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Sydney startup promises to get your EventMojo happening

1:10AM | Wednesday, 28 January

Weddings, corporate functions, birthday parties – Sydney-based startup EventMojo wants to be the platform where every aspect of them can be sorted.   Not just the venues, but the food, drinks, photographers, DJs and just about anything else one might need to hold an event can be booked through the platform.   Co-founder Sanjay Sundarjee, who’s bootstrapping the startup with fellow co-founder Ben Pecotich, says the web platform makes it easier for people to organise events and for event suppliers to market their services.   Prior to working on Event Mojo, Sundarjee was a marketing manager, a role in which he often bumped into the difficulty of organising events.   “We decided there was a need for one place for events, similar to Wotif or Airbnb for accommodation, where you could find everything you need,” he says.   The site gives users the means to source suppliers, look at reviews and prices, and a means to book.   “When you are planning an event, you shouldn’t need to spend hours trying to find the right services,” he says.   “Why do you have to go through so many sites to search for venues, catering and other services?”   Founded in December 2013, Sundarjee says in the first few months the challenge was to build a database of suppliers that offered everything their customers needed.   “One of the big things we needed to contend with is we want to cover any service associate with events; a very broad area,” he says.   “For us, our strategy has been saying for the next few months we will focus on (recruiting suppliers in) this area.”   Event Mojo takes 3.5% cut from all the sales on the platform, but will also look to advertising and sponsored content as additional revenue streams.   “Suppliers have loved it because it’s a win-win situation – 3.5% isn’t a big fee,” Sundarjee says.   Event Mojo launched in August last year with over 200 event organisers from sporting clubs, to universities, banks and government agencies.   One of the challenges at launch was messaging. The startup had originally used the text “Plan the moment”, but had found few visitors heading to the site were converting to customers. As a result they decided to make their message more obvious: “Find and book everything for your event.”   “You can become pretty immersed in your startup. When creating the layout we thought what works is keeping it as simple as you can,” Sundarjee says.   “But we didn’t explain what it was enough, what it was about. The way we looked at it other websites out there like Airbnb kept it very simple.   “But they can be very simple because they’ve got a really strong brand now. ‘Plan the moment’ – that’s something cool sounding, something you might see on Airbnb – but it might be down the track for us because it didn’t make sense for our users. We needed to be less abstract.”   Event Mojo will continue to work with the goal of proving the model in Australia before targeting overseas markets. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh calls for regulation of Airbnb and Uber

1:48AM | Tuesday, 27 January

Rapidly growing international tech businesses like Airbnb and Uber should be subjected to stricter regulation to ensure they don’t avoid their tax obligations, according to shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh.   Leigh is giving a speech to the McKell Institute in Sydney tonight, in which he will call on the Australian government to continue the fight against multinational corporations that deliberately avoid paying their fair share of tax.   “The sharing economy needs to be better regulated,” Leigh told Fairfax ahead of the speech.   “I certainly don’t believe that the sharing economy should expand because it’s avoiding taxes. It ought to expand on offering a better product to Australians.”   Leigh said there’s “an extraordinary number” of Australians that have used Airbnb and individuals who make money from renting out their homes, should pay tax on that income.   “There’s nine million empty bedrooms in Australia at the moment. That’s a huge number of spare bedrooms for people looking to make ends meet on their mortgage … [regulators] simply need to say that if people are making income that ought to be reportable in tax returns.” Sharing economy needs regulation Leigh previously wrote about the benefits of the ‘sharing economy’ in an opinion article in the Herald Sun earlier this month, but also spoke then of the need to “think creatively” to ensure the balance between regulation and incentives to grow is correct.   “At the moment it’s also hard to know if the people providing these [Uber] services are paying their taxes and doing the right thing when it comes to insurance and other consumer protections,” Leigh wrote.   “For sharing economy services, we’d ideally have a set of rules that offer core protections for public safety and make it easy for everyone to pay tax on what they earn.”   “At the same time, those rules would be flexible and simple enough to support the growth of these services. We should particularly aim to avoid strangling them through over-zealous regulation, because regular consumers would then miss out.”   Read more: The sharing economy is here.   University of New South Wales economics professor Tim Harcourt told SmartCompany it is “probably smart” to increase regulation for startups such as Uber, which operate in an industry in which existing competitors are subject to long-standing regulation.   But Harcourt says when it comes to innovative companies, it is often a case of “learning as we go”.   “With startups, we often don’t know what will happen in practice until there are some miles driven,” Harcourt says.   “We wouldn’t pass legislation for rocket ship rides to the moon, but you never know, Richard Branson might start doing that.”   “You have to be open to innovation and entrepreneurship as soon as possible and where there is some evidence of problems, you consult with industry,” he says. The problem with base erosion and profit shifting In Leigh’s speech tonight, entitled ‘No country ever tax dodged its way to prosperity’, Leigh will describe base erosion and profit shifting – or BEPS – as “among the most important global economic debates of our time”.   “It’s difficult to put a figure on the tax dollars lost to BEPS – after all, it’s hard to count something that isn’t there,” Leigh will say.   “But we do know that when Labor, in our last term of government, closed just a few of the loopholes that facilitated BEPS, the budget was over $4 billion better off.”   “It is often said that tax is the price of civilisation. If that’s so, there’s also a strong argument that requiring companies to contribute their fair share wherever they make profits around the world civilises the forces of globalisation.”   While Leigh will say in his speech that “globalisation creates many opportunities for economic good”, he says if a “global tax system creates incentives for doing dodgy deals, then dodgy deals will get done”.   “Likewise, if the financial framework supports honest dealing and a fair contribution by all, then big corporations will find less reason to stray from this path.” Closing tax loopholes Leigh says politicians and policymakers are the “architects” of the incentive system for global businesses and it is possible to “get those incentives flowing in the right direction”.   Leigh says work is already being done to achieve this, citing the OECD action plan on BEPS, commissioned by the G20 in 2012, and the Irish government’s moves to close the “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich” tax loophole, but called on the Australian government to do more.   “Unfortunately, while the Irish government is closing tax loopholes, to the benefit of everyone, including Australian taxpayers, the Australian government has re-opened significant ones, which will costs us dearly,” he says.   “Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s decision not to proceed with Labor’s proposals to tackle debt loading and improve the offshore banking unit regime has effectively handed $1.1 billion back to big global firms.”   Harcourt believes there is bipartisan support for minimising tax avoidance by multinational corporations in Australia, pointing out that Treasurer Joe Hockey has also spoken publicly about the need for more action.   At the end of the day, Harcourt says small businesses can ultimately be the losers from large corporations avoiding their tax obligations.   “The great Australian concept of a fair go doesn’t just apply to the unemployed or people with disabilities,” Harcourt says.   “It also applies to small businesses.”   “Small businesses are general happy to pay tax if the blue chips are also paying tax, but if they read about the large companies avoiding tax, they feel an unnecessary tax burden.”   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Good news for startups as Aussies turn to flexible hours and additional income

1:16AM | Thursday, 22 January

More than 90% of Australians are looking for ways to supplement their income this year and startups are in a good position to reap the benefits, according to research released by job marketplace Airtasker.   The survey, conducted by Pureprofile, also shows Australians want to shift away from the traditional 9-to-5 office model in favour of freelancing and more flexible working hours.   Eighty-five per cent of working Australians agree that traditional office hours are inflexible for workers in today’s day and age. Meanwhile, 92% are looking to supplement their existing income in 2015 and 68% are considering earning extra money through online platforms such as UberX, Airbnb and 99designs.   Tim Fung, founder and chief executive of Airtasker, told StartupSmart Australians are increasingly embracing flexibility and tech startups should jump onboard in order to play a pivotal role in job creation.   “On a global basis I think that the shift towards flexible labour is pretty much a global trend,” he says.   “If you look at the US there is a massive growth [in flexible labour], close to seven to eight per cent year on year. And it doesn’t seem to be a cyclical trend but a fundamental shift from full time to flexible.”   According to the research, Australians view flexibility as the second most important aspect of their job after pay. Fung says this is part of the movement towards a flexible way of working.   “Australia typically is an extremely expensive country to live in and because of that it’s forcing people to find new ways to make money,” he says.   As for his advice to tech startups that use crowdsourcing, Fung says the key is standing out from your competition.   “You really have to find a point of difference, especially if you’re involved in the services economy,” he says.   “The big marketplaces like Freelancer, O-Desk and hopefully now Airtasker are building a community. When we launched, O-Desk was around but Airtasker was around physical proximity and local jobs.”   “But at the same time, I don’t believe in the next couple of years that the niche marketplaces will work effectively as the broader marketplaces. For example, with carsales.com they didn’t start a ferrarisales.com… they focused on how do we build the broadest marketplace that we can.”   Airtasker processes more than $10 million worth of jobs per annum for more than 200,000 users.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Latest funding round sees Collaborate Corporation move to scale and develop platforms

1:45PM | Wednesday, 21 January

Collaborate Corporation, which operates a number of peer-to-peer marketplaces, including DriveMyCar Rentals, Caramavan, Rentoid, and has a significant stake in Marketboomer, has raised $1.26 million.   Chief executive officer Chris Noone says the funding – its second round in the last six months – will be used to help scale up its marketplaces, and develop its platforms to enable the company to easily move into other product categories.   “The way we look at the world, is there’s a number of assets that are currently sitting idle, because there’s no way to monetise them,” Noone says.   “We turn those assets into something that’s monetisable, by adding renters, trust and security. So we’re constantly on the lookout for large groups of idle assets.”   Founded in 2010, DriveMyCar Rentals provides the blueprint for Collaborate Corporation’s marketplaces. Through its platform, vehicle owners are able to rent out their cars to individuals who have undergone ID verification and credit checks. Caramavan applies the same concept for caravans, while Rentoid allows individuals to rent just about anything – coffee tables, cherry pickers, notebooks or digital cameras.   Collaborate Corporation’s marketplaces all operate in Australia, but Noone says given they are easily scalable, the funding will allow the company to look at expanding into other markets, as well as support a relaunch of the DriveMyCar website.   “We’ve seen consumers develop their understanding of the model,” he says.   “And we’ve witnessed a quite massive change in the awareness of the opportunity.   “In the US we have recently seen peer-to-peer businesses such as Airbnb, Uber, Lending Club and RelayRides achieve extraordinary valuation increases and it’s pleasing to see that Australian investors are now are of the potential for collaborative consumption to disrupt multi-billion-dollar industries.”   Noone wouldn’t disclose exactly who participated in the round, but did say it came from institutions and high net worth investors, and the round was “heavily oversubscribed”.   “Collaborate is now well placed to improve its position as the leading ASX-listed company exploiting collaborative consumption opportunities,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Flopportunity: Why failure is an opportunity

1:16AM | Tuesday, 6 January

The harsh reality is that failure fucking sucks.   Don’t let the startup mantras and hashtags fool you. Failure is emotionally draining, physically exhausting and psychologically frustrating. In some circles, it’s externally glorified, and in others, overwhelmingly demonised.   I know this today, more than most days. Today we shut the doors down on OutTrippin, our company, our baby and the love of our life for the past two years. Notice how I struggle to even say the word failure in that sentence? It’s not a strategic choice of words; it’s just agonising to say the words: My company failed.   I keep telling myself failure is an opportunity. Based on the generally positive demeanour I’ve had over the past few days, many might think I do believe it. Sometimes, I think I believe it too. I can logically draw the lines and understand why failure can be, and should be an opportunity, but sometimes logic just goes out the window. Because when I dig deep, behind the pleasant demeanour, behind the words, behind the actions, late at night as I lie awake, tossing and turning, a paralysing realization starts to sink in and the “truths” you keep telling yourself during the day can no longer mask the reality. Failure. Fucking. Sucks. It’s a funny little world. I remember when we started this adventure two years ago.   Indi, my cofounder, and I met in a hostel in Buenos Aires. Traveling through, we became fast friends and when we happened to find ourselves in the same beautiful city a few months later, this time to live, ended up as flatmates and eventually as co-founders.   We’ve been all over the shop, from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Melbourne to New York, and San Francisco to Dubai. We put it all on the line to realize our vision of what this world may look like if each person travelled more, travelled better and found experiences that they found truly amazing and eye opening. We think it would make us a happier people, a more understanding civilization, a more loving race.   And so we tried. And try hard we did.   We started OutTrippin, to build products that let people get personalised recommendations for truly amazing experiences on their travels. Our first product was a service that let travel experts compete to build your vacation. We took investment, we moved continents, we dealt with visa bullshit, joined an accelerator, found mentors and experimented with product, partners and business models. We failed, we learned, and we got up and tried again. And never thought that one day, we would get up to try again, but OutTrippin would not. We never thought OutTrippin would fail.   Nine out of 10 startups fail. That’s a statistical fact (well, more like just an estimate). And yet, every account from an entrepreneur with a failed startup, the recurring theme always is: ‘I never thought my startup would fail.’ It’s the combination of the narcissistic nature of entrepreneurship (that I, as a single human can change this world of 7 billion people).   It is also the stressed importance and almost glorification of hardship (Airbnb and their one thousand days of failure) that has allowed us to create this magical bubble of optimism. We allow ourselves to reach for unimaginable heights and work our asses off, all with the belief that we are the outlier – we are not the 90%, even if statistical reality says otherwise.   And boy that bubble is simply amazing. It’s energising in the face of impossible (improbable) odds. It’s invigorating even in the darkest hours, when all seems lost, and it gives you permission to go after goals that most others have deemed impossible. Because, you, your beautiful, intelligent, passionate self is the person to achieve the impossible (improbable).   And. It. Is. Glorious.   Right up until it all comes crashing down. And 90% of the time, it does. Today, it came crashing down for my startup and my life for the past two years. People ask me, what happened? It all seemed to be going so well, I thought? I was back in Santiago, Chile in April 2013 when I was skyping with Indi on a Wednesday evening, who was stopping by Melbourne for a friend’s wedding. She said I’d love this city. She said I’d love all the cute hipster girls (she knows me well) and that we should totally think about moving there.   I considered it for half a second and thought I’d see who’s investing in Melbourne on AngelList. After a few messages with Adrian Stone and Nathan Sampimon, by Friday morning just two days later, Indi was pitching OutTrippin to a crew of angels. We all got on a Saturday group skype, and by Monday AngelCube invited us to join their 2014 batch.   The only catch was I had to move to Melbourne in four days – by Friday morning. Many would say “no way, that’s absolutely ridiculous”. For us, it was a no-brainer. A day of packing, some serious hustling for visas and few tearful and sudden goodbyes later, we were off to Melbourne, myself from Santiago and João from Portugal, just one week since Indi suggested we consider Melbourne as the next stop on OutTrippin’s journey.   Startup founders get used to living on the knife’s edge because anything can happen. In fact, anything happens all the time. For every amazing thing I tell you is happening, there is an equally destructive thing that could also happen to the company. For every potential ascension and growth opportunity, there is a deep dark valley we could plunge into. Things can be amazing and terrible at the same time.   For every huge deal we close, it can all fall apart before we’ve even had a chance to finish the champagne. So we learn to drink up quickly. We learn to manage the constant threat of things falling apart. We mask it behind the amazing potential.   But masking it doesn’t make it go away. It’s always there. It’s a condition without a cure, the best we can do is manage it, mitigate it, and accept it.   And that’s just how it goes. Sometimes it all comes crashing down like a house of cards. So what went wrong? I don’t believe that only one thing going wrong can kill a company. Usually it’s a catalogue of things that go wrong that brings any company to this point. It was no different for us.   Everything that could have gone wrong did. That includes everything from business model failure, partial failures in team dynamics, general tiredness of doing this thing this long and go through yet another product and biz failure and a difficult investor climate in the travel industry.   But, most of all, market dynamics pushed us onto a mountain that we kept trying to ascend only to eventually realize that that mountain was not our Everest. It wasn’t our Everest Startups are hard. And it’s not made easier when life things happen. Back in 2013, we were going through AngelCube, an intense three month accelerator program that essentially takes over your life.   Similar to other accelerators, the non-stop ferocious nature of the program requires you to park your life entirely for 90 days and focus on your company and company alone. But life, as you might expect, makes other plans.   From 7000 thousand miles away, I got a call no son should ever get: A hysterical sister and mother trying to tell you that your dad, the man who you could always turn to, is no longer there. And suddenly, everything changes. Everything that you knew to be true no longer is. Everything you knew about life is shrouded in doubt. Everything you were you no longer are.   I left immediately to return home (obviously), leaving my cofounders to keep the company going while I tried to simply accept what had just happened. You never realise the strength of the bonds you create with those who you start a company with until it’s put to the test. We fought through what was the worst moment of my life and my co-founders Indi and João helped me put myself back together in a way that made me think that nothing could stop us from ascending our Everest, all because we had just survived the worst moment of my life.   With all the sleepless nights, grey hair and the financial disaster that is your personal bank account, you’d think we’re nuts to go after the impossible (improbable) odds. But the truth is, when it’s a vision you so passionately believe in, everything else fades away. You say “who cares about the grey hair, I’m on the George Clooney aging plan”. You say “you’ll sleep when you’re dead”. Money schmoney, this is why you have credit cards. It’s all good if you can keep going after your vision. It’s all good as long as you have your Everest. And that’s why, it’s so very, very, very crucial to find your Everest. No other mountain is worth climbing OutTrippin was our Everest for a long time. But we were also open to following the market to wherever it might lead us. And this time, we were led astray.   In the world of travel planning, finding a business model that works is like hunting for unicorns.   It’s why there has been little to no competition to TripAdvisor on the travel planning front for the past decade. We’ve always had an amazing community of travel writers and bloggers and we’ve always had a concept that got people really excited. The problem has always been to find a business model that could scale. From OTAs to airlines, from content companies to hotels, we experimented for a sustainable route to create high quality expert generated travel content at scale. What a mouthful, I know.   With a recently launched B2B (business to business) product targeting hotels, we came damn close too. But it dragged the company to a place where we dealt with slow moving behemoths and a B2B sales cycle that makes movements of glaciers look like that of a Ferrari. We could make peace with that, I think, but we couldn’t make peace with the fact that this wasn’t the mountain we wanted to climb. We wanted to focus on creating more magic with our apps on the consumer side. But without the revenue from hotel partners to cover content costs, it would all come crashing down like a house of cards.   The travel industry’s investor climate is colder than the arctic.   It is notoriously difficult. There are fair few success stories (Airbnb and HotelTonight are the only ones that come to mind and are essentially in the accommodation booking space) and there hasn’t been a legitimate challenger to TripAdvisor in over a decade. Investors are sceptical and rightfully so.   Many don’t understand the space and those that do know exactly how hard it is. Either way, doesn’t make quite the savvy investment, does it?! What that means is that most travel startups are going to have to prove 10 times more than their counterparts for similar valuations and investment, all in an effort to overcome the industry bias. Doesn’t make it impossible, just a whole lot harder.   And that just meant that we had become a company that did things the bootstrapped way. A specific conversation I had with my cofounder still rings out in my mind. I told her of a random idea I concocted in the shower the night before. It combined the Tinder and Swipe concepts, presenting amazing things to do in the city, and an ‘algorithm’ that would put together a timely version of an itinerary with the things you like most with the time constraints you had. Groundbreaking? Not at all. But her response is what was most telling. She asked:   “How do we make money from this?”   It wasn’t one sided, there were many conversations where I played the role of “show me the money!” We had just become a company with a “show me the money” culture. Remarkably, it helped us become self-sufficient and we probably made more revenue than most travel startups our stage, mostly because we had no choice but to keep on hustling. But it also left no room for errors. And it meant that any new idea came constrained with the question: How do we make money from this?   And that, ultimately stifled our creativity.   All that pressure took its toll on the team too. It did us no favours that part of the team, mainly João, was on the other side of the world with a 12 hour timezone difference.   Sure, tools like Github, Google Hangout, Slack, Basecamp and countless others help you manage team workflow no matter where they are, but there are no tools to help manage emotions and morale. And startups are just as much an emotional journey as anything else. When the person you work with day in and day out sits next to you, you can see how they feel, when to push, when to support and when to get them a glass of wine or a gin and tonic. But when you have a two hour window in a day to work together, you barely have time to get past work to really get to know how they are truly feeling and how you might help.   I caught up with Indi last week after her trip to visit family in Sydney, and mine to visit family in Dubai. It seemed like a moment away from the home base of OutTrippin had helped us clear our heads and understand who we were and what we believed. We had a glass of wine and our thoughts and, dare I say it, “feelings” just seemed to come rolling out.   We talked about how this B2B product we created for hotels as the revenue and content driver for OutTrippin had become the bane of our existence. It seemed to have pushed us in a corner of the market we had no interest in. How the god awful B2B sales cycle with hotels made me crave a shot of vodka simply to answer an email.   We talked about how it was convoluted that we never believed in this new product but were willing to do it if it made it easier to pursue our core vision. About how the reality was that it didn’t. It didn’t make it easier to pursue. It didn’t follow our core vision. And it certainly wasn’t our Everest.   Eventually, it became clear to us that it was tiresome to even feign excitement over this new direction we were taking, all to keep surviving as a company.   We spent the past two years of our lives on OutTrippin because we were driven by the magical memories that we helped create. From sci-fi themed honeymoons in New York City to diving trips in Malaysia, from bachelor parties in Austin to a girls’ trip to Iceland, these stories and countless others that we’ve helped make are absolutely epic. And for this we are prouder than a dog with two tails.   But the more we moved in this new direction to keep surviving, the more the magic faded. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the stark realization that in an effort to keep surviving as a company, we had started climbing a mountain that wasn’t our Everest. And that wasn’t fair to our users, our customers, our community and it definitely wasn’t fair to us. There is no logic in building a company whose direction you no longer believe in So, it’s time for us to find a new challenge, and bring this crazy train we’ve been on to its final destination. As I sit here, listening to Frank Sinatra lay down some truth bombs, I can’t help but resonate with ol’ blue eyes:   “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I’ve been up and down and over and out but I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.”   And that, ladies and gentlemen, is life (and I can’t deny it).   I feel a surprising ease that I cannot explain. Considering all of the above, one would think that I would be a wreck but it’s quite the opposite. I’m energised by the decision as opposed to burdened by it.   There isn’t a trace of regret. Maybe it’s because I’ve made my peace with it. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what’s next but that excites the living hell out of me. Maybe it’s because I get to restart the search for my Everest, because I am just as thrilled to climb it now as I was when I started OutTrippin.   Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because failure is just another opportunity to start again. This time, faster, better, stronger, and (most importantly) more intelligently.   Kunal Kalro is the founder and chief executive of @OutTrippin. Kalro speaks four languages and is perpetually living out of his suitcase. He has spent most of his time last year in Chile, Australia, Dubai, India and US. This article first appeared on Medium.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber hopes Spotify deal will be music to its riders’ ears

11:27PM | Monday, 17 November

Transportation network startup Uber has partnered with Spotify to allow those catching a ride with its service to select songs that will play during their trip, Engadget reports.   Riders will need to connect a Spotify paid streaming account to Uber’s mobile software to access the feature.   It’s set to launch on November 21 in Sydney, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm and Toronto, with a widespread rollout in the weeks that follow. Uber drivers will need to connect their phone to the car’s stereo, if the driver chooses not to play music, Spotify won’t show up as an option in the Uber app. Shark Tank backed GrooveBook sold for $14.5 million As Network Ten prepares to release its own Shark Tank, GrooveBook, a startup on the popular US version of the show, has been acquired by photo printing giant Shutterfly for $US14.5 million ($AU16.7 million).   GrooveBook is a photo-printing app and subscription service that creates personalized photo books with up to 100 of your photos, that is shipped monthly.   The startup received a $US150,000 investment from Shark Tank investors Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary for licensing rights only. Airbnb launches Pineapple Sharing economy startup Airbnb has launched its own print magazine, Pineapple.   According to the New York Times, Airbnb will formally unveil the new magazine at a convention in San Francisco later this week. The first issue carries no advertising and contains features on San Francisco, London and Seoul, which are popular cities among Airbnb hosts and guests. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13.01 to 17,647.75. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The future of e-commerce is about one-touch buying

11:21AM | Wednesday, 12 November

If you’re an e-commerce startup and you’re not building for one-touch buying, you’re already behind, according to Braintree’s general manager of mobile, Aunkur Arya.   “What we’re seeing now, in terms of disruptive forces in mobile is one-touch buying is becoming the standard,” Arya says.   “If you’re not doing that, you’re behind.”   Braintree recently conducted a survey of 224 business owners from across Australia and found that just 54% have a website, and only 24% have a mobile-optimised site or mobile app. Arya says that is evidence of how much room there is for growth in the online payments sector, and particularly on mobile.   “We believe the future of commerce is online, and more specifically, on mobile,” he says.   “The growth of e-commerce, the advances in mobile and the impact that the smartphone has had on daily human behaviour and consumption of goods and services all support this.   “One of that statistics I think about is if you take all the commerce that happens in the world, 10% of that commerce is online, and 10% of that commerce is on mobile. So 1% of the world’s entire commerce is on mobile.   “Yet it’s the most ubiquitous device, it’s the primary computing device for a lot of people now, in some markets people are leapfrogging the PC wholesale and going directly to mobile.”   That gap represents a huge opportunity for startups that think mobile first.   “If you take the US as one data point, all the really, really big valuations in the tech space are companies that are focusing on mobile. Uber is an $18 billion company now – it’s mobile only. Airbnb is mobile and desktop, but is very heavily invested in mobile.   “It’s not a choice anymore. If you’re a startup and you’re building something, you need to be focusing on mobile.”   Arya says payments will begin to fade into the background as startups increasingly focus on providing consumers with the best possible mobile experience. One-touch payments are part of that, so is giving consumers as much control as possible, by allowing them to pay in whatever way they choose.   Before arriving at Braintree, Arya worked at a number of startups, most notably as an early director at AdMob, which was acquired by Google in 2010. He says the successful founders he’s been around have all aimed big and stayed true to their convictions.   “The thing I’ve learnt most is don’t be encumbered by facts, especially if you’re a founder,” he says.   “When you’re a founder you need a certain sense of just being able to cut through things that seem impossible to overcome. That’s one of the qualities that I’ve seen. I’ve worked for many startups that have failed, and fortunately in the last several years I’ve worked for startups that have been tremendously successful.   “The difference in the entrepreneurs I’ve seen is the ones that have been successful are the ones that really cut through everything and had conviction about their ideas and their business.   “They weren’t deterred by some of the facts on the ground, they just went straight through it and said either this is going to be really big or it’s going to fail miserably.   “Those are the ideas that people should be working on.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

We need to put high-growth tech companies on the G20 agenda

11:49PM | Tuesday, 11 November

The world was a very different place in December 1999 when the first G20 met in Berlin. Steve Jobs had just taken back the reins at Apple, but Facebook, Google, Twitter and the dot-com bust were figments of imagination. When government and central banking leaders meet in Brisbane this week, they will have a very different set of concerns, as well as a different set of levers to achieve the goal of “stable and sustainable world growth that benefits all".   The path of least resistance is to make small adjustments in an effort to re-balance and re-ignite growth. Instead, they should be considering how to stimulate and harness the power of digital disruption to create companies that can grow fast and create jobs we can not even imagine.   The continued growth of the start-up culture and the “overnight” success of new businesses such as Uber, AirBnb and Dropbox demonstrate the economies of tomorrow are being shaped by companies which have became global players overnight. Rather than focusing on a few adjustments to re-stabilise the world’s economy, the G20 leaders need to understand the impact of digital disruptions on nations and industries. All will be impacted; none will be spared.   Deloitte Digital’s latest report, “Harnessing the bang”, identifies some of the impacts of this “digital disruption” to existing companies. It notes that 13 industries comprising 65% of the Australian economy are facing significant disruption by 2017. Google, for example, has revolutionised advertising, Amazon has re-invented the book publishing industry, streaming services like Netflix have changed the movie and entertainment sector, and internet banking has changed financial services.   It’s clear this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just one facing Australia. Digital disruption belongs on the G20 agenda.   Threat or opportunity?   As ancient Chinese wisdom says, every threat contains the seeds of opportunity. The democratisation of markets brought about by the rise of technology represents boundless opportunities for companies that are innovative.   Henry Ford heard people say they wanted to travel faster, but instead of breeding a faster horse, he used new technology to create a motorised vehicle – and a manufacturing industry no one had imagined. Automobiles disrupted traditional modes of transportation and required workers to have new manufacturing skills. New companies were born and new hard infrastructure required: roads, bridges.   The same is happening with digital technology. The digital products and services require new skills, will generate new companies and need a different kind of infrastructure to support them (broadband internet, global paths to market, venture funding etc.)   Australia has some great start-up success stories: Atlassian provides software to the software makers all over the world, and Canva is reaching 1,000,000 customers. Both are carving a global path to success in their particular industries.   The G20 Global Café in Brisbane will showcase several more companies that are digital disruptors of traditional industries, are already going global and have the potential to grow big.   Some are concerned that tech companies don’t create jobs – they underestimate the impact that tech start-ups have on wealth and job creation. The IPOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter together created nearly 4,000 millionaires.   As for job growth, high-tech companies create a disproportionate share of high-value jobs. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, 6% of UK businesses with the highest growth rates created 50% of the new jobs. Professor Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, notes that for every job a tech company creates, five new jobs are created in other sectors – a multiplier effect three times higher than for extractive or traditional manufacturing industries.   The focus should be start up, then grow up   So it’s pretty simple: entrepreneurs whose businesses use digital technology to develop or deliver products and services that customers need and want will grow the fastest, create the most jobs and have the highest probability of success. This in turn has numerous economic benefits for countries that encourage and foster an entrepreneurial mindset and a high-tech-friendly environment.   Smart governments that have already figured this out are beginning to provide resources and support their start-up ecosystems. From science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and entrepreneurial education, through to direct government funding at the venture capital stage, they are placing a premium on developing more high-growth technology companies, teaching CEOs how to start and grow companies, and removing the barriers to growth.   So what does Australia, in particular, need to do to create the environment in which our digital disruptors can quickly become high-growth, global players? It’s pretty simple:   Encourage more people to start companies and make jobs, not just take a job. Teach people the entrepreneurial mindset and support those who see opportunities and want to start and grow companies. Provide more funding for research and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Revamp systems that support the commercialisation of research with the goal of developing more technology companies. Support the development of an ecosystem that provides entrepreneurs with what they need to grow companies: access to knowledge, talent, money and space. Have a workforce ready and able to work in companies that make widespread use of technology. Help existing businesses adapt to the world of digital disruption.   The Australian government is beginning to understand that the future must include high-growth technology companies, as well as mining, gas and agriculture. It is beginning to engage with bodies such as StartupAUS (of which I am a board member). We are hopeful that the Department of Industry’s Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program and additional programs will spur the development of more venture capital and more disruptive technology companies in Australia.   The G20 countries need to understand the power of digital disruption and develop economic and financial policies that actually capitalise on that disruption. Creative destruction of old industries is the norm; the internet is an accelerant to the pace of disruption. Innovation, digital disruption and entrepreneurship are not passing fads – they are the solution to the economic problems we are experiencing. Countries that understand this and develop polices and programs to support it will benefit the whole world.   This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Photo: Peter Dasilva/EPA/AAP   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Xiaomi in talks to raise $US1.5 billion in private capital

11:51AM | Monday, 10 November

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is negotiating a capital raise of $US1.5 billion ($A1.75 billion), at a valuation of $US40 billion, in the largest private financing for a venture-backed company since Facebook in 2011.   The company is speaking with investors including DST – the Russian internet company that also backed Alibaba, Facebook and Airbnb, with a deal yet to be finalised, sources told CNBC.   Both Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors are largely uninvolved in the Xiaomi raise, instead the company is hoping to secure funds from Asia-based investors. Uber seeking to raise $1 billion at a valuation over $17 billion Transportation network startup Uber is in early talks with investors about raising $1 billion in new capital, the Financial Times reports.   The talks come less than six months after Uber received $1.2 billion in funding at a valuation of $17 billion. After strong interest from investors, the company is looking to take the opportunity to build a balance sheet “proportionate” to the scale of its business, a source told the Financial Times. Microsoft completes Minecraft purchase Microsoft has completed its $2.5 billion acquisition of Minecraft developer Mojang, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division Phil Spencer says.   Spencer had previously confirmed that although Microsoft was making Mojang a first-party developer, it had no intention of forcing a halt to Minecraft development on any non-Microsoft platforms. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.46 to 17,573.93. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

Airbnb partners with Victorian government to prepare for emergencies

10:36AM | Thursday, 30 October

The Victorian government and Airbnb have announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the provision of accommodation for people displaced in emergencies and natural disasters.   Under the MOU, Emergency Management Victoria will partner with Airbnb to prepare Airbnb hosts in Victoria to provide free accommodation in the event of a significant emergency.   “Victoria is leading the way and using technology to benefit everyone. Today, the sharing economy is giving more people the freedom to start their own businesses and pursue their dreams and it’s helping make communities more vibrant and resilient,” said Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Emergency Management Victoria.”   Specifically, Airbnb and EMV will work together to:   Identify Airbnb hosts who will commit to opening their doors to displaced persons and emergency services workers and volunteers when an emergency occurs and accommodation options are required or limited. Provide emergency preparedness educational materials and facilitate access to community education programs for Airbnb hosts to ensure that they are well prepared within their communities. Use Airbnb technology to notify hosts and guests about significant emergencies and that the Airbnb Disaster Response Service is available.   "We welcome any avenue which helps strengthen existing arrangements for people who are forced to flee their homes during major and significant emergencies including fire and flood,” said Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley.   “Arrangements with Airbnb will be in place during this summer season and we welcome this initiative which provides another way for generous Victorians to connect with one another in times of need.   “Today’s announcement builds upon Airbnb’s disaster relief work in other cities, and will help the community collaborate with regional disaster relief organisations in advance of an event, as well as reach a broader audience and help more people during an emergency. We also are collaborating with the Victorian government to the support the Victorian entrepreneurial community, so that more residents of Victoria can benefit from the sharing economy.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Airbnb appoints country manager for Australia and New Zealand

8:01PM | Monday, 25 August

Airbnb has announced the appointment of Sam McDonagh as country manager for Australia and New Zealand, in a move to boost local awareness of the accommodation company.   A native from Perth, McDonagh has over 20 years’ experience in senior management roles at companies including eBay and iiNet. He also co-founded Quickflix in 2003.   McDonagh will also be a tasked with ensuring Airbnb is providing Australian customers with unique travel experiences within Australia and around the world.   “Australia and New Zealand are incredibly important markets for Airbnb both in terms of domestic and international travel,” says Varsha Rao, head of global operations at Airbnb.   "Sam has a deep passion for travel and a great track record growing companies that are focused on strong customer communities, which will make him a great asset to Airbnb.”   According to Airbnb, it is experiencing rapid growth in the region with the number of Australian listings on the platform more than doubling in the last year alone.   Inbound travellers to Australia and New Zealand are also increasingly using the service to secure unique accommodation experiences, with the number of guests booking through Airbnb more than tripling year on year.   McDonagh will be based in Sydney and will be focused on supporting the local team in strategic initiatives and partnerships to further develop and grow Airbnb in the market.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Former AFL ruckman tackles entrepreneurial career, new student notes business is on the mark

8:47AM | Monday, 4 August

Former Port Adelaide AFL ruckman Hugh Minson is tackling a new career as a startup entrepreneur, with a venture called Nexus Notes that allows students to download university course notes.   While other websites offer students similar services, Minson told Private Media there are a few key differentiators setting Nexus Notes apart in the marketplace.   “We differentiate ourselves by the premium quality of our content. We only offer notes from students who received a high distinction or distinction in their subjects – we vet applications – so you know the notes are written by good students,” Minson says.   “We also don’t sell assignments, just notes, so we have a positive relationship with institutions.   “Some sites boast how much content they have, and how they have thousands of pages, but at the end of the day, students just need to download the best notes possible… We focus on putting design centre-stage and filtering hyper-niche content.”   The younger brother of Western Bulldogs star Will Minson, Hugh was drafted by Port Adelaide with pick number 58 in the 2005 AFL National Draft.   “I was drafted at 17 the day schoolies started, so there wasn’t much time between drinks. Being a footballer was always my dream, to have a 200 game career and win a premiership for Port,” Minson says.   “I had a bad left knee in April of 2008, where I couldn’t run anymore. The doctors at Port told me to retire. I had to reassess things, and decided to get into business.   “I ended up studying at Bond University, which has a major in entrepreneurship. It’s also one of the few unis to offer trimesters, which allowed me to get through the course fairly quickly.”   Having completed the course, Minson moved to Sydney in 2011, where he met Nexus Notes cofounder Richard Hordern-Gibbings, joining the business in 2012.   “I also worked for two other startups [since moving]. Around two months ago, I left those to focus on Nexus Notes,” he says.   Minson sees big growth opportunities for the business going forward.   “We see the education industry as ripe for disruption. We’re in the peer-to-peer marketplace space. We’ve already seen how sites like GumTree and CarSales have created markets for physical products, and sites like Uber and Airbnb are now doing the same for services,” he says.   “Tech is allowing people to conduct business directly with one another.   “We would love to eventually be international, but our focus is on Australia and New Zealand first, and gaining traction in the Australian marketplace.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Mooted Alibaba deal could put Snapchat in the $10 billion club

7:25PM | Wednesday, 30 July

Snapchat is in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba for a round of financing that may value the company at $10 billion, sources told Bloomberg.   Talks are ongoing and the terms of the funding may change, one of the sources said.   If the funding is completed, Snapchat would join an elite group of technology startups, including Airbnb and Dropbox, valued at or above $10 billion.   People send more than 700 million disappearing “snaps” a day and more than 500 million stories are viewed daily.   Tablet sales crashing?   Best Buy chief executive officer Hubert Joly has told Re/code that the company has seen a revival in PC sales in the company’s first quarter.   Joly puts attributes the growth in PC sales at least in part to Microsoft’s decision to stop supporting Windows XP, and says tablet sales have dropped off.   “The tablets boomed and are now crashing,” he says.   “The volume has really gone down in the last several months.”   He says the issue facing tablets is that once you have a tablet of a certain generation, it’s not clear that you have to move to the next gen.   Twitter acquires Madbits   Madbits, a deep-learning-based computer vision startup, has been purchased by Twitter.   Details of the acquisition are unknown, but Madbits confirmed the purchase in a statement on its website.   Over the past year the company has been building visual intelligence technology that “automatically understands, organizes and extracts relevant information from raw media”.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 31.75 to 16,880.36. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

The top seven insights from Stripe co-founder John Collison for Australian startups

7:24AM | Wednesday, 23 July

On Tuesday night John Collison, who co-founded online payments startup Stripe with his brother Patrick Collison, spoke with SEEK co-founder Paul Bassat on all things Stripe, startup and internet related, to help celebrate Stripe’s Australian launch.   Here are our top seven pieces of advice Collison offered startups on a range of topics.   1. On co-founders:   “You want to have a very high level of trust and the ability to work together because there’s so much for you to do, there isn’t time to sort out other stuff. Every day there’s this big lump of work and you both attack it and it works great, but as the company grows in size you really have to start splitting the responsibility.”   2. On co-CEOs:   Collison recalled a chat he had with an investor while searching for funding for Stripe during which the investor highlighted appointing co-CEOs doesn’t work.   “He tells this to people anytime they come in and say they are co-CEOs,” Collison says.   “He says ‘ok just to clarify here, you’re trying to be co-CEOs? So you’re making everything confusing for all your employees today and all the employees you’ll ever hire. Who will get decisions from the both of you and they’ll never quite understand where they stand, just so you guys don’t have an awkward conversation right now?”   3. On hiring:   “We hired fairly slowly throughout Stripe.   “We’ve always been willing to simply not hire for a role and leave it unfilled rather than settle and be willing to compromise. And I think it’s been really important if you’re looking at it from a really long term perspective.   “When you’re hiring a person you’re not just hiring them, you’re hiring the next ten people after them. I remember when we were hiring a graphic designer, it took a year to find the right person and so for that intervening year Stripe was just really ugly.   “But again we preferred to be ugly for that year and have the right designer over the next many years, than settle immediately. They’re going to affect the quality or the calibre of people you recruit after that. You’re not hiring on a role by role basis, you’re gradually corralling people into this nebulous sphere.   “Your ability to directly influence hires actually decreases as the group grows in size so you better hope you’re doing a good job with those early hires.   4. The future of e-commerce?   “The way we think about it is, if we’re just getting people to move over from a competitor to Stripe, stirring up the existing pot but not actually changing things, that’s not actually that interesting.   “The global e-commerce market, coming up with these figures always involves a heavy dose of making up numbers, but people generally put it at around a trillion dollars, and it sounds like a big figure, but is it actually that big?   “Around two per cent of consumer spending globally happens online right now. You can kind of argue where that’s going to end up, and if you base it on the time you all spend online on our phones, we’re going to end up with a very significant spend of our portion online.”   5. How to build a successful global business?   “If you think of any global business that has been very successful, you quickly find they have a pretty clear idea about their core competency.   “I use this app if I need to travel, and I’m not using Airbnb, I’ll open Hotel Tonight and book the first thing available, they’re heavily discounted, but I realised my loyalty has shifted, it’s not with any particular hotel chain, it’s now with the app itself and staying in Hotel Tonight.   “They decided that the really valuable brand, the really valuable piece to own is the app and the booking experience and who runs the hotel and who employs all the people that’s not that important.   “If you’re a hotel that’s terrible. You’ve spend decades building up this brand. A lot of these companies have backed themselves into these corners.”   6. Do you need to go to Silicon Valley to start a startup?   “In general I think people see Silicon Valley as this place that has a monopoly on tech innovation and I think there’s actually some pretty good reason to believe it’s becoming increasingly spread out.   “You’re getting to a point where a team of 50 or a team 100 talented people can completely disrupt a market.   “I think the jury is still out a bit on how much the availability of capital affects things, because certainly there are plenty of problems where you do need outside capital for the tech to grow quickly, otherwise it can be very slow.”   7. Is Silicon Valley encouraging the best and brightest of our generation to only solve problems felt by the middle class?   “I think it’s actually a very good thing to be worried about. We solve problems for people like us, and so we come from a very privileged background so we’re going to solve problems of people from our background and there’s a large spate of the population that you ignore.   “People talk about WhatsApp being acquired by Facebook for $19 billion dollars, but I think there’s kind a bit of an availability bias here. You only hear about the most egregious examples right. You hear about Yo! getting funding, but you don’t hear about Theranos in Silicon Valley which does blood diagnostics on your iPhone and they’ve raised $400 million. No one talks about it because it’s more fun to talk about Yo!   “You look at where WhatsApp was most popular, it was in reasonably poorer countries like India where the cell phone providers who previously were charging these extortionist rates. [WhatsApp] came along and used the fact that people had smartphones to completely eliminate $100 million of carrier revenue from SMS.”

Peep inside: Kate Kendall’s new venture and the future of The Fetch

6:46AM | Tuesday, 24 June

Kate Kendall is one of Australia’s best-known female entrepreneurs, kicking off #socialmelb in early 2009 before founding The Fetch. We catch up with her from her new base, New York, to hear about her latest venture, and the dilemma of choosing between two “startup babies”.   Things have come full circle for Kate Kendall, who has just launched a new startup called CloudPeeps, a marketplace for on-demand community managers, with her co-founder Shala Burroughs, four years after she held off on the idea believing that the timing was not right.   Instead, Kendall went on to create The Fetch, launched mid-2011, a popular curated email of digital and creative events, across a number of cities.   After relocating to New York and needing some help with the growing demands of The Fetch, Kendall turned to Zirtual for a virtual assistant and found the experience so rewarding against using a number of ad hoc freelancers, that she revisited her original idea around CloudPeeps.   “What got me excited about marketplaces like Zirtual is that until now a lot of these virtual marketplaces have been very open, like the Freelancers and Elance-oDesk, but this was completely different – it was a highly controlled experience,” Kendall says.   “It got me thinking about the whole verified approach and what we could do with that in relation to on-demand community managers.”   Kendall discussed her idea with Burroughs, whom she describes as her “accountability partner” and Burroughs agreed that the market timing was right, so they incorporated CloudPeeps in January and set about ‘beta’ testing with a goal of attracting 10 customers and 25 community managers.   The results confirmed they were on to something, with their beta testing resulting in 20 customers and 75 community managers, with a pipeline of 350 customers and some tentative distribution partnerships with accelerators, coworking spaces and event communities. Only around 35% of those who apply as community managers are approved.   They’ve also attracted Ligaya Tichy (who led the communities at Yelp and Airbnb) and Joel Gascoigne (co-founder and CEO of Buffer) as advisors.   The company operates on a subscription model starting at $699 a month and Kendall is hoping to automate the process to open up the current pipeline, but she’s quick to point out that at this stage the priority is on developing ways to allow CloudPeeps to take on more customers, and not on building out new features.   “Our mission is to make community building accessible to all business by connecting them with an on-demand experienced and authentic remote community manager,” Kendall says.   Four of their customers are Australian and Kendall is actively seeking professional Australian-based community managers to grow the market here.   What now for The Fetch?   So where does Kendall’s new venture leave The Fetch? She admits to feeling conflicted, as “they’re my two babies and I love both”.   This means, for now at least, Kendall’s time is being spent on CloudPeeps, which she says her instinct tells her is the bigger opportunity.   It’s far from the end for The Fetch though (which Kendall describes as currently being on “slow wheels”) with Kendall still aiming for her long-term vision to make it a successful events platform.   “At the end of the day, in its current format, it was just taking me too much time to write and curate all the newsletters, as well as manage all our volunteers,” Kendall says.   This means a relaunch for The Fetch, with Kendall putting together a crowdfunding campaign next month to spearhead a new build that would automate some of the process.   “The Fetch has phenomenal reach and even right now I have $20,000 worth of people wanting to sponsor and advertise on the site, but I had to make a tough decision,” she says.   “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s a billion-dollar company, where CloudPeeps may be.”   Kendall says she has had acquisition offers, but that she still felt very attached to The Fetch in a personal way, noting it would have to be a “very attractive offer” for her to consider it.   “The Fetch is only three years old and it’s had enormous growth potential and community love,” she says.   “It’s certainly not suffering in terms of anything like that, I just had to make a tough decision for now.”   Meanwhile, stay tuned for the crowdfunding campaign.

HealthKit founder gets a rude shock as Apple uses its name for iOS 8 platform

6:07AM | Thursday, 5 June

The co-founder of Melbourne-based startup HealthKit, Alison Hardacre, was surprised and confused to learn Apple is using its name for one of iOS 8’s features.   Even the capital K.   In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Hardacre woke to the startling news. . @HealthKit was around a long time before iOS 8... #justsaying — Healthy Startups (@healthystartups) June 3, 2014   “I just happened to wake up at 4.15am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so like any good tech entrepreneur I decided I’d check my emails on my iPhone,’’ Hardacre says.   “I found an email from a friend asking, ‘Has Apple just trampled on your name?’”   Surprised, she jumped out of bed and checked for herself and found numerous reports about HealthKit, Apple’s new native health tracking platform.   Apple’s HealthKit is designed to help users keep track of all their health and fitness data, effectively collating health data from the many health apps available by allowing them to share data.   The Melbourne-based HealthKit is a global health administration platform which enables patients to find practitioners online and enables users to track, manage and share their health records.   “Every startup worries that Google, Apple or Facebook will enter their market, but nobody thinks they’ll take their name when they do it,’’ Hardacre says.   @healthystartups @HealthKit The new cyber squatting. The big don't have to care! #notfairapple — Tim Offor (@timoffor) June 3, 2014 Following the announcement her company’s name was the fifth most popular trending term on Twitter yesterday and traffic on its website www.healthkit.com, which it has owned since 2012, was 10 times more than usual, according to Google Analytics.   “We’ve been growing at a rate of 7% a week, which is really a fantastic rate of growth, it’s what the founders of Airbnb say you should be aiming for,’’ Hardacre says.   “We’ve been over in San Francisco at health tech conferences; we’re not like some company hidden in some backwater. We’ve grown and we’ve followed a particular strategy, we’ve looked at moving the company to Silicon Valley.   “Part of me thinks it’s the cut and thrust of the business, but it’s actually not.   “It made me realise that this could happen to every startup.   “I kind of felt a little bit let down – didn’t they spend five seconds to visit HealthKit.com?”   Hardacre says HealthKit had already filed a trademark for HealthKit in Australia.   StartupSmart contacted Apple for comment, but has yet to receive a response.   @tim_cook @HealthKit I know you're new to this whole Ruthless-Like-Steve-Jobs game, but my good man, you need to learn subtlety! — Daniel Cohen (@CodaAzzurra) June 3, 2014 Executive director of Premier IP Ventures and intellectual property expert Brian Goldberg says the incident serves as a warning to startups to ensure they register their brand name as a trademark.   Goldberg says it’s not conclusive at this stage that the brand HealthKit is entirely owned by the Australian startup, nor whether or not Apple will use it as a standalone brand name or in conjunction with its core Apple brand.   “So at this stage the Australian startup may have some brand rights in Australia but it’s not definitive as to the extent,’’ he says.   “It is important to file your brand as a trademark. This provides certainty and clear rights for the brand owner. Importantly the rights can then be enforced as well as negotiated."   Note: this story has been updated for clarification. 

Melbourne couple’s startup aims to be Airbnb for pets

6:41AM | Monday, 2 June

Melbourne startup PetHomeStay is hoping to be the Airbnb for pets.   The service allows pet owners to find people in their area who are able to care for their pets while providing information about the style of care they will provide and how much they will charge.   After moving to Melbourne in 2012 dog lovers and co-founders Bronwyn and Tom LeGrice didn’t know anyone who could look after their dogs when they were way.   They hated the idea of leaving them in a cage at the kennels and found the price too expensive anyway.   It was that experience that led them to come up with the concept for PetHomeStay.   “The sharing economy or collaborative consumption business models are being embraced by people all across the world, because they make people’s lives way easier and cheaper using technology,’’ Tom says.   “Similar to Airbnb, we also try to create a strong bond between our hosts and guests because as well as being a valuable service to pet owners, a lot of our business depends on trust and community.”   The startup was founded in August 2012 and relaunched as a paid service in February this year.   It has over 250 hosts across Melbourne and LeGrice says it’s growing in Sydney in other major cities, around 2000 nights of boarding have been booked through the service.   Once a pet owner has found a host, they pay them using the PetHomeStay website, the startup then takes a service fee of 15%.   LeGrice says one of the main ways in which PetHomeStay differs from other pet-sitting services is because it offers insurance.   “We provide comprehensive public liability cover to the host for up to $10 million if anything happens whilst the pet is in their care,” LeGrice says.   “That is the only cover of its type in the Asia-Pacific and exclusive to PetHomeStay.   “As of June 1, we will also be providing pet accident and emergency cover for the guest pet.”   LeGrice says securing that insurance cover was integral to PetHomeStay’s chance of success.   As it provides free introductions to pet owners and potential hosts, there’s always the possibility they pay the fee without going through the PetHomeStay service.   “Exclusive insurance gives both the host and the guest a compelling reason to use our website and enables us to be a valuable partner to them both rather than a gatekeeper,’’ he says.   The company has already secured seed funding and is currently in discussions with potential partners about a series A funding round later this year.   “Our vision is to make it easier, cheaper and more fun to own a pet,’’ he says.   “I want PetHomeStay to help people balance their lives with animals and experience the joy of that relationship.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber in $10 billion funding round talks

5:18PM | Thursday, 15 May

Uber is reportedly in talks to raise a new funding round which could be worth $10 billion.   That would almost triple the company’s value from $3.5 billion last year.   If Uber was to raise more than $10 billion it would join an exclusive group of companies with valuations of $10 billion or more including Airbnb and Dropbox.   US set for internet fast lane   The US Federal Communications Commission voted in favour of a preliminary proposal that would create internet ‘fast lanes’.   The proposal has been criticised by those concerned that rich companies paying for access to this fast lane will disadvantage startups with limited financial resources.   The FCC is calling for the public’s opinion as to whether or not the commission should change the proposal before enacting the final rules at the end of the year.   Apple allowing promo codes for in-app purchases?   Promo codes for apps have long been available, but were previously limited to initial app downloads.   Now Apple appears to be flirting with the idea of allowing promo codes for in-app purchases, a change that would make it easier for developers to give early app testers, reviewers and other users access to the full content within premium apps.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 167.16 to 16,446.81. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Want a job at a startup? Get sh-t done

5:57AM | Monday, 12 May

For many people getting a job at a startup is as compelling as starting one. A panel held in Sydney last week had founders reveal how to secure one, and while not that different from finding any other job, applying for a job at a startup has its quirks.   How do you find a job listing? Katie Hume, marketing director at Airtasker, mentioned how she found her role in an unlikely way. Hume 'liked' a posting by 99interns founder Yvonne Lee and someone else saw the like online and sent her a direct message asking if she was looking for work.   Kim Heras, founder of 24fifteen and Pushstart, talked about how applying with a resume is still standard for Australian startups, but it was important the resume reflects the skills needed when responding to a job listing.   “There are baseline skills needed for startups, but you also need certain characteristics,” Heras says.   “Be who you are, since there has to be a good fit.”   He says a job is like a relationship and “you want to be in a relationship with the company that wants you”.   One question from the crowd concerned what to wear for an interview. One of the founders of Tank Stream Lab, Balder Tol, told the story of his first interview at Airbnb.   He didn’t have enough time to research the company so he showed up for the interview in a suit while the interviewer had on shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt. Balder told him, “give me 5 minutes”, and quickly took off the jacket and tie and untucked his shirt.   Kim noted that it was important to “try to put in some effort in your appearance”. He said that what was especially important was “not what you’re wearing but do you seem to care and appreciate the opportunity to come in to interview”.   Dean McEvoy, founder of Spreets and Iconpark, explained, “The reason startups are so casual is they look through the facades that people put on in corporate culture.”   “People are focusing on getting shit done so appearance is secondary,” he says.   Another question from the audience was around the key attributes of a successful employee at a startup. Heras identified one fundamental characteristic was enthusiasm.   “Within a startup there’s always this sense of urgency, so you have to be enthusiastic and follow through,” Heras says.   McEvoy added, “To work at a startup you have to be comfortable with uncertainty since each day you might have to do something different.”   McEvoy mentioned that he sometimes screened potential employees by asking them to follow up at a certain time since only some people would do so, which indicated their enthusiasm.   He also mentioned it was great to put people on the spot in interviews. He mentioned one question he liked to ask was, “do you believe in aliens?” He says you learn a lot out about someone by listening to how they answer that type of question.   Dave Michayluk is a founder at 99interns – connecting interns with startups and startups with interns.

CeBIT StartUp 2014 – the rundown from a startup’s perspective

5:37AM | Friday, 9 May

I’ve just returned from CeBIT after three days and, I have to say, I’m a bit dazed and confused. As a first-time CeBIT attendee, I thought I’d reflect on our experience to help other startups evaluate if the event is right for them in 2015.   What is CeBIT StartUp?   CeBIT Startup is a part of CeBIT: a large-scale tech event that began in Germany and is considered a barometer of the state of the art in information technology.   The startups were all hosted in “StartUp Alley”, placing us side-by-side with over 100 other startups.   Why did we go?   I am the director of marketing for Mapely, a startup that recently graduated from ilab. We had a sponsored stall so there was no financial cost for us to attend, just the loss of our team from the office. Being from Brisbane, it was also an opportunity to line-up meetings and do the “Sydney” thing.   What sort of people attended?   This year the organisers had to make a decision between hosting at Pyrmont and Sydney Olympic Park. If you missed one of the three express trains in the early morning, it was a 35-minute cab ride from the CBD – much too far to pop out to on a lunch break.   For us, this meant we had fewer tourists and more people genuinely interested in what we are working on, so for B2B it’s not a bad range of attendees. I’m not sure what impact the location had on the attendance of key decision-makers, but for us, we had a fair number come past our stand.   For businesses in a specific niche, you would need to have a game plan for how you were going to make CeBIT work in your favour and how to weed out the time-wasters. For B2C startups, conferences probably aren’t the best way to reach the masses anyway, but it could be useful for user-testing and feedback.   The pitch event   This event was nothing short of bizarre to me. Like everyone else, we had been asked to register our interest in the pitch event. The first questions I had were who are we pitching to and what are we pitching for?   Don’t get me wrong: I’m all-for a good pitch event. But I have to be conscious that at the stage we are at in our startup, I need to make sure I am not wasting my CEO’s time pitching for pitching’s sake.   Unless there is a clear outcome, the investment that goes into creating a pitch relevant to both the audience and the prize is potentially a misuse of our company’s time. And if we are unclear of our goals, it can be embarrassing.   It was with overwhelming sadness that I discovered the prize pool was Airbnb vouchers: $2000 for first prize and runner-up prizes of $1000 each. It's a bit of a slap in the face to know that there's a hackathon happening a mere 50m away with a $10k prize pool.   Most startups took the opportunity to ignore the prize pool and make the task relevant to their current needs.   Maestrano CEO Stephane Ibos used the opportunity to pitch their expansion to the US.   “Maestrano is aiming to raise money to expand to the US and we’re asking for a $5m Series B to fund our US expansion: funding the needs for a US workforce, 24/7 support, US office and funding marketing for growth in the US,” Ibos pitched.   Despite not commenting on how they would use the Airbnb vouchers during the pitch, Maestrano still managed to score a runner-up prize.   Massive credit is due to the winners: grand prize winners Mathspace and runners up Workible, Maestrano and Caremonkey. Great startups with great pitches deserving much better than this very mediocre prize.   Nat Bradford from BlueChilli said you should come to CeBIT with a clear goal in mind and that for most startups it’s about raising awareness of your business.   “It’s nice to pick up sales here and there, and it’s nice to meet the right people, but it’s generally to see what else is going on in the ecosystem, know who is doing what in your space and to share the news about your startup and your business plans,” he said.   Was it worth it?   For us, it was definitely worth attending. This was a surprise: we had low expectations and came away with a good number of strong leads and confidence in our business. We met with other startups and having a pool of so many in one location was really useful for us.   There were a few minuses: the time and monetary cost of travel if you can’t use the three express trains, the energy it takes to run a stall and be “on” for three days straight, and the overall feeling that CeBIT StartUp could have been a bit better supported by the organisers.   Some businesses did not last the three days, with at least 10 stalls with no-shows on the Wednesday.   But for us it was worth it and I would hope that over time CeBIT StartUp grows into a must-attend startup event.

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