Social media aggregation startup Stackla has raised $2 million on the bet that consumers care more about what fellow consumers think than top-down advertising. Founded in 2012, the startup provides a tool for businesses and brands that aggregates social media content about their products, so it can then be used in marketing materials and even in-store at point-of-sale. Investors include Venture Capital firm Rampersand and a consortium led by Tony Faure and Grant McCarthy. Stackla had been bootstrapped by its founders Damien Mahoney and Peter Cassidy, and has been generating revenue for the past 18 months. Mahoney, who is also the startup’s chief executive officer, says Stackla was travelling well without funding, but the capital raise will help accelerate growth in the United States and United Kingdom. Stackla will double its staff headcount, mainly in its new UK and US offices to help facilitate that growth. “We’ve already got a small footprint in the US and UK, but this is really about helping us attack those markets in a big way over the next 12 months,” he says. “We believe our technology is well ahead of market trends and the wave of interest in what we do is far from peaking.” It’s that potential for growth that Mahoney says appealed most to investors. “The fundamentals of what we do are still not in mainstream marketing yet,” he says. “We’ve always had a very strong product and invested very heavily in our product teams. That’s allowed us to build a product that is market leading, and we’ll continue to do that. “The space has a lot of room for growth and I think we’re just starting to see its potential. We also had a big client base already and have been generating revenue for well over 18 months. Stackla has more than 300 clients across a broad range of industries including Comcast, Myer, Toyota, Holden, Lego, Manchester United and Red Bull, just to name a few. Mahoney and Cassidy came up with the concept for Stackla while helping NRL teams develop content for social media. “We noticed a growing trend at the time,” Mahoney says. “Consumers now have a voice, and with the growth of social networks and proliferation around the smartphone, there was great content being generated around football clubs and other businesses. We came up with a way to harness that content for clubs to use to power their own websites. “Content is very expensive to produce, and what it provides is a platform to generate that content for them. “Fans and customers are recommending brands and products to their friends on social media – these are money-can’t-buy endorsements. The problem is social endorsements are fleeting and hard to capture. “Stackla solves that problem by helping marketers cherry pick the best content on the social web and showcase it where their customers are – on websites, apps and at venues.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are likely to be seen more widely on roads in 2015. Already, legislation authorising the use of autonomous vehicles has been introduced in the US states of Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan, with similar legislation being planned for the UK. To date, these laws have focused on legalising the use of autonomous vehicles and dealing, to an extent, with some of the complex issues relating to liability for accidents. But as with other emerging disruptive technologies, such as drones and wearables, it is essential that issues relating to user privacy and data security are properly addressed prior to the technologies being generally deployed. Understanding autonomous vehicles There is no single, uniform design for autonomous vehicles. Rather, it is best to understand an autonomous vehicle as a particular configuration of a combination of applications, some of which – such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, collision avoidance and parking assistance – are already part of current car design. The most well-known prototype, Google’s self-driving car, uses a variety of technologies, including: a laser range finder (LIDAR) that generates a detailed 3D map of the environment; radars; cameras for detecting traffic lights; and a GPS. Other projects, including prototypes being developed by Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota and Oxford University, use different combinations of technologies. This means that the privacy and data security problems arising from autonomous vehicles depend upon the precise technologies applied in any particular design. Some generalisations are, however, possible. The relationship between the virtual and the real The rules (or “code”) governing the online world have been different to those that apply offline. For example, online activities invariably generate digital traces, including metadata, which can be used to build profiles of users. With emerging technologies, such as drones, wearables and autonomous vehicles, we are increasingly seeing the transposition of virtual models onto the real. One consequence of the range of sensors and data collection devices being deployed (and interconnected) is that our offline activities can leave traces at least as extensive as those generated online. One way to understand types of autonomous vehicles is by reference to the kind of data collected and the ways in which that data is processed. For instance, autonomous vehicles often incorporate event recorders, or “black boxes”, to provide essential information in the event of an accident. This raises questions about who has rights to this data and about who can have access to the data. Anonymising data There is an overlap here with questions of liability, as insurance companies have clear incentives to collect as much data about user behaviour as possible. The potential for intrusive surveillance of personal activities is particularly jarring, as the car has been an archetypal space of personal privacy and freedom. A fundamental distinction must be drawn between self-contained autonomous vehicles, in which the data collected from sensor devices installed in the car are stored and processed in the vehicle itself, and interconnected vehicles, in which data is shared with a centralised server and, potentially, with other vehicles. Regardless of whether a vehicle is self-contained or interconnected, design decisions have to be made about whether or not the data collected is anonymised or linked to individual users. If the data is not anonymised, especially with interconnected vehicles, this poses serious surveillance threats. After all, once the data exists, and especially if it is connected to a server, it is vulnerable to access by third parties. It is possible to envisage implementations of autonomous vehicles where data about a particular user is linked to other data sources, such as an online profile, for purposes such as tracking or marketing. This might take the form of personalised advertising displayed in the car, or even adjusting a vehicle’s route so that it passes retail outlets which match a user’s imputed preferences. What else is at stake: human autonomy and hacking We are now familiar with technologies, such as predictive search, which in the online context, attempt to predict what we want to do and make more or less persuasive suggestions. It is likely that some versions of autonomous vehicles will implement predictive technologies. In any case, the progressive delegation of human decisions to machines raises system-wide questions about the cumulative impact on human autonomy: the more people are habituated to decisions being made for them, the less likely they may be to make their own decisions. We are also now depressingly familiar with the vulnerability of computer systems to malicious third parties. Just as effective data security is essential to online safety, autonomous vehicles must be designed with a high level of data security, especially given the potentially calamitous consequences of hacked vehicles. As interconnected data processing systems are progressively rolled out in applications such as wearables and autonomous vehicles, we seem likely to see an offline version of the same sort of perpetual guerrilla warfare played out online between information security and hackers. Protecting privacy at the design stage Autonomous vehicles promise significant social and economic benefits, especially in potential improvements to road safety. There are, nevertheless, considerable legal and regulatory challenges. As with other emerging disruptive technologies, it is vital that privacy and anonymity be properly protected at the design stage. To date, in the face of significant challenges relating to the legality of autonomous vehicles and liability issues, the privacy rights of users have been relatively neglected. But unless the era of artificial intelligence is to be accompanied by us sleepwalking into ubiquitous surveillance, we must recognise that safety and security needs to be balanced against the legitimate rights of people to control their own data and to retain their fundamental rights to privacy. David Lindsay is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
An environmentally friendly sports car for the road has been launched by an alliance of Swinburne University, electric vehicle association Aurora and SolarX. The two-seat hybrid (electric and solar powered battery engine) sports car was developed by engineering students, with mentoring from Aurora and commercialisation support from SolarX. Swinburne Product Design Engineering senior lecturer, Dr Clint Steele, said in a statement it would be a zero emissions vehicle. “The car will be able to drive at any speed limit in Australia. As long as the sun is shining the car can keep going,” Steele says. “It has the ability to make drivers completely independent, so they don’t need to rely on service stations.” The team are now working on developing the commercial strategy for the vehicle. Barry Nguyen, chief executive officer of SolarX Corporation believes the project has international potential. “The intellectual property that we develop in these circumstances has the potential to be applied in other areas,” Nguyen says. “There are many countries around the world with unresolved pollution problems crying out for innovative solutions.” This is the third automotive engineering startup to emerge from Melbourne in the last year. Tomcar is producing and exporting all-terrain vehicles despite receiving no government funding as they battled through the years to get their first run created earlier this year. The team behind Axiflux’s electric engine has weathered the storm of Holden and Toyota announcing plans to exit and have recently launched a demo car complete with the new engine.
Toyota’s announcement that it will stop making cars in Australia by 2017 adds to the urgency for productivity and new jobs to be created elsewhere in the economy, says one of the leaders of Australia’s start-up sector. “My personal experience over the years has been that as far as innovation is concerned, necessity is the mother of invention,” Leni Mayo, chairman of Startup Victoria, told StartupSmart. Toyota’s announcement draws the curtain on Australia’s car manufacturing industry, following earlier announcements that Ford and General Motors Holden were also closing. Thousands of people working for the companies will lose their jobs and there are fears thousands more are under threat as car component makers consider their futures. Mayo says while it will be difficult for the workers who lose their jobs and their families, manufacturing as a share of Australia’s economy had been declining for the past 40 years. “That’s a trend that’s going to continue,” he says, noting that service-related businesses now make up the bulk of Australian jobs. Mayo says thought must go into what can be done to accelerate the growth of start-ups to fill the gap left by manufacturing. He points to more innovation in the services space as a key area to promote where companies such as Seek and Carsales.com.au found success. He also urged politicians to celebrate start-up successes and openly talk about failure, as well as create more visibility and legitimacy around start-up activity and encourage people into pursuing science and technology at university. “We’ve got a long way to go in Australian compared to the US and Israel with how we feel about failure.”
THE NEWS WRAP: Victorian Premier goes to Canberra seeking assistance as Toyota pulls out of Australia2:32PM | Monday, 10 February
Toyota says it will stop making cars in Australia by the end of 2017, drawing the curtain on Australian car manufacturing and costing thousands of jobs. Victorian Premier Denis Napthine will travel to Canberra seeking a federal assistance package. About 2500 Victorian Toyota workers will lose their jobs, while thousands more jobs in the wider automotive industry are also at risk. Toyota blamed Australia’s high dollar, the high cost of manufacturing in Australia and low economies of scale for the decision to leave Australia. David Jones chairman and directors resign as part of “board renewal process” The chairman of upmarket department store David Jones and two directors have quit amidst concerns around corporate governance issues. David Jones said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange that chairman Peter Mason and director Leigh Clapham said they would resign within the next three months and director Steve Vamos said he was leave immediately as part of a “board renewal process”. Shareholders were concerned Vamos and Clapham bought shares in David Jones last year, approved by Mason, just days before the release of better-than-expected quarterly sales. The trades were investigated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which decided not to take any action. They were further angered when it was revealed rival Myer made a $3 billion merger proposal the day before the directors bought the shares. Regional airline Rex warns aviation sector in peril Regional airline Rex is warning the aviation sector will collapse without government support, after issuing a warning that pre-tax earnings for the first half of this financial year will be 40% lower than the same time last year. Rex blamed a large drop in business travel for the decline in revenue. "We implore the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development to take immediate and forceful efforts to fulfil his election commitments to regional aviation outlined in the Coalition's Policy for Aviation, as many regional carriers have little time left before they face the same fate as Brindabella," chief operating officer Garry Filmer said in a statement. Markets The Dow Jones Industrial Average is marginally higher at 15,801.79 points, while the Australian dollar is buying US89.5 cents.
Federal government ministers have been warned to expect deep budget cuts early next year, with deficits likely to surpass $120 billion over the next four years. The Australian reports that spending growth is running at almost twice the rate claimed as early as May. It says ministers have said that budget savings measures were being put off until the government’s razor gang could consider cuts proposed by its Commission of Audit. Wesfarmers sells insurance underwriting business for $1.85 billion Wesfarmers, the conglomerate that owns supermarket chain Coles, has sold off its insurance underwriting business to Insurance Australia Group for $1.85 billion. The deal, if approved by competition regulators, will make IAG the largest insurance provider in Australia and New Zealand. Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder says exiting the insurance business will de-risk Wesfarmers’ portfolio of companies. Toyota seeks to cut worker entitlements Car maker Toyota is seeking to cut nearly 30 employee benefits at its Victorian plant to help pay for wage rises due next year. Toyota has been prevented by the Federal Court from holding a vote of workers on the proposed changes. The changes include cutting double-time-and-a-half pay on Sundays, extra payments for work considered “unusually dirty or offensive”, four-hour paid leave for employees who donate blood, and lowering the number of training days. The company has warned it faces “unprecedented pressure” to continue to make cars in Australia following the decision of GM Holden to stop making cars locally by 2017. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.8% at 15,886.46 points, while the Australian dollar is down at 89.5 US cents.
The premiers of Victoria and South Australia, Denis Napthine and Jay Weatherill, are set to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott following the announcement by Holden it will end production in Australia by 2017. The decision by Holden’s parent company, General Motors, to end production in Australia will directly impact 2900 jobs over the next four years across Victoria and South Australia, with more than 30,000 jobs at risk nationally. “It's about the whole industrialisation of our economy, and what now needs to be put in place to replace what is a very significant element of the South Australian economy, indeed of the national economy,” Weatherill says. “I'll seize that opportunity to talk to Mr Abbott about the future of Toyota and how the federal government can work with the state government and Toyota and the entire automotive supply chain industry to secure the future of Toyota,” Napthine says. “I spoke to Mr Yasuda of Toyota last night. Obviously the government will be talking to Toyota… We want Toyota to continue. They are in a slightly different position to Holden – much more of their local production has been for export,” Abbott says. Bill Morrow to be named new NBN boss Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow is set to be named as the new chief executive of the NBN Co., according to reports. The announcement is set to be made as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to deliver a strategic review into the rollout, which identifies cost issues and flaws in Labor’s rollout of the project. Vodafone plays hardball on rents Mobile communications giant Vodafone is threatening to abandon stores as part of its hardball negotiating tactics with retail landlords, as the struggling telco attempts to renegotiate leases on its stores. “[They] verbally are refusing to pay the rent. For an enterprise of the calibre of Vodafone, this is cowboy behaviour, considering all the bad press Vodafone have had. They are playing hardball,” one landlord told Fairfax. “This request [to cut rents] is on the back of numerous store closures that have been performed in the last two years due to the significant losses that have been incurred from the impact of customers leaving. In conjunction with the above customer base loss there have been considerable revenue losses,” a leaked letter from the company to landlords reportedly states. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5109.5. The Aussie dollar is down to US90.63 cents.
China has announced the creation of a new free-trade zone covering nearly 29 square kilometres on the eastern outskirts of Shanghai. The Chinese government says the new FTZ would open up the services sector to increased competition and would also serve as a testing site for future financial reforms, including a convertible yuan and liberalised interest rates. “It follows the trend of global economic developments and reflects a more active strategy of opening-up,” Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told the state-run Xinhua news agency. ACCC accuses SalesForce and Origin of misleading door-to-door claims Consumer watchdog the ACCC initiated Federal Court proceedings against marketing company SalesForce and Origin Energy over its door-to-door sales practices, marking the fifth such case against an energy retailer. The ACCC alleges sales representatives harassed or coerced some customers, with some customers told there was a government requirement for them to switch their energy supplier to Origin. “The ACCC alleges that SalesForce sales representatives acting on behalf of Origin Energy made numerous false and/or misleading statements to consumers and breached the unsolicited consumer agreement (UCA) provisions of the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims says. “The allegations also involve several instances of unconscionable conduct as well as instances of alleged undue harassment and/or coercion by sales representatives, which the ACCC considers to be particularly serious.” Auto component price fixing allegations The ACCC has accused a number of Japanese firms of price fixing, alleging the practice has pushed up the cost of some cars in Australia for consumers. As part of the proceedings, the ACCC accuses auto parts distributor Yazaki of pushing up the cost of wire harnesses for Toyota cars. “Wire harnesses can be anything up to 8% of the cost of a car, so this conduct has a serious impact on what people pay for a motor vehicle,” Sims says. “We also instituted proceedings this year for a number of Japanese companies in relation to ball bearings. And we are close to settlement with one or two of those companies at the moment.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.46% to 15258.24 and the Aussie dollar is down to US93.12 cents.
Pollenizer, an incubator program based in Sydney, has long loved and taught the lean start-up method to founders. But as the approach continues to flourish in the start-up sector, entrepreneurs need to recognise fact from fiction when it comes to how the process works. Lean start-up methodology focuses iteration in order to discover what customers genuinely want so start-ups can be sure they’re solving a real problem, in order to get maximum traction. The team are coming to Melbourne for a two-day lean start-up workshop in the coming weeks. Co-founder and chief executive Phil Morle told StartupSmart lean has been key to Pollenizer’s success. “It de-risks the process, and I find that really powerful. It means we can spend our capital wisely. Lean spirals the whole way through, it’s about learning, holding yourself accountable and really testing what you believe, and having a shared language as a team,” Morle says. Pollenizer invests $100,000 in each new company in the program. “We found organically over the last five years, that the lean methodology helps us be in control of the discovery process as a start-up emerges. It means we can measure as we go along, and know where we are in comparison to where we should be,”Morle says. Myth one: Lean equals cheap or bootstrapping Morle says many people mistake the iterative, experimental process of lean for a cheap way to create companies. “Lean is a management discipline for maximising resources to discover and build value quickly and efficiently. Start-ups have limited resources and we have to do everything we can to get there fast,” Morle says. Lean involves launching early versions of the product to test hypotheses and ensure it’s developing in line with customer needs. “Using lean methodology means we can make sure the product we’re making is reflecting what customers actually want, and make it stronger and more profitable.” Myth two: Lean is only applicable to small ideas Morle says many people can mistake the process as being focused on small ideas, but lean works in organisations of all sizes. “It’s an iterative sequence to release something soon so you can start learning from your customers. It can start small if you need to, but over time, it can become enormous. Facebook is one of the best known lean start-up major companies, who still release early and release often,” Morle says. Myth three: Lean is inherently risky Because of the requirement to launch early versions of the product quickly, some entrepreneurs may be scared off lean because it feels riskier to launch less-honed products. “There is the fear that this will turn off your customers, never to be seen again. But the point of lean is to release early to make sure you have a series of tiny manageable failures that you can learn from,” Morle says, adding this myth is the opposite of the heart of lean methodology: experimentation and de-risking. “The most risky thing you can do as a start-up is to not try and get the customer to do something. The longer you go without seeing people use the product, the more risk we create as company.” Myth four: It’s only for technology start-ups While lean methodology was first created by Toyota after the Second World War to make the most of their limited resources and still compete with major American car companies, the lean methodology has expanded to the tech start-up ecosystem. Morle says many people mistakenly think it only works for software or tech development, but the core of the process works for any company. “Lean is about collecting data to make your offering more valuable,” Morle says. “It can be used in advertising, in medicine and in all manner of different industries when you realise it’s about doing something with a real customer as soon as possible.” Myth five: Lean is too scientific and prioritises analytics over intuition According to Morle, because lean is focused on experimenting and gathering data, people can assume the method is too scientific and leaves no place for intuition. Morle says lean is a good way to make sure you don’t believe your own hype. “What lean introduces is the yin to intuition’s yang because the two things work together. Overlaying lean and metrics with what people actually do, and then learning from that and comparing it to our intuition is the perfect combination for a successful start-up,” he says.
Toyota has committed to continue building cars in Australia after its local subsidiary reported an after-tax profit of $149 million, marking a turnaround from three consecutive years of losses. “Our business is being radically changed to counter both internal and external pressures,” Toyota’s local chief, Max Yasuda, says. “Our locally built Camry, Camry Hybrid and Aurion vehicles continue to sell well in both domestic and export markets.” ASX shocks the market with a $553 million rights issue The ASX has surprised the market by announcing a $553 million rights issue in a bid to clear outstanding debt. The move makes the market a more attractive takeover target, while also placing it in a better position to launch acquisitions of its own. "We have a beautiful balance sheet. People might find that attractive," chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper says. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell tells Crown and Echo casinos are “not a campaign issue” New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has warned casino giants Crown and Echo Entertainment the issue of a second casino licence for Sydney will not be influenced by public campaigning. “The Star and Echo groups need to understand that this issue being considered by David Murray and his committee is not a campaign issue. This is not going to be determined by popular support,” O'Farrell says. “Whether or not any or either of these proposals proceeds depends on whether there is value for money; whether there's a real benefit to the state. I just think that Crown and Echo ought to take a cold shower, calm down and allow the Murray committee to do their work.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.76% to 15,122.10. The Aussie dollar is up to US94.39 cents.
Former Ford boss and BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser has lamented Australia’s lack of patriotism in the auto industry, claiming the closure of the Australian operations of either Holden, Ford or Toyota could spark a “domino effect” in our local auto industry. “The signs aren't good, and particularly when the car industry is reducing the number of engineers they have in the workforce. That's a leading indicator of a reduction in future programs and future technology,” Nasser said. “Let's assume one of the three decides to exit Australia in terms of manufacturing, then you end up potentially with a sub-scale supplier infrastructure and, once that happens, I think it's a domino effect. It would be a very sad day for Australia, but unfortunately it looks like it could be inevitable.” Coalition flags possible industrial relations changes Shadow workplace relations minister Eric Abetz has raised possible limits on the conditions unions could place in enterprise bargaining agreements as a possible Coalition industrial relations reform, with agreements limited to matters directly relating to the employment relationship. Senator Abetz has also attacked recent and proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act, including a proposal to introduce compulsory arbitration in long-running disputes. “You've got to wonder, if it was so important that compulsory arbitration not be a hallmark of the Fair Work regime in 2007 and 2008, what's changed? Unions threatening to withdraw election funding unless this extra change is fast-tracked?” Abetz said. Telstra to cut up to 55 jobs from its online media unit Telstra’s chief marketing officer Mark Buckman is heading up a review of the company’s digital media division that could see up to 55 jobs cut, according to The Australian. The aim of the review is to streamline the company’s focus around its three key media assets, including T-Box, exclusive digital music and sports content, as well as Foxtel, of which the telco giant owns 50%. “We think that if we focus on being a core partner for Foxtel in reselling Foxtel through Telstra, if we become the number one IPTV provider in the country and if we deliver the best and most compelling content in the digital content services business… we have the opportunity to be a leading player (in this space)," Mr Buckman said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.42% to 14,865.14. The Aussie dollar is up to US105.3 cents.
Yesterday we looked at how the economy would fare if the Coalition’s broad economic and fiscal policies — to the extent that we know them — were successfully implemented.
The High Court has handed down a decision in the ongoing case between Google and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, saying the search engine giant is not responsible for displaying misleading ads made by a third party.
The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. For American football lovers it’s an opportunity to watch the two champion teams of the season go head-to-head – but for marketers it’s almost like a study tour.
Newly-elected leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, has declared that the Business Council of Australia and other industry groups are stuck in the last century, and progressive businesses must form an alliance to challenge their views on climate.
In 2011, Sally Porteous put her hand up for a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) redundancy from her role as a senior sponsorship and events officer with the Queensland Government.
For lovers of American football, there is no bigger event than the annual championship game called the Super Bowl.
Franchise veteran Jim Cornish says the Middle East is a “fantastic” market for local franchisors looking to expand internationally, having recently launched his own franchise in Saudi Arabia.
Over the past year, the Australian start-up sector has been sprinkled by some much-needed funding stardust.
This article first appeared on October 6th, 2011. Scientists have unveiled a bicycle with gears that you can change simply by using your mind.