Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sydney Appiness

The team at Pollenizer, with sponsorship from Telstra are running a hackathon to make apps for charities. Details from their website:


24th, 25th of May and 1st June @ Pollenizer Hive, Surry Hills

Make somebody happy with an app they need.

Appiness is for people who love to make something new. We invite designers, engineers and entrepreneurs to gather for two and a half days of relentless creativity to build brand new apps that truly help people.

The competition begins on Friday evening (24th May 2013) with a pitch for help from four charities. After the pitches, we form into teams and get issued with an Appiness toolkit for each member of the team.

Over the next two Saturdays (25th May 2013 and 1st June 2013) and any time we have in between, we build our apps.

Teams will be supported by leading figures in the Australian startup community and the winners will be backed by Telstra and Pollenizer to take the product forward to the next level.

Places strictly limited to 50 attendees.

You can apply for a spot here: http://appiness.eventbrite.com

It's a fantastic concept, is a great opportunity to give back and no doubt will be both fun and a good Sydney startup community networking opportunity. Mike and Ritwik from the Shoes of Prey team have both applied to attend.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Australia Tech Startup Sector

Following on from our Startup Australia workshop, PwC research finds $109 billion economic lift and 540,000 jobs to be unlocked from Australian tech startup sector.

The report "The Startup Economy: How to support tech startups and accelerate Australian innovation" (embedded below) provides a snapshot of Australia’s 1500 current tech startups and a roadmap to help ensure the success of the sector.

Australian entrepreneurs working more closely with educators, government and corporate Australia is the key to unlocking the potential of the tech startup sector. The startup sector is a rapidly growing part of the economy which has the capacity to contribute four per cent of GDP or $109 billion and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033.

According to the report findings, the key ways to unlock the potential of the sector are:

  • Attract more entrepreneurs with the right skills: In the short term Australia needs 2,000 more tech entrepreneurs each year drawn from the existing workforce. In the long term, our education sector must produce more skilled tech entrepreneurs.
  • Foster a stronger and open culture of entrepreneurship: Australia has a considerably higher ‘fear of failure’ rate than nations like the U.S. and Canada, constraining the sector. The tech community is key to changing this by celebrating its own success and becoming more inclusive.

Also important is:

  • Encourage more early stage funding: Funding for the Australian tech startup sector will need to increase. Australia invests approximately $7.50 per capita in venture capital per annum (all quoted in US$ figures), compared to the United States ($75) and Israel ($150).
  • Open up local markets to tech startups: Governments are major consumers with spending totalling $41bn in 2012. They can become more startup friendly with procurement reform. Continue to improve the regulatory environment, such as removing the barriers created by taxing Employee Share Option Plans up front.

PwC Google the Startup Economy 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Startup Australia

On the 13th and 14th March around 50 people passionate about the tech startup ecosystem in Australia gathered in Sydney for 2 days to engage as a community and put together a plan for how we can grow the startup ecosystem in Australia. The event was the brainchild of Alan Noble and a passionate group of people from Google. A small group of us contributed to planning for the day. Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post on this topic, your ideas were incorporated into the event and many of you also attended the two days which was great.

As an organising group we didn't want this to turn into another 2 day talk fest that didn't result in action items going forward, and we wanted to ensure there would be enthusiasm to complete the agreed actions out going forward. The two days were facilitated by a PwC group called 'The Difference'. They're amazing facilitators and over the 2 days their facilitation meant that we identified the issues, brainstormed solutions and by the end of the second day had an action plan that involved everyone who had attended the two days. It was amazing to be part of such a productive 2 day workshop.

The document embedded below is a summary of the 2 days. Page 2 outlines our key action items for the 7 different areas we identified to work on over the coming months:

  • Education
  • Making entrepreneurialism exciting
  • Helping existing entrepreneurs
  • Policy & legislation
  • Awareness
  • Research & data
  • Leadership & funding

The last page of the report has a lovely shot of Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin and my socks. :)

StartupAUS - The Journey

Many of the people involved over the 2 days are now busy at work executing the action items in the 7 areas we're working on. We're also in the process now of setting up a not for profit company and interim board to take on the management of the project going forward. Given my recent 360 feedback I'm going to step back my involvement from here (I invested the equivalent of 5 full time days last quarter) and I'll make way for others who are more keen to take my position on the interim board, but I'll stay involved to help out where needed and I look forward to seeing Startup Australia help develop the ecosystem from here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

360 Feedback

When Mike, Mark and I worked at Google a process we used to follow every quarter was giving and receiving 360 feedback on people we worked with. It was a really good process for hearing directly from your peers and direct reports about what you could work on and improve in your day to day activities.

6 months ago we decided to implement the same process at Shoes of Prey. And 2 weeks ago we completed our second round of 360 feedback - we're planning to do it every 6 months. The process has been hugely beneficial. Here's the steps we used to do it:

1. We had everyone on the Shoes of Prey team complete a Google form listing 4 people they'd like to receive 360 feedback from.

2. Lydia (who has taken on a HR role within the team) then collated these requests, balanced them so no one was asked to give feedback on more than 6 people, then emailed everyone with the list of people they were required to give 360 feedback on.

3. To complete the 360 feedback on each person we created a Google Form to be filled in. The 360 feedback consists of 5 main questions. The first 3 are related to our 3 core values. The second two ask for feedback on the team member's strengths and areas for development:

  • How well does the team member "Passionately Create Happiness" around the office?
  • How well does the team member "Constructively and Thoughtfully Communicate" with other team members?
  • How well does the team member "Make a Big Impact"?
  • Describe this team member's greatest strengths.
  • Describe this team member's biggest areas for development.

For each question we ask for specific examples to back up your score. For the first 3 we ask how you'd score this team member on a scale of 1-5, this overall score on each of our 3 values highlights for the team member which values they're living well, and which they can focus on to improve.

4. Lydia collates the feedback into a report and anonymises any answers that can be identified back to the feedback giver (unless the feedback giver has said it's ok for their feedback to not be anonymous).

5. The team member's manager presents the 360 feedback back to the team member, and discusses with the team member what they do well and how they can improve.

The process has worked incredibly well for both rounds of 360 feedback we've now completed. Everyone on the team has received feedback on their strengths and the process has helped unearth some key areas for development which we've all focused on.

In particular, 6 months ago the biggest area for development that came out of my feedback was that I needed to improve communication across the business. In the 3 months prior to the feedback process we'd doubled in size from roughly 12 people to 25 following our Series A funding round. With 12 people it was easy to overhear conversations in the office or catch up around the lunch table, but this process fell apart and stopped working once we doubled the number of people. Based on the feedback I spent some time researching how communication worked in other businesses and we settled on a 'Daily Huddle' process which has been working extremely well. Blog post on this to come! Without the 360 feedback it would have taken us longer to unearth and for me to enact on this communication issue in the business.

In the most recent 360 review my biggest piece of feedback was that I've been spending too much time out of the office and this is impacting our culture, posing challenges for my direct reports and making it harder for us to make the quick decisions we need to make in a startup. In the last quarter I spent time out of the office for the WPP Stream Unconference, working with a group of other entrepreneurs and tech industry people on improving Australia's tech startup ecosystem, with the Entrepreneurs' Organisation that I'm part of as well as the usual array of external meetings with investors, potential new hires, marketing partners and others. All up I'd calculate that I was out of the Sydney office around 30% of the working hours during the quarter. This quarter I really need to dial this back. Some of these tasks are important, some of them I need to de-prioritise. So based on my 360 feedback my focus for the next few weeks is cutting back on some of these activities.

Do you have a 360 feedback process in your organisation? How has it worked for you?

Image Credit.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Welcome to the team Brigette, Dione and Lydia

This post is a little late coming as they joined us 3 months ago but it's with great pleasure that I welcome Brigette, Dione and Lydia to the Shoes of Prey team as Customer Happiness Wonderpeople.

Brigette studied a Bachelor of Music majoring in Viola at the University of Tasmania (she also plays piano and the bassoon!). She began her career as a PA to the librarian at the Supreme Court in Queensland, before moving to Queensland Investment Corporation as a Business Assistant in the Fixed Interest team. While in Brisbane she began and later completed an MBA from the Queensland University of Technology.

Brigette then moved to Sydney and has spent the last 3 years working for Colonial First State being promoted through a number of different client service and finance related roles. Brigette has a passion for fashion and is currently completing a Certificate IV in Fashion Design and Technology at FBI Fashion College. She volunteered at this year's Mercedes Benz Fashion Week as an usher and dresser. In her free time she likes making garments, drawing, fitness classes and running.

A few months prior to joining us Brigette purchased her wedding shoes and shoes for her bridesmaids from us for her wedding in January!

Dione graduated from the University of Queensland with a bachelor of Journalism. Since then she's worked as a writer and editor in London, Canberra and Sydney. She's followed Shoes of Prey for a while and was keen to take a career change away from journalism in order to join our customer happiness team, which we're very excited about! She speaks French so is taking on the role of translating the French version of our website www.shoesofprey.fr and communicating with our customers in French.

Having grown up in Scotland, in 2008 Lydia moved to Manchester and in 2011 she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design for Fashion at Manchester School of Art. She then started working as a receptionist at Quiz Clothing, a UK retailer with 200 stores. She was quickly promoted from the receptionist role to an Assistant within the Human Resources team where she was responsible for organising recruitment for 8 new stores which opened over a 2 month period.

Lydia has only recently moved to Sydney and has settled in Bondi to live near the beach.

Brigette, Dione and Lydia have all been with us for a few months now. Hiring is challenging to always get right but out of the 180 applications we had for the role, we've hired 3 top performers here. A big hat tip to Dave Knapp who managed the hiring process.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Computer Science Education in Vietnam

Fantastic post by Neil Fraser, a software engineer at Google who recently visited schools in Vietnam to look at how they were teaching computer science there. Some fantastic lessons for us here in Australia.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Romance Was Born

One of the more interesting quotes we've had about our shoe range from Pedestrian TV:

If you're into shoe porn this is the footwear bukkake mother load.
They're referencing our recent collaboration with Romance Was Born at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Future of Retail - Stream Unconference

There were so many interesting discussions to share from the recent Stream unconference, but the one that inspired me most was on the future of retail. Around 50 retailers and those passionate about the industry came together on the Phuket Club Med lawn to reflect for an hour on the enormous change our industry has experienced in the last 10 years, and how that rate of change will probably be very minor compared with the 10 years ahead of us. How can we as retailers prepare for and take advantage of this change?

1. Customer Experience
For the first half of the discussion we focused on the customer experience and how this has and is continuing to change within our industry. Retailing is no longer as simple as putting product on the shelf to sell. Consumers are demanding much more. We heard how the huge growth of fashion retailers like ASOS and Net-a-Porter who provide incredibly convenient and well curated shopping experiences online. We heard how flash sales sites like Gilt Group allow customers to trade slower delivery times and a reduced range for deep discounts. Then of course there is Amazon who is winning by offering amazing convenience, price and at the same time is disrupting major categories like books. We were fortunate to have Sir Martin Sorrell join the discussion and he shared the fact that in 3 recent separate meetings with large retailers he'd asked them what their biggest concern was at the moment. All 3 answered 'Amazon'. This is a retailer who is killing it by providing an incredibly compelling offer to its customers.

We heard how today's consumer is thinking less about shopping "online or offline" and is instead wanting to use different channels for different things. I shared how at Shoes of Prey we've moved into bricks and mortar retailing because many of our customers want to be able to see, touch and try on our shoes before they buy, and they also appreciate being able to speak to someone to help guide them through the enormous range of choice we offer them when they're designing their own shoes.

Bricks and mortar retailers are seeing incredible growth online. Despite the high cost of shipping nappies, Kimberley Clarke's Huggies brand saw their online sales double in China from 10% of total sales in 2011 to 20% in 2012.

With the success of Amazon's price checker app, retailers are needing to innovate to avoid becoming show rooms for online players. Offering exclusive brands, vertically integrating as Apple have so successfully done, or offering unique experiences like customisation services were some examples given of ways to do this.

Analysing the examples we discussed we concluded that the best way to navigate all this change is to think through the customer experience and do everything possible to make that an amazing one.

2. 3D printing
The second half of the discussion moved to 3D printing and the enormous potential for change this brings to the retail industry.

With the incredible pace of development in 3D printing, in 10 years time it's likely we'll be able to cheaply and easily print products from a number of major product categories like homewares, children's toys and even some basic electrical goods. As MP3s completely changed the music industry and eBooks are disrupting the book industry it's likely we'll see similar changes to other major retail categories once people can print these products at home. Imagine the changes companies like Mattel or IKEA face when you can print your barbie doll or Swedish designed cutlery on your own printer at home. How will we deal with intellectual property issues in this situation? Will there be a Napster for design or will an iTunes or Spotify for design be developed? Who will do this? 3D printing is going to pose enormous challenges and opportunities for some major retail categories.

Another question was posed around how 3D printing will evolve. While there was some debate there was a strong view that we'll likely all have 3D printers at home for printing basic products and these will be augmented by more advanced 3D printers at hubs in major cities for more complex products. I might print my barbie doll at home, but my power drill might be printed at a local hub and my car could be printed at my local car dealership. Who will build and sell all these home printers? Who will own these advanced printing hubs? Could a Fedex or DHL build a network of 3D printing stations and coupled with their delivery network, offer 3 hour delivery times for nearly all major product categories? Huge businesses will be built in this space.

Thinking beyond just the retail industry, Sir Martin Sorrell made the interesting observation that 3D printing may completely reverse the trend we've seen for manufacturing to move to Asia. Once we can print many of the products we consume, perhaps we'll see manufacturing move back to the Western world and become something that's done locally again.

This was one of the most fascinating, insightful and strategically defining discussions I as a retailer have ever had. Thank you Stream.

Cross posted to The Huffington Post.

Friday, April 5, 2013

We're Hiring - Store Shoe Stylists

Shoes of Prey is a dynamic global company, pioneering the world of fashion and women’s shoes. We give women of all ages the opportunity to design their very own unique bespoke shoes. Amongst our many fans include the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen. 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.

We have recently opened our flagship store which is the first of it’s kind anywhere in the world. This is an incredibly exciting time for us and we’re looking for some amazing sales focused shoe stylists to join us on our journey! Here at Shoes of Prey we are hugely passionate about what we do for women’s fashion and we are looking for people to share that passion and want to create the most amazing retail experience out there for our customers.

Some of the key day to day activities:

  • Designing lots and lots of beautiful shoes and helping our customers to create their perfect shoe too!
  • Approaching and engaging with customers in the most friendly, fun and supportive ways possible.
  • Consistently hitting and beating targets and KPI’s.
  • Working with our Customer Happiness Team to ensure all orders go through to our studio as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Helping to continue to grow and improve our store.
  • Keeping our store looking beautiful through visual merchandising.
  • Helping any customers whose shoes aren’t perfect to make them perfect.

To be killing it in this role and considered an A Player on the Shoes of Prey Store 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 beat targets and push everyone else to do better everyday too.
4. You’ve contributed to the growth and scaling of our Shoes of Prey Boutiques. You’ve helped to continue to grow our store making it an even better experience for customers everyday.

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

  • Passion for sales. You’re passionate about selling and you’re seeking a career in retail sales, specifically in the fashion industry.
  • Passion for design and shoes. You will be passionate about design and your past experience or hobbies allude to that creativity.
  • Passionate about customer service. Customer Happiness is extremely important to Shoes of Prey, you love working with the people and have heaps of customer service experience.
  • 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 location of this role will be David Jones, Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The hourly rate for this role is above minimum wage and is based on experience. The perks include shoes, of course along with target based incentives and treats! The role will report into our Store Manager, Maria Xiao.

If you think you have what it takes to please email your resume and cover letter to joinourawesometeam@shoesofprey.com, please make the subject line “YOUR NAME - STORE SHOE STYLIST”, this is essential, any applications without this will be missed by our email filters.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

WPP Stream Unconference

When I received an email inviting me to the Stream "Unconference" in Phuket my first thought was, 'that sounds like a nice holiday but what will I learn from it?'. Sitting on the flight home after the conference closed, it was indeed rejuvenating and inspiring but in a totally different way to what I expected. Instead of soaking up the amazing food, culture and sun that Phuket has to offer my mind was blown away by the incredible ideas and amazing people I had the privilege of getting to know over the 4 days, and I'm chomping at the bit to bring all this back to our business Shoes of Prey.

There are no presentations or set topics at Stream, instead the conference agenda is run by the 300 attendees making for a hugely interactive and engaging exchange of ideas.

Thursday night saw the gadget show where attendees brought and showed off their favourite gadgets. We saw everything from the latest toys from ASUS (a laptop with a double sided screen for easy presentations) to a drone demo including a video of some of the incredible footage captured flying over the Phuket beaches that day. But there could be no winner other than 19 year old Raul Oaida from Romania who showed off his jet bike which he built in his backyard and has ridden at over 60km an hour!

On Friday and Saturday we were straight into the discussions which form the major part of the conference. Rather than having talks like most conferences where one person speak and the rest of the audiences listens, the discussions are organised and lead by attendees so they're very interactive. I loved them, they were a great way to get lots of views on certain topics. I lead a discussion on 'The Future of Retail' where we talked about 3D printing and how consumers will soon be able to download designs for products like children's toys and homewares and print them at home. Sir Martin Sorrell (the founder of WPP) joined our discussion and shared that within the next 20 years this may extend to other categories with even complex products like cars being printed. 3D printing has the potential to do to many product categories what MP3s and eBooks have done to the music and book industries, massive change awaits. I learnt more in the hour we spent discussing the future of retail than I have in a long time - something that wouldn't have happened had I or anyone else just been presenting on the topic.

Friday night saw 20 'Ignite' talks on topics people are passionate about. Presenters are allowed 15 slides which automatically progress every 15 seconds. Topics ranged from Chinese Youth Culture to media investment management explained in 3 letter acronyms. I shared my passion for Wall Ball with the 300 attendees (and we followed up with a game the following morning with about 8 players!).

My favourite presentation of the night was Melbourne's Steve Sammartino (author of the fantastic Startup Blog) who's very inspiring talk titled "A Stranger From Romania" covered off how Steve had met Raul Oaida (of the previously jetbike fame) online, and together they'd funded and built a lego rocket ship they'd then sent to space on a balloon!

I then had the pleasure of playing bass guitar in the Stream band. We managed to squeeze in 2 hours of practice Thursday and Friday nights and put together a 7 song set for Friday night's 'Extravaganza'. There's no better way to get to know a small group of people than to throw yourself into the deep end of a rushed preparation and performance in front of 300 people! Also at the extravaganza we had one of my favourite parts of the conference, 'Slideshow Karaoke' where some very brave souls were presented with 15 random slides they'd never seen before and had to turn them into a presentation in front of the 300 stream attendees! Friday night also saw the midnight cooking madness where Streamers showed off their culinary prowess by cooking their favourite dishes for a midnight feast. Melanie Lee was the clear winner with her spicy and delicious Singaporean Chilli Crab.

Saturday saw more discussions during the day followed by "the Pitch". For the pitch, teams got together to pitch a creative idea for a charity in India which is helping to educate young men on the importance of respecting for women. Not only were some great creative ideas developed, but those involved in the pitch teams had a wonderful experience working together and got to know each other well.

This was easily the best conference I've ever attended. I made new friends, had a great time and exchanged amazing ideas with some very smart and interesting people. It's amazing what a group of 300 people can put together with very little preparation. I'll be borrowing some of the format for team offsites and other events I organise in the future. Thanks to WPP for having me.