Mick Liubinskas

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Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane among the world’s most vibrant startup event scenes: Survey

2:48PM | Sunday, 22 February

Sydney and Melbourne are in the top 10 cities outside the US for meetup groups, with Brisbane and Auckland also in the top 20, according to figures from US data analytics firm RJMetrics.   It is worth noting that the figures count the total number of memberships in each city, rather than the number of unique members. This means that one person who belongs to six groups will be counted as six memberships in the figures.   The figures show Sydney has 47,152 memberships, making it the sixth largest startup community outside the US, narrowly beating out seventh-placed Melbourne with 38,888. Meanwhile, Brisbane claims 16th place while, across the Tasman, Auckland takes out the 18th spot.   1 London, GB 210,148 2 Toronto, CA 73,476 3 Tel Aviv-Yafo, IL 63,699 4 Paris, FR 52,789 5 Vancouver, CA 52,366 6 Sydney, AU 47,152 7 Melbourne, AU 38,888 8 Bangalore, IN 37,963 9 Berlin, DE 32,652 10 Amsterdam, NL 30,902 11 Stockholm, SE 28,349 12 Oslo, NO 23,306 13 Pune, IN 16,690 14 Singapore, SG 16,612 15 Madrid, ES 15,947 16 Brisbane, AU 15,033 17 Hyderabad, IN 14,665 18 Auckland, NZ 13,115 19 Barcelona, ES 12,800 20 Budapest, HU 12,712   Silicon Beach Sydney organiser Bart Jellema told StartupSmart Australia’s startup meetup groups have grown tremendously over recent years.   “Five or six years ago there were a bunch of us, but no meetups – I think [muru-D’s] Mick Liubinskas might have been one of the first to organise one – so we decided to meet up. At times, we’ve had 40 people per week and other times just a handful. It’s been interesting to see it go from nothing to such a strong community,” Jellema says.   “You don’t go to events to try to get something out of it. But at some stage, someone will talk about a service that’s useful to you, or perhaps you’ll meet a lawyer or accountant and they’ll give you a recommendation.”   The sentiment is shared by Startup Victoria event manager Thomas Anbeek, who describes networking events as crucial to the startup ecosystem.   “They’re a central meeting point where founders who work alone can get together one day a week and drink some beer, eat pizza and make connections,” Anbeek says.   “Networking is crucial. As a founder, you’re doing it by yourself. But building a business is not something you can do alone, and so it’s crucial to have people around who can help you.”   Aside from Silicon Beach, regular Sydney meetups include the Sydney Tech Startup Meetup, Disruptive Startups Sydney, the Fishburners meetups, Sydney Startups Friday Drinks, Startup Grind Sydney, Lean Startup Sydney and Startup Founder 101. Meanwhile, key Melbourne meetups include Lean Startup Melbourne, Melbourne Silicon Beach, Startup Grind Melbourne and Startup Melbourne.   There are also more specialist meetup groups for areas such as robotics, health tech and fin tech in most of the major capital cities, while many regional startup communities in cities such as Cairns, Bega, Geelong, Wollongong and Toowoomba also host regular or semi-regular events.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Three ways to improve your pitch deck

1:07AM | Wednesday, 21 January

The difference between a good pitch and an average one can see your startup either getting much-needed venture capital or the cold shoulder from investors.   A critical aspect of a pitch is the pitch deck – the slideshow that outlines essential details about the business, the problem it’s solving, competitors and market size.   StartupSmart spoke to two industry experts for their thoughts on how to improve your pitch deck.   1. Tailor the pitch to the investor and keep it simple   Mick Liubinskas, from muru-D, told StartupSmart it’s firstly important to recognise that there are different kinds of pitch decks and they serve very different purposes.   “A pitch deck sent is completely different to a pitch deck presented,” he says.   “Unfortunately for an entrepreneur, you’re going to end up with 50 different versions of your pitch deck over time.”   Liubinskas says one of the biggest mistakes people make is to put too much information in their presentation.   “You’ve really got to consider your audience and objectives,” he says.   “If your objective is to get another meeting or interest you don’t have to do everything – you only have to do enough to get another meeting. If you’re pitching to an event where there are multiple pitches, it’s important to get the one message across and reiterate that like crazy until it sinks in.”   Alan Jones, chief growth hacker at Blue Chilli, agrees.   “Too much information in a deck makes it hard to find the essential investment information,” he says.   “Investors don’t have the time to re-read in detail, and you reduce the chances they’ll recall this information when discussing your pitch with others influential in the investment decision.”   Jones also says he sees far too many pitch decks that follow the class VC pitch deck template.   “Do you want to blend in, or stand out?” he asks.   2. Show confidence and deliver on your promises   Investors are looking to see if there is a big opportunity in your startup, Liubinskas says, and one thing they look for when considering an investment is whether the team has something that makes them stand out from the crowd.   “Does the team have a significant differentiator? Does the team have some momentum?” he asks.   “A lot of people use future language… ‘We are going to try.’ But they [the investors] need to have supreme confidence.”   The other thing to keep in mind is that investors typically invest in startups after they establish that there has been a track record of some kind.   “Unless you’ve done business with them before, you need to show them you’ve already executed and they’re probably going to want to see you execute three to four times,” he says.   “What I encourage people to do after a pitch is to communicate to the investors once a week… go back and show you can do what you say you can do.”   Jones says while it’s important to give investors the information they need to make an informed decision about your startup, you should also play to your strengths and understand that emotion also plays a role in the pitching process. This could mean cracking a joke if you’re naturally funny, or having a strong narrative arc if you’re good at telling a story.   “Plan to engage their emotions,” Jones says.   “If you’re successful, you can raise a round on better terms than your competitors, give yourself more runway, and have a little more breathing room. Maybe even buy a foosball table.”   3. Don’t just talk about the product and avoid buzzwords   Sometimes as an entrepreneur it is easy to get caught up explaining how a new product or service works instead of explaining why people need it, according to Liubinskas. A good way to test out your pitch deck is to present to a stranger and see if there is any jargon that stops them from understanding.   “Most people spend far too much time on the product,” he says.   “If I don’t think there’s a problem worth solving then I won’t think the product is worth it.”   Liubinskas says it is also crucial to talk about the market. However, too many entrepreneurs only do a top-down analysis in their pitches.   “So they say the total market for this product is $10 billion, but they should also do a bottom-up analysis which says if we get 10,000 in sales at $100 each that’s a million dollars in revenue.”   Jones says entrepreneurs should avoid using buzzwords in their pitch decks whenever possible.   “Repeated use has blinded your audience to these words,” he says.   “Buzzwords try to describe what your solution is but that’s not really important. It’s not as important as explaining what it does for your customer, and how much your customer cares about that being done for them.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Four things to keep in mind when considering a pivot

1:32AM | Tuesday, 6 January

Many Australian startups have pivoted into successful companies. But how do you know it’s the right time to change the direction of your company, or the product or service it provides?   StartupSmart spoke to several entrepreneurs for their top tips.   1. Make sure you and your team have enough drive   Ned Dwyer, founder of Elto, says it is important to take into account whether you as the founder – as well as your team – have enough energy to see the pivot through.   “It’s the right time to pivot when you know that you’ve exhausted your current line of pursuing product-market fit with your current product or market, but you still have enough gas in the tank to keep going,” he says.   “When I say ‘gas in the tank’ I mean that not only do you have some runway to keep going, but the team is still passionate about the problem you’re tackling and can be motivated to run at a completely new direction.”   2. Know when it might be best to just start over   Dwyer also points out that sometimes, changing the focus of the startup or tweaking the product or service is just not enough.   “There is nothing worse for the psyche of a founder than trying to pivot when you don’t have any gas in the tank,” he says.   “That is the definition of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. If it’s a completely new product, with a different market and solving a different problem, then it might not be a pivot – it might be time to start again.”   3. Test your product, then test it again   Mick Liubinskas, web strategist and co-founder of Pollenizer, says entrepreneurship requires many contradictions.   “One is that you must be both pigheadedly stubborn and stay true to your course and listen a lot and change course all the time,” he says.   “The hard part of knowing when to pivot is that you never have perfect information. All you have is your MVP, your first guess on customers, your first attempt to sell it and a thousand other variables.”   Liubinskas advises entrepreneurs to make a change proportionate to their failure and then retest. After a success, he recommends retesting three more times to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.   4. Set clear measures for success and failure   For Catherine Eibner, founder of Project Tripod and adviser at Blue Chilli, the right time to pivot “should actually be very clear” – especially if entrepreneurs are using tools such as Lean Startup Machine’s Validation Board.   “The key is having the measures of success and failure defined before completing any tests so you know what to adjust – the problem you are solving or the customer you are solving it for,” she says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Dear Australia, this is how you build a startup ecosystem, love New Zealand

11:01AM | Tuesday, 11 November

Aiming globally from the outset and smart government support: these are a couple of lessons Australian entrepreneurs can learn from New Zealand’s startup ecosystem, according to The Icehouse’s Mark MacLeod-Smith.   MacLeod-Smith is marketing validation executive at The Icehouse, a New Zealand accelerator, and says while he doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of the Australian startup ecosystem, he does know what New Zealand does well.   And that is – focus globally, out of sheer necessity. Global focus “With a population of over 23 million, Australia is almost six times larger than New Zealand,” he says.   “Using that as a proxy for local markets, it is easy to see why New Zealand companies need to be focused on global markets from day one. The local market, in most cases, simply isn’t large enough to sustain a company.   “So in New Zealand we tend to see companies that are ‘born global’ and are heavily focused on international markets from the get go. This tends to be easier with digital products where logistics and the related complexities are eliminated.”   Starting with a global focus is a notion that Australian startups don’t do enough, according to Muru-d entrepreneur-in-residence Mick Liubinskas. That’s a shame, because there are advantages to taking such a mindset. Soft landings in offshore markets “With this global mindset, it means that companies need to get offshore quickly, which is never an easy feat,” MacLeod-Smith says.   “To assist with this there is a great initiative called the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco. It aims to be the first stop of any technology startup that is looking to move into the US market. Providing much more than just a workspace, it plugs companies into a community and has a valuable network that can connect companies with VCs, partners and prospective customers to help with funding or early sales.   “It is a fantastic initiative that has helped many Kiwi success stories such as Xero, Vend and many more.” Government support done well MacLeod-Smith says another of the strengths of New Zealand’s startup ecosystem is the role government plays.   “The New Zealand government is a strong advocate of the ecosystem, providing support across critical areas,” he says.   “As an example the New Zealand Venture investment fund provides $40 million of matched investment alongside selected Seed Co-investment partners (which are typically angel investment groups) on a 1:1 basis into seed or startup high growth New Zealand businesses.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Should you stay or should you go? The big question for many Australian startups

11:48AM | Monday, 10 November

Startup founders need to get out of Australia and see the standard set by entrepreneurs in successful tech hubs around the world, according to Startup Victoria’s Scott Handsaker, but that does not necessarily mean they should move there.   “No matter what kind of business you have, Australia focused or globally focused, you need to spend time in successful ecosystems like New York, Silicon Valley, London, Berlin, those kinds of places,” he says.   “The amount of time they put in, the amount of hustle, that shows you the amount of work you need to do when you get back to Melbourne, or Australia, and the level of intensity you need for your business, they just move so much quicker.”   Handsaker says it’s successful startups that will grow the ecosystem, not where they are based, so a decision needs to be based on what will give them the best shot.   Exto Partners managing director Peter Hammond says Australian startups need to consider a couple of things when trying to determine whether or not moving overseas will give them the best chance of being successful.   “Some companies might focus on Australia and be able to get the model right, and be able to start generating revenues,” he says.   “Alternatively their business model might need scale, and so it’s important to go into those bigger markets. It’s all a matter of focus. You’ve got to prove your model so your investors have confidence your business model makes sense, and you’ve got to be driving revenue.”   Pollenizer co-founder, mentor/investor in StartMate and Muru-d entrepreneur in residence Mick Liubinskas says there are opportunities for Australian startups that focus on global sales.   “Entrepreneurs should do whatever they can to grow their own businesses,” he says.   “My view is they absolutely should be going overseas for sales. Safesite out of Brisbane, they came down to Muru-d and they had three trial sites in Australia. Through the Muru-d program they got to Los Angeles and made some connections and now they’re moving part of their team to LA. They’ve got local advisers and have raised a bit of money locally.   “We have a lot going for us in that most of the world is happy to work with Australia. We have no enemies, so that provides a good opportunity to go global.   “It makes a huge impact every time there’s an entrepreneur at that stage in Australia, whether or not it succeeds or doesn’t, it actually adds to the ecosystem significantly, their experience is as important as money.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Four health tech startup competition finalists take home a $10,000 prize, as local sector gains critical mass

10:09AM | Tuesday, 14 October

The four finalists for the inaugural Janssen Health and Technology Challenge (HaTCH) have been named, with one of the judges saying Melbourne, in particular, is close to developing “a critical mass of ideas”.   Each of the four finalists receives $10,000 to go towards the further development of their concepts. They will further workshop their ideas with the judges in a full-day session on October 30, before pitching their ideas to the independent judging panel on December 2 for a chance to win $100,000 to commercialise their idea.   The judging panel includes World Medical Association council chair Mukesh Haikerwal and former General Practice Registrar Australia chief executive Amit Vohra. They are joined by Strativity Group Australia and New Zealand partner Cyrus Allen, Janssen Australia/New Zealand managing director Chris Hourigan and Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas.   Vohra told Private Media health tech and biotech sectors have the potential to create a long-term home in Australia, but warned it’s still early days for the sector.   “For the first time, Australia is creating an ecosystem around health startups. A lot of innovative stuff comes out of Silicon Valley because you have a lot of startups in a small area,” Vohra says.   “As with most entrepreneurial activity, it needs a critical mass of ideas and Melbourne for the first time is starting to experience this.”   Vohra explains Australia has never been a natural hub for robotics because it never had a strong local robotics industry, and that much of the early use of devices such as Google Glass for therapeutic purposes has been in Silicon Valley.   Instead, he says the key strengths of the local health tech and biotechnology sector centre around data systems, data analysis, information sharing, wearables and nanotechnology.   “There’s a whole space around consumer wearables that kicked off in the past two years. Before that, there was the app revolution, and now we’re in the next phase of that, with wearables that log that information,” Vohra says.   “The next phase gets more sophisticated, where the information gets sent back to your medical practitioner, rather than just collected for lifestyle purposes.”   Vohra says another area Australian health tech startups are strong in is information sharing systems, which allow a patient’s electronics records to be stored in a single repository.   “Another area, and not just in Australia, is around information exchange. There’s a huge amount of fragmentation in information sharing across the health system,” he says.   “Your local general practitioner has a raft of information. But if you go somewhere else for a procedure, that information is sitting in a different silo.”   Storing information in a single repository allows for better quality of care at a lower cost, according to Vohra. This is because each intervention, whether it is delivered through a general practitioner, a hospital or a nursing home, will be logged in a single system, allowing medical professionals access to more accurate and complete data about a patient’s health.   The four 2014 HaTCH finalists, chosen from 40 entrants, are as follows:   1. Footprints: Falls in the elderly are often result to a deterioration of gait. The Footprint sensor will improve monitoring of gait levels and thereby allow intervening before a fall happens.   2. Life Picture: Chronic diseases involve changes to the molecular pathways of individuals. The Life Picture health monitoring system uses biomarkers and smartphone technology to improve early disease detection.   3. Respiro Flu Test: Seasonal influenza kills more Australians than car accidents. The Respiro Flu Test is the first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for influenza infection in children and adults. It takes less than 20 minutes and detects all strains of human influenza including H1N1 and bird flu.   4. Track Active: Exercise is considered to be the single most important treatment modality for addressing chronic health and musculoskeletal problems. Track Active is a cloud based platform for health and medical professionals to efficiently prescribe customized, evidence-based exercise programs to assist patients in recovery.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Next Carnegie’s Den pitching contest opens for applications

9:15PM | Monday, 15 September

Applications have opened for the next Carnegie’s Den, as two of the finalists from its last event remain locked in negotiations for investment.   Carnegie’s Den, a regular event, gives startups a platform to gain media exposure and funding from a network of prospective investors.   The best applicants are chosen to pitch to a room full of potential investors and a panel of expert judges.   Social media analytics startup Digivizer took home $15,000 in prize money and a $1 million investment opportunity after winning the judge’s choice award at Carnegie’s Den in May.   M.H Carnegie and Co head of new business ventures Nigel Hawtin says Digiviser and fellow finalist Selera Labs are still negotiating regarding possible investment.   Selera Labs is a software developer that has developed data analytics that improves financial governance, ensures transactional compliance and automates internal auditing processes.   Hawtin says investment has not been finalised yet, as investors do their “due diligence” and negotiations regarding valuation continue.   A new set of judges join Mark Carnegie on the judging panel for the latest event, including Fishburners general manager Murray Hurps, Scale Investors founder Laura McKenzie, 4Cabling founder Nicole Kersh, and muru-D entrepreneur-in-residence Mick Liubinskas.   “We’ve gone for a younger judging panel, more aligned to the startup space,” Hawtin says of the judges.   M.H Carnegie and Co is looking for later stage startups. Hawtin says while startups which haven’t been to market or haven’t raised capital won’t be ruled out, it’s more likely the finalists will be further along.   Recently a number of Australian investors highlighted that while they receive plenty of applications, often the quality of startups is a problem. Hawtin says the experience of Carnegie’s Den is similar.   “We end up getting enough, but absolutely, they have not been as advanced as it would be in other countries,” he says.   “We have engaged, spoken to incubators, and they feel like they’re doing a better job. I think it’s just one of those younger spaces in Australia and most people go abroad if they want funding.”   Applications close on October 10, with finalists set to be announced on October 27, before pitching at Carnegie’s Den on November 21.   To apply, visit mhcarnegie.com/carnegiesden.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Startup ecosystems and compound interest: the case for keeping your startup in Australia

9:43AM | Monday, 1 September

Why are so many people working to help keep as many startups as possible in Australia?   Good question.   Firstly from me, the priority is to create successful entrepreneurs wherever they need to go. Startups are hard enough without putting aggressive limits on them. Start, work hard, do what you need to do (with integrity), keep doing it for a long time, and hopefully you will create something great.   But, if you can do it here in Australia – excellent!   Why? Because of compound interest.   In 2013 I went to Israel with a startup road trip with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and to Russia as a part of the Young Entrepreneurs Summit. I investigated what made startup ecosystems a success and I found a few interesting things.   Firstly, it took a small number of tenacious people committed to grow it.   Secondly, it took work at all levels of the industry to ensure that all of the parts required to support the companies could be provided locally.   Thirdly, it took 20 years of patience for compound interest to really kick in.   "Compound interest? What economics lingo jargon is this, Mick?”   I’m glad you asked. Here is a presentation I’ve put together to try and explain compound interest and why it makes a huge impact long term to keep companies in Australia.   Startup Ecosystems and Compound Interest - Australia from Mick Liubinskas   To add to the excitement of compound interest, I’ve put together a spreadsheet. It’s not tracked to real numbers, it’s just showing the principle.   Laps Companies started Success rate Companies succeed Total angel investors created New jobs created Total jobs created 1 200 10% 20 40 1,000 1,000 2 400 11% 44 128 2,200 3,400 Australia 3 800 12% 96 320 4,800 8,880 4 1,600 13% 208 736 10,400 21,056 5 2,400 14% 336 1,408 16,800 42,067 Israel 6 2,880 15% 432 2,272 21,600 72,081 7 3,456 16% 553 3,378 27,648 114,145 8 4,147 17% 705 4,788 35,251 172,225 9 4,977 18% 896 6,580 44,790 251,460 Silicon Valley 10 5,972 19% 1,135 8,849 56,734 358,485   To reiterate what I said in the presentation about what you can do to help speed up the compound interest: 1. Invest in an Australian startup. Even $5000 and one day per month will make a massive difference. 2. Help connect Australian startups to Australian investors. 3. Lobby government to change ESVCLP to apply to all startup investing. 4. If you’re a co-founder, try extra hard to find the right investor in Australia. But, do what you need to do.   Mick is the entrepreneur in residence at muru-D, a technology accelerator that focuses on helping companies grow while staying in Australia. Applications are currently open and close on Sept 15.

Five reasons why startups need to focus on sales

8:58PM | Wednesday, 13 August

Startups are hard. But life is better when you have sales. Here is why I encourage people to spend a ratio of 50:1 on sales versus capital.   Startups are far too ‘popular’ right now and, unfortunately, reading too much TechCrunch will have you believing that you start, raise capital and exit.   The goal is to build a business, not start a startup. Good business is the creation of value and the realisation of that is profit, which is when your revenues are more than your costs. Sounds dumb, but it’s easy to lose sight of that amongst the ‘thrill’ of entrepreneurship. You want to keep your costs down, but none of that matters without revenue.   1. Sales shows value   Product market fit is the goal of all startups and nothing says that those two things fit together in a real, business-like way more than sales. A customer saw so much value in the product that they gave you hard earned money for it.   2. Sales pays for things   Cash in the bank lets you pay for servers, two minute noodles, bandwidth. For team members, it’s a great day when your equity is worth more than cash, so you would rather pay for things than give away equity.   3. Sales pays for growth   Having a scalable growth model means when you spend a dollar on sales and marketing, more than a dollar comes back. Without revenue, the only way to keep growing is diluting through capital raising or crossing your fingers for ‘going viral’.   4. Sales attracts investors   Of all the numbers we think about, sales is the hardest for someone to reject. Visits, users, engagement and retention are all nice but nothing says ‘there is something here’ to an investor like sales.   5. Sales avoids investors   On the flip side, having enough sales can mean that you don’t need an investor. Who wants to raise money if they can fund costs and growth with sales?   So stop going to capital raising events and start going to sales events. Read sales books. Hire sales people. Be a salesperson.   Mick Liubinskas is a co-founder of Pollenizer, director at WooBoard, entrepreneur in residence at muru-D and director at Oomph. This post originally appeared on the Pollenizer blog.

FRIDAY TIDBITS: Bug-fixing onesies, Silk Road bitcoins and Sydney Founders' fiasco

6:10PM | Sunday, 22 June

Bug-fixing ain’t fun, but is it any better in a onesie? Canva thinks so, holding its first annual fix-it day at Canva HQ dressed in Gen Y’s favourite party gear.   We had our first annual fix-it-day at Canva HQ in Sydney - in onesies! Which is your fave? #StartUpLife #CanvaLove pic.twitter.com/9kfCqk1A9v — Canva (@canva) June 19, 2014 Just quietly though, onesies are little passé.   Australian startup outed as bidding for Silk Road bitcoin inventory Oops. A list of individuals interested in the auction of the 30,000 bitcoins confiscated from black marketplace Silk Road were outed via BCC email by the US Marshals Service (USMS), in charge of auctioning the FBI seized bitcoins.   We found it interesting to note that Australian Sam Lee, co-founder of Bitcoins Reserve was one of the recipients.   According to CoinDesk, “the original intent of the email was more specifically to inform the interested parties about an updated FAQ related to the bitcoin auction”.   “However, the resulting leaked list details a diverse group of individuals and possible bidders representing members of the bitcoin community and the investment world.”   End of the road for Delimiter   Renai LeMay has announced he’s closing Australian tech news site Delimiter and taking up a new gig with Greens Senator Scott Ludlum.   “The site’s success is a testament to what can be achieved when a writer picks one topic and focuses consistently on that topic for years,” LeMay says in his sign off post.   LeMay shares some impressive site stats too:   6000 articles 10.7 million page impressions (currently 120k unique browsers and 350k page impressions a month) 9000 email newsletter subscribers 114,000 reader comments   And while we’re personally supportive of anyone trying to get a media startup off the ground – it has to be one of the toughest gigs around – the end of Delimiter is not being mourned by everyone. Many have also taken issue with LeMay’s love for Ayn Rand and the conflict with his new gig.   “Still chuckling at a certain wannabe entrepreneur that named his business John Galt Publishing who has now taken a job as a political staffer with the Greens,” wrote one critic.   “A Greens’ Libertarian?” mused others.   Politicking aside, job well done, we say, and good luck LeMay.   Sydney Founder Council cock-ups (continued) It claims to be the work of “five experienced Sydney-based entrepreneurs [the website actually has six]” who “have volunteered to lead the charge on building this collaborative system,” but the Sydney Founder Council has become a rather farcical cock-up for the Sydney startup scene.   For starters, the email list for the council clearly identifies everyone’s email, making it a worry for many in terms of spam.   The list has also been hijacked by a series of serious claims about improper conduct of others in the community.   Freelancer Matt Barrie called the whole thing  “the biggest cock-up I've seen yet.”   It saw Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas leave this auto-reply:   “Thanks for your messages. Unfortunately due to half-hearted, half-arsed, management by committee, unfocused, part time, squabbling over the startup ecosystem approach by us all (including me, actually, especially me) I'm currently on leave.   “Clearly we're not ready for 'the next level' so it's back to the tools – which are working as/with entrepreneurs to build more successful global companies. After we do a few more of those we can all catch up for a beer and whinge about the lack of VC, how the government doesn't understand us and how we should all just work together.   “Until then.... global sales solves everything."   Got any tidbits? All small items and gossip welcome. Email us at [email protected]

LA opens up the rolodex for Aussie muru-D accelerator startups

5:16AM | Tuesday, 20 May

Nine startups from the muru-D accelerator have returned from a trip to the United States where they were pursued heavily by a number of groups in Los Angeles to use the city as their gateway to the US market, according to muru-D startup head coach Mick Liubinskas.   The startups, which include ChattyKidz, FarmBot, Lime Rocket, Momentum Cloud, Open Learning, Pixc, Safesite, Vistr and Zed Technologies spent two days in San Francisco and three in Los Angeles.   “In LA there was a really clear indication that Los Angeles wanted to be the gateway for the US market in terms of sales,’’ Liubinskas says.   “The big push for muru-D is to get global sales.   “There’s no denying Silicon Valley is vastly ahead in terms of capital, but Los Angeles really opened up the rolodex for the companies.   “We met with the Silicon Beach crew there and local economic development groups.”   Liubinskas says a couple of startups chose to stay on in the US for a little longer.   One of the companies staying on is FarmBot, which has developed a monitoring system for farms, remote infrastructure and environments that provides significant cost savings and risk minimisation.   Representatives from the startup are travelling to Nebraska to meet with ranchers who are interested in their system.   “The aim of the trip was to get a bit of inspiration about some of the bigger, more active markets,’’ Liubinskas says.   “To also get a bit of fear in the boots about how competitive, how many players were in the market and how fast it was moving.   “In San Francisco we had some excellent sessions and got some great feedback about how the companies would be received in the US, as well as some investor interest.   “It was really positive, companies spending time together, pitching and getting a lot of very constructive feedback.”   Liubinskas says while there was interest, none of the companies received any offers of investment during the trip.   “We’re halfway through the program now, so the companies have another three months to go before they’re in need,’’ he says.   “We said we weren’t raising money at the moment, but it’s easier raising money when you don’t need to.   “So they got a lot of interest, but it was only a week.”   Meanwhile, the deadline for Melbourne-based accelerator AngelCube’s AC14 program is fast approaching.   Applications close in a little under two weeks’ time on Friday, May 30.   For more information, head over to AngelCube’s website.

Faking it ‘til you make it

4:15PM | Monday, 14 April

We asked a number of well-known Australian entrepreneurs to share their stories around “faking it ‘til you make it”. Here’s what they had to say:   “When I was 17 my friend and I got asked to install a 10 computer network at a local business. It was 1991 and the product they wanted was Lantastic with a 10 kilobyte coax bus network. We said we had done that a number of times and got the job. On Friday at 5pm they packed up and left. We opened the boxes and started reading the manuals. Monday morning at 4am after about four hours sleep all weekend we got it running. Scary. But fun.” – Mick Liubinskas, head coach at Muru-D.   “One day I find myself onstage in front of hundreds of tech people. I'm supposed to be sharing stories of building (and let’s face it – fucking up) a life and a business. Suddenly, I realise that I am an imposter. These folks know their shit. They sit tapping on their keyboards with furious determination, simultaneously tweeting, coding and I dunno, maybe internally figuring out some epic longstanding algorithmic problem in their head. These guys eat books of code for breakfast. I on the other hand can barely figure out how my iPhone works and have still never managed to successfully download a movie without my computer, or my face, exploding.   “The MC reads out my bio, who is this mythical creature he speaks of? Oh yeah, me. I think to myself, yep I've done all those things. I belong here. But still I feel like a fraud. Am I on glue? How the hell did I get here? Why the fuck did I agree to this? I'm so nervous I almost vomit on my shoes. But here’s the thing, half of them look bored anyways and it’s too late to back out now, so I just roll with it. Instead of telling them what they should do, I just rock up on stage, am more vulnerable than I ever thought possible and I simply tell these folks a story or two.   “And what do you know? They like it, they learn something, they laugh, they're inspired. I breathe a silent sigh of relief. But that doesn’t mean that it became easier. But I keep doing it. Constantly. With false bravado. People believe I'm a speaker. They believe I'm an entrepreneur. And one day I wake up and realise that all of a sudden, I am both.” – Avis Mulhall, serial entrepreneur and founder of Think, Act, Change.   “When I joined 99designs in January 2009, I was pretty much a one-man show. I worked out of my living room in San Francisco for over a year, building and moderating our designer community, meeting with potential partners, helping customers via a basic online chat system, writing press releases…you name it, I did it. Though 99designs launched in Melbourne, the company was focused on the US market from day one, with an American-English site and all transactions in US dollars. Little did our early customers know that the company’s US presence consisted of just one person working around the clock in a tiny San Francisco apartment! Patrick Llewellyn, our CEO, relocated to join me in 2010, and now I’m one of more than 50 staff in our SF office, with over 100 employees worldwide." –Jason Aiken, product manager, 99designs.   "If you sell a product or service to US companies, you need to look like a US company otherwise you'll have a lot of friction. Incorporate a US sub and print business cards with a US address and phone number and route the number to either voicemail, an answering service or your local mobile number. Just be prepared to take a few early morning calls!" – Matt Barrie, CEO Freelancer.com   “When I was a theatre director, I would design the brochure before the show. I would get thousands of them printed and tell everybody that this was what they would come and see in a few months. Because I did so, I needed to deliver. Because I did so, I defined my focus and something to target. Because I did so, people know what I was working on and knew how to help. I sung the world into existence.” –Phil Morle, CEO Pollenizer.”   And here’s a different perspective on the idea that we should “fake it ‘til we make it” from a blog post by The Fetch CEO Kate Kendall, who declined to share a story saying she didn’t think we should encourage the idea:   “I had a micro-epiphany the other day when it came to looking at how I tell the story of my company. For a while, something in my gut wasn’t quite right – I also couldn’t get my head around how to play the game. Then it hit me – that’s because 80% of startup land is bullshit and I hate bullshit. I just can’t do it. I can’t lie (well, not express my version of reality). It’s all vanity metrics, bloated achievements and boring same same. I was viewing a stream of old accelerator pitches the other day and was mesmerised by how impressive each founder was. It was like watching magic. But then I stood back and realised I’d heard of none of the companies and upon a Google DuckDuckGo search, found minimal product or press trails on the web. I questioned if many were still around.   “Remember: you can progress and tell it like it is.” – Kate Kendall, CEO The Fetch

Do you remember your first time? Twitter launches tool to help find your first tweet

3:45AM | Friday, 21 March

In celebration of its 8th birthday Twitter has launched FirstTweet, a tool that helps users find the very first message they sent.   We take a look at what some of Australia’s top startup folk had to say in their first tweet.   First off, here’s mine, clearly not aware of the location irrelevance of social media:   Anyone here from Perth, Australia?— Bronwen Clune (@bronwen) February 3, 2007   And StartupSmart journalist Rose Powell took the opportunity to be excited about being on Twitter:   @kirifarrell I know, I feel like this weekend went so fast. And looook, I'm on Twitter!— Rose Powell (@rosepowell) May 13, 2011   The Fetch’s Kate Kendall’s first tweet was in that awkward third person thing we used to do:   is being a night owl— Kate Kendall (@KateKendall) June 15, 2008   Atlassian cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted about tweeting:   is making his first twitter post - and feels like a twit - albeit a connected one apparently!— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) January 7, 2008   Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas wanted us to know where he was:   Working from home in Woolloomooloo— Mick Liubinskas (@liubinskas) September 25, 2006   Canva Founder Melanie Perkins went for something fairly safe and vanilla:   Enjoying San Fran and all the exciting tech events it has to offer.— Melanie Perkins (@MelanieCanva) June 5, 2011   Twitter has asked users share their initial messages using #FirstTweet. 

Australia’s oldest start-up incubator Pollenizer turns six: How it’s evolved

3:30PM | Tuesday, 4 March

Pollenizer is a cornerstone of the Australian start-up ecosystem and like any start-up they’ve been evolving constantly.   In the month of their sixth birthday, co-founder Phil Morle spoke to StartupSmart about how they’ve grown, what they’ve learned and what’s next.   “We think our purpose is to build a guild of entrepreneurs across borders. We use the word guild because we’re excited about the idea of people who are united by a common practice, a skill or trade and that’s entrepreneurship and the carving out new of economies,” he says.   Pollenizer began as a venture technology company in 2007. Employing a team of developers and product managers, Morle says they aimed to be the technical co-founder for smart people with good ideas who didn’t know where to go.   The model may sound familiar. It’s similar to the core of what the Blue Chilli accelerator does today.   “Blue Chilli’s model is similar to our old one. It’s a model that is still needed but we needed to evolve to survive and thrive,” Morle says.   This model saw the group cultivate four to six start-ups a year, including break-out success Spreets which sold for $50 million in 2009.   But their early approach was to develop ideas and bring in entrepreneurs almost as employees to run the business.   “We realised that every company goes through moments when it should die. And it’s the founding team’s passion that lets them make it through. So we re-configured Pollenizer so everyone was passionate and aligned because that’s what helps you punch through,” Morle says.   Today, Pollenizer is partly an incubator but much of their revenue and passion is wrapped up in consulting and working with large companies to work with entrepreneurs and implement start-up approaches such as lean and agile.   It was their ongoing work with Telstra that alerted them to the fact the telecommunications giant intended to launch an accelerator program, which co-founder Mick Liubinskas now works.   “We’re stable now but a lot of people think we’re an accelerator or investor, which we’re not,” Morle says.   Pollenizer develops business ideas and then coordinates teams from within their own network. They invest $100,000 in each idea, and bring on board another $100,000 from an external investor. They only launch one or two new companies a year.   Their most recent is True Property, a company seeking to establish a realestate.com.au or domain.com.au-style offering in the Philippines.   “Working with so few companies is definitely a changed position for us. Two years ago I would have talked about starting lots of companies but now we only want to launch companies we can back to the bitter end because it’s hard work and needs all of you,” he says.   Having worked with so many start-ups in their most precarious days, not everything you may hear about Pollenizer will be positive. Morle says he and Liubinskas still support every decision they’ve made so far.   “I honestly believe that every decision we make as a company has to be rich with integrity and we always imagine ourselves on the other side,” he says.   He adds for the companies they decided to pull out of or had disagreements with, they’ve been quick to find solutions such as selling the founder who wants to continue their equity so they can continue on.   “We’ve had all kinds of experiences without entrepreneurs. We’ve had the deepest love and strongest anger from both sides. What we’re doing here is very, very difficult, and emotionally driven in both sides,” Morle says, although he’s quick to level the idea they take an exploitative amount of equity.   “People can only say this if they think we’re an accelerator. But we come up with the ideas, we’re there every step of the way. We don’t take equity, we give it to incentivise the right people and let them know they’re in control.”   Six years of start-up incubating and a couple of years of corporate facilitating means the Pollenizer team has honed their start-up to a smoothly deployed system that enables significant expansion.   In the coming year, Pollenizer will be setting up in Myanmar. Funded by global telco Ooredoo, their job is to help grow a start-up ecosystem as internet penetration goes from 1% of the population to an estimated 70% in three years.   “Asia is exciting to us because it’s an exploding market with so much opportunity. We intend to focus a lot of our resources and efforts there,” Morle says.   Ultimately, Pollenizer hopes to become a network of entrepreneurs and start-ups spanning the Asia-Pacific and facilitating cross-border partnerships.   While the plan is always to create profitable and rapidly growing companies, Morle says even the little moments make the hard slog worth it.     “When we see traction it’s the most wonderful thing. Selling Spreets is the extreme end, but a company today just got their first customer and that was just such a rush, even if it’s just a $50 sale.”   He adds perhaps it’s because the moments are harder to achieve that makes it all the richer.

The Australian tech start-up brain drain: Why are our founders heading overseas?

2:27PM | Wednesday, 19 February

It’s a conversation that regularly occupies the Australian start-up community. Despite several smash hit start-up successes, why do so many of our most successful and innovative start-up leaders take their talents overseas?   Mick Liubinskas, mentor at Telstra accelerator Muru-d and Pollenizer, believes the Australian “brain drain” to abroad (predominantly America) is a result of limited resources and small populations.   He suggests that while the accessible market in Australia is small in one sense, it ought to be regarded as an invite to lift our eyes to others.   “Part of the problem with Australia is our home market isn’t big enough to build a massive company, but it’s not small enough to make start-ups realise they have to be selling globally from the beginning,” Liubinskas says.   Limited population mass is never a death sentence. Liubinskas suggests Australia could learn a lot from countries such as New Zealand and Israel, where tiny populations have installed an accepted wisdom that start-ups need to roll-out their services internationally as quickly as possible.   It is not difficult to understand then why “global from day one” has become a mantra for the Australian start-up community.   But having the capital to establish local sales teams in large markets can be challenging. For many lean start-ups, relocating is the most achievable option.   One example of this is online business development marketplace Elto, which launched here in 2011 and followed their customer core, moving to San Francisco early this year.   Co-founder and chief executive Ned Dwyer told StartupSmart that despite Melbourne’s impressive track record with similar start-ups, it made sense to run their company from the country (and time zone) where 60% of their customers and all their major partners were.   Another key reason behind the move was to avoid regulatory challenges. Dwyer says the regulatory environment in Australia “has made things a little bit complicated for us.”   “We registered our company first in the US then created an Australian subsidiary for our local operations. We're meeting more and more companies who are doing this to make it easier to take US-based investment,” he says.   There are many other factors behind why start-ups regularly leave Australia. One of them concerns accessibility of funding, and all too often involves investors with business expertise in the right fields.   Nitro co-founder and chief executive Sam Chandler told StartupSmart many start-ups who have big ambitions have no choice but to leave Australia because the mid to later stage funding options simply aren’t available.   Launched in Melbourne in 2005, Nitro turned over $25 million 2013. Like Elto, the company is now headquartered in San Francisco.   “In the intervening period between when we moved in 2008 and today, later stage funding has basically fallen in total capital commitment,” Chandler says.   Information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed this week confirmed this. The total amount of new money committed to venture capital industry has fallen significantly, by 77% in 2013.   While Nitro were seeking skilled software marketers rather than capital when they moved, Chandler says the capital ecosystem is the biggest issue for Australia needs to fix, as soon as possible.   “As long as there isn’t an effective capital ecosystem that helps start-ups transition from early stage into the larger scaling stages, the talent and the capital will flee the country,” he says.   “The lack of government support for start-ups and early stage investors won’t hurt Australia this year, or even next. But over the coming 10, 15, 20 years, the nation will pay the price because it takes years for innovation to return on investment.”   Catherine Eibner, lead start-up advisor at venture technology accelerator Blue Chilli, agrees that the exodus of larger tech start-ups to more welcoming markets is a significant concern. Albeit, she says, one Australia can overcome.   “I strongly believe you can build a global company anywhere, especially at the beginning -- when you’re refining the idea and testing product market fit.   “It’s not just about simpler regulation. The bigger issues are access to capital and resources. We’re seeing a lot of both of the latter at the very early stages now,” she says.   Training, attracting and retaining technical talent to Australia are ongoing challenges. Convincing bright people to join emerging companies in a country still finding its start-up feet is another.   Dilip Rao, outgoing chair of Asian-focused entrepreneurial network TiE, has been building tech businesses in Australia for 30 years. He is heading to Silicon Valley to launch his next start-up.   “All start-ups look for three things in the market: markets, money and muscle,” Rao says. “The biggest challenge here is cultural. My mindset is not to look to the government to do anything, because frankly governments don’t have much to do with the success of start-ups.”   Without significant action to bolster all three resources required for a vibrant, self-sustaining ecosystem of fast-growing and lucrative tech companies, Rao says rapid cultural change is unlikely, although he remains hopeful.   “Changing attitudes and growing an ecosystem takes time, success and people coming back,” Rao says. “Maybe 2014 will be the year of inflection, and I’ll be very sorry I left at exactly the wrong time. Here’s hoping.”   We're keen to keep covering this discussion. If you have ideas and opinions to share on this issue, please get in touch: [email protected]

Start-ups welcome federal government consultation on employee share schemes

1:45AM | Wednesday, 22 January

The federal government has announced a new round of consultation on employee share schemes amid ongoing concerns the rules around the schemes are holding back the start-up sector.   The consultation will focus on changes made in 2009 to the treatment of employee share schemes and their impact on businesses, as well as barriers to offering schemes and the costs surrounding them.   “The government is committed to addressing the concerns that have been raised by startups in relation to Employee Share Schemes,” the Treasury’s website says, inviting comment on the schemes.   Start-ups have complained that under the current rules, shares offered to employees as part of their remuneration are taxed when they’re awarded, rather than later, making it harder for cash-strapped early-stage companies to offer competitive pay packages to attract talent.   Pollenizer co-founder and Muru-D accelerator mentor Mick Liubinskas, who’s been lobbying the government for changes for years, told StartupSmart the consultation was a step forward, but start-ups need the issue resolved.   “The fact it’s more consultation, not a response, is disappointing. We’ve been discussing this for 18 months and it’s been an issue for five years,” Liubinskas says.   “Us entrepreneurs are an impatient bunch so we’ll just keep getting on with building our businesses but at least it’s progressing.”   Treasury said it would hold two weeks of direct consultation with start-up stakeholders from January 28 in Melbourne, Sydney and via teleconference.   Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) president Suzanne Campbell told StartupSmart it was an encouraging announcement for tech start-ups and businesses of all sizes, as well as wider Australia.   “I’m pleased the Coalition government is moving speedily towards a solution to address this critical issue for Australian businesses, especially for start-ups and small-to-medium businesses in the ICT sector,” Campbell says.   “I am disappointed by the tight timeframe because it suggests a lack of regard for all of the participants, but it’s still good news.”   Campbell adds it’s a good sign that the dream of many tech-smart people to “live in Australia but work in the world” is getting closer.   “This announcement means we’re getting closer to finally achieving the change we need to become comparable at least,” she says.   “We’re all in global war for talent, for the best ideas and most creative businesses. We want these businesses to be firmly anchored in Australia, not just because it’s a great place to live but because it’s a great place to work, and will hopefully become a great place to build globally competitive businesses.”   Those interested in being part of the discussion can register via the links below the statement, with expressions of interest to take part closing January 24.

How new accelerator Muru D is making its relationship with investor Telstra work

11:30AM | Thursday, 21 November

Managing investors, especially major corporate ones can be a challenge for emerging businesses, but start-up veteran Mick Liubinskas says any concerns he may have had about Telstra reaching out to start-ups have been assuaged.   The co-founder of start-up incubator Pollenizer and Muru D core team member told StartupSmart the team believe the combination had put the new accelerator program Muru D in a good position to make a real impact on start-ups in Australia.   “Telstra has stepped out onto the start-up ledge in the right way, and been realistic and smart about what kind of support they’re giving,” Liubinskas says.   Launched in Sydney in late October, Muru D is seeking 10 start-ups for their first intake.   The selected companies will take part in a six-month accelerator program, and $40,000 in exchange for 6% equity.   “They could’ve thrown a million at these guys, but I reckon this is just the amount of money to get your there but means you can’t quit your job and relax. And it’s for only 6% so it’s still on the founder to work really hard to make it work,” Liubinskas says.   With another accelerator program announcing they’re opening in Sydney just this week, Liubinskas says the increasing amounts of accelerator program is Australia’s densest start-up city was a great sign for the ecosystem.   “At the very least we’ll be able to start to create some competitive tension at the start-up stage. The more options and choice start-ups have the better,” Liubinskas says.   “We’re hoping the competitive change will reach to the angel level, attract more capital and hopefully one day it might begin to influence the VC (venture capital) level too.”   Liubinskas adds they’re hoping at least half of the 10 companies will progress, but they’ll view the program as a success if 10-20% of the companies survive and thrive in the long term.   “We’re really aiming to keep the companies here. If they need to go overseas, they need to go overseas but we’re doing our best to make it happen here,” Liubinskas says.   He adds while Telstra are the program investor and sponsor, their role is focused on enabling the program rather than dictating it, and the Muru D team, led by Annie Parker is looking forward to experimenting with the program as it develops.

Sophie Mirabella asks not to be considered for front bench role in Tony Abbott government

9:43AM | Thursday, 12 September

The Coalition’s industry, innovation and science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella has asked Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott not to be considered for a position on his ministerial front bench as it remained uncertain whether she would win her seat following the federal election.   Mirabella is behind independent candidate Cathy McGowan in the vote count for the northern Victorian seat of Indi.   “The count in Indi continues to be close and it is now apparent that a clear result will not be known for many days,” Mirabella says in a statement.   She says the momentum that Abbott had generated since his election win should continue and he should have the freedom to select his new front bench.   “As my own future in parliament is not assured, I have asked that I not be considered for selection,” she says.   Her decision opens up who Abbott will appoint to fill Mirabella’s portfolio responsibilities.   Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of incubator Pollenizer, told StartupSmart he believed Coalition broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull would make a strong candidate to take over.   “We’ve met with Malcolm and he’s shown interest in the digital entrepreneurship business,” he says, adding that Turnbull’s commercial background also made him a strong candidate.   A spokesman for Abbott said the ministry would be announced “in coming days”, while a spokesman for Turnbull declined to comment.

Coalition wins federal election: What next for start-ups

9:08AM | Sunday, 8 September

The election is over. The Coalition has won. Now what does it mean for Australia’s start-up sector?   Unfortunately, it’s not entirely obvious.   It’s something that’s been picked up on by members of the start-up community who are wondering what attention their industry will attract now that Australia has a new government.   Dean McEvoy, who launched Australian group buying website Spreets.com.au, published on his blog an open letter to Coalition broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull last week highlighting the opportunity around start-ups that “at the moment nobody appears to own”.   “There is an opportunity with the right incentives to inspire a generation of technology entrepreneurs,” he wrote.   His letter was supported by other leaders in the start-up community, with Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas commenting that “supporting start-ups shows real leadership”.   Blue Chilli co-founder Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin added: “Thanks for the open letter Dean and I agree that we have a golden opportunity to support the emerging economy and again draw attention to the report by PwC on the impact this industry can have on the Australian economy if the sufficient support is done correctly now.”   At the Coalition’s e-government and digital economy policy last week, the policy document recognised that “policies encouraging innovation, funding research and providing incentives for entrepreneurs are very important over the medium term in developing a more sophisticated economic base”.   In April this year, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by Google, said Australia’s tech start-up sector had the potential to contribute $109 billion, or 4% of gross domestic product, to the Australian economy and 540,000 jobs by 2033 “with a concerted effort from entrepreneurs, educators, the government and corporate Australia”.   The Coalition’s policy said that while a vibrant start-up community would be very encouraging, “there are limits to the capacity of governments to will this into existence, and, even if they could, it would not be material to the broader economy for years”.   When StartupSmart asked Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull’s spokesman for its policies relating to start-ups, we were referred to speeches Turnbull had made earlier in the year.   Turnbull told the Kickstarter conference in February: “What we really have to do is to make sure we create an environment and some judicious support whether it is by way of R&D (research and development) concessions or supporting venture capitalists; we’ve got to make sure that what we are doing is really supporting you and your counterparts around Australia because you are the future of the industry.”   He also said the Coalition was committed to making it easier for businesses to get on without excessive regulation and has pledged to cut the cost of red tape by at least $1 billion for each year it is in office.   McEvoy suggested fixing tax laws that don’t incentivise people to take risks and be entrepreneurs and inhibit experienced people from helping start-ups.   “The second and most important thing is to take ownership of this opportunity. Let it be known that you are aware of this opportunity and will sit down and help work out policies that make it thrive, not let this massive opportunity slip through the cracks,” McEvoy wrote.   The start-up sector’s wishlist for the election included action on employee share scheme arrangements by making them simpler and their tax treatment more start-up friendly, more early stage funding available for start-ups, and a focus on educating more computer engineers.   A review is underway into employee share schemes, with incoming Treasurer Joe Hockey saying in July that the Coalition would consider making changes.   StartupSmart also asked a spokesman for Coalition industry and innovation spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella for a list of policies relating to the start-up sector, but didn’t receive a response.   The Coalition has also pledged to protect medical research funding and provide “long-term” policy stability and that there needs to be better links between government, business and research institutions.   With the election now over, and the business of governing now in the Coalition’s hands, the start-up community will be watching closely to see what changes, if any, come to help their sector.

Software industry rejoices as New Zealand eliminates software patents

9:30PM | Sunday, 1 September

The software industry has taken a leap for joy this morning after the New Zealand government announced it would abolish certain software patents – and local experts say we should follow suit.   The abolition of software patents is a long-running issue in the developer community. Although traditionally used to protect copyright, critics say patents have become so general and broad they are effectively useless.   Now, major companies such as Samsung and Apple have used patents as tools in litigation to win royalties – leading to the creation of entire entities dedicated to buying patents and suing for profits.   “There is no doubt the current patent system is antiquated,” the chief executive of incubator Pollenizer, Mick Liubinskas, told SmartCompany this morning.   The New Zealand government passed a bill to ban software patents this week, with the vast majority of MPs in favour of the motion. In a release, commerce minister Craig Foss says the bill marks a “significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand”.   Critics of the patent system say they stop companies from developing new projects based on other ideas that should essentially be taken as very basic innovations.   Liubinskas says it’s time the Australian government investigated making a similar motion.   “If you manage intellectual property protection the right way – and not through patent protection – you can do a lot to really drive innovation,” he says.   “It comes back to the question of whether we want to put entrepreneurs first. How much do we want to drive entrepreneurial innovation? Do we want to put our foot down and be a world leader in this area?”   In New Zealand, the Institute of IT Professionals says the patent system doesn’t work for software, because it is “almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist”.   This is the main problem cited regarding patent infringement in the United States, where major companies including Apple, Microsoft and others have applied for patents that are extremely general.   For example, last year Apple filed a patent application on a graphical user interface that can “display electronic lists and documents”.   “Apple’s patent covers UI modules covering blogging, email, telephone, camera, video player, calendar, browser, widgets, search, notes, maps and more importantly, a multi-touch interface.”   Liubinskas says for entrepreneurs to do their best work, they need freedom – which is why the system needs to be changed.   “We’ve incremented to ugliness, and so the only way we can actually get anything done is to blow the whole thing up.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

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