Leni Mayo


Diversity a hallmark of this year’s Tech23 contingent

9:09AM | Wednesday, 17 September

A diverse range of startups make up the 23 tech companies that are set to compete at Tech23 2014.   The conference has been the launch pad for a number of successful Australian startup entrepreneurs, including Local Measure founder Jonathan Barouch, BugHerd founders Alan Downie and Matt Milosavljevic and bigtincan founder David Keane.   The 23 startups operate in everything from cloud services to robotics and e-health, and include founders with a diverse range of backgrounds from across the country, according to Slattery IT director Rachel Slattery.   “People are innovating across Australia, and it’s great to see the breadth of the nation represented amongst the clever technologies being presented at Tech23 this year,” she says.   “When Tech23 started six years ago, it was all about creating connections. It’s great to see this happening even more now. As Tech23 alumni companies and founders, industry leaders, sponsors and supporters go out of their way to help the next wave of innovative companies.”   Tech23 takes place in Sydney on October 23. The 23 tech companies will each present five minute presentations before being questioned by industry leaders Michelle Deaker, Leni Mayo, David Spence and Richard White. For more information, visit www.tech23.com.au.   The Tech23 2014 startups are as follows:   Appbot – better app reviews and more sales   AUUG – make music through motion   Bluedot Innovation – precise, battery-friendly location services   Clevertar – avatars for innovative aged care   Clipp – the bar tab app   Doarama – 3D GPS track visualisation   GeoMoby – proximity platform for mobile apps   Global and Smart – the story behind good   GoFar – cutting car costs through informed driving   Intelligent Fleet Logistics – vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation   LEAPIN Digital Keys – a smartphone-enabled access control system   Maestrano – one-click interconnected business apps for SMEs   Mika Compliance – aged care management software/resource portal   Oar Inspired – make every stroke count   Peepable – liberating online through search and share   Pop Tech – transact instantly and control your data   Red Eye – cloud-based engineering drawing management solution   Robologocial – robotics in the cloud and beyond   Skrydata – discovering the value in big data   Sound Scouts – harnessing games for health   Statsilk – interactive mapping and visualisation software   Tzukuri – beautiful wearable technology   uSig – breakthrough in password and identity management   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startup Weekend gets the female treatment

5:00AM | Tuesday, 13 May

When Startup Weekend Melbourne Women gets underway this weekend, it will be the first time a startup weekend event has catered specially to Australian women.   Event organiser Marina Paronetto says for too long startup weekend events have had a significant male influence.   Paronetto has founded her own startup, PowerHouseHQ, a company which helps businesses organise their own hackathons.   “I’ve been part of (Startup Weekend Melbourne) since 2011 and there’s always around 10-11% of attendees are women; it’s something I thought we should do something about,’’ Paronetto says.   “One of the main ideas for this event is to start an event from scratch, and understand what makes great conditions for women.   “One of them is making the space and the nutrition really tailored to empower people.   “Good quality food with a lot of options; there’s usually just beer and pizza. We want everybody really nurtured for the weekend.”   Looking forward to #40forward. @jo_1660 will kick-off a week of activities encouraging women into #tech #Adelaide http://t.co/Xd3qiu5khr — Jen Hassam (@RhetoricComms) May 12, 2014     Last weekend organisers held a pre-event, the Startup Weekend Melbourne Bootcamp Brunch, which gave participants a chance to meet and explore their startup ideas a week in advance.   “We’re focusing on three main elements, networking, collaboration and learning,’’ Paronetto says.   “We thought the best way to give all the applicants to do those three things was to run a pre-event.”   Geek Girl Academy organiser Tammy Butow is also part of the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organising team and Paronetto says she’s a big reason the weekend will be so rewarding.   The attendees will pitch their ideas on Friday night, form teams to work on the best ideas, before pitching their creations before a panel of judges on Sunday night that includes Susan Wu of Stripe, entrepreneur Leni Mayo, CEO of Scale Investors Laura McKenzie, and StartupSmart editor Bronwen Clune.   Both the Startup Weekend Melbourne Women and last weekend’s brunch were sponsored by Nitro and chief operating officer Gina O’Reilly says there are real benefits to a diverse workforce.   “Nitro are firm believers in the complementary skills women bring to the workplace and are imperative to every business,’’ she says.   Last year a study by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency found women occupy less than 20 per cent of positions in the majority of information and communication technology occupations.   According to Google, women-led tech companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, and when backed by venture capital bring in 12% more revenue than their male counterparts.   The low participation of women in the ICT sector is a problem Startup Weekend Melbourne Women organisers are not alone in trying to fix.   Google is spearheading a worldwide campaign known as #40forward and is challenging its partner organisations to increase the representation of women in tech communities.   This month @StartupGrind will be hosting 60 events w/60 awesome female entrepreneurs around the world. Great, eh? #40Forward #startupgrind — karlie krieger (@karliekrieger) May 7, 2014     Startup Grind, an event which gives established business owners a chance to mentor the next generation of startups and is part of the #40forward campaign, will see DVE Business Solutions director Jo Schneider host an event in Adelaide on May 26.   “I’m looking forward to telling my personal story, how I achieved 300% growth in three years and giving highly practical advice on building businesses by using technology to achieve growth, develop relationships and goal setting,’’ Schneider says.

Good product people wanted as Startup Victoria launches

4:14PM | Wednesday, 30 April

Investors, founders, and an enthusiastic crowd of startup ‘wantrepeneurs’ packed into Inspire9’s Richmond offices last night to celebrate the launch of new not-for-profit Startup Victoria, which aims to grow the local startup community.   Speaking to StartupSmart, Startup Victoria chair Leni Mayo said the Victorian startup scene’s biggest challenge is the lack of good product people.   Mayo, the founding investor in a host of startups including 99Designs, Flippa and Learnable, hopes Startup Victoria can go some way in addressing the problem.   “I think we are terribly weak at product, marketing, branding, sales, we really need to pull our socks up, but of those the one that stands out far above the rest is product,’’ Mayo says.   “In Melbourne I could pick 100 engineers and stack them up against engineers in your average Silicon Valley startup, and it’s a fair fight.   “In product, we have less than half a dozen in Melbourne that would stack up, and probably less than 10 Australia-wide.   “It’s a blend of human understanding, commercial nous and tech nous, and we don’t have enough people like that. We don’t value them enough.’’   Newly appointed Startup Victoria CEO Lars Lindstrom agrees.   “The Americans are very, very good at that,’’ he says. “We need to improve.’’   Lindstrom has a wealth of experience in startups. Having spent roughly 10 years in investment banking in Melbourne dealing with billion dollar takeovers and mergers, he left the industry to cofound a startup, a free home distributed newspaper delivered in all the major cities in Denmark.   That was in 2006, and within 12 months the newspaper, funded by advertising revenue, became the most read in Denmark, and employed over 1000 people.   Lindstrom says the company was close to breaking even when “Lehman Brothers cracked”, as a consequence advertising revenue dried up, and that was the end of that.   Not dissuaded from the startup industry, in 2009 he returned to Australia and co-founded the world’s first eBook reading software ReadCloud aimed at schools, where he remains chairman.   ReadCloud has a catalogue of over 100,000 eBooks and distributing deals from the world’s major publishers.   Under the leadership of Lindstrom, Startup Victoria will run a “better founders” program which will bring together experienced, practising startup founders to discuss the best way to tackle large fundamental problems facing the Victorian startup scene, like the lack of globally competitive product people.   “It will involve different startup founders talking about stuff deeply concerning and important, and the people around that table need to come up from a large shared experience,’’ Mayo says.   “This is an area Startup Victoria can help through better founders, because it won’t just help the founders, but also their employees.’’   The program has parallels with a similar effort being made by Inspire9 founder Nathan Sampimon.   In addition, Startup Victoria will also run a “more founders” program which will be open to anyone interested.   “We’re trying to create an institution where you have access to real information that can help you along the way, as opposed to getting opinions,’’ Lindstrom says.   “We’re trying to be more scientific about it and give best practice.   “Not necessarily guarantee their success, but point them in the right direction.’’   Startup Victoria was launched with the support of the Victorian government, which provided $100,000 worth of seed funding.

Australian VC calls on others to “write cheques” to encourage female entrepreneurs

4:39AM | Monday, 7 April

AngelCube founder Adrian Stone has thrown down the gauntlet to investors to do something to address the apparent lack of female startup entrepreneurs.   Admitting that he doesn’t know how to solve the problem, he’s done what he says he can as a VC and told StartupSmart he’ll “write a cheque for those smarter than me that can to do something about it.”   He’s offering an additional $1000 to the top female AngelCube applicant (they already receive $20,000), who makes it into the popular incubator’s program. He notes that every year they’ve had at least one female entrepreneur in the program (so he’s set the bar low), but he wants to encourage more.   If the $1000 is granted, he’ll donate $10,000 to Startup Victoria to look at ways that it can use the money to encourage more female entrepreneurs.   Stone says the caveat means “that female-led teams (at least, startup teams that include a female in a key founder role) need to show that they are indeed willing and able to help other female tech entrepreneurs succeed by applying to AngelCube, then succeeding in being selected into our 2014 program.”   Once that happens, the $10,000 grant, from Stone’s personal money, will be made available to Startup Victoria.   Writing on his blog, Stone said:   “Startup Vic will need to apply this grant, if somebody wins it on their behalf, to programs aimed specifically at supporting (or increasing the number of) female tech entrepreneurs in Victoria during 2014 and/or 2015.   “And, I’m hoping that the person (or people) in Melbourne who do have some ideas on how rebalance the ecosystem here will put their hands up and help Startup Vic light the way on this issue.   I’m also hoping that by leading the way (supported by our cheque), Startup Vic will be able to find corporate and vested-interest sponsors to follow with their own financial and other assistance. It’s much easier to get money if you already have a little.”   Stone is calling on other investors to match his donation.   “I’m not done with this yet,” he says. “I won’t stop until I get other investors to join me in giving money to help solve the problem.”   @mattallen You could start by matching my donation for @StartupVic's FTF fund $ for $. I'll release whatever % you match immed. @founding— Adrian Stone (@SmallTimeVC) April 5, 2014   And   @scale_investors can you match all/part so @StartupVic can really get something going? "Balancing the gender divide" http://t.co/YEDcIXsJwh— Adrian Stone (@SmallTimeVC) April 5, 2014   Stone says he’s already organised a meeting with Scale, a fund run by successful female investors who fund female led startups.   He was inspired to make the proposed donations when he came across the Founder’s Institute Female Founder Fellowship program, which allows females to apply to the Founder Institute for free ($50 value), and also provide a free course fees to our best female applicant in each city ($1100 value).   Stone he looked at it and thought that he could do better.   “It’s really just a marketing exercise on their part, so I did the same for AngelCube, and then did something bigger,” he says.   Claire Robertson, Founder Institute co-director of the Perth chapter says that the Fellowship program has encouraged female applicants with just over 20% of their applicants being women.   “Within the Perth tech startup ecosystem I'd anecdotally estimate that women represent between about 10-15% of attendees at most startup and technology focussed events, excluding those that target women specifically,” Robertson says. “Based on those numbers I think that the fellowship does produce some incentive.”   Robertson has just returned from the USA with a long list of ideas on how to increase female participation in the sector.   “I think that there's plenty of scope to increase female engagement in the sector, going forward,” she says.   Startup Victoria chair Leni Mayo says at this stage they would be looking for someone who was working to solve the problem of lack of females in startups to be a chair of a committee on female tech entrepreneurship.   “What we’d do from there is get a clear understanding and articulation of what the problem was, and then how we can solve it,” Mayo says.   Mayo says they are looking for someone passionate about the problem to lead the committee.

Why Australia is behind Vietnam when it comes to teaching programming to our children

3:38AM | Wednesday, 26 March

With an explosion in more jobs than there are computer science students, learning computer programming is as essential for the 21st century as learning to read or write.   Coupled with a drop in ICT graduates, there is an urgent need for something to change.   But there’s some good news, with a report in The Australian claiming that computer programming could become mandatory for schoolchildren from age eight, pending a government review.   The startup community has welcomed the announcement, with the general belief that such a move is long overdue.   Learnable investor Leni Mayo has been a passionate advocate for teaching early programming to children and said this was a welcome step in the right direction.   “Australia has a history of failure on this front and we’ve been screaming for something to be done,” Mayo says.   “There’s a current crisis in Australia with not enough skilled programmers to fill the need, and we’re addressing this through migration. What this proposal does is create opportunity for future generations.”   Mayo pointed to a post by Google engineer Neil Fraser, who visited Vietnam a year ago to see how they’re teaching computer science to students. Fraser writes that Vietnamese children begin basic programming lessons in second grade and in third grade they start learning how to use Microsoft Windows and how to type.   While that’s not dissimilar to current Australian curriculum, by fourth grade Vietnamese students are programming in Logo – starting with sequences of commands and then progressing to loops.   "By grade 5 they are writing procedures containing loops calling procedures containing loops," Fraser says.   Fraser’s post provides a window into what is possible, says Mayo, and is a good framework for Australia to teach its schoolchildren how to become computer programmers,   “By Year 11, kids should be writing programs,” he says.   It is hoped that getting children interested in computer programming from an early age will lead to greater interest in programming.   Mayo says building this interest was more important than skills they learnt in doing it.   “By year 9 and 10, kids already realise what it is they want to do, so getting in at primary school is the right move,” he says.   An immediate issue would be skilling current teachers to be able to teach computer programming.   “When you look at the research, most teachers in the system don’t have a STEM background or are even interested in it,” Mayo says.   “The issue is that fixing this could be a 10-20 year cycle.”   The Australian reports that 23,500 teachers would need training with a budget of $23 million.   In the meantime, Mayo says there are a lot of great programs out there for parents who want to help their kids learn to program. He played Robot Turtle with his own six and eight-year-olds.   The review is expected to be concluded by mid-year.

Startup Victoria reopens applications for CEO role: Was the salary to blame?

3:49AM | Wednesday, 19 March

Startup Victoria has today reopened applications for its chief executive role after its management team realised the prime candidate for the role lacked adequate founder experience.   The initial ad for the position of founding chief executive of not-for-profit organisation wanted someone with founder experience. Over 30 people applied for the role and eight were interviewed.   Startup Victoria chair Leni Mayo told StartupSmart they hadn’t realised how critical this was until the conversations focused on getting the lead candidate started in the role.   “When we started to talk to that candidate about exactly what we required and our values, we realised there are many stakeholders but our core constituency is founders, so we wanted someone who had direct personal experience so they could look at the members, empathise and know how they were travelling,” Mayo says.   Concerns about the salary range of $70,000 to $80,000 were raised when the first ad was published.   “A lot of people asked us if we were going to be able to get a good CEO for under $80K, so we learned about that too,” Mayo says.   The second ad doesn’t specify a range. Mayo says they’ve removed the range and intend to explain the financial situation of the organisation to final candidates.   “We’ve reasons for optimism around sponsorship. If those reasons prove grounded in reality, we’d be happy to work the salary up towards a more market rate.”   The Startup Victoria team is particularly looking for someone who is passionate about building the community and seeking someone committed to inclusive leadership.   “The big thing for all of us, and hopefully the new CEO, is we want to build something that will outlive everyone involved now. We want to build an institution that lives on,” Mayo says.   The new job ad is here.

99designs early investors back customer service software start-up with $250,000

3:25AM | Monday, 3 March

Influx.com, a start-up providing targeted technical customer service online, has announced a successful seed-funding round from investors who have all previously backed start-up powerhouse 99designs.   The investors are the SitePoint Group, including 99designs founder Mark Harbottle and Startup Victoria chair Leni Mayo.   The founder of Influx.com, Mikey De Wildt, has previously worked for SitePoint as a developer. He incorporated Influx.com in late 2013.   De Wildt told StartupSmart he’s targeting a small but growing niche.   “We realised there was a gap for people who had created great tech offerings such as an app or plug-in but weren’t big enough to hire customer service people themselves. That group is only going to grow,” he says.   Customers are the most important aspect to any start-ups, so convincing founders to outsource their support has been challenging.   “Getting a founder to trust me with their precious customer support has been and still is a challenge. Getting face to face helps so I’m wracking my brains trying to work out the best way to scale that process,” De Wildt says.   Scaling is De Wildt’s passion. Joining the 99designs team immediately after their Series A round with Accel Partners means he’s had experience in a rapidly growing company.   “That experience scaling up that fast with customers was really good. It helped me come up with this idea, but also taught me a lot about hiring and product development and being part of a successful start-up,” he says.   The funding will enable Influx.com to grow their team and start investing in marketing campaigns.

Toyota closure reinforces need for innovation to create new jobs

2:17AM | Tuesday, 11 February

Toyota’s announcement that it will stop making cars in Australia by 2017 adds to the urgency for productivity and new jobs to be created elsewhere in the economy, says one of the leaders of Australia’s start-up sector.   “My personal experience over the years has been that as far as innovation is concerned, necessity is the mother of invention,” Leni Mayo, chairman of Startup Victoria, told StartupSmart.   Toyota’s announcement draws the curtain on Australia’s car manufacturing industry, following earlier announcements that Ford and General Motors Holden were also closing.   Thousands of people working for the companies will lose their jobs and there are fears thousands more are under threat as car component makers consider their futures.   Mayo says while it will be difficult for the workers who lose their jobs and their families, manufacturing as a share of Australia’s economy had been declining for the past 40 years.   “That’s a trend that’s going to continue,” he says, noting that service-related businesses now make up the bulk of Australian jobs.   Mayo says thought must go into what can be done to accelerate the growth of start-ups to fill the gap left by manufacturing.   He points to more innovation in the services space as a key area to promote where companies such as Seek and Carsales.com.au found success.   He also urged politicians to celebrate start-up successes and openly talk about failure, as well as create more visibility and legitimacy around start-up activity and encourage people into pursuing science and technology at university.   “We’ve got a long way to go in Australian compared to the US and Israel with how we feel about failure.”

Why Australians love marketplace start-ups and why they work well here

2:18AM | Saturday, 8 February

The Australian start-up scene has spawned several billion dollar online marketplaces. Just think Seek, carsales.com and realestate.com.au. And there’s a fresh crop, such as Freelancer, FlightFox and GoCatch coming through.   But what is it about this particular kind of start-up that Australian entrepreneurs and investors find so sexy?   Marketplace start-ups, those connecting two distinct groups of customers and managing their transactions, are relatively easy to build with little funding and to scale, providing the founder has identified a genuine pain point for both groups.   But it’s finding the right problem and pair of customers that can be challenging for start-ups.   Locating your market’s pain point   Leni Mayo is an early investor at SitePoint, which launched website marketplace Flippa and world-leading multi-million dollar design crowdsourcing platform 99designs.   He told StartupSmart the allure of the marketplace models is sustainability profitability and defensibility.   “They’re popular because when you get them right, they make money in a sustainable fashion,” Mayo says. “Once you’ve got the scale and network effects, it becomes difficult for people to compete with. Because of that, you have pricing power and can maintain your prices.”   With this in mind, start-up pitching events almost always include a marketplace or two, but Mayo says the key misconception about the model is assuming two sets of customers is all you need.   “A marketplace isn’t a marketplace if it’s just two groups of customers. It becomes a marketplace when more of one kind of customer makes it even more valuable for the other, then you get network effects and it just grows.”   Co-founder of the RecruitLoop Paul Slezak told StartupSmart the nexus between their two markets, recruiters and companies, was the engine of their growth.   “Managing momentum is really important. If you’ve got a two-sided marketplace like we do, there is no point in having 200 recruiters if only five are getting work. And it’s not worth promising solutions to people in 100 countries if your recruiter base is only in one,” Slezak says.   Launched in 2011, RecruitLoop connects recruiters and companies. The start-up now offers services in 10 countries, with offices in both Sydney and San Francisco.   Ann Parker, coordinator of Telstra-backed Muru-D accelerator, told StartupSmart two-sided marketplaces were popular in Australia due to the legacy of companies like Seek, but also a smart choice because of Australia’s geographic isolation and small population.   “Trying to be global first is the right solution for Aussie start-ups as a population of 20-odd million won’t make your start-up a colossal success. If you want to be a truly successful digital start-up, you need to be heading elsewhere pretty quick,” Parker says.   Ned Dwyer is the co-founder and chief executive of small business solutions marketplace Elto, which launched as Tweaky in 2011 in Melbourne. They recently moved the company to San Francisco as 60% of their customers are in the US compared to 5% in Australia.   “The great thing about most of these marketplaces, like RecruitLoop and Elto, is you get to connect people all over the world with different talent. The geographic restrictions in Australia doesn’t matter at all, provided you can connect those people efficiently and they can have a great transaction and experience,” Dwyer told StartupSmart.   Elto’s pivot was to enable Dwyer and his team to add new suppliers to their marketplace, opening up new fields of revenue.   “Marketplaces are sexy because it’s winner-takes-all, or at least most,” Dwyer says. “The biggest challenge a lot of new founders face is not picking a market that’s big enough.”   Global scale thinking   Attacking a problem with sizeable global market is exactly why DesignCrowd founder Alec Lynch and his investors are confident about his start-up despite his key competitor being 99designs, the largest design marketplace worldwide.   “Globally the design market is over $44 billion dollars, so it’s very big and it’s also very fragmented. Six years into this and I’m confident if you added up the revenue of all the 30 or 40 crowdsourcing sites globally, we’d only have 1% of this market so there’s space for a few players,” Lynch says.   Launched in 2007, Sydney-based DesignCrowd has grown to include 150,000 designers and have processed over $14 million worth of design jobs through their services.   “Offering something different and building a brand around that is really important. Word of mouth is a big one because that dynamic is critical for growth. If you’re a newer brand, that can be tough. But once you’ve built both sides, a marketplace is valuable and defensible,” Lynch says.   Once a big enough market is located, the make or break factors for marketplaces is building both sides sustainably.   DesignCrowd recruited their designers first, by targeting design colleges and running their own competitions. Elto (then Tweaky) built their development capacity and market first, before reaching out to customers. RecruitLoop developed both sides at the same time, carefully and slowly.   “There is no right answer about how to build a marketplace. It’s very context specific, so you need to really know your space. It boils down to relative sensitivity,” he says.   Mayo says founders need to identify which market will be more excited about the solution they’re building.   “If one side responds massively well, then it’s the other side you need to get first so it can take off,” he says.   Now a start-up strong suit for Australia, the successful waves of marketplace start-ups have established an ecosystem of mentors and money with a passion for the dynamics involved.

Google-backed incubator launches in Melbourne

9:50AM | Wednesday, 18 September

A new, Google Australia-sponsored start-up incubator program, Melbourne NEXT, will launch next week at the York Butter Factory co-working space.   The five-week program for 10 start-ups will focus on customer discovery, idea development, fundability, pitching and launch strategies.   Event coordinator and community manager at Google Developer Group Leon Gouletsas told StartupSmart the program was specifically created for pre-accelerator or launch start-ups.   “This program is designed to address that post-idea pain point for entrepreneurs. It can be quite challenging to work out how to get into accelerators or what you require for early stage launch,” Gouletsas says. “They need a bit more idea refinement and business model development. We saw that gap, and we’re really keen to up the maturity of the Melbourne start-up scene.”   The program includes seven local mentors from entrepreneurial and investor backgrounds: Leni Mayo, Stuart Richardson, Nic Hodges, Laura McKenzie, Dave Slutzkin, Nathan Sampimon from Inspire9 and Marc Harrison.   This is the first time the international program has been run in Australia. Over 30,000 entrepreneurs have graduated from programs held in 25 countries.   “The first ever event was in the Middle East. It was deliberately chosen in some of the more interesting parts of the world because it seeks to bring together entrepreneurs regardless of background to work in collaboration,” Gouletsas says.   Gouletsas adds the program focuses on customer discovery strategies. He estimates the course will take 20 to 25 hours a week, including three hours of class time.   “What we’re really about is getting out of the classroom. The mentors are helping the entrepreneurs focus on value proposition development, and customer acquisition and segmentation opportunities. They’ll talk about what to do outside the building, and how to tackle these big questions,” Gouletsas says.   The program will not be requesting or seeking equity commitments from the program members. While the program isn’t specifically targeted at tech start-ups, Gouletsas they will be heavily favoured in the selection given the backgrounds of the mentors.   “The most important thing for us is they need to attend all the sessions, be fully committed and be ready to build their start-ups,” Gouletsas says.

Learnable opens up $10 million in online coding education as fears mount Australia is falling behind

8:37AM | Monday, 19 August

Ten thousand Australian school students will be able to receive free, online training in how to code, with online education start-up Learnable donating $10 million worth of courses as part of a new initiative.   Learnable for Schools general manager Kyle Vermeulen told StartupSmart the initiative was an obvious and exciting step for the team.   “The way the economy is moving, everything is going digital, business is online, sales are online and marketing is online. It’s another awesome tool to have and people who know how to code can add $10,000 to their earning potential straight away,” Vermeulen says.   Learnable’s initiative comes as Australia’s Information and Communication Technology Woman of the Year, Yvette Adams, recently called for coding to become a top priority in education.   Vermeulen says while the Learnable team is aware the curriculum is moving towards code, it’ll take a couple of years or longer to reach students and they wanted a way for kids to get involved now.   “We’ve been throwing this idea around for a long time,” Vermeulen says. “It’s a huge passion of ours, and we’re excited to get to see other kids learn how to code.”   He adds the benefit of code-savvy young people extends beyond their own earning capacity to the wider economy.   “We’re already seeing Australia falling behind. There is massive competition for developers, and without those skills it’s going to be really hard to move Australian companies forward,” Vermeulen says.   Students can sign up directly on Learnable with the first 10,000 receiving three years of access to a range of online coding, web design and app building courses for free valued at $1000 per student.   SitePoint and Learnable co-founder and start-up investor Leni Mayo told StartupSmart it is increasingly urgent Australians seize the opportunity to learn to code or risk falling too far behind to catch up.   “When SitePoint started in 2000, we had two employees,” he says.   “Now across the companies we have well over 150 staff. We’re hiring at a great rate, and as a country we’re not producing people who are talented engineers of tomorrow,” Mayo says, adding the number of computer science graduates had dropped by almost 50% between 2001 and 2013.   He says while Australian tech companies are staying afloat due to tech talent immigrating from overseas, Australia needs to do more to take advantage of the tech boom.   “What we as a country are doing to plug that gap, we’re plugging that gap through immigration, and I’m a huge supporter of immigration. My concern is about the opportunity we’re presenting to Australian kids collectively. We want to empower Australian kids to take advantage of the opportunity that’s exploding around us,” Mayo says.   The initiative has been welcomed by the wider community, including both sides of politics.   Senator Kate Lundy, Minister Assisting for Innovation and Industry Minister Assisting for the Digital Economy, says in a statement it was increasingly essential for people to have coding literacy.   “Coding skills, or at the very least an understanding of what can be done through coding, should be seen as core competencies. People who can create, enhance and use digital tools have the ability to participate fully and enhance the accessibility and equity of our digital environment,” Lundy says.   Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcolm Turnbull added that Australians needed to be both digitally literate and creative.   “It is not enough to be digitally literate, all of us need to become more digitally creative. And where better to start than schools. More computer science, more coding in schools is vitally important. This is a great initiative,” Turnbull says.   Vicki Forbes, the principal of Brentwood Secondary College, a pilot school in the program, says in a statement secondary schools had to teach all the skills needed for future careers.   "Our secondary schools are now home to students who were born in the 21st century and many of them intuitively act as creators of technology rather than just consumers,” Forbes said. “We are very excited to be the pilot school for such an innovative project.”

Start-up powerhouse SitePoint searches for its first founder’s apprentices

8:08AM | Tuesday, 13 August

SitePoint, the parent company of successful start-ups 99designs, flippa.com and Learnable, is seeking two more aspiring entrepreneurs to join its team for three months.   SitePoint is run by Leni Mayo, Matt Mickiewicz and Mark Harbottle.   Mayo told StartupSmart they had already hired data scientist Justin Hamman as the founder’s apprentice for their Dashfolio project, and are looking for two more.   “Since 2008 we’ve started one new business a year, and all of those have been led by the same group of people: Mark, Matt or myself. We’d like to do more businesses, and the way we’re going to experiment is with a model where people other than the three of us lead that process,” Mayo says.   The role will be for three months, and includes the opportunity to be considered to lead the project as a co-founder.   Mayo says they’re looking for people with business development aptitude.   “The Dashfolio founder’s apprentice needed technical aptitude, but these two not so much,” he says. “There are many ways to hire good people and let them have a crack at a problem, so I’m not looking only for particular skill sets.”   According to Mayo, one role would be perfect for someone who has run their own small business or agency or has a background in enterprise sales. The other role is more finance related, and would suit someone from an accounting background.   Mayo says the key things they’re after is talented, energetic people who are good founder material.   “Start-ups are hard, so people need to have emotional resilience and both of these jobs are probably for people who have had some work experience, rather than straight out of uni,” Mayo says.   All three founder’s apprentices will work closely with the SitePoint founders.   People can apply by emailing their skills, hopes for the program, why they want to take part in the program and links to their social media pages.   SitePoint also invests in companies, including mmgn and Tweaky, which also recently recruited a founder’s apprentice.   Applications close on August 31.

Industry insight and tips from the iAward state Entrepreneur of the Year winners

6:16PM | Thursday, 13 June

Victoria-based entrepreneur Leni Mayo and Queensland counterpart Andrew Jessett have won their respective state’s top annual entrepreneurial honours at the iAwards and shared their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing their peers.   The iAwards, now in their 19th year, are one of Australia’s premier technology and innovation awards covering the information and communication technology sector.   The entrepreneur of the year award is given in partnership with the Pearcey Foundation, which director, Wayne Fitzsimmons, says is aimed at encouraging more people to pursue entrepreneurial careers in technology, science and engineering.   “There is an emerging cohort of younger people who are not just having a go, and they’re very successful locally and internationally. All of these guys are breaking the barriers,” Fitzsimmons told StartupSmart.   “I’m 60, and I had inhibitions as a young man but these people don’t, and these guys are really delivering. Small to medium enterprises are the future. That’s where the employment is, all of these people starting up.”   The award goes to the most outstanding entrepreneur who has run a risk, made a difference and inspired others, with Fitzsimmons saying Victoria produced five candidates, Queensland six and New South Wales 12.   StartupSmart spoke to Jessett and Mayo about the challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs in their industry.   “There is an emerging cohort of younger people who are not just having a go, and they’re very successful locally and internationally. All of these guys are breaking the barriers,” says Fitzsimmons. “I’m 60, and I had inhibitions as a young man but these people don’t, and these guys are really delivering. SMEs are the future. That’s where the employment is, all of these people starting up.”   StartupSmart spoke to Jessett and Mayo about the challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs in their industries.   Entrepreneurs and the mining industry   Jessett is the founder and CEO of MineWare, a Queensland-based company that creates and sells mining technology and software, such as electric work shovel monitoring systems.   The company was launched in 2004 and Jessett now employs 25 people. The company operates in Australia, the United States and Canada and is expanding to Chile.     Jessett told StartupSmart the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs in the mining industry are the need to go international quickly to diversify risk, and working and competing with big companies.   “The mining technology game is one where you have to move internationally quickly to diversify the risks of any particular market,” Jessett says.   “The other big challenge is you’re working with a few really big companies. Also, your competition, the tech you’re trying to replace, also come from big companies.”   Jessett says he worked hard to build relationships with people at all levels of the mining industry to build momentum to break in. He says the award will be good for the company’s profile, as a small business punching above their weight.   MineWare’s focus will be increasingly international as the mining boom slows in Australia.   “Australia has lost its competitiveness a bit, mostly because of rising costs. Working in all these other countries, you can see the costs of other industries and it gives you a good perspective on how we’re a little bit less competitive than we need to be,” Jessett says.   Entrepreneurs and the tech industry   Mayo is a serial tech entrepreneur based in Victoria. His award was recognition of the ongoing role he’s played in the start-up scene for over 15 years.   Mayo was the founding investor of 99designs, one of Australia’s biggest tech start-up global success stories. He is currently the director of flippa.com, a website sales site, and co-founder of learnable.com, an online training hub of ebooks and videos.   He is also the founding investor of Tweaky Inc, a Victorian company that offers an online marketplace for website customisation, and 99designs.com.   He told StartupSmart the start-up scene has changed considerably since he launched his first business, selling (or trying to sell) domain names to small businesses 18 years ago.   “There was no start-up in 1996 when I launched my own business,” Mayo says. “I got really discouraged; I was just a bit too early. So I gave up and pivoted into another business (Zeo, a corporate email service) that got acquired in the dot.com boom (by Sausage Software in 1999).”   A software engineer by trade, he serves as a board member for a range of start-ups and tech companies he founded or funded. He is developing two new start-ups which are both in beta development: earl.io, a website checking software to lighten the load of running mobile, tablet and browser sites; and dashfolio.com, a small business dashboard already getting three billion page views a month.   He also does some angel investing and mentors entrepreneurs.   “One of the biggest challenges for tech entrepreneurs is staring at the face of failure and finding a way. There is a massive failure rate and there is no easy route” Mayo says.   “Start-ups are a difficult and confronting experience. You’ll always have setbacks, and they’re difficult and painful. It’s not just commercial issues, which are critical. It’s also the emotional issue of finding it within yourself to persist and taking your family and friends on the journey with you.”   National winners to be announced soon   The state winners for Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory will be announced within the month. No NSW Entrepreneur of the Year winners were announced for 2013, as the 2012 winners are in the running for this year’s national title.   The national winners will be announced on August 8.

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