Public arrests of 56 hackers sends a clear message

3:55AM | Monday, 9 March

In a public show of force against cyber crime, 56 suspected hackers were arrested in the UK by the National Crime Agency. The list of those arrested included a 23-year-old man (those arrested were all men) suspected of breaking into the US Department of Defence in 2014. The rest of the arrests were people involved in fraud and money laundering and members of “hacking collectives” the Lizard Squad and D33DS. The Lizard Squad was involved in wide-spread distributed denial of service attacks on gaming sites and D33DS stole 450,000 user details from Yahoo!.   The arrests come hot on the heels of an announcement of the FREAK security vulnerability leaving thousands of sites using SSL unprotected as a result of the flaw. The UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit, amongst a large range of cyber security agencies are especially keen to drive the message home that taking advantage of these vulnerabilities would lead to a high probability of arrest. A BBC reporter was even “invited” to attend one of the arrests carried out by the National Crime Agency. In this case, the suspect was a 21-year-old student.   It is believed that the man arrested for the attack on the US Department of Defense did not obtain sensitive data but when posting about the attack, claimed to be speaking on behalf of a group called ISISD0M3RS. A post from the hacker(s) claimed that they were in control of DoD satellites and that they would send missiles if the allied air-strikes against ISIS were not stopped. However, the message also involved a bizarre implication that the Lizard Squad were somehow involved and so it is actually hard to tell how much of the “bragging” was actually just that and how much was actually really related to serious threats aligned to the terrorist group.   The problem of the largely young male hacker group that get involved in these types of hacks is that it essentially acts as a type of “social denial of service” attack on law enforcement agencies. The hacking of sites for bragging is a part of the culture to prove the level of skill of a hacker, often as a means of earning the right to access secretive hacker groups, or the secret hacking information they hold. Whilst the attacks are potentially damaging, they are not necessarily done with that as the prime objective.   This culture is not just the preserve of so-called “black hat” hackers, hackers working for the secret services can sometimes be little different. The recent report of the UK secret service agency GCHQ’s hack of SIM card manufacturer Gemalto, highlights the GCHQ staff boasting about getting control of Gemalto’s network and what they could now do with that access.   Cyber-Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman has characterised the many faces of the typical hacker belonging to groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec. This included the FBI informant Hector Xavier Monsegur aka “Sabu” who had to prove his hacking credentials to be accepted back into the trust of the group LulzSec. The impact of the revelations that Sabu was an FBI informant was the realisation that everything that he had done and said - especially through a very high profile Twitter account - was a lie.   In amongst all of the cyber crime, of which there is a great deal of damaging criminal activity, there is the equally active world of the cyber fantasist who is drawn to the world of hacking as a proof of technological prowess and the ability to wield power over powerful entities. The justification, whether it is an affiliation to a civil activist group like “Anonymous” tackling “issues” or to nation states as is the case of the Syrian Electronic Army may in part be an attempt to legitimise their actions.   The large scale of the arrests last week in the UK are clearly being staged for a show of force. The nature and psychological profiles of the hackers involved suggest that highlighting the risks involved in undertaking this type of activity may not serve to deter them for long, if at all.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What to do when your biggest friend is also a foe – a lesson from Mozilla

11:31AM | Thursday, 27 November

This past week Mozilla, the developer of the popular Firefox web browser amongst a number of other products, announced that Yahoo!, rather than Google, will become the company’s default search index in the US. In China, the default search engine will be Baidu, it will be Yandex in Russia, and it will remain as Google in all other markets. Hiding within this announcement, however, is a valuable case study for any business on what to do when your biggest paying customer turns into a competitor.   As I discussed in this column back in February, around 90% of Mozilla’s revenues come from Google, which pays a commission for searches originating from the search field in the Firefox tool bar.   As incredible as it might sound, that little search field in the top-right hand corner of Firefox on a PC or a Mac is worth around $US280 million ($327.5 million) per year in revenue.   To find out why that deal initially came about, we need to go back in time nearly a decade to when an engineer named Mitchell Baker – one of the most overlooked female leaders in Silicon Valley – launched Mozilla from the ashes of a company called Netscape.   Back when Firefox launched in September 2012, such an arrangement between Mozilla and Google was ideal for both sides. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominated the web, shipping by default on every PC and every Mac, and used MSN Search (now Microsoft Bing) as a default search engine.   As Firefox’s user base grew, so did the number of users it directed to Google. For Google, that growth in terms of users meant its lucrative search ad revenue grew, making the deal lucrative for both sides.   But a decade is a long time in the tech world. In that time Google released its own web browser, known as Chrome, and Google became the default on more than 1 billion devices using its Android or Chromebook platforms. Not only does Google now no longer need Firefox, but Firefox is now its chrome-covered competitor.   This put Mozilla in an incredibly awkward position: Its main source of income was now also its biggest rival. What Mozilla did next is rather counter-intuitive.   First it released Firefox OS, a slimmed down operating system based on the Firefox web browser primarily aimed at low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, it announced a smartphone that runs Firefox OS that sells for just $US25 outright. It was now competing head-to-head with Android devices at the very moment low-cost smartphones became a key growth market for Google.   Then it launched its own app store – known as the Mozilla Marketplace – that sells apps for any PC, Mac or smartphone that runs either Firefox or Firefox OS.   It followed this with the announcement of a string of devices running the platform, including tablets, smart TVs in partnership with Panasonic, low-cost computers and – most recently – a Chromecast-like HDMI stick called the Matchstick.   The new products and the app store will potentially create a new source of revenue for Mozilla, but also saw Firefox jump right in the path of Google’s mobile computing juggernaut, Android. That same Google – keep in mind –was also still Mozilla’s main source of income.   To paraphrase Sir Humphrey from Yes Minister, it was potentially a very “courageous” move. However, there was one strategic masterstroke by Baker and her team that hadn’t been revealed yet.   Google is not the only company on the internet that’s willing to pay to have a large number of web searches sent in its general direction. This is where the deal with Yahoo! comes in.   Better still, Yahoo! has no ambitions as far as making smart TVs, web browsers, HDMI sticks or app stores. In fact, if it leads to more people searching with Yahoo!, the online media giant has a good reason to promote those efforts.   As I said near the start of this article, there’s an important lesson hidden in this for any business or organisation whose biggest customer is also a competitor. In fact, it’s almost a case study on what to do (or try to do) in a very tricky commercial predicament, as Mozilla was.   That is to make sure you leave the door open for another customer or backer (in this example, Yahoo!) to potentially step in, while at the same time developing new sources of revenue over the longer term. Also, so long as your business has a Yahoo! waiting in the wings, it potentially matters less if those new revenue sources put you in direct conflict with your biggest customer (Google).   Because sometimes in business, your best friend can quickly turn into your biggest enemy.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hewlett-Packard to go ahead with long-awaited split of operations

10:29PM | Sunday, 5 October

Hewlett-Packard plans to separate its PC and printer operation from corporate hardware and other units, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to announce the move as early as Monday in the US. It’s one H-P and its investors and analysts have long contemplated. In 2011, when H-P announced the acquisition of UK software company Autonomy Corp, the company said it was exploring a separation of its PC business.   However, under pressure from shareholders the company reversed course two months later.   Snapchat wanted MessageMe before Yahoo! acquisition   Mobile messaging app MessageMe has been acquired by Yahoo. The deal, according to TechCrunch sources is a talent acquisition and the deal is worth between $US30 and $US40 million ($A34-46 million).   Prior to the acquisition, Snapchat had shown interest in MessageMe, as well as European app maker Truecaller.   MessageMe chose Yahoo! because they were planning on hiring eight people, more than Snapchat would have done, and the team will get to work together on a new messaging product.   Google to make security guards employees   Tech giant Google plans to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees rather than outside contractors. The move comes amid rising concerns about income disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area.   The guards will be eligible for the same benefits as other Google employees, including health insurance, retirement benefits, on-site medical services, leave for new parents and more.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 208.64 to 17,009.69. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Yahoo! acquires Israeli ad security startup for undisclosed amount

8:28PM | Sunday, 17 August

Yahoo! has acquired Israel-based advertising startup Clarity Ray.   The startup raised $500,000 about two years ago, when it was offering tools for online publishers to circumvent ad blockers, but has since shifted its focus from ad blocking to ad security and fraud detection.   Yahoo! confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch, but the terms of the deal are unknown.   In a statement on its website, Clarity Ray says its vision is to make “the eco-system safe, compliant and sustainable for consumers, publishers and advertisers”.   “This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity enables the mass scaling of our technology, impact and ideas to the absolute forefront of our field, while working with an amazing team who shares our passion,” the statement says.   Twitter experiments   A sizeable number of users are seeing tweets favorited by others in their timeline, just like retweets, in an experiment that is annoying a lot of people, according to The Next Web.   Those users are also getting notifications when others follow someone new.   Washington Post now inserting Amazon affiliate links into news articles   The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is now including “buy it now” buttons wedged into its online book reviews, as well as on news items and letters to the editor.   The button links to related content available for purchase on Amazon.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 50.67 to 16,662.91. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Government says NEIS cuts won’t hurt budding entrepreneurs

7:13AM | Monday, 7 July

The duration of income support individuals receive on the federal government’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme has been cut from a year to 39 weeks.   The scheme is available to eligible job seekers that are interested in starting and running a small business or startup.   It provides those jobseekers with accredited small business training, business mentoring and the aforementioned income support in order to help them become a self-employed business owner.   Those whose business plans are approved under the program receive an allowance for 39 weeks, which is equivalent to the single, 22 or over, no children rate of Newstart Allowance, the advantage being that the payment is not affected by the income from the individual’s NEIS business.   A spokesperson for the Department of Employment says the number of weeks the allowance was available was reduced because many participants in the scheme didn’t need assistance for the full year.   “After nine months in the scheme, many job seekers are generating sufficient income for their businesses to be commercially viable and, in many cases, are also working part-time,” the spokesperson says.   “The reduction to 39 weeks also allows the government to make savings that can go towards repairing the budget.”   “It is important to note that despite the change NEIS participants will continue to receive support and advice from experienced small-business mentors on organisational, financial and marketing issues to help their new business develop and succeed.”   The program is a valuable resource for those entrepreneurs who need financial support while launching their startup.   It helped well-known Australian startup figure Dean McEvoy when he was taking his first steps towards becoming the successful entrepreneur he is today.   He would eventually sell his second company, the daily deal site Spreets, to Yahoo! for $40 million, and his current startup Icon Park is attracting considerable attention.   Those individuals who started the program before July 1 2014 will be unaffected by the change and will continue to receive the NEIS allowance for 12 months.   There were no other changes made to the scheme.   The spokesperson says the government did not undertake any formal consultation prior to the change.

SurveyMonkey and asking the right questions

5:35PM | Wednesday, 21 May

SurveyMonkey, one of the great survivors of the original dot com boom, announced on Wednesday it is opening a Sydney office as its first branch in the Asia-Pacific region.   SurveyMonkey chief executive David Goldberg told Private Media the online survey company is setting up in Sydney because “we’re very big here in Australia.”   “It’s our third largest market after the US and the UK. On a per-capita, basis it’s our best market,” Goldberg said.   SurveyMonkey’s Sydney office will be its third location outside its Silicon Valley base, after Goldberg announced a London office to supplement its Portuguese development team late last year.   As with London, the Sydney office won’t be employing any developers. Instead, the Australian staff will work on sales, marketing and support, with a focus on launching the company’s new Audience product, which provides interview panels for enterprise customers.   SurveyMonkey’s global expansion is being funded by an $800 million dollar capital raising last year that values the privately held company, with investors including Google and Goldberg himself, at $1.3 billion.   The company itself is one of the survivors of the original dot com boom having being founded in 1999. It’s a world that Goldberg is very familiar with as the founder of LAUNCH, one of the world’s first online music businesses, which was founded in 1994.   After selling LAUNCH to Yahoo! and becoming the online media giant’s music director, Goldberg later joined the venture capital world and was appointed SurveyMonkey’s chief executive in 2009. Before launching his own business, he was a Bain & Co consultant and spent some time living in Sydney during the early 1990s.   Goldberg sees the company needing that warchest as the industry develops, “I think we’re still very early in a lot of the changes that are happening. We’re going to really see the advantages of tying these services together. That’s still early on but we’re beginning to see that as customers begin to tie SurveyMonkey together with other applications so they are integrated rather than siloed.”   “We’re also really early on in mobile,” Goldberg muses. “We’re doing in mobile what we did in the early days of the web where we just took things we were used to in the analogue world and put them online, we’re still in that stage of putting the web onto mobile.”   For entrepreneurs and small businesses, Goldberg’s advice in dealing with a rapidly changing economy and a world awash in big data is to ask the find the right tools to ask the right questions. “I think people should figure out what are the questions you are trying to answer and then find the tools that help you answer those questions.”

Online advertising: What’s the future for small business?

4:12AM | Tuesday, 22 April

Facebook’s latest changes to its layout creates more problems for small business using social media, as the real estate available on its site for eyeballs gets smaller.   The social media giant has been catching criticism recently for changes to its algorithm that make it harder for businesses to be seen online.   In the hospitality industry, discontent was articulated by the Eat 24 website, which closed down its Facebook Page after finding the problems too hard.   With the changes to the online advertising feed, it makes it even harder for small business to be seen on the platform as reduced space means higher prices for the space that remains available.   It’s hard to see small businesses getting much traction with the changes when they’re up against big brands with large budgets.   On the other hand for the big brands, the importance of proper targeting becomes even greater.   A challenge for small business   The big problem now for small business is where do you advertise where the customers are?   A decade or so ago, this was a no-brainer – the local service or retail business advertised in the local newspaper or Yellow Pages. Customers went there and, despite their chronic inefficiencies, they worked.   Now with Facebook’s changes, it’s harder for customers to follow small business and this is a particular problem for hospitality where updates are hard.   The failure of Google   Google should have owned this market with Google Places, however the service has been neglected as the company folded the business listing service into the Plus social media platform.   Today, it’s hard to see where small business is going to achieve organic reach – unpaid appearances in social media and search – or paid reach as the competition with deep pocketed big brands is fierce.   Services like Yelp! were for a while a possible alternative, but increasingly they are stitching up deals with companies like Yahoo! and Australia’s Sensis, which marginalises small business.   So the online world is getting harder for small business to get their message out onto online channels.   For the moment that’s a problem although it’s an interesting opportunity for an entrepreneur – possibly even a media company – to exploit.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Googlers, Beliebers, Magicians, Little Monsters, Droogies or Yahoos: Naming your employees or user base

3:44AM | Friday, 28 March

It seems almost every singer, band, and popstar out there these days comes up with a name for their fans.   For example, Justin Bieber has Beliebers, Lady Gaga has Little Monsters, Katy Perry has Katy-Cats, One Direction has Directioners, and Mariah Carey has Lambs.   Now, Old Taskmaster’s natural instinct in response to this insanity is to yell out: “Kids these days! It didn’t used to be like this in the good old days, Sonny Jim Crockett!” Except even in the days of yore, when music was ever so slightly more tolerable, some artists insisted in employing such shameless marketing tactics.   The classic was the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads, but there were others. For example, Barry Manilow has Fanilows, Jimmy Buffett has Parrotheads, Aerosmith has a Blue Army, KISS has a KISS Army, Phish has Phans and Megadeth has Droogies or Rattleheads, amongst others.   According to the comments on a recent column, there’s even a term for fans of the king of trucker rock, the certainly-not-a-one-hit-wonder who came up with Convoy, CW McCall: Crispy Critters.   (See kids, yours truly does read your comments, so keep ‘em coming!)   Of course, it’s not just musicians inventing collective nouns – many Silicon Valley tech companies have terms for their employees.   For example, Google has Googlers, Atari had Atarians, IBM has IBMers, Yahoo! has Yahoos, Tropo has Tropons, Xerox has Xeroids, Subway has its Sandwich Artists, Disney has Cast Members, and Starbucks has Partners.   Your humble correspondent has it on good authority that the editorial staff of SmartCompany and StartupSmart are known as smarties.   Some of the employee names are admittedly rather witty. For example, General Magic had Magicians, Lockheed Martin apparently has Martians, and Telstra has “future redundancies”.   Now, what about your startup? Do you have a term you’ll use for your current or future employees? Or your user base?   If not, it might be a fun thing to think about as you plan or grow your business.   After all, you couldn’t call yourself a proper Taskapprentice (or StartupSmarter) if you didn’t, now could you?   Get it done – today!

Stanford start-up tutors share the top five myths about scaling tech start-ups

3:35PM | Tuesday, 11 March

By definition, every start-up plans to get global sooner or later. But scaling a business poorly is one of the fastest ways to kill it, according to two Stanford lecturers.   Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have recently released Scaling up Excellence, which explores how companies from tech superstars to fast food chains have grown and gotten stronger.   “Start-ups need to start thinking about scaling a lot earlier than they do,” Sutton says, who adds you don’t need to a perfect organisation to scale well.   “A lot of times when people think of scaling up, they think they’re going to focus on the great stuff and spread it. But when you look at organisations that have nailed scaling, they’ve gone from bad to great.”   Sutton spoke to StartupSmart from San Francisco about the five biggest myths about scaling and how to overcome them.   Myth 1: Scaling is all rapid growth through fast decisions   While the scaling story of tech superstars Twitter, Google and Facebook can make it sound like every decision was instant and the implementation took only a tiny bit lower, Sutton says all scaling companies slow down to take the time they need to make the decisions where it matters.   “In every case we’ve looked at, including those three, this notion they rushed all the time is just not true. From Google to even Starbucks, all successful global companies go slow sometimes.”   A key time to focus on results rather than execution time is hiring staff.   “From the very beginning, Google was always very picky about hiring. They only hired very technically skilled who also had the leadership skills to grow with the company no matter how badly they needed a warm body in that chair,” Sutton says.   He adds founders shouldn’t shy away from the arrogance these decisions and the corresponding belief the company could become massive requires.   Myth 2: Conflict will kill a company   As companies grow, arguments are inevitable as teams choose what to focus on. Sutton says learning how to argue well is a critical skill for a scaling company.   “To make the best decisions, you need to be clear on how you argue and when you stop arguing. Good teams can have blazing arguments and then move on.”   Sutton says part of the success of many tech superpowers has come down to having founders, and later managers and executives, who are willing to model vigorous arguments followed by a resolution all commit too.   “Firefox’s John Lilly (chief executive 2008 to 2010) oversaw the company’s growth from 12 to 500,” Sutton says. “He told me he started realising at about 80 people that people had begun to act as though they were afraid of their boss. So he just started having arguments with his immediate team whenever he could. He’d be right or wrong but would always end respectfully and move on.”   Sutton says making sure everyone shares an understanding of what medium-term success looks like makes it easier to resolve disagreements and unites a team.   Myth 3: Scaling means building the team as quickly as possible   According to Sutton, one of the most dangerous myths about start-ups is the belief bigger is better when it comes to teams.   “The notion that scaling mandates adding more people is a myth. There is lots of evidence that when you bring on board the wrong people too quickly, it’s deadly.”   The pressure to build the team often comes from investors who are keen to see their money put to work.   “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a start-up still in the product development stage kill itself by hiring sales staff before they’re ready. These guys need to sell, so they sell a product that’s not ready and it’s over,” he says.   Sutton says actions such as Israeli start-up Waze’s hiring freeze after raising $20 million should remind start-ups about the virtues of staying lean, as the company went on to be acquired by Google.   Myth 4: Our culture will suffer and we need to stay small   While cultural death by growth was the fate of Yahoo! and eBay (who later turned it around), Sutton says rapid growth won’t kill a start-up if they’re smart about it.   The key to a culture thriving, as well as smarter working, is to keep teams small.   “One of the mantras at Amazon is you shouldn’t have a team that can’t be fed by two pizzas,” Sutton says. “The difference between a five person team and say an 11 person team is huge. From battlefields to big corporates, all the evidence shows the maximum is seven before it dissolves into interpersonal contests and missed communications.”   Small teams organised in pods is an emerging trend in start-ups. Australian start-up 99designs has used a pod approach for over a year. Sutton adds that scaling can make deeper cultural issues more significant as the organisation widens and effective communications requires more effort.   “When you’re trying to scale an organisation and you have destructive behaviour or people, the first order of business is to nip that in the bud because otherwise it’s impossible to grow well.”   Myth 5: Bureaucracy and hierarchies should be shunned as they stifle innovation and productivity   One of the joys of start-ups is team flexibility. But start-ups need to implement some structure and processes if they want to become global companies.   “Staying entrepreneurial and easy to get things done is admirable, but there is a lot of evidence that shows companies need managers, hierarchy and processes,” Sutton says.   “There is a fine art of adding just enough process or bureaucracy so you can actually get all the work done. I think it’s admirable that entrepreneurs resist adding that stuff, but if you don’t it’ll turn into an unruly, out of control organisation.”   For early stage ventures, Sutton adds it’s essential to work out the leadership structure early or risk confused strategy direction and in-fighting.

Tech Girl Movement launches to boost the number of women in tech

3:15AM | Tuesday, 4 March

An IT academic is calling for a coordinated strategy to boost the number of women in the technology industries, starting with girls in primary school.   Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen lectures in IT and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University. In her current class, there are 13 men for every one woman.   “We all know it’s a problem. Tech now touches every aspect of our lives but we don’t have the diverse workforce we need to move it forward. There is no doubt we need more women,” Beekhuyzen told StartupSmart.   The lack of women in start-up accelerator programs has been noted for some years now. But there are a growing number of events targeted at women in tech.   “A lot of people are doing things but we need to launch a coordinated effort. We need to go big and bold and loud and make it clear it needs to be changed and we’re ready for it,” she says.   Two of the most frequently cited issues holding women back from tech careers are a lack of role models and confusion about what a tech career actually entails.     According to Beekhuyzen, the rise Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Meyer and Facebook chief of operations Sheryl Sandberg have been great for encouraging women, but Australia needs to do more to encourage girls of school age to explore tech.   The Tech Girl Movement will target girls aged between 10 and 16 with a series of in-school programs, workshops and resources.   It will also include a series of short chapter books to be launched this weekend. The Tech Girl Superheroes series was written to introduce technology and what it looks like to young female readers.   “I wanted to create archetypes about tech girls, such as the explorer, the daredevil, the sophisticate. It’s a bit like the Spice Girls of IT. Not everyone liked the Spice Girls but it works because you can relate to one,” Beekhuyzen says.   Beekhuyzen was today invited to meet with the Federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne to discuss these issues and says she’s in this campaign for the long haul, even if it takes 20 years.   The government is aware of the lack of women in IT degrees and the broader IT skills shortage.   An ICT Workforce Study published in July 2013 by the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency noted the low numbers of women in ICT and recommended target support programs including a code of best practice and mentoring support.   While these strategies are targeted at retaining tech women, the report also notes programs such as these send the right message to prospective female employees.

Enable people’s laziness – and profit!

2:59AM | Friday, 14 February

Today, like so many other days, your humble correspondent arrived and sat down at a desk in Taskmaster Towers.   On the desk was a post-it note. Scribbled in the secretary’s handwriting, it appeared to say someone had called the office asking for the contact details of a well-known industry figure, who we’ll refer to as Jane Doe.   As it turns out, many, many moons ago, a blog post was uploaded on to the Taskmaster Enterprises blog mentioning Jane Doe.   If only someone invented some type of engine – a “search engine” if you will – that would allow you to type in a person’s name and receive a list of related links to websites. This magical, mystical website could be given a name like “Google”, “Yahoo!” or “Bing”.   To make it extra easy for people, you could place the search field in the menu bar of just about every popular browser, including Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Such a service could even be funded by placing paid advertisements based on the search words.   Then people could type in “Jane Doe” and find the official Jane Doe website, then click the link that says “Contact Jane Doe” where Jane Doe’s work number, email address and Twitter handle could all be conveniently listed.   Of course, even if such a magical, mystical service existed, some people would outsource the effort to someone else! And by somebody, I mean poor Old Taskmaster!   Blah! Humanoids! I swear, they annoy me some days!   Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.   Still, the whole episode is a poignant reminder of a couple of key business lessons.   The first is the value of quality content as a marketing strategy. It really is the gift that keeps on giving! Seriously, if you haven’t updated your blog or your social media lately, do it now!   The second and more important lesson is that most humanoids are lazy. Exceedingly lazy. (Well, okay, often stupid as well, but mostly just lazy.)   The desire to do more with less effort has been one of the driving forces of human progress.   Why hunt or gather food when you can plant some seeds, enclose some animals and wait for them to be eaten? Why grow your own when you can go to the supermarket and buy it ready to cook? Why cook it when you can microwave it? Why microwave it when you can just get Maccas? Why get Maccas when the local pizza shop delivers? Why wait for a driver when a drone aircraft can deliver it quicker?   (Do you doubt that last one will happen within the next five years?)   If you’re looking for a business idea, you could do worse by thinking through the worthless chores that annoy you and devise products and services that can avoid them.   Because if your business plan enables your fellow human beings to that little more idle, you’ve got a potential consumer base.   Sloth is a vice, not a virtue. But it’s one you can exploit – for profit!   Get it done – today!

THE NEWS WRAP: Federal budget cuts could push unemployment rate higher

1:40PM | Thursday, 16 January

Federal government budget cuts could push Australia’s unemployment rate to a 10-year high, The Australian Financial Review reports economists warning.   Employment fell by 23,000 jobs in December while the unemployment rate remained at 5.8% as the participation rate fell.   “It certainly is a consideration about how aggressively the federal government can cut spending, given the softness we’re seeing in the labour market,” Macquarie Bank senior economist Brian Redican said.   Canadian dairy giant about to swallow up Warrnambool Cheese & Butter   Canadian diary giant Saputo is on the verge of taking over Australia’s Warrnambool Cheese & Butter after major shareholder and one-time bidder Bega Cheese accepted the company’s offer.   The Australian reports that it is widely anticipated that other major shareholders – Murray Goulburn and Lion – will also take Saputo’s offer.   Saputo’s Australian advisor, Rothschild managing director Sam Prentice said: “We’re obviously very pleased that Bega has announced it will sell into Saputo’s offer and expect many other shareholders will follow Bega’s lead.”   Yahoo! COO in surprise exit   Internet giant Yahoo! is parting ways with its chief operating officer in a sign its attempts to raise advertising sales may not be paying off.   The surprise departure of Henrique de Castro after just 15 months in the job is seen as a setback for CEO Marissa Mayer.   Yahoo! didn’t comment on the reasons for de Castro leaving, but speculation was strong that the company’s advertising revenues weren’t improving quickly enough.   A replacement for de Castro has not been named.   Markets   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.39% at 16,417.01 points and the Australian dollar is buying 88.2 US cents.

From Flickr to Findery: Tech entrepreneur Caterina Fake’s latest venture

10:08AM | Thursday, 24 October

Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake has launched her latest online venture in Australia, a social media platform which allows users to “annotate the world”.   Findery, Fake’s latest creation, is a free app (currently available through the Apple app store) which lets people leave digital notes anywhere in the world and then users are able to search for locations and find information and unexpected stories about the world around them.   Effectively a new way to document history (past and present), Findery is about annotating the globe “from Adelaide to Austin”, says Fake.   Fake told SmartCompany she came up with the idea on a camping trip with her daughter.   “We were camping in Northern California and she was three at the time, we fell asleep inside a circle of Redwood trees and I had the thought that I wanted to be able to preserve the memory forever,” she says.   “I started thinking about how I could do that, I wasn’t about to carve my initials into the bark of the tree, but being a tech entrepreneur the obvious answer was to create the technology to do it.”   Fake says she discussed the idea with Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who turned out to have had a similar idea in 2005, but at the time no technology existed to make the idea feasible.   Prior to launching the new social platform, Fake worked on making sure content was available around the world for users to engage with.   “We’re excited to see it being in the users’ hands for the first time. It’s exciting for us to see its adoption and help people discover things they didn’t know about the world around them and encourage them to contribute their own stories,” she says.   SmartCompany was given a preview of the new app and already users are able to read up on historically significant locations around them.   A picture of people dancing in the street in celebration of the end of World War II adorns 350 Bourke Street’s geographical mark, Sydney’s Circular Quay has a description attached of when a fleet of 16 United States ships arrived on August 20, 1908, and at Woody Point Jetty in Queensland there is a photo of two fisherman and their human-sized catch from 1913.   Fake hopes that users will start posting notes with information about what is going to happen in the future too.   “Say for example someone is walking through the streets of San Francisco and they see a big hole in the ground, I want them to be able to click on the site using Findery and read people’s notes about what’s going on there and if it’s going to be turned into an apartment block.”   Even when Fake created Flickr, she’d always had a desire to help build connections and communities of people.   “This is what I care most about. The internet is great for people to interact and everything I’ve built has some element of an investigatory nature,” she says.   “On Flickr people would have conversations about what they were experiencing, and Findery is very similar to that.”   Fake’s experiences starting Flickr and then Hunch (a platform which aims to personalise the internet), have influenced the way she’s approaching Findery.   “As entrepreneurs we all have the experience of some kind of catastrophic failure, it’s the nature of start-ups. One of the hardest things is raising capital and financing,” she says.   “A lot find their way by boot-strapping, although now it’s easier for tech entrepreneurs because the software and technology is cheaper, but there are always things you can do better.”   Fake says one of the biggest lessons she’s learnt is how to hire staff.   “The most important thing is building a great team, everyone has to be excellent at what they do. You need to have really high standards, but a lot of start-ups have difficulty taking the time to find the best people,” she says.   “Everybody can have a great idea, but fail to execute it because the team members can’t make it happen. The main thing is to start off with a standard of excellence and don’t ever compromise.”   Fake says with Flickr she was so desperate at times that she hired the wrong people, but now realises it was a mistake.   “Starting Findery was a very slow process, we’d get resumes and just say ‘not awesome, not awesome, not awesome’,” she says.   “Starting out you don’t necessarily have any idea what awesome looks like, but you need to have a really good idea of the benchmark.”   Flickr was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005 for a reported $35 million. Following the acquisition Fake started work at Yahoo! until she left in 2009.   “I tried to take as much as I could from a start-up with me in terms of our product development and agile nature and bring it into the environment at Yahoo! … I called it ‘Yahoo University’, I knew there were certain things I could learn there I couldn’t at other companies.”   Fake spent most of her time at Yahoo! in the search department and she took the lessons she learnt there with her when she started Hunch and now Findery.   “I really do think that when Findery becomes a rich environment you’ll be able to go to San Francisco and take a tour just of the Victorian age or the summer of love in the 1960s,” she says.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Evernote hack yet another warning of cloud danger for Australian SMEs

3:36AM | Friday, 15 March

Australian Evernote users received a shock this weekend when the company sent notifications indicating it had suffered a hacking attempt, and warned affected users should change their passwords straight away.

The three reasons to sell your start-up: Twitter co-founder tells

2:59AM | Friday, 22 February

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has identified the three reasons to sell a start-up, hoping to “create clarity” for entrepreneurs who are unsure whether an acquisition is the right move.

Four things you can learn from the Yahoo! website redesign

3:44AM | Friday, 15 March

Yahoo! is redesigning the main entry into its website in a bid to create a “more modern experience” for users, suggesting start-ups can take inspiration from the embattled tech giant.

Yahoo! goes OnTheAir in latest app acquisition

3:59AM | Monday, 11 March

Yahoo! has acquired video chat broadcasting app OnTheAir in a bid to further expand its mobile offerings, less than two months after acquiring mobile recommendations app Stamped.

It’s time to drop the brick and adopt an Android

11:38AM | Wednesday, 28 November

Late last night, in the mean streets near Taskmaster Towers, I witnessed something truly shocking. A fellow entrepreneur reached into their bag and then proceeded to pull out a heavy, solid, blunt object and point in my general direction. It was dark, but at first glance, it appeared like they had just pulled out a brick.

Aussie app Budge launches with $1 million investment

3:56AM | Monday, 11 March

An app created in Melbourne that describes itself as a “micro-donation platform” has launched in Australia and the United States, having raised $1 million from investors including Seek co-founders Paul Bassat and Matt Rockman.

Yahoo! acquires celebrity-backed app start-up Stamped

3:26AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Yahoo! has made its first acquisition under the direction of chief executive Marissa Mayer, snapping up celebrity-backed mobile recommendations app Stamped for an undisclosed sum.