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THE NEWS WRAP: Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board to focus on basketball

8:17PM | Tuesday, 19 August

Former Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer has announced he will be stepping down as a board member at the company.   Ballmer, who retired six months ago, has been a member of the Microsoft board for the past 14 years.   He recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise and plans to focus on running that team.   In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, he says his confidence that the company is heading in the right direction, combined with a “multitude of new commitments” made it impractical to continue to serve on the board.   “I have confidence in our approach of mobile-first, cloud-first, and in our primary innovation emphasis on platforms and productivity and the building of capability in devices and services as core business drivers,” he says.   “I bleed Microsoft – I have for 34 years and I always will. I continue to love discussing the company’s future.”   Uber hires top Obama adviser as new campaign manager David Plouffe, who ran United States president Barack Obama’s breakthrough 2008 election campaign, has been named Uber’s new SVP of policy and strategy, Re/code reports.   Last July, Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick was closing in on hiring a high profile manager to head its policy and strategy and fight “an asshole named Taxi”.   Lyft COO leaves company Travis VanderZanden has left his post as COO of transportation network startup Lyft after “some level of tension with its founders, sources told Re/code.   VanderZanden arrived at the company after it acquired his on-demand car wash service Cherry last year.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 80.85 to 16,919.59. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Web Directions celebrates 10 years with a star line-up

6:38AM | Thursday, 19 June

The internet ain’t what it was in 2004 and on the tenth anniversary of Web Directions, the conference organisers are taking the time to remember just how far it’s come.   “When we started Web Directions, we were just looking at ‘the web’, but now it’s the foundation for almost everything,” says Web Directions co-founder John Allsopp.   “It’s powering major financial institutions.”   The conference has two tracks, engineering and product, and its status as one of Australia’s premiere web events is highlighted by some of the big local and international names Allsopp and fellow Web Directions founder Maxine Sherrin have managed to attract.   Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and vice president of Intel Labs, as well as director of User Experience Research at Intel Corporation, is delivering a keynote. Bell leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists focused on people's needs and desires to help shape new Intel products and technologies.   On the product side, Douglas Bowman, who just recently left Twittier as its creative director, is one of the big names they’ve managed to attract.   Also on the product line-up is Scott Thomas, who famously worked on the Obama campaign, but also for the likes of Fast Company, Apple, IBM, HP, Nike, Patagonia, Levis, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and Craigslist.   Younghee Jung from Nokia’s corporate research team, focusing on enablers of social development through mobile technology, will also be speaking at the conference.   On the engineering side, Bill Scott, senior director of business engineering at PayPal, will be speaking, along with Railsbridge founder Sarah Mei and Jake Archibald who works in Google Chrome's developer relations team.   Allsopp says he feels the calibre of speakers makes it the best line-up they’ve had and competitive on an international level.   “These are world class speakers by anyone’s standard,” he says.   This year also means a change of venue, moving from the Convention Centre to the Seymour Centre.   “It’s got a good vibe and it’s both edgy and accessible, which makes sense for us,” Allsopp says.   Allsopp says they’ve always advocated the benefit for teams and individuals to get out of the office and become rejuvenated by immersing yourself in the amazing work so many in the industry are doing.   “We want to create that feeling when you can’t wait to get back to work because you’re just pumped with ideas,” he says.   “For a lot of people who come from all over Australia, it’s the one chance in a year to catch up with people in the industry.”   The full program can be found here.

Help yourself – without reading a self-help book

3:53AM | Friday, 7 March

When it comes to reading materials, there are some perennial favourites for entrepreneurs. Generally, these have the phrases “Ruby on Rails”, “lean start-up” or “Steve Jobs” in the title somewhere.   Then there’s that other genre of books entrepreneurs love: The motivational self-help book, with its (usually) American author.   The very first chapter of these talks about all the other self-help books out there, and why they don’t work. The cliché here is that the advice is only as good as the adviser, and because the self-help guru is wealthy (mostly from shilling self-help books and seminars), you should follow their advice.   As for all those other self-help books you’ve read that have failed to make you as wealthy as Bill Gates? Well, the books don’t work because the authors aren’t “goal masters” who “worchieve”.   The general rule of thumb with these is that they’re always a list of six, seven, 10 or –sometimes 20 – steps (or keys, or secrets, or tips) to success.   The steps are always something you’d expect as the topic of an episode of Oprah Winfrey. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive energy. Set goals. Work hard. Constantly remind yourself of your goals. Cut out time-wasting unproductive tasks. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.   Of course, you can tell what’s in the heading titles just by looking at them. That’s where heart-warming tales of people who survived horrible accidents and American minor league baseball teams that went from losers to champions come in – for padding.   Naturally, you can’t just call these super-secret tips something as blatantly obvious as “Work hard”. Instead, you get made up words and portmanteaus, so “work hard and achieve” becomes “worchieve” or some other abomination to the English language.   There’s usually a corny mantra that goes with these – something along the lines of “you need to believe before you can succeed”. This needs to be repeated again and again and again and again throughout the book. And again. And yet again.   Also, the few thousand people who read the book are given a term – “goal masters” or some such. You learn the human race is filled with exactly two kinds of people: Goal masters who follow the self-help guru’s program, and the rest of humanity who live in misery.   Thankfully, the “goal masters” include some good company. It turns out popular artists, successful businesspeople, political leaders, generals and other notable people all follow the program.   Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Bob Dylan? Mark Zuckerberg? Marissa Mayer? President Barack Obama? Past American presidents – perhaps an Abe Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson? Michael Jordan? (Note the gender bias.) They’re all goal masters!   Meanwhile, why did Russian troops recently cross the border into the Ukraine? Forget the finer points of international relations, geopolitics and world affairs, the author will oversimplify and say it’s because most Eastern Europeans are not goal masters!   With all that being said, do you really want to give yourself a career boost? It’s time to follow Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity! By following these eight simple tips, you too can be a genuine task master™ like your hero, Taskmaster!   It’s simple:   Just improve the positivity energy in your life – by not reading self-help books!   Focus on your goals – easier to do when you aren’t reading self-help books!   Worchieve – by working on them instead of reading self-help books!   Save money – by not wasting it buying self-help books!   Get a mentor – preferably a real one rather than a self-help guru!   Cut the negative people out of your life – such as the gurus who write self-help books!   Cut out those negative, unproductive tasks from your life – such as reading self-help books!   And if someone puts a self-help book in your hand, throw it in the bin, and don’t take no for an answer!   Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity helped the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, win the 2010 Super Bowl* and it can help you too!   Get it done – today!   * Disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers does in no way endorse or even know about the Old Taskmaster Octagon of Opportunity and his athletic performance is in no way connected to or caused by the Octagon of Opportunity. All mentions of Rodgers and all other figures, living or dead, purely for dramatic purposes only.

THE NEWS WRAP: Slowdown in business confidence growth during November

12:35PM | Tuesday, 10 December

There has been a slight tempering in business confidence following a post-election surge, according to the latest NAB survey.   The index fell to five points in November, after hitting six points in October.   A score above zero suggests confidence is improving, with higher readings suggesting a faster rate of improvement.   “People are starting to see that changing the government doesn't change the economic activity levels. The other thing that also doesn't help is that our employment confidence was quite weak. And so that was offsetting some of the better trading conditions we were seeing,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster says.   General Motors names its first female CEO   General Motors is set to become the first US automaker to be run by a woman, after naming its global product development chief, Mary Barra, as its new chief executive.   Barra will be the company’s fifth chief executive since US President Barack Obama forced out Rick Wagoner in 2009, and replaces Dan Akerson, who is standing aside after learning his wife had an advanced stage of cancer.   “This is an executive who has a vision of where she wants to take the organisation. [Barra] is an adaptive personality and one who reacts to change well,” Akerson says.   Qantas shares nose-dive to a record low as Abbott rejects bailout   Qantas shares hit a new record low of just 96.5 cents, after the airline’s announcement it is expecting a first-half loss of $300 million, prompting ratings agencies to downgrade its debt to junk bond status.   The airline has since announced plans to slash 1000 jobs over the next 12 months.   However, despite calls from Qantas executives, Labor and trade unions to provide the struggling carrier with subsidies, saying that a bailout would risk creating a “bottomless pit” for taxpayers.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5146.2. The Aussie dollar is up to US91.61 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: 800,000 US workers take unpaid leave as Affordable Care Act reforms roll out

10:26PM | Tuesday, 1 October

The US government shutdown has come into effect with more than 800,000 government employees forced to take unpaid leave, as Affordable Care Act reforms roll out.   “This Republican shutdown did not have to happen – I want every American to understand why it did happen,” US President Barack Obama says.   “[The Tea Party Republicans] shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.   “One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government because they didn't like the law.”   Facebook introduces new mobile app ad capabilities   Facebook has introduced new capabilities to its mobile app ads, claiming the features will boost the amount of time users spend in third-party mobile apps.   Instead of ads simply prompting users to install additional apps, the ads can now also be used to promote in-app purchases.   The new feature allows, for example, an ad in a travel app to promote a discounted airfare.   Melbourne and Sydney boost average house prices to a record high   The average value of houses in Australia’s major capital cities has been boosted to a record high, fuelled by rises in Melbourne and Sydney, according to new RP Data-Rismark figures.   The average capital city house price rose by 1.6% during September, boosted by a 2.5% rise in Sydney, a 2.4% increase in Melbourne and 1.1% in Adelaide.   The increases offset falls in Darwin, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Hobart.   “Over the past 10 years, values have only risen by an annual rate of about 2.5%. So in many ways Sydney's playing catch up at the moment,” RP Data analyst Tim Lawless says.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.41% to 15191.7. The Aussie dollar is down to US94.01 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: US government shutdown looms closer

9:34PM | Monday, 30 September

The United States is one step closer to a government shutdown after Democrats rejected a proposal by Republicans to delay the Affordable Care Act by one year in exchange for passing temporary funding for the US federal government.   Failure to pass a funding bill by midnight – 2pm AEST – would see thousands of US government employees forced to take unpaid leave.   “One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election,” US President Barack Obama says.   “Congress needs to keep our government open, needs to pay our bills on time, and never, ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”   Online sales growth slips in August   Online sales slipped by 0.1% during August to an annual growth rate of 9.6%, the slowest since 2010, according to new NAB figures.   The figures also show that online sales now equate to 6.2% of spending in traditional retailers.   “What we're also seeing is weakness just about everywhere, but particularly in fashion, which is one of our largest sub-sectors online," NAB chief economist Alan Oster says.   “I think what you're really seeing is weak levels of retail sales and that's being affected both in the traditional sales and online.”   Alan Kohler pulls the plug on Inside Business   Alan Kohler is stepping aside from the ABC’s Inside Business program after 12 years on air, citing the “ridiculous workload” created by the program in addition to his other commitments.   ‘‘I’ve been doing Inside Business for 12 years, it really has been great. I’ve really enjoyed it. I designed the program, started it off, had fantastic people working on it,” Kohler says.   ‘‘I really enjoyed doing the TV interviews, so I’m going to miss that. I’d like to find a way to continue doing interviews, if I can.’’   The national broadcaster says it remains committed to its business news coverage, despite the Sunday morning business news program ending its run on December 1.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.84% to 15129.67. The Aussie dollar is up to US93.26 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: ACMA warning after Telstra overcharges 260,000 customers

9:23PM | Monday, 16 September

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a warning to Telstra, accusing the telco giant of overcharging at least 260,000 customers a total of $30 million in international roaming charges.   “While they had a very small number of complaints, they didn't try to look to see whether there was a systemic problem,” says ACMA full-time member Chris Cheah.   “The circumstances were quite particular, and that was because Telstra itself had received incorrect information from its overseas correspondent carriers.”   Westfield cashes in on US shopping centres   Shopping centre giant Westfield has announced the sale of seven of its shopping centres in the US to private equity firm Starwood for $US1.64 billion ($1.75 billion).   The sale comes on top of previous deals which saw Westfield offload $US2.6 billion worth of malls to the private equity firm during the past two years, with the global shopping centre giant continuing to own and operate 40 properties in the US.   “We are focused on redeploying our capital into superior retail destinations in major cities through divesting non-core assets and introducing joint venture partners into our high-quality portfolio of assets,” says Westfield’s joint managing director Peter Lowy.   Summers announcement leads to Wall Street rally   US shares rallied after former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers withdrew his bid to become the next Federal Reserve chairman, with Summers seen as being more likely to wind back stimulus than rival candidate and Fed vice chairwoman Janet Yellen.   However, the news was subdued by President Barack Obama’s warning that he will not negotiate with Republicans over an extension of the US debt ceiling.   “We are still riding positively on the Summers announcement, however with the debt ceiling deadline less than a couple of weeks away, there will be heightened sensitivity to it," Janlyn Capital managing director Andre Bakhos told Reuters.   "We are still up and the market is still riding a wave higher and until there is something tangible to create a sense of fear, the trend remains solid."   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 15494.78. The Aussie dollar is level at US93.23 cents.

Start-ups urged to be vigilant after Twitter hack wipes $136 billion off US stock market

4:29AM | Wednesday, 24 April

Another high-profile Twitter hacking attempt has caused havoc in the United States, with the Dow Jones shedding 143 points after the hacked Associated Press Twitter account incorrectly reported President Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion.   The hack is the most serious of the attempts which have occurred over the past several months, with other hacks targeting the accounts of automotive group Ford and Burger King.   Businesses have been issued yet another warning by social media experts to keep their accounts locked up tight, and start developing better security around their social media practices.   While previous Twitter hacks have resulted in controversy, this is the first time such a hack broadcast a story which could have been seen as believable.   Anthony Mason, manager of digital research and analysis at online reputation management group SR7, told SmartCompany this latest incident is a "mixture of both security and social media strategy".   "More importantly, this an issue around governance of media, an aspect commonly neglected throughout the broader business maturation of the medium," he says.   Mason points to the recent HMV case in Britain where staff were able to post on the official account while they were being fired, giving an account of the firing process.   He also points out some security issues – Twitter doesn't have two-factor authentication, and is thus more susceptible to attack.   Mason says small businesses need to take note of who has access to social media accounts and then put in place monitoring protocols so that any access breaches are identified at an early stage.   "Small businesses should be across any third-party suppliers that may have access to official social media assets. These may include web designers, social media strategists and community managers."   A debate often posited among social media advisors is whether or not small businesses should be using third-party companies to monitor their social media accounts. While this often means less total control, it does mean employee breaches are less likely.   It also means these companies are more likely to pick up on a breach.   Mason says businesses need to start taking social media more seriously, especially as he notes business models are beginning to value social media insight and "the immediacy of information".   "Ownership and transition of social media account access should be included in employment contracts to make expectations clear and to provide companies with a legal basis on which to take action."   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Still no suspects in “heinous and cowardly” terrorist act

4:31PM | Tuesday, 16 April

US President Barack Obama has delivered a second television address following the bombing of the Boston Marathon as investigators continue to search for evidence.   “This was a heinous and cowardly act and, given what we now know took place, the FBI is investigating this as an act of terrorism,” Obama said.   President Obama also downplayed growing speculation that a domestic terrorist group was responsible for the attack, noting that investigators are still looking for a suspect.   “We don’t have a sense of motive yet, so everything at this point is speculation.”   Nine proposes media reforms in a bid to save its merger with Southern Cross   Nine Entertainment has proposed a series of reforms to Australian broadcasting regulations in a submission to the joint select committee on broadcasting legislation.   Under Nine’s proposal, the 75% reach rule would be scrapped, paving the way for a proposed merger with regional broadcaster Southern Cross, along with obligations on any broadcaster with a reach greater than 75% to provide regional viewers with 22 minutes of local news each evening.   “Nine estimates that in order to meet this requirement it would need to have approximately 200 journalists and news production staff employed in regional areas,” its submission states.   IMF cuts global growth forecast   The International Monetary Fund has released its latest World Economic Outlook report, cutting its growth forecast for 2013 from 3.5% to 3.3%.   “Global prospects have improved again but the road to recovery in the advanced economies will remain bumpy,” the IMF report states.   “In the medium term, the key risks relate to adjustment fatigue, insufficient institutional reform, and prolonged stagnation in the euro area as well as high fiscal deficits and debt in the United States and Japan.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.07% to 14,755.01. The Aussie dollar is down to US103.89 cents.

Five top business ideas that made millions

3:38AM | Thursday, 14 March

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

THE NEWS WRAP: Speculation Chinese mining giant will buy Tinkler’s Whitehaven stake

3:16AM | Friday, 15 March

There is renewed speculation Chinese miner Shenhua Group could buy Nathan Tinkler’s 19.4% stake in Whitehaven Coal.

Forbes names most powerful people – who can you learn from?

3:49AM | Monday, 11 March

US President Barack Obama might be the world’s most powerful person, according to Forbes, but there’s a handful of entrepreneurs on this year’s list for start-ups to draw inspiration from.

Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off in Australia

3:53AM | Monday, 11 March

Global Entrepreneurship Week has kicked off with a bang in Australia, with a lengthy list of events tipped to provide plenty of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.

THE NEWS WRAP: Shorten lauds latest unemployment figures, but critics not impressed

3:00AM | Monday, 11 March

The Federal Government has hailed the latest unemployment figures, despite an economist claiming the 5.4% jobless rate is a “middle of the road” figure.

Obama’s back in – but what do start-ups think?

3:00AM | Monday, 11 March

US-based Australian entrepreneurs have offered a mixed response to the re-election of US President Barack Obama, who eclipsed Republican rival Mitt Romney yesterday in a bitterly fought contest.

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

11:46AM | Thursday, 8 November

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

THE NEWS WRAP: Re-elected Obama promises “best is yet to come”

3:02AM | Monday, 11 March

US President Barack Obama has insisted the “best is yet to come” for America after winning a second four-year term yesterday, defeating Republican Mitt Romney.

Romney concedes, Barack Obama re-elected as US President

3:04AM | Monday, 11 March

Barack Obama has won another four years as president of the United States, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney conceding defeat.

THE NEWS WRAP: Financial markets hope for decisive victory either way in US election

3:04AM | Monday, 11 March

Voting is underway in the US presidential election, with the race considered too close to call, although most polls point in the direction of a narrow victory for incumbent Barack Obama.

THE NEWS WRAP: Andrew Forrest to lead court challenge against mining tax

3:07AM | Monday, 11 March

A High Court challenge led by billionaire Andrew Forrest to the Federal Government’s mining tax is to take place as early as March.

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