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

3:12AM | Tuesday, 3 March

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

HelloFresh raises $161m in fresh capital as investors take a bite

2:46AM | Monday, 9 February

Grocery delivery business HelloFresh, which delivers weekly meal kits of fresh food and recipes to customers, has raised $161 million in fresh capital from its existing shareholders, Rocket Internet and Insight Venture Partners.   Tom Rutledge, founder and chief executive of HelloFresh in Australia, told SmartCompany within its Australian operations, the funds will be used to invest in marketing, as well as expanding warehouse operations.   “The main thing is that it frees up money to invest in marketing so we can continue to grow, and invest in certain equipment and other machinery to make our pick and pack more efficient,“ says Rutledge.   He says while the Australian operations will not look to take any work away from the farmers and suppliers it works with, it will also look at in-housing certain activities like packaging.   Founded in Germany in 2011, former MasterChef contestant Rutledge brought the subscription service into the Australian market. The company, which is headquartered in Berlin and also operates in the Netherlands, Austria, UK, France, and the US, claims to deliver more than a million meals per month.   Rutledge confirmed the latest round of funding adds to a total of nearly $200 million raised by the company, but declined to disclose his own shareholding.   “It [the funding] will be used on an as-needed basis, in a thought-out and considered way. Ideally, it would be great not to need any, but it’s nice to know it’s there,” he says.   Rutledge says the existing shareholders were “obviously happy with their original investment” and could see the further growth potential in the sector   “There is still a huge amount of potential as groceries are yet to be disputed like fashion, music and books,” he says.   “I think it’s extraordinary we still have as many people as we do shopping like their mothers and fathers did, like their grandparents did.”   He says the Australian grocery duopoly presents a unique market for disrupters.   “A market with a few large incumbents generally means there is a strong opportunity for innovation and alterative models,” he says.   Rutledge says HelloFresh will also be looking to expand its offering from the eastern states into Adelaide this year and begin allowing customers greater customisation of its products later this year.   A recent report from IBISWorld labelled online grocery sales as an industry set to soar in 2015, forecasting revenue will grow by 14.6% this year to reach $2.19 billion.   Caroline Finch, IBISWorld senior industry analyst, told SmartCompany the online grocery market has taken longer to gain critical mass in Australia because of the relative ease of physically going to the supermarket, unlike in like the UK.   “Australian players did enter the online market in 1999 but got burned, so they took time out to look for more innovative ways, such as click and collect,” says Finch.   She says with the absence of Coles and Woolworths, smaller players like Aussie Farmers Direct have dominated the industry and she says there is room for other players such as HelloFresh, which targets a niche customer base.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Melbourne-based startup closes $500,000 seed funding round, backed by Bevan Clark and Guy King

12:14AM | Monday, 8 December

Melbourne-based grocery delivery startup YourGrocer has just closed out a $500,000 seed funding round, led by Bevan Clark, Guy King and other private investors.   YourGrocer is an online service that allows people to order products from their local butcher, greengrocer, bakers, delis or independent supermarket, offering independent retailers and their customers a “full-stack e-commerce” and same-day delivery.   According to founder Morgan Ranieri, while a lot of customers prefer to shop locally, many end up buying their groceries at Coles and Woolworths out of convenience. YourGrocer allows local retailers to make deliveries at a time convenient to their customers, making their value proposition much stronger than that of the major supermarkets.   YourGrocer initially covered a number of suburbs in Melbourne’s north, including Brunswick, Coburg, Northcote, Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Melbourne. Since then, it has added a second run covering inner-eastern suburbs such as Richmond and Balwyn.   Ranieri told StartupSmart, further development and hiring a team that will allow it to scale will be key focuses in the short term.   “At this stage, we’ve built a product our customers love, and now we’re focusing on customer acquisition and growing. Our next step is hiring the right people to increase our UX and development capabilities, and expanding into new suburbs,” Ranieri says.   “We now have 17 retailers, two vans, and several hundred customers… Right now our sales up around the $50,000 per month mark – which is quite a milestone – and means local shops are selling $50,000 more groceries per month,” Ranieri says.   “We’re laser-focused on our business model. We’ll test other things but this funding round will help us build a team to rapidly scale.   “We want to launch a few more runs and build them up to capacity and profitability in a short period of time, and that’s when we’ll expand interstate. So we want to cover all of Melbourne as soon as possible – by mid to late next year.”   Clark, who built discount shopping website RetailMeNot.com with King before selling it for $77 million and is also an angel investor in LIFX, personally endorses the service.   "YourGrocer is a service that my family use and love. The large supermarket chains can't offer the same level of personal service and quality that you get from your local stores, and now as consumers increasingly buy groceries online, the local stores can compete there too,” Clark says.   “Morgan and his team have an innovative and scalable approach that I believe could have a huge following in Australia, and internationally.”   YourGrocer is one of the supporting sponsors of Startup Victoria’s aboveallhuman conference, with Ranieri crediting the startup’s rapid growth to the strength of the Melbourne startup community.   “Startup Victoria has been a huge support. The whole Lean Startup and Startup Victoria community has been awesome to meet people and get support, and we’re really excited about the aboveallhuman Conference," he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startups are the new corporates, corporates are the new startups

11:35AM | Tuesday, 18 November

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

Delivering the goods: This Melbourne startup wants to break the Coles and Woolworths supermarket duopoly

9:55AM | Monday, 22 September

A Melbourne based startup, one of the 12 companies chosen for the Tin Alley Beta Summer program, is preparing for a “David and Goliath” battle using technology to help independent food retailers compete against Coles and Woolworths.   YourGrocer founder Morgan Ranieri told Private Media the idea came about when he tried to visit local retailers after becoming “fed up with shopping at the big supermarkets”.   “When I wanted to go to the local greengrocer and butcher, they were always closed because I work full-time. There was a big disconnect – these shops were closed when I needed them – and also a big opportunity there to get these businesses online,” he says.   “So we’re building a business that does personal home deliveries from independent local shops, such as your local butcher, greengrocer, bakers, delis or independent supermarket. For the shops, we allow them to do e-commerce well and offer deliveries.   “And on the customer side, we make it convenient to shop locally. We think people like and prefer local shops but need convenience, and that’s why they end up at Coles and Woolies.”   Ranieri says YourGrocer offers independent retailers and customers a “full-stack e-commerce” and same-day delivery model, rather than just an online ordering system.   “We do – or facilitate – the deliveries, we help to get shops online, we do marketing as well, and we’re an online marketplace. We’re setting up a model where a local driver can facilitate deliveries, so a local driver goes to the shops once a day, picks up the orders and does the deliveries,” he says.   “We launched in May of last year, and now do about 100 deliveries per week with around $35,000 in sales per month. We’re just in the northern suburbs of Melbourne at the moment based out of Brunswick, we also cover surrounding suburbs including Coburg, Northcote, Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Melbourne.   Aside from the inner-northern suburbs, YourGrocer hopes to add a second run in the coming months, and hopes to expand the service to 10 runs by the end of next year.   “Online grocery is growing at over 20% per year globally, it’s the fastest growing segment in the food and grocery sector. There’s lot’s to be discovered – and lots of disruption. The future, I believe, is in omni-channel retailing that connects online and in-store in a seamless way,” Ranieri says.   “I believe grocery is one of the biggest untapped opportunities in e-commerce. There’s lots of eyes, but still a low penetration rate compared to clothing and electrical... The big guys know this – and they’re scrambling on online delivery.   “Independent retailers also know online grocery is happening. But they’re not online marketers, and many say they lack the time, capital or expertise to do it, so we empower them to do it well.”   This week, YourGrocer is among the 12 companies selected for the 2014-15 Tin Alley beta Summer Tech Internships program. The other successful candidates are 121cast, MetaCDN, Xcheque, Rundl, Edrolo, Stacks, JDLF International, the City of Melbourne’s CityLAB, Whispir.com, Gyde and Hobart-based Sense-T.   With strong growth prospects ahead of it, Ranieri says there will be a variety of tasks open to the interns at YourGrocer.   “We have a small and experienced team and believe in T-shaped people, who have expertise in certain skills but are also capable of working in a broader perspective,” he says.   “The intern we are looking for could be working in improving our backend systems built in Ruby on Rails, develop new UI capabilities with AngularJS or help us with the mobile apps we are planning on developing.   “This is an exciting opportunity for someone who wants to get their hands dirty writing software from concept to cash and help us change the grocery industry in Australia.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Last call for bar tabs? Clipp has a shot

6:14AM | Wednesday, 25 June

The introduction of pin-and-chip regulations for credit card purchases on August 1 threatens to do away with the traditional pub bar tab forever.   Under the new regulations, signatures will no longer be valid as a method of payment confirmation. This means publicans won’t be able to charge the credit cards of patrons who leave without closing off their bar tab at the end of the night.   The situation has created a big opportunity for a new Australian app named Clipp, which looks set to cash in on a market that has suddenly found itself thirsty for new pre-authorisation and payment systems.   Its co-founder, Greg Taylor, has experience in the area, having been the co-founder and chief executive of mobile coffee card loyalty app eCoffeeCard, a venture he sold to Beat the Q earlier this year.   Taylor told StartupSmart his latest venture “is like Uber for bar tabs”.   “You don’t need to hand over your driver’s licence and credit card. Instead, you download the app for iOS or Android and connect your credit card through PayPal. It integrates through the bar’s point-of-sale system to your phone, which has a tab number,” Taylor says.   Taylor says the app allows customers to split a bill, close off a tab without needing to flag down a waiter, or leave a tip.   “For corporate hospitality, this is perfect. One of the big challenges is for people who have to record expenses. The great thing about Clipp is that a tax receipt is emailed directly to the customer” Taylor says.   The startup has already signed up 140 venues, including The Argyle, Mrs Sippy, The Lobo Plantation, Martin Place Bar, Gin Palace, and Bar Ampere.   According to Taylor, the app has even gained the attention of Woolworths-controlled ALH Group.   “ALH is the biggest group to trial the app. It recently finished a pilot in some of its venues in Melbourne…They own 250-odd venues and it needs solutions in terms of pre-authorisation,” he says.   “The reason why that trial was successful was because of operational efficiency – it’s about 20 seconds quicker for them than the alternatives.”

THE NEWS WRAP: SPC Ardmona signs $70 million deal with Woolworths

3:21PM | Monday, 10 March

Troubled food processor SPC Ardmona has signed a key deal with Woolworths worth $70 million, which will see it supply an additional 24,000 tonnes of product to the supermarket giant over five years.   The landmark deal comes after the company, owned by Coca-Cola Amatil, received $22 million from the Victorian government, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott turned down a request for assistance.   “There is no question that the fact of the government being prepared to support the package with SPC has been the determining factor in this [deal],” Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan says.   “The company could well have been lost. But with the $22 million coupled with the $78 million being contributed by the company, that $100 million investment is now literally going to bear fruit.”   Iron ore price tumbles as concerns grow about China’s economic outlook   The price of iron ore has dropped below $105 per tonne, in its biggest single-day fall in five years, over mounting concerns about the outlook for the Chinese economy.   The fall saw the benchmark iron ore price for Tianjin in China drop by 8.3% to $US104.70 a tonne, down 22% for the year.   It comes after a string of official figures, showing exports plunged 18.1% in February, along with weaker than expected credit figures and a larger than expected fall in producer prices.   Hochtief looks to boost stake in Leighton, ASIC to investigate share price rice   Spanish-controlled German firm Hochtief is looking to increase its stake in Leighton, announcing an offer to buy three out of every eight shares owned by other shareholders at $22.15 each.   The offer represents an 18.8% premium over the construction giant’s adjusted average share price of $18.65.   However, ASIC is set to investigate a spike in Leighton’s share price last week, ahead of the announcement.   “As part of our normal market surveillance, ASIC of course will look at the latest movements in Leighton share price, ahead of this announcement from Hochtief,” an ASIC spokesperson told the ABC.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16418.7. The US dollar is down to US90.23 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Competition watchdog secures deal limiting fuel discounts

1:22PM | Monday, 27 January

Competition watchdog the ACCC has secured a deal with supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths capping petrol discounts at 4¢ a litre.   The deal will see large cross-subsidies for fuel, estimated at between $350 million to $509 million in 2013, reallocated to deeper discounts on grocery items.   “I'm quite pleased with them giving discounts off groceries and discounts off petrol – it was the linkage we objected to,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims says.   “[The major supermarket chains were] using their position and profits in one market to subsidise prices in another market – that was what was causing the problems.   “Our evidence was it appeared when shopper dockets went above 4¢ a litre that petrol prices went up. People who didn't have shopper dockets were paying more for petrol when shopper dockets went above 4¢ a litre.”   Jetstar Asia records a profit as Qantas nosedives   Jetstar Asia, a joint venture partly owned by troubled airline Qantas, has reported a small full-year profit for the year to June.   The airline, owned 49% by Qantas with the remainder held by Singaporean businessman Dennis Choo, posted a bottom-line profit of $S2.5 million ($A2.2 million) for the year to June, compared with $S2.1 million a year earlier.   However, the carrier faces intensifying competition from other low-cost carriers in south-east Asia, including Malaysia's AirAsia and Singapore Airlines-backed Tiger Airways.   Chinese shadow banking warnings   Experts are warning China’s economy could be derailed by excessive borrowing through the shadow banking system, with the sector now accounting for the equivalent of 40% of China's gross domestic product (GDP).   The growth of the sector has been caused by strict lending requirements to non-government entities, forcing many businesses to look elsewhere for finance.   “Shadow banking is the financial activity that exists outside the formal banking sector,” says Peking University finance professor Michael Pettis.   “So it includes things like wealth-management products, it includes pawn shops, it includes a wide variety of things – but basically it's the non-regulated part of the banking sector.”   “There's been an increasing sense that a lot of [that] borrowing is simply going to protect existing borrowers from going bankrupt.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up to 15882.2. The Aussie dollar is at US87.53 cents.

Early stage social enterprise founder named Young Victorian of the Year

1:51AM | Tuesday, 28 January

Dan Flynn, the founder of social enterprise Thankyou Group, has this week been named Young Victorian of the Year and will go on to represent the state for the title of Young Australian of the Year.   Thankyou Group produces bottled water, food and body care products, with much of the funds going to development projects in Africa.   Flynn told StartupSmart the award was recognition of broader Australia embracing innovation and new approaches.   “It’s important every part of society embraces new models and innovation in every industry,” he says, adding it was especially important for social good as donations begin to drop off.   “Social enterprise is bringing a new approach as people are pulling back from donating,” Flynn says. “There are benefits to being a social enterprise but charities have their own benefits too. It would be amazing to be just given money and do the work you want and the world needs. But we have to earn it and fight competitors for it.”   In 2013, the Thankyou Group team achieved a major breakthrough, getting their products onto the shelves of Coles and Woolworths through a massive mobilization of their social media networks.   In 2014, Flynn says his team will be focused on launching new products and pursuing further retail partnerships.   “We’re really focused on making Thankyou a household name. It’s not for bragging rights, it’s to get millions of Australians on board and make a major impact in the development projects and communities,” he says, adding they’ll also be launching significant campaigns to boost awareness about their range and impact.   “We want people to know they’re making a real impact. And through that, we want it to become weird if a retailer doesn’t stock us because the public is behind us.”   Flynn shared their rocky start and three years of tears and challenges with StartupSmart earlier this year.   Young Australian of the Year will be announced at the Australia Day Awards celebration this weekend.

THE NEWS WRAP: Coles and Woolworths close to fuel docket deal with the ACCC

12:29PM | Tuesday, 3 December

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is close to reaching a deal with Coles and Woolworths over fuel docket vouchers, which could place a cap on discounts.   A deal would see the competition regulator continue to allow the retail giants to offer discounts, while preventing the offers spiking to 40 cents off per litre.   It is hoped a deal, which could be announced by Christmas, will take the political heat out of the issue, after independent retail groups called on both sides of politics to outlaw the practice entirely prior to the last election.   Retail sales figures beat forecasts   Australian retail sales beat analysts’ forecasts during the month of October, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   The figures show a 0.5% increase for the month, following a rise of 0.9% in September, beating analysts’ forecasts of a 0.4% rise.   The result marks the sixth consecutive month of increases in retail sales, with results up in all states and territories except South Australia.   Dick Smith shares expected to trade strongly after listing   Shares in electronics retailer Dick Smith are expected to trade strongly after listing today.   The mid-cap retailer expected to reach a market capitalisation of $520 million just one year after being sold to private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners for just $94 million by Woolworths.   “We are opening a fair few stores in coming days,” Dick Smith chief executive Nick Abboud says.   “Eight shops in basically four weeks, it's fairly significant. There wouldn't be many retailers opening eight shops in four weeks and this is where the excitement is for us, and more so for fiscal 2015 because you get a full year [of new stores].”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 15903.6 The Aussie dollar is up to US91.42 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Dick Smith IPO jackpot raises questions about Woolworths sale

11:35PM | Thursday, 14 November

Woolworths’ decision to sell Dick Smith Electronics for $20 million to Anchorage Capital Partners has been described as one of the worst in recent history, as the private equity firm files for a $345 million float before Christmas.   “The electronics industry is coming out of several years of deflation and coming into some positive tailwinds,” Dick Smith chief Nick Abboud says.   “And so if you look at it there is some inflation coming back into the category, you have got the launch of PlayStation 4 in December, the digital changeover for TVs for Victoria and New South Wales, that's happening over the next few months.   “We have a very strong housing market, low interest rates, which is good for retail, the Reserve Bank have left open the door for a potential further interest rate cut and actually, from a timing point of view, there are some good things happening in retail.”   Google wins landmark book-scanning lawsuit   Google has won a major lawsuit in the US upholding its right to scan millions of books, with Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan upholding its argument the practice constitutes a “fair use” under copyright law.   Advocacy group the Authors Guild first sued the tech giant in 2005, claiming that scanning books under copyright constituted a gross violation of the intellectual property rights of authors and publishers.   It demanded $US3 billion in damages, or $US750 per book, from the tech giant.   "This is a big win for Google, and it blesses other search results that Google displays, such as news or images," says James Grimmelmann, a University of Maryland intellectual property law professor who has followed the case.   Bega raises its offer for Warrnambool   Bega Cheese has increased its offer for Victorian dairy company Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, with its new offer coming just a day after an increased bid from rival Murray Goulburn.   Bega increased its offer from 1.2 to 1.5 of its shares plus $2 for every share of WCB, which works out to be $8.87 at current market prices.   The offer is significantly above Canadian food giant Saputo’s $8 per share bid for the company, but still less than the $9 bid from Murray Goulburn.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.36% to 15878.72. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.23 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Unemployment rate “unexpectedly” falls, again

10:29PM | Thursday, 10 October

Australia’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.6%, with the number of people employed growing by a seasonally adjusted 9100 in September, according to the latest monthly labour force figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.   The figures show the number of people in full-time work increased by 5000 while the number of part-time positions was up by 4100. However, the participation rate dropped to 64.9%, its lowest level since November 2006.   Unemployment fell in South Australia (6.8% to 6%), Western Australia (5% to 4.6%) and New South Wales (5.9% to 5.6%), remaining steady in Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and increased in Victoria and the ACT.   Woolworths calls on liberalisation of WA retail laws   The West Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined Woolworths in calling for more flexible retail trading laws, saying small businesses could adapt their business models to compete with a “less-restrained” Woolworths.   “A Woolworths petrol station can sell film and flash bulbs on Sundays before 11am, but it's illegal to sell a memory card for a digital camera at this time; can sell cigarettes before 8am on Mondays, but it's illegal to sell nicotine patches at this time,” a Woolworths statement says.   “Those small businesses that are in competitive markets are the ones that have become most productive and most efficient over time because they've had to, to survive,” WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou says.   Potential reprieve in negotiations over US debt ceiling   US House Speaker John Boehner has proposed a short debt-limit increase with no policy conditions attached, providing a temporary reprieve from the threat of a US Treasury debt default.   While Boehner’s proposal would not end the US government shutdown, it would provide more time for negotiations over an increase to the US debt ceiling, providing a month-long reprieve from the threat of a debt default.   “The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option,” says White House press secretary Jay Carney.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 2.2% to 15126.1. The Aussie dollar is at US 94.53 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Big business still missing the mark on gender diversity

9:38AM | Friday, 27 September

Women on Boards has ranked Australia’s top 200 listed companies, finding that just 16% met gender diversity standards and 31 showed little interest in the issue at all.   Aside from board and management representation, the survey also ranked companies on promotions for women, paid parental leave and gender diversity.   Commonwealth Bank, Aurizon, Telstra, Stockland and Woolworths performed the strongest in the survey, with the mining and pharmaceuticals sectors performing poorly.   “The largest percentage of companies that have the fewest women on their boards are headquartered in Western Australia,” says Women on Boards executive director Claire Braund.   “It's really important for the country that when you have people and when you have trained them up that you don't simply lose them because they did something as simple as having a baby.”   Abbott government’s Christmas ‘fracking’ pledge   The Abbott government has announced it is intervening to fast-track coal seam gas projects in New South Wales, promising to get new rigs in place “by Christmas”.   “We've got to sort this out quickly,” Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane says.   "We've got to get the drill rigs going, where the farmers want them going, where the geology's safe, where the water's safe, where the environment's safe. We've got to get them going by Christmas if we can.”   NAB announces small ‘smart’ branch plan   National Australia Bank has opened the first of its smaller ‘smart’ branches in Melbourne, with a quarter less floor space than its traditional shopfronts.   The branches use iPads, smartphones, wide-screen televisions and bench-sized tablet computers for transactions, which the banks claims will free up staff to have conversations with customers.   However, the bank admits the rollout of its smart branches will mean a “small reduction” in staff.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.4% to 15328.3. The Aussie dollar is up to US93.67 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: APRA’s bad loan warning

9:23PM | Wednesday, 11 September

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has issued a report warning lenders about a spike in the number of high-risk loans, with the number of borrowers mortgaging more than 90% of a property’s value spiking during the June quarter.   “It is important for [authorised deposit-taking institutions] to ensure that new borrowers are able to service debt and afford higher repayments when interest rates rise from current record low levels,” APRA says in the report.   “While the business non-performing loan ratio has gradually declined over the past few years, it remains elevated relative to pre-crisis levels.   “This reflects weaknesses in a number of industries, particularly the commercial property industry and those industries impacted by a high exchange rate and subdued consumer spending.”   Dick Smith surges towards an IPO   Electronics retailer Dick Smith has appointed Macquarie Bank and Goldman Sachs to explore the possibility of an initial public offering worth around $500 million.   The IPO would see private equity company Anchorage Capital, which purchased the chain from Woolworths in November of last year, sell the company for more than five times the amount it purchased it for.   Apple’s share price dives after iPhone unveiling   Apple’s share price slid by 6% after the company unveiled its new iPhone 5C and 5S smartphones, with leading analysts criticising the lack of new hardware innovation in the devices.   “Investors were put off that Apple's price point didn't go low enough to attract a new market. It doesn't have the same range in price that Apple's competitors have," Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, told Reuters.   "Also, there was nothing transformational announced. It has the fingerprint scan and new colours, but bigger features, like different screen sizes, don't seem to be at the ready. This was less than expected from a company that has a reputation for surprising with a killer product or strategy.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 15326.6. The Aussie dollar is down to US 93.26 cents.

How Freelancer.com’s $US400 million takeover offer compares with other recent tech deals

9:27PM | Wednesday, 11 September

Freelancer.com’s $US400 million takeover offer from Japanese recruitment company Recruit Co has attracted plenty of attention.   It’s a hefty chunk of money for a company that grew out of chief executive Matt Barrie’s garage.   If the $US400 million offer for the global online outsourcing platform is accepted, it’s likely to be one of the biggest technology company deals done in Australia this year.   Here are some of the top technology deals in Australia in the past 12 months whose dollar value has been reported, from data compiled by Charles Lindop of KTM Capital:   1. M2 Telecommunications and Dodo Australia, Eftel   In March this year M2 Telecommunications bought phone and internet provider Dodo Australia and telecommunications infrastructure company Eftel for $248 million. M2 said in a statement at the time Dodo and Eftel were highly complementary to its “sizeable” consumer division. “The acquisitions are an excellent complement to our consumer division and combined, our business possesses an excellent capability to grow our share of both the consumer and small to medium business market,” M2 chief executive Geoff Horth said.   2. Corporation Service Company and Melbourne IT   Melbourne IT sold its Digital Brand Services division to US-based Corporation Service Company for $152.5 million in March. DBS provides online brand protection and consultancy services to global organisations. “While this was not a business that we had specifically earmarked for sale, given the value creation provided by the transaction, this was an opportunity which could not be ignored,” Melbourne IT chief executive Theo Hnarakis said in a statement.   3. William Hill and tomwaterhouse.com   UK betting giant William Hill took a punt on bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s online business last month in a deal that could be worth up to $104 million. Under the deal, William Hill paid $34 million up front, and a potential further $70 million if certain earnings targets are met. “International expansion is a key part of William Hill’s growth strategy and making Australia our second home is our priority,” William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said in a statement.   4. iiNet and Adam Internet   Internet provider iiNet offered to buy South Australia-based Adam Internet for $60 million in August. Telstra had tried to buy Adam but was thwarted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “We believe that this transaction provides real benefit to Adam Internet’s customers and staff as it aligns them with iiNet, Australia’s leading ISP in customer service,” Adam’s chief executive Greg Hicks said.   5. Webjet and Zuji   Travel booking website Webjet snapped up fellow online travel agency Zuji for $25 million in December last year. Webjet managing director John Guscic told SmartCompany the deal represented a unique opportunity to substantially expand Webjet's marketing footprint, particularly in Asia. “We've known Zuji since its inception and we know they’ve built out a very attractive business in Asia and we have a desire to expand into the Asian markets and Zuji has given us the platform to achieve that,” he said.   6. SMS Management & Technology and Indicium   In July SMS Management & Technology bought IT infrastructure and managed services company Indicium for $22 million. SMS CEO Tom Stianos said in a statement at the time: “The acquisition of Indicium supports our growing Managed Services and Infrastructure Consulting capability, and meets our strategic imperative to increase our annuity revenue. This is a high growth segment of the market and Indicium will accelerate SMS’ offer of managed services in the cloud market.”   7. Woolworths and Quantium   The supermarket giant took a 50% stake in Quantium, Australia’s leading data consultancy, for a reported $20 million in May. Quantium said in a statement it would provide a “wide range of data, analytical, media and software services to Woolworths as well as help deliver customer insights to Woolworths’ suppliers”.   And where would the Freelancer.com deal rank among deals in the world? Pretty highly according to data compiled by Australian investment firm Right Click Capital.   While it’s nowhere near the $US130 billion deal Verizon Communications has made to buy Vodafone’s 45% of Verizon Wireless this month, or Microsoft’s $US7.2 billion takeover of Nokia, it’s not far off the €360 million ($US477 million) paid by French payment solutions provider Ingenico for online payment provider Ogone in January.

Young, nimble and growing fast: Key lessons from the 2013 Smart50

9:14AM | Friday, 6 September

They’re nimble, young and brimming with innovation – they’re the innovators on the Crowe Horwath–SmartCompany Smart50 list of 2013.   The current breed of companies has been through a baptism of fire. Many lived through the global financial crisis, and can tell how it wreaked havoc on their businesses; but plenty saw the chaos as an opportunity – and it’s paid off big time.   To read the entire list, you can visit our page here. Some key statistics are available here, but needless to say – they’re extremely impressive.   In a year when businesses have struggled to stay afloat, the Smart50 have grown at an average rate of 92%. They are collectively turning over $595 million and have created 1750 jobs.   At the top of the list is technology company Plan B, which is built on the idea of making travel agents redundant. It’s working – the company has grown at a massive 210% over the past three years, and turned over $28 million in the last 12 months.   But the list is filled with plenty of stories like this. In fact, there are plenty of lessons entrepreneurs can take from the success stories on the 2013 Smart 50.   Here are just a few:   Keep your customers close   It’s been a few years now since retail king Gerry Harvey dared online retailers to sell bulky goods online. And now, companies like Winning Appliances have taken up that challenge with gusto.   But it isn’t a snappy website or a cool checkout system that has Appliances Online placed at 36th with $130 million in revenue – it’s good old-fashioned customer service.   Chief executive John Winning was brought into the business by his father, who taught him a crucial lesson – treat your customers right and they’ll stay with you forever. It’s an important maxim for a company that may only see its customers once every few years.   So how does it do it? One way is by handwriting thank-you letters to every customer.   “Our customers are king ,” Winning says.   “Exceptional customer service has been the driving force behind Appliances Online’s success and the company is the first Australian online retailer with an Australian-based customer support team that's available 24/7, every day of the year.”   Stay independent if you need to   Selling your start-up to a massive online retailer could be a winning scenario for many entrepreneurs. And for the founders of wine site Vinomofo, it was – for a time.   But a year after selling to wine site Catch of the Day, the founding trio decided it was better for the company to remain independent. So they bought their shares back, and sold to some private investors.   They’re happier as a result.   “We’re revelling in our independence,” says founder Andre Eikmeier.   The lesson is simple. Selling your company as an exit strategy can often bring lucrative rewards. But it’s not always the best move for your company’s future. Knowing when to sell and when to work on the company is a skill worth learning quickly.   Make others redundant   The top company on the list grew tired of dealing with travel agents. So it decided to make them completely redundant.   Plan B, a software company founded by Philip Weinman and Clive Sher, has grown a massive 210% in the past three yours and had revenue of over $28 million last year.   The business’s success is built on that fundamental ideal of solving a problem. The founders were sick of dealing with agents, so they created technology to do the job better. As they point out, “The need for traditional travel agents with high fees is now becoming less relevant.”   Recognising an opportunity is important, but seeing a business and being able to do it even better? That’s what great businesses are made of.   Research and development is key   The Australian market is filled with finance lenders, so it takes a giant leap to stand out. Nimble, which reached 42nd on the list with revenue of $19 million, took the slow and steady approach – and built its own technology over seven years.   The tech allows the company to more quickly determine which customers are ready to apply for financial products. But more than that, it more quickly detects fraud and has the ability to weed out riskier borrowers.   While the company has built a strong brand, it’s the technology that has played a big part in the company’s success. And founders Greg Ellis and Sean Teahan realise how important it is – so much so the R&D team has increased to nine staff.   They even have a mathematician.   “Thanks to that investment and the efforts of the world-class R&D team, the Nimble platform is now recognised as the most advanced credit-risk assessment and fulfilment technology in the country,” Ellis said.   The key lesson here? Investing in your company’s future is never a mistake.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Restructure when necessary   The supermarket price wars have taken down more than a supplier or two, and the surviving companies have to battle it out.   Baby products retailer GoToddler was threatened when Coles and Woolworths started reducing the price of nappies back in 2010 – by 20%. Given there was limited support from the supplier, founder Francesco Percopo said the environment soon became hostile.   Unfortunately, a restructure was necessary and the small team had to be downsized. But the company survived by doubling its focus on customer service – and creating loyalty. The strategy has proven successful.   "At GoToddler we have always believed that our business model has to be based on loyal customer support, and by offering better service and range. This has proved to be true."   Leverage social media for returns   So many companies fail to win a return on their social media, simply because they don't know how. But one savvy Smart50 finalist has taken the social media platform and turned it into a lucrative source for business.   Exactus Homes, founded by Ralph and Sandra Brewer, started building relationships on design blogs, providing advice and generally showing themselves as thought leaders in the industry.   The offers soon followed, and on Twitter as well.   "From our social media efforts we can identify $408,000 of confirmed work, and a further $480,000 currently in the planning phase," they say.   This is just one example of the Smart50 harnessing social media for growth – if you use it the way it was meant to be used, it can be a good source of growth.   Deal with problems head on   Finance companies are often put under intense regulatory scrutiny, and it's been no different for PAID International.   The company, which ranked 5th on this year's list with revenue of $8.3 million, ran into trouble earlier this year when Western Australian laws were changed. Overnight, it became a requirement for all short-term lenders to request 90 days worth of banking transactions from applications, in order to assess suitability.   While the process wasn't totally new to the company, there were processing issues which increased the company's workload.   It's easy to see how such a situation would turn customers away. But founder Tim Dean was simply upfront with his customers and told them what had happened.   "We also introduced new ways for the customer to provide the required information more simply and with fewer burdens for them," he says.   PAID International is a good example of how the Smart50 survive – by staying nimble and adapting.   Change your model when you have to   Changing your business model on the fly is never easy, but Plus Fitness didn’t really have a choice. When the company, which ranked 9th on this year’s list, was faced with customers that wanted 24-hour access, it had no choice but to comply.   “Originally we had a small number of traditional health clubs (big box clubs) in Sydney. Over time we recognised that our consumers’ demands were changing,” says founder John Fuller.   It was the right strategy – the company is turning over $13 million a year and growing at over 100%. Changing models isn’t easy, but sometimes, it’s the hard – and necessary – choice.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Labor unveils “Fair Go for Farmers” policy

8:25PM | Tuesday, 27 August

Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has unveiled a new policy, dubbed “Fair Go for Farmers”, which it claims will see Coles and Woolworths sign contracts with producers that will provide farmers with better business protection.   “This plan from federal Labor will help ensure farmers and consumers get a fair go and aren’t being ripped off,” Fitzgibbon says.   “We will implement a set of common sense measures that support farmers and help them get on with what they do best – producing food for Australians and our export markets.   “Farmers make a massive contribution to our economy and are caretakers of vast areas of the country. They should be able to focus on improving their farm efficiency and profitability, not be tied up with complex and protracted contract negotiations.”   Figures show increase in company collapses as mining boom ends   The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has revealed new figures showing the number of companies in administration reached 900 during June.   The figures, analysed in a new report by FTI Consulting, show the end of the mining boom has created conditions in some sectors as difficult as those seen at the start of the GFC.   “It is the first time 900 or more companies entered external administration over five consecutive months," FTI Consulting says.   "So far in 2013, 5321 companies have entered external administration, a record for the first six months of a year.”   Oil price jumps over the Syrian stand-off   Oil prices have jumped to their highest levels in 18 months as a stand-off continued over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, raising concerns over Middle Eastern oil supplies.   In New York, the benchmark contract WTI crude for October delivery jumped to $US109.01, the highest level since February 2012.   Meanwhile in London, the price of Brent North Sea oil jumped to $US114.36.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 14776.13. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.79 cents.

How Aimee Marks created a new market in an established category

8:24AM | Wednesday, 21 August

As an 18-year-old student, Aimee Marks was assigned by a teacher to find a product category on the supermarket shelves that needed an overhaul.   She checked out the feminine hygiene aisle, and concluded that a tight group of big-name brands had been selling the same products for years, in brightly coloured packaging that was largely unchanged.   “I thought, there is a real problem here,” she says. “It started from a packaging and visual perspective… then the realisation that if I can reinvent the product from a packaging perspective, what is most meaningful is what is inside the packaging, and what impact that can have on people and the world.”   With a lifelong interest in health and organics, Marks was “astounded” that there were no organic cotton feminine hygiene options available. From that day, the seed was planted for what has become her escalating business, TOM Organic.   Marks, now 27, works from charming headquarters in Melbourne’s trendy suburb of St Kilda. TOM Organic shares office space in a mansion with other likeminded creative and environmentally sustainable companies. The space is run by the Small Giants group, an investor in her business.   We meet in the picturesque drawing room filled with vintage furniture. Burning candles send calming scents throughout the space, a six-burner cooktop takes pride of place in the shared kitchen, and there’s even a beehive on the roof to make honey – creating a sense that home and work-life blend seamlessly.   Marks’ husband Chris is a property entrepreneur and works in the office next door. The couple married earlier this year and he drops in to say hello during our meeting. In the early days of TOM Organic, Chris crunched the numbers, but now Marks has five full-time staff on hand facilitating the company’s steady growth.   Good ideas need nurturing   Marks nurtured her business idea throughout a three-year entrepreneurship degree at RMIT. Believing that great ideas can’t be rushed, she researched the feminine hygiene sector, learnt the ins and outs of business from willing mentors, and focused squarely on setting up her company after graduation.   Her passion was to create a product range that was non-toxic and sustainable. She wanted the offer to be pesticide, bleach, chemical and perfume free. She also wanted to create packaging that was artistic and attractive, to contrast the bright, bold products from other brands.   “It was more of a personal journey for me. I had this information and I didn’t ever want to use a product that has polypropylene on the outer wrap. I thought, I use over 12,000 of these (tampons) in my lifetime, and that can’t be good for me,” she says.   “There was the whole process of learning where the cotton was sprayed – cotton is one of the most toxic crops on the planet – so even if it doesn’t have polypropylene and it is just cotton, it is still being sprayed unless it is certified organic.”   Practicalities and purpose   Armed with a business plan, it took Marks another 18 months of solid work after university to get TOM Organic off the ground. A major barrier to entry was finding a cotton supplier that had unquestionable organic certifications.   “That was incredibly challenging… because organic cotton is such a rare, special crop,” she says.   “It was a huge process that took me years, with consistent research via the internet, connecting with the right people, and finally I found the right person to produce it.”   A European supplier met her standards, and TOM Organic is now approved by Australia Certified Organic.   “It was really important to me that with every single touch point in the business there was an aligned intention – people had to come first.   “It was my mentors that reminded me of these things. It can be such a blur, you wear many hats when you start a business and it is very tempting (to take shortcuts) to get a product on the shelf. But I think taking the extra time, and doing things with intention allowed us to be at the finished result with something that we are so incredibly proud of.”   Once Marks secured her cotton supply, transport, manufacturing and packaging issues had to be dealt with. Business Victoria proved helpful with advice on logistics and international relations.   “You can connect with some really great customs brokers as well. If you are working with a supportive company you should not be afraid to tell them ‘I haven’t done this, what are the things I should be doing and documenting?’   “Be vulnerable, as that is really powerful, as people want to see you win.”   The products are imported to Australia in bulk, ready for packaging at the TOM Organic warehouse.   “There were 50 (packaging) prototypes – I was testing it in my handbag, opening and closing the pack 14 or 15 times, to make sure it was serving the practical purpose,” she says.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Heartbreak to triumph   It appeared TOM Organic was off to an enviable start, with supermarket chain Woolworths keen to stock the brand on its shelves from the get-go. But elation turned to stress when Woolworths knocked the brand back – a situation Marks now describes as a “gift in disguise”.   “It was a really emotional rollercoaster for a long time…I was then challenged to go out with the product in the boot of my car to my local health food stores, and my local supermarkets. I built relationships with customers on the ground, with store owners and purchasing mangers who I still have incredible relationships with.   “I had this opportunity to trial without a huge risk, and really understand what women wanted.”   Marks spent time in every facet of the business, from sending mail to invoicing, and processing orders with her mum in her bedroom, always with the vision of taking the range far and wide.   “It was inevitable that we had to be where the mass was, and because it was organic, and no other mass supermarket in the entire world has ever offered a product like this before – (we thought) why can’t we be the first?”   Her dream came to fruition. Just three years on, TOM Organic is stocked in over 3000 stores nationally. Woolworths soon jumped on board, along with Coles, and the brand is set for expansion into New Zealand. In the first year, the turnover was approximately $60,000. In the third, it was approximately $1.1 million and it is forecast to double in the next 12 months.   In 2012, the company received B Corporation certification, which is a stamp of approval for its environmental and social efforts. It is one of only 11 companies in Australia with the honour.   “Last September I went to the US to attend a B Corporation retreat. I was able to stand up in front of 300 other certified B Corporations – we are talking companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy – with all the CEOs in the room.   “It was an inspiring moment, to have this sense that you are part of something much wider, with some of the most influential people in the US.”   Spreading the word   Marks doesn’t view selling and promoting her products as a chore, but rather as a chance to share them and educate consumers about organics. The company engages brand ambassadors such as nutritionist Lola Berry, as well as public relations and social networking to market the range.   “I believe in driving word of mouth through credible recommendations, I think this is the most powerful way we can do that,” she says.   TOM Organic has alliances with the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation and the Sacred Heart Mission Women’s House in St Kilda, which Marks explains share the same social conscience as her company.   Future focus   Marks says people often ask how she can ‘get out of bed every day for tampons?’   Her answer, she says, is the desire to bring women a product she believes they deserve. She recalls a conversation from her early career which serves as motivation. A woman explained to Marks that she had severe allergies to plastic, and she reacted harshly to conventional feminine hygiene products.   “She was shocked to learn there was an organic range of products that she could use without suffering.”   Her next goal is to expand into the US. She is also launching new product categories, but remains hush for now on what they will be. Building stronger support from pharmacy stockists is also a focus.   “It makes sense (for pharmacists) to recommend women use a 100% pure cotton product,” she says.   Achieving balance   Marks confesses that much of her downtime is spent mulling over ideas for the business, drafting  new packaging designs, sharing news about the product or pondering expansion ideas.   “I don’t refer to it as a job, I don’t have this disconnect, as it is an extension of all my values in my own world. What I’m trying to do is activate my role in the business in a more balanced way,” she says.   “I do enjoy gardening, knitting, simple things, getting out into the mountains, sports and yoga – anything that can allow me to unplug and tap into my own mind.”   She acknowledges the responsibility she has for the livelihood of five full-time staff members, but is confident in her business model and the advice she receives.   “It’s really important to maintain the idea of still being vulnerable, taking risks and still challenging the status quo in everything we are doing.   “Comfort and courage are mutually exclusive – you have to choose one.”

Social media blitz gets start-up’s products into Coles

7:40PM | Monday, 29 July

Supermarket giant Coles has agreed to stock products by social enterprise Thankyou after a social media campaign to demonstrate demand.   The Thankyou group asked its social media followers and the general public to post comments and upload videos to the Coles and Woolworths Facebook pages and get in touch through Twitter.   Founder Daniel Flynn told StartupSmart this morning that while he was surprised by how rapidly Coles agreed, it was a delayed dream come true.   “When we first launched five years ago, we thought we’d be everywhere straight away. So that’s certainly not the case at all, and it was definitely a reality check. But that’s part of building any brand and business – it takes time,” he says.   Flynn told StartupSmart on the campaign’s launch morning earlier this month that even he was surprised by the thousands of comments and likes appearing on the pages. The launch video has been watched over 70,000 times.   Flynn met with executives at Coles last Friday and found out within hours Coles would stock muesli, oats, muesli bars and water from Thankyou.   The Thankyou group goes into further meetings today about timelines and first orders. Flynn says they’re meeting with Woolworths tomorrow.   “It’s all eyes on them now. It’s a win-win for everyone, and Coles saw that. We have the same opportunity for them, so we’re looking forward to seeing their response,” Flynn says. “It would be surprising if Woolies don’t listen to their customers as well.”   Flynn says he’s aware he’s negotiating outside of the supermarket’s usual period for selecting its range.   “It is out of normal ranging time. Everyone we spoke to in this industry said to get something on the shelves this side of Christmas is literally a dream,” Flynn says, adding that Coles mostly asked about the development projects rather than the product.   The team is also in discussions for a new range of products with existing partners including 7-Eleven and South Australian supermarket chain Foodland.   Flynn says while they’re not clear yet on exactly what level of growth will be, they’re ready.   “It’s still anyone’s guess before we see the sales data. We’re focused on making sure we’ve got our supply side nailed. We need to hone the distribution model to make sure there is no breakdown,” Flynn says, adding all of its suppliers work with Coles and Woolworths for other clients, so have the understanding and capacity.

The social media campaign making Coles and Woolworths take notice of new products

7:33PM | Thursday, 18 July

The start-up social enterprise behind Thankyou Water has launched a major social media campaign to get its products stocked at Coles and Woolworths.   Founder Daniel Flynn told StartupSmart the campaign’s success has even taken Thankyou’s team of 12 by surprise.   “It’s really nerve-wracking when you launch something like this because it’s up to the people,” Flynn says. “We were watching it in the first few minutes, we couldn’t believe it. The support has been amazing.”   Thankyou products, including a water range, food range and body care range, directly fund projects in developing countries. The team behind the brand called for supporters to upload videos and post comments to Coles and Woolworths Facebook pages to show they’d buy the products if stocked.   Their launch video has received over 22,000 views and hundreds of people have got in touch.   A post by Coles on their Facebook page saying they’re overwhelmed by the support and looking forward to meeting with the Thankyou team has received over 2,500 likes and almost 1,000 comments.   A similar post on the Woolworths page saying they’re looking forward to a meeting has received over 1,800 likes and almost 1,000 comments. Flynn told StartupSmart they had already locked in meetings with Coles and Woolworth, but they had to demonstrate demand.   “The meetings were locked in prior to the campaign to present, but the key to this presentation and really what underpins this is we didn’t want to present just an idea. Because in the past we’ve presented ideas to retailers, they’ve said ‘that’s nice’ but we’ve struggled to get traction. We needed to present an opportunity, and even we didn’t realise how big it was,” Flynn says.   He says they’ve been working on the campaign for a few months, and the products for 15 months.   “A lot of our time has gone into development and making great products. We knew we had to nail the product to make sure people keep buying it. People will buy something once because it’s a good cause but go back to other brands,” Flynn says.   Flynn says an appearance on the Sunrise TV program yesterday morning, and their call-to-action-laden launch video have been the most important elements in campaign taking off.   They ran a similar but much smaller campaign last year to get their products stocked in 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country.   “We were aiming for those numbers but we’ve smashed the metrics of that whole campaign in first day,” Flynn says, adding showing the opportunity is just the first step in their plans.   “This campaign is a long one. While we want to get the products on the shelves, we also need to get them off. We need to raise awareness to get our products sold as well. We don’t have the millions to advertise, so we put the cart before the horse to make the product move by raising awareness,” Flynn says.   Consumers can track the impact of their purchase on Thankyou Water’s website. Projects funded include clean drinking water, food and nutrition, as well as health and hygiene training.   “I’m now even more confident there is a big opportunity to make a massive impact. It’s my open dream Coles and Woollies will take this on board, because the figures of what could happen are crazy and a lot of people are keen to get behind us,” Flynn says.

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