Pitch your Startup

Pagely – We help startups scale WordPress.

Pretty interesting, these guys provide a documented way to scale hosted WordPress using Amazon AWS and unlike most of the other players in this market provide the configurations and their methods they are selling.

A few years ago this site melted down when the guys from 4 short links at O’Reilly sent me thousands of visitors in a matter of minutes to a page that was a collection of over 100 IOT Startups all with images of the devices, my traditional WordPress hosting just melted, likewise I hear similar reports from startups that have suddenly had their Techcrunch moment and their traditional hosting couldn’t cope.

Its almost impossible to solve this problem on a traditional WordPress hosting platform in real time, you end up losing the traffic and if they notice your hosting company often will throttle the site. This is a good way to solve this problem.

 

Startup Name: Pagely

Tagline: We help startups scale WordPress.

Pagely created the Managed WordPress hosting space in 2009, and has been providing secure and reliable WP hosting services to companies like Facebook and NGINX with a focus on:

Performance: Opcode caching, full page caching, optimized PHP and Database setups are essentially platform defaults now instead of the customer trying to figure it out on their own with a mix of plugins and research. More sensible resource balancing on shared setups (old shared hosting providers were notorious for overselling). Collectively these things have made WordPress dramatically faster (vs. a default install) in most use cases.

Pagely Tech Stack

Security: Some level of malware/file scanning, hardened OS installs, least-privileged access, web application firewalls and DDoS mitigation may be defaults at most Managed WordPress providers now. You don’t hear about widespread security issues as we did in say the 2008-2011 period. Those that come up are mitigated quickly by the Core team (or the respective plugin author) and aided by rapidly deployed patches or firewall rules by the Managed hosts.

Tooling: Automating installs, code updates, and backups along with staging and deployment workflows enabled development teams to work faster and create more complex yet stable sites on WordPress.

Support: More knowledgeable support technicians that understand WordPress to a higher degree than a generic web host. Some providers are better than others but all seem to at least make an attempt to specialize in the unique support requirements of WordPress. Here at Pagely we take great pride in our quality over quantity approach to support ensuring that every agent is not only deeply skilled in WordPress but proficient in the core technical skills of DevOps and deployment management allowing them to address any performance or security issue that may arise.

What’s next for Pagely?
It’s odd to look at the landscape, this $1 Billion-channel we created (and of course others helped to grow) and reflect on where we fit in the picture going forward. For us, it’s fairly simple – do more of the things that have made us successful thus far: Investing in our people and focusing on the customer. It’s a recipe that wins over the long term.

Target Segment: Businesses

How will you make money? Monthly plans based on project size

Capital Raised? None

Founder: Joshua Strebel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pagely

Website: https://pagely.com

 

How You Can Really Turn Failure Into Disruptive Success

After six months of hard work, we were sitting together on a warm spring afternoon enjoying a beer in one of Melbourne’s new hipster bars. We had learnt a lot, travelled all over Australia and met amazingly passionate people. We’d put together a lean startup with a focus to test a simple business idea and we’d heard countless times how much our tools were needed. There was only one problem. We had failed.

It was over. We’d decided to fold the company. Our hypothesis that Australian Manufacturers would collaborate as a means to an end and thereby solve their problems was false. We had tested it with a dozen SMEs and a group of billion dollar multinationals. In both cases we had failed to get the companies to commit. So we sat there and looked at each other realizing it was a failure we had to embrace and not a success. But how would we cope?

Our problem is one faced by everyone from lone entrepreneurs to global corporations. Things go wrong, perfected plans fall apart and momentum grinds to a halt. We were not alone. But everywhere we looked, phenomenally successful businessmen were telling us to embrace failure, to learn from it and benefit from its edifying nature. It was just when you were broke and had to admit to the failure, it seemed a lot easier said than done.

The lean startup methodology tells us to fail fast to learn fast. Iterate through the build, measure, learn cycle as quickly as possible to improve our product market fit. Top product developers opine on the benefits of failure. According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience, the lack of success has even been proven to be a better way to lead to disruptive new ideas than success itself because it forces us to look for alternative strategies! The problem is no-one says what to do when it all goes wrong. What to do when you fail.

If we turn to statistics, then the best thing an entrepreneur can do is to get up and try again. Numerous studies show that a second time entrepreneur is more likely to succeed than a first time entrepreneur. In fact, in Business Insider it was been claimed that one of the reasons why Israel’s startup scene punches so much above its weight is that most entrepreneurs have a number of failures under their belts.

When we get to the bottom of it, innovation is all about taking risks. To drive innovation in large corporations it is critical to have a culture which embraces risk taking because the flip side of taking risks is that failures will occur. A company culture which demands innovation but does not support and accept failure is clearly one which is destined to fail. Obviously this is not to endorse failure due to sloppy work or avoidable mistakes. Failure arising from testing the unknown is the type of failure which can be valuable and must be allowed.

Jorge, one of the world’s top innovation bloggers, recognizes the importance and difficulty of failing. Having been part of a number of failed enterprises he wrote “[I]n order to figure out which ideas will work, people move fast to implement those ideas. I’d argue that more important than that is the ability to recover from failure just as fast”. So what I’d like to know is how do we quickly and sustainably recover from a failure?

To answer this we turn to the most reliable source of answers – cutting edge research. For companies the latest research points to creating frameworks to support failure. Whether that is failure tolerant leaders, collaborative innovation schemes to share risk or an empathetic corporate culture, Harvard Business Review listed many ways companies can support the necessary failure involved in any risky innovation. The benefits? Companies which develop such a supportive climate, and provide employees with psychological safety to pursue their initiatives and an article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior showed this has been positively related to a number of firm performance measures.

For startups and entrepreneurs one of the best way to deal with failure is to be realistic and not fall victim to the latest wave of romantic headlines about “youngest billionaires” ever. 90% of startups fail and this applies to you. If you don’t think you are the special 10% but one of the 90% and set yourself the goal of starting three or four startups from the outset (or at least pivoting three or four times), then you will be able to cope with the failures that much better. This has helped me significantly – to know I’m not a lone loser but just like everyone else. It gives me the edge to grit my teeth, dust myself off and go again.

In addition to that, I have spent the last few years thinking about how we can reduce this level of failure and the result is my new book “Innovation Tools”. It lays out a method to help companies innovate in a low risk way to avoid the one thing we have discussed here the most – failure.

Another strategy which worked well for me is to launch all three of my startup ideas at the same time while I was still validating the market for each idea. This not only brings you faster to your goal but a Harvard Business Review report even demonstrated that when pursuing multiple businesses at the same time, the failures in one business seem to help raise the chances of success in the other ventures! The added benefit is that it will force you to focus on the core of each business and help you stick to doing the minimum to test each idea instead of adding unnecessary bells and whistles too early – a core part of methodologies such as the Lean Startup.

Coping with failure is important not only for us psychologically but for the economy at large but many people simply don’t know how. As Jorge put it succinctly “Failure isn’t the goal as it relates to innovating. Rather, your ability to recover from failure fast is just as important as your ability to fail fast.

IP Tips for Startups – Dr Justin Blows Interviews BT Imaging CEO Dr Ian Maxwell

This huge machine is Ian’s company BT Imaging’s QS-W2 , the photovoltaics industry’s premier silicon wafer robotic inspection system.

Justin Blows, Principal  of Phoenix Intellectual Property, interviews one of our long time contributors Dr Ian Maxwell about IP & Startups.

Ian has a wealth of experience with high-tech start-ups in Australia. He has run start-ups in areas as diverse as polymers, water treatment, medical diagnostics, ICT, touch screens, solar technology and software apps. He has also been a venture capital partner and invested in many more start-ups.

With all this experience, I couldn’t wait to discuss patents and start-ups with Ian. Ian has kindly agreed to reproduce part of our discussion here.

Justin: As an experienced investor, do you believe Australian start-ups should have patents?

Ian: For an investor, the correlation between patents and investment return is too strong to ignore. I greatly prefer to invest in Australian companies that can have patents. I strongly encourage start-ups that I invest in to pursue patents. The reality is, however, that most investors in Australia are investing in start-ups that don’t have patents and don’t get a return. I advise entrepreneurs to only invest their time and effort into businesses where it makes sense to patent certain inventions.

Justin: Not everyone believes that start-ups should have patents, especially when it comes to start-ups developing software.

Ian: Yes, there are sceptics, many of whom haven’t looked at the evidence. As a scientist, however, I believe in looking at the evidence.

Pulling together the results of two studies, I found that, on average, a software start-up with patents is around four times more likely to go to an initial public offering (IPO) than a software start-up without patents. Each IPO had an average return of around four times greater than a trade sale. That is, a software start-up with patents has the potential to provide a greater return on investment than a software company without patents. (A full account of this analysis is here).

Software companies with patents are bankrupted at half the rate of software companies without patents. In my experience, when a company is bankrupted, patents offer the highest value assets to help recoup investment losses, resulting in better portfolio returns for investors.

I expect the importance of patents to be even greater for start-ups in areas other than software.

Justin: What about from the perspective of the start-up? Are patents worthwhile?

Ian: Most start-ups in Australia have a default position of not pursuing patents. Start-up founders have limited funds and find it hard to find the time for patents. These are valid issues.

In my experience, however, patents are worth pursing from the start-up’s point of view because they generally attract a better quality investor and increase valuations, and may add value on exit if the acquirer assigns value to the patent. In one study, software companies with patents received 73% more funding. This is because companies with patents represent much better business investment opportunities.

Justin: What are your start-ups’ experiences of patents?

Ian: As yet, patents have not affected the exit value of my start-ups due to particular circumstances, but I am a strong believer in the evidence.

Patents have provided value in others ways: engaging with the patent system has made some of my start-ups aware of prior art that they probably would not have found otherwise. In a competitive environment, it’s not a good idea to replicate something that has already been tried. It may also be important to work around your competitors’ patents.

Justin: What is an appropriate patent strategy for a start-up?

Ian: A start-up should consider the impact that patents will have on the likelihood of a successful exit and the exit value. A patent strategy is generally easy to develop when this question is considered.

If your patent portfolio matches industry expectations then the likelihood of a successful exit increases. To gauge industry expectations, it can be useful to look at the patent portfolio of other start-ups in the same field that have successfully exited.

 

 

 

19 Hot Australian Startups to Watch in 2015

Ed: An edited version of this article will be published in the December edition of My Business Magazine

Introduction

I spend a lot of my time reviewing inventions and startups ideas and attend numerous pitch events, mentoring programs so I see a lot of pitches, some are great, others less so.

So I know bad when I see it, likewise occasionally I come across companies that I think are on the path to success.

There a few things we look for reviewing a startup.

Solving a Real Problem.

We really need to believe it’s real and significant pain to someone. I see a lot of businesses solving non problems (I have been guilty in the past) or me too providing solutions. If no one really cares about the problem you are solving, then your business doesn’t have a future.

Team and Execution

We look for teams that are strong both technically and commercially with evidence they can execute. I met some the companies listed below when they were still at the idea stage and since seen them build working businesses. That gives me a lot confidence in the entrepreneur that they are going to continue to execute.

Scalable Customer Acquisition & Service Delivery

Have they worked out how to cost effectively acquire new customers. Can they scale service delivery with minimal effort, if they are doubling users every month, do they have to recruit 100 new staff each month or press a button and launch 30 virtual cloud servers? Most businesses are not built to scale, either the product, people or the process will break. Generally they either can’t acquire sufficient customers or the product/service can’t be replicated at high volume without increasing costs or headcount even faster. This is typically why we see software/ web application businesses being valued at such high multiples or even pre-revenue.

A great example is the new business software app called Slack.com from the US. In less than a year they have grown from launch to 120,000 paying business customers, TinyBeans has grown zero to 500,000 users in under two years, Canva has gained 1 million users in a year.

Software driven businesses are one of the few ways companies can create massive levels of growth without increasing headcount, each new customer provides incremental revenue with almost negligible cost increase.

Electronic Hardware is much harder but will scale well if you have great product design, customer acquisition, rock solid manufacturing, logistics and a reliable product. If you have a reliable product you will do well, however if you ship a batch of product with problems it will sink your company.

Some of these businesses have already raised capital and have serious revenue or users and valued at $100 million plus, others are still at a very early stage but appear to have their business model working and may be looking for capital.

Its probably too late to invest in the former, once professional investors are involved its almost impossible to get into a fund raising but some of the later group may be looking to raise money in the new year.

If you are interested in Angel investing you could start by registering on Angel list or our local crowdfunding platforms ASSOB  or attending some of the Sydney Angels events. Also launching next year is

If you want to see more early stage companies follow me on Twitter @MikeNicholls88 or subscribe to our regular email updates in the sidebar.

I believe the 19 businesses listed below are going to have a great 2015.

High Growth

Pocketbook

Pocketbook-App-img-all-devices-1

What? Online personal finance service which aggregates all of your personal finance statements, income, spending and budgeting.

Why? No one has done a good job of this in Australia. I met one of the founders a few years ago when he was pitching at a Sydstart (the biggest startup conference in Australia). He told me he was going to create a service that allowed people to see all their finances across all their bank accounts and credit cards.

I though he had no chance of convincing the 20 or so banks that matter to give him access to their systems, I also though he would have a hard time engineering a web application that would pass the banks security requirements.

Turns out two years later they have managed both and are growing quickly and have raised a small funding round and are frequently near the top of the Itunes Finance App list.

I expect they will either raise additional capital to continue growth or someone with deep pockets will make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Stockspot

Stockspot

Stockspot

What? Online automated fund management service with lower management fees and less human error.

Why? The managed fund industry is ripe for disruption. Humans suffer from a lot of biases, Fund Managers try to outperform the index by trying to pick winners but 70% of them under perform the general market after their fees are deducted.

Stockspot is a similar business model to Wealthfront in the US which has been wildly successful growing faster than any fund manager in US history.

This is not an easy business to setup, barriers to entry are relatively high to new competitors, existing fund managers are conflicted and probably can’ adjust their business models or costs to compete.

Their website offers a very compelling story, their business model is clear cut and will scale very well if they can keep customer acquisition costs under control.

This is also a very sticky business, customers rarely switch fund managers. I believe there is an general mistrust of the funds management industry so a manager who is aiming to reduce management costs and provide transparency around the investment process with a slick customer acquisition routine is probably going to be successful.

Vinomofo

Vinomofo

Vinomofo

 What? Wine Ecommerce

Why? These guys are simply the best online email and video marketing company I have ever seen.

Wine is not a particularly easy e-commerce business, the freight costs are high and its tough to deliver a single case of wine to the consumer at a cost that matches the big liquor chains sale price at the store and the whole industry has an endemic discounting culture.

The one thing that singles these guys out is their relentless marketing execution and customer acquisition and in most businesses that is the biggest battle.

Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey

 

What? Online custom shoe maker who lets you design your own shoes and then makes them and ships them to you.
will make a shoe to your design and ship in

I like the concept and they have traction, most e-commerce companies resell other brand merchandise which is a high volume low margin game and most of them struggle to get scale.

Marketing, shipping and inventory costs make it a tough business for all but the enormous and the very niche.

Shoes of Prey own and make the product so they capture a much larger share of the margin in the supply chain and they have an incentive to invest in their own brand.

This model also benefits from not having to stock which is attractive, I imagine they actually generate net cash as they grow as they probably don’t have to pay the suppliers for a few weeks after receiving the cash from the buyer, I like this concept a lot and there isn’t many businesses that can pull it off.

They have also just struck a deal to expand in the US by opening counters in Nordstrom department stores which is a massive win.

Airtasker

Airtasker

What? Airtasker.com is a web service that allows consumers/businesses to post tasks or jobs they want performed and service providers or individuals to bid for the jobs.

Originally it was pitched at individuals doing tasks for other individuals but has turned into a significant lead generation service for businesses.

Why? They fill a gap in the employment market and are producing good gross margins (~15%) with strong growth on approximately $1 million in revenue a month.

They have traction in a double sided market, these are hard to attack, in order to be successful you need to have both critical mass of both consumers and service providers, if you are missing either you don’t have a service.

Generally double sided markets end up with a few large competitors and are tough to crack once established, it appears Airtasker is going to be one of the winners for casual labour.

Canva

Canva
What? Canva is an online graphic design tool that does just about everything your average user needs to create great quality banner ads, newsletter designs and other business graphics with prebuilt templates and thousands of images and effects available with templates setup for creating and operating Social Media accounts.

Professional quality graphics design is typically the domain of hipster designers who speak a different language, wear different clothes and generally don’t work for you. They use tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator that cost $1000s and have all sorts of tricks to create beautiful work.

Why? The company hit a million users within 12 months of launching. The app is slick and works extremely well and replaces a very expensive suite of products for the majority of business users.

The CEO is the networking master of the universe and has convinced a very high profile set of investors to both invest and publicly promote the platform including Guy Kawasaki who is an icon in the tech and startup industry.

This will be a major business.

TinyBeans

TinyBeans

What? Social Network for new parents

Why? This site is experiencing hyper growth, in October 2013 they had 40,000 users, in October 2014 they have over 500,000 users. Just raised $2 million in September. Great monetisation opportunities.

Catapult Sports

Catapult-Sports Catapult

What? Catapult Sports is a wearable sensor package for professional sports people that tracks their training and game performance and provides performance data back to their coaches and trainers in real time. Think of it like a Fitbit on steroids

Why? Catapult is on fire, they recently raised capital from Mark Cuban the US Billionaire owner of the Mavericks Basketball team.

They dominate a new market which is growing very quickly, they have hundreds of professional, national and Olympic teams using their product with strong positions in US NFL, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Soccer (football), every Australian Football team, Basketball and various athletic disciplines.

Expect a year of strong growth, expect to see the data gathered from the athletes shared on the TV/Web and possibly an acquisition offer from a large player such as Google, Apple or Nike (yes, completely different industries) or Fitbit.

wattcost

What? Wattcost is a smart power meter that can adapt to existing meters both digital and analogue and provide power monitoring and help reduce power consumption.

Why? This industry is ripe for efficiency gains, we have no idea how much power we use until we get the bill. We would however like to reduce our costs and consumption, but its not possible to get this information in real time.

Existing smart meter solutions require an electrician to attend the site and remove and replace your meter with a smart meter. The costs can be significant.

Some newer homes have smart meters but are primarily for the benefit of the energy company, there is no software or systems to help the user save energy.

Wattcost is user installable and works with both digital and analogue meters and is shipping now. Expect either a huge capital injection or a big acquisition offer in 2015.

Special Mentions

These companies are still very early stage, some have only just started shipping product but I think they are going to be special.

Tzukuri

TzukuriSmart fashionable glasses with bluetooth embedded in the frame so you cant lose them. Massive press coverage in the last few months and rumoured to have a deal with a large Multinational electronics company to sell these in their stores.

Vistr

Vistr-Screenshot

What? Cash Flow Management for Businesses – Integrates with Xero

Why? Real Problem, cashflow management has been a problem for businesses forever, very few workable software solutions exist, most small business accounting software does not solve this problem well.

I met the founders a year ago when this was an idea on a whiteboard, they have executed well and now have a working business model and paying customers.

Cartesian

cartesian-argentum-1024x575

Launched the Argentum printer earlier this year which prints PCBs (the green boards in electronics) Given electronics hardware has seen a massive resurgence in funding in the last year, I expect their product to be very popular.

Podplants

Podplants

New hydroponics solution for making greenwalls in commercial buildings (ie walls of flowers and plants). I have seen this founder iterate his initial concept through a bunch of variations from idea to shipping product and he now has a great product and is winning commercial business.

Farmbot

Remote sensing and communications for farms and the environment.

Agtech is one of the key opportunities for startups in the next decade. Demand for food and efficient production methods will continue to grow. Sensing and communications on the farm is a big problem and these guys have a good solution. Once they are established this will be a solid recurring revenue business.

Ninja Blocks

NinjablocksWhat? Smart home automation hardware devices and Apps to allow home owners to monitor and control security, air-conditioning/heating, lighting and other power related utilities. Home automation and monitoring is another of the top 5 market opportunities for the next decade, due to low costs micro-controllers and components companies such as NinjaBlocks are able to drive prices down to mainstream pricing.

Asset Guru

Provides Asset Tracking for Enterprise & Businesses. This is a big problem, most companies just use a spreadsheet which doesn’t work very well. Recently launched so no customer data yet but they look like they have a credible solution to a real problem with slick customer acquisition. Could develop into a solid recurring revenue business.

PicPac

App for stop motion & time lapse video and photography – Grown from 80,000 to 140,000 users in the last 6 months.

Makeupsocial

Social network for sharing your cosmetics and beauty tips. I know this is not exactly solving a big problem but you cant ignore the fact that they have 80,000 users up from around 10,000 a year ago months ago.

SwarmFarm

Robotic Farm machinery, using GPS and sensing can handle routine farm jobs such as spraying using a robotic lightweight tractor. Based in Queensland and with help from Queensland University of Technology and The University of Sydney Field Robotics team this is a low impact, low cost solution for a farm to cut their labour and fuel costs.

I spoke to the founder about a year ago and instead of spending a year building out a special farm robot, they simply equipped a relatively cheap lightweight farm UTV (pictured below) and spent all their time and effort on the robotic control systems (which is where the problem really is, not with the actual machinery).

Swarmfarm-Agbot - Credit QUT

Swarmfarm-Agbot – Credit QUT

Once they had the robotic control system working in the proof of concept vehicle they have now built a very lightweight sprayer system which is perfect for spraying, cheap to run and low impact on the soil.

Swarmfarm-new

Hackathon? Startup Weekend? Pop-up Accelerator??

Wikipedia tells us “A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects”.

On the model of Startup Weekend, Wikipedia explains these are “54-hour weekend events during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening”.

Both are phenomenal approaches to giving structure to teams of young, innovative teams in producing high quality projects in short time periods.

As for outputs of these two categories, a hackathon generates working prototypes of new technologies that solve a problem, whereas a Startup Weekend (according to a contact on the inside) generally lacks the time required for strong execution of prototype but does amazingly at validating a problem, solution, business model and performing a pitch at the end of the program.

So what if we could bring the two models together, over a slightly longer period, and judge teams on both work done on external validation of problem, solution and business model but during their final pitch ask not only for slides to be presented but also the working prototypes they have coded up?

What if mentors from accelerator programs like AWI Ventures (main program partner), SlingShot Accelerator and Venturetec Accelerator were collaborating in providing world class mentoring and support to these teams?

What if investment groups like Optus Innov8 Seed and Tank Stream Ventureswere side by side giving mentoring to teams from an investor point of view?

What if the likes high-end tech development agency First Order founder, Alex North, was a key mentor into the program?

What if a passionate group of entrepreneurial UNSW alumni, led by Jonathan Barouch (who has already built a killer app for the same CBA platform the program is targeting with his startup Local Measure) gave up their time, expertise and skills to support each team as a means of “giving back” to their university?

What if the participants were both local and international students and alumni from a variety of faculty, schools and backgrounds – from the obvious Computer Science majors but also across many other Engineering disciplines, and of course the UNSW Business School (who hosted the event in their new flexible, flipped classrooms on campus)?

Then imagine 15 Commonwealth Bank staff divided themselves into hipster, hacker and hustlers categories and provided another layer of mentoring for the students competing. With my colleague Melissa Ran and her team of 20 volunteers making things go smoothly in the background, it would be difficult to think of a way to improve “people power” for a single program.

This is what happened with the UNSW CBA Hackathon we ran September 27 – October 2 this year and the results were very interesting. One of the exciting results was that we have ended up with at least three startups with real solutions to real problems and the support of a major corporate who cares: Commonwealth Bank Australia. Some of the teams are already making use of the mentoring from CBA domain experts and access to the brand new CBA Innovation Lab. In addition, the teams are making use of the free incubation services provided by the Student Entrepreneur Development team at NewSouth Innovations.

$7,500 was up for grabs for the 9 teams who were competing with a focus on the retail transaction space and leveraging the Commonwealth Bank platforms Albert,Leo and Pi.

Some of the concepts teams developed during the program included:

  • tyca (customisable receipts)
  • Easy Dining (an entertaining self-service dining application)
  • Go Get Goods (an app for buying regular grocery items cheaper and easier)
  • Gift (a location gift recommendation app for merchants and shoppers)
  • Notify (a queuing systems specifically for the merchants Albert device)
  • PayRun (an app that allows you to pay faster and save time on waiting)

The icing on the cake was the quality and diversity of the judging panel.

A heavy hitter and such an amazing fit for this program, Brian Long is both the Chairman for the UNSW Audit Committee in addition to being a Board Director at CBA. UNSW alumni entrepreneurs were represented by Jonathan Barouch and CBA by Dilan Rajasingham, Executive Manager Technology Innovation and Senior Solution Architect Jason Chisholm who was able to judge on technical viability regarding how the concepts would work in practice with the CBA platforms at hand.

So who were the winning teams?

In 3rd place, and perhaps the most entertaining pitch, was Cabert – an app that allows one device to replace all others in a taxi. Given the controversy of Uber in terms of disrupting the taxi industry it will be very interesting to see how far Cabert can go and what attention they pick up along the way.

2nd place was taken out by ShopLink, a communal network for merchants. It allows merchants using the CBA Albert and Pi platforms to give each other competitive advantage over similar vendors outside of the network.

The winning team was CrowdSauce, a simple yet effective solution that combines self-payment with user ratings. The judges were impressed by the depth of validation the team had achieved in such a short time – particularly the way the team engaged potential customers (who they are still in touch with) and at the same time put together a prototype which was presented to judges during their final pitch.

The lead speaker of the 3 person team CrowdSauce, Ishaan Varshney, is completing a Computer Science degree from the Faculty of Engineering with a minor in Actuaries from UNSW Business School, “To be honest, the event wasn’t what I expected – it wasn’t a typical hackathon. I didn’t realise how much I would learn about pitching my product. As someone from the “hacker” category, I now recognise how important pitching is in getting your idea off the ground. I found it really valuable learning to validate a problem with the real world in real time – then follow up by validating our solution and business model – its really exciting for us to be able to now access ongoing support from CBA in their Innovation Lab too”.

So was the program a success?

We think so. We have brought together our UNSW startup ecosystem around the new batch of potential entrepreneurs out of the university. We’ve generated some great media exposure in The Australian, CIO and ComputerWorld for our sponsor CBA, the winning student team and UNSW itself. For our main sponsor, CBA, as opposed to looking at this program as a way of getting an early view on talent for recruitment purposes, it was more about testing concepts and validating new potential applications for their payment gateway platforms – and feedback has been nothing but positive so far. The biggest success for me though has been the 4 or 5 teams of students who have approached us post-event to continue with their startup ideas beyond the competition.

So, a “hackathon”, a “Startup Weekend” or a “Pop-up accelerator” – whatever you classify this program as, we certainly want to do more of them in 2015!

HelpRace- Helpdesk & Community Support Management Platform

You can pitch your Startup, App or Hardware here

The Pitch

Startup Name *Helprace
What problem are you solving?With over 500,000 businesses starting up in America every month (and rising), there’s no better time to help small companies grow in the right direction.The idea for Helprace came about due to a lack of an all-in-one, holistic support solution.

Back in 2011 our founder and CEO Gregory Koldirkaev thought the customer service software market was fragmented and lacked cohesion.“Everyone had their blinders on, from help desk providers to knowledge base guys to community managers” he recalls. “But together, they presented value that was hard for me to ignore”.

What is your solution?Helprace is more than a help desk and a self-service portal.We offer a community that transcribes user activity into the company’s admin panel. Using 4 intuitive feedback categories, users can ask a question, share an idea, report a problem or give praise.Currently, there’s no app on the market that does the above, but well-known enterprises such as Zendesk and GetSatisfaction offer a help desk and a community, respectively.
Why is this a great opportunity?Helprace fills the gap that exists between help desk vendors and community managers – allowing companies to better engage with their customers.Our software is a result of changes in user expectations and companies’ increasing preference of having a centralized support platform.
Target MarketWe’re targeting enterprises, IT companies and startups who wish to centralize customer service without spending a fortune in the process.We are targeting small companies that have a growing customer base. Companies that are poised to grow in size and look to centralize their customer service process early on.
How will you make money?When we roll out a pricing structure, we will generate revenue through out monthly or annual subscription plans. For now, our software remains free to use.
Founders NamesGregory Koldirkaev
Websitehttp://helprace.com
What type of funding has the company receivedBootstrapped/self funded

Startup88 Verdict

Helprace is trying to insert itself into the junction between two very competitive markets, Helpdesk and Community Management.

However the one thing that is clear to me is that most of the Helpdesk vendors are aimed toward technical support solutions, they are not particularly user friendly to the average non technical team member or customer support person.

A lot of these are technical throwbacks from the old days only suitable for engineers to log and solve support calls. They don’t offer a blend of customer and crowd support via community pages.

CRM Vendors such as Salesforce offer community management extensions to their core CRM platform, but you know you are going to bleed from the eyes when you hit the pricing button and it asks you to signup to book a demo and get a pricing call from an account manager.

Likewise most of the CRM providers are aimed at Enterprise and a largely not great solutions for smaller businesses especially when you need to get them to do something which crosses the border between CRM, Helpdesk and Community Management. Making Saleforce or their partner applications fit your company can be a very expensive exercise.

If you were trying to build something like Helprace from Salesforce + Partner apps, you would not only be up for a very stiff monthly fee from both, you would no doubt have an upfront implementation/consulting fee that a small or medium business would struggle with.

Most of the community management packages I could find were standalone or had some form of API to your CRM.

A few issues I had with the product.

I really have trouble with the name, I keep pronouncing it Hel Prace not Help Race, maybe it might be better to capitalise (I know this is a bit trivial but they wouldnt be the first startup that screwed the business because of a difficult name).

The bigger issue is that it just wasn’t clear how I would integrate this with my existing CRM or Social Marketing systems or if this was in fact supposed to replace them which seemed unlikely.

Some of their competitors such as GetSatisfaction which are aimed at the Social Community Management space and Lithium which are aimed at the Social Media and Community space and Zendesk which is one of the leading helpdesk solutions seem to offer very good integrations with dozens of other CRM and Social Media/Marketing/Email solutions.

While the Helprace websites mention an API, it doesn’t sound like these are integrated or out of the box which means you are probably on your own or going to require expensive integration.

Its hard to imagine that a business who needs this solution, doesn’t have some form of CRM, Sales/Marketing and or billing solution that it needs to integrate this capability with.

I like the solution, it does seem to offer value for the business that needs to integrate both Community and Helpdesk, but without integration to sales, marketing and other parts of the business I think its going to find it difficult to build massive growth on its own.

My feedback to the founders is that I would be trying to find a small-medium market CRM provider who doesn’t have a Community and HelpDesk solution and do some form of joint marketing together, ie create an out of the box integration that provides value for both sides.

Ideally if you wanted to ride the coat tails of a major enterprise growth phenomena (check out this growth curve) I would be trying to integrate with Slack.com, I believe there is a place for a community/social/helpdesk integration within Slack as Slack doesn’t appear to cover this aspect, being particularly focused on internal communications and workflow and yet the provision of solutions to a customer probably have to come from within the Slack workflow, so it seems to me there is an opportunity to integrate meaningfully and create a Slackbot that routes customer support requests to the appropriate team.

On its own Helprace looks like a good solution, if I was the founders I would be putting all my focus on ensuring customer could integrate to existing or other cool apps that might displace existing point solutions.

 

 

 

Giveaway – Two Free Tickets to SydStart 2014 – Tuesday Sept 2 – Massive Lineup Announced

SydStart and Startup88 are giving away two free tickets to SydStart at the Hilton Hotel on Tuesday 2nd September.

Fantastic Lineup with the following speakers confirmed and more to be announced tomorrow:

  • Mike Cannon-Brooks – Atlassian
  • Ash Fontana – AngelList
  • Matt Barrie – Freelancer
  • Melanie Perkins – CEO Canva
  • Charlotte Yarkoni and Annie Parker – Muru-D Founders
  • Hugh O’Brien – Entrepreneurial Author
  • Max Kraynov – CEO JetRadar
  • Simone Eyles – Cofounder 365 Cups
  • Clover Moore, City of Sydney Lord Mayor
  • Alex Greenwich MP
  • Torsten Blackwood , Photographer to the Tech Rockstars & Billionaires
  • Dan Friedman – CEO NinjaBlocks
  • Matt Symons – CEO SocietyOne Australia’s first Peer to Peer Lending Platform
  • James Windon – Co-founder Brigade

These will be drawn on Saturday morning and the winners will announced and emailed by Saturday 6pm.

To enter the draw fill out the form below.

SydStart Giveaway
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* We don’t spam, by entering the draw you are agreeing to receive occasional emails about Startups. Startup88 and SydStart won’t share your details with 3rd parties. Of course you can opt out at any time.

 

 

Dominic Green is Nailing it

This weeks Nailing It goes to Dominic Green. I first met him through my brother (David) some 5 years ago in Dubbo (Regional NSW).

Full disclosure: I am one of Dominic’s clients, he did a lot of the work in drafting my Crowdfunding Legislation Reform submission to CAMAC.

At that stage Dominic had left the big city lights where he was a recently graduated lawyer and economist studying carbon accounting.

Dominic Green - Green & Associates

Dominic Green – Green & Associates

In the “bush” he was able to exercise his brain on the many evolving carbon and renewable energy projects taking place West of the great divide.

He started pioneering legal work on carbon sequestration through pyrolysis (burning plant waste in the absence of oxygen) among other things.

Dominic was young, brash and direct. He had a career as a male model under his belt so his presence in a country town along with his ex-model fiancé was noticed.

After the breakdown of his relationship he returned to Sydney where his litigation and broad skills were more in demand. But being seen as inexperienced he started at the bottom of the food chain.

He quickly rose through the ranks to become the company top earner and whilst he wanted to become a Partner there was “no room at the inn”.

So he upped and left to start his own firm Green & Associates.

The firm he’s created is startup friendly with fixed price, win-only fees or variable fees as the client needs. This flexible, client-friendly nature reflects Dom’s desire (impatience) to get things done.

From representing alleged criminals to startups he truly has one of the most interesting case-loads and day-to-days of anyone I’ve met.

It is rumoured he jointly represented two bitter rivals that took the legal and non-violent path to reclaiming money from someone that owed them both. This person could only have the funds if he proved the existence of an artwork in his possession was authentic.

This verification was long and complicated but eventually resulted in a sale and in turn repayment to the rivals. Dominic was said to have managed all the parties through the transaction.

But Dominic is not all about wheeling and dealing, he has done pro bono work for environmental regeneration charities and more recently has assisted me with drafting crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) legislation.

This inspired his tag line: law in black, white and green. On top of his legal work he is also privately developing resorts in Indonesia and dating some of the most beautiful women on the planet.

Whilst this type of nailing it contrasts with the usually wholesome family-raising qualities espoused by this column, I can still recognise (as most would) that in the world Dominic occupies he is definitely nailing it.

For your environmental work, legal brain and social nous, thank you for helping me and others like me – you are nailing it.