Monday, August 31, 2015

10 Tips for an Entrepreneur Starting Out

1. Crystallize your customers’ pain points.
Figuring out what’s making your customers suffer every day is key to developing the perfect product or service. Usually, business consumers make purchases to solve a problem; whether it’s to increase revenue, reduce expenses or generate productivity. Only by identifying those problems – the real problems – is how the pain points become clear. Every strategy needs to target those pain points, especially sales.
2. Create an affordable solution differentiated from your competition.
Standing out in the market is not an easy thing to do. There are a number of strategies that you can pursue, but the most important is to create a value-added product. Focus on your strengths (and on your competitions’ weaknesses) and do what you do better than anybody else, constantly.
3. Validate your MVP and gather testimonials.
Testing your idea with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), serves two main purposes, so you can make sure that your solution is 1) technically viable and 2) has business capabilities. These tests might seem like a logical and good idea, but there are some business experts who oppose the idea of going public with a lesser product, so it all depends on the specifics of your business and who you ask. Here are several ways you can track the progress of an MVP’s performance.
4. Build a strong startup team and advisory board.
For startups, it’s crucial to have the right people at the right time, especially at C-level positions. There’s an important difference between the founder, founding team and the company’s CEO that has to be crystal clear from the beginning. Having a great team is vital for startups since team member synergies and attributes can complement each other in a productive way. Also, setting up an advisory team with individuals that have created comparable businesses or thrived in similar industries will surely help in the long run.
5. Bootstrap or seek angel investment/venture capital.
Deciding on a funding strategy is never easy, more so when a company is at its early stages. Every subtlety can determine the company’s future scale, growth, ownership and control. It’s also important that wherever the funds come from, that they are smart capital.
Market throughout the startup’s growth stage to generate awareness and sales:
Audience, loyalty, reach and engagement matter because they create value to customers which turns into a positive ROI. Set goals, run campaigns, track results and tie everything to the main objective. If you’re spending money on something you need to know why. All advertising is about dollar value returns. If no return on investment (ROI) can be measured, no resources should be spent.
6. Pursue excellent customer service.
It’s obvious that you want your customers to be happy, but this is also a powerful way to gain insights and feedback about your product. Delighting customers so that they feel special can actually turn into more sales, just by focusing on each individual customer. When resources are scarce, it’s vital to understand what your customers value the most.
7. If things aren’t going well so far: Don’t be afraid to pivot.
Pivoting can come naturally or as a determined strategic decision. Don’t be afraid. A large number of famous companies had to pivot to find their successful products or solutions. Track everything and if the current business model isn’t generating profits, make changes!
8. If a pivot doesn’t save your company, then try to fail fast.
No one likes to fail, but if you are going to do it, make it happens sooner rather than later. Getting out quickly is better than getting overly attached and having to spend more time and money on a project that is bound to flop. Recognizing failure is an important quality for entrepreneurs as well as learning from their mistakes.
9. Always stay innovative to delight customers.
Finally, it is necessary to nurture your startup culture of innovation. Products and solutions need to constantly evolve, especially as the company grows. If innovation is not encouraged, your competitor is bound to take over your space and/or worse your company could spiral towards mediocrity.
All these tips vary from company to company, so it’s important to keep in mind that each business is different and, although it’s possible to get insights from case studies, each startup is a world of its own.
This content first appeared on RIC Centre.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Who is Naval Ravikant?

We need this dude in Oz!!

Naval Ravikant (@naval) is the CEO and a co-founder of AngelList. He previously co-founded Epinions, which went public as part of, and He is an active angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies, including more than a few “unicorn” mega-successes.

His deals include Twitter, Uber, Yammer, Postmates, Wish, Thumbtack, and OpenDNS, which Cisco just bought for $635 million in cash.

NICTA NAD CSIRO merge to create one of the largest Digital Innovation Teams in the world!

NICTA (Australia’s chief IT research facility) has merged with CSIRO’s Digital Productivity flagship creating  a new organisation, Data61

Minister for industry and science Ian Macfarlane said Data61would be one of the largest digital innovation teams in the world.

“Both CSIRO and NICTA have an impressive track record in digital innovation and have demonstrated their ability to take homegrown technologies to market,” he said.

“Together they will be a force to be reckoned with, creating an internationally-recognised digital research powerhouse that will benefit Australian industry as it reaches into new global markets and seizes new opportunities for jobs and growth.
“I’d like to thank the NICTA members and the Board for embracing this opportunity to supercharge Australia’s digital research.”

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said having a single national organisation would enable Data61 to produce focused research that will deliver strong economic returns.

“The new combined entity will continue to train Australia’s future digital technology leaders through the enhanced PhD programme, with more than 300 technology PhDs enrolled at partner universities,” minister Turnbull said.

“Both CSIRO and NICTA are confident that through this merger, Australia’s digital research capability will be enhanced, providing an opportunity to leverage off complementary strengths to build a better, more impactful capability for Australia.”

Data61 will be led by local technology entrepreneur Adrian Turner - a succesful silicon valley veteran, who said his vision for the organisation is to harness the start-up culture of NICTA and multidisciplinary strength of CSIRO to deliver maximum benefit to Australia.

NICTA was founded in 2002, as part of the BITS programme. Its core purpose was to “build capacity and strengthen investment in strategic information and communications technology research, and improve Australia’s ability to fully capture the productivity and transformational benefits that ICT capability can deliver”.

Exciting times for Innovation in Australia!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Do share prices move because of quarterly profits - or is it a furfy?

SEEKs share dips - apparently on Executive decision to invest strongly in R&D and Long Term Strategies of accessing offshore markets in lieu of short term profits. 

SEEK's chief executive is taking a stand against short-termism among investors unhappy with his plans to spend aggressively to build a global online job search giant.... With fewer Australian companies investing in growth, investors are showing no tolerance for slowing profits. 

read more from article in Sydney Morning Herald SMH 

Is it true that investors care only about quarterly earnings and short-term stock prices, so companies skimp on R&D?

James Surowiecki in the New Yorker, makes an interesting declaration: short-termism is myth.

According to his article, companies are investing heavily in R&D and getting strong returns as a result of it.  
In a profit-oriented context, investments in knowledge like R&D or knowledge management are easy targets when firms face quarterly earnings pressure - but is that the right decision?

People back innovation and strategic thinking
  • Cuts can yield immediate increases in profit, but the impact of those cuts on long-term sustainability can be devastating, as Dell [DELL], Hewlett Packard [HP] and Sony [SNE] have discovered.
  • Companies  like Amazon and Tesla and Netflix, whose profits in the present have typically been a tiny fraction of their market caps, have been able to command colossal valuations.
  • There a steady flow of I.P.O.s for companies with small revenues and nonexistent earnings. 
  • The biotech industry is now valued at more than a trillion dollars, even though many of the firms have yet to bring a single drug to market. 
None of these things are what you’d expect from a market dominated by short-term considerations.

Share value is based on perception by the public, and the ability for the executives and board to make the stakeholders feel comfortable about the risk they are taking in R&D having the potential to generate exceptional returns. 

Its all about communication and trust. 

If you believe in the Board and Executive in SEEK or any stock that you invest in, and believe in their long term vision and its people,  short term profits should not be a factor in determining your support of the share. 

Is start up funding a myth

3 gems on how a startup can get funding - from Brian Dineen on how a startup can get money and capital 

It seems that when one peruses the plethora of internet locations offering advice, information, and tips for small business, the subject of funding your business is a very popular one. (For good reason). Among that subset of information, funding for startups appears to grab the lion's share of  the attention. 
Interestingly, in an average year only about 75,000 startups get private investment (about 70,000 get angel investors and 5,000 venture capital).
 And banks mostly lend to startups via SBA-guaranteed loans, often requiring things like your house as collateral, and lent to just over 50,000 businesses in 2013. 
Meanwhile, almost 500,000 new businesses startup every month, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Which proves that the general idea that startups get funding is off base; the vast majority of startups are self funded. So what's the deal here? Why all this hype about funding for startups?
One reason is obvious. Money is something every business needs to survive and thrive. Naturally it's always at the forefront of any entrepreneur's mind early in the game. I think the other reason is that there is a perception that startup founders need the most help in obtaining funding, due to lack of experience, limited resources, and competing with more established firms.
So what can the startup do to increase its chances? There are a few things that founders can do to make their company look more appealing to an investor or lender. This is certainly not a guarantee of obtaining the capital but may give you a leg up on the thousands of other fledgling entrepreneurs approaching the same sources.
First, put as much of your own money into the new venture as you can. Anyone funding your new venture will want to know that you have enough confidence in the idea that you're willing to put your own capital at risk as well as theirs. 
Second, make sure that your business plan is not only realistic, but covers every potential contingency that may arise. A well thought through business plan shows that you've considered all the potential opportunities and threats and are prepared to deal with whatever circumstances are thrown at you.
 Finally, if you have a business to business service or product try to "pre-sell" to a larger, more established customer. This proves marketability to the funding source. In fact, if you can land a purchase order from a credit worthy customer you can obtain funding based on that purchase order, allowing you to produce and deliver the order without draining your initial resources.
In short, obtaining capital, whether it be equity or debt, for a startup is difficult, but there are things you can do to improve your probability of success.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Atscale raises $7m series A from blue hip investors

From business insider 
AtScale founder, CEO Dave Mariani

Former Yahoo-er and serial startup founder Dave Mariani is back with a new company, AtScale, raising a $US7 million series A round of funding with awesome investors including:-

Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, who is now a VC who loves to fund startups by former Yahoo-ers.

Amr Awadallah, another former Yahoo-er who is now better known as the co-founder of hot Valley startup Cloudera. Cloudera has raised $US1.2 billion in 8 rounds since it was founded in 2008.

Michael Franklin, a director of UC Berkley’s AmpLab which invented the latest, hottest technology called Spark, which has spun out into fast-rising startup called Databricks. Franklin is both an advisor and investor to AtScale.

Mariani landed these investors by showing him what he was working on. For instance, he had approached Awadallah to ask for technical advice. “We went to get his feedback and Amir was like, ‘Wow, this is different, I like what you guys are doing. Can I invest?'”

The pain:- 

Yahoo stores boatloads of data in the tech it created called Hadoop. Hadoop lets companies use low-cost commodity computers and storage to house really huge amounts of data, and it’s become very popular. It’s one of the technologies driving the huge, new ‘big data” trend.

But Hadoop is ridiculously hard to work with. Mariani spent years working with Hadoop at Yahoo and at his next job when he was the lead engineer for Klout. He was living the pain!!

AtScale makes it easy integrating almost iseamlessly into Hadoop with no changes required to Hadoop. Once set up, it lets companies work with the data using their favourite apps including Excel, Tableau Software, Microstrategy, and others.

“We query the data in place. No one is doing that. Enterprises love it. It’s so easy to put it in and their users can keep doing what they are doing, don’t notice a difference, but IT get to move their data from all their old [storage] into Hadoop.”

Mariani has had multiple hits over decades. He founded MineShare, which sold to Digital Impact for $US34 million in 2000. Digital Impact later sold to Acxiom for $US140 million. And he was CTO of Blue Lithium which sold to Yahoo for $US300 million in October, 2007.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The BSI Ecosystem

BSI Ecosystem

Our organisation is an ecosystem… whereby our pulse is to create generational legacies by assisting our team and people who service our clients and investments. If we can inspire them to love coming to work and do what they do well…. They will provide an awesome service to our clients - helping them create generational legacies!

If they are 50% utilised… we are making good money…. That means they have 50% of excess capacity to add value to BSI’s investments…. So a startup/company  who we “back”  or take an active position in   … gets access to all of our resources…. They can then exit/ become clients/ become a service line.

What BSI does
We help Entrepreneurs create their generational legacies 

Each business unit runs autonomously – ideally 10 – 20 in a business unit….. where the entrepreneur has a stake in the success of the business…..
We have found that as an entrepreneurS starts up…they are passionate at what they do… but as they grow …. There is a whole heap of stuff that happens around them… taking their eye away from the bouncing ball and not focussing what they are good at. 

That’s where we come in…. we provide the backoffice/ structure/ non-negotiable values/ money/ resources/ adminmistration/marketing  … whatever they need to get them to do what they do best….

So instead of a pyramid structure and organisation chart… we are sort of an arrow that goes through all the businesses providing the core services.

I must say… the business has worked a treat over the years….. with some interesting stories… and some amazing results….. also massive challenges…

We are at a stage where  we have lots of bsi brands … and now need to consolidate into one brand to take advantage of synergies…. Challenging…. To say the least…….
Lots of chiefs/vested interests/ a type personalities (especially me! J )

But we are all  looking forward towards the journey to 2020!!

Happy to share more for those who might be interested…

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dream Big Dreams - an essential ingredient for success

A dream with a positive attitude and action - will enable you to achieve anything that you would think possible..... And then some!

It all starts with a dream! 

  • And you can dream and plan from anywhere - look at Mandela! 
  • Allow yourself to imagine and fantasize and dream about all your goals and the kind of life you would like to live. 
  • Regular thinking and imagination about dreams and how you will achieve them ....will positively impact on your mindset. This will boost your subconscious mind to start thinking and working towards your dream. 
  • Once you start working towards your dream, you become more positive, more motivated, and more determined to make your dream a reality. You trigger your natural creativity and come up with idea after idea to help make your dream come true.
  • Your subconscious mind is an amazing thing.... Its continuously working even when you are tired.  If you are struck with any challenges, your subconscious mind will continuously figure out a way or solution to handle the situation.

Who said these quotes and what did they achieve? 
  • "Build and it will come"
  • "Dream and it will happen"
  • "I had a dream?"
What did they achieve?

Dream big dreams
  • raises your self-esteem
  • increases level of self-confidence.
  • increases your personal level of self-respect and happiness,
  • stimulates you to do better than you ever have before.
Big dreams with positive attitude, planning and action - helps you push yourself to your limits You may even end up achieving more than you ever thought you could. 

As my mentor , Allen Pathmarajah says:-
"Vision without action is hallucination -Action without vision is chaos - Vision with Action will enable you to achieve success that knows no boundaries" 

 Big dreams give you the opportunity to leave your mark on the world.