Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wow! What a year it's been. As the booze chills in the fridge and we count down the hours to the New Year fireworks, I was reflecting on my personal highlights for Sneaking Duck this year:

  • We celebrated our first birthday
  • We hired and worked with* awesome people: Natalie, Chung, Madeleine, Parris, Jessica & Joel will be with us in 2013. Laura, Helen, Lora, Suami & Christella worked on a casual or temporary basis in 2012
  • We were flattered to win awards - BRW Retailer awards, ORIAs and a ClearMark award
  • We've growing rapidly, every quarter
  • We continued to improve our customer service with Try At Home frames
  • We improved our product with numerous lauches - my favourites were Vintage and of course Sunglasses

And next year promises even more - with new and exciting frames, an ever improving customer offering and more. I literally can't wait.

Many of you have helped us with what we have achieved, and for this we are enormously appreciative. From advice to referring friends to technical assistance. Thank you all so much.

We'd like to wish you all the very best for 2013,
Mark, Michael, Mike and Jodie.

PS If you haven't used up your health fund optical allowance, there is still time! You can buy on our site up to midnight tonight.

* Some of the team are shared with Shoes of Prey

Dan Joyce - MayDate

A successful entrepreneurial friend of mine, Dan Joyce recently came in to the Shoes of Prey office to speak to our team over lunch about his entrepreneurial journey.

Dan co-founded RedRoom DVD and 12 months ago sold it to Blockbuster and Video Ezy. He's recently launched a new startup, MayDate.

We forgot to start recording Dan's presentation immediately, but you can catch most of it here:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Safely scaling your startup

Mike, Jodie and I are often asked how we persuaded ourselves that it would be ok to quit our jobs to start Shoes of Prey and how we managed to self fund the business without over stretching our resources.

The methodology we followed was essentially that of The Lean Startup:

1. We ran a number of tests (here’s our blog post from June 2009 calling for beta testers!) prior to launching to understand how customers wanted to design their own shoes. We then used this information when building the first version of our shoe designer.

2. We launched in October 2009 with a ‘minimum viable product’. It worked well enough for our customers to use, but wasn’t fully built out and the branding was very different to what’s on our site today. This minimum viable product let us launch, speak to customers, then we used this feedback to improve the site dramatically over the following months.

Not only did the lean startup methodology help us to launch quickly, it also reduced the risks for us personally. If Shoes of Prey wasn’t going to work, by launching quickly we were going to find out early that the concept didn’t work and we would have been able to switch to a different idea, or potentially even go back to the jobs we’d just left.

Getting the word out about our business with no marketing budget was a challenge. Part of what attracted us to the design your own shoes concept was that our product was unique, exciting and very different to how other companies sold shoes, it’s a purple cow. This meant the we received a lot of viral and word of mouth marketing, our product was popular on social networks and fashion and business press picked up the concept and wrote about us from very early on. With all this great coverage we didn’t need to spend much on paid marketing.

We also got creative with our marketing. When we noticed that some young YouTube vloggers in the US were getting a lot of traction we reached out to one of them and had them do a video on Shoes of Prey. Traffic to our site exploded, and with some tweaks and press releases about this we were able to permanently triple our sales at that point in time. We were able to do all this with an incredibly low budget.

Until June when we raised a Series A round of funding, we were always very careful to run the business at break even and not overextend ourselves. We only hired new team members when we could afford them, we kept our marketing budgets lean and we saved money wherever we could. This meant we didn’t grow as quickly as we might have otherwise, but keeping a close eye on our budgets was important during this stage of our growth, and the disciplines we learnt were good ones that we continue to apply post funding.

We also thought through how we should scale the different aspects of our business. We have 3 key pillars to our business that we need to scale at roughly the same pace:

1. Customer acquisition
2. Our shoe design technology
3. Operations - including manufacturing and customer support

At times we would get excited about one particular area and it was tempting to overinvest, however our business is limited by whichever of these 3 pillars is the least advanced. There’s no point acquiring lots of customers if our shoe design technology is no good. Lots of customers and great shoe design technology is useless without enough manufacturing or customer support capacity. So we’ve always tried to scale these 3 pillars to our business at roughly the same pace.

Scaling a startup successfully is a challenge. Adopting a lean startup approach, launching with a purple cow product, scaling the 3 pillars of our business at the same rate and a willingness to try some new, creative marketing ideas has helped us to scale Shoes of Prey successfully to date.

This article was first published to StartupSmart.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Click Frenzy - how we made it work

Michael wrote about Click Frenzy a little while ago and it generated some good discussion, reflecting the differing opinions and strong passions of people. It is therefore with a little trepidation that I've chosen to share a little more about how we made it work for Sneaking Duck.

We chose to participate after a discussion with Grant and are delighted that we did. As Michael noted, we had our record traffic day, and we had our record sales revenue that week - both significant achievements for a 1 year old company. We were fortunate not to have any technical glitches.

However, due to the issues faced by the Click Frenzy site we did need to react quickly to ensure that we made the best of the event - especially important given the very short time scales.

We had discussed internally contingencies and made sure our infrastructure was ready. But we hadn't planned for the situation where the Click Frenzy site was not available. This presented us with a significant immediate issue - we had a landing page telling people how to access the deal, however the only way to get to it was form a site that was overloaded! This meant we had lots of visitors to our site, none of whom knew what was our deal or how to claim it.

We therefore immediately let people know via our social media channels the information about our deal and the landing page. We also rushed together a banner for our homepage providing people the information and link. To be able to rush through technical changes to our website is a a huge advantage in times like these - having the expertise in-house meant we had things up and running in just a few minutes. These actions meant that customers who knew we were participating and who had come direct to our site were able to see how our offer worked.

Despite all this, we noticed that a few people had purchased without using our Click Frenzy discount. Given our desire to always try to do the best by the customer we decided to refund them the difference to what they would have purchased at had they know about the deal.

Perhaps we could have got more out of the event if the technical issues hadn't happened. However we are very happy with the result and it has taught me a good lesson about planning for every contingency, and being ready with a back up!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Friends and Family Sale

We're holding a Friends and Family sale at our Surry Hills office this week! Details below.

Email marketing - what system to use?

At Sneaking Duck, we currently use Campaign Monitor for email marketing. So far, they have been great: Easy to use, reliable, reasonable cost, good feature set, great reporting. However, over the past couple of weeks we've been looking at how we could be more sophisticated and I'm not sure that Campaign Monitor has the features we need.

At the moment, we send 2 types of emails:

  1. When people join our list, we send a series of mails introducing our company
  2. When we have something interesting to share, we send updates
None of these mails are personalised, beyond using names wherever possible.

I would like to become more tailored. I'd like to send a different intro series depending on what actions the person has taken on our site. For example, if someone has put frames into the shopping cart, then I'd like to explain how we can call their optometrist and get their prescription. However, if they have a prescription but no frames in their account, then instead I'd like to let them know about our try at home service.

Additionally, I'd like for all emails to be personalised based on the exact frames they have looked at, and their prescription info.

It is easy to get all the information into Campaign Monitor, however the auto-email functionality doesn't allow us to do what we want without lots of manual work. I have asked their excellent customer service who advised they have put my vote on features to help.

I am very reluctant to move away from a company that has been excellent. However, I do need a system that does what I need.

Does anyone have suggestions on good alternative systems, of nifty ways of using Campaign Monitor?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Product Manager Internship at Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we handmake and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international retailer within the next 5 years.

As our business continues to grow we're looking to take on an unpaid product management intern to assist our product manager Todd with improving the website conversion rate.

Some of the key day-to-day activities include:

  • coordinate website development and technology initiatives 
  • manage design lifecycle: conduct brainstorms, prototyping, design reviews, user testing, etc. 
  • write functional specifications
  • administer our JIRA project management platform 
  • attend weekly production meetings with Engineering, Creative, and Marketing teams 
  • review marketing and website analytics, compile internal company reports 
  • assist with monthly and long-term goal planning 

The role would ideally suit someone studying a business degree who wants to gain some practical technology and e-commerce experience. Having also studied engineering/computer science would be an asset but is not required.

Shoes of Prey features one of the best shoe design experiences on the web. With such a bright group of engineers, creative copywriters and graphic artists, marketing specialists, and shoe crafters behind this website, there is much you can learn from an internship with us.

We're looking for someone with:

  • Strong organisational and analytical skills
  • A great attitude and team player mentality
  • Technical aptitude
  • Creativity
  • Enthusiasm for technology or e-commerce
  • Achieved or pursuing a business or engineering degree
  • Able to work at least 20h/week
  • Minimum 3 month internship, ideally 6 months

The position is unpaid but will include lunch, snacks and of course, shoes! The role will be based in our Surry Hills office.

To apply for the position, please email your resume and cover letter to todd@shoesofprey.com.

The pictures are from a recent Melbourne Cup-themed happy hour!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Fantastic presentation by Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) on how 3D printing and on demand manufacturing is about to spark innovation and change on the level of the industrial revolution by empowering anyone to manufacture nearly anything they want. It's a long presentation but highly thought provoking, well worth a watch. It's a topic we believe in strongly in the mass customisation space.

via @sammartino

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Click Frenzy

There's been a lot of industry talk this morning about Australia's answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday - Click Frenzy and the fact the Click Frenzy site went down as soon as the 24 hour sale period launched yesterday.

Sneaking Duck but not Shoes of Prey participated in Click Frenzy and it's been a resounding success for us. Yesterday was a record traffic day for Sneaking Duck and this 24 hour period should also be a record sales period for Sneaking Duck.

One of the big issues it highlights is that Australian online retailers need to improve their technology platforms. Along with the Click Frenzy website, the websites of Myer, Dick Smith, Jeans West, Katies, Quicksilver and Kogan all experienced issues. We host our Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey websites on a combination of Google AppEngine and Amazon's servers which are able to scale easily to massive traffic demand, as we experienced with Shoes of Prey a couple of years ago.

The other issue for me as a consumer was that the value of the deals was very mixed. Some retailers like The Iconic (30% off storewide), SurfStitch (25% off storewide) and we at Sneaking Duck ($40 off every order) offered compelling deals whereas some retailers like City Beach and Dell only offered deals on a few brands or products. That's their prerogative but it won't help the event as a whole to be successful.

With so many consumers wanting to participate in the sale, the event has to be a positive one for promoting online retail in Australia, and no doubt it will continue next year, though graphs like this one from the SMH website highlight that consumers are very frustrated with the Click Frenzy experience. Hopefully that's resolved by next year.

You can read Click Frenzy founder Grant Arnott's take on the event from this morning here on Power Retail. Hats off to him for spotting a fantastic opportunity to promote Australian online retail, for helping drive our record traffic and likely our record sales day even if the execution didn't go quite to plan.

Education Policy - Australia Needs More Software Engineers

Hiring top software engineering talent in Australia is hard, there just aren't enough people studying computer science degrees. We need better computer science programs in primary and high schools to encourage more people to study this degree, then we need a lot more places in higher quality computer science courses at Universities.

Over the last 10 years we've seen a large number of industries shifting online. We don't buy CDs anymore, we buy digital files from iTunes or subscribe to Spotify. We buy less physical books, instead we buy eBooks for our Kindles and iPads and when we still buy physical books, we buy them from online stores like Amazon. Newspaper and magazine sales have been declining for a decade as people go online to read their news. A similar story is playing out with TV. And of course the retail industry we operate in at Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck is seeing a big shift online as well. All of these new digital industries require lots of great software engineers to build the products and tools that consumers and businesses in these industries use.

The next 10 years is going to see this move towards digital accelerate. 3D printing is going to do to a large number of industries what mp3s have done to music and eBooks have done to the book industry. Rather than buying physical products we'll buy digital designs online and print them ourselves, or just scan existing products and print copies. If you haven't read up on 3D printing you have to watch this video:

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The production of everything from tools, toys, household appliances, electronics and even human organs are going to be completely disrupted by this technology. And if Australia is to be at the forefront of game changing industries like this we need lots of great software engineers to build these technologies.

As a country, we're investing a huge amount of money in the National Broadband Network. The speed of the network is going to allow lots of cool new technologies to be developed but not without lots of great software engineers. Without software engineers to build the software to run on the network we're not going to be able to use it to it's full advantage.

5 of the top 10 world's largest companies by market capitalisation are technology companies. Apple (1), Microsoft (5), Google (7), China Mobile (8) and IBM (9). 10 years ago there were only 2, Microsoft and Intel. The future will belong to technology companies and the question for us as a country is whether we will be a significant part of this. I love the ideas put forward by Paul Graham in his article, 'Can you buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.' In the article Paul describes how for an investment of around $1b, a city could bring in 1000 good quality tech startups potentially kickstarting a Silicon Valley type industry in the city. I think Paul's approach is highly plausible here in Australia except for one issue - there wouldn't be enough software engineers to work at the influx of startups. At Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck we already struggle to hire enough top quality software engineering talent, there just wouldn't be enough software engineers for another 1,000 tech startups!

So how do we get more people studying software engineering? Our co-founder and CTO Mike Knapp was inspired to study software engineering by his IT high school teacher Peter Whitehouse at St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace in Brisbane. He loved his IT classes so when he finished school with the marks to get into Computer Science at University this was an obvious choice for him. We need more Australian students to have experiences like this. We need inspiring and talented IT teachers in high schools.

I was speaking about this issue with Finn Age Hänsel, the Managing Director of The Iconic and he was explaining that a decade ago the German government was concerned that not enough people were studying engineering. Great engineers help form the backbone of the German economy so the German government launched a program where engineers from companies like Porsche and Mercedes took their products into high schools and showed the students the great engineering work that goes into these products. The program saw a near immediate uplift of 300% in the number of students applying for engineering places at University! 10 years later and the German economy is one of the few economic success stories in Europe. We need something similar to encourage more people to apply to study computer science here in Australia.

Once students have developed a passion for software engineering we need more computer science places at University and we need to improve the quality of the education there. Mitchell Harper, co-founder of BigCommerce does a great job in this SMH opinion piece of describing how the computer science curriculum at our Universities needs a major update to keep up with modern software engineering techniques and programming languages.

The issue of more people studying computer science was a prominent one at the recent Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy with everyone from industry leaders like Google to startups singing the same tune that we need more people studying computer science in Australia, and the Prime Minister took the issue away from the day as one of her 3 key points. As a follow up Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research is chairing a discussion on these issues in Canberra today. It's great that the issue is getting the attention it deserves from Government and I would urge the Minister to ensure that changes are made to computer science education in Australia so that rather than being left behind, Australia is at the forefront of the exciting new industries that are going to develop in the coming decades.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy

Great article with some excellent insights into startup founder psychology: Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy. For what it's worth I think the title is an exaggeration, I think I'm happy about 90% of the time but the psychology definitely holds true.

Marketing Internship at Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we handmake and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international retailer within the next 5 years.

As our business continues to grow we're looking to take on an unpaid marketing intern to assist our marketing team in scaling our customer acquisition.

Some of the key day to day activities:

  • Assist and work with the Shoes of Prey Marketing team on a range of online marketing projects
  • Assist with article writing and Search Engine Optimisation
  • Maintain and grow the Shoes of Prey e-mail database
  • Design online marketing campaigns
  • Analyse results of Shoes of Prey marketing campaigns

The role would ideally suit someone studying a marketing or related degree who wants to gain some practical experience. We have a world class marketing team and there's a lot you can learn from an internship with us. We've had some significant online marketing successes and in 2010 won the Online Retail Industry Award for Best Online Retail Marketing Initiative. As we continue to grow our team the role has the potential to turn into a permanent paid position.

We're looking for someone with:

  • Enthusiasm and a passion for fashion,
  • Strong writing ability
  • Creativity
  • A great attitude and team player mentality
  • Achieved or pursuing a Marketing degree or related field
  • Able to work at least 20h/week
  • Minimum 3 month internship, ideally 6 months

The position is unpaid but will include lunch, snacks and of course, shoes! The role will be based in our Surry Hills office.

To apply for the position please email your resume and cover letter to martin@shoesofprey.com.

Pics are from Halloween in the office last week!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Product Management at Shoes of Prey

This post is by Todd Osborne, our Product Manager at Shoes of Prey.

I'm the Shoes of Prey Product Manager, and recently started here in July. A while back Michael asked me to write a blog post on some of my "early learnings" as I'm transitioning into the new role. At the time, I figured I'd put something down on paper once the learning curve had flattened out a bit. As it turns out, that hasn't happened quite yet, but I'm happy to report that my learning here at Shoes of Prey appears to be perpetual.

I love a good challenge--in fact I'm usually bored in the absence of one, which is why I've extended a short-term internship into this full time position here in Sydney, 7,000 miles away from my home in San Francisco. I spent the last 6 years of my career in healthcare consulting, for US hospitals, at San Francisco-based Triage Consulting Group. There I fulfilled a hybrid role, spending half of my time managing client-facing consulting teams and the other half managing an internal team of consultant-developers who built and maintained a complex array of homegrown financial analysis applications.

I'm overjoyed that Product Management now encompasses 100% of my daily efforts. I'm also happy that there is no shortage of both big challenges and big opportunities here at Shoes of Prey. I'm learning a ton as I transition into this role, mostly thanks to the superbly talented group that I call my teammates, as well as the small size of our firm.

This talented team leads me to my first "early learning" in my role. The lesson comes from Silicon Valley blogger Andrew Chen, who sees a major function of the Product Management as an "editor". Here at Shoes of Prey I must deeply and continually understand our customers, but also need to grasp and embrace the story that Shoes of Prey seeks to tell this audience. With such a bright group of engineers, creative copywriters and graphic artists, marketing specialists, and shoe crafters, the challenge is less to come up with brilliant ideas, but rather to elicit, synthesize and execute these ideas from the team around me. What's great is that I'm often not saying "no" to bad ideas, but rather "not yet" to good-but-less-urgent ones. With so many interesting ideas floating about our office, my job as editor/storyteller is to edit in those ideas that show the greatest promise and that are congruent with the Shoes of Prey story. As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey puts it, ≈ "to minimize the number of details, and then make those details perfect".

Then I need to execute those details, which is where I actually spend most of my day-to-day time. That's where managing the classic project management triangle of cost, time, and quality comes into play. Luckily my anal-retentive attention to detail and obsessive compulsion to organise are actually strengths. But the other edge to the sword is striking an appropriate balance between perfection and production. So in my sometimes painful pursuit of perfection, I've found it absolutely necessary to keep my eye on the time and cost corners of my project management triangle.

My third lesson comes from Joel Spolsky, author of Joel on Software, who nails my role in his description of Product Managers. Joel recommends that no one report to a Product Manager, and that this person's leverage to accomplish goals must rest solely on (1) the quality of their ideas and (2) their ability to laterally manage disparate functions, personalities, and viewpoints. My job has not just been to load, update, and administer our JIRA project management platform (although that's a large part). My job is more importantly to sell each of my teammates on our priorities every month, to convince them of the value of each initiative, and illustrate how their contribution to a project fits within the bigger picture of the company's vision. This has been the only effective way for me to ensure that assignments are completed, and that the baton on complex projects is swiftly passed from teammember to teammember.

My final "early learning" is still very much a work-in-progress, and I realise this each time I start planning our goals for the following month. As part of my role, I assist the leadership group in assessing our prior month's success, reporting on our performance and progress, and then developing our company goals for the next month (or quarter). It can be a struggle to pull myself out of the details of our current objectives, and refocus on that bigger picture. It's a colossal shift from obsessing over visitor interaction workflows or button padding, to then think about longer-term goals and set or adjust strategic direction.

Yet this is one of the fantastic, mind-stretching challenges of the position that I greatly enjoy, as it is critical for any startup to frequently evaluate progress and then swiftly and decisively pivot to better fit the business model to the environment.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Phone systems

We've been using a Skype in number for all our phone calls but we're starting to reach the limits of what this system is good for, so we're in the market for a basic phone system. Below is an outline of what we're after. Does anyone have any good recommendations of VOIP/phone companies they use?

  • We are looking at having (preferably) a phone or VOIP System with approx 5 lines, give or take, with capacity to expand should we need.
  • We would look at having 2 incoming phone numbers. One for media enquiries and general office calls, with 1 line attached, the second for customer enquiries, that would divert to one of the other 4 lines.
  • We need for approx 4-6 handsets, with the ability to transfer calls easily between.
  • The ability to switch phones direct to voicemail when office is closed/all lines are in use.
  • Ability to utilise headsets, either plug in or bluetooth.

Image credit

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feedback - a gift that nobody likes to give?

This post was originally published on Start Up Smart.

I recently shared with the Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey teams some training on giving and receiving feedback. I learned my approach at McKinsey and it has been tremendously useful for me both at work and at home.

I started with a question: “who likes to get specific and helpful suggestions to help them work better”. Everyone put up their hands. But when I asked “who is entirely comfortable sharing feedback with colleagues”, nobody put up their hands. I think there is a huge opportunity from effective feedback and the model below is aimed at finding a realising this.

Below is how I try approach feedback - what other approaches have people found successful?

Getting the environment right

I’ve learned through my career that feedback only works in an environment where both parties are completely comfortable that mutual improvement is the goal. As soon as there is any sign of politics, revenge or point-scoring it’s a disaster. Creating this environment takes times and trust - I’ve put below a few key ways to create this:

Be objective – fact-based discussions are less likely to lead to emotive discussions
Be direct – addressing things head-on helps both sides understand what is the issue than ‘hinting’
Avoid defensiveness – re-hashing the past often leads to frayed tempers and emotion
Keep specific – if you don’t have specific examples, you perhaps don’t have something useful to share
Lead people through the whole story – don’t start with the solution
Think about the setting – is a public or private forum best?
Be considered – it’s probably best to write feedback down ahead of time

The model

The model that McKinsey taught me works like this:

Step 1 - Observation
Giver: Shares a specific observation. Done in a factual, non emotive, way. It should be sufficiently precise and clear that discussion isn’t necessary.
Receiver: Listens. Calms defensiveness.
Example “I notice that you have been 15 minutes late to the last 3 team meetings”

Step 2 - Impact
Giver: Shares a specific, observable impact that is directly related to the action. Again, it should precise clear
Feedback receiver: Listens. Calms defensiveness.
Example “This has the impact that meetings start late and the rest of the team has to wait when they could be doing other things”

Step 3 - The pause
Giver: Pauses. This is really the most critical step. You’re probably a bit nervous and rushing - you’ve thought about the conversation 100 times, but remember it’s the first time for the other person. Breath!
Receiver: Clarifying questions, if necessary. The key here is clarifying - about ensuring shared understanding of the observation and the impact. It’s essential to avoid the traps of explanations, defensiveness or anger. It’s important not to move onto discussion until the issue is clear and agreed.

Step 4 - Suggestion and discussion
Giver: Make a clear and specific suggestion as to how to avoid this in future (or continue if it’s positive feedback!). This will be just a suggestion - you may not know the whole story, so it’s unlikely you can legislate a solution, even as the boss.
Feedback receiver: Listen, and engage in discussion about how to avoid this in future. Remember, we’ve only got to step 4 if the observation and impact are agreed.
Example: “One suggestion is to set a 10 minute reminder on your phone”

At this point, as the feedback giver, you may well learn something you didn’t know that renders your suggestion useless. For example, perhaps the person’s issue is that their only public transport option doesn’t get them to the office in time and that a better suggestion is to move the meeting.

Finally

I have found this approach very useful personally and professionally. After sharing with the team I got positive feedback - it will be interesting to see how effectively we are able to put it into practice.

What other feedback approaches have people found effective?

Photo credit

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shareholders' Agreements

Great blog post by Rebekah Campbell from Posse with an open and honest discussion of her biggest regret - not having a proper shareholders' agreement in place when she started the business.

We had a half baked agreement when Mike, Jodie and I started Shoes of Prey, though we never actually put that into writing. Fortunately that worked out fine, when any issues around shareholdings came up we were able to work through those and end in a place where we were all happy, but we left that open to some risk. Once we raised capital and involved professional investors in the business we had lawyers draft up a formal shareholders' agreement.

For Sneaking Duck Mark, Mike, Jodie and I put a basic shareholders' agreement together. We didn't involve lawyers in the process, so I'm not sure how well it would hold up in a court if things came to that, but the process of drafting it forced us to all sit down, think through and agree on how we wanted things like vesting to work. Plus the 4 of us knew each other really well and there's a high level of trust that we'd be able to work things through if there was ever a disagreement.

Having agreed to all the main points worked out really well for us at Sneaking Duck. When we raised money for Shoes of Prey we realised Mike, Jodie and I needed to focus more of our time on the Shoes of Prey business and less on Sneaking Duck. Because we'd already agreed how the vesting structure worked, it was easy to adjust our shareholdings and everyone feels that the arrangements are a fair one. This had the potential to be a more challenging process had we not thought things through and agreed to them beforehand.

I couldn't agree more with Rebekah's thoughts on this topic. And if you don't already read it, her blog is well worth subscribing to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We're Hiring: Customer Happiness Wonderperson

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we handmake and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international retailer within the next 5 years.

As our business continues to grow, we’re looking to hire another customer happiness wonderperson to join Lucy, Anna and Marcela on our team! To passionately create happiness is our first and core company value, is something we prioritise immensely and has been core to our success to date. We love going out of our way to make our customer extremely happy. Your focus will be the happiness of our customers, you will be responsible for ensuring they're the happiest in the land.

Some of the key day to day activities:

  • Engaging with our customers over email in the most friendly, fun and supportive ways possible.
  • Doing the same with our customers on website chat and on the phone.
  • Assisting customers who visit our office to try on, see and touch our shoes.
  • Reviewing customer orders and sending these to the workshop.
  • Working with our team in China to track and manage our orders.
  • Helping develop and document our customer related systems and processes.

To be killing it in this role and considered an A Player on the Shoes of Prey team, here are the 4 key things you’ll have achieved after 12 months in this role:

1. You not only live and breathe Shoes of Prey’s culture and values, you’ve contributed to growing and developing them. People on the team enjoy spending time with you and are fighting to be able to work closely with you.

2. Customers you interact with regularly email us telling us how the customer service they received from Shoes of Prey is the best they’ve ever had anywhere. You’ve also helped us create experiences like this for our customers.

3. You consistently produce a high volume of high quality emails, chats and phone calls with our customers.

4. You’ve contributed to the growth and scaling of our customer happiness team. You’ve helped us set up processes which mean customers can access the information they need immediately, and if they do need a response from our team, they’re able to get that quickly and efficiently.

Your work experience clearly identifies that you have the following traits:

  • Passion for customer happiness. You’re passionate about pleasing customers and you’re seeking a career in a customer happiness role.
  • Passion for high volume, high quality work. We receive a lot of emails, chats, phone calls and customer appointments. You thrive in a high volume work environment and are able to produce top quality results at full pace.
  • Tenacity and scrappiness. You’re able to make things work with the limited resources at a startup. When things don’t go as planned and you’re missing your goals, you’ll go to the ends of the earth iterating, learning, pivoting and doing what it takes to hit your goals.
  • Collaborative. You work incredibly well within teams. You’re inspired by other people and you’re able to draw from and inspire the best in the people around you.

The total salary package for this role is $50k-$60k (based on experience) including super, bonus and stock options. As with all roles at Shoes of Prey, lunch + snacks + shoes are of course included! The role will report into the CEO, Michael Fox.

We’ll shortly be embarking on an offline retail experience for our customers in the Sydney CBD, and for the first 3-6 months of this Customer Happiness Wonderperson role we’d like the person we hire to commit to working at this location in a retail customer happiness role. We can promise it’s going to be incredibly exciting (more details to come on this blog over the coming months)! After a maximum of 6 months (and potentially less) the role will be based in our Surry Hills office.

If you think you have what it takes to please email your resume and cover letter to joinourawesometeam@shoesofprey.com.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Career Ladders

When I worked in the Online Sales and Operations team at Google, one way they helped give us career direction and let us know what we needed to achieve to be promoted was a career ladder. The career ladder outlines the different levels within a department and what needs to be achieved to be performing well in that role.

We've recently created team ladders for our Software Engineering and Customer Happiness teams. I thought I'd share the Customer Happiness Wonderperson Career Ladder here.

The idea is that to be promoted you need to be exceeding expectations on the requirements in your current level, and be already performing the requirements for the next level up.

Not only does this provide guidance and motivation for the team on what to do to be promoted, but when we set goals each quarter we can look to the career ladder to identify what needs to be achieved for that team members development, and we can aim to find projects within the business that help with this. For example, if a Customer Happiness Wonderperson II is looking to be promoted to a level III, amongst other things we need to find a 'high impact project' for them to lead, or a junior team member for them to mentor and train.

The career ladder has been working really well for us so far.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy - Wrapup

On Friday I attended the Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy along with 40 other people involved in the online space.

The event kicked off with an introduction from the Prime Minister, then Google Australia head Nick Leeder painted a picture of how Australia should be aiming to build a Silicon Beach, I love the ambition of this and it ties in nicely with the views of Paul Graham that I blogged about previously. Nick raised 3 key issues for Australian to develop a Silicon Beach:

  • Education - we need more people studying software engineering at University
  • Support for the Venture Capital industry - so Australian startups can raise capital
  • A change in our culture to encourage risk taking and entrepreneurship.

It was great to see Nick pushing 2 of the major issues I wanted to see the group cover.

It was fantastic to see the Prime Minister introduce one of our successful online retailers Jane Cay, founder of Birdsnest to speak next and share her story. Birdsnest are a women's fashion retailer based in the country town of Cooma in the ACT. Out of a town of 8000, Birdsnest employ 70 people!

Tony Faure of Pollenizer spoke next and among other things raised the ESOP issues which was fantastic.

Shortly after this I gave a brief overview of Shoes of Prey and raised my 3 key points using our experiences at Shoes of Prey to explain:

  • the challenges of hiring software engineers and how our education system needs to encourage more people to study this degree;
  • the challenges of raising funding and how the Australian VC industry needs support; and
  • how setting up an ESOP is challenging due to the taxation issues around this.

I would loved to have raised all 7 points but I didn't want to hog the floor early on and dilute the message of these 3 largest points. Fortunately I had the opportunity to raise one of the other points shortly after...

Ahmed Fahour from Australia Post talked about the changes and innovations that Australia's oldest company is making to adapt to the digital economy (Australia Post is 203 years old!) I followed up with a question for Ahmed on what we as an industry can do to help Australia Post bring their international shipping costs down as these costs are a challenge for Australian retailers wanting to export overseas. Ahmed mentioned that they face issues on price due to the Universal Postal Union structure but that they're launching a new tracked international shipping product for the Australian domestic shipping price plus $6! I spoke with Ahmed in the next break and the product is called International Track and Trace. At the moment it's only available to the US but Australia Post are working on making this product available to our 5 largest import/export partners.

Scott Farquhar of Atlassian brought up the excellent issue of Australian businesses off-shoring some jobs and how we need to be accepting, both politically and culturally of this happening if we want to be successful as a nation in the digital space. This is a key part of our business at Shoes of Prey, our business wouldn't be possible if we didn't manufacture our shoes in China and despite doing this, we're a net exporter.

Possibly my favorite comment of the day came from Jane den Hollander, Vice Chancellor of Deakin University who during a discussion about telecommuting and the digital workplace made the good point that much of life is about meeting people. While the digital economy can make working and studying more efficient, we'll never and don't want to eliminate the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" aspect of actually meeting, working and learning from people in person.

My favorite quote for the day came from Rob Nixon of Nicko's Kitchen who when talking about social media said, "Treat your customers on social media like you would your girlfriend; don't argue with them, be nice to them."

Some of the later commenters mentioned the positivity that came out of the session and I couldn't agree more. The fact the event was organised in the first place is a great start for Australia's digital economy. The ideas and discussion were all excellent. Everyone from startups to Google to Australia Post to the Commonwealth Bank, Universities and research bodies like the CSIRO are all adapting to and embracing the digital economy and the Australian Government is keen to hear what they can do to help.

That said, the most critical step in an event like this is what follows. The Prime Minister summed up her 4 key takeaways as:

  • Education - we need more people studying software engineering. The PM said she would follow up with the Education Minister Senator Chris Evans and organise a follow up meeting with some attendees of the event to work through ways to encourage more people to study software engineering.
  • Telework - the government has a goal of 12% of the population working from home 1 day per week by 2012. This isn't a major issue for us and while in the fast paced life of a startup there are significant benefits to working in the same physical space as your colleagues, we're not far off achieving this at Shoes of Prey already and it forms part of our culture.
  • Cloud Computing - there was a lot of discussion around encouraging larger organisations and SMEs across the country to adopt cloud computing. There are significant productivity benefits to doing this but I don't think this is necessarily something the government needs to encourage beyond building the NBN. Cloud computing providers like Google are doing a great job of promoting their products in this space. It's also not a major issue for us as a significant part of our operations are already in the cloud.
  • Expanding the scope of the Cyber White Paper to include a range of the other issues raised throughout the day. Theoretically this is where my other 6 points could fall.

It was a little disappointing that more of my 7 points didn't make the Prime Minister's top 4, but the points she took away were all ones that were discussed a lot - large organisations like Australia Post, the Commonwealth Bank and others have a very different set of issues to startups like ours. And what was good was the PM took away the big one which is education. I'll submit the other points to the Cyber White Paper which ties in with her final take away.

On a personal note to be asked to contribute to a discussion like this on government policy in an industry I'm so passionate about was a career highlight. Not to mention meeting the Prime Minister who prior to the event had been on our website designing shoes! She told me that being on her feet all day she prefers a 2inch square heel as a nice combination between style and comfort.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy - Talking Points

Following on from my post last week about the Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy below is the list of points I'm planning to raise. Thanks to Kate Morris, Scott Farquhar (who is also attending), Peter Renshaw and an anonymous commenter for adding to these ideas.

1. Employee Share Option Plans (ESOP)
This excellent opinion piece in the SMH by Big Commerce co-founders Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper describes the issues well.

ESOPs are hugely valuable in attracting, retaining and motivating top talent allowing a startup like Shoes of Prey to directly reward our team should we successfully hit our targets.

The main issue is that under a standard ESOP in Australia the ATO treats grants of shares or options under an ESOP as compensation for tax purposes, with tax payable on the value of the grant in the year the grant is made. For a startup like Shoes of Prey this means employees would need to pay tax when we grant them shares or options under the ESOP, even though these shares may never vest if the employee leaves the company, or the shares may end up being worthless if we're not successful. This is not how shares or options under an ESOP are treated in other countries like the US, and it makes it difficult for us to retain top talent in Australia.

2. Education - More People Studying Software Engineering
Hiring top software engineering talent in Australia is hard, there just aren't enough people studying software engineering degrees. We need better software engineering programs in schools to encourage more people to study this degree, then we need a lot more places at Universities for software engineers. As a country, we're investing a huge amount of money in the National Broadband Network, but without more software engineering graduates we're going to struggle to take full advantage of the network when it's built.

3. Support for the Venture Capital Industry
Raising capital as a startup in Australia is hard. We have a reasonable angel investment community, and US investors are willing to invest in larger Australian startups with funding rounds of $20m plus, but raising an amount of money between the $1m and $20m mark is much harder to do as an Australian based startup than a US or European startup. This is because we don't have a strong venture capital industry here in Australia. The Australian Government has provided good support for the venture capital industry through the Innovation Investment Fund, however my understanding is this program is unfortunately coming to an end.

An alternative approach to funding startups and encouraging the establishment of a Silicon Valley in Australia is the approach proposed by Paul Graham in this article.

  • Fund startups at the time they make their permanent roots in a location, and will be able to grow large enough to be able to received further funding from international VCs without needing to move. A small Series A round is the minimum here, Paul suggests ~$1m.
  • Bring in 1000 startups at $1m each, a cost of $1b.
  • This might take around 5 years.
  • Once you had 1000 startups in town, international VCs would start opening local offices and could provide additional funding without the startups needing to move.
  • How do you pick the startups? Make a list of the most eminent Silicon Valley angels and generate a list of all the startups they'd invested in. Offer these companies $1m each to move to Australia.
  • Test the theory with 30 startups first and see what happens after 1 year.
  • Pick a city that resembles San Francisco - good weather, central downtown hub, good Universities, fun vibe = Sydney!

Paul says, and I think I agree that the political will to do something like this will be small, so I'll see how the conversation is going and may or may not raise Paul Graham's idea.

4. Payment Innovation - Multi-Currency
PayPal is fantastic and we use them for our multi-currency credit card processing so we can accept payments from customers in Japan in Japanese Yen, payments from UK customers in Pounds etc. This is critical for Australian exporters in the digital space. PayPal's solution isn't perfect, and it's quite expensive but there are essentially very few other options for Australian businesses to use. It's possible to do through NAB but as I've blogged about previously it's abhorrently difficult to set up. We need innovation in the payments space.

5. International Shipping
Sending parcels from Australia is ridiculously expensive. Under the Universal Postal Union structure, Australia Post are restricted in what they can charge to forward mail sent from overseas to Australia. Australia Post apparently make a loss on this part of their business. Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour (who is also attending the event) has said, "The only way we can minimise our losses is if the domestic price goes up." "The more Australian retailers go online, the happier we are, because we actually make a buck on that."

I can appreciate the issues Australia Post are facing, however the problem for online retailers in Australia is this means the rates to export products overseas make exporting unprofitable for many businesses. A 2kg parcel shipped to the United States costs $81.20 for a 2-4 day service or $117.74 for a 2 day service with Australia Post. This is 4 times what we were originally paying prior to volume discounts for a 2 day service from China for a 2kg parcel.

6. High Australian Dollar
The Australian dollar is high as a result of the resources boom. The high dollar is choking international competitiveness in the digital economy and post boom, Australia is going to be underweight in these industries of the future. Redistributing revenue gained from the resources boom into the digital economy would help alleviate this.

7. ATO Recognition of Revenue for Subscription Software
Accrual accounting principles require that subscription revenue is realised over the period of time the service is being delivered. The ATO want to tax subscription revenue up front at the point of payment. This is a massive issues for subscription revenue businesses like Atlassian and other cloud software services, a rapidly growing sector within the digital economy. This is a major issue for these businesses and the taxation issues around this need to be rectified otherwise we'll lose some of these businesses overseas.

The forum will be webcast live at pm.gov.au/digitalforum. Press release with additional details here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cameron Herold - Hiring and People Management

I recently attended a day and a half seminar by Cameron Herold, a successful entrepreneur and former COO of 1800-Got-Junk? which grew from $2m to $106m in annual revenue during Cameron's time as COO. Cameron covered a whole range of different areas of entrepreneurial life. In particular, I took a lot of ideas away on hiring and retaining top people and thought I'd share my notes on this blog:

Hiring process -
1. Need to define exactly what you're looking for, be very specific about it.
2. Craft the job description so that it's very specific about what you're looking for.
3. Define interview questions that help you identify whether the candidate has the specific skills you're looking for. Find other creative ways to do this Eg. look at the cleanliness of their car to understand attention to detail.
4. Statements - when candidates arrive in your office it needs to make a statement aligning with your vision. "I can feel the energy". "I understand what this place is about".
5. You need to be poaching people - it's the best way to find the best people.
6. Conduct group interviews for cultural fit. Group interviews are a great way to see how people interact with others. Suggested group interview questions - pick someone else at the table and sell me on hiring them. (You want them to pick the best person and sell well. You don't want the political person selecting the weakest candidate). How much money do you need to make this year, how much money do you want to make 3 years out?

Interviewing

  • Group interviews - cultural fit comes through
  • Ask 'Why' a lot
  • Focus on the gaps between jobs
  • Ask questions that get you names of people they've worked with
  • Ask for contact details to conduct reference checks on the names they've mentioned in interviews
  • When conducting reference checks - keep pushing to get the dirt on those you're reference checking

Job applications:
Auto response -
1. Please read this painted picture (more on this in a later blog post)
2. Please read this article about us in the media
3. If we're a company you want to work with hit reply with "Interview Me" in the subject line and we'll get you in a for a group interview. This process helps cull people who don't like your vision or who can't follow a simple instruction to reply to this email.

Need ~200 resumes per job. Develop a process for getting these.

When writing a job description, write their scorecard a few years out. Bring that back to today into a job description.
Scorecard = what they're going to achieve. Ideally hire someone who's done that before.

Low Results, Low Values = off the bus
High Results, High Values = handcuff them to the bus. This will be different for everyone - simply find out what they want and give it to them.
Low Results, High Values = move them into the right seat
High Results, Low Values = off the bus

Top 3 traits in Shoes of Prey team members:

  • Happy and enjoy making other people happy
  • Tenacity/Scrappy in achieving their goals
  • Collaborative
Ensure we're interviewing correctly to find these people.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Startup = Growth

Fantastic article from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham titled, "Startup = Growth".

I love the concept of using 'growth' as our 'compass' and only focusing on activities that are going to contribute to improving our growth rate.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Employee Share Option Plans

Great article in BRW by Jess Gardiner, and some fantastic comments from Niki Scevak, Robert Yearsley, Kim Heras and others on the Employee Share Option Plan issue I'm planning to raise at the Prime Minister's Form on the Digital Economy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy

I've been invited to attend the Prime Minister's Forum on the Digital Economy on 5 October 2012 and I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like me to raise. Details from the invitation:

"The forum will be a discussion with approximately 30 leaders from business as well as industry bodies across the digital economy in Australia, focusing on the key question of how Australia can maintain an edge in the growing digital economy.

The core objective of the forum will be to draw on the demonstration value of entrepreneurial and innovative companies that have been successful in the digital economy and to support others’ transition. It will also provide Government with an opportunity to consider how its policy and regulatory settings are creating incentives and enabling business to take advantage of the digital economy – and to receive your insights and perspective on these important issues going forward."

There will be 3 sessions on the day:

1. The success of innovative digital organisations: Identify examples and lessons of organisations that have been successful in the digital economy, and discuss the foundations that spur such success.

2. The opportunities and challenges of a digitally enabled world: Identify the opportunities and challenges facing Australian businesses created by ubiquitous high speed broadband, new devices, applications and services that together are fuelling “digital disruption”.

3. Thinking about work in the digitally engaged world: Identify the changes needed in the workplace to take advantage of the digital economy, in particular the skills of employees and the approach to work, including flexibility in time and location of work, consequent opportunities for productivity gains.

There will also be an opportunity to raise policy issues at the forum.

I'm going to spend some time preparing for this over the next week. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like me to raise and later in the week I'll post what I'm planning to discuss. As I've written before, on the whole I think the Australian government does an excellent job of supporting startups and the digital economy, but there are some key policy areas where I think improvements could be made, and these can slot under the 3 agenda items for the forum above:

1. Employee Share Option Plans
This excellent opinion piece in the SMH by Big Commerce co-founders Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper describes the issues well.

2. Education - More People Studying Software Engineering
Hiring top software engineering talent in Australia is hard, there just aren't enough people studying software engineering degrees. We need better software engineering programs in schools to encourage more people to study this degree, then we need a lot more places at Universities for software engineers. As a country, we're investing a huge amount of money in the National Broadband Network, but without more software engineering graduates we're going to struggle to take full advantage of the network when it's built.

3. Support for the Venture Capital Industry
Raising capital as a startup in Australia is hard. We have a reasonable angel investment community, and US investors are willing to invest in larger Australian startups with funding rounds of $20m plus, but raising an amount of money between the $1m and $20m mark is much harder to do as an Australian based startup than a US or European startup. This is because we don't have a strong venture capital industry here in Australia. The Australian Government has provided good support for the venture capital industry through the Innovation Investment Fund, however my understanding is this program is unfortunately coming to an end.

I've love to hear your thoughts on the 3 agenda items, my 3 policy areas above and any other issues you'd like me to raise.

Image Credit.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why customer experience is the only thing that matters

Great article from Fast Company outlining the reason why customer experience matters so much and with evidence to back it up:
"A firm called Watermark Consulting used our data to calculate the performance of a portfolio of publicly traded companies that are customer experience leaders. Over the last five years, a period when the S&P 500 was essentially flat, that portfolio produced a cumulative total return of just over 22%. During the same period a portfolio of customer experience laggards returned -46%. That shows that not only do customers reward a superior experience, so do the markets."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Culture - "Work is Life Enhancing"

I had recently been reflecting that our 'work life balance' culture point wasn't quite right and that it should instead be 'work is life enhancing'.

The thought is 'work life balance' makes it sound like there are two parts to life:
1. Work which sucks and needs to be balanced by
2. Life which is good.

In contrast, what we're aiming for at Shoes of Prey is a work experience that is life enhancing, we enjoy it, it's inspiring, full of great colleagues and helps us achieve our life goals.

I ran this past the team and with a few tweaks to the description, we've adopted it!

The first slide below is our original culture point on this. The second slide is the new one.

You can see our original set of culture and value slides here.

Screen shot 2012-09-19 at 11.31.36 AM

Screen shot 2012-09-19 at 11.23.37 AM

Monday, September 17, 2012

The startup rollercoaster

Marc Andreesen:
"First and foremost, a start-up puts you on an emotional rollercoaster unlike anything you have ever experienced. You flip rapidly from day-to-day – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again. Over and over and over. And I’m talking about what happens to stable entrepreneurs. There is so much uncertainty and so much risk around practically everything you are doing. The level of stress that you’re under generally will magnify things incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed and huge magnitude. Sound like fun?"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Growth Hacking

Fantastic article on the concept of 'Growth Hacking' which is getting some buzz in silicon valley.

Leveraging new marketing platforms has been hugely important for a lot of very successful startups. Zappos leveraged Google AdWords incredibly well back when AdWords was new and relatively cheap. Zynga turned a number of their early games into massive hits using sharing within Facebook before Facebook clamped down on this for spamming news feeds. YouTube did it by allowing people to embed YouTube videos on their websites. DropBox have grown so quickly optimising and incentivising users to share DropBox and invite new users. The example given in the article of AirBnB using Craiglist is brilliant.

Shoes of Prey may need a growth hacker...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We're Hiring: Customer Acquisition Specialist - Shoes of Prey

As Shoes of Prey continues to grow we’re looking to hire a Customer Acquisition Specialist to help us attract and acquire new customers for Shoes of Prey. You’ll be testing, executing and measuring campaigns using AdWords, Facebook, display, SEO, affiliate advertising, cross promotions, partnerships, email marketing and potentially more traditional channels like print, radio and TV with the goal of acquiring customers for Shoes of Prey at a reasonable cost and at scale. Your key goal will be to test and find successful channels, then focus on acquiring as many customers as possible through them.

To be killing it in this role and considered an A Player on the Shoes of Prey team, here are the 3 key things you’ll have achieved after 12 months in this role (in priority order):

1. You not only live and breathe Shoes of Prey’s culture and values, you’ve contributed to growing and developing them. People on the team enjoy spending time with you and are fighting to be able to work closely with you.

2. You’ve increased 5 fold the traffic coming to our website. The traffic is high quality, scoring similar or better than our existing traffic on metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate, time on site and page views per visit.

3. You’re Shoes of Prey’s marketing analytical genius and recognised internally as the go to person for marketing analysis. You’re across every marketing metric on a daily basis identifying our successes and the areas we should focus further. You’re also across our marketing failures using these to learn and develop ways to increase our sales.

Our ideal candidate for this role is someone who can clearly show to us that they’ve achieved similar things in a role before.

Your work experience clearly identifies that you have the following traits:

  • Passion for online marketing. You love online marketing, it’s like a game to you. Increasing metrics like sales, traffic and conversion rates is as exciting to you as playing the best computer game. You read online marketing blogs and love soaking up and applying the latest trends and learnings in the industry.
  • Success in online marketing. You’ve lead online marketing initiatives that have lead to significant growth for the company you’ve worked for. You can verify this by setting up a reference check with your manager at this company at the end of the hiring process.
  • Tenacity and scrappiness. You’re able to make things work with limited resources. When things don’t go as planned and you’re missing your targets, you’ll go to the ends of the earth iterating, learning, pivoting and doing what it takes to hit your targets.
  • Analytical. You’re a numbers person. You did well at maths in high school and potentially studied maths, science or finance at University. (We prefer these to a marketing degree).

The total salary package for this role will be $60k-$80k including bonuses, super and stock. As with all roles at Shoes of Prey, lunch + snacks + shoes are of course included! We’re willing to sponsor someone internationally to move to Sydney for this role. The role will report into Michael Fox.

We’re excited to build a world class online retail marketing team at Shoes of Prey and you’ll be one of the first people to join it. If you think you have what it takes to please email your resume and cover letter to joinourawesometeam@shoesofprey.com.

We're also hiring for a very similar role at Sneaking Duck. You're welcome to apply for both roles if you're interested in both brands. Please review the Sneaking Duck job description and apply separately here.

Update: We've hired for this role.

We're Hiring: Customer Acquisition Specialist - Sneaking Duck

Would you like to join Sneaking Duck, one of Australia’s hottest internet start ups? In 2012 we’ve been recognised as Best New Retailer, for Innovation and for Customer Service*. To drive our next growth phase we need a Marketing Specialist to attract and acquire customers.

You’ll be testing, executing and measuring campaigns including AdWords, Facebook, display, SEO, affiliate advertising, cross promotions, partnerships, email marketing and potentially more traditional channels like print, radio and TV with the goal of acquiring customers for Sneaking Duck at scale and within our CPAs. Your key goal will be to test and find successful channels, then use them to acquire as many customers as possible.

This is your chance for a job with no limit - in a small and friendly team you’ll have every opportunity to see how a company is built from the ground up. Prove yourself, and opportunities will come as the company grows. You need to be happy with variety, comfortable with a bit of chaos and ready for the excitement of joining a start-up.

About us
Sneaking Duck is a new eyewear brand and a new prescription glasses online retailer. We’re an internet start-up that’s been growing fast whilst having fun since our launch last October. We love cool glasses and we love having a pair for every mood. We’re tired of one mega-expensive pair bought only because the last pair died.

Our offices are in Surry Hills and our work environment is relaxed - pets welcome.

Tasks and responsibilities
To be killing it in this role, here’s what will be your key achievements after 12 months:

1. You’ve helped build the Sneaking Duck team, culture and workplace into somewhere where success and having fun are the the norms.
2. You’ve increased traffic to our site by 5-10 times. The traffic is high quality - converting at the right rate to meet our CPA limits.
3. You haven’t just done the job, you’ve created the job. After 12 months, we will no longer be adhoc in our marketing as you’ll have built a marketing allocation model and a strategy to drive the next 5-10 times increase in quality site traffic.
4. You’re Sneaking Duck’s marketing analytical genius - everyone comes to you with marketing questions. You’ve studied our successes and our failures. You know every metric and every detail. You always have excellent insight as to the marketing impact of proposed business activities.

Our ideal candidate will have no problem demonstrating previous similar success.

Attributes

  • Self motivated and hungry to learn in a dynamic, fun & friendly, occasionally chaotic, start-up
  • Passion for online marketing. You love online marketing - for you, it’s a game. You find increasing sales, traffic and conversions exciting. You read and soak up everything about marketing, always bringing the best learnings to your work.
  • Success in online marketing. You’ve led online marketing initiatives that have directly driven significant growth. (You’ll need to provide a line-manager reference check at the end of the hiring process.)
  • Tenacity and scrappiness. You’re make things work with limited resources. If things don’t go as planned and targets are missed, you’ll go to the ends of the earth iterating, pivoting and doing what it takes to win.
  • Analytical. You’re a numbers person. Geek even. From high school to uni you’ve got top grades in analytic subjects. (More important than a marketing degree!)
  • Communicator and team player. As well as the numbers, you know how to communicate succinctly, clearly and effectively. People enjoy working with you.

The total salary package for this role will be $60k-$80k including bonuses and super. As with all roles at Sneaking Duck, lunch + snacks + glasses are included.

We’re excited to build a world class online retail marketing team and you’ll be the first person in it. If have what it takes then email your resume & cover letter to framed@sneakingduck.com.

We're also hiring for a very similar role at Shoes of Prey. You're welcome to apply for both roles if you're interested in both brands. Please review the Shoes of Prey job description and apply separately here.

* Recognised by 2012 AMP Retail Awards as New Retailer and Innovation in Retail. Recognised at the 2012 Online Retail Industry Awards for Innovation in Retail and Customer Service.

* The model wearing our new vintage frames is Brodie, a co-founder of shoe brand and online retailer Envoy Australia!

Update: We've hired for this role.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to be happy

Fantastic article on happiness and what it means to be happy featuring Gary Ng, a very successful Sydney based entrepreneur.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

66 Meetups Speaking Notes

Following on from my presentation at 66meetups last night here are the 7 fundraising lessons we learnt in raising our Series A round for Shoes of Prey:

  • Have the right story for investors. We had to show that all the key parts of our business are scalable, and that we had a path to a large exit in ~5 years.
  • Build a great pitch deck. Our final deck was 30 slides and covered off all the major points investors were asking us during our pitches.
  • Pitch to investors in parallel rather than series. We made the mistake early on of stopping our pitching to new investors once we had an investor we thought would go ahead. A key factor in successfully closing our round was having lots of investors interested all at the same time.
  • Be prepared for any conversation with investors as though it's a pitch. Even if they're not consciously doing it they're still assessing you and your business.
  • Outbound dialing programs from US and European VCs can be a waste of time. More on this here.
  • If you're putting a group of investors together, getting some key, respected people involved is critical. For us Mike Cannon-Brooks was the person who finally tipped the deal over the line. Once he was in, everyone else who was borderline decided to go ahead, he single handedly pitched CrunchFund to invest in us as well. Other people were also critical to our process: Richard Baker, Bill Bartee, Gareth Adams and Niki Scevak.
  • Raising capital takes time, be prepared for this. It was an 18 month process from when we first started pitching to having the money in the bank.

For more info on how we raised our Series A round see this post. And for details on the government funding programs I mentioned see this post.

Photo credit.

Monday, September 3, 2012