User retention is the major hurdle facing education startups and there are no easy solutions, according to the founder of an online platform that teaches people how to develop mobile apps. Pablo Farias, the founder of Zenva Academy, recently graduated from the Bank of Queensland's sponsored entrepreneurship program and raised more than $30,000 on Kickstarter – smashing his original target of $4000 within a matter of hours. Farias says despite the success of his startup, which sometimes hits five figures a month in revenue, retaining users is still a “massive” issue and something all startups in the education space have to tackle. “Before we had online startups we just had books, and no one knows what the retention rate of books is,” he says. “So the stats on the education industry in terms of retention and content consumption sound a bit harsh at first, but then we don’t know the real statistics with books.” While there is no perfect solution, Farias says challenging users and also tapping into their personal goals and motivations is an approach that seems to work well. “What Duolingo is doing in terms of gamification and trying to show your results is the way to go,” he says. “We do that by having project-based results, so when someone completes a course they see the game [in action]. And then we promote the games people make and motivate other students to do the same.” More and more Aussie startups are turning to crowdfunding to get their ideas off the ground and more importantly raise some much-needed awareness. Farias says the success of Zenva Academy’s recent Kickstarter lied in having an existing pool of loyal customers. As for how to get that audience in the first place, he suggests startups release free content – even if it’s simply a blog or YouTube channel. “Over the years we already had a pretty good number of students taking our courses and people on our mailing list and reading our blogs,” he says. “So were able to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. Then when Kickstarter saw that approach doing well it also pushed it up the ranks and gave it much more exposure.” Farias moved to Australia from Chile around a year ago, and says while the Brisbane startup scene is small the close-knit community certainly has its advantages. “It’s obviously a much smaller community than in Melbourne and Sydney, but there are a lot of people making cool stuff,” he says. “Participating in the sponsored program allowed me to meet a lot of entrepreneurs and mentors and see what they’re doing. I’ve met people from Uber and Halfbrick, so it’s a good place I think to make your startup.” Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It's the stuff that makes you look good, and your life and job easier, that really matters when it comes to technology. Online tools that are not only easy to use, but fun and enjoyable at the same time. Things that offer a smooth, intuitive and beautiful end-user experience that don't require a short course or YouTube clip to master. And I'm so happy to see that two such tools are being developed locally, and led by female entrepreneurs. This fact alone proves that tech companies (like all companies) will see their products benefit from a diverse range of inputs during development. Increasingly, truly scalable ideas must have a feminine touch, or risk missing 51% of it's target market. So who are these women doing some seriously disruptive work? Well they're not the household names you already know about. On Tuesday, online design tool Canva announced it completed a $6 million investment round ($7.7 million), and launched its suite of design tools for business www.canva.com/work. It already has 2.4 million users worldwide (65% who've signed up in the last six months), three global offices (including in Sydney) and a team of 42. Canva's CEO and co-founder is Melanie Perkins, who came up with the idea for creating simple-to-use design tools for non-designers which teaching graphic design at the University of Western Australia. She originally partnered with Cliff Obrecht to launch Fusion Books, an online program for schools to create year books. Later, they connected with former Google guy Cameron Adams to go one step further and 'empower the world to design'. Canva's on the list of online tools that have actually made my life and work better. Yes, designers might be horrified by what I've produced using the platform (which can manage everything from presentations to infographics and other images) but it gets the job done quick and easy for me. Also on the list of seriously useful online tools is all-in-one event management platform Ivvy. Ivvy's Brisbane-based creator Lauren Hall has her eyes set on a $1 billion exit for the business. She's been working on it — albeit in different version — for seven years, after experiencing frustrating challenges while organising her own events. Having just secured a number of global venue chains, Ivvy looks set to change how we manage, procure and secure event-based services and suppliers. Away from Melanie Perkins and Lauren Hall, there are many, many other women doing some seriously disruptive work in technology in Australia. All at varying stages of their startup journeys and with different problems to solve. Two I want to mention here are Marnie Shanahan and Sarah Liu. These two had just the barebones of a business idea back in November when they pitched in front of our panel of judges at the Rexona Clinical Women's Agenda Pitch Off. But they were good ideas with serious potential, inspired by personal needs and stories. Less than six months later, those ideas are gearing up for launch, with significant milestones reached in the last couple of weeks. Shanahan's business is The New Kid, is a platform that connects safe and legal internships with students. Still in her early twenties, Shanahan has taken the idea to New York in recent months, where she's developing it further and has just launched its website. Liu's business is Gemini3, a platform promoting, educating and connecting people around job sharing opportunities. Gemini3 (initially called 'The Dream Job' when she pitched it) is the latest in a series of initiatives for Liu, who is running a number of companies and fast proving herself as a formidable entrepreneur. A great idea solves a serious challenge. Liu and Shanahan, like Melanie Perkins and Lauren hall before them, are determined to offer solutions. And a great solution has a feminine touch. This article was originally published at Women's Agenda.
The health tech revolution will be televised: New accelerator offers $40,000 and broadcasting services4:06PM | Sunday, 19 April
A new virtual accelerator program focusing on health tech startups is offering $40,000 in broadcast time and services in exchange for 7% equity, with the possibility of a further $40,000 cash in exchange for another 7% in equity. The Rumpus Oz Innovation Challenge is a six-month accelerator program coordinated out of Little Tokyo Two in Brisbane, Fishburners in Sydney and either i9 or York Butter Factory in Melbourne. Co-founder Leigh Angus told StartupSmart along with gaining access to experienced mentors, senior advisors and investors, participants will also be featured in a six-part observational documentary. “It’s a documentary around the accelerator that focuses more on the characters in the startups than the people running the program,” Angus says. “During the six-part series, there will be stories around topics such as co-working and angel investing. While we all speak startup, most of the general public aren’t familiar with these terms, and so the aim is to raise awareness of startup terms in the general community.” The program will be shown on YouTube, with the organisers saying they’re also in talks with various broadcasters, and each episode will be an opportunity for the startups to showcase their products and services before they raise money directly from viewers through Kickstarter. “We will also offer up to $40,000 – more for some and less for others – as we take the cohort through. We’ll isolate those that need the capital during the program,” Angus says. Angus points out that along with some of the leading co-working spaces on the east coast, the program is backed by the main health tech meetup groups in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The program also boasts an impressive list of advisors. They include Fishburners founder Peter Davison, iAsset president Scott Frew, muru-D/AWI/Pollenizer mentor Nick Gonios, RedEye founder Wayne Gerard, Health Tech Innovation Queensland founder Greg Beaver, NICTA UX design manager Hilary Cinis and St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Dr Pamela Blaikie. However, some in the startup community have questioned the value of $40,000 worth of broadcast time, publicity and services in comparison to other accelerators that offer either $40,000 in cash, or services an early-stage startup would typically need, such as service development. “The difference between this program and other accelerators is that most will get startups investment ready, then send them out to angel investors. But Australia has a fairly young angel investment community, and many startups end up spending a lot of time knocking on door,” Angus says. “We’re trying to bypass the angel round altogether by getting products to consumers, and allowing them to fund the startups they like directly. “Most smart entrepreneurs don’t just go to accelerators for money, go to accelerators for money, they also go for exposure and mentoring. So we’re offering them a more national network that’s more comprehensive in the advice they receive. “We take our cohort from bootcamp to broadcast.” The health tech focus of the first program follows in the footsteps of Innovyz in Adelaide and STC in Melbourne, which recently closed applications for their health tech accelerator programs. There is also an equity crowdfunding platform, called Healthfundr Australia, which is set to focus on the health tech sector. Meanwhile, meetup groups in both Melbourne and Brisbane are booming in terms of attendances, while Queensland-based incubator ilab has recently hosted Australia’s first Startup Weekend for health. Applications for the program close on May 3, with the bootcamp and initial filming on May 16 (Brisbane), May 23 (Sydney) and May 30 (Melbourne). The program commences on June 30, with an elimination round at the end of July, broadcasting scheduled for the end of September and program completion at the end of October. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Have you seen the how-to video of a teenage girl styling her hair that went disastrously wrong? She was obviously very disturbed by what happened, yet still uploaded the footage onto YouTube. Do you think a 45 or 50 year-old would upload an equivalent video of themselves? The majority of young people now share lots of things online that many adults question and feel uncomfortable about: their likes, dislikes, personal views, who they’re in a relationship with, where they are, images of themselves and others doing things they should or maybe shouldn’t be doing. In fact, a study undertaken in the US by Pew Research found that 91% of 12-to-17-year-olds posted selfies online, 24% posted videos of themselves. Another 91% were happy posting their real name, 82% their birthday, 71% where they live and the school they attend, 53% their email address and 20% their mobile phone number. Overstepping Children’s fondness for online sharing is a global phenomenon, and in response governments internationally have initiated awareness campaigns that aim to ensure children are more private online. In the UK, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recently launched a Share Aware campaign. This includes the recent TV advertisement, called I saw your willy, which depicts the ill-fated consequences of a young boy who as a joke, texts a photo of his penis to his friend. The ad emphasises to children the need to keep personal information about themselves offline and private. Similarly the Australian Federal Police have launched Cyber safety and ThinkUKnow presentations for school students, which highlights the social problems that can arise when you’re having fun online. Adults often interpret children’s constant online sharing to mean that they don’t care about privacy and/or don’t understand the potential longer-term issues. There is some truth to this perspective. But simply labeling children as either disobedient or naïve is too simplistic. There is an important need to understand why children are overstepping adult-defined marks of privacy online. Shifting attitudes In the words of Facebook, our relationship status with privacy can be summed up as: it’s complicated. Part of the complexity comes down to how privacy is defined. Many adults understand privacy to mean being selective about what one reveals about themselves so as not to reveal too much personal information. We often assume that children will adopt the same conceptualisation, but should we? Privacy is a fluid notion. Think of Victorian times and the imperative for women to keep their ankles hidden. Part of the reason its definition is shaped and reshaped is due to the changing social environment in which we live. This idea is useful for thinking about why children divulge so much information online. Children are growing up in public (not private) times, in which people freely and constantly reveal themselves on their screens. This is not solely associated with physical nudity and the stream of semi-clad women that constantly inhabit advertisements, music videos and the like. An environment that idolises nudity certainly contributes to children seeing such behaviour as the norm. Privacy, however, is not just about nudity and sex. Given the exponential growth of reality shows and social media, children now have unprecedented access to the inner thoughts and personal actions of others. Children are growing up watching real people freely share their deep personal ideas, experiences, opinions and actions. The very purpose of these mediums is to encourage such sharing of information! Children watch everyday people in the Big Brother house openly discuss their sexual experiences, develop friendships, go to the toilet, get ready after their morning shower and, explain deep personal childhood issues. Similarly, they watch Survivor and The Bachelor where people can reveal the darker side of their ambitions, world-views and ways of dealing with others. Their revelations are under the guise of competition however they offer subliminal messages about what we can and should share publicly share. Consistently watching others reveal themselves on screen feeds children’s understanding of what is private information and what isn’t. Its impact is strengthened because children watch these revelations on their personal screen such as their tablet or mobile, which can make it more of an intimate, one to one connection for the child. Generation gap Add to this, the dynamic stage in life young people are at, which is characterised by risk-taking behaviour. This combination results in the understanding that sharing what many adults might consider to be private ideas, is really just part of life. In previous generations it was assumed that the average person wouldn’t want to give up privacy. But for this generation, giving up privacy for a social life, fame (or infamy for some), easy access to shopping and studying or working from home is the norm. Children’s penchant for online sharing is a much larger cultural transformation than it’s given credit for. The whole idea of what is private and what is public is being disrupted and reshaped by new screen-driven interests and activities. There is a need to move away from simply judging and reprimanding for their online sharing habits. There is always a need for safety and awareness campaigns, although it is also important to move beyond older and outmoded views of privacy so that we can actually understand young people’s privacy negotiations. In this way we might have more of a chance to meaningfully support negotiations that are transparent, equitable and foster children’s well-being. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, who is tipped to announce her presidential candidacy in coming weeks, has snapped up a Google executive to be her chief technology officer. Clinton has hired Stephanie Hannon – Google’s director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – in order to develop new ways to engage voters through technology, according to The Washington Post. Hannon will oversee a team of software engineers and developers who will build websites and apps for the campaign. The move comes after a string of technology hires in US politics. Last month the Obama administration brought on Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman as the White House’s first chief digital officer. YouTube confirms plans to launch an ad-free subscription service YouTube has today confirmed it will be launching an ad-free subscription service for users in exchange for a monthly fee, according to TechCrunch. In an email to YouTube partners, the company said it would be creating “a new paid offering” following the success of its Music Key service and YouTube Kids app. “We’re excited to build on this momentum by taking another big step in favour of choice: offering fans an ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee,” the email reads. “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue.” Twitter drops discover stream in favour of trends Twitter is dropping its “Discover” stream in favour of a “Trend” section in order to give users a better understanding of what people are talking about on the social media platform. The new stream will have brief descriptions of trending hashtags, along with other details such as how many tweets have been sent about a particular topic. The updates are being rolled out on Twitter for iOS and Android. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 5.43 points, falling 0.03% to 17,875.42. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.4 US cents.
Social media has entered what is likely to be a wildly popular new phase with the advent of live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow people to broadcast live video and sound from their phones to other people on Twitter. Periscope allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster in the form of text messages and sending “hearts”, the equivalent of Facebook likes, by tapping on the video. On the surface, making everyone a “broadcaster” is a grand idea. As the announcement for Periscope proclaimed What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? And it is true, live stream video from anyone around the world, has the capacity to bring the experience of ordinary people around the world, in raw and undiluted form, to anyone on Twitter. The idea is not necessarily new. Ustream for example has been providing a live streaming service for the past 8 years. The Occupy Wall Street movement showed the potential of live stream video to great effect by broadcasting demonstrations, live action, and interactions with the police. As immersive an experience it was, the problem with Ustream was that it wasn’t integrated with social media platforms and so discovering what was going on and reaching a large audience was difficult. Twitter recognised this problem and solved it by buying Periscope for a reported $100 million. Twitter and Facebook have both recognised that video is is the next area of growth in social media. Although YouTube has long been held up as the service to beat, it is far less of a social platform than what Periscope is likely to be. From that perspective, Twitter has taken the lead in this space over Google and Facebook. The problems facing these services however, are substantial. Already, the technical issues are surfacing with difficulty in viewing the livestreams because of the demand. Very few of the livestreams currently play, and simply say Loading before changing to Ended. Periscope, at least, offers the option of watching the recorded version. The cost of providing this service will be substantial and it is certainly not clear how Twitter will be able to monetise the service. From the user’s perspective, broadcasting using the phone’s cellular data is likely to limit the length of the streams and certainly have the mobile network providers seeing a surge in demand. More challenging however, will be the social problems that a world of live streams. Encouraging millions of people with phones to broadcast what is going on around them to the rest of the world is going to raise enormous privacy issues. Already, videos with titles like “My Girlfriend Taking a Shower” suggest the potential direction this service could take as people race to the bottom in search of viewers. As in many other cases, social media has Admittedly, these are early days for Periscope and it is possible that they were forced to release the service early because of the launch of rival service Meerkat. Although Meerkat has been reported to have raised another $12 million in funding, it is clear that as a service it is effectively dead when compared to Twitter’s offering. Twitter has already moved to block Meerkat from having access to information from Twitter vital to its social networking service. Meerkat’s only chance of survival is for Facebook to buy it in competition to Twitter. Despite the problems, video is going to be the future of social networks. Mainstream media have yet another challenge to face with this new service and it is unlikely that they will deal with this any better than they have dealt with the rising challenge of Vine and YouTube celebrities. As academic Clay Shirky predicted in his book “Cognitive Surplus”, everyone is capable of becoming their own version of a mainstream media producer. As Shirky said however, for every serious project that is created by the world’s cognitive surplus, there will be the cat videos. On Periscope, cat videos abound along with curiously a preoccupation with fridges. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Ashton Kutcher and his business partner Guy Oseary are launching a new venture capital fund called Sound Ventures. TechCrunch reports the fund will be stage-agnostic, allowing the pair to invest in later-stage startups. Kutcher has previously invested in companies such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb through his first fund A-Grade Investments. The actor and tech investor was in Australia last month for the Tech My Way conference, where he speculated that virtual and augmented reality, biotechnology and artificial intelligence were the next big things in tech. Controversial app developer slams critics An Aussie app developer who promised to give thousands of dollars to charity and was exposed for not handing over the money has hit back in a rambling Facebook post. Belle Gibson, the founder of The Whole Pantry, solicited donations from around 200,000 people for various causes and said she would give away a quarter of her company’s profits – however, an investigation by The Age found no such contributions were ever made. Now the entrepreneur has hit back, according to Fairfax, writing in a Facebook post that those who were speaking to the media about her were bullying “myself and my family”. “I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed [sic] hundreds of thousands for the better,” she said. YouTube could be considering a subscription model for premium content YouTube could soon have its own paid video on demand service, according to The Verge. The company is exploring the concept as a means to improve its bottom line and allow popular content producers to access a higher percentage of ad revenue. The rumours come from an unnamed executive at a company that partners with YouTube to produce video content. Competition between streaming providers has heated up in the past 12 months, with Netflix confirming it is launching in Australia on March 24 and taking on local companies Quickflix and EzyFlix. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 145.91 points, falling 0.82% overnight to 17,749.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.23 US cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I read a tweet a few weeks back that had my head meeting my desk repeatedly. The advice was, “Don’t build a Swiss army knife, build a scalpel.” I get the sentiment behind the message (i.e. build a focused product), but it’s a message that is easily misinterpreted and misapplied. It closes avenues of thought and experimentation prematurely, it stops people trying things for fear of looking stupid – oh and it’s complete nonsense. This is one of a thousand pieces of advice you’ll find on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs of founders and “mentors” around the globe (yes, this one included). These snippets of advice have become the proverbs of the startup world, the sort of things that people regurgitate without really thinking about. This sort of advice isn’t judged on its merits, it’s judged on the number of retweets. Please! Stop and think before applying this advice to your business! Like anything you read on the internet, most of it is plain bullshit. And the stuff that isn’t bullshit should still come with a lengthy list of disclaimers and more than a little context. If you’ve studied at school or university, one of the first things you learn about doing research is to always check your sources. Only a fool publishes data from sources that are unverified, and yet in this day of easily digestible and repeatable tidbits, all too often a lot of smart people hit the retweet button without thinking about what it is they’re promoting. “Fail fast” or just give up quick? The big problem with any such “startup advice” is that it comes without context. “Fail fast” is a classic case of advice often delivered without context. Do you know who originally said it? Do you understand the full extent of what they were talking about? Does it even apply to a business like yours? Or, are you just hitting retweet because it seems catchy? (BTW, here’s a great article by Mark Suster on failing fast, go read it!) There are many, many problems that cannot and will not be solved quickly but may take months, years or even decades. If, as a founder, the extent of your ability to focus on a problem is reduced to the commonly accepted definition of “fail fast”, then you may simply end up giving in too soon. In the process you’re probably wasting a lot of people’s time and money by running the race but never finishing. Significant achievements take time, money and effort, and unless you’re working with a deeper understanding of what “fail fast” is really getting at, you could just be using it as an excuse for being lazy. This is just one example of how using these startup proverbs as a mantra can lead you astray. Why the sausage matters But the worst way this sort of advice rears its ugly head is when making decisions in a team. There is nothing worse than having an idea or suggesting a course of action and having someone glibly replying something like, “Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.” It is spoken as if it is advice passed down from God himself, and that it is somehow equally infallible. It stunts conversation, and stops people trying out new ideas. The same can be said for those that lean on such truths as “I read it in a blog post”, “I saw a YouTube video” or “I went and saw a talk on it”. Unless you have some unequivocal proof that sizzle is indeed better to sell than sausage, you’re better off just testing it for yourself. Every business is different, and more importantly, every market is different. Some people buy on emotion, and some people buy off a checklist. The latter is very much about the sausage, not the sizzle. And this is the real problem — there are few, if any, absolute truths in a startup. The whole point of what we do is to find new ways of solving existing problems. For every person who tells you that success is “all about hustle”, there’ll be another that will tell you it’s “all about execution”. Blindly following either path without consideration for how it applies to your business is plain stupid. Any advice without context is worth as much as the effort it took to cut and paste it. The enduring popularity of the Swiss army knife And that brings me back to the legendary Swiss army knife. This is a tool that has been around for well over a hundred years, has become synonymous with adaptability and usefulness, and to this day is still actually standard equipment for military personnel in countries all over the world. Victorinox alone ships 60,000 of them every day, and that obviously doesn’t include the dozens of other brands making their own versions. It’s easy to say “it does 20 things and does none of them well”, but when you consider the value of portability to the intended customer, it’s not hard to see exactly why they’re still so damned popular. By closing your eyes and accepting “build a scalpel” as the ultimate truth, you’re missing out on some important learning opportunities. There is far more to be gained from understanding why the Swiss army knife is actually a fantastic example of focus, rather than simply dismissing it as something that isn’t. For startups, the humble army knife has become a symbol of the typical unfocused product, when in fact it’s a shining example of absolute customer focus. The fact that it is so completely useless to me at home when I have a shed full of tools is precisely the reason why it is so useful when I’m hundreds of miles from civilisation. The value of its portability far outweighs the value of its individual functions. So next time you see someone saying “build a scalpel, not a Swiss army knife”, don’t just hit the “retweet” button. Start a conversation about focus and value, customers and markets. Then ask them if they own a Swiss army knife; with over 23 million being made every year, they probably do. Alan Downie is co-founder and chief executive officer of Macropod. This article first appeared on Macropod’s blog.
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.
YouTube has launched a platform for children with the aim of making it safer and easier for pre-schoolers to find fun and educational videos online. The family-focused app, which is currently available on the Google Play and Apple stores in the US, also allows parents to limit their kids’ screen time and search settings. YouTube’s kids group product manager, Shimrit Ben-Yair, said in a statement the new app will allow children to search for everything from maths tutorials to how to build a model volcano. “For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics,” she said. “Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids.” Microsoft allows third-party developers for its fitness wearable Microsoft today announced updates to its Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health apps, meaning third party developers are now able to create apps for the company’s fitness wearable. Matt Barlow, general manager of new devices marketing at Microsoft, said in a statement the updates were made in response to customer feedback. “This feedback is at the heart of the decisions we make, and today we’re pleased to take our first steps in launching new features and functionality for Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health that address what we’re hearing,” he said. The update was released today and will roll out on Windows Phone, iOS and Android devices in the coming days. Facebook data protection practices questioned: report Facebook’s data protection practices have come under fire in a report commissioned by Belgium’s data protection authority. The report examines Facebook’s privacy policies and, in particular, slam’s the social network’s approach to “freely-given”, “informed” and “unambiguous consent” when it comes to customer data. “Given the limited information Facebook provides and the absence of meaningful choice with regard to certain processing operations, it is highly questionable whether Facebook’s current approach satisfies these requirements,” the report reads. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch the company recently updated its terms and policies to make them “more clear and concise” in order to reflect new product features. “We’re confident the updates comply with applicable laws,” they said. “As a company with international headquarters in Dublin, we routinely review product and policy updates including this one with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who oversees our compliance with the EU Data Protection Directive as implemented under Irish law.” The report comes as the European Union is in the process of updating its data protection directive, which was made in 1995. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.14%, rising 25.01 points to 18,115.43. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at 78.03 US cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Two of Scotland’s leading politicians illustrate an interesting phenomenon on Twitter. In the wake of the Scottish National Party’s surge in popularity following the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have both gained large numbers of followers. Both have now amassed more than 100,000 each, with Salmond out in front with about 139,000. A high proportion of them are fakes, however. These fakes might be what social media specialists call “sock puppets” – fake accounts of individuals pretending to be someone else. These online imposters often follow celebrities to make themselves look more authentic, along with other tricks that include constant automated re-tweeting and constantly following and un-following other users. What is the point of these sock puppets, you may be wondering. One obvious advantage is that they can be parcelled up and sold in batches to people and organisations seeking extra Twitter followers. Make me popular! Social media is one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing. One study in which I was involved concluded that there is indeed no such thing as negative publicity if Twitter is used effectively. Organisations and individuals realise that having a healthy social media following increases trust from prospective customers. You want everybody to know your business is popular. You can build a strong following by developing good content and relationships with other users, particularly those who will either help amplify your message or act upon it. This takes time, however, not to mention the human resources required to plan and engage with your following. So people are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts, including buying Twitter followers, retweets, Facebook likes or YouTube video views. You name it, it can be bought. Sometimes they might do it themselves; sometimes it might be the social media agency that manages their account, or even a sub-contractor. Nor does this cost a great deal. Visit some websites offering these services and you find that thousands of Twitter followers can be had for as little as £5. Such shortcuts certainly seem to be popular. Data from the Google AdWords keyword research tool shown below reveals that on average, more than 40,000 searches are conducted per month that use the keyword “buy twitter followers”. Is it worth it? If the followers are simply accounts that do not have any human interaction or just re-tweet everything that your account says, they are of very little value. A number of studies suggest that simply having a large number of followers does not indicate that you have an influential Twitter profile. What is more important is that viewers can see that the account has been recently updated and the content is not simply a monologue about the great things that the organisation offers. Twitter is a social platform and although there is room for sharing content, it is also about listening and engaging with others. If an account interacts and replies to its audience, it is usually much more useful and influential compared to an account with thousands of followers but does not tweet to them. A number of tools exist that can help people analyse the value of their Twitter profile. For instance Sprout Social looks at engagement and influence. Here’s what it makes of Alex Salmond (139,000 follows) compared to Salford Business School (2,000 follows): Salmond might have vastly more followers, but his account actually scores slightly lower than our business school. It is worth pointing out here that you would expect an account that has lots of fake followers to score badly on these metrics. Another good analysis tool is FollowerWonk. Here’s what it has to say about David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond: I’ve included the follower numbers for context, but you can see that criteria such as engagement, average followers per day, total tweets and average tweets per day are also used to show the success of an account’s performance. We can clearly see that Nicola Sturgeon is much more active compared to the other two accounts. David Cameron is still attracting more followers per day, however, which could be due to his high profile or because he is a more popular target for those celebrity-following sock puppets. It is worth adding that fake accounts are not something Twitter encourages, as its spamming rules make clear. Twitter wants to remove and suspend these accounts, partly because it could undermine its own advertising-based business model. This is backed up by advertising regulators such as the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice, whose non-broadcast-advertising code requires that any paid social-media endorsements be declared to the consumer of that information. In short, purchasing fake Twitter followers is both a waste of money and considered spam. It is not about your number of followers but how engaged they are and how useful these are in pursuing your objectives. On the other hand just because an account is not behaving as expected by the norm – not tweeting, for example – it is not to say it is a fake. The vast majority of internet users are “lurkers” – interested to read content but don’t want to share their views. If you are one of these lurkers, beware. Your account might be suspended or blocked if you don’t change your image from an egg to your profile and you don’t attempt to engage with others! This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
The Australian Tax Office has warned those who make money from YouTube are “performing artists” who can be liable to pay income tax. An ATO ruling recognises application of above-average special professional income provisions to individuals who earn income from uploading videos on YouTube. Big Australian names on YouTube include beauty vlogger Lauren Curtis, who has 2.6 million subscribers to her self-titled YouTube channel, and Jason Simper, who has 715,000 subscribers to his Simple Cooking channel. Simper told SmartCompany his YouTube channel is now his full time job. He makes over $100,000 a year from his channel but says there is unlimited opportunity. "It's pretty much the sky is the limit. If you have that niche that strikes a chord with people there is a lot of potential." But Simper says producing a YouTube channel is also hard work. "You can't drop the ball as things are always changing on YouTube," he says. "It is a smaller market [in Australia] which can make it more difficult." Tim Cooper, co-founder of BoomVideo, an Australian YouTube certified multi-channel network, represents a number of YouTube stars including Simper. Cooper told SmartCompany some vloggers earn “six figures a year” on YouTube, but for the majority the video-sharing platform is just a hobby. “Its not a silver bullet creating a YouTube channel, it’s not guaranteed money and the creators who have turned it into a full-time job have more often or not spent years of hard work creating an audience,” Cooper says. He says it takes “hundreds of thousands or millions of views a month” to monetise a YouTube channel. Cooper says YouTube businesses should have been disclosing their earnings anyway if they have reached the tax thresholds. “When YouTube creators turn from a hobby into a profession they often get professional advice on the best way to set up those earnings,” he says. Paul Brassil, partner in Private Clients at PwC, says the ruling is an acknowledgement by the ATO that performers seek to gain income via YouTube and other digital means. “It’s a perennial question when people start to do things that stem from a passion or hobby, when does it become a business activity?” he says. “The old adage is that if you are making a profit it must be a business; if you are making a loss it must be hobby. But it’s not quite that straight-forward.” Brassil says the ATO looks at all the circumstances including regularity, business plan and a view to making a profit but “you are unlikely to convince the ATO you are not carrying on a business if you are making a lot of money.” According to Brassil, the vast bulk of people who put things on YouTube do not make a profit. “For the few that do strike it lucky the ATO is now saying … in the YouTube arena it is regarded the same as someone going and playing a gig or getting a recording contract with Sony or something.” Brassil says this is a “salutary warning” to those who have not been declaring income and has broader implications for anyone making an online income. “All forms of internet commerce need to address this question.” This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
With the pervasiveness of social media, it is still an unanswered question as to how fundamental a role it plays in everyone’s lives. Part of the complexity comes from the fact that we regard social media as being a uniform thing. That may be true in as much as what we are doing on social media is sharing something with one or more others, but actually that is not the case for most people. A large number of people never share anything directly themselves. In the case of Twitter, 44% of users have never tweeted. Of those that had, a further 43% had not tweeted in the last year. The situation with Facebook is similar, although as there are more ways to interact on Facebook, the number of people at least “liking” posts is higher than the number actually posting content themselves. Videos and photos drive our use Surveys carried out by the Pew Research Center all show that the majority of people, are consumers of content on social media platforms, not producers. Seeing photos and videos is given as the leading reason for women, and a major reason for men, for using Facebook. In the Pew Research’s annual social media survey, picture sharing site Instagram grew the most of any social media platform in 2014. Instagram is now more popular than Twitter. For Facebook, Instagram’s owner, this is welcome news because its main platform has stopped growing in the US, sitting on 71% of the US population of Internet users. % Adults using Social Media 2014 It is older Gen X that are leaving Facebook - not teenagers Although a large part of the growth in Instagram’s users has come from the 18 - 29 year olds, it is the 30 - 49 year olds who have abandoned Facebook, with a 6% decline over the previous year. This group seems to have moved to Instagram as well. Twitter hasn’t fared particularly well in another measure, that of the number of users who use the site daily. Whilst Facebook and Instagram have seen an increase in the number of users that use their sites daily, Twitter has seen a decline of 10% to only 36% of users admitting to using it daily. Frequency of social media site use (Pew Research Internet) Facebook rules as Twitter struggles The overall takeaway from the Pew’s social media survey emphasises Facebook’s dominance when it comes to social media. On the flipside, Twitter continues to struggle, which is bad news for a company that has yet to find a way of making money that doesn’t alienate its users even further. Right now, Twitter has launched its “sponsored tweets” which appear regularly in a user’s stream, interestingly, more frequently in the mobile version of Twitter than the web one. It also has started “sponsored following” that makes it look like people are following specific brands. This has drawn fire from celebrities in particular who claim that this makes it look like they are endorsing specific brands by following them, when they haven’t. The other key feature of the survey is the centrality of photos and videos as the favoured things people like to share and see. On this basis, a site like YouTube, which has 1 billion users would rival Facebook as the second most popular social media site. YouTube is not normally considered to be a social media platform, even though its purpose is to share content with other users. Facebook and Twitter turn to video Facebook is ramping up its efforts to compete with YouTube for video. Last year, it featured exclusively on its site, short films based on the “Twilight” story. It won’t be surprising to see Facebook compete with YouTube on the content production side as it continues to extend its platform into even more of a media site. Twitter is also planning to release its own video service in the next few weeks. Given the nature of the network, this is still focussed on people sharing video that they capture and edit themselves and so will presumably not encourage people to use it as a general video streaming service with shows and films like YouTube. Social media, not quite as revolutionary as claimed Social media has stopped short of the revolutionary technology that was supposed to transform society and our daily lives. It has become embedded as a good platform for content and information which overall, is largely positive. With new platforms like ello failing to gain traction, it is unlikely that Facebook’s dominance will be challenged. Any changes in the social media landscape are likely to come from new features that Facebook implement rather than newer players in the market. Twitter’s future is much more precarious and it is hard to see them being able to continue for very much longer in their current form. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Payday lender Nimble is reportedly in the process of pulling an ad promoting its loans as a means to pay utility bills, after it was accused of misleading consumers and exploiting people in financial hardship. Nimble is the latest payday lender to face scrutiny for its advertising, after Paid International was last year fined $30,600 by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission over ads found to have misled customer about the time it took to process loans. The Nimble television commercial shows a man taking a shower when his hot water is suddenly cut off. He is then encouraged by Nimble’s rabbit mascot to use a loan to pay for the bill. The ABC reports the advertisement will be pulled from airwaves but it was still available on YouTube at the time of publication. Consumer advocacy groups have accused Nimble of misleading customers about their options when facing financial hardship. Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Law Centre Victoria, told SmartCompany utility companies are legally required to offer hardship payment options to customers, which would be at a significantly lower cost to a consumer than that of a loan obtained through a payday lender. “The ad suggested customers should get a Nimble payday loan to cover financial hardship and we think that is pretty irresponsible,” says Brody. “No one needs to get a payday loan.” Brody says Nimble has “wilfully ignored” including a legal warning about other payment options in the advertisement. He says Nimble has a second commercial that relates to telephone bills, which is still being broadcast, and the Consumer Law Centre has raised similar complaints about the ad. He says telecommunications companies have similar legal obligations to their customers to provide payment schemes in times of financial hardship. When asked if the matter could potentially be referred to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, Brody said it would be hard to argue Nimble had engaged in misleading conduct. “But we think it’s irresponsible and against the spirit of the law, even if it’s actually not misleading anyone,” he says. “A payday lender should not be advertising or offering quick cash to those experiencing financial hardship. There are much better options." Brody says Nimble also offers very expensive default fees and dishonour fees that could potentially create a “double effect” for those struggling financially. *Nimble chief executive Sami Malia told SmartCompany Nimble's advertising is in line with all relevant codes and regulation and was not intended to be taken literally. "Most people find themselves short of money at one time or another, and our ads are designed to engage people around that generic situation," says Malia. "However, following feedback that some people could take one of our ads literally, and despite the fact we advise applicants to speak to their utility provider on our application form, we have decided to cancel the ad around the gas bill and are currently reviewing all our ads." He says Nimble's customers are not "who you would expect". "Our customers may not be who you would expect. They are employed, many have incomes over $100,000, and are financially responsible, typically with a perfect credit history," he says. Malia noted Nimble does not lend to people who are fully dependent on Centrelink benefits, approves only one in four applicants and "protect[s] our customers with capped fees and revised schedules, so there’s no chance of a long term debt spiral." This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
A Melbourne-based startup is looking to make it easy to create fun, visual polls to drive user engagement for businesses and publishers. Chant, a mobile-first app, launched a public beta version this month so users can put together opinion polls using images, Tweets and YouTube videos quickly and – most importantly – for free. Co-founder Matt Garrett told StartupSmart Chant is “a lot richer” than a simple text-based polling experience. “It’s not limited to the big publishers or your individual bloggers, it’s targeted to the whole market out there,” he says. “It’s about simple polls in a matter of minutes that look great and can be used across platforms.” Garrett says Chant is looking to rival – and eventually replace – the polling service Polar, which was recently acquired by Google. After being acquired by the tech giant, it was announced Polar would leave the market in mid-2015 and its team assigned to Google+. “Polar had some great successes and we think there is a gap in the market now,” Garrett says. “There are more complex systems out there, but there’s not anything else out there to rival Pollar and we definitely think we have some product features that will not only match it but add to the experience.” Online polling is potentially worth big money, with popular platform SurveyMonkey raising $250 million in equity financing last month – meaning the company is now valued at around $2 billion. As for Chant’s target market, Garrett says the startup will “definitely” have its sights set on tech companies and small businesses. “It’s really easy to create a graphic and visual poll to allow your users to give you responses around what products or features they might prefer,” he says. “Or, in sport, it would be which catch was better or who was best on field. And in a politics or news environment, I can think of a number of examples.” Garrett says the company has a lot of exciting ideas up its sleeve “for the longer roadmap”, but will initially focus on what works and what doesn’t. “We’ll just see what the new year brings. The next two months are about creating that buzz and seeing what the response is in the market and we’ll tailor our response from there.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It’s been a big year for the Australian startup ecosystem. Success stories like Atlassian and Campaign Monitor continue to go from strength to strength and the ecosystem is growing. According to the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association the 2014 financial year saw the highest level of venture capital activity in dollar terms over the last 10 years. That uptick was despite “tough fundraising conditions” and the federal government’s termination of the Innovation Investment Fund weighing on local venture capital activity. Here are some of the startups that contributed to the ecosystem’s success and caught StartupSmart’s eye over the past year. In no particular order: 1. Eyenaemia What better way to begin than with a startup that literally wants to save people’s lives. Anaemia, a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells, currently affects an estimated two billion people worldwide, including 293 million. It is the cause of 20% of maternal deaths every year. It’s an easily treatable condition but is often symptomless. If left untreated it can lead to serious complications. Eyenaemia has developed a simple non-invasive treatment, which allows anaemia to be diagnosed through a mobile app, and a quick selfie. They won the Microsoft Imagine Cup, and are currently conducting large scale field tests to confirm their solution works. 2. Canva Sydney-based design startup Canva’s goal is no less ambitious – it wants to “democratise design”. This year it rolled out its design marketplace, which allows professional designers to contribute layouts and earn royalties every time their designs are purchased. Perhaps most significantly, it also signed up Apple’s original Mac evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, as its chief evangelist. 3. Scriptrock Startmate graduate ScriptRock, an Australian IT DevOps company, raised $9.8 million in a Series A round, led by August Capital. Also participating in the round were Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, and Square Peg Capital. As of August, less than 12 months after launch it had signed up 600 customers and is looking to scale up growth. 4. CoinJar Australia’s leading bitcoin startup left Melbourne, setting up its headquarters in London, a city competing with Australia to be the world’s leading fin tech startup location. The relocation is part of the startup’s grand plan to expand into Europe. It also released Australia’s first bitcoin debit card, which enables bitcoin to be used to pay for goods and services anywhere where debit cards are accepted. If (when) digital currency becomes mainstream in Australia, there’s a good chance CoinJar will have had a lot to do with it. 5. Invoice2go Invoicing app startup Invoice2go was one of Australia’s big startup success stories of 2014. Founded by Chris Strode in 2002, in 2014 the startup raised $35 million led by Accel Partners and supported by Ribbit Capital. It’s got serious traction in the form of 120,000 customers and is looking a potential market of 100 million. 6. LIFX After holding one of Australia’s most successful kickstarter campaigns, smart lightbulb maker LIFX took out the top award for smart systems in the consumer goods category at the 2014 Edison Awards. It then partnered with Sequoia Capital and raised $12 million in Series A funding. It wasn’t without setbacks, however, after concerns emerged that its light bulbs could be hacked, leading to debate about the security of IoT devices. 7. VentureCrowd Australia’s first equity-based crowdfunding platform, VentureCrowd helped facilitate the raises of two companies, opening up a new way for startups to raise capital. Transportation network and mobile payments startup ingogo used VentureCrowd to raise $1.2 million of a $9.1 million raise in September. It then helped fashion startup Fame and Partners raise $50,000 of a larger undisclosed funding round. With regulation that will open up equity crowdfunding to retail investors expected to arrive mid next year, these two deals look like just the first of many. 8. OneShift Online recruitment platform OneShift has grown to service 400,000 job seekers and 35,000 businesses. The platform, which founder Gen George describes as a “dating website for jobseekers”, matches employees with businesses looking for anything from one-off shifts, causal work, or permanent employment. The startup impressed Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman at a pitch session at Above All Human in Melbourne earlier this month. 9. That Startup Show The web-series produced in Melbourne wasn’t even a startup when it launched. Since the pilot episode launched on YouTube in August, the series has attracted more than 110,000 viewers across Australia, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States. It secured angel funding from Alan Jones and technology foundry Digital4ge and completed filming its first season. Co-founder Ahmed Salama says the vision for That Startup Show is to provide a voice for startups not just in Australia but around the world. It’s also been negotiating with a number of possible distributors, including TV networks. 10. Shoes of Prey The Sydney-based online retailer is taking on the world. Earlier this month it raised $6.5 million from US-based Khosla Ventures in December. Those funds will be used to finance its bricks-and-mortar expansion in markets, including the United States. It’s already opened an office in New York and will be available in Nordstrom stores in Seattle, Washington, California, New Jersey, Illinois and New York. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It’s January 1, 2015. You’ve put on four kilos over the last 10 days, having stuffed your face with empty carbs – delicious empty carbs – and feel somewhat guilty. So you make the resolution to join a gym, in order to lose that extra weight and then some, and be in good shape for the rest of the summer! You go out, purchase the 12 month gym membership – for value – and stop going approximately three weeks in, when your joints start aching and the memories of your recent gluttonous activities have faded. The problem? Your resolution sucked. ‘Getting in shape’ is an ambiguous goal. How do you know when you’re in ‘shape’? To have a better chance of keeping the resolution you need to get specific. Say, for example, to lose 8kgs by the end of March. This gives you something quantifiable to work towards. You can track your progress. Measure your gains (or in this case, losses). And there’s a clearly definable point at which you’ve succeeded at your resolution. So what does all this have to do with startups? Well, if you’ve been following along with the previous articles in this series, at the least you’ll have a lean canvas drawn up and filled with some assumptions you plan to test. But before you get to testing, you need to clearly define what results will validate your idea, and what falls short. In some cases this will be an obvious pass/fail type outcome, in others cases you will need to be far more specific. And it should go without saying that you need to track your progress as you go. Tracking your progress, along with knowing your metrics, is crucial to your startup’s success. But it isn’t as straightforward as you may think. It’s easy to get caught up in tracking the wrong types of metrics: ones that don’t actually give you an indication as to the health of your startup. Such metrics are often referred to as ‘vanity metrics’, because they sound good but don’t really say much. An example of this is ‘our product has been downloaded over 1 million times’. Sure sounds impressive, right? But how do you know. The fact that it has been downloaded a lot tells you nothing of the state of the product. And any savvy person in the startup scene will see through this type of metric immediately. Metrics that matter tend to be time sensitive. ‘1 million downloads in the last month’ is far more encouraging than the first statement. Better still is ‘1 million active users per month’ – indicating that not only is your product popular but it has sufficient value that people are engaging and staying engaged to some degree. The vanity metrics steal the headlines, but the metrics that matter are those that tell a more substantial story. So what type of metrics should you focus on at this early stage in your startup? Entrepreneur-turned-investor Dave McClure came out with a guide that goes by the acronym AARRR (which you can view in full via his presentation ‘Startup Metrics for Pirates’), which stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral. In more detail, this looks like: Acquisition: The various channels by which people find out and visit your startup. These include both offline and online channels, ranging from traditional advertising in print, events, and PR, to more modern channels like SEO, AdWords, and content marketing. Activation: The moment a person uses or experiences your product/service for the first time. Note this is not the same as someone visiting your page or downloading your app. Examples of ‘activation’ include the first time you rode in an Uber cab, or the first time you ‘tweeted’ something on Twitter. Merely signing up to a service or downloading an app does not necessarily count as activation. It is the moment a person becomes a user of your product/service. Retention: Once a person has ‘activated’ and becomes a user of your service, do they come back? A user who comes back to your product/service post their first activation experience signifies that you have created something of value – one of the strongest indicators that your assumption about the problem you are solving is correct. That they come back, and later, how often they come back, are key metrics that you should be paying attention too very early on. Revenue: This one is the most straightforward of the lot. The more revenue you earn for your product/service, the better! It doesn’t apply to all startups – there are now countless examples of companies that have been valued at and acquired for extremely large sums of money without ever seeing a cent in revenue – but for the vast majority of startups, revenue is a significant metric. Referral: This refers to the organic growth of your startup. To achieve what is known as ‘viral growth’, you will need every person who uses your product/service to actively refer more than 1 new person to your product/service. Very few businesses ever achieve viral growth, and even then it is more common in business to consumer (B2C) products/services like social networks and games. There are a lot of potential metrics to pay attention to, as outlined above. The approach you must take when starting out is to focus primarily on Activation and Retention. If you can create a product/service with strong metrics around Activation and Retention, you will have something worth paying attention to. You are far better off finding 100 people who absolutely love your product/service and could not live without it, than having 100,000 people who have tried your product/service but are only lukewarm about it. So that’s it for the series, you’ve now got the know-how, the inspiration, and the time to make something happen over the coming holiday season. Good luck and let us know how you go via twitter with the hashtag #2015istheyear. Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is concludes our #2015istheyear series. Good luck! Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker. Part five – David Chung of etaskr on chucking in corporate life to chase the startup dream. Part six – How this Aussie startup plans to become a leading player in the booming world of bitcoin. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
How this Aussie startup plans to become a leading player in the booming world of bitcoin: #2015istheyear12:53PM | Thursday, 18 December
Today I’m joined by Asher Tan from CoinJar, a startup that lets you buy, sell, and manage your bitcoin. CoinJar was founded by Asher and Ryan Zhou in mid-2013 and it’s been a whirlwind ride ever since. With something in the area of $50 million worth of transactions in their first 12 months of operations, they now have a team of 12 people and offices in Melbourne and London, as they look to become a world leading bitcoin exchange. AN: Asher, thank you for taking the time with me today, I know you just arrived back in the country from the new office in London. How is that going for you? Asher Tan: London is great. It’s one of the finance centres of the world. The UK have very progressive laws relating to bitcoin that make it an attractive market, and one that we will be focusing our efforts on in the coming year. AN: Nice one. To take it back to the beginning, can you tell us what you were doing before startups? AsherT: I was working as an analyst, writing economic forecasts for a large firm. AN: And so what made you want to do a startup? AsherT: I’ve always enjoyed building and creating new things. And I think I’ve always had the startup bug in me, it just took a while for me to find it! In my previous job I had a small team working with me and tried to cultivate a close bond within the team, in order to reach and surpass our targets. The thing was, we bonded so well and met all our targets easily, yet head office didn’t want us to do any more and probably viewed us as loose cannons. AN: Was there any trigger point, any incident in particular that spurred you into action? AsherT: Nothing specific, I was gradually getting more and more immersed in the local startup eco-system, going down to events, making friends with people actively working on startups. Reading all of Paul Graham’s essays on the subject. Seeing other people build and create great product and companies – I wanted to do it too! AN: So how did you get the idea for CoinJar then. Were you on the bitcoin train from the early days? AsherT: I had been working on a completely different idea for a good six months before applying to AngelCube. I met Ryan online and another partner at a networking event, and we applied to AngelCube. During the interview process, they told us that they liked the team, but not the idea, and that if we wanted to get in we should change the idea. At the time I thought it was like Dragon’s Den or The Shark Tank, and they were testing us to see our commitment. Turns out it wasn’t a test. So over the weekend we brainstormed a bunch of other ideas, and CoinJar was the one we agreed upon. Thankfully AngelCube liked the idea as well, and the rest is history! AN: Haha, too funny! It sounds like you’ve never been short of ideas… When did you know that this was the one? AsherT: The early signs were good, even during the first few weeks of AngelCube it was obvious that we were having early signs of success relative to the other teams. For a while things were very stressful, but one of the mentors at AngelCube reminded us that the stress was due to our product being too popular, which is a really good problem to have. It wasn’t too long into the CoinJar journey that we did our first million in transactions. From that point onwards there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. AN: Indeed. Given how fast things have been moving with CoinJar, I’m sure you’ve hardly had time to take it all in. But to date what would you say has been the biggest lesson learnt? AsherT: When you can't figure things out that's what your co-founder is there for. Ryan built bitcoin businesses before, and especially at the start of our journey it was him leading the charge in terms of what direction we should take, what we need to build, etc. Some of his ideas were crazy, and we spent many a night arguing over what was worthwhile and what was not. Thankfully most of his ideas were right! AN: Excellent! And just lastly, do you have any advice for the would-be entrepreneurs out there reading along and getting inspired to be the next Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou? AsherT: Hustle. You have to use every resource at your disposal to keep your startup alive. At the end of AngelCube all the teams went to the US as part of the program, with the goal of raising a seed round. As a group we went down to a startup trade show called TechCrunch Disrupt, the thing is, all the other startups looked very slick and professional, with banners and display monitors and everything. As a three-month-old startup we had none of this. So what we did was go down to Best Buy and purchased the biggest screen we could get our hands on. We were careful to take very good care of it whilst in our possession and not remove any of the stickers. As a result, we were the only AngelCube team to have a display monitor in our booth, which we returned as soon as the trade show was done, so it cost us nothing”! AN: Wow, thanks a bunch, Asher. Best of luck with CoinJar in the coming year. Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part six of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker. Part five – David Chung of etaskr on chucking in corporate life to chase the startup dream. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Today we’ve got a case study of the corporate kind, bringing you up close and personal with David Chung, co-founder of etaskr – an online resourcing platform that is an enterprise software version of sites such as freelancer and oDesk. It aims to connect those looking for workers inside an organisation to those looking for work. The etaskr story is an interesting one because its roots stem from the corporate world, a world many consider to be diametrically opposed to the world of startups. Unlike many startup stories you hear emanating from entrepreneurship hubs like Silicon Valley – where the founders are college dropout computer hackers who built an app over a beer-driven weekend – etaskr was founded by two work colleagues who left the security of corporate life to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs. I had the chance to sit down with David and find out what it was like to move from corporate to startup, how it helped, what adjustments needed to be made, and what he would have done differently if he had his time over. AN: Firstly David, can you give us a quick idea of your background? DC: I went along a pretty well-trodden path of good marks, a double degree in commerce and law then getting a few graduate offers of which I chose a management consultancy position at KPMG. I quickly realised that this was not going to work for me and I made the life-changing decision to resign. Serendipitously, I was recruited for a position in the innovation department at KPMG as an innovation analyst, and that I feel is the key moment that has led me to this great path of building a startup. AN: Interesting. So what was working in the innovation department of a large corporation like? DC: At the time, it was really exciting. We had a framework that was heavily directed by your own creativity that moved projects from ideation to testing as quickly as possible. Then if we got the right signals we would go to pilot and then production. Looking back on it now though, it’s a much more conservative approach to building a startup but you’re solving your company’s problems and things move a lot slower because of how many stakeholders you have. It was certainly much more suited to me than consultant life though. AN: OK. And how did you manage that transition? DC: My manager and mentor Tom was really helpful, plus some books he recommended I read, namely: The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, and The Little Black Book Of Innovation by Scott Anthony, the latter dealing with corporate entrepreneurship. I think my people skills helped too as I got on really well with one key product developer, Pat, who helped teach me about product management, and we built some really cool things together. He eventually became my co-founder! AN: So what triggered you to leave corporate innovation and get into startups? DC: Well, funnily enough, I was researching an idea for work that involved co-working spaces. I made a visit to Inspire9 and while I was there I was explaining to Nathan (co-founder of AngelCube) what I do. He asked me if I had any ideas of my own and that if so I should apply to AngelCube as applications would be open for another week. Well, that got me thinking and back at work I asked Pat if he would be interested in joining me. He did, we drew up our plans for world domination, googled how to pitch and a few weeks later got in! AN: Sounds like it all happened rather quickly! DC: Yeah, it was crazy. We had to commit to AngelCube full-time, but to do that we had to resign from KPMG with one week’s notice! Thankfully, my boss at KPMG was really understanding. He told us that he knew that we would one day apply everything we’d been doing and learning to the big bad world and we’d fly the coop. I felt like Anakin Skywalker saying goodbye to Obi-Wan – before he turned to the dark side of course. We still keep in touch and he’s one of our biggest supporters. AN: And the idea for etaskr was one you picked up whilst at work? DC: So we got into AngelCube with a different idea, but they invested in us as a team, not the idea. So we decided to park it for a couple of days and just throw ideas around to see if we could come up with something a bit juicier. And so etaskr was born. The idea was heavily based on solving our own problem of working as consultants and being ‘on the bench’. It’s exactly what it sounds like – there’s not enough work and you sit on the sidelines trying to look busy. Not having much work might not sound like a big problem to those who haven’t worked inside a big firm, but it’s a nightmare. You go from being motivated and ambitious to frustrated and anxious – but you’re told it’s all part of the job. What we’ve realised in the startup world though is that you don’t just have to accept that – you can build crazy solutions that can change behaviour. AN: How did you find the shift from corporate life to startup life? DC: Pretty huge. First your mindset around ‘work’ completely changes. You no longer clock on, do your structured tasks that are managed and reviewed then clock off. You’re constantly thinking about creative, meaningful things you can do for your startup. It doesn’t really feel like work anymore – well apart from the compliance stuff – but you bring so much more energy into it because you don’t see it as doing something for a pay cheque. You’re doing something you’re crazy about! AN: Cool. This has been great! Just lastly, what advice would you give to people working in the corporate world who are at this moment thinking about doing a startup? DC: If you’re feeling underappreciated, disengaged and underutilised at work – well first off you should pitch etaskr to your boss because you’ll begin discovering awesome opportunities inside your company you never knew existed. But secondly you should trust yourself to go out and build your own dream instead of someone else’s. It’s a huge learning curve, or learning cliff face as I like to call it – but startups bring the best out of you. To sum up – smart people should build things! Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part five of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A common refrain in Silicon Valley is ‘manual first’, referring to all the different approaches you can take to validate and grow your startup idea before putting any time into building a web or mobile application. The reason this approach is so popular is due to the speed at which you can accomplish things. Speed is everything for a startup. It is one of your few natural advantages over pre-existing competition. Because you’ve invested so little in your idea to this point, it will never be quicker or easier to change what you’re doing, be it slight changes or drastic ones. Big companies have mass, and with mass comes momentum. Momentum is great if you know where you are going, but crippling if you need to change directions suddenly. So how does ‘manual first’ equate to getting the ball rolling on your startup? The answer lies with an MVP. That’s not a sports reference mind you, rather in this context MVP stands for minimum viable product. That’s startup lingo for doing what you have to in order to learn whether the assumptions around your idea are valid. What this means in practice depends on the type of startup you’re creating and the particular hypothesis you’re hoping to test. Typically, you want to test the biggest assumptions in your business first, which usually equates to “will anyone use my product/service?” A good assumption to validate before going out and dedicating your life to making it happen, don’t you think? In fact, everything we try to do as entrepreneurs, be it speaking to people, creating a lean canvas, and testing the various hypotheses within, is geared towards de-risking the startup as quickly as possible. So, what might an MVP look like for your idea? If your idea is for a product that you plan to sell and distribute online, one clever MVP is known as the ‘smoke and mirrors’ technique, which involves setting up a landing page for your ‘product’ (including relevant information such as price, benefits, feature set, etc), sending people to said landing page (often via some paid ads on Google, Facebook, or whatever platform is relevant for your target audience) and seeing how many people actually click the purchase button. The point of this exercise is that you find out relatively cheaply – whatever money you spent getting people to your ‘product’ website – if anyone wants what you have to offer. If no one bites then there’s not much point in building out the product. You’ve invalidated the hypothesis that your product is the solution for a certain group of people, whom you believe suffer from a certain type of problem. From this you can deduce that: 1. The people who came to your site weren’t the correct subsection of people (change your advertising). 2. The people coming to the site were OK but the positioning of the product was not (change the content of the landing page). 3. The offer wasn’t compelling enough for the price (change the price). 4. People aren’t really interested in the product (put more work into researching the problem – is it really a problem?) If your idea is more service than product, then you can utilise ‘the Wizard of Oz’ technique to validate your assumptions (the name bears homage to the old man who hides behind a curtain pretending to be a powerful wizard in the children's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). If your startup revolves around some type of service, the Wizard of Oz technique means physically complete the service by emulating the actions of what you would eventually code and automate. As an example, say you had an idea for an online gift recommendation service. Manually emulating the service in this case may take the form of finding potential gifts for a user by personally going through shopping catalogues looking for gift ideas that match said users preferences, then returning the results online as files in an email. To the user, there is no difference between an algorithm sourcing the gifts automatically and you working behind the scenes doing the same job. This approach often involves creating a site that is slightly more complicated than setting up a simple landing page and some ads, but generally not much more than an extra form field or two. Note that if you are completing manually what you intend to offer as an automated service, you shouldn’t be shy about taking money for said services. Some tools that you might find useful for this part of the process include: Balsamiq – a wireframing tool that lets you sketch out your website or mobile application. Unbounce – a tool that lets you create, publish, and test landing pages for your startup. FluidUI – similar to Balsamiq, but with a later stage focus, higher resolution designs and the ability to put your prototype onto your mobile and test it out directly. Google AdWords – you know Google, you know ads on Google, this is where you go when you want to put your own ads on Google. Facebook have a similar platform you can find via https://www.facebook.com/advertising Wufoo – a customisable online form builder with no coding required. Regardless of what tools and techniques you use for the job, keep in mind that speed is the essential ingredient. The faster you can prototype, iterate and prove an assumption, the faster your idea transforms into a viable startup. So, get out of the building, speak to customers, figure out what they want, what it looks like, put that online, and see if anyone buys! From there it’s wash, rinse, repeat… with one caveat which we’ll cover in the next article! Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube This is the part four of our #2015istheyear series. Part one – 2015 The year for my idea. Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas. Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.