Local Search & Directories Market Heating Up

Vishal Thursday, July 31, 2008 , , , 3 comments

We published an extensive report on Australia's local search market in April 2008. At that time we found there are 18 local players in this space. Now within 3 months this list has grown from 18 to 25. All these players are competing in this market worth $235 million as reported last year (2007). It is expected to reach to $532 million by 2010.

We have now further updated this list and following are the players competing in this space:

  1. AussieWeb Local Search
  2. Brownbook
  3. ClickFind
  4. dLook
  5. Docoloco
  6. FreeConnect
  7. HotFrog
  8. Google Maps
  9. Local Search Solutions
  10. Local.com.au
  11. Nook
  12. NineMSN - My Local
  13. OurPatch
  14. Phone Book
  15. Rave About It
  16. RAYV
  17. Start Local
  18. Street Directory
  19. True Local
  20. VirtualMap
  21. Yellow (Sensis, formerly YellowPages)
  22. Vouchorgrouch
  23. Womow
  24. WhitePages (Sensis)
  25. Yahoo!7
  26. ReachLocal
As far as the top players are concerned, this hasn't changed much since we reported last time. So, the top 5 players in this market according to their market share/business listings are.
  • 1. Yellow, MyLocal (NineMsn)
  • 2. dLook
  • 3. TrueLocal,Google Maps, Yahoo7!
  • 4. AussieWeb Local Search
  • 5. HotFrog
In addition to this 2 interesting aspects which has been brought to our attention concerning Sensis is this
  • For Whereis, Sensis is using an emerging local startup company in mobile space from Brisbane, Locatrix. It provides mobile social networking solutions for deployment by network operators and location-based services to corporate customers and application solution providers. It uses location to create and shape mobile content experiences that engage subscribers and generate ARPU. This is the engine beneath Telstra’s (Sensis) Whereis Everyone.
  • For searching Yellow & White Pages on Mobile, they are using the services of Mobilepeople. MobilePeople provides product suite under liquidSearch.

It is good to see that local technologies are being used locally for consumers. We will be interested in learning more about what others are using for their offerings in this space. Please feel free to drop an email to us or just drop your comments here.

Credit: Thanks to Mark for some of the tips on the new players.

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Stripe - Australia’s First Mobile Radio Subscription Service

Vishal Wednesday, July 30, 2008 , , , , 0 comments

Today we are delighted to bring you a new venture from Sydney, Stripe - Australia’s first mobile radio subscription service and the first digital radio network to launch in Australia. It utilises broadband and 3G networks and allows you to listen to any Stripe radio station from your computer and most 3G mobile phones, wherever you are in Australia!.

Their music stations are all genre specific and commercial free including 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, disco, country, metal, rock, hip hop, Japanese pop and many more, all accessible from your 3G mobile phone.

We will soon be covering their venture in more detail as part of our interview series, in the meantime this is what Stripe Management has to say in their press release.

In a move which is expected to increase the take‐up of 3G mobile services in Australia, Stripe will launch over 30 new radio stations, Australia wide. The Stripe service will allow the Australian public to access 40 stations by Christmas and 100 by the end of 2009, via the internet and their 3G mobile phones for just under $10 per month.

Catering for all music tastes and addressing some huge gaps in the current commercial radio market, Stripe’s ‐ music stations are 100% ad free and will initially include mainstream music pop and rock, plus a variety of genre specific content.

Later this year, Stripe will be syndicating a number of stations from other global media outlets, plus local music and entertainment, kids, country, Christian and alternative. Over the next 12 months, the full station roll out will deliver the ultimate Stripe offering; including news, sport,
traffic, weather, entertainment, ethnic, lifestyle and comedy, providing radio listeners with choice and a radio service never seen in Australia.

Stripe’s proprietary broadcast platform enables end‐to‐end digital transmission of radio with song metadata, and a rich and interactive user interface. Each of the stations has been audio engineered to suit the content, music genre or era, ensuring that the listener will experience it the way it should be.

After two successful rounds of raising private venture capital, Stripe has been developing their proprietary network, technology and content offerings. Since 2006, network testing and consumer trials have all demonstrated that Stripe will deliver a superior listening service and network coverage.

Iain Bartram, Managing Director of Stripe said, “We are pleased to be launching this great radio service to the Australian marketplace, giving radio listeners a major benefit from owning a 3G handset. People can now choose to pay less than $10 per month to experience great ad‐free radio with huge variety.”

Jarrod Graetz, Head of Programming of Stripe said: “We are proud to launch Stripe in Australia – this huge range of listener driven, genre specific radio stations.
A great advantage of our service is that you don’t need a new device or gadget to hear us. If you’ve got 3G coverage, you can access your favourite music and programs from your (3G) mobile phone, and of course on broadband internet. No ad breaks, less interruptions, more music.
We position ourselves as “What you want on radio” because we believe Stripe delivers what Australia wants.”

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2008 State Pearcey Award for Young Achievers

Vishal Wednesday, July 30, 2008 , , , 0 comments

The Pearcey award is a NSW State award, aimed at encouraging and rewarding fresh and innovative talent in the IT profession. It is awarded to an individual early in their career who has demonstrated innovative and pioneering achievement and contribution to research and development.

The Award will be held on Thursday 11th September 2008 during an afternoon/evening Pearcey Foundation function at the Westin Hotel, Martin Place, Sydney.

The award is named after Dr.Trevor Pearcey, who in 1948 built Australia's first and the world's fourth digital computer, CSIRAC, in Sydney. It is the oldest surviving computer in the world. The Pearcey Foundation's objective is to reinforce the recognition, knowledge and appreciation of outstanding individuals and their contributions to the development and growth of Australia's ICT professionals, research and industry.

The NSW Pearcey committee is encouraging fresh and innovative talent in the ICT profession to step forward and gain recognition for their achievements. The winner of the NSW State Pearcey Award will be an individual early in his or her career who has demonstrated innovative and pioneering achievement and made a significant contribution to technological development or commercialisation of new technologies in the field of ICT.

The Pearcey Oration will be delivered during the evening by Dr Terry Cutler in his role as Chairman of the Committee responsible for the National Innovation System review. Two panel discussions on the impact of Dr Cutler's Green Paper will precede the evening – one with young entrepreneurs and one with industry association representatives.

The NSW Pearcey Committee is encouraging applications and nominations to the Award now – entries close 29th August 2008. The application procedure is simple and requires only the submission of a completed nomination form and a current CV. More Details here

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Mostyle - Mobile + Lifestyle

Vishal Monday, July 21, 2008 , , , , , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase an exciting and a successful venture founded by, Alex in 2006 from Melbourne, Australia, Mostyle! - comes from “Mobile” + “Lifestyle” - a telco-independent mobile ecosystem that not only provides the tools to build a mobile site but offers the distribution, community and multiple enablers for the monetising of mobile content through advertising or micropayments.


In a recent email based interview with Alex, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:


Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I have a Computer Science degree from RMIT University and am nearly done with a Masters of Entrepreneurship & Innovation from Swinburne University. Over the past 10 years I’ve been working in different areas of mobile gaming and entertainment, dealing with content, portals, industry building and development. My range of professional experiences has mainly been with Nokia (Mobile Entertainment Platform), Telstra (i-mode launch, 3G launch), StarHub (i-mode launch) and Hong Kong Polytechnic’s Multimedia Innovation Centre. I love the mobile space!
I’m also an avid gamer and we still enjoy some Warcraft 3 games in the office while my home gaming has mainly been CounterStrike Source, the Rainbow 6 Series and also Crysis. I’m also a long time Comic/Graphic Novel reader (and I’ve just been busy rebuilding my collection thanks to Ebay).

I live in Melbourne but have also spent a fair amount of time around in Hong Kong (No.1 destination), Tokyo (No.2 destination) and recently Singapore (No.3 destination). It’s important to keep abreast of shifts in the mobile industry regionally and also to be on top of the latest fashion trends.

Please tell us about your venture/company?
At Mostyle we have a vision of a telco-independent mobile ecosystem that not only provides the tools to build a mobile site but offers the distribution, community and multiple enablers for the monetising of mobile content through advertising or micropayments. Right now we are live with the fundamental tools for this vision which include a web2.0 mobile site builder tool, central portal and integrated mobile community. Our enterprise services allow for 3rd parties to utilize our mobile site builder and also for branded communities while we also do some Mobile Site Production Services.

What makes us quite unique is that we have the integration between all these elements that sit above a very strong technology platform comprising of our proprietary solution to handle the best user experience across all mobile devices.

Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Started by me circa 2003 originally as a website to share findings, research and street intelligence on how youth across APAC (Australia vs. Hong Kong vs. Japan) adopt mobile phones into their lifestyle. While the nuances of how mobility impacts society is well studied now in those days there was a lot of interesting trends and behaviour to report on. During this time, while living in Japan, I had the chance to do a lot of networking and mixing with the local mobile game developers and others throughout the mobile scene. I returned to Australia shortly after to take advantage of some of the future mobile market and mobile technology opportunities that I could see coming. And so the birth of the concept of a regional (if not global) distribution platform began.

How long it took before it was up and running?
It was probably a year before we officially registered the company but we had already begun building our first product called Pocket Charlie. Over the years we built a number of products catering to the youth market which ultimately assisted us with solving some key mobile technology issues that have since been built into the Mostyle Platform. The products leading up to the platform were Pocket Charlie in 2004 (a mobile game buy-before-you-try web/mobile portal, Pocket Charlie 3G in 2005 (a lifestyle 3G portal which had media sharing and message board support) and Pocket Charlie World 2006 (our very sexy 3G community portal).

What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
To populate the global mobile internet with high quality sites filled with fun content and entertainment for all! We’re really just here to make it a reality sooner.

What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
In terms of consumer services we offer free access to the mobile site builder and also free mobile profiles for all. Basically this is an entry point to interact with the community elements of Mostyle and to communicate or find new friends. We have a number of enterprise services as well allowing for others to rebrand our mobile site builder and branded mobile community elements. Additional exciting services for content providers will be launched soon as well.

What type of customers you are targeting?
Everyone needs a mobile site these days; some people even need thousands of them. On an enterprise level we’re targeting a range of customers who have these needs including Ad-network providers, ISP’s, directory services, web-based communities, brands and content providers.

What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
We use a mixture of both online and mobile-based advertising as well as word-of-mouth. We’ve found select international trade shows and speaking events to be particularly successful as well. Recently we’ve been focusing more on getting visibility through the mainstream media.

What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
Monetizing mobile content and services has always been tricky and we’ve seen the evolution of a number of business models that have come and gone based on consumer demands and the continually changing mobile environment. For our customers we’ve found that the best revenue models are the ones that enterprises or content providers are already accustomed to which include SaaS (Software as a service) and revenue share on content sales. The newest model we’re using is mobile advertising which is really simply a platform side-step from the online advertising model (but even so there is much scepticism still surrounding it).

Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
There are a number of competitors that have similar functionality (i.e. mobile site building or mobile community) from the US, UK, India and Germany but none that have really integrated all the elements together into the kind of ecosystem that is Mostyle. Similar models that we could be compared to are NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode or Apple’s iTunes.

What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Our fine developers (Mat, Kim, SkullVarker and Luke) are prolific supporters of Open Source tools and systems so our core technology is built within a LAMP environment. On the mobile side, much of our systems are proprietary due to the lack of any suitable solutions since we started many years ago. We do conform to serving out XHTML-MP pages to a specification requiring MUCH handset testing in the past.

What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
I guess the tool that provides value to both the development and project management elements of our business is TRAC which is a wonderful Open Source project management and bug tracking system which also houses our wiki.

Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
The Mostyle Platform and our internal development tools are largely Open Source based.

What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
Mostyle is running on linux while our development machines are a mixed WindowsXP/Ubuntu environment. We use MySQL as our database.

What’s your thought on the start-ups culture and innovation coming out of Australia especially in media and telecom?
I think there’s some incredible, world-class innovation coming out of Australia in the media and telecom space and oddly enough I only find out about them when I’m overseas rather than from the local press back home in Australia. Recently I think the local community among the start-ups particularly in Melbourne are really coming together in strength and this is fantastic to see. Hopefully this will generate more attention to the innovations here and also provide a supportive environment for the up-and-coming guys to be able to get some advice if not find mentors.

What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
We receive support on both a state and federal level which has been fantastic. In terms of improving the culture of innovation I would agree that tax benefits would certainly help out as well as much more local and international promotion of Australian innovation in the telecoms industry.

If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?
1) Make Australians, from a very young age, realize that Australia IS a part of Asia and that we should embrace our geographic closeness to forge stronger cultural and economic ties. We need to start thinking regionally and showing an interest in our neighbours rather than thinking that we’re still just a British colony.
2) Reward innovators/entrepreneurs. Australia should be a nation that not only praises and makes heroes of Sportsmen but also rewards and supports on a national level the great innovators and entrepreneurs that are both here and overseas.
3) Our natural resources won’t last forever, how about placing more emphasis on Australia’s incredible IP strengths and capabilities. We have some of the most brilliant minds here – we should tell the world.

How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Oddly enough I catch up with others in the mobile space mostly while overseas, either at conferences, tradeshows, xmedialab’s or presentations.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing, the fun and excitement is in the doing, whatever the outcome.
Make sure you have the support of your friends and family – sometimes a few words of encouragement can really boost your determination.
Surround yourself with smart people, experienced people, creative people and most importantly – ethical people – entrepreneurship can swing both ways.

Thanks Alex for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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99designs - Connecting Designers from Around the World

Vishal Tuesday, July 15, 2008 , , , , , , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase an exciting and a successful venture co-founded by, Mark Harbottle in 2008 from Melbourne, Australia, 99designs - it connects thousand of designers from around the world with clients who need design tasks completed fast, and without the usual high cost and limited choice you get from most traditional design firms.


In a recent email based interview with Mark, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I’m 34 years old. I have a degree in computer systems engineering. I started my working life as a programmer, but I eventually found I was much better at online marketing, which back in 1995 was an area not many people had explored.
I’ve worked with pure internet businesses for 13 years now. The first 4 years after I graduated I worked with one of Australia’s first internet companies, and the last 9 have been spent working on my own businesses. I started sitepoint in 1999 with a business partner in Canada, and I launched a new company earlier this year called 99designs.
I live in Melbourne with my wife and two little girls. When I’m not running around after two kids and two businesses (I’m not sure which is harder) I’ve usually either escaped to the footy or I’m at the gym battling to keep fit.

• What services do you provide for your customers?
99designs can be used to source any custom design work, so logo designs, business cards, web page designs, brochures, t-shirts, banner ads and so on. The difference between 99designs and your typical design firm is that we have access to a large community of designers who contribute to the outcome of your design rather than a single person.
The way it works is like this…
Say you want a logo designed for your business - you post your requirements on 99designs.com for $39 USD and nominate the amount you wish to pay for the finished design, say $300 USD. Designers from around the world view your requirements and start producing designs for you. Over the course of a few days you guide the designers by communicating what you like and dislike about their work. At the end of the process you choose your favourite design, pay the designer the amount you nominated (in this case $300 USD), and you walk away with a finished design.
We currently have around 16,000 registered designers, growing at 100 a day, so there’s no shortage of creative inspiration and variety.

• Who are the people behind this and how did it get started?
The original concept that 99designs is based on was founded by a group of passionate designers within the sitepoint.com forums. These particular designers needed an outlet for their work and they loved challenging each other so they would seek out small design projects and compete to produce the best design.
We noticed that this activity was gaining in popularity within the forums so we invested in building an online platform to better manage the design process and help bring new projects to the table for the designers. We ran a proof of concept for 18 months before deciding that it had enough legs to spin off into a new company.
So you could say our users founded the idea, we just crafted it into a business.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
Our objective is to build the biggest designer community on earth. The designers really are the core of our business, so our goal is to provide them with a friendly, professional, and secure environment where they can compete on a level playing field, show off their work, improve their skills, communicate with peers, and build relationships with new clients. We already have many designers from around the world who make their living through 99designs.com.

• What type of customers you are targeting?
As I mentioned 99designs is a community of designers but when business is transacted it’s also an online marketplace, and like every marketplace you have two sides to target – buyers and the sellers. For 99designs, the buyers are the clients seeking design work, and the sellers are the designers selling their services - so we obviously need to cater to both.

• How many people are using your services?
In the 4 months since we launched 99designs has grown to over 35,000 registered users, around half are designers. Traffic has grown from just 1.5 million page views per month in February 2008 to over 6.2 million page views a month in July 2008. It really is going gang busters.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
Apart from ad hoc promotions on our sister site (sitepoint.com) we haven’t done any outbound marketing at all – the uniqueness and simplicity of the service we provide and the fact that we’ve disrupting the multi-billion dollar a year design industry has meant that word of mouth has largely been responsible for our growth to date.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
Yes, we measure the success of our venture based on a number of key metrics. We have an online dashboard that’s linked to our user database via a number of reports and graphs that provide an instant view of everything that’s going on in the business. We also use third parties tools like Google Analytics to measure traffic and track referrals.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
We charge a $39 USD listing fee to upload your design brief to 99designs.com. That gives you access to our design community who will view your brief and decide if they want to participate. The designer is paid directly by the customer once they produce a design they’re happy with. That’s the way it works now, but we’re moving towards a slightly different model where we charge a small success fee at the end of the process and handle the whole transaction. This will simplify things a lot for everyone.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
There are a few competitors popping up and drawing inspiration from 99designs, however by being first to market we’ve very quickly established a critical mass of both designers and clients and claimed the #1 spot in this space. Obviously we’re working hard to protect our position and continue to grow.

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
99designs is built using commodity open source tools, Apache, PHP and MySQL. The site is hosted on Amazon's virtualized clustering product, EC2. Thanks to a number of cutting edge tools, the site can scale up or down virtual server resources based on time of day and traffic demands. This has allowed 99designs to survive a sustained growth that would have outgrown conventional setups several times.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
The development and production servers run Linux. The database servers run MySQL 5 with Innodb.

• The conventional computing model is shifting to Cloud computing. How do you see the future of business changing with the use of this technology?
I see the major change being the lower barrier for entry for small startups. Garage-based companies can now develop applications in weeks that can handle huge volumes of traffic and only pay for what they use. Avoiding significant infrastructure costs up front means less risk, and more funding for innovative ideas. The ability to scale on demand means smaller outfits can hope to deal with the volumes of traffic that sites like Digg and Facebook can deliver without having to provision entire server farms ahead of time.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation?
At a federal level they shouldn’t be removing access to key government funding initiatives such as the Commercial Ready Grant. Start ups need all the help they can get and grants such as these are vital for their survival.
In terms of encouraging established businesses to innovate I think if your company has a proven history of success there should more in the way of incentives to encourage you to do more to drive innovation, whether that be via new grants, tax offsets, or rebates.
On a state level, they should be providing incentives for businesses who hire more people not penalizing them – so abolishing payroll tax would be a good start.

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things would you do?
I would improve our health care system buy looking at examples of what’s working and what’s not working overseas. I would do something about the rising cost of living and housing affordability. And lastly I would build desalination plants around the country, funded by introducing a ‘water tax’ for excess water usage. Seems logical to me.

Thanks Mark for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Coastal Watch - Surf Reports & Live Streaming Vision for Beaches in Australia

Vishal Monday, July 14, 2008 , , , , , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase an exciting and a successful venture co-founded in 2000 by Ex-MD, Mal Jago, who now has a digital consultancy business Earworm Consulting, from Sydney, Australia, Coastal Watch - provides accurate surf reports for beaches around Australia and live streaming vision.


In a recent email based interview with Mal, he gave insights into this venture . This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
Spent 15 years as a Foreign exchange Dealer before a sea change in 2000 into Coastalwatch

• Please tell us about your venture/company?
Surfcams at beaches to provide surf reports and conditions to surfers/boating/ Surf Life Savings

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Chris Lane- Surfer and IT guru wanting to avoid getting up at UNi and wasting his time getting
to beach and find no waves.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
1-2 years established 1998.

• What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
Streaming surf cams/Surf Reports/ Swell Forecasting/ Surf news/Mobile phone data/ iPTV

• What type of customers were are targeting?
Surfers, Boating, Surf Life Saving and really anyone with a interest in the beach and water ways

• How many people were using your the services?
450k Uvs/month

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
Mainly done via word of mouth and through key sponsorship deals.

• How did you measure the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
Traffic against other sporting sites online as well as weather and news sites.

• What w
as the monetizing/revenue model? Was their any new model, which was tried?
Shifted from start as advertisers were slow to move spend online with audience. So content sales to mobile/ web dev initially then display took over as major revenue model. Also r
an a community radio model, as it was a free service and expensive to run people could opt in to become a member with no extra service. Professional people were happy to as they know how expensive it is to run a business and we saved them considerable time in doing the sport they love.

• Who were the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
Major sports portals with large franchises behind them. Other weather/surf sites

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
IP cameras and streaming software, but alot of the infrastructure was custom built or adapted.

• Were you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
Yes we did.

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough was it to start a venture in Australia?
Being early to market seeing such huge potential as did many others and the constant validating your story and keeping the dream alive. Not being apart of the major publishers and being massively under financed made it very difficult.

• What’s your thought on the start-ups culture and innovation coming out of Australia especially in media and telecom?
Always so exciting the last 2 years as more serious money enters the space. But its super competitive and many good ideas dont make it.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
Broadband/Broadband/Broadband.

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?
Poverty/ health / education all the things Government should be.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Go to as many events as i can and touch base with a good network of people.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Believe/ passion/ planning/ good investors

• Which City you were based in?
Sydney

Thanks Mal for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Plasq - Creating Software Applications for Mac and PC

Vishal Tuesday, July 08, 2008 , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase an exciting and a successful technology business co-founded by Keith Lang, from Canberra, Australia. plasq - Best known for “Comic Life”, is a software company that create applications for Mac and PC. It’s a bit over 3 years old and gained recognition in the Mac community when Comic Life was bundled with all new Macs for a period of a year. plasq has also won various awards for it’s software and works hard to design fun, intuitive and creative visual applications.
In a recent email based interview with Keith, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
Keith Lang, Co-Founder of plasq. I’m a musician by training, with a Bachelor Degree in Classical Music Composition. I was involved in audio software for quite some time, on the musicians side of things, before getting involved in the software side.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Robert Grant, Cris Pearson and Keith Lang founded plasq – based initially around a project to release software developed by a community of people. Musolomo was actually the first release, an audio application plugin built for live performance – coded by Airy André who would join plasq officially at a later stage. The next release was Comic Life -- an application that lets users turn their digital pictures into comic strips and share the fun results.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
The first released product Comic Life had been in production for about 3 months prior, with the original idea by Robert Grant. Then Cris Pearson and Keith Lang joined Rob to improve the user experience.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
To create intuitive, meaningful software that lets people express themselves.

• What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
Fun Software!

• What type of customers you are targeting?
Anyone with a reasonably modern computer. And now also iPhones and iPod Touch’s.

• How many people are using your services?
Millions.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
Some Google Adwords, some online sites. We’ve never bought magazine or other traditional media ads.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
We have various ad tracking schemes to follow the initial click on an ad, to download.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
We are mostly traditionally shareware based. That is, download the software, trial it for 30 days, if you like it then purchase a serial number or the software has its features reduced after the trial.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
We have many excellent competitors, from large companies with overlapping applications like Power Point with it’s callouts/balloons, to online sites which offer some of the features of Comic Life.

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Most of our applications are coded in Cocoa, which is a Objective-C based language that Mac applications usually use. The PC ports (versions) of our software use C+, I believe.

• What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
Most of the Apple technology has really improved in leaps and bounds over the last 7 years, and so now offers a really pleasant and efficient development space.

• Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
Only for our website, and occasional ‘generic’ things in the applications.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
I’m not sure what kind of database actually – we have various things for different needs. We use Mac OS X primarily.

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
plasq is an unusual company in that we work across continents. Only a small part of plasq is in Australia, and the company itself is an LLC in South Carolina, US. We have people in Norway, France, both sides of the US and work with artists in Austria, Japan and South America.

My personal thoughts on starting a venture in Australia is that people think locally too much. We set ourselves up using free online services like Skype, and have functioned for years using online collaboration tools. Of course, this does not suit every industry, but there are many functions of a company where better talent could be found around the world, or in another part of Australia.

• What’s your thought on the start-ups culture and innovation coming out of Australia especially in media and telecom?
There’s some startups in this country in the media and telco space – but to be honest I believe a lot of them eventually leave for the US, because it’s a hub for this kind of work. Another factor is that this country has such poor internet access. The fact we don’t have affordable broadband for everyone is hurting Australia, in my opinion.

• The conventional computing model is shifting to Cloud computing which is comprised of SAAS, PAAS and IAAS (infrastructure). This has resulted in changes to conventional monetising model? How do you see the future of business in terms of technology and revenue model?
Cloud and desktop/Mobile applications will continue to blur – but I’m not sure how the infrastructure will affect it.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
Subsidise broadband for everyone.

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?

  • Subsidise Broadband so that everyone has access to it.
  • Get kids involved in computer development early on, not just users
  • Put serious money into Solar Power research
• You are a prolific and a well-established blogger and podscaster. How do you manage this with work?
Well, I’ve just changed my blog to UIandus.com, which is focussing much more on User Interaction design than my previous blog. The resulting overlap should help both my work and blogging.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
I’ve recently moved to Canberra, from Melbourne for personal reasons. Melbourne has quite a good technical community, and they often meet for social lunches etc. under the umbrella of organizations like tequp.com Canberra has a much smaller community, and tends to focus on Government work, rather than entrepreneurship. I get to San Francisco about twice a year, and really enjoy meeting all the movers and shakers there.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Don’t think you have to spend money to get started. Beg, borrow what you need and start making customers early on. Listen to what they say, and measure your results to improve your strategy. Trust yourself when designing – build the things you want to use and then also ‘eat your own dogfood’. We have found Government grants to not suit us, sometimes it seems better to just build something small you can sell, then scale up to the final idea. Software is great for this because you have very few material costs during the startup period. Build a team of positive, realistic people who are not too similar to one another. Try to find a business-minded person with some experience. Scale up slowly and always have a plan B. Talk to the people who have been successful in your industry as they’re often happy to share their insights. Remember that the customer experience is the main focus at all times. Whenever you spend effort or money, measure the results afterwards. Make sure you are enjoying it most of the time!

Thanks Keith for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Morfik - Development Tools for Rich Internet Applications

Vishal Monday, July 07, 2008 , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase an exciting and a successful technology business co-founded by Aram Mirkazemi, from Tasmania, Australia. Morfik - a commercial vendor of professional software development tools. Morfik was established to address the need for an integrated high-end development tool that empowers software developers to leverage their existing skills to build Rich Internet Applications without the need to master Web technologies such as HTML/CSS/HTTP/SOAP etc.

In a recent email based interview with Aram, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I am a professional software developer with many years of entrepreneurial experience in developing commercial CAD systems and Web Application Development tools. My interests are Rapid Application Development (RAD), Integrated Development Environments (IDE), Rich Internet Applications (RIA) Using Ajax and emerging technologies, protocols and standards.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
After a very successful venture in Electronic Design Automation (CAD) that resulted in an Initial Public Offering in 1999, myself and Sharam Besharati (another former Protel employee) started Morfik in 2000.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
Our vision of using the web technologies to develop applications that rival the desktop was considered by many as too radical and unachievable in year 2000. Developing an integrated professional tool to achieve our vision necessitated inventing several new techniques and enabling technologies without circumventing existing standards. It took five years of research and development before all pieces of the puzzle fitted together and we were ready to deliver the first public beta of our flagship product.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
To help software developers who have missed the professional Web development opportunities to join the game and leapfrog to the top.

• What type of customers you are targeting?
Software developers who are not active in web application development, as well as existing web developers who prefer to use a professional Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

• How many people are using your services?
We have had over 10,000 downloads to date

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
Internet marketing mainly

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
Number of licenses sold!

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
We prefer the simplicity of the long-established sale of software licenses. Should there be a demand we will also consider offering a simple subscription model similar to Microsoft’s MSDN.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
The main players are Microsoft, Adobe and Google. However, only Microsoft offers a commercial Integrated Development Environment. Microsoft, Adobe, and Google promote different exclusive technologies. As a development platform, Morfik follows the established standards and is more inclusive. Morfik applications can incorporate some of the technologies promoted by these players. So while commercially competitors, technologies offered by these vendors do not necessarily compete with the Morfik platform.

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Compilers, Relational Database, Web Servers and W3C standards.

• Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
No

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
The development environment is Microsoft Windows. Morfik web applications can run both on Windows or Linux based operating systems including Mac OSX.

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
Being an entrepreneur is one of the greatest and most fulfilling journeys in life. It is very easy to be an entrepreneur; you just need to work hard!

• What’s your thought on the start-ups culture and innovation coming out of Australia especially in Software?
There are great Australian software start-ups that are world class. But unfortunately they go mostly unnoticed until they have success oversees. This has resulted in a cultural gap between start ups and the support infra-structure that helps them get started.

• The conventional computing model is shifting to Cloud computing which is comprised of SAAS, PAAS and IAAS (infrastructure). This has resulted in changes to conventional monetising model? How do you see the future of business in terms of technology and revenue model?
With cloud computing now being well on its way to deliver computing as a utility, businesses need to change their focus from IT infra-structure to business intelligence and automation. The market will no doubt experiment with new revenue models and over time the right model will emerge. In terms of software development tools no significant change in revenue model is necessary. The simplicity of either sale of licences or a subscription models will serve the purpose.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
They are already doing a great job with the R&D tax rebate and export marketing grants. The federal and state governments are the largest user of ICT technologies. My advice to them is to look at home first otherwise in many cases you will be paying a lot more to buy Australian technology from overseas!

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?
I will invest in that which will put Australia in the forefront of globalisation.
I will reward all innovation by assisting in its commercialisation.
I will reward productivity through profit sharing.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
We are regular visitors and exhibitors in Information Technology conferences and forums around the world. There are no dedicated communities in our city.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Don’t talk about it, just do it.

• Any external funding – from VC, Govt, Self funded
Morfik is self-funded

• Which City you are based in?
Hobart, Tasmania

Thanks Aram for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Acquisition of EDS by HP is about 3 C’s

Vishal Tuesday, July 01, 2008 , , 0 comments

Its now becoming clear to me that the recent acquisition of EDS by HP is about 3 C’s - Consulting, Cloud & Computing. The IT industry is rapidly moving towards cloud computing, which is explained here in lay men terms, courtesy of Google and Amazon.

EDS brings software development, management and consulting practices, which HP doesn’t have as their software consulting business never made big. So this is a no brainier that by getting EDS its sending the message in marketplace that they want to engage in consulting, IBM is the target here.

In addition to this the main/real aspect of this deal is about Cloud Computing – which has 3 basic pillars, Software As A Service (SAAS – Made Popular By Salesforce), IAAS – Infrastructure As A Service (Made Popular By Amazon), PAAS – Platform As A Service, which is an emerging trend where Google and Amazon are leaders. Microsoft is way behind in this space but they are trying with no success yet(Yahoo’s massive search infrastructure could have helped).

HP’s business is predominantly around infrastructure management and services around it. Cloud computing is changing this landscape as infrastructure needs can now be addressed via web, as Amazon is demonstrating this with its EC2 service, known as IAAS. So this means HP needs to move in this space, but without software management and delivery capability, this can’t be done, so they needed someone like EDS.

So in a nutshell it’s a well-planned move, little bit late as they are catching up, but leaves them ahead of Microsoft and IBM if executed! properly.

Image Credit - Production Scale

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