Mitchell Harper


Bigcommerce coy on deal to acquire Magento’s Go service

6:07AM | Monday, 30 June

Australian e-commerce company Bigcommerce has refused to confirm or deny a report that it has negotiated a deal to acquire the customers of eBay-owned competitor Magento’s Go service.   Recently a source told Re/code that Magento was killing off Go, a platform which helps small businesses build an online store to sell their products and services, and the company had agreed a deal with Bigcommerce to move Magento’s Go customers to Bigcommerce’s service.   It follows eBay cutting close to 50 jobs at Magento in March.   Re/code sources say Go never gained traction against competitors like Bigcommerce and Shopify.   StartupSmart contacted Bigcommerce, but the company refused to comment.   Bigcommerce was founded in 2009 by Australians Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper and has offices in Sydney, San Francisco and Austin.   More than 50,000 companies use Bigcommerce’s services to manage all aspects of their online stores, from web design, through to checkout and growth services.   The company has raised $75 million to fuel its growth.   Last month former Google executive Tim Schulz joined the company as senior vice president of product management.

Google launches e-book celebrating the stories of Australia’s rising startup sector

4:46PM | Tuesday, 1 April

Google Australia has launched a campaign, armed with an e-book and video, to encourage Australians to take up coding.   Written by Fran Molloy, Start with Code shares the stories of the rising startup ecosystem, including startup founders including Noller, Peter Bradd, Marita Cheng and Mitchell Harper.   In the foreword, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull writes about the profound changes the internet and technology have wrought on the world.   “We need to improve the way we teach our kids; we need to inspire a generation of digital natives who are already avid consumers of technology to embark on careers as entrepreneurs and coders, in e-commerce and as engineers.”   The need to overhaul the education system to equip Australia with coding skills is something Atlassian cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes also argues for in the book.   “At Atlassian, we know in the next 20 years we are going to have to hire a truck load of computer science people. We’ve got to start breeding them way earlier. We need to train them, at school, now.”   The investment in tech skills and the startup community, both key themes in the book, are argued for by accelerator founder and investor Niki Scevak.   “People call it a brain drain, I call it a brain boomerang, where they’re flying over but they’re coming back a few years later and bringing all that skills and knowledge they’ve had in Silicon Valley back to Australia.”   Google has also launched a video with the book, which celebrates Australian innovation so far and suggests learning to code is a fundamental step for any aspiring inventor today.   Check out the Australian inventions such as boomerangs, notepads, utes, wine casks and Wi-Fi in the video below.   {qtube vid:=THEpcW7vFkc}

Top three guerrilla marketing techniques for start-ups

4:01AM | Thursday, 4 April

Bigcommerce was created after the two founders met in an online chat room. Four years on, the Aussie eCommerce start-up has secured $35 million in venture capital funding, built offices in Sydney and Texas and attracted 30,000 customers. In the latest in a series of insider tips provided to StartupSmart, co-founder Mitchell Harper explains how to best reach your target market.   Last time in this series, we talked about creating a typical customer profile and positioning your products.   This time, we’ll look at ways to spread the word to people who fit your typical customer profile. This is where we get into guerrilla marketing.   There are two goals here:   Affordably attract as many people as possible who match your customer profile Ask them to recommend you to their friends who share similar interests (and therefore buying habits)   Because we're on a shoestring budget, we need to get a good return for every dollar we spend.   Our aim is to take our profits from guerrilla marketing and put them into search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), which we will automate (more on that in future columns).   Let's look at some proven guerrilla marketing techniques.   1. Like-like partnerships   In this case, you find a handful of online stores which sell products that are complementary to yours and link to them on your website or in invoice emails to your customers (so they don't leave your website before buying from you).   In our example from last time, we sell custom sports jerseys, so we'd find partners who sell sports memorabilia, hats, poker chips – maybe even alcoholic beverages.   (Note: Call these potential partners on the phone – do not send them emails. You want to build a relationship, and the good old phone is still the best way to do that.)   Get these partners to do the same for you, instantly sending you targeted traffic for free. If you're just starting out, then set up an affiliate program and share revenue with partners to earn their trust. To get more visitors, simply bring in more partners.   As a bonus, these partners can become your "mastermind" group to share ideas that can help you all grow your business at the same time.   2. Twitter find and answer   This involves a couple hours a day of effort, but the payoff is huge. Go to and search for keywords around what you sell (in our example, the name of NFL teams such as “Washington Redskins”).   You want to find and answer questions people have about what you sell – without being self-promotional.   After answering their questions, encourage them to follow you on Twitter with a friendly follow-up tweet.   You can then use your Twitter account to share coupon codes and useful bits of information that they can easily retweet to their network. You want to get them and their social network to your website and onto your mailing list.   3. Facebook “Get to know us”   If you live under a rock, and you haven’t set up a Facebook fan page for your business, get to it!   Use your company logo as the photo of the page to build brand awareness. Be casual in what you post on your wall – the idea is to give people a real insight into you and what you do.   Importantly, be real. Don't post "corporate speak”, and don't fix typos or grammatical errors.   You want to come across as genuine, not smarmy. Post photos of your office or warehouse, whatever you can to show the "inner workings" of your business, even if you work from home.   Every few days, share a coupon on your Facebook page (and on Twitter) and encourage people to share it with their friends.   On Facebook, free shipping promotions work really well, but use them no more than once a week. You don't want people getting used to them.   Next time, we’ll share a few more guerrilla-marketing tips – and where to go from there.

How to profile your typical customer

3:18AM | Wednesday, 20 March

Bigcommerce was created after the two founders met in an online chat room. Four years on, the Aussie eCommerce start-up has secured $35 million in venture capital funding, built offices in Sydney and Texas and attracted 30,000 customers. Here, co-founder Eddie Machaalani passes on his top tips on customer profiling.   Most marketing plans fail because they don’t focus on anyone and try to attract everyone. As a result, companies are selling products that customers don't want.   Sadly, most customers aren't at the centre of the feedback loop. Sadder still, most customers will tell you what they want if you just ask.   In the first instalment of this series my colleague and co-CEO Mitchell Harper presented a seven-step marketing plan that can almost certainly double your sales in 12 months and get you on your way to seven figures in revenue.   Those steps were:   Create your typical customer profile Position your products to appeal to your ideal customer Spread the word to people who fit your typical customer profile Wow them immediately after buying Follow up with lots of free, useful stuff Ask for a (video) testimonial Repeat steps 3-6 infinitely   The first step of the plan: Create your typical customer profile   Obviously, this works best when you already have a few dozen customers, because you’ll be surveying your existing client base (no matter how small) to understand future buyers better.   Understand that this doesn’t have to be a costly process. There are free tools such as Google Docs and MailChimp that let you create a survey and mass email it easily and affordably.   Let’s say you sell customised sports apparel. Get into the heads of your customers with a survey that gives you information to help build a typical profile of someone who is likely to buy from you.   Useful information includes:   Sex Age range Salary Marital status Job Hobbies How did they find you? Why did they buy from you? What problem did your product help them solve? Would they recommend you to a friend?   And so on. The results of this survey will let you literally write a profile of your typical customer. I mean really write it out. For example:   “John is 29 years old, has brown hair, green eyes, weighs 197 pounds and is 5 foot 11 inches tall. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and works in an office all day. He loves to watch the game with his buddies on weekends and found our website via a referral from a friend at work.”   “He bought from us because of our large selection of products, has recommended us to at least one friend and was happy with his purchase so would buy from us again. He also loves video games, playing poker and has a high school education.”   That makes your next step easier: Position your products to appeal to your typical customer   Put yourself in John's shoes. Ask yourself, "If I were John, what would grab my attention and make me either sign up for information or buy something, instead of closing my web browser?"   Some ideas:   An email newsletter about his favourite AFL team with little-known facts about players. A free shipping coupon that he can use on his first order. Photos or videos of other customers (who look and sound like John) wearing your product.   Remember, your goal is to become relatable to John. Anything and everything you write or display on your website, in your emails — any communication — must feel like it's speaking directly to him.   You’re building a personal rapport with John (even though he’s a profile of a typical customer). That’s crucial, because people buy from people they know, like or respect.   Next time, we look at how to spread the word to people who fit your customer profile with some proven guerrilla marketing tactics.

Innovation secrets from Australia’s three most creative start-ups

12:00AM | Thursday, 6 December

Innovation is a concept that most start-ups instinctively want to embrace. But it’s not something that comes naturally to some entrepreneurs and is notoriously hard to measure.

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.

Twitter investor joins in $20 million funding round for Bigcommerce

9:36AM | Thursday, 6 September

Early Twitter investor Mike Maples has joined US venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners in backing Sydney-based tech start-up Bigcommerce, which has secured $20 million in funding.

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

3:54AM | Saturday, 24 March

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

The global start-up treasure hunt

3:04AM | Friday, 15 March

With Australian venture capitalists unwilling, or unable, to back new ventures, Aussie start-ups are increasingly heading to the departure lounge in an attempt to secure funding.