When we build innovation teams, we always ask for skill diversity – we want hackers, hipsters, hustlers AND humanitarians all working together. It’s a magical combination of skills, perspectives and interests.
Often, however, we struggle to find enough marketers and sales people to contribute.
Interestingly, it’s also something we often find in the makeup of early stage startups. Founders will seek out tech and product team members well before they seek out marketers. In fact, many founders spend a great deal of time and effort trying to find a tech co-founder.
But what of the marketing co-founder? Where are they and where can they be found?
There’s no substitute for being a good story-teller. Often the reason one company raises capital more easily than another in the same general category, with the same general metrics, is that the founder is just a more compelling storyteller.
So perhaps the next best strategic hire for your startup is …
Technology shifts and changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. Almost every day there are updates to your computers, “patches” to fix software, improvements to the apps on your phone and more. If you are like me, you’ll have automatic updates on so that these changes take place in the background – often overnight – so that when you turn on your device for the day – voila! – new improvements at your fingertips.
But not all updates are created equally – or with your best interests in mind.
A recent Snapchat upgrade added a new feature – Snap Maps. It’s a way to “view Snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news and more from all across the world”. Sounds great, right?
But it’s also a way for you and your friends (or the general Snap user) to share your location with each other. So now, if you are wondering where your friends are and what they are doing, you can seek them out.
It’s super easy to use, just open the Camera screen and “pinch out” like you are zooming out from a photo and Snap Maps will be activated.
From the map you can see snaps from interesting locations and events as well as photos of people that you know or are connected to.
But isn’t that stalking?
It’s rather cool that you can see where your friends are. In fact, Google has variations on this functionality in its maps – and even had the standalone product, Latitude, until it was closed down in 2013. At the time, I had concerns with Latitude and with the data that we uncaringly share with the people who make our phones and create the apps we run on them – and so too do I have concerns with Snap Maps.
Don’t get me wrong, as a marketer, location information can be super useful. And as a person with friends all around the world, I get a particular kick out of knowing where my friends and connections are and what they are doing.
For example, I know my friend Suzanne is travelling in the US at the moment. Thanks to Snap Map I now know that she was just on Mariposa Street in San Francisco. No doubt checking out the local fried chicken shops.
That’s kind of fun. But as a consumer it makes me nervous.
We know that on social media, the concept of “friendship” is fairly loose. There will be a lot of randomness in your friend list – plenty of people who you don’t know, have never met, and probably wouldn’t invite to your home to stay for the weekend. Yet, you can trust them with your location, each and every second of the day.
A warning for parents
As adults, we can make choices about who shares our personal information, location and so on. But parents with children who use Snap Chat may not realise what has become available with the new Snap Map functionality. In fact, most parents won’t know that some children have open privacy settings meaning that anyone can “friend” and connect/share information with them without asking.
Imagine, for example, your child has a group of friends who use Snap Chat to share photos, chat and keep connected outside of school. Then imagine that there’s an incident – like some bullying or bad behaviour – a falling out of some kind.
Thanks to Snap Maps, all your child’s connections (including the bully) will know where your child is whenever they are logged in.
No doubt, parents have asked their children about their connections and “friends”, and have received assurances that “no, I don’t add people I don’t know” … but words and actions are sometimes strangers. In this video, Joey Salads conducts a Snap Map stalking experiment with the parent of a young girl. The results are compelling.
Turn on Ghost Mode to protect your Snap Chat privacy
The only way to stop your location being shared across your Snap Chat network is to enable “Ghost Mode”. You will be prompted for location sharing the first time you upgrade to Snap Maps, but you can also edit your privacy settings later.
If you have children, I’d recommend you enable Ghost Mode immediately. In fact, unless you’re confident that you know your connections well, I’d enable ghost mode on every device. Being location aware can be useful, but data sometimes reveals more than we expect – and there’s no reason for us to turn a blind eye to it.
Once upon a time, we all had a dream of writing a novel. In fact, many of us are fond of explaining that we have that Great Australian Novel locked away in a drawer – or more likely – a computer file, gathering dust. One day … we say, we’ll dust it off and finish the story and garner the applause of the world. But like so many great dreams, the Great Australian Novel, often never materialises. But over the last couple of years, I have noticed a distinctly different aspiration coming from friends and colleagues. They speak not so much of a Great Australian Novel, but of a Great Australian Startup. Their own business.
From the number of conversations that I have had over the last 12 months, it seems that we’ve started the awkward journey of becoming a nation of entrepreneurs.
Of course, just like writing a novel, the trick to starting a startup is to “just start”. But while we can all pull out a piece of paper and start to write, surely a startup takes something more … substantial!?
Not so. The Disruptor’s Handbook, for example, is a program that literally guides you from idea to soft launch. And a lot of it requires writing words on paper. It’s just like a novel – but one where you are the hero. The villain. And the entire supporting cast.
Startups are a community affair
While writing a novel can be a fairly solitary activity, startups thrive on community. Feedback is the lifeblood of the startup, and that means the very worst thing you can do is bury yourself in your bedroom (or garage) and hope to knock out the next greatest Facebook/Insta/App. This is where coworking is your saviour. Coworking is a way to get out of the house, connect with others and test your ideas – and your business – in the hard light of day. After all, it’s no use building a business that no one wants or needs.
With this in mind, Vibewire has just announced a new program to support startups of all shapes and size. Called #StartupSundays, it runs each Sunday in October from 9:30am to midday. It’s like a lazy breakfast with motivated people. Over the two and a half hours, there will be speed mentoring and networking, inspirational talks and a chance for peer feedback and a spot of pitching. It’s a simple but effective way to get ahead of your week.
Each week, Vala Afshar and R “Ray” Wang host a web series DisrupTV. It’s a 30 minute deep dive into the world of digital transformation featuring the people and organizations that are leading that change.
This week’s episode featured GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell, Constellation Research Principal Analyst, Guy Courtin and myself.
Setting a cracking pace, GE have become the poster child for the world of digital transformation, coining the term “industrial internet”, establishing startups in Silicon Valley and setting a vision to be a top 10 software company by 2020. In the episode, Ganesh talks about the challenges of transformation – of moving from an industrial company to a digital company and what it takes. It’s well worth watching the replay to learn more about the tangible impact of digital transformation that GE is making not just within their business but well beyond it.
Joining Ray and Vala, about 25 minutes in, I shared some insight into the world of enterprise innovation in Australia:
Guy Courtin joined around 45 minutes in and brought amazing insight into the changing world of retail. From showrooming to the internet of things, he covered a vast terrain of disruption and opportunity, suggesting that bricks and mortar stores still have plenty of advantages over their digital only counterparts, and explaining that to be truly transformative, we need to stop thinking about “e” commerce and connect the dots around the customer’s commercial experience.
While the show ran for just over an hour, it’s jam packed with insight and energy. And DisrupTV is fast becoming an authoritative, must watch series for all those who are serious about the business of disruption and transformation in business. Check out recordings of past episodes here. And watch this week’s episode replay from Blab below.
Muru-D and Seven West Media are providing you with the opportunity to pitch your startup to Annie Parker, Clive Dickens and Alan Stuart with the winner receiving a fast track ticket to the interview stage of the muru-D accelerator program.
If you want to give yourself an unfair advantage – set aside some time to get clarity around your business, messaging and pitch. Seriously. One of the greatest mistakes many startups and founders make is to rely on the sizzle of the product, believing it will sell itself. Focus not on the Product-Market fit, but on the Market-Product fit. To help you, download the Disruptor’s Handbooks:
Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.
We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:
Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes
One of the greatest challenges any startup faces is distribution. How do you get your new product or service into the hot little hands of your customers? How do you do it quickly and with a high conversion rate? Gone are the days when you could drop your new app into the Apple App Store and start seeing download traction.
At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in July 2014, it was revealed that there are now over 1.2 million apps on the iOS App Store (Google Play, by comparison, is estimated to hold around 1.2 million apps on their store). This literally means that the chance of someone stumbling upon your prized and well-loved app is way less than one in a million – and when you add in algorithms, rankings, reputation and efforts to game the process, the average app developer is at a distinct disadvantage.
Rather than placing all your bets as a startup founder on “going viral” and creating the “next Facebook”, many are turning to some form of collaboration with corporates. And just as the startups turn to corporates, so too do the corporates turn to the startups.
Over the last few months there has been increasing interest in curating engagement with the startup community – not just sponsorship of events which is a light touch, but more substantial programs. While these may start out as “hackathons” where teams of developers come together over a weekend to collaborate on often random projects, when successful, the programs evolve into more substantial efforts. Firms like PwC host Open Innovation events that bring together entrepreneurs, small business owners, clients and researchers to solve challenging problems; NRMA and Slingshot recently launched their JumpStart program; and Telstra has progressed even further, establishing their Muru-D accelerator which has just accepted its second intake.
In an unexpected – but welcome move – Woolworths too are stepping into this space. It is still unclear what the benefits would be for a participating startup – the Wstart program website explains:
This is an opportunity to be heard by key Woolworths executives and discuss your business idea that could drive new thinking within Woolworths. We provide a collaborative environment to learn, share and network with others.
The format of the first event is Speed Dating where you can showcase your idea, collaborate with like-minded individuals, network, and receive mentoring from industry experts.
But the Wstart website is sparse – and to be honest – collaborative environments are popping up faster than I can blink. Or write. And while mentoring is great, access to potential customers, users and communities are far more important for startups.
After the speed dating event there is the opportunity to continue discussions with Woolworths.
If you are interested in participating, you need to submit your startup idea for consideration by 17 November 2014. You can do this on the Wstart website.
You could hear the noise in the lift on the way up. Over 150 people were packed into the open area of Muru-D, Telstra’s startup accelerator, awaiting the announcement of the ten teams who would participate in the second class of the Muru-D academy. For the teams that were selected, there was excitement. For those that didn’t make it, disappointment.
The Muru-D academy is a startup accelerator program supported by Telstra. It offers entrepreneurs $40,000 and six months of business mentoring and active development in exchange for six percent equity in the fledgling business. I joined the program as a mentor for the first class so was interested to get an early look at those involved in the second intake.
Around 20 or so new teams had been corralled at the Muru-D office in Sydney’s Paddington over a weekend. They were put through their paces in a “bootcamp” – an intensive round of meetings, instruction and pitching designed to help the Muru-D judges determine those most likely to succeed. Across the weekend, the startup teams were questioned, provoked, supported and challenged. It is certainly not a process for the faint hearted.
But talking to a number of the participants, it was clear that the bootcamp process was worthwhile – even more experienced teams learned a great deal.
All-in-all there were 11 teams selected to participate in the academy process. That was one more than expected – but clearly there was value to be found. This rounds teams include:
FanFuel – a sponsorship marketplace where brands search, measure and secure their sponsorship deal.
FreightExchange – a digital marketplace for freight transporters to sell their unused capacity to businesses that need to ship goods.
Wattblock – quick, customised, web-based energy-saving road maps for residential and commercial strata buildings.
Disrupt Surfing – custom surfboards made using 3D modelling.
You Chews – an online catering platform, making it easy to find great food for meetings and events.
TripALocal – an online platform that connects travellers with local hosts for authentic local experiences.
Peep Digital – an intelligent, phonetic English technology platform to help children, youths and adults struggling with English pronunciation and comprehension.
VClass – the first ever hybrid education platform that combines the power of internet, VoIP and traditional pen and paper to create an online teaching experience like face to face.
Instrument Works – developers of wireless, portable sensors and instruments to build the internet of things for research.
CroudSourceHire – a pre-hire assessments marketplace platform that crowdsources industry experts to assist with assessment of jobs for companies.
SoccerBrain – making it easy for anyone to coach a team, providing tailored, interactive training sessions week-by-week for coaches and players.
The teams kick off their acceleration program in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see where this wave takes them. And indeed, where it takes Telstra and the Muru-D team.
One of the great local startup success stories, Canva – the platform that lets us all create great graphic design in an amazingly simple way – has reached a milestone – 850,000 users. This is no mean feat – especially in a world where every startup, every mature business and hoards of consultants, freelancers and the like vie for our attention, loyalty and share of wallet. With a super-intuitive yet powerful interface, Canva have made it easy for anyone to produce quality graphic design, collateral and presentations.
And by “anyone”, I mean anyone. Including me, my brother and my mother (so yes, it passes the family test). And by “quality” I mean that the results don’t look like they were produced by me, my brother or mother. They look like they’ve been done by a designer. This is largely down to the great library of ready-to-go images, design elements, templates and fonts that come with a Canva account. But it’s also largely by the Canva co-founders keeping a close eye on their advocates, user base and fans.
Speaking with co-founder, Melanie Perkins, over a year ago, it was clear that the Canva team needed to walk a fine line between democratising design – making it available to the masses – while also maintaining the goodwill, support and efforts of the design community. After all, Melanie and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht had come from a design background themselves and were actively working with designers to build out libraries of assets that could be commercialised at scale.
In just over a year, more than 5.7 million designs have been created, Guy Kawasaki has come on-board as chief evangelist, and the team has grown beyond its cute digs in the funky Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
But not content to rest on their laurels, Canva have now released a new a full function app for the iPad.
And for me, this takes Canva into a whole new market. It puts their powerful platform into the hands of its users. Literally. And that means small business owners. Those who work in shops, restaurants and cafes. It brings ease-of-use to a new level too – with access to your iPad’s camera and camera roll, there’s no more messy transferring of images across devices. It’s all in one place – ready to be edited, filtered and combined with illustrations and images from the Canva library.
Now, I won’t lie. Canva in the hands of a good designer will astound you. And my mum’s birthday card designs, while a big hit with the family, are unlikely to end up being featured in a Hallmark promotion. But Canva is a massive step up from the entry-level tools that still dominate small businesses the world over. So say goodbye to that old Paint program, and say hello to a new universe of creativity. Download Canva for iPad here.
In the world of startups we have been obsessed with failure. And learning. Or what Mick Liubinskas from muru-D calls “flearning”. You will, no doubt, have heard of the concept of “fail-fast” – a term borrowed from system design and applied to software engineering – where the focus is on fast, iterative design that irons out errors through the process of repetition and improvement. But failure comes with risk and with stigma. And no matter how bravely we celebrate our failures, as 99dresses founder, Nikki Durkin points out, “luck and timing are often huge factors in success and failure.”
So I was interested to see the way that this infographic by MaryEllen Tribby focuses not on the outcomes of success or failure – but on the attributes and behaviours of the individual. And I am wondering – if we are honest – could we find a way to disrupt failure on our way to being successful. Is there a way to observe and recognise some of our own behaviours and then work to move them from the right hand side (yellow/unsuccessful) to the left (green/successful)?
And beyond that, what if we moved beyond platitudes (and infographics), and ACTED ON some of these things. Or all of them? I am going to give it a try. I’m going to spend 30 minutes a day carrying out actions from the green side. And I will let you know how I go. Perhaps disrupting failure is the secret to success. Time will tell.