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Windows 10 is not really free: you are paying for it with your privacy

8:18AM | Tuesday, 4 August

Windows 10, it seems, is proving a hit with both the public and the technology press after its release last week. After two days, it had been installed on 67 million PCs. Of course, sceptics may argue that this may have simply been a reflection of how much people disliked Windows 8 and the fact that that the upgrade was free. For others, though, it is the very fact that the upgrade is free that has them concerned that Microsoft has adopted a new, “freemium” model for making money from its operating system. They argue that, while Apple can make its upgrades free because it makes its money from the hardware it sells, Microsoft will have to find some way to make money from doing the same with its software. Given that there are only a few ways of doing this, it seems that Microsoft has taken a shotgun approach and adopted them all.   The question is whether it’s really ‘free’. Microsoft   Free upgrade Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, has declared that Microsoft’s strategy is to “acquire, engage, enlist and monetise”. In other words, get people using the platform and then sell them other things like apps from the Microsoft App Store.   The trouble is, that isn’t the only strategy that Microsoft is taking. Microsoft is employing a unique “advertising ID” that is assigned to a user when Windows 10 is installed. This is used to target personalised ads at the user.   These ads will show up whilst using the web, and even in games that have been downloaded from the Microsoft App Store. In fact, the game where this grabbed most attention was Microsoft’s Solitaire, where users are shown video ads unless they are prepared to pay a US$9.99 a year subscription fee.   The advertising ID, along with a range of information about the user, can be used to target ads. The information that Microsoft will use includes: […] current location, search query, or the content you are viewing. […] likely interests or other information that we learn about you over time using demographic data, search queries, interests and favorites, usage data, and location data.   It wasn’t long ago that Microsoft was attacking Google for similar features it now includes in Windows 10. Internet Archicve   It was not that long ago that Microsoft attacked Google for doing exactly this to its customers.   What Microsoft is prepared to share, though, doesn’t stop at the data it uses for advertising. Although it maintains that it won’t use personal communications, emails, photos, videos and files for advertising, it can and will share this information with third parties for a range of other reasons.   The most explicit of these reasons is sharing data in order to “comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies”. In other words, if a government or security agency asks for it, Microsoft will hand it over.   Meaningful transparency In June, Horacio Gutiérrez, Deputy General Counsel & Corporate Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, made a commitment to “providing a singular, straightforward resource for understanding Microsoft’s commitments for protecting individual privacy with these services”.   On the Microsoft blog, he stated: In a world of more personalized computing, customers need meaningful transparency and privacy protections. And those aren’t possible unless we get the basics right. For consumer services, that starts with clear terms and policies that both respect individual privacy and don’t require a law degree to read.   This sits in contrast to Microsoft’s privacy statement, which is a 38 page, 17,000 word document. This suggests that Microsoft really didn’t want to make the basic issues of its implementation absolutely clear to users.   Likewise, the settings that allow a user to control all aspects of privacy in Windows 10 itself are spread over 13 separate screens.   Also buried in the privacy statement is the types of data Cortana – Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri or Google Now – uses. This includes: […] device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device. Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.   Note that the “and more” statement basically covers everything that you do on a device. Nothing, in principle, is excluded.   Privacy by default It is very difficult to trust any company that does not take a “security and privacy by default” approach to its products, and then makes it deliberately difficult to actually change settings in order to implement a user’s preferences for privacy settings.   This has manifested itself in another Windows 10 feature called WiFi Sense that has had even experts confused about the default settings and its potential to be a security hole.   WiFi Sense allows a Windows 10 user to share access to their WiFi with their friends and contacts on Facebook, Skype and Outlook. The confusion has arisen because some of the settings are on by default, even though a user needs to explicitly choose a network to share and initiate the process.   Again, Microsoft has taken an approach in which the specific privacy and security dangers are hidden in a single setting. There is no way to possibly vet who, amongst several hundred contacts, you really wanted to share your network with.   There are steps users can take to mitigate the worst of the privacy issues with Windows 10, and these are highly recommended. Microsoft should have allowed users to pay a regular fee for the product in exchange for a guarantee of the levels of privacy its users deserve.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

TripAdvisor acquire restaurant booking startup Dimmi: why it’s important to find “a bunch of guys that give a shit”

5:42AM | Wednesday, 20 May

After resisting months of inquiries from “large international players”, Australian restaurant booking startup Dimmi agreed to be acquired by TripAdvisor because they believed they found “a bunch of guys that give a shit” about the Dimmi brand.   It’s the latest in a number of acquisitions TripAdvisor has made in markets around the world to help strengthen its restaurant division. TripAdvisor generates over 200 million monthly page views from its restaurant traffic. One such startup was LaFourchette, an online restaurant reservation service that operates in France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy. Sources told TechCrunch that deal was worth $US100 million.   Dimmi, which began as some ideas scribbled on a napkin in a London restaurant, has grown to become a network of over 2500 bookable restaurants across Australia that has seated 12 million diners and published over 500,000 verified diner reviews. Co-founder and chief executive officer Stevan Premutico says Dimmi’s position as market leader in Australia had led to a number of approaches from “large international players” over the past 18 months.   “To be totally frank we just weren’t looking (to be acquired), we were growing quickly, having a lot of fun. I think the team and certainly myself were a bit nervous about an international player suffocating our growth. So we kept running hard and running as fast as we could,” he says.   “The international markets have hotted up in this space over the past six to 12 months. They kept approaching us. And about three months ago we entered formal discussions with TripAdvisor.”   Premutico says the deal was concluded pretty quickly over two 60 minute Skype chats with TripAdvisor co-founder and chief executive officer Stephen Kaufer.   “We weren’t looking to sell but we engaged with TripAdvisor, we liked the way they saw us being part of their story,” Premutico says.   “At the end of the day the most important thing for me as the founder of Dimmi was I wanted the Dimmi brand to live on. And be part of a family that is as passionate about restaurants as I am. We found a bunch of guys that give a shit.   “I think what they love about Dimmi is, one, we’re the clear market leader in Australia; two, very strong respective brands; and, three, we are growing revenues strongly, profitable and growing aggressively. The Dimmi website alone is growing 160% year-on-year.   “And I think more than anything else they fell in love with the team. I’ve always said I think I’ve got 30 of the most talented people in the country working at Dimmi.”   The team, including Premutico, will continue to work on the product, with TripAdvisor’s restaurant division.   “Australia is an important market for us. Combining Dimmi’s national restaurant network with TripAdvisor’s local and global community of travellers will allow us to deliver more seated diners to Australian restaurateurs, and help more TripAdvisor users book a great dining experience in Australia,” Kaufer says.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Guy Kawasaki: Eight ways to be an evangelist for your business

5:11AM | Tuesday, 5 May

Guy Kawasaki made his name as Apple’s “chief evangelist” a term he says was coined by the marketing team. He was one of Apple’s first employees and was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984 under Steve Jobs. Now he’s the chief evangelist for Australian design business Canva which just announced an extra $6 million in funding. Whoever he’s working for, Kawasaki is passionate about being an evangelist for your business rather than just marketing it. Ahead of his keynote address at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Kawasaki spoke to SmartCompany about how you can be an evangelist for your business. 1. Ignore the doubters Kawasaki says working with Steve Jobs at Apple taught him if entrepreneurs want to create truly innovative products they need to ignore what everyone else is saying.   “Most of those people will tell you they just want better things,” he says.   “If Steve Jobs had listened to the advice in the 1980s he would have just made a better Apple 2.” 2. Have the other person’s interests at heart “An evangelist has the other person’s best interest at heart also and, primarily, most sales people are trying to make a quota and commission,” Kawasaki says.   “Evangelists want to get people more creative and productive, which is good for them and which is also good for the evangelist.” 3. Trust is essential Kawasaki’s first job after he finished his MBA was working for a small family-owned jewellery manufacturer.   “The jewellery business is intensely personal, reputation is everything; it’s hand to hand combat and I really learnt how to sell,” he says.   “It’s all about how to get people to trust you.” 3. Be prepared for hand-to-hand combat “When you had a computer like Macintosh and you had no precedent it too was hand-to-hand combat,” Kawasaki says.   “We literally met with companies one at a time, like selling a $35,000 ring you had to sell people on creating software for the Mac.” 4. Have an underlying purpose Kawasaki describes his time at Apple as “the best days of my life”.   “We were on a mission to prevent worldwide domination by IBM and it got closer to a religion than to a business,” he says.   “I believe the essence of what Apple did back then was it democratized computers.”   Kawasaki says he finds Canva’s mission equally inspiring.   “For me it’s empowering people for design like Macintosh empowered people for computers.” 5. Have a magnificent enemy “I can’t tell you that every product and every service can find as magnificent an enemy as IBM,” Kawasaki says.   “There are not that many magnificent enemies and if you are a small business, in particular, it’s harder to define a magnificent enemy.” 6. Use technology Kawasaki says the tools available now make evangelism even easier.   “Back in 1983 I had a car, an airplane ticket and a copper-based telephone system,” he says.   “Now you have email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google hangouts on air and Skype.” 7. Remove barriers to entry Canva operates using a freemium model where the basic product is free although the company is getting ready to launch the paid service Canva for Work.   Kawasaki says a freemium model makes life easy for him as an evangelist.   “The benefits are that it presents a very low barrier to buy something; it’s kind of a land grab,” he says.   “You want to give people a very slippery slope.”   “Remove all the barriers for adoption and make it as easy as possible to fall in love with your product,” he says.   “One barrier many companies make is that you have to download an app.” 8. Eat what you kill “You should eat what you kill,” Kawasaki says.   “I have never seen a company die because it couldn’t scale fast enough but I have seen many die because they scaled too quickly.”   CeBIT starts today at Sydney Olympic Park.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Adelaide startup Makers Empire strikes 3D printing software deal with South Korea

4:15AM | Wednesday, 8 April

South Australian startup Makers Empire has struck a lucrative deal which will soon see its 3D printing software distributed to the South Korean education market.   The partnership follows the announcement of a 10-year plan by the South Korean government that will see 20% of the country’s population have 3D printing skills by 2020.   As part of the initiative, all South Korean schools will be supplied with 3D printers and more than 10,000 teachers trained on how to use them.   The distribution deal follows Makers Empire’s success in the US, where it partnered with American toy giant Sphero.   Chief executive of Makers Empire, Jon Soong, told StartupSmart it was exciting to see South Korea lead the way with 3D printing by making it part of the school curriculum.   “The South Korean government announced they were going to put 3D printers in around about 6000 schools, so for us that was the kind of market that’s going to move first,” he says.   “It makes sense to go fishing somewhere where they are interested in what you’ve got.”   Soong says when it comes to doing deals with overseas companies, Aussie entrepreneurs should make sure it “feels like a real partnership”.   “We’re still learning – I don’t think we’ve got it nailed by any means – but we’ve learnt the kind of company we’re looking for and try to meet the people and get a feel for them,” he says.   “If they don’t answer your Skype calls or text messages quickly, just stay away because it’s not just going to work.”   While Soong acknowledges that 3D printing is expensive and at the moment largely constrained to “the tinker or hobbyist”, he argues that’s all about to change.   “A lot of the government departments of education and independent school boards and different associations are very interested at the moment,” he says.   “The Napthine government – who didn’t get returned – said they would put 3D printers into all schools in Victoria, so we see this as a good sign. This is a market at a tipping point and with South Korea putting 3D printers in schools it’s just the start.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Microsoft adds biometric passwords to Windows 10

3:52AM | Wednesday, 18 March

Microsoft has unveiled Windows Hello, a Windows 10 feature that uses infrared cameras to automatically identify users based on their face, eyes or fingerprints, without them needing to type in a user name and password.   Windows Hello was unveiled as part of Microsoft’s Convergence 2015 business computing conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Once authenticated on a device, users will be able to access apps, websites and networks secured through the company’s Passport service without needing to key in a password each time.   The new system will be opt-in only, with a user’s “biometric signature” to be stored locally on a device and will not be sent over a network. It will only work with devices that incorporate a fingerprint reader, illuminated IR sensor or other biometric sensors.   It comes after Microsoft unveiled a number of identity authentication systems as part of its Azure cloud computing platform in March last year, including Azure Active Directory and Azure Access Rights Management that are interoperable with Windows Hello.   At the conference, Microsoft also announced Lync replacement Skype for Business is rolling out next month. On the Internet of Things front, it has expanded Azure Intelligent Systems Service into a commercial product called Azure IoT Suite that allows businesses to manage and capture machine-generated data from sensors and devices. Also, the company’s Salesforce competitor, Dynamics CRM, is receiving a major update.   For businesses using Office 365 or Yammer, there’s a preview available of Office 2016, and an Admin app for Office 365 that allows IT staff to remotely manage the service from Apple, Android or Windows Phones. Also, a new Office 365 dashboard feature called Delve uses machine learning to show users with Google Now-style cards with relevant work information.   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.

Should Australia’s Silicon Valley be Melbourne or Sydney? Why not build a startup nation instead!

3:11AM | Tuesday, 3 March

It’s long been the debate that has divided a nation. On one side is a settlement founded by convicts, and on the other, a once illegal colony founded by gold miners.   It’s the battle between the cozzies and bathers. The scallops and the potato cakes. Rugby league and Aussie rules. Australia’s international city against the sporting/arts/coffee capital of the cosmos. The long “a” in Newcastle against the short “a” of Castlemaine.   The battle of city buses and double decker trains against bunched up trams and limited express Metro services to Flinders Street via the City Loop. (That last one is a battle over which system is the least unreliable.)   With the inevitability of someone tumbling head-first down a slippery dip – or should that be a slide – the debate has crossed into startup land. Which end of the Hume Highway (for those of you south of the border, that’s the Hume Freeway) is to become Australia’s Silicon Valley?   North of the Murray, along poorly laid out streets in a state of perpetual traffic jam, the consensus is the city that is home to Fishburners and BlueChilli should become Australia’s Silicon Valley.   Meanwhile, on the other side of The Alps (or as the locals say it, “Theelps”), Melburnians sit in their alleyways, sipping Magic Coffees chatting about how the laneways between York Butter Factory and Inspire9 are the natural home for this nation’s Silicon Valley.   So which end of the great Hume power corridor should be home to Australia’s startups? North or South of the Murray?   Well, your loyal correspondent, from a corner of the hills known as Parts Unknown, says both sides of this argument need to wake up to themselves!   When it comes to highly scalable tech-enabled businesses, the NBN is a great leveller. Mix in AWS, the Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure and there’s no reason why the next big thing in tech can’t launch from nearly anywhere in the country.   Indeed, from Joondalup to Geelong, Wollongong to Toowoomba and Bega to Cairns, startup scenes are booming in this nation’s regional cities. With Skype and Google Hangouts, there’s simply no reason why rural or regional startups can’t participate in most events hosted in the big city coworking spaces, or why conferences shouldn’t be uploaded to YouTube after the event.   And that’s without even mentioning the vibrant tech communities built around Startup Tasmania, SpaceCubed in Perth, iLab in Brisbane, Entry 29 in Canberra or Majoran in Adelaide.   Now, Sonny Jim Crockett, your dear Old Taskmaster says the Melburnians and Sydneysiders really need to get over themselves and realise there’s far more to this great nation than their two cities! Kids these days – they want the whole toy chest to themselves, but then they run out of juice before teatime and then there’s tears!   No, if Australia wants world class innovation, we don’t need to be a Silicon Valley – we need to become a Startup Nation!   So do you have a great startup idea? Forget about the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry – start from where you are!   Get it done – across Australia – today!   P.S. They’re not potato cakes or scallops because they’re neither a cake nor a form of seafood – they’re really potato fritters!   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Dr Google can improve older people’s health – if we bridge the technology gap

2:32AM | Wednesday, 25 February

With more health information going online every day, it has never been easier to proactively manage our health. The problem is, the people who would benefit the most seem to be using it the least.   Older adults typically have a greater need for health-related information but their health literacy – their capacity to obtain, process and understand health information to make appropriate health decisions – is the lowest among all age groups.   Research shows that only about 3% of the elderly know how to access health-related information. And of those older adults who seek health information online, few are careful to evaluate its credibility. This points to the need for interventions to assist older adults’ use of computers and the internet.   There are clear benefits, both at a personal and social level, to teaching the elderly how to access health information and to use the internet generally. Efforts have been made to address this skills gap, but with limited success. What works?   Sometimes the best solutions to behavioural problems are those that graft naturally onto people’s instinctive behaviours. The European Union has done just that with the Grandparents and Grandchildren program that puts old and young together so that the old might learn from the young.   This approach is working, probably because it taps into the natural instinct we have to connect with our blood relatives. School and college-age people are spending time with their grandparents for the purpose of learning how to use technology.   Beyond the family benefits, there is the potential for great savings to be made on health-care costs, keeping people in their own homes and out of hospital; a win-win situation.   Several health literacy programs are being trialled that involve helping the elderly to use the internet to find and appraise web-based cancer information. The participants in these programs reported getting better at doing this.   Follow-up studies show that once having learnt, the participants continued to use the internet to search for health-related information. Benefits of digital literacy   Google heads recently announced they will improve the validity of health-related searches by creating a database of commonly searched medical conditions that have been fact-checked by doctors. When consumers search for these conditions, these pre-vetted facts will appear at the top of the search results. It is hoped that this will get people the right information faster.   Once the elderly know how, they can proactively manage their health by accessing a wealth of information on many topics. A person with type 2 diabetes, for instance, could learn how to live on a low-glycaemic index diet, thus reducing the need for medication and lowering their risk of heart attack. They could also make use of the many health and fitness apps now available. SmartWatch technology is taking the whole business to a higher level of sophistication.   Important for healthy ageing is keeping the social bonds of family and friends strong and maintaining a sense of social connection. Not an easy thing to do in today’s world with friends and family living far and wide for employment. Skype, email and social media can go a long way to making people feel connected with those they love.   With an ocean of knowledge just a few key-strokes away, there is plenty of scope for people to explore their interests. No matter how specialised they might be, you can find a community of interest to get involved with. It is well-known that keeping one’s mind active helps to delay cognitive decline and the on-set of dementia.   Many elderly people have lived interesting lives. They have things to say, but no-one on hand who is prepared to listen. These folks might want to record their experiences for posterity by writing their richly-textured biographies. Who knows what gems of wisdom might be contained in such accounts? Next steps   It takes a village to raise a child, as the old saying goes, but we might also add that it is a two-way street – it takes a community to look after the elderly. We need to put in some time and effort into finding better ways to do this.   One of the best things we can do for the older members of our community is to give them the means to better look after themselves by teaching them how to use the technology that the rest of us take for granted. An Australian pilot study to adapt the Grandparents and Grandchildren would be a good start.   It is true that not everyone in this age group will want to learn. Some will be content to let it pass them by. But others will see the possibilities and eagerly embrace the potential for improvements to both quality and quantity of life.   This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

It's not 'what' but 'who' you connect with in metadata retention

2:30AM | Tuesday, 24 February

The purpose and implementation of the Australian government’s proposed metadata retention scheme is making less sense as political pressure mounts to get the legislation passed. So what’s going on?   The bill, as written, suggests it can be easy for criminals to “opt out” of data collection, while the remainder of Australians still have their personal communications spied on, retained for two years and kept in commercial data centres at taxpayers' expense.   The Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam recently raised a number of such concerns about the bill which has already met opposition from privacy advocates.   But the bill’s worth as a tool to specifically fight terrorism, or any other serious crime, seems dubious if potential terrorists and criminals in Australia can easily “opt out” of having their data retained simply by choosing any internet messaging service where the persons operating the service do not own or operate “in Australia, infrastructure that enables” that service.   So what does that mean for the apps commonly used on smartphones today?   Whatsapp, the popular mobile messaging app with 700 million users, around 10% of which come from the Middle East, or Viber, a similar app with 20 million users in Pakistan alone, would both be excluded from data retention. These are some of the apps that the UK’s prime minister David Cameron recently mused about baning in the UK.   According to answers given by Australian Attorney General’s (AG) department staff during the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, the “in Australia” provision also means that even Google’s web-based Gmail service is excluded from data retention. So what does the bill call for? With all the reports of what the bill leaves out and doesn’t do, no one seems to acknowledge what is actually in the draft bill, and how that language might affect policing, government and privacy. So what is at play?   One possible explanation is that Australia is carrying out its obligations as part of the “five eyes” network of English speaking intelligence partners. The logic here is that it makes economic and political sense to have Australian internet service providers (ISPs) such as Telstra and iiNet retain what originates in their infrastructure rather than have the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) collect it.   A more plausible explanation is that, contrary to the PM’s politiking, the data to be retained is not valued by the Australian government for its national security or anti-child abuse value.   Instead, Australians are to be spied on for data that will become valuable for other state functions including the expanded reach of civil litigation. The expanded value considers normal policing, civil subpoenas and even copyright disputes. A look inside the bill The Australian government is not explicitly interested in the internet protocol (IP) addresses that you visit. The bill in its current form states in section 187A that the government:   […] does not require a service provider to keep, or cause to be kept […] [information that] states an address to which a communication was sent on the internet, from a telecommunications device.   In more detail, the helpful “explanatory memorandum” codifies that:   Under proposed paragraph 187A(4)(b), the retention obligation is explicitly expressed to exclude the retention of destination web address identifiers, such as destination internet Protocol (IP) addresses or uniform resource locators (URLs).   So what are we talking about then? It’s all about the destination What the government does seem to be after is “destination” data that basically amounts to an assortment of dummy variables that help identify you, and who you are communicating with.   Instead of IP address or web pages, it is interested in retaining email accounts, Skype handles and phone numbers, etc. for the connections you have made.   The government’s “destination” is in many ways more invasive than IP addresses or web URLs alone. For instance, think about how each person in Australia connects to the IP address 69.63.176.13. That’s the IP for Facebook.com, and is physically located in the US.   Retaining the metadata of time spent at that address would not produce much actionable intelligence on you or the other 8 million Australians who browse Facebook each day. Nor would it be all that invasive to privacy.   “Destination” data is different. “Destination” data seeks to capture who, specifically, you’re spending time with online; who is the destination that you are messaging through email, Skype or possibly even Facebook’s real-time apps and services?   Think of it this way: two “destinations” pass data through the same communications service at a series of very specific times, again, again and again. No other two “destinations” share this unique pattern of time and connection.   The government’s definition of “destination” is multiple click here, search for “destination”), but we can isolate a key phrase:   This information can then assist with determining the subscribers who sent or received relevant communications.   That is to say, who you’re talking to online, not where you went.   Analysing how these “destinations” link together with other metadata (geo-location, device type/operating system, etc.) allows the government – or anyone else who snoops in on the retained data – to predict, for instance, that these communications were yours, and whether you targeted them to, let’s say, your spouse, or an “old friend” across town. And whether you meet up with that person from time to time. And where. And for how long.   Geolocation data alone is incredibly powerful when we all carry smartphone and other devices that connect to the internet in our pockets. People are just starting to learn how powerful this type of metadata is.   Retaining all of that metadata provides an incredible amount of information for civil litagants that can ask for it through a subpoena. As an former iiNet lawyer wrote:   The Data Retention Bill does not impose any limitation on access to the retained data by other legal avenues. This means there’s nothing stopping your ex-husband, your employer, the tax office or a bank using a subpoena to get access to that data if it is relevant to a court case.   All this data also creates a very valuable target for hackers, including “adversarial intelligence agencies” trying to infiltrate your identity, ransom you for your secrets, or run some form of economic espionage.   Can we trust Australian service providers can keep all the data safe once they’ve accumulated two years worth of intimate connections for each Australian who uses any sort of telecommunications device?   Sadly, recent security breaches at companies as diverse as Apple, Target, and the latest heist from “100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 nations” suggest otherwise.   The flawed explanations of what good the bill does, what privacy risks it creates and the reality of how our retained data will be used, offers many red flags on why this legislation should be reconsidered.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cloud market to reach heights of $650 million by 2020, as businesses look to the skies

1:39AM | Wednesday, 21 January

Australian businesses will help grow Australia’s cloud communications market to reach $650 million by 2020, according to research released yesterday by technology analyst firm Telsyte.   The Australian Enterprise Communications Market Study 2015 found more Australian businesses are adopting modern communications options like cloud communications, forecasting the industry will exceed 30% penetration in the next five years.   The popularity will be driven by more options from traditional telco and non-telco service providers, according to the research.   Telsyte also looked at the rise in popularity of other innovative communication offerings, such a softphones; a software program for making telephone calls over the internet.   The study found most organisations (88%) now have staff who use a softphone at least once a week, with Skype the most popular application.   A further 40% of organisations are looking at docking solutions to enable mobile devices to act as a desk phone replacement while in the office.   Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda said in a statement organisations need to find the best ways to integrate services for holistic enterprise communications.   Gedda said the solutions would increasingly involve mobile devices and wearables.   “Instant messaging, presence and email integration are the most deployed UC [Unified Communication] applications, but web collaboration and BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] integration are becoming more important as organisations look to modernise their business and support next generation employees,” Gedda said.   The article originally appeared at SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Facebook launches pilot trials of Facebook at Work

1:55AM | Thursday, 15 January

Facebook has begun trials of its Facebook at Work service, a cloud-based platform that allows business to create social networks for staff, with the project led by an engineer who launched one of Sydney’s most successful startups.   Development on the project is being led by Lars Rasmussen, who was the cofounder of a Sydney-based mapping startup called Where 2 Technologies that was subsequently acquired by Google and rebranded as Google Maps.   After his success with Google Maps, Rasmussen went on to lead the development of Google’s ill-fated Google Wave project, which was intended as a real-time collaborative document editing platform.   TechCrunch reports an app for Facebook at Work has appeared on the iTunes app store, with an Android version set to go live shortly and another version accessible through the Facebook’s website. News of the service first leaked in November last year.   Facebook at Work will also give employees the option of either using a single login for both their work and personal accounts, or the ability to keep both separate.   Facebook at Work is set to compete against collaboration platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer. Microsoft announced it is combining its business-focused Lync video conferencing and instant messaging app with Skype to create a new package called Skype for Business late last year.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Escaping the herd mentality: why some Aussie startups are choosing the Big Apple over Silicon Valley

12:49AM | Thursday, 18 December

A growing number of Australian startups are moving to New York rather than Silicon Valley in order to chase partnerships with major brands and shake off the group-think of San Francisco.   Yesterday, contactless communications startup Tapit announced it was expanding into the US market by opening an office in New York.   Co-founder and chief executive of Tapit Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the startup has previously collaborated with major international brands and wanted to position itself close to its clients.   “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there,” he says.   “So it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than in San Francisco.”   Tapit has recently undergone a rapid international expansion – with offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai – and Conyngham says a headquarters in New York will allow his team to pitch to brands face-to-face (because Skype “only takes you so far”).   Kate Kendall, the founder of Cloud Peeps, moved to San Francisco from Melbourne in 2010 and has been living in New York for the past two years. She says a combination of industry and market-reach factors influenced her decision to remain in New York while working on her startup.   “San Francisco is amazing because it’s the equivalent of Hollywood – it’s where you have a lot of tech talent and tech giants – but the drawcard for New York is you’ve got eight million plus people,” she says.   “San Francisco is a baby city in comparison to New York.”   However New York was also a personal preference for Kendall, who says positioning herself away from San Francisco allowed her to challenge herself.   “When I first went there [San Francisco] there were a few Aussies and then it exploded,” she says.   “I wanted something new and challenging and San Francisco felt like another Melbourne. People want diversity and the thinking about the tech space in New York is … instead of it being a tech ecosystem, it’s tech within other ecosystems – media, finance, art.   “There is a very big bias in Silicon Valley of what constitutes a tech company and what constitutes a problem you should be solving, and after a while everyone can be working on the same thing and solving problems for what is a niche area and niche problem set.”   Kendall also points out that in New York, she doesn’t realise she is a female entrepreneur.   “When I first moved here and started going to events there were so many incredibly talented, ambitious, driven, funded women in the room. It’s funny because it does feel like nowhere else on earth in terms of tech and startups.”   Kendall is involved with Down Under New York, a tech meetup designed for Australians living and working in the Big Apple. The acronym for the meetup – DUNY – doesn’t escape the attention of attendees, either, and sparks a few conversations about Australian slang.   Kendall says in the last few months she has seen an “absolute onslaught of Aussies move into New York”.   Although there is a notable downside: the weather.   “It does get to minus 15 degrees in winter, so sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong choice,” she says.   “The weather does suck – it’s absolutely freezing.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Tapit opens US office following rapid international expansion

12:26AM | Tuesday, 16 December

An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has opened an office in New York as part of its expansion into the US market.   Tapit, founded in 2011, has been finding new ways for consumers to access information instantly on their phones – all off the back of an aggressive international expansion.   Earlier this year the startup collaborated with the likes of Google and HBO to allow people to access film and television-related content on their smartphones by scanning event posters.   In September, Tapit entered the Chinese market via a partnership with mobile commerce giant 99 Wuxian.   Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the company opened an office in New York because it wanted to position itself where its clients were.   “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there, so it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than San Francisco,” he says.   Conyngham says the startup has been using Australia as a “launchpad” for global deals, which has worked well because it can bring those case studies to the US.   “If you do a deal with Google or Microsoft in Australia you have that case study and you can then go to their global teams,” he says.   “You can’t do that unless you do those deals in the US – Skype only takes you so far.”   The company has been helped by the fact that Australia is ahead with contactless communication in comparison to other countries, according to Conyngham.   “You’ve seen the massive take-up of tap and pay with credit cards and that has put us ahead in the contactless ecosystem. So we’ve been lucky to have headquarters here in that regard because the US is a bit behind – even in the UK.”   Tapit also has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. The fast-growing startup has pioneered contactless communications for brands such as Telstra, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Sony.   There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world, and Tapit expects that number to grow to one billion by 2015.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: SurveyMonkey raises $250 million

12:27PM | Monday, 15 December

Online survey platform SurveyMonkey has raised $250 million in equity financing, meaning the company is now worth around $2 billion.   The company, which is based in California, will use the latest capital raise to pursue future acquisitions, according to Fortune.   New investors include Morgan Stanley Investment Management and T Rowe Price, joining existing investors such as Google Capital and Tiger Global Management.   In May this year the company announced it was opening an office in Sydney as the first step in its expansion into the Asia-Pacific region.   Skype rolls out real-time translation software   Skype has unveiled its live translation software for people speaking English and Spanish.   The Skype Translator program is also available for more than 40 languages via instant messaging, and will be available to customers who have signed up for the software and are using Windows 8.1 on their desktop or portable device.   In a statement on Skype’s website, corporate vice president Gurdeep Pall said the company is continuing to break down geographical barriers.   “Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate; people will no longer be hindered by geography and language,” he said.   Nest thermostat now links to Google apps   In a step forward for the Internet of Things, Nest thermostat owners can now control their home’s temperature through Google’s self-titled iOS and Android apps.   VentureBeat reports users are also able to use voice commands to ask Google to change or set their house’s temperature.   In June, Nest launched its Works with Nest program to drive innovation by opening up the platform to developers.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 69.07 points or 0.4% to 17,211.76. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How a T-shirt can help build a team

11:26AM | Monday, 24 November

Education marketplace startup WeTeachMe had a secret weapon when it came to building trust and a sense of ownership with its virtual team – T-shirts.   The startup, which earlier this year was a joint winner of Oxygen Ventures’ The Big Pitch event, is a marketplace for education classes. It allows users to find local cooking classes, painting classes, dancing courses and just about any other informal education course you can think of.   Co-founder Demi Markogiannaki says once WeTeachMe reached a point where the team felt they could justify hiring people, they couldn’t afford to hire a team locally. So they looked to the Philippines and built a virtual team, which came with its own challenges.   “I’ve never done anything about building teams or anything like that, so that was another learning process,” Markogiannaki told a Pulse Melbourne event last week.   “When you’re not talking to someone in person, but you’re seeing them once or twice a day – like through Skype – you need to establish a close relationships, you need to make them part of your team.   “You need to make them follow you and believe in your vision. And part of that was really hard.”   So the WeTeachMe team purchased its entire staff branded T-shirts, and while Markogiannaki says it’s not the be-all and end-all of team building, it made a difference.   “They would wear it of a morning and say, at least I know which company I am working for,” she says with a laugh.   “We made sure they had everything they needed, all the resources required, and slowly we scaled the team up.”   WeTeachMe was founded following a Launch48 startup event in Melbourne. Markogiannaki says she was involved for no more than a bit of fun.   “We started with no funding at all, we didn’t even fund it (ourselves), we all had different skills that allowed us to pretty much bring this product to market,” she says.   “We worked from cafés, city libraries, anywhere there was a space to get it up and running. We’d take turns going to each other’s house.   “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come so far.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Government report identifies six disruptive tech trends to watch

11:07PM | Sunday, 23 November

Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority.   The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”.   Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report:   1. Communications go over the top   Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype.   According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013.   Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million.   However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion.   2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies.   Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day.   The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.   3. Wearables are set to boom   On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years.   The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018.   It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate.   4. Online content is going mainstream   The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate.   According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies.   In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube.   Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services.   5. Multistreaming is now mainstream   In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones.   The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34.   Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%).   Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%).   6. TV is still the one for news   Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014.   While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time.   Image credit: Flickr/alvy   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startup Victoria celebrates its six-month Anniversary as 'above all human' conference approaches

11:57PM | Wednesday, 19 November

Startup Victoria chief executive Lars Lindstrom says there have been lessons in the six months since Startup Victoria launched, as Melbourne prepares for a national tech innovation conference called above all human.   “It’s been a group of people and a not for profit organisation finding its feet and its purpose. We want to see more tech success stories in Victoria, through a mix of more founders and better founders, and we’re working out ways to do that,” Lindstrom says.   “We run Lean Startup Melbourne meetup group, we had a chat with Paul Bassat in July, two weeks ago we had a full house for Steve Blank, and we’ve got an event coming up on December 1 with Dave McClure.   “That will be our first paid event – $40 to get in – but free for Startup Victoria members.”   As with any good startup or app, developing the organisation and learning what the community wants is an iterative process.   “We have learnt a lot about what our members want. One of these things is a big tech conference in Melbourne,” Lindstrom says.   “That’s what we’re doing with Above All Human, and it’s sold out – 500 tickets so far. That’s just off the Lean Startup Melbourne list.”   'above all human', a one-day tech conference, which will take place on December 9, from 8am to 5pm, at the Arts House Meat Market in North Melbourne.   The conference is being organised by Stripe founder Susan Wu and StartupSmart editor Bronwen Clune. Big name international speakers include Y-Combinator partner Justin Kan, MIT Media Lab fellow Joyce Kim, early Skype investor Morten Lund, early Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou, Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman and Pase founder Tikhon Bernstam.   “Y Combinator in live Office Hours on stage hasn’t been done before in Australia,” Lindstrom says.   “So Startup Victoria’s events are building on what individuals have done in the past. The problem with individuals organising events is they run out of steam. Putting on a big budget event Above All Human is not something an individual could do.”   While he has no firm numbers at hand, Lindstrom says he feels the Melbourne startup community is growing in momentum. He says he has been surprised by is the level of enthusiasm in the startup tech ecosystem.   “From feel, yes we are growing. There are bigger events, more people attending, and a growing awareness among corporates that to innovate they have to be close to the startup community.   “One of the things about being a startup founder is that you have to be an expert and you have to constantly pitch to your customers and staff that what you’re doing will be successful. But it can be tough.   “So networking means something different in startup land than for corporates. In corporations, you network to make contacts for your next job. In startups, you look for ideas you can apply to your startup. That’s why an ecosystem is more important.   “We feel the top 100 startup founders in Melbourne should know each other, so we’ve put together the Better Founders Group, where we put them in groups of 10 to meet up regularly.   Looking forward, Lindstrom says Startup Victoria has big plans for the future.   “'above all human' growing – with mainstream media we could have sold 8000 or 9000 tickets. It will probably double next year and grow from there. We can’t replicate South-by-Southwest, but we can grow to be the best tech conference in Australia,” he says.   “We will improve the monthly events with more big names, workshops, and a new initiative around office hours so members can spend some one-on-one time with members of the board.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Inside Slush: day one of Europe’s biggest tech conference

11:14AM | Wednesday, 19 November

The first impressions of Helsinki in winter evoke words like “grim” and “desolate”. Rather than shying away from the imagery of a frozen northern landscape, Slush embraces it with the slogan “welcome to the north”.   While slightly foreboding, the message is one of a frontier in both location and the startup ecosystem. Where Nokia once held the world’s attention for Finnish tech companies, the country’s gaming scene has charged into focus with Rovio’s Angry Birds followed by Supercell’s Clash of Clans as almost default downloads for addictive mobile gaming.   The Slush experience starts right from the beginning, at a sparse airport with a surprising amount of the non-European startup community spilling out into the freezing winds. Including more than a few Australians, who we will meet over the coming days.   Day One    With what can only be called spectacular growth, Slush has outgrown its previous venue and settled into the Messukeskus convention centre on the edge of town. With an almost absurd amount of attention to detail, the team have converted an enormous convention centre into a thriving and beautiful rave, complete with smoke machines, lasers, and dubstep breakdown.   The venue is set up around four major stages, one dedicated entirely to the startup battle pitching 100 international and local startups against each other for a top prize of 250,000 euros. Yes, euros. This alone would be an incredible ringside event, but the day kicks off at high speed with Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb taking the Silver Stage to launch the event. In the process affirming his support for the national tech and startup community and sharing his belief that "kids need to learn coding at school”.   A small comment but a big point of difference compared to the debate surrounding reports in Australia released by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, suggesting that a digital technologies curriculum was unnecessary in Australia as a point of focus for our future workforce.   Cementing the contrast are furthers comments by Estonia’s young Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, taking the stage to boast that the country sets the record for most startups per capita, and that he has actively studied the success of major local startup success stories that include the Microsoft acquisition of Skype.   Also on the political tip, a few words from surprise guest Chinese Vice Prime-Minister Wang Yang, who despite the pomp and ceremony of his attendance, managed to drop a locally relevant joke by way of “I’m not angry, I’m a fan of Angry Birds”. A little lost in translation perhaps, but it’s the thought that counts.   Game On    Elsewhere, the schedule splits the crowds into three major streams of Gaming, Leadership and Enterprise Software. On the gaming tip, Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani speaks about leading the curve in converting his company to operating in English, a tactic that is now taught in business school as one of the secrets of Samsung’s success on South Korea. For Mikitani’s moves, he said the appreciation was a long time coming.   “Many people really critiqued me & called me crazy,” he said. “But it now allows them to hire from all over the world, and 80% are non-Japanese and the diversity has helped us to become more innovative and is core to our growth.”   Similar scaling lessons were shared by GungHo Online Entertainment founder Taizo Son and Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen in a surprisingly intimate fireside chat.   Taizo Son notably sharing tales of the days of his shame in being unable to make payroll for the staff of the then-fledging gaming company. The now-billionaire laughing now about advice that startup life is not unlike a video game. "You are like Super Mario,” said Son. "You are struggling in the first stage but its fun to play”.   Building a successful company is a game that has come at the cost of many mistakes, with Son claiming that more than 80% of his decisions over the last 15 years have been failures. He advises that startups embrace the opportunity to fail as not only one to learn, but one to define the potential path.   "In most of cases we can’t execute what we think ideally so we have to align with the failures.”   Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen on the other hand advised a theme of team dynamics and persistence as a path to luck.   "Most successful people don’t know why they are successful so luck does play a role,” said Paananen.  "Even if they did know, how do you know those methods are applicable to you situation?”   Instead of reliance on advice he spoke of the importance of forming a hard working team with a strong dynamic, and taking the input of adviser’s with a grain of salt.   "Be humble and listen to everybody, but make the decisions yourselves and trust your instincts,” Paananen said. Adding a cautionary comment on the topic of diversity, stating that he "would never invest in a group that does the same thing as I did".   Back from the dead (but where is Snake?)   Of the many product announcements making the most of the event’s media platform today, the most high profile was the launch of the Nokia N1 tablet. Being released in time for the Chinese New Year of February 15, Nokia is jumping back into the consumer hardware space with a competitively priced $249 tablet.   The bombastic launch and focus on releasing into the Chinese market first showed a renewed enthusiasm after the Finnish company sold its handset business to Microsoft. To be clear, this is the Nokia mothership reasserting its relevance after selling off it’s most well-known product arm, and we will reserve judgement until we get our hands-on media demo on the second day of Slush tomorrow. In the meantime, the bravado is infectious. At least as far as Scandinavian culture goes, with Nokia’s head of products Sebastian Nystrom taking his time to soak up the stage.   “They said RIP Nokia. I say they couldn’t be more wrong”.   It wasn’t quite a Jobs-esque performance, but the local crowd were rapturous with the potential of the local heroes rising again.   Mikko, don’t kill my vibe    In the “mind equals blown” category of the day was the direly titled “RIP Internet”, presented by Finnish security expert (and regular conference celebrity talker) Mikko Hypponen. As a veteran of computer security, Mikko spoke of the looming dangers in the infrastructure of the internet, and the potential for it to be damaged or destroyed by either neglect or intent.   “Sometimes it feels like we’ve built a monster,” Hypponen reflected. “We are running our critical infrastructure with ‘projects’”. While an advocate for open source, he points out the recent Heartbleed and Shellshock vulnerabilities of popular and in many cases essential open-source projects, and asks if there’s not a better way to ensure the development of such ubiquitous infrastructure technology.   On a darker note, Hypponen walks through an example of governmental interference, showing examples of a WhatsApp message sent during the Hong Kong riots. The message claimed to be from protesters, linking to software to allow them to communicate and organise via a private network. The network allegedly run by the Chinese government as a way to access personal details and track the key organisers of the riots. Heavy.   Other examples of impending doom included known cases of bot networks formed via insecure devices in the category of the Internet of Things.   “Who wants to infect [web enabled] toasters? It beats me - but combined they make an effective bitcoin mining network!”   Design first (or when you need a pick-me-up)    For those needing a break from the security downers, a Product Design feature on the Green Stage ranged across topics of interface design, UX and hardware design.   Microsoft’s hardware phone designer Peter Griffith talked about obsessive details in hardware development, while Infogram’s Ikko Jarvenpaa talked about the responsibility and ethics of startups where trends and opportunities outpace the legal framework.   “Technology moves faster than laws, creating unregulated opportunities,” said Järvenpää. “But we need to be mindful of societal repercussions. With great power comes great responsibility, yes, but those of us working with highly scalable technologies wield great power”   What does on sauna stays in sauna    As the sessions wound down for the day the halls were cleared to transform into party mode, seeing a literal army of local volunteers spill out to convert the promo stands, stages and social spaces into one big party venue.   Given it already looks like that rave I accidentally went to that time and didn’t inhale at, it’s no surprise.   But what goes on startup tour, stays on startup tour. Unless you follow the tweet stream, in which case you can tune in tomorrow for more live action on the floor of Slush 2014 – including a hands-on with the Nokia N1 and an introduction to the (crazy) Australians that have made the pilgrimage from Down Under to the northern frontiers of global technology and startup culture.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Crowdsurfer promises you’ll never lose your friends again

11:35AM | Wednesday, 5 November

At a concert last year, Matt Gerard was standing in a sea of people, struggling to find his friends.   It was a moment of frustration, followed by a moment of inspiration. It was there he came up with the idea for Crowdsurfer, an app that lets you know where your friends are in real time and comes with an augmented reality feature that helps you pick them out from a crowd.   The app displays the location of the user’s friends on a map by using an augmented reality viewer, which uses a smartphone’s camera and the app’s location data to show users how far away their friends are and in what direction.   Users can protect their privacy by turning location on, or off, in the same way a Skype user might choose to appear on or offline.   Last week, Crowdsurfer was released on iOS. It has since signed up users in Australia, America, the United Kingdom and China. An Android release is soon to follow.   Founder Matt Gerard says the platform isn’t just useful for finding your friends in a crowd, or when they’re close by, he believes it has a whole host of potential uses.   “Because it is such an easy to use and broad app our demographic base is absolutely huge. Kids can use it, parents can use it to keep track of their kids, elderly people can use it to keep track of their families, young socialisers can use it to meet up, workers can use it to keep track of their workforce.”   He says the boundaries for uses of the app are pretty much endless.   “Sharing custom points of interest, meeting at bar A at 7pm tonight, here it is on the map, come find us,” he says.   “With businesses if you’re going down Chapel St or Bourke St and you’re looking for a café or a pub, you can hold your phone up to see businesses, what specials they have all on the one screen.   “And events is another big one that we’re definitely going to target over the next six months, so imagine going into any large music festival or film festival around the world. Log into that event and you’ll be able to see where the toilets are, the entrances and exits, medical stalls, that sort of thing.”   Gerard has financed the startup himself and outsourced the development to Melbourne startup Appster.   “What Appster do is what they call an agile process,” Gerard says.   “They converse with you on a weekly basis. With Crowdsurfer, we pivoted twice during construction and that didn’t cost us anything extra. So with that agile development process you can pivot as many times as you want, so long as it doesn’t impede on the work that’s already been done.”   One of those pivots was how Gerard planned to monetise the app. He says the initial plan was to offer the app free in order to attract as many users as possible. The app is still free, but they’ve also launched a premium version, which is a yearly subscription of $1.29 and allows users to group friends and contacts together, so it makes it easier in map view and augmented review to search. In addition, it enables users to place custom points of interest in the app.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australian innovation: Three stereotypes we need to turn upside down

10:27PM | Tuesday, 7 October

Stimulating startups, innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is critical for Australia’s economy. But we need to challenge some of our beliefs about who can and can't do these things if we want to lay the groundwork for substantive change.   I'm confident there is a growing sense of urgency around the critical link between startups, STEM and technology and Australia’s future prosperity, with tangible initiatives, focus and metrics in how these are stimulated appearing in many corporate, education and community initiatives.   If Australia is truly going to increase innovation and leverage digital tech on a global scale, then we must make some key changes. "Start ups" and "STEM" are stereotypically synonymous with a younger generation. These stereotypes are unnecessarily narrow. At some stage our ideas of who can and can’t innovate with technology (which currently exclude corporate, small business and those outside their 20s or 30s) will become self-fulfilling and self-defeating.   We need to invest in building a nation that leads in STEM and critical thinking. Australia invested just $4.5 per capita in venture capital for startups last year, compared with $120 in Israel, $85 in the US, $20 in South Korea and $15 in the UK.   We must also take steps to stimulate innovation beyond the stereotype of the young, tech-enabled crowd.   Here are three stereotypes we’d do well to reverse.   Stereotype #1 – Young entrepreneurs belong only in startups   Young entrepreneurial types start from the beginning with building a customer base or idea, and without the constraints of towing caravans of what they should adhere to. We know that a lack of business skills, networks and scale are the main reasons startups often fail, and venture funds look for these very things – previous attempts in the form of second-time-around founders, or those with prior business exposure.   What if we took entrepreneurs starting out and gave them a position in large corporates? Switch the assumption that young entrepreneurs only belong in startups and create an employment construct where, say for two years, they have a direct reporting line into leadership to work on new services or products.   It’s possible to find the right balance of new thinking, to create options from alternate perspectives, and in delivery, to combine the skills and diversity of that approach with leveraging the commercial, scale, marketing and regulatory expertise of a large corporate.   Stereotype #2 – People who work in corporates can’t innovate and don’t have a startup persona   It’s evident that after a few years’ experience and building expertise, there are corporate or medium-sized business employees who have a good balance of business experience and feel an urgency to fill a gap in the market. If they don’t, it’s often because they have financial commitments or dependents and fear if they leave the paid workforce, they’ll be locked out.   According to a Kauffman Org report, the average age of successful founders is 40, with twice as many successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are under 25 years of age. Experienced entrepreneurs will probably have had experience in people management, scale and financial management to assist the odds in expanding.   We'd do well to reverse the cliché that those of middle age are too late to the game. Such people are experienced in business, scale and leadership and have strong relationship networks to leverage, as well as second nature digital literacy.   The suggestion is to offer more middle management the opportunity to take a leave of absence to focus on a new startup idea. Benefits to the sponsor organisation are many. An employee who has been with you for eight years would be revived and focused when they returned after 12 months establishing their own business idea. The sponsor organisation may offer a program, part salary, grant or leave without pay for the employee to have that opportunity.   It could then take first right to buy, bring the idea into the organisation under terms, partner or procure. It could be the organisation's data or API is leveraged. We know corporates aren’t short of ideas or highly intelligent people, and we know Australia needs more successful startups.   As a quick litmus test, in the PwC innovation team 80% have had their own successful startups or been working in the startup scene, with each returning to corporate life passionate about re-inventing Australia’s corporates and governments.   Stereotype #3 – More experienced people are neither innovative nor technology literate, and the business of solving problems is best left to younger generations   There’s nearly everything wrong with this perception. Reversing it, and providing the missing link, could have a profound network effect. By the time many in this older generation retire they will have been using smartphones, downloading apps – with higher mobile adoption rates than most countries in the world – and using Google, Amazon, eBay, for example, for 15-20 years.   The size of the generation ranging 50-60+ years is increasing as a percentage of population. This generation consists of people who are mostly still fit and active, will live 20 more years after retiring, have good business networks and employment experience, have paid off their assets and have access to their super funds.   As Bernard Salt pointed out in The Australian recently, the way we think about 55+ year olds is now different in an age when we live to beyond 85. Most aren't retiring, but adopting "portfolio lifestyles".   How great would it be to see this generation of entrepreneurs celebrating a new phase of their lives, and instead of being positioned as a social services consumer, becoming the innovator or mentor or partner with young Australians in business: An architect in her 60s combining with a manufacturing tech-savvy person in a 3D printing venture; or a semi-retired doctor using augmented reality for remote patient diagnosis.   Reversing these three myths and providing the missing support will stimulate innovation across the nation, leverage established human capital and accelerate Australia to fire on all innovation cylinders. Reversing each stereotype embodies diversity of thought. It would help accelerate a nation of innovators and create momentum in the economy for technology-literate people and jobs.   Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.

Tech and innovation: Unlocking the key to improved productivity

8:16AM | Tuesday, 26 August

Australia is at an inflection point. The role of innovation and technology in our lives, shaping business, and growing the economy is profound.   The pervasiveness is inarguable, be it from a generation of toddlers expectantly swiping books as though they’re tablets, to the increasing urgency of STEM being taught in schools, through the disruption of the world’s largest companies.   As the pace of innovation in digital change has increased, it has surpassed businesses and organisations of all sizes – whether they are multi-billion dollar industries or the smallest of start-ups. Large companies are threatened with disruption, with 85% of CEOs globally and in Australia citing digital and innovation as the top opportunities and priorities for their business.   At the other end of the spectrum, growing Australia’s start-up economy is a subject of vigorous debate as we look to grow Australia’s economy and role in a global and digital world.   Which is why continual innovation is so important.   We don’t read so much about SMEs in the focus on innovation. On the start-up side, businesses are so fast-moving and focused on creating a sustainable business they’re able to pivot into a new area relatively quickly.   For large organisations, there is a greater ability to fund innovation through an increasing focus on design thinking, R&D, venture funds or acquisition.   For SMEs, however, innovation is just as important for the growth of Australia’s economy and the inflection we are at.  Though there are challenges for many SMEs in terms of reduced capital to invest, utilisation and risk adversity, the profile of an SME to be the flagship of growth within Australia and offshore is incredibly positive (despite a lack of venture based investment capital).   They’re faster to respond to opportunities, generally have reduced bureaucracy, less shareholder pressure and the length of the chain from which to observe customer behaviour and communicate or find levers in assets is considerably shorter.   We need SMEs to be more innovative. PwC research suggests that transforming Australia’s SME laggards to leaders in their use of technology specifically could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%) in 2012-2013, increase real wages by 0.5% and raise revenue in the economy by $11 billion.   Australia is one of the highest and fastest adopters of technology in the world, a great test market for new services, and there is no impediment geographically for where a service originates.   How might SMEs think about continual innovation beyond the brainstorm?   What's your relevance?   List and revisit your relevance to changes in society and the market when making strategic decisions. Is there a way your audience or competence is able to pivot on subjects like health, aged care, tourism, or Asia? Is there relevance in technology trends such as payment, 3D printing, analytics, crowdsourcing or wearables, such as printing parts, sourcing globally or remote monitoring of equipment?   Key an eye on the ecosystem   Draw out extended relationships around you and see how to move from a b2b or b2c focus, to an extension of relevance or marketplace. How can you provide for your customer and their family? Are there relations to be formed or extended with developers, app stores, governments, retail presence or competitors?   Reviewing startups stimulates opportunities to leverage innovative new capabilities early at low risk to SMEs, and high value to putting faith in our startups if there’s a way to team. Reading outside your normal lens generates new ideas. Some food for thought includes ThereIsIt, Gigya, Idomoo or sites like SmartCompany, Nocamels, Business Insider, and Forbes.   Lo-fi testing   Finally, go lo-fidelity in testing ideas before running major projects; set some innovation metrics to make sure you’re not settling into the comfort zone; seek feedback and customer insights as they may represent an unmet need on a greater scale; know the R&D tax benefits; and finally, ask your team for two options for any major decisions.   For example, have one usual or incremental direction and one radical option. Even if you planned to go to Bacchus Marsh, spend an hour packing for Brazil, at best you’ll confirm your decision, or reset on somewhere in between.   It’s true, as the world changes, we won’t have much of a choice. It’s also true there will never be at better chance to jump on the springboard of opportunity.   Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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