Enduring

Funny Aussie US Translation for Americans and Australians

Here in sydney we are uniquely connected to most major cultures in the world as a result of years of overcoming geographic  isolation and also managing our immigration in a fairly haphazard manner.

What could be perceived as a structural disadvantage or government policy failure has actually ended up being fairly good to the extent that we now have an awesomely connected and multi-cultural society.

Arguably the best connected axis is the UK since we drew our first settlers (after the original indigenous Australians of course) followed by strong links with Asia (for example the gold rushes over a century ago) and also North America. This is before we consider the specific cultures of Europe (particularly Mediterranean countries) and the old French Empire and of course specific strong corridors of trade and immigration like South East Asia.

So we are fortunate to have as a result around 150 languages widely spoken here on the East Coast of Australia. At the same time 61% of the people on the internet are in our timezone (and 68% on the West Coast) both of these numbers are arguably the highest of any country/continent in our categories of development, education, economic strength, quality of life and force of law.

It is fun to highlight a little of our simple differences since we have to work with so many different cultures.

Here is a great primer on language differences. It is fairly informative and also pretty funny.

I am going to share this with our international offices at Freelancer.com and try and find equivalent videos for the AU-UK, AU-EU, AU-CN and AU-SEA corridors that are also fun and informative. Feel free to add them in the comments if you know any.

It is a great primer for anyone doing international business especially tech startups, students or anyone planning to travel.

Bill Gates On The Limits of Capitalism

‘The market does not drive the scientists, the communicators, the thinkers, the government to do the right things. And only by paying attention to these things, and having brilliant people who care and draw other people in, can we make as much progress as we need to make.’ – quote from Bill Gates

With thanks to Business Insider Australia.

Why Are Tech Startups Different

People often ask me why are professional tech startups companies different from normal small business companies.

More specifically I would say tech startups with a focus on disruptive innovation that are run by professional entrepreneurs are VERY different because of the following main points.

But why is this question important?

This question is important because it guides or regulators in helping and hindering these new powerhouses of the economy. After all, most importantly very few people can create millions and even billions of dollars in new wealth from a garage with two people yet this is widely accepted as reality for our very special industry.

  1. Speed – most can be formed in a weekend and may disappear just as fast. It is not unusual for 50 hackers and hustlers to meet on a weekend and form 10-20 businesses with teams formed, pilot products, markets identified/tested, brand selected etc… It is more typical to be 3-6 months followed by a pilot. Detailed data is also now available too which enables ongoing benchmarking of this phenomenon. Similarly ‘speed to success’ in the market and quickly achieving remarkable financial valuations are also possible.
  2. Responsive – operating in a competitive space means they need to flex in response to competitors (often well funded overseas competitors). This response often requires new skills or knowledge so teams flex and change.
  3. Equity based – low capital means using equity is a common (and often the only) way of rewarding staff. This needs to flow easily as team members join/leave in the early stage in particular and paperwork or long term tax hassles need to be minimised in terms of time and cost of management.
  4. Different Perspective – starting point is often ‘free’ and the time taken to build it is less than it would normally take just to read typical tax or industry regulations/guidelines – focus is on doing and testing first. e.g. Why can’t we have self driving cars and also free internet for everyone in the world. Also global distributed teams crossing jurisdictions are common and increasingly the norm.
  5. Geek – typically a high technology component (although this is not always unique) the products are normally mainly tech or tech enabled and usually highly internet (regardless of device) enabled.
  6. Lean – usually iteratively learning via experiments to acheive product-market fit, less likely to have large ‘waterfall’ (long project cycle) approachs and more likely to release early and often for customer feedback (alphas, beta, campaigns, market a/b tests etc).
  7. Often Disruptive – Dramatically different approaches that disrupt industry encumbents. e.g. itunes to the music industry style of challenge is just one well documented example but there are thousands more.
  8. Talent – flows across borders easily to the place with the most like minded people, lowest burdens (tax, internet access, paperwork) and best ecosystem (talent, co-working spaces, incubators, education, quality of life, accelerators, investors). It is not uncommon to find <20yo people with great tech skills that have worked on 3 to 5+ startups and 2-3 countries.

No doubt there are others too, add them in the comments and they will be included in the next version of this post.

Before posting this I had the pleasure of listening to the CFO of Google Patrick Pichette speak on a similar topic and my key takeaways on what he sees as key attributes of successful entrepreneurs were

  1. Want to change the world
  2. Dream big really big e.g. one billion people or more
  3. Persist / pivot / learn – in particular treasuring insights of behaviour and science over conventional practice – and even the way we learn is being completely re-written
  4. Improve success by hanging out with other tech entrepreneurs that inspire, ground, support and share.
  5. Ignore conventional wisdom and focus on the new enablers and how these will change the world e.g. internet, mobile, tech, immense capacity at low or zero cost and
  6. Realise we are only at the beginning of a new age of innovation and enlightenment.

Powerful words indeed.

Read For Growth

So you want to grow your business. So maybe you want help with your business or maybe mentoring. Cool. I/we want to help.

But before we start you have to do some stuff that is important for both of us in the interests of saving a lot of people a lot of time. Don’t want to sound tough but this will really help us both…

Of course if you are a customer or prospect and you just want to pay for consulting stop reading now. You just have to pay for our experience, methodologies, information, tools and of course our time and we will tailor this material for you.

Otherwise read on.

Do yourself (and me and others) a favour –

  • If you have not read the books/blogs below or some summary version of the same then please don’t contact me for mentoring/advice/advisory board roles/director roles etc.Basically there is plenty of the foundation stuff you need to learn first before we could move any discussion onto the next (important) level anyway.
  • If we haven’t met in person or done a proper skype teleconference (which only arise after a good fresh meaningful mutual contact introduction) then please don’t connect with me on linkedin.Rationale here is simple and not trying to be difficult, you see even after deleting heaps I still have 425 linkedin connection request invitations and messages outstanding not to mention emails.  Just because I have a freaky large number of connections on some social media doesn’t mean I am an open networker, I am simple good at being time efficient and pretty well connected. For a reason: To be productive and meet my goals.
  • Understand that my current personal goals are to –
    a) grow a hyper connected hyper successful startup ecosystem in Australia, particularly Sydney and
    b) build my businesses (e.g. Coinr and Cooper & Co) and investments for income and self fulfilment and to help goal a) and to
    c) give my  family (especially kids) the best I can and
    d) live a full life which includes a bunch of other lesser goals like improving the planet in other ways.Note: Helping you with your startup is part of the first goal but time on this is necessarily very limited

However, on a more positive note, if you have read some or ideally most of the material on the list below and have a considered opinion (not a one of trash of insight, sit on it for a few days or ideally weeks) and you still want to discuss the nuances of how it applies to your disruptive innovation then awesome lets rock!

Start by reading my twitter feed which has a lot of the latest thinking and short links to time efficient summaries of these sources. Yes this is me – Peter Cooper is @pc0 on twitter.

Key Concepts (Mandatory)

  1. Disruptive innovation
  2. Why software is eating the world
  3. Lean startup principles
  4. Being An Autodidact Entrepreneur

Books (Very Highly Desirable)

  1. Rework By 37 Signals
  2. Lean Startup By Eric Ries
  3. Innovators Dilema By Clayton Christensen
  4. Inside The Plex By Steven Levy
  5. Getting Things Done By David Allen
  6. The Intelligent Entrepreneur By Bill Murray

Blogs (Good Practice)

  1. Steve Blanks blog
  2. Paul Graham’s blog
  3. Pete Cooper’s blog

Get Connected (Mandatory if you are in Sydney or Australia) – Ideally you should also look at attending/following/joining –

  1. @608Harris
  2. @SydStart
  3. Silicon Beach Australia

Australia – Riding On The Geek’s Back

Time to stop plodding Australia. It is time to go screaming into these amazing tech enabled blue sky opportunities. Forget the resources red ‘ocean’. Grab hold of reality and read on…

Throughout the short but eventful history of Australia we have been often referred to by domestic and international commentators as riding on the back of something, riding on someones coat tails or basically not having originality of thought or independence of action.

I think these commentators are incorrect and purely demonstrating their own short sighted views and lack of context, especially lack of awareness of the unique or at least highly differentiated inventions, businesses, products and services we have created.

These creations have come in turn from unique circumstances not least being the tyranny of distance, scarcity of resources like water, food, population, manufacturing, technology, skills and of course funds.

Frankly these are just excuses.

Any entrepreneur knows scarcity just helps rapid decision making and outcomes.

So we have had our fair share of riding –

Riding on the sheep’s back

Riding on the farmers’s back

Riding on the miner’s back

And of course riding on the coat tails of England, America and more recently China, India or even just ‘Asia’.

Well now it is time for us to be –

Riding on the Geek Entrepreneur’s back

What does this new future look like?

A brand? Like Silicon Beach Australia? Glad our PM finally heard this recently, around 5 years after the term was in wide use in the tech entrepreneur community.

A network? Like NBN? No doubt it will help. No doubt we all want fibre speeds. But how long will it take and what price will we pay both now for implementation and longer term through lack of innovation or competition for this new monopoly. It is taking decades to reintroduce effective telecoms competition after the Telstra (Telecom) monopoly, this new monopoly will cause even greater risks to creative commerce and privacy. It is a little bit like superannuation, an enormous honey pot of data (and value added revenue), too tempting for government to ignore.

A community? Like sydstart, fishburners, silicon beach, aesy.org and so many others around the nation in every state and territory capital? Probably, yes. But learning to encourage and support these fledgling future economic engines is key. Remove their barriers don’t add to them or ignore them. Lately I have attended a string of political announcements promising awareness but is anyone actually listening and acting? No, they keep quoting an understanding of disruptive technology without having read the book. No, they fund and promote the largest events for   startups which are actually run by millionaires and are only one third of the real thing which is run by real startups and real community.

We need simple changes to –

Enable superannuation funds to invest in startups via simple aggregators run by corporates and industry experts (not ICT experts and not advertising centric digital creative service providers but true entrepreneurial tech startup industry experts – there is a huge difference – despite many common tech skills and some commercial skills).

Enable startups to pay tax only on realisation of the return. For example on trade sale, on IPO, on change of control or on raising of material amounts of capital. This allows employees, co-founders and early enablers (mentors, angels, accelerators like pushstart, startmate and founders institute) to participate in very early stage high risk ventures without being literally killed by paperwork and capital gains tax before a cent is realised. It is only common sense.

Create more pure computer science graduates. All the real innovators from google australia to the tech startups from atlassian to freelancer to fishburners all know this. They are the job creators and export income generators and wealth creators for our nation. Some universities are doing well despite challenges to their business model but dumbing down computer science is the fast track to unskilled oblivion. We need more pure specialists that understand ground up technology (build a new quantum computing capability or ever a smarter/faster mobile phone or phone operating system – but please, please, please – not another programmer of trivial iphone or android apps that doesn’t understand the whole tech stack).

Actively promote at city, state and federal level a national roadshow of our leaders to visit the heart of this community in Sydney not to mention their ‘vital organs’ i.e. peers in each state and understand the transformative power.

Only when each leader at each level understands what we already have and supports it much much earlier in the lifecycle than they currently do and stops talking down our ecosystem (e.g recent comments by senior people from commercialisation australia at conferences and popular media) will we truly thrive.

The good news is our smartest people are going to The Valley and New York and coming back to share and leverage local advantages and natural assets that you don’t have to be a visionary to see or utilise.

The good news is our smartest people are getting funded by truly disruptive funding and community enabling technologies and the people behind them others (like our government, bureaucrats and media) are yet to even comprehend.

The good news is these disruptive innovators are creating jobs while other countries strategies focus on job destroying efficiencies.

The good news is this is being accompanied by social innovation that is transformative.

I hope Andrew Stoner, Greg Pearce, Julia Gillard, Doron Ben Meir, Asher Moses, Peter Grey and a few others get to read this and actually follow the links rather than skim the headlines. I hope these same people stop using the same old excuses and put downs. I hope they stop using the same old examples of ‘success’ that are literally years old (good though they may be).

We are world class in places, lets nurture and grow those, it just takes a little awareness, alignment and encouragement not even much money or much time.

We could be flying on the geeks back if we do it right.

</EndRant>

Sorry but No. I need to FOCUS

Why Is Focus Important?

This is the story of why focus is important (in my personal context) and how I have formally changed my approach to mentoring.

I have always been a big fan of Mick Liubinskas and his ‘Mr Focus’ persona he takes on stage when encouraging tech startup entrepreneurs to pick something to focus on, pick one differentiated thing, not ten things to build your business around. I have a great photo of one of the first times he ever gave that presentation back in 2009 or 2010 at an early SydStart and it still makes me smile.

Most people who know me well will know how productive I am, it really do punch through a lot of stuff with a system of people and processes around me and the initiatives I care about. It feels weird to talk like this and in some cultures this will sound big headed but it is simply to give a little context to what follows.

So What Has Worked Well?

Lately it has been obvious that the few things I focus on have gone well in fact after nearly 25 years of cool stuff in financial technology and more recently helping build the Sydney Startup Ecosystem it is obvious focus pays off big time. Well, in a work context that is, most of the time it does, lets put personal relationships aside for one moment.

For example –

  • SydStart recently ran for the fourth time (third if you don’t count the mini one). SydStart is a (normally) annual event has now become the leading professional tech startup event in Australia, I founded it a few years ago and it keeps pretty much doubling every time we run it. This time we had nearly a thousand people and probably more importantly the quality of the speakers, attendees and exhibitors keeps going up too. So that particular focused effort has paid off.
  • Family has been another focus area and I am super proud of how my daughter and son are growing up and have been able to see bits of the world first hand yet still know their family here in Australia especially grand parents and extended cousins. It is wonderful to see such bright, energetic, positive people slowly find their place in the world and learn just how much they can contribute.
  • Fishburners is really coming along nicely too. Those of you whom know me will see a recurring theme where I don’t step up to lead if others are already doing stuff. But I will be there quietly supporting and actively shaping. This is one of those projects and it is nice to see over a thousand people a week through the doors now, around 200 members and we have expanded to take over the whole building @608harris.
  • Cooper & Co is also coming along – by leveraging all those past glories (see Linkedin ‘cool stuff’ link above) and new technologies it complements the major consulting groups well by providing the business technology management (strategy to execution) component which the premium providers like McKinsey and Booz often tend to leave off and it is precisely where we pick up and really excel.  We are trying to focus on industries more aligned with our personal values, this might take a while given our focus has been in finance related tools, mergers and acquisitions and real-time (often trading) technologies.
  • Coinr is the main platform I want to focus on (read the Coinr Blog for the evolving details) but unfortunately I have some other distractions (good ones but still distractions) that need to be substantially reduced. The ideas I have in my mind for coinr need to get out into the real world, the benefits could be remarkable for a heap of people if we can execute well enough.
  • All my mentoring and growing the Sydney Startup Ecosystem is simply taking up a lot of time. On a typical week I will do 5-10 meetings directly related to the Sydney Startup Ecosystem plus a further 5-10 requests for mentoring by Startups. This might be about Silicon St or the NSW Govt Industry Action Plan or lobbying to Drop Paperwork for Australian Tech Startups(DPATS) or engaging local city of sydney people or engaging global thought leaders to visit, share with or set up branches in Sydney.

So What Does This Mean?

It is all fun and good for Sydney and the country but I can’t keep putting so much time it that stuff. Especially philanthropy and mentoring. I am also going to dial down the community time component.

Usually all this is pro-bono, ie free, zero pay, no income, no financial gain arrrggghhh. The money doesn’t worry me particularly but it does impact my other initiatives because there is a real quantifiable opportunity cost. Obviously I am adding value because people keep coming back and referring more people but frankly it is becoming unsustainable. I could charge for mentoring but really don’t want to do that.

It is not like I am starving, my financial technology work over the years has paid well and I do have acorns stashed away (mainly illiquid investments).

But the real issue is not money. I’d be equal happy with just instant noodles and good internet. The reason I remain excited about the startup scene here is simply I want my kids to grow up in a great environment where their chances of running randomly into great opportunities (i.e. great people doing great stuff) is as great or greater than in San Francisco or whatever the next hot tech startup entrepreneurial scene is going to be. In fact my bigger vision is for that wish to be shared with and realised by every Australian and for us to lead in greater Asia. I’ll write a detailed post (or book) on that eventually some time, it will probably be called Riding On The Geek’s Back.

I’d also like to lead the way by being a successful example. Many people would say I already have been ridiculously successful, having made some huge impact on the world in a few industries in a few countries and made serious money for a lot of stakeholders in various ventures. I think the point is that I’d like to do one that is all mine. End to end. Not all mine in the sense of not sharing the journey with stakeholders (e.g. co-founders) but one on the sense that I can say I/we did it from scratch to global success including all the potholes and mistakes along the way.

To put a ding in the world (thanks Steve). To make a difference. To have an impact. etc…

It all sounds like a cliche but it really isn’t. Especially if it can create sustainable rewards like financial onces I can reinvest, or like case study learnings or inspiration for others.

To do this I need to focus. A lot more.

So from today I am resolving to reduce the variables.

So What Is Going To Get Trimmed Back? Something Has To Give Right?

Philanthropy will be slashed. I’ll still donate money but not so much and certainly not donate time so much. I am also going to cut back on time at community related events. There are a lot (Sydney Angels, Push Start, Founders Institute, University judging/speaking for USYD + UNSW + UTS +  UWS, TiE, Silicon Beach, Fishburners, various schools + charities + sports + social clubs and other groups).

Mentoring will be also slashed. The quality and care factor will remain but the time commitment has to be trimmed. It is time that is not ‘leveraged’ enough and it is increasingly not unique (others can do a good job too, not just me – a good result of the Sydney Startup Ecosystem growing so fast). I will only provide two slots a week of LESS THAN 30 MINUTES on Friday at 10:30 and 11. If you want a slot get add this iCal format calendar if you can’t work out how to do it, then learn, don’t contact me, work it out yourself dude.

My time on so called ‘advisory boards’ will also be slashed. There are around 40 companies that regularly call on me for opinions on stuff. That is going to stop unless we broker agreements for equity or cash that allows me to reduce consulting time. I still need to pay the bills and bootstrap my own startup so this works well and since it is contributing to both the personal and ecosystem end goals it is one of the better distractions.

A GateKeeper. A Hurdle. A Barrier To Free Stuff.

Also, before we can meet you need to know what Silicon Beach Forums are. You need to know what Fishburners is. You need to have read the ReWork book. You need to know the principles of Lean Startup. It will also help if you know what SydStart is and if you have read a few of the more popular/recent articles on my AnyDex blog and the blogs of Steve Blank and other though leaders like him. Maybe also stuff like in The Plex and The Intelligent Entrepreneur. It will show me that you are serious and it will save us all time.

None of the above are linked because you need to learn how to cut and paste and google it dude. This is the real world.

The above reading list is a set of serious recommendations made with the very best of intentions because it will benefit most businesses especially tech startups. Feel free to ignore it but don’t bother making an appointment if you are not across them.

Why Go On About It So Much?

This blog post is deliberately a bit long. It is intended to sort out the serious people from the wanna-be people. I have made a huge impact in some the lives of some entrepreneurs in recent years. I take that responsibility very seriously indeed. So I’ll try to keep the core value proposition I have always done.

Appointments are free. No advice is provided, just opinions. You should not consider it advice in any legal sense. If I like you and  your team and your idea I will do my best to help. If I don’t well bad luck. All conversations are confidential. Don’t try to connect with me on social media unless we have actually met and shared some positive common ground.

This all sounds a bit too serious perhaps but when your backlog in Linkedin is in the many hundreds and your agile backlog of use cases to be implemented is also in the hundreds – it really is time to focus.

Ciao.

@pc0