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