Security vs usability: that's the choice we make with passwords

9:28AM | Friday, 4 September

  We all need some kind of authentication process if we are to access information systems at work or at home. We know why we need to do it: to make sure we have access to our data and unauthorised people don’t.   So why do we routinely ignore such advice, particularly given the constant advice from cyber security professionals about the need for strong passwords that are changed frequently? It seems there is a significant disparity about what we do and what we want: is it security or is it usability?   Most authentication we encounter today is typically implemented in one (or more) of three ways: Something you know (such as the humble password) Something you have (a smart card) Something you are (a fingerprint). Many systems use a username/password pair for access control, largely because the interfaces to most systems have typically been some sort of keyboard. Some smart phones use a PIN or fingerprint and bank ATMs use a combination of something you have (a card) and something you know (a PIN).   The trouble with passwords Having a long random password is good advice. It provides a measure of security for guarding access to important information, such as your online banking account.   Unfortunately, when faced with having to remember several random fifteen character passwords (characters being A to Z, a to z, 0 to 9 and an assortment of other printable characters such as ! @ # $ and %), most users apply a judgement to the value of the information protected by the password and act accordingly.   Some accounts may have a relatively weak password, because of the cost of undue information leakage or harm to the owner if the account is compromised. Other accounts might have a stronger password, because users don’t want their money siphoned off by a cyber-criminal. These are judgements about the perceived value of the information.   How safe is your password? If you must use a password, what makes a good one? How fast can a password be cracked?   There are several websites that publish lists of common passwords. I have used a list of 14 million passwords as a test with a local science discovery centre in Perth.   Attendees at the centre (mostly high school students) were asked to enter what they thought was a secure password and this was checked against the list. If not found on the list (a rare occurence), the password was sent to a fast computer for further processing.   This computer could crack a random six character password in under two seconds, using a brute-force attack by trying to match “aaaaaa”, then “aaaaab”, then “aaaaac” and so on through all combination of six characters.   It was surprising how little the fast computer had to do. Many users assume that words or phrases taken from well-established literature are somehow secure. They are not (forget anything from Lord of the Rings or War and Peace).   A longer password takes longer to crack. A random 15-character password might take a week, but then the argument comes back to the time value of information. If a cyber-criminal has to wait a week, your account will still be there and will you change your random 15-character password every week?   One way to add an extra level of security to your password is to enable any two-step authentication, whereby another code is sent to a device, such as your mobile phone, after a password is entered. Plenty of online services already offer this service.   We need some other authentication If the humble password is not suitable due to usability issues, then there are alternatives such as the popular pay wave contactless payment system for bank cards and travel cards, with no password required for small transactions.   The risk is that if your wallet or purse is stolen, small amounts can be siphoned from your account before it is blocked. Nonetheless, tapping a card is proving to be popular with consumers and with retailers, so convenience wins over security.   Biometric methods, based on some physical property of the human body, are attractive because a person doesn’t need to remember a password or carry a card. Smartphones and computer operating systems already use fingerprint scanners to provide a simple and effective means of authentication.   Other biometric devices in use include retinal scanners, iris scanners and voice recognition. Despite what is seen in popular movies, no-one likes having a laser shined into their eyes, so voice recognition might be the way forward.   But there are known issues with biometric technology. But those issues are the same for any authentication system. Current error rates for single-fingerprint devices are approximately 2% at best – not good enough to be used on their own yet.   Some systems don’t rely on matching the actual fingerprint, but match other behavioural properties of a user. For example, the angle and velocity of fingerprint scanning, which are properties that are different for each person, are measurable and repeatable. This defeats a physical attack such as removing a person’s finger in an effort to impersonate someone.   Returning to the ATM example: for now, we are bound to cards and PINs due to their low maintenance and production costs. From a customer’s point of view, it would be simpler to speak to an ATM and ask it for cash, once your voice print linked to your account has been confirmed. This is a much more user friendly (and safer) future.   Ultimately, until more robust security alternatives are widely accepted (and implementable at low cost), those who continue to ignore the advice on passwords must seriously ask what balance of security and usability they prefer, and what price they’re prepared to pay for weak security? Mike Johnstone is Security Researcher, Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering at Edith Cowan University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Give me location data, and I shall move the world

9:37AM | Thursday, 3 September

  Behind the success of the new wave of location based mobile apps taking hold around the world is digital mapping. Location data is core to popular ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, but also to companies such as Amazon or Domino’s Pizza, which are testing drones for faster deliveries.   Last year, German delivery firm DHL launched its first “parcelcopter” to send medication to the island of Juist in the Northern Sea. In the humanitarian domain, drones are also being tested for disaster relief operations.   Better maps can help app-led companies gain a competitive edge, but it’s hard to produce them at a global scale. A few select players have engaged in a fierce mapping competition. Google leads the race so far, but others are trying to catch up fast. Apple has enlarged its mapping team and renewed its licensing agreement with TomTom. TomTom has plans to 3D map European and North American freeways by next year.     DHL’s prototype ‘parcelcopter’ is a modified microdrone that costs US$54,900 and can carry packages up to 1.2kg. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters   In Europe, German carmakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes agreed to buy Here, Nokia’s mapping business. The company had been coveted by Uber, which has gained mapping skills by acquiring deCarta and part of Microsoft Bing.   Further signs of the fever for maps are startups such as Mapbox, Mapsense, CartoDB, Mapillary, or Mapzen. The new mapping services are cloud-based, mobile-friendly and, in most cases, community-driven.   A flagship base map for the past ten years has been OpenStreetMap (OSM), also known as the “Wikipedia of mapping”. With more than two million registered users, OpenStreetMap aims to create a free map of the world. OSM volunteers have been particularly active in mapping disaster-affected areas such as Haiti, the Philippines or Nepal. A recent study reports how humanitarian response has been a driver of OSM’s evolution, “in part because open data and participatory ideals align with humanitarian work, but also because disasters are catalysts for organizational innovation”.   A map for the commons? While global coverage remains uneven, companies such as Foursquare, Flickr, or Apple, among others, rely on OSM free data. The commercial uses of OSM primary data, though, do not come without ongoing debate among the community about license-related issues.     The steering wheel is seen resting in the middle of the dashboard inside a Rinspeed Budii self-driving electric city car in Geneva. Ard Wiegmann/Reuters   Intense competition for digital maps also flags the start of the self-driving car race. Google is already testing its prototypes outside Silicon Valley and Apple has been rumoured to work on a secret car project code named Titan.   Uber has partnered with Carnegie Mellon and Arizona Universities to work on vehicle safety and cheaper laser mapping systems. Tesla is also planning to make its electric cars self-driving.   The ultimate goal Are we humans ready for this brave new world? Research suggests young people in North America, Australia and much of Europe are increasingly becoming less likely to hold a driver’s license (or, if they do, to drive less).   But even if a new generation of consumers were ready to jump in, challenges remain huge. Navigation systems will need to flawlessly process, in real time, position data streams of buildings, road signs, traffic lights, lane markings, or potholes. And all this seamlessly combined with ongoing sensing of traffic, pedestrians and cyclists, road works, or weather conditions. Smart mapping at its best.       Legal and ethical challenges are not to be underestimated either. Most countries impose strict limits on testing self-driving cars on public roads. Similar limitations apply to the use of civilian drones. And the ethics of fully autonomous cars is still in its infancy. Autonomous cars probably won’t be caught texting, but they will still be confronted with tough decisions when trying to avoid potential accidents. Current research engages engineers and philosophers to work on how to assist cars when making split-second decisions that can raise ethical dilemmas.   But the future of digital maps is not just on the go. Location-based service revenues are forecast to grow to €34.8 billion in 2020. The position data deluge of the upcoming geomobile revolution gives maps a new frontier: big data analytics. As Mapsense CEO Erez Cohen notes: “the industry is much larger than the traditional GIS industry. It’s actually growing at a massive rate, and there are a massive number of new companies that need the services of mapping analytics because they’re generating all this location data.”   Digital mapping technology promises to unveil our routines, preferences, and consumer behaviour in an unprecedented scale. Staggering amounts of location data will populate our digital traces and identities. The impact on our lives, organisations, and businesses is yet to be fully understood, but one thing is sure: the geomobile revolution will be mapped.   Marta Poblet is VC's Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

4000 screenshots later, shopping was a Clinch for Sharon Clark

6:20AM | Friday, 19 June

An avid online shopper, Sharon Clark was often comparing products she wanted to buy. But she grew frustrated there were no tools available to help her save and compare those items easily.   The best Clark could manage was taking screenshots on her smartphone. Not ideal. In fact she ended up with over 4000 screenshots of products she was considering buying.   So she and co-founder Charles Young created Clinch, a mobile web browser which is designed specifically for online shopping. Clinch allows users to store items they find online, organise them in a library to find and compare later. They can also create a canvas, grouping items that fit together for whatever reason, style, inspiration, or event planning.   “What it does is gives the user a better browser experience and increases the conversion rate for retailers. And the way we do that is by offering a really empowered engaging mobile browsing experience,” Clark says.   Clinch launched recently and is currently only available on iPad, however, there are plans to develop apps for all mobile devices. Young says Clinch is relying on an advertising revenue model, so success will require lots of users. The startup plans to grow its user base by leveraging the networks of its online retail partners.   “The way this thing will make money is by creating a large and active user base and affiliate revenues from brand partners. We have about 2000 and are steadily growing partners worldwide.   “Out of those 2000 affiliate brands around the world, we’ve found it’s a really valuable tool for increasing the conversion rates of those brands.   “We’ll also have the ability to really mine the data we’re collecting. We’ll be able to understand what people are considering buying. It’ll have the ability to have laser-focused opt-in advertising opportunities for these brands. And down the track, in-app purchases.”   The startup is currently being funded by Young and Clark but the duo are about to head to the Echelon Asia Summit 2015, after being selected as a Top 100 startup, where they’ll begin searching for seed investment.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

A new space race is on to bring the internet to the whole world

6:22AM | Friday, 19 June

The race is on to get billions of people connected to the internet via a global network of satellites. Europe’s Airbus announced this week that it is to design and build up to 900 satellites for the privately owned OneWeb Ltd, which includes Richard Branson as a board member.   A statement from OneWeb said the plan was to begin launches in 2018 to bring “affordable internet access for everyone” by providing approximately 10 terabits per second of low-latency, high-speed broadband.   That estimate of 10 terabits per second may be misleading, though. The broadband access rates experienced by customers are more likely to be in the range of 2 to 50 megabits per second (Mb/s).   It is an ambitious move and follows reports that the entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is seeking US government approval of a network of 4,000 satellites to provide similar internet access.   Accessing the internet via satellite is nothing new. Our own NBN Co plans to launch a satellite this September to help bring people in regional areas to its high-speed network.   But what makes OneWeb and SpaceX’s ventures interesting is their plan to connect people anywhere on the planet, similar to Google’s plan revealed last year.   Facebook’s is another project that aims to make it easier for more people anywhere to connect to the internet. A truly world wide web   Only about 40% of the world’s population currently has access to the internet and annual growth has been slowing from from 10.5% in 2013 to 8% in 2013 and 7.9% last year.   Any further growth requires cost-effective access such as a global satellite network. With the mass production of micro-satellites, building such a pervasive broadband internet powered by a constellation of satellites opens up many possibilities.   It makes business sense for large internet companies such as Facebook and Google to increase access in the developing world. Having benefited from the huge uptake of internet connectivity among developed countries, these companies see an as-yet-untapped market opportunity among those who do not currently have internet access.   If other large technology companies hungry for users want to increase affordable internet access, then governments should take advantage of these opportunities. Connecting the unconnected to the internet has many positive advantages for the community.   The internet supports development by transforming a younger generation’s ability to acquire knowledge and skills and contribute productively to national growth. It can also help an ageing population to remain active and access cost-effective health care.   Connectivity is transforming transport, manufacturing, logistics and environment management. All forms of government can achieve greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness through their citizens being online and connected.   Access to digital connectivity is essential in the networked society and it is imperative that there is equitable and universal access throughout the world. Access needs to be affordable   The Alliance for Affordable Internet has long highlighted the need to increase access by making the internet affordable to a greater percentage of the global population.   Its latest Affordability Report says only 5% of the population of the world’s 49 most underdeveloped countries are online. But for the two billion people living on less than US$2 per day, basic broadband access can exceed 40% of their monthly income.   The low income of many regions does not create the necessary demand to drive investment in affordable internet access options. This leaves these communities in a vicious cycle, which is widening the gap between the connected and non-connected.   A global satellite network may be one solution to providing such access. But how will it work?   Delivering broadband over such a network faces significant challenges in design, deployment and operation of such a global infrastructure. It must also make sure it’s affordable for those from economically disadvantaged or remotely located regions.   A large constellation of satellites requires agile and cost-effective backhaul technology to provide interconnections between the satellites to form an extension to the internet. Backhaul refers to the links or network required between satellites and the internet to provide customers with internet access.   This can be achieved with laser beams or microwave beams operating at millimetre-wave frequencies. They will also require self-aligning systems to pin-point other satellites and maintain links despite fluctuations in their relative positions.   Alternatively, the satellites could form the necessary backhaul by connecting to ground stations suitably connected close to major internet gateways. Either way, satellite networks also need ground stations and internet gateways, which adds to the cost and the complexity of deploying and managing the network.   With a large constellation of satellites, we can expect a portion of satellites to be dysfunctional at times. The operators need to factor that into the operation and also account for potential impacts and risks of losing satellites. That is why the OneWeb/Airbus deal is for 900 satellites but a plan to launch only 700.   The current cost of satellite-based broadband access may only be within the reach of those living in rural communities of developed countries and for emergency communications. The key question remains whether operators can reduce the cost further by leveraging these early markets to deliver affordable access to the remaining two billion people earning US$2 a day.   The world needs connectivity and it is now needed in places where it has been nearly impossible. Micro-satellites could offer real potential that needs to be explored and may fuel a space race once more among the internet companies.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.

Why I love team off-sites

6:40AM | Wednesday, 3 June

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

Smaller is smarter at the 2015 International CES

1:16AM | Monday, 12 January

An app that can unlock your front door with a digital key and the latest wearable sex tech OhMiBod are just some of the next generation of high-tech gadgets and devices on display this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).   So what are some of the big things to look out for from the show, held each January in Las Vegas, in the United States? And how far has our technology evolved over the past year? The Internet of Things This year’s CES presented the largest ever showcase of Internet of Things (IoT) products.   The IoT is all about connectivity. It aims to use the internet to connect a whole range of devices and appliances, as well as things like the lighting and window coverings in your home.   Large growth is expected within this sector, which Dr Michael Cowling, a senior lecturer in mobile computing at Central Queensland University, said was “long overdue”.   “This year [at CES] is all about the gadgets,” he said. “So many little gadgets that can do a specific job. That’s great for diversity.   “It’s quite different from previous CES. Previous years it’s been more big showcase things, like last year’s curved TVs from big companies Samsung or LG. Now we’re talking about small start-up companies.”   One such company is Petnet. It has produced a device that allows pet owners to monitor the food they are giving their cat or dog, as well as being able to remotely give them their dinner.   Other smart appliances for the home include Milky Weigh, a device for your fridge that can tell you how much milk you have left while you’re out shopping. Tracking your health and wearables The plan for Wearables is to be seamlessly inserted into our everyday lives. A major feature in numerous wearables is their health-tracker capabilities.   Bragi Dash Smart Headphones won an award for best innovation at the 2015 CES. These are wireless headphones with an accelerometer, heart rate monitor and an oxygen saturation sensor built in.   Swarovski Shine is a bracelet and the first solar-powered wearable. It also includes sleep-tracker capabilities.   Vessyl is a cup that communicates with an app to measure your calorie intake. These are just some of the technologies to come out of CES this year that are focusing on people’s health and well-being.   Dr Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at RMIT University, said that he sees “the next stage of health as the surveillance of your health”.   He compared this next step forward for diagnostic sensors to the continued development of GPS systems.   “Remember a few years ago, people followed their GPS into a lake,” he said. “But they have became much more accurate since then. It’s the same for diagnostics.”   He was “amazed” at the new sensors coming to the market with much higher sensitivity, and sees this trend continuing.   “The biggest thing for me is biomedical in the next five years, as the technology is allowing them [the sensors] to become more selective and accurate.” The future of entertainment A big feature at last year’s CES was curved screens for TVs, but these have received a mixed response over the 12 months with some critics labelling it a gimmick.   This year, the main focus for new televisions was to get even better quality images with a continued interest in 4K TVs.   A new addition to the line-up is the use of quantum dot technology, which is a cheaper alternative to OLED with higher definition.   “This year saw TVs with much better resolution and also much better colour, as they introduced quantum dots, so they have very sharp colour,” Dr Kalantar-Zadeh said. “They were able to expand on this into very large dimensions.” 3D printing It’s only in the past few years that 3D printers have become commercially available. The focus at last year’s event was on getting plastic filaments for consumer printing. This year, the CES showcased new materials and techniques.   Robo has blended colours into its print, while XYZPrinting now uses laser-cured liquid plastic to create a more structurally sound product. It has also created a food printer.   Makerbot is using composite filaments to create products that feel like real wood.   Dr Matthew Sorell, a senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said real progress was being made in 3D printing although it was still early days in what the technology could do.   “I’m reminded very much of having a nine-pin dot printer 30 years ago,” he said. “That was what you could get as a consumer, whereas nowadays we all have a laser or an inkjet. Pretty much everyone has a laser printer in the office.”   Dr Sorell sees 3D printers following a similar progression, where we are still in the early nine-pin dot stage.   “2014 was just ‘here we are’,” Dr Sorell said. “2015 is really showing the evolving technologies of what we can do.”   While 3D printers are becoming more affordable and diverse in their applications, it can be difficult for consumers to create their own designs.   Designs can be shared across communities such as Thingiverse, but new products at the CES such as Scanify could also help the consumer. Scanify is designed like a point-and-shoot camera, but will take a 3D image of an object in under a tenth of a second, which you can then print out as an exact replica. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Melbourne-based startup closes $500,000 seed funding round, backed by Bevan Clark and Guy King

12:14AM | Monday, 8 December

Melbourne-based grocery delivery startup YourGrocer has just closed out a $500,000 seed funding round, led by Bevan Clark, Guy King and other private investors.   YourGrocer is an online service that allows people to order products from their local butcher, greengrocer, bakers, delis or independent supermarket, offering independent retailers and their customers a “full-stack e-commerce” and same-day delivery.   According to founder Morgan Ranieri, while a lot of customers prefer to shop locally, many end up buying their groceries at Coles and Woolworths out of convenience. YourGrocer allows local retailers to make deliveries at a time convenient to their customers, making their value proposition much stronger than that of the major supermarkets.   YourGrocer initially covered a number of suburbs in Melbourne’s north, including Brunswick, Coburg, Northcote, Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Melbourne. Since then, it has added a second run covering inner-eastern suburbs such as Richmond and Balwyn.   Ranieri told StartupSmart, further development and hiring a team that will allow it to scale will be key focuses in the short term.   “At this stage, we’ve built a product our customers love, and now we’re focusing on customer acquisition and growing. Our next step is hiring the right people to increase our UX and development capabilities, and expanding into new suburbs,” Ranieri says.   “We now have 17 retailers, two vans, and several hundred customers… Right now our sales up around the $50,000 per month mark – which is quite a milestone – and means local shops are selling $50,000 more groceries per month,” Ranieri says.   “We’re laser-focused on our business model. We’ll test other things but this funding round will help us build a team to rapidly scale.   “We want to launch a few more runs and build them up to capacity and profitability in a short period of time, and that’s when we’ll expand interstate. So we want to cover all of Melbourne as soon as possible – by mid to late next year.”   Clark, who built discount shopping website with King before selling it for $77 million and is also an angel investor in LIFX, personally endorses the service.   "YourGrocer is a service that my family use and love. The large supermarket chains can't offer the same level of personal service and quality that you get from your local stores, and now as consumers increasingly buy groceries online, the local stores can compete there too,” Clark says.   “Morgan and his team have an innovative and scalable approach that I believe could have a huge following in Australia, and internationally.”   YourGrocer is one of the supporting sponsors of Startup Victoria’s aboveallhuman conference, with Ranieri crediting the startup’s rapid growth to the strength of the Melbourne startup community.   “Startup Victoria has been a huge support. The whole Lean Startup and Startup Victoria community has been awesome to meet people and get support, and we’re really excited about the aboveallhuman Conference," he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Data mining the new black box of self-driving cars

10:36AM | Tuesday, 21 October

Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are likely to be seen more widely on roads in 2015.   Already, legislation authorising the use of autonomous vehicles has been introduced in the US states of Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan, with similar legislation being planned for the UK. To date, these laws have focused on legalising the use of autonomous vehicles and dealing, to an extent, with some of the complex issues relating to liability for accidents.   But as with other emerging disruptive technologies, such as drones and wearables, it is essential that issues relating to user privacy and data security are properly addressed prior to the technologies being generally deployed.   Understanding autonomous vehicles   There is no single, uniform design for autonomous vehicles. Rather, it is best to understand an autonomous vehicle as a particular configuration of a combination of applications, some of which – such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, collision avoidance and parking assistance – are already part of current car design.   The most well-known prototype, Google’s self-driving car, uses a variety of technologies, including: a laser range finder (LIDAR) that generates a detailed 3D map of the environment; radars; cameras for detecting traffic lights; and a GPS. Other projects, including prototypes being developed by Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota and Oxford University, use different combinations of technologies.   This means that the privacy and data security problems arising from autonomous vehicles depend upon the precise technologies applied in any particular design. Some generalisations are, however, possible.   The relationship between the virtual and the real   The rules (or “code”) governing the online world have been different to those that apply offline. For example, online activities invariably generate digital traces, including metadata, which can be used to build profiles of users.   With emerging technologies, such as drones, wearables and autonomous vehicles, we are increasingly seeing the transposition of virtual models onto the real. One consequence of the range of sensors and data collection devices being deployed (and interconnected) is that our offline activities can leave traces at least as extensive as those generated online.   One way to understand types of autonomous vehicles is by reference to the kind of data collected and the ways in which that data is processed. For instance, autonomous vehicles often incorporate event recorders, or “black boxes”, to provide essential information in the event of an accident. This raises questions about who has rights to this data and about who can have access to the data.   Anonymising data   There is an overlap here with questions of liability, as insurance companies have clear incentives to collect as much data about user behaviour as possible. The potential for intrusive surveillance of personal activities is particularly jarring, as the car has been an archetypal space of personal privacy and freedom.   A fundamental distinction must be drawn between self-contained autonomous vehicles, in which the data collected from sensor devices installed in the car are stored and processed in the vehicle itself, and interconnected vehicles, in which data is shared with a centralised server and, potentially, with other vehicles.   Regardless of whether a vehicle is self-contained or interconnected, design decisions have to be made about whether or not the data collected is anonymised or linked to individual users. If the data is not anonymised, especially with interconnected vehicles, this poses serious surveillance threats. After all, once the data exists, and especially if it is connected to a server, it is vulnerable to access by third parties.   It is possible to envisage implementations of autonomous vehicles where data about a particular user is linked to other data sources, such as an online profile, for purposes such as tracking or marketing. This might take the form of personalised advertising displayed in the car, or even adjusting a vehicle’s route so that it passes retail outlets which match a user’s imputed preferences.   What else is at stake: human autonomy and hacking   We are now familiar with technologies, such as predictive search, which in the online context, attempt to predict what we want to do and make more or less persuasive suggestions.   It is likely that some versions of autonomous vehicles will implement predictive technologies. In any case, the progressive delegation of human decisions to machines raises system-wide questions about the cumulative impact on human autonomy: the more people are habituated to decisions being made for them, the less likely they may be to make their own decisions.   We are also now depressingly familiar with the vulnerability of computer systems to malicious third parties. Just as effective data security is essential to online safety, autonomous vehicles must be designed with a high level of data security, especially given the potentially calamitous consequences of hacked vehicles. As interconnected data processing systems are progressively rolled out in applications such as wearables and autonomous vehicles, we seem likely to see an offline version of the same sort of perpetual guerrilla warfare played out online between information security and hackers.   Protecting privacy at the design stage   Autonomous vehicles promise significant social and economic benefits, especially in potential improvements to road safety. There are, nevertheless, considerable legal and regulatory challenges. As with other emerging disruptive technologies, it is vital that privacy and anonymity be properly protected at the design stage.   To date, in the face of significant challenges relating to the legality of autonomous vehicles and liability issues, the privacy rights of users have been relatively neglected. But unless the era of artificial intelligence is to be accompanied by us sleepwalking into ubiquitous surveillance, we must recognise that safety and security needs to be balanced against the legitimate rights of people to control their own data and to retain their fundamental rights to privacy.   David Lindsay is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

20 tips to maximise your chances of success in business

6:21AM | Thursday, 26 June

Let’s assume we have already explored the reasons for why businesses fail and focus on what you can do to maximise your chances of being successful.   Here is a list of 20 actionable tips:   1. Be aware of the reasons why people fail! By reading this, you’ve shown you want to learn and become aware of the traps, pitfalls and mistakes that people before you have experienced.   2. Start selling. Become a sales guru. Learn to sell. No sales means no cash. Sell everyday even as the founder, particularly early on. With cash, you can hire people and improve your systems. Pick up the phone, start prospecting, and start speaking to customers. If you aren’t getting rejected, then you simply aren’t trying hard enough!   3. Know what you don’t know. The problem is that most people don’t know what they don’t know. This might sound confusing, but it’s important to become aware of the areas in which you lack understanding or experience. This is a positive thing as now you are more aware of where you need to either up-skill yourself and those around you or otherwise seek professional assistance. Accept that you can’t be an expert in everything and that if you try to do so, you are going to get bogged down.   4. Be clear on your skill sets and interests. Stop doing what you aren’t good at and dislike doing. Outsource it as soon as you can afford to or invest in getting assistance in those areas. If you focus on what you are good at and what you like doing, you will be more efficient and happy, but ensure that these activities help drives sales and add value to your business.   5. Build a support network around you. Building a business can be a lonely journey. Once you are in the game, surround yourself with others who are also ‘in the game’. It’s an emotional rollercoaster at times and it’s imperative that the support you have around you understands and recognises the commitment required to succeed. Positive people are a great influence and will be great sounding boards when you are going through the ups and downs.   6. Educate your spouse, partner and family. Conflict often arises on the home front if those who are closest to you can simply not understand or appreciate your journey. It is well documented that a successful business starts in the home, and a happy home helps fuel success.   7. Get a mentor. If it’s good enough for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer to have a coach, then I guarantee we are all good enough to have a mentor to guide us and help us strive to improve. Without a coach, we can drift along the wrong path, stay stagnant, move sidewards and in fact go backwards. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have mentors – whether they are paid or unpaid. Reach out to people who may be able to mentor you. You’d be surprised at how successful entrepreneurs like to give back to those starting out.   8. Be committed to learning. Always keep an open mind and allocate a percentage of your time for self-development and continuing education. There is an infinite amount of material to read, so be fussy with what you read and focus on topics that are most relevant to you today or in the near future. Chip away and keep adding to your stockpile of knowledge. I am a firm believer that any new knowledge gained today means that you will make better decisions tomorrow which you may not have otherwise made.   9. Be willing to fail. Once you achieve the feeling of invincibility, anything is possible! There is no such thing as failure. I am a proud failure and will continue to be proud to fail. The word ‘fail’ should be seen as a positive learning experience which makes you smarter and stronger while fuelling your passion and desire for success even further.   10. Be Passionate. Passion drives everything. With passion, people feed off your energy and buy in to your vision. Passion is one of those things that is too hard to fake. Passion drives you to work long hours and weekends but makes it never feel like work. If your passion dies, your business will inevitably stagnate.   11. Build a powerful network. It’s not just who you know. It’s who THEY know. Invest time in building trusted connections with people who can help you along your journey. Be first to ‘give’ and good things will return. Get to know the right people in your industry and be the person that is seen and heard and who people want to get to know. Your network lasts with you a lifetime if maintained properly and will help thread you through to the right people fast. By knowing who to turn to, you can solve problems, get access to clients and achieve things very fast in business. Constantly think of others, and how you can help others in your network.   12. Work really hard but smart. There is no escaping hard work. Passive income is rarely passive. The entrepreneur is what ultimately fuels growth. It is up to you to work hard but smart. Be outcome-oriented but continue to demonstrate a work ethic second to none. When I played semi-elite sport I always trained like I was number 2, and wanted to make sure that I was ready for battle and did more work on the training track than my competition to give me the best chance of succeeding. Entrepreneurs are rarely lazy beings. They are inspired to achieve and often highly self-motivated people who often live and die by their own sword.   13. Hire people better and smarter than you. The most successful entrepreneurs hire really smart people around them who are experts in their field. They recognise that they don’t need to be the smartest person, but they need to hire people who are smarter and better than them. It’s a simple philosophy, but they don’t have any desire to be an expert at everything.   14. Manage key relationships. Some of the best advice I received from a high profile entrepreneur was to recognise which relationships are critical for the owner to maintain. Whether this be with key staff, suppliers or customers, it is critical to ensure that the entrepreneur does not risk losing key relationships in the event that staff or partners exit the business.   15. Learn to lead. The best leaders attract the best clients and the best talent. By being able to lead well, you can train other leaders effectively and grow and scale a business successfully. Without leadership, a business has limited chance of success.   16. Manage cash flow. Cash is king. You can’t grow without cash. Be aware of the differences between cash flow and profit. If you run out of cash, your business can die quickly. Prioritise managing cash flow each week so you spend wisely. Many businesses grow too quickly and run out of cash and die despite having profitable businesses.   17. Stay fit and healthy. Self-care is critical to optimise performance. If you are unfit or unwell, you, your family and your business suffers. Prioritise exercise, eating well, drink water, maintain stress-relieving activities and ensure good sleep. Schedule in recreational time to clear the mind. Take breaks and have holidays. Regular exercise and a healthy body will ensure a healthy mind providing you with loads of positive energy and a positive outlook.   18. Manage risk. Look at all the risks in your business. Be aware of them and ask yourself what you can practically do to mitigate any risks. Most risks can be identified and managed to some extent and can help you plan for contingencies.   19. Stay focused. The number one tip overall is to stay focused. Every successful entrepreneur has had a laser sharp focus on one thing at a time before being able to scale into multiple ventures. Give yourself the best opportunity of succeed, otherwise you may spread yourself too thin and take the opportunity away from maximising potential.   Remember this:   F -ollow O -ne C -ourse U -ntil S -uccessful   20. Persist. I have had a motivational sign on my wall for the last 10 years which reads, “Persistence. It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”   If you manage to stick to these tips along your journey, you will be way ahead of the pack and heading towards a successful business ready to replicate your skills over and over throughout your business lifetime. All of these skills don’t magically appear overnight, so be patient in developing your skills which will hold you in good stead.   This is an excerpt from Jonathan Weinstock’s book, Why You Are A 90% Chance to FAIL In Business. Download your free copy from here for a limited time. For a bit of fun, I have even created “Failure” T-shirts which say “Proud Achiever of Failure” – Failure = Learning = Success.

Sharp idea leads to Australia’s latest Kickstarter success

6:47PM | Wednesday, 11 June

With a goal of raising $45,000, and having reached $300,000 with 16 days to go, Darkly Lab’s LazerBlade looks to be Australia’s next runaway Kickstarter success.   LazerBlade makers bill it as ‘the affordable entry-level laser cutter/engraver for the maker, artist and hobbyist.” Its design and capabilities certainly look impressive, with the ability to work on most materials aside from glass, aluminium and steel.   Darkly Lab founder and head developer Domenic Di Giorgio says the team was blown away by the response to their campaign.   “We loved it and so many people we showed it to loved it as well, telling us about all the ways they could use it that we had never thought of ourselves,” Di Giorgio says. “But we never expected the response we got, it’s been mindblowing.”   Darkly Labs was conceived a few years ago by Di Giorgio and some of his colleagues at Creature Technology Company, where Di Giorgio still heads up digital design.   The aim was to use their shared passion for experimentation to try and develop products that they needed. They’ve prototyped a few ideas, but the LazerBlade is the first they’ve made public.   The idea has taken about a year to get to its current state and has been personally funded so far.   “We developed it as far as we could and then went to Kickstarter as we needed the funds to finish it off and do a production run,” Di Giorgio says.     Di Giorgio says that they had heavily reduced the cost of their product for the campaign in recognition of the fact that people supporting them were taking a risk – much as they do with any other Kickstarter – but that also meant they weren’t making any margin off LazerBlade’s sold through the campaign.   It’s hoped that Darkly Labs will continue to create new products.   “The truth is I enjoy the process of designing new products more than I do using the product for the intention it was designed for,” Di Giorgio says.   The LazerBlade also comes with free software. A video of it in action can be seen below:       From the Kickstarter campaign, LazerBlade key features, include: Available in A4 and A3 sizes. 2 watt M140 Laser Diode. Variable laser power control, 0% to 100% (not just on/off). Cleverly designed for accuracy, performance and safety. Partially Assembled Kit. Stores vertically when not in use.

Hardware startups get their own co-working space

6:57AM | Wednesday, 11 June

Solidifier, a subscription-based hardware co-working space, is set to launch in Sydney looking to serve the rising number of hardware startups.   The co-working space will give hardware startups all that’s required to get a product to market, whether it is tools like laser cutters and 3D printers, or access to experts in the areas of crowdfunding, manufacturing, distribution or industrial design.   Founder David Vandenberg says the aim of Solidifier is to help lower the barriers faced by those wanting to develop a product.   “There’s still quite a lot of investment in hardware required to do that sort of stuff,’’ he says.   “Prototypes are hard to make and manufacturing is still something Australia doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in these days.”   Vandenberg says that while those barriers are still in place, they’re lower than they’ve ever been before because of technological developments like 3D printers and laser cutters.   “There has been a lot more hardware startups popping up,’’ he says.   “There’s a reason for that. One is that cloud software startups have been around for a while and to some extent a lot of the ideas, someone’s already done it.   “In that space now it’s more a matter of incremental improvements.   “In the hardware space it’s a lot more interesting.   “Another reason is just the tools that have become available for prototyping things now are much more accessible.   “That’s because 3D printers and laser cutters are becoming affordable, and Arduino and Raspberry Pi have made electronics more accessible.”   Vandenberg has tentatively planned to launch Solidifier on Kickstarter next week a number of membership options will be available and 50% of the profits raised will go to purchasing more tools for the space.   “It’s all about engaging the core of the community that have hardware devices. They don’t need to be electronic, it could be anything innovative, something that an industrial designer might do, the types of things that require prototyping and crowdfunding,’’ he says.   This Thursday, Vandenberg has organised a town hall-style event at the new space which is located in suite 6, level 1, 66 Oxford Street, Sydney and anyone interested in the project is encouraged to attend.   He says the time of the event has yet to be finalised, but those interested should keep an eye out for more details at OzBerryPi.

Crazy Domains loses web hosting data, as startups suffer

5:15PM | Monday, 26 May

Cut-price internet services provider Crazy Domains has offered just $100 to compensate customers for losing their web hosting data.   The former Perth-based company, which is now owned by Dubai business Dreamscape Networks, told customers via email last week that “due to an unforseen incident in a storage upgrade the data from your hosting account has unfortunately been irretrievably lost”.   A spokesperson for the company told SmartCompany 18 out of a possible 10,000 Australian clients using the particular server were affected by the incident and Crazy Domains is in the process of re-allocating their data to a new storage system with "enhanced" capabilities.   Crazy Domains has offered customers $100 in credit to make up for the error. However, one Crazy Domains customer told SmartCompany their financial losses due to lost email, productivity, support and the need to rebuild their website will total up to $2000.   The customer said they first became aware of an issue on Thursday, May 8, when their Crazy Domains-hosted website went down. As a WordPress website, most of the data was hosted on the site.   “It’s a shared service and my guess is at least this entire service, and maybe more, are dead, so lots of people out there will be impacted,” said the customer. “I’m lucky as it’s not an e-commerce site.”   The customer said they made multiple calls to Crazy Domains since their site crashed and despite being told the problem would be fixed and all data was recoverable, did not receive any sanctioned information from the company until the email on May 15.   The Crazy Domains spokesperson said while the company's support team does operate 24 hours, seven days a week, it's possible they did not respond to affected customers immediately or "did not notice the problem straightaway".   Crazy Domains said in the email while “data backup remains the responsibility of the customer with hosting services”, the company’s engineers had been “working tirelessly and around the clock with the storage vendors to try and recover this data”.   “However, I am sorry to say in this instance the relevant backups were also damaged, and I regret that our engineers have not been successful in their efforts to restore the lost data,” said a member of the Crazy Domains support team called “Laser M”.   “It’s never easy to say sorry, or to break bad news, but it’s our policy to always be upfront and honest with you,” said the team member.   This is not the first time Crazy Domains customers have suffered, with at least a thousand customers losing access to their email and websites in October last year.   At the time, the company received multiple complaints about its poor customer service and lack of communication.   David Markus, founder of IT company Combo, told SmartCompany that while web hosting companies “usually do a good job of backing up and restoring data”, business owners “can’t assume these providers are stable and need to take precautions”.   Markus said web hosting providers are “very volatile at the moment”, with numerous businesses being bought and sold, and one large provider, Distribute.IT, collapsing in 2011.   “What we learnt from that is that if you have a website, you should keep a backup on your own system,” said Markus. “That way, if the company goes under or makes a mistake, you can restore your data to them or very quickly move it to somewhere else”.   Markus said there is also the possibility that the Crazy Domains servers were hacked, and this throws open the question of how safe data is once it is “in the cloud”.   “We all assume that data is protected, but businesses need to have good advisers who know their company,” he said.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Consultant sourcing online marketplace Expert360 raises $1 million for rapid expansion

1:05PM | Tuesday, 14 January

Australian-based online expert consultant marketplace Expert360 has raised $1 million in funding as it seeks to expand overseas.   Co-founders Emily Yue and Bridget Loudon told StartupSmart the funds came from a variety of start-up investors and business leaders who are mostly based in Australia, but also two in Hong Kong and one in New York.   The capital raising for the business, which has seen triple digit revenue growth since it was officially launched in July 2013, was oversubscribed, with offers from a range of senior business and investment leaders in Australia, Asia and the US.   “The funds will go towards improving the platforms, towards ensuring we’ve got the best and brightest advisors through awareness raising campaigns and then helping on-board these people. We’ll also launch awareness-building campaigns for potential clients too,” Loudon says.   She adds they’re particularly excited about investing in some tools they’re creating to help the expert consultants promote themselves and make the best use of the platform.   The target customers for Expert360 are medium-sized corporations, private equity firms and boutique consulting firms that need extra capacity. Over 3000 consultants are listed on the platform, based all over the world including Australia, the US, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.   Yue and Loudon, who was last year named among StartupSmart’s Future Makers, met while both were working with management consulting firm Bain & Company, where the idea for the online platform was born.   “We saw that businesses of all sizes found it difficult to engage experts and consultants on a flexible basis. They might need a person or two for particular projects and couldn’t access top talent. We also saw a huge and growing pool of top notch execs and consultants who want to go freelance, so came up with an online solution,” Loudon says.   Yue adds the consulting industry is worth over $30 billion.   “The consulting industry is on the cusp of a major disruption and Expert360 is perfectly positioned to ride that wave,” Yue says.   The transition from staff management consultants to start-up founders has been a fun but challenging one for the team.   “Coming from a resource rich environment to a lean start-up, it’s totally different. You have to totally change your mindset and how you make decisions from the tiny ones right through to the big ones,” Loudon says.   “We had to get laser-focused. Anything that’s not on the immediate launch and growth agenda you have to drop. We were bootstrapped from the beginning, and nothing teaches you to be lean like running a business on your credit card for six months!”

How can I find the right franchisees to expand my business?

12:26AM | Thursday, 20 December

This article first appeared on December 21st, 2011.   Franchising a business is something which requires systematic planning and expertise.

Closing date looms for female-focused Springboard program

3:51AM | Monday, 11 March

Female entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors are being encouraged to submit an application to Springboard Enterprises, which aims to help them secure funding from local and US investors.

My “closed door” 100% engagement policy

10:32AM | Monday, 15 October

Firstly, I’m not into policies. Too many rules. Rules change.

Digital innovation makes 3D printed bikini a reality

9:49AM | Monday, 3 September

When it comes to 3D-printed clothing, one company is starting small. Very small.

What kind of salesperson are you?

10:04AM | Monday, 8 October

The ability to sell can make or break a start-up. If a business in its early years can’t sell its products or services, it hasn’t got much chance of success.

New jaw created in 3D printer

2:46AM | Thursday, 23 February

In a world first, scientists have used a 3D printer to create a new lower jaw for an elderly patient.

Striking it rich

2:36PM | Tuesday, 21 February

Despite celebrating a decade at the helm of his $30 million revenue business, Melbourne entrepreneur Michael Schreiber has no intention of slowing down any time soon.