Kim Heras

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Wanted: UKTI on the hunt for nine Aussie fintech startups to take to London

5:34AM | Wednesday, 20 May

The UK Trade and Investment Department (UKTI) will take nine Australian fintech startups on a mission to London in September.   The mission is designed to help Australian startups understand the British and European markets, with an eye to encouraging those startups to consider London as a base when they’re ready to enter those two markets.   UKTI inward investment adviser Katie Heathcote says the program is leveraging an increased interest in fintech over the past year or so.   “I’d been speaking with AWI Ventures and Kim Heras (of 25fifteen) and the guys from Tyro for the last eight months, and I was getting a sense from the meetups in Sydney that fintech was not only an emerging industry in Sydney, but it was really taking off,” Heathcote says.   “The opening of Stone and Chalk and Tyro in Sydney was (the) turning point for us doing the mission as we realised the immense potential in this sector for entrepreneurs and startups.   “A lot of people were looking to London, taking what they’re doing there, and bringing it back to Sydney. So we’re leveraging off that excitement.”   Australian fintech startups can apply to be one of the nine startups that head to London. UKTI is looking for companies that have been operating for at least six months and have a “willingness or commitment” to the UK as part of their long-term business plan. The successful startups will receive return economy airfares (minus taxes) with British Airways, tickets to London Fintech Week and the opportunity to partake in UKTI events.   “Understanding other markets is beneficial for any company. It’s about giving startups the opportunity to expand to the UK at a later stage, when they’re ripe and ready,” Heathcote says.   “There’s 60 million UK people, and it’s a gateway to the rest of Europe.”   The application process should take about 20 minutes. Applications close on Friday, May 22. You can find more details here.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Want a job at a startup? Get sh-t done

5:57AM | Monday, 12 May

For many people getting a job at a startup is as compelling as starting one. A panel held in Sydney last week had founders reveal how to secure one, and while not that different from finding any other job, applying for a job at a startup has its quirks.   How do you find a job listing? Katie Hume, marketing director at Airtasker, mentioned how she found her role in an unlikely way. Hume 'liked' a posting by 99interns founder Yvonne Lee and someone else saw the like online and sent her a direct message asking if she was looking for work.   Kim Heras, founder of 24fifteen and Pushstart, talked about how applying with a resume is still standard for Australian startups, but it was important the resume reflects the skills needed when responding to a job listing.   “There are baseline skills needed for startups, but you also need certain characteristics,” Heras says.   “Be who you are, since there has to be a good fit.”   He says a job is like a relationship and “you want to be in a relationship with the company that wants you”.   One question from the crowd concerned what to wear for an interview. One of the founders of Tank Stream Lab, Balder Tol, told the story of his first interview at Airbnb.   He didn’t have enough time to research the company so he showed up for the interview in a suit while the interviewer had on shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt. Balder told him, “give me 5 minutes”, and quickly took off the jacket and tie and untucked his shirt.   Kim noted that it was important to “try to put in some effort in your appearance”. He said that what was especially important was “not what you’re wearing but do you seem to care and appreciate the opportunity to come in to interview”.   Dean McEvoy, founder of Spreets and Iconpark, explained, “The reason startups are so casual is they look through the facades that people put on in corporate culture.”   “People are focusing on getting shit done so appearance is secondary,” he says.   Another question from the audience was around the key attributes of a successful employee at a startup. Heras identified one fundamental characteristic was enthusiasm.   “Within a startup there’s always this sense of urgency, so you have to be enthusiastic and follow through,” Heras says.   McEvoy added, “To work at a startup you have to be comfortable with uncertainty since each day you might have to do something different.”   McEvoy mentioned that he sometimes screened potential employees by asking them to follow up at a certain time since only some people would do so, which indicated their enthusiasm.   He also mentioned it was great to put people on the spot in interviews. He mentioned one question he liked to ask was, “do you believe in aliens?” He says you learn a lot out about someone by listening to how they answer that type of question.   Dave Michayluk is a founder at 99interns – connecting interns with startups and startups with interns.

What’s a beer cost in bitcoins? Sydney gathering discusses the future of bitcoin

3:31AM | Thursday, 20 March

PushstartAU founder John Haining was at Australia’s first Bitcoin Barcamp held in Sydney over the weekend. Here’s what he thought.   "Bitcoin is not money under Australian tax law," said tax lawyer Matthew Cridland of DLA Piper.   A crowd of 130 developers, entrepreneurs, financial tech innovators and information security experts bristled at Cridland’s words at the recent Bitcoin Barcamp at the ATP Innovations* National Innovation Centre in Sydney.   Cridland was a presenter at the first Australian ‘unconference’ on the cryptocurrency that addressed topics from bitcoin 101, how to keep your bitcoin safe (with concerns about exchanges like MtGox as well as operating system and USB security dominating the discussion), through to the future of digital currencies and the bitcoin improvement proposal, as well as what regulatory and consumer changes would be needed for broad adoption of digital cryptocurrencies.   There was optimism about bitcoins as a future for exchange evident throughout the discussions. Attendees pointed out the failings of traditional currency, the limited guarantees for Australian bank deposits, and expressed surprise at how the uninitiated reacted to the novelty of cryptocurrencies. Advantages such as near real-time transactions, the security of the bitchain and the intellectual elegance of the approach were listed as success factors.   Hanging in the Bitcoin Lounge   In the Bitcoin Lounge, attendees were able to get more hands on. The lounge played host to leading Australian innovators and startups who are helping to make bitcoin a reality. The lounge featured over five bitcoin-based businesses. Coinjar, a Blackbird Ventures-backed digital wallet and exchange startup from Melbourne with over 20,000 users, let attendees create a new wallet with $20. (I received 0.0272 bitcoins from CoinJar, which have gone down in value at the time of writing!)   Attendees also had the chance to wave goodbye to Australian currency and buy bitcoins in as little as 15 seconds using one of the first Lamassu bitcoin converters in Australia.   BitPOS, which allows vendors to easily accept bitcoins, provided payment services for the day, including the end-of-day networking session, Bitcoin Beers.   For those wanting to speculate in bitcoins, both CoinArch and BitTrade Australia were on hand to explain their approach to the opportunity.   Where were the banks?   With all of the financial innovation in the space, there was limited participation from existing financial players. Only a handful of attendees came from Australian banks, with one Macquarie Bank employee admitting to being there in a personal capacity, and not knowing if Macquarie Bank was doing anything in relation to cryptocurrencies.   The day culminated in a pitchfest from the various startup companies, assessed by finance tech experts Opher Yom-Tov (formerly of Westpac) and Kim Heras, general partner in fund 25Fifteen.   That more than 100 people turned out on a sunny Sydney Saturday to talk and learn about a niche topic is probably the most remarkable outcome of the day. Other innovations, such as education technology, wearables, and the internet of things also have strong interest, but nowhere near this level of committed participation.   As the day drew to a close, the words of the tax lawyer hung over the room. Bitcoin may not yet be legal tender in Australian – at best they are a tradable bundle of rights** – but if the enthusiastic entrepreneurs at the Bitcoin Barcamp have their way, that day may not be too far away.   Disclosures:   * I am a director of ATP Innovations.   ** Australian tax law is a funny thing: You (or your business) may be liable to GST, income tax or capital gains tax on bitcoin transactions. They may not be money, but they may cost you money. Get professional advice!   John Haining is a co-founder of PushStart, a startup community company, a director of ATP Innovations, Australia's leading business incubator.

OpenLearning impresses in education tech pitching competition

12:26AM | Tuesday, 17 December

Online classroom platform OpenLearning was selected winner by both the judges and crowd at last week’s education technology start-up pitching competition co-hosted by SydEduTech meetup and the Optus-Innov8 Seed accelerator and investment program.   Launched in October 2012, over 30,000 students have used the OpenLearning platform. The platform is able to be used by large, open access groups, universities or small businesses and corporate partners.   SydEduTech meetup coordinator Atul Pandey told StartupSmart OpenLearning was the stand-out start-up of the night.   “They’re trying to be Facebook for education: a platform that is more interactive and social. They’re opening up the platform and targeting universities in Australia and Malaysia,” Pandey says.   The judging panel included investor Kim Heras, education investor Terry Hilsberg, educator and community coordinator Matt Easterman and Alfred Lo, principal at the Optus Innov8 Seed Fund.   OpenLearning co-founder and chief executive Adam Brimo told StartupSmart there were a lot of massive online opening learning start-ups but OpenLearning’s focus on community was their main differentiator.   “The key differentiators for us are ease of set up and the community. Small businesses often think online courses are too complicated or expensive,” Brimo says. “But anyone can use the platform to teach courses.”   Brimo says 2014 is already shaping up well, with a host of new clients locked in and even more scoping out the offering. They recently launched an institution product, similar to a white label service, which offers customer branding.   He adds the biggest challenge of getting OpenLearning up and running has been learning to work with different kinds of billing cycles.   “When dealing with universities and larger organisations it can take a really long time to get to a decision. As a start-up you’re trying to move as fast as possible, and that can be hard when the customers take a bit longer,” Brimo says.   Five other start-ups made it through to the final round, which will be judged on January 29: Literatu, ClassCover, MomentumCloud, ReadableEnglish and MyEdOnline.   The winner of the January round will be off to leading Asian tech conference Echelon.

Happy Startup Spring Festival! What we’re celebrating and what’s next for the Australian start-up community

9:22PM | Thursday, 19 September

The Australian start-up community is one week into a three-week celebration and outreach festival, Startup Spring, with over 100 events taking place across the country.   The communities in Sydney and Melbourne continue to thrive, with younger ecosystems in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Tasmania taking off.   StartupSmart spoke to a range of community leaders to find out what they were celebrating, and how the national start-up ecosystem could keep moving forwards.   Kim Heras, investor and founder of start-up community PushStart told StartupSmart the ecosystem had seen a lot of positive change in the last few years.   “Everything from education, to the number of people starting up, to the amount of investment available and successful businesses built has increased in scale. Dramatically,” Heras says.   “I've often said that the strength of a start-up ecosystem is the number of people who can make a living off it and we're seeing more and more people fit into that category.”   Heras says the start-up community needs to focus on transforming its rapid growth into a sustainable ecosystem.   “That involves short-term things like keeping the number of start-ups growing, getting more investment dollars into start-ups and getting more people making a living in the tech start-up industry,” Heras says, adding this will include education reform and policy changes, especially to make innovation and the tech start-up industry a priority.   “We're competing with a flood of nations who are all positioning themselves to be global innovation hubs, but I honestly think we have a shot of making it happen,” Heras says.   Laura McKenzie, co-founder of angel investor network Scale, told StartupSmart the increasingly close collaboration between different parts of the ecosystem was worth celebrating.   "It's exciting to see an increasing amount of visible collaborations within the Australian investor and incubator/accelerator community - whether it be co-hosting events, co-investing in deals or convening to understand how we can best grow the ecosystem together," McKenzie says.   She adds the team at Scale has been thrilled by the range of excellent female entrepreneurs in Australia, and says the ecosystem can and will do more to support women entrepreneurs.   Orsi Parkanyi, founder and coordinator of national Women as Entrepreneurs network told StartupSmart the community needed to focus on raising awareness in the wider community both during the festival and in the coming years.   “We need to make the words "start-up" and "entrepreneurship” household words. I wish to hear more and be able to use these words in mainstream media and wish that everyone in Australia knows what these words mean. We are yet to achieve this,” Parkanyi says.   Parkanyi adds political pressure is still needed for the community to get the results they need.   “Although recently there have been many heated discussions on the importance of small business in our economy, unfortunately there has been very little attention paid to the importance of entrepreneurship and start-ups in our future economy. I wish to see more discussions and more support from political parties in the space,” Parkanyi says.   Phil Morle, founder and chief executive at Sydney incubator Pollenizer, told StartupSmart the Startup Spring Festival was a sign the ecosystem was maturing.   “It has become quite large and is starting to demonstrate wins but it is still fragmented and invisible in places. Now is the time for the community to work together for deeper impact,” Morle says.   He adds that the start-up community is getting stronger, and increasingly adept at self-organising.   “People are working together to look at the fabric of the ecosystem to see where we are strong and where we are weak. This is happening in each city. While Melbourne and Sydney have a bit of a head start, communities in Brisbane and Perth are surging.”   Claire Robertson, co-coordinator of the Perth chapter of the Founder Institute accelerator program says Sydney and Melbourne’s increasing international recognition was stimulating a healthy competitive desire for the rapidly growing Perth community to be counted.   “The number of people interested in and participating in tech start-ups has seen a sharp increase in Perth,” Robertson says. “This change was initially catalysed by the opening of SpaceCubed and a rise in the number of events in the city such as Startup Weekends and meet-ups.”   She adds that Perth, and Australia more broadly, still needs to address some of the funding gaps holding start-ups back.

Employee share scheme warning from start-up mentor, as Ollo Mobile takes out pitching prize

8:19PM | Tuesday, 6 August

Ollo Mobile has won a trip to Silicon Valley after beating nine other start-ups in the Small Team, Big Impact competition in Sydney last night.   The pitching competition was coordinated by cloud technology computing company RackSpace. Ten start-ups with fewer than 10 team members were selected to compete.   Ollo Mobile is a new device and system for panic buttons, which elderly or unwell people can use to alert family members and health authorities when they need help.   The other finalists were OpenLearning, Food Orbit, Projectia, Annexium, AuthoPay, Revolutionise, Clipp, Digital Sorbet and Geepers.   The start-ups pitched to a judging panel of Mick Liubinskas from incubator Pollenizer, Kim Heras from start-up network PushStart, Ruslan Kogan from Kogan Electronics, Chris Ridd, the country manager from Xero, and Robert Scoble, Rackspace’s international start-up liaison.   Scoble told StartupSmart he was excited to see an ecosystem beginning in Sydney, but Australia needed to do more to support entrepreneurs.   “San Francisco and New York have ecosystems, as do Tel Aviv, Beijing and Seattle. London kind of has one and Los Angeles is being built. It looks like Sydney has a good one underway. These ecosystems need to keep the geeks in town, or they leave and go somewhere else,” Scoble says.   Despite the growing ecosystem, Scoble cautions Australian struggles with employee share schemes (ESS) are a fundamental issue that needed to be overcome quickly.   “The laws here aren’t letting start-ups use their stock options and equity to motivate people to shelve their jobs at big companies and come and join start-ups,” Scoble says. “Australia needs to deal with this quickly to support your entrepreneurial talent, or they’re going to leave and take their value with them.”   The federal government announced a review of ESS opportunities in June.   Scoble adds start-ups need access to money, talent, public relations and business expertise to get their companies to the point they’re turning over billions.   “When you’re in San Francisco there is such a strong future culture, you can see it in the streets with people trying new things,” he says. “You need access to the idea that your plans are possible and a city with a great culture that encourages that.”

Australian entrepreneur comes out of shell to pitch on world stage

7:42AM | Tuesday, 16 July

Australian entrepreneur Neil Smith is nervous ahead of pitching his start-up in front of a panel of investors in the US this week.   He’s one of six finalists from around the world, and the only Australian, who are in San Francisco taking part in start-up accelerator Founder Institute’s Founder Showcase event.   His start-up, slidefish, is an online platform for feedback for presentations and documents and Smith says the stakes are high.   “The level of pitching and expected standard is very high and the other companies involved all have great products and teams,” Smith says. “The opportunity is enormous; we have the chance to get a lot of exposure in the US and globally as a result of being a finalist.”   Previous finalists have raised more than $US75 million as a result of pitching at the event.   While Smith adds he’s not sure slidefish is even officially launched yet, he did a soft launch at a Google start-up event in February after Mick Liubinskas, from incubator Pollenizer, called for people to launch that night, promising promotion from himself, Kim Heras from accelerator PushStart, and Sally-Ann Williams and Alan Noble from Google.   Smith says being part of the Sydney program of the Founder Institute forced him to do all the business development work he was avoiding, and took away a lot of the random factors that can cause a company to fail, such as defining what the company is and its vision and developing a marketing plan.   The program was also personally challenging for participants, including Smith.   “It made me come out of my shell, as uncomfortable as that is at times. To start a company is one thing but to go and face people that you don't know with your baby is hard, to take the criticism and use that to build a better product and business,” Smith says.   “For me it was at times very hard and nerve wracking, I am quite happy to sit in a room by myself and work away without seeing or talking to anyone else for days or weeks. So to stand in front of a group of strangers and not sweat, and have wobbly hands is difficult, but after a few months of it you do get somewhat used to it, but I can't say I am comfortable at all with it yet.”   Regardless of the results of the final pitch, Smith will be developing a permanent presence in the US over the next 18 months.   “A large part of our target market is corporates like banking, insurance and advertising. These US companies will often only talk to you if you have an office here,” he says.   Slidefish is also looking at setting up offices in Europe and Asia for similar reasons.   “So the plan is to go global, be where the customers are, and grow as fast as we can,” Smith says.

Local finance tech start-up space booming but must be trend aware

7:18PM | Monday, 8 July

An upcoming meet-up of financial technologies start-ups in Sydney will provide an opportunity for start-up operators working in the space to come together and discuss the unique challenges of the large financial services industry.   Kim Heras, founder of mentor-driven seed accelerator PushStart, told StartupSmart start-ups need to be aware of macro trends to give their business the best shot at success.   “Context matters, and a lot of Australian start-ups don’t get the full context of what’s happening in the global financial sector, but high level macro trends are really important,” says Heras, coordinator of the meet-up on July 16.   “Most start-ups are focused on a niche area and you can get pretty engrossed in launching your idea. But you need to step back and understand what broader trends are happening, particularly when those trends affect your potential customers, investors and acquirers.”   Heras says these final three sectors are where big corporate players who control the global financial industries are important.   “There is much better engagement by industry in this area (financial tech) compared to the more general tech start-up space. They’ve never really had a regular, structured conduit to the start-up community the way that they do now through the meet-up,” Heras says.   Heras says the growing number of start-ups in the space and the high level of engagement by corporates is due to the barriers to entry, such as the need to engage with major institutional players.   “The amount of regulation, that barrier to entry, is what’s creating opportunity for start-ups. What’s happening in heavily regulated industries with fewer players in the industry, like financial services, education and health, is that they provide customers with fewer choices. So these companies and industries don’t innovate like others do, so innovation has dropped and services haven’t improved,” Heras says, adding this is the perfect opportunity for trend-savvy start-ups.   He says the key trends at the moment are around alternative currencies, new payment systems – especially peer-to-peer payment – and how banks and their customers can use big data.   “Fin-tech start-ups are looking at the whole continuum. All the way from the smallest service to deep technology core banking issues that the consumer probably won’t ever see, but are critical to how society works, such as confirming identity,” Heras says.   The meet-up is focused on big data, with Neil Soderlund, the Boston Consulting Group partner responsible for big data in Australia, scheduled to speak.   Heras says the events are usually attended by 80 to 100 people, at a range of industry locations. The meet-up will be held in The Rocks, at financial research and innovation organisation SIRCA’s new offices.

How I created and sold a start-up in 48 hours: MatesRates’ Vinko Grgic

3:41AM | Monday, 11 March

Serial entrepreneur Vinko Grgic has sold the intellectual property of his latest start-up to GimmeQuotes, just hours after creating the venture at a Startup Weekend.

Top 10 worries keeping Aussie start-ups awake at night

11:39PM | Wednesday, 7 November

Cash and marketing are the two biggest concerns for Australian start-ups, according to two separate pieces of research released today.

‘No-nonsense’ Web Directions South event to launch start-up workshop

9:07AM | Thursday, 6 September

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.

Is Australia’s tech start-up scene a self-satisfied boys’ club?

5:24AM | Wednesday, 2 May

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.

PushStart unveils eight start-ups for $20k accelerator program

3:54AM | Saturday, 24 March

Start-up mentor network PushStart has revealed the eight successful start-ups for its first-ever PushStart Accelerator program, with each one set to receive $20,000 in addition to mentoring.

Protecting your IP in a co-working space

5:09AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Entrepreneurs have always jealously guarded their ideas. Self-righteous rage is usually the response whenever they feel someone has encroached upon their intellectual property.

Should you be speed dating your mentor?

5:28AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Getting good value from a mentor used to be quite a drawn-out process. You could spend weeks, or even months, tracking down the right guru for your start-up, all for a brief coffee and chat.

Collaborate to innovate

5:58AM | Wednesday, 2 May

The age-old notion of artists collaborating in a central space has been given life in the 21st century as start-up businesses champion the practise of co-working with each other.

PushStart mentor “speed dating” set to expand beyond Sydney

8:03AM | Tuesday, 16 August

Seed fund PushStart’s “speed dating” mentorship initiative is set to expand beyond Sydney to Melbourne and Brisbane later this year.

The rise of the start-up accelerators

4:18PM | Saturday, 28 April

A few years ago, the funding scenario for an innovative start-up was simple. Get a bank loan to get yourself started before turning to a grateful Australian-based VC who will help propel your business into the big time, in return for a juicy equity cut, of course.

PushStart offers CeBIT showcase opportunity to tech start-ups

5:27AM | Tuesday, 31 May

Australian tech seed fund PushStart is offering web-based start-ups the opportunity to showcase their ideas at CeBIT Australia’s Webciety pavilion for $25.

Top 10 start-up competitions in the world

4:43PM | Sunday, 17 April

Barring the remote possibility of pouncing upon that rarest of beasts – a government start-up grant – wannabe entrepreneurs have traditionally been reliant on two groups for external funding: investors and banks.

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