SEO Tips for Business Success

seo tips for business success

Being a founder of multiple failed startups, I always tried to find a way of cheap advertising techniques to get results with minimum investment. In this struggle, one day I came across Search Engine Optimization (SEO) platform and I can confidently say it changed my life.

The moment, I became convinced that how much powerful SEO is in the world of advertising, I didn’t waste any time and started learning it right away. I implemented it on my website. And after years of trying SEO techniques on my website, I became expert at it.

Here, I want to share the journey of my startup. It is an auto mobile blog, where I used to write SEO optimized articles and my partner worked as a sales guy.

The Business Model
Our business model was to get auto mobile leads through the website using SEO tricks and then refer those leads to partner workshops which can give us commission on every sale.

SEO Strategy

In the start, We managed to attract only few hundred visitors per month. After few months, We reviewed our SEO strategy and made a new one. In the new strategy, we focused on picking new SEO keywords. So, for all daily routine queries and new auto mobiles, we tried to make sure that we were at the top of Google search. Since it is easy for new keywords to beat powerful and old websites.

For every new vehicle or auto mobile service, we made a new page on website with the same name. Hence, the race to increase the number of visitors started. After making its page, we worked on its SEO.  We wrote few articles on it and back-linked it to our landing page. Furthermore, to give it an extra juice, we made a Facebook ad which sends interested users to our new page.

Beating Big Market Players

In few days, we were at the top in Google search by beating other websites of big market players. So now, anyone who searches information about auto mobile services or models, they see our website page in top rankings. As most people prefer to go to a website which is on the top, this gives our page higher Click Through Rate (CTR). Our daily users increased from 5-10 to 1k+ daily visitors.

This helped us attracting potential customers fall on our website. We started to receive nonstop calls. We made an easy money just by being a middleman. We referred our clients to our partner workshops and they gave us a healthy commission.

How can you make your business a success through SEO

SEO is not a rocket science. Anyone can learn it with little knowledge of computer science and marketing. These days in our Pakistani market, good SEO experts are difficult to hire as this is something that is not taught in our universities. It’s about time that our computer science course gets digital marketing subject as a compulsory elective. Its future is wide and unlimited. Print media is going to be obsolete in coming years. For a business owner, don’t be late to implement SEO, your competitors probably know about SEO, but you might have been left behind.

Tips for starting your own web design consulting business

So you want to start your own web design consulting business. Is it actually something within your grasp? The short answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” But there are certain things that you’ll need to keep in mind as you get this new company off the ground. Here are just a few of them.

Remember You are a Consultant

If you’ve been designing websites for other companies, it may be easy to just label yourself as a web designer. But the truth is, with your new business, you’re a business consultant. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, you shouldn’t be selling yourself by the hour; that makes you little better than an employee. You should be creating a business model that is based around results. Your clients want to know exactly what they’re paying for, so set a pricing structure that is clear and concise, and provides you with the pay that your skills deserve.

But it also means that you are in a unique position as the owner of your business. Consulting businesses like yours—regardless of their niche focus—are ideal environments for learning and growing as an entrepreneur. Consulting expert Sam Ovens has said that he believes all entrepreneurs should start out as business consultants, because it provides opportunities to learn about cash flow, marketing, and scaling your business—lessons that are hard to learn on the fly if you’re in a product-based business. So remember that you’re officially a consultant now, and as such, you are poised to learn some of the most important lessons in entrepreneurship from a hands-on perspective.

Consider All Startup Costs

Consulting businesses like yours come with relatively low startup costs, but it’s still important that you consider every potential cost associated with starting this business. You may already have a computer and phone you can use, but some other costs you might want to consider include:

  • Buying business cards
  • Registering a domain name
  • Registering as a business with your state
  • Self-employment tax (including paying the half of Social Security tax that your employer would normally pay for)
  • Paying for your own health insurance

Carmen Wong Ulrich, author of The Real Cost of Living said, “The biggest costs [of starting your own business] are personal. It’s very difficult to separate your life, especially if you are working from home. Every minute you are not working, you could be. You need to make 20% more, if not more than that, to have the same comfort level you had when on a salary.”

Business ownership comes with a lot of opportunities, but a lot of sacrifices as well. So make sure you know what the costs are before you take the leap.

Have a Portfolio

You should always have samples of your work to show to potential clients. When you’re providing a service that is as visually based as web design, you need to allow your clients to see the kinds of things that you are capable of creating. An online web design portfolio is a great way to do this, as it allows you to easily share the samples with potential clients without having to meet in person. Make sure that you have permission to include any websites you may have designed in previous jobs first. And if you don’t have a lot of stuff to share just yet, consider volunteering to design websites for local organizations or charities. Those few free jobs can go a long ways towards helping you land high-paying clients.

Starting your own web design consultation firm could be the first step to living the life you’ve always dreamed of, and these 3 tips can help you on your way to turning that entrepreneurial dream into a reality

Courtesy By shamshinghub.com

Solve one of these problems to become a billionaire

What to become a billionaire?

Your best bet could be solving a problem that’s eluded engineers for decades. Here are the leading problems waiting to be solved. By solving any of these you may become a billionaire easily.

want-to-become-a-billionaire-wireless-power

Wireless Power

Forget about better batteries. the future of longer-lasting phones, tablets, and other technology is wireless power.

figure out how to turn your TV or cellular transmission into a power source.

want-to-become-a-billionaire-rural-remote-internet

Rural, Remote Internet

Internet dead zones are still a problem, especially in rural areas and developing countries. but solving them is a difficult challenge, one that Google and Facebook are tackling head on. If you can find a faster, cheaper approach than Google. You could make billions.

want-to-become-a-billionaire-cheap-scalable-solar-power

Cheap, Scalable Solar Power

Today, solar panels are all the rage in upscale neighborhoods. But that are highly expensive to install, which makes them inaccessible to the middle and lower class.

Design a cheap, highly efficient solar cell and you will have to holy grail of electricity on you hands.

want-to-become-a-billionaire-affordable-water-desalination

Affordable water desalination

Drought and water shortage is a huge problem. But what if we could turn ocean water into drinking water through desalination?

so far no one has designed a desalination plant that’s economically viable. you could be the firt to solve one of these world’s most pressing issues.

want-to-become-a-billionaire-improve-major-forecast

Improve major weather forecasts

predicting the weather is hard. but major weather events like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons cost billions of dollars each year in damage.

develop a better forecast model and you could save the world billions while reaping some of your own

Ref: Business Insider

Growing up in the intelligence era

Information technology shifted 15 years ago from perpetually licensed, on-premise software to Software as a Service (SaaS).

The shift created significant opportunities for startups, but led to the death of companies that ignored the change. These companies were stunned to find that traction was not enough to interest investors and, at best, they sold at low valuations to legacy technology companies.

Today, information technology is shifting from the SaaS workflow applications that characterized the cloud computing era to those that help customers make decisions.Characterized as the intelligence era, the source of competitive advantage is shifting from code to unique data + self-learning code. As with the previous shift, this brings a change in the expectations of investors. We are seeing investors outright ignore SaaS companies with solid traction in favor of companies that have a strategic position in the market granted by their “intelligent” software.

This post generalizes the requirements of enterprise software investors in the intelligence era in the hope that it helps founders of enterprise software companies think about how to sequence their fundraising, product development and data strategy.

The new funding strategy

The company characteristics below are what investors generally expect at the point of raising that round. For example, Series A investors generally expect to see annual contracts with examples of where you’ve expanded revenue with specific customers before investing. Seed investors focused on intelligent enterprise software generally expect to see that you’re collecting unique data before investing.

Image1 2

We’re seeing that the bottom half of this table (shaded in tan) is increasingly important. Companies need to show they’re building a competitive advantage through unique data + self-learning code to raise a Series A from a world-class investor. SaaS without data is not enough. This means that companies need to pick seed investors that are savvy to the impending shift to the intelligence era, help them with this strategy and have the track record of attracting world-class Series A investors. The best seed investors play the role of a “Data Product Manager” until the full team comes together.

Let’s define the characteristics on the left and explain the rightward progression, separating table stakes from what’s truly necessary today.

SaaS table stakes

The top half of this table includes the characteristics required to raise money from a world-class investor when the cloud was a new thing, and SaaS was the future. Was. Today, deploying to the cloud is a given and you need more to break away from the competition. But first, let’s talk about the basics.

Image2 2

Go to market: How you reach potential customers. “Bottom up” means that you don’t spend money on sales and marketing, instead relying on word-of-mouth through social channels and free PR to build an initial base of customers. Companies now tend to graduate from here by hiring customer success and inside sales reps to mine that initial base of customers for those with big budgets. Outside sales reps are hired after exhausting this bottom-up strategy.

Typical Customer: The profile of a typical purchaser. This determines their level of sophistication, revenue potential and sales cycles. Some startups may start by selling to large companies. Small to medium businesses (SMB) are less sophisticated and have lower revenue potential but are easier to reach, have shorter sales cycles and are less likely to be using a high-quality alternative. Interestingly, a startup can gather a large volume of data across SMBs such that it can build machine learning models that compete with those built by larger companies.

Contract Basis: The basis on which revenue recurs. Companies get the leverage to negotiate for longer terms as they build stickiness with customers by providing better products.

Average ACV: Average Annual Contract Value. Larger average ACV means that you’re successfully selling to larger customers, into more divisions and/or at higher prices. Some companies may keep ACV constant but significantly increase volume.

Annualized Revenue: There are many useful measures of revenue, but this is a universal number that you can calculate by annualizing last month’s revenue. This is not the same as annual recurring revenue (ARR). Churn is important here, but it’s hard to define a milestone. Seed investors will not have enough data to draw conclusions about churn. Series A investors, depending on the sales model, will dig into 12+ months of data to understand churn — and usually need to see negative churn.

What you really need

Rightward progression with respect to these characteristics, as represented by the tan shading in the table, means you’re building a competitive advantage through unique data + self-learning code — crucial to raising a Series A from a world-class investor.

Image3 2

General Team: Those on your team who aren’t software engineers. This is probably just founders and a designer at the seed stage, adding sales/marketing (a strategic marketer, inside sales and customer success) by the Series A stage and rounding out the executive team (with BD, finance, operations and HR) by the Series B stage.

Engineering Team: The people making the software. Start with those who can efficiently get the product into your customers’ hands. Then, as you collect data, you can use data science talent to deliver insights to your customers in the form of predictive features. This is where hiring gets hard; you’ll need your investors to give you every advantage you can get. As you scale, you’ll need some infrastructure specialists and great engineering managers.

Data Strategy: A crucial part of your plan to build an intelligent software product. A clean, unique data set is a competitive advantage in itself (so don’t sell it!). From there, you can start building predictive models with your customers’ data and turning successful experiments into features that help them make decisions. Finally, you will have a product that uses incremental data to improve models; making the product better, attracting more customers, getting more data and so on — a “‘Virtuous Loop.”

This compounding competitive advantage is something that only Google and a few others have built, but is within reach of today’s startups. As you can see, one has to be purposeful about this strategy from Day One. Great investors will focus on helping you create a coordinated data and business process strategy. They will guide data set, model and feature development to build a Virtuous Loop. Investors focused on similar companies will help you assess whether you’re collecting unique data compared to your competition.

Positioning: How are you different from everyone else in the market? Where you are on a Gartner map determines how many big enterprise customers take notice of your company  —  like it or not. Seed-stage companies usually have a workflow product that is better/cheaper/nicer than existing products, collecting data in the background. The addition of predictive features helps customers make decisions, making your product key to their strategy and giving you lock-in. A full-featured product will quickly expand to all lines of business within your customers’ companies such that it’s a “must-have.”

Partnerships: Partnerships are a distraction before the seed stage. However, companies can leverage a few key marketing partnerships with complementary product companies to get enough traction to raise a Series A. Further, companies can form partnerships to get access to large data sets, bootstrapping their machine learning efforts. Hiring full-time business development talent after your Series A will help you form an ecosystem of sales, marketing and product partnerships ahead of a Series B.

Examples

InsideSales

InsideSales.com is a sales acceleration platform that automatically recommends prospects. InsideSales started as a SaaS company but is now a quintessential intelligent software company, using data to build a self-learning engine that drives up to 30 percent revenue growth for their customers after just 90 days. Here’s how they made this rightward progression.

Typical Customer: InsideSales started by signing up SMBs, gathering a large volume of data across those customers with which to build machine learning models. Roughly 100,000 sales reps at more than 3,000 companies, including ADP, GE and Salesforce, use their software today.

Engineering Team: InsideSales started with a team of generalist engineers and now have 30 machine learning engineers with PhDs working with well over 100 billion records of data, adding 5 billion per month  —  the largest sales database in the world.

Data Strategy: InsideSales started by collecting data on phone calls and emails, then built some predictive features to tell you when to call/email someone to maximize the chance of closing a deal. The software anonymizes and normalizes data from one customer, learns over that data, synthesizes the learning into a prediction and delivers that to another customer. They’ve closed the Virtuous Loop.

Positioning: The initial product was a Call Dialer that helped an inside sales rep crank through a prospect list. The addition of automatic recommendations saw InsideSales reposition as a sales acceleration platform and increase its average selling price per seat to be 2-3x that of complementary system of record vendors in the ecosystem.

Partnerships: InsideSales has a marketing partnership with the leading CRM platforms — Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce —  and strategic investment from both parent companies. The recent launch of the Neuralytics platform allows any company to feed their data into InsideSales’ core machine learning technology, opening up opportunities for InsideSales outside of the sales use case.

Affirm

Affirm uses data to give companies the confidence to offer monthly payment terms to their customers.

Data Strategy: Affirm initially provided merchants with a way to offer financing to customers based on public data. Now, it uses a combination of public data and individual lender data to manage repayment and buyer fraud risk. Additionally, Affirm uses that data to optimize the checkout flow for merchants, increasing average basket size.

Positioning: Affirm evolved its positioning from a widget on e-commerce websites to a company re-building core parts of financial infrastructure and an independent banking brand for millennials.

Partnerships: Affirm built a strong set of partnerships as it grew. First, with Shopify to offer financing on any Shopify store. Then, with First Data to offer financing to customers in brick-and-mortar stores through the Clover Point of Sale system. These partnerships could also provide Affirm with new customer data that it can feed into its credit scores.

Euclid Analytics

Retail, quick-service restaurants and shopping malls use Euclid’s products to understand customer behavior in their physical locations to optimize marketing and operations.

Data Strategy: Euclid invented a novel way to identify and triangulate shopper behavior through Wi-Fi signals and mobile phones. It uses the combination of hundreds of millions of shopper events and external data sources to provide recommendations to its retail, restaurant and mall customers. For example, which marketing campaigns, staffing changes and menu updates increase restaurant visits?

pasted image 0

Positioning: Euclid evolved from “Google Analytics for the real world” to “insights and personalization for the physical world.” That is, the company went from offering dashboards to offering insights by adding complementary data sources and enabling online-to-offline attribution and engagement in physical locations.

Partnerships: Euclid partners with Wi-Fi OEMs, VARs and MSPs to integrate with major hardware providers. Further, the Euclid ecosystem analyzes location data alongside a range of additional data sources, including Door Counters, POS, CRM, MAP and staffing systems.

EventBoard

EventBoard started out as those iPads you see in meeting rooms and is now the leader in optimizing the workplace and workforce. Here’s how they made this rightward progression.

Data Strategy: The company signed up 300 SMBs before raising a seed round, and has since onboarded more than 1,800 customers, including Viacom, National Instruments and GE. The product now generates more than 150 million unique data points per month, combines that with data from integrated products and offers analytics on the workplace and workforce, e.g. room utilization, causes of meeting cancellations, re-booking rates, frequently skipped meetings and the cost of meetings.

Positioning: EventBoard evolved from conference room scheduling to digital workplace and workforce optimization. The product seamlessly brings together people, places and technology to create a better and more efficient workplace, and a more effective workforce.

Partnerships: Apple recommended EventBoard to many large companies because it changed the value proposition of iPads in the enterprise. Today, EventBoard has strong strategic investors and solid partnerships with Apple, Google, Aruba/HP and GE. GE provides access to rich data sets that the company leverages to provide even deeper insights and analytics. EventBoard also started to build a channel strategy.

The new, focused investor

Over the next decade, cloud-based software will require intelligent features to effectively help customers increase revenue, lower cost or be in compliance. This will be true for both existing lines of business in the enterprise and new markets such as the industrial internet, precision agriculture, smart cities and bioinformatics.

The key question for an entrepreneur is the same as always: How will my investors add value? Today that means: How will my investors help me build a next-generation team, form a data strategy, position my company, make partnerships and keep me funded with the best syndicate for the marathon ahead? On top of being a great business partner, they need to be an expert in helping you create a beachhead in the intelligence era.

Ref: TechCrunch

Detrack – How a Valentine’s Day catastrophe turned into a business idea

It’s Valentine’s Day.

Your ‘special someone’ has made it quite clear they’re expecting flowers. So you do the decent thing and pony up for a lovely bouquet to be delivered to them. As the day arrives, you start getting antsy. Have they delivered it yet? Maybe you should call the delivery people to find out.

“Have you delivered the flowers yet? My order number? Hold on…oh you need to call your driver to find out? Okay I’ll wait.”

This goes on for several hours.

Now think of the delivery driver. He’s receiving calls every few minutes from the company, asking for real-time status updates that require them to pull to the side of the road and go through tons of paperwork.

This, also, goes on for several hours.

Such was the situation that faced husband and wife team Dason Goh and Fanny See, who were running a florist business full time.

“It was so bad that we nearly cut our phone lines. At the end of the day, while our sales shot through the roof, so did the number of unhappy customers and grumpy drivers, who we kept calling throughout the day! We were very confident of finding a mobile app monitoring solution to our problem, but to our surprise, we didn’t find any.” says Fanny.

“That’s when Dason asked, why don’t we build what we want?”

Detrack is born

Dason and Fanny founded Detrack in 2013, along with Dason’s older brother Daniel Goh. The startup provides a simple app to track delivery vehicles and the delivery status of packages, all in real-time. It’s an easy way for ecommerce and delivery companies to quickly introduce data management into their operations.

“We work with customers in 30 different countries around the world. We’ve managed to achieve all this with a team of five people, in less than two years, without ever having left Singapore,” says Fanny. With around 500 active customers, 140 of which are paying, the startup’s main challenge was not customer acquisition, but hiring.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding the right people with the skills we need. We need a lot of technical people to do the work we do, so it’s difficult to grow our team in Singapore.”

Last-mile-delivery-is-expanding-across-Asia

The solution to this was to automate as much as possible.

“For example, we adopted a test-driven development approach to cut down the time needed for the inevitable debugging processes” says Fanny.

This drive to automate is not just on the backend, but on the frontend as well. “As a customer, you can visit the website, sign up, conduct a trial, purchase a license and deploy the system even if nobody from Detrack shows up to work. We also have tons of self-help tutorials and video guides to help users, so human interaction is not really required,” says Fanny.

Where next?

Last-mile and logistics has become very competitive off late. Companies like Easy Van and  aCommerce are attracting big investments and expanding rapidly. How does Detrack sit inside this space with big and bigger fish?

“Direct competitors are more expensive and more complex than us, simply because they are still working on building very customized products for their customers,” explains Fanny. “Our product is quite standardized, so we can offer an immediate solution to the market at US$24 per driver per month. It’s a much cheaper option than spending hundreds of thousands on developing a bespoke product.”

“For indirect competitors like Easy Van? We provide them with a software layer on top of their existing logistics. So we don’t really compete, we almost complement each other.”

Competition has made them look at expansion as well. But there’s a limit to how far their regional expansion can go without significant investment.

“Often, emerging markets have admins who speak English who can successfully use our dashboard, but the majority of these markets speak their local language. Unless we speak their language on our web and mobile app, we can’t legitimately have a shot at the rest of the market,” says Fanny.

They have already made some inroads in that respect, with their Android app currently available in Bahasa Melayu and Indonesia, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Spanish, French, Dutch and (soon) Japanese. iOS and web app support in these languages comes later in 2016.

Delivery-logistics-is-being-disrupted-by-Detrack

Detrack’s premised on making human-run driver networks more efficient. But what if robots take over?

“It’s tempting to say that drones or even driverless vehicles will be the future of deliveries, but the truth is that none of these new models have proven their sustainability yet,” says Fanny. “Even if these were to become a reality, we still feel we’re a few years away from realizing those dreams.”

“But problems exist today, that need solutions we can provide today, and that’s where Detrack comes in.” says Fanny.

Proudly Singaporean

Because they only offer a standardized app experience, which is designed for non-English speakers who are not tech savvy, the company claims blazingly fast turnaround times of “within an hour of signing up with them.” In fact, this has lead to a very unique issue.

“We often face a ‘happy problem’ which we find rather amusing,” says Fanny. “We’ve been mistaken to be an American company. We have to patiently convince users that we are indeed a Singaporean solution and aren’t just reselling a solution from elsewhere.”


DETRACK SYSTEMS PTE LTD will be exhibiting at the Last Mile Fulfilment Asia (LMFAsia) 2016, which will take place from 3rd to 4th March 2016 at Singapore EXPO. Themed ‘eCommerce Beyond Borders’, LMFAsia 2016 is the region’s only conference and exhibition dedicated to eCommerce fulfilment, where leading experts from the retail, eCommerce, parcel and logistics industries will deep dive into the topic of cross-border eCommerce. For more information, please visit www.lmfasia.com.

 

Ref: TechinAsia

The opportunities between Australia and Southeast Asia

There’s more than land and sea between Southeast Asia and Australia. Here are the few things I learned about the opportunities for growth, talent and investment.

“I used to be fit,” Murray said as we reached the top floor.

Murray, Co-Founder and CEO of Fishburners, was showing us around Australia’s largest tech-focused, co-working space. Fishburners currently houses 176 startups, run by 250 individuals working across four floors of desks, meeting rooms, couches, and foosball tables. These are four floors dedicated to fostering a community that hopes to fuel Australia’s next best export.

Murray runs Fishburners as a not-for-profit organisation. That’s right. It’s a co-working space that charges its members a minimal fee, sources out private sponsorships, and then returns every cent back to the community.

“We’ve reached our maximum capacity here. We’ve spent 18 months searching for a new building, but have struggled to find one. It’s frustrating to have the demand we have, and the supporters we have, and being held back only by the availability of space.”

Fishburners hosts over 500 visitors a week in community meetups, workshops, and Demo Day-like pitch events. Asked why there’s suddenly so much interest in the local tech space, Murray explains, “I’ve spent 18 years creating and supporting startups in Sydney, and the last five years have been remarkable. More startups are being created than ever before, and suddenly people are starting to see the opportunity here. We have talent, capital, access to markets, a stable business environment and an increasingly ambitious culture. It’s also an incredibly beautiful place to live.”

All these numbers and Murray’s experience, accurately reflect the growing interest and excitement over the local Australian tech and startup scene. An excitement that seemingly, has yet to reach Southeast Asia.

In six days of meeting key contributors to the local ecosystem in Sydney, here are the observations from someone barely scratching the surface.

funding

Scarce early stage funding

Based on Tech in Asia’s data, seed funding in the first two and a half quarters of this year alone already amount to US$963 Million in Asia. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Recall that in 2015 alone, the following companies launched early-stage funds:Alibaba, KK Fund, GMO Venture Partners, Venturra Capital, and three separate 500 StartupsFunds.

This borderline insane amount of early-stage funding available has its obvious perks. It encourages more people to pursue their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs. It equips companies with resources to hire or poach talent. It gives startups a chance to explore a plethora of product directions.

However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are additional issues brought about by its surplus. Just because a company receives funding doesn’t mean it truly adds value to consumers or to innovation. Theoretically, the market can act as a filter by allowing the non-value adding companies to die. VC funding intervenes in that market process by prolonging the startup’s life or giving the team a chance to pivot, even if, “saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.” To oversimplify a bit, bad companies can last longer in Southeast Asia.

Australia has an almost polar opposite problem. VC funding is scarce so startups are often required by circumstance to bootstrap, or to list on the ASX and go public as soon as they meet the listing requirements. Sometimes, it means that good technology may take more time to flourish. Other times, it means that good companies and great teams don’t get second chances Down Under.

Some choose to rely on Angel investors which, I’ve been told, has its own sets of challenges. A common sentiment had been that some Angels were not sophisticated enough to appreciate the technology that startups bring to them. Startups would then choose to leave Australia to not get shorted of the valuation they otherwise would have gotten in say, Silicon Valley.

Australia is an ecosystem that is in need of capital injection to support strong teams and to keep the market’s growth going. As the Southeast Asian market crowds, as valuations soar, and as investing becomes more expensive, is it then prudent for some early-stage investors to look towards Oceania?

startups

Entrepreneurs equipped with experience

Many of the people we spoke to, such as Rachel Bui of muru-D, observed that Australian entrepreneurs tended to be former corporates, geared with years of experience having worked in business development, marketing or technology. They have worked in more traditional companies or industries which equipped them strong business fundamentals and focus on customers.

Data confirms Rachel’s observations. According to a survey conducted by Startup Muster, the largest survey of the Australian startup community, the average age of an entrepreneur in the country is 36.

This number is definitely surprising to hear because entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, by contrast, seem to be younger (anecdotally, at least). Whether or not age makes entrepreneurs wiser or more capable of running companies is a debate to be settled another time . However, Martin Hosking of Redbubble feels that experience definitely helped him build a company that turned in more than US$86.2 Million in sales in 2014.

“Redbubble is a complicated company where you have to address three sides of a marketplace — consumers, artists and fulfillers. As a result we had to raise money very early on. If this were a relatively simple idea like Snapchat, sure… But having experience definitely helped me.”

Martin started his career in foreign affairs in trade as a diplomat straight out of university. He spent five years in Syria and in Egypt before he became a consultant in McKinsey, helped found NASDAQ listed Looksmart during the dot.com bubble, invested as an Angel in a few companies, and finally went back to doing that he loved — running a startup.

I caught Martin after his Fireside Chat in Startup Daily’s Data Day, and he wasn’t the only entrepreneur from the conference that believes in the virtue of experience.

Bridget Loudon of Expert 360 says that, “You don’t have to be old. For an entrepreneur to be successful, you need to understand [the problem you are solving] better than anyone else does. You need to be highly knowledgeable—an expert in your problem and your market. For any B2B company, you need to have been in the industry before.”

Bridget believes in this despite being only twenty-five when she co-founded the company that is now disrupting the consultancy industry across the globe with 6,000 consultants on the platform and a 20% month-on-month growth.

““Entrepreneurship was not a very cool thing 10-15 years ago. It was almost a dirty word. Now, it’s pulling people out of all experiences and ages who had ideas back then to come out and try to change things.”

If corporates in Australia are slowly becoming more willing to transition out of MNCs and into startups, should Southeast Asia be their next destination? Can the experienced Australian entrepreneur can lend a different complexion to the relatively young Southeast Asian market?

In Terence’s words, “Talent gets recirculated into the system until the right combination of people, tech, timing, and luck coalesce to form the next big thing.”

Ref: Tech in Asia

Starting a Business in the Logistics Industry

As e-commerce and a relatively low U.S. dollar fuel international trade, the logistics industry may be a good place to start a new business

I am interested in the logistics industry. Would you please talk about how to start up a freight forwarder company?—P.D., Los Angeles

Broadly speaking, the U.S. “logistics industry” consists of the private companies—freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transport, and air cargo intermediaries—that handle the details of importing and exporting goods in this country. At this time of burgeoning international trade, fueled by and by the relatively low U.S. dollar, the logistics industry looks to be a good place to start a new business.

Importing and exporting is a $1.5 trillion annual undertaking, said Damon Schechter, author of Delivering the Goods (Wiley, 2002) and CEO of San Francisco-based shipping and fulfillment firm Shipwire. “The logistics industry is a viable business space with a lot of money changing hands in order to facilitate economic activity,” he said.

Built on Relationships

However, the long-established industry (its industry association, the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, was established in 1897) is built around personal relationships and trust. Entering the fray as a new face without existing customers can be a tough proposition. “This industry has been around for hundreds of years. Alexander the Great did his own version of customs clearance. It’s important to work in the industry, be a cog in the wheel, and let someone mentor you in a situation where you can develop trust with customers,” Schechter said.

“Find a market segment to work in: international trade shows, garments, the oil and gas industry, et cetera. It is best to look for clientele where you have a strong background, talent, or affinity. For instance, if you come from the construction industry, it might be best to look for your first clients there because at least you can better understand their needs. Or let’s say your parents were immigrants from Latin America, the Far East, or the Middle East, and you are bilingual. It might be smart to focus on cargo to that region,” said Gary Dale Cearley, executive director of AerOceaNetwork, a freight forwarding and international logistics network based in Bangkok.

Logistics firms typically are run by individuals who have relationships with manufacturers, transporters, storage firms, customs agents, and buyers on both sides of the border. They hire employees who do the nitty-gritty of scheduling space on air cargo or ocean containers and timing the movement of goods from factory to storage through customs checks to final customer distribution by truck or rail. If you can get a job doing that kind of ground work, it would not only give you a close-up view of what these firms do, how each differentiates itself and chooses a specialty, but it would also help introduce you to the clients who use these services.

U.S. Strong in Logistics

“If you can build a level of credibility for yourself with clients, you can make a long-term career in this industry, particularly with the level of globalization we see today and the amount of ad hoc movement across borders,” Schechter said. “One of the core competencies of Americans is logistics. China is hiring every logistics company in the U.S. to train their people to get this kind of work done.”

If you can speak foreign languages or have family or business contacts in other countries, those are additional pluses that you can leverage as you consider opening your own firm. For more information, check the Web site of the NCBFFA, which says it represents nearly 800 international trade companies serving more than 250,000 importers and exporters. The organization sponsors benchmark programs for ocean forwarders and customs specialists and its Web site includes information on how to become a customs broker or an ocean freight forwarder.

Cearley also suggests you look at the Web sites of the Federal Maritime Commission, the Homeland Security Dept., and the U.S. Customs Bureau.

Ref: BloomBerg

Investing In Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting and trans-formative opportunities of our time. From my vantage point as a venture investor at Playfair Capital, where I focus on investing and building community around Artificial intelligence, I see this as a great time for investors to help build companies in this space. There are three key reasons.

investing-in-artificial-intelligence

 

First, with 40 percent of the world’s population now online, and more than 2 billion smartphones being used with increasing addiction every day (KPCB), we’re creating data assets, the raw material for Artificial intelligence, that describe our behaviors, interests, knowledge, connections and activities at a level of granularity that has never existed.

Second, the costs of compute and storage are both plummeting by orders of magnitude, while the computational capacity of today’s processors is growing, making Artificial intelligence applications possible and affordable.

Third, we’ve seen significant improvements recently in the design of learning systems, architectures and software infrastructure that, together, promise to further accelerate the speed of innovation. Indeed, we don’t fully appreciate what tomorrow will look and feel like.

We also must realize that AI-driven products are already out in the wild, improving the performance of search engines, recommender systems (e.g., e-commerce, music), ad serving and financial trading (amongst others).

Companies with the resources to invest in Artificial intelligence are already creating an impetus for others to follow suit — or risk not having a competitive seat at the table. Together, therefore, the community has a better understanding and is equipped with more capable tools with which to build learning systems for a wide range of increasingly complex tasks.

How Might You Apply Artificial intelligence Technologies?

With such a powerful and generally applicable technology, AI companies can enter the market in different ways. Here are six to consider, along with example businesses that have chosen these routes:

  • There are vast amounts of enterprise and open data available in various data silos, whether web or on-premise. Making connections between these enables a holistic view of a complex problem, from which new insights can be identified and used to make predictions (e.g., DueDil*, Premise and Enigma).
  • Leverage the domain expertise of your team and address a focused, high-value, recurring problem using a set of Artificial intelligence techniques that extend the shortfalls of humans (e.g., Sift Scienceor Ravelin* for online fraud detection).
  • Productize existing or new Artificial intelligence frameworks for feature engineering, hyperparameter optimization, data processing, algorithms, model training and deployment (amongst others) for a wide variety of commercial problems (e.g., H2O.ai, Seldon* and SigOpt).
  • Automate the repetitive, structured, error-prone and slow processes conducted by knowledge workers on a daily basis using contextual decision making (e.g., Gluru, x.ai andSwiftKey).
  • Endow robots and autonomous agents with the ability to sense, learn and make decisions within a physical environment (e.g., Tesla, Matternet and SkyCatch).
  • Take the long view and focus on research and development (R&D) to take risks that would otherwise be relegated to academia — but due to strict budgets, often isn’t anymore (e.g.,DNN Research, DeepMind and Vicarious).

There’s more on this discussion here. A key consideration, however, is that the open sourcing of technologies by large incumbents (Google, Microsoft, Intel, IBM) and the range of companies productizing technologies for cheap means that technical barriers are eroding fast. What ends up moving the needle are proprietary data access/creation, experienced talent and addictive products.

Which Challenges Are Faced By Operators And Closely Considered By Investors?

I see a range of operational, commercial and financial challenges that operators and investors closely consider when working in the AI space. Here are the main points to keep top of mind:

Operational

  • How to balance the longer-term R&D route with monetization in the short term? While more libraries and frameworks are being released, there’s still significant upfront investment to be made before product performance is acceptable. Users will often be benchmarking against a result produced by a human, so that’s what you’re competing against.
  • The talent pool is shallow: few have the right blend of skills and experience. How will you source and retain talent?
  • Think about balancing engineering with product research and design early on. Working on aesthetics and experience as an afterthought is tantamount to slapping lipstick onto a pig. It’ll still be a pig.
  • Most AI systems need data to be useful. How do you bootstrap your system w/o much data in the early days?

Commercial

  • Artificial intelligence products are still relatively new in the market. As such, buyers are likely to be non-technical (or not have enough domain knowledge to understand the guts of what you do). They might also be new buyers of the product you sell. Hence, you must closely appreciate the steps/hurdles in the sales cycle.
  • How to deliver the product? SaaS, API, open source?
  • Include chargeable consulting, set up, or support services?
  • Will you be able to use high-level learnings from client data for others?

Financial

  • Which type of investors are in the best position to appraise your business?
  • What progress is deemed investable? MVP, publications, open source community of users or recurring revenue?
  • Should you focus on core product development or work closely on bespoke projects with clients along the way?
  • Consider buffers when raising capital to ensure that you’re not going out to market again before you’ve reached a significant milestone.

Build With The User In The Loop

There are two big factors that make involving the user in an AI-driven product paramount. One, machines don’t yet recapitulate human cognition. To pick up where software falls short, we need to call on the user for help. And two, buyers/users of software products have more choice today than ever. As such, they’re often fickle (the average 90-day retention for apps is 35 percent).

Returning expected value out of the box is key to building habits (hyperparameter optimization can help). Here are some great examples of products that prove that involving the user in the loop improves performance:

We can even go a step further, I think, by explaining how machine-generated results are obtained. For example, IBM Watson surfaces relevant literature when supporting a patient diagnosis in the oncology clinic. Doing so improves user satisfaction and helps build confidence in the system to encourage longer-term use and investment. Remember, it’s generally hard for us to trust something we don’t truly understand.

What’s The AI Investment Climate Like These Days?

To put this discussion into context, let’s first look at the global VC market: Q1-Q3 2015 saw $47.2 billion invested, a volume higher than each of the full year totals for 17 of the last 20 years (NVCA).

We’re likely to breach $55 billion by year’s end. There are roughly 900 companies working in the AI field, most of which tackle problems in business intelligence, finance and security. Q4 2014 saw a flurry of deals into AI companies started by well-respected and achieved academics: Vicarious, Scaled Inference, MetaMind and Sentient Technologies.

So far, we’ve seen about 300 deals into AI companies (defined as businesses whose description includes such keywords as artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, NLP, data science, neural network, deep learning) from January 1, 2015 through December 1, 2015 (CB Insights).

In the U.K., companies like Ravelin*, Signal and Gluru* raised seed rounds. approximately $2 billion was invested, albeit bloated by large venture debt or credit lines for consumer/business loan providers Avant ($339 million debt+credit), ZestFinance ($150 million debt), LiftForward ($250 million credit) and Argon Credit ($75 million credit). Importantly, 80 percent of deals were < $5 million in size, and 90 percent of the cash was invested into U.S. companies versus 13 percent in Europe. Seventy-five percent of rounds were in the U.S.

Financing and exit markets for Artificial intelligence companies are still nascent.

The exit market has seen 33 M&A transactions and 1 IPO. Six events were for European companies, 1 in Asia and the rest were accounted for by American companies. The largest transactions were TellApart/Twitter ($532 million; $17 million raised), Elastica/Blue Coat Systems ($280 million; $45 million raised) and SupersonicAds/IronSource ($150 million; $21 million raised), which return solid multiples of invested capital. The remaining transactions were mostly for talent, given that median team size at the time of the acquisition was 7 people.

Altogether, AI investments will have accounted for roughly 5 percent of total VC investments for 2015. That’s higher than the 2 percent claimed in 2013, but still tracking far behind competing categories like adtech, mobile and BI software.

The key takeaway points are a) the financing and exit markets for AI companies are still nascent, as exemplified by the small rounds and low deal volumes, and b) the vast majority of activity takes place in the U.S. Businesses must therefore have exposure to this market.

Which Problems Remain To Be Solved?

Healthcare

I spent a number of summers in university and three years in grad school researching the genetic factors governing the spread of cancer around the body. A key takeaway I left with is the following: therapeutic development is very challenging, expensive, lengthy and regulated, and ultimately offers a transient solution to treating disease.

Instead, I truly believe that what we need to improve healthcare outcomes is granular and longitudinal monitoring of physiology and lifestyle. This should enable early detection of health conditions in near real time, driving down cost of care over a patient’s lifetime while consequently improving outcomes.

Consider the digitally connected lifestyles we lead today. The devices some of us interact with on a daily basis are able to track our movements, vital signs, exercise, sleep and even reproductive health. We’re disconnected for fewer hours of the day than we’re online, and I think we’re less apprehensive to storing various data types in the cloud (where they can be accessed, with consent, by third-parties). Sure, the news might paint a different story, but the fact is that we’re still using the web and its wealth of products.

On a population level, therefore, we have the chance to interrogate data sets that have never before existed. From these, we could glean insights into how nature and nurture influence the genesis and development of disease. That’s huge.

AI-driven products are already out in the wild.

Look at today’s clinical model. A patient presents into the hospital when they feel something is wrong. The doctor must conduct a battery of tests to derive a diagnosis. These tests address a single (often late-stage) time point, at which moment little can be done to reverse damage (e.g., in the case of cancer).

Now imagine the future. In a world of continuous, non-invasive monitoring of physiology and lifestyle, we could predict disease onset and outcome, understand which condition a patient likely suffers from and how they’ll respond to various therapeutic modalities. There are loads of applications for artificial intelligence here: intelligence sensors, signal processing, anomaly detection, multivariate classifiers, deep learning on molecular interactions…

Some companies are already hacking away at this problem:

  • Sano: Continuously monitor biomarkers in blood using sensors and software.
  • Enlitic/MetaMind/Zebra Medical: Vision systems for decision support (MRI/CT).
  • Deep Genomics/Atomwise: Learn, model and predict how genetic variation influence health/disease and how drugs can be repurposed for new conditions.
  • Flatiron Health: Common technology infrastructure for clinics and hospitals to process oncology data generated from research.
  • Google: Filed a patent covering an invention for drawing blood without a needle. This is a small step toward wearable sampling devices.

A point worth noting is that the U.K. has a slight leg up on the data access front. Initiatives like the U.K. Biobank (500,000 patient records), Genomics England (100,000 genomes sequenced),HipSci (stem cells) and the NHS care.data program are leading the way in creating centralized data repositories for public health and therapeutic research.

Enterprise Automation

Could businesses ever conceivably run themselves? AI-enabled automation of knowledge work could cut employment costs by $9 trillion by 2020 (BAML). Coupled with the efficiency gains worth $1.9 trillion driven by robots, I reckon there’s a chance for near-complete automation of core, repetitive businesses functions in the future.

Think of all the productized SaaS tools that are available off the shelf for CRM, marketing, billing/payments, logistics, web development, customer interactions, finance, hiring and BI. Then consider tools like Zapier or Tray.io, which help connect applications and program business logic. These could be further expanded by leveraging contextual data points that inform decision making.

Perhaps we could eventually re-image the new eBay, where you’ll have fully automated inventory procurement, pricing, listing generation, translation, recommendations, transaction processing, customer interaction, packaging, fulfillment and shipping. Of course, this is probably a ways off.

Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting and transformative opportunities of our time.

I’m bullish on the value to be created with artificial intelligence across our personal and professional lives. I think there’s currently low VC risk tolerance for this sector, especially given shortening investment horizons for value to be created. More support is needed for companies driving long-term innovation, especially considering that far less is occurring within universities. VC was born to fund moonshots.

We must remember that access to technology will, over time, become commoditized. It’s therefore key to understand your use case, your user, the value you bring and how it’s experienced and assessed. This gets to the point of finding a strategy to build a sustainable advantage such that others find it hard to replicate your offering.

Aspects of this strategy may in fact be non-AI and non-technical in nature (e.g., the user experience layer ). As such, there’s renewed focus on core principles: build a solution to an unsolved/poorly served high-value, persistent problem for consumers or businesses.

Finally, you must have exposure to the U.S. market, where the lion’s share of value is created and realized. We have an opportunity to catalyze the growth of the AI sector in Europe, but not without keeping close tabs on what works/doesn’t work across the pond.

Ref: TechCrunch

Business tips – 10 steps to building a successful business

Building a successful business is no easy feat. As a two-time entrepreneur, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of building a company and culture. Aside from my children, however, there is nothing I’m prouder of than the two great companies we’ve built: Likeable Media and Likeable Local. As we celebrate Small Business Saturday, here are 10 simple steps I took to build our first company, and a blueprint you can use to build a business of your own:

1. Find a Trustworthy Partner
In my early 20s, I was working in sales at Radio Disney. I was the No. 1 sales person in the country until this woman came into my office and dropped me to No. 2 in just four months. I was shocked and stunned by her talent and I realized two things: a) I needed to marry her and b) I needed to go into business with her.

In 2007, as we planned our wedding, we realized we couldn’t afford the large NYC wedding we both wanted, so we devised a marketing plan. In July 2007, Carrie and I had an entirely sponsored wedding at a baseball stadium in front of 200 friends and family and 5,000 strangers. We raised $20,000 for charity and $20M in earned media. Everyone was thrilled with the outcome and when our wedding vendors asked us what was next, we thought: “We can’t get married again, so let’s start a company instead.”

While not everyone can start a business with their husband or wife, it really helps to have a truster partner to be #inittogether with. For my second business, for instance, I partnered with my friend of three decades to build our product. Who can you partner with?

2. Create a Strategy and Singular Focus
If you asked me what we did early on in our first business, I’d have told you, ‘What do you need done?” And if you’d asked me how much we charged, I’d have said, “What’s your budget?” While this may have worked early on to help generate revenue, it wasn’t sustainable. Ultimately, too many businesses fail because they don’t have a sound strategy and focus.

I’ve been using Verne Harnish’s one-page strategic plan for both of our businesses. Our management teams meet quarterly to plan the strategy, and believe it or not, thanks to Verne’s tool, we summarize the entire business plan and strategy on just one sheet of paper.

3. Say No to What’s Off Focus

It’s easier to create and plan a strategy and focus than it is to stick to it. But if you’re going to be successful, it’s not just important to say “Yes” to the right things, it’s important to say “No” to the wrong things.

A major turning point in our first business was when we fired Charlie. Charlie was a Greek restaurant owner in Astoria, Queens. A super nice guy, Charlie had us helping promote his restaurant and their special events. But he could only afford to pay us $500 a month — and I knew we couldn’t scale our business if we kept working with people like Charlie. So we fired our own client — and then focused on landing bigger clients who could better help us grow. It’s really hard to say no — but essential, if you’re going to really grow your small business.

4. Find Peer Support

It’s lonely at the top. Seriously, running a business is one the loneliest jobs out there, even if you have a great partner. Nobody really understands what you’re going though. A huge part of our going from $1 million in revenue to $5 million in revenue in three years was my joining Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in 2010. EO is the world’s largest peer-to-peer network of CEOs, and it’s most important element is monthly meetings with a small group of fellow entrepreneurs called Forum. My Forum of six people has become one of the most important resources in my business and life, my closest friends, and a great support system.

EO isn’t the only game in town though. Here are five great small business peer-to-peer organizations for entrepreneurs to consider, including BNI, Vistage, YPO and YEC.

5. Form a Board of Advisors

You can’t possibly know it all, and even with a great partner and great peers, you can use help in growing your business. While it’s great to have friends and mentors who can help you, I recommend you codify your mentors through the creation of a Board of Advisors.

In 2012, we asked longtime friends and mentors with a wide variety of experience and talent across various focus areas: finance, law, marketing, brand management, and sales. We formed the Likeable Advisory Board and instantly had a group of 11 advisers who we could call on anytime and who met with us formally four times a year to help us grow our business.

We all have friends and mentors with more experience than we have — by forming a Board you can better tap into that experience.

6. Hire Slow. Fire Fast.

“Dave,” said my erstwhile employee of a sales manager I once had, “I don’t care if the guy is putting up big numbers. The guy is doing cocaine in the bathroom with his team.”

When I think back to the biggest mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur, they all revolve around hiring the wrong people, or worse yet, keeping the wrong people for longer than they should be around. The employee in the example above, I let go just after that conversation — but it was probably two months after the point at which I should have let him go.

What happens often is, we move too quickly to hire someone and end up hiring the wrong person for the wrong position. Then, even though our intuition tells us we’ve hired the wrong person, we don’t want to accept that fact, so we keep trying to justify the decision, coach that person to success, and/or move him to a new position. This is often more damaging than hiring the wrong person in the first place! The solution? Hire slow, fire fast.

7. Build Great Values and Culture

You and your employees spend more awake time at work than you spend anywhere else, including at home and with your family. So the core values you have and the culture you cultivate at work is absolutely essential to your success and happiness.

We took great care with both of our companies to create core values that would resonate: Amongst them, for Likeable Media: transparency, accountability, and passion; for Likeable Local: obsession for customer success, drive, and continuous improvement. We’ve also worked tirelessly to build culture: retreats out of the office, social events, unique benefits like on-site manicures and massages. The results: Likeable Media has been named to the Crain’s Best Place to Work in NYC for three straight years — and continues to attract the best and brightest people in New York.

8. Build Your Brand

The world of the mobile internet and social media has made it easier than ever before for a small business is “act and look big.” One of our first decisions in business seven years ago was to publish a daily blog. A couple of years later, we had one the most well-read blogs in social media marketing — and that blog didn’t just build our brand — it kept generating lots of leads!

Today, whether it’s on your blog, on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, through online video or pictures, or articles or whitepapers, you have an ability to constantly build your brand — to make your business more credible, more trusted, and more accessible to your customers and prospects. Social media is the great equalizer when it comes to building your brand, and you have a greater opportunity than ever before to make your small business brand BIG!

9. Ask for Referrals

It was late 2011, and we’d hit a wall. New customers weren’t banging down our doorstep, and for the first time ever in business, my wife and I were questioning whether we could continue rapid growth.Then, one of our advisors said, “Have you asked all of your current customers for referrals?”

It seemed so obvious, like so many good ideas after the fact. So we went ahead and asked, and the next thing we knew, we had filled up our pipeline again with strong prospects, that would lead to new closed business and continued rapid growth. The best form of marketing has been and will always be referrals from your current customers, because if you’re doing a good job, they’ll want to help. You won’t have a chance unless you ask.

10. It’s the People, Stupid

Likeable Media and Likeable Local would be absolutely nowhere without our employees, partners, and advisors. Five of the nine steps above involve people. The reality is, your job as an entrepreneur and leader is just three-fold: set the vision and strategy, make sure there’s enough money in the bank to make payroll, and get the right people in the right seats on the bus. The people you hire and fire, partner with or don’t partner with, take advice from or choose not to take advice from — these people will make the difference between success and failure. These people will help you go from 0 to $500K, or 0 to $5 million, or even from 0 to $500 million.

Your people ARE your business. Your people are your future success. Your people are your everything. Now go out there, get some great people together and build that #smallbusiness of your dreams.

Published in collaboration with LinkedIn

Author: Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local, a social media software company serving thousands of small businesses, as well as the chairman and co-founder of Likeable Media, an award-winning social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency.

Ref: Weforum