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Are startups addictive?

12:30AM | Wednesday, 17 December

Working in a startup can be harsh, fast paced and often extremely chaotic. Nothing is certain. A startup won’t provide the same comforts offered by the 9 to 5 job in a large corporation, yet more and more ‘intrapreneurs’ are choosing to escape the corporate cubicle to join the entrepreneur revolution that is occurring across the globe. So what is it that attracts us to startups?   I imagine there are quite a few that aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, others that seek the freedom of being their own boss. And others who simply just land a job in a startup because they meet a founder who offered them something that looked kind of interesting.   I got into startups by accident, I was at a point in my life where my kids were quickly growing into beautiful adults and I was looking for a new challenge to throw myself at. I was asked if I’d be interested in helping out a startup, a day or so a month and that was my introduction to a whole new way of thinking and working.   I had to quickly adapt, being amongst smart entrepreneurs, pushing ideas, testing the status quo, challenging everything and anything in order to find leaner, smarter solutions meant that I too, needed to start to think the same way. In large organisations, bureaucracy and layers of governance slow thinking and the ability to act at speed. Working in a startup empowers you to make changes, to shake up the old school way of doing things in order keep up with the speed of change that is happening around you.   Of course there are down sides, often you work long hours, spinning many plates, seven days a week. Although it can be gruelling, the feeling of working together to make a difference and create something amazing keeps you pushing forward. Yesterday I mentioned the subject of this article to several entrepreneurs, they each smiled at me and agreed that startups are addictive. I didn’t ask them why they thought that as I think we all know our own reasons why we each get sucked into this space.   There is an extremely fine line between loving your work and being addicted to it. I wonder how many people working in startups stop and ask themselves if they have a healthy balance between startups, family, friends and themselves? I thought I was smart enough to just keep that balance and that I didn’t need to question myself. I thought I had it under control; I was wrong, I’d crossed that fine line without knowing.   Getting the balance back takes a lot of hard work. Looking back as another year draws to a close my biggest regret is not stopping regularly to check in on my balance. I’m finding that by allowing myself time for stillness my balance is slowly returning.   As you break for festive season ask yourself are you addicted to startups? Allow yourself to unplug from the internet and check in on your personal balance. Clare Hallam is a Startup Operations Specialist. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: War of words breaks out between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook

12:35PM | Sunday, 7 December

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has responded to comments by his counterpart at Apple, Tim Cook, who recently stated that “when online service is free, you’re not the customer”.   In an interview with Time, Zuckerberg responded by saying he was increasingly frustrated that “a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers”.   “I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!” Zuckerberg said. Uber driver faces rape allegations Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested an Uber cab driver accused of raping a customer, with authorities saying they will take action against the US ridesharing startup for failing to run background checks on the man.   Reuters reports a 26-year-old woman has accused the driver of sexually assaulting and beating her after using the service during a trip home from a work function.   “Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we will go for legal recourse,” Delhi police deputy commissioner Madhur Verma said. Amazon to continue iterating the Fire Phone Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has said the online retail giant will continue making new smartphones, despite the company making $US170 million in writedowns on its Fire Phone, Recode reports.   “I have made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com … literally. You might remember Pets.com or Kozmo,” Bezos said.   “None of those things are fun. They also don’t matter. Companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, eventually get [desperate and] make a Hail Mary bet at the end of their corporate existence.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 58.69 points to 17958.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US83 cents.

Google’s plans for internet access from the sky

6:18AM | Tuesday, 17 June

News that Google representatives are in talks with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are seen as further evidence the web company is looking to set up a series of low-orbit satellites to help connect more people to the internet.   Reports earlier this month said Google was planning to spend more than US$1 billion on a network of 180 satellites to provide internet access from space.   Then Google revealed last week that it paid US$500 million for the satellite imaging company Skybox. It says the deal will give it access to better imaging technology for Google Maps, but it could also see it launch a new satellite network for delivering internet access.   Google is already experimenting with new ways to provide internet access in remote locations through its Project Loon, which began in New Zealand last year and uses antenna held aloft in balloons.   Access to digital networks and information are playing an increasingly important role as we move towards a more networked society.   The global population today is approximately 7.1 billion, yet only 2.4 billion people are connected to the internet. Over the next six years this is expected to double, reaching 5 billion in 2020.   It’s not just about the web   Significantly, internet users will not be the key source of growth. There is increasing demand coming from a range of devices, systems and infrastructure being connected to the internet – home security systems, personal health monitors, cars, trams, trains, smart meters for power, gas and water, traffic lights and offices, as well as public spaces and buildings.   As the internet is further industrialised the big technology companies are tapping into the growth in networked devices – usually referred to as the Internet of Things.   Currently, 16 billion devices such as smart phones, tablets, security systems and smart meters have a network connection. This will grow exponentially towards 50 billion in 2020.   There is a change in the focus of connectivity too - from individual people to houses, towns and cities.   Large information and communication technology (ICT) companies such as Google are driving this increase in global connectivity, as their biggest market growth opportunity lies in the areas of population that do not have internet access.   The World Economic Forum – which monitors the digital divide through its annual Networked Readiness Index – also sees the urgency in making the internet accessible to remote communities from the developing world. They are the people likely to benefit from substantial improvements in the quality of life through access to ICT.   Other players trying to connect the world   Google is not alone in this race. Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has also announced similar satellite plans to connect the unconnected, through the internet.org project.   There have been past attempts to increase internet connectivity via satellites, such as the Iridium Project by Motorolla, now Iridium Communications. Iridium provides satellite phone connectivity across the globe via a constellation of 66 satellites.   The service is limited by very low data rates - approximately 10kpbs - with costs of around A$1 to A$2 per minute of access.   Well ahead of its time, the Iridium project faced significant challenges with a range of technological issues as well as failing to effectively monetise the idea.   There were serious issues with the inter-satellite links needed to maintain the network, its handsets were bulky and its internet access plans were expensive. It remains largely an emergency communication tool and for infrequent access such as asset tracking in maritime/defence applications.   Iridium plans to launch a new satellite service, Iridium NEXT, delivering peak download rates of 1.5Mbs by 2017. We will have to wait to see if the second incarnation of Iridium can increase its subscriber base.   There have also been several other commercially yet-to-be-proven proposals that looked at high altitude long operation platforms making use of aircrafts and balloons to deliver similar broadband services.   These platforms use the millimetre-wave (30-300 gigahertz range) frequency bands (currently targeting around 28-33 gigahertz range) to deliver broadband wireless services to locations theoretically wherever access is required. But none have yet to offer a product to market.   Current satellite constellations are small (such as the 66 in Iridium) with each satellite often covering an area in excess of 1000km2. With limited bandwidth (often less than 100 megahertz available) to share between thousands of subscribers, individual subscribers get very low internet speeds.   Looking for growth   Yet new services are emerging. The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has approved Globalstar’s request to use a frequency band adjacent to the WiFi frequency window to offer satellite based WiFi coverage.   Additionally, operators such as Intelsat and Inmarsat provide satellite internet connectivity across the globe.   The growth in connected people and things presents an expanding market opportunity. Google’s business relies on its users delivering information upon which it can target advertising. It appears to be pre-emptively meeting the projected demand in order to increase its services. Satellite technology has matured and is now able to provide increased access and throughput to users and devices.   Google’s approach is similar to that deployed by mobile phone operators. By increasing the number of satellites, individual beams can cover smaller areas, approximately 100-200km2 thus sharing scarce frequency spectrum with fewer customers, increasing internet access rates.   Competition for Australia’s NBN   In Australia, NBN Co offers broadband plans using existing satellites to about 3% of Australian population scattered around the massive landmass in areas with lower population density.   The company has been designing its own satellites, which will be launched soon to increase access to broadband in remote Australia.   But the project is facing major obstacles in terms of securing the highly regulated satellite launch rights. It is reported that NBN is in negotiation to secure a launch orbit spot.   Google is not confining its vision to satellites or balloons. Google Fiber also plans to offer fibre connections with greatly improved speeds (compared to that offered by NBN) in selected USA cities directly competing with traditional telcos such as AT&T.   This is driving innovation in the sector, with these new technologies providing possible options for the NBN to deliver broadband to cheaper and faster to remote Australian regions where wireline access to broadband may be difficult.   Google’s satellite play highlights its serious intention to move into the new converging world of computing and communications, driving further competition and changes in the communications sector in the near future.   Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas is currently the Director of Melbourne Accelerator Programs (MAP) which supports entrepreneurial activities of the University Community through business acceleration models. He is also an Associate Director for the Institute for the Broadband-Enabled Society.   This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Facebook and the problem of anonymity

5:21PM | Tuesday, 6 May

Having some form of anonymity online offers many people a kind of freedom. Whether it’s used for exposing corruption or just experimenting socially online it provides a way for the content (but not its author) to be seen.   But this freedom can also easily be abused by those who use anonymity to troll, abuse or harass others, which is why Facebook has previously been opposed to “anonymity on the internet”.   So in announcing that it will allow users to log in to apps anonymously, is Facebook is taking anonymity seriously?   Real identities on Facebook   CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been committed to Facebook as a site for users to have a single real identity since its beginning a decade ago as a platform to connect college students. Today, Facebook’s core business is still about connecting people with those they already know.   But there have been concerns about what personal information is revealed when people use any third-party apps on Facebook.   So this latest announcement aims to address any reluctance some users may have to sign in to third-party apps. Users will soon be able to log in to them without revealing any of their wealth of personal information.   That does not mean they will be anonymous to Facebook – the social media site will still track user activity.   It might seem like the beginning of a shift away from singular, fixed identities, but tweaking privacy settings hardly indicates that Facebook is embracing anonymity. It’s a long way from changing how third-party apps are approached to changing Facebook’s entire real-name culture.   Facebook still insists that “users provide their real names and information”, which it describes as an ongoing “commitment” users make to the platform.   Changing the Facebook experience?   Having the option to log in to third-party apps anonymously does not necessarily mean Facebook users will actually use it. Effective use of Facebook’s privacy settings depends on user knowledge and motivation, and not all users opt in.   A recent Pew Research Center report reveals that the most common strategy people use to be less visible online is to clear their cookies and browser history.   Only 14% of those interviewed said they had used a service to browse the internet anonymously. So, for most Facebook users, their experience won’t change.   Facebook login on other apps and websites   Facebook offers users the ability to use their authenticated Facebook identity to log in to third-party web services and mobile apps. At its simplest and most appealing level, this alleviates the need for users to fill in all their details when signing up for a new app. Instead they can just click the “Log in with Facebook” button.   For online corporations whose businesses depend on building detailed user profiles to attract advertisers, authentication is a real boon. It means they know exactly what apps people are using and when they log in to them.   Automated data flows can often push information back into the authenticating service (such as the music someone is playing on Spotify turning up in their Facebook newsfeed).   While having one account to log in to a range of apps and services is certainly handy, this convenience means it’s almost impossible to tell what information is being shared.   Is Facebook just sharing your email address and full name, or is it providing your date of birth, most recent location, hometown, a full list of friends and so forth? Understandably, this again raises privacy concerns for many people.   How anonymous login works   To address these concerns, Facebook is testing anonymous login as well as a more granular approach to authentication. (It’s worth noting, neither of these changes have been made available to users yet.)   Given the long history of privacy missteps by Facebook, the new login appears to be a step forward. Users will be told what information an app is requesting, and have the option of selectively deciding which of those items Facebook should actually provide.   Facebook will also ask users whether they want to allow the app to post information to Facebook on their behalf. Significantly, this now places the onus on users to manage the way Facebook shares their information on their behalf.   Video explaining the new Facebook login.   In describing anonymous login, Facebook explains that:   Sometimes people want to try out apps, but they’re not ready to share any information about themselves.   It’s certainly useful to try out apps without having to fill in and establish a full profile, but very few apps can actually operate without some sort of persistent user identity.   The implication is once a user has tested an app, to use its full functionality they’ll have to set up a profile, probably by allowing Facebook to share some of their data with the app or service.   Taking on the competition   The value of identity and anonymity are both central to the current social media war to gain user attention and loyalty.   Facebook’s anonymous login might cynically be seen as an attempt to court users who have flocked to Snapchat, an app which has anonymity built into its design from the outset.   Snapchat’s creators famously turned down a $US3 billion buyout bid from Facebook. Last week it also revealed part of its competitive plan, an updated version of Snapchat that offers seamless real-time video and text chat.   Video introducing chat for Snapchat.   By default, these conversations disappear as soon as they’ve happened, but users can select important items to hold on to.   Whether competing with Snapchat, or any number of other social media services, Facebook will have to continue to consider the way identity and anonymity are valued by users. At the moment its flirting with anonymity is tokenistic at best.   Tama Leaver is a senior lecturer in internet studies at Curtin University, Emily van der Nagel is a PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design and The Swinburne Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University of Technology.   This piece originally appeared at The Conversation.

Facebook’s quarterly net income nearly triples

4:57AM | Thursday, 24 April

Facebook has released its first quarter results, announcing its net income has nearly tripled year-on-year to $US642 million ($A690m), up from $US219 million a year earlier.   The social media giant’s quarterly revenues hit $US2.5 billion, up 72% from the same quarter last year, as its operating margin has grown from 26% to 43%.   Advertising remains Facebook’s dominant source of income, growing 82% to $2.27 billion in revenues, with 59% of ad revenue now coming from mobile users.   However, the company’s growth rate has also led to 32% increase in expenses to $US1.43 billion, with the increase attributed largely to the company’s increased headcount and infrastructure spending.   Its non-payroll expenses grew 26% to $US1.13 billion, up from $US895 million during the first quarter of 2013.   During the quarter, Facebook announced a takeover of WhatsApp that saw investors in the mobile messaging service gain $US12 billion in Facebook stock and $US4 billion in cash, with a further $US3 billion in restricted Facebook stock going to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will vest over the next four years.   Despite the social media mega-deal, Facebook reported cash and marketable securities of  $12.63 billion at the end of the quarter.   In terms of subscribers, the company now claims 1.28 billion monthly active users, up 15% from a year earlier, while mobile monthly active users grew by 34% to 1.01 billion.   Of its total user base, 802 million users use the company’s services daily, with 609 million people using its mobile sites each day.   Alongside the results, Facebook announced chief financial officer David Ebersman is standing aside, to be replaced by David Wehner, who is currently Facebook's vice president of corporate finance and business planning.   Wehner had previously served as the chief financial officer of online game developer Zynga, before defecting to Facebook in November 2012.   In an official statement, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described the quarter as a “great start to 2014” for the company.   “We've made some long term bets on the future while staying focused on executing and improving our core products and business. We're in great position to continue making progress towards our mission,” Zuckerberg said.

Innovation could add $6 billion to the economy but we need look beyond startups: Microsoft report

4:11AM | Tuesday, 22 April

Microsoft has today released a report calling for an urgent review of how the Australian innovation ecosystem works, in order to make the most of the burgeoning tech innovation movement.   Joined-Up Innovation outlines seven steps Australia can take to boost the fragmented innovation workforce.   The recommendations included breaking down silos within the innovation community, fixing slow-moving processes, improving knowledge sharing, proactive upskilling programs and encouraging mobility.   The third recommendation of the seven was to “look beyond startups” when it comes to innovation, as a vibrant and productive innovation system needed to transcend just young businesses.   This is despite the fact the report defined innovation as new businesses built around breakthrough ideas.   The fourth recommendation, transforming our culture, is one the Australian startup ecosystem has been campaigning about for years.   The report includes a number of cultural obstacles that are already preventing our innovation ecosystem from operating as smoothly as it could.   “These include low acceptance of business failures, which can make potential; innovators reluctant to launch ventures for fear of harming their reputations,” the report finds.   This fear of failure seems to emerge early, with president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Alan Finkel claiming the flow from university into startups is a pressure point.   “We’ve cut it off at the knees by having this tendency to think it’s a failure if you leave university and go into industry – and it’s a double failure if you go from university to a startup and the startup isn’t a successful one.”   The report also cited either the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ or ‘fear of being placed on BRW’s Rich List’ may be having a net result of few equivalents of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Microsoft’s Bill Gates.   The report was created from roundtable discussions of over 15 innovation experts including Microsoft Australia’s managing director Pip Marlow, Commercialisation Australia’s Doron Ben-Meir, Australian Information Industry Association’s Suzanne Campbell, ATP Innovations’ Hamish Hawthorn and consultant Sandy Plunkett.   In a statement, Marlow says Australia had amazing strengths but untapped potential.   “But if we want to maintain – and preferably improve – our competitive position, we need to reinvent our innovation ecosystem for the information age rather than sticking with models developed in the industrial age,” Marlow says.   The report also included new findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers that demonstrate how equipping Australia’s significant small to medium sized business community with greater tech skills could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%).   Image: Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Is another tech wreck coming? Some insights from Netslaves author Bill Lessard

4:17AM | Tuesday, 15 April

In recent weeks, many commentators have pointed out the similarities between the current Silicon Valley scene and the tech boom of the late ‘90s. Meanwhile, recent falls in tech related stocks have led some to fear that another dot-com crash could be around the corner.   A first-hand witness of the tech boom of the late ‘90s was author and web pioneer Bill Lessard.   In 1999, Lessard and his co-author, Steve Baldwin, wrote a book about the experience of being an ordinary IT worker at a startup during the tech boom, titled Net Slaves: True Tales of Working the Web. It was followed-up by a book chronicling the experience of those same IT staff after the bubble, titled Net Slaves 2.0: Tales of Surviving the Great Tech Gold Rush.   The books led to the creation of a pioneering and now defunct online community called Netslaves.com, which bought together many people connected with the tech startup scene.   StartupSmart spoke to Lessard about how the current US tech startup scene compares to the ‘90s tech boom.   Working the web in the ‘90s   According to Lessard, working in a tech company in the US during the late ‘90s was often the opposite of the hype portrayed by many in the media.   “For every [Netscape founder and venture capitalist] Marc Andreesen getting rich quick, there were thousands of people getting old fast. The situation was ridiculous. It was akin to saying that everyone who moves to Hollywood becomes Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie,” Lessard says.   “And it wasn't just your mom who was falling for such nonsense, either. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people I'd meet at parties would gush when I told them what I was doing for a living.   “After a while, I wanted to punch such people on sight. Working the Web 1.0 was 14-hour days, not cleaning your apartment for six months, having three different jobs in the course of a year.”   Many people cite the infamous takeover of media giant Time Warner by tech company AOL as representing the pinnacle of the hype surrounding the early web.   Lessard says it was the experience of a round of layoffs at Swiss bank UBS that led him to write the Netslaves books.   “I was getting downsized from my seventh job in seven years when I looked up a friend of mine from Time Warner. I was 32 at the time. I was way past my Web 1.0 due-by date.   “I wanted to do something different. It was Steve's idea to write about this industry. I added the Studs Terkel aspect of profiling the real people who power tech.”   The books led to the creation of Netslaves.com, an online community filled with the tales of disgruntled employees from tech start-ups. However, it wasn’t just IT workers who visited.   “It was a sterling example of online community in the pre-Facebook era. There were disgruntled techies, sure. But there were also members of the investor and executive classes.   “There were also garden-variety freaks, fruitcakes and lunatics. It's fun to remember the site now, but back then, it was a mess. What started out as an outlet for tech industry workers devolved into a mosh-pit of post-9/11 political extremes.”   Lessard explains how, in some ways, the Netslaves website was a forerunner to modern tech startup sites such as TechCrunch, StartupSmart and Valleywag.   “We took the bitchiness of Suck.com and brought it to tech. TechCrunch and StartupSmart are definite influences in their willingness to question the sacred cows of the industry.   “But Sam Biddle at Valleywag, who criticizes West Coast tech cultist insanity from his Brooklyn perch, seems the closest to what we were doing as New York guys (and gals) with a digital axe to grind.”   A particularly notable contributor to the Netslaves website was freelance journalist and pioneering US political blogger Steve Gillard.   Gillard, who passed away in 2007, was cited by progressive blogger and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas as a being a key influence on his work.   “Steve was a gentleman. He was an educated, honest person in a world where educated, honest people are in too-short supply. Steve appeared out of nowhere. First he was on the mailing list that was the precursor to the bulletin board, then he was sending us reams to stuff to publish, then he was posting even more material directly when we got ourselves a proper CMS.   “Steve brought history and a strong sense of social justice to what we were doing. He had no tolerance for the whole rich-kids-messing-around ethos of the industry because he was a moral person and a black dude from Harlem who had witnessed the consequences of such foolishness.   “I was so glad to see him taking off as a political blogger. My only regret is that he didn't live longer to enjoy it.”   The problems with Web 1.0   Lessard recalls a common complaint from many on the site was that tech startups were often started by young people straight out of college, and the founders lacked basic management skills or training.   “It's okay to get some pizza and code all night when you're in college, but if you've got millions in venture and employees with bills to pay and some even with families and mortgages, it's not a good look, particularly if the company is going to be out of business in six months. And your best option seems to be to get another job just like the one previous.”   Reclining upmarket office chairs by Aeron came to be a symbol of the tech startups that failed during the ‘90s tech crunch.   “In an industry that had rejected suits and ties and other traditional symbols of corporate power, the Aeron was the seat of power in the Web 1.0 ‘game of thrones’.   “The closest contemporary equivalent is Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie, where the ultimate expression of authority resides in the rejection of authority. It's all very American. And it's all very rock-n-roll.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Key differences to the ‘90s tech crunch   Lessard points out there are several crucial differences between now and the tech wreck on the late ‘90s.   The most important is the frequency with which companies file for an IPO.   “Back in the Web 1.0 Boom, you had dozens of companies going public every week. Every company seemed dumber than the last, but that didn't stop them from going to market and jumping to 90 bucks a share on their first day of trading.   “These days, there are offerings, but there are fewer and the companies have stronger fundamentals. Also, another difference is that acquisition is an accepted exit strategy. In the '90s, it was IPO or bust.   “If nothing else, it seems like companies are more careful today because they have to be. There's money out there, but not a plethora of dumb money willing to throw cash at anything with a "dotcom" in its name.”   Life after startups   Since the tech boom of the late ‘90s, Lessard has returned to the public relations industry, with his company counting startups amongst its clients.   “I did PR before I got into tech, right after I got out of grad school... I run my own shop, so I get to pick and choose the projects I work on.   “I have a great job because I get to advocate for things I believe in. I don't represent crooks and hucksters. I represent people who are trying to make a difference in their own little way. I have worked with videogame charities who distribute used games to kids in hospitals and cancer wards.   “I have gotten a street named after a favourite jazz artist. I have partnered with major sports franchises and food startups to get fresh food to people in underserved communities. I choose people as much as they choose me. It's not going to make me rich, but that's okay. My wealth is the satisfaction of being able to live the way I was intended to live.”   Four tips for startup founders   According to Lessard, there are four key lessons from the tech wreck that startup entrepreneurs should apply to their businesses:   1) Create a company that will make the world a better place. There are already enough apps for simulating fart noises.   2) Failure will teach you the lessons that you need to know the most.   3) Take better care of yourself. Cut out all the pizzas and the all-night coding marathons. That bro stuff is nonsense, and it will kill you.   4) Figure out what kind of person you are: Are you an overdog who needs to run stuff? Are you an underdog who just wants a check and weekends off? Are you a lone wolf who neither wants to run things nor be told what to do? These are important questions. The world is the way it is because it is full of people who are trying to fit themselves into slots they don't belong in.

Five Quora answers every startup founder should read

3:54AM | Monday, 24 March

Quora is a treasure trove of great advice for entrepreneurs. The Q and A site can be a terrific resource for your own questions, but its real value lies in the expertise thousands of existing answers.   Here are some of the top Quora answers every founder should read.   Q: How do you size up opportunity cost when deciding to start a startup?   Drew Houston, Dropbox cofounder/CEO:   There’s a full post, but here’s the highlights:   A: Rhetoric aside, most successful entrepreneurs I'm aware of either explored their idea and market carefully, or have toyed with a side project that happened to show massive and unexpected early promise and only then evolved formally into a company (Facebook, Google and many others fall into this category). Few were truly "leaps of faith – entrepreneurs tend not to seek out risk but are rather comfortable with uncertainty.   Dropbox got started in my spare time while working at another startup (be careful about properly separating intellectual property and such). My excitement grew quickly as I validated the idea with real people; jumping ship before that would have been unnecessarily reckless.   But it is possible to hedge your bets too much. The Facebook Effect (2010 book) amusingly recounts how Sean Parker begged Mark Zuckerberg to stop working on Wirehog (file sharing concept) as Zuck still wasn't sure this Facebook thing (even then one of the fastest growing websites on the planet) was going to pan out.   Q: What is the perfect startup team?   Bill Gross, CEO of Idealab:   A: The perfect startup needs a complementary team:   It needs a passionate and driven visionary who is the product person.   It needs a capable execution skill that can deliver the product or service against that vision.   It needs the people skills to make sure that the best staff are recruited and retained, and so that conflict in the company is resolved.   It needs administrative skill to make sure as the company grows the wheels stay on. (This skill can come a bit later – it’s not needed on day one.)   These skills do not need to be present in four distinct people, but most often it takes at least two, and usually three or four to lead these areas.   Q: What separates the top 10% of startup CEOs from the rest?   Robert Scoble, Rackspace   There’s a full list, but here is the first:   A: Good at hiring and firing. Whenever you find a really great CEO, you find someone who has a knack for hiring. That means selling other people on your dream or your business, especially when it doesn't seem all that important or seems very risky. I used to work for a CEO who was awesome at hiring, but couldn't fire anyone. It doomed the business. Many of the best CEOs get others to follow no matter what.   Q: What are the early symptoms that a startup is going to fail?   William Petri, serial entrepreneur There’s a full list of 10 great reasons, but here’s the first:   A: No demonstrated user need. For example, consider 3D movies and TV. If you ask people why they sometimes prefer stage to screen, nobody ever says, "Oh, movies are only 2D". 3D tech has novelty value, but even a little user testing would show its pushers that most people are perfectly happy to go back to 2D movies after experiencing 3D, and that many actively avoid 3D. That wasn't the case when sound or colour or fancier special effects were added.   Q: What is the proper definition of a startup?   Dave McClue, Tech investor   A 'startup' is a company that is confused about:   1. What its product is.   2. Who its customers are.   3. How to make money.   As soon as it figures out all three things, it ceases being a startup and becomes a real business.   Except most times, that doesn't happen.

Help yourself – without reading a self-help book

3:53AM | Friday, 7 March

When it comes to reading materials, there are some perennial favourites for entrepreneurs. Generally, these have the phrases “Ruby on Rails”, “lean start-up” or “Steve Jobs” in the title somewhere.   Then there’s that other genre of books entrepreneurs love: The motivational self-help book, with its (usually) American author.   The very first chapter of these talks about all the other self-help books out there, and why they don’t work. The cliché here is that the advice is only as good as the adviser, and because the self-help guru is wealthy (mostly from shilling self-help books and seminars), you should follow their advice.   As for all those other self-help books you’ve read that have failed to make you as wealthy as Bill Gates? Well, the books don’t work because the authors aren’t “goal masters” who “worchieve”.   The general rule of thumb with these is that they’re always a list of six, seven, 10 or –sometimes 20 – steps (or keys, or secrets, or tips) to success.   The steps are always something you’d expect as the topic of an episode of Oprah Winfrey. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive energy. Set goals. Work hard. Constantly remind yourself of your goals. Cut out time-wasting unproductive tasks. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.   Of course, you can tell what’s in the heading titles just by looking at them. That’s where heart-warming tales of people who survived horrible accidents and American minor league baseball teams that went from losers to champions come in – for padding.   Naturally, you can’t just call these super-secret tips something as blatantly obvious as “Work hard”. Instead, you get made up words and portmanteaus, so “work hard and achieve” becomes “worchieve” or some other abomination to the English language.   There’s usually a corny mantra that goes with these – something along the lines of “you need to believe before you can succeed”. This needs to be repeated again and again and again and again throughout the book. And again. And yet again.   Also, the few thousand people who read the book are given a term – “goal masters” or some such. You learn the human race is filled with exactly two kinds of people: Goal masters who follow the self-help guru’s program, and the rest of humanity who live in misery.   Thankfully, the “goal masters” include some good company. It turns out popular artists, successful businesspeople, political leaders, generals and other notable people all follow the program.   Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Bob Dylan? Mark Zuckerberg? Marissa Mayer? President Barack Obama? Past American presidents – perhaps an Abe Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson? Michael Jordan? (Note the gender bias.) They’re all goal masters!   Meanwhile, why did Russian troops recently cross the border into the Ukraine? Forget the finer points of international relations, geopolitics and world affairs, the author will oversimplify and say it’s because most Eastern Europeans are not goal masters!   With all that being said, do you really want to give yourself a career boost? It’s time to follow Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity! By following these eight simple tips, you too can be a genuine task master™ like your hero, Taskmaster!   It’s simple:   Just improve the positivity energy in your life – by not reading self-help books!   Focus on your goals – easier to do when you aren’t reading self-help books!   Worchieve – by working on them instead of reading self-help books!   Save money – by not wasting it buying self-help books!   Get a mentor – preferably a real one rather than a self-help guru!   Cut the negative people out of your life – such as the gurus who write self-help books!   Cut out those negative, unproductive tasks from your life – such as reading self-help books!   And if someone puts a self-help book in your hand, throw it in the bin, and don’t take no for an answer!   Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity helped the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, win the 2010 Super Bowl* and it can help you too!   Get it done – today!   * Disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers does in no way endorse or even know about the Old Taskmaster Octagon of Opportunity and his athletic performance is in no way connected to or caused by the Octagon of Opportunity. All mentions of Rodgers and all other figures, living or dead, purely for dramatic purposes only.

The eight biggest announcements from the 2014 Mobile World Congress

2:47AM | Friday, 28 February

This week in Barcelona, the GSMA – the peak global standards body for the mobile phone industry – is hosting its annual industry trade event, the Mobile World Congress.   The MWC is arguably the largest annual event in the telecommunications industry. It brings together carriers with mobile phone makers, equipment makers and app developers.   It’s where handset manufacturers make the big pitch to mobile carriers for the year ahead. A strong presentation can bring your products to the attention of mobile carriers the world over.   Perhaps more than the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the MWC is the big event where mobile phone makers unveil their new smartphones and other products for the year ahead.   This year’s event certainly hasn’t underwhelmed, with major announcements from some of the industry’s biggest players.   It’s time to take a look at eight of the biggest announcements from this year’s show:   1. Samsung Galaxy S5   Samsung is now easily the biggest handset maker in the industry. According to IDC, for the full year of 2013, it shipped a massive 313.9 million smartphones worldwide – that’s three out of every 10 smartphones shipped anywhere in the world.   Forget about Apple versus Samsung, it’s not even a race anymore at this point. Apple shipped 153.4 million units in 2013, meaning that for every handset Apple shipped, Samsung shipped more than two.   In fact, with the exception of the US and Japan, Apple is not even really competitive with Samsung anymore. That race was lost two years ago.   In addition to manufacturing smartphones, it also supplies itself with almost every component, from batteries and processors to cameras, memory chips and displays.   It is both the world’s second biggest chip builder, and the world’s second biggest ship builder.   So when Samsung unveils its main, flagship smartphone for the year, you better believe that everyone in the industry – from carriers to competitors – is watching very closely.   This year’s flagship, the Galaxy S5, was largely an incremental improvement on its predecessor, with the South Korean tech giant confirming speculation the new device is both dust-proof and waterproof.   Needless to say, both Telstra and Optus have already announced they’re carrying the new smartphone.   Aside from the Galaxy S5, Samsung shocked the industry when it snubbed Google for the latest version of its Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Instead of Android, the new devices will be powered by its own operating system, known as Tizen.   2. Microsoft’s Nokia X smartphones – powered by Android   For nearly two decades, Microsoft’s Windows operating system had battled an open source rival, known as Linux. While Linux has struggled to make inroads in the desktop PC market, it has emerged as the dominant operating system for servers.   Linux also forms the basis of Google Android, which competes head-to-head with Microsoft Windows Phone.   Meanwhile, in September last year, Microsoft bought the mobile assets of Nokia, along with a licence to use its patents, for $US7.2 billion.   In light of this, there was some scepticism when rumours first surfaced that Nokia was gearing up to release a series of smartphones powered by Android.   At MWC, Nokia confirmed the rumours by unveiling a new smartphone product line powered by Android called the Nokia X series. The new devices will come with Microsoft’s cloud-based apps and services pre-installed and won’t come with the Google Play app store.   Nonetheless, when Microsoft takes control of Nokia in April, it will be selling a consumer product based on Linux. Who would have thought it? 3. Facebook buys WhatsApp for $US16 billion   A week before the MWC, Facebook announced it is taking over mobile messaging service WhatsApp for an incredible sum – $US16 billion.   With both WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive Jan Koum and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivering keynote speeches at MWC, the tech world was certainly going to pay attention.   During the keynote, Koum did not disappoint, announcing WhatsApp was launching free voice calls through its app during the second quarter, once the takeover by Facebook has been completed.   No doubt some of the mobile carriers were a little edgy about the prospect of Facebook launching an all-out assault on their lucrative voice call and text message businesses.   4. Mozilla unveils a $25 smartphone   This year’s Mobile World Congress marked the one year anniversary of the debut of Mozilla’s smartphone platform, Firefox OS.   For those unfamiliar with the platform, Mozilla is best known for its Firefox web browser. Last year, it announced it was creating a mobile operating system based on Firefox that would compete head-to-head with Google Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.   In Firefox OS, all apps basically work like interactive websites and are coded in web standards, including HTML5 and CSS. Since this is less demanding than running a “full” operating system with apps, the theory went that Firefox OS would perform well on low-end devices aimed for emerging markets.   In practice, some of the first Firefox OS smartphones, including the ZTE Open, have left a lot to be desired.   As I explained in Control Shift last week, Mozilla’s expansion drive has left it in a precarious position in the marketplace:   As if the situation weren’t already urgent enough already, Mozilla’s lucrative deal with Google expires in November of this year. In a sense, it’s fitting that [Mozilla founder Mitchell] Baker has taken up trapeze as a hobby, because Mozilla’s in the middle of a high-wire act. It might be that, over the coming months, one of Mozilla’s growing number of Firefox OS-driven side-projects gains traction in the market place. However, it could also backfire spectacularly, endangering its main source of revenue in the process.   Aside from the seven new smartphones on display, Mozilla also announced that a smartphone costing just $25 would hit the market this year.   Given that, up until the fourth quarter of last year, more than half of all mobile phones sold worldwide were still featurephones, mostly in emerging markets, the $25 phone might just be the big hit Mozilla’s looking for.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Major updates for BlackBerry enterprise customers   BlackBerry chief executive John Chen’s bid to turn around the fortunes of the smartphone pioneer were filled out in a series of major product announcements at MWC.   Up until now, enterprises using BlackBerry Secure Work Spaces on BYOD (bring your own device) smartphones needed to use different versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) depending on whether staff used newer BlackBerry 10/Android/iOS devices, or older BlackBerrys.   That has been cleared away with the release of BES 12, in the process clearing away many headaches for IT administrators. As an added bonus, it supports Windows Phone devices too.   The company also unveiled a new flagship phone with a full keyboard called the Q20 and an enterprise version of its BlackBerry Messenger service called eBBM Suite.   6. At least Sony’s new products are water-tight   Earlier this month, Sony announced it is selling its VAIO PC business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, spinning off its Bravia TV business into a separate subsidiary and slashing its global headcount by 5000 as part of a major restructure.   At the time, the Japanese tech giant announced it’s setting its sights on the smartphone, tablet and wearables markets for its future growth. Suffice to say, the company is hoping it delivered a hit with the products it unveiled at MWC.   The company unveiled a new flagship smartphone called the Xperia Z2, a 4G Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor. The company is proclaiming its 20.7-megapixel camera capable is the most ever used in a waterproof smartphone.   Which I’m sure is fantastic news for scuba-diving photographers.   The company also unveiled a 10.1-inch tablet called, imaginatively enough, the Z2 Tablet. The tablet is being marketed as the lightest ever used in a waterproof tablet.   Finally, the company unveiled a smart wristband called the SmartBand.   7. Opportunity knocks for LG?   The highlight for LG was an update of the KnockON security system called “Knock Code”, which uses a series of knocks rather than a password to secure a device. The new feature will appear on the LG G Pro 2 phablet, a new six-inch phablet set to go head-to-head with Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note devices.   The company also unveiled its “L Series 3” range of low- to mid-range smartphones at the show.   That said, most of LG’s big announcements came at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, including its LG Lifeband Touch activity tracking bracelet, LG Heart Rate headphones, and webOS-powered smart TVs.   8. Tickets please!   With the rapid growth of mobile ticketing, it’s no surprise the world’s largest telecommunications show would embrace NFC tickets.   Telstra was one of a range of carriers to trial NFC badge technology for tickets to this year’s event.   The badges use information stored by a mobile carrier, including name and telephone number, to help verify an attendee’s identity. The validation process also includes a photo ID check.   This year’s show also features an NFC Experience demonstrating NFC-based mobile commerce systems for payment, retail, transport, mobile identity and ticketing/access.   In addition, there are 61 NFC-enabled Tap-n-Go Points providing event news, schedules, documents, presentations, videos and other information.   According to figures published by ABI research, in the next five years, 34 billion tickets to be sent to mobile devices,. In terms of technology used to authenticate tickets, the figures show 48% will rely on QR codes, near-field communications (NFC) will be used on 30%, while SMS or other technologies will be used on 22%.   If the forecast is accurate, it suggests using our smartphones to touch on for events, public transport or entry into secure areas could soon be a part of everyday life.

A decade of Facebook: 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network

2:37AM | Tuesday, 4 February

Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network.   1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs   Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs.   In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”.   2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat   In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer.   3. Paper has just launched   Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources.   “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states.   4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter.   “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook   The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother.   6. It’s set to compete with Google   Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have.   He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant.   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google.   7. Users are a devoted bunch   Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours.   8. Facebook is targeting developing countries   Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson.   The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones.   Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking.   He has described early tests as “promising”.   9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline   Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”.   “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review.   Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction.   10. It’s king of social referred traffic   Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report.   But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.

Three tips to help you with your New Year’s resolution to learn to code

1:51PM | Monday, 13 January

The ubiquity of technology, the burgeoning uptake of apps and the growing awareness about tech start-up potential and success stories has made learning how to code an increasingly popular New Year’s resolution.   Peter Argent can attest to this. After launching his Sydney-based coding school, The Coder Factory, in September 2013, he describes the first few months as slow-growing but they’ve been swamped since the calendar clocked over to 2014.   “Every second person these days has an idea for an app, but they don’t necessarily know how to build it themselves,” Argent says.   Argent says the stereotypes about coding and coders are beginning to melt, but they’re still holding people back.   “There is an underlying idea that it’s for geeks and nerds, that you have to be super smart and like maths. But that’s not true. Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are pretty nerdy, but it’s worth giving it a go as it’s an increasingly important skill set for every possible career.”   Argent shared his top three tips for learning how to code your way to your first app with StartupSmart.   Start with a particular project in mind   Beginning to learn how to code with a particular project in mind will make navigating the new language easier, and keep you motivated says Argent.   “It’s important to have a project or end goal in mind because that keeps you going. It enables you to actually get it, and move beyond theory,” Argent says.   “We recommend people play around with some of the free online courses first to get an inkling it’s not too hard, and then think of an app and start learning how to build it.”   Argent says they stay focused on actual apps and products the whole way through the course, exploring platforms such as Facebook and popular apps and showing the students how to build the same functionality.   Learn Ruby on Rails as your first coding language   While coders often recommend python as a good first language for new coders, Argent says the increasingly popular Ruby on Rails language is the best one to get started with because of the social support factor.   “I would always definitely recommend Ruby on Rails. There are a lot of languages that are good for beginners, but the Ruby community is amazing. It’s very friendly and you can ask questions online without people getting narky,” Argent says.   As learning how to code can be intimidating, working in a supportive community can be the make-or-break factor for many aspiring coders.   He adds the community has also spawned many free open source tools and plug-ins which enable coders to build out their functionality quickly as they learn the basics.   The second step is the hardest, so hang in there   According to Argent, many students falter and many aspiring coders give up after they’ve learned the basics and feel they’re beginning to understand how to code, and then realise there is another major step to reach understanding.   “The fundamentals of coding aren’t too hard, even young kids can pick up the core ideas quickly. It’s the next step that gets people,” Argent says.   Argent says the module introducing the model view controller passage is the toughest in the course. The module deals with how code is structured, and how it operates with what’s appearing on the screen.   “It’s tough because it’s a completely new way of thinking. Everyone can get there, but it’s a different approach so it takes a bit longer before I see the students’ eyes start to light up as it clicks into place.”

THE NEWS WRAP: NAB chairman warns Australia faces modest economic outlook

12:33PM | Thursday, 19 December

The chairman of National Australia Bank, Michael Chaney, has painted a lukewarm outlook for the Australian economy, saying the country is faced with “at best” modest economic growth and rising unemployment.   “Business conditions are subdued and, unless economic reform and restructuring continue, are likely to remain so,” he told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting.   “That is the challenge facing governments and all participants in the economy.”   Zuckerberg to sell shares in Facebook   Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is to sell a part of his stake in the company as part of a new share offering by the social media giant.   The company said in a regulatory filing it would sell 70 million shares in a follow-on offering to the huge initial public offering in May 2012.   Of that, Zuckerberg will sell around 41 million shares, mainly to satisfy his tax obligations, it said. The sale will have little impact on his control of the company, however.   The 27 million new shares at Facebook's latest closing price of $US55.57 would raise some $US1.5 billion for the company "for working capital and other general corporate purposes," the statement said.   Ksubi jeans placed in receivership   Australian jeans fashion label Ksubi has been placed in receivership, the ABC reports.   It says receivers have been appointed to find a buyer for the denim and street wear brand that’s been operating for 13 years.   The action follows other Australian fashion labels that have faced financial difficulty this year, including Lisa Ho and Collette Dinnigan.   Markets   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.1% at 16,177.47 points while the Australian dollars is up at 88.6 US cents.

Five things you should know about the cloud

7:43AM | Friday, 5 July

There are many people who think they know what the cloud is. Truth be told, the majority of these people would have absolutely no idea how to describe what is becoming a buzz word in business technology – and a concept potentially annoying to all those supposedly against it.   I want to lay a few silly rumors to bed today and tell you the five things you should know about the cloud – and no, not the fluffy white things in the sky – the technology that will help us move forward as a society into the next stratosphere.   1. A common misconception about the cloud is that it’s not physical. The cloud is actually infinitely physical. A big reason behind the success of Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, was the construction of his data centres in the USA that store all the data of Microsoft’s loyal users – yes SkyDrive is actually a multimillion dollar, state of the art facility that looks more like a super computer than a cloud.   2. Another common misconception about the cloud is that if you don’t have access to all of your files immediately on your desktop (without the internet) you’re doomed!   Well, as of June 30, 2012, there was a report that posted eight new users are added to the internet world wide every second. For those who aren’t good with maths – that’s almost 700,000 a day with new access to the net. In a month that’s roughly 20 million users added to the internet (almost the whole population of Australia).   What I’m saying is if you can’t find internet access these days you should probably try a little harder.   3. But what if my data goes missing? I get that question a lot. Truth be told – if you store your data on the cloud, not only is it easier to search, it’s not going anywhere.   Most data centres we use on a daily basis have IRS grade security, which means your files are just as secure as the President’s taxable income figure. Long story short, it won’t go missing because not many people are going to rob a multimillion dollar data facility; your house/office on the other hand?   4. It would be so slow, wouldn’t it? Another question I get almost every day. I always answer it the same way – “you pay for what you get!”   Maybe it adds a second to saving a document; however, it saves more than a second for finding a document, so the cloud comes out trumps in this department.   Unless you are operating on the same dialup internet that you had when Mark Zuckerberg was still crawling, you have nothing to worry about speed wise. Plus – the more you store on your computer, the slower it gets. The more you store on the cloud, well, nothing happens.   5. The final misconception I would like to lay to rest – and something that, being in finance, I think is an absolute no-brainer – is that the cloud is expensive.   If you are an individual, then box.net, DropBox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and the like should be enough for you to store your important data until you kick the bucket. Google will make their offering free as long as humanly possible as always. The key is not to hoard!   For business, look at your capital outlay on tech and hardware upgrades every three years. Yes, they are periodical expenditures and you don’t have to worry about them for years. The problem being, when you do have to worry about them.   On the cloud, you just have to worry about a monthly fee. The outsourced party does the rest. Over a three-year average life span of tech and hardware, they work out to be almost even. Subtract the hassles of doing it yourself and you get the cloud comes out on top.   Well, I hope that was a little informative and has opened your mind to something that you’ll either have to open your mind to or have it opened for you.   Should you have any questions in relation to the above please do not hesitate to send me an email on  john@cloudbasemedia.com.au. I always love a good cloud discussion! And if you’re thinking of moving to the cloud now, let me know where you are and what industry you are in and I’d be happy to help with the transition.

Technology inflation is here: How creativity is caught in the breeze of the cloud

4:29AM | Friday, 26 April

Sir Ken Robinson talks about the idea of academic inflation much like the process of economic inflation.   I agree with him 100% here – if you don’t know what I am talking about and have been living under a rock for the past six years, I suggest you watch the following video:   {qtube:=iG9CE55wbtY}   Now that you’re on track with my train of thought and you’ve had a bit of a laugh, I want to explain why I think cloud technology is also in a state of inflation.   After my recent research and general discussions with a creative colleague of mine, Ben Seydel, I have realised quite quickly that cloud technology is indeed inflating. So much so that good ideas are failing simply because someone else got to the next floor by taking the lift rather than the stairs.   If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look into Found. This amazing app has recently been acquired by YouSendIt. It is one really impressive piece of software used by millions that allows you to connect to all of your cloud storage centres and sync them into one beautiful interface.   “It’s very evident that we’re moving to a more ‘cloud-nostic’ world. Our industry has placed a huge burden on users to manage their cloud data – effectively isolating it across a growing number of proprietary platforms,” said YouSendIt CEO Brad Garlinghouse.   “Found enables YouSendIt to realize an exciting vision, where users can access and manage the information they’re looking for, no matter where it's stored.”   The ‘cloud-nostic’ future   Found is just one example of technology inflation.   Other examples include Marketo and PromoJam (dedicated social media tools) that, let’s face it, wouldn’t be around if not for Mark Zuckerberg (he really started this social media boom with Facebook in my opinion).   Please don’t let me lead you to believe that I think this is a bad thing by any means. It creates more jobs, more cool products, a more connected community and more creativity. Technology inflation creates creativity – what a beautiful way to put it.   All of these tech-inflated products that I’ve been discussing have one thing in common – they are all cloud-based. Now if you have an internet connection and a web browser you’re good to go – if you don’t believe me ask yourself why Google has released the Chromebook.   The Chromebook is simply a fast loading computer with a browser. Google has obviously seen their future through a crystal globe and to be honest, I really don’t blame them. Nearly everything that I do on my computer I do through a web browser. I have even recently moved to Office 365 (sorry Google – not discounting you but I just like the Microsoft suite).   The next web   There’s a website called The Next Web and literally all it’s about is what’s next on the internet. It’s essentially a news site for the internet.   Technically, they should be predicting what I am about to, regarding the web/tech/cloud inflation that we are currently seeing. I think the next big thing on the web will fall somewhere between what Windows tried to do, pulling all of your information together, and how Facebook sorts “what you really want to see”.   A stream of friends, colleagues, news, emails, texts, and anything you can imagine – simply manipulated in the most effective way for the end user. At the moment there is too much information – automatically sorting and sifting everything cloud, from the important to the unimportant is where I believe the next amazing piece of future tech will lay.   Remember, though, I had the idea first.   If you would like to discuss the above I can be contacted at  john@cloudbasemedia.com.au If you would like to transform your business’ current online profile take CloudBaseMedia’s 100 Day Challenge today. No risk, endless gains!

NSW start-up TiimFocus warns Facebook co-founder: We’re coming for you

3:27AM | Wednesday, 20 March

A tech start-up based in Wollongong is taking aim at task management venture Asana, which was created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, after raising $800,000 from angel investors.   TiimFocus, founded in 2009 by Kevin Withnall and Jason Weaver, aims to improve workflow management between teams, allowing organisations to keep track of tasks and assignments.   Withnall, who began developing the product two years ago, initially created the product for his 12-person development company.   “We created TiimFocus because we didn’t see a product fulfilling the need in the market,” he says.   In a bid to become “the world’s most complete collaborative task system”, TiimFocus has raised $800,000 from three angel investors, whose names will remain undisclosed.   “Kevin… has contacts in the superannuation investment field and was able to access them. We pitched our idea to these guys and they thought it was a good enough idea to back, so we managed to secure an initial $500,000,” says Weaver.   “Since then we’ve secured another $300,000 [from the same investors]. We’re in a position now where we need to get another $500,000 to really help with the marketing push.   “Blackbird [Ventures] launched a week or two ago, so they’re somebody we would probably contact.   “It’s very difficult [to secure funds] in the Australian market… We certainly haven’t ruled out going to the US, but our preference is to keep it in Australia if we can.   “We think this idea – the idea with the workflow – hasn’t actually been done. I’ve been in business and I’ve run many successful teams myself, and I’ve never been able to get this right.”   TiimFocus has compared itself to Asana, the start-up founded by Dustin Moskovitz, who, after sharing a dorm with Mark Zuckerberg, became one of the founders of Facebook.   Like TiimFocus, Asana keeps teams in sync. It has already raised more than $10 million from investors including Benchmark Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.   However, TiimFocus is confident it can compete in the marketplace.   “The largest player in the market is Asana… However, its greatest strength – an easy-to-use product – is also its largest weakness; minimal functionality,” says Withnall.   “We outgrew Asana within a month. TiimFocus was built to be the world’s most complete collaborative task system. Companies will not be able to outgrow TiimFocus.”   TiimFocus provides team members with one central location where they can see what peers are working on and can receive updates on how a project is progressing.   The B2B software is designed to evolve as an organisation grows.   “We believe the beauty of this marketplace, particularly as more attention is focused on B2B companies, is that the best product can win,” says Weaver.   “Despite the pedigree of Asana and other competitors, we spent two years building and validating TiimFocus, and we, and our clients, believe this is the best product in the market.”

Facebook updates the News Feed: Everything you need to know

3:31AM | Friday, 15 March

The latest updates to Facebook’s News Feed are not only crucial progress from the company as it faces more competitors, but a call to action for SMEs, experts warn.

Six standouts from Forbes’ 2013 World’s Billionaires list

3:44AM | Wednesday, 6 March

Forbes has welcomed a number of notable newcomers to its World’s Billionaires list, including the founders of fashion brands Diesel and Tory Burch, and China’s version of Steve Jobs.

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin shares five insights into the social network’s future

3:42AM | Friday, 15 March

Once the brainchild of Harvard classmates, Facebook is now a multi-billion dollar company connecting everyone and everything.

Facebook’s Graph Search tipped to boost online advertisers

3:14AM | Friday, 15 March

Facebook’s new Graph Search product is set to leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalised advertising opportunities.

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