Three funny startup Twitter accounts you should follow for the LOLs

11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November

Even the most ardent startup advocates have to admit there is lot of scope for humour in the heady realm of tech, big goals and new businesses.   So perhaps it’s unsurprising that there are a host of satiric startup Twitter accounts out there, making light of serious issues or sending up the stereotypes.   Here are our top three to follow:   PHP_CEO   A send-up of a chief executive at a fictional programming company, this account taps into the crazy expectations of startups as well as the perennial tension and misunderstandings between developers and non-technical team members.   YOU DEVELOPERS MIGHT CALL IT "REINVENTING THE WHEEL", BUT I CALL IT "CREATING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY"— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 24, 2014   With every tweet delivered in all-caps, following this account is a good way to jolt your day with a friendly reminder of startup angst.   OK THIS BUSINESS UNIT IS GOING TO OPERATE LIKE A STARTUP. HAHA NO IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU GET EQUITY YOU JUST WORK EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS NOW— PHP CEO (@PHP_CEO) February 28, 2014   PanderDaily   Part startup satire and part startup media satire, @NextTechBlog makes fun off the way startups get covered and the themes often explored by startup publications.   The account pokes fun at overused headlines:   SCOOP-SCLUSIVE: I Checked Up On A Start-Up No One Else Cares About Anymore— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014 Why The Most Predictable Tech Headline Of 2013 Arrived In February 2014— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 25, 2014   And people who inspire these stories:  LinkedIn Notifications From Q3 2014: Congratulate your bro on his promotion from social guru to brand prophet.— Pander Daily (@NextTechBlog) February 7, 2014   Startup L. Jackson   Back on the rougher end of the humour spectrum, Startup L Jackson sends out edgy tweets and occasionally profanity laden missives about startups and technology.   For example, this was his contribution to the leading startup conference South by South West’s hashtag.   Crowds, like drunk people, are very rarely wise. This is why drunk crowds make such great customers. #protip #sxsw— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 12, 2014   With a sense of humour built around the ‘everyone is thinking it’ style, he also offers fashion advice for founders dithering between looks and the thought process thousands must go through when a startup makes it big:   Dear sportcoat and t-shirt guy, pick a fucking side.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 13, 2014 #1 That idea is stupid. #2 It's $1bn a year in digital kittens, dude. #1 They're making how much money? Doing what? #1 I'm old.— Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) March 11, 2014

Buy a vowel – and make your name stand out!

3:05AM | Wednesday, 12 March

Are you trying to pick a name for your business? Looking for something really unique? Old Taskmaster has a radical idea that will make you stand out from the start-up crowd.   But first, I need you to imagine a strange land. A land before time. A land before mobile phones and the internet had been invented.   Now, for some of you young whippersnappers, I’ll admit it might be tough to imagine, but bear with me.   In this strange land, product and company names generally communicated information about the company.   Sometimes, a business would be named after its founder. For example, Myer’s department store was founded by Sidney Myer, while Grace Brothers was founded by Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace.   An alternative was to name products based on where it was from. No prizes for guessing where the cannery for SPC, the Shepparton Preserving Co-operative, was (and yes, it was a farmers’ ‘co-op’ before it was a ‘company’).   Others opted for names that describe what the company did. As shocking as it sounds, International Business Machines was an international company that sold business machines.   Sure, there were products with misspellings and poor grammar – Old Taskmaster is looking at you, Weet Bix – but those products stood out from the crowd by virtue of their unique name.   Even in the early days of the computer revolution, brands like Digital, Commodore, Apple, Radio Shack, Acorn or Atari at least chose sensible names.   Of course, times change.   Like goth kids in high school playground, everyone decided to be unique – by doing the exact same thing as everyone else.   It might have been the influence of rock and roll bands, from the Beatles to Motörhead. It could have been the camel case commands in various programming languages (as if anyone who ever typed ‘WriteLn’ needed another reason to hate Pascal). It was, possibly in large part, due to the success of the iMac and web squatters claiming every word in the dictionary.   These days, it seems a start-up name isn’t complete until it’s grammatically incorrect. CamelCase everywhere. Companies insisting the first letter in their company name should be lower case. Needless exclamation marks! Vowels missing. Letters replaced by numb3rs.   Then there’s the letters replaced with an upper case X, sort of like the “X Games”. After all, it might not be immediately clear to the casual observer that optimising a database query in PHP is really an extreme sport, like a skydiving contest.   That’s before you get the PR reps who insist that a Welsh-looking company name that would not look too out of place near the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll must be spelled in a particular Pantone shade of red, lower-case italics.   With that type of pressure, it can be tough to stand out.   Well, Old Taskmaster says this: If you’re choosing a business name, it’s time to do something really radical. Something to make you really stand out against all the other tech start-ups out there.   That’s right, it’s time to buy a vowel! No italics, no unnecessary ‘i’ or ‘e’ at the start of your company name. It’s time to really stand out from your competitors – by choosing an old-fashioned, grammatically correct business name!   Get it done – today!

Don’t be overly reliant on a single staff member

1:52AM | Monday, 20 January

Has your start-up grown to the point where you’re thinking about hiring staff? Or have you recently hired your first employees?   If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work!   But be warned – there’s a big potential pitfall just around the corner if you aren’t careful.   Often, the people you will hire people will have specialist knowledge and experience. That might mean, for example, hiring an accountant to oversee your payroll or an IT guru to work on your website.   More often than not, this can lead to a situation where, for example, only the tech guru knows how all that PHP code under the hood of your website works or the only member of staff who can use your accounting software is the accounts manager.   Such a high degree of reliance on a single member of your staff can leave your business in a position where it grinds to a complete halt if, through annual leave, illness or injury, they spend any time away from work. That’s not fair on the employee, and it’s a dangerous situation for you.   Likewise, if for whatever reason that employee stops working for you – whether they decide to leave or you terminate their employment – training their replacement in even a rudimentary way is likely to be difficult.   And if, for whatever reason, you need to take any disciplinary action against them (heaven forbid), they have a lot more leverage if they know your business cannot effectively function without them.   You cannot afford to let your staff members hold your business to ransom like that!   So it is absolutely essential that, for every member of staff you hire, there is someone else on your team who knows enough about their daily duties that your business doesn’t come to a standstill if they’re not at work.   It is also essential – especially for any IT-related roles – for people to document what they do and to leave this documentation is a secure place where other employees can access it if needed.   Likewise, while shared passwords are an absolutely awful idea in general, if you do have any shared accounts or admin accounts for any online service, it’s essential that these passwords are documented somewhere in an accessible place.   So do you have an employee you couldn’t function without? Make sure they document what they do along with any passwords or accounts they regularly use and train at least one colleague in the essentials of their job.   Get it done – today!

Outsourcing: Why it’s not a dirty word

11:39AM | Wednesday, 27 November

In this column, a dirty word will be used. A word seldom used in polite conversation. The kind of word people fear to use around children or in the company of the elderly.   That’s right, this is an article about outsourcing.   Now while your humble correspondent is not a mind reader, I can already tell what you’re thinking. The poorly trained call centre staff in some far off land who robotically read scripts. Don’t worry – Old Taskmaster is more than familiar with the call centre shuffle.   Of course, all outsourcing means is contracting out a business task to another company, rather than doing it in house. That’s all.   Contracting a job out to someone else doesn’t have to mean “offshoring”, or sending jobs offshore. You can outsource a job to a company in Australia if you so wish. Likewise, it doesn’t even have to be about minimising your costs – although that is one common benefit of the practice.   The reason for doing it is to focus your resources on what your business is truly good at – your core competencies – and then hiring someone else to do the rest.   For example, if you’re launching a tech start-up, there are probably some things relating to smartphones and computers that you are exceptional at. Perhaps it’s database management, server-side scripting, or coding apps for Android or iOS.   Of course, as soon as you start, you will inevitably need to do a whole range of tasks you’re not so good at. You might know how to write PHP code with a blindfold on, but you might not know the first thing about accounting, payroll management, graphic design or business law.   If you try to build your own accounting team in-house, you’re left attempting to manage a team of people whose industry you know nothing about. Your staff will suspect you’re a clueless boss who doesn’t know the first thing about accounting – and they’ll be right.   Meanwhile, as long as there’s a tax office and a government, there will be long and pointless forms you need to fill out. Why should you waste your time with data entry work or bookkeeping? Why not spend your time getting your apps onto Google Play, something that will earn you money?   As your business grows and revenue comes in, do you invest more resources into the things your business is good at – such as computer programming – or the stuff you’re not good at – like accounting?   Well, it’s time to take a moment to think about exactly what it is that you or your business can do exceptionally well. What are the core areas where you can add value for your customers and turn a profit? What are core competencies you need in-house to deliver your products to your customers?   As your business grows, this is what you should invest your capital in. This is the area you should hire new staff in. This is what you should be focusing your time and energy on as a manager.   For everything else? It’s time to hit Google, the Yellow Pages, and 99 Designs to get it outsourced!   Get it outsourced – today!

Calling all coders: The Codehire Cup is on again

5:57AM | Friday, 31 May

Computer coders all over the country are signing up to take part in this year’s Codehire Cup.   The team at Codehire are expecting almost 1000 entries when the at-home heats commence on June 8.   Codehire chief executive Dan Draper told StartupSmart that creating community and showcasing new talent to employers were the objectives of the event.   “We’re connecting people who are secret or hidden talents to employers. There is a big issue at the moment with companies like Google and Microsoft that are trying to find great talent and they’re starting to exhaust their traditional channels,” says Draper.   Draper estimates about 10% of the 450 current signups are based in rural Australia, and that many of the registrations are from undergraduates.   The heats will go for 11 days. The finals will be at Fishburners, a tech co-working space in Sydney, on July 13. There is $10,000 worth of cash and prizes to be won.   This employment-focus influences the activities in each heat.   “It’s not a hackathon,” says Draper. “We’re aiming for real world, business-focused challenges, rather than academic and abstract issues. There will be a bit of hard-core algorithmic stuff, but mostly we’re focusing on problem solving.”   Coders will be grouped into heats based on the coding language they use. “Coding languages aren’t created equal and some solutions will take longer to write in certain languages,” says Draper.   Coders will be able to create and compete using C, C++, C#, Ruby, Python, Java, JavaScript and PHP.   This is the second time the competition has been run. It was launched last year in Adelaide, with almost 200 registrations.   “To be honest that blew us away to get that much interest in the Adelaide scene. This year it’s a national event and ultimately we’d like to go global,” says Draper.   For the 100 or so coders who make it through to the live-final, those who can’t attend in Sydney will be able to compete remotely.   “In Sydney, we want to make it a bit of a spectacle, with people watching and a big screen out the front with scores and updates,” says Draper. “We want to make software creating more accessible. We’re trying to make people aware of what coding is and why it’s so important to our economy.”   Codehire recently launched a jobs aggregator for code jobs. It has been operating in beta since December 2012.

Serving a niche market

3:37AM | Friday, 15 March

The past couple of days, Taskmaster has been discussing a particular kind of niche market: The “insider” consumers.

Time to call your Techmaster

11:51AM | Wednesday, 21 November

Earlier today, I decided it was high time to have a chat with Taskmaster Enterprises’ resident Gen-Y Techmaster.

Why your best hire may not be from your industry

5:47PM | Sunday, 20 May

It’s an interesting question, “Why would someone with no background in your industry be a great asset for your start-up?”

Google, Microsoft entice start-ups via self-promotion

3:43AM | Friday, 15 March

Tech giants Google and Microsoft have offered new incentives to start-ups and small businesses in an attempt to increase the user numbers for their respective technologies.

How can I get a good, effective website hosting deal?

12:26PM | Wednesday, 15 December

I’ve put a lot of work into the look and feel of my website but I haven’t given much thought to the hosting/serving of the site. What are the main things I need to look out for to ensure I get a good, effective deal?