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How to build a successful consumer mobile app

8:43AM | Wednesday, 12 August

Making a hugely successful app like Snapchat or Angry Birds has little to do with luck. There are some consistent patterns among these apps that make it possible to reach that kind of popularity. Even before you get on wireframing your idea, this is an area to study. Here are some of these patterns. They’re Simple Using Instagram requires 3-4 taps. And you’re just sharing and browsing photos. Playing Angry Birds also requires a couple of taps to get the full experience.   The list goes on, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. they’re all built around one feature. Not five features or ten features, just one key feature.   The reason simple apps succeed is that to get people adopt something new, it must be easy. The more straightforward and easier it is, the more likely they are to keep using the app.   Fewer features also mean broader appeal. It’s harder to satisfy many users if you make your app complex.   They Nail The Onboarding The vast majority of users who download an app, only use it once, before they delete or abandon it. Only about 16% try out an app more than twice.   The reason behind these demoralizing numbers is that there’s a disconnect between what the user expects from the app and what they feel they’ll get based on their first impression.   In other words, they don’t get the app when they first use it. For example, Evernote promises to organize your work but if you fail to understand how you can do it with its app, you won’t feel motivated to use it.   So Evernote creates an onboarding experience that educates users on how to achieve their desired goal by using the app. It’s called reaching the AHA moment.   The AHA moment is when the user gets the app. Best apps are doing a great job in helping users to reach the AHA moment the first time they use the app.   They’re Addictive Have you ever heard someone referring to another person as Instagram addict, Snapchat addict or Facebook addict? As you can see in the chart below, for most apps the average weekly use is one to nine times.   Compare that to e.g. ten or twenty times a day for Facebook, SnapChat or AngryBirds. The difference is mind-blowing.   It’s not just about getting users to come back; it’s also about getting them back on a regular and frequent basis. For most apps, this never happens. As the chart below shows, most users who start using the app, abandon in less than 12 months.   But how do they do it? There’s a thing called the hooked model, first described by Nir Eyal which explains how these apps become addictive.   They’re basically designed as a trigger – reward loop, something that makes our brain form some behaviour into a habit if repeated enough times.   And how do they make us repeat the cycle? By turning our actions into the next trigger. For example, you post a photo on Instagram and close the app. Next thing that happens is that someone comments on it, you get a notification (trigger) and reopen the app to use it again.   They Make Their Users Promote the App While most business schools teach their students about writing marketing plans and setting budgets for advertising, the reality is that apps like WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram never really made any. They spent close to $0 on marketing. There’s no other way, in fact, can you imagine reaching one billion users by paying for them? No startups has that kind of money. Twitter onboarding   To scale most of these apps are designed to make users do the marketing for them. For example, Duolingo allows users to brag about their results on social media and invite friends to compete.   Instagram allows cross-posting to other social networks, and many gaming apps bribe users to invite their friends. E.g., asking the user to pay or invite friends to get an extra life.   They Focus on a Specific User While successful apps eventually reach the mainstream market, they never target it initially. A big part of growing virally comes from using the network effects of small communities.   For example, Uber launched in San Francisco and spread via the word of mouth. Facebook launched on Harvard. Instagram targeted hipsters and foodies initially. Crossing the Chasm theory by G. Moore   We can go on with more examples. The point is; mainstream customers are hard to impress by a novelty. The mainstream wants proven products and brands.   It’s easier to dominate completely a small community and use their excitement to impress the mainstream customers.   This article was originally published on Appster

Why I love team off-sites

6:40AM | Wednesday, 3 June

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker   Three weeks ago, I took our combined team to an off-site in the Blue Mountains. We passed two-and-a-half days discussing our strategy and brainstorming big ideas for the future. We also cooked together, played pool, socialised, went on a bush walk, played laser-tag – and began to lay the foundation of a thriving company culture.   Late last year we brought together Posse, Beat the Q, and E-Coffee Card – three products, two teams, and two very different company cultures. We moved into a makeshift office for six months as we planned ahead. We’ve focused on product, recruitment, fundraising, and growth. With so much going on, it’s hard to prioritise culture.   But as the founder of modern management, Peter Drucker, once exclaimed, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Our new company has a great strategy. We must nail culture too.   I’ve run my own businesses since I left uni, except for one year when I worked as someone’s assistant. Early on, I wasn’t great at culture. I thought that if I hired good people then they would naturally succeed. I was wrong, and spent several years fretting about office politics and why no one worked as hard as me.   It wasn’t until the rise of Google that I started to think about company culture. At first, the concept seemed like a big intangible challenge. The Harvard Business Review describes culture as “the glue that binds companies together, and the hardest thing for competitors to copy”.   How does a leader create glue that unites team members? Glue that promotes a set of productive, winning behaviours? How can we create a welcoming environment that people can’t wait to enter every morning? How do we keep a growing team aligned, motivated to deliver on our strategy as if they owned the company? And however can we do it on a startup budget?   I read every book I could on the topic and asked friends and mentors for their advice. Everyone had different suggestions. I thought I'd have to revolutionise the way I led the company, but found that most ideas for culture transformation were simple and easy to implement. Of course there’s the fundamental stuff – hire the right people, be transparent, be performance focused, celebrate wins – and all the tricks that help to achieve these things.   The benefits of an off-site   One of the best ideas has been regular company off-sites. We hire mini-vans, a house to sleep fifteen people for two nights – and away from distractions, we focus on the big picture. We run our strategy and goals on three-monthly loops with review and planning workshops at the end of each quarter. Every second quarter, at the beginning of April and September, we go away together and think.   Since I haven’t seen anyone else run an off-site, I’ve developed my own style. This time we arrived on Wednesday night and finished on Friday afternoon. I broke the time into sessions, combining business reflection, brainstorming, team activities and fun. The objectives are to reinforce company culture and values, encourage cross-pollination of ideas and understanding and to align on goals and strategy for the next quarter.   Here’s some of what I think makes a great off-site:   1. Radical transparency We start with an honest reflection of the last quarter. Over this time, what worked and what didn’t. I find it hard but important to ensure that each team reports on reality – no vanity metrics! This sets a foundation to build on.   2. Include everyone at beginning   We always start with an exercise that gets each team member to speak in front of the group. It tends to help get the quieter folks more comfortable speaking up.   3. Guest speakers   I usually invite two guests to join by video conference and talk about a particular topic. This year Sizhao Yang (founder of Farmville) joined to talk about hyper-local marketing and Lars Rasmussen (Google Maps) spoke about the need to be aggressive. Inviting guests enables the whole group to hear firsthand knowledge and ask questions of advisors who usually only speak with the CEO.   4. Team brainstorming   We break into groups of four or five made up of people from different parts of the business. This time, each group created ideas for product, sales, marketing and company culture and had to present back to the rest of the team. We made sure everyone presented on a topic that wasn’t their regular role (so, sales people presented on product, engineers on company culture). It’s crucial for the team to accept that there are no bad ideas, so people are free to dream.   5. Personal goal setting   The final task is to set a personal and a professional goal for the quarter and share with the group. We take these down and measure at the end of the quarter.   6. Have fun   Location is important, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Our place was less than $800 per night. There needs to be a big kitchen to cook together and a place to hang out and project presentations.   7. Follow-up   Off-sites can be a lot of fun, but they create negative impact if you don’t follow-up. The week after, I pooled everyone’s ideas into a strategy document for the quarter and explained why some made it and others didn’t. We then set week-to-week goals and tracked our progress accordingly.   If culture is the glue that binds a team together then, as team leaders, it’s important that we’re always thinking about how to strengthen it. Like all aspects of a startup, culture should be developed iteratively over time.   As an entrepreneur, I can feel intimidated to compete with the company culture of companies like Google with their free buffets and fancy slides. However, there are many little things we can do to create our own special glue, and that can’t be copied. I’ve found that regular off-sites are an awesome way to harness the team’s creativity and create a unique and strong company culture.   We’re hiring!   If you like the sound of our company then we’d like to hear from you. We’re hiring superstar engineers, a senior graphic designer, senior product manager, sales teams in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and a finance and operations manager. For more info or to make a recommendation, please email me directly at  Rebekah@posse.com.   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.

How competing for students will transform universities

6:17AM | Wednesday, 3 June

Historically, universities were privileged institutions for the “intelligent elite”, almost exclusively male communities, where great thinkers lived and worked and passed on their wisdom to fellow scholars and their students. Imagine Oxford, Harvard and the University of Melbourne before 1960.   Today, universities remain institutions in which groups of scholars contribute to the world’s knowledge and pass it on through teaching and exchanging ideas with the wider community. The difference is they try much harder to serve as many people as they can. Institutions of distinction   The power of the university community is that it has never been bound to an institution or a country. Many academics and their students are more closely tied to their colleagues across the world in their own discipline than to an academic across the corridor in another field.   Traditionally, groups of scholars have banded together to compete in the race for new knowledge. They have not based their work on their institutional affiliation.   Universities, on the other hand, bundle their best groups together and claim a reputation. This has been the major driver of distinction and competition for universities and is reflected in the different world rankings.   Reinforcing this approach to competition is that student demand continues to follow elite status in the different rankings. This means that countries building their university systems are increasingly entering the “brain race”. Elite scholars are attracting lucrative incentives and contracts, similar to elite sport. New competition   In Australia, competition will continue to transform universities. Australia has followed the world in democratising university education. The last 50 years has also seen a significant increase in the scope of degrees offered, particularly as universities have incorporated training for the growing number of professions.   Uncapping of places following the Bradley Review of higher education led to a significant growth in demand and university revenue. As the rate of growth has slowed, universities have sought to maintain revenue by trying to attract different types of students using a range of delivery methods.   While different university groupings exist, it is difficult to see much difference other than in positions on the research rankings. Many universities have regional presence. All universities are trying to “innovate” and this includes different levels of online delivery. All universities are working internationally.   Many universities were, until relatively recently, polytechnics or technical colleges and the pecking order among universities and therefore the demand from students largely reflects the research rankings, which favour the established elite.   Newer universities are therefore trying to re-invent the student experience and to develop links with industry and specialised degrees to generate the revenue they need to maintain their relative positions. Revenue pressure has increased as international student demand remains inconsistent and government funding for domestic places does not maintain pace with university ambitions.   New competition is also entering the field. TAFEs and private providers don’t need to research and they get more money for degrees than they can get from vocational qualifications. Degrees are also normally longer, which provides a more secure revenue stream from each student recruited. New entrants make more money too, as they generally have a lower cost structure than universities.   Add to this the fact that some 87% of the workforce in Australia is employed in the services sector, where a bachelor degree is increasingly becoming a base requirement for a job. It is an attractive market in which to operate.   Universities have responded by partnering with TAFEs and private providers to access markets or improve their productivity in ways they cannot achieve on their own. It makes sense to provide curriculum, quality assurance and a degree for a fee, and let the TAFE or private provider focus on teaching students who might not otherwise have gone to university. The results are often as good or better for the student. It provides a new revenue stream for both parties. Specialise to succeed   As growth in demand for universities slows, particularly outside Queensland and Western Australia, competition for students will heat up. The lowest tier of universities will have to focus on only highly specialist areas of research, simply for lack of funding.   All universities are likely to look to improve their productivity so that they have sufficient funds to maintain their world-leading research. Those who succeed will be those that get rid of unnecessary costs and drive new opportunities to increase their revenue.   How will competition develop? Increasingly, universities and higher education providers will follow theexample of the scholars in a global market. They will specialise in what they do well and partner with anyone who is like-minded and can help them compete effectively in their race for achievement. For most universities their goal will remain excellence in teaching and learning and research for the betterment of humanity.   Competition will continue to transform universities. Some may lose the battle and fail, while others may partner to achieve higher rankings. The real winners are likely to be the students – and the elite scholars and teachers.   *This article was originally published at The Conversation.

Move over Melbourne Cup – let’s start betting on Australian unicorns

5:45AM | Friday, 8 May

Australians gamble more on the Melbourne Cup ($200 million, $9 per capita) than the entire venture capital industry invests in startups in a year ($100m, $4.55 per capita).   This disparity is especially concerning when we consider that in the US, three companies (Apple, Facebook and Google) contribute $1.3 trillion to GDP, which is higher than the value of our entire ASX. All three of those businesses were once startups with the youngest being Facebook founded a mere 11 years ago.   We rightly celebrate the success of Atlassian and REA Group, however, we need to create the conditions to drive a thriving and substantial ecosystem of startups. With this in mind Salesforce is supporting the recommendations of the StartupAUS Crossroads Report 2015, which provides an action plan for how Australia can develop a vibrant tech-startup ecosystem.   According to the report, the impact that tech startups could have on the Australian economy, if nurtured and supported, is huge. Two key findings that struck me are:   Each new technology-based job created adds five additional jobs in other sectors (3x a new job in manufacturing or extractive industries) 73% of a nation’s future wealth can be predicted by its Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – a measure of a nation’s ability to produce a range of goods varying in complexity from extracting and selling unprocessed natural resources to building and selling complex industrial products/services. Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, which means unless we start driving more innovation, we would predict low future GDP growth.   Not only do tech startups positively impact the economy, they also provide the growth of the ecosystem through creating ‘unicorns’ – startups valued at over $US1 billion. The existence of unicorns raises the profile of entrepreneurship and creates a market of experienced and cashed-up employees who create and support new companies, attracting other hopeful entrepreneurs who want to be where the action is.   Australia’s tech ecosystem has seen huge progress over the last three years and with just a few tweaks there could be a tremendous wave of growth in the nation’s Silicon Beaches. While all of the eight action items recommended in The Crossroads Report are important, in my opinion, there are two that are most pressing:   Increase the number of people with ICT skills Improve access to startup expertise   Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills. However, enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily. There is an increasing gap in the skills we need and the type of workforce Australia is producing.   If we act now to produce the right work force and build our startup ecosystem, graduates educated in STEM will find many of their future jobs with the unicorns.   Key to building up this ecosystem for the workforce of the future is providing the right support to our existing startups. Initiatives like York Butter Factory, Fishburners, and our own Salesforce for Startups program are all aimed at providing the right conditions, expertise and technology to startups as they scale.   While the support currently available is valuable, there’s still more work to be done. If we want to build the next generation of unicorns we need both industry and government of all levels to work in concert to provide the right framework and support.   Australia is now at a crossroads, it’s time for the nation to foster a viable environment for startups to not only operate in, but to thrive and succeed.   Tom Karemacher is the regional vice president for mid-market and SMB at Salesforce APAC.

A guide to navigating university for student entrepreneurs

3:13AM | Thursday, 19 March

A revolution in entrepreneurship is underway. A student, armed with a MacBook, an internet connection and a great idea can create a company that reaches people around the globe, with just $5000 dollars or less.   For entrepreneurial students at high school or university, your ambitions of bringing this idea to life will more often than not be met with indifference, even dismissiveness, from the usual career advice sources.   In my opinion, the career advice you’ll receive – study what you like, graduate, apply for graduate job at a consulting, finance or other established company and head into a career path that probably won’t exist in five years’ time – is outdated and wrong.   Entrepreneurship is a valid path for you as a student. So how can you navigate university to help your entrepreneurial career? Looking back In 2008, I accidentally sat down to lunch next to the CEO of a growing tech company, which landed me my first internship. Today his company, Atlassian, has changed how company teams collaborate, and is worth over $3.5 billion dollars. That same year, my lecturer at Sydney University founded Freelancer.com, which now provides jobs to over 14 million freelancers around the world and is worth over $350 million. And around the same time, my friends founded a startup, OrionVM, in their dorm room. OrionVM is now a leading global cloud infrastructure company, supporting governments and organisations around the globe.   All of the ‘founders’ mentioned above were entrepreneurial students at university.   I believe talented students from our universities should be taking the leap, creating their own jobs. The resources at hand are arguably, limitless (compared with 20 years ago) – entrepreneurial students should be encouraged to be trailblazers in their fields.   I also believe entrepreneurship utilising technological innovation is the most important. And this is how I encourage all students to frame their thoughts. If you want more context of how tech innovation disrupts and progresses a nation, read the book Why Nations Fail, in which the authors observe that throughout history “technological change is only one of the engines of prosperity, but it’s perhaps the most critical one”.   At the core of this revolution are mindboggling creativity, innovation and opportunities created by new technology. Whereas the previous revolution, the Industrial Revolution, saw a surge in invention, the Entrepreneur Revolution will see a surge in new businesses that bring these innovations into the real world.   This guide is designed to give you a few tips on how to navigate your time at university, take advantage of this revolution and kick-start your entrepreneurial career.   I also asked a few great entrepreneurs to provide me with their one piece of advice for student entrepreneurs, which is dotted throughout this article:   “Put your heart and soul into everything that you do – every subject, every part time job, every project. At some point in life everyone faces a decision, to bet on themselves or to take an easier, safer road. Hopefully the bank of experiences that you build during university will enable you to bet on yourself to succeed.”—Melanie Perkins, founder and CEO at Canva.com and created a web tool that allows anyone to do simple graphic design for free. Go to university To get this question out of the way, I can already hear you asking, “But Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both dropped out of uni! If I’m some uber-entrepreneur, should I go to university?” You should go to university. At least give it a go if you have the opportunity to study. University gives you qualifications, a great knowledge base and the opportunity you build your networks and experiences.     But which undergraduate degrees are useful to entrepreneurs?   Personally, I think including engineering and/or science in your degree is critical. Technical subjects are about understanding, experimenting and building useful ‘things’. Software is quite literally eating the world and those that understand technology stand to benefit in a much greater way. A great way to do this is to start with code.   I believe there is only one reason why you should not go to university: If it’s clearly obvious why you should not go.   The opportunities presented to you at university are great. Marc Andreessen, the guy who created the world’s first web browser, recommends aspiring entrepreneurs develop skills rather than plan for a career.   Similarly, university shouldn't teach you how to live your life; it should teach you how to learn. “The first rule of career planning: Do not plan your career. The second rule of career planning: Instead of planning your career, focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities.”—internet pioneer and leading tech investor Marc Andreessen (From his Guide to Career Planning.) Make an effort Hanging out with ambitious, like-minded people can have a powerful effect on your studies, the friends you make and your career. Why do you think executives pay so much to do a Harvard MBA?   At the University of Sydney we have over 200 clubs and societies; everything from Quidditch Society to the 3D Printing Club. While unassuming on the surface, these groups can you help you forge life-long connections.   My first experience with this was when I became the president of the Sydney University IT Society. Before I joined I was failing half my subjects, found it hard to relate to people in my class and was disillusioned by my course content, which wasn’t what I expected leaving high school.   Joining one society led me to my first internship, forming strong friendships, helped increase my grades, introduced me to new subjects and ultimately stopped me from dropping out of university.   Whether you join a society, group or event, you’ll need to make an effort to hang out with good people, and you’ll never have as much free time as you do while at university. Don’t climb the wrong hill Many students don’t believe me when I tell them they to try new things at university — the idea of just going to lectures and home again seems totally reasonable. To explain how you should approach university, I’ve borrowed an analogy from computer science, recently highlighted in a blog post by serial entrepreneur and investor, Chris Dixon.   Imagine you are dropped at a random spot on a hilly terrain, where you can only see a few feet in each direction (it’s a foggy mountain range). The goal is to get to the highest hill; where you would like to be in 10 years.   The simplest action would be to take a step in the first direction that takes you higher, maybe that’s the most obvious piece of career advice you’ll receive from people around you, thus this is the direction you start taking. But what if you were dropped at the lower hill? What if the hill you should be climbing is the one you can’t see through the fog, that’s around the corner from you?   Exploring many different ‘parts of the terrain’ early in your career is essential in helping you discover what you’re passionate about, what gets you going and, for the entrepreneur, where you think you could make an impact. Once you discover this, get focused and start on that route.   People discover their ‘hill’ at different stages of their life and you’ll see this all the time in what inspired successful entrepreneurs.   “People early in their career should learn from computer science: meander in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.”—Chris Dixon. Building your ‘open network’ The question you should truthfully ask yourself in three to five years of graduating from university is: What do you want your network of friends to look like?   For the freshers out there, you will gain confidence over time and end up meeting some really cool people at university. However, this won’t happen just because you go to university. You need to network. And preferably place yourself in an open network And to prove the point, let’s look at network science. Networking may conjure up images of 90s businesswomen and men looking dorky (thanks stock imagery!), but in this context it is purely about connecting with new people from different groups.   And it can make a huge difference in your entrepreneurial career. Having a large open network is a strong indicator of entrepreneurial and career success versus a small, closed network.   Writer and social entrepreneur Michael Simmons, in an article recently published in Forbes, summarises that open networks can determine career success: “The bottom line? According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.”   Simmons argues we often attribute the success of entrepreneurs to ‘personality quirks’, which helps them with their technical abilities, attention to detail and attracting world-class talent and holding them to high standards.   He goes on to say, “We think we understand what caused his success. We don’t. We dismiss usable principles of success by labelling them as personality quirks.”   “What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his [Steve Jobs] seemingly opposite qualities: maniacal focus and insatiable curiosity. These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else.”   People in open networks have a more accurate view of the world, serve as a connector between groups and have exposure to more breakthrough ideas. Summary A revolution in entrepreneurship is underway. Student entrepreneurs involved in technological innovation can reach a global audience with their new product or service Go to university if you have the opportunity and there’s no obvious reason why you should not go Include a technical degree in your studies or at least start with a software engineering subject Make an effort: Meet new people, go to events and join clubs and societies ‘Meander in your walk’ while at university and early in your career — try doing things you wouldn’t normally consider Create an open network. Learn to be comfortable meeting people and develop into a network expert, be authentic and genuine in your interactions with others   James Alexander is program manager and co-founder of the Sydney Incubate accelerator program. This article originally appeared on Medium. Check back soon for part two.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

China changes from world's factory to innovator and Australia needs to keep pace

3:55AM | Tuesday, 17 March

Australia’s economic future can be bright.   The 2015 Intergenerational Report (IGR) says that in 2055 our pay packets will on average, be able to buy nearly 80% more goods and services than now.   But, as the IGR concedes, whether these happy days come true really depends on what happens to productivity between now and then. Government policy settings that foster a culture of innovation will be crucial.   And there’s the problem.   As it currently stands, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks the strength of Australia’s innovation environment in the bottom half of the OECD.   If we are benchmarking ourselves against the likes of Germany, then that may not seem so bad. But how about China, a country that made a name for itself as the factory of the world on the back of millions of workers paid next to nothing? China rises up the innovation rankings That’s the reality that Australia now faces: out of the 144 countries ranked by the WEF, the strength of China’s innovation environment now lies just seven places behind ours. And don’t forget: per-capita incomes in China are only around one-quarter of those in Australia.   To be sure, it’s not so much that Australia has gone backwards. It’s that China has caught up. The days of cheap labour in China ended more than a decade ago.   Nowadays when utilities and other costs are added to sharply rising wages, Boston Consulting Group says that manufacturing costs in China are only 4% less than in the US.   That’s put enormous pressure on Chinese companies to innovate and produce higher value-added goods and services rather than try to compete on the lowest price.   It’s hard to argue with the results. According to the World Trade Organization, China’s share of world manufactured goods trade leapt from 4.7% in 2000 to 17.5% in 2013.   Some quip that China hasn’t yet discovered its own Apple. That’s true. But it does have Lenovo and Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturers of PCs and telecommunications equipment, respectively. Then there’s smart phone maker, Xiaomi, a company we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the next few years. And what’s unfolding in the digital space is nothing short of revolutionary. The world’s fasting growing e-commerce market Last month the Harvard Business Review said that over the past five years the digital evolution in China has been more rapid than in any of the other 49 countries they studied.   China doesn’t need to find its own eBay or Amazon.   By 2012, China’s largest online retailer, Alibaba, already had sales exceeding that of the American giants combined.   Industry researcher, eMarketer, says that the value of retail e-commerce sales in China in 2014 was 40% higher than in the US. By 2018, it will be more than double. Runs on the board in e-commerce are now being leveraged in other areas.   Alibaba just set up its own bank. To decide who to lend to it will tap its own treasure trove of data: the payments histories of more than 300 million individual users and 37 million small businesses that trade of its online platforms.   In searching for the secrets of Chinese success, don’t look for hordes of state-owned enterprises pumped full of government subsidies. Alibaba and co are privately-owned and profit hungry.   But what the Chinese government has done well is to recognise the high cost challenge and respond with a narrative about how it can be overcome. Innovation as the buzzword We heard this loud and clear when Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, delivered his work report at the National People’s Congress earlier this month. “Innovation-driven development” is now the national economic strategy.   When addressing the World Economic Forum at Davos in January, Premier Li spoke of innovation and entrepreneurship no less than 20 times. He said that in Chinese eyes they are a “gold mine”. It’s not just words. It was reforms by China’s banking regulator last year that cleared the way for Alibaba to act on its entrepreneurial instincts and branch into finance.   Yet far from the Chinese sense of urgency and mission, Australian governments have appeared content squandering the proceeds of the mining boom - a once in a generation opportunity to reposition the economy for sustainable, innovation-led growth. So what about Australia? Innovation policy in Australia is now focused on establishing five industry “Growth Centres”, which will be designed to encourage business-university collaboration. But these have only been allocated around $190 million, compared with almost $3 billion for the UK Catapult Centres, on which they are based.   Australia doesn’t need to unleash its own Apple or Alibaba, however enticing such a prospect might be. The reality is we account for only 2% of the world’s R&D, and even less of its markets.   But we do need more knowledge intensive “micro-multinationals” that engage in niche production and feed into global networks and value chains.   Already in 2012, before the IGR, the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper noted: “Using creativity and design-based thinking to solve complex problems is a distinctive Australian strength that can help to meet the emerging challenges of this century”.   Countries like Germany, Switzerland, and more recently the UK, have shown that being a high cost economy doesn’t mean that manufacturing needs to be abandoned. Nor does it mean that international competitiveness needs to be lost.   But when a country like China starts teaching the same lessons, it really is time to sit up and start paying attention.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apple's success comes from giving us a sense of making progress

2:23AM | Monday, 2 February

The world’s move into the mobile post-PC age has accelerated, it seems, after Apple’s record quarterly sales of 74.5 million iPhones. To put this in perspective, this is almost the same as the total global quarterly sales of PCs, which were around 84 million.   Because of the large amount of profit Apple makes from the iPhone, its profit was a record-breaking $US18 billion. This compares with Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, whose last quarter saw them make just $262 million in profits. The drivers behind Apple’s success Although the drivers behind Apple’s success include those that are specific to the brand, it is what the phone means in terms of social- and self-identity that determines the difference between buying a Samsung phone and an Apple one.   But there is another psychological driver that could be a candidate behind why Apple has succeeded where companies like Samsung have struggled.   This driver is one that, according to Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile, is behind what motivates us at work and leads to the greatest levels of job satisfaction. Through extensive interviews and surveys of employers and employees, Amabile and her team distilled down the factor behind creative satisfaction and motivation at work to the feeling of “making progress”. This work actually builds on research reported in the 1960’s by Frederick Herzberg which stated that the principle driver behind worker motivation was a sense of “achievement”.   Interestingly, although the research has consistently reinforced the view that making progress and achievement are highly motivating, senior managers and even CEOs commonly rank this driver at the bottom of what they consider important in motivating workers. This probably explains why many workplaces overwhelmingly give their employees a sense of futility in trying to effect change or contribute in such a way that workers get a sense that they are achieving something significant through their work.   It is unsurprising then that Gallup has reported consistently that almost 70% of US workers are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. How does Apple give us the sense of “making progress”? Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, have brought out a new phone each year, along with new versions of the software that runs it. Each year, customers are able to upgrade the device that they increasingly use as the principal work productivity tool. 40% of US employees use their personal smartphones for work.   Contrast this with the fact that employers commonly only upgrade work tools such as PCs ever 4.5 years. Very few employers will be operating on the latest versions of operating systems and the entire environment is locked down with the employee given very little control over the work computing environment.   This technological stagnation at work is usually only one symptom of organisations that change very slowly, if at all. In such environments, individuals will find it difficult to experience any sense of “making progress” either in what they actually do, or how they go about doing it.   Being able to use your own device, upgraded each year, brings the very latest technological features along with the sense of being in control and making progress. Every year, the phones are faster, lighter, more secure and more functional. Every year, a new technological enabler is made available through the device. This year, for example, through Apple Pay, it is mobile electronic payments. At the very least, it gives employees the belief that they are on an equal footing with colleagues and competitors and are not being “extrinsically disadvantaged”.   The fact that companies are now supporting the ability of staff to use their own devices at work acknowledges that they will never be able to provide the flexibility that employees gain by being able to control this for themselves. In fact, the smartest thing companies could do would be to pay staff an extra bonus each year, specifically for this purpose.   Of course, what this means is that Apple can theoretically continue to succeed with its iPhone business by providing for workers what their own employers are unlikely ever to do and continue to give them the sense that we are all making progress.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why technology hasn’t made life more stressful; Meet the woman who wants to make the “Starbucks of nail salons”: Best of the Web

1:06AM | Friday, 23 January

Among New Year’s resolutions this year unplugging digitally seemed to be almost as popular as losing weight and quitting smoking. It is all in response to the notion that digital technology — like round-the-clock email and friends’ envy-inducing Instagram photos — is stressing us out and making us unhealthy.   As Claire Cain Miller argues in The New York Times, ‘Technology Has Made Life Different, but Not Necessarily More Stressful’.   Miller cites research which shows frequent internet and social media users do not have higher stress levels than those who use technology less often. And for women, using certain digital tools decreases stress.   Meet the woman who wants to make Miniluxe the “Starbucks of nail salons”   Fragmented industry? Ripe for disruption? Tick and tick. In this FastCompany interview, Lydia Dishman speaks to Miniluxe chief executive Sue Thirwall about her plans to roll out nail salon franchises across the United States.   Thirlwall aims to elevate the hasty, daub-and-dry experience found at many a corner shop. That includes new level of individual attention, even for walk-ins, and hyper-vigilant hygiene.   The best digital business models put evolution before revolution Your business doesn’t need to be like Apple or Uber, according to Didier Bonnet and George Westerman in the Harvard Business Review.   The pair say business model innovation is hard. But they argue managers make it harder when they think about it only as radical industry reinvention. While revolutionary business model changes can be valuable, you don’t necessarily need to transform your industry.   You don’t need to destroy your current business model. There is another way to make money from business model innovation. Sometimes it’s better to think a bit smaller so you can set yourself up for big results. Image credit: Flickr/ mtaphotos Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems and the role of government policy

1:13AM | Thursday, 22 January

The final communique of the 2014 G20 Leaders’ Summit called for enhanced economic growth that could be achieved by the “promotion of competition, entrepreneurship and innovation”. There was also a call for strategies to reduce unemployment, particularly amongst youth, through the “encouragement of entrepreneurship”.   This desire to stimulate economic and job growth via the application of entrepreneurship and innovation has been a common theme in government policy since at least the 1970s. The origins of this interest can be traced back to the report produced by Professor David Birch of MIT “The Job Generation Process” that was published in 1979.   A key finding from this work was that job creation in the United States was not coming from large companies, but small independently owned businesses. It recommended that government policy should target indirect rather than direct strategies with a greater focus on the role of small firms. Fostering the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems Over the past 35 years the level of government interest in entrepreneurship and small business development as potential solutions to flagging economic growth and rising unemployment has increased. It helped to spawn a new field of academic study and research.   This trend was boosted by the success the iconic “technopreneurs”. Technology entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google have become the “poster children” of the entrepreneurship movement.   One of the best known centres of high-tech entrepreneurial activity has been California’s Silicon Valley. Although it is not the only place in which innovation and enterprise have flourished, it has served as a role model for many governments seeking to stimulate economic growth.   Today “science” or “technology” parks can be found scattered around the world. They usually follow a similar format, with universities and R&D centres co-located with the park, and venture financiers hovering nearby looking for deals. Most have been supported by government policy.   What governments want is to replicate Silicon Valley and the formation and growth of what have been described as “entrepreneurial ecosystems”. However, despite significant investments by governments into such initiatives, their overall success rate is mixed.   So what are “entrepreneurial ecosystems” and what role can government policy play in their formation and growth? This was a question addressed by the first White Paper in a series produced by the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand (SEAANZ). The purpose of these papers is to help enhance understanding of what entrepreneurial ecosystems are, and to generate a more informed debate about their role in the stimulation economic growth and job creation. What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem? The concept of the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” can be traced back to the study of industry clustering and the development of National Innovation Systems that took place in the 1990s. However, the term was being used by management writers during the mid-2000s to describe the conditions that helped to bring people together and foster economic prosperity and wealth creation.   In 2010 Professor Daniel Isenberg from Babson College published an article in the Harvard Business Review that helped to boost the awareness of the concept. The diagram below shows the nine major elements that are considered important to the generation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The focus of this first SEAANZ White Paper is on the role of government policy. Future White Papers will deal with the other eight elements.   Isenberg outlined several “prescriptions” for the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.   The first prescription was to stop emulating Silicon Valley. Despite its success the Valley was formed by a unique set of circumstances and any attempt to replicate it in other places were unlikely to succeed. This led to a second prescription, which was to build the ecosystem on local conditions. Grow existing industries and build on their foundations, skills and capabilities rather than attempting to launch high-tech industries from scratch.   The third prescription was the importance of engaging the private sector from the start. Here the role of government is indirect and one of a facilitator not a manager. In trying to shape the growth of such ecosystems attention should be given to the support of firms with high growth potential that can help to generate a “big win” early on. This is the opportunity for local success stories to become role models for others.   However, care must be taken by governments not to try to pick winners or over engineer the system. High growth firms by nature are inherently risky and highly innovative firms are typically unique. As such there is no magic formula for their success. Helping such firms to succeed is more about removing obstacles to their growth such as anti-competitive cultures, unfair taxation on small firms, unnecessary “red tape” or lack of access to markets, skilled employees or investment capital.   In seeking to help stimulate entrepreneurial high growth firms it is important, according to Isenberg, to avoid flooding the system with too much “easy money”. This can take the form of government grants and venture capital funds that are too easily obtained.   What is important is to grow firms with strong root systems that can sustain their own growth as much as possible before seeking additional funding. Such firms should be financially sound; profitable and well managed, or their likely success rates will be low.   The focus should be on encouraging sustainable, growth oriented and innovative firms not simply fostering more start-ups. Starting a new business is the easy part, successfully growing it is the challenge. What can government do to stimulate entrepreneurial ecosystems? The challenge for government policy is to develop policies that work, but avoid the temptation to try to effect change via direct intervention. A 2014 study of entrepreneurial ecosystems undertaken by Colin Mason from the University of Glasgow and Ross Brown from the University of St Andrews for the OECD, developed a set of general principles for government policy in the relation to these ecosystems.   They contrast “traditional” versus “growth-oriented” policy approaches to enterprise development. The first of these approaches tends to focus on trying to grow the total number of firms via business start-up programs, venture capital financing and investment in R&D or technology transfer.   This is a “pick the winner model” and can also include business or technology incubators, grants, tax incentives and support programs. Such programs are essentially transactional in nature. It is not that they are of no value, but they cannot guarantee success via such direct intervention.   A “growth oriented” approach is more relational in nature. This focuses on the entrepreneurial leadership of these growth firms. It seeks to understand their networks and how to foster the expansion of such networks at the local, national and international level.   The most important thing is the strategic intent of the team running the business. Firms seeking to grow need to be given help in linking up with customers, suppliers and other “actors” within the ecosystem who can provide resources.   Government ministers can play a critical role in fostering enterprise and innovation. Their role is to direct the government departments and agencies to focus on the problem and develop effective policies.   A minister who has a good understanding of what entrepreneurial ecosystems are, how they form and the role and limitations of government policy is well-placed to generate more effective outcomes. Key recommendations for government policy In summary, key recommendations for government policy in the fostering of entrepreneurial ecosystems are: Make the formation of entrepreneurial activity a government priority - The formulation of effective policy for entrepreneurial ecosystems requires the active involvement of Government Ministers working with senior public servants who act as ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ to shape and empower policies and programs. Ensure that government policy is broadly focused - Policy should be developed that is holistic and encompasses all components of the ecosystem rather than seeking to ‘cherry pick’ areas of special interest. Allow for natural growth not top-down solutions - Build from existing industries that have formed naturally within the region or country rather than seeking to generate new industries from green field sites. Ensure all industry sectors are considered not just high-tech - Encourage growth across all industry sectors including low, mid and high-tech firms. Provide leadership but delegate responsibility and ownership - Adopt a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach devolving responsibility to local and regional authorities. Develop policy that addresses the needs of both the business and its management team - Recognise that small business policy is ‘transactional’ while entrepreneurship policy is ‘relational’ in nature.   For more reading see:   Mazzarol, T. (2014) Growing and sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystems: What they are and the role of government policy, White Paper WP01-2014, Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand (SEAANZ).   Note: Tim Mazzarol is President of the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand Ltd (SEAANZ). SEAANZ Ltd. is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1987. It is dedicated to the advancement of research, education, policy and practice in small to medium enterprises. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nanotechnology to outer space: ten top tech innovations of 2014

12:41AM | Friday, 19 December

Don’t be mesmerised by cool apps and flashy new gizmos – the top technology inventions of the year are ones that will have a lasting effect.   Most are advances in fields that are already changing us. Some will have immediate impact; others are portents of transformations that may take decades to complete. In this vein, and in no particular order, here are what I consider to be ten of the best technological innovations from 2014.   1. DNA nanobots injected into cockroaches   Nanotechnology is a growing research field that manipulates materials on a molecular scale. One prospect is to transform medicine by injecting nanobots into the body where they perform functions such as treating disease.   In February, an Israeli team described devices they made from DNA and injected into cockroaches. By performing a kind of origami, the DNA nanobots assembled themselves and were able to control a molecule that targeted specific cells, so demonstrating their potential to carry out medical functions such as attacking cancers.   2. Nanotubes in chloroplasts created super plants   Nanotubes are large carbon molecules that form tubes with unusual thermal and electrical properties. In March, a team from MIT and CalTech published a method for inserting nanotubes into plant chloroplasts. The novel combination boosted photosynthesis and plant growth by several hundred percent.   Applications are still years away, but besides increasing plant growth and production, there are extraordinary possibilities: tapping plants for electrical power, building self-repairing materials and erecting buildings from materials that generate their own power.   3. Scallop-shaped robots swam through blood   Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute developed tiny robots that could swim through the bloodstream, repairing tissue damage or transporting medicine.   The challenge they faced was blood’s viscosity: it not only impeded movement but also varied according to speed. They solved the problem by designing robots in the shape of scallops powered by an external magnetic field. These robots provide a starting point for many kinds of medical devices of the future.   4. A microchip helped a paralysed man regain the use of his arm   Implants are revolutionising the treatment of many medical conditions. In April, researchers at Ohio State University reported success in using a microchip implant to help a paralysed man regain use of his arm.   Ten years in development, the device, known as Neurobridge, stimulates muscles according to brain patterns. The innovation raises hopes for many disabled people. It showed that by plugging into our brainwaves we may one day control all manner of devices by thought alone.   5. Nose cells helped repair a severed spinal cord   Biotechnology is producing new cures for medical conditions long thought to be permanent. A medical team at Wroclaw Medical University cultured nerve cells taken from a patient’s nose and surgically inserted them into his spinal cord.   The transplanted cells stimulated severed nerve fibres to grow and rejoin, thus bridging a damaged section of the spinal column and allowing the patient to walk again. This innovation showed that damage to the nervous system can be reversed.   6. Unmanned drones: the future of delivery services   Unmanned flying drones are taking on a rapidly growing number of roles, especially in surveillance and monitoring. Following Chinese experiments last year to test drones as a delivery system for parcels, 2014 saw rapid expansion of serious business interest. In August, Google used a drone to deliver chocolates to a farm in Outback Queensland. By year’s end, Amazon, DHL and many others were scrambling to establish unmanned delivery services in several countries.   7. A swarm of self-assembling mini-robots   Robots are already important tools in many industries, but put them into swarms and they can do so much more. In August the journal Science reported work at Harvard in which 1,000 mini-robots, the largest swarm so far, was able to assemble itself into programmed shapes.   There is still a long way to go, but it raised the potential for structures that self-assemble, which would revolutionise construction.   8. 3D printers pushed the boundaries   3D printing is now an established technology, but developments this year expanded its capabilities and applications. At the one extreme a team in Amsterdam began a project to build an entire house using 3D printing.   Meanwhile researchers at Princeton developed a 3D printer that could print with five different materials, incorporating dot-emitting diodes, and demonstrated it by making contact lenses. This raises many possibilities, from wearable video to monitoring the health of pilots.   9. The next frontier in space exploration   Events this year highlighted the international character of solar system exploration in coming decades. Following a ten-year flight, European Space Agency’s probe Rosetta went into orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.   On November 12, it released the probe Philae which became the first spacecraft to land on a comet.   Meanwhile, Mars exploration moved forward. India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft went into orbit around Mars in September and in December, NASA successfully launched the new Orion spacecraft, a first step in preparing for manned exploration of Mars.   10. Green power and clean water   Necessity is the mother of invention, so the greater the need, the more important the invention. A worldwide need is the 780 million people around the world who lack access to clean water supplies. The challenge for inventors is to meet the World Health Organisation criteria for practical systems: accessible, simple and cheap.   One notable innovation this year was a portable new system called Sunflower developed in Switzerland. Easily transportable, it used sunlight to generate electricity, and at the same time provided heating, refrigeration for food and purified water.   What of next year? We can be sure that growing fields such as automation and nanotechnology will continue to surprise us. The US Patents Office granted more than 300,000 patents during 2013, nearly 30,000 more than 2012. If patents provide a reliable indicator, then new inventions are appearing faster than ever.   This article originally appeared at The Conversation.   Image credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Five Australian startups to watch in 2015

12:43AM | Wednesday, 17 December

The startup scene continues to flourish in Australia, with hundreds of new startups launching this year and many scaling nationally and overseas.   Here is StartupSmart’s pick of some of the startups to keep an eye on in the new year.   1. Bitcoin Group   Melbourne-based Bitcoin Group, the entity behind bitcoin arbitrage fund Bitcoins Reserve, has big plans for 2015.   The company plans to raise $20 million at 20 cents a share by listing on the ASX. On top of that, the startup is a big supporter of the local bitcoin community.   Chief financial officer Allan Guo previously told StartupSmart Bitcoin Group hopes to raise the profile of bitcoin in Australia and make sure more people understand digital currencies.   “There are people building exchange platforms, as well as payment systems, wallets, all the technology, but for us we see the biggest problem with bitcoin is the lack of understanding, the lack of trust,” he says.   “The transparency, the legitimacy, that’s what we want to bring.”   2. Swift   Swift is a Melbourne startup that grew out of after-hours alcohol delivery service Liquorun, and allows retailers and other businesses to deliver their products to consumers within one hour.   Swift is a classic example of an Aussie startup taking a niche concept and applying it to the broader market. “Shopping online is very convenient until it comes down to accepting delivery of the item,” founder Joel Macdonald previously told StartupSmart. “You know where you’re going to be in the next 60 minutes but you don’t necessarily know where you’re going to be the next day. Everyone’s time poor.”   Swift was one of five companies to recently secure funding from BlueChilli’s $10 million venture capital fund and is in talks with a number of US retailers.   3. Stashd   Fashion-discovery startup Stashd launched earlier this year and allows users to swipe left or right on an item depending depending on whether they would like to ‘stash’ or ‘trash’ it.   The app features more than 100,000 items and users in more than 80 countries. Co-founder Jessica Wilson says 30% of the apps users are “power users” and have engaged with the app more than 100 times since downloading it.   “I think a lot of it is you become super addicted to it,” she says.   “Internationally we’ve grown well because it is different, and we’re one of the first people in the fashion app space.”   Stashd has plans to grow the product range to include items from the likes of Zara, The Iconic and Asos.com. The startup will likely announce a seed investment round in the next few months.   4. Wattcost   Aussie startup WattCost has developed a device that can be attached to a household’s power meter to provide home owners with real-time data on power usage.   Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble says WattCost was the most interesting startup he has seen all year and Google could very well buy the company in the race to become the dominant Internet of Things platform.   “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says.   “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.”   5. TalkLife   Global social network TalkLife was founded in Adelaide and this year announced a collaboration with a London-based business accelerator.   The startup allows young people to discuss issues such as depression and suicide and support one another online. It has grown rapidly since its launch in 2012, with currently more than 100,000 users worldwide.   Founder Jamie Druitt previously told StartupSmart the startup is working with Harvard and MIT research teams to investigate how data can be used to predict high-risk mental health episodes in young people.   “I think it is fantastic that TalkLife can give them the opportunity to see data on mental health in real time,” he says.   “I think we need to look at how we can grow TalkLife now – it has only ever grown organically but we’re not even scratching the surface of mental health. We’ve got a long, steep road ahead.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Mental health issues still prevalent in the workplace: how can startups tackle the stigma?

11:46AM | Thursday, 27 November

Research released this week by the Diversity Council of Australia has found the stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent in the workplace, despite many employers taking steps to tackle the issue head-on.   The survey found while 86% of businesses have carried out initiatives to address mental health in the workplace, the same amount of organisations report that mental health issues at work were common or very common.   Australian tech startups are not exempt, with entrepreneurs describing mental health as the “black dog in the room” for the startup community. Long hours, financial pressure, isolation and fear of failure can be the unfortunate downsides to working on a startup – all of which have the potential to exacerbate mental health issues.   Athula Bogoda, organiser of Melbourne Silicon Beach Drinks, told StartupSmart mental health is not given enough attention in the startup sphere.   “It’s something we need to discuss,” he says.   “The subject is something that has not been spoken about and in the US there has been about three or four known instances of founders committing suicide so it’s something we should talk about here.”   Bogoda says meetups like Silicon Beach Drinks are important because they provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to get away from the computer and meet people are going through similar things.   “Meet-ups like ours are in a position to bring up the subject [of mental health] and implement appropriate measures,” he says.   “The culture of hackathons can be mentally and physically draining – you come in on a Friday evening and hardly get any sleep by Monday. It’s in the culture of startups, but I don’t know how effective the message is that you should work like that.”   However, there is good news. Bogoda is quick to acknowledge that people are beginning to have conversations about startups and mental health and questioning whether practices that have been in place for a long time are ultimately good for people’s wellbeing.   “People are now talking about doing exercise, meditation and mindfulness exercises to boost productivity,” he says.   One Australian tech startup that is tackling the issue of mental health head-on is TalkLife, a global social network that allows young people to discuss issues such as depression and receive support from their peers. The startup has grown rapidly since launching in 2012, with around 105,000 users worldwide.   Founder Jamie Druitt told StartupSmart startups can be hotbeds for mental health issues; however, it doesn’t need to be this way.   “I think clear communication is critical and understanding the expectations in other co-founders,” he says.   “If you are on your own, that’s where accelerators are beautiful because you can come in and you do have the support of other founders around you.”   Druitt says people’s attitudes to mental health can slowly change by entrepreneurs recognising they may fail and for the media to give ample air-time to stories of failure.   “A lot of people talk about the success stories but not a lot of people are talking about the failure stories. It gives you a much clearer understanding that you may fail or you may come out the other side. We do make it out that we are invincible.”   Druitt says around 9000 people log on to TalkLife each day and the startup is working with a Harvard and MIT research teams to investigate how data can be used to predict high-risk mental health episodes in young people.   “I think it is fantastic that TalkLife can give them the opportunity to see data on mental health in real time,” he says.   “I think we need to look at how we can grow TalkLife now – it has only ever grown organically but we’re not even scratching the surface of mental health. We’ve got a long, steep road ahead.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Nine TED talks every entrepreneur should watch

11:24AM | Monday, 17 November

It’s a list that includes an Australian author, a former United States federal prisoner, a CEO of a multinational consumer goods company, a Harvard business school professor, a millionaire entrepreneur and more.   These nine TED talks are sure to inspire, stimulate and generate thought about how to successfully run a business. They’re a must watch for SMEs and entrepreneurs.   1. The failurist: Markus Zusak This one’s a little bit different. Markus Zusak isn’t a businessman – he’s an author, but he details an important subject many in the business world have to confront: failure.   The Australian writer is best known for his novels The Book Thief and The Messenger, but in this TED talk he explains how his personal failures cultivated motivation, and how his failures and humiliations made success feel so much better.   Zusak discusses his original failures, first as a child, then as an adult, which helped propel him to success. It was his original failures that gave him the motivation to do so much better; this is perhaps someone everyone in the business world can learn from. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 2. Profit not always the point Harish Manwani, the chief operating officer of Unilever, calls for a redefining of business models in society, and asks for businesses – if they want to remain relevant in the 21st century – to define themselves beyond what they sell and produce.   Manwani asserts that in the 21st century for business, it shouldn’t be about generating revenue or turnover; it should be about creating a better culture – changing lives – in the process of doing business.   Story continues on page 3. Please click below. 3. How data will transform business Philip Evans provides a fact-driven, theory-based look into the future of the business landscape.   In this video, Evans, a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group, looks at how the power of technology is driving the boundaries of how we think about business strategies, and how it will change in the future. Evans explains why he thinks two longstanding theories in business strategy are invalid in today’s market and what he thinks the future of business holds.   Story continues on page 4. Please click below. 4. Success is a continuous journey Richard St John, entrepreneur and founder of marketing company the St John Group, poses the question of why so many people reach success and then fail.   St John reminds us that success isn’t a one-way street, rather, it’s a consistent journey. He uses his own personal experience of going from being a successful businessman to a failing and depressed shell of his former self. His search for true passion coupled with the use of eight key principles, “passion, work, focus, push, ideas, improving, serving, persisting” helped him to climb the ladder of success once again after his early failures.   Story continues on page 5. Please click below. 5. Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation Business author Dan Pink explores the mismatch between what science knows and what business does, and in doing so, opens up an entirely new operating system for business models.   Pink examines the rules underlying current workplace structures and unveils that, in fact, the rules are ill-defined. “The rules – if they exist at all – should be surprising and non-obvious,” he says.   During his presentation, Pink looks at Australian success story Atlassian, which grants employees 20% of their work time to autonomously work on ‘whatever they want’ to promote creativity, free thinking and a healthy working environment.   An interesting talk if you want to tackle the topic of motivation and rewards in business.   Story continues on page 6. Please click below. 6. Work-life balance is an ongoing battle The most poignant of all the TED talks on this list, Nigel Marsh talks about finding the balance between work and life, and how the ongoing battle can either destroy or build an individual and their business.   Marsh is the author of three books, Fat Forty and Fired, Overworked and Underlaid and Fit, Fifty and Fired Up, he is also the co-founder of Earth Hour.   Marsh says an individual needs to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that they want in their life.   He shows that the “small things” matter and that being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval. With the smallest investment in the right places, Marsh believes you can radically transform the quality of your relationships, the quality of your life, and society.   Story continues on page 7. Please click below. 7. Lessons in business … from prison Jeff Smith, a former US senator and prisoner, discusses the ways in which he saw a reflection between the top CEOs in the United States and the prisoners he spent time with in federal prison.   Smith talks of the ways in which the ingenuity of the prisoners behind the walls, their ambition, drive and can-do attitude, is something that those in the business landscape can definitely learn from and recreate to ensure greater success in the business realm.   Story continues on page 8. Please click below. 8. Your body language shapes who you are Harvard Business School associate professor in social psychology Amy Cuddy talks about what nonverbal communication does in terms of judgements from those we associate with.   Cuddy says our body language not only affects how other people see us, but also how we see ourselves.   What results is an interesting take on how to be more confident in your work, your life, interviews or general interactions, a key skill which will certainly help you become more successful in your business. Story continues on page 9. Please click below. 9. How to get your ideas to spread It’s not important how good your idea is, marketing guru Seth Godin says, it’s about how good your method of spreading the idea is – the idea he promotes is that “Ideas that spread, win”.   Godin says consumers don’t care about ‘you’ at all – they have more choices and less time – and in a world where everybody has more choices and less time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore things. The challenge is to spread an idea worthy of the attention of other people.   Godin says the most important question to ask when marketing an idea is: “Is it remarkable; is it worth making a remark about?”   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Boosting the commercial returns from research: the missing link

11:47AM | Wednesday, 5 November

AVCAL has long advocated for a stronger nexus between publicly funded research and real economic outcomes.   The roadmap towards achieving this, however, has been a matter of much public debate.   It was therefore a welcome move for to see the federal government recently release a policy discussion paper called Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research.   The discussion paper speaks about the key gaps in Australia’s innovation system such as the lack of research-industry collaboration, and the need for more targeted research incentives to drive commercialisation activity.   These issues are all well-known and are largely beyond contention.   The discussion paper also reviewed the policies introduced by other jurisdictions to strengthen the translation of research into commercial outcomes: the US, UK, Germany, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Denmark. Despite our relatively high levels of research funding by international standards, Australia ranks behind most of these jurisdictions on commercialisation measures.   The paper explained how these countries have introduced a range of measures, including targeted research/industry collaboration programs, to foster commercialisation.   What the paper doesn’t mention, however, is the fact that all of these countries have, as an integral part of their commercialisation policies, something that is currently largely absent in Australia: a publicly funded venture co-investment program.   Around the world, traditional institutional investors have been gradually but inexorably pulling back from supplying the high-risk capital needed to back new ventures.   Although corporate venture funds, high net worth individuals and successful entrepreneurs have stepped in to take their place to some extent, this has largely not been sufficient to address the overall funding gap.   Of the fact that few Australian startups have made the transition to medium or large companies domestically, Sam Chandler of Nitro PDF has said that Australia is a good place for startups, but not so much for growth.   For every success story that is reported in the media, there are many, many more promising companies that are not achieving their full potential due to lack of access to risk capital.   Such risk capital is the lifeblood of a successful commercialisation pipeline. And the gold standard so far in addressing this issue -- with the wider benefits seen to be greatly outweighing their shortcomings -- has been the formation of government co-investment programs to back local new ventures.   These programs have been invaluable (including in Australia) in providing the funding catalyst so crucial to bringing research from the lab to the marketplace.   In fact, in the US, President Obama’s Startup America initiative identified “unlocking access to capital” as their first priority, including the need for government co-investment in risky ventures in partnership with the private sector. Both New Zealand and the UK have identified the lack of capital going into VC funds as a “market failure”, and 2002 and 2009 respectively introduced the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and UK Innovation Investment Fund as part of their respective national solutions to address this.   It has been proven that this model works not just internationally but also in Australia. The now-ceased Innovation Investment Fund program was instrumental in seeding Aussie success stories such as SEEK in their early stages. The South Australian BioSA model has shown that for every $1 of public funds BioSA has invested in early stage technology companies, these companies on average have achieved $10 in further investment or revenue from sales.   Indeed, Harvard professor Josh Lerner said in his recent visit to Australia that matching investments schemes were one of the most effective tools for governments to foster venture capital.     Country Public venture investment programme Country Public venture investment programme US Startup America $1b Early Stage Innovation Fund(2011) Netherlands Dutch Venture Initiative(2012) UK UK Innovation Investment Fund(2009) Sweden Various state-owned VC funds such asInlandsinnovation AB,Industrifonden and Sjatte AP-fonden New Zealand NZ Venture Investment Fund(2002) Canada Venture Capital Action Plan(2013), Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund (2014) Germany ERP EUR 1bn Fund(2004), INVEST-Subsidy for VC (2014) Denmark Dansk Vækstkapital,Vækstfonden   The government has recently made positive strides in setting the stage for a more vibrant startup environment. The recent announcement of the rollback of the 2009 Employee Share Schemes changes and additional measures to encourage take-up in startups, and the proposed expansion of the Significant Investor Visa requirements to encourage investment in venture capital, are positive first steps. The Victorian government’s recent contribution of $5.6m over seven years to secure Brandon Capital Partners’ Biotechnology Translation Fund’s headquarters in Melbourne is another positive step.   But there is of course, more to be done.   The commercialisation discussion paper’s proposals, which focus largely on the need for aligning research incentives with commercialisation objectives and greater industry-business collaboration, are further steps in the right direction.   However, the issue of how commercialisation is to be effectively financed, and how innovative, high-growth ventures can get adequate access to capital, cannot be ignored.   Given the wealth of evidence on this matter, the extraordinary consistency of international policy responses to this challenge, and independent expert views on the matter, it seems almost incontrovertible that we need to address the funding blockage for venture capital through a new government co-investment program to replace the Innovation Investment Fund, which was abolished in the 2014-15 federal budget.   It would be a shame, after all the positive effort undertaken to remove roadblocks to the venture industry, to falter at the final hurdle.   Dr Kar Mei Tan is head of policy and research at the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australian law firm focused on startups opens New York and London offices

8:35AM | Tuesday, 19 August

Melbourne-based startup lawyers General Standards is opening New York and London offices to support its Australian startup clients’ international expansions.   Since launching in 2013, the company has advised over 200 startups and is helping launch more than 30 new companies every month in Australia.   Founded by Australian startup lawyer Kurt Falkenstein, General Standards has built its Australian practice focused exclusively on advising startups, entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capital funds.   In anticipation of the firm’s growth, James McQueen, a former senior associate with Corrs Chambers Westgarth, has joined the company as global CEO.   Former Minter Ellison London senior associate Campbell Unsworth has been appointed as global director and UK partner and will launch the UK office later this month. Spencer Wolf, a graduate of Harvard, Columbia and Yale universities commenced as the New York partner in July.   “As a startup with a healthy mix of global ambitions and local talents, we recognise that some of the most innovative ideas for our business and clients will come from a more global perspective,” McQueen says.   “Leveraging expertise and market experience across Melbourne, New York and London for the benefit of our Australian clients, and vice-versa, is a great way for us to deliver on this.   “What we’re doing is certainly disruptive in terms of the legal industry, and at its heart is supporting the growth of startups in Australia.”   Falkenstein says in the past it’s been difficult for startups to access legal advice simply because it’s too expensive and law firms find it difficult to justify offering startups discounted advice without doing the same for larger, established companies, loyal to their firms.   Because General Standards focuses exclusively on startups and doesn’t have those “legacy clients”, it says it’s able to offer a more transparent service.   It uses a technology-driven model which enables it to provide low cost, fixed-fees and allows its lawyers to spend more time helping entrepreneurs.   “We want all entrepreneurs to be able to afford top quality advice when it comes to starting a new business,” Falkenstein says.   “We wanted to give startups the legal support and structuring advice they needed, at a fixed-price and in a transparent way that makes sense for them.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Kung fu novels and billion dollar floats: Five things you didn’t know about Alibaba founder Jack Ma

5:20AM | Wednesday, 7 May

The business world is abuzz this morning with news that China’s biggest e-commerce business Alibaba has filed its initial public offering, which could become the largest IPO in history.   Alibaba Group was established by billionaire Jack Ma in 1999. The business has two main shopping websites, Taobao and Taobao Mall (or Tmall), which serve an estimated 79 million customers in more than 240 countries and territories.   The group also has investments in a Chinese department store operator, mobile messaging apps maker Tango, and China’s version of Twitter, Weibo.   Described as “eccentric”, Ma is known for both his unconventional career trajectory and idiosyncratic business style. Here’s five things you didn’t know about the man nicknamed “Crazy Jack”.   1. Ma started out at as a teacher   Alibaba’s chairman studied to become a teacher after twice failing university entrance exams. Ma’s struggle with formal education and finding employment, including being knocked back from Harvard 10 times, is well-documented. He says he was even tuned down from a job as a secretary to a general manager at KFC.   2. He founded China’s first internet company   Ma’s first foray into the digital world was with China Yellowpages, believed to be the country’s first internet-based company.   According to the Wall Street Journal, it was a trip to Seattle in 1995 that sparked Ma’s interest in the internet, after he discovered during the trip how little information about Chinese companies existed on the web.   3. He enjoys singing pop songs and hit musical tracks   Ma also apparently has a soft spot for performing Chinese pop songs and his favourite songs from the Lion King in front of crowds of thousands at his annual company conferences, called “Alifest”. In the past he shared a stage with former US President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Lakers basketballer Kobe Bryant and Arnold Schwarzenegger.   4. Ma is huge fan of kung fu   Ma is such a fan of kung fu novels that Alibaba employees are all required to take nicknames from kung fu novels. According to the Financial Times, which named Ma its Person of the Year in 2013, Ma’s nickname is “Feng Qingyang”, which refers to an “unpredictable and aggressive” swordsman.   5. He admits to knowing very little about technology   Despite being the founder of one of the globe’s largest online businesses, Ma admits that he is not an expert when it comes to technology. According to TechCrunch, the entrepreneur says he cannot write code and knows little more than how to send an email.

Best of the Web: Eulogy for Twitter

5:45AM | Friday, 2 May

A eulogy for Twitter. Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer argue in The Atlantic that the social media platform is dying. Although Twitter added 14 million new users for a total of 255 million, the pair say Twitter’s users are less active than they once were. “Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight.”   According to France and Meyer, the question is – did Twitter change or did we?   “Twitter used to be a sort of surrogate newsroom/barroom where you could organise around ideas with people whose opinions you wanted to assess. Maybe you wouldn't agree with everybody, but that was part of the fun. But at some point Twitter narratives started to look the same. The crowd became predictable, and not in a good way.”   Uber cab confessions. As Uber attempts to upend the Australian taxi market it’s worthwhile taking a look at Mickey Rapkin of GQ’s take on spending a week as an Uber driver. Uber is pricier than your standard taxi. So what's the hook? Instant gratification, a hint of glamour, even some sex appeal.   “Uber capitalizes on what economists refer to as ‘slack resources’ or ‘underutilized capacity’,” Rapkin says.   “Translation: Why let your car sit idle in the driveway when you can turn it into a cash machine? The future is all about monetising downtime.”   Gap alums rule the fashion world. In SFGate, Maghan McDowell writes about the Gap retail program which is known as the Harvard of retailers.   "If you're trying to develop a career in retail, you have to do this program," says Stanford graduate Jessica Lee, who chose Gap over Google's Associate Product Manager Program, then under Marissa Mayer, in 2008. "You're not just applying to a job. You're being fostered, and they're basically paying you to learn."   But as McDowell discovers, while Gap seems to have no problem attracting and training top talent, holding onto them after they reach middle management seems a more elusive endeavour.   “The program remains renowned among retailers, but former Gap trainees have moved on from Gap to lead other companies – or to start their own. Call them the Gap Mafia. They're steadily influencing retail at boundary-pushing brands gaining recognition all over the world.”

“Short-sighted”: Startup community blasts Commission of Audit’s funding findings

5:39AM | Friday, 2 May

The National Commission of Audit report’s contention that government support of startups provides no real benefit to the community is flat-out wrong, according to a number of startup industry figures and two major reports into the industry.   Rui Rodrigues, investment manager of Tank Stream Ventures, says the commission’s suggestion is ridiculous.   “It’s a very short-sighted view and there isn’t any logic behind it,’’ he says.   “They’re essentially saying that the thousands of jobs created through startups and technology have had no impact on the economy.”   It’s an opinion echoed by Sydney Angels management committee member Richard Dale.   “The verdict’s been in for quite a long time, a startup, as long as it’s a high growth potential venture and not a lifestyle business, is a net creator of jobs,’’ he says.   Last month peak not-for-profit StartupAUS released its report Crossroads: An action plan to develop a vibrant tech startup ecosystem in Australia which highlighted that startups play a big role in job creation – three million new jobs are added to the US economy each year by new firms, while existing firms lose a total of a million jobs per year.   The Crossroads report noted Harvard professor of economics Ricardo Hausmann’s observation that Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, which he says will lead to Australia becoming one of the worst performers in the region in terms of GDP growth.   StartupAUS board member Bill Bartee, who is also a co-founder and managing director of Blackbird Ventures and Southern Cross Venture Partners, believes the commission is taking the wrong position.   “Well I don’t know where they’ve been or where they’re getting their data,’’ he says.   “It’s pretty clear when you look across the OECD and the US that there’s been lots and lots of job growth from startup and tech companies that build real businesses.   “The eBays of the world, all of these very, very large tech companies that drive the US economy in a lot of ways were once very small companies.   “It’s not as if the government is assisting a dying industry.”   artee says he’s a firm believer in the need to support tech startups by providing capital, both human and financial.   Last year, The Startup Economy, a report commissioned by Google and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found high-growth tech companies have the potential to contribute 4% of the Australia’s GDP by 2033 while adding 540,000 new jobs.   Currently, startups contribute just 0.2% to the nation’s GDP.   The commission’s recommendation that the government abolish Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation Investment Fund would leave Australian startups in a weaker position, says Dale.   “Do they benefit? The answer is yes, these programs are putting experience, talent and money into the startup ecosystem,’’ he says.   “Are they perfect? No. Do they help? Yes. Does taking them away have an impact? Yes, absolutely. Are they the best way of reducing barriers startups and early stage ventures face? Probably not.   “All programs, all solutions can be improved, but we have programs at the moment that are functioning, providing benefit – so don’t turn off the tap.   “The two years it will take to design, approve and implement a new program, that’s two years of lost opportunity.’’   Startup Victoria CEO Lars Lindstrom added to the chorus of startup community voices speaking out against the Commission of Audit’s recommendation.   “In our view CA (Commercialisation Australia) has been doing a good job and the IIF(Innovation Investment Fund) structure of government matching investment 1:1 mirrors successful initiatives elsewhere such as in Singapore,’’ he says.   “I don’t agree that it’s as simple as saying ‘finance can be acquired from the private sector’, VCs have had poor returns and therefore funding is in short supply.”   “It may be short-term cost-saving but in the long run it would be highly damaging to the Australian economy.’’

The secret to get your team to do what you need them to do

4:57AM | Friday, 4 April

So many people think that money is what motivates people.   Surprisingly, it’s far from the truth.   The old thought system to motivation is reward and punish. The stick and the carrot.   Alfie Kohn writing in the Harvard Business Review points out that offering rewards to change set behaviours like eating less or quitting smoking does not work. Numerous psychological studies back up his thesis.   Dan Pink in his outstanding book Drive showed that the carrot and stick works for short-term motivation but not for long-term engagement or long-term results.   “Incentives ... do not alter the attitudes that underlie our behaviours,” Kohn says. “They do not create an enduring commitment to any value or action. Rather, incentives merely – and temporarily – change what we do.”   “It is plausible to assume that if someone’s take-home pay was cut in half, his or her morale would suffer enough to undermine performance … but it doesn’t necessarily follow that doubling that person’s pay would result in better work,” Kohn postulates.   Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why shows that the reason behind what we do really motivates us to put in more effort long term. If someone identifies with the company value of what you are doing and the why behind it, they are more likely to adhere long term to fulfilling the role with passion and enthusiasm.   As Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile has found, a sense of progress is crucial to actually staying engaged. In an experiment detailed in her book The Progress Principle she asked 238 employees across seven companies to keep daily diaries of their workdays. She found a pattern.   A close analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries, together with the writers’ daily ratings of their motivation and emotions, shows that making progress in one’s work – even incremental progress – is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event.   During Pink’s TED talk in 2009, he says there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Rewards, he says, make us single-focused, which leads to incorrect solutions. The solution is autonomy rather than top down, which he says is great for automated mechanical processes but not for the more creative processes required in this century.   Tony Hsieh, the chief executive Zappos, in his seminal book Delivering Happiness is clear that creating the why and a culture that backs it up, is the only way to get long-term motivation. Given he built the company from a revenue of $1.8m in 2001 to $1 billion in 2009, maybe we should be heeding the message.   Brett Jones is CEO of The Entrepreneur Tribe by Cre8 and frequent author on entrepreneurial matters. @cre8australia

The 11 rules of highly profitable companies: Best of the Web

4:54PM | Sunday, 6 April

The 11 rules of highly profitable companies   From the man who brought us the four-hour work week, self-described human guinea pig Tim Ferriss, is this pretty insightful list on what drives profitability.   “How do you generate the most profit with the least effort? How do you maximise margins without sacrificing quality?” Ferris asks.   There’s some strong advice here, that’s probably worth listening to:   “Many companies will sell direct-to-consumer by necessity in early stages, often through a simple website. Only later do they realise that their margins can’t accommodate resellers and distributors when they come knocking. This is true whether your ‘distributor’ is iTunes, a worldwide widget distributor, or Orbitz.”   The five competitive forces that shape strategy   In a follow up to his 1979 essay How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy, economist and associate professor, Michael E. Porter discusses the forces that shape strategy in a video interview for the Harvard Business Review. He addresses common misunderstandings, provides practical guidance for users of the framework, and offers a deeper view of its implications for strategy today.   “The strongest competitive force or forces determine the profitability of an industry and become the most important to strategy formulation. The most salient force, however, is not always obvious.”   Why the Trix rabbit looks down on you:   FiveThirtyEight, the new data blog by Nate Silver, looks at how marketing works.   “…[you] might not have thought much about the eye contact of cereal-box cartoon characters. Don’t fret: a new study investigated precisely that.”   Indeed, the study found comic characters depicted on the boxes of children’s breakfast cereals are almost always looking downwards. That’s because in supermarkets the boxes are typically displayed on shelves above a child’s eye-level; the characters, by looking downwards, appear to be looking at the children – in effect, making eye-contact, as a device for gaining attention and increasing trust.   How Gmail happened: The inside story of its launch 10 years ago   Gmail is 10 years old, and Time takes a look back at how it all happened.   When Google launched Gmail on April 1, 2004, the offer of 1GB free storage per user – 500 times what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered – seemed so implausible that some mistook it for a prank.   And so begun a revolution of sorts.   “If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.”

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