Steve Jobs

Latest

Eight great startup quotes to help you get through your day

8:53AM | Wednesday, 13 August

Starting your own company can be the hardest thing you ever do, but a few words of wisdom never go astray. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to inspirational quotes for people who want to set up their own business.   Here at StartupSmart we decided to trawl the web for eight of the best.   1. “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft   Nadella is the chief executive of Microsoft and has been with the company for 22 years. This particular quote is exemplified in his push for Microsoft to embrace cloud computing.   On the company’s website, Nadella says Microsoft must continue to transform and bring innovative products to customers more quickly.   2. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are a few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, American engineer and entrepreneur   Bushnell is an American entrepreneur renowned for founding Atari Inc, a company that helped pioneer arcade and home video games. Interestingly, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak used to work for him in the 1970s.   3. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” – Anthony Volodkin, founder of Hype Machine   Volodkin founded Hype Machine – an online music database – while he was still a computer science student. The website aggregates the most recently posted songs from a range of music blogs, and markets itself as a way to find “new music worth listening to”.   Speaking of blogs, Volodkin has a personal Tumblr where he often posts about startups.   4. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos.com   Despite being a workaholic himself, Tony Hsieh is renowned for promoting a fun workplace culture that involves everything from a man dressing up in a hot-dog suit and doing backflips to “Tutu Tuesdays” (yes, yes you did just read that correctly).   5. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple   Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of having the courage to take risks, and this quote by Steve Jobs sums it up rather nicely.   6. “A culture that supports women doesn’t come about spontaneously; it only happens when the leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture. In my experience, mentoring women into leadership is fundamental.” – Naomi Milgrom, chief executive of the Sussan Group   Let’s face it: the majority of startup quotes floating around the internet are by men. Milgrom is a refreshing voice and renowned champion for women – particularly when it comes to flexible work practices.   7. “There is a whole myth about super people. That super people can do everything and they do it on their own.” – Therese Rein, founder of Ingeus   While entrepreneurship is often stereotyped as a lonely pursuit, Rein’s quote is important because it highlights that even the most talented people cannot do everything by themselves. Often it takes a skilled co-founder or co-working space to really make a startup the best it can be.   8. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox   Houston is the founder and chief executive of online storage service Dropbox. If anyone knows about only needing to be right once, it’s Houston – before Dropbox he worked on a number of startups and is now worth $1.2 billion.

How the internet was a big reset button for business

7:59AM | Thursday, 24 July

"Every large company is just another color of a spore in a petri dish."   In the latest ‘Decoding the New Economy’ video, internet pioneer Doc Searls discusses The Respect Network, online privacy and the future of business on the web.   Doc Searls is one of the internet's pioneers who helped write The Cluetrain Manifesto, which laid out many of the ideas that underpinned the philosophies driving the early days of the internet.   Searls' visit to Sydney was part of the rolling worldwide launch of the Respect Network, a system designed to improve internet users' privacy through 'personal clouds' of information where people can choose to share data with companies and others.   A big reset button for business   In many ways The Respect Network shows how the internet has evolved since the days of the Cluetrain Manifesto, something that Searls puts in context.   "We wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto in 1995," says Searls. "At that time Microsoft ruled the world, Apple was considered a failure – Steve Jobs had come along and they had the iMac but it was all yet to be proven – Google barely existed and Facebook didn't exist at all."   "On the one hand we saw the internet, we being the four authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and this whole new thing in the world that basically hit a big reset button on 'business as usual'."   "It did that. I think we're vindicated on that."   New giants, new data   "What we have now are new industrial giants; Apple became an industrial giant, Microsoft are fading away, Nokia was the number one smartphone company and they're all but gone."   One of the key things with today's markets in Searls' view is the amount of information that businesses can collect on their customers; something that ties into the original Cluetrain idea of all markets being conversations.   With the evolution of Big Data and the internet of things, Searls sees challenges for companies using old marketing methods which rely upon online tracking. Something that's a challenge for social media services and many of the existing internet giants.   "The interesting thing is there's a lot more intelligence that a company can get directly from their customers from things they already own than following us around on the internet."   Breaking the silos   Searls also sees the current trend towards the internet being divided into little empires as a passing phase, "every company wants a unique offering but we need standards."   For Searls, the key thing about the current era of the internet is we're only at the beginning of a time that empowers the individual, "the older I get, the earlier it seems."   "Anyone of us can do anything," Searls says. "That's the power – I'm optimistic about everything."   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Want to build your own robot? Here’s how to get started

7:34AM | Thursday, 10 July

Have you ever dreamed of building or owning a real-life robot? If so, there’s an upcoming event you really need to check out.   On July 26, NodeBots Day robot-building events have been organised for cities around the world, including in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Admission prices range from $20 for basic admission through to $100, which includes a full SimpleBot robotics starter kit.   The events will bring together robot makers working with Arduinos, Rasberry Pis, NodeCopters and other devices.   Melbourne event organiser Andrew Fraser told StartupSmart the Internet of Things has led a growing number of software coders and web developers to pursue their interest in robotics.   “The skill levels are pretty varied – some come with no experience, especially web developers, while others are experienced robotics engineers. We want to accommodate for everyone,” Fraser says.   “Web people have a good set of skills around user experience design and building things with a human interface. When you apply that to the real world, you have a good skill set to build on.”   An added advantage for web developers, Fraser explains, is that many devices can be controlled using open web technologies.   “NodeBot Day is an international event started as a spinoff of JSConf, where people spontaneously decided to build robots with Javascript,” he says.   “It started in July of last year with an event in Sydney. We ran a few events in the back half of last year in other cities, then an international event on July 26th, with every continent represented.”   Robot building as a hobby has boomed in recent years, Fraser explains, as the cost of equipment has plummeted.   “Part of why NodeBot Day has taken off is because robotics used to be a high-end thing – many people in the field had post-grad degrees and high-end equipment. The entry level robots used to cost $12,000 to $15,000,” he says.   “The move towards more open Arduino hardware is driving down the cost of this hardware, to the point there are now basic kits available for less than $100 in some cases.”   Fraser acknowledges there are similarities to the early days of the home computer revolution, when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer in a garage. However, he says the growth of social media means you don’t need to have everyone collocated in the one place.   “We have access to the sorts of technologies that are equivalent to what [Jobs and Wozniak] had, but it’s now entirely feasible to have a developer in Brazil who could collaborate with an engineer in Sydney and a designer in London.”   “Of course, there’s a lot more socialisation for people [at an event like NodeBot Day] than there is hacking away at it in their living rooms.”

Apple and Beats: When musicians and geeks collide

6:50AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Apple recently announced its purchase of Beats Electronics, for a reported US$3 billion.   Beats Electronics was started by Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and includes the signature headphones range and Beats Music, an online streaming service. With music streaming services gaining popularity, arguably it was only a matter of time before Apple made a move into that territory to take on the likes of Spotify, MOG and Rdio.   Streaming technology is not new, I’m sure many of us remember Realplayer, but contemporary services such as Spotify, Rdio and MOG are the latest significant intervention in music consumption. Fuelled by faster and mobilised internet connections, streaming services are the heavenly jukebox for computers and post-PC devices like smartphones and tablets.   Naturally, streaming services are not without their controversies. Spotify continues to be on the receiving end of critical blows concerning royalty payments to artists, which has led some notable high profile acts such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to pull music from the service. And Twitter controversially bought and shut down Australian streaming music service We Are Hunted. Just as iTunes is not alone in the pay-for-download market, Spotify is not the only streaming service.   At first blush, Beats Music, which only started in 2012, is yet another streaming service and has much in common with its brethren. Where it appears to really stand out from the crowd is in its curatorial capacity: like similar services, Beats has deals with all the major labels and streams the majority of their portfolios, but it employs a sophisticated personalisation system that mixes algorithmic and human choices. As Trent Reznor puts it, it’s:   like having your own guy when you go into the record store, who knows what you like but can also point you down some paths you wouldn’t necessarily have encountered.   Beats aims to respond to your tastes more accurately than its competitors. When you have more than 20 million songs at your fingertips, discovery and recommendation systems become increasingly important. Apple CEO Tim Cook is invested in Beats because he believes it’s “the first subscription service that really got it right”, evangelising “how important human curation is”.   The deal represents Apple’s first foray into the market for streaming music. (iTunes Radio doesn’t count as it’s not on-demand), and it’s unusual for Apple to make such a large, not to mention high profile purchase. Historically, the tech company has preferred to absorb smaller companies and integrate their products into its brand.   Why now, why Beats?   Although Spotify has yet to turn a profit, on-demand streaming services are touted as the future of music consumption. Given the steady increase in Spotify’s consumer base, this is plausible especially with younger audiences seeking legal music services but constrained by limited disposal income. There will, of course, always be those who prefer to own music, just as there are still those who swear vinyl is the only way to listen to music.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below.   Music consumption models, however, are far from consistent across the globe; for example, 91% of Sweden’s digital music income is derived from streaming, while German and Canadian consumers prefer to download their music. The differences between individual nations aside, the popularity of streaming is rising and in order to maintain its position Apple had to venture into the streaming market to keep the record labels on side if nothing else.   According to The Wall Street Journal, “one major record company makes more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both”. That is not to say that Apple would simply buy up any old streaming service, there has to be a reason that it selected Beats over Rdio or Spotify.   Bringing the experts back   It was Apple - a technology company - that came to the aid of the recording industry as it struggled with 21st century consumer behaviours. In a 2007 interview, Doug Morris, then-CEO of Universal Music responded to queries as to why the recording industry was so behind the eight-ball:   There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist … That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do.   Since then, technologists have led the recording industry’s new distribution platforms. Rdio and Spotify were both founded by technologists and entrepreneurs. Perhaps the tables have turned and the new platforms required a (re-)intervention of music industry professionals? The credentials of Beats Electronics founders Jimmy Iovine bring together technology and music expertise.   As part of the deal, both Dre and Iovine are taking senior positions within Apple. Iovine had reportedly been trying to push subscription-based models to Steve Jobs as early as 2003 and while a move towards streaming did not happen in Jobs’ lifetime, Apple has now jumped in with both feet. So what does this mean for the future of music distribution?   Apple, Dre and Iovine have declined to share any details as to the future of their collaboration so any thoughts are purely speculative at this stage. It is, however, worth noting that to date iTunes has offered a number of exclusive releases, and Apple has begun exerting pressure on record labels to sign exclusive distribution deals. For example, Coldplay’s latest album Ghost Stories is exclusive to iTunes (pirated versions are of course available via the usual suspects) and the band declined to add its latest offering to Spotify’s catalogue.   Combined with the Beats streaming service as well as Apple’s own hardware, it is likely Apple will attempt to block out its competitors and (further) lock in consumers. At present, Beats Music is only available in the USA, but Australia will be the second country to have access to the service courtesy of Beats’ acquisition of MOG.   The digital music ecology is evolving at an advanced pace and accurate predictions are difficult to make. One thing, however is sure, as the physics of the media space change, we shouldn’t expect the winners to remain constant.   Steve Collins is a senior lecturer in multimedia at Macquarie University. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can Google convince us that an oversized golf cart is the car of the future?

6:23AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Google have recently shown us a car of sorts. The self-driving Google Car is the internet giant’s latest foray into physical products.   Visually it’s a cute cross between a golf cart and a Japanese anime character, with an obvious ‘face’ and round, soft features that exude friendliness and care. However, ideologically the driverless vehicle is more akin to an escalator than a car.   Interestingly, in developing a car that doesn’t need a driver, Google are venturing into completely virgin territory and as a result they have exaggerated the friendliness of the product to make it appealing to the public. The Google Car’s cuddly aesthetic is designed deliberately as a counterpoint to the abject fear most people would have in handing over control of their car to a computer.   The Google Car does contain amazing technology, even at a prototype level. The autonomous, self-learning vehicle has sensors that can remove blind spots by detecting multiple distinct objects simultaneously in all directions for hundreds of metres and hopefully react safely. Sound impossible? So did the iPod before Steve Jobs and Jony Ive put their minds to it.   Watching the publicity video clearly illustrates Google’s ideas on the target demographic, with older people, the blind and children the focus. At least initially, they seem to see the car as a device for people who can’t drive or don’t want to. Unsurprisingly, everyone appears to be having a ridiculous amount of fun.   Like all designers of products that create a paradigm shift, Google’s team needs to answer questions that others haven’t tackled before. Who would use it, how and why? Can current technology deliver a suitable solution? How much actual driver control should be relinquished? In discussing the Google Car in our studio, debate raged about what would happen in a crowded street. How would the Google Car react to a random mistake by another driver or pedestrian? These are the unknowns that still need to be worked through.   Therein lies the most important aspect of this project. The Google Car is a big innovation, but it really is only the first foray into the unknown. This prototype will challenge what we think and allow people to test the technology in the semi-real world. No doubt it will fail some tests, but it’s sure to provide insights that we don’t expect, and lead to innovations that most can’t imagine right now.   Like Apple and Nike before them, Google is applying their massive resources to looking outside their comfort zone for bigger opportunities. In doing so, they are risking failure and ridicule (look no further than the backlash against Google Glass), but they also open the opportunity for enormous rewards as the first into a new market.   Perhaps the biggest hurdle to acceptance of the Google Car may not be confidence in the technology, but people’s love affair with the glamour of a fast car. The ability to be reckless, to feel the power of the engine or to show off to your peers may still be that intangible desire that an oversized golf cart could never deliver.   Although many will scoff at the idea of a self-driving car, pointing to countless issues and dangers with the concept, the fact is that it seems almost inevitable in some form or other. If we look to science fiction we could expect these types of vehicles to be very much part of our lives sooner than we imagine.   In the words of the great Henry Ford, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” Perhaps the Google Car represents the first small step towards one of the biggest changes to our society since the internet was invented.   Nathan Pollock is director at Katapult Design Pty Ltd.

Controversial tech entrepreneur to political leader: The new startup career path

4:45PM | Tuesday, 22 April

Controversial tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has announced the formation of a new political party, known as the Internet Party, ahead of New Zealand’s next general elections in September.   German-born Dotcom is best known as the founder of the controversial file sharing website Megaupload, for which he was indicted in the US on charges relating to piracy.   Since then, he’s gone on to launch a new venture, a highly encrypted cloud storage service called Mega.   His new party’s positions include delivering cheaper high-speed internet, better oversight of spy agencies, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, copyright reform, the introduction of a digital currency and the introduction of a digital bill of rights.   However, Dotcom is far from the first tech figure to turn to politics – with some having more success than others.   StartupSmart looks at five other high-profile tech figures from the tech world who have gone on to their hand at politics – often with mixed results.   1. Julian Assange, Wikileaks Party   Should Dotcom’s party get off the ground, his political career will inevitably be compared with that of Julian Assange.   Assange is best known as the founder of whistleblower website Wikileaks, along with a long-running series of court cases relating to rape allegations in Sweden. Since August 2012, facing the threat of arrest, Assange has been granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.   After being granted asylum, Assange announced plans to form a Wikileaks political party. The Wikileaks Party contested the 2013 federal election, but only received 0.66% of the vote.   Along the way, several high-profile candidates, including prominent academic and former Wikileaks lead Senate candidate Leslie Cannold, abandoned the party.   2. Ross Perot, Reform Party   A far more successful minor party campaign was run in the US by Texan tech entrepreneur Ross Perot.   Perot got his start in the tech industry all the way back in 1962, when he launched an information technology equipment company called Electronic Data Systems. Perot eventually sold the company to General Motors in 1984, which in turn sold the company to HP in 2008.   It was around the time of the sale to General Motors that Perot met another young tech executive named Steve Jobs. After being ousted from Apple, Jobs had launched a new tech startup called NeXT, and Perot decided to make an investment.   The products Jobs’ company developed included an operating system called NeXTStep, which would eventually form the basis of Mac OS-X and iOS after Jobs returned to Apple. Perot also sold another venture – Perot Systems – to Dell in 2009 for $US3.9 billion.   Of course, these days, Perot is best known for standing as an independent third candidate in the 1992 US presidential election against incumbent George Bush Snr. and Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton.   The Texan stood on a platform combining a mix of policies mixing positions traditionally advocated with the left and the right of US politics. For example, Perot advocated a balanced budget, a tough stance on drug policy and opposition to gun control. However, he also advocated in favour of abortion rights, protectionism, an end to outsourcing and a strong Environmental Protection Agency.   Perot ended up winning 18.91% of the vote, an incredible result for an independent presidential candidate in the US. He stood a second time in 1996, picking up 8% of the vote against President Bill Clinton and Republican candidate Bob Dole.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 3. Rickard Falkvinge, Pirate Party   Of course, when it comes to Kim Dotcom, perhaps the best political role model to follow might be Rickard Falkvinge.   Falkvinge grew up in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, next door to the home ground of football club Västra Frölunda.   Falkvinge’s biography reads like a list of tech entrepreneur clichés. He got his first computer, a Commodore VIC-20, when he was just eight-years-old. By the age of 16, he had launched his first tech startup, a company called Infoteknik. At the age of 18, Falkvinge hired his first employee.   More than making profits, Falkvinge was motivated by the free exchange of ideas that came with the early home computer market. He grew increasingly concerned that harsher copyright laws being lobbied for by the motion picture and record industries could stifle online innovation.   His concerns about patents, copyright law and file sharing restrictions led Falkvinge to form a new political party. On January 1, 2006, he launched the website of his newest venture – dubbed the Pirate Party.   While the new party managed just 0.63% of the vote in its first Swedish elections, it grew to 7.13% for the 2009 European elections. The pirate party model was mirrored internationally, including in Australia. On January 1, 2011 – five years after its launch – Falkvinge stood down as party leader, handing control to his deputy, Anna Troberg.   4. Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal Party   In Australia, the most prominent example of a (far less controversial) tech executive turned entrepreneur is communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Before entering into federal politics, Turnbull has served in many roles, including as the general counsel to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, the cofounder of law firm Turnbull McWilliam, the chair of the Australian Republican Movement, a journalist and a partner at Goldman Sachs.   Turnbull became the chair of pioneering Australian internet service provider OzEmail in 1994, also becoming an investor in the company. In 1999, at the peak of the ‘90s tech boom, Turnbull sold the company to US telco MCI WorldCom.   In 2004, Turnbull won the by-election for the federal seat of Wentworth, being elected as the local Liberal Party MP at the general election later that year. Since then, he has served as the environment minister in the Howard government, as well as the leader of the opposition.   5. Paul Fletcher, Liberal Party   These days, Paul Fletcher is best known as the Liberal MP for the federal seat of Bradfield, as well as a parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications. It’s a position he’s held since December 2009, when he won the seat at a by-election after former opposition leader Brendan Nelson retired from politics.   However, before entering into politics, Fletcher served as a senior executive in one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies Optus, between 2000 and 2008.   After stepping down from the role, Fletcher authored a book titled Wired Brown Land? Telstra's Battle for Broadband, which dissected the case for Telstra being allowed to build the national broadband network.   He has also run a strategic consulting business focusing on the communications industry, and also served as the chief of staff to former communications minister Richard Alston.

Help yourself – without reading a self-help book

3:53AM | Friday, 7 March

When it comes to reading materials, there are some perennial favourites for entrepreneurs. Generally, these have the phrases “Ruby on Rails”, “lean start-up” or “Steve Jobs” in the title somewhere.   Then there’s that other genre of books entrepreneurs love: The motivational self-help book, with its (usually) American author.   The very first chapter of these talks about all the other self-help books out there, and why they don’t work. The cliché here is that the advice is only as good as the adviser, and because the self-help guru is wealthy (mostly from shilling self-help books and seminars), you should follow their advice.   As for all those other self-help books you’ve read that have failed to make you as wealthy as Bill Gates? Well, the books don’t work because the authors aren’t “goal masters” who “worchieve”.   The general rule of thumb with these is that they’re always a list of six, seven, 10 or –sometimes 20 – steps (or keys, or secrets, or tips) to success.   The steps are always something you’d expect as the topic of an episode of Oprah Winfrey. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive energy. Set goals. Work hard. Constantly remind yourself of your goals. Cut out time-wasting unproductive tasks. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.   Of course, you can tell what’s in the heading titles just by looking at them. That’s where heart-warming tales of people who survived horrible accidents and American minor league baseball teams that went from losers to champions come in – for padding.   Naturally, you can’t just call these super-secret tips something as blatantly obvious as “Work hard”. Instead, you get made up words and portmanteaus, so “work hard and achieve” becomes “worchieve” or some other abomination to the English language.   There’s usually a corny mantra that goes with these – something along the lines of “you need to believe before you can succeed”. This needs to be repeated again and again and again and again throughout the book. And again. And yet again.   Also, the few thousand people who read the book are given a term – “goal masters” or some such. You learn the human race is filled with exactly two kinds of people: Goal masters who follow the self-help guru’s program, and the rest of humanity who live in misery.   Thankfully, the “goal masters” include some good company. It turns out popular artists, successful businesspeople, political leaders, generals and other notable people all follow the program.   Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Bob Dylan? Mark Zuckerberg? Marissa Mayer? President Barack Obama? Past American presidents – perhaps an Abe Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson? Michael Jordan? (Note the gender bias.) They’re all goal masters!   Meanwhile, why did Russian troops recently cross the border into the Ukraine? Forget the finer points of international relations, geopolitics and world affairs, the author will oversimplify and say it’s because most Eastern Europeans are not goal masters!   With all that being said, do you really want to give yourself a career boost? It’s time to follow Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity! By following these eight simple tips, you too can be a genuine task master™ like your hero, Taskmaster!   It’s simple:   Just improve the positivity energy in your life – by not reading self-help books!   Focus on your goals – easier to do when you aren’t reading self-help books!   Worchieve – by working on them instead of reading self-help books!   Save money – by not wasting it buying self-help books!   Get a mentor – preferably a real one rather than a self-help guru!   Cut the negative people out of your life – such as the gurus who write self-help books!   Cut out those negative, unproductive tasks from your life – such as reading self-help books!   And if someone puts a self-help book in your hand, throw it in the bin, and don’t take no for an answer!   Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity helped the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, win the 2010 Super Bowl* and it can help you too!   Get it done – today!   * Disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers does in no way endorse or even know about the Old Taskmaster Octagon of Opportunity and his athletic performance is in no way connected to or caused by the Octagon of Opportunity. All mentions of Rodgers and all other figures, living or dead, purely for dramatic purposes only.

The dark side of vertical integration

1:26AM | Tuesday, 21 January

Recently, your humble correspondent looked at vertically integrated companies.   But if you’re just starting a business, the chances are you will – at least initially – be focused on a single stage of production, dealing with companies that are far more vertically integrated than you are.   Well, as Old Taskmaster says, business is war. The dark side of vertical integration comes when someone else tries to take your businesses out of the supply chain.   It happens. Just think about all the small businesses that supplied specialty foods to Coles and Woolies, only to find their lines deleted and a generic product taking their shelf space at $1 per litre.   Or, for that matter, the local servo owners who used their local supermarket as a supplier of their convenience store, only to find a shiny new Coles Express or Woolworths Plus Petrol opening down the road.   In theory, the ACCC should do something about it when it happens. In practice, Australia’s competition watchdog is more of a chihuahua.   On the other hand, Apple seems to be doing just fine, despite the fact its vertically integrated arch-rival (Samsung) also supplies a number of key iPhone components, including the processor and display.   And it’s not the first time Apple has found itself in such a predicament. Way back when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were in their parent’s garage, guess who the supplier was for the main processor in the original Apple I and Apple II computers?   It wasn’t Intel. Nor was it Motorola. And ARM didn’t exist yet.   No, Apple’s first computers from the late 1970s were built around an MOS 6502 chip. From Commodore. As in, Jack Tramiel’s Commodore.   A number of their competitors did likewise, including Atari (including the 2600), the original Nintendo NES and Acorn (who built the BBC Micro B). All used a variation of the processor in the Commodore 64.   When Tramiel started a price war by dropping the retail price of the Commodore 64, all of those companies were left buying processors at retail price while Commodore was effectively buying them at cost price.   Jobs actually referenced the industry shakeout that resulted while unveiling the Macintosh: “Nineteen eighty three… The shakeout is in full swing. The first major firm goes bankrupt, with others teetering on the brink. Total industry losses for ’83 outshadow the combined profits for Apple and IBM, for personal computers.”   So what can you do when a key supplier or customer decides to compete against you?   Apple survived by marketing premium, value-added products. Premium products command premium prices, and are less susceptible to a price war. After all, you might build your own computer, but it won’t be an Apple.   In the long run, Jobs also built his own vertical integration. That’s why you can buy Apple’s Final Cut Pro for your Apple Mac from an Apple store.   Perhaps the best response is to avoid getting locked into a single supplier in the first place. Look for products where you can get a second source – that is, a second company that can competitively supply you a similar product.   Likewise, avoid getting yourself in a position where your entire business is locked into supplying a single customer or outlet. After all, there’s no use crying over spilled, non-generic milk.   Finally, the next time you revise your long-term strategy, evaluate what would happen if your largest supplier, business partner or customer decided to compete with you. Is there a risk? If so, what would you do?   Old Taskmaster says it’s time to evaluate the risks facing your business from potential rivals – and reduce them!   Get it done – today!

Best of the web reads: Opening up The Guardian

10:44AM | Friday, 11 October

How to present like Steve Jobs: Presenting a new product or business in front of potential investors or clients can be a daunting experience.   US author and chief executive of Breather, an on-demand space company, Julien Smith has been doing a bit of presenting lately and has realised the way he does it has changed significantly as he seeks to emulate Apple’s Steve Jobs.   Why? “Well, as it turns out, if you want to present something you consider revolutionary, then that is exactly how you should be doing it,” he writes on his blog. In this post he sets out what he’s learnt from Jobs on presenting.   Opening up The Guardian: From its scoops of phone hacking at the News of the World to the Edward Snowdon revelations that the US National Security Agency tapped millions of phone calls and emails in the name of combatting terrorism, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper has been first with some of the biggest news stories in the world in recent times.   This feature in The New Yorker reveals how the paper delivered its biggest stories, while also profiling editor Alan Rusbridger. It also discusses how The Guardian might survive when traditional media is fighting to retain readers in a world dominated by the internet.   Julian Assange: He may be confined to a small room in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, but Julian Assange’s reach and profile appear undiminished. He’s addressed the United Nations, written a book, given interviews, run for election to the Australian Senate and played a role in the Edward Snowdon affair. Vanity Fair looks at life for Assange and how he’s maintained his profile and work despite being physically removed from the wider world.   Lessons from a dysfunctional US Congress: The US government has been partially shutdown as politicians refuse to compromise on new laws. It’s a situation that has many in the US and around the world shaking their heads.   Samuel Bacharach, a professor at Cornell University, isn’t pulling any punches when he describes Congress as “politically incompetent”. But within that incompetence are some leadership lessons he’s explained in this article for Inc.com.

A lesson on taste from Steve Jobs

9:14AM | Monday, 2 September

Over the weekend, your humble correspondent watched the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs.   Switching off an Android smartphone before a movie about Steve Jobs is an awkward, almost covert operation. You almost imagine being chased out of the local Cineplex by a bunch of single mouse button aficionados in black turtle necks baying for heathen blood – while brandishing minimalist white tablets and smartphones instead of pitchforks.   So is Old Taskmaster’s task of the day to order you to the cinema to watch this film?   Certainly, if you’re a hardcore Apple fan, this is a flick you should probably see – but then again you probably already have seen it five times already and are in the middle of torrenting it onto your second MacBook.   Since a lot of the film focuses on the start-up phase of one of the world’s largest companies, there’s probably a lot here you will relate to even if you aren’t in the tech sector.   And there are some interesting background details hidden in the film – the Radio Shack TRS-80s and Commodore PETs in the background of a scene on the West Coast Computer Faire were a nice touch, for example.   But beyond that? It’s not an awful film, and certainly Ashton Kutcher plays Jobs better than you imagine he would. But it could have been far better.   The film itself follows the standard, generic Hollywood three-act structure. It attempts to cram in too many historical details in too few minutes of running time, at the expense of character development, depth or context.   For example, in one scene Jobs has a conversation with the legendary Atari engineer Al Alcorn. But we’re not told Al Alcorn is the guy who designed Pong and was the lead designer on the world’s first successful home games console, the Atari 2600.   In order to really appreciate the significance of the scene, you need to read a biography about Jobs. Which then raises the question – why not just read a good biography instead of seeing the film?   With that being said, here’s a YouTube clip with a key business lesson from the (real-life) Steve Jobs:       Especially if you’re marketing a premium product, questions of taste matter. That means taking the time to get key elements such as design, ease of use and layout right. Cultural elements, including choices as simple as the typeface and colour you use, can have a big impact on how potential customers will perceive your product.   And there’s no better place to start your cultural education than by reading a good biography about Steve Jobs – because TV and movies rot your brain, Sonny Jim Crockett!   Get it done – tastefully.

The leader CEOs most look up to is not who you think

4:36AM | Wednesday, 24 April

British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill has topped a list of leaders most admired by chief executives, beating Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi for the top spot, according to a survey of CEOs released last week.   The finding comes out of accountancy PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 16th annual global CEO survey, which in January asked 1,400 CEOs from 60 countries what leaders they most admired.   There were not many CEOs in the list of leaders that CEOs admire the most. Over half (60%) chose a politician or military leader. After that, the most popular categories were business leaders and historical leaders.   Winston Churchill’s appeal was particularly wide. In France, he beat out home-grown president Charles de Gaulle for the top spot, and he also trumped Niccolo Machiavelli to come first in Italy. He managed a tie for second with Gandhi in Turkey, coming just behind wartime leader and national founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He was the most-admired leader in Latin America, Australia, the United States and Canada.   1. Stick to your convictions   In the 1930s, as Hitler came to power in Germany, few sought a repeat of World War I. British politicians followed a policy of ‘appeasement’ instead.   Churchill was one of the few to consistently warn about the danger of a rearmed Germany, and continued to do so even as it led to his being ostracised. Often portrayed in retrospect as a prophetic voice in the wilderness, Churchill was proved right by the German invasion of Poland in 1939.   Churchill’s convictions came at great personal cost to him. In his 1948 book, The Gathering Storm, he reflected: “I felt a sensation of despair. To be so entirely… convinced and vindicated in a matter of life and death to one’s country, and not to be able to make Parliament and the nation heed the warning, or bow to the proof by taking action, was an experience most painful.”   2. Goad until it’s done   Churchill is famous for his sheer belligerence in goading his countrymen to stand up to Germany, even as Britain was being bombed.   “Churchill’s supreme talent,” one of his aides recalled, “was in goading people into giving up their cherished reasons for not doing anything at all.”   For example, when informed of delays in shipbuilding in 1939, Churchill sent out a memorandum to one of his senior administrators: “It is no use the contractors saying it cannot be done. I have seen it done when full pressure is applied, and every resource and contrivance utilised.”   3. Maintain a positive attitude   If anyone should be forgiven a moment of despair, it would be the British Prime Minister in the midst of the war with Hitler. In the early years of the war, it certainly looked like Germany would succeed.   European countries were falling in rapid succession and Britain was being continually bombed, with many of its people forced to flee the cities. It wasn’t until Hitler besieged Russia that things began to go awry for him. Despite this, Churchill maintained a positive attitude with his subordinates.   “It is a crime to despair,” he wrote after the signing of the Munich Agreement, which allowed Germany to occupy part of Czechoslovakia in 1938. “It is the hour, not for despair, but for courage and rebuilding; and that is the spirit which should rule us in this hour.”   In 1955, in his last major speech as Prime Minister, Churchill again sounded a warning against hopelessness. “Never flinch, never weary, never despair,” he concluded.   This was in keeping with the general structure he established in his earlier speeches. Churchill never ended without a call for optimism, often delivered in a bit of English poetry.   Churchill wasn’t one to sugar-coat the truth. He always spoke of the dire threat to Britain should Hitler succeed. But this urgency was never intended to induce helplessness.   “All will come right,” he frequently said. In the war’s darkest hours, he gave Britain courage. Perhaps that’s why he’s so universally admired by global CEOs today.   This story first appeared on LeadingCompany.

Why cloud technology will transform marketing

4:23PM | Sunday, 14 April

As time goes on, technology inevitably improves. Business should move with the times and, therefore, move with technology. This seems like quite a simple formula when you think about it and you would assume that this just happens naturally.   Funnily enough, there is no such thing as natural change in most businesses. Why? Well, as a rule of thumb, people are naturally adverse to change. For instance, before I read Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese! I found even I was adverse to change. I was doing something that I didn’t enjoy five days a week because to change what I was doing was a scary thought. This would involve changing careers, leaving my old career behind and starting anew.   A change in business is fundamentally no different. Why? Because people run businesses, businesses don’t run businesses. Human behaviour is judged ultimately by the interface by which we interact. Changing that interface is changing behaviour. This is sometimes scary.   Numbers in marketing   Since the conception of the internet and cloud infrastructure there has been a fundamental change in business opportunity. While I could rattle off 10 reasons why running your system either on an internet platform or through cloud infrastructure would be far better than having everything stored underneath your desk in an office, most people would still be naturally adverse to this idea. Quite simply, it means change. They believe what they can see and what they have on their desktop is safe. Safe until it crashes and then what happens?   I wrote an article recently about cloud accounting and how Xero, Saasu and now MYOB Live Accounts are making huge changes to the way businesses can operate.   Well, the exact same thing is happening in cloud marketing. Have you heard of that term before? Maybe not. But I am betting that you have seen its incredible power without even knowing about it (Commonwealth Bank of Australia is currently using it).   Technology like Salesforce.com, Oncontact, Sage, Prophet are all fantastic examples of CRM software. The add-ons like Marketo (Datarati does implementation for this Australia-wide), Hubspot (Bluewire Media is an Australian partner for this software) and Salesforce Marketing Cloud are simply incredible.   Landscape   Talking to Paul Holstein from Brandrally recently it was really interesting to discuss the difference between marketing teams and C-Level executives.   The disparity between the two is incredibly fascinating. That is that one looks traditionally at the tangible and the other at the intangible.   The great thing about the before-mentioned software is that it allows these teams to now play in the same sphere. C-Levels can effectively measure the success of creativity, while at the same time marketing teams can express creative ideas with real insights that were never previously available. These two species can now speak the same language.   These tools will no doubt change the landscape of the marketing industry and how business has traditionally operated. It has been estimated that by 2017 CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs.   Again, another funny concept.   However, when you drill down into the CIOs role – being across absolutely every piece of software relevant to an industry – it is revealed as an almost impossible task.   This is why I believe ‘cloudware’ will slowly but surely change business forever: It will create a system (using technology) which makes everyone in a business accountable to each other, rather than the traditional structure of the manager above being responsible for the employee below.   Where to from here?   So, there is this awesome technology everyone now wants to get their hands on. What’s the cost? Will it work for my company? Which one should I use? All these questions will be solved with time (apart from the cost part – just go to their websites and check).   Remember the quote from Steve Jobs from my last article – “It’s so much easier to connect the dots looking back.” Just as social media has taken a while to find its feet; these powerful technologies will take time too.   Personally, I’m excited to be working with this technology to help the greater good. Being a cancer survivor, I’m excited to be helping the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland with their web strategy and utilising technology (like marketing in the cloud) to help them achieve their goals and reach for the stars – helping cancer sufferers around Queensland and Australia.   If you require any help setting up on either tool or have a chat about the best platform for your business, please do not hesitate to contact me on  [email protected] or give me a call on (07) 3040 8083.

Meet the Startmate class of 2013 – part two

3:16AM | Tuesday, 19 March

Above: Ben Sze, Duncan Anderson and Jeremy Cox from Tutor on Demand   Yesterday, we profiled three of the restless young start-ups that are aiming to become the next Aussie tech superstars, with a little help from the Startmate accelerator program.   There was the SME tech help service, the communication tool for parents and child minders and the security crowdsourcers.   Below, we speak to three more of the Startmate class of 2013, which have been lavished with $50,000, intensive mentoring and a trip to the US.     Tutor on Demand   Website: https://tutorondemand.com.au/   Founders: Ben Sze, Duncan Anderson and Jeremy Cox   What if you were a student wanting to top up your studies with some learning via your smartphone? And what if you were a teacher after a little extra cash and the chance to help a wider pool of students?   These two elements are drawn together for Tutor Demand, which features video content of 18 different teachers discussing 15 different topics, to help high school students.   Where did this idea spring from?   Anderson: Ben, Jeremy and I all worked together at Goldman Sachs and then did our own thing. We kept in touch and Ben was tutoring a bit. He had an idea to set up Skype, so we have tutors one side of a city and students the other side of the city.   He spoke to me about an idea in South Korea called MegaStudy, which is an on-demand resource with multiple teachers. It has a market cap of $1 billion.   We thought the business model could work here in a similar way.   Why hasn’t this happened until now? It seems like quite a simple idea.   Sze: Internet speeds weren’t so good until about 10 years ago. But, also, schools are slow moving beasts.   We are focused on finding great teachers and empowering them to teach more than the 50 students they normally teach.   Another barrier to entry is the time teachers would have to take to build and then sit and upload content – there’s a lot of time commitment there and not a lot of time.   How does it work?   Sze: We record teachers doing video lectures over a week period and show it in bite-sized pieces, five or six videos.   The focus is high school at the moment. There’s a really good opportunity as no one rewards good teachers – you get the same regardless of whether you are a good or bad teacher, unlike, say, a lawyer.   We have a recording studio, so the teachers come to us, do a Powerpoint presentation and walk away. There’s no need for them to have equipment, so there’s no hassle for them.   Students get access online through a referral or their school purchases access on their behalf. They might use it for just Year 12 physics or five other subjects, for example. Four weeks before exams, we expect to see lots of students watching all the videos and doing a crash course.   Who are you selling this to, exactly?   Anderson: Initially, we saw this as additional to the schools – there’s a big market for top-up lectures and here you get great teachers at great price points.   But we had teachers come to us and say they want to purchase for a class and a few libraries asked the same. So two schools purchased from us.   We are currently looking at all channels – directly to students and parents and some to schools.   What’s the business model?   Anderson: We sell subscriptions to get access to a subject for an entire year, over two parts. So you get, say, chemistry for $25 for one part. That gives you unlimited access. We’ve found that students usually buy more than once.   Schools can then buy access for all subjects, for a price per student. We are still trying to figure that out.   Sze: One school we piloted with had nearly 50% of students using the videos getting an A or A+ in their final exams. Only 25% get an A or A+ usually. We were quite pleased with that.   So far, we’ve reached 2,700 students across 350 different schools.   For schools, it adds another level of teaching. Students get access to a great teacher whenever they need it. They have an iPhone app they can use wherever they go and consolidate what they’ve learned.   None of you has a tech background, which is strange for a tech start-up.   Anderson: Yes, it is a bit unusual. But we did get it designed and get it all done, so I’d view us as project managers that have an understanding of tech, but didn’t build the core project.   We had people help us out with recording, generally multimedia students. The back-end was initially built by friends of Ben, while the design came from a few different places.   What would your advice be to anyone applying to Startmate?   Anderson: If you’ve built a lot of start-ups in the past, you’ll probably have an easy time. But if you haven’t, get traction first.   It helped us that we had customers, product and revenue. It wasn’t just talk. If you apply, don’t just have a great idea. Go out there and build something.   You all had comfortable jobs. Why do this?   Anderson: Building your own thing is much more interesting and engaging than working for other people.   Tutor on Demand can have strong, positive effects on society. Good education allows people to make better decisions.   We feel we can empower great teachers and build something that is riskier but the reward is completely different. As Steve Jobs says, do something you love that doesn’t feel like work. You end up really caring about what you’re doing.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Shiftr     Website: http://www.shiftrapp.com/   Founders: Adrian Dean and Ludek Dolejsky   Shiftr is a very modern start-up story. The founders discovered each other via Google and launched a simple but clever idea for an app despite only meeting each other a couple of times – mainly due to the fact Dean’s Canberra base was a little far from the Czech Republic, where Dolejsky was living.   The start-up’s app allows workers to swap shifts without lengthy phone calls and organisation.   What’s the benefit of being in Startmate?   It’s a big learning curve, having seen the calibre of our peers. Startmate has given us $50,000 – which is 50,000 $1 experiments we can make to run and iterate our ideas.   We want to get into a tight cycle of rapid change, while companies don’t change so quickly. We want bang for our buck in every way, such as getting a place rent-free in Sydney. A friend agreed to this if we arranged to move his stuff in, which I did. It saved us around $10,000.   So how did you meet Ludek?   I was in San Francisco when I first made contact, via a Google search. I had another idea called MyMyke, which was a distributed microphone app.   He’d created software for that so I contacted him. He’d developed something to just spy on friends, something fun, and I said let’s retool it. We worked on it for a month and then I shared a Pilsner with him when I went backpacking.   I then floated the idea of Shiftr maybe 18 months ago. My girlfriend couldn’t get out of work and had the whole hassle of calling around and getting a replacement. She had the threat of not getting work if she dropped out without getting someone to cover her.   I thought there was a real opportunity there to create an app that was easy for staff to use. I didn’t want to create a full rostering system, as it’s hard for businesses to change those big processes, but employers weren’t bridging to smartphone very well when swapping shifts, they’ll use Facebook or text.   How does it work?   Any employee can download the app and invite co-workers in. We include managers in this too, as they are on the front line, having to deal with this pain with tools lumped on them by IT departments; people who have never flipped a burger.   Employees jump in and can create a shift – it takes you about 10 seconds. You push ‘swap’ and it notifies everyone in workplace that they want to swap and other staff have the option to grab it. The manager gets to choose the winning employee.   How will you monetise it?   We are going to charge managers when they want to claim their workplace as official workplaces. We’ll add features such as group messaging and store ‘walls’. Obviously they get control over swapping too.   It doesn’t require everyone in the business sign up, but catching point is around 40% of a workplace. We trialled a McDonald’s store and it had a 60% take-up in the first few hours.   We’ll have a subscription model with a 30-day trial. The charge depends on the business, we’re looking at $30 to $40 a month.   We are looking at a flat site fee. We found workplaces want that, rather than pay $1 per employee or anything like that.   We’re actually a small part of these massive rostering systems. We are filling that pain point when someone calls up to say ‘I can’t make it’ because it costs a lot of time to coordinate.   Eventually, we’d like to be able to match people who are skilled casual workers with different workplaces. That’s the long-term vision – complete labour flexibility.   How did you persuade Ludek to move here?   Well, Australia has a certain allure to it. Every European thinks Australia is a beautiful place with beautiful people and beaches.   He has a tech consultancy company and felt he could take it as far as he could. This way, he gets to learn more and challenge himself.   I think we complement each other well. I’m not overly technical, while he’s not someone to sit in front of a client.   How many workplaces have signed up?   We started on one site with a trial. We had a terrible product but the look on the manager’s face was ‘wow, staff can see shifts in their phone’. He recommended it and it grew rapidly to eight workplaces in Canberra.   We’ve now got 18, with another three coming on board – I’ve had calls from businesses in Hobart and the Central Coast.   We feel a lot of these companies have this problem. This initial roll out works well with McDonald’s, but we’re also looking at Woolworths and Walmart – big brand names. We have interest from nurses and doctors too.   We have just had the app on the app store and have done no marketing, so people are obviously searching for it. Managers say ‘we need this.’   Next, we’ll target industry groups and thought leaders that are talking about absenteeism. We’re starting to ramp the marketing up.   We’re getting a lot of fanatical support from managers in McDonald’s –one guy got us into five different stores as he was raving about it.   What are your ambitions for the business?   Niki (Scevak) gave us a pep talk and said you need to accelerate to five to 50 to 100 stores quickly, otherwise you’ll lose out.   The longer term goal is to crack into the US market. We’ve had to be very careful when choosing our words – shifts works well across countries, where roster in US means sports roster.   I hope to get into the US by May. If we’re not hitting our targets, we’ll see if the value proposition is strong enough and if we can continue. We don’t want to be stuck with a stillborn company, earning enough to pay salary but not growing.

Take a lesson from the keynote master, Steve Jobs

3:37AM | Wednesday, 13 March

Do you have a big presentation coming up? Perhaps you’re pitching to investors? If so, and you want to get psyched up for it, you could do far worse than watching an old presentation by the Taskmaster’s hero. No, I don’t mean Scrooge McDuck; I mean Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Do you run a business or just support a hobby?

2:38AM | Monday, 18 February

In his famous address of Stanford University graduates in 2005, Apple founder Steve Jobs said: “You've got to find what you love… and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Retailers bank on tardy men for last minute Christmas shopping splurge

3:19AM | Friday, 15 March

A last minute Christmas spending surge is set to hit retailers this week, with one in 10 Australian men set to leave their festive shopping until today.

Read beyond business books this summer to revive your grey matter

12:33AM | Thursday, 20 December

With Christmas virtually upon us, I know that a lot of motivated businesspeople will be using the break to put in some serious reading time. It is a great opportunity to catch up on all of the business books that you have been too busy to read during the year.

Forbes names most powerful people – who can you learn from?

3:49AM | Monday, 11 March

US President Barack Obama might be the world’s most powerful person, according to Forbes, but there’s a handful of entrepreneurs on this year’s list for start-ups to draw inspiration from.

Zynga and Facebook: Why the social media game is changing

12:58AM | Friday, 7 December

Last week, we saw the relationship between Zynga and Facebook change. You can read the SEC filings here.

Are you a Taskmaster or a McLuhanatic?

12:02AM | Tuesday, 4 December

The product designer was insistent, nearly pounding the desk while making the point.

prev
1234
loading...
loading...
loading...
loading...