Friday, November 10, 2017

Wechat owners takes a major stake in Snapchat

New WeChat data report released just now at the Tencent Global Partner conference in Chengdu, Sichuan. Some interesting stats:

3.5 million monthly ACTIVE WeChat official accounts (first ever time for WeChat to release a number of active business accounts)

797 million monthly active followers of official accounts. Quite impressive, more than I would have estimated.

902 million daily logged in active users from September 2017.

Chinese Tencent - takes a major stake in Snapchat

Snap loses discloses Tencent's $2B stake 
Snap's senior VP of engineering will step aside just as the company plans to release a comprehensive overhaul of its signature Snapchat platform.

Meanwhile, Snap has disclosed that Chinese internet giant Tencent has accumulated a massive stake in the business via the open market:

As Snap’s new filing also pointed out, Tencent tctzf is also a competitor to Snap snap . The Chinese firm is best known for its WeChat messaging app, although it has also build up a massive investment portfolio and is even building self-driving car technology. On Wednesday, Tencent’s e-book unit China Literature held an IPO that saw its Shares double in price.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Big Week for Tech

Thanks to Crunchbase 

Tech had a big week, with some of its largest players reporting earnings. (Hint: They all did well.)

Shifting to startups, we dug into the self-driving space, working to understand the money pouring into the market category. Along the same lines, we explored the AR/VR space, looking into how often startups in the niche are acquired.

On the subject of acquisitions, Snap reportedly got to work with its checkbook this week, snagging another company for a sub-$100 million price tag. (How the late-stage market will fare in a few years is an open question.)

And, of course, ICOs came up. How could they not.

For more stories, make sure to swipe down. Otherwise, take a moment to follow us on Twitter for a daily drip of Crunchbase News

Quantifying The Driverless Startup Boom

In an effort to put the deal-making in autonomous cars in perspective, Crunchbase News has aggregated some of the metrics for startup investment in the space.

Who Will Win The Self-Driving Race? →

Giant Steps: How Big Tech Just Keeps Getting Bigger:

After the bell on Thursday, a trio of major tech companies released their earnings reports en masse. And the results were strong, with each firm beating both revenue and profit expectations set by Wall Street.

How Big Can Big Get?


Top Heavy US VC Market May Lose Footing As Early-Stage Deals Slip Away

There appears to be a slow but consistent hollowing-out of the domestic seed and early-stage end of the deal pipeline.

How Far Can Seed Fall?

Cryptos Hit All Time Highs As Bitcoin Shines, Alts Hover

Today, the aggregate value of cryptocurrencies set new records, spiking to nearly $185 billion as of the time of writing. The amount crests prior records set when August concluded, and the summer hit its midpoint.

To The Moon →


ICOs Race Ahead As Seed Capital Falters

Two trends are combining to create an interesting market moment: As seed-stage capital in the United States slips, ICOs are forging ahead. The trends divergence is notable, but not as clear as we might have hoped.

 ICOs Raise Billions →

AR/VR Acquisition Pace Picks Up Despite Industry Setbacks

Nearly every major tech company has a stake in augmented or virtual reality. Or both. But even though some of the world’s largest companies are diving headfirst into both AR and VR, the categories remain nascent.

How Many AR/VR Deals? →


Snap Snags Adtech Startup To Assuage Advertisers

Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, reportedly bought adtech play Metamarkets. TechCrunch reports that the deal will settle for less than $100 million. What’s Snap doing?

Snap Goes Shopping →

Tweet of the Week: 

"What's the difference between AI and ML?"

"It's AI when you're raising money, it's ML when you're trying to hire people."


Bitcoin, cryptos hit new highs

Bitcoin surged past $7,000 for the first time, with its value now more than triple what it was six months ago. Bitcoin’s rise comes as the aggregate value of cryptocurrencies sets new records, reaching close to $185 billion this week.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A map of the Australian innovation ecosystem

(Note from Ivan Kaye .... are proud to play a part in helping innovators access grants and capital and help entrepreneurs and innovators grow through collaboration and learning ) 

Chas Renando has created a great map of where AUSTRALIAN Innovation happens together with the players  

Mapping the innovation ecosystem helps us navigate the loose network of individuals and organisations focused on helping innovative startups and entrepreneurs build, grow, and scale their business. A map creates a shared understanding and a basis for measuring to provide for better decisions.

With this in mind, and as part of an overall measurement project, I present a collection of ecosystem actors on a Google Map as an initial reference point.

Other mapping projects including the Startup Muster report and the StartupAus Crossroads update will shed more insights into the state of the ecosystem. 

Others to note at the national level are Taylor Tran doing good work documenting the state of coworking in Australia, Angela Bee Chan supporting with Hackathons Australia, and Dianna Sommerville leading regional innovation through the Australia Post Regional Pitchfest.

The link to the Google Map is here.

Diversity and density in the Australian Innovation Ecosystem

A quick note overall on the Australian innovation ecosystem, which is unique in terms of diversity and density.

The nation's relatively small population is spread across a large land mass and focused in a handful of capital cities. Density and access to diversity and specialist skills can be a challenge, limiting serendipitous collisions and introduction of new ways of thinking critical to innovation activity. The continent's natural borders create barriers to inhibit natural migration of startup activity and external knowledge.

These barriers are being overcome, such as with programs like Startup Catalyst's trips into overseas innovation markets, conferences such as Startcon and Myriad that bring in international speakers and investors, and Advance Queensland's HotDesQ program that incentivises international startups to bring skills and innovation into the country.  

The Australian innovation ecosystem can be seen as a whole, and also as being made up of individual ecosystems in each state, metro city center, and regional area. Each has unique attributes of the local area and cultural influence at the national level. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane ecosystem are as distinct as those in Boulder, Colorado or Silicon Valley, while all share attributes of Australian startup culture as distinct from that found in the US or Europe.  


This map is incomplete. I post it here for feedback and in the interest of shipping before perfection. Some additional caveats:

Accuracy and completeness: Some things were missed, some I expect embarrassingly obvious. Please comment below and they can be added.

This is a start: A more updateable and user friendly system is in development. The work is a constant balance of wanting the results to be perfect and getting the work out for feedback. Feedback wins, enjoy the map.

This is an interpretation: The categorisation and classification is an assessment after visiting every website and many hours looking at other great lists like Airtree Venture's spreadsheet, Simone Eyles's map of regional and rural coworking spaces, and google searches. Other perspectives are welcome.

Currency: The ecosystem is dynamic and new actors are entering and exiting regularly.

Multiple representations: The categorisation means that an accelerator program may also be a coworking space and an investment group. A space offering a program and an investment fund will support all the activities simultaneously in a region, so each is listed separately for the region in which they operate.

Location-based representation: Organisations with multiple offices are mapped per office, as it reflects local availability to the ecosystem. Some programs are national or virtual, and it can be difficult and perhaps not useful to identify a single location. But geography is the unit of measure for a physical map. Where no location was listed, I pulled the base of operations from the privacy policy or an ABN lookup. Where an organisation did not have an address, it is stacked in the city centre. This results in several organisations stacked on each other in one location.



Coworking spaces, Innovation hubs, Makerspaces / Hackerspaces / Artspace

Coworking  spaces provide opportunities for startups to work efficiently, create serendipitous collisions, and build community with like-minded individuals who can assist growth. The diversity of needs in a community result in a range of types of spaces.

Tim Mahlberg co-authored a great report on coworking spaces that outlines seven archetypes of coworking: Creative collective, Social studio, Digital den, Urbpreneur pad, Townhall terminal, Corporate community, and Executive establishment. These are based on seven dimensions: Location, space concept, coworking focus, ownership, industry focus, member type, and openness to new members.

I did not get as granular, opting for three categories: 

Coworking space, Innovation hub, and Hackerspace / makerspace / artspace. This distinction is made based on the extent that the space had evidence of programs or infrastructure to support being an innovation hub or hackerspace.

An innovation hub requires additional resources for programs, which necessitates additional revenue streams and different business models. More innovation hubs in a region could be considered reflective of future entrepreneurial activity.

Hackerspace /makerspace / artspace locations focus on the ideation and creation stage, and some offer coworking. These are critical to the ecosystem to develop ideas and talent. Emerging artspaces provide specialist infrastructure around creative industries without necessarily being supported by structured programming. The hackerspaces is one area I know is under-represented on the map.

Accelerator / Incubator programs

Accelerator or incubator programs can be short-term or ongoing, but are generally cohort-based with a start and stop date. Accelerator or incubator programs can run virtually, but are often based out of a dedicated space. Virtual or distributed programs are mapped at best guess where the program headquarters are based.

Programs can be the most dynamic to map, with many programs being short-term for a single cohort. The majority of programs mapped are ongoing.


Investment groups connect investors to startups and manage funds focused on entrepreneurial activity. To be considered, the group had to reflect a focus on early-stage investments.

Connection programs and groups

Connection programs and groups act as boundary spanners and glue for the innovation ecosystem, facilitating connections, introductions, advocacy, and support. These generally have a focus on geography (Australia, state or local government, regional or rural), technology or sector (agriculture, bitcoin, Fintech), or demographic (gender). National groups are mapped based on the location of the headquarters, where known

Data cut

I am cautious to make too many observations acknowledging caveats about completeness and categorisation. I expect a few rounds of feedback to change categorisation and add actors.

The Queensland government's Advance Queensland initiative's support for regional innovation activity combined with activation by the Office of the Queensland Chief Entreprenur is having an impact on the number of regional spaces delivering dedicated innovation programs. This is expected to have a direct impact on future entrepreneurial outcomes including number of startups and employment in new sectors.

Higher population density plays a large part in the number of ecosystem actors. I expect more coworking spaces in Victoria and New South Wales to nominate as innovation hubs. New South Wales has a significant investment representation and a strong FinTech focus.

Hackerspaces are missed in the review and need updating.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

10 finalists in Lions unleashed

Ten businesses including  have been accepted into the Lion Unleashed accelerator program - from an initial 300 applicants .

Lion unleashed is a JV between Lion and corporate accelerator Slingshot, With the goal of openning opportunities through growth, learning and collaboration, says project lead Ed Massey 

Startup participants will exchange equity for up to $50,000 from the Slingshot Investment Fund, as well as receiving additional benefits such as mentoring, access to software and coworking space during a 12-week accelerator program. .

  • Earlypay Exchange – A platform that facilitates and automates mass early payment negotiation between corporate customers and their thousands of vendors.
  • Boozebud - online drinks app 
  • Kegit - Keg tracker 
  • Tailor Brews, an online solution allowing customers to go online and create their own customised beer
  • Freight Exchange – An online logistics company offering interstate freight transport across Australia.
  • Perkii Probiotics – Have released the world’s first water and juice drink with one billion microencapsulated probiotics and only 26 calories.
  • Shoutback! – A fresh take on social coupons in the hospitality space.
  • SmartSpotter – Crowd sources shoppers to provide real-time feedback and data on store promotions.
  • SnackProud – Helps businesses bring healthier snacks and catering to the office to fuel good work.
  • Tayble – An app for people who love to order, but hate to wait. Order, pay & eat without leaving your seat. Servicing bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants across Sydney.

Participants will show the culmination of their work by pitching to Lion executives, stakeholders and potential investors on December 6, 2017.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Australian Gavl raises $1.8m series A funding

Gavl, an Australian live auctions company, raised $1.8m in Series A funding.

Harris Capital, the investment office of Flight Centre founder Geoff Harris, made the investment.

The company intends to use the funds to continue to develop its technology and to expand sales teams.

Launched in December 2016 by Joel Smith, Leith Donaldson and Michael Artup, Gavl has developed real estate auction live streaming and bidding technology and an app, which has already enabled 200 Australian real estate agencies to broadcast 3,500 auctions to reach 2.5 million views. The platform currently captures all bids made at its auctions, which – in addition to providing bidding analytics – allows the company to share auction results in real time.

The company, which now has a permanent staff of 25, was bootstrapped with a $300k from Smith and his father-in-law, and later received a $2.5m investment in June 2016 by Harris Capital to live stream its first auction and release its iOS and Android apps. The app has been downloaded in 44 countries.



Wednesday, October 04, 2017

RationalFX a success story

The Bob Pritchard Column 

Paresh Davdra cofounded RationalFX with Rajesh Agrawal when he was 24, with just a personal loan and proceeds from sale of his car. Today the foreign exchange company has revenue of more than $2 billion.
When he cofounded RationalFX and Xendpay, he was 24 years old, a recent university graduate with student loans to pay off.  He kept thinking “ I'm just increasing my debt and who knows what's going to happen.”   Setting up RationalFX was a huge gamble.  But, now 12 years later, RationalFX is turning over $2 billion and processing $10 billion in payments.
The first problem they encountered when setting up RationalFX, a foreign exchange business, in 2005, was funding.  They had no money, he’d only graduated from university the year before, I had university debt.
They went to the bank to get a loan to start the business but the bank  rejected them. They went back to the bank the next day and got a personal loan “for a car”, which was double the amount they were asking for in the first place.
They began RationalFX, Brighton, with just $50,000 between them.  They used that for a year and a half along with credit cards.  To drum up business, the pair pounded pavements and pressed the flesh.  They travelled to London three or four times a week to attend events. Any events. They would attend every single thing just to get our name out there, meet people, network. That's how word of mouth grew quite fast."
By this stage, they were making a small amount of money but were still not  paying themselves. They plowed any spare cash generated from the business into hiring more staff. They stayed with Davdra's father, saving on rent.
Davdra and Agrawal began paying themselves minimally around eight months after moving the business to London. But they continued to put any spare cash right back into the business.
This method of growing a business is relatively unusual today — most entrepreneurs in finance and tech tend to go to venture capitalists to raise money for expansion.
Why didn't RationalFX?  Because they didn't understand it.  Today, RationalFX is approached by venture capitalists and private equity investors all the time. But we're still in a big growth curve for our company and it would be premature to sell it.
The financial crisis was a major bump in their progress.  As the company got bigger they employed more and more people you have to manage these people.  Ensuring their interests and the company's interests are aligned is not easy.
They launched Xendpay in 2012. Xendpay lets people send money overseas online and allows people to pay as much or as little as they like for the service. It is targeted at immigrant communities sending money to family overseas. It became operationally profitable in 4 years.