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.
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?
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.
The rapid advancement of technology, especially online technology, presents a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Its something I am keenly aware of as I do business with a wide range of organisations whilst also trying to launch new ideas and applications into the marketplace.
I consider myself to be pretty conversant in the latest happenings in the digital world, but even I have to ask around at times or risk missing opportunities. So I can’t even imagine how the average business owner, marketing manager or government agency must feel trying to keep up with such a rapidly changing environment.
The roll-out of the National Broadband Network only increases the need for knowledge in order to understand its implications and opportunities.
What we desperately need is someone who can help connect the dots.
- Someone neutral and knowledgeable who can point us in the right direction.
- Someone who is talking to government agencies and knows where funding is available.
- Someone who can help advise organisations about putting together good tenders and inviting the right people to pitch.
- Someone passionate enough about the industry and region to identify opportunities and help them to fruition
- Someone who can help provide training options to those who need it.
Fortunately in Newcastle we now have that someone, Gordon Whitehead aka @the_git.
And that brings me to a significant announcement. After 6 years at Sticky, Gordon is moving to a new role that has evolved from his founding of The Lunaticks. The project is called Digital Newcastle and Gordon will be doing all the above and more.
He’ll be connecting the dots between government, government agencies, local business, education, start-ups, digital agencies and services providers.
To be clear: this is a new role with a different organisation and totally independent of Sticky.
I’ll be signing on as a sponsor of Digital Newcastle and I encourage other agencies to sign on as well. Collectively we’ll all benefit from this initiative and it will only be truly effective if the right dots are being connected.
I’d like to congratulate to Gordon on this exciting new role. Already he has garnered considerable support from local government and business groups, and I urge all Newcastle and Hunter businesses and agencies to support him so he can help the entire region flourish in this burgeoning digital economy.
A growing theme on this blog has been about how to grow a smart and innovative city. Its something we’ve been tackling here in Newcastle as we evolve from our old industrial base to something more vibrant and sustainable.
One model we’ve been looking at is Austin, Texas. Over the last decade Austin was the 3rd fastest growing city in the USA, booming to its current population of 790,000.
Its no coincidence that Austin is home to the famous SXSW festival, part of which is one of the biggest tech industry events in the world. This has led to Austin becoming home to around 3900 tech companies employing over 100,000 people.
Here is a 30 second video from Susan Davenport, senior vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce explaining how technology and innovation have helped build a great city.
Other posts on this topic:
Its been a busy month since the launch of NLYZR. Interestingly, launching a new product like this has resulted in a considerable lift in enquiries across my other businesses and general activities for me. Suddenly I am doing a lot more guest blogging, interviews and speaking at some really fascinating events.
It demonstrates to me the importance of taking new ideas to market in order to keep your name or brand relevant.
Here’s a quick summary of what been happening:
- Blogging weekly at iStrategy on topics around the digital economy and inbound marketing.
- Presenting online at The Business Growth Summit, with the likes of Chris Brogan, Tim Ferriss, Dan Schawbel, Guy Kawasaki and plenty more. My presentation was “5 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Marketing Machine”.
- Guest blog at Starfish Consulting on overall web marketing.
- Interview on Sky Business News regarding the lack of website optimisation by Australian businesses.
- Speaking at the PublicSphere Digital Culture event as part of a collaborative submission on digital culture in Australia to the National Cultural Policy consultation.
- Speaking at an upcoming HunterNet event on social media as part of modern marketing.
- Joining a panel discussion for the New Institute on how to help make Newcastle an Ideas City.
……And there’s a few more trips for speaking engagements on the horizon.
Seems launching something new can be good for business in more ways than expected. What ideas, apps, sites, businesses or campaigns are you launching to get your name out there?
Times have definitely changed. Until recently a new business would measure itself against a series of metrics like foot traffic, advertising reach and frequency, number of phone calls, number of calls or meetings by sales people, presentation to sales ratios, and of course actual sales.
But that was before the web, before Google and before social media networks took off.
In the era of inbound marketing the metrics have totally changed and I am studying them frantically in the wake of our recent NLYZR launch.
One week into my new start-up’s life I am able to track key metrics on an hourly basis to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some of the things I’m keeping track of:
My last 3 posts have had a pretty strong theme running around innovation; Think Like a Tech Start-Up, What is Your Gateway Drug? and My Plan for Creating an Innovative City. So its pretty easy to see where my thoughts are at the moment.
As an agency that likes to work on innovative side projects, like NLYZR and Urban Insider, my team and I are often questioning the role of agencies going forward. I mean, we’re all supposed to be highly creative aren’t we? So why aren’t we getting more involved in creating more new businesses and revolutionising industries instead of just trotting out another 30 sec ad?
Then along comes the always clever Neil Perkin with a new post on his Only Dead Fish blog titled Agencies as Incubators. In it Neil looks at the Cannes Lions (formerly advertising awards), an amazing program supported by Wieden & Kennedy called the Portland Incubator Experiment which has some parallels to the excellent Y-Combinator concept in Silicon Valley and how Apple fund and secure new technology breakthroughs.
You must read this if you are interested in innovation or if you are going to be at the next Lunaticks event Smart and Innovative City Part 2. THIS is the sort of thinking we need in our industry, not more self-indulgent award wankfests.
It seems to me that the time is ripe for agencies to start challenging their clients to think beyond business as usual and use that creativity to radically interrupt industries in the way new technology is reshaping the landscape.
Last night we had a forum in Newcastle discussing the desire for this once heavily industrial town to become a center for innovation. Unfortunately much of the panel discussion, and subsequently the audience questions, got bogged down in discussing the past, the limitations of council and old technology. It was a lost opportunity for what is an important and exciting discussion.
Near the end of the night I couldn’t help myself and grabbed the microphone to offer my simple plan for creating an innovative city. Here it is in writing for anyone who cares to take the discussion further or help expand and act on the ideas.
Incremental examples of creeping innovation from existing players won’t be enough to launch a town like Newcastle to national or international prominence as a smart and innovative city. A couple of major initiatives are required to create that catalyst for a dynamic leap forward.
Firstly, universal access to high-speed broadband is essential for a community to compete and indeed lead the way in innovation. In the digital economy we must be connected. It is not good enough to wait for the National Broadband Network to finally arrive in town. It doesn’t give us an advantage, it just puts us on par with the rest of Australia when (or if) it finally arrives.
What is your gateway drug?23Jun11
Is it possible that drug dealers are smarter marketers than many multinationals?
Consider the two. Multinational pharmaceutical companies sell drugs. They spend a fortune on expensive media to convince us we need their drugs. Their cost per acquisition is high.
Illegal drug dealers also sell drugs. They often start with a free sample of their “goods” to a few key locals in their community. This gets the potential buyers “hooked”, creates a sense of loyalty and obligation and leads to strong word-of-mouth for their product. Their cost per acquisition is low and conversion rate is almost 100%.
Now, while I don’t suggest you move into distribution of illegal goods, I do recommend you emulate drug dealers with your marketing. Make a good product or service, make it addictive and give away a small amount for free in order to generate ongoing sales and word of mouth. Anyone who has ever watched The Wire has seen the sophisticated marketing and distribution of street level drug dealers.