Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 4 Startup Mistakes that represent 80% of Failures

1. 36% - Build Something Nobody Wants 
2. 18% - Hire Poorly 
3. 13%  Lack of Focus 
4. 12% - Fail to execute sales and marketing

Sunday, December 27, 2015

There can be only One!

A Unicorn is a technology start-up valued at more than $1 billion.  They are those elusive animal that all venture capitalists and investors are seeking.

They say "there can be only one" 

Their are hundreds of these Unicorns 

Well known -  Uber, Pinterest, Google, Facebook  and Airbnb 

but also unknowns such as 

  • social media for creatives - Redbubble
  • business-software start-up - Apttus 
  • the cloud identity-management company Okta.
  • referral system - Referron
  • social media and data analytics - Keynected 

These Unicorns have the opportunity to tap a larger market of connected customers than ever.

The reality is that most startups are living in a fantasy world ,  with massive valuations - not yet turning a profit - and will be destroyed by the tech bubble.

Most of these founders and investors are disconnected from reality, conjuring numbers out of thin air. 

Will your unicorn  be revealed as nothing more than a donkey with a cardboard tube taped to its forehead?

"Are you the one" - there can be only one!"

Since time immemorial man has been searching for their elusive unicorn - with entrepreneurs selling their magical unicorn powder - promising their customers special powers.

Does your unicorn actually perform a powerful sort of alchemy, transforming us into better people, thus justifying  the heady valuations?

Is your Unicorn a victor, stepping up to the  epic struggle to change the world, soaring to unimaginable heights, becoming not just a successful company but a legend . - leaving "generational legacies "? 

Inspired by Adrian Chen is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared in Wired, New York magazine and The New York Times. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Uber for...... A sharing economy

Uber for carers and seniors - Honor 

Honor raises $20m - Matching Carers with Seniors

What it is: Honor matches seniors with professionals who can take care of them in their homes while giving concerned family members a way to keep track of everything. Unlike on-demand services like Uber and Lyft that let people accept jobs right away, Honor wants its home-care professionals, who start at $15 an hour, to foster long-lasting relationships with seniors. Honor tries to teach them what to expect and pair them up with seniors with whom they can work well. For example, a senior who speaks Mandarin Chinese can opt to match with a home-care professional who also speaks Mandarin.
Funding: $20 million from Kevin Colleran, Slow Ventures, Homebrew, Jessica Alba, Jeremy Stoppelman, Max Levchin, Kapor Capital, Andreessen Horowitz 
Uber for Hair 

What it is:  For $99 a month, Vive lets customers get as many blows rya as they want from hair salons in their city. Alanna Gregory, the company's founder, had a hard time finding a place to get her hair blown out aside from Drybar, which books up weeks in advance. Vive has launched in beta in New York City.

  Uber for Trucking - Convoy
What it is: While Uber wants to the be the logistics network for the world, one startup is taking on the industry that Uber hasn't gained a stronghold in: trucking. The Seattle-based startup pairs shippers with trucks, eliminating the need for brokers and finding the right truck based on the cargo, capacity, equipment needed, and price. The startup is geared more towards local and regional rather than long-haul trucking, giving truck drivers the option to make more money but still get home for dinner. Sound like Uber, much?
Funding: $2.5 million from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and ex-Starbucks president Howard Behar

Uber for Programmers - gigster 
What is it: Gigstet connects software and app development teams with the company that needs them. As a customer, you write, in plain English, what you want your business app to do. Then, Gigster analyzes your request, figures out the best team for the job — including programmers, product managers, and designers — and gives you a flat quote with a guaranteed price
Funding: $10 million Series A

Uber for rides - 

What it is: Oscar Salazar, Uber's founding CTO and third cofounder alongside Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, launched Ride earlier this year to make commuting less of a hassle. Ride is focused solely on commuters and carpooling and it wants to create efficiency there, particularly in places where public transportation is not readily available. It works by matching a company's employees — people who likely have their own cars but want to save money by riding together — with coworkers who share similar commutes.
Funding: None announced.

Meerkat raises $18m - live streaming video

What it is: Meerkat is a new livestreaming app that syncs up with Twitter to let you live stream and share video in real time. The app quickly became a favorite of Product Hunt users several weeks after it was posted to the startup and app discovery website. It was a hit at SXSW as well. Sources tell TechCrunch that Meerkat now has more than 300,000 users. Meerkat initially depended on Twitter for its social graph. But Twitter acquired a rival livestreaming app called Periscope and then briefly crippled Meerkat by limiting its access. From a usage standpoint, however, both apps are now seeing similar engagement.

Funding: $18.2 million from Raine Ventures, CAA Ventures, Vayner/RSE, WME, Chad Hurley, David Tisch, Ooga Labs, Aleph, Entree Capital, DreamIt Ventures, Gigi Levy, Ron Gura, Eyal Gura, PLUS Ventures, Jared Leto, Universal Music Group, Broadway Video Ventures, Comcast Ventures, SherpaShare, Vaizra Investments, Slow Ventures, Kevin Colleran, Soma Capital, Greylock Partners 


Hot startup - gogoro

What it is:  Gogoro launched this year after working in stealth mode since 2011. The company debuted its first product at this year's Consumer Electronics Show: a smart, plug-free electric scooter. The scooter is powered by a portable battery that you will be able to swap out at Gogoro stations across major cities, according to the company. Gogoro's scooter is best for commuting and short trips: its scooters go up to 60 miles per hour, and you can get about 100 miles out of a charge. The Gogoro system connects to the cloud via a cellular network and provides onboard diagnostics through a connected smartphone app.
Funding: $300 million; investors include Dr. Yin and Cher Wang of HTC

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heres a $495 Christmas Gift for being you!

Right now you're probably about to wind down for the holiday break. Right now too you're probably thinking about what went right and wrong in 2015 ... and how to kick your results up a notch in 2016.

It answers that elusive question …

“What’s the best way to scale up 
my business in 2016?”

It’s a 7 part online course that shows you how to give your business that ‘X-Factor’ (the course is worth $495 however we’re making it available free for a limited time). Check out the details below.

May you have a relaxing and safe holiday break with your family.

SCALE-UP 2016. Get that X-Factor & Take Your Profits to the Next Level

This FREE 7 part online course shows you how.

Here’s just some of what 'The Edge' course covers:
  1. The Success Formula – most business owners miss at least one of these ingredients.
  2. Productivity tips that enable you to reclaim up to 10 hours a week
  3. The Achiever Productivity Matrix: what to focus on and what to avoid
  4. How to eliminate mind chatter and develop laser like focus
  5. The 4 factors of growth … and which to focus on that will produce the biggest improvement.
  6. The magic of numbers … how to make small tweaks to what you’re doing now and potentially double your business in the next 12 months.
  7. How to create lasting change … even if you have had trouble making initiatives stick in the past.

BONUS: 23 page workbook 

When you enrol just download the workbook and work through the exercises as you watch the video. The exercises are designed to help you identify practical action steps that you can put in place and profit from immediately.

Friday, December 18, 2015

10 Gems for an Entrepreneur

1. Be Passionate

The biggest question any entrepreneur should ask themselves is: “Am I 100 per cent in or 100 per cent out?” There is no middle ground for entrepreneurs. I’ve never wanted “simple” or “easy”, because the challenge is what drives my hunger to learn more, do more and try more. 

Focus on what you really want and don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you only ask for what you think is realistic or achievable, you limit your own potential.

 #ifshecanican #smb #smallbusiness

(BFO from Jo Burston - rare birds )

2. Be determined 

Set very clear goals. Growing your business, increasing sales and hiring new employees need SMaRT goals. Be determined !!! You can't be half in or half out.

Once you have make your goals - work to achieve them with 100% commitment! 

3. Take action - don't be afraid to fail

Don't be afraid to make it happen - take action! 
There are 3 types of people!
1. Who make it happen
2. Those who wished they made it happen
3. Those who looked around and said "what the fuck has just happenned!"

If the upside is greater than the downside  - know this - don't be afraid to take risks- but make sure they are informed,calculated risks! 
- understand that big challenges can result in big rewards
- failure from action is a major part of being a success! It is how you deal with failure that sets you apart! Some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shuttered business.
- Be prepared to "pivot" - be able to adapt and change direction quickly! 

 (Spreets sold to yahoo for $40m - and stemmed from a failed business called Booking Angel)

If you understand that failure is part of being an entrepreneur, you will take those failures and use them as learning experiences. Real world experience, even failing, will teach you more than you would ever learn in a classroom.
However, failure from inaction isnot cool. Just as there is good debt and bad debt... There is good failure and bad failure! 
4. Chunk it

Break tasks down into bite size chunks! 
How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time! 

5. Continual learning

-Invest in education and continual learning. Remember you are on a journey. 
- Get mentors and coaches and
- continually educate yourself
- failing is part of a learning process 

6. Build a great team 

- Focus on what you are good at, and outsource the stuff! 

- get a coach - hold you accountable and seating on right track
- build teams to help you expand your business. 
- surround yourself with talented, like-minded people to fill in the gaps. And realise that you can get your best ideas from team members.
7. Cash Flow 

- understand cash flow and where money  is coming from and going to
- be sure to budget
- make sure there is more money coming in than going out - whether money in is for capital it sales!

Cash flow  problems can ruin a business and a marriage!

8. Build strong valued relationships

- network 
- refer - see how you can add value to the other person - the law of reciprocation works!
- be trustworthy

being punctual is the most important habit for entrepreneurs. When tou are on time for a meeting, phone conference, or completing a deadline, it establishes trust and proves to partners, investors, and customers that you are someone they can deal with.

 9. Sell - and be great at it 
- you are always selling either
 to investors, employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders
- know that people don't like to be sold to - but like to buy!

10. Be customer focussed 
- identify the pain - and provide a painkiller - not a vitamin!!!
-  it's the customer that's important - not your product - its about them, not you! 

click here to get the X Factor in your business

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An open letter to entrepreneurs: Congrats, you made it

Starting up is not for the faint hearted!!! Welcome to club fear and the roller coaster ride of your life! It's a 24/7 hustling experience 

By Beverly Tantiansu

Entrepreneur Emotional Cycle

Dear Startup Entrepreneur,

Congrats – it’s the end of 2015.... And looking back, I am sure you will be wondering how you have survived and actually thrived! 

You’ve done it, you’re running a startup. You even hired a team to boot. Congratulations.

Admittedly, there were times where you were close to giving up, but instead of disappointment punching you in the face, you decided to punch it first. So here’s a celebratory list of those particular moments.

1. When no one wanted to join you

It all starts with an idea — a crazy, yet incredibly feasible idea. Or you thought it’s feasible, the rest of the world seemed to think otherwise. Perhaps it was your young-looking face, the inexperience, and your lack of understanding of proper tech jargon that turned people away, but it could’ve been other factors, right?

Whatever it was, people veered away from you and that was difficult. Because your idea could change people’s lives. Could possibly be the Next. Big. Thing. So you decided to stop caring about what the naysayers said. You decided that just like love, or any relationship, there will always be people who understand you for you.

“These are my friends. These are people who have got my back.”

You’ll tell yourself those words later when the tough got tougher, and perhaps, some of them already feel like brothers and sisters. They’ll stay with you through the late nights, the last-minute changes, the product crashes, and the launch celebrations.

And suddenly you’ll realise, your dream became their dreams too.

2. When no one wanted to invest

So we come to the next challenge: investment.

Now it’s convincing a bunch of people with a lot of money that you’re worth it. Sure you’ve got a small team behind your back, but these people have read thousands of pages of hilarious and horrible pitch decks – so you wonder where your investor deck will fit in.

You wrote the best email your brain could craft, you pitched your hardest – but then, those haunting words were said: “You’re too early.”

And maybe they’re right. After all, you’re not the first fintech, edutech, somethingtech startup to grace their presence. So, you decided to make lemonade out of the lemons you were given. It hurts to be rejected, but it takes guts to accept criticism and improve from that.

So every opportunity you got, you decided to receive mentoring from these experts, showing and updating them at every opportunity with your latest product launches and startup developments…

Because someday, you tell yourself, you’d like to prove them wrong. That while you may not be like the fabled unicorn, you think that you’re a strong, resilient, pony.

Also read: Are Indian startups headed for a bubble burst? 

3. When you ran out of money

In the end, you managed to pool in some funds and ask family and friends for support, get a bank loan whenever possible, and have some angel investors chip in some cash for a reasonable amount of equity.

And while it wasn’t enough to buy you new technology, or hire more people it allowed you to continue working on the prototype and keeping your core team afloat. But then reality throws a punch at you, and you realise there’s not going to be enough money in the bank soon. Crap.

You’ve exhausted most of your options the first time, so you gather your core team and have the “talk.” You tell them how things are, how financials look — you’re not sure if you should be optimistic, realistic, or pessimistic. Whatever. You don’t know yourself. So you admit that and watch and wait for their reactions.

You all make sacrifices. Just make the product work. Fix all the bugs. Sell, sell, sell. It’s easy to read this all now, but it was painful to be in those months of torture. Patience was low, fights happened – but despite those rocky roads, you eventually weathered it out.

You either convinced an investor, decided to take up part-time jobs to keep yourself and the company alive, whatever it is: you felt that this was your first entrepreneurial war. And to tell yourself and your loved ones, that yes, I’m still surviving, still being healthy, is something that you’re thankful for. In the end, you continue to be an entrepreneur.

4. When people start to leave

It’s close to a year since your team got together. You’ve perhaps started winning several contests, hackathons, got some screen time on the big stage either as a speaker or a pitching engagement. You’ve already shown the ecosystem your MVP and are working towards progress.

Then another thing happens. People start leaving. Perhaps it’s one of your employees, or maybe your co-founder decided to do a little side project and two or three employees followed. Or maybe you had to fire them. You try not to get too attached, and yet you can’t help but wonder how they’re doing.

“I hope they’re doing well. Wherever they are,” you tell yourself.

Probably social media reminds you that you’re still virtually connected, so you like their posts, you congratulate them. But a tiny part still aches, and it’s all right.

Because if you love them, you let them go – a good founder knows that they can’t keep their employees with them forever. Good founders look forward, to the future, and accept the challenges that lie ahead of them.

And well, if you ended it on a bad note, you still manage to be professional with them whenever you run into each other. The startup world is small, and drama can take a backseat.

Also Read: Hootsuite cuts 40% of APAC staff from Singapore office

5. When you had to pivot

“Fail fast, fail forward” – that’s what the startups say. And yet, admitting that you were wrong is difficult. Sometimes self-doubt sets in. Did you really lead innocent people to the valley of death? Or was your idea, no – your dream, worth fighting for?

“But the data shows…” Yes. You get it. Enough with the Big Data analytics. Statistically, you need to change your strategies. Your valuation is taking a hit. You’re getting complaints from your investors, shareholders, employees.. everyone.

So you get on with it, like you always have. You make a startup-wide announcement; if needed, issue a press release. And some of your critics laugh and say, “Pivoting again, I see.” But instead of giving them a snide remark you bite your tongue, nod politely, and carry on. Because every majestic and beautiful butterfly started off as a caterpillar.

And here you are, back to reality. Life wasn’t meant to be fair, and to many others, startups are meant to fail. And yet you didn’t. You’re still here, submitting us stories of your successes, your latest product releases and next ventures. You definitely know that the journey’s not yet over, and that’s okay. We’ll be here to cheer you on and hope for the best.

As Steve Jobs said,

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Congratulations for surviving the entrepreneurial roller coaster and braving the new year to ride it all over again. Cheers for being you.

Bev Tan

Image Credit: Kyro Beshay

Friday, December 11, 2015

How Zapier got off the ground

Zapier is now a fazillion dollar new age business - but was a startup that got rejected by Y combinator as a start up when it had a few users - but was accepted when it had 1000 users and their product was validated.

So the difference was we had traction, validation, and credibility. We weren’t just people with a nice idea, we we’re executing. 

Wade Foster and his cofounder Bryan, freelanced a lot for small businesses. They would often ask us to do what he liked to call API grunt work. Things like, “We have a bunch of Paypal stuff and we need it in Quickbooks,” or “I have this big list of contacts I met at a trade show and I want them in Salesforce.” 

They would build scripts and things to handle that for them. One day they found themselves  saying “I think we can automate this. I think we can build an out-of-the-box tool that allows these small business owners to set these things up themselves without needing to know coding, engineering or anything like that."

If there is something that is repetitive - Zapier will automate it!!

The types of things people do that Zapier automated tend to fall into a few categories.

  1. Notifications – One popular one is notifications, like an alert when someone RSVP’s on EventBrite or a payment comes in through Paypal. Those might come through e-mail, Slack, Hipchat, SMS, or something else.
  2. Lead generation – Another big category is lead generation, so gathering information from a website form, an e-mail, etc. and saving to a CRM, an e-mail marketing tool or something like that.
  3. Archiving – Saving files into Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive, things like that, or opening notes into apps like Evernote.

Zapier doesn’t have a central office. Everyone works from homes, libraries, coffee shops, etc. 

Working remotely is our culture. 

That is who they are.

They use things like Slack, and have a tool that basically works like an internal blog, and we have Hackpad set up for lots of documentation.

A key behaviour at Zapier is that work is well-documented somewhere, so if a teammate wakes up halfway around the world, they know where to go to look for answers to things. In that way, we’re just as efficient—if not more so—working remotely than they would be in person. As a result, they're able to recruit people to work for us all over the world, and not limited to a local area.

They use Giphy and have Gifs all over the place, go on retreats twice a year, fun things to build camaraderie. 

The people at Zapier get a lot of pride out of the work they do and want to do good work that gets used by a lot of people. 

That’s attractive to them, and environment are created where folks can do really great work and have the excitement of seeing that work being used by  millions of people.

Advice to entrepreneurs

Take action - Just pick something and do it - if it's wrong - you can change it and do it again . 

Chunk it - how does one eat an elephant - one piece at a time - just do it!

Says Wade....
"Take some action every day .... even if it’s small, find something you can check off a to-do list, and say “my company is better today than it was yesterday.” If you make that little bit of progress and you do that 365 days in a row, you’ll find that you’ve made an incredible amount of progress in a year."

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Blue Sky raising a $200m expansion fund

ASX-listed investment group Blue Sky Venture Capital is trying to raise its third fund - a $200 million to fund expanding technology firms and keep more successful local companies at home for longer.

 Blue Sky will back companies that have begun to establish themselves and are looking to start expanding or attacking new markets, usually with funding rounds ranging from $10 to $30 million.

Blue Sky Investment director Elaine Stead told The Australian Financial Review that there had been a shift in attitude among Australian institutional investors towards backing companies in the tech sector, as more success stories emerged. She said it needed to raise a larger fund to be able to back the kinds of growing and successful startups, that may otherwise have had to head overseas for expansion capital.

Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said the new Blue Sky fund, as well as the H2 Ventures announcement showed that the environment had begun to change for innovative tech companies looking to grow in Australia.
Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said the new Blue Sky fund, as well as the H2 Ventures announcement showed that the environment had begun to change for innovative tech companies looking to grow in Australia. Andrew Meares

"There is now so much funding available for the angel and seed funding rounds, because that area was previously very thirsty, but Australia also needs to have enough capital available to support the wonderful opportunities that make it through to series B funding stage and beyond, which actually need a lot more capital to scale up," Ms Stead said.

"It is not a bad thing necessarily if a company moves overseas to attack larger markets, but it would be great if we could nurture Australian success stories in Australia for a lot longer. That will make a difference in terms of jobs, in returns for investors and will improve economic outcomes all around."


Ms Stead said the fund raising had begun and superannuation funds had already shown interest, which marks an important turnaround for funds that previously viewed tech startups as too risky and small to bother with. It follows news in September that Blackbird Ventures had succeeded in getting First State Super and Hostplus Super on board a $200 million startup fund it is managing.

Blue Sky led the latest fund raising round for Australian startup Shoes Of Prey as it expands in the US.
Blue Sky led the latest fund raising round for Australian startup Shoes Of Prey as it expands in the US.

Earlier on Tuesday First State Super revealed it will invest tens of millions of dollars into fintech start-ups over the coming years, under a partnership with H2 Ventures, a specialist fintech VC fund. Alongside the Blackbird fund First State, which manages $54 billion, wants to deploy $250 million into technology companies in the next few years.

The news will also be music to the ears of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government, which made the need to attract more investment in the tech startup eco-system a key pillar of its National Innovation and Science Agenda, announced on Monday.

Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said the new Blue Sky fund, as well as the H2 Ventures announcement showed that the environment had begun to change for innovative tech companies looking to grow in Australia.

"This is a very exciting time, in developing a uniquely Australian innovation eco-system," Mr Roy said.

"This represents a point where we are starting to see very large amounts of capital invested into Australian Innovation with institutional backing, and it is a very big development."


Ms Stead said the new fund, to be known as VC2016, would likely be closed in the second quarter of 2016, and would largely target Australian firms, although it would not be exclusively Australian focused.

In the last year, Blue Sky's existing venture capital funds invested in on-demand consumer retail business Shoes of Prey, last mile delivery network and logistics technology company ParcelPoint, fast casual retail chain THR1VE, and Minneapolis-based medical device company Conventus Orthopaedics.

The company recently exited head lice treatment company Hatchtech in a $US197 million deal with Indian-based Dr. Reddy's Laboratories.

"We want to try and structure the fund so that it gives our investors access to opportunities from the US and Asia as well, so about 75 per cent of our deal flow is still Australian, but we will look at the best opportunities no matter where they are," Ms Stead said.

She said the average deal size coming through its due diligence processes was $18 million, and that there were currently more opportunities out there than could be backed. She said that out of $1 billion raised in Australia this year through VC funds, only 20 per cent of it was targeted at the later stage companies that Blue Sky targets, meaning many viable investments were slipping through the net.

Despite being more established than very early stage startups, Ms Stead said the companies backed still needed to be given time to deliver returns, so super funds and other institutions actually made idea backers.

"Venture capital needs patient capital that can tolerate a long-term investment strategy, and that fits comfortably with superannuation mandates," she said.

"Institutional funding is slowly re-entering the Australian private capital market, which means companies are able to remain private for longer, rather than having to explore the public markets before they are ready."

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