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Podcast: A big step forward for your small business

Business and Enterprise

Posted on August 1, 2017

2 min read

Despite Australians being among the biggest users of digital technology in the world, just half of the country’s small businesses have an online presence, meaning commercial opportunities are passing them by.

We know there’s a perception amongst business owners that getting online will be costly, complicated and time consuming.  But what if there was a simple way to help make sure opportunity knocks?

As part of the Be ‘That’ Business radio show, we spoke with Jae Hawkins, the general manager of the Wollongong Hellenic Club, who put her apprehension aside and embraced a new digital strategy to help her company flourish.

When Jae was approached for the position at the WHC earlier this year, the first thing she did was Google the company, but unfortunately the website was under construction at the time.  This hit a chord with Jae; “I knew nothing about the club, so I couldn’t expect our customers to know either” she said.

Jae realised she needed to establish an online footprint immediately, but without any experience in web development, she didn’t know where to begin.

With the help of Telstra Online Essentials, Jae had a new website up and running within 48 hours, and new customers soon followed. Now, the club is taking bookings and function enquiries online, with its live entertainment and mezze platters proving especially popular with patrons.

Here’s why having an online presence is so important:

The first step to a sale

The National Online Retailers Association says almost 10% of retail sales are made online, but many other sales begin online with customers researching options before they make their final decision in store.

Connect and grow

As Jae discovered firsthand, an online presence is one of the most cost-effective and rewarding ways to start a conversation with new customers and grow a small business.

The barrier to entry is lower than ever

It’s understandable to feel intimidated and unsure about where to start with setting up your online presence.  With Telstra Online Essentials, we can help you every step of the way.

Listen to our chat with Jay here:

For more on how to be ‘that’ business, visit Smarter Business.

A new view on communications

Social eye for the corporate guy

What shape is that cloud?

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.

A new view on communications

Social eye for the corporate guy

Technology - can we live without it? (I can’t!)

eCommerce and interactive gaming exploding, shows digital report

featured Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 27, 2017

4 min read

The Internet is in better health than ever. There are about 3.4 billion Internet users globally – about half the world’s population – many of whom are living a digital life. They are going online to watch movies, listen to music, play video games and they’re buying more than ever – so says leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker in her annual Internet Trends report.

Each year, Meeker gives a breathtakingly comprehensive overview of the state of the Internet covering topics from smartphone growth and media habits to online advertising and how digital is influencing industries such as healthcare.

One key highlight that emerged is interactive gaming – a US$100bn business with 2.6bn gamers. In the 80s, gaming was about a solo gamer playing Pacman or Mario. Today it is a shared experience, with more people playing online than ever. Gamers take part in competitions, held in arenas watched by 1000’s with millions more tuning in online. 161m fans watch eSports monthly, a 40% hike from 2015. Meeker highlights gaming in particular, as techniques learnt can impact people’s lives. Games can be used in simulations to train fighter pilots and hone athletic skills, teach pattern recognition or let people learn by repetition.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Voice searches are on the rise, with 20% of all queries made this way with an accuracy rate of 95%.
  • Global growth of smartphones is slowing, up only 3% from last year, down from about 27% and 11% in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • E-commerce continues to skyrocket, as demonstrated by parcel volume. In the US it topped 10bn last year, up 9% year on year. In fact, the unboxing of parcels has become entertainment in itself with the top 5 unboxing channels on YouTube attracting 33m subscribers in May 2017.
  • Eating in is the new eating out. Many high-end restaurants are now providing home delivery service.

Developing countries embracing digital innovation

In China, huge leaps have been made in online transportation and mobile payment technology.

  • The number of on-demand trips booked online reached 250m for just one quarter, more than anywhere else in the world.
  • China also leads the way in mobile payment innovations, with the big players Alipay and WeChat allowing customers to make everyday transactions with their smartphones.

India has experienced huge growth in eCommerce and in the smartphone space.

  • New mobile players have been opening up competition, with carrier Reliance Jio giving away free data and stealing millions of customers in the process. This has helped overall smartphone adoption in the country.
  • It’s also competition that is making eCommerce a huge business in India, with local players like Flipkart and Snapdeal going up against global giants Amazon.
  • What distinguishes India from the rest of Asia is the government’s pro-digital policies. Among them is a rollout of high speed broadband. Digital authentication via a smartphone for the 1bn+ population has been introduced (ahead of developed countries like Singapore), with 16 million authentications being carried out each day for transactions such as the opening of bank accounts.

While the report is silent on the rest of Asia, the trends are similar. Every Asian country has seen growth in Internet usage and users. As a result bricks and mortar retailers are struggling, replaced by e-commerce, where Asian brands like Taobao and Lazada rival Amazon. On-demand video and music has replaced TV and CDs and all countries are moving to high speed broadband with governments leading the way in digitising services.

For Asian observers, there are three areas that could be interesting to global brands and entrepreneurs.

  • Ad blocking is high in Asia. Indonesians block more ads than any other country (58% of mobile users), followed by Pakistan (38%). ‘Lite’ web and app versions of ads should be developed to avoid hogging bandwidth. They must also be optimised to work on slower 2G and 3G networks, which are still operating in Asian emerging markets.
  • Traffic congestion in major Asian cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta present opportunities for entrepreneurs. Consumers are likely to be discouraged from out-of-home shopping, opening up e–commerce opportunities from home delivery to health care.
  • As a spin-off from the popular on-demand transportation services, other areas like handyman services, personal shopping and fitness are areas with potential.

Carriers will play a crucial role for digital services to work smoothly and without interruption. Who wants a dropped wifi connection just before buying the new pair of shoes? For digital services to work smoothly, network bandwidth is key. Carriers must ensure good coverage, offering high reliability and scalability especially with the explosion in digital entertainment and on-demand services in transportation and home services.

A new view on communications

Social eye for the corporate guy

What shape is that cloud?

How can the Australian venture capital sector win big?

Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 20, 2017

4 min read

Innovation has been a key strategic pillar in the work of the Australian Government as they recognise how technological change is transforming how we live, work, and communicate. In order to nurture innovation and harness new sources of growth for continuous economic prosperity in Australia, the Australian Government introduced the National Innovation and Science Agenda which focuses on culture and capital, collaboration, talent and skills, and government as an exemplar.

Apart from the Government, the corporate sector is also a driving force for innovation, as more and more companies are becoming active in activities like corporate ventures investments, startup accelerators, etc. Indeed, in a recent report on venture capital released by The Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCAL) in federal Parliament last month, Telstra tops the new corporate innovation index that ranks the top 50 companies by their investments in corporate ventures, accelerators, incubators, internal innovation labs, co-working spaces and startups, and accounted for 18 percent of the innovation activity. A large part of this innovation activity comes from Telstra Ventures, Telstra’s corporate venture capital arm. This year, we increased our portfolio so that it now includes over 40 technology companies.

The report also assessed the current state of venture capital in Australia, saying that the funding mechanism for innovative businesses has never been healthier. In FY16, venture capital fundraising increased to $568 million, reaching the highest level of record. While startups are the source of innovation, they are also the largest contributor to job creation in Australia. According to the Australian Innovation System Report 2016, startups created more than 1.2 million jobs from 2004 to 2011, representing 90% of net positive job creation.

However, Yasser El-Ansary, CEO of AVCAL, commented in the report that there are still gaps in the Australian venture capital landscape as it is still “far too small for a country with bold ambitions to be an innovation leader”. The report compared the Australian venture capital investment with other countries. When looking at venture capital investment as a percentage of the GDP, Australia is sitting at 0.023% in 2015, compared to 0.33% for United States investments and 0.38% for Israel investments. The Australian figure is even lower than the OECD+ average of 0.049%.

Does that represent a dark future for the Australian venture capital scene? No.  In fact, experts are positive about Australia’s venture capital development and see a lot of room for improvement in the sector. There are also increasingly more successful cases from Australia in terms of securing significant venture capital funding.

Earlier in May, Telstra Ventures hosted activation sessions at the Sunrise Conference which brought together founders from some of the most successful Australian startups to tell their stories. I joined a session with two of our portfolio companies HealthEngine and Panviva to share insights on how to take the business global, attract international investors and enter new markets.

HealthEngine announced a significant Series C funding earlier this year led by Sequoia India, one of the leading venture capital firms globally. The company targets an industry with over $160 billion expenditure per annum, with a goal to improve the health of all Australians with a platform that enables both timely access to quality care and a seamless patient experience. Marcus Tan, CEO of HealthEngine, shared that, from his experience, trust and timing were the two key things in attracting investments from global venture capitalists among a number of factors. As with any kind of investment, VCs want to know they can trust the company and the business with their money. Startups need to know their own business story inside out and be able to not only communicate but demonstrate they have a solid team. This will help them sell the company to investors and ultimately allow the company to reach the next stage of growth.

Another Australian-based company Panviva is helping companies worldwide to solve their most complex information access problems by delivering just-in-time information. Co-Founder and CEO of Panviva, Ted Gannan highlighted the importance of engaging the influencer community to create impact. Insights from the panel also reflected some important initiatives to be taken in the Australian’s venture capital sector for a brighter future. Collaboration is definitely key and more importantly, companies should think big and have a clear strategy in establishing and growing their businesses internationally.

Timeline: Venture Capital in Australia

A new view on communications

Social eye for the corporate guy

What shape is that cloud?

How mobile payments are mobilising developing economies

featured Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 18, 2017

4 min read

We often view developed economies as being more technologically advanced, when compared to emerging markets. However, when it comes to mobile payments, it is in fact the developing economies leading the way.

Mobile payments are a big deal, because the ubiquitous smartphone has become the human being’s electronic alter ego, with many people valuing their phone more than their wallet.

A recent global survey found that the fastest-growing companies are those that have the highest acceptance of mobile payments. And it’s those businesses and economies best taking advantage of the immediacy and ubiquity of mobile payments that will be reap the benefits.

In the wider sense, this is just one part of the fin-tech revolution now underway. From loans to wealth management, the functions that have traditionally been managed by banks, insurance and securities companies are going digital and mobile.

Understanding mobile payments is one way to get a sense of this shift.

Two examples that help demonstrate this are the company M-Pesa and the booming mobile transactions economy of China.

M-Pesa is a mobile payments platform developed by the mobile industry that was first tested in Kenya a decade ago with backing from the UK International Development Department. It is now in 100 countries, including two-thirds of all developing countries. In Kenya, it has 20 million users and has been credited with lifting 2% of the population out of poverty.

Similarly, in China, consumers have leapfrogged banks and credit cards and gone straight to online and mobile, using services such as Alipay, with 450 million registered users, and WeChat, with 890 million.

A report by Ernst & Young and DBS points out China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, representing 47% of global digital retail sales. Mobile is the biggest part of that and is growing quickly, expected to account for 68% by 2020.

A number of factors are at work in both China and the wider developing world:

  • Mobile services are a vastly more attractive alternative to the traditional banking system, which can be inefficient in developing economies. Around 2 billion people worldwide don’t even have a bank account, let alone a credit card, although that number is declining quickly thanks to mobile.
  • The technology is simple and accessible. In Kenya, all that is needed is a phone and a mobile data connection. In China, the QR code has become the enabler between the consumer and the merchant. QR codes are now on billboards, offering immediate discounts, product information and connections between consumers, brands and retailers.
  • Differences in financial regulation give developing countries an advantage over advanced economies. Both in Kenya and China, governments have created new regulation to back the new services. By contrast, financial services firms in Europe and North America are bound by complex prudential and compliance regulations.
  • In China, consumers are also much less guarded about their data privacy. They are more prepared to pass on personal data in order to access a service than in many western markets.

With the wide availability of these platforms, we can now see their transformative impact – the ease-of-use and high penetration is enabling innovation.

For example, M-Pesa enables consumers to pay as they go. People who may not be able to afford the upfront cost of new appliances, such as solar-powered lighting, can now pay them off progressively.

Until recently that was impossible. In this way, these kinds of new services are making fundamental difference to people’s lives.

In both China and Kenya, mobile payment platforms are already driving a lot of economic activity, whilst more advanced economies are only just getting started.  When it comes to exciting and impactful innovations in mobile money, the developing countries are leading the world.

A new view on communications

Social eye for the corporate guy

What shape is that cloud?