Bitcoin gets wave and pay treatment

5:39AM | Thursday, 22 May

Diamond Circle, a Brisbane-based startup that offers debit cards and cashless ATMs for bitcoin, is set to enter the UK and US, forgoing the local market which it claims is lagging.   Diamond Circle uses near-field communication technology, like that found in credit cards capable of wave and pay, to allow distributors and merchants to accept bitcoins, and earn commission by accepting bitcoins on purchases, providing cash-out facilities and by selling bitcoin debit cards.   Its ATMs are cashless, with users being able to purchase bitcoins using a credit card and sell bitcoins with the profits being placed into a user’s bank account through a direct deposit.   Chairman Mike Oswald says Diamond Circle has appointed distribution partners in the UK.   “We’re now negotiating bitcoin exchange banking arrangements with a confidential partner in North America,” Oswald says.   “We’re moving pay wave to bit wave.”   Oswald says not to expect an Australian rollout just yet.   “Australia’s taking a wait-and-see approach and I think that’s reflected in the investment community here,’’ he says.   Diamond Circle was founded a year ago and is in the process of raising its first round of funding.   Oswald says the banking payment system is ripe for disruption.   “I think it’s evolving very quickly,’’ he says.   “The banking payment system technology for global funds transfer hasn’t changed much for 50 years. Point-to-point transfer of funds in this domain is as revolutionary as the internet was to publishing.”   Recently, the company was named on Gartner’s Cool Vendors list for 2014.   “It’s certainly a badge of recognition that an Australian company can stand up and be counted amongst the best in technology globally,’’ Oswald says.   It’s an interesting time for Australian bitcoin startups with Melbourne-based bitcoin exchange system CoinJar recently launching CoinJar Stories, a series of interviews with ordinary Australians looking at how they’re using bitcoin in their everyday lives.   CoinJar has over 22,000 individual and business customers and has processed over $30 million worth of transactions in the last 12 months.   CoinJar growth strategist Sam Tate says the company wanted to get away from the complex discussion that often surrounds bitcoin.   “We wanted to shift the focus from the tech side of bitcoin to the human side of bitcoin,’’ he says.   “There was no resource for everyday people. We wanted to help overcome the uncertainty about what you hear about bitcoin in the news and in the media.   “It’s pretty cool. When I first found out about bitcoin it was a curiosity I would enjoy online. Now I can literally by a coffee, buy lunch, buy dinner, buy a beer with bitcoin, and not all from the same place.   “I think the idea will impact society, but the brand might not.   “I’m pretty optimistic about its potential, but there’s the potential for it to go the way of AOL or something like that.”   Australia’s first dedicated bitcoin fund the Future Capital Bitcoin Fund launched earlier this month, it will invest in companies that are leveraging services based on bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.

Is another tech wreck coming? Some insights from Netslaves author Bill Lessard

4:17AM | Tuesday, 15 April

In recent weeks, many commentators have pointed out the similarities between the current Silicon Valley scene and the tech boom of the late ‘90s. Meanwhile, recent falls in tech related stocks have led some to fear that another dot-com crash could be around the corner.   A first-hand witness of the tech boom of the late ‘90s was author and web pioneer Bill Lessard.   In 1999, Lessard and his co-author, Steve Baldwin, wrote a book about the experience of being an ordinary IT worker at a startup during the tech boom, titled Net Slaves: True Tales of Working the Web. It was followed-up by a book chronicling the experience of those same IT staff after the bubble, titled Net Slaves 2.0: Tales of Surviving the Great Tech Gold Rush.   The books led to the creation of a pioneering and now defunct online community called, which bought together many people connected with the tech startup scene.   StartupSmart spoke to Lessard about how the current US tech startup scene compares to the ‘90s tech boom.   Working the web in the ‘90s   According to Lessard, working in a tech company in the US during the late ‘90s was often the opposite of the hype portrayed by many in the media.   “For every [Netscape founder and venture capitalist] Marc Andreesen getting rich quick, there were thousands of people getting old fast. The situation was ridiculous. It was akin to saying that everyone who moves to Hollywood becomes Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie,” Lessard says.   “And it wasn't just your mom who was falling for such nonsense, either. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people I'd meet at parties would gush when I told them what I was doing for a living.   “After a while, I wanted to punch such people on sight. Working the Web 1.0 was 14-hour days, not cleaning your apartment for six months, having three different jobs in the course of a year.”   Many people cite the infamous takeover of media giant Time Warner by tech company AOL as representing the pinnacle of the hype surrounding the early web.   Lessard says it was the experience of a round of layoffs at Swiss bank UBS that led him to write the Netslaves books.   “I was getting downsized from my seventh job in seven years when I looked up a friend of mine from Time Warner. I was 32 at the time. I was way past my Web 1.0 due-by date.   “I wanted to do something different. It was Steve's idea to write about this industry. I added the Studs Terkel aspect of profiling the real people who power tech.”   The books led to the creation of, an online community filled with the tales of disgruntled employees from tech start-ups. However, it wasn’t just IT workers who visited.   “It was a sterling example of online community in the pre-Facebook era. There were disgruntled techies, sure. But there were also members of the investor and executive classes.   “There were also garden-variety freaks, fruitcakes and lunatics. It's fun to remember the site now, but back then, it was a mess. What started out as an outlet for tech industry workers devolved into a mosh-pit of post-9/11 political extremes.”   Lessard explains how, in some ways, the Netslaves website was a forerunner to modern tech startup sites such as TechCrunch, StartupSmart and Valleywag.   “We took the bitchiness of and brought it to tech. TechCrunch and StartupSmart are definite influences in their willingness to question the sacred cows of the industry.   “But Sam Biddle at Valleywag, who criticizes West Coast tech cultist insanity from his Brooklyn perch, seems the closest to what we were doing as New York guys (and gals) with a digital axe to grind.”   A particularly notable contributor to the Netslaves website was freelance journalist and pioneering US political blogger Steve Gillard.   Gillard, who passed away in 2007, was cited by progressive blogger and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas as a being a key influence on his work.   “Steve was a gentleman. He was an educated, honest person in a world where educated, honest people are in too-short supply. Steve appeared out of nowhere. First he was on the mailing list that was the precursor to the bulletin board, then he was sending us reams to stuff to publish, then he was posting even more material directly when we got ourselves a proper CMS.   “Steve brought history and a strong sense of social justice to what we were doing. He had no tolerance for the whole rich-kids-messing-around ethos of the industry because he was a moral person and a black dude from Harlem who had witnessed the consequences of such foolishness.   “I was so glad to see him taking off as a political blogger. My only regret is that he didn't live longer to enjoy it.”   The problems with Web 1.0   Lessard recalls a common complaint from many on the site was that tech startups were often started by young people straight out of college, and the founders lacked basic management skills or training.   “It's okay to get some pizza and code all night when you're in college, but if you've got millions in venture and employees with bills to pay and some even with families and mortgages, it's not a good look, particularly if the company is going to be out of business in six months. And your best option seems to be to get another job just like the one previous.”   Reclining upmarket office chairs by Aeron came to be a symbol of the tech startups that failed during the ‘90s tech crunch.   “In an industry that had rejected suits and ties and other traditional symbols of corporate power, the Aeron was the seat of power in the Web 1.0 ‘game of thrones’.   “The closest contemporary equivalent is Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie, where the ultimate expression of authority resides in the rejection of authority. It's all very American. And it's all very rock-n-roll.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Key differences to the ‘90s tech crunch   Lessard points out there are several crucial differences between now and the tech wreck on the late ‘90s.   The most important is the frequency with which companies file for an IPO.   “Back in the Web 1.0 Boom, you had dozens of companies going public every week. Every company seemed dumber than the last, but that didn't stop them from going to market and jumping to 90 bucks a share on their first day of trading.   “These days, there are offerings, but there are fewer and the companies have stronger fundamentals. Also, another difference is that acquisition is an accepted exit strategy. In the '90s, it was IPO or bust.   “If nothing else, it seems like companies are more careful today because they have to be. There's money out there, but not a plethora of dumb money willing to throw cash at anything with a "dotcom" in its name.”   Life after startups   Since the tech boom of the late ‘90s, Lessard has returned to the public relations industry, with his company counting startups amongst its clients.   “I did PR before I got into tech, right after I got out of grad school... I run my own shop, so I get to pick and choose the projects I work on.   “I have a great job because I get to advocate for things I believe in. I don't represent crooks and hucksters. I represent people who are trying to make a difference in their own little way. I have worked with videogame charities who distribute used games to kids in hospitals and cancer wards.   “I have gotten a street named after a favourite jazz artist. I have partnered with major sports franchises and food startups to get fresh food to people in underserved communities. I choose people as much as they choose me. It's not going to make me rich, but that's okay. My wealth is the satisfaction of being able to live the way I was intended to live.”   Four tips for startup founders   According to Lessard, there are four key lessons from the tech wreck that startup entrepreneurs should apply to their businesses:   1) Create a company that will make the world a better place. There are already enough apps for simulating fart noises.   2) Failure will teach you the lessons that you need to know the most.   3) Take better care of yourself. Cut out all the pizzas and the all-night coding marathons. That bro stuff is nonsense, and it will kill you.   4) Figure out what kind of person you are: Are you an overdog who needs to run stuff? Are you an underdog who just wants a check and weekends off? Are you a lone wolf who neither wants to run things nor be told what to do? These are important questions. The world is the way it is because it is full of people who are trying to fit themselves into slots they don't belong in.

Five top business ideas that made millions

3:38AM | Thursday, 14 March

According to Paul Graham, investor and founder of Y Combinator, the best way to get a winning business idea is to not think of any. Instead, you should be looking at which problems you can solve.

Five Aussie start-ups looking to crack Obama’s America

11:46AM | Thursday, 8 November

Regardless of the economic turmoil the US has undergone in the past four years, America remains a prized destination for many Australian entrepreneurs.

AOL “squatter” builds start-up on the back of his over-stay

9:06PM | Monday, 10 September

A US entrepreneur who became known as the “AOL squatter” says the publicity he attracted has helped him build a team of talented staff and secure funding from high-profile investors.

Meet the CEO who hires entrepreneurs, not employees

7:23AM | Friday, 6 July

If you were the founder of a $150 million revenue IT business with a cushy market position, it would be tempting to kick back and enjoy your success.

Avoiding the legal glare when moonlighting

6:55AM | Monday, 4 June

It’s a perennial dilemma for the wannabe entrepreneur – do you ditch the safety of regularly-paid employment for the uncertainty and initial austerity of starting your own business?

Sydney start-up looks to Cappture slice of app market with US deal

6:12AM | Friday, 1 June

Two 20-year-old Sydneysiders are aiming to roll out their app, Cappture, with the aid of a US partner after seeing their founding team decimated by the headhunting efforts of Google, Apple and Facebook.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 a fizzer for start-ups

5:11AM | Thursday, 31 May

Last week was the TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 conference.

AOL squatter serves as reminder for moonlighting entrepreneurs

5:25AM | Friday, 25 May

Entrepreneurs are being urged to be wary of using employers’ time and resources to pursue other business interests, after a young entrepreneur spent two months living at AOL before being detected.

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5:17PM | Thursday, 17 May

Gone are the days when you can choose your new business’ name and logo safe in the knowledge that it won’t immediately be picked apart by consumers across the world.

Import your info to Gmail

4:29PM | Monday, 16 April

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AOL’s hunt for start-ups

3:08PM | Sunday, 18 March

In its bid to revamp its image from struggling internet portal to dynamic tech business, AOL has a new division that invests in start-ups. Here’s how it works (and what they are looking for).

Ex-Myspace CEO Mike Jones launches start-up incubator Science

11:45AM | Thursday, 17 November

Former Myspace chief Mike Jones has launched a new start-up incubator known as Science, joining the plethora of tech entrepreneurs who have launched accelerators.

OtherInbox filters email-based idea

9:38AM | Monday, 12 September

For those who struggle to manage the constant stream of newsletters, store promotions and daily deals to their inbox, OtherInbox can separate the important stuff from the junk.

TechCrunch founder threatens to quit site

9:44AM | Wednesday, 7 September

The founder of popular tech site TechCrunch has called on its owner AOL to either give it back its “editorial independence” or sell it to its original shareholders.

TechCrunch founder to launch $20m start-up fund

9:32AM | Friday, 2 September

Michael Arrington, founder of the influential TechCrunch blog, is in the process of raising a $20 million fund to back early-stage start-ups.

THE NEWS WRAP: Payout for investors hit by collapse of Trio

4:09AM | Wednesday, 13 April

The largest compensation package in Australian history will be paid by the Federal Government to help investors who lost their money with superannuation fund Trio.

NMA on AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post

2:38PM | Thursday, 10 February

NMA explains the AOL-Huffington Post deal as only it can, revealing that AOL's goal for 2011 is to 'make it 1997 again through science or magic.'

THE NEWS WRAP: AOL buys Huffington Post for $US315m

2:05PM | Monday, 7 February

Struggling online giant AOL has purchased news and opinion portal the Huffington Post for $US315 million.