.”   Stone and Chalk chair Craig Dunn says the hub will become the heart of fintech in Australia and hopefully Asia.   “Digital disruption is transforming the financial services industry and there is much to be gained through greater collaboration between stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem. We are focused on brining to life our vision for Sydney’s fintech hub to support startups compete, thrive and lead on a world stage.”   Toby Heap, managing director of the AWI Ventures fintech accelerator program, says the new hub will provide a physical focus for the growing fintech ecosystem.   “Our aim is to provide an ecosystem of advice and support that empowers the brightest up and coming financial services executives to leave their often comfortable nests and start a new generation of world leading financial services organisations.”   The hub was made possible due to professional and financial contributions worth more than $2 million from Allens, Amazon, American Express, AMP, Capital Markets CRC, CIFR, FINSIA, Finzosft, HSBC, IAG, Intel, KPMG, Macquarie Group, Oracle, Suncorp Bank, Veda, Westpac and Woolworths.   Co-founder and chief operating officer of Pocketbook, Bosco Tan, praised the commitment shown by the government and private organisations in coming to “collaborate and elevate innovation”. “Being surrounded and supported by the who’s who of the sector is a critical step to shortening the process of ideation and execution,” he says.   Posse co-founder Rebekah Campbell says the there’s a huge opportunity for innovation in financial services.   “The fintech hub is a great initiative to drive focus and collaboration in the sector. I’m sure we’ll see some giant disrupters emerge as a result in years to come,” she says.   Fintech start-ups that would like to express interest in moving to Stone and Chalk, visit stoneandchalk.com.au for more information. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Mobile app in the offing as Aussie online legal services startup raises $1.2 million in latest funding round

3:33AM | Tuesday, 3 March

Online legal services startup LegalVision has raised $1.2 million in angel investment that will be used to expand its tech offering and step up marketing efforts.   Founded in 2012, LegalVision is a predominantly online law firm which uses technology to engage clients and has adopted a fixed-fee pricing model. This latest funding round brings LegalVision’s total investment to over $1.6 million.   LegalVision chief executive officer Lachlan McKnight told StartupSmart expanding the startup’s technology offering will include the development of a mobile app.   “Deploying a mobile app won’t result in a flood of new leads or a large revenue spike. It’s about keeping us front of mind, making it as easy as possible for repeat customers to come back to us, and being seen as an innovative company that is ahead of the curve,” he says.   In addition to the mobile app, LegalVision will also be working towards integrating its customer relationship management tool into its website as a client portal.   “Communicating with our customers through the portal will be more efficient,” McKnight says.   “We also want to further our document automation technology to account for more complex situations and issues.”   LegalVision is anticipating more growth in 2015 after quadrupling its team in 2014, and the startup’s general counsel Ursula Hogben says the funding will help ensure that growth continues.   “We give SMEs exceptional access to high quality lawyers, and give lawyers a new flexible working environment,” she says.   “This capital raising enables us to increase services across Australia and beyond.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Money flows as Aussie honey startup cracks $5.5 million mark on Indiegogo

3:01PM | Tuesday, 3 March

The Australian father-and-son duo who raised more than $1 million within three hours on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo have now broken the $US4 million ($A5.1m) mark.   Cedar and Stuart Anderson, from Byron Bay in New South Wales, have developed a way to harvest honey without opening a hive and disturbing the bees.   The pair’s invention, called Flow, allows beekeepers to simply turn on a tap to retrieve honey instead of having to smoke the bees and take apart the hive.   The Andersons’ initial target was $US70,000 – however, that goal was smashed in a matter of hours.   The invention has now raised more than $US4.3 million to become the third most-funded project in Indiegogo’s history, with more than 10,000 people backing the invention.   Co-founder of Flow, Cedar Anderson, told StartupSmart the crowdfunding campaign has been “a wild ride” so far.   “We’re amazed and so proud of how well Flow has been received,” he says.   “That we’re now the most successful-ever crowdfunding venture ever launched outside of the US is just incredible. The response has been humbling and has already far exceeded our expectations.”   Anderson says the project’s success came down to the fact that people love bees.   “We’re blown away and really hope this leads to increased bee numbers and better bee health around the world.”   The most-funded project on Indiegogo to date was a device called Ubuntu Edge, which raised $US12.8 million in August 2013.   Coming in at second place is the An Hour of Code project, which aims to give students in the US the opportunity to learn foundational computer science skills. The campaign raised just over $US5 million, with even a donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.   Flow, however, could easily surpass An Hour of Code as the invention’s crowdfunding campaign has more than 30 days left before it expires.   Riding off this success, Anderson said in a recent post on the company’s Indiegogo page that it will be able to negotiate up to 50% off their backers’ shipping costs due to the groundswell in support from around the world.   “Expanding manufacturing to the US will also reduce shipping costs for those in America or close by,” he said.   “Where possible we will source the wooden hive boxes and frames closer to you to reduce shipping costs and support your local beekeeping suppliers. We will add some estimates of shipping soon. Once again thank you all so much for being a part of this project.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Should Australia’s Silicon Valley be Melbourne or Sydney? Why not build a startup nation instead!

3:11AM | Tuesday, 3 March

It’s long been the debate that has divided a nation. On one side is a settlement founded by convicts, and on the other, a once illegal colony founded by gold miners.   It’s the battle between the cozzies and bathers. The scallops and the potato cakes. Rugby league and Aussie rules. Australia’s international city against the sporting/arts/coffee capital of the cosmos. The long “a” in Newcastle against the short “a” of Castlemaine.   The battle of city buses and double decker trains against bunched up trams and limited express Metro services to Flinders Street via the City Loop. (That last one is a battle over which system is the least unreliable.)   With the inevitability of someone tumbling head-first down a slippery dip – or should that be a slide – the debate has crossed into startup land. Which end of the Hume Highway (for those of you south of the border, that’s the Hume Freeway) is to become Australia’s Silicon Valley?   North of the Murray, along poorly laid out streets in a state of perpetual traffic jam, the consensus is the city that is home to Fishburners and BlueChilli should become Australia’s Silicon Valley.   Meanwhile, on the other side of The Alps (or as the locals say it, “Theelps”), Melburnians sit in their alleyways, sipping Magic Coffees chatting about how the laneways between York Butter Factory and Inspire9 are the natural home for this nation’s Silicon Valley.   So which end of the great Hume power corridor should be home to Australia’s startups? North or South of the Murray?   Well, your loyal correspondent, from a corner of the hills known as Parts Unknown, says both sides of this argument need to wake up to themselves!   When it comes to highly scalable tech-enabled businesses, the NBN is a great leveller. Mix in AWS, the Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure and there’s no reason why the next big thing in tech can’t launch from nearly anywhere in the country.   Indeed, from Joondalup to Geelong, Wollongong to Toowoomba and Bega to Cairns, startup scenes are booming in this nation’s regional cities. With Skype and Google Hangouts, there’s simply no reason why rural or regional startups can’t participate in most events hosted in the big city coworking spaces, or why conferences shouldn’t be uploaded to YouTube after the event.   And that’s without even mentioning the vibrant tech communities built around Startup Tasmania, SpaceCubed in Perth, iLab in Brisbane, Entry 29 in Canberra or Majoran in Adelaide.   Now, Sonny Jim Crockett, your dear Old Taskmaster says the Melburnians and Sydneysiders really need to get over themselves and realise there’s far more to this great nation than their two cities! Kids these days – they want the whole toy chest to themselves, but then they run out of juice before teatime and then there’s tears!   No, if Australia wants world class innovation, we don’t need to be a Silicon Valley – we need to become a Startup Nation!   So do you have a great startup idea? Forget about the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry – start from where you are!   Get it done – across Australia – today!   P.S. They’re not potato cakes or scallops because they’re neither a cake nor a form of seafood – they’re really potato fritters!   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to build a sustainable venture capital industry in Australia

3:14AM | Tuesday, 3 March

There are a ton of opinion pieces written every day about what is lacking from Australia’s startup ecosystem. So much so that it’s easy to be confused about what we really need.   Who do we listen to? Who does government listen to? Is it broken employee share ownership legislation? Is it a culture of risk-averse venture capitalists? Is it an overall lack of capital in the ecosystem? The reality is that there are a lot of things lacking — first and foremost an actual blueprint for how we can build a sustainable industry around venture capital. The foundations To build a venture capital industry, certain foundations need to be in place, namely a solid and supportive regulatory environment and skills. Arguably, Australia has both. We rank in the top 10 on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index despite the fact there are some things we need to do better. Employee share schemes, for example, are seriously broken and despite the rhetoric, nothing of any substance has been done to rectify the situation. Government is also distracted with crowdsourced equity funding (CSEF), which I don't believe is the right priority at this stage. Overall though, Australia is a pretty easy place to set up and manage a company.   On the skills side, we definitely have a big issue around the take up of education in STEM subjects. In a time where one of the coolest jobs in the US is to become a “hacker”, I'm still shocked to hear Australian kids think technology is “nerdy” — apparently, they are immune to the Zuckerberg-effect.   This one will take time, and we absolutely have to fix it. But we do excel in two other areas important to startups: design and business.   We have monumental talent in these two areas and in the short-term we need to be tapping it to plug the gap. Programs like Disrupt@Scale (which is backed by Mirin Capital in partnership with BlueChilli) aim to do this, and we need more of them. Disrupt@Scale is not tailored to technical founders; it’s for first-time entrepreneurs who can go on to solve real problems if they have support on the technical side. Of course, non-technical founders can always outsource development, but it is (without a doubt) exponentially better to have a tech team that also has skin in the game. The early stages So we have the foundations for venture capital and the capability to create companies. That’s a good start, but these companies need a lot of support in their early stages, which comes from mentorship and investors. There is no shortage of startup mentors in Australia, with nearly half of Australian startups having at least one mentor, according to Startup Muster. Co-working spaces in Australia have taken off and, despite the debate in Silicon Valley on their effectiveness, for Australian entrepreneurs they provide tremendous value in terms of networking, support and motivation. The support networks are in place and will only grow more efficient over time.   In terms of early stage investing, Australia also does this exceptionally well. There are lots of angels and seed funds operating in Australia, and if you have a solid team and are chasing a big, disruptive market with some early customer validation, then you can raise a seed round relatively easily (easy by VC standards anyway). Again, we can't make sweeping statements about a shortage of venture capital without the context around which stages we are talking about.   The key issue at the early stage is not lack of capital; it’s lack of opportunities or deal flow (as we say). The problem is, it’s not exactly an efficient market and finding the right early stage investors can take time, but perseverance is a critical entrepreneurial quality. Marc Andreessen summarises this nicely in his blog post, When the VCs say “no”, which I’ll paraphrase:   One “no” doesn’t mean anything Three “no’s” could be coincidence — keep trying Five or more “no’s” is no coincidence — something is wrong with your plan.   Investors and their capital are out there and most I know want to invest more, but are constrained by the number of high quality deals that come through their door. For now though, we are getting by and this is really something that will be fixed over time as we plug gaps in the foundations — more high quality founding teams solving big issues adds to the deal flow funnel helping early stage capital to be more efficiently and effectively deployed.   Over the last few years, Australia has built a great early stage funding and support system for startups, which has the momentum to keep growing of its own accord. It’s time now to shift the focus to the next level. Growth stages The next layer we need to focus on is the growth stage — this is where the biggest gaps are. There are very few Series A deals from Australian VCs and even fewer Series B/C because we don't have many funds big enough to do those rounds.   To play in this space, a VC needs to have committed funds of $50-$100m for Series A and at least $200m for Series B/C/etc, but raising a fund this size needs institutional money and Australian institutions refuse to play ball. Big investors, like superannuation funds want to see a track record before investing in VC, but by the time that comes around, they will have missed the boat. It will take us another seven to eight years before Australia’s top funds reach maturity and while I have no doubts that we will have some great results, the time to invest in the next stage of tech growth in this country is now, not in another seven to eight years. If we wait much longer, we won't be able to keep our growth stage companies onshore.   We have some fantastic companies around the Series A mark and VCs should be able to tell these stories to raise later stage funds. Just like an entrepreneur sells the future value of his or her company to investors, so too will VCs need to sell the opportunity of investing in growth stage companies to institutional investors.   VC is about investing in future potential, not past results and the pipeline for future potential right now is pretty strong. It really shouldn't be too hard a sell once the stigma associated with Australian VC is overcome. In reality, these investors already play in assets with the same kind of risk profile as Series B or C startups. Private equity, commercial property trusts and publicly listed exploratory mining companies are not all that different from a risk perspective than a technology startup with customers and revenue looking for growth capital to scale the business. Illiquidity is also not such a huge problem at this point, as most companies are around five years into their journey and hence maybe another three to five years from a potential exit.   To be clear, this is where I believe we have a huge opportunity to tap into the trillions of dollars managed by superannuation funds. I don't think the government has a role to play in this, but both industries need to be working more closely to come up with a solution. Apparently there are over 360 superannuation funds in Australia with assets over $50m, so surely some of these are willing and able to support VC — it’s just a matter of finding the right partners. On top of that, we need to tap overseas investors, especially from neighbouring Asia. All in all, this should not be an impossible task. Exits Exits are a huge and important part of the venture capital industry. Exits allow funds to return profits to investors, which can then be reinvested. It also gives founders the opportunity to give back to the community by having additional time to mentor other founders as well as becoming investors themselves or even starting a new company.   The recycling of capital and knowledge in the ecosystem has been an important factor in the success of Silicon Valley and is something that can be replicated here under the right circumstances. The exit opportunities for Australian startups are plentiful. Foreign companies have proven that they are not averse to making cross-border acquisitions and there is precedent for the listing of small and medium sized companies on the ASX. I won't focus too much on exits in this post — I’ll leave that for another day. What next? We have the platforms to support early stage companies and to enable lucrative exits. However, we really can't capitalise on these until we fix the gaps in the growth stage. Currently, successful Australian startups are going overseas for their Series B rounds and beyond (some even for Series A) and there is little incentive to return. Once these companies move offshore we maintain the right to call them Australian, but we lose the right to share in their success. Foreign staff are hired, foreign investors take the lion's share of returns and foreign governments collect the company’s taxes. This is a lose-lose situation for Australia if we don’t bridge these gaps. I wholeheartedly believe that we can do this, but it'd help if we were more aligned and working closer together towards a common goal. If you have thoughts on how we can achieve this, let me know.   James McKinnon is managing partner of Mirin Capital — an Australian Venture Capital firm based in Sydney and Melbourne. You can reach him at  jm@mirin.vc or on Twitter @jrmck.   This post originally appeared on Medium. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Paris v Kim: ASX-listed games company takes on Kim Kardashian scoring deal with Paris Hilton

3:48AM | Tuesday, 3 March

A Hong Kong-based ASX-listed company is planning to take on the internet’s biggest name, Kim Kardashian, with a rival celebrity mobile phone game.   Pure-play mobile game developer Animoca Brands, which debuted on the Australian Securities Exchange in January, has signed a deal with celebrity heiress Paris Hilton to license her name and likeness and for a mobile app game. Hilton, the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels, signed the deal for an undisclosed sum.   The announcement has seen the Animoca’s share price jump 36% on opening, currently sitting at 27 cents at the time of publication.   Chief executive Robby Yung told SmartCompany Animoca was very pleased with the result.   "Obviously people seem to be interested in what we’re doing," says Yung.   The game follows the incredibly successful release of celebrity app Kim Kardashian Hollywood, which has being downloaded over 83 million times since its release last June, generating more than $US74.3 million ($A95.8 million) in revenue for its developer Glu Mobile.   The game allows a player to play Kardashian’s “friend”, following her around Hollywood in order to achieve her level of fame. It’s free to download, but users pay real money for “koins” that allow them to make in-app purchases on items like different outfits or events.   Glu Mobile is now planning to capitalise on its success with the release of a new game featuring pop star Katy Perry.   But Animoca will try and poach some of the young female audience away from Glu with the Hilton app, with Young deeming Hilton as "one of the world’s most recognized names".   "One of the ways to stand out on the app store is to align yourselves with brands, and amongst the many types of brands out there, celebrity brands have proven to have tremendous currency," he says.   Although Hung says a specific game has not been yet been determined, he says it is likely the game will work on the same monetisation method as the Kardashian game, which is the "predominant business model in the industry".   Young says he expects many app makers to approach other celebrities for deals.   “I think the Kim Kardashian app from Glu really tapped into the zeitgeist," he says.   "You’ll find if you went and looked at top ten people on Twitter with the most followers, they will be approached for apps."   He rejects the idea that the Paris Hilton game is a "copycat" version of the Kardashian game.   "We haven't even launched the game yet so that is difficult for anyone to say," he says.   Danny Gorog, founder of Australian app developer Outware Mobile, says a flurry of similar apps are often released after the success of one.   “Just look at Flappy Birds,” he says, referring to a game that came out in the wake of the success of popular game Angry Birds.   “Angry Birds really spawned its own genre and I’d say the Kim Kardashian game has now spawned its own genre, and this is the follow up.”   Gorog says games are by far the most popular genre on Apple’s app store, but there is a “steep curve” between the most popular games and those that are also bidding for success.   “The difference between number one and number 100 on the app store is huge,” says Gorog.   “It’s a very hit-driven business. Kim Kardashian may be number one on the charts now, but where will it be in a year’s time? Look at Angry Birds, it’s completely dropped off [the charts].”   Animoca, which was only established last year, also lists other game titles including Doraemon, Ultraman and Garfield. Hung says Doraemon, a Japanese cartoon cat, has proven to be one of the company's biggest successes.   "Paris Hilton has a very big brand name in a variety of countries, but I wouldn't put too much on consideration into that compared to some of our other products," he adds.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Sydney software engineer discovers how to text politicians with simple iMessage trick

3:33PM | Monday, 2 March

A Sydney software engineer has discovered a way to text federal MPs and senators without knowing their mobile number.   Fairfax reports Justin Simon, a developer from New South Wales, sent a rude message to Attorney-General George Brandis’s iPhone by using his parliamentary email address to send him an iMessage.   The prank follows heated debate over the Abbott government’s proposed data retention scheme, which would require Australian phone and internet companies to retain customer data so intelligence agencies can access it without needing a warrant.   The plans have raised concerns about press freedom in Australia and the need to protect whistleblowers from government agencies. Apple’s smartwatch will be available in countries outside the US next month Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has told Apple Store employees in Germany that the Apple Watch will be available outside the US next month, according to 9to5Mac.   The comments were made in Germany at the company’s flagship store in Berlin, indicating the smartwatch’s rollout could be more aggressive than first thought.   More than 300,000 smartwatches were sold in Australia last year, according to Telsyte. The analytics firm estimates Australia’s smartwatch market will exceed $400 million by 2018. Tinder launches Tinder Plus Popular dating app Tinder has released a premium version of its app called Tinder Plus, in a bid to bring in revenue from its millions of users worldwide.   The premium service introduces a range of new features including a “rewind” function that allows users to go back in time and review people they had previously dismissed, or “swiped left”.   Tinder Plus also allows users to change their location in order to “connect with people anywhere around the world”.   “Passport creates real, one-on-one connections with people across the globe,” Tinder said in a statement.   “Whether you're planning vacations and business trips or simply expanding your social network, with Passport, you're swiping before you arrive.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 149.60 points, rising 0.83% overnight to 18,282.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.68 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

ParcelPoint hits $7 million in funding, plans to double network of partnerships

3:49PM | Monday, 2 March

Australian online retail delivery network startup ParcelPoint has raised $7 million, which will be used to double its network of partnerships and add more staff over the next financial year.   ParcelPoint has built a network of bricks-and-mortar stores, such as newsagents, pharmacies, convenience stores and storage facilities, and enabled them to act as extended-hours pick-up points for deliveries. In doing so the startup solves a problem facing many online shoppers – not being home to pick up deliveries and missing the post office before it closes.   The investment round was led by Blue Sky Venture Capital and investment director Elaine Stead says the startup is redefining traditional e-commerce delivery and return processes.   “ParcelPoint’s business is so compelling because its solutions remove the friction for all stakeholders in the online retail process – retailers, carriers and, most importantly, the consumer,” she says.   ParcelPoint chief executive officer and co-founder Mehdi Fassaie says the investment will fund the startup’s growth.   “We plan to more than double our network and retailer partnerships and expect our headcount to grow by around 50% over the next financial year,” he says.   Since launching in 2011, the startup has signed up more than 1500 retail stores across the country as collection points. ParcelPoint co-founder and commercial director Julian Leach says in addition to the commission per parcel that each of those stores receives, it also brings more customers into the store.   “For small business, many are working out how they can play a role in the developing online marketplace. We pay the stores a commission for every parcel on the network they receive. But a key benefit is the foot traffic for their stores. It’s a great way for the local store to remain relevant and growing,” he says.   ParcelPoint has over 100 clients using that network to deliver their products to consumers, including the likes of Adidas, THE ICONIC, OzSale and SurfStich. The startup also licenses its technology solutions to omni-channel retailers enabling them to offer click-to-collect services in their stores.   Leach says after-hours delivery is a problem not limited to the Australian market.   “[In] most markets you’ll find the need to pick up a parcel from a location at an inconvenient hour,” he says.   “They’ll give you an option to redeliver over the next few days. It’s very much a global problem.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Perth International Arts Festival gets hacked – in a good way

3:22AM | Tuesday, 3 March

Art and technology converged at the Perth International Arts Festival over the past week to create digital artwork with no limits.   Hack the Festival was launched in conjunction with Perth startup hub Spacecubed, to bring together artists and people with technical backgrounds and inject new skills onto the art scene.   Fifteen teams consisting of everything from web designers and developers, to visual artists, composers and data scientists had 24 hours to create digital artworks and were guided by a team of mentors from the fields of art, technology and business. After a week of refining their projects the teams then pitched to the judging panel.   The winning team came from Perth Artifactory for their “Sonic BollART”. They were awarded a $5000 art grant from the state’s Department of Culture and the Arts.   Program manager at Spacecubed, Tamryn Barker, says the hackathon explored the concept of the artist as an entrepreneur. She says that accomplished digital artists who are running their own businesses are discovering that there was an increasing demand for customised software for creative purposes. It highlighted the transfer of such software from creative industries to other sectors.   “Many artists use advanced technology to produce their work,” she says.   “There has been a growth of creative industries, such as gaming, which requires bespoke software and there has been an increase in requests for specialized software. According to a coder, coding is creative. We wanted the actual product to be a creative output.   “This sort of event hadn’t been done before and we wanted to try something new. We wanted to support the arts and show what art brings to startups and what startups can bring to the arts.”   Barker says that the event was an opportunity to nurture the digital art community in Western Australia.   “We know that Sydney and Melbourne are strong hubs for the art and startup scene,” she says.   “It is a burgeoning industry with quite high projects for growth in the country. People at the event were between 25 and 40 years old and there were at least 50% of women among them, which is more than at other hackathons.”   Spacecubed founder Brodie McCulloch says the event aimed to bring diverse groups of people together in a bid to get new inspiration.   “We wanted to provide an opportunity to bring together people who normally wouldn’t come together, to bring together different people with different skill sets,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australian bitcoin advocate Adam Tepper killed in motorcycle crash in Thailand

3:17AM | Monday, 2 March

The founder and chief executive officer of consumer-to-consumer bitcoin exchange Independent Reserve, Adam Tepper, has died in a motorcycle accident in Thailand.   According to a report by the ABC, 34-year-old Tepper was holidaying in Phuket when he crashed his motorbike at high speed. Local police say he was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene.   Independent Reserve chief technology officer Adrian Przelozny confirmed Tepper’s death in a blog post on Saturday.   “It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you of the death of Adam Tepper,” he says.   “Adam was a passionate advocate for the use of digital currency in Australia. He lived his life to the beat of his own drum and Independent Reserve is a testament to his vision, intelligence and perseverance.   “He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and the bitcoin community.”   Before his death Tepper was working on a book about bitcoin targeted at the general public. His friends and colleagues at Independent Reserve will honour his legacy by completing and publishing the book. The Bitcoin Association of Australia is collecting donations which will be help to fund the book’s publication.   Association president Jason Williams says the bitcoin community lost a champion of digital currency.   “We lost a man who believed in the power of bitcoin, who was truly an inspirational voice, and who was helping us all create history,” Williams says.   “Adam left us with an unfinished legacy, a bitcoin book he was writing. His motivation was not to profit from his book, but to push the envelope, and get others to see what we see. We are all part of the community and we’ll all benefit by bringing Adam’s legacy to light.”   The Bitcoin Association of Australia is raising $5000 for the book’s publication. To donate, click here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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