Tech Connect 2013 Brisbane Review

Tech Connect 2013With thanks to my very good friends at SlatteryIT, I headed off to Tech Connect 2013 in Brisbane this week to network with the Brisbane startup community.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk kicked off the day by reaffirming the Digital Brisbane strategy which already has seen the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer, a visiting entrepreneurs program and a strategy to attract more startups in Brisbane. He was keen to see more success stories in Brisbane, following on from start ups like Halfbrick, the inventors of Fruit Ninja.

Here are my notes from the sessions.

Enabling Entrepreneurship

Tyler Crowley is the first speaker to be brought to Brisbane as part of the visiting entrepreneurs program. Tyler is a well known and respected entrepreneur, best known to me as the co-host of the This Week in Startups podcast. I am not sure if there was meant to be any direction to this session, but it turned out to be a rambling question and answer session.

  • bring awareness to the community by getting people to tweet for being at an event – you will be surprised how quickly the city will get recognised
  • startups tend to congregate in the same area – in San Francisco it is around the Twitter office, in Palo Alto it is around University Avenue and in Los Angeles it is around Santa Monica, places that have startup centres benefit due to the cluster effect, cities like Stockholm are suffering because of a lack of this
  • River City Labs is probably currently the nexus of the community in Brisbane
  • the crowd funding model is still on the horizon and should be awesome for startups outside Silicon Valley, AngelList just got approval to have a crowd funding model from the SEC in the last week
  • another company getting acquired in the next 6 months will really put Brisbane on the map
  • attracting VCs – LA does content very well, San Francisco does social networking very well, so attract the kind of startups to the industry that you do well and get that message out
  • Brisbane has incubators like River City Labs (private) and ilab (government / university)
  • documentarians are important – TechZulu in LA and Scobleizer in San Francisco – provides a window to everyone outside, TechZulu is a great model, it took two years as a labour of love until it became profitable, the mainstream media follows when it becomes popular and it will explode
  • Brisbane is in the frustration phase of funding and media coverage – they will take notice when they become embarrassed by the success of startups and documentarians – currently at the tipping point, it is inevitable!
  • if your city had a blank canvas – getting a nest is important, support the documentarian, support angel events, support local meetups and events!, hold regular monthly events, calendars and job boards, strategy to attract outsiders to get the “Apple Store effect”
  • This Week in Startups – is the global meeting place to inspire people
  • build a startup map of Brisbane, one exists of Australia, maintain a database like CrunchBase
  • it is time for the banks to wake up and support startups like Silicon Valley Bank who are now spreading as the major banks are asleep at the wheel, there are opportunities for supporting industries to step up

Think Big!

Matt Barrie is the creator of Freelancer, which is the worlds largest outsourcing marketplace. I was really looking forward to seeing this talk and it did not disappoint! His presentation is also available online.

  • software is eating the world – the biggest bookstore in the world is digital (Amazon), Scrapbooking (Pinterest), Evernote, maps, music, yellow pages, fashion, money, real estate, jobs, etc, etc, etc…
  • 66% of the worlds population are yet to join the Internet
  • demographics are changing and aging – lots of opportunities in this space as well
  • lots of online learning opportunities – you can design logos easily via Envato, Stanford University had 170,000 online students enrolled in an Artificial Intleligence course that normally attracted 250 people and the highest achievers were outside Harvard, there are also options like Coursera and Khan Academy amongst others
  • created – we are now a service economy, the world is becoming very globalised, crowd sourcing (outsourcing has now turned to crowd sourcing eg. logo design)
  • Exposé the logo! – crazy pushing the boundaries of crowd sourcing, also Kickstarter and the Pebble Watch – wanted $100,000 to build, raised $10 million!
  • Kickstarter funds more projects in arts than the US government, the next big thing is musc
  • The World is Flat
  • parabolic growth comes from distribution firehoses eg CityVille growth in Facebook, Viddy for reading news in Facebook, Google, Reddit
  • you need to strike early, before the idea gets crowded eg. games in the AppStore like Angry Birds who owned the market early
  • the new metric is growth – referrals are extremely important – see Startup Metrics for Pirates
  • all the software you need is free or cheap
  • ha a sub-site for everything
  • sites like RetailMeNot started with $30, Digg started with $60
  • the first dotcom bust was due to bad business models and a strong reliance on advertising, but in reality we are still in the original boom
  • Zynga – 96% of users don’t buy anything, the 4% that bought a cow to impress thir friends raised them $1.2 billion
  • many companies are not ready for growth, a mess internally and financially
  • there is lots of potential to replace people with algorithms and insights
  • in Australia we need to find a way to build technical businesses in the financial sector, like we do for mining
  • enrolments in engineering is down 60% in the middle of a technology boom, we need to start seeding interest back at school level
  • any job that can be described by an algorithm can be turned into software
  • Australia is a good place to base a startup, easier to hire people and start a network, but our exchange rate is crippling and if it rises it could become a major problem
  • you can build a big business targeted at the local market (eg, but always think global
  • Mary Meeker presentations should be used more in presentations

Money To Grow

This panel included John Hummelstad (Ephox and Concept Safety Systems), Sean Teahan (Nimble) and Doron Ben-Meir (Commercialisation Australia).

  • options include borrowing from friends, earning a buck first and investing your own money, earning from the bank (usually $2 million and up), funding by credit card, selling something, grants and R&D concessions, pay in 60 / collect in 30 days, angel network, information memorandum by getting close to OEM’s particularly those who you might potentially sell to, Venture Capital but this is decling, crowdsourcing
  • fund like minded companies to work closely with you
  • relationships at a strategic level are hard, but can bring rewards in the long term
  • CFIMITYM – “cash flow is more important than your mother”, business owners are awake at 2am worrying about cash
  • lean startups work very well for technology types of businesses, cash hungrier models need to exist because we still need to build products like iPads
  • figure out who in the supply chain cares about your type of business – they are good areas to look for investors
  • the large amount of successful businesses do not have venture capital funding – should only consider this if it brings value
  • essential that you break every rule in private funding that you can’t break in the public market
  • Australian Government has uncapped 45c / dollar R&D tax incentives (quarterly in arrears), then you move to incentives from Commercialisation Australia
  • Enterprise Connect is great way to take your business through the washing machine – your business needs to be able to stand up to audit
  • getting a commercialisation grant – it is your onus to prove that your invention works, once that is proved the commercialisation then needs to be tested
  • make sure when meeting potential funders that you can answer how you are going to solve their problem, also make sure you know all about them, use tools like LinkedIn and be educated, it is just courtesy
  • important to have front foot sales to fuel the fire but most importantly to get validation from the customer base, it also builds credibility by reinvesting your profits, biggest issue with technical companies in Australia is there an aversion to being a saleman, it is all about selling and if you are not prepared to do this then don’t start!, you are selling yourself not the product
  • selling is learning – you need to learn what your customer wants and your value proposition

Accelerating Growth

This panel included Natasha Rawlings (StreetHawk), Ric Richardson (inventor of software activation amongst many other thing) and Steve  Baxter (River City Labs). Ric mentioned that he gets lots of attention from his appearances on Australian Story (The Big Deal and A Done Deal).

  • your first role is not to be the CEO but the Chairman of the Board (looks at the business to ensure they have the ideal CEO and are delivering to plan)
  • find the right people and partner with people who have done his before and hold them to their agreements
  • the right investors can bring you the introductions to partners, even if they decide not to invest in you
  • always deliver a good product and don’t piss the customer off – service is still important
  • raising equity starts with a plan – do this only when you need the funds, it should be the last resort, ensure you have a capitalisation (cap) table so you can understand what will happen to your equity – start with 30% for founders, 30% for management and 30% for investors
  • always start a business by looking at what it will look like when it is finished
  • Stanford University has a useful entrepreneurial course, be disciplined when following the Lean Startup model and have a plan
  • build a better prototype and often it will sell itself, other people will tell you quickly what it is worth
  • network deeply, meet people twice, ask questions even the ridiculous ones
  • investors are there to support and provide leadership, when you start pulling out agreements you know things are going wrong, like to know that they have listened

Setting Up for Global Success

This panel included Brendan O’Kane (OtherLevels), Jeremy Colless (Artesian Venture Partners, which was spun out of ANZ) and David Israel (UniQuest)

  •  base yourself close to your prospects
  • important to think global from day one, particularly in the technical field, be worlds best rather than Australia’s best
  • take advantage of the Australian talent spread across the world, utilise international students particularly those from north of Australia

Building Value

This final panel included Anne-Marie Birkill (OneVentures), Bob Waldie (Opengear) and Steve Baxter.

  •  people are cheap – premium prices do not work, people care about price
  • service is key – give good service
  • businesses are not charities, lifestyle is not a sustainable currency, you need to make money
  • ideas are not traction – get off your arse and learn what you don’t know
  • when looking for value, you are looking to triple an investment
  • success is building a valuable, non-charitable business, a second round of investment is not success
  • don’t think you can take a great technology idea to a crappy service industry eg taxis – they are not interested
  • make sure you formalise arrangements, in case things go bad, write down the exit conditions and make sure you are aligned

Overall a great day of presentations, panels and meeting new and interesting people in Brisbane technical and startup community.


AWS Lean Startup Event 2012

AWS Lean CloudThe planets aligned this week which meant that I was in Sydney for the Amazon Web Services Regional Premier Lean Startup Event, with the highlight being able to hear from Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup. A huge thanks to my friends at Slattery IT who got me registered for this event. Here are my notes from the event.

Eric Ries – The Lean Startup

I am a huge fan of the Lean Startup movement, so it was a thrill to hear directly from Eric Ries. His talk mirrored others of his that can be found all over the web and the content followed much of what is available in the book, but it was inspiring and awesome nonetheless.

From Miscellaneous

This is a copy of a similar presentation from another conference.

Here are some of my notes from the talk.

  • you can now rent the means of production and compete with big players
  • join the global conversation at #leanstartup
  • this is the boring part of entrepreneurship
  • Ghostbusters is the original movie on entrepreneurship
  • startup = experiment
  • we live in a time where we can build anything we can imagine – need to ask not can it be built but should it be built…
  • entrepreneurship is management
  • most products Eric has built have failed!
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor stated things that are obvious now yet had to be invented then – work needs to be done as efficiently as possible and breaking work into tasks
  • all of the tools of general management are based on planning and forecasting – but making an accurate forecast relies on a long operating history – need a new entrepreneurial toolkit because the world is filled with uncertainty
  • the pivot – successful entrepreneurs did not have a better idea, they take the leanings and change the direction without changing the vision
  • runway should not be amount of money remaining but amount of pivots remaining
  • achieving failure is successfully executing a bad plan – this is like getting good fuel mileage when driving a car off a cliff
  • the lean revolution was led by W. Edwards Deming and Taiichi Ohno
  • Agile only works well if you know who the customer is
  • failure is the great equaliser of quality
  • “we learned something important” is an excuse, need to learn early
  • ask what experiment am I trying to run, and what learning can I take from that
  • build > measure > learn loop – minimise time through the loop
  • measurement will slow you down but optimise the part to optimise the whole
  • drive down the batch size to one day – continuous deployment – many features take longer to prioritise than to build
  • The Toyota Way says foundation is long term thinking, the startup way says foundation is accountability
  • brink of success is indistinguishable from goofing off – need innovation accounting
  • business plans are rarely achieved – achieving failure – leap of faith assumptions need to called out
  • build a minimum viable product, iterate experiments and look for upward trends, pivot when returns are diminishing
  • better to have bad news that’s true than good news that’s made up
  • pivot meeting should be a milestone in its own right, need good information to make a good decision – micro scale experiments that help make future decisions
  • lean startup is still early adopter stage

Dr Werner Vogels – The Lean Cloud

Dr. Werner Vogels is the CTO of and opened the startup event. Here are some notes from his session.

From Miscellaneous
  • Animoto – upload images and music, analyses the music and creates a movie around the mood – went from 15 to 5000 servers in a number of days
  • web services is now called cloud…
  • Australia is not yet an Amazon Web Servixes (AWS) region – soon? – Asia Pacific region is based in Singapore
  • the number of objects in S3 has increased by 250% per annum consistently over the last 5 years, currently 762 billion
  • cloud is defined by its benefits not its technology
  • scaling is as much about using the Cloud to scale down as it is to scaling up
  • lowers cost – eliminate CAPEX, reduce OPEX
  • increase agility – not constrained by resources(eg. waiting for or buying servers), reduce time to market
  • remove heavy lifting – like scalability, security, reliability
  • foundation for next generation architecture, infrastructure cost should grow with your income
  • resource models changing due to competition, limited capital, power of customers, faster time to market
  • lean manufacturing – the machine that changed the world, lean startup
  • remove waste that does lead to direct value for the customer
  • an elastic and pay-per-use infrastructure – follow their demands to eliminate waste for peaks in traffic
  • AWS makes deployment, testing and staging trivial – tools for red-green deployment for example
  • need to build security in from the ground up when building a cloud application – lots of tools available
  • advantage of AWS is you are on a continuous innovation curve
  • DynamoDB – uses low latency SSD, predictable performance, zero administration NoSQL – database is no longer the bottleneck
  • no need to have your own transcoding anymore, it all sits on the cloud

8 Securities /  Q&A Panel

8 Securities gave an overview of their use of AWS ahead of a short lean cloud panel.

From Miscellaneous
  • are all the lessons US lessons? No, early on some cultures said this would not work, particularly admitting failure, the grass is not greener in Silicon Valley, understand the underlying principles, figure out how to translate strengths and build on the Lean startup principles
  • there is a new book by Jeffrey Liker who wrote The Toyota Way (The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership) – Toyota  has translated the approach to as many plants in the USA
  • need to communicate and connect with your employees – we are still solving simple problems
  • good thing about having a small amount of customers is that when you screw up you can apologise… personally
From Miscellaneous