Tech Startups

Leap Motion Unboxing

Yippee The Leap Motion Arrived

Giddy up, so keen to play with this. Some unboxing photos for the geek freaks out there. Motion sensor based computing here we come. Will be interesting to compare with the kinect.

The box itself is tiny and matches the imac and iphone neatly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them roll the numerous chips inside up into one ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) and the give it away or licence it for embedding in devices so it is even more seamless and make the money from the app ecosystem. Some samples below with the robot hand app that had excellent finger joint and wrist roll recognition.

2013-08-01 15.10.16

2013-08-01 14.23.21 2013-08-01 14.23.39 2013-08-01 14.23.15Leap Motion Unboxing

Startups 101 – Pete Cooper Speaks At Customs House

I spoke recently to a few hundred people at Customs House in Sydney CBD down near Circular Quay, a gorgeous old sandstone building.

If you know anyone that is learning or just entering the tech startup space in Australia this playlist is a MUST WATCH.

The City Of Sydney (CoS) Lord Mayor Clover Moore introduced the program of professional tech startup industry experts –

  1. Pete Cooper – SydStart
  2. Riley Bachelor – GA
  3. Kim Heras – PushStart
  4. Melanie Perkins from Canva

The genesis of the night was a startup round table of 20 leaders called by the City of Sydney strategic development unit lead by Andrea and Charnelle after our chats earlier in the year. This unit has the rare skill of planning up to 20 years in advance which is great to see but I wouldn’t want that challenge…

The round table was chaired by City of Sydney CEO Monica Barrone who has been a steady supporter of the program and the ecosystem. They made it happen along with Jo Kelly and Gail Marshall and the CoS even rolled out the green carpet for us. Huge Thanks.

The event was oversubscribed and post event survey made us all very happy –

  • 100% satisfaction rate and a
  • 99% ‘I’d recommend to a friend’ rate

Both of which are remarkable.

The next one has been scheduled for September. I hope they book the Sydney Town Hall for 500 people cause I think we can fill it, then we can get them all to attend SydStart too.

They rolled out the green carpet for the startups 101 night at customs house in the sydney cbd. Pete Cooper from sydstart spoke.

They rolled out the green carpet for the startups 101 night at customs house in the sydney cbd.

It wasn't xmas but this was the most recent wide angle view photo I had, awesome no?

It wasn’t xmas but this was the most recent wide angle view photo I had, awesome no?

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.

Choosing A Name For Your Baby (Oops I Mean Your Startup Business) – Part 1

Creating a startup really is like having a child, major commitment. Unfortunately we often don’t put enough time into it.

This is fine for some businesses because the customer touch points are pre-loaded e.g. a link in an email or search engine advertisement. So the customer doesn’t need to know how to spell or pronounce it. But these businesses are limited.

Usually we want the name to become a brand, because brands have power and value in and of themselves generated by the values they stand for.

Generally, you can choose any name and instill the values/attributes into the brand (e.g trustworthy, reliable, premium, cheap, retail, wholesale, simple, sophisticated). This takes time and is best done by doing (e.g. products, people) and by communication (PR, advertising).

A good name can become more, it can become a name, a visual identity, a multi-channel anchor that provides consistency to the business regardless of where stakeholders encounter it online and offline.

My suggestions are –

1. Keep it short. People are more likely to be able to read it and remember it. Recall is often based on shape of letters and associated pronunciation. It is also more efficient with space when doing advertising via any channel. You will type/say/write your brand name many times over the life of your business, so will your customers, staff etc so do everyone a favour. Keep it simple and short.

2. Pass the crowded bar test. If people are talking to each other and shout your name over the top of loud music and others hear it will be be clear, unique and memorable enough? See at blue monkey bar later then Tom. Ciao.

3. Street Cred. Regardless of which streets you hang out it, you need your name to be mildly appropriate. A new political party is unlikely to be called purple cow but that was the name of a geek book on standing out. The most important part of this step is it forces you to think in tangible terms where people hang out, especially the people you would like to target. Remember you are thinking about all stakeholders here, not just customers but staff, partners, suppliers, investors even regulators and community.

4. Stand Out. Line up your competitors and work out how you are different, by product and positioning and brand. Names that are higher in the alphabet, better/unique colour/shape are good examples. It might be something channel specific like a ring tone or a video pre-post roll.

5. Be Unique. Pick something that you can own across all channels. Get the dot com, the twitter id, the facebook page name and as many derivatives you can expect to need to industry specific channels (e.g. Angel List or F6S or Pinterest or Dribbble).

6. Use Plain Language. Doing this helps trust. It also usually helps with the crowded bar test and the likelihood of people being able to spell or google you. This often clashes with the need to be unique or to do name hacks in order to find a unique dot com, if you are not sure test it with your audience.

7. Try to finish hard. A CEO of a bank I used to work for often ran marathons, while staying the course on brand is essential (communicate consistently and often and don’t stop) there is also a subtle thing about language we agreed on. Finish with a hard syllable and people find it easier to hear and recall. Finish and start with soft syllables and you will find stakeholders constantly asking you to repeat or spell stuff over the phone or in person.

8. Picture It. Get a good visual identity. I like Design Crowd and Freelancer cause they are both from Sydney and globally successful. 99 Designs from Melbourne is also very big.

This is the end of part one of a very big topic. More soon.

Peter J Cooper (pc0)

Stop The Geek Tax

We really need to stop the geek tax. Currently people (typically geeks) creating tech startups are unfairly penalised from creating jobs, wealth, innovation and quality of life for Australia.

I am talking not just about ESOPS but also the unfair CGT provisions that treat creators like other business owners even before they have earned one cent of dividends or in the hand benefit.

This is as much about the cashflow as it is about the sheer complexity and uncertainty and time taken to understand literally dozens of ATO documents and hundreds of web pages.

It should be simple until there are significant amounts at risk.

We need to stop the #geektax attitude in Treasury and the ATO and both sides of politics, have a look the details of this proposal (two pages with examples) and sign the petition or comment below. I will present it to treasury in Canberra next week or as soon as it gets enough momentum. Please also share this…

Read the full proposal to Drop Paperwork for Australia Tech Startups here

The FBI recently did a risk assessment on bitcoin that was published in luanch.co by @jason that is shared below along with my original assessment published on the coinr blog 18 months ago.

FBI risk assessment of Bitcoin:
— 8.8m+ Bitcoins in circulation, avg. market price $4-$5
— As of April 18, ’12, $8m+ trans. occured over past 30 days
— From May ’11, prices fluctuated from $30 (June ’11) to $4 (Dec. ’11)
— Obstacles include no laundering software, no ID of acct. owners or location, no historical records with actual identity
— Law enforcement can’t target one central company for investigative purposes
— LulzSec reportedly received $18k in donations, tried to purchase botnet
Link

Coinr Blog

A new ‘virtual currency’ seems to have taken the financial and technology worlds by storm in recent months.

Google the phrase ‘regulatory response to bitcoin’ and watch the hit counter climb over time, expect this trend to continue as the total traded value of the bitcoin ‘currency’ continues to grow and regulators around the world start to understand the significance of this new decentralised transnational virtual currency.

While bitcoin appears to have solved the double-spending risk problem of purely virtualised currencies it has more problems than positives.

  • Being decentralised it has no regulation other than that set initially, so if it is changed over time there is little control for current or future investors. Sure this is unlikely now but once momentum is gathered (as it rapidly is doing) then the temptation for those able to bias the system will grow.
  • Being devoid of a home nation (or nations) it…

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The Australian Tech Startup Ecosystem – Complete Collection of Maps and Lists

Numerous people have made attempts at mapping the Sydney and wide Australian Technology Startup Ecosystem. This is ours and we aim to be the most comprehensive not in duplicating the data but in pointing to the major hubs or collation efforts by others.

We also have our own internal data at Cooper & Co which we share with paying clients and use for for-profit investment profiling.

Rather than further muddy the waters I thought it was worth while laying out the current landscape so everyone is aware of the major lists/maps etc..

  1. Angel List – a US based database service used globally by angel investors originating from the 500 Startups group founded and funded by Dave McClure it is founded and operated by Naval Ravikant that has company profiles from a very early stage as well as inbestor profiles and incubator/accelerators, jobs and more, it is probably the largest and one of the fastest growing in recent times. Constantly updated by the global community. Freely available, difficult to visualise connections.
  2. F6S – a US based database service used globally by accelerators, incubators and education programs and other groups, it is probably the fastest growing and overall has the average earliest stage list. Constantly updated by the global community. Freely available, difficult to visualise connections.
  3. Startup Compass by Startup Genome – a US based database  service based on the lean startup principles which standardises the profiles of companies by stage, it is probably one of the largest in terms and listings and probably the largest in terms of details and that are standardised and able to be used for benchmarking. Founded by Max Marmer and Bjoern Lasse-Harmer. Fairly freely available. difficult to visualise connections.
  4. Startup Nation by FloqApp – an Australian based startup which bothered  to create a very nice looking database with map visualisation that is easy but a little light on detail, useful for finding ones near you and probably the most complete single list of australian startups done by an australian firm. Has a current bias to Brisbane which is incorrect statistically but will no doubt correct it self over time as coverage improves. Also attempts (with only partial success) to subjectively analyse helpfulness of various ecosystem stakeholders (.e.g family, investors). Freely available. Difficult to visualise connections. Good map format with drill down and slicing.
  5. Pollenizer Startup Map – a mind map created on Mind Meister by the Pollenizer accelerator founder Phil Morle with help from his team including co-founder Mick Liubinskas (aka Mr focus). One of the oldest and has some good insights.
  6. NICTA Startup Map – a mind map on Mind Meister created by NITCA staff led by Paul Hoff. One of the more recent ones and has a reasonable coverage and offers some government/research insights not provided by others. Freely available.
  7. Blue Chilli Startup Map – also known as startrail – a london underground style map of the startup ecosystem developed by Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin and the Blue Chilli team phased by growth stage. A  useful high level view. The growth stage attributes are a little limited but it offers useful grouping and has gained some traction because of the ease of representing a difficult topic in one image. Updated fairly regularly by Blue Chilli in consultation with industry leaders, currently up to release three. Freely available. Stage based visualisation with some connectivity by ‘railway line’, no map visualisation.
  8. Cooper & Co Startup Database – an internal database for Cooper Sydney customers, closed (ie private) and for profit. Disclosed selectively according to need. Various formats prepared on request as part of paid engagements. Collected from various sources including SydStart.
  9. 8sx.co – a public database by Cooper Sydney which is in the process of being established and will focus on bridges to asia. 8SX is an abbreviation for ‘Great South By’ inspired by the large conference ‘South By South-West’ aka SXSW held in the Austin Texas USA each year.
  10. Represent Map – A globally distributed set of communities powered by a US developed platform (seeded with a community called represent.la). This series of excellent database driven map visualisations is a community of proprietary data which includes a national Australian map called OzFounded from Sydney which is the largest by far (ten times the size of the others) as well as a slightly duplicated more localised South Australian one called Majoran Distillery co-working space from Adelaide and some others such as NZ Startups for New Zealand.

Are there any others out there? There are obviously others like tech crunch but they are so main stream they have been excluded.

In terms of tools used to build this ‘maps’ the main ones seem to be

  • mind meister
  • google docs (usually spreadsheets)
  • google maps via API
  • customer web site software (e.g. ruby on rails, representmap)

In terms of approach to updating the main ones seems to be

  • Owned and updated by vendor (free or paid access and typically free updates)
  • Community updated (own profile)

Would warmly welcome suggestions and pointers to other lists out there.

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