Building an eBay-style marketplace for bitcoins and litecoins

7:38AM | Tuesday, 1 July

Australian bitcoin and litecoin marketplace Cryptothrift, wants to become eBay for crypto-currencies and is trying to create an economy for anonymous currencies.   The company, which runs an eBay-style online auction site where users can buy and sell items with bitcoins and litecoins, was founded last year by Sydney-based crypto-currency enthusiasts Ahmad Aoun and Paul Screen.   Cryptothrift sells everything from computer game download codes, to fishing hats, laptops, tablets and YouTube video views.   Sellers pay a 2.5% flat rate or a transaction fee, whichever is higher. Buying items is free, but the company charges a 1% fee if escrow is selected at the checkout.   Screen told Private Media the company was accepting a number of other crypto-currencies for a brief period, but it just wasn’t worthwhile.   “In practice there just wasn’t the volume in sales to advocate supporting them,” Screen says.   “What we’re seeing is people are only interested in bitcoin.”   Screen says the company’s sales are continually growing month on month, 90% of which are in bitcoin, with litecoin making up the other 10%.   Dealing with scammers attracted by the anonymity of bitcoin has been Cryptothrift’s biggest challenge.   In response, Screen says the company has implemented an escrow payment system.   “Bitcoin and crypto-currency has this tag that it’s anonymous and therefore it tends to attract a lot of the wrong types of people,” he says.   “We’re trying to approach things from the opposite way, we want our system and business to be as transparent as it can, we’ve registered with ASIC here in Australia and we’re not hiding from the ATO (Australian Tax Office).”   Trust has been a problem for the site, it’s been accused by some users of being a scam. They’re accusations Screen says are inevitable, but unjustified.   “I can’t hide away from that, it’s going to happen,” he says.   “It’s why we’ve introduced the escrow system that allows buyers 30 days to determine if they’re happy with their purchase and release the funds.”   He says there have been cases of scammers operating on the site and “it’s generally pretty clear cut what’s happened”, but the company provides arbitration services and refunds.   A large number of the products available on Cryptothrift are digital, which Screen says can lead to stolen items being sold, something the company is constantly on the lookout for and doesn’t tolerate.   Screen says in the coming months, Cryptothrift is looking at introducing a verification process, to ensure transparency amongst sellers and in order to comply with know your customer regulations and anti-money laundering laws.   “We’ve been in talks for the last few weeks, we’re looking to outsource the verification process for simplicity, but the cost is holding us back, we need to justify that expenditure,” he says.   “We’re toying with the idea of doing it in house.”   The company has been funded entirely by its founders so far, and while they’re not actively searching for investment, Screen says they’re not opposed to external funding.   “It’s something we’re considering,” he says.   “We know we want to expand, and we have a lot of good plans for sure, there’s a lot we want to do, but we’re going to need some kind of capital investment.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter snaps up ad tech firm Tap Commerce for close to $100 million

6:22PM | Monday, 30 June

Twitter has acquired advertising technology firm Tap Commerce for a price in the region of $100 million, sources have told Re/code.   The New York company is in the business of “re-targeting”, that is it convinces customers to return to the mobile apps they have downloaded.   Its clients include Fab and eBay.   In an announcement confirming the deal, but not the price, TapCommerce says nothing will change for its existing customers, but joining Twitter will enable the company to dedicate more resources to developing its product and expanding its services.   Google to shutdown Orkut   Orkut, Google’s first foray into social networking, will close on September 30, a decade after its creation.   Google says the decision comes due to the growth of YouTube, Blogger and Google+ communities, which have outpaced that of Orkut, and closing down Orkut will allow it to focus more energy and resources on those social platforms.   Google says it will preserve an archive of Orkut’s public communities.   MapR raises $110 million   MapR Technologies, which provides an enterprise Hadoop distribution used for marketing, operations and security has announced it has raised $110 million in funding led by Google Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and previous investors.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 25.24 to 16,826.60. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

NBN Co and Telstra agree on broader FTTN deployment

6:55AM | Thursday, 26 June

NBN Co and Telstra have reached agreement on an expanded program to plan, design and construct fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) high-speed broadband to about 200,000 homes and businesses.   The agreement marks a major step forward in the Government’s ongoing reform of the National Broadband Network. The reforms currently underway at NBN Co will ensure the network is delivered sooner, at less cost to taxpayers, and more affordably for consumers.   The number of premises to be covered by the project is roughly equivalent to the 206,000 homes and businesses passed by the NBN fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout in established neighbourhoods over the entire period the previous Labor government was in power.   NBN Co will continue to deploy its FTTP, fixed wireless and permanent satellite networks during the period of the FTTN trial deployment.   NBN Co’s contract with Telstra will ensure initial rollout of FTTN focuses on areas categorised as ‘underserved’ in the Government’s MyBroadband broadband quality study.   NBN Co estimates areas underserved with broadband account for around 28 per cent of the premises in the rollout regions.   ‘This announcement demonstrates how FTTN can help to bring broadband more quickly to many regional areas than would have occurred under Labor’s plan—and that is good news because upgraded broadband can help regional communities capture improved economic, educational and social opportunities,’ said Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications.   Rollout regions included in the trial project include:   Belmont, New South Wales Bribie Island, Queensland Boolaroo, New South Wales Gorokan, New South Wales Morisset, New South Wales Hamilton, New South Wales Bundaberg, Queensland Caboolture, Queensland Gympie, Queensland Warner, Queensland   In addition, the NBN will expand its current FTTN pilot in Umina on the New South Wales Central Coast.   The agreement for a thousand-node FTTN trial represents an interim step while NBN Co, Telstra and the Government finalise changes to the existing Definitive Agreements covering Telstra’s participation in the NBN. It is anticipated that these changes will include arrangements for the NBN Co to gain access to Telstra’s existing local access network.   In parallel NBN Co will work closely with telecommunications retail service providers to finalise the design of its FTTN products and provide services to end-users.   Early line tests using Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line technology (VDSL) indicate that download data rates of up to 100 megabits per second and upload data rates of up to 40 megabits per second are achievable over copper lengths of a hundred metres.   The top available downloads speeds are approximately 17 times faster than current average fixed line broadband connections to Australian households. These speeds allow ten high definition television shows to be streamed to a single household or business concurrently. A three minute YouTube video will be able to be uploaded in as little as 42 seconds, compared to up to 20 minutes on today’s average ADSL connections.   Since the September 2013 election the number of households and businesses with active service over the FTTP network has tripled from 48,000 to 146,000.   In the same period the number of premises passed by the FTTP network has almost doubled to 482,000.   Telstra, the NBN Co and the Government are well advanced in negotiating changes to the Definitive Agreements. These negotiations have not yet concluded but are progressing well.   The limited deployment of FTTN is an important step in allowing NBN Co to determine how a multi-technology mix rollout will change its construction and service provisioning operations.

THE NEWS WRAP: Snapchat finds a new narrative with Stories

6:36AM | Monday, 23 June

Snapchat’s most popular feature is no longer its self-destructing snaps, but its newest feature – Stories.   The company told The Verge that one billion Stories are now viewed per day.   Stories allows users to create compilations of snaps that last 24 hours and are viewable by their friends.   Twitch extends partnership with YouTube   Internet videogame broadcasting company Twitch has extended its partnership with YouTube, which will see the popular video streaming service issue alerts when Twitch users begin streaming videos.   It comes as Google has reached a preliminary deal to acquire Twitch worth $1 billion.   300,000 systems still vulnerable to heart bleed   When the Heartbleed vulnerability was first announced, Errata Security found 600,000 systems vulnerable.   Now two months later, using the same technique, simply by scanning on port 443, Errata Security found 309,197 systems still vulnerable, roughly the same amount it found a month after the vulnerability first was announced.   Errata Security says this likely indicates that people have stopped trying to patch the vulnerability.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 25.62 to 16,947.08. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

OPINION: Why open source is not always the best tool for the job

6:06AM | Thursday, 19 June

Earlier this year, I reviewed the latest version of an open source computer operating system called Kubuntu. For the uninitiated, like Windows, Mac OS-X or Android, Kubuntu manages a computer’s hardware, provides a user interface and allows users to run apps. It includes a desktop environment called KDE along with a set of apps covering everything from graphics and multimedia to internet, office and games.   While I was critical of the installation process (and deservedly so), I had many complimentary things about Kubuntu to say in the review, including the following:   “The good news is, assuming you get through the installation process, is that Kubuntu and KDE 4.13 does have a lot going for it.” “Firstly, there are preinstalled apps covering most of what you’d need to do, from word processing, to playing CDs, to watching videos and surfing the web.” “There are big improvements in how multiple screens are handled. It’s now literally a matter of dragging and dropping to have two connected screens mirroring each other, or having one to the side of the other.” “With a little tinkering, you can set it up to look like a Mac (including each app’s menu bar across the top of the screen), or like Windows (with the menu bar across the top of each window). You can also set up multiple ‘activities’ each with their own desktop layout.”   Yet, literally for months after the review was published, there were (at times incredibly detailed) comments from open source advocates arguing against the conclusion that this was not a product for everyone.   The open source basics   Kubuntu is an example of what is known as “open source software”. The basic idea behind the open source model is that the developer gives away a computer program for free, including the source code used to create that program. Users are free to make any changes they require in the future and share their modifications with others.   In terms of copyright, open source software is often made available under a licensing agreement such as the GPL, or under a Creative Commons licence.   Can you really have a free lunch?   Of course, this raises a question: How do software developers survive if they give their product away from free?   In many cases, open source projects are the work of hobbyists or not-for-profit groups, with Wikipedia probably the best example.   Some companies (such as Red Hat and IBM) give away software on an open source basis, but charge businesses for services such as setup and support.   An example I’ve discussed in this column previously is Firefox. Mozilla supports giving its popular web browser away for free based on the commission it receives from Google each time someone searches from the search bar. As incredible as it might sound, that little search field is worth around $US280 million per year in revenue.   One of the best known examples of open source software is the Android smartphone and tablet operating system. Here, Google makes its money by selling downloads, as well as the mobile services (Gmail, YouTube, etc.) it bundles with the platform.   Another well-known example is WordPress, which is offered by its developers (Automattic) on an open source basis, with a commercial cloud-hosted version at supported by ads and premium upgrades.   Open source software stands in opposition to proprietary or closed-source software, where the developer retains all intellectual property rights to the software, along with the source code. Windows, Microsoft Office, Photoshop and most other commercial apps are examples.   The best tool for the job   Advocates for open source software are certainly a passionate lot when it comes to their software licensing model of choice.   In many areas of the tech industry, there are open source products that are either market leaders, or are at least competitive in terms with features with their proprietary counterparts.   And certainly for many cash-strapped businesses, if finances are tight, choosing an open source option can be quite appealing.   However, there are many hidden costs in business that stem from using the wrong tech tool for the job, including lost productivity, the cost of IT staff for the initial setup and installation, maintenance costs, IT support costs and lost business opportunities.   When these additional costs are factored into account, the product with the lowest upfront costs might not have the lowest total cost of operation.   And the harsh truth for advocates is the open source option is not always the best option in the market, or the best choice for every business.   As the example of Kubuntu shows, an open source product that works well in one situation might not be the best choice for everybody.   So, when it comes to choosing a tech solution for your business, it pays to evaluate a range of options, both proprietary and open source – because being an ideologue with technology can be costly in the long run.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

THE NEWS WRAP: Has YouTube killed the indie rock star?

6:20PM | Tuesday, 17 June

Independent musicians could disappear from YouTube in a matter of days after Google confirmed the popular video streaming service would drop content from independent labels that have not signed up for its upcoming music streaming service.   Google is set to begin testing the new service, rumoured to be called YouTube Music Pass, in the next few days, with a launch expected later this year.   Democrats defend net neutrality   Democrat party lawmakers in the United States are set to unveil a piece of legislation that would force the Federal Communications Commission to ban internet fast lanes.   The proposal requires the FCC to use whatever authority it sees fit to make sure internet providers don’t speed up certain types of content at the expense of others.   eBay Valet app launched   The online shopping giant is expanding its eBay Sell For Me service to mobile with the launch of a new app called eBay valet.   The app promises to take every step of the selling process and automate it.   It’s designed to make online selling easier for first-time sellers and anyone who doesn’t have the time to handle a listing themselves.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 27.48 to 16,808.49. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Long-awaited Amazon smartphone likely to be unveiled on June 18

6:39AM | Thursday, 5 June

Amazon is holding a product announcement on June 18 which is likely regarding its long-rumoured smartphone.   The company posted a video to YouTube which teases the device.   It will likely run a heavily modified version of Android just like the company’s Kindle Fire tablets.   Former Microsoft exec joins GoPro as president   GoPro has named former Microsoft executive Tony Bates as president and added him to its board.   The 47-yearold Bates will join the company as second in command, reporting to GoPro founder and chief executive officer Nicholas Woodman.   Bates left Microsoft in March after he was passed over for the CEO job that went to colleague Satya Nadella.   Apple allows all apps to use Safari’s JavaScript Engine in iOS 8   When iOS 7 was launched developers discovered that their apps with built-in web browsers were unable to achieve the same level of JavaScript performance as the stock Safari app as Apple restricted the use of its improved Nitro JavaScript engine to its own app.   That decision has been reversed with iOS 8 and all apps will now be able to use the same improved JavaScript engine.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 15.19 to 16,737.53. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Meet the startup that wants to liberate your videos

6:38AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Adelaide startup Peepable, which is set to launch a new video search engine, has raised $500,000 in seed funding from the likes of Xero’s Stuart McLeod and e3Learning’s Tony Fairbairn.   Peepable aims to “open up” the world of video online by enabling users to search the actual content of video, Peepable co-founder Nari Jennings says currently video search is stuck in the dark ages, relying on meta tags and titles to produce results.   Users can then share short clips of video that the company is calling ‘Peeps’.   “Basically, Peepable is a really simple and easy way to discover and share online videos, we describe it as video liberation,” she says.   “We making videos from across the net more discoverable, and searchable at a granular level, giving you the ability to dive deep within the video and what’s said within the video.”   In addition to its search method, Peepable differs from a platform like YouTube in that YouTube’s results are obviously limited to its own videos, Peepable will allow users to find videos and view those videos on the site that’s hosting them.   “We’re platform agnostic,” Jennings says.   “We really want to make the world of video more open.”   That’s been a driving motivator behind a lot of Jennings’ work.   Jennings grew up with her mother who was hearing impaired and after taking a trip to the theatre, an experience she wished she could share with her mother, she was inspired to found Captioning Studio Group, which she did with Peepable co-founder Alex French.   Captioning Studio’s mission was to “revolutionise accessible technology in as many areas as possible” and it’s this technology that led to the creation of Peepable.   “We’ve seen the opportunity there for quite some time,” Jennings says.   “We thought we could apply this to video search, there’s a need for this technology for everybody, not just the hearing impaired.   “So we’ve been in stealth mode for a long time, developing the tech and making sure the technology is robust.”   Jennings believes they’ve reached that point and the Peepable beta will launch in three months’ time.   The $500,000 in seed funding will see the company through the beta launch.   “In terms of finding investors, we’ve been very lucky, very, very lucky, we’ve found investors who really believe in our vision,” Jennings says.   “We were looking for people that shared in the vision, that’s what really drove us, in terms of finding investors.   “I think they were really drawn to our story, where we come from and what we want.”

Mobile video app shortlisted for journalism grant looks to solve crowdsourced content problem

6:52PM | Sunday, 1 June

A Brisbane startup is developing an app which aims to give journalists much easier access to crowdsourced content.   The Metaset App is a mobile video app that creates a platform for journalists and content creators to access, engage with and request crowdsourced content and citizen journalism.   The app is one of six projects shortlisted for the Walkley Grants for Innovation in Journalism, the winner of which will be announced in late June.   A StartupSmart project has also been shortlisted.   Founder David Ryan says the app solves the problem facing many newsrooms when looking to gather content from the public.   “It solves the problem of engaging and curating content,” he says.   “We have these miraculous devices and the ability to capture so much, but when you’re out covering a story and you have people sticking their iPhone’s in your face saying ‘we’ve got this footage, how can we get this to you?’ all you can really tell them is to upload it to YouTube.   “We’ve taken the most expensive and most difficult question to solve, how to distribute and access video and citizen journalists.   “It’s ironic people might say YouTube or Twitter do this already, it’s a really obvious question, but no they haven’t yet.   “Finally it clicked for us, we already have a way to do that.”   Ryan says the app would give would-be citizen journalists and content makers the ability to connect with a network of media organisations, then using geo location and push notifications, it would allow those organisations to source footage from those users who might be nearby newsworthy events.   The startup has been working closely with two media groups which Ryan declined to name out of courtesy, who have been helping develop the project.   The app is still in its early days and Ryan was non-committal when questions about whether or not there would be a way to pay those users for the content they are providing.   “There’s lots of ways to go about it, we’re very grateful to have media groups so we’re able to work on things that not just we think are problems, but are some of the realities created by the inefficiencies of large scale newsrooms,’’ Ryan says.

Top 10 things employees must know before making the leap to becoming an entrepreneur

5:54AM | Tuesday, 20 May

I spent a large part of my career in a marketing capacity working for large consumer goods companies – in fact, two of the world’s biggest.   In doing so, and through having such blue chip training, I thought I knew a thing or two about business. I thought I’d march into my first startup and show the world how it’s done.   Clearly, I was delusional.   What I did learn though, and very quickly, was that there are fundamental differences in being an employee versus an entrepreneur. Knowing a lot about business, doesn’t necessarily mean we can build a business. Knowing how to write code as a developer doesn’t necessarily mean we can build a community.   So here are my top 10 things employees need to know before becoming entrepreneurs.   1. The market doesn’t care how much your boss liked you…   Or how smart you are. It only cares about what you give it and if you create value within it – that is, value for the end users. The market doesn’t make judgment calls; it only feeds back reality on value creation. It does it in real time, too. Your boss on the other hand makes judgment calls, which are often based on personality, friendship, values and corporate politics.   2. Your idea has little real value   Ideas are like water; they are life giving, but they are omnipresent. We all have them. If the idea is good, then you can guarantee others have thought of it, are working on it, and some are probably already in market. When YouTube launched there were more than 400 other video-sharing websites.   What matters is execution and building a user base – they are the bits that matter. In fact, new ideas are harder to sell because you need to invent demand. Ideas are a small part of the success equation.   3. There are no resources at your disposal   All of the things you took for granted in your company are gone. There are no resources at your disposal. No departments, no staff, no supply chain, no existing customers. The job of the entrepreneur is to invent resources, to build an infrastructure.   4. 90% of what you did in your company is irrelevant   You used to manage situations, people, and politics, now you need to get things in market and invent distribution streams, usage and revenue. You are no longer managing a system, but building one. The tasks you did in the company are rarely what you’ll do when starting from scratch.   Employees tweak an existing machine – they are maintenance managers. Entrepreneurs need to be inventors, builders, creators, they need to make something from nothing.   5. Startup finance is different to corporate finance   In a company, we manage budgets. We spend allocations on projects and manage a P&L. In a startup, we manage cash flow: money in and money out. Startups need to remember they can go broke while making a profit, but going broke is not possible while a company is cash flow positive.   6. Entrepreneurship is not a path to riches   You’ve got to want the lifestyle more than a successful outcome, because the latter has a low probability. You’ve got to want it for what it is. The having needs to be in the doing. If you want to get rich, just stay in corporate and get good at property and share investing – that’s a more certain path to wealth. Entrepreneurship is about the human spirit and exploration – that needs to be the ‘why’. 7. Nothing is automatic, there’s nowhere to hide   There is no paid annual leave, no paid public holidays, no weekends, and no official hours. The 15th of the month will roll around without a pay day. You need to be able to cope with that. Slack days or weeks for that matter aren’t something you can ride and the company picks up the bill on with a wage. You’re fully exposed. 8. A startup is different to a business   Business and startups are not the same thing. Startups are about building something new. If you want to own and run a business, then buy a system which has proven success, like a McDonald’s franchise. You need to know whether you really want to create something, or just have more independence in your working or business life. There are other options outside of being an employer which might suit you more. Be honest with yourself.   9. You need to unlearn corporate thinking   It’s mostly the opposite of what happens in established companies. Companies test off market; startups test in market. Companies are risk averse; startups are risk tolerant. Companies avoid failure; startups must fail often and quickly. Companies reward internal performance; startups reward external performance. You need to flip your perspective pre-exit.   10. You won’t go hungry   If you’re well-off enough to be reading this (you’re on the web), then, if your first entrepreneurial venture fails drastically, you won’t go hungry. The sun will come up and your human spirit will be better for the journey. So while entrepreneurship is hard and different, remember life is about having a crack and seeing what’s possible. Best you get started soon.   Steve Sammartino is a startup coach for Pollenizer. Steve is known for helping companies transition from industrial era thinking into the digital age. He guest lectures in marketing at Melbourne University, writes for the ABC on business & technology issues and his blog has over 30,000 readers a month. This post first appeared on the Pollenizer blog.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter gets musical with proposed deal to buy SoundCloud

5:35AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Twitter is considering a deal to buy music and audio-sharing service SoundCloud.   If the proposed deal goes ahead, it will be Twitter’s largest acquisition ever.   At the beginning of the year, SoundCloud announced a $60 million funding round that valued the company at $700 million.   YouTube to acquire Twitch Google-owned YouTube has agreed a deal to buy popular videogame–streaming service Twitch for more than $1 billion.   The acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube.   Twitch lets users upload and watch free, live gameplay videos streamed from Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles.   It claims it has more than 45 million monthly users.   Chinese military unit charged with cyber-espionage   Five members of the Chinese military have been accused by the US Justice Department of conducting economic cyber-espionage against American companies.   It’s the first time the United States has brought such charges against members of a foreign country’s military.   The Justice Department says the hacking occurred for no other reason than to give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.55 to 16,511.86. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

YouTube reported to have bought Twitch for $1 billion

5:50AM | Monday, 19 May

Google’s YouTube has reached a deal to buy videogame streaming company Twitch for more than $US1 billion ($A1.06 billion), according to a report in Variety.   Variety reports the deal, an all-cash offer, will be announced imminently.   If completed, the acquisition would be the most significant in the history of YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion.   SmartCompany contacted YouTube, which declined to comment.   “We don't comment on rumours or speculation," the spokesperson said.   Twitch did not respond prior to publication.   Twitch’s website describes it as “the world's leading video platform and community for gamers with more than 45 million visitors per month”.   The site aims to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play.   It hit a million monthly broadcasters in February this year after it was launched in June 2011 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, co-founders of, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video.   Twitch has raised about $35 million in funding since its launch, with investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Alsop Louie Partners, WestSummit Capital, Take-Two Interactive Software, Thrive Capital and Draper Associate   Most recently, Twitch announced a $20 million investment in September last year.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Four steps you can take to turn knowledge into results

5:01AM | Tuesday, 6 May

We live in an age where we have so much knowledge at our fingertips. But with so many sources of information on every topic you could hope for, you can soon find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of professional and personal development in search of the information ‘holy grail’ that will truly transform your business and give you more time, money, freedom and happiness.   But knowledge only gains its power once it is implemented and the only way you’ll ever be able to transform your business is to start taking action now. So to ensure you don’t become the person who has "heard it all before" but actioned nothing, here are four tips to put what you learn into action.   1. Develop a filter   With so much information available, you need to set boundaries. Work out the topics you need or want to learn more about and only search out, read or listen to those topics. Resist the urge to go off course and multi-task your reading and research.   Only once you feel you have mastered that topic or have what you need to put it into action should you move onto another area. Make the implementation of knowledge your goal, instead of just knowledge gain.   2. Write down what resonates with you   There is a reason why they made us write so many notes in school, it helps us commit what we’ve learned to memory and it provides an easy point of reference when we need to revise it.   So the next time you are reading a book or blog post, listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video, keep a notebook beside you (preferably the same notebook each time) and write down the information, ideas and tips you want to implement or remember. This ensures you go beyond the head-nodding stage and actually do something with it – even if it is to provide a point of reference for later.   3. Share what you have learned   Whenever you hear or read something that was valuable to you, tell someone else who will benefit. When you start sharing or teaching what you have learned you naturally increase your level of understanding on the topic and more importantly the practical application of it.   But not only that, by adding value you gain more credibility and goodwill with those you tell (as well as benefit from their knowledge and experience on the topic) and you create a level of accountability when it comes to you putting it into action.   4. Make a plan of action   So once you have heard a 'great tip' about generating publicity, minimising your tax, increasing your sales conversions, public speaking, making your business more efficient or whatever it may be, make a plan to put it into action.   Is there some way you can start implementing or actioning it in your business today or in the next week, fortnight or month? Could you send out a media release with the tips you have read, make an appointment with your accountant, write a new sales script, volunteer to speak at a networking event or implement new business systems?   It doesn’t have to be massive action, just any action, because this where the true learning lies.   How are you going to start putting your knowledge into action?

Queensland startup wants to get real when it comes to virtual reality

5:09AM | Monday, 5 May

Perhaps inspired by the collective sigh of the internet when Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a team of enthusiastic Queenslanders are hoping to make virtual reality, well, a reality.   The VR SmartView team won the first ever Startup Weekend on the Sunshine Coast last weekend with their idea – a head mountable display that enables users to clip their smartphones into position allowing it to act as the screen, with the intent of creating a mobile virtual reality device.   Wilfrid Watson, who co-founded the startup along with fellow University of Sunshine Coast students Ben Lowe and Danum Harris-Lusk, Metaweb owner Stephen Maher and industrial designer Neil Waldbaum, says virtual reality has always been a passion of his.   “VR is amazing to me, it’s really taken my interest, and with Oculus Rift, that sort of took virtual reality to the masses,’’ he says.   “What VR is as a philosophy, when people first experience it they giggle with joy, it’s a new experience.”   The VR SmartView team played with an Oculus Rift dev kit and say they noticed a few problems: the need for cables, low resolution and high cost.   The idea to use a smartphone as a screen came from that indomitable source of inspiration, YouTube, while browsing do-it-yourself versions of virtual reality, in order to solve some of their grievances with the Oculus Rift.   It was here he stumbled across a video of someone who had made a similar headset for their phone out of cardboard.   “I did a lot of research about who has done what, I think the first guys to do this concept were the University of Southern California, and I’ve looked at the competition and only one guy is selling it at the moment in Germany and it’s a really clunky design,” Watson says. “Reddit forums have had a lot of mixed feedback, we’ve got a digital mock-up and we’re looking at ways in which to make it more user friendly.”   Watson says he’s heard the scepticism when it comes to the viability of virtuality reality, but he really believes it’s time is now.   “Smartphones are immensely powerful, they’re disruptive devices, and now we’ve got a ridiculous level of pixel density, and for virtual reality the more pixel density in the smartphone the better,’’ he says.   “VR was around in the eighties, when it first came out everyone was like VR! VR! VR!   “It has existed to now with solutions; they’re very, very complex and expensive set ups.”   Watson says the product he and the VR SmartView team want to develop is possible now thanks to the upward trend in pixel density on smartphones, which might not have been the case five years ago.   Having won the Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast, the VR SmartView team will now focus on producing a physical prototype.

Minecraft competition could be the smart solution for building new cities

4:27AM | Tuesday, 29 April

Designs for a new smart city for Maroochydore in Queensland are being built brick by brick, but no mortar is necessary.   Queensland-based group The-Core is inviting anyone and everyone to use the popular videogame Minecraft to design a combination retail, residential, public open space, for a 60 hectare space recently earmarked for development by the Sunshine Coast Council.   “What we’re looking for is to engage the youth and get them involved,’’ he says.   “What better way than to get the kids involved and not just from around our area, but from around the world.   “Kids can come up with anything and everything, they’re not restricted in their thought.’’   The-Core’s purpose is to “create opportunity using technologies and creative imagination by identifying social hot trends” and using these trends “to creative innovative ideas to engage the community and inspire creativity”.   It is offering over $10,000 worth of prizes for the best designs with both an under-13 year category and an over-13 category.   Cofounder Craig Josic says they’re really excited to have people from all around the world taking part in the competition.   The competition has been open for three weeks and its promotional video has amassed over 30,000 hits on YouTube.   “The unfortunate thing about Minecraft is I don’t think it gets enough, I don’t think parents give it enough credit as an educational tool,’’ Josic says.   “It gives kids great spatial awareness and helps them deal with things like design limitations.   “Gamers have incredible imaginations and I’ve seen my own sons create incredible worlds through playing a lot of Minecraft.”   The council is consulting the community on what they would like to see built on the 60ha space.   The ultimate goal is for the council to accept one of the designs from the competition, but Josic says it’s too early to tell whether this is likely to happen.   You can view the community’s progress over at its Minecraft Server.   {qtube vid:=QHhxckyfOZg}

$28 billion mobile gold rush: Consumers spend two hours and 19 minutes each day using apps

4:46AM | Tuesday, 8 April

The average smartphone user now uses apps for an average of nearly 11 minutes for each minute they spend looking at a mobile website, according to recent figures from mobile analytics firm Flurry.   The figures show consumers spend an average of two hours and 42 minutes per day on either apps or mobile websites during the quarter to March, up four minutes year-on-year.   Of that time, 86% or two hours and 19 minutes is spent each day on apps, with just 22 minutes spent on mobile websites, down from 20% for the same quarter a year earlier.   The figures suggest consumers are increasingly choosing to interact with online services through apps than through mobile websites.   According to Flurry, consumers are increasingly viewing their mobile web browsers as just another app, rather than as their primary means of accessing online content on their mobiles.   Mobile game apps accounted for 32% of all app or mobile web usage, followed by Facebook (17%), mobile browsers (14%), mobile messaging apps (9.5%), utility apps (8%), entertainment apps (4%) and YouTube (4%).   The Flurry figures echo projections, made in a Gartner report late last year, forecasting the total number of apps download each year would reach 268 billion by 2017, including 253 billion free apps and 14 billion paid apps.   This is a significant increase from the 102 billion apps estimated to have been downloaded in 2013 and 63 billion in 2012.   Gartner’s figures also show total revenue from apps hit $US26 billion ($28.187 billion) worldwide in 2013, up from $US18 billion ($19.5 billion)a year earlier.   Dennis Benjamin from app development firm Appswiz told StartupSmart apps allow for faster and more convenient to access to content than the mobile web.   “Mobile apps allow for ready access to the information you want, at your fingertips 24/7. Combine this with the fact that a range of app features will still operate on your phone without an internet connection (unlike mobile web) and the advantages become clearer,“ Benjamin says.   “Having a mobile app can allow for a choice of alerts to be received, a feature not available from a mobile website. These alerts, for example special offers, time critical messages or updates all build customer engagement.   “Mobile websites in general provide one way communication to the user whereas mobile apps facilitate two way dialogue and engagement.”   Benjamin advises businesses to develop versions of their apps for smartphones running Google Android as well as for Apple iPhones.   “In the third quarter of 2013, Android made up some 81% of devices shipped and now far exceeds the downloads of the Google Play Store compared to the iTunes App Store,” he says.”   Today, just because an executive thinking about an app for their company has an iPhone doesn't mean that most of their customers do – they don't.”

Bad lecturers drove this entrepreneur to launch his own online learning business

4:47AM | Tuesday, 8 April

Dan Brand graduated from uni 12 weeks ago, but not before the poor quality of some of his lecturers drove him to launch a rapidly growing business for which he has just locked in an angel investor.   Frustrated with a couple of his lecturers’ inability to clearly communicate the technical details of his engineering studies, Brand often found himself searching for YouTube videos of young people explaining the same issues.   As he progressed further in his studies, explainer videos of niche content became harder to find. So he rigged a webcam up in his bedroom, made over 200 explainer videos and SpoonFeedMe was born.   The offering now includes over 2500 videos on technical topics in 35 courses at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, including engineering, maths, science, commerce and psychology subjects.   Brand told StartupSmart almost 2000 people were using the service, with about 60% as subscription members. Students receive ten free videos for each course, with between 30 to 50 available for paying clients.   “We created lots of simple, five to 10 minute videos with everything you need to know and no bullshit. It’s peer to peer, so you understand exactly what’s being said,” he says.   Brand uses a series of freelance designers, developers and marketing people, as well as video presenters to grow the business.   He’s recently brought on his first angel investor, signing the investment agreement the day after filing his civil engineering thesis at the University of Sydney.   While Brand wouldn’t disclose the investment amount, the funds have gone towards building a better website and expanding the course offering as SpoonFeedMe begins to scale across the country.   “Marketing is the most difficult part of this. I’m quite passionate about it, but convincing others and getting the word out there is hard. There’s good early traction but scaling that is hard,” Brand says.   The focus for the coming months will be scaling the offering across Australia and then the wider world. He adds they intend to leverage user generated content as many courses are similar.

How one Aussie startup is bringing augmented reality to the web

4:58AM | Thursday, 3 April

Augmented reality (AR) is often understood in terms of wearable technology and device-driven capabilities, but an Australian technology company, buildAR, has built technology to enable it in your browser.   Often thought of as a futuristic play, the augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) markets are expected to grow 15.18% from 2013 to 2018, reaching $US1.06 Billion in 2018, and that’s excluding mobile based AR and non-immersive VR.   It puts some perspective into Facebook’s recent $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift – a VR play in that it creates a virtual world, where AR lets you see the world with more information overlaid on what you’re looking at.   According to TechCrunch, Microsoft is also reported to have bought the augmented reality-related intellectual property of wearable tech company Osterhout Design Group for between $US100 and $US150 million.   What makes buildAR unique is that they are “augmenting the web” and bringing the experience into your browser.   BuildAR founder Alex Young says there was a lot of fragmentation in the app world when it comes to augmented reality, but using it in a browser got around this problem and democratised the technology for everyone.   It has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that makes it possible for anyone to deliver AR using standard Web browsers, but their focus is on utility based applications, particularly in education.   The Kickstarter campaign will allow anyone to “create a project and embed it directly in their webpage as easily as you do with a YouTube video.”   The campaign highlights some of the uses of the technology:   “If you back us as an educator, we'll give you the tools to create experiences such as an AR treasure hunt or historical exploration that'll have your students running around your school or campus having fun while they learn.   “If you back us as a curator, we'll give you the tools to enable your visitors to point their phone at items in your exhibition to unlock extra information that extends your collection beyond what's physically on show.”   The buildAR platform enables anyone to create digital content into the physical world around you by linking it to images, locations and more. When it comes to education this could mean using the technology to bring learning objectives to life.   The technology will work on smartphones and tablets, as well as wearable devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift.   There are limitations in the use of the technology on Apple devices though, something the buildAR team wants to draw attention to, claiming that “commercial decisions made by Apple have put the [iTunes] App Store ahead of their customers”. As Young points out, Apple have consciously decided not to support the latest open web standards.   buildAR have created a demo for their technology to show that how you can run augmented reality within your standard web browser, presenting the "Projects We Love" newsletter as AR images, floating in the real world.   If you open this on a modern Android device using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Opera you'll see a rich combination of augmented reality and the web, which is called the augmented web.   However, if you open the exact same page using an iPhone or iPad, you'll find that it works but that you can only see a very limited user experience.   Young says the company has a much higher profile overseas, than locally, but were committed to staying in Australia if it can. They have also launched some local meetups for those interested in Wearable tech, in both Sydney and Canberra.

Plans for Silicon Beach TV in the works

3:39AM | Friday, 28 March

Silicon Beach Melbourne, a community for entrepreneurs and startup founders, is hoping to branch into TV.   The ambitious project is the brainchild of organiser Athula Bogoda, who was inspired while browsing TV channels one night and stumbling across infomercial channel 4Me TV.   While Bogoda was less interested in the ads for Roomba, a short section called App Central, produced in Canada caught his eye. It features short segments on the growing culture and business of apps for Smartphones and tablets.   It occurred to Bogoda that he could develop something similar in the Melbourne startup community, and put a call out to the Melbourne Silicon Beach. So far he’s recruited a motion graphics producer and editor, a videographer, assistant organiser, a marketer, a sponsorship deal wrangler and a sound person (who is based in Munich and plans to record interviews via Skype).   While they don’t have a set format as yet, the idea is to produce 2 to 3 minute segments focusing on the Melbourne startup scene to begin with. All videos will initially be placed on YouTube, but Bogoda is hoping they’ll catch the attention of a TV channel.   “If we can run a show from Canada, surely we’d prefer a local effort,” Bogoda says. “We might land up on 4Me TV, we might not, it’s just an experiment and we want to see what the interest is.”   Bogoda says depending on the success there is no reason they won’t take it to other cities, noting that the Melbourne Silicon Beach community is the only one thriving in Australia.   “Adelaide and Sydney barely get anyone along to their events these days,” he says.   It’s hoped the videos will be useful to the founders they feature, building their profile.   “It might be something they can use when they pitch to investors,” Bogoda says.   While still in the planning phase, Bogoda is calling for more volunteers.   “As the project progresses we will be expanding the team,” he says.” If you have skills, new ideas and a few hours a week to spare towards this project (it will be great for your profile), get in touch with us please.”   Most of the work will be done after hours as most of those involved in the project have day jobs.   It’s hoped the project will deliver its first few videos by the end of April.

Startup Games launches: Why only 28 of 80 aspiring entrepreneurs made it through the selection process

3:51AM | Monday, 10 March

Only 28 applicants to the University of New South Wales’s New South Innovations Startup Games started the program this week, after a rigorous application process.   The program, facilitated by entrepreneur Bart Jellema, involves four weekend workshops covering the fundamentals of starting a business. It concludes in a demo day.   Coordinator Josh Flannery told StartupSmart they had designed the application process to pluck out the students who were willing to do the work.   Of the 80 applicants, 43 were invited to undertake a series of tasks such as setting up social media and Angel Co profiles, and submit a 30 second pitch video on YouTube.   The Startup Games team selected 33 students to apply but 15 didn’t complete the tasks on time.   “We were quite aggressive with the deadlines so we could weed out those who weren’t serious,” Flannery says. “The important thing is they’re doers who follow through and get stuff done. The next thing we wanted was diversity.”   The program began on Saturday with 28 students who have formed nine teams.   The students come from faculties including business, design, science, computer science and the College of Fine Arts.   Flannery says the 80 applicants were an almost equal split of male and female students. The final 28 includes nine female entrepreneurs.   “It just happened that a lot of the women dropped out. We’ve made a point this year of trying to diversify both the applicants and the guest speakers. We have an equal number of male and female speakers in the program.”   The teams will now go onto develop their ideas and start building businesses. Flannery says it’s going to be an intense few weeks for the students.   “We’re not going to kick people out of the program if it turns out to not be a good idea. But we will kick them out if they don’t do the work to validate it.”   He adds this is the easiest time for people to try their first start-up, as they have fewer responsibilities and are under less pressure than they will be in the future.