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Pivot to profit works a treat for business management platform

3:44PM | Tuesday, 31 March

Cloud-based business management platform WORKetc founder Daniel Barnett says KPMG and Advance’s elevate61 program will provide much needed assistance to startups that have traction, but are looking to scale rapidly.   WORKetc was one of eight startups chosen to take part in the elevate61 program from a pool of 50 from across Australia.   Barnett says he hasn’t been available to find much assistance for startups like WORKetc that have an established product and customer base, but are looking to grow quickly.   WORKetc was founded in 2010 but its product has changed a great deal since then. It first launched its business management platform as a freemium service, aiming to monetise it via advertising and upgrades.   “Literally after six months we were making about $4.50 a month in revenue,” Barnett says.   Needless to say the startup pivoted away from that model and became what WORKetc is today, an all-in-one cloud-based business management tool that handles project planning, billing, customer support and more, that starts at between $78 and $395 per month. It’s currently got 700 customers, the majority of whom are in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. Revenue has been growing at 80% year-on-year and estimates revenue for 2015 will be $2.5 million.   “We’re a bit beyond that early-stage startup phase... so a program like elevate61 is appealing as it’s geared towards business with an established product and customer base,” he says.   “We have a lot of contacts in the industry and we’re looking to resell our product under a partner program. So I’m hoping to learn about managing a partner program at scale, an area I have zero experience or knowledge in.”   The eleveate61 program, which aims to help startups grow globally from Australia, is a competitive program which doesn’t involve any funding or equity, but requires successful applicants pay a fee of $3950 to participate. The eight applicants will take part in three days of workshops from April 15 to 17 before heading to the United States in May to help build an understanding of the US market.   The other seven companies accepted into the program along with WORKetc include: Mandalay Technologies: A provider of data capture and operational management solutions for the waste management and government industries SEQTA: A suite of web-based applications providing schools with comprehensive management solutions to enhance the teaching and learning ecosystem Fewzion: Collaborative work management software for mining, factory and building industries. Fewzion helps operations manage processes, people and equipment to deliver exceptional results MyTraining.net: Provides corporations, enterprises and governments with a streamlined, audit-able procurement process to access external training vendors and their courses PicNet: Hosted on cloud infrastructure, PicNet is a provider of IT services and solutions helping organisations use technology to increase productivity, minimise risk and grow strategically simPRO: Job management software that optimises service workflow to bring every corner of the business together. The suite of products designed by simPRO allows business owners to implement a software solutions built for their industry and provides standard operating principles to manage business effectively Five Faces: Connecting customers with a brand message through visual and interactive devices, controlled, and managed by a secure cloud platform, wherever they may be.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Why enterprise solutions could be the next billion-dollar opportunity for startups

3:20AM | Wednesday, 11 March

Long sales cycles, traditionally the biggest barrier to startups gaining a foothold in enterprise, have been drastically shortened. Pioneers like Yammer have shown it’s possible to enter on the back of a groundswell of support amongst employees in the trenches.   The proliferation of personal computing means employees are far more empowered to use whatever tools aid them in their work, without needing permission from legal and corporate headquarters.   Yammer made its way in via the computer, whereas more recently startup companies like Slack have done so through mobile phones. This could be just the tip of the iceberg and the next wave of billion-dollar companies may be those that serve enterprise problems.   Enterprise is a huge opportunity for startups. Organisations of that size are so big and complex that they invariably have a multitude of problems. And generally speaking, these problems are shared across a sector, so a solution for Telstra will also likely be a solution for Optus, for example.   Startup accelerators and early stage technology investors tend to focus mainly on business to consumer or software-as-a-service businesses, due to the speed at which they can be created and tested in the market, and iterated upon.   Business-to-enterprise startups move slowly by comparison, and long sales cycles which can take up to two years to close a deal are a hindrance. But this is changing as the opportunity in enterprise is too big to ignore.   Enterprise-focused accelerators, such as Alchemist, are beginning to appear in the United States, achieving impressive results in a short period of time. And they are attracting both interest and investment from some large companies (Salesforce invested in the Alchemist fund in 2014).   Two AngelCube startups, etaskr in 2013 and Arcade in 2014 are tackling the enterprise space. While both of these companies are still operating, the learning curve has been steep. We’ve found the best results come when you can create a competitive environment for your product or service. The idea of gaining an advantage over the competition is as much, if not more of a motivator than solving the problem itself.   Founder/market fit is an important consideration too.   The founders of etaskr came out of the innovation department at KPMG’s Melbourne office. They’re working on a problem they had to deal with first hand as graduates starting out in the company. They’ve got deep connections into the corporate world and understand it intimately given the time they spent working in it. That experience acts as a natural barrier to entry from founders starting outside the enterprise space.   AngelCube will be hosting a free fireside chat with etaskr founder and chief executive officer David Chung at Inspire 9 on Thursday March 12. For tickets click here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Stone and Chalk opens with hopes to accelerate fintech growth in Australia

3:12AM | Tuesday, 3 March

Stone and Chalk, a new fintech hub that promises to help accelerate the development of Australian fintech startups, was unveiled in Sydney on Tuesday.   The independent not-for-profit will be located on level 26, 45 Clarence Street in the Sydney business district. It will include 1230 square metres of office space with the potential to grow to 3000 square metres.   Stone and Chalk’s co-working space will open in May and can fit up to 150 entrepreneurs, as well as offering space for seminars, industry meetings and conferences. Corporates will also be able to rent space in order to collaborate with the startups working there.   New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who spoke at the hub’s launch yesterday, says it will encourage innovation and creativity in fintech.   “Stone and Chalk will provide fintech startups with subsidised office space to collaborate, network and investigate venture capital opportunities,” he says.   “The fast-growing fintech sector will further strengthen Sydney’s position as Australia’s business capital and a globally recognised and competitive finance sector.”   Stone and Chalk chair Craig Dunn says the hub will become the heart of fintech in Australia and hopefully Asia.   “Digital disruption is transforming the financial services industry and there is much to be gained through greater collaboration between stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem. We are focused on brining to life our vision for Sydney’s fintech hub to support startups compete, thrive and lead on a world stage.”   Toby Heap, managing director of the AWI Ventures fintech accelerator program, says the new hub will provide a physical focus for the growing fintech ecosystem.   “Our aim is to provide an ecosystem of advice and support that empowers the brightest up and coming financial services executives to leave their often comfortable nests and start a new generation of world leading financial services organisations.”   The hub was made possible due to professional and financial contributions worth more than $2 million from Allens, Amazon, American Express, AMP, Capital Markets CRC, CIFR, FINSIA, Finzosft, HSBC, IAG, Intel, KPMG, Macquarie Group, Oracle, Suncorp Bank, Veda, Westpac and Woolworths.   Co-founder and chief operating officer of Pocketbook, Bosco Tan, praised the commitment shown by the government and private organisations in coming to “collaborate and elevate innovation”. “Being surrounded and supported by the who’s who of the sector is a critical step to shortening the process of ideation and execution,” he says.   Posse co-founder Rebekah Campbell says the there’s a huge opportunity for innovation in financial services.   “The fintech hub is a great initiative to drive focus and collaboration in the sector. I’m sure we’ll see some giant disrupters emerge as a result in years to come,” she says.   Fintech start-ups that would like to express interest in moving to Stone and Chalk, visit stoneandchalk.com.au for more information. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

David Chung of etaskr on chucking in corporate life to chase the startup dream: #2015istheyear

12:39PM | Wednesday, 17 December

Today we’ve got a case study of the corporate kind, bringing you up close and personal with David Chung, co-founder of etaskr – an online resourcing platform that is an enterprise software version of sites such as freelancer and oDesk. It aims to connect those looking for workers inside an organisation to those looking for work.   The etaskr story is an interesting one because its roots stem from the corporate world, a world many consider to be diametrically opposed to the world of startups. Unlike many startup stories you hear emanating from entrepreneurship hubs like Silicon Valley – where the founders are college dropout computer hackers who built an app over a beer-driven weekend – etaskr was founded by two work colleagues who left the security of corporate life to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs.   I had the chance to sit down with David and find out what it was like to move from corporate to startup, how it helped, what adjustments needed to be made, and what he would have done differently if he had his time over.   AN: Firstly David, can you give us a quick idea of your background?   DC: I went along a pretty well-trodden path of good marks, a double degree in commerce and law then getting a few graduate offers of which I chose a management consultancy position at KPMG. I quickly realised that this was not going to work for me and I made the life-changing decision to resign.   Serendipitously, I was recruited for a position in the innovation department at KPMG as an innovation analyst, and that I feel is the key moment that has led me to this great path of building a startup.   AN: Interesting. So what was working in the innovation department of a large corporation like?   DC: At the time, it was really exciting. We had a framework that was heavily directed by your own creativity that moved projects from ideation to testing as quickly as possible. Then if we got the right signals we would go to pilot and then production.   Looking back on it now though, it’s a much more conservative approach to building a startup but you’re solving your company’s problems and things move a lot slower because of how many stakeholders you have. It was certainly much more suited to me than consultant life though.   AN: OK. And how did you manage that transition?   DC: My manager and mentor Tom was really helpful, plus some books he recommended I read, namely: The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, and The Little Black Book Of Innovation by Scott Anthony, the latter dealing with corporate entrepreneurship. I think my people skills helped too as I got on really well with one key product developer, Pat, who helped teach me about product management, and we built some really cool things together. He eventually became my co-founder!     AN: So what triggered you to leave corporate innovation and get into startups?   DC: Well, funnily enough, I was researching an idea for work that involved co-working spaces. I made a visit to Inspire9 and while I was there I was explaining to Nathan (co-founder of AngelCube) what I do. He asked me if I had any ideas of my own and that if so I should apply to AngelCube as applications would be open for another week. Well, that got me thinking and back at work I asked Pat if he would be interested in joining me. He did, we drew up our plans for world domination, googled how to pitch and a few weeks later got in!   AN: Sounds like it all happened rather quickly!   DC: Yeah, it was crazy. We had to commit to AngelCube full-time, but to do that we had to resign from KPMG with one week’s notice! Thankfully, my boss at KPMG was really understanding. He told us that he knew that we would one day apply everything we’d been doing and learning to the big bad world and we’d fly the coop. I felt like Anakin Skywalker saying goodbye to Obi-Wan – before he turned to the dark side of course. We still keep in touch and he’s one of our biggest supporters.   AN: And the idea for etaskr was one you picked up whilst at work?   DC: So we got into AngelCube with a different idea, but they invested in us as a team, not the idea. So we decided to park it for a couple of days and just throw ideas around to see if we could come up with something a bit juicier.   And so etaskr was born.   The idea was heavily based on solving our own problem of working as consultants and being ‘on the bench’. It’s exactly what it sounds like – there’s not enough work and you sit on the sidelines trying to look busy. Not having much work might not sound like a big problem to those who haven’t worked inside a big firm, but it’s a nightmare. You go from being motivated and ambitious to frustrated and anxious – but you’re told it’s all part of the job. What we’ve realised in the startup world though is that you don’t just have to accept that – you can build crazy solutions that can change behaviour.   AN: How did you find the shift from corporate life to startup life?   DC: Pretty huge. First your mindset around ‘work’ completely changes. You no longer clock on, do your structured tasks that are managed and reviewed then clock off. You’re constantly thinking about creative, meaningful things you can do for your startup. It doesn’t really feel like work anymore – well apart from the compliance stuff – but you bring so much more energy into it because you don’t see it as doing something for a pay cheque. You’re doing something you’re crazy about!   AN: Cool. This has been great! Just lastly, what advice would you give to people working in the corporate world who are at this moment thinking about doing a startup?   DC: If you’re feeling underappreciated, disengaged and underutilised at work – well first off you should pitch etaskr to your boss because you’ll begin discovering awesome opportunities inside your company you never knew existed. But secondly you should trust yourself to go out and build your own dream instead of someone else’s. It’s a huge learning curve, or learning cliff face as I like to call it – but startups bring the best out of you. To sum up – smart people should build things!   Amir Nissen is program manager at AngelCube   This is the part five of our #2015istheyear series.   Part one – 2015 The year for my idea.   Part two – How to validate your idea this Christmas.   Part three – How Ash Davies created his ‘YouTube for books’ startup Tablo. Part four – Why ‘manual first’ can help you MVP quicker. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Narcissistic CEOs more likely to behave badly: Study

12:55AM | Wednesday, 17 December

The more narcissistic a chief executive is, the more likely they are to manipulate their company’s profit figures, according to research by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.   The research, led by Macquarie Graduate School of Management Dean, Professor Alex Frino, analysed the chief executives of the largest 600 companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange between 2008 and 2012.   It measured how often the chief executives used first-person pronouns in question-and-answer sessions during analyst phone calls and compared the results to the rate of “earnings management”, or profit inflation, among the companies.   “This study found that companies with more narcissistic CEOs are associated with greater earnings management and therefore a higher rate of inflated earnings,” Frino said in a statement.   “Narcissists often over-identify themselves with the organisations they lead. They assume the accounting targets to be their personal accomplishments and they translate them into their personal report card.”   The study also considered whether the earnings management may have occurred as a result of the firm’s underperformance.   But Frino said, regardless of the company’s financial performance, narcissistic chief executives “will still cook the books”.   Gary Gill, head of forensic accounting at KPMG, told SmartCompany the findings of the report “inherently make sense”.   “In a lot of the fraud cases I have investigated involving senior people, particularly at the chief executive level, you find very egotistical people with highly inflated views of themselves and their abilities,” Gill says.   However, Gill says this pattern of behaviour is more likely to be evident in the US, compared to Australia and some other countries, as US companies have historically utilised executive incentives such as share options and incentive-based remuneration to a greater extent.   “These CEOs have a personal incentive to inflate profits,” he says.   “If they already have narcissistic traits, they are inherently more likely to engage in things such as earnings manipulation.”   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.

Startups are the new corporates, corporates are the new startups

11:35AM | Tuesday, 18 November

Everybody wants to be startup. Recently, The Guardian claimed they were one, along with Westpac and a number of other large and well-established companies. And if they’re not claiming to be one, they certainly want to get in on the startup action, the latest being KPMG.   The professional services firm has just announced a partnership with Artesian Venture Partners that will enable it to gather non-sensitive data, from up to 1000 startups over the next five years.   The data will come from a number of funds which it operates including, the Slingshot Venture Fund and the BlueChilli Venture Fund, the funds behind the Newcastle-based Slingshot Accelerator Program and the Sydney-based BlueChilli incubator. In addition, it also operates the Sydney Angels Sidecar Fund. It provides investors with tax free exposure to all those funds through its Australian VC fund, for which it’s currently raising $100 million.   Artesian Venture Capital COO Tim Heasley says the data will inject some much needed evidence into the Australian startup ecosystem.   “The partnership allows us to accelerate the capital raising for the (Australian VC Fund) through KPMG’s corporation connections. Importantly, it gives us a means of capturing and ultimately processing data from the Australian startup ecosystem, data that has been missing or lacking up until now,” he says.   “No one has a complete read on what’s happening, what verticals are being targeted? What are the technical of other backgrounds of founders? How many have had other successful startups? How many are women? Men? What age range?   “Once we have that info we can start reporting it in a meaningful way, we’re going to end up with a rich data set, and we’re effectively professionalising the startup investment scene in Australia.”   KPMG was one of three professional service firms that tendered to become Artesian’ s partner, with KPMG Australia head of innovation Martin Sheppard saying it’s an important milestone for the firm when it comes to doing business with startups.   “Proactively engaging with Australia’s startup ecosystem is critical to our innovation strategy,” he says.   “It will expose us and our clients to new growth opportunities; provide early insights into emerging and disruptive technologies, and help us and our clients stay ahead of the curve.”   They’re not the only ones seeing the opportunity. Telstra, was one of the first starting its Muru-d accelerator program. But there are other signs too.   Pollenizer, BlueChilli and 25fifteen are used to hearing startups pitching to them. Now they’re doing the pitching too. Competing to secure lucrative consultant-like roles with big incumbents in a whole host of industries, including banking, insurance, telecommunications, and logistics – shipping, warehousing, things of that nature. Services they provide range basic lean startup education courses, organising and running hackathons.   BlueChilli chief growth hacker Alan Jones says corporates are aware of the competition that startups face.   “Primarily what they’re aware of as a corporate is a lot of disruption in their industries is going to come from startups in the next five to 10 years,” he says.   “They can see evidence of this already, particularly in banking and insurance, in travel and even in industries like automotive and airlines. We’re starting to see online native, early stage startups creating industries that have never existed before massively disrupting traditional industries.   “So if there’s an opportunity to invest one million in a couple of years, in a startup that may eventually contribute 20% of your annual revenue, why wouldn’t you start exploring that?”   Jones says the nature of accountability in big corporates leads to a risk averse culture and that, combined with large slow moving corporate bureaucracy, means innovation is a weakness not a strength.   Realising this Woolworths recently made its own attempt to engage with startups when it launched its Wstart program. According to the program’s website it aims to foster Woolworth’s relationships with startups, bit at this stage is not doing much more than meeting with them.   The first event is speed dating that gives successful applicants a chance to showcase their idea “and gain insights from the Woolworths team”. StartupSmart asked Woolworths to elaborate on its goals, they types of relationships it plans on fostering with startups, and whether it might lead to investment.   “Wstart is a new program that aims to open up communication between Woolworths’ business and the startup community to drive innovation that will simplify the shopping experience for our customers and improve our business,” a spokesperson says.   “We understand for a lot of startups there are few opportunities to engage with industry leaders and large organisations. Wstart is an opportunity for them to network and be mentored by senior Woolworths executives and collaborate with likeminded individuals.”   No comment on whether or not it will lead to anything more meaningful, like investment or an ongoing relationship with the startups involved.   Pollenizer partnerships manager Nicola Farrell says its great Woolworths is joining a growing trend of large enterprises realising that startups can help them experiment and learn faster.   “We look forward to seeing a structured program in place which drives compelling outcomes for the startups involved,” she says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Is it sometimes good to be a know-it-all?

11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November

This week’s Secret Soloist is answered by marketing consultant Jason Rose:   I have recently been playing the role of an accountant.   No, I haven’t been wearing a brown suit with elbow patches. I’ve been knee-deep in financial data looking at an investment opportunity.   Having spent the last 10-plus years in the advertising industry working on campaigns and media plans, it isn’t the most natural thing for me to be doing.   But I did study accounting at university (300 years ago!) and I also spent over a year at KPMG as an auditor back in the 1990s. I moved on after about 14 months. I couldn’t handle the excitement!   But the last few weeks got me thinking about the value of skills and experiences that we accumulate. Often, the true value of them only reveals itself years later.   Had I not got my accounting degree and worked in an accounting firm, my ability to conduct due diligence on a company would have been greatly limited. At the time though, as I was developing those skills, I really didn’t enjoy it at all.   Now, I’m glad I did it.   I think that we are often too linear and prescriptive in the way we go about gaining skills and experience. So many people have clear stepping stones in their minds as to what they want to study and do.   That’s all well and good. But so often the true worth of things can only be seen in hindsight.   I was recently looking at a venture in the car industry.   While I was working in advertising, I worked on a major car account that regularly put me in contact with car dealers. At the time, it was a part of the advertising game that certainly wasn’t glamorous.   Indeed, within the agency I was working at, the account was not one that people really wanted to work on. There were no creative awards in ads that yelled, “Twenty-nine nine-ninety drive away no more to pay…”   It was boring, uncreative retail work with an overbearing client and a room-full of car dealers who knew next to nothing about advertising and all thought they were the smartest person in the room. There were even a couple of pony tails 20 years after they went out of fashion.   It was an average gig.   Yet years later, that experience – of having worked with people in the car industry – gave me the insight I needed to let a potential investment opportunity go by. I had enough knowledge to surmise that the concept would struggle.   Bottom line?   All experience is valuable. All skills are useful. Work in lots of places with lots of people in lots of industries. Study in as many fields as you can. Read. Read widely and a lot.   You never know when what you know might be useful.

Indie retail platform tees up new fashion opportunities

2:34AM | Monday, 4 February

An online T-shirt store seems like an exhausted concept, but 27-year-old Glenn Tan insists his Sydney-based business Tee Me Up can stand out from its competitors.

Start-ups falling foul of fraudsters

12:54PM | Sunday, 5 December

Start-ups are being urged to protect themselves from financial wrong-doing in light of new figures that show the cost of fraud has doubled in the last two years.

Party playlists for online music enthusiasts

12:42AM | Friday, 3 December

There’s good news for those looking to cash in on the online music scene. According to a recent KPMG study, 61% of Australians are prepared to pay for music online.

ATO urges troubled start-ups to make contact

12:45PM | Sunday, 5 December

The Australian Tax Office has urged start-ups with tax troubles to contact them for assistance, in light of its tough new approach on tax debtors.

Small firms set to be hit by skills shortage

12:12AM | Monday, 6 December

Predictions of another skills shortage could force small businesses to think outside the square when hiring staff, including increasing the skilled migration intake.

Salt: Fast-growth Australia ideal for start-ups

12:35AM | Monday, 6 December

The rising population in high-growth hot spots across Australia provides ideal conditions for start-up businesses, according to demographer Bernard Salt.

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