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?
The job market is changing. Freelancing and outsourcing are changing the way we do business and make a living. A new generation of young entrepreneurs realise that the traditional 9-to-5 job is no longer their only career option.
At the recent launch of the report A Snapshot of Australia’s Digital Future to 2050 futurist Mark Pesce predicted the employment market is “going to look a lot more like eBay than it does like Seek.”
“The idea of employment, as in a job that lasts for more than a few days or a few weeks, is going to be this very weird term by 2050. Our grandkids will go up to us and say, ‘You had a job and you did it for years at a time?’”, says Pesce.
“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.”
That’s where InsiderJobs comes in. Its the place where freelancers and businesses can offer their services and buyers can find amazing outsourcing options. Our vision is to be Australia’s premium freelancer and microjobs site; a dedicated Australian marketplace for Australian freelancers and professionals.
Unlike other freelancing and microjobs sites, our aim is to try to keep outsourcing local. Do business with dozens of talented people in your area whilst keeping your overheads down and profits up. We call it TownSourcing.
One thing we are keen to maintain is a high quality of services and offers. Any offers considered to be “black-hat” or “spammy” may be blocked or moderated. The reason is that we want InsiderJobs to be a place where buyers can shop with confidence that they will receive a range of good, reliable services.
The first InsiderJobs has launched with a focus on Newcastle. This allows us to iron out the bugs and test responses in our home town before expanding nationally very soon.
If you are based in the Hunter region we’d love you to list some of your products or services on the site. It could be a lead generator, an automatic digital product or your usual service. In testing this we’ve learned that great deals get the biggest responses.
If you live outside the Hunter you are very welcome to list any products or services that can be delivered online and aren’t limited by geographical location. These will be able be offered nationally as we expand.
Conversely, if you’re a business owner looking for service providers and other freelance resources then check InsiderJobs might have the answer. You can also request services and have freelancers come to you.
My team and I are really excited about the launch of InsiderJobs and hope it becomes the trusted site where businesses and talented Australian freelancers can connect.
BestVendor has just released the results of its 2012 Freelancer Survey, revealing the most popular tools and apps for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Freelancers are a huge part of the workforce, with 42 million in the U.S. alone. And as one-man (or more commonly, woman) operations, they typically have to manage everything from accounting to sales to operations. BestVendor wanted to know: What are the most popular apps used by freelancers? Below is an infographic showing the top 25 based on data from nearly 100 freelancers
The single most popular tool? Überpopular file-sharing, storage, and back-up service DropBox. Evernote, the electronic memory app, comes in at No. 4.
Which ones do you use? More importantly, which ones should you be using?
Why pizza eating hackers may be your biggest threat…and opportunity
I was speaking at a conference earlier this week and opened my presentation with the warning that unless businesses started adapting to the rapid pace of change in communications and technology they will be left behind. Every industry will be affected. Those who think they’re immune are kidding themselves.
My presentation followed an economic update by a leading economist who didn’t paint a very rosy picture for the next few years. Whilst Australia has managed to remain relatively unscathed by economic chaos around the world up til now, this may be about to change. With Greece and the European Union on the brink and Australian personal debt at levels much higher than the rest of the world, consumer confidence has dried up. We’re not spending and the strain is beginning to show on the economy.
This will only increase the hunger for more cost effective ways for consumers to shop and for businesses to perform. It will hasten the move to more efficient technological solutions and out-sourcing of talent.
Look no further than this week’s announcement by Fairfax that they intend to move editorial production of their regional papers to New Zealand. A favourable exchange rate and modern technology make this possible and will save Fairfax millions in wages.
Its terrible news for local papers and the employees who will lose their jobs, but its also as inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow. Ever since the Internet took away the “rivers of gold” that classified listing generated for newspapers the industry has been in decline. This was always going to happen eventually.
Its an era of change and no industry is immune.
In my presentation I showed a timeline of the big tech innovations of the last 15 years. These all contribute heavily to the way we now shop, consume media, research, conduct business and entertain ourselves:
- Google – founded 1997
- iTunes – launched 2001
- Facebook – founded 2004
- YouTube – launched 2005
- Twitter – launched 2006
- iPhone – launched 2007
- 5 Free to Air TV Channels in 2009
- 16 FTA channels today
- Then there’s Google TV and Apple TV trying to break through
…and the National Broadband Network is now rolling out….
The last 15 years have been the tip of the iceberg, more radical change is coming and every industry will be affected.
Any business that isn’t looking to move their marketing from outbound to inbound, their IT from in-house to the cloud, reconsidering human resources, or radically revising their whole business model is crazy.
Don’t be surprised when some upstart comes along with a leaner, meaner business model to interrupt your industry. There are thousands on young punks with laptops, pizza and energy drinks currently plotting your downfall. Maybe you should be hiring them instead.
It has happened to the advertising and marketing industries. It happened in a big way in the music industry. It has happened to print media. Radio is in the firing line. Television is trying to adapt quickly. Look at the travel industry…its almost entirely online now.
I had a customer tell me this week that it won’t happen in his industry because the product is big and hard to ship and assemble plus personal service is still key. I disagree. Change is already well under way. In 10 years his industry will look totally different. Probably 5 years.
The pace of change is only going to increase and a tough economy will actually help those who adapt to leaner, more efficient models. Those people will emerge as the new market leaders whilst those who resisted change will be gone…or out on their feet.
Last year I met a Belgian guy who made me insanely jealous. He was traveling the world indefinitely using social media to connect, find places, set his itinerary and generally have a great time.
Along the way he was tackling crazy challenges suggested by the online community he has fostered. Right now he is riding alone on a tandem bike from Kuala Lumpur all the way to Hong Kong. He’s trying to do the ride of more than 5000 km in 3 months.
Turns out Bjorn is a really nice guy, which probably explains why his adventure is still progressing smoothly after a few years of non-stop country hopping.
Beyond having a great time and making us office workers jealous, Bjorn is also trying to make a difference to the communities he visits along the way by helping small local charities in each area.
And that’s where you can help. I have chipped in to sponsor a few kilometers of Bjorn’s travels knowing he will help small charities along the way….and I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in some of these communities so help Bjorn help other and then follow his adventures from the comfort of your laptop.
Here is Bjorn’s full story….
How to build a smart city21Feb12
Last year in the wake of a vigorous debate about how to turn Newcastle into a center of innovation I posted my thoughts on how to create an innovative city. It certainly generated some discussion and the wheels have actually started turning.
Central to my plan were the need for high-speed broadband and the idea of holding a prominent tech and innovative event in the city. I can confirm that progress is being made on both fronts but eventual success still relies on the support of the city’s leaders, both government and business.
When you consider that the nascent app economy spurred on by iOS, Android and Facebook apps has generated 466,000 jobs in the U.S. economy since 2007, there is a lot to gain from encouraging innovation.
Meanwhile I have been researching what other innovative cities around the world have been done to get ahead.
What has been consistently repeated is the importance of cities in creating an enabling environment for emerging technology companies.
This was a key topic of discussion at at the first-ever Cities Summit held in Vancouver recently. Mayors of 35 cities around the world joined with executives and consultants to discuss open cities, digital cities, urban laboratories, smart-city financing, and startup cities.
For example, San Jose (California) has created a “Framework for Establishing Demonstration Partnerships” which allows the city to work towards a more sustainable future–including the creation of 25,000 new green jobs–by enabling local companies to use municipal facilities as urban laboratories to test out new clean tech, sustainability, and mobility technologies. Rather than having to jump through the typical bureaucratic hoops, the demonstration allows the fast-tracking of pilot projects from local companies.
The Summit made it clear that smart cities of the future will find ways to incentivise and enable private sector innovation and local economic growth via innovative use of demand-side tools, as opposed to supply-side solutions like tech parks and tax breaks. For example, the feedback was that the emerging companies wanted to find a way to get their pre-commercial technologies tested by the city. This allows startups to get the kinks out as well as increase their ability to sell technology to other markets.
Cities can also use things like new standards or regulations, such as green building standards, to stimulate demand for new clean solutions and innovation.
Talent is another obvious challenge. Attracting and retaining young, educated people to study, live, and work in smart cities is a crucial. The Summit identified that cities first need to increase their livability and grow their enabling infrastructure to support emerging companies, then embark on a city branding campaign that will help attract and retain new talent, startups, services, and the arts.
Seems to me Newcastle has done this back-to-front. Last year the city launched an attractive new branding initiative but we haven’t addressed the key issues of transport, new business support or broadband. We have an incredibly good lifestyle in Newcastle but much of the basic infrastructure that will encourage innovation and growth is still wanting.
If our leaders can address these key issues and then establish programs to support and encourage innovation we can truly become a smart city.