Dropbox

rollApp – Convert & Run Over 140 File Types In The Cloud

Cool App and an interesting concept.  After spending 20 minutes playing with this I think these guys are onto something.

There is obviously a core problem there, I’m sure we have all experienced not being able to open a file that someone has sent to you.

The range of document/app types you can open is staggering, however most of them are open source, its missing the high-end apps like Photoshop and Solidworks. I imagine there are licensing issues with serving their products.

Where the app could make a lot of sense is if it converts files from programs such as Photoshop, Solidworks or some other very expensive app where a user doesn’t want to buy the app but needs to regularly view the file type. (its possible this might work on some of the open source apps but it wasn’t apparent).

What is clear is that they have managed to make over 100 apps run in a web browser with no configuration required on the user end which is very cool.

If you have ever installed Gimp (Image Editing) or Inkscape (Illustrator) or other Open Source apps you know there can be a bit of mucking around to install the required dependancies.

In the early days of the PDF, Adobe was the only way to actually write a PDF, then came numbers of other companies who could read and write the files and some of those turned into decent businesses by competing in the low-end of the market.

If they can work out how to offer the low-end basic editing capability for file types from expensive apps they can bring in revenue from this.

Also they are building an API for developers to embed the functionality into their apps, this could become a more scalable way to build the business.

It’s also possible that they might build a following of users who use the dozens of esoteric apps they support and decide this is a better way to run their app or they want to access their files from anywhere including mobile devices.

Startup Name 

rollApp

What problem are you solving? rollApp is an online application virtualization platform, which allows you to run any application on any device with just a web browser.When running on rollApp, applications behave the same way as if they were installed locally.
What is your solution? RollApp has launched a cool new service calledRollMyFile. It allows users to open nearly any file type one may have on their computer eliminating the need to find, download and install software necessary to work with a particular type of file.It is as simple as dragging the file onto the web page.
Why is this a great opportunity? Having hundreds of applications available on-demand from the cloud in just one click enables use cases, which were unthinkable before:compatibility is not an issue – use the application you need on a device you have
open any file at any time – all necessary apps are instantly available in the cloud and you can run heavy workloads from mobile devices
Target Market everybody who works with multiple file types
How will you make money? We have premium plan for users, who actively work with files from Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud storage
Founders Names Vlad Pavlov
Website https://www.rollapp.com
What type of funding has the company received Venture Capital/ Private Equity

Stay Secure – 5 ways to increase your online security

Photo by ElectronicFrontierFoundation

In the digital age privacy and security are always a major concern, especially since Eric Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s global surveillance programs. Additionally, in a competitive environment or industry security and privacy are essential. The good news is both privacy and security can be reasonably maintained whilst enjoying the Internet.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use complex and different passwords. If you use the same password for your all your work and personal accounts then your work can access your personal accounts. If your password is ‘password’ or your first name then it can easily be guessed. If you use complex and different passwords do not put them all in a document or note titled, “Passwords,” or use the word “password” in that document. A simple search for the word “password” can be used to find that document and all your passwords – a nondescript or misleading title is ideal.

 

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) A virtual private network allows your computer, laptop or mobile devices to communicate privately when using the very public Internet. There are a lot of ways to do this, both free and paid. For $70 per year, you can use WiTopia to access a very large number of gateways around the world. Typically you want the closest gateway to you to maximize speed. If you live, however, in an area with restricted Internet access such as Australia or China, then you can just select a gateway in a country without restricted access to “unrestrict” access.

 

  • Use encrypted cloud storage Dropbox recently added Condoleezza Rice to their board and she is a major proponent of NSA’s global surveillance programs. Dropbox claims to respect privacy, but the newest addition to the DropBox board of directors definitely does not. Try SpiderOak for more secure cloud-based storage. 2GB is free, premium subscriptions are the same price as DropBox, UI is fairly user-friendly and offers the same enjoyable features as DropBox along with ‘zero-knowledge” layered data encryption for those who only use the desktop client.  SpiderOak even drafted a comforting statement for those generally concerned with cloud-based storage: “Most importantly, however, the outer level keys are never stored in plaintext on the SpiderOak server. They are encrypted with 256 bit AES, using a key created by the key derivation/strengthening algorithm PBKDF2 (using sha256), with 16384 round and 32 bytes of random data (“salt”). This approach prevents brute force and pre-computation or database attacks against the key. This means that a user who knows her password, can generate the outer level encryption key using PBKDF2 and the salt, then decipher the outer level keys, and be on the way to decrypting her data. Without knowledge of the password, however, the data is quite unreadable.”

 

  • For personal email, find a provider that values your privacy You would not want your neighbours reading your personal mail so why do you let Google and the NSA? MyKolab offers a secure email with servers in a country that respects privacy a bit more than others for about $10 USD per month.

 

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Start-up Execution – Alex Stamp – @cloud_herd

This is the second article in a series of articles from entrepreneurs that have been through Incubate, the University of Sydney Incubator program. Alex Stamp launched Cloudherd.com along with Mike Titchen and Luke Fries in 2012 as the first group of businesses in the Incubate program. Cloudherd is trying to solve the problems that farmers face when trying to sell their cattle, it’s a very inefficient market that seems to be stuck in the 1900s and Cloudherd is trying to drag it into 2013 with an online Auction system and cattle inventory application. The first article is here Launching Cloudherd.com

Introduction:

Alex Stamp - Cloudherd.com

Alex Stamp – Cloudherd.com – Credit Sunnysnaps.com

Hi, Alex here again. In this article I’m going to share with you every single trick for both business and technical execution.

Why am I doing this? Well as mentioned in my previous article execution is harder than thinking up the idea, it is a lot more expensive and it takes a lot longer. As such I believe every startup needs outside help with everyday start-up activities and this is my contribution to try to help other entrepreneurs to learn from our experience.

I’m going to share with you business execution strategies but as with so much in our industry technology and business overlap massively. There will be a lot of detail about services, languages and platforms in here as well.

This information will become dated over time but the general strategy behind the technical decision will assist you in progressing your implementation, be it 2013 or 2016. The business information is not likely to become dated in the near term.

Personal Execution

As much as an idea is the foundation of your start-up so is personal execution the foundation of your business execution. If you can’t discipline your personal actions and reduce your personal burn rate in the early stage of the business you’re in deep trouble.

You need to make sure that you can continue to live at a decent standard whilst conserving cash, as otherwise you’ll go absolutely batty and drive away the important people in your life.

Lots of people recommend that you move to another city or even another country to reduce your personal burn rate.

I believe this is bad advice as you will be starting from scratch with business networks, you will incur travel costs that might actually be higher than the savings and you lose access to your personal social networks. Furthermore, most of your team is unlikely to be able to move despite their relative lack of responsibilities as they will not have the money necessary to move or they will still be studying etc.

The first place to start is with the living expenses, as these are likely to be the bulk of your costs; Sydney rents and housing costs are out of control.

Live with other people, it’s as simple as that. You can always find people looking for flatmates on Gumtree or other equivalents like Craigslist, and you can save a whole tonne of money by putting up with a few annoying things like hair in the sink.

There are ways to take this further, including moving in with a partner or bunkbedding but it will become extremely oppressive for more than a few months and has a number of other downsides. There is also the problem with domestic disagreements and you suddenly having nowhere to live.

The ultimate extension of this is to live with your parents, but this may not be practical for a number of reasons and expect a lot of comments about how you are freeloader who is wasting their life.

Food is usually the next biggest item but there are many options available here to reduce expenses. My favorite one is fasting for most of the day and then attending networking or other business events where I can eat my body weight in food in a short time.

Your budget is not going to extend to filet mignon so become used to beans on toast, pot noodles and lots of cereal with the occasional bit of mince. No one in your social circle will understand your sudden aversion to eating out so make sure that you phrase it as: “Oh my apologies but I already ate.”

There are many other personal strategies that you can use to save money, I’ve only covered a small portion here. Others include showering at gyms, attending religious ceremonies for free food, taking the bus as much as possible, going to music schools for free concerts and many many more.

The only limits to saving money in this ‘life-hack’ manner are the law, your morals and whatever terms and conditions of use exist for the facility you are using.

Business Execution

Now that you’ve reduced your personal burn rate, and stopped having an enjoyable social life, you should be able to redirect your monetary reserves to business execution and activities that are more likely to generate a return. There’s one principal to remember here though, don’t pay for things that you can get for free, especially interns. Free doesn’t mean equity.

For instance there are a whole bunch of seedy lawyers out there who have done one or two things for start-ups before and then will suddenly start selling themselves for start-up equity or even a fair bit of cash. Avoid these guys if you can, a good start-up lawyer will know that the real way to earn money off start-ups is to make them love you via doing things for them on the cheap and then getting a really steady pipeline of work when they grow.

Accountants are in the same boat, I shouldn’t be charged $500+ to help me file a company tax return that simply says I didn’t make any money. Think back to the first article here, you need to focus on your product and business so that you can achieve success, but you can’t focus effectively without outsourcing some of the more specialised administration tasks.

But that’s all law and accounting work really is in this early stage start-up context, administration work, so don’t pay too much for it. Unless it’s to do with patents, but that’s another whole article in itself.

Keeping your team on track is something else that can be done for free or very cheap, here are our favourite tools:

  • Google Apps and Gmail for Business (getting company emails makes you seem more professional from day 1 and as a young entrepreneur you will need to seem professional)
  • You will also be almost certainly using Google Analytics to start with as well and various other Google products. Even hardware companies need a website!
  • Asana (we could use Google Docs but Asana is a pretty nice way to keep track of things, we may move to Atlassian solutions as we grow)
  • Dropbox (avoid putting videos on Youtube where your competitors might discover them and they take five hours to upload, just use Dropbox instead)
  • Continuing the above there are so many ways to use Dropbox that you’d be foolish not to at least have it on your computer. Asana also integrates with Dropbox.
  • Various mobile applications for business card scanning to tame the veritable mountain of business cards you will receive, especially if you go to a conference.

Keeping your team on track has the added bonus that your administration expenses with external accountants and lawyers will be greatly reduced. Put it this way, what do you think is cheaper? Getting an accountant to read your 500 paper receipts or keeping track of it in an Excel document on Dropbox?

Technical Execution

Don’t program in PHP unless you know web security. The end.

Just kidding, it’s a little joke everyone seems to throw around.

Writing this section is a little difficult because there are many kinds of start-ups and some will be more reliant on hardware than software. However, there are many general principles that can be applied to both fields and that can be future proof. Let’s start with prototype.

Cloudherd App

Cloudherd App

Prototypes

Prototypes should not suck and by saying that I have just offended a number of lean startup proponents. If you do not have the technical skills on your team to construct a prototype that does not suck in the language you have chosen, or the engineering skills to solve unpleasant problems like capacitance, current draw or C memory allocation be prepared for a really rough time. I already mentioned a little about this in the first article and now I’ll expand upon it.

Not one of us knew Rails before we started programming the site prototype in it and it has been a long and painful journey to learn Ruby, Rails, Unix utilities, SQL, JavaScript, HTML and various libraries of such. If you can’t get a tech co-founder on your team, you can’t seem to teach yourself programming or you just don’t have the money to out-source then I would say that you should probably consider duplicating the process manually in WordPress. You will be extremely miserable with weird errors that you get from JS incompatibilities if you choose to start the site from the ground up without some technical experience.

If you are prototyping Hardware choose a platform like Arduino if it can achieve your desired form factor; programming in C  with hexadecimal maths is really unpleasant and Arduino already solves silly problems for you like voltage regulation right out of the box.

Focus on a working prototype and avoid futile striving for perfection that will doom you to many hours in a process I call: “Falling down the tech rabbit-hole”. This principle can also be applied in software, i.e. use Bootstrap for your front end not obscure graphics framework #569.

Your prototype just has to be good enough that people will pay money for it; just using it for free doesn’t count. This means that if you can convince customers to make an agreement to pay for your product, even if they are in principle, you have succeeded.

This is what we have done particularly badly on, though we are partially constrained by our business idea in that a large part of the system must be complete to achieve revenue.

It’s a fine balancing act. I advocate these ideas not from a lean point of view but from a technical risk and standardisation point of view as these are far more conducive to actual failure than not running lean.

Platforms

The second area of interest for this article technically is making sure that you choose the right platform to operate your business from. You need to make sure you don’t get locked in, that your platform is compatible with the systems you need and that it isn’t falling out of fashion.

There are a lot of good things about software platforms that are properly documented, act in a predictable manner and are used by lots of people. However, if you can’t get your code out at the end and make it run on another service you’ve really just tied yourself to the fate of the other company as well. What happens if Google discontinues the Google App engine service and your whole platform is based on App Engine? You’re going to have a bad time. This pertains to data as well.

Lots of Rails developers use Heroku for various activities and Heroku has a lot of great aspects. However, you will also spend half your development time fixing compatibility issues and trying desperately to make core application logic work.

Of course, Heroku has paid alternatives to these, but that’s not why you were using it in the first place. If you’re particularly unfortunate here you could end up in a situation where you have developed the app from the ground up and then the chief piece of software you need, i.e. a scheduling gem, doesn’t work on a particular technology stack. Then you have to tear the whole thing down.

I’ll finish with a really bad electrical engineering joke. How do AC and politicians differ? The frequency at which a politician oscillates is far higher. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be the one guy who keeps producing DC electrical generators when the whole world is essentially moving to AC generators. Which if you are a massive Tesla nerd, you would know already.

Stamp Cattle

Conclusion

Well I appear to have well and truly blown through my assigned word limit but hopefully you’ve learnt something from my experiences. For the more experienced entrepreneurs among us I’m sure this article might have been a bit of a well tread road but it should have proved amusing nonetheless.

Always stay thinking about how you can be more effective, about how you can achieve more success and about where your next free meal is coming from. Please tune in again next week for a look at some of the really stupid mistakes that you can make, especially with investors!

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