I’m writing today from a small cafe in a remote town in Colorado, a week after attending yet another amazing SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.
Once again, SXSW was incredibly informative and inspirational, highlighting cutting edge innovation and thinking from industry leaders and up-and-comers.
But, for me at least, the most noticeable thing at SXSW was what was missing, especially in the enormous Trade Show hall. As usual there were dozens of exhibitors with new technology, plenty of robotics, 3D printing, drones and marketing software.
But this year the Trade Show seemed to be dominated by countries and regions sharing their own tech industry news and start-ups. They were encouraging to 30,000 plus cashed-up, highly educated and entrepreneurial visitors to come and do business with them, to relocate, to support their start-up businesses, to invest.
Besides the many states and regions of the USA on display, there were impressive stands for countries including Ireland, Great Britain, Brasil, Puerto Rico and New Zealand.
Who was missing? Australia. No display, no presence at the world’s biggest technology festival.
In fact the only sign of Australia was the smattering of Aussie accents wandering the city. Many of us made the pilgrimage to Austin to learn more and do business. (In fact, I picked up several business opportunities of my own simply by attending and chatting to people).
But the problem is that most of us are doing it ourselves, with no coordinated industry of government support. It really hit home to me that Australia runs a real risk of being left behind in the modern tech revolution. While we are still arguing the toss over high-speed broadband and seeing little government support of innovation, the rest of the world is taking bold steps to be at the forefront of the new economy.
And here is some perspective on why Australia needs to have a presence at SXSW (and other events…this isn’t just about SXSW) and also fostering similar events at home…..
The impact of SXSW 2014 on the city of Austin’s economy was revealed to be a staggering $315 million.
SXSW Interactive director Hugh Forrest told the Austin Business Journal that the figure is roughly 65% of the impact that a city like New Orleans sees from hosting the Super Bowl. It’s nearly a third of the net impact that the 2012 Olympics had on London.
And Australia was nowhere to be seen.
To me it is symbolic of the lack of importance our country is placing upon innovation.
This weekend I will be meeting up with some Australians who have relocated to Boulder, Colorado to work on their own start-ups. They’re in Boulder because of the exciting start-up community and tech network and positive spirit of innovation.
I’m sure I’ll be inspired by what I see, but depressed when I think of how far behind Australia is falling.
Digital disruption and transformation are my big themes for 2015. And with good reason, we are living an unprecedented era of change, where new technology and business models are emerging daily to threaten our once dominant and secure industries and organisations.
I’ve seen it in my own business and I see it daily with my clients. Disruption can be rapid and unforgiving with whole industries and business models being made extinct in a matter of years.
Digital disruption requires rapid change and agile adaptation on many different levels of an organization, both strategic and tactical. And, crucially, it demands constant research and education.
That is one reason my colleagues and I at DiG Festival have just announced a new theme and format for DiG Festival 2015 – Digital disruption and transformation – how to survive and thrive.
We are aiming to deliver a truly informative event, providing attendees with a framework to navigate change, not only to survive, but to thrive in the new economy.
And to continue our own education, the entire DiG Festival committee is heading to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas this month to hear from and meet industry leaders and research new technology.
The SXSW schedule is truly daunting. Hundreds and hundreds of presenters, workshops and sideshows to attend over 4 days. It’s no coincidence that there is a lot of content around “Disruption”, which appears to be a red hot topic this year.
One of the unanimous highlights of the 2014 DiG Festival was Jed White’s passionate keynote, The Boulder Experience: Creating a tech-city ecosystem.
Jed is a start-up veteran having launched a successful business in Sydney then moving his family to Boulder, Colorado to work on his next venture Tribe Vibe. During his time in the USA he has had the opportunity to observe start-up capitals like Silicon Valley / San Francisco, Austin and of course Boulder. It was through this lens that Jed came to Newcastle with observations about what makes a great tech-city and how to create a tech-city ecosystem.
Jed is a big fan of good cafes with a quality wifi connections as they are locations where ideas collide.
He noted that most start-up cities are very eclectic and embrace people from different backgrounds. It’s good to be a bit weird. He cited ground level concepts like Renew Newcastle as being important for fostering that culture.
He also stressed that we shouldn’t all aim to create another Silicon Valley, but rather to leverage our own natural assets.
Jed feels that with the Dig Festival, Newcastle has a hook to hang an ecosystem from.
Here is his To-Do List for Newcastle to Create a Tech-City Ecosystem:
1. Support the leaders, the entrepreneurs leading the charge.
2. Get some bandwidth. Our slow internet is a major problem. It is oxygen for business.
3. Build on DiG. It’s only the start, fill the other 51 weeks of the year with activities.
4. Round up the “Feeders” Ie. local, state and federal government and agencies. Lobby for tax breaks, grants etc
5. More caffeine and more wifi. Informal places to meet and work. Newcastle is well-caffeinated already, we just need to add the wifi.
6. Make stuff now!! Don’t await for others, start creating.
The good news is that some of these things are happening already in the region, but they probably need to be more coordinated to enable the full effect.
There is also a growing list of co-work spaces and hubs emerging.
The recent announcement of the latest NBN FTTN roll-out (yes I know its not as good as FTTP but its something better than we have today) means that a large chunk of the region will have improved bandwidth in 2015 and that can only help.
I am also mildly encouraged that some of our local political and business leaders might be finally realising the potential for the region through fostering innovation and start-ups.
At the end of DiG Festival quite a few people approached me to say they would like to do more to foster innovation in the area via events and other initiatives. That’s great news. Now we just need to decide how to coordinate and share this enthusiasm. I don’t want to get involved in every activity, I’m busy enough with Sticky and doing DiG with Steph and Tracy, but I’m very happy to help start the conversation and help spread the word.
Every year around this time Mary Meeker, from Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, releases her Internet Trends study. I personally saw Mary present this in San Francisco a few years ago and was fascinated by her insights and knowledge. The whole industry stops and listens when Mary Meeker delivers her annual report.
Which brings me to the 2o14 Internet Trends report Meeker has just unveiled. As usual it is packed with great information, plenty of perspective and a few pointers to what is next. It’s long but it is worth the time to read.
Here’s a novel concept attempting to capitalise upon several ideas.
Do you feel ripped off every time you buy bottled water? It’s amazing to think that what we once drank freely from the tap now costs more than petrol per litre.
Did you know that the average “dwell-time” of a bottle of water is around 60 minutes. In other words every time you buy a bottle of water you carry it around, hold it, place it on your desk etc for around an hour.
What if the bottle became an advertising medium and the water was free?
That’s the idea behind Free Is Better, which has just launched in Australia.
Read their media announcement (below) and tell me what you think. Can using a water bottle as an ad medium interrupt the industry?
If you’re an entrepreneur/developer/designer/sales driver interested in being funded to develop innovative solutions to problems worth solving, then Open Innovation Newcastle is the event for you. With four $15,000 grants up for grabs you don’t want to miss this.
If you’re interested in being funded to develop innovative solutions to problems worth solving then register your interest to come along to PwC’s Open Innovation Newcastle event on the weekend of the 27th/28th July 2013.
At the event you will have the opportunity to:
- Engage with Newcastle’s largest businesses, mentors, startup advisors and other entrepreneurs.
- Learn about Newcastle businesses and the innovation challenges they are looking to solve through open collaboration with the entrepreneurial community.
- Develop prototype solutions and pitch direct to businesses and investors.
Through the Innovate NSW program, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner and the Department of Trade and Investment are providing $15,000 funding for each of the four most promising solutions to develop minimum viable products.
The Open Innovation Newcastle event is proudly supported by Hunter DiGiT.
My theme this year is “adapt or die”. Last week I explained 5 ways businesses must adapt in 2013 to survive and thrive. I am convinced that organisations must either commit to making significant changes to the way they do business or keep doing what they’ve been doing and try survive while their market share is steadily eroded by smarter, faster, more nimble competitors.
I’d now like to introduce you to one of those smarter, faster, more nimble competitors….Dollar Shave Club.
Here’s a start-up that launched in mid- 2011 and then relaunched in March 2012 and is already making a big splash in the exciting world of…..men’s razor blades. You know, that purchase you have to make at the grocery store once a month. Its been dominated for a century by Gillette and Schick. No other challenger comes close. Until now.
This video (which had had over 8 million views) is their main marketing tool and hilariously and effectively explains why you should stop buying blades at the grocery store and start buying from Dollar Shave Club. It’s pure genius. In 90 seconds they have skewered the industry leaders, entertained us and invited us to be part of their”club”.
A close look at their website is like a blueprint for online retail success:
- the aforementioned video tells you everything you need to know…and its laugh-out-loud funny.
- a prominent call-to-action “A great shave for a few bucks a month – DO IT”
- a testimonial (which is fairly tongue-in-cheek)
- a simple range of 3 packages to choose from
- a simple and fun rewards program for sharing the Dollar Shave Club story, “Free blades for life”
- a quick and easy payment gateway you’ll only ever need to visit once
- Facebook sign-up option for membership
- social media sharing
The whole site contains the same irreverent, “they’re just razor blades guys” style humour. Its fun, its compelling and it works a treat. I signed up within minutes and was actually excited when my blades arrived.
But the real genius is in the very simple proposition and business model.
The blades are made in South Korea and can be found under different brands in Pharmacies across the USA. They’re pretty good, not much more than that.
But Dollar Shave Club turns a traditional $15-20 grocery store expense into an easy $7 / per month subscription. They don’t just get the sale, they get your repeat business and a nice big database of customers.
Their product line is ridiculously small. Just 3 types of razor blades. By focusing in this way they maximise buying power and minimise overheads.
The Dollar Shave Club business model doesn’t rely on advanced computer algorithms and other amazing tech innovation like many startups we follow. It’s simply a business where the founder Michael Dubin looked at an industry and said he wanted to help men have fun with shopping online, because, “Women have all the fun [shopping online] with fashion, shoes, and accessories.”
By making shopping for blades easy, fun and more affordable they have seen explosive growth and have attracted an impressive $10.8 million in VC funding. For razor blades??!!
An old industry suddenly interrupted by a simple but new way (subscription) of selling an existing product, executed extremely well. Hell, any of us could do that…couldn’t we?
If you don’t adapt now, you’ll die.
Alarmist? I don’t think so. Scary? I hope so.
2013 is the year businesses need to draw a line in the sand. Either commit to making significant changes to the way you do business or keep doing what you have been doing and try survive while your market share is steadily eroded by smarter, faster, more nimble competitors.
The pace of change over the last decade or so has been blinding. It has caught many (most) industries off-guard with some only realising what happened once it was too late. Combine that with a troubled global economy that shows no real signs of improving any time soon and you have the perfect climate for massive disruption.
In Australia we are far from immune. Many Australian industries have been extremely slow to adapt as several studies have highlighted in recent times. As the warming glow of a record mining boom subsides the cracks in our economy will begin to show and uncompetitive, old-fashioned organisations will be the first to fall through.
Don’t think you will be affected? Think again. No industry is immune to the current pace of change. Your current competitors may not even be the ones to worry about. Right now dozens of startups are thinking of ways to revolutionise your industry and nibble away at your market.
Consider the these monumental changes that have taken place in the last decade or so. Then realise that its only the beginning. The magnitude of upcoming change will be even more stunning.
In 2013 you need to adapt or you’ll die. You need to rethink your offerings, your market, your size, your agility and your overheads.
Here are the 5 minimum steps you must address this year (if you haven’t already):
1. You MUST get a strong online presence.
Your crappy old website (if you even have one) with a list of products or services is no longer enough. You need to be found online easily by potential customers. You need to deliver the information they need as efficiently as possible. You need to offer solutions. If this isn’t on your to-do list in 2013 then you might as well give up now.
2. You MUST have a mobile website.
The mobile web is massive now and growing rapidly every year. Mobile devices now account for 13 percent of worldwide Internet traffic, up from 4 percent in 2010. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, at the very least, you have big problems and are already losing business. Ideally, you should have a mobile version of your site, which will have different requirements depending upon the nature of your business. The internet is going mobile, why aren’t you?
3. You MUST start looking for new revenue or marketing channels online.
Do you have a niche product or service that could potentially be exported anywhere? The future of your business could be in building a national or global market for just one of your products or services via an efficient online strategy rather than sticking to your current generalist approach in your current market. The barriers to entry are so low these days that you’d be crazy not to start testing and experimenting with sideline business opportunities which could potentially grow to become the main show. I did this with my own business a few years ago when we launched NLYZR.com as an online SEO tool, attracting a new international market as well as countless new Australian business opportunities.
4. You MUST start outsourcing.
Lean and mean is the new business mantra. Asset-heavy, full-time workforces are being replaced by asset-light freelanced workforces. By only hiring talent where and when you need it your organisation doesn’t just save on payroll, it saves on floorspace and all the employment “on-costs”. Even if your company hasn’t realised this yet the young, up and coming workforce has. Thanks to the Internet and increase in online social activity, endless new opportunities for young educated people are opening up. They realize that the traditional 9-to-5 is no longer their only career option.
Futurist Mark Pesce says, “That much connectivity in the economy creates this enormous capability for fluidity, and so jobs are going to start to become gigs and those are going to start to become tasks, and eventually we’re all just going to be doing a little bit here and a little bit there and it may not be until we get up in the morning and check the smartphone that we’re going to be knowing what we’re going to be doing that day.”
Outsourcing is more than Indian call centres for banks and telcos. There are a vast and growing number of functions you can currently outsource via sites such as Freelancer.com, oDesk, FlatPlanet and our own more locally-focussed option InsiderJobs. What functions can your company start outsourcing?
5. You MUST start cloud computing.
“The cloud” is a bit of a hackneyed and overused term these days but you can’t deny the efficiencies and cost-savings available by enabling a range of cloud-based applications. The options are endless, from large scale data storage and hosting through to smaller applications. Here are just some you should be considering:
- Basecamp for project management
- Yammer for a secure, private social network for your company
- Unleashed for inventory software
- Vend for point of sale software
- Shoeboxed scans and organises your receipts, invoices and documents securely online
- GeoOp for job tracking
- Deputy for timesheets and payroll
Honestly, the cloud options are endless. Integrating a range of these into your organisation will save time and money.
In 2013 you can attract new customers, grow new markets, lower your overheads and become more efficient….or you can keep doing what you have been doing and hope for the best. This combination of moving your marketing and sales online, outsourcing as many functions as possible and integrating more efficient cloud-based solutions are the basic steps to take to survive and hopefully thrive in this rapidly evolving economy.
Almost 18 months ago I posted My Plan for Creating an Innovative City. In it I reasoned that we needed two major breakthroughs to help Newcastle reposition itself as a centre for technology and innovation; high-speed broadband and the hosting of a major event along the lines of SxSW.
In the ensuing year and a half the wheels of progress have been turning and a passionate community of “agitators” has emerged to run with the theme. Things are starting to happen and it’s time for you to get involved.
Firstly, Gordon Whitehead launched Digital Newcastle, under the banner of The Lunaticks Society of Newcastle, in order to lobby and educate anyone who will listen. His energy and enthusiasm has been infectious.
Secondly, a taskforce called Hunter DiGiT was formed with a vision to establish the Hunter Region as a leading digital economy with a global reputation, by 2020. Their objectives are:
- Online Participation: Encourage adoption of internet based technologies.
- Broadband Infrastructure: Attract commercial or government funded projects to provide world-class broadband infrastructure.
- Digital Literacy and Skills: Encourage investment in technology education to equip the region’s transition to a digital economy.
- Social Inclusion: Increase digital literacy & broadband access for low income & disadvantaged groups.
- Digital Industry: Support the growth of creative, digital and cultural sectors.
- Reputation: Promote the regions digital and creative industry sectors and position the region as a place where talented people and start-ups want to live.
- Investment: Develop support networks to enable start-ups to access funds for growth.
This Friday 30 November, 2012 the vision starts to become reality as we mark the official launch of Hunter DiGiT with a special breakfast and day-long Expo.
Topics to be discussed include:
- Technology Use in the Hunter 2012
- Why embracing digital is important to our region
- Gov 2.0 Looking to the Future
- Legal matters in a digital age
- Today’s New Business Model
- How to market to the World
Speakers and panelists include:
Brendan Brooks President of Hunter DiGiT, Tim Owen, AM, MSS MP, Isabel Boniface – Microsoft, Anthea Bill – Hunter Valley Research Foundation, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Craig Wilson – Sticky, Matt Crozier – Bang the Table, Anthony Scully – ABC, Jason Rumianek – Hunter Medicare Local, Roger Pryor, Roderick Smith – Evescourt Legal, Nick Bowditch – Facebook, Stephen Bourne – Business & Commercial Lawyer at Mananua Inc, Tim Holloway – Deputy, Marcus Westbury – Renew Australia, Damien Mahoney – Stackla, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Nick Bartlett – GeoOP, Wayne Schmidt – Xero, Roger Gregg – Invitbox, Tim Holloway – Deputy HR
There will also be a range of businesses showcasing their innovative products and services. you’ll be surprised to learn how much talent and how many great little innovative companies are now in Newcastle. It’s going to be an exciting day.
The team behind Hunter DiGiT have worked tirelessly to put this together and kick-start the digital economy here in Newcastle. Their doing it not for profit but because they love this town and want to see innovation and technology prosper here.
Now its your turn to get on board. What do you have to do? Just turn up. The Expo is free to attend. Meet great local businesses, hear some informative presentations and discussions. Get involved.
The wheels are now turning. “All aboard!!!”
The traditional commerce model has been something like this:
Manufacturer produces product -> ships it to retailers -> retailer markets product -> retailer sells to consumer –> retailer orders more product from manufacturer.
As the internet has grown and e-commerce become more viable many manufacturers looked to cut out the middleman:
Manufacturer produces product -> manufacturer markets product -> manufacturer sells to consumer
This worked for some but obviously resulted in a lot of retailers no longer supporting the manufacturer. Not an ideal outcome.
Now there’s a new model to consider, Retail-integrated eCommerce:
Branded manufacturers sell online directly to consumers -> manufacturer passes order to their retailers for delivery to customer
The following infographic from Shopatron demonstrates how the new model works. Is it Retail-Integrated eCommerce something your industry should be considering?