Friday, August 11, 2017

How the Collison Brothers went from a startup to $9b in 6 years with 7 lines of Code

From the desk of Bob Pritchard 

The Collison brothers were born in Limerick to parents with scientific backgrounds—father in electrical engineering, mother in microbiology.  Dad ran a 24-bedroom hotel while Mom operated a corporate training company from home.  The boys went to a tiny and Patrick spent his last year studying at home so he could graduate at 16. At 16 Patrick was named Young Scientist of the Year for developing a programming language and artificial intelligence system. He condensed a two-year test-taking process into a 20-day period in which he aced 30 exams.

Patrick enrolled at MIT in 2006 and John followed him to America, attending Harvard. In their spare time, they developed iPhone apps. They helped create a way to manage EBay auctions and sold that company, Auctomatic Inc., for $5 million in 2008.

They dropped out of college and in 2009 they set up an office in Palo Alto, across the street from the old digs of PayPal. There’s such an improbability to their story, that these brothers from a little village would build what could well be one of the most important companies on the internet.

Stripe began in 2011 with Patrick as CEO and John as president. They spent two years testing their service and forming relationships with banks, credit card companies, and regulators so customers wouldn’t have to.  With Stripe, all a startup had to do was add seven lines of code to its site to handle payments: What once took weeks was now a cut-and-paste job. Silicon Valley coders spread word of this elegant new architecture.

Every day, Americans spend about $1.2 billion online and growing rapidly. But, the web’s financial infrastructure is old and slow. Companies wanting to set up shop have had to go to a bank, a payment processor, and “gateways” that handle connections between the two. In 2010, the Collison brothers company, Stripe Inc., built software that businesses could plug into websites and apps to instantly connect with credit card and banking systems and receive payments. The product was a hit with Silicon Valley startups. 

Businesses such as Lyft, Facebook, DoorDash, and thousands of others turned Stripe into the financial backbone of their operations.

They charge a small fee on each transaction and half of Americans who bought something online in the past year did so via Stripe. 

This has given it a $9.2 billion valuation and made Patrick, 28, and John, 26, two of the world’s youngest billionaires.

One way to justify the number: Stripe’s new partnership with Amazon. com Inc., the largest and most sought-after customer on the internet. Over the past couple of weeks, Stripe began handling a large portion of Amazon’s transactions.

Stripe is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. It gives two people in a garage the same infrastructure as a 100,000-person corporation.

Today, Stripe is the financial engine for more than 100,000 businesses. It stores key financial information such as credit card numbers, deals with fraud, and adds support for new services such as Apple Pay as they arise. It’s getting close to handling $50 billion in commerce annually, which would translate to about $1.5 billion in revenue.

Three years ago, Stripe had 80 employees. Now it has 750.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Gustowski is a Human passionate about innovation

Inspired by article in SMH

There are a number of accelerators and spaces for innovators and startups popping up across Australia.

Muru-D, the Telstra accelerator ,York Butter Factory, Fishburners, Sydney Start-up Hub, for which the NSW state government has recently provided $35 million in funding,  River City Labs, which focuses on tech and telcos and Stone and Chalk focussing on Fintech.  

When it comes to creative tech,  Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA ) -  QUT's hub for creative start-ups, is  at the forefront of supporting businesses in this sector.

 CEO Mark Gustowski of CEA says that it is a hybrid facility in that it is an incubator, an accelerator, a co-working space and a venture capital fund.

Tech companies are in our facility for between one and five years. They get access to mentoring programs, workshops and, potentially, funding, says  Gustowski 

An associated company , Collider, invests up to $20,000 each in some of the startups in exchange for equity, and then run through a 12-week program with the entrepreneur-in-residence with each start-up. 

There are around 100 start-up founders on-site here across our co-working space, which is called the Coterie.

The venture capital fund can invest up to $150,000 in individual start-ups that sit within the creative technical industries.

"We act as a champion of creative tech across Australia," Gustowski says

An example of a startup within CEA is Trademark Vision, an image recognition and machine learning business working in the legal space. 

We get to work with amazing founders and help them grow their business, which is really exciting.

Mark Gustowski 

Startups include businesses focussed on  virtual reality, augmented reality, digital content creation, design, industrial design, a little bit of robotics, fashion tech, wearables and music tech, enthuses Gustowski 

Here are Gustowski's top-five tips for emerging creative enterprises:

1. Build for user experience, not the technology. Think about how your start-up can change the user's life as opposed to technology and build something from there. Identify the problem before you build a solution.

2. Ensure you have a minimal viable product before raising capital. At the same time, raise capital when you don't need it. This will reduce pressure on the business. Don't run the business down to its last cent and then raise capital.

3. Understand that raising capital, whether through an angel investor or venture capital is a 4-6 month prospect – at least.

4. Immediately look for export channels. Australia is a very small market and most start-ups should look for international markets straight away. Australia's a good testing market, but it's not really big enough for most start-ups.

5. Immerse yourself in a start-up community, whether it's a co-working space, incubator or accelerator. Co-working spaces tend to cater to different people; some are creative, some are for software programmers, some are for tech and some are for mining. Find a tribe and become part of it because it can be a lonely journey being a founder.

Will the tech Bubble burst ?

Written on behalf of the New York Times for 
Ruchir Sharma, author of “The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World,” is the chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management and a contributing opinion writer.

At the height of a market mania in 1967, the author George Goodman captured the mood perfectly, comparing it to a surreal party that ends only when “black horsemen” burst through the doors and cut down all the revelers who remain. “Those who leave early are saved, but the ball is so splendid no one wants to leave while there is still time. So everybody keeps asking — what time is it? But none of the clocks have hands.”

  • Every decade since, the global markets have relived this party. In the late 1960s the mania was for the “nifty 50” American companies like Disney and McDonald’s, which had been the “go-go” stocks of that decade. 
  • In the late 1970s it was for natural resources, from gold to oil. 
  • In the late 1980s it was stocks in Japan, 
  • and in the late 1990s it was the dot-com boom. 
  • Last decade, investors flocked to mortgage-backed securities and big emerging markets from Brazil to Russia. In every case, many partygoers were still in the market when the crash came.
  • Today, tech mania is resurgent. Investors are again glancing at a clock with no hands — and dismissing the risk. The profitless start-ups that were wiped out in the dot-com crash have consolidated into an oligopoly composed of leading survivors such as Google and Apple. 

These are giants with real earnings, yet signs of an irrational euphoria are growing.

One is pitchmen bundling investments with very different outlooks into a single package.

  •  Last decade they bundled Brazil, Russia, India and China to sell as the BRICs.
  •  More recently they packaged Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google as FANG
  • then, as names and prospects shifted, subbed in Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft to make Faama.
  •  Others are hyping the hottest tech companies in China as BAT, for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. 

Whatever the mix, acronym mania is usually a sign of bubbly thinking.

Seven of the world’s 10 most valuable companies are in the tech sector, matching the late 1999 peak. As the American stock market keeps marching to new highs — the Dow hit 22,000 this week — the gains are increasingly concentrated in the big tech stocks. 

The bulls say it is inevitable that Apple will become the first trillion-dollar company.

No matter how surreal the endgame, booms tend to begin with real innovation. In the past, manias have been triggered by excitement about canals, the telegraph and the automobile. But not since the advent of railroads incited market booms in the 1830s and 1840s has the world seen back-to-back booms like the dot-com bubble of the 1990s and the one we are in now.

The dot-com era saw the rise of big companies that were building the nuts and bolts of the internet — including Dell, Microsoft, Cisco and Intel — and of start-ups that promised to tap its revolutionary potential. The current boom lacks a popular name because the innovations — from the internet of things to artificial intelligence and machine learning — are sprawling and hard to label.

If there is a single thread, it is the expanding capacity to harness data, which the Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, calls the “electricity of the 21st century.”

Market excitement about authentic technology innovations enters the manic phase when stock prices rise faster than justified by underlying economic growth. Since the crisis of 2008, the United States economy has been recovering at the rate of around 2 percent, roughly half the rate seen for much of the past century. The areas of growth are limited in this environment. Oil’s not very euphoric, with prices depressed, while regulators are forcing banks to keep the music down. In the most direct echo of 1999, technology is once again seen as the best party in town.

It is true that prices today are not quite as widely overvalued as in 1999. Large technology stocks are up 350 percent this decade, the low end of the range for the hot stocks from earlier booms, which saw gains of 300 to 1,900 percent. Only a few select technology companies — mainly the internet giants — are trading close to the valuations of the dot-com era, when the average price-to-earnings ratio for tech companies hit 50. The average ratio for that sector today is 18.

However, the scale of today’s tech boom is not readily visible because much of the investment action has moved into the hands of big private players. 

In 1999, nearly 550 start-ups went public, and after many ended in disaster, the government tightened regulation of public companies. In part to avoid that red tape, this year only 11 tech companies have gone public. 

Many are raising money instead from venture capitalists or private equity funds. 

Venture capitalists have poured more than $60 billion into the technology sector every year for the past three years — the highest flows since the peak in 2000 — and private equity investors say there has never been a better time to raise money.

These new private funding channels are creating “unicorns,” companies that haven’t gone public but are valued at $1 billion or more. Unicorns barely existed in 1999. Now there are more than 260 worldwide, with technology companies dominating the list. And if signs emerge that the privately owned unicorns are faltering, the value of publicly owned tech companies is not likely to hold up either.

We can never know when the end will come. Still, there are three critical signals to watch for.

The first is regulation. The tech giants are seen today as monopolizing internet search and commerce, and they are angling to take over industries such as publishing and automobiles, raising alarms at antitrust agencies in Europe and the United States. Fear that new internet technologies are doing more to waste time and brainpower than to increase productivity has already provoked a backlash in China, where officials recently criticized online gaming as “electronic heroin.” A regulatory crackdown on tech giants as either monopolies or productivity destroyers could pop the allure of tech stocks.

The other signals are more familiar. Going back to the “nifty 50” stocks of the 1960s, nearly every big market mania ended after central banks tightened monetary policy and many people who had borrowed to get in the game found themselves in trouble. 

The dot-com bubble peaked in 2000, after the Federal Reserve had increased interest rates multiple times. The current boom will likewise be at risk if an increase in inflation compels the Fed to raise interest rates beyond the modest rise the market currently expects.

Finally, watch for tech earnings to start falling short of analyst forecasts. The dot-com boom was driven in part by increasingly optimistic predictions for technology company earnings, and it imploded when earnings started to miss badly. Investors realized then that their expectations about profits from the internet revolution had become unreal.

Of course, no two booms will unfold exactly the same way. We are now eight years into this bull market, making it the second longest in history, behind only the run-up of the late 1990s. No bull market lasts forever, and while it is clear that we are entering the late stages of this cycle, it is impossible to say whether this moment is like 1999, or 1998 — or earlier.

The clocks have no hands, and the black horsemen may appear at any time.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why I admire Entrepreneurs

Written by

One of my friends was asking me about why I am so active in the startup space. He knows I'm an enthusiastic angel investor , and he was wondering why I devote so much time, money and energy to this. 

Lots of people believe that my primary motivation must be financial, and that angel investors expect to get rich by investing in startups. Of course , that is the desired outcome, but the reality is that most of us will lose money when funding startups. This is because most startups fail , and it's very hard for anyone to identify which ones will win and which ones won't. 

It's not just that we are unable to pick the winners - it's also that the environment changes so dramatically that it's impossible to predict who will remain standing because of all the tectonic shifts which occur so rapidly in such a dynamic ecosystem. 

While I'll be happy if I make money on my angel investments, this is not my first priority. Now it's not that I want to throw my money away - it's just that I have realistic expectations from the financial ROI I am likely to get from this particular asset class.

The reason I am an active angel investor is because I have a lot of respect and regard for entrepreneurs, and I want to help them to win. I think they're very brave by being willing to tackle challenges which are likely to scare away most other people, and they are the ones who create true value in a capitalistic economy.

While people like politicians , share brokers , traders and bureaucrats have an important role to play in society, they are usually middlemen . If it weren't for entrepreneurs who are willing to stick their necks out because they have the courage of their conviction; the guts to start even though they know the odds are stacked against them; and the willingness to put up with the hardships and uncertainty which characterize an entrepreneur's life, there really would be nothing new in this world. They are the creators - the ones who start the fires, and I would like to be able to do my own little bit to support them. 

Now I am not doing it as philanthropy or charity. My primary metric is my LOI - my learning on investment. The world is a fascinating and interesting place, and talking to founders give you all kinds of insights which otherwise you wouldn't be privy to. They can imagine a better future, and I love their optimism and can-do attitude. 

Over time, you get attached to the founder and his dreams, and I have started thinking of the startups I have invested in as being my babies. The founders have given them birth, and I am one of the adoptive parents !

For example, I admire Ajit Narayanan because he is able to be a missionary and a mercenary, and do an outstanding job combining both these skills at the same time; I look upto Sandeep Senan because he is able to inspire children with his passion and creativity, and spark their innovative streak by allowing them to tinker with their hands; Ali is remarkable for being able to pivot with great agility , and he has been able to steer his company through rough times, even though his competitors have crashed after burning through a lot more money; and Abhijeet and Munendra have been extremely frugal and built a company which executes flawlessly on a remarkably consistent basis.

As an IVF specialist, I have a lot of depth of expertise in my professional life. Angel investing allows me to learn a lot more about the world than I would otherwise, and this experience can be expensive when the startup folds, but the lessons are priceless !

I am a consultant IVF specialist, who runs one of India’s leading IVF clinics at, along with my wife, Dr Anjali Malpani. We have founded HELP, the Health Education Library for People (, which is India’s first Patient Education Resource Center. I have authored many books, including: How to Get the Best Medical Care; Successful Medical Practise; Using Information Therapy to Put Patients First; and Patient Safety - Protect yourself from Medical Errors which are available free at . My passion is patient empowerment; and I believe that using Information Technology to deliver Information Therapy to patients can heal a sick healthcare system. I am an active angel investor (

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Tim Draper leveraged Government and debt to Create his first fund

I am not known for being a great supporter of government programs, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the SBIC program for taking a chance on me way back when when I was 26 years years old and starting out in the venture capital business. I was able to take a $2 million SBIC and use SBA's 3:1 leverage to have a fund where I could use their $6 million to start investing in tech startups.

I remember Marvin Klapp telling me I needed to have 10 years of investment experience, and I replied, "I have been investing since I was 10." He looked right down at his hands and said, "check!"

From that borrowed $6 million, I was able to build a record and a career that allowed me to finance over 1000 companies that have employed hundreds of thousands of employees, creating hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth for hardworking, driven creative people with dreams of a better future.

As of today, I have finally paid off all of my debt to SBA, so I wanted to show my appreciation for a group that was willing to stick their necks out for a green, unproven investor with a three page handwritten business plan.

So thank you Small Business Investment Company division of the Small Business Administration. Thank you Marvin Klapp, wherever you are.

Friday, July 21, 2017

HealthMatch - connecting patients to clinical trials

Before any groundbreaking new medication or treatment method is able to make its mark, each must first undergo clinical trials to test its viability on the people it’s intended to help – patients.
In Australia, thousands of clinical trials are conducted each year, with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, an online registry of clinical trials held at the University of Sydney, citing above 140 clinical trials held in the month of June alone.
Wanting to help connect patients to clinical trials in a fast and easy to understand manner is Sydney-based healthtech startup HealthMatch. Through an app connected to an Australian government database of clinical trials, HealthMatch is able to shortlist a handful of trials relevant to a patient’s illness and individual profile.
Machine learning is key to how the app sifts through the thousands of clinical trial listings and returns recommendations, while the algorithm backing HealthMatch’s “structures and aggregates” listing data.
Once a patient has looked through the shortlisted clinical listings, they’re then able to proceed to the next step – offering to be contacted by the “trial coordinator”, which may be a university, research firm, or pharmaceutical company, to move forward with the clinical trial.
As the startup’s cofounder Manuri Gunawardena summarises, HealthMatch is about facilitating the “initial match” of patient recruitment, a stage which for a vast number of trials is never reached, due to a patient’s inability to access clinical trial listings.
“Right now, when a patient undergoes a clinical trial they’re reliant on their specialist, so if they have cancer they’re reliant on their oncologist to know what clinical trials are available,” she explained.
Specialists, however, often don’t have the time or resources to search through clinical trials for every one of their patients.
The result of this, she said, is a “game of roulette” for the patients, in terms of whether they will be able to access clinical trials and other treatment options.
As an alternative, patients can take up the initiative themselves and go directly to the government registry that lists all the different trials being conducted.
As Gunawardena explained, however, the glaring issue with this method is the fact that trial information isn’t exactly composed in picture book form, but rather detailed PDF documents packed with scientific terminology designed for specialists and other researchers to understand.
To ensure patients are able to understand a trial, HealthMatch ensures each are presented to the patient in an “easy to understand” way.
Searching manually also means that a patient has to answer the required questionnaires attached to each clinical trial which assesses their eligibility, a time-consuming process.
“So say if a patient has lung cancer, they might come across 500 clinical trials, they have to go through each and address the eligibility criteria,” said Gunawardena.
“For every trial there are a different set of questions that can be asked. One might ask about blood pressure, smoking history, while another will ask about the biology and genetics of your cancer.”
To condense the searching process, HealthMatch users create an initial “profile” for themselves, answering questions that feed into the machine learning and trim down the type of questions asked, and the clinical trials presented to them.
Previously working at a cancer research lab, Gunawardena had identified the recurring problems patients had when trying to find trials to participate in; she herself had patients coming up to her and asking for assistance in finding trials, which would lead to her spending days searching through the registries for any appropriate listings.
“I came across a case where two patients both had the same type of lung cancer. One of them had a parent who was a GP who was able to assist them well, and was able to get them on two clinical trials, one of which ended up being FDA approved. The other was just as motivated in looking for trials, but they just didn’t know who to get into touch with. Their oncologist didn’t know exactly the [range of] trials that were out there, so they ended up missing out. So the first patient went back to work, and the other unfortunately passed away,” she said.
“That was really the turning point for me where I thought, there really needs to be something to empower patients and give them better access. It shouldn’t be a matter of who your treating specialist is, or whether you’re from rural Australia or a city; the idea was being able to democratise that access to medical treatments. Patients are also becoming smarter these days as well, and want to know all the options that are in front of them.”
Pairing up with a colleague, a medical doctor who was also skilled as a software engineer, the two began development for HealthMatch, working beside Medicine Australia, a leading organisation dealing with clinical trials and pharmaceuticals, to ensure compliance around the app.
Supported by an early investment round, the startup built its revenue model around the clinical trials, where HealthMatch acts as a recruiter for the pharmaceutical companies, research firms, or institutions looking to gather patients.
“Pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials, and even institutional trials, have a budget for patient recruitment,” explained Gunawardena.
Often, she added, these sponsors struggle to find patients for their trials, and so they hire “contract research organisations” to go out and recruit.
HealthMatch bypasses these organisations, gaining a recruitment fee for patients who successfully commit to a trial.
Gearing up for launch in the next two months, the startup has opened its registration page for the app, ahead of a planned Series A seed funding round to be conducted in October.
One of its key assets is Arran Sclossberg , an Actuary, Doctor and all round rocket scientist ! 
Image: Manuri Gunawardena. Source: Supplied.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Launching Sydney's Startup Hub

Following today’s Sydney Startup Hub launch announcement, I’d like to share some additional information with you about upcoming opportunities for you and your clients. 

Artist impression

Supporting entrepreneurs supports jobs growth

One of the key outcomes highlighted in our Jobs for Future Report was the need to nurture entrepreneurs. As a direct result, we are creating the Sydney Startup Hub. It will strengthen our startup ecosystem, support a pipeline of future job-creating businesses, and underpin new jobs growth across NSW.

What can you expect?

The Sydney Startup Hub is set to open in late 2017 and marks the first of its kind in Australia. It will accommodate 2,500 people, include Australia’s leading incubators and accelerators all under one roof, and be unmatched in the southern hemisphere in terms of its size and density.

Located at 11-31 York Street in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, the Hub aims to foster collaboration, innovation and stimulate business growth. It will connect organisations to entrepreneurs seeking skills, advice, networks, investment and growth opportunities.

The Hub will feature a dedicated community and events space that will play host to a range of industry-related events such as seminars, launches and workshops. The program of activity will be delivered in collaboration with the Hub’s residents, industry partners and the wider startup ecosystem – providing terrific opportunities to showcase expertise, products and services.

A regional landing pad will further extend the reach of the Hub by connecting regional entrepreneurs (either remotely or physically) to the wider startup ecosystem. It will also provide practical support, such as facilities for regional startups needing to visit the Hub for business, events or investment discussions.

Coming soon

In addition to readying the Hub for opening, Jobs for NSW will shortly unveil an enhanced product portfolio. This includes the introduction of new loan products, plus refinements to existing grant and loan products, making it simpler and faster to access funding to support business growth. Details about these products will be available shortly and our Client Engagement Team can be contacted for more details.

Additional information

Our focus now is on readying the Hub for opening in late 2017 and we hope to welcome you there alongside the wider NSW startup ecosystem – it’s a significant asset offering terrific opportunity to further build our startup community and energise the sector.

If you or your clients would like more information about the Hub please see our press releasefact sheet and FAQs

You and your team can also visit our website, and follow us on Jobs for NSW FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn to keep up with the latest news. 

Kind regards,

Karen Borg

CEO, Jobs for NSW