Mark Harbottle

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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.

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.

Key trends from the 2013 StartupSmart Top 50

3:57PM | Wednesday, 20 March

There’s no shortage of inspiring entrepreneurs in the 2013 StartupSmart Top 50, many of whom have beaten the odds to see their businesses come out on top.   If you’re looking for your next big break in business, it’s worth hearing what the current start-up trends are, whether they’re related to revenue, retail or starting up solo.   StartupSmart identifies eight key trends to emerge out of the 2013 StartupSmart Top 50.   Revving up revenue   The winner of the 2012 StartupSmart Awards, Target Media, had an impressive revenue of $12.4 million.   But that figure has been blitzed by this year’s winner, 1800Approved, which has recorded a whopping $20 million in revenue despite being just four years old.   This year’s runner-up, SCO Recruitment, has also seen its revenue soar – from $12.7 million in 2012 to $14.49 million in 2013.   There are also more million-dollar businesses on the list this year. Last year, 27 businesses had revenue in excess of $1 million. This year, that number has jumped to 37.   Three heads are better than two, but one’s a winner   While there’s no shortage of businesses started by two entrepreneurs, trios appear to be more prominent on this year’s list.   However, of the 50 start-ups featured, almost half were started by sole founders.   Female-led start-ups   Only three businesses on this year’s list are led solely by female entrepreneurs, including SCO Recruitment.   The others are Nepean Industry Edge Training and Kare Kard. Interestingly, the women behind all three businesses started up on their own; they didn’t have a co-founder.   Serial entrepreneurs   While there are plenty of entrepreneurs on the list who were new to the world of business when they started up, there is a growing number of people who have been involved in start-ups before.   This includes the Flippa.com founders, two of whom are also part of the Wave Digital team. Flippa is featured on the list at number nine, while Wave Digital comes in at number 39.   The entrepreneurs involved in both businesses are Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz.   Harbottle and Mickiewicz are well known in the start-up world, having worked on a number of start-up projects since founding SitePoint in 1999, proving you don’t need to devote yourself to just one idea.   Born in the GFC   Like last year, a lot of businesses on this year’s list were started during a tough time: the global financial crisis. This includes Energy Intelligence, founded in 2008 by David Regenspurger.   “My wife and I lost our life savings in the collapse of Opes Prime in early 2008… Our only assets after the collapse were a few thousand dollars in the bank,” Regenspurger says.   “With no mortgage and no money, I decided to leave paid employment and step into an abyss to start my own business.   “I had nothing to lose, having already lost everything, and worked on the basis that all I had to do was bring in enough money each month to feed my family and pay the rent.”   Cashing in on the boom   In third place on the list is Primero Group, which specialises in engineering and construction for the resources industry.   “We provide engineering and construction on resource projects that are too small for our bigger competitors,” it says.   Further down the list at number 10 is Maniac Mining, which specialises in permanent recruitment and temporary labour hire for the mining and mining services industries.   “Maniac Mining are the FIFO experts. Our experience is diverse and comes from direct firsthand knowledge of construction, operational and maintenance functions,” the company says.   “It’s what we specialise in because it’s what we know best.”   Retail isn’t dead   Despite the gloomy forecast for the retail sector, retail start-ups are fighting fit. Vinomofo, Interior Secrets and myCube Australia are just a few of the names shaking things up, whether it’s online or offline.   Other businesses worth mentioning are Ice Online and Temple & Webster.   Food and food-related services   In 37th spot on the list is Harvest Box, which offers consumers healthy snacks, delivered to their work or home.   The founders started Harvest Box because they wanted to create a business they could be proud of – a business that contributes to healthier eating choices for people at work or home.   In essence, Harvest Box aims to eliminate “calorie-laden junk-stops at the vending machine”.   Further up the list, in fourth spot, is Zwift International, which provides online solutions to independent restaurants.   “My extensive hospitality experience, combined with a strong passion for technology, resulted in a frustration that restaurants were falling behind the tech curve,” says founder Brett Chandler.   “I wanted to empower small businesses to take advantage of eCommerce.”

Five top business ideas that made millions

3:38AM | Thursday, 14 March

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

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.

2012 BRW Young Rich List – eight standouts from a tech dominated year

9:05AM | Thursday, 27 September

The 2012 BRW Young Rich List has a strong start-up and tech flavor, with Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar heading the rankings.

Web start-up Tweaky.com hunts for a “founder apprentice”

8:13PM | Sunday, 19 August

Australian online start-up Tweaky.com is on the hunt for a “founder apprentice”, who will work closely with the business’ co-founder Ned Dwyer on day-to-day operations.

99designs ramps up European plans with purchase of German rival 12designer

8:58AM | Thursday, 9 August

Australian start-up 99designs has opened the doors of its Berlin office after making its first acquisition in German design marketplace 12designer, one year after raising $35 million.

Tweaky.com scores $450,000 from industry heavyweights

10:03PM | Thursday, 25 October

99designs co-founder Mark Harbottle is among the group of investors that has sunk almost half a million dollars into Tweaky.com, a marketplace dedicated to minor website customisations.

Making waves in mature Melbourne

4:39AM | Monday, 2 April

Melbourne   Population: 4.07 million   Start-up survival rate: 74.3% (2007 to 2009)

Cashed-up 99designs aims to boost growth

3:25AM | Monday, 11 March

Crowdsource design giant 99designs says start-ups looking to secure funding need to justify how the money will be used, after the company revealed how its $35 million investment will be used to accelerate its growth.

10 quick-fire start-ups

5:32AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Starting a business used to be a rather drawn out affair. With all the planning and fund raising involved, it would be unthinkable that you could launch a company within a week.

Crowdsource design giant 99designs launches $99,999 student fund

1:53AM | Tuesday, 24 January

Crowdsource design giant 99designs has launched a $99,999 fund for design students, promising cash for winning entries, as it celebrates its 99,999th design contest.

99designs expands into non-English speaking countries

9:02AM | Friday, 23 September

Crowdsource design giant 99designs has begun launching localised versions of its site, including an Australian version supported by more local sales and marketing staff ahead of an international expansion effort.

Retail and tech start-ups fare well in Young Rich list

9:16PM | Thursday, 22 September

Some of Australia’s leading start-up entrepreneurs have made an appearance onto this year’s BRW Young Rich list, with the tech and retail sectors well represented.

Meet the female tech pioneers

5:29AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Peruse images of the founders of the world’s leading tech start-ups and you’ll probably notice a few common features – youth, casual attire and, tellingly, male.

99designs co-founder makes Inc.com’s 30 Under 30

1:55AM | Tuesday, 24 January

Matt Mickiewicz, the co-founder of Australian-based start-up 99designs, has been named in Inc.com’s 30 Under 30, alongside the founders of Dropbox, Foodspotting and Grasshopper.

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.

How to snare a US investor

4:13PM | Saturday, 28 April

The business world has been abuzz with talk of a second dotcom bubble, fuelled by the huge public debut by LinkedIn last week.

The crowd-source king

4:36AM | Friday, 27 April

Mark Harbottle happily admits he’s a “start-up guy”. The co-founder of SitePoint and 99Designs may not be steeped in the pinstripe and spreadsheet CEO culture, but he can be relied upon to come up with a sector-defining online idea.

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