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Welcome to the (Bay Area) Jungle– what startups need to know

muru-D

Posted on July 28, 2017

4 min read

The ultimate goal of a good technology company should be to change the way things are done, at a large scale, for the benefit of humanity. Think Tesla transforming energy use and road safety, and Apple building a bicycle for the mind.

Some of the most effective people at doing this are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area is made up of Silicon Valley, as well as San Francisco and Oakland where many new companies are now basing their efforts.

Much like the TV show Silicon Valley, the Bay Area is filled with houses of people building things. The first house I stayed in there was called Chez JJ, and is the actual house that the TV show features. Unlike the TV show however, people generally aren’t that interested in trivial applications. Typical people at Chez JJ came from NASA or Google. They were working on products to improve education, share access to scientific facilities, or develop new kinds of computing hardware.

Most people in the Bay Area are working on products to improve efficiency that will deliver a small improvement to a large number of people. Typically these products help automate extremely boring work, like filling out forms, or checking part of software. This isn’t that exciting to hear about but our lives are much better for being able to avoid these tasks. Some founders are open to taking bigger risks and these are the inspiring startups you will hear about. These people are working on fundamental improvements to human capability, our reach in the universe, our health, and the hardest social, financial and environmental problems of our age.

At muru-D we work hard to give technology company founders the skills to make an impact. This year our group of founders went to the Bay Area to improve themselves and the prospects for their companies.

There are two main opportunities in the Bay Area for a founder to consider:

  • Develop your EQ. The greatest opportunity for a founder in the Bay Area is to develop their management, leadership, and communication. The goal is to build the techniques for empathy and to use them to relate better to your staff, your customers and your investors.
  • Develop your Hustle. You will not make valuable connections just by arriving. You need to work hard to stand out and to reach the people whose guidance will be most valuable to you. The Bay Area is one of the most competitive places on earth and you will need to prepare and put in an effort to be noticed.

The opportunities we arrange for muru-D founders to develop their EQ on our trip to the bay area include:

  • Communication Coaching run by people who facilitate the Stanford MBA program.
  • Improv – improvisation workshops and experiences by people who are experts at developing startup communication.
  • Meditation run by startup coaches.
  • Marketing and branding workshops, tailored specifically for launching new technology products.
  • Conferences so they can see how other founders show up and get a sense of what local investors and customers expect.

The opportunities for muru-D founders to develop their Hustle include:

  • Extensive pre-trip planning, where founders identify people who could advance their company.
  • Email hacking sessions where we form a group late in the evening and share techniques for writing cold emails for new meetings.
  • Mentor meetings where founders meet with and try to impress people from the local industry.

My biggest personal wins in Silicon Valley have come from EQ development and getting meetings with people I never dreamed I would meet. This second part is an attitude I see a lot of in Australia and one I’ve now shaken off.

There is a tendency I’ve noticed in Australia for us to view ourselves as somehow different to the most successful people and feel inadequate around them.

This is an attitude that takes a while to break down. Once you realise everyone else is more or less like you, meetings will flow more comfortable, negotiations will reach fairer outcomes and your business will move forward much more easily.

Helping founders form this confident attitude is one of the most rewarding parts of being involved with muru-D.

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Welcome to the future of farming

muru-D

Posted on March 15, 2017

2 min read

Meet the startup building software that is changing how farms are managed, throwing out the notebook, making way for a future where data is king and efficiency is a way of life.

The ubiquitous notebook in the front pocket of every farmer in Australia contains everything, from stock numbers to feed orders to market prices – Within it is contained the single record of the many important decisions made every day on farms around Australia – that can be undone by a spilled cup of coffee or an unintended turn in the washing machine.

AgriWebb’s technology is helping farmers around Australia transform how they manage their livestock farms. The team hails from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford and includes founders who are fifth generation Australian livestock farmers. It’s this first-hand experience that has driven them to create an app that collects on-farm data (online and offline), making farm management more efficient, more sustainable and cutting down on lost profit.

This data-driven decision making is a new approach for the agriculture industry and the good news is it still fits in the farmer’s front pocket – with all the data held in a smartphone.

So how does it work?

If a farmer follows a set of best practice techniques, the science tells us that livestock production can increase between 20-30%. As an example, the mortality rate for lambs between pregnancy scanning and lamb marking is 30-40%, which equates to 13.8 million deaths every year. This represents about $2 billion dollars in lost revenue every year.

AgriWebb gives farmers the ability to manage their livestock and farm in a more efficient manner. Farmers can reduce their livestock mortality rate and increase production, all through better management practices facilitated by the use of technology.

Currently 800 farmers across Australia are already using AgriWebb’s software, and the team is signing up 50-60 new farms per month.

About muru-D

muru-D is the startup accelerator backed by Telstra, which aims to support the very best tech entrepreneurial talent that the Asia Pacific region has to offer. By providing mentoring, tailored acceleration services and investment to early stage technology companies, muru-D’s goal is to help Australia and South East Asia become centres of digital business.

Tags: Muru-D,

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The sky-high tech set to revolutionise the agriculture industry

Startups muru-D

Posted on March 3, 2017

3 min read

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muru-D #SYD4 startup FluroSat is building tech that will help farmers increase their crop yields, and could save the Australian agriculture industry millions of dollars in revenue.

FluroSat Co-founder and CEO Anastasia Volkova misses the taste of her mother’s tomatoes back in Ukraine. She’s struggled to find anything that tastes as good as those that were grown with love and care in that vegetable patch.

Now an aeronautical engineer, it’s this appreciation of quality produce that she brings to her new role – leading a tech startup that is dedicated to helping farmers grow better crops in a more efficient and sustainable way, improving the quality of produce that ends up on kitchen tables around the world.

Using multi and hyper-spectral cameras mounted on drones and satellites, they are able to look at crop health and identify issues that may be impacting the fields. This allows them to see problems with crops (e.g. if a crop is water or nutrient deficient, or if part of a field needs a chemical applied to it to extinguish a disease outbreak) before a farmer on the ground is able to, and recommend precision fixes.

Anastasia is focusing on putting actionable data into the hands of the people who need it – the agronomists and farmers making daily decisions about crop management. The FluroSat team takes the info from the drones and satellites, processes that data and delivers actionable data on the spot.

FluroSat will be conducting field trials of the technology in Narrabri, Tamworth, Moree and Gunnedah in the coming months. Early projections show that the tech has the potential to save Australia’s farming industry hundreds of millions of dollars[1] through higher crop yields and savings on water, fertilisers and pesticides.

The FluroSat team recently visited Narrabri for a tech demonstration in partnership with the Australian Cotton Research Institute, one of the first places where the tech will be tested. The team has ambitious plans to scale the solution over the next six months and, after that, it won’t be too long until they’re in market and flavourless tomatoes will be history.

About muru-D
muru-D is the startup accelerator backed by Telstra, which aims to support the very best tech entrepreneurial talent that the Asia Pacific region has to offer. By providing mentoring, tailored acceleration services and investment to early stage technology companies, muru-D’s goal is to help Australia and South East Asia become centres of digital business.

 

[1] https://grdc.com.au/Research-and-Development/GRDC-Update-Papers/2014/03/Opportunities-to-maximise-livestock-profit-in-mixed-farming-enterprises

http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/weather-and-climate/understanding-carbon-and-emissions/nitrogen-fertilisers

http://www.crdc.com.au/sites/default/files/pdf/Big_Data_Report_web.pdf

Tags: Muru-D, technology,

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Startups muru-D

Posted on February 10, 2017

4 min read

Nano satellites that monitor crop health, cameras that map the underground world, and medical sensors that help hospital patients spend less time in hospital are just some of the amazing things being worked on by the startups who have been accepted into muru-D’s fourth Sydney cohort.

Kicking off on 6 February 2017, the eight startups have been offered up to $60,000 (during and post-program) in seed capital investment and will benefit from a highly developed network of mentors and industry professionals.

Demo night live stream information 2017

On 2 August our #SYD4 cohort will be pitching to investors at a showcase event.

You can tune into the event livestream on Telstra Exchange to catch all of the action from 5:30pm AEST.

This year’s muru-D Sydney cohort, SYD4 is the most ambitious to date. More than 60% of our companies represent deep technology including robotics, satellites, ag tech, AI, medical devices, block chain, aerospace and VR.

This year’s companies also started the muru-D program with a combined revenue of $3 million, 10x higher than the prior year. Through the six month muru-D program, the companies have increased that to combined revenues of $5 million.

 

Recent updates to the muru-D program helped attract more ambitious and more developed companies to #SYD4.

We updated our funding model in November to an uncapped SAFE note, made popular in the USA, which means we no longer take a fixed amount of any company, and instead follow the market value. We also actively hunted for more mature companies, who traditionally would be less likely to consider an accelerator.

This cohort represents a depth of experience, innovation and global ambition that is a level above anything we have seen before.

Meet the startups:

  • AgriWebb – is using technology to transform livestock production. AgriWebb’s team hails from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford and includes founders who have lived on the land. They have over 800 farmers using the product already and have raised more than $4 million.
  • Alta – is building the most valuable type of game for Virtual Reality. Multiplayer games with a long playtime are the most valuable category of games on PC and consoles, but no such title exists for VR. Alta will build the first long play, multiplayer game for VR.
  • Bron.tech – is the first blockchain product that is easy to use and valuable for everyday people. Blockchain has promised a powerful way for us to manage our own identities, share money and even vote for government. Bron.tech is making blockchain as easy to use as a coupon at the grocery store.
  • Flobox – lets small businesses fight back against huge marketing teams. Using social media marketing is hard to get right. Flobox have taken the strongest ad strategies for social media and made them easier to use than a spreadsheet.
  • Flurosat – can see problems with crops before a farmer on the ground can, and recommend precision fixes. Flurosat uses hyperspectral cameras mounted on drones and nano satellites to look at crop health.
  • GeoInteractive – lets you see underground, whether you own a mine, a sewer or want to discover ancient ruins. GeoInteractive has built a hardware product similar to GoPro that delivers an underground map like Google Street View.
  • Patch’d – allows patients to leave hospital earlier, be diagnosed sooner and prevents unnecessary admissions. Patch’d imagines a world where every patient lives a normal life and no patient dies from inadequate monitoring. To make this a reality, they have developed a medical sensor which allows real time patient monitoring from anywhere in the world.
  • Snooper – is a way for brands to measure the customer experience, through the eyes of the customer. Snooper is a crowdsourcing app that pays shoppers to collect in-store data and share their own experience with brands in real time.

For more information head to: muru-d.com/

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Can startups start outside Silicon Valley?

Startups

Posted on October 20, 2016

3 min read

Drawing on his extensive experience in both places, muru-D’s new Entrepreneur-in-Residence Ben Sand shares his thoughts on building successful startups in Australia vs. Silicon Valley.

Startups are groups of people building new things, and the way all large companies start out. As the dynamics of work change I think working in startups and developing new ventures may be the most common form of work environment within 10-20 years. Given this scenario, I am very motivated to help people become good at building startups.

Over the last 15 years I have helped build a number of startups in Australia and Silicon Valley. The most successful is Meta, which I cofounded. In the last 3.5 years it has grown to 150 people and raised about AU$100M. Prior to Meta I led an education company called Brainworth.

When starting a company, a fair question is: Where is the best place to start?

It’s a popular myth that building tech companies can only be done well in Silicon Valley. The truth is a bit more nuanced.

It is very hard to grow a tech company outside of Silicon Valley, but it is almost impossible to start one in Silicon Valley.

An engineer out of college will typically earn AU$150,000-$200,000/year + stock options. And people with 5-10 years’ experience will earn 3-5 times that much or more.

Attracting and retaining talent in Silicon Valley is extremely challenging and expensive, and it is hard to be competitive if you have raised less than AU$10-$20 million in capital.

In fact even Google co-founder Sergey Brin has encouraged people to consider starting companies outside Silicon Valley for this very reason[1].

People have noticed a downturn in tech company valuations recently, but employee salaries continue to rise. The reason for this apparent paradox is that tech is actually getting stronger, but it was slightly overvalued for a short period.

A large group of investors from other sectors came in to join the tech boom. They paid a bit too much per share as they did not understand the business fundamentals as well as more seasoned investors. They have mostly written down their investments and made a slight retreat. We are now back to business as usual.

During that time, good quality companies continued to grow, tech workers continued to flock to San Francisco and San Francisco housing prices continued to rise.

For anyone who thinks Sydney prices are unreasonable, please take a moment to consider people working 80 hours a week in the San Francisco Bay Area. To live close to work, means a 1 bedroom city apartment. The median rent in San Francisco is about A$1200-$1500/week.

This explains why high salaries are required, and why starting a company in San Francisco is very hard right now.

In summary, starting in Silicon Valley is very hard. Australia is a great place to build a tech company.

Applications are now open for the muru-D #SYD4 class. For more information or to apply visit: https://muru-d.com/

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/sergey-brin-on-starting-a-company-in-silicon-valley-2016-6

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