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

4:24PM | Tuesday, 15 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.

Forbes names most powerful people – who can you learn from?

3:49AM | Monday, 11 March

US President Barack Obama might be the world’s most powerful person, according to Forbes, but there’s a handful of entrepreneurs on this year’s list for start-ups to draw inspiration from.

Mark Zuckerberg speaks at start-up school – here are three top tips

3:35AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has imparted some new words of wisdom to start-ups, insisting the desire to solve a problem must always be greater than the desire to start a company.

Facebook hits 1 billion users – but what about revenue?

3:55AM | Tuesday, 12 March

More than one billion people now use Facebook each month, it’s been confirmed, but concerns remain around the site’s revenue.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook now used by more than one billion people around the world

3:56AM | Tuesday, 12 March

More than one billion people now use Facebook every month, the company has revealed, with particularly strong take up of the social networking site in Australia.

THE NEWS WRAP: Gates richest American for 19th consecutive year

9:18PM | Wednesday, 19 September

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been named by Forbes as the richest American for the 19th year in a row, accumulating a fortune of $66 billion, up $7 billion on last year.

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