Friday, June 29, 2012

Kogan taxes IE7 users!

Brilliant - Kogan are 'taxing' users of Internet Explorer 7 6.8% on all their purchases on kogan.com.au because of the time their web team wastes to ensure their site works correctly in the 6 year old IE7!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We're Hiring: Office Manager/Executive Assistant to the Founders

Shoes of Prey is on a mission to passionately create happiness and to allow every woman to be able to create the perfect pair of shoes.

Shoes of Prey is growing rapidly and as we expand we’re looking to hire someone to work in the combined role of Office Manager/Executive Assistant to the Founders, who can help make the founders more effective and the office an exciting, fun place to work.

Executive Assistant to the Founders Responsibilities

  • Make the founders, Mike, Jodie and Michael more effective
  • Review and respond to emails where appropriate in Michael and Jodie’s inbox:
    • Actioning all administrative tasks
    • Reviewing and responding to partnership opportunities
    • Reviewing, responding to and organising speaking events
  • Manage Michael and Jodie’s calendars.
  • Organising travel for Mike, Jodie and Michael.
  • Represent the founders in internal and external communications with a high degree of professionalism and confidentiality.
  • Managing the process of advertising, interviewing, selecting and onboarding new hires.
  • Schedule board meetings and prepare board package and support materials.
  • Maintain files, contracts and secure confidential information.
  • Support other members of the Shoes of Prey team when required
  • Assisting the customer wonderperson team during busy periods.
  • Bookkeeping:
    • Entering expenses
    • Paying suppliers
    • Payroll
    • Completing quarterly business activity statements

Office Manager Responsibilities

  • Make the office a fun and effective place to work
  • Managing the layout, day to day organisation and cleanliness of the office:
    • Ordering, collecting and ensuring everything is cleaned up after lunch each day
    • Managing the stock of snacks, drinks and stationary in the office
    • Managing our returned shoe process
  • Managing communications within the office
  • Plan and execute company events, team outings, holiday parties, and other fun activities.

What we’re looking for:

  • You are exceptionally well organised, honest, and reliable.
  • You’re great with people and have a passionate, positive energy.
  • You’re professional both in appearance and demeanor, friendly, outgoing, and personable.
  • Solid experience as an Executive Assistant, we’ve never had one so we’re keen to learn from you! Ideally 1-2+ years.
  • You’re able to use a methodical approach to getting stuff done, but also to think creatively. Startup experience would be helpful.
  • You’re tech savvy. Fluency in Google applications a plus (gmail, google calendar, google docs and the entire google apps suite).
  • A willingness to identify projects, dive in head first with minimal supervision, and see them through to completion with strong attention to detail.

Salary: $40k - $60k (based on experience) + bonus + generous stock options + lunch everyday + snacks + shoes. If we hit our goals over the next 5 years you'll do very well out of the stock options.

The role will report into Michael Fox and is based in Sydney. To apply please email a cover letter and resume to michael@shoesofprey.com

Please help us spread the word. We'd love for you to tweet or post this link to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ (buttons below) and if you know of someone who the role would suit we'd love you to pass this post on to them. Thanks!

20 July 2012 Update: We've hired for this role. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg on being a CEO

"I’ve always focused on a couple of things,” Zuckerberg said. “One is having a clear direction for the company and what we build. And the other is just trying to build the best team possible toward that … I think as a company, if you can get those two things right—having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff—then you can do pretty well.” Full article, it's well worth a read, here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Finish a law degree or start a startup?

A friend of a friend recently emailed the following question:

I'm currently undertaking my penultimate year of law, a degree so far disastrously unappealing. Much of this comes from my lack of interest in practicing/ pursuing work in law and partly from the disenchantment in the tertiary education process.

The past 3 months have been a mental debate on what the best decision is in regards to either finishing my degree or cutting my losses and pursuing something of interest. Obviously given the stigma that is a lack of a tertiary education, all those around me have suggested that I suck it up and just finish. Personally I feel as though I would achieve more if I discontinued my study and attempt to immerse myself in the real world and gain some real experience.

So my query for you is - Q. Did completing your Law degree substantially contribute to your success with Shoes of Prey or do you feel as though with your drive and entrepreneurial desires you would have achieved your goals regardless?


Here's my response:

It's a tricky question. There are some programs in Silicon Valley designed to help budding entrepreneurs head down that path without going to uni first and there are good arguments for getting stuck into what it is you love now as you'll learn faster. However I think overall in Australia I would suggest finishing uni, for a few reasons:

1. As an Australian business community we're still culturally quite unaccepting of people who haven't completed a uni degree.

2. There are lots of great jobs out there that require a uni degree, and high marks at that. For example, Google won't hire anyone who hasn't finished uni at a good university, and with high marks. Working at Google was hugely influential for us in starting Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck. I learnt a great deal about online marketing there and met lots of amazing people, including Mark Capps who we went on to co-found sneaking duck with.

3. I met my Shoes of Prey co-founders studying law. I met Mike in about 2nd or 3rd year uni. Then I met Jodie in final year uni when I get involved in the Australian Law Students' Association (ALSA). Without finishing my law degree and meeting Jodie and getting to know Mike more, I may well be working for a corporate rather than being an entrepreneur as finding great co-founders is probably the most critical thing you can do in starting the entrepreneurial process.

4. Working for other people is a great way to learn. Mike, Jodie and I experimented with some startups while finishing uni and in our first years of working. Looking back, our ideas and the way we executed them were terrible, there was so much we didn't know. 5 years working for other people taught us lots which has helped us be successful now. Sure, we could have learnt similar things doing startups full time, but that is an expensive way to learn when it's your own money and you're not earning a salary. Learning and making mistakes while working for someone else is much cheaper for you personally.

For those reasons I'd suggest finishing your degree, but find things that you're passionate about that will help with your future entrepreneurial career. Ideally start a startup part time! For me, I hated studying law with a passion, however I got involved in the UQ Law Society as social convenor in my second last year then president in my final year. I loved those roles and running The L Card and the finances of a pretty large voluntary society (we raised over $100k from law firm sponsorship and sales of The L Card in my final year) taught me lots about running a business and motivating people which has gone on to help in running Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck.

Also, when you cut it back, studying doesn't take up much time. I attended about 50% of my lectures and became pretty adept at cramming at the end of the semester. I probably wasted a lot of the extra time I had, but you could easily start a business part-time and see how things go before quitting uni. Even some of the most celebrated uni drop outs - Mark Zuckerberg and the Google co-founders started their businesses while studying full time, and only dropped out of uni when their businesses started to take off - that's a much safer approach.

Even when starting Shoes of Prey, Mike, Jodie and I did that part time while keeping our full time jobs and only quit our jobs once we were confident we were onto a winner and the business was getting to the point where we could no longer do it part time. I'd suggest taking the same approach to your study.


That was my two cents. I and the questioner are interested to hear what others think, what would your advice be?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey both finalists for ORIA 2012 awards


We are amazingly, incredibly excited - and proud - that both Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey have been listed as finalists in the 2012 Online Retail Industry Awards.

Sneaking Duck has been shortlisted for three awards - Best New Online Retailer, Best Customer Experience and Most Innovative Online Retailer.

Shoes of Prey has been shortlisted for Best Use of Technology.

We’ll be keeping everything crossed on July 18th at the finals. There is some great competition - the full list of finalists is below.

Best Multichannel Retailer
(Sponsored by Salmat)
Harvey Norman
Woolworths
Bing Lee
ABC Shop
Top 3 by Design
Glassons

Best PurePlay Retailer
(Sponsored by ExactTarget)
Catch of the Day
Appliances Online
brandsExclusive
StyleTread
Surfstitch
The Iconic

Best New Online Retailer
George & King
Harvey Norman
Ozmattress
Sneaking Duck
The Iconic
Vinomofo
The Mens Shop

Best Online Marketing Initiative
Birdsnest
The Iconic
StyleTread
Woolworths
Spreets
OzSale
Scoopon

Best Customer Experience
(Sponsored by hybris)
Appliances Online
SurfStitch
Birdsnest
The Iconic
Sneaking Duck

Best Mobile Commerce
brandsExclusive
Spreets
MARCS
StyleTread
Woolworths
Catch of the Day

Best Site Optimisation & Design
brandsExclusive
Le Domaine
SurfStitch
Tinyme
Appliances Online
Shooii

Best Use of Technology
(Sponsored by Online Retailer)
Sportsgirl
Joe Button
Appliances Online
Shoes of Prey
brandsExclusive

Most Innovative Online Retailer
(Sponsored by Macquarie Telecom)
Sneaking Duck
Joe Button
Sportsgirl
Birdsnest
Tiny Me

Best Aggregation Channel
GetPrice
Club QT
Online Shopping USA

Image credit

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome to the Shoes of Prey team Helen and Nat

It's with great pleasure that we introduce Helen Sham who has joined us as a full time graphic designer, and Natalie Wong who has joined as a part time software engineer, while she completes her studies.

Helen comes to us after a very successful career in the advertising industry. She started her career in Auckland at the global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, specialising in typography and design craft. From there she moved to Sydney to join The Campaign Palace where she worked with Jodie. She was there for the last 3 years, designing campaigns for the likes of Bonds, Berlei and Panasonic.

If you are interested in Helen's creative abilities you can check our her online portfolio here: http://www.behance.net/helensham

In her spare time she enjoys spotting kerning errors in books and magazines, a glass of vino after work and baking cupcakes.

Helen with be working closely with Jodie and Susie to make Shoes of Prey a world-class visual and tactile experience. Very exciting!

Natalie is currently in her 4th year at UNSW studying Computer Science and Engineering. She has a keen interest in low level programming and operating systems. Whilst at university she has worked and volunteered in a wide variety of positions, including being the Secretary of the Computer Science and Engineering Society.

When she's not studying she pursues her passion for animals by volunteering as a kennel handler at the Sydney Animal Hospital.

Natalie will be helping our CTO, Mike Knapp, with a number of super secret tech projects, so watch this space!

Welcome to the team Helen and Natalie!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling the 22Michaels' brain trust - your help requested!


We spend a lot time thinking about our customers. We always want to know each customer better and to understand better what marketing works.

I take every opportunity to ask people who call or visit, but it's time to be more systematic.

The first step is a questionnaire to our existing customers. I prefer something short with a good response rate to something that takes ages. The aims are to understand how people originally heard about us, to understand if they were in the market for glasses when they purchased (as opposed to spontaneously buying) and to get a benchmark on our Net Promoter Score.

I’ve put my draft below. I would love your thoughts:
- Is this the best approach?
- Do you have any feedback on my questionnaire?

The next step will be implementing continuous tracking on these points.

Thank you so much for any thoughts and help you can provide - please comment below!

I will share the outcomes here.

:-) Mark

1. How did you first hear about Sneaking Duck? (multiple choice)
- Personal recommendation from friends, family or colleagues
- Online Search engine - Google, Bing, etc
- Facebook
- Advertising on search engines or other websites
- Advertising in newspapers
- Press articles
- Other (+ free text box)

2. At the point when you purchased, were you: (multiple choice)
- Actively looking to buy new glasses at or around that time
- Not really looking for glasses at that time, but decided to buy anyway
- Don't recall / don't know

3. How likely is it that you would recommend Sneaking Duck to a friend or colleague?
Click scale from 0 (not at all likely) through 5 (neutral) to 10 (extremely likely)

4. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? <paragraph empty box>

Image credit - get the t-shirt!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Don't believe the gloom, the Australian government is hugely supportive of startups

There have been numerous articles and blog posts recently lamenting the lack of government support for Australian startups. In our view, nothing could be further from the truth.

1. There is very little beauracracy involved in starting a business in Australia
To start a tech business in Australia all you need to do is:

2. Research and Development (R&D) Grant
The Australian government provides an amazing benefit to tech startups undertaking R&D work in the form of the R&D Grant, and the program was improved starting from the 2011/2012 financial year. Under the recent changes, we now receive a cheque from the government at the end of the year giving us back 45 cents in the dollar for all the R&D expenditure we've undertaken during the year! In 2010/2011 we received back $20,661.51 this year the figure will be significantly higher.

The cashback component applies to businesses making a loss, which most tech startups will be. The benefit comes in the form of tax credits for business making a profit. To receive the 45 cents in the dollar back you forgo the future tax losses on your R&D spend, equivalent to 30 cents in the dollar but you're getting more than that back and more importantly you're receiving it back sooner and as cash, exactly what a startup needs to help get its business off the ground.

The R&D grant is designed to encourage investment by Australian businesses in R&D, and it works. Knowing the we'll receive this money back at the end of the year allows us to invest more in R&D than we would otherwise and has allowed us the luxury of hiring more software engineers to experiment with new projects than we could afford to otherwise.

3. Export Marketing Development Grant (EMDG)
Small to medium Australian businesses who export product overseas are able to claim the EMDG and receive 50 cents in the dollar back on their overseas marketing spend. 2/3 of Shoes of Prey's sales are to overseas customers, and we invest in AdWords, Facebook, PR and other marketing activities to promote our product to overseas consumers. Last year we received $38,825.40 back from the government as part of this grant and this year it will be significantly higher.

The EMDG is designed to encourage and assist Australian businesses to export their products and for us it works, we're able to make export marketing investments we would otherwise not be able to afford.

4. Commercialisation Australia
Commercialisation Australia is a program established by AusIndustry to assist early stage businesses develop and commercialise their products. 4 different programs are offered:

  • Skills and Knowledge - Up to $50,000 to access specialist advice and services
  • Experienced Executives - Up to $350,000 to engage a CEO or other senior executive
  • Proof of Concept - $50,000 to $250,000 to prove the commercial viability of new IP
  • Early Stage Commercialisation - $50,000 to $2 million to take a new product, service or process to market

Commercialisation Australia funds a percentage of the money spent on each of these activities. For example, for the Early Stage Commercialisation Grant the program funds 50 cents in the dollar of the money the company spends on commercialisation activities.

Now that we've raised $3m we've applied for an Early Stage Commercialisation Grant to help us scale our operations and international distribution channels. We find out in late June whether we've been successful.

5. 66 Oxford St. Darlinghurst, Sydney
The Sydney City Council own a building at 66 Oxford St. that is apparently earmarked for renovation or demolition, so finding a long term tenant to lease the space wasn't going to be easy. Rather than leaving the building vacant, they opened it up for creative and technology businesses to use it as office space, for free! Numerous tech startups have based themselves out of there and the project has gone so well the council is looking into opening 2 more spaces on William St. Darlinghurst for the same purpose.

6. Support for Venture Capital
The Australian Government is aware that venture capital for startups in Australia lags behind other countries, particularly the United States. A number of government programs are designed to help encourage and grow the ventures capital industry in Australia. One of the best is the Innovation Investment Fund (IIF) where a venture capital firm can have the funds they raised matched dollar for dollar by the government. One of our investors, Southern Cross Venture Partners has an IIF backed fund (though this isn't the fund that invested in Shoes of Prey).

With these programs on offer a tech startup can quickly, cheaply and easily set itself up, gain free office space in inner city Sydney, raise capital from an IIF backed investment fund then have 45% of their R&D work funded, 50% of their overseas marketing costs funded, and have other parts of their business, like early stage commercialisation activities 50% funded by the government as well.

That's an incredible amount of support for Australian startups. What do you think?

Image credit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How we raised a $3m round of funding in Australia

There has been a lot of press lately discussing the state of tech entrepreneurship in Australia and where it's headed. My view is that we're in a pretty good place. The government is very supportive of startups and just in the 3 years we've been running Shoes of Prey we've seen a huge number of new startups begin their journey, some existing startups receive huge funding rounds (Atlassian, 99designs, OzForex, Catch of the Day, StyleTread), a number of startup incubators launch (StartMate, PushStart, AngelCube, Blue Chilli) and startup working spaces launch (FishBurners, 66 Oxford St).

All of that said, it's still difficult to do a Series A round of funding here in Australia.

There's money to be found at the angel investment end of the market, and US VCs are willing to invest large amounts in larger Australian startups (see Atlassian and co. mentioned above) but there aren't many investors in Australia willing to make investments at the $1.5m-$3m Series A level.

So how did we do it? We put together a group of 9 different investors who all contributed to our $3m round, with the largest investing $900k. That was no easy task.

We first started contemplating the idea of raising capital in December 2010. We did our first pitch about 16 months ago in early 2011. I estimate I pitched ~80 different investors. We signed one term sheet then decided not to go ahead with that investor. We came very close - to the point of draft term sheet stage with another 3 investors at various points throughout the process, then signed a term sheet with our final investor group in February. It took another 4 months to put the legal documentation together and close the round.

A turning point in the process was getting Mike Cannon-Brookes on board. We'd had a huge amount of support from Richard Baker as well as Bill Bartee and Tristen Langley from Southern Cross but we couldn't quite cobble together enough people to do the full round. Mike Cannon-Brookes has a huge amount of respect in the tech community from what he and his co-founder Scott Farquher have achieved at Atlassian, and once Mike came on board the investors that were close but not quite over the line came on board too. Mike also introduced us to Michael Arrington and CrunchFund who didn't need much of a pitch beyond the fact Mike Cannon-Brookes was investing.

I spent ~30% of my time over the last 18 months pitching investors and managing this process. That's a huge amount of work and the second largest project of my career behind launching Shoes of Prey. That time has a significant opportunity cost, it could have been spent working on the business. That said, pitching our business to a lot of smart people and hearing their feedback helped us clarify what our strategy should be to grow the business going forward. And we now have $3m to invest in the growth of the business and a fantastic group of investors who will be able to offer advice and support as we go forward.

One interesting learning that came out of the process was pitching US and European firms. We pitched about 30 US and European firms and without fail, every one of them (except CrunchFund!) concluded,

"We love the mass customised fashion space, we love the success you're having there, but a $2m-$3m round is just too small for us to do when you're based in Sydney. Time zones and geography mean it's not worth our time. Either move to the US/Europe so you're nearby or come back to us when you're raising $10m+ in your Series B."
Fortunately we were able to get a mostly Australian group of investors over the line.

While raising a $3m Series A round in Australia was challenging, it's not impossible. Based on our experience there's a massive gap in the market for investors to invest in Australian startups doing Series A rounds. With the number of incubators that have recently launched, and the media coverage the tech startup is getting we're going to see some great startups coming out of Sydney over the coming years.

I'd encourage Australian investors to look at moving into the tech startup Series A investment space. And I'd encourage US and European firms that are already in the space to think about spending some time in Sydney and perhaps even setting up an office here. Based on our experience you'll have very little competition!

Image credit

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our big news!

Some big news at Shoes of Prey, we've closed a $3m Series A funding round.

Coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald and on TechCrunch.

It's been a huge project to put the funding together, we have lots of people to thank and lots of plans going forward. More blog posts to follow over the coming weeks.

Image credit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to be a CEO in the era of the consumer internet

A fantastic presentation from Bing Gordon, ex Chief Creative Officer at Electronic Arts, current partner at investment fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and board member at Zynga and Amazon - "How to be a CEO in the era of the consumer internet".

My key take outs from the presentation:

  • Your company strategy should be able to be articulated on one poster
  • 3 OKRs per person per quarter
  • Measure people on inputs rather than outputs because outputs aren't always in the persons control
  • Have a brilliant assistant
  • Track your own hours and where you're spending your time. Ensure this matches to your personal priorities
  • Great people want a lot demanded of them, ensure you're doing this with your best people
  • Board meetings should be inspiring for you and the board, it should be your best day of the month not the worst
  • Set expectations for board members - what do you want from them?
  • Hire a chief people officer before you hit 50 people. This person is in charge of culture and hiring brilliant people
  • Onboarding - in the first week new hires need their job definition, OKRs and need to know what it takes to 'kill it' in their new job
  • Scare your best people with the jobs you give them
  • Focus on company culture, ensure company values are clearly visible and discussed regularly
  • Build a meritocracy - are there people on your executive team who are 'too young' to be there? There should be

via @nickcrocker

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mr Porter and storytailing - when retail and media converge

Currently many retail businesses are looking to hire creative roles that are normally found in a media company, Shoes of Prey is one of these retailers. Customers will be impressed by the content on your site if you overlap retail with media. The time for storytailing has arrived.

Mens clothing site Mr Porter gives an advanced example of the new retail and media trend. Take this beautiful fashion magazine styled like a 1950′s newspaper:

The magazine contains fantastic articles on topics like coloured chinos, sports jackets and how to put outfits together and 'nail it at the office'. It's exactly the sort of content I might previously have purchased magazines like GQ or Men's Vogue to read. It's content like Mr Porter's that's contributing to the decline in readership of magazines. And rather than having to sell advertising, a magazine like Mr Porter's has a clear revenue model - all the product in the magazine is available for purchase in the Mr Porter store.

To assist with linking the physical magazine to the Mr Porter store, they've created a phone app that allows you to hold the phone camera over an article, then directly purchase the products from that article from the Mr Porter store on your phone!

I had being blatantly sold to, and Mr Porter have done a brilliant job to avoid this. The content in the magazine is not salesy, in fact, despite the whole magazine effectively being an advertorial for Mr Porter, then content is far more engaging and less salesy than a traditional magazine advertorial. The Mr Porter app also has benefits beyond just buying product from the magazine. Hover over certain articles and you can watch videos related to the article such as interviews with people profiled in the articles talking about their approach to style. Here are some screenshots from my phone using the app:

And here's the Mr Porter store page that the coloured chinos article took me to, perfect!

Which other retailers have you seen creating great media content?

Cross posted to Power Retail.