Thursday, June 22, 2017

Melbourne edutech startup Verso Learning raises $2 million for US expansion

Launched in 2014 by Colin Wood, having evolved out of his previous company Learnology, Verso previously raised a seed funding round, as well as innovation funding from the Victorian Government.

The startup’s platform looks to give educators analytical insights into their students’ work, allowing them to create data-driven teaching strategies to best engage all types of learners. It also enables teachers to connect and share their strategies.

Lowe, who spent almost two decades as a high school teacher, said, “Verso Learning disrupts the traditional teacher training model by providing teachers with ongoing, timely feedback and the tools they need to teach at their best every day.”

With Verso currently used by over 40,000 teachers in over 12,000 schools globally, the fresh funding will go towards further scaling the company’s offering and tailoring it to different markets, particularly in the US, where it’s being used in California, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas.

According to Wood, the platform has taken hold as schools increasingly seek alternatives to the “expensive, disruptive, and often ineffective” traditional training exercises like seminars and training days.

He said, “For less than the cost of sending one teacher to a half day of traditional training, Verso can deliver a full year of ongoing, continuous professional development.”

In Australia, the startup’s platform has been used in Victoria and NSW, where it was recently awarded NESA accreditation by the NSW Department of Education to allow teachers to use Verso as part of their professional learning requirements.

Also looking to assist teachers in better engaging with students is Sydney-founded Smart Sparrow, which in April raised a $5.3 million Series C round, led by OneVentures, to help further expand into the US.

Founded in 2008 by Dror Ben-Naim, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, Smart Sparrow offers teachers and university professors an online platform where they’re able to design their own online course content to create an interactive and ‘adaptive’ learning experience for students.

Educators are able to integrate tutorials, interactive content, simulations and media into their course, which can be edited at any time. Course creators are then able to view student’s progress in real-time and visualise course data.

Image: the Verso team. Source: Supplied

Monday, June 19, 2017

WINNING CREATIVE3 PITCH HELPED DARREN TONKIN’S PHOTO SHARING APP ‘CUT THROUGH ALL THE NOISE’



Darren Tonkin (left) from Storyboard Social, winning the Creative3 Pitch in 2016

http://www.dynamicbusiness.com.au/featured/winning-creative3-pitch-helped-darren-tonkins-photo-sharing-app-cut-through-all-the-noise.html


Start-ups selected to participate in Creative3 Pitch, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s annual creative-tech pitching competition, will compete for a place in StepUp, Virgin Startup’s mini-accelerator program in London. The winner will also secure the right to represent Australia at the international Creative Business Cup (CBC) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where there will be opportunities to connect with investors and other entrepreneurs. 

Up to eight applications will be chosen to participate in the Creative3 Pitch semi-finals in July, with four businesses progressing to the finals, which will be held at the annual Creative3 conference in Brisbane on 22 September. Applications for the Creative3 Pitch are now open and will close on June 26.

According to CEA’s acting CEO, Mark Gusowski, the prizes available to the winner of Creative3 represent opportunities ‘money can’t buy’.

“One of the most expensive and risky endeavours for a startup is building trusted international channels to market,” he told Dynamic Business. “By being a part of the Creative Business Cup and a part of StepUp – opportunities only available through the CEA network – the winner of Creative 3 Pitch will have exposure to hundreds of European angel investors, venture capitalists, strategic partners and supporters all in the one place, at the one time. The Virgin Startup program also introduces the winner to the whole of the Virgin Groups infrastructure and empire providing customer channels, experience and networks.

“To build and develop these trusted networks and connections can often take months, if not years, and also tens of thousands of dollars to develop. So, these two prizes will significantly accelerate the pace at which the winner can enter these international markets through trusted networks and intermediaries.”

Gusowski said initiatives such as Creative3 Pitch help “shine a spot light” on the importance of creative industries, both in Australia and internationally. He said he also hopes inspire budding entrepreneurs to “follow their passion towards launching the next Canva, Atlassian, Shoes of Prey or Trademark Vision”.

He added, “Whether you are purchasing fashion or wearables online, using graphics-based software, developing digital content or launching a fashion label, the creative industries collectively represent over $3.2 billion annually to the Australian export market, and contribute $45.9 billion in GDP.

The 2016 Creative3 Pitch winner, Darren Tonkin told Dynamic Business that winning the prestigious event enabled his photo sharing app, Storyboard Social, to cut through the “massive amount of noise” in Australia’s start-up ecosystem.

He explained, “The C3 Pitch provided Storyboard with a build-up of awareness through media coverage, as well as validation of the company. This has assisted us with connecting into business both across Australia- and internationally. At the end of the day, those business connections and that brand awareness is priceless.

“C3 Pitch also helped me take my pitching ability from that of public speaking or presenting at a university level, to a level where I can professional present and sell Storyboard Social. There is no better way to hone your pitching abilities to investors and other business leaders, than by entering and participating in a competition that is judged by the same audience you are already targeting.”

Tonkin said the opportunity to participate in StepUp and attend the International Creative Business Cup, where his startup placed 13 out of 65 participants, meant exposure to investors, business leaders and potential mentors.

“Since participating in CBC, I’ve retuned to Denmark to attend business events, including lunches with the Australian Ambassador and other business leaders in our field,” he said. “Just last week I had a new start-up out of Denmark get in touch because they had heard about me at CBC and wanted to know how we can work together”.

“I was lucky enough to be the first Australian startup selected by CEA to attend StepUp. For me, the program opened the door to the Virgin Brand globally. With little bit of hustle inside and outside of the camp I was able to meet with some amazing people and we are working on some big things on the horizon. So keep an eye on the Storyboard platform in the coming months!”

Our call for Investment in Startups in 2002.... 15 years on... the time has come!!



Our call for Investment in Startups in 2002.... 15 years on... the time has come!! from Ivan Kaye

BSI Is proud to have been a part of the amazing journey that Australia has been on, in building our future and nurturing our innovators!!

There is still heaps to do , and we look forward to continue to  being part of the journey.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Employee engagement startup Culture Amp raises US$20 million Series C round

Following on from a US$10 million Series B round raised last year, the fresh funding brings the total raised by the startup to date to US$36.3 million; it will be put towards growing the company’s headcount across its four global offices, in Melbourne, London, New York, and San Francisco.

Announcing the news at the HR Tech conference in San Francisco this week, CEO Didier Elzinga said the company owes its growth to “incredible advocacy” from its customers; among the more than 1,000 customers the startup serves are the likes of Airbnb, Slack, and Estee Lauder.

“What is especially gratifying is that we’ve achieved these incredible results without compromising on our commitment to building a culture first company at scale,” he said.

Founded in 2009, the startup describes itself as the world’s first ‘culture-first’ software company; rather than employee surveys focused on team performance and communication, Culture Amp aims to give employers and managers insights into employee satisfaction and motivation in order to help them transform and maintain a positive company culture.

With plans starting at $3000 per year for businesses with 50 to 200 employees through to tailored enterprise plans, the startup can work with companies to prepare customised surveys for their workforce, helping them define what insights they want to gain.

With the funding Kevin Diestel, Principal at Sapphire Ventures, will be joining the startup’s board. 

“People have always been a business’s richest resource. As a leader in making people analytics tools accessible, Culture Amp is ensuring that culture comes first for companies across the globe,” he said.

“Many of our portfolio companies are already Culture Amp customers and we expect many more to join the wave. When they think culture, they think Culture Amp.”

The US$20 million Series C is the latest in a line of big raises for Australian companies over the last few weeks. 

Marketing tech startup Rokt earlier this week announced an US$11 million extension of its Series B funding round, for which it had raised US$15 million in February, to close a total of US$26 million ($34.5 million).

Meanwhile, Sydney-founded visual marketing software company Autopilot last week raised US$12 (AU$16) million in a funding round led by Blackbird Ventures, and adtech company Unlockd announced the closing of a US$23 (AU$30.7) million Series Bround led by Asian telecommunications company Axiata Digital, with which it will look to expand into Asia.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Amazon to create the biggest function centre in a decade

Amazon threatens to create the biggest retail disruption in Australia in a generation by engaging with consumers in ways that traditional retailers will struggle to emulate, according to Bain & Co.

"The Australian consumer is very Amazon ready," says Bain & Co partner Yngve Andresen, who led recent research into Amazon's likely impact on Australian retailing.

Amazon threatens to create the biggest retail disruption in Australia in a generation, says Bain & Co.
Amazon threatens to create the biggest retail disruption in Australia in a generation, says Bain & Co. Photo: AP

"Ninety per cent of customers say they're very happy to have Amazon coming and are willing to try them. I believe it's a once in a generation retail disruption.

"They're fundamentally changing how people are shopping ... in the US 90 per cent of consumers use Amazon to price check and even Australian consumers are already using Amazon to price check."

The management consulting firm believes Amazon is likely to garner sales of between $3 billion and $4 billion in three years and $8 billion and $10 billion in five years - double the forecasts in recent broker reports.

Bain & Co also believes Amazon will capture the lion's share of growth in online retailing, as it has in the US, where it accounted for an estimated 53 per cent of e-commerce growth in 2016.

Mr Andresen says the biggest threat to Australian retailers is not Amazon's size and market share but its "customer obsession" and its ability to engage with consumers almost 24 hours a day through an ecosystem which includes fast and free delivery through Prime and Prime Now, connected devices such as Echo and Alexa and even daily fashion advice through its Look app.

"Dollars and shares don't matter - it's more about the ecosystem and how that will disrupt the Australian market," Mr Andresen said.

"They spent $US16 billion last year on research and development to feed this system of innovation - they're engaging with customers in a way we've never seen any retailer do, at least at that scale."

Mr Andresen says Amazon's entry later this year or next year does not spell the beginning of the end for bricks and mortar retailers.

However, retailers need to assume that Amazon will succeed and develop strategies to minimise its impact - not by copying Amazon's model but by offering customers what Amazon cannot.

"You see winners and losers from any disruption in history - so it will be with Amazon," he said.

Retailers need to leverage their existing assets, including bricks and mortar stores, loyalty programs and customer data to engage directly with shoppers and offer them unique services and experiences.

"Know and protect your customers - Amazon is great at collecting all sorts of data and using that to offer you things you haven't even thought you needed," he said.

Retailers also need to get their e-commerce operations in order - upgrading clunky websites and using a combination of click and collect, established logistics providers and Uber-like start-ups to deliver orders to customers as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Retailers needed to become even more focused on productivity to compete on price and minimise the impact of operating deleverage, and consider developing a private label strategy to differentiate their products from Amazon, protect margins and sell products at competitive price points.

"You probably don't want to price match any product with Amazon but you should try to be price competitive on the products that matter most to customers in whatever category you're selling," he said.

Retailers and consumer goods companies also needed to decide whether to set up shop on Amazon Marketplace or sell to Amazon through amazon.com.au.

"If you're bigger and more sophisticated you're better off on the Amazon platform - you get better ranking on websites but you give up some control over pricing," Mr Andresen said

Australia names Fintech winners

 
Greg Moshal & Beau Bertoli, founders and joint executive officers, Prospa

FinTech Australia this morning announced the finalists for its first-ever industry awards. The winners for the 30 awards will be revealed at a gala ceremony in Sydney on May 24.

The industry body stated that there are 58 finalists, consisting of 49 companies and 9 individuals. They were selected by 39 judges from a field of 158 entries, including 16 from outside Australia.

Fintech organisation of the year

Afterpay
BrickX
Data Republic
Invoice2go
OnMarket BookBuilds
Prospa
RateSetter Australia
SocietyOne

Female fintech leader of the year

Anna Harper, CFO, SocietyOne
Emma Weston, CEO, AgriDigital
Rhondalynn Korolak, managing director, Imagineering Now & Businest

Male fintech leader of the year

Cameron Poolman, CEO, OnDeck Australia
Daniel Foggo, CEO, Ratesetter
Greg Moshal & Beau Bertoli, founders and joint executive officers, Prospa

Emerging fintech organisation of the year

AgriDigital
OnDeck Australia
Spaceship
Valiant Finance
Verrency

Emerging fintech leader of the year

Bigstone Capital, team of 5 founders – Boyd, Rob, Liam, Indy & Marcus
Emma Weston, CEO and co-founder, AgriDigital
Jack O’Reilly, director and founder, funding.com.au


Read more at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-finnies-here-are-all-the-finalists-for-australias-inaugural-fintech-awards-2017-5#oHZF1vAp7p3wwRu7.99

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bartee and Morle looking to Invest from new $200m fund

The  Csiro has appointed Phil Morle (ex Pollenizer )as investment manager to work on its investment vehicle (planned to be capped at $200m funded 50pc by govt ) headed by Bill Bartee

The fund will invest in technology startups and spinouts from Csiro’s network, Australian universities, other publicly funded research agencies as well as SMEs.


Friday, June 09, 2017

What drives CEO and founder of Starbucks - Howard Schultz

Starbucks continues to grow relentlessly, with CEO Howard Schultz planning to open 500 new stores a year over the next five years. Much of this growth will happen in China.


While many factors contribute to Starbucks’ immunity to economic trends, most are driven by Schultz. 

Starbucks’ and Schultz is committed to selling an experience and a lifestyle, 

both of which are inspired by a trip to Italy as a child, where he was drawn to the cafe scene. 


Schultz is fiercely loyal to his values


Schultz views company strategy and his personal values as one and the same.

 As such he looks after his team!!! To this end, he has put massive amounts of money into healthcare for Starbucks’ employees (even those who are part time), into free college education for all employees, and into campaigning for human rights.


Schultz's loyalty to his personal values starts every morning at 4:30 a.m. He rises early to make time for his employees, his family, and himself. He starts his morning by sending motivational e-mails to his employees, and then he exercises by taking his dogs for a walk, before disconnecting from technology to eat breakfast and drink French Press coffee with his wife.


Few of us have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in our values, but we can all develop the same discipline that Schultz demonstrates each morning—and it isn’t just a morning thing; it pays dividends all day long. Research shows that early risers are more proactive than night owls, they’re more agreeable and conscientious, and they’re happier than people who sleep in.


There are many ways to utilize the early morning hours effectively, but some of the best ideas come from ultra-successful people like Schultz. Here are eight of my favorites.


Drink lemon water. Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. By improving nutrient absorption in your stomach, it gives you a steady, natural energy buzz that lasts the length of the day. You need to drink it first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach) to ensure full absorption. You should also wait 15–30 minutes after drinking it before eating (perfect time to squeeze in some exercise). Lemons are chock full of nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. If you weigh less than 150 pounds, drink the juice of half a lemon (a full lemon if you’re over 150 pounds). Don’t drink the juice without water because it’s hard on your teeth.


Exercise. It’s not just Schultz who exercises early in the morning; Richard Branson, Tim Cook, and Disney’s Bob Iger all wake up well before 6:00 a.m. to get their bodies moving. While their ungodly wake-up hours and exercise routines may seem crazy, research supports the extra effort. A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. A second study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercised daily had more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical for getting things done. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll have the time for it, and it improves your self-control and energy levels over the course of the entire day.


Disconnect. While Schultz starts his day with a motivational e-mail to his employees, after this, he disconnects and dedicates his time to exercise and family. When you wake up and dive straight into e-mails, texts, and Facebook, you are far more likely to lose focus, and your morning succumbs to the wants and needs of other people. It’s much healthier to take those precious first moments of the day to do something relaxing, which sets a calm, positive tone for your day.


Eat a healthy breakfast. Eating anything at all for breakfast puts you ahead of a lot of people. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese, they have more stable blood-sugar levels, and they tend to be less hungry over the course of the day. And these are just the statistics for people who eat any breakfast. When you eat a healthy breakfast, the doors to a productive day swing wide open. A healthy breakfast gives you energy, improves your short-term memory, and helps you to concentrate more intensely and for longer periods.


Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has become increasingly popular among highly successful CEOs. Its growth in the business world is largely due to the huge dividends it pays in productivity and overall well-being. Research shows that mindfulness fights off stress by reversing the fight-or-flight response, improves your ability to focus, boosts creativity, and increases your emotional intelligence. 


Set goals for the day. Benjamin Franklin was obsessive about planning his days. Each morning, he would wake up at 4:00 a.m. and meticulously piece together a schedule. There’s a clear message to take from Franklin’s habit: prudent goal setting pays dividends. When you plan out your day as carefully as possible, your chances of successfully accomplishing your goals skyrocket. I like to set my daily goals after my mindfulness practice, because the added calm and clarity help me to set effective, specific goals.


Make certain your goals are realistic. There’s no point in setting goals if they aren’t realistic. Take the time to ensure that your schedule for the day is doable by assigning times to your to-do list. A good rule of thumb is to make your day as top heavy as possible. Think about the things that have the ability to advance your career, no matter how daunting the tasks, and schedule them first. When you complete difficult tasks first, you carry positive energy and a feeling of accomplishment into the rest of your day.
Vague goals such as “I want to finish writing my article” are counter-productive, because they fail to include the “how” of things. The same goal re-phrased in a more functional way would read something like this: “I am going to finish my article by writing each of the three sections, spending no more than an hour on each section.” Now, you have more than simply something you want to achieve—you have a way to achieve it.


Finally, say no. No is a powerful word, which will protect your precious mornings. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments, and your morning time is an important commitment. Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression.


Bringing It All Together
Developing a successful morning routine is essential. While the above strategies are tried and true, you should build upon them with other activities that work for you.


What are some other morning strategies that work for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.


Written by


Car next door seeking to raise $5m

Thanks to Dynamic Business
 

Peer-to-peer sharing platform Car Next Door is seeking to raise $5 million from investors to capitalise on rapid growth over the last 18 months, during which it expanded from Sydney and Melbourne into Brisbane

Will Davies startup , which launched in 2012 enables car owners to rent out their vehicles when they’re not in use, has enjoyed significant results across key metrics since its Series A funding round kicked off in September 2015.

“Our vehicle listings have nearly tripled and we’ve seen 4.4x growth in the number of approved borrowers to more than 30,000,” Davies said. “Meanwhile, monthly bookings have tripled and there’s been 3.7x growth in our gross revenue. All of these metrics are growing at increasingly faster rates as we scale up and we’re are on track to have an enterprise value of $190 million by 2022, based on a 10 x EBITDA valuation.”

BOOM!!

Davies said early investment in Car Next Door’s online booking and payment platform – along with its solution (i.e. an electronic lockbox with a plug-in GPS tracker) to the “core problem” of P2P car sharing (i.e. secure, unattended access) 

 “We get a lot of growth through referrals and word-of-mouth, and we focus on creating a great experience for people who are renting out their car or borrowing cars, so that we continue to see this organic growth”.

Davies said Car Next Door’s board – Trevor Folsom (co-founder and director, Investible), Wayne Baskin (Deputy CEO, Booktopia) and Mike Rosenbaum (Founder, Spacer.com) – reflected the importance the company places on mental capital and being well connected to capital! 

“Being able to discuss ideas with these people, who have founded and grown successful online businesses, has been invaluable,” he said. “The same goes for the mentoring we received from Steve Baxter after the Shark Tank win and from Ita Buttrose after we won the Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow award.”

To date, Car Next Door has raised $5.3 million in capital, including a $2.5 million investment from Caltex. Other investors include Impact Investment Group, which Davies said has “a focus on socially responsible investment” and has helped connect the start-up with “other Australian businesses that are working to have a positive impact in the world”.

Davies said the funding round, now underway, will be used to “substantially” scale the start-up’s marketing efforts across tested channels with proven results as well as create a service for business accounts and expand to Geelong, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth.

Asked whether the company’s future lies in driverless cars, Davies replied: “Driverless vehicles will be here really soon, so they will shape the future of any company that operates in the personal transport space. We’re not making our own driverless car in a shed out the back, but when they become widespread, we will have a large user base of people who are already embracing mobility as a service and poised to take up these new technologies, so we think that this will open up all kinds of opportunities for our platform.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tim Draper at Vivid


 

Tim Draper is the kind of Venture Capitalist and human  that makes you leave a conversation, thinking


 ‘Damn, I want  that guy as an investor in my Company’. 


It's all about the Entrepreneur with his heart pulsing through his business


After being pitched the ‘big picture’, beyond the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, and he can visualize the infinite potential of a good idea, what Tim looks for when investing is the Passionate Entrepreneur.


The Entrepreneur needs to burst with a burning desire about why this needs to be done (beyond monetary gains).


 Has the Entrepreneur got the ability to enthuse, engage and inspire both the investors and his team to join him on his journey.

 

All too often, the VC partner invests, and although he or she may have huge value to add, all to often a crummy associate is placed as the new CEO. The Entrepreneur is thrown out along with prospects for the future of the company.

 

As companies transform products and services according to marketplace demands, it is all about an entrepreneurial burst of ‘why’ behind this ‘big idea’.

 

‘If this happens, if this keeps going, then what…’

 

The body of the company grows with the entrepreneur beating as the heart centre. All great enterprises have felt the pulse of an entrepreneur from the very beginning. VC firms  should reject any risky disruption to their flesh and blood, throwing out any powerful ‘distraction’ of an Entrepreneur  with a vision.   

 

What's been your biggest mistake?


The biggest mistake - says Tim, was not making the seed investment in Google when Sergei came to pitch, because they had invested in something similar. The lesson - as a VC , I would rather lose 1X my money than lose the opportunity to make 10X my money.


Likewise, there is limited growth potential in this mindset of failing to act, not pushing through. The policy of a successful  Venture Capital firm  is entrenched in failure: otherwise you are not pushing it.

 

“I expect to fail more than 50% of the time. If I do this, I am doing really well. If I don't - I need to question whether I am in "the Venture Capital Business" - and we should be pushing the envelope further.”

 

 

What are you looking to invest in? 

 

We are looking at Marketplaces,  as we create new industries with new technology that will improve efficiencies bring down costs and increase customer service .

Uber, Aurtasker, my recruitment plus, Airbnb and Bitcoin. 


Industries with high costs  and poor customer service will be need to be rewired for efficiency. Industries such as Government, banking, VC and Healthcare. How will technologies such as Bitcoin and blockchain disrupt them?


New technology comes in like a wave, and everything is affected -  we should not resist these changes despite the apparent disruption. 


There was a high mortality rate of companies that resisted adapting to the Internet. 


The secret is about finding and investing in ‘the new Internet’, whatever this technology may be, to disrupt markets and envision where will you be in 5 years, 10 years and 15 years out. How will your technology change the world? 


Examples of disruptive technologies 

Computer, mobile, email, Internet, Social Media, Bitcoin, Blockchain? 

Companies taking advantage 

Intel, IBM, Microsoft, hotmail, google, Facebook .... wh



Where do you invest? 

 

The hub is no more Silicon Valley - it is global - in fact Australia has a competitive advantage as it can test its technology in a relatively friendly marketplace before venturing offshore. That is why I am so excited about expanding the Draper Network.