Escaping the herd mentality: why some Aussie startups are choosing the Big Apple over Silicon Valley12:49AM | Thursday, 18 December
A growing number of Australian startups are moving to New York rather than Silicon Valley in order to chase partnerships with major brands and shake off the group-think of San Francisco. Yesterday, contactless communications startup Tapit announced it was expanding into the US market by opening an office in New York. Co-founder and chief executive of Tapit Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the startup has previously collaborated with major international brands and wanted to position itself close to its clients. “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there,” he says. “So it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than in San Francisco.” Tapit has recently undergone a rapid international expansion – with offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai – and Conyngham says a headquarters in New York will allow his team to pitch to brands face-to-face (because Skype “only takes you so far”). Kate Kendall, the founder of Cloud Peeps, moved to San Francisco from Melbourne in 2010 and has been living in New York for the past two years. She says a combination of industry and market-reach factors influenced her decision to remain in New York while working on her startup. “San Francisco is amazing because it’s the equivalent of Hollywood – it’s where you have a lot of tech talent and tech giants – but the drawcard for New York is you’ve got eight million plus people,” she says. “San Francisco is a baby city in comparison to New York.” However New York was also a personal preference for Kendall, who says positioning herself away from San Francisco allowed her to challenge herself. “When I first went there [San Francisco] there were a few Aussies and then it exploded,” she says. “I wanted something new and challenging and San Francisco felt like another Melbourne. People want diversity and the thinking about the tech space in New York is … instead of it being a tech ecosystem, it’s tech within other ecosystems – media, finance, art. “There is a very big bias in Silicon Valley of what constitutes a tech company and what constitutes a problem you should be solving, and after a while everyone can be working on the same thing and solving problems for what is a niche area and niche problem set.” Kendall also points out that in New York, she doesn’t realise she is a female entrepreneur. “When I first moved here and started going to events there were so many incredibly talented, ambitious, driven, funded women in the room. It’s funny because it does feel like nowhere else on earth in terms of tech and startups.” Kendall is involved with Down Under New York, a tech meetup designed for Australians living and working in the Big Apple. The acronym for the meetup – DUNY – doesn’t escape the attention of attendees, either, and sparks a few conversations about Australian slang. Kendall says in the last few months she has seen an “absolute onslaught of Aussies move into New York”. Although there is a notable downside: the weather. “It does get to minus 15 degrees in winter, so sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong choice,” she says. “The weather does suck – it’s absolutely freezing.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Popular community-driven online newsletter The Fetch has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with founder Kate Kendall saying it is an important opportunity for the community to help it succeed. Originally launched as a side project in March 2011, The Fetch is a weekly newsletter that curates the best events, news, jobs and must-reads for its community of professionals. Having started in Melbourne, editions were added covering cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. There is also a ‘global’ edition for those living further afield. Kendall told Private Media The Fetch community has grown organically through word of mouth as regular readers recommend it to their friends and colleagues. “From Melbourne, there were volunteers to help it spread to cities around the world,” Kendall says. “There were editions in 10 cities across Asia, the US and Europe. It became a dependable local resource for work life. “So part of The Fetch ethos is that it’s community driven with people volunteering their time to curate it. That’s very time consuming, and a lot of that time is spent on the admin side of things. At the same time, there’s a lot of community love from people saying they love The Fetch and miss it when it doesn’t come.” Now, in a bid to grow the community further, Kendall is seeking to raise $25,000 through Kickstarter, with 41 backers already pledging $2566 to the campaign. If successful, the funds will be used to create a community platform incorporating a mobile-optimised web app, new editions in 66 additional cities, better event categories, new features such as calendar syncing and increased customisation. In addition, aside from its current focus, covering business, tech and creative industries, the crowdfunding campaign will allow for the creation of industry-specific editions. These will cover verticals such as the marketing industry, the arts community, the media, the sharing economy and sustainability. “We really want the platform to allow users to customise their fetch feed, drill down into more industry verticals, see when similar people and friends are going to events and simplify posting events,” Kendall says. “The community platform will allow people to see events in real time rather than waiting for the weekly newsletter. Kendall describes the campaign as currently being “very much in the pre-outreach phase”, with a long initial deadline for the campaign of 40 days. “So far, it’s been internally driven and we’ve raised 10% of our target. We’re really to have 40 backers generated through our internal networks and contacts. From Monday, we’ll go more public and begin our outreach efforts through email,” she says. “Part of a community-driven platform is that it should be up to the community to see it succeed if it is valuable and useful. This is the one opportunity to see it continue to exist. “If it doesn’t succeed, The Fetch will become a global newsletter of interesting articles, without the events section.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Kate Kendall is one of Australia’s best-known female entrepreneurs, kicking off #socialmelb in early 2009 before founding The Fetch. We catch up with her from her new base, New York, to hear about her latest venture, and the dilemma of choosing between two “startup babies”. Things have come full circle for Kate Kendall, who has just launched a new startup called CloudPeeps, a marketplace for on-demand community managers, with her co-founder Shala Burroughs, four years after she held off on the idea believing that the timing was not right. Instead, Kendall went on to create The Fetch, launched mid-2011, a popular curated email of digital and creative events, across a number of cities. After relocating to New York and needing some help with the growing demands of The Fetch, Kendall turned to Zirtual for a virtual assistant and found the experience so rewarding against using a number of ad hoc freelancers, that she revisited her original idea around CloudPeeps. “What got me excited about marketplaces like Zirtual is that until now a lot of these virtual marketplaces have been very open, like the Freelancers and Elance-oDesk, but this was completely different – it was a highly controlled experience,” Kendall says. “It got me thinking about the whole verified approach and what we could do with that in relation to on-demand community managers.” Kendall discussed her idea with Burroughs, whom she describes as her “accountability partner” and Burroughs agreed that the market timing was right, so they incorporated CloudPeeps in January and set about ‘beta’ testing with a goal of attracting 10 customers and 25 community managers. The results confirmed they were on to something, with their beta testing resulting in 20 customers and 75 community managers, with a pipeline of 350 customers and some tentative distribution partnerships with accelerators, coworking spaces and event communities. Only around 35% of those who apply as community managers are approved. They’ve also attracted Ligaya Tichy (who led the communities at Yelp and Airbnb) and Joel Gascoigne (co-founder and CEO of Buffer) as advisors. The company operates on a subscription model starting at $699 a month and Kendall is hoping to automate the process to open up the current pipeline, but she’s quick to point out that at this stage the priority is on developing ways to allow CloudPeeps to take on more customers, and not on building out new features. “Our mission is to make community building accessible to all business by connecting them with an on-demand experienced and authentic remote community manager,” Kendall says. Four of their customers are Australian and Kendall is actively seeking professional Australian-based community managers to grow the market here. What now for The Fetch? So where does Kendall’s new venture leave The Fetch? She admits to feeling conflicted, as “they’re my two babies and I love both”. This means, for now at least, Kendall’s time is being spent on CloudPeeps, which she says her instinct tells her is the bigger opportunity. It’s far from the end for The Fetch though (which Kendall describes as currently being on “slow wheels”) with Kendall still aiming for her long-term vision to make it a successful events platform. “At the end of the day, in its current format, it was just taking me too much time to write and curate all the newsletters, as well as manage all our volunteers,” Kendall says. This means a relaunch for The Fetch, with Kendall putting together a crowdfunding campaign next month to spearhead a new build that would automate some of the process. “The Fetch has phenomenal reach and even right now I have $20,000 worth of people wanting to sponsor and advertise on the site, but I had to make a tough decision,” she says. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s a billion-dollar company, where CloudPeeps may be.” Kendall says she has had acquisition offers, but that she still felt very attached to The Fetch in a personal way, noting it would have to be a “very attractive offer” for her to consider it. “The Fetch is only three years old and it’s had enormous growth potential and community love,” she says. “It’s certainly not suffering in terms of anything like that, I just had to make a tough decision for now.” Meanwhile, stay tuned for the crowdfunding campaign.
We asked a number of well-known Australian entrepreneurs to share their stories around “faking it ‘til you make it”. Here’s what they had to say: “When I was 17 my friend and I got asked to install a 10 computer network at a local business. It was 1991 and the product they wanted was Lantastic with a 10 kilobyte coax bus network. We said we had done that a number of times and got the job. On Friday at 5pm they packed up and left. We opened the boxes and started reading the manuals. Monday morning at 4am after about four hours sleep all weekend we got it running. Scary. But fun.” – Mick Liubinskas, head coach at Muru-D. “One day I find myself onstage in front of hundreds of tech people. I'm supposed to be sharing stories of building (and let’s face it – fucking up) a life and a business. Suddenly, I realise that I am an imposter. These folks know their shit. They sit tapping on their keyboards with furious determination, simultaneously tweeting, coding and I dunno, maybe internally figuring out some epic longstanding algorithmic problem in their head. These guys eat books of code for breakfast. I on the other hand can barely figure out how my iPhone works and have still never managed to successfully download a movie without my computer, or my face, exploding. “The MC reads out my bio, who is this mythical creature he speaks of? Oh yeah, me. I think to myself, yep I've done all those things. I belong here. But still I feel like a fraud. Am I on glue? How the hell did I get here? Why the fuck did I agree to this? I'm so nervous I almost vomit on my shoes. But here’s the thing, half of them look bored anyways and it’s too late to back out now, so I just roll with it. Instead of telling them what they should do, I just rock up on stage, am more vulnerable than I ever thought possible and I simply tell these folks a story or two. “And what do you know? They like it, they learn something, they laugh, they're inspired. I breathe a silent sigh of relief. But that doesn’t mean that it became easier. But I keep doing it. Constantly. With false bravado. People believe I'm a speaker. They believe I'm an entrepreneur. And one day I wake up and realise that all of a sudden, I am both.” – Avis Mulhall, serial entrepreneur and founder of Think, Act, Change. “When I joined 99designs in January 2009, I was pretty much a one-man show. I worked out of my living room in San Francisco for over a year, building and moderating our designer community, meeting with potential partners, helping customers via a basic online chat system, writing press releases…you name it, I did it. Though 99designs launched in Melbourne, the company was focused on the US market from day one, with an American-English site and all transactions in US dollars. Little did our early customers know that the company’s US presence consisted of just one person working around the clock in a tiny San Francisco apartment! Patrick Llewellyn, our CEO, relocated to join me in 2010, and now I’m one of more than 50 staff in our SF office, with over 100 employees worldwide." –Jason Aiken, product manager, 99designs. "If you sell a product or service to US companies, you need to look like a US company otherwise you'll have a lot of friction. Incorporate a US sub and print business cards with a US address and phone number and route the number to either voicemail, an answering service or your local mobile number. Just be prepared to take a few early morning calls!" – Matt Barrie, CEO Freelancer.com “When I was a theatre director, I would design the brochure before the show. I would get thousands of them printed and tell everybody that this was what they would come and see in a few months. Because I did so, I needed to deliver. Because I did so, I defined my focus and something to target. Because I did so, people know what I was working on and knew how to help. I sung the world into existence.” –Phil Morle, CEO Pollenizer.” And here’s a different perspective on the idea that we should “fake it ‘til we make it” from a blog post by The Fetch CEO Kate Kendall, who declined to share a story saying she didn’t think we should encourage the idea: “I had a micro-epiphany the other day when it came to looking at how I tell the story of my company. For a while, something in my gut wasn’t quite right – I also couldn’t get my head around how to play the game. Then it hit me – that’s because 80% of startup land is bullshit and I hate bullshit. I just can’t do it. I can’t lie (well, not express my version of reality). It’s all vanity metrics, bloated achievements and boring same same. I was viewing a stream of old accelerator pitches the other day and was mesmerised by how impressive each founder was. It was like watching magic. But then I stood back and realised I’d heard of none of the companies and upon a Google DuckDuckGo search, found minimal product or press trails on the web. I questioned if many were still around. “Remember: you can progress and tell it like it is.” – Kate Kendall, CEO The Fetch
In celebration of its 8th birthday Twitter has launched FirstTweet, a tool that helps users find the very first message they sent. We take a look at what some of Australia’s top startup folk had to say in their first tweet. First off, here’s mine, clearly not aware of the location irrelevance of social media: Anyone here from Perth, Australia?— Bronwen Clune (@bronwen) February 3, 2007 And StartupSmart journalist Rose Powell took the opportunity to be excited about being on Twitter: @kirifarrell I know, I feel like this weekend went so fast. And looook, I'm on Twitter!— Rose Powell (@rosepowell) May 13, 2011 The Fetch’s Kate Kendall’s first tweet was in that awkward third person thing we used to do: is being a night owl— Kate Kendall (@KateKendall) June 15, 2008 Atlassian cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted about tweeting: is making his first twitter post - and feels like a twit - albeit a connected one apparently!— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) January 7, 2008 Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas wanted us to know where he was: Working from home in Woolloomooloo— Mick Liubinskas (@liubinskas) September 25, 2006 Canva Founder Melanie Perkins went for something fairly safe and vanilla: Enjoying San Fran and all the exciting tech events it has to offer.— Melanie Perkins (@MelanieCanva) June 5, 2011 Twitter has asked users share their initial messages using #FirstTweet.
Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed and The Fetch founder Kate Kendall are both pro-bootstrapping after growing their businesses without it. In a newly released e-book called Startup Series, Kendall and Ta’eed say bootstrapping brings a valuable flexibility to founders. Kendall says she doesn’t have a preference but thinks validating and achieving traction puts entrepreneurs in a position of power. “You have more choice about what to do next,” Kendall says in the book. “If you really want to smash something out of the park and compete globally on scale, you’re going to need resources. If you want complete freedom and ownerships – bootstrap your way to profitability and run a smaller business.” Freedom is exactly why Ta’eed says she’d choose bootstrapping every time. “There are plenty of decisions we’ve made for the sake of vision or long-term strategy that would have been impossible to make had we had outside investment and the responsibility of a fast financial return,” she says. But Ta’eed adds if they were launching the seven-year old marketplace network now they would probably require funding to break into the more saturated market, especially as they’re managing more than seven marketplaces rather than just one. “I believe it’s probably more practical to focus on one, but we definitely haven’t done that,” Ta’eed says. “It’s meant we’ve sometimes been less focused so have missed opportunities, but there have been many tangible benefits as well.” Kendall on the other hand says focusing on only one product is the best way forward for many founders. “I say no to practically everything that isn’t related to the startup I’m working on. Too many people are dissatisfied with their work lives because they don’t commit to something long enough then miss out on seeing progress.” She adds that progress is needed for enjoyment at work. “I think of flow and focus like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You want to be so consumed by it, you care more about each step, rather than the final picture.” The Fetch has been growing rapidly since launching in the US last year. In June, its growth got the startup on Mattermark, a data-driven tool tracking startup success. Kendall and Ta’eed both feature in the book alongside startup leaders like Jason Fried from 37 Signals, Derek Sivers from CDBaby, Tony Hsieh from Zappos and Robin Chase from Zipcar.
Australian-born start-up The Fetch has jumped into the top 20 list of hottest start-ups compiled by US-based start-up growth tracker Mattermark. The Fetch, which came in at 16th on Mattermark’s list this week, is a city-specific curation tool for professional events. More than 12,000 people receive the Melbourne newsletter. Founder Kate Kendall recently moved the headquarters of the company to New York. She told StartupSmart she had signed up for the newsletter to follow the “Ubers, AirBnBs and Twitters” of the start-up world, and was surprised and thrilled to find her company on this week’s list. “It’s fantastic because we’ve been so very lean up until now,” Kendall says. “Getting on the list is pure growth metrics. It’s not who you know in Silicon Valley or who your investors are. It’s just how much you’ve grown.” Mattermark, also a start-up, tracks and quantifies the growth of over 150,000 private companies in order to reveal the most promising start-ups for venture capital investors. While the way the algorithm-driven list works isn’t known, Kendall thinks The Fetch’s social media growth and several recent hires may have been what pushed them into the top 20. Kendall says the list is a powerful signal to investors. “You can’t dispute a list like this because it’s not a group of people deciding who they want to feature, it’s about growth, and it taps into the future of investment being data-driven,” she says. Kendall says it’s especially encouraging for Australian entrepreneurs to know start-up investing is becoming more open. “The more you can democratise investment, the better for entrepreneurs who don’t have the resources to get in front of the right people. For someone who is an outsider, to be an Australian not from the [Silicon] Valley who is blending business models and with a lean team, this is great.” Kendall says making the list and her company’s growth is testament to her boot-strapping approach since she launched in 2011. “A lot of founders don’t do the hard yards first and seek investment really early. But I’m a big believer of getting revenue in first. We were making money from month two.” Kendall says the move to New York has been challenging but worth it. She says she’s struggling to respond to all the inquiries coming in from possible curators for The Fetch and advertisers. “New York really is the capital of creative media start-ups. There is a lot of bias to the Valley, and I spent a year there last year but you’ve got lots of groups like Kickstarter, for example, community-driven start-ups, based here and the community is really strong.”
Kate Kendall, the founder and CEO of The Fetch – an online community for professionals to share and discover what's happening in their city – has already learnt plenty of lessons since starting her business in 2011.
Entrepreneurs can now register their interest in Web Directions South, a conference aimed at new tech companies, while Startup Weekend is to return to Adelaide for a second time.
US start-up GumHouse has a new chief executive in the form of Rebekah Horne, digital director of DMG Radio Australia and former senior vice president of MySpace International.
Going by economic indicators such as unemployment, inflation and interest rates, Australians should feel pretty good about how we stack up with the US.
Less than 25% of workers in Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry are female, new statistics show, amid accusations that the sector is failing to retain women long-term. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Labour Market Survey for February last year – the latest figures available – there are 131,059 women employed in the ICT industry. This represents just over 24% of the total workforce. Maree Adshead, chief executive of Queensland ICT company MobileIP, is also chair of the Queensland branch of the Australian Information and Industry Association. Adshead says while this figure is higher than that of other world centres, namely Europe, it is still concerning. According to a white paper titled Women and ICT: Why are girls still not attracted to ICT studies and careers?, ICT is the major driver of growth in productivity in the European Union. Despite this, less than one in five computer scientists are female. With regard to Australia, Adshead says there is definitely a dearth of women in the ICT industry. “We debate the issue time and time again to try and solve it but there is no easy answer,” she says. According to Adshead, the entry level representation of women into the industry is high, but many do not remain in the industry for the duration of their careers. “Women come into the industry but don’t stay, and it’s the fact that they don’t stay that seems to be more pronounced in ICT than it is in other industries,” she says. “Is it because it’s a very fast-paced, technology-driven industry that once you leave you may feel is hard to get back into and catch up on what has happened since you were gone? “I don’t know. This could be part of the reason, but senior women are not easy to find.” Adshead’s comments reflect the sentiments of fellow female tech entrepreneur Kate Kendall, who believes women are put off by the male-centric mindset within the industry. “I do tend to think the tech community is a bit of a bro fest… It’s a welcoming environment to enter but it’s not an environment people want to stick around in,” Kendall told StartupSmart. “[Women are] still a long way off getting equal support and representation.” Adshead said talented women from the ICT field are highly attractive to other sectors because of their technical skills and expertise, which could also explain their departure from the sector. “ICT women seem to be in demand outside the industry. The industry spreads far beyond technically skilled people.” “ICT is home to lawyers, accountants and all manner of other professionals. I find it hard to imagine a more vibrant and exciting industry to be a part of.” “So we should be looking closely at how we attract and retain women in ICT. The ICT industry is bursting with opportunity.”
Our coverage last week of female representation – or lack of it – in Australia’s tech industry provoked a surge of comment within the sector.
Melbourne tech entrepreneur Kate Kendall is moving to Silicon Valley to work for a new web start-up, which will be launched in the coming weeks by the co-founders of YouTube.
It is a rather grim irony that the York Butter Factory – a venture designed to unearth the most innovative, modern tech businesses in Australia – could fall foul to the kind of needless Twitter gaffe that other, less web-savvy, companies have blundered into.
Start-up incubator The York Butter Factory has apologised for a tweet that has been widely condemned as sexist, with a female industry expert claiming the incident highlights the “bro fest” culture within the tech sector.
Sydney and Melbourne are among the world’s top 25 start-up ecosystems, according to new findings, ranked 21st and 22nd respectively, but experts say they should be higher up the list.
What greater tribute is there to one of the great innovators of our time than to camp outside a store for weeks on end in anticipation of his latest product?
Family-run enterprises have long been the bedrock of Australia’s small business sector. The help, support and familiarity provided by relatives can prove invaluable, not only in the start-up phase, but also in the generational handover of a thriving business.
Tech start-ups are being encouraged to exhibit at innovation showcase Tech23 for the chance to win one of five awards worth a total of $150,000.