Mobile app in the offing as Aussie online legal services startup raises $1.2 million in latest funding round3:33AM | Tuesday, 3 March
Online legal services startup LegalVision has raised $1.2 million in angel investment that will be used to expand its tech offering and step up marketing efforts. Founded in 2012, LegalVision is a predominantly online law firm which uses technology to engage clients and has adopted a fixed-fee pricing model. This latest funding round brings LegalVision’s total investment to over $1.6 million. LegalVision chief executive officer Lachlan McKnight told StartupSmart expanding the startup’s technology offering will include the development of a mobile app. “Deploying a mobile app won’t result in a flood of new leads or a large revenue spike. It’s about keeping us front of mind, making it as easy as possible for repeat customers to come back to us, and being seen as an innovative company that is ahead of the curve,” he says. In addition to the mobile app, LegalVision will also be working towards integrating its customer relationship management tool into its website as a client portal. “Communicating with our customers through the portal will be more efficient,” McKnight says. “We also want to further our document automation technology to account for more complex situations and issues.” LegalVision is anticipating more growth in 2015 after quadrupling its team in 2014, and the startup’s general counsel Ursula Hogben says the funding will help ensure that growth continues. “We give SMEs exceptional access to high quality lawyers, and give lawyers a new flexible working environment,” she says. “This capital raising enables us to increase services across Australia and beyond.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The dream of many tech startups is to partner with, or sell their solution to, large companies that will either pay them a truckload of money or on-sell their products through their huge distribution channels. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t realise how difficult it is to sell to a large corporate. Here are seven common errors startups regularly make when selling to corporates and how to avoid them. 1. Making a complicated pitch which doesn’t tell the story In a corporate, just like in any company, people are busy. This means that when you pitch to a corporate representative they have very little time to listen to what you have to say. Thus, your pitch has to sell the value of the product to them straight away. No matter how good you think your product or offer is, if you can’t explain its value to the buyer quickly and succinctly, they won't buy it. Too often tech entrepreneurs are enamoured with their solution and try to sell based on product features, not on value delivered. That must be avoided at all costs. There are three key things that you must do to make your corporate pitch focused, succinct and successful: A) Make the value easy to understand quickly. It is critical to explain the value of the offering to the people you are selling to in a simple to understand way that can be grasped straight away by someone who probably has five minutes to really think about your offer. B) Sell based on insights Traditionally the best way to sell B2B has been to articulate how your offering solves a current problem for the corporate or fill a niche they aren’t already in (this is called solution-based selling). These days, buyers in corporates are very savvy and often know as much or more about the market than you might think. Adopting a new sales approach like Insight Selling is more productive. Focus on providing key insights to the corporate rep, which teaches them about your product and how it can fulfil a hidden need they may not have been aware of. C) Talk in numbers The more you can include numbers the better (revenue, cost saving, customers, etc). They are what grab the rep’s attention. Just make sure the numbers are relevant to the buyer. 2. Misunderstanding the goals of the company and KPIs of its employees Despite what you may think, not every person you are selling to is driven solely by revenue, sales or cost reduction. In fact, large corporates often have very diverse goals and KPIs. It’s important to use the KPIs relevant to the buyer and company when selling the benefits of a particular solution. Companies might be going down the path of customer acquisition (in which case you need to focus your pitch on customer numbers), cost reduction (“Here’s how much we can save you money”) or profit maximisation (“Margin is key”). Find out the key drivers and focus on them in your pitch, it will give you a much higher chance of success. 3. Being unaware of the risk aversion and failure minimisation culture The entrepreneurial ecosystem and the nature of the companies involved encourage a culture of risk-taking. It’s important to remember the vast majority of corporate environments are the opposite of this. Generally a corporate environment is by nature focused on risk aversion and failure minimisation, and usually the people working in a large corporate reflect this. As a consequence, buyers and IT departments are very reluctant to take a risk on a new product and put their necks on the line without understanding whether it’s going to work. This means that when you pitch, you need to position your offering in a way which minimises this risk for the buyer and the IT department they will be leaning on to install and maintain the service. This may be through minimising the upfront investment required, offering a pilot or trial, or providing lots of case studies or examples of where this has worked previously. 4. Targeting the wrong people So you’ve managed to find someone in the company you are trying to sell to who is willing to listen and you’re making good inroads in getting them to understand what you are offering. Surely a sale must be just around the corner, right? Unfortunately not, as it depends a lot on who you are talking to and what influence and power they have in the company. Often the people who are willing to talk are not actually the ones who can actually purchase new products or services. Finding those people is essential for your success. If you don’t, you can find yourself going round in circles and being stuck in an endless cycle of conversations, meetings and pitches. Spend some time before you contact a company to try and work out the best people to approach; it will pay off in the long term. 5. Underestimating integration costs For startups, making changes to systems or adding new code to your product is easy to do and doesn't cost much. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate to a large corporate environment. Many startups underestimate the huge investment often required to integrate new products or solutions with the core systems of the company. Even something that might seem like a very minor change can cost the company a lot of money given how careful they need to be to avoid introducing problems into their critical platforms (e.g. CRM, ERP). This additional cost can often make or break a purchase decision. The best way to avoid this error is to design and plan your solution so that it needs minimal or no integration with core corporate systems for it to work. If this type of architecture is not possible, then when pulling together your business case, and even your pilot/trial offering, you really need to consider the integration costs or your offering will be shot down, no matter the value being delivered. 6. Overestimating the availability of capital and having an inflexible business model Finding money to pay for something in a corporate is far from easy. Even though large corporates often have a large budget for investments in new products and services, the process for any individual or group to access this money is often very long, complicated and arduous, and can depend on the time of year and specific operational and/or capital expenditure position of the particular team involved (at different times they may have more capital or operational budget available than others). In fact, from what I have seen, it’s much harder to spend money in large corporates with all the controls they have in place, than it is in a small to medium company where control is much more delegated to the front line. If you are not open to adapting your approach and business model to suit the money the buyer has available, your sales attempts will fail. Having a flexible business model is key. Be open to changing your model depending on what the person you are dealing is most comfortable with, and go into any meetings with a few different models in mind. There are a myriad of ways a deal can be structured (upfront payments, licensing costs, revenue share, etc.), and having options available to your counterpart gives them the flexibility to choose the model that will fit into their corporate environment and access the funds they need. 7. Being unaware of other solutions already in the company A key issue I see tech startups encounter when pitching to a large corporate is a lack of understanding of the current technical environment in the corporate, and the capabilities of the solutions they already have. Nine times out of ten, the corporate will already have a piece of software that can do part of what you are selling (probably with some tweaking) or an existing vendor who can build something similar for them with some work. If this is the case, IT departments will almost definitely try to find a way to use what they have or a current vendor before going with your solution. That can break a deal. To overcome this you really need to: Understand the current environment and the capabilities of the solutions the corporate already uses. Clearly articulate the differentiating factor in your solution, be it capability, cost or flexibility (or something else). Shane Goldberg is principal and founder of CustCore Consulting, which helps businesses grow through a focus on improving end-to-end customer experience, sales effectiveness and go-to-market. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Global spending on devices and enterprise software is projected to grow in 2015, but data centres and telecom services will remain sluggish, according to figures released by Gartner yesterday. Overall, the global IT market is on track to grow 2.4% from $US3.737 trillion in 2014 to $US3.828 trillion in 2015. Spending on enterprise software is set to lead to charge, with spending growing 5.5% from $US317 billion to $US335 billion in 2015, despite competition between cloud and on premise software vendors leading to price erosion. In particular, customer relationship management (CRM) software prices are set to tumble. Another key growth sector is devices, including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and printers. Spending is set to grow 5.1% year on year, from $US696 billion in 2014 to $US732 billion this year. Despite the growth in the cloud computer market, data centre systems are set to grow just 1.8% to $US143 billion, while the IT service market is projected to grow 2.5% to $US981 billion. The weakest segment this year is likely to be in telecoms services, which is expected to grow just 0.7% to $US1.638 trillion. Follow SmartCompany on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Some time back, I created a list of website features – or more accurately website platform features – required by retailers to run a professional e-commerce operation. But like all things digital, the landscape soon changes, so I thought it worth re-visiting just to ensure retailers had the latest information at their fingertips. This list is by no means exhaustive – each retailer has different specific requirements. But for the smaller retailer embarking on their online journey, or perhaps streamlining it, this will provide a handy guide to what online tools you are going to need to make a fist of your e-commerce website. As their business model is relatively similar, wholesalers are likely to require similar functionality. 1. Content management system (CMS) An absolute fundamental for your website. Having your web professional alter and edit your website whenever you need it adds unnecessary cost and delays when a CMS makes this relatively easy and convenient. In fact, a CMS is so easy to operate these days that a reasonably computer-savvy shop assistant should easily be able to do this task if you don’t wish to do it yourself. Don’t even consider arranging a website without this fundamental editing and website management tool. 2. Integrated email marketing system (EMS or EDM) Despite social media very much being the flavour of the month, not everyone uses social media regularly, unlike email, which most people use on a very regular basis. But the days of sending your specials to a group within Outlook are long gone. An EMS or electronic direct mail system ensures your email campaign will look great, be personalised and be integrated with the statistics you need to ascertain its effectiveness. And by being integrated with your website platform, you cut out considerable time in having to keep lists up to date and synchronised. Better still, your customers can alter their details themselves, saving you even more time. 3. Integrated customer relationship management system (CRM) Of course an EMS without a CRM is a wasted opportunity and something of a waste of time. A good CRM will allow you to integrate your customers so that you can seamlessly send emails, keep purchase records and have a record of website visits, among other things. This approach saves having to keep such data in a myriad of different unconnected places and the time involved in maintaining each one. 4. Secure shopping cart It goes without saying really, though for those not quite confident enough to take this plunge, they can start with basic product information via a CMS before going the whole cart route. Just ensure that your website platform allows you to upgrade to cart/e-commerce functionality very easily and affordably. Your cart will need to be hooked up to a payment gateway – the secure encryption technology that allows funds to be transferred securely and safely. At its most basic, PayPal provides a great and affordable way to do this. 5. Auto-homepage capabilities There are few things worse in the online world than visiting a website some time after your previous visit, only to find that nothing has changed and that the so-called “coming soon” specials have never eventuated. Auto-homepage capabilities allow you to bring new product, specials and so on to the front page of your website without having to physically alter it. In other words, by literally ticking a box the featured item brings itself to the front page of the website and keeps it fresh, interesting and above all, likely to result in more sales. 6. Australia Post delivery integration Managing delivery costs can be a major frustration for website operators as they constantly need to be updated to reflect changes in postal charges and product dimension, etc. But a good cart system will be integrated with Australia Post delivery charges. This allows real-time integration of the latest delivery charges so that you never need to alter it beyond your initial inclusion of the product leading to fantastic time and cost savings. 7. Currency conversion The truth is very few Australian retailers consider making interstate sales let alone those from overseas. But why not? A customer is a customer is a customer, no matter where they’re located. And if they’re prepared to pay the delivery charge, even better. If you can’t achieve automatic currency conversion, at least have a prominent link to one so they can do the math themselves. 8. Financial software integration This capability is not critical to many retailers because online sales can be categorised as such on their financial software and entered periodically with a refer online sales report memo. Others prefer complete integration with their software. Either way, such an integration is becoming increasingly viable with today’s cart solutions. 9. Social network integration Every retailer should fundamentally not let a customer leave their store – online or on-street – without either selling them something or getting their contact details. Just because they didn’t buy this time, doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you later. Social networks provide a convenient, seamless and affordable way for customers to engage with you and for you to promote your wares for essentially nothing. So links to the major social networks should be prominent on your page. Miscellaneous others There are numerous other website features a retailer could benefit from depending on the level of sophistication / automation required. Some of these include: Inventory management – this can be used for all stock whether sold online or in-store Gift vouchers – an automated gift voucher system which bypasses the need to send a physical voucher Affiliate programs – others can promote your product and earn a commission for doing so Drop shipping management – orders can be despatched automatically to manufacturers and wholesalers for drop shipping Download sales – sell an audio, pdf or other file and allow immediate download following purchase. Product image zoom – allows you to zoom in on a product image for detail Wishlists – allows visitors to create a wishlist for gifting, etc, purposes Larger retailers will find this list somewhat primitive as they embark on exciting new capabilities like personalisation, virtual fitting and so on. But smaller retailers will certainly be able to operate a professional online outlet if they ensure their website includes these capabilities. The fantastic news about so much wonderful functionality is that it is so affordable these days. There really is no excuse not to make your product available for online purchase. Don’t forget too that these websites are invaluable at promoting in-store purchase as well for those who are in your vicinity. In fact, the sales generated in-store from your website may well exceed those made online, giving you even more online bang for your buck. In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
There is no doubt that starting a new business is hard. However, the range of new products and services on offer means it is getting cheaper and easier to get up and running. Here are some examples of what many new businesses are using. Shared office space More and more shared office space has been opening up across the capital cities, allowing new businesses to get desks for a fraction of the price of a traditional office. Often they are month-by-month and do not need you to commit to long-term leases. There is a lot of press around the facilities provided by various incubators and accelerators; however, there are plenty of shared office spaces elsewhere. While rates can be as low as $400 per month, in Sydney it is more commonly in the $600 to $700 per month range if you want to be near the city. Voice over IP Essential to the operations of many businesses is a regular phone number. In the past the cost of getting a new number would run to the hundreds of dollars, and then ongoing monthly costs for a basic service would easily start at $30-$50 per month. And that’s before adding basic functions for voice greetings, menus to direct callers to the right place, call queues or even just voicemail. These PABX features used to require small business phone systems to be purchased and physically installed. However, this can all be provided over the internet using voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, which are quick to sign up to online and work on your computer or a cheap IP phone from a local electronics shop. They cost a fraction of the price of a physical system and generally do not have setup fees. They work over your internet connection, so there is no need to wait around for the technician to not show up. A standalone phone number with Internode’s NodePhone service costs $5 per month, and services such as Edgetel offer PABX functions that allow you to automatically answer a call during business hours with a greeting and a “press 1 for support” type menu system. You can also divert calls to different numbers, at different times of the day, ring one number or handset first before calling others, or place callers in a queue. Everything you need to make you sound like a big company, for as little as $20 per month. Online business applications Gone are the days when to have your own email address email@example.com would mean buying your own server, connecting it to the internet and spending thousands getting things configured. The same goes for sophisticated systems such as customer relationship management or building an online shopping website. The recent advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) means business can now access these powerful applications online and pay for them by the month (often after a free trial). There are a huge range of applications in a broad range of categories. Some common examples include: Office style productivity, such as Google Apps, Office 365 Customer relationship management (CRM), such as Zoho, Highrise, Salesforce Accounting (invoicing, payroll, etc) such as Xerox Websites and online shopping, such as Bigcommerce, Wix, Squarespace Project management such as Jira OnDemand, Pivotal tracker, Basecamp, Trello Source code management such as Github and Bitbucket Offshore software developers For new online businesses, or those who have a significant online component, the cost of software development is usually by far the largest expense. Offshore software developers are an effective way to cut down that cost. All the software development can be moved offshore, or a blended on-shore/offshore team can be used to help maintain control and quality while still greatly reducing the price. Hiring an independent resource overseas is easy to do through myriad contract hire websites such as Freelancer and oDesk. There are also businesses such as SoftwareSeni that complement the offshore resources with Australian-based operations to provide an additional level of technical oversight and quality. Hosting In the old days, servers had to be bought and installed, and system administrators had to set them up and keep them going. Now there are a range of cloud-based hosting services like Amazon Web Services where you pay for what you use and you can increase and decrease capacity quickly. Some of the more sophisticated ones, such as Heroku and AppFog, also provide online setup and automation which empowers developers to manage the hosting, removing the need for a system administrator. Taking advantage of these “enabling” products and services will give you the ability to put your focus on your core business idea, as well as keep your cost base competitive with your peers both within Australia and abroad. Paul Russell is the managing director of SoftwareSeni, a Sydney-based startup specialising in near-shore software development seat outsourcing.
Two Sydney-based entrepreneurs are set to launch a new online video site with content focused on software development that hopes to get more people interested in coding as a career. The project came about after videographer and Kwuest Pictures founder Kieren Wuest met developer Dan Draper while filming the Codehire Cup. Wuest told StartupSmart the pair quickly identified a video channel for software developers as being a potential opportunity, and Codr.tv was born. “We came up with the idea around a certain community of programmers, and we want to create programming that appeals to that community,” Wuest says. Draper told StartupSmart getting young people interested in coding as a career was a key objective for the site, but they were also hoping to break down gender bias in the tech industry. “I’ve been in the code industry for 20 years, and I’ve been frustrated with the market perception of what coding is all about. Many people don’t realise how ubiquitous coding is,” Draper says. “In the developed world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on code in one form or another, from things like [CRM] to apps… and either in-house or out-sourced developers.” While initially focusing on YouTube videos, Draper says the aim is to turn the site into a hub with a range of content including articles, videos, newsletters and podcasts, with content on the site divided into two ‘streams’. The first stream will include broad-reaching content with interviews, skits and broad topics looking at what makes a good coder. The second stream will feature far more technical and targeted content aimed at developers. “It won’t be a full-blown education tool, but it will be a starting point. For example, if there’s a new database cluster, you can learn how it affects web developers. It will be Popular Science for coders,” Draper says. The channel is set to launch in late August, and interested developers can find out more at Codr.tv.
Real estate CRM provider Rex Software launched in 2010, but didn’t hit their marketing stride for three years, putting product above profitability to ensure long term growth. It’s working. Rex Software has tripled its revenue in the last 12 months and is now working with over 2500 agents. But the real estate business management software launched with only 15 firms signed up. The small team worked closely with these initial customers to iterate the technology offering. It grew gradually, mostly through word of mouth but also with an eye on if the new customer was a good fit for the questions and assumptions it was testing in its development. Founder Anton Babkov told StartupSmart it only recently felt ready to start chasing growth. “Growth is hard and difficult to manage operationally. We needed to get the product market fit perfect, and also straighten up and reinforce our internal processes,” Babkov says. Rex Software used a traditional, outbound marketing approach to lock in their clients for most of their growth journey so far. “We didn’t do any email blasts or marketing campaigns because it wouldn’t give us what we needed,” he says. “It was important that every conversation we had was a quality one so we could learn and improve.” According to Babkov, there are between 10,000 and 12,000 real estate firms in Australia and New Zealand, Rex Software’s immediate addressable market. He adds it hasn’t chased one of the major firms and their many franchises yet. “We realised as a startup, we needed to choose where we want to grow, and focus just on the right customers for our business. Picking up a big client early when you’re as feedback focused as us didn’t seem like the best idea as that would have really shaped your direction but they’re an outlier, being so much bigger,” Babkov says. But now it’s ready to grow. It has recently hired a marketing director and are shifting their customer acquisition approach from outbound calls and catch ups to more of a marketing campaign. “We’re a tech company but weren’t great at marketing ourselves from tech point of view. We’re organising our SEO and social media campaigns, so we can develop more inbound opportunities.” Rex Software isn’t profitable yet, but Babkov says they’re focusing on growing fast first before it starts setting goals and timelines to profitability.
Last month, Piper Alderman hosted angel investment group SA Angels for a special invitation only event featuring Stefan Kuentz of Swisscom Ventures and Shane Cheek from Acumen Ventures. Kuentz and Cheek gave an update of the venture and investment market from a Swiss/global and the Australian/south-east Asian perspective. The event was well attended by a group of key players in the Adelaide commercialisation and investment community. Stefan Kuentz’s presentation started with an outline of the reasons why Switzerland had to focus on innovation and looked at Swisscom’s commercial rationale for establishing Swisscom ventures. He touched on the types of industries that Swisscom Ventures will be interested in for 2014: network optimisation, security and identity management, CRM, internet of things and related clusters such as e-health. He also engaged in some lively discussion with the audience of his personal experiences and war stories about the investments that Swisscom Ventures had made. Drawing on his years in Silicon Valley, Kuentz said that it was very important for companies to have some experience there: “For companies who truly wish to be global, I would strongly recommend that they have some exposure to the Silicon Valley. For example, all the major telco companies have a presence there, and are all located within a short distance from each other. The VCs are also just around the corner, and all of the ingredients for a vibrant market place are located in one place. It really is like a market place for innovation.” “We were very lucky to have someone of Stefan’s experience come to share his knowledge and experience with us,” Michael Dilettoso, chair of the SA Angels said of the event. “It was also great to see the event supported by many members of the Adelaide angel investment community, some of whom have already made a number of investments not just in Adelaide-based companies, but Silicon Valley based investments as well.” Shane Cheek from Acumen Ventures gave some valuable insights and data from the VC industry in Australia and SE Asia. Cheek is currently aiming to close out his $30m fund focusing on enterprise, B2B and e-commerce ventures in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. “The Australian technology sector has reached an amazing inflection point, driven by a wave of successful companies such as Atlassian, Freelancer and Bigcommerce, and a new generation of startups that take an aggressive approach to regional growth,” Cheek said. “They recognise they are a part of south-east Asia with a population approaching 650 million, an insatiable appetite for all things digital and annual GDP growth of 8%. The next generation of category defining companies will emerge from this region and Acumen Ventures is excited to be funding them.” It is the comment on “market place” that resonates strongly for supporters of Adelaide’s startup and innovation ecosystem. The Adelaide market has been aware that in order for innovation to flourish in the city, all of the various parts of the community need to exist. We already have a vibrant start-up community supported by a number of co-working spaces and accelerator programs. We also have some active angel investors, early stage VCs, as well as experienced advisors, all within close proximity of each other. It will be great to see Adelaide mature into that crucial “market” concept. Dilettoso said the event was a great success and one that could be repeated again soon. “The event was a success, as it gave an opportunity for the investment community to engage with each other and swap notes on what has been happening over the last few months. It is certainly something the SA Angels will try to organise again,” Dilettoso said.
Growth can be a mixed blessing for startups. It’s great to have new customers knocking at the door, but only if your cost base and cash flow are up to the task of serving them. Otherwise, growth could actually be your downfall. It’s therefore important for startups to build a scalable business model – i.e. where revenue growth can outstrip growth in costs. Scalability is partly a question of what products you sell. But it’s also about having a scalable operational model: your sales, IT and workplace arrangements must permit growth with minimal upfront costs and delays. And, preferably, not require you to work 24/7. At Regus we’ve seen hundreds of our SME customers scale up their businesses in Australia, and here are a few of the lessons we’ve learnt from them over the years. Sales Sales arrangements that rely on the contacts and skills of a key individual can only take you so far. Instead, you need to develop sales processes as well as talent. For example, Use CRM software to track sales activity and share information with colleagues. Make sure no information goes to waste. Social media, website analytics and sales data are invaluable for tracking interest and conversion rates, helping you target marketing activity more efficiently. Develop training materials to help new sales staff generate revenues more quickly. Think differently. For example, Australian software giant Atlassian used transparent pricing on its website – not something usually associated with enterprise software – to drive sales, rather than employing a large salesforce. IT The major difference between starting a business now and doing it a couple of decades ago is technology. Cloud applications, open source software and ready-made e-commerce templates have facilitated both starting up and scaling up. There’s no need to invest in expensive software like CRM packages from day one – there are plenty of free or low-cost options available. But you do need to think about IT solutions from day one – don’t just launch a business and then try to patch on IT solutions afterwards. Workplace Traditional office arrangements and leases often lock small businesses into too-small premises and prevent them from expanding when they need to. In contrast, flexible workplace arrangements provide scalability. They allow businesses to take on new space without upfront capital investment; they also allow them the flexibility to grow rapidly, or if growth falters, to contract. In addition, the global network of a flexible workplace provider like Regus enables businesses to open virtual or physical offices wherever they see an opportunity for growth – without upfront investment or a fixed lease required. HR Finally, a scalable business must be able to hire exactly the talent it needs as soon as it needs it. But finding the right personality is just as important as finding the right skills. As small businesses rapidly grow, being able to maintain that company culture is essential to finding success. When Regus helped Google set up it’s first Portuguese office in one of our Lisbon centres, we sourced a foosball table and helped identify the right local providers to provide the renowned Google catering for their employees. In the US, Netflix allow employees to choose their own holidays, with no cap on how much leave people take. These flexible HR practices, such as letting staff choose where they work can help attract the right talent for your organisation- while keeping them engaged.
Scratch the surface of any company that’s been in business for more than a decade or so and more likely than not, you’ll find a mess of now-obsolete IT systems. Somewhere behind the scenes, you just know there’s an old green-and-black-text program written entirely in COBOL. It’s so old it now needs a terminal emulation program just to run, after the screen finally died on the “old reliable” 286 that used to run it. Then there’s a copy of Lotus Notes lurking somewhere in the background. There’s the three or four separate custom customer relationship management systems in parallel. There’s another temporary system, in operations, that was cooked up in Visual Basic as a temporary solution a decade ago and never replaced. Meanwhile, accounts and billing has been moved – or at least partly moved – to the new cloud-based system. Holding this unholy computing kludge together is a whole bunch of integration software – the IT equivalent of gaffer tape, or what’s become widely referred to as technical debt. Of course, nothing works as it should. No one quite remembers why you always need to hold down the CTRL key when you press “next” on the third screen or why that funny error everyone ignores always appears when you place an order. It just does. The sales staff now have a deep subconscious fear of making a sale – it means entering the sale in the systems! Meanwhile, the accounts department have long ago gotten used to copying and pasting the same information between the same two forms every day. There’s a list of changes as long as my arm that could be made, but none of the IT folks are keen to try – who knows what else could possibly go wrong if any changes were made! They’re busy enough just keeping the whole thing working as it is! There was no long-term, big picture IT plan when all this was set up. New systems were just added on an ad hoc basis as the need arose. The people who made those decisions have long since left the company – and they threw their documentation in the shredder before they left. (Assuming there was any documentation in the first place!) And then the daily email goes out saying that half the systems are offline, and the tech team have no ETA at this stage. They never do. Now, Old Taskmaster asks you this: Do you want your business to look like this in 10 years’ time? If not, don’t leave your IT strategy to chance. Instead, sit down with your IT staff or developers and hammer out a comprehensive, scalable, long-term IT strategy for your business. Because it’s easier to get it right the first time than it is to remember that pesky CTRL key each time! Get it done – today!
With so many apps available and created every day, how do you know which ones are the best for your purposes? We asked five entrepreneurs to tell us which apps they can’t live without and why. There are some that were common – nearly everyone listed Dropbox – and others a little more for the times when they aren’t working. Are there any other apps you can’t live without? Mark McDonald – co-founder and managing director of app developer Appster EverNote – The perfect app for capturing ideas and concepts between meetings and while travelling. I love that it syncs up to my Macbook Pro as well, so wherever I am I can find important ideas. ZombieRun – Staying fit sucks. But when you are running from zombies it's more fun, I really love how this app gamified the process of jogging. Things 2 – I'm a workaholic but also have the attention span of a small child, that's why using Things 2 as a way to manage my daily activities, projects and responsibilities in a really simple interface has doubled my productivity. James Wakefield – co-founder and managing director of online tailoring firm InStitchu Asana – Asana is an excellent app that helps our entire team manage and organise tasks and projects across all areas of the business. Before we used Asana, we had so many unnecessary emails going back and forth across members. Now, each individual project has a to-do list, saved in the cloud, enabling each of us to view updates and changes as they’re made. Asana is also fully integrated with our CRM, which is an additional bonus! Evernote – Evernote is the perfect note-taking app for every entrepreneur. Because it syndicates across all of your devices, I’m able to make notes and save attachments on the go, using my iPhone and I’ll later revisit these on my laptop or iPad. It's saved me many times when I have been travelling and haven’t had access to the internet. There was an instance where I had saved my hotel reservation form to Evernote, and was able to access it from the back of a taxi in Shanghai on a sourcing trip. Without it, I wouldn’t have had a clue where I was heading! Dropbox – We back up everything on Dropbox, again because the cloud is such an integral part of our business. Dropbox provides us the storage that we need to save large files too, like high-resolution images of suits and shirts. Every single program we use at InStitchu is cloud based and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the freedom to jump on any computer, anywhere in the world to access all of my programs and via Dropbox, all of my files! Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Tim Fung – co-founder and chief executive of online tasks outsourcer Airtasker Dropbox – An oldie but a goodie. I use DB across all the companies that I work in and love the fact that I can access my files from anywhere, including from my iPhone. The app can be a little bit pervasive (trying to get you to store and sync all of your personal photos, etc) but it does make life pretty easy and is good risk management in case you lose your device. GoCatch – A really good taxi hailing app. I use these guys to grab taxis between meetings and the office to make sure I'm not waiting outside on busy days. It's a super simple app and also lets me keep track of my taxi receipts, which is a plus. Pocketbook – An easy to use app for tracking your personal budget. You just link up your bank accounts and credit cards and then PB sends you an update each week to let you know if you're overspending or within budget. They also have a bunch of features to monitor and analyse where you're spending and where you could save. Andrew Ward – managing director of online investment community SelfWealth LinkedIn app – As an entrepreneur, LinkedIn on your iPhone/on the move is invaluable. Each time you read a media story about other entrepreneurs, or a story related to your target market, connecting to these related parties ASAP is a must. Ingogo – The taxi booking app. This is a must for an entrepreneur getting around in the boondocks and racing to get to that next meeting. Cricket Australia’s "Live" app – I'm a cricket tragic; enough said. Ben Cohn – co-founder of mobile self-storage firm TAXIBOX Swann View – Swann View gives us live, streaming access to our surveillance systems through an iPhone. It’s an incredible feeling waking up every morning and seeing the entire company running smoothly – without us! Dropbox – The Dropbox app seamlessly integrates with Dropbox Desktop and allows us to run a large portion of TAXIBOX’s operational processes without having to be near a computer. Face Swap – Because there’s nothing quite like seeing your parents swap genders!
LinkedIn is way more than just your online resume and Rolodex. LinkedIn is now a go-to source of business news, a content publishing platform and a contact relationship manager (CRM). Find out why LinkedIn is the best social media platform for start-ups, hands-down. If you’re undecided, check out these six reasons to get on-board straightaway! 1. LinkedIn is your auto-updating Rolodex Back before LinkedIn we’d all keep a Rolodex or maybe an online database of contacts, but if that person changed jobs or businesses, we’d lose contact when their details changed. Nowadays, LinkedIn means we don’t need to worry about losing contact with people or losing their business cards. 2. Now it’s your free CRM Since the recent rollout of ‘contacts’ functionality, you can now tag contacts, add notes and reminders, and record how you met them. That is a huge improvement in how we can manage our ever-growing network of business contacts. Note: you can install this new functionality on your LinkedIn for free, but it doesn’t happen automatically. You’ll be prompted to install it when you login, and it takes a few minutes to process all your contacts into this new format. The invite to install it does look like a banner ad, so keep an eye out for it and don’t accidentally ignore it! 3. It’s the place for business news LinkedIn is fast becoming the go-to place for business news. You can read unique articles written by a wide range ‘influencers’ and well-known business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington. In addition, it also has the LinkedIn Today feature where they publish popular content from all around the web. 4. LinkedIn is your free content-sharing platform It is now as easy as ever to share your content with your entire professional network. You can also submit your best articles to LinkedIn Today and if they decide to publish your work, you’ll be exposed to thousands more readers. And publishing your articles to LinkedIn Groups is the perfect way to introduce your content to new readers, and engage with them. 5. You can connect with fellow professionals My colleague Selina Power got me thinking about better ways to use LinkedIn in her recent podcast. Until my subsequent discussions with Selina, I’d been quite closed in my approach as to who I accept as a ‘connection’ on LinkedIn. My reluctance to accept people that I did not know personally lay in the fact that it may be seen an as endorsement of that person, when in reality I didn’t know any more about these people than what they say in their bio. I was initially sceptical about connecting, but since LinkedIn is becoming much more of a content publishing platform, it makes sense to broaden my network, so more people can read and interact with my content. After all, we are marketing a business, and this is the perfect content marketing tool. My rule of thumb now is to accept people if they have written a personalised request. 6. LinkedIn is improving everyday LinkedIn continues to get better and I’m sure there are many exciting improvements in the pipeline. I still wish that LinkedIn had the ‘follow’ functionality for individuals like it does for Company Pages, because it would allow for people who you don’t know to still opt-in to receive your content. That way it would still mean you could limit your connections to people you actually know but share your content far and wide. Maybe that will be next. To help your LinkedIn marketing you may also like to download the LinkedIn 5-Minute Daily Marketing Plan – there’s a version for beginner, intermediate and advanced.
With bushfires already burning around the edges of Sydney, Australia’s natural disaster season has arrived early this year, and businesses need to prepare for how to survive the worst case scenarios. Michael French’s start-up idea emerged during the Brisbane floods in 2011. With the office of his 20-plus year old digital marketing company only kilometres away, French watched the water in his flooded home street swirling and realised business owners needed a way to quickly check that all of their systems were still functioning. He started building what became his Bizeo app, which launched earlier this year. Essentially a dashboard app, Bizeo monitors all available data from servers to engines on key machinery, to temperature to exchange rates and social media. “Business owners spend a lot of their time running around checking on things, but this does it for them, and gives them a single indicator that everything is alright,” French says. “Bizeo monitors the status and data across your whole enterprise, and watches everything at once.” As the waters receded and Brisbane began to clean up the mess, many businesses struggled to stay afloat. French realised he could add more functions to the dashboard. “Our cashflow was struggling as our debtors blew out and our sales pipeline struggled as many Brisbane groups went under,” French says. “Bizeo now plugs into your CRM, accounting and social media systems.” Bizeo received a $200,000 grant from Commercialisation Australia last year. French used the funds to hire a business development manager, and file for intellectual property protections such as trademarks and patents. French says he realised he would need a strong sales team and partner network as one of the key challenges facing the company has been launching dashboard into an already crowded marketplace. “Getting people’s attention to have a look at it can be tough because there are so many options out there. But once they see it in action, they get sold on it. People don’t want more dashboards but we solve the dashboards problem by only having one,” French says. This marketing angle inspired the Bizeo team to pivot their focus from small to medium enterprises to large businesses after they realised big businesses were often struggling to manage multiple dashboards. “We thought the big corporates would have their dashboards sorted, but we discovered a lot either had none or they had so many they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. We started getting a lot of traction in the large corporates, and pursued that,” French says. Bizeo is currently working with clients in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Mexico and London. “The demand has been high and we’re expanding out partner network to meet it. We had someone sign up for the service in Abu Dhabi this morning, so we should probably start advertising internationally too,” French says.
I have worked in four accounting firms, all with a mix of paper and paperless (or less paper as I'd like to think of it). Even in my time spent consulting to various businesses I saw so much unnecessary paper it wasn't funny. It seems to me that nobody seems to get it right! What grinds my gears You know what really grinds my gears about the fact that some large corporations could literally stack paper to the clouds every year they operate? It's not the ‘green’ factor, it's the inefficiencies that these businesses refuse to acknowledge due to the thought of change. Both the inefficiency of the paperless process and the fact that people are so negative towards change really grinds my gears. Heading towards a paperless or less paper environment brings on many different creativity opportunities to gain efficiencies. Instead of reviewing that next contract on paper, try reviewing it on your iPad. After 10 goes you won't notice the difference and you'll get the added benefit of being able to watch your favourite TV show at the same time. Instead of printing your next document why don't you just save it to PDF in your Dropbox or Skydrive? As the little green slogans say at the bottom of emails – ‘think before you print’ (clearly these messages should be at the top of emails, anyway). The other gear grinder for me is that people are adverse to change. Change is a good thing. Do you think we got to where we are today by doing the same thing? No! People have tried new things, taken different approaches and because of all this we now all live in a better world. I personally think that the world could be even better if people were just that little bit more responsive to change. I'll never forget the book that my first manager got me to read Who Moved My Cheese? It's a great short story about why change is important. If only everyone could be inspired by this book, a paperless environment would thrive with new ideas coming from all angles rather than just the one. The last word Finally, I'll have you know that once you go paperless you don't go back. So while it seems like a giant hassle now, you probably already know that you're going to have to do it at some stage. Why not now? Cloud technology with accounting, CRM, word processing applications and DMS all at the click of a button makes all this so much easier than it once was. Make the move now or forever swim in a sea of paper. For more information on how to go paperless, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JohnRussellAus
Pollenizer is looking for co-founders for four of its start-ups, one of which would involve a partnership with a Skype co-founder while another would involve working with the former chief executive of CareerOne. According to Pollenizer co-founder Phil Morle, all four businesses need “gutsy entrepreneurs with the audacity to believe that they can pull off a global business with limited resources”. The businesses are as follows: Fitbit for your house – collaborating with your social network to use energy more effectively. This is a partnership with one of the Skype co-founders. “This is a brand new idea so they’re looking for co-founders from scratch,” Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas told StartupSmart. Social Powered Retail – using social networks to increase sales. This would involve working across south-east Asia as well as Australia. “Social Powered Retail is Gyft… The co-founders took it as far as they could and we’re now looking for a new set of co-founders to go where the business needs to go,” Liubinskas says. 99designs for recruitment – crowdsourcing new hires. This would involve working with the former chief executive of CareerOne. “The recruitment business is looking for more co-founders; more engineering talent,” Liubinskas says. SasS for coaches – customer relationship management, session management and other tools for business coaches, consultants and mentors. “SaaS for coaches is Coachy, which has a lot of great potential customers… We need an entrepreneurial engineer who is longing for some B2B experience,” Liubinskas says. At this stage, Pollenizer has declined to reveal the names of the Skype co-founder and former CareerOne chief executive. But according to Morle, co-founders are paid a “modest salary with great equity”. “We will train you in lean start-up skills – if you don’t already have them – and mainline you into an amazing network of entrepreneurs and investors,” he says. Liubinskas, however, is quick to point out the Pollenizer environment is not for everyone. “A lot of people who come from the corporate world, where they ran a really large company, will say that it’s the same as running a small company, which it definitely isn’t,” he says. “Some people can make that transition but a lot of people can’t. The other thing is completely green people. “[You must also have] a willingness to share… Really the key to that for me is people in the same location. “I vowed I would never, ever do another start-up where the whole team is not in the same room. Some people can do it but it makes life harder.” Liubinskas says anyone who joins the Pollenizer family must be open to change. “Start-ups change every day. Even the businesses we’ve learned a lot about, they’ll continue to change. Not a single successful Pollenizer start-up is the same idea it started with,” he says. “You also need to not be precious. You need to be thick-skinned to deal with a whole bunch of failure along the way.”
As time goes on, technology inevitably improves. Business should move with the times and, therefore, move with technology. This seems like quite a simple formula when you think about it and you would assume that this just happens naturally. Funnily enough, there is no such thing as natural change in most businesses. Why? Well, as a rule of thumb, people are naturally adverse to change. For instance, before I read Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese! I found even I was adverse to change. I was doing something that I didn’t enjoy five days a week because to change what I was doing was a scary thought. This would involve changing careers, leaving my old career behind and starting anew. A change in business is fundamentally no different. Why? Because people run businesses, businesses don’t run businesses. Human behaviour is judged ultimately by the interface by which we interact. Changing that interface is changing behaviour. This is sometimes scary. Numbers in marketing Since the conception of the internet and cloud infrastructure there has been a fundamental change in business opportunity. While I could rattle off 10 reasons why running your system either on an internet platform or through cloud infrastructure would be far better than having everything stored underneath your desk in an office, most people would still be naturally adverse to this idea. Quite simply, it means change. They believe what they can see and what they have on their desktop is safe. Safe until it crashes and then what happens? I wrote an article recently about cloud accounting and how Xero, Saasu and now MYOB Live Accounts are making huge changes to the way businesses can operate. Well, the exact same thing is happening in cloud marketing. Have you heard of that term before? Maybe not. But I am betting that you have seen its incredible power without even knowing about it (Commonwealth Bank of Australia is currently using it). Technology like Salesforce.com, Oncontact, Sage, Prophet are all fantastic examples of CRM software. The add-ons like Marketo (Datarati does implementation for this Australia-wide), Hubspot (Bluewire Media is an Australian partner for this software) and Salesforce Marketing Cloud are simply incredible. Landscape Talking to Paul Holstein from Brandrally recently it was really interesting to discuss the difference between marketing teams and C-Level executives. The disparity between the two is incredibly fascinating. That is that one looks traditionally at the tangible and the other at the intangible. The great thing about the before-mentioned software is that it allows these teams to now play in the same sphere. C-Levels can effectively measure the success of creativity, while at the same time marketing teams can express creative ideas with real insights that were never previously available. These two species can now speak the same language. These tools will no doubt change the landscape of the marketing industry and how business has traditionally operated. It has been estimated that by 2017 CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs. Again, another funny concept. However, when you drill down into the CIOs role – being across absolutely every piece of software relevant to an industry – it is revealed as an almost impossible task. This is why I believe ‘cloudware’ will slowly but surely change business forever: It will create a system (using technology) which makes everyone in a business accountable to each other, rather than the traditional structure of the manager above being responsible for the employee below. Where to from here? So, there is this awesome technology everyone now wants to get their hands on. What’s the cost? Will it work for my company? Which one should I use? All these questions will be solved with time (apart from the cost part – just go to their websites and check). Remember the quote from Steve Jobs from my last article – “It’s so much easier to connect the dots looking back.” Just as social media has taken a while to find its feet; these powerful technologies will take time too. Personally, I’m excited to be working with this technology to help the greater good. Being a cancer survivor, I’m excited to be helping the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland with their web strategy and utilising technology (like marketing in the cloud) to help them achieve their goals and reach for the stars – helping cancer sufferers around Queensland and Australia. If you require any help setting up on either tool or have a chat about the best platform for your business, please do not hesitate to contact me on email@example.com or give me a call on (07) 3040 8083.
What kinds of start-ups are most likely to get funding this year? What are the hot sectors in 2013?
Operating as a soloist can mean working long and irregular hours, as well as in remote locations. With no one else to count on, sole traders need to have a handy set of tech tools to fall back on.
Do I need to have any particular sales strategies around Christmas or should I just be doing what I’m doing now, but more of it?
If you’re in retail, there’s a good chance that you’re keen to see the back of 2012 as quickly as possible.