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$30,000 Australian scholarship to study at Singularity University in Silicon Valley

3:09AM | Wednesday, 26 March

Silicon Valley-based training facility the Singularity University is offering a fully sponsored position in its graduate studies program to an Australian startup founder developing an idea or project in the climate and environment sector.   The Global Impact Competition Australia & New Zealand 2014 is inviting people with plans that could impact a million Australians in three years to propose ideas that could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, fossil energy use, or facilitate adaptation to climate change in any sector. The solutions can be social, policy or tech.   Part university, part accelerator and part research centre, the Singularity University is an unaccredited training centre located in the NASA Ames Research Centre. It was founded by startup gurus including Google co-founder Larry Page and inventor Ray Kurzweil.   The school’s Australasian ambassador, Dr Clarence Tan, says it’s impossible to get accredited as they update at least 50% of their content every year.   The graduate studies program is a 10-week program designed to improve the skills of people attempting to create social and humanitarian good.   Tan told StartupSmart they were looking for great people with big plans. “We look for academic skill level, although that’s not very important when you think of Jobs, Wozniak and Gates,” Tan says. “We really look for entrepreneurial and leadership skills, startup track record and your level of passion for fixing grand problems. We want you to want to impact a billion people in 10 years.”   The 2013 Australian sponsorship recipient was Zezan Tam, from Melbourne.   Applications close on April 25. The video below contains more information about the university.  

Google announces Hummingbird search update: How will your SEO rank be impacted?

10:50AM | Tuesday, 1 October

Google has unleashed yet another of its algorithm updates on the world, but don’t stress out about preparing for the changes – they’ve already arrived.   Yesterday Google announced the latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, at a press conference located in the garage where founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page first started the search engine back in the 1990s.   The Hummingbird update will affect 90% of searches, and is designed to better answer specific questions. Google senior vice president Amit Singhal said the algorithm – which powers the entire system of how Google ranks and judges content – has undergone a “fundamental rethinking”.   Various reports from those at the event say Google described the update as helping quickly answer full questions, as opposed to the current system of searching for long phrases by individual words.   “We’ll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you,” the company said in a blog post. “This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask.”   No further details have been given.   But Jim Stewart, head of StewArt Media, says the algorithm might go further than just helping answer questions. Lately, he’s noticed his clients have seen improvements in the way their content has been ranked – particularly if it’s of good quality.   “Our clients that have sites that were updating regularly with content like blogs and so on were getting rewarded across different keywords,” he says.   “We’re not monitoring long phrases or questions, but that content seems to have been rewarded if you have a good strategy.”   While Stewart says he can’t say for sure whether these improvements have come as part of the Hummingbird update, it’s not unusual for an upgrade to hit more than one specific feature of search at once.   For businesses, this means the solution is the same as it has been for years – create good, fresh and original content, updated on a daily basis. The more it’s shared among users, the more likely your results will appear on the first page.   “The top results aren’t as cluttered with backlinks now, so maybe this has something to do with that change.   “The algorithm update may have inadvertently been favouring these sorts of sites.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

How to spot a start-up dud

5:13AM | Tuesday, 21 May

People used to want to write a great novel, win acclaim and make a fortune. Today’s route to success is the start-up.   There's even a board game, Startup Fever, that lets you play the mogul -- when you're not busy at the office being the mogul.   Venture capitalist Paul Graham compares launching a new business to being a parent. But there is one thing that is not at all like having a child: sometimes you have to kill your start-up.   A good entrepreneur knows it is better to kill a failing start-up than to throw away more time, energy and money trying to keep it alive.   Paradoxically, other people often read the decision to kill a failed start-up as a failure in itself. It is actually an act of wisdom and strength.   I'll share a couple of examples without revealing the personal details of the entrepreneurs I've worked with as the head of Holly, a digital services agency.   Checking the pulse of the market   One businesswoman saw an opportunity early on in the app gold rush.   Her idea was an app that could read your blood oxygen levels. Unfortunately, it turned out the iPhone's built-in sensors couldn't accurately give the health data she wanted.   What was required was an external device that links to your iPhone. Unlike an app, a device would need a distribution channel.   This raised many challenges, including the unwillingness of wholesalers and retailers to accept unproven new products.   She finally decided to throw in the towel. By recognizing a dead end, she saved unquantifiable trouble, liabilities and even loss of reputation.   She remains today a very successful marketing professional in another field.   Reading the tea leaves   Sometimes you identify a real niche, but it becomes all too clear that you'll never be able to earn enough to make it a viable concern.   That was the case with our client who wanted to launch an adventure-travel booking site for backpackers called LetsDoThis.   LetsDoThis was to be a classic two-sided market, like Stayz or realestate.com.au. On one side would be the consumer who uses the site at no cost to book adventure travel.   The other side would be the adventure travel operators, who pay to reach the site’s audience of thrill seekers.   Our pricing modelling and spec enabled a relatively precise forecast of revenue and profitability. That's when it became clear that the market simply wasn't big enough. The available cashflow would never enable the marketing velocity required to win national market share.   By killing this start-up, our client saved at least a quarter of a million dollars in development and start-up costs.   Even billionaires kill their failed start-ups   It might surprise you to know that the entrepreneur who is best at closing down bad start-up ideas is also one of the wealthiest people in the world.   Larry Page, CEO of Google, announced a "spring clean" of the business in September 2011.   Google has since shut down a total of 70 services, including Google Reader.   Page’s decisions were controversial among those who did use these services, but ultimately nobody accused him of being too softhearted to do what was necessary.   Getting through the decision   What lessons can you draw from the experience of others who have killed their start-up?   The first is to move as quickly as possible. Once you make the decision, every further moment and dollar spent is wasted.   Grieve if you have to, but never feel bad about yourself. A wise person once said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."   Beware of self-deception. An entrepreneur must accept the truth about a failing business. Optimism is useful. Risk taking is necessary. But denial of reality is disastrous.   After six years of hosting workshops for new online entrepreneurs, I've found this last is the biggest obstacle to success.   After all, the person who sinks everything into a losing idea will have nothing left to give to a better opportunity when it comes along.   Zina Kaye is managing director of Holly, a Sydney agency that has been providing digital services since 1997. Holly recently rebranded from House of Laudanum. Twitter: @zinak

Melbourne entrepreneur wins $30k scholarship for SV university program

5:03AM | Wednesday, 8 May

University of Melbourne graduate Zezan Tam will join 79 entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley next month for a 10-week program at Singularity University, after winning a $30,000 scholarship for his carpooling concept.   Tam is the creator of cloud-based app Carpooler, designed to make carpooling easy by saving drivers time and money, while helping to reduce congestion and transport-related pollution.   Tam is the winner of Singularity University’s Global Impact Competition, which launched in Australia in February.   The aim of the competition was to come up with an idea that could positively impact more than one million Australians.   As the winner of the competition, Tam will travel to Silicon Valley with a $30,000 scholarship, which will see him attend the 10-week Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University.   This university, located in the NASA Ames Research Centre, was founded by a number of well-known personalities including Google co-founder Larry Page, space entrepreneur Robert D. Richards, physician and entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, and inventor Ray Kurzweil.   The Graduate Studies Program is designed to inspire and equip leaders who want to build innovative solutions to address global challenges.   Tam will be joined by 79 other participants from the around the world. In addition to the program itself, he will be exposed to investors, funding bodies and mentors.   He will also receive a scholarship from Singularity University partner Creative Universe, which offers leadership and innovation programs to enhance leadership performance and productivity. Creative Universe will support Tam’s attendance at the Creative Innovation Global conference in November, which gives participants an opportunity to present their vision for the future.   Tam told StartupSmart cars are often heavily underutilised, so his plan is to change that.   “Cars are wasteful in two ways. You use them for two out of 24 hours a day and you use one out of five seats,” he says.   “You think of all the resources that go into building this wonderful piece of engineering, and then it barely gets used to its full potential.   “A lot of value can be related to carpooling. The only reason people don’t do it now is because of a lack of coordination.”   Tam, who is yet to build the Carpooler technology, has high hopes for the Graduate Studies Program.   “Number one is to get my mind blown apart from all this cool stuff out there,” he says.   “[I’m also hoping to] use the time out there to get the concept developed and get it funded so I could hire some full-time staff to get it built, then return to Melbourne and keep working on it.   “Melbourne is one of the perfect cities because of the urban sprawl here. I would prove the concept here in Melbourne, which would essentially allow me to expand to Sydney and some more American cities.”   Tam wasn’t the only entrepreneur recognised by the judges in the Global Impact Competition. Queenslander Mark McConville won second prize with a unique comedy-based entertainment and educational program.   He will receive mentorship and support services from the Australian Institute for Commercialisation and the Gold Coast Innovation Centre, worth more than $16,000.

Six standouts from Forbes’ 2013 World’s Billionaires list

3:44AM | Wednesday, 6 March

Forbes has welcomed a number of notable newcomers to its World’s Billionaires list, including the founders of fashion brands Diesel and Tory Burch, and China’s version of Steve Jobs.

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.

Google suffers triple PR disaster as earnings report "pending Larry quote" leaked early

3:39AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Google hasn't been having a very good day.

Five start-up lessons from the Young Rich List

9:16PM | Thursday, 27 September

This year’s BRW Young Rich List may be striking due to the dip in overall wealth of the top 100, including a $700 million plummet by mining mogul Nathan Tinker, but there are encouraging signs for start-ups.

THE NEWS WRAP: Cowin confident of resolution between Rinehart and Fairfax

7:22PM | Thursday, 19 July

Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowin is confident there will be a resolution between mining magnate Gina Rinehart and Fairfax Media that will allow her to join Fairfax’s board.

How long will negotiations with investors take?

5:13AM | Tuesday, 8 May

How long do negotiations with investors usually go on for?

Google cuts product range to focus on revenue generators

9:18PM | Monday, 5 September

Search giant Google has shut down a number of products as it continues to focus more on streamlining its range to generate revenue, including one program for which it spent $50 million only one year ago.

Google-Motorola deal to “supercharge” Android platform

8:55AM | Tuesday, 16 August

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility will “supercharge” the Android ecosystem, according to the company, but an industry expert claims the deal will have no major impact on developers.

Cut your meetings in half

7:21AM | Tuesday, 5 July

Leaders are always looking to create more of the one thing they never have – time. But it’s always a challenge and any little edge you can get is well worth considering.

THE NEWS WRAP: Government climate change advisor calls for the dismantling of the green energy scheme

4:19AM | Friday, 15 April

A Federal Government climate change advisor has called for the dismantling of the national green energy scheme, blaming it for the increase in power bills across the country.

Start-up caution urged over latest Google staff scheme

4:15AM | Wednesday, 13 April

Start-ups have been warned to be wary of tying employee incentives to company projects in the wake of Google’s decision to tie 25% of staff bonuses to the success of its social strategy.

THE NEWS WRAP: REDgroup administrators launch legal proceedings against breakaway A&R franchisees

4:29PM | Sunday, 10 April

The administrators of collapsed retail company REDgroup have launched legal proceedings against a group of breakaway Angus & Robertson franchisees.

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