SmartCompany watchdog to crack down on dodgy debt collectors targeting SMEsby StartupSmart2021-04-19 12:36:34The consumer watchdog will take action against dodgy debt collectors, amid concern of a spike in unfair debt collection practices.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is concerned that the end of both JobKeeper in March and temporary debt relief measures in January will lead to a surge in debt collection activities.

To discourage debt collectors from using unfair or illegal tactics to recover debts from small businesses, the ACCC is closely monitoring complaints and will take action when necessary.

The ACCC is also encouraging business owners in financial distress to contact a financial advisor or the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Debt relief measures wind up

Temporary debt relief measures established last year expired on January 1, and since then the debt threshold for creditors to issue a demand against a company has reverted to $2,000.

The timeframe for a debtor to respond to a statutory demand also reverted to 21 days, meaning that if a demand is issued on or after January 1, the business will have 21 days to respond.

Following these changes, the ACCC updated its debt collection guideline, which outlines the current rules for businesses debtors and debt collectors.

Both the ACCC and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) enforce consumer protection laws that regulate debt collection.

Under current laws, it’s illegal for a debt collector to use physical force or coercion to compel a business or third party, such as a family member, to do something.

Business owners should lodge a complaint with the ACCC if a debt collector harasses them to an unreasonable extent, misleads or deceives them, or takes unfair advantage of any vulnerability affecting them.

Chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), Peter Strong, says if the ACCC is concerned about dodgy debt collectors, then small businesses should be aware.

“If the ACCC is saying that, they’re obviously seeing something, and COSBOA supports them,” Strong tells SmartCompany.

Strong says small businesses get a lot of messages, and one of the problems is ensuring they receive those messages.

“[It’s] why a business should join their association,” he says.]]>
SmartCompany“It wasn’t something we were willing to let absorb us”: Aboriginal brand Clothing The Gap to rebrand after trademark stoushby StartupSmart2021-04-19 12:33:06Aboriginal streetwear brand Clothing The Gap is set to rebrand following a two-year trademark dispute with international clothing giant Gap.
Now, the Melbourne business will be renamed Clothing The Gaps, after a copyright tribunal found “deceptive similarity” with Gap.

Founded by Gunditjmari woman Laura Thompson, and Sarah Sheridan, who is non-Inidigenous, Clothing The Gap was born out of Aboriginal health promotion business Spark Health.

It was always intended to give First Nations people a voice and an online space to occupy, while also educating non-Indigenous folks and inspiring conversation.

It was when the co-founders went to trademark their name that they received a letter of opposition from Gap.

“It was really overwhelming,” Sheridan tells SmartCompany.

At the time, the business had only four employees and the co-founders had only just started paying themselves.

Finding themselves under scrutiny from an international conglomerate was “pretty daunting,” she adds.

They didn’t have the resources to fight it at the time.

The founders had six months to stop using its brand name. But, before they had a chance to do much about it, they found themselves facing their second trademark dispute, this time from WAM Clothing, which owns the licensing rights to the Aboriginal flag.

WAM gave them just three days to stop the sale of anything bearing the Aboriginal Flag, and kicked off Clothing The Gap’s Free the Flag campaign.

“That was absolutely our number one priority, because it was something we could do on behalf of the whole population,” Sheridan explains.

However, it was this campaign that led Peter Francis, partner at FAL Law, to reach out to the fledgling business, offering pro bono assistance. The co-founders took the opportunity to source his expertise on the Gap issue, too.

The law firm has since worked “tirelessly” on both cases, Sheridan says. But, ultimately, in the case against Gap, there was only so much they could do.

The words ‘clothing’ and ‘the’ were deemed too generic to be copyrighted. However, in the use of the word ‘gap’, a trademark tribunal found there was “contextual confusion” and “deceptive similarity”.

“We were a bit shattered,” Sheridan admits.

Instead of going to appeal through the federal circuit, the team opted to approach Gap to negotiate.

“We are obviously fighters at our core,” she explains.

But, the appeals process could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and absorb a lot of the founders’ time and energy.

Instead, the co-founders chose to focus all of that on the impact they set out to make.

This is just a word, and just a name, she concedes.

“There are far more pressing and far more important life or death issues in community that need and deserve those resources and that air time and that energy,”

“It wasn’t something we were willing to let absorb us and distract us.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clothing The Gap (@clothingthegap)

For Sheridan, landing on Clothing The Gaps — a new new name that changes just one letter — is a win.

It maintains the brand identity as much as possible, she notes. And, when it comes to the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, there is, in fact, more than one gap.

“It speaks to the holistic nature of the work,” she notes.

It’s also close enough to the original name that anyone searching for Clothing The Gap online or on social media platforms will find themselves in the right place.

But the end of the dispute also marks the beginning of a new chapter for this small business.

Over the past 12 months or so, it’s been growing rapidly, building a strong brand and an army of advocates and social media followers.

Yet, even as it hit milestone after milestone, it hasn’t had “brand certainty”, Sheridan notes.

It opened its first physical store in Brunswick in December, but hasn’t yet been able to cover it in its branding and signage. That’s been frustrating.

“People are still asking us if we’re a pop-up,” she says.

“Now we’re going to paint the whole building top to bottom.”

Clothing The Gaps now has until the end of June to sell all of its ‘OG’ merch, bearing the original branding, and it's running an Instagram campaign encouraging followers to ‘join the OGs’ and secure a product that’s never going to be on the market again.

Already, stocks of those tees are running low, Sheridan says, and the messages of support are flowing in.

Community engagement is the very heart of this brand. And, if there’s one thing Sheridan has always been sure of, it’s the backing of its followers.

“We trusted that our supporters were so loyal that if we did have to do a complete rebrand they would follow us,” she says.

“They’ve really backed us.”


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A post shared by Clothing The Gap (@clothingthegap)

SmartCompany urges small businesses that suffered losses from COVID-19 closures to lodge insurance claimsby StartupSmart2021-04-19 11:49:27ASIC is urging small businesses to lodge insurance claims to try to recover losses resulting from pandemic restrictions.
ASIC and the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) want to boost the number of business interruption claims, after only 3,000 businesses of those that may be eligible for coverage have lodged claims since the pandemic began last March.

Business interruption insurance covers losses to trading caused by events such as infectious diseases and natural disasters. However, many policies include pandemic exclusions that prevent businesses from recovering losses due to COVID-19-related shutdowns.

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), says it’s important that confusion over whether businesses are covered for losses resulting from government mandated lockdowns is resolved as soon as possible.

“We think they [businesses] should be paid, because basically businesses will end up bankrupt. This is the loss of people’s houses and it’s about people’s mental health,” Strong tells SmartCompany.

Two test cases are currently playing out in Australian courts, and their outcomes will significantly influence future claims.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) initiated the first case in the NSW Court of Appeal last year, and has since sought leave to appeal the court’s decision in the High Court of Australia.

The ICA’s has so far argued that pandemics were not intended to be covered under most business interruption policies.

The NSW Court of Appeal, however, ruled that some policies referred to the now repealed Quarantine Act, which was replaced in 2015 with the Biosecurity Act.

The second test case was initiated as part of a dispute resolution process linked to nine small businesses claims lodged with AFCA. The insurers represented are Allianz, IAG, Chubb, Guild, and SwissRe Corporate Solutions.

This second case will see the Federal Court consider the unclear wording of business interruption policies to determine how they define a disease, the nearness of an outbreak to a business, and the blocked access to a business premises due to government restrictions.

Strong has been in discussions with the ICA and is planning a public round table to discuss business interruption and broader insurance issues facing small businesses.

“The reason we take insurance is to get paid out, and if they [insurers] don’t have the capacity to pay, well we need to talk about what we’re going to do about it,” Strong says.

Insurance has become a pressure point for small businesses in Australia, and not just because of losses resulting from COVID-19.

Liability insurance, and particularly the continuity of liability coverage is increasingly difficult for specialist businesses such as caravan parks and smaller-sized theme parks.]]>
SmartCompany’s time to regulate BNPL in Australia, says Commonwealth Bank chiefby StartupSmart2021-04-19 11:32:37The buy-now, pay-later sector in Australia is all grown up and ready for regulation, according to Commonwealth Bank chief Matt Comyn.
Speaking at a House Standing Committee on Economics last week, Comyn suggested that this sector has become too big to avoid regulation, and that its high time Australian players in the space should be subject to the comprehensive credit reporting regime.

The legislation would require them to report users’ total amount of debt, allowing banks to better understand their risk profiles.

Comyn reportedly acknowledged the work and innovation that has gone into building tech-enabled businesses such as market leader Afterpay, and said avoiding regulation thus far is “quite a feat”.

However, while the government “does and should” lean towards facilitating and encouraging innovation, “the line around innovation in this area is skewed to a complete absence and lack of regulation”, he argued.

According to Comyn, consumers who use BNPL services have higher rates of arrears on credit facilities. However, without those services providers contributing to comprehensive credit reporting, the actual figures are unclear.

He argued BNPL providers are offering credit products, but “rely on an exclusion that was drafted many years before the category actually existed”.

Now, the market has grown to such an extent that that exemption no longer makes sense, arguing the legislative framework in this space should be “comprehensively reviewed”.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable given the size of the market, the scale of the individual players — in one instance being an ASX 20 company — to make an investment in understanding their customers’ circumstances and financial position,” he said.

“They are beyond the point where the legislation framework that applies to that sector needs to be comprehensively reviewed.”

For its part, Afterpay declined to comment on the specific issue of regulation.

However, a spokesperson pointed to research from Alphabeta conducted in 2020, which found Afterpay users actually have lower personal liabilities than they did in 2017, and lower liabilities than both the general population and a like-for-like matched group of people.

Afterpay customers pay “significantly lower fees” than users of other financial products, the spokesperson said.

To surcharge or not to surcharge?

Comyn also took aim at controversial ‘no-surcharge’ rules imposed by some BNPL players in Australia, which prevent merchants using the services from passing on the costs involved to their customers.

He reportedly called on the Reserve Bank of Australia to disallow providers from putting such rules in their merchant contracts, noting that businesses are incurring costs of between 3% and 6% on BNPL sales.

In December last year, RBA governor Dr Philip Lowe said that was “unlikely”, at least for the time being.

Having a no-surcharge rule in place promotes innovation and the development of new payments technologies, he said at the time.

At some point, the costs of a no-surcharge rule will outweigh the innovation benefits, Lowe explained. But operators in Australia “have not yet reached that point”.

Just last month, CBA announced it is launching its own BNPL offering, linked directly to customers’ bank accounts.

That service will come with no additional costs to businesses, beyond its the bank’s standard merchant fees.

CBA also has a 5.5% stake in European BNPL provider Klarna and 50% ownership of its Australia and New Zealand business.

Klarna’s country head for Australia Fran Ereira has also previously said she was “surprised” at the high costs retailers are facing to offer BNPL payments.

“This is a particular burden on a sector that is so critical to our economic recovery,” she said.]]>
SmartCompany 10,000 hours on one skill. According to David Epstein, range is the key to successby StartupSmart2021-04-19 10:32:57Investigative journalist David Epstein dives into the science of success in Range, debunking the myth that only specialists succeed.SmartCompany damage: Christine Holgate is not the only one who will suffer from the Australia Post affairby StartupSmart2021-04-19 10:23:21For an issue that began over a relatively trivial matter, the list of candidates for reputational damage is long and shameful.
The Christine Holgate debacle has seriously damaged quite a few reputations. Some may never be fully repaired, and the world will certainly not forget anytime soon.

For an issue that began over a relatively trivial matter, the list of candidates for reputational damage is long and shameful.

Not just Holgate herself and Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo, but also Prime Minister Scott Morrison; government ministers who jumped on the bandwagon of shame; opposition politicians including Anthony Albanese who couldn’t resist joining the pile-on; and the media and commentators who helped inflate the issue to the biggest daylight robbery since a contractor at the Perth Mint stuffed gold bars and coins down his trousers.

With the current Senate inquiry focused almost entirely on who knew what when — and whether the former Australia Post chief executive jumped or was pushed — the ripples of reputational damage continue to spread.

But this highly politicised process seems to have lost sight of the triggering event. Let’s not forget that after Holgate approved the purchase of luxury watches as a reward for some senior executives, a subsequent government investigation, led by the Finance and Communications Departments and assisted by Maddocks law firm, cleared her of “dishonesty, fraud, corruption or intentional misuse” of taxpayer funds.

However, the report also concluded that her action “may be inconsistent with public expectations”. As Holgate herself said at the time, “I had done nothing wrong in this matter, other than failing the ‘pub test’ for some.”

Behaviour that is undeniably ‘inconsistent with public expectations” — or simply “fails the pub test” — seems to be a regular event in politics over recent months, but it so far hasn’t warranted the full court press of a parliamentary inquiry. In fact, some of the alleged offenders are still drawing comfortable government salaries.

So what lessons can be drawn from the affair of Christine Holgate and those luxury watches?

The first and most obvious is that when party politics is driving the process, and when the central player is an articulate and successful woman, nothing can stop the personal damage.

Secondly, “public expectation” has become little more than a rubric for whatever suits the political and media agenda.

Finally, and importantly for issue and crisis management generally, it is clear that once a story like this starts to run, facts provide little to no real protection for those involved.

The first government-led investigation determined that Holgate had basically done nothing wrong. And Australia Post chair Di Bartolomeo has told the current inquiry Holgate was treated “abysmally”; that in his view she was good at her job; and that the purchase of the watches “was an error of judgment made in good faith from an otherwise highly effective CEO”.

Sadly, none of that seems to matter and none of that makes the headlines. The truth is that when political reputations and the voting majority in the Parliament House are at stake, facts become dispensable and the reputation of a “highly effective CEO” is just collateral damage which will likely never be fully repaired.

Tony Jaques is an expert on issue and crisis management and risk communication. He is CEO of Melbourne-based consultancy Issue Outcomes and his latest book is Crisis Counsel: Navigating Legal and Communication Conflict.

This article was first published by Crikey.]]>
SmartCompany Caring CEO: How chief executives overcome toxicity to create cultures of care and high performanceby StartupSmart2021-04-19 09:44:20Self care, humility and empathy are recurring themes from chief executives speaking on The Caring CEO podcast.Our federal Parliament has been inundated with graphic accounts of workplace toxicity, including misogyny, sexual assault and rape allegations.

Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, recently claimed it was a triumph for the protesters that they weren’t “met with bullets” during the March 4 Justice rallies.

Morrison says ‘the house’ is just like any workplace. Politicians with broader career experience like Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull say things happen in Parliament that would never be tolerated in other companies.

The implications for this toxic culture are profound, as research shows that it leads to a decline in employee engagement and discretionary effort. Negative cultures also lead to 50% higher voluntary turnover.

There are examples of extraordinarily successful chief executives who focus equally on building a culture of care and high performance. Late last year I asked people to nominate leaders they had worked for that fit this profile. This year I have interviewed the leaders who were nominated for The Caring CEO podcast. After listening to the interviews, people who work in the chief executives' workplaces have shared on LinkedIn how much they admire them.

There were consistent lessons and themes that emerged from these leaders, including:

Encouraging self care

Amanda Yeates, deputy director general of the Department of Transport Queensland, believes her own wellbeing was paramount during the pandemic. She had regular gym workouts with her teenage daughters, which was physically good for them, and established a strong sense of comradery. She was so committed to employee wellbeing that she chose to chair the department's wellbeing committee. This led to a regular timetable of wellbeing events that promoted physical health and connection. 

Lisa Claes, chief executive at CoreLogic international, and her team increased employee engagement in the last year, by regular events that increased employee connection.

Research shows that if a leader practices self-care, 91% of employees are motivated to do their best by the company, versus 38% where there is no leadership support.

Staying humble

Nobody embodies humility more than Mike Schneider, chief executive of Bunnings. Although he leads a team of 55,000, he lives by his own four Hs of leadership — honest, humble, helpful, and happy. Could this be why Bunnings is the number one most trusted brand in Australia? 

He openly shares his need for seeking help and cites having coaches for business and running, as well as a psychologist for stressful times. 

Pat Grier, the former chief executive of Ramsay Healthcare, practiced ‘leading from behind’. His focus was on seeing the 80% of good in people, encouraging them to reach their potential.

Each of these leaders are also strong advocates of the R U OK? movement, with Ramsay twice winning R U OK?’s best workplace awards.

Emma Hogan, Secretary of the NSW Department of Customer Service, volunteered that the R U OK? movement should evolve to three questions — ‘Am I OK?’, ‘Are we OK?’ and R U OK? — which truly recognises the benefit of a caring culture.

Care and empathy

“If you are living with domestic violence, the full resources of the company will support you.” This is just one example of how care and empathy radiated from Chris Sutherland, the former chief executive of Programmed. The simple one-page policy pledged access to money, legal support, security, and transport — with no cap.

Grier was also instrumental in creating the company’s values, The Ramsay Way — with the tag ‘People caring for people’. During his time with Ramsay, they grew from 12 hospitals to over 100, and massively outperformed the ASX in return to investors. 

Gallup research has shown that the more employees that strongly believe ‘My supervisor cares about me’ — the higher the profit, and the longer an employee stays with the company.

Generosity over toxicity

Hogan is very generous with praise of those around her. She continually shares what she has learnt from others. Although she has only been in the public sector for 3 years, she stresses the impressive depth of talent that she has found there to help solve complex problems. This was consistent with the other leaders interviewed, who spoke about ‘we’, not ‘I’.

The year ahead will continue to be uncertain and stressful at work. Successful leaders will demonstrate that their main priority is to build more caring and resilient teams, who enjoy growing together. The rest will be blaming others.]]>
SmartCompany receives $3.6 billion fine as China tightens regulations for big tech playersby StartupSmart2021-04-19 09:31:35China’s state-run anti-monopoly bureau has tightened its regulations on big tech players, as shown by its recent move against the country’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group.anti-monopoly bureau has tightened its regulations on big tech players, as shown by its recent move against the country’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group.

Alibaba was hit with a record antitrust fine of 18.2 billion yuan (more than AU$3.6 billion) over the weekend for supposedly abusing its market dominance. The company, which operates the digital payment platform Alipay and offers bank loans to entrepreneurs, issued a public apology:
"Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination. To serve its responsibility to society, Alibaba will operate in accordance with the law with utmost diligence, continue to strengthen its compliance systems, and build on growth through innovation."

Meanwhile, questions have been asked about the whereabouts of Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma. In October last year, Ma lashed out at China’s financial watchdogs and banks.

Among other complaints, he criticised the state-managed financial sector and was subsequently hauled into a meeting with regulators. After that, the always-visible Ma was not seen in public for months.

Ma’s sudden withdrawal is just one of several developments that point to a huge shift in the regulation of China’s digital space.

The lenience once accorded to tech companies by the state no longer holds true, and recent actions against Alibaba may signal the beginning of the end of the romance between Chinese big tech and the government.

A fawning apology

The first real test for this relationship came late last year. China’s State Administration for Market Regulation charged Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Group (also owned by Ma) with anti-competitive behaviour.

Some of Ma’s comments around that time were not received well in Beijing. In October, he claimed China’s banks operated with a “pawn-shop mentality”.

According to reports, President Xi Jinping himself authorised the subsequent withdrawal of Ant Group’s initial public offering launch on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

The company was then forced to incorporate itself as a financial institution and subject itself to supervision by China’s state-controlled central bank.

The anti-monopoly ruling dealt out to Ant Group last year — and Alibaba more recently — aren’t incompatible with corporate governance in Western democracies. However, the chief executives of Western tech companies generally don’t make fawning apologies to government following accusations of anti-competitive behaviour.

Back when big tech was in the state’s pocket

There was a time in China when big tech firms lived the dream. Historically, China’s regulators have given its internet companies much more latitude than afforded to the tightly controlled state-owned media.

In 2000, when Alibaba was just one year old, only 1.8% of the Chinese population was online. This number now exceeds 50% of the population.

As my colleagues and I explain in our book, the Chinese government’s decision in 2007 to require all video-sharing platforms to be licensed led to the rapid market dominance of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. These were followed by Bytedance (which owns TikTok), Kuaishou and Meituan.

The licensing requirement was a response to pressure from international copyright holders, including the Motion Picture Association of America. It eliminated less financially robust operators, many of whom were breaching copyright.

Aware of their social responsibility, many big tech leaders espoused the Chinese Dream: Xi Jinping’s roadmap for national rejuvenation. And Alibaba led the way.

Over the past decade it set up rural e-commerce hubs called Taobao villages to play to the government’s tune of “rural revitalisation”.

In 2015, when the central government announced a campaign to activate grassroots entrepreneurship, Alibaba partnered with the local provincial government in Zhejiang. The resulting project was aptly named “Dream Town”, which the governor of Zhejiang described as:
"A new type of mass entrepreneurial space, a giant incubator, a young entrepreneurial community, a new information economy motor, an internet start-up ecosystem".

All the while, Alibaba had been adding several enterprises to its war chest, mostly acquisitions of smaller companies. It took the major share of popular video site Youku Tudou and bought into the film business, getting closer to younger audiences.

The state steps in against Alibaba

China’s internet companies have built the infrastructure of China’s digital economy, which is now estimated to account for 36.2% of GDP. This growth is largely due to the forces unleashed by China’s new breed of digital capitalists.

Alibaba has invested heavily in research and development over the years. It has a modern campus in the Yuhang district in Hangzhou, recruiting foreign talent.

Other tech giants aren’t far behind: Tencent has similar campuses in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and Huawei has one in Dongguan.

As Stephen Barthlomeusz of the Sydney Morning Herald notes, the state regulator’s recent targeting of Alibaba (and other major tech companies) doesn’t come without cost.

China’s tech market has driven growth and innovation. In fact, China’s anti-monopoly laws have existed since at least 2007. But their enforcement was lacking, as the state opted for innovation by nationalising the tech sector and letting it develop.

Putting a squeeze on activities now runs the risk of slowing down China’s economy. At the same time, the Chinese public is growing disillusioned with the predatory practices of big tech.

Sound familiar?

The visible hand

At the same time, China’s tech companies owe a great deal of their success to the government. The state allowed them to benefit from policies designed to keep foreign competitors at bay, and to attract human capital back to China to work in these enterprises.

In return, the companies have helped the Chinese state further its technocratic model of surveillance, through investing in the social credit system and facial recognition.

But the market no longer offers the pretence of distance from government intervention. And new laws allow the Chinese government to access information about the users of China’s tech platforms.

This is the status of the relationship going forward. The question now is whether this will lead to a permanent chill. In the year celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, perhaps it would be more expedient for China’s tech companies to toe the party line.

With the state’s propaganda apparatus reminding people of its victory over capitalism, it’s in the interest of incumbent players to adopt the principles of socialism, rather than play to their shareholders.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.]]>
SmartCompany you a digital marketing whiz? We'd like to chatby StartupSmart2021-04-16 15:30:47Private Media is now looking for a mid-level marketer to manage Crikey and SmartCompany’s subscription businesses.
Meanwhile, SmartCompany exists to champion small businesses and the people who run them, plus give them the tools they need to survive and thrive in the modern Australian economy.

Our business is funded by two key revenue streams — advertising and reader revenue. After a year of substantial reader growth, Private Media is now looking for a mid-level marketer to manage Crikey and SmartCompany’s subscription businesses, reporting into the head of reader revenue.

What you’ll do:

  • Work with the head of reader revenue on an ongoing year-long marketing campaign to bring in new subscribers for both brands

  • This strategy will be split into sales and non-sales periods

  • During sales periods, you will consider pricing options and added value (eg. book giveaways) to drive significant subscriptions growth

  • For non-sales periods, you will look at new ways to deliver a strong brand message and “always on” marketing campaigns to maintain solid weekly growth

  • Manage and find new ways to improve automated marketing email series

  • Collaborate with the editorial team on time and topic sensitive marketing campaigns

  • Use paid media channels (social and search, primarily) to extend brand reach and acquire new customers at high volume and low CPAs

  • Consider new marketing channels to reach new audiences

  • Reporting on outcomes of marketing campaigns and identify areas for improvement.

About you

Ideally, you have experience in some or all of the following:

  • General marketing campaign ideation for digital

  • Social media marketing, especially with paid media campaigns

  • Copywriting for different channels

  • Email marketing

  • Subscriber/audience/customer acquisition and retention programs in a digital environment

  • Strong coordination and project management skills

To apply for this position, please send through your resume and cover letter directly to This position is available to be worked remotely in Australia.

Private Media is the parent company of Crikey, SmartCompany and The Mandarin.]]>
SmartCompany ads have hit a record high, but businesses are struggling to fill vacanciesby StartupSmart2021-04-16 12:19:55The combination of closed international borders and a domestic economy that is bouncing back from the pandemic is having a surprising effect on employment trends.
Fresh data from SEEK has revealed that the highest number of job ads were posted on the employment marketplace in March compared to any other month in its entire 23-year history.

However, despite the boom in demand for workers, recruiters are having trouble finding the right candidate for a job.

On average, applications per job ad are at their lowest level since 2012.

A not-so-global talent pool

Kendra Banks, managing director at SEEK ANZ, said there were many reasons contributing to this decline, such as a reduced labour supply from overseas impacting the ability to fill roles.

“Workers [are] displaying a more cautious approach to career moves following a turbulent year, and with more jobs available, there is a knock-on effect to the number of applications per job ad posted,” she said.

Despite the low number of applications per job, Banks said the change in current labour market conditions compared to 12 months ago “is nothing short of remarkable”.

Demand for multidisciplinary skills

Stella Petrou Concha, chief executive and co-founder of Reo Group, a talent search agency specialising in accounting, finance, business services and technology, says every industry affected by the pandemic has lost talent and is finding it difficult to fill vacancies.

“For example, it’s very hard to find chefs now, as chefs have repurposed themselves out of the hospitality sector, as they see survival as an issue,” Concha says.

With businesses vying for talent, Concha says well-resourced companies are now looking for candidates with “cross-functional and multidisciplinary skills”.

A resulting trend, she says, is that there is greater need for individuals to go back to business school and re-educate themselves in a variety of specialisations.

Concha says companies are preferring expertise in creative intelligence, design thinking and coalition management over traditional management and leadership skills.

“Companies are asking talent to step up their capabilities in a wider and more cross-functional skill set so they can navigate this new landscape,” she says.

The latest SEEK Employment Report shows an increase of 75.1% in national jobs advertised compared to March 2020, when the fallout of COVID-19 first impacted the labour market.

Unsurprisingly, the unemployment rate has continued to decline as pandemic restrictions have eased in Australia, with unemployment falling by 0.2 percentage points to 5.6% in March.

The number of Australians employed increased by more than 70,000 between February and March, reaching 13,077,600, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.]]>
SmartCompany, small business division moved from industry portfolio to Treasuryby StartupSmart2021-04-16 12:14:10The office of the Australian Small Business Ombudsman and the federal government's small business division have been moved out of the Department of Industry and into Treasury.The office of the Australian Small Business Ombudsman (ASBFEO) and the departmental small business division are being moved out of the Department of Industry and into Treasury. 

SmartCompany understands Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert has also now been sworn in as a Treasury minister, following his inclusion in the influential expenditure review committee in cabinet. 

Newly appointed Small Business Ombudsman Bruce Billson confirmed ASBFEO’s move to Treasury to SmartCompany this morning, saying the change will “put small and family businesses at the heart of the national economic agenda in this crucial phase of recovery”. 

Billson is understood to have long been in favour of the Ombudsman’s office being housed within Treasury, and SmartCompany has been told Minister Robert holds a similar view. 

The moves have been welcomed by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA); however, chief executive Peter Strong says the change to the departmental small business division should be treated with some “caution”. 

This is because of what happened the last time the division was moved to the Treasury department, with Strong telling SmartCompany the division was effectively “gutted”.

In 2013, the small business division was moved to Treasury shortly after former prime minister Tony Abbott was elected.

Strong says all the small business specialists either left or moved to other parts of Treasury following this change, and he is concerned there is potential for the same thing to happen again. 

“The history is not a good one,” he says. 

However, Matthew Addison, a director of COSBOA and chief executive of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, says the move also has the potential to give the small business sector a greater role in helping to form policies that will affect the sector before such decisions are made. 

“Treasury is the heart of economic policy,” he tells SmartCompany

A similar sentiment is shared by Billson, who says Treasury is largely responsible for the policy settings needed to create a “supportive environment” for small and family businesses. 

“I am delighted that those shaping economic policy will have the small business sector at the forefront of their minds,” he says. 

“I’m optimistic about the contribution we can make to this central economy agency and in turn, the contribution small and family businesses can make to our national recovery efforts.”

SmartCompany contacted small business minister Stuart Robert but was directed to the Prime Minister's office, which did not respond before publication. 

SmartCompany also contacted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's office but did not receive a response prior to publication.]]>
SmartCompany adds Instagram scheduling for its premium usersby StartupSmart2021-04-16 11:53:48Small businesses looking for ways to better manage and schedule their Instagram content now have another tool at their disposal.
While there have long been multiple ways to schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, scheduling Instagram content has been a trickier proposition for business owners and brand managers because Instagram doesn't have an in-built scheduling function.

Canva, which last week revealed it is now valued at $19 billion, appears to be tapping into a growing demand for a tool to do this, with a new integration for its Canva Pro customers.

The integration will allow users with Instagram Business accounts to design, schedule and then post on Instagram from the company's Content Planner tool. Because the posts can be edited directly within Canva, it means users won't need to switch platforms if they need to make changes to the post.

One Instagram Business account can be linked to each Canva Pro account, and up to 25 images can be published per day. Canva Pro yearly subscriptions cost $164.99 for a single user account.

In a statement, Canva said its Content Planner has been used to schedule more than 2.4 million designs to date. The tool can also be used for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Canva co-founder and chief product officer Cameron Adams said in the statement that Instagram scheduling has been one of the most requested features from Canva users.

"It'll help them to share the right message at the right time, without having to be awake at 2am or sign up for yet another product," he said.

Canva has 3 million paying users, out of a total user base of 50 million, and the company has indicated it is on track to reach $1 billion in revenue for the 2021 financial year.

However, writing for SmartCompany this week, Luxury Escapes founder Adam Schwab said Canva has "barely scratched the surface of its massive potential customer base", and predicted the tech company will soon be worth more than Afterpay and Atlassian.

Schwab says it is "highly achievable" for the company to reach 50 million paying users within the next five years, and to increase its annual average revenue per user from around $300 to $500 as it continues to add to its product suite.

This means Canva could be generating as much as $25 billion in revenue within that timeframe, and be worth $250 billion.

SmartCompany government to scrap plans to delay super rise, in new gender-focused approach to superby StartupSmart2021-04-16 11:33:37The Morrison government is expected to abandon plans to overturn the superannuation guarantee, which is set to rise to 12% over five years.
Following the release of the government’s Retirement Income Review, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced in February that the government was considering making the superannuation system more flexible.

Since then, however, the Morrison government has back tracked on its plans, ditching its push to delay the rise of the superannuation guarantee.

It has also rejected plans to give workers the choice to take either a rise in their super or pay, as well as plans to allow first-home buyers to access their super early, The Australian Financial Review reports.

The next legislated increase to the super guarantee is scheduled for July 1, when it will increase from 9.5% to 10%.

Minister for Superannuation and Women's Economic Security Jane Hume confirmed that the July rise of 0.5% remains scheduled, and further details regarding changes to superannuation would be announced as part of the budget next month.

The federal budget, which will be handed down on May 11, will reportedly seek to address the economic inequalities between men and women that have worsened during the pandemic.

As part of this effort, the Morrison government is looking at ways to address the superannuation savings gap that exists between genders.

Christina Hobbs, chief executive of Verve Super, a super fund tailored for women, welcomes the Morrison government’s move to address the super gap.

“I’m glad that the Morrison government is now paying attention, after a long list of reports demonstrated the gender-blind spot at the heart of Australia’s superannuation system,” Hobbs tells SmartCompany.

In November last year, the Retirement Income Review showed the need to apply a gender lens to the retirement savings system in order to close the 35% super gap, Hobbs says.

The super gap, which starts with the pay gap, results in men as young as 18 to 29 having a balance of $10,166,  whereas females in the same age group have just $8,408.

Over time, the trend grows, leaving women with an average retirement balance of $138,154, compared to $292,510 for men, according to WEGA.

As well as the fact that women earn, on average, 13.4% less than men, they also often have lower participation rates in the workforce and take more time off for motherhood and caring responsibilities.

Hobbs says while urgent reform is needed to make the system fairer, she is “deeply concerned” that the measures being discussed may “shift the burden of closing the gap back on to women”.

“The failure to address long-standing structural gender inequities in the superannuation system, while continuing to push the burden onto women to close the gap through personal savings will consign the next generation of mothers to financial insecurity,” she says.

Hobbs says it is vital that Australia, like other wealthy countries, consider the unpaid caring work women do when designing its retirement system.

Last year, Verve Super released a report with nine key recommendations for closing the gap, including paying a form of caring credits to carers who undertake unpaid work.

Verve Super also recommend abolishing the minimum superannuation guarantee threshold of $450, which sees many casual workers — more likely to be women — missing out on super, Hobbs says.]]>
SmartCompany releases critical warning for local organisations over new Microsoft email riskby StartupSmart2021-04-16 10:40:59Assistant Minster for Defence Andrew Hastie said that any Microsoft patch released prior to April this year did not cover the new vulnerabilities.urgent advice for local organisations to patch new vulnerabilities discovered in the Microsoft Exchange systems.

A patch to mitigate ‘significant’ new vulnerabilities discovered in Microsoft Exchange 2013, 2016 and 2019 was released on Tuesday.

The ACSC has advised local organisations to apply the patch released this week as a matter of urgency.

Assistant Minster for Defence Andrew Hastie said that any Microsoft patch released prior to April this year did not cover the new vulnerabilities.

“Patches previously released by Microsoft in March 2021 do not remediate these new vulnerabilities, and organisations must urgently apply new updates to prevent potential compromise,” Hastie said.

He stressed the patch would minimise the risk of email software systems being compromised by threat-actorsm, and added that the ACSC had already identified Australian organisations had been targeted.

“This is a critically important task for Australian businesses and organisations,” Mr Hastie said.

“People should visit the new alert, available at, to identify the steps outlined by the ACSC and access the Microsoft guidance.”

This article was first published by The Mandarin.]]>
SmartCompany to name and shame companies for payroll tax avoidance linked to wage theftby StartupSmart2021-04-16 10:33:05Companies in NSW that avoid paying payroll tax on unpaid wages could soon face significantly harsher penalties, as part of a NSW government plan to crack down on wage theft in the state.Companies in New South Wales that avoid paying payroll tax on unpaid wages could soon face significantly harsher penalties, as part of a NSW government plan to crack down on wage theft in the state. 

A suite of new laws announced by Finance and Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope on Wednesday will also see Revenue NSW given the ability to name and shame companies that have underpaid payroll tax on wages, and to pass information on to the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist wage theft investigations. 

The new legislation sets out a number of penalty increases. 

Employers that fail to keep records required to determine tax liabilities, or fail to produce those records to Revenue NSW when requested, will face potential penalties of $27,500 (250 penalty units), up from $11,000 (100 penalty units). 

The same penalty increase will apply for employers that fail or refuse to lodge a document, statement or return as required.

Penalties for employers that willfully damage or destroy records will increase from $11,000 (100 penalty units) to $55,000 (500 penalty units), as will penalties for taxpayers who falsify or conceal the identity or location of a taxpayer or another person. 

Employers that knowingly give false or misleading information to a tax officer, including deliberately omitting information, will also potentially face fines of $55,000 (up from $11,000); however, these will increase to a fine of $110,000 (1000 penalty points) or prison sentences of up to two years for repeat offenders. 

Under the proposed changes, ministerial guidelines will also be developed to establish a framework for when Revenue NSW decides to name companies that have avoided payroll tax on unpaid wages. 

The legislation will also give Revenue NSW the ability to reassess payroll tax up to five years after an initial tax assessment when an employer has underpaid wages. 

In NSW, employers are liable for payroll tax if their annual wages are above $1.2 million. The current rate is 4.85%

Unpaid wages are considered to be taxable wages for the purpose of payroll tax. 

In a statement, Tudehope said the changes are designed to deter businesses from avoiding their payroll tax obligations, as well as other tax avoidance or minimisation practices. 

The new legislation, he said, “sends a clear message to businesses — do the right thing by your employees and by the taxpayers of NSW”. 

“Those who engage in wage theft deprive workers of their due wages and also minimise their payroll tax liabilities, while gaining a competitive advantage over those who do the right thing,” he said. 

Anti-wage theft provisions were recently dropped from the federal government's industrial relations legislation, despite bipartisan support for the changes that would have increased civil penalties and added a new criminal penalty for severe cases of underpayment.

Tudehope said the NSW government will continue to work with the federal government on efforts to address wage theft, and is calling for the federal opposition and Senate crossbenchers to work with the government on a national framework against wage theft.]]>
SmartCompany for a pixel? Single-dot NFT sells for $1.3 millionby StartupSmart2021-04-16 10:24:13A token certifying the buyer as the owner of a single pixel is now worth $1.Digital artist Pak has sold a single-pixel NFT for US$1.3 million (AU$1.67 million) through an auction at Sotheby’s, with the buyer, Eric Young, being part of a new-generation of art collectors that are betting big on NFTs.

Young — who has most of his and his wife’s savings in cryptocurrencies — told Bloomberg that investing in NFTs seemed intuitive for him, saying, “I understand how this ascribes provenance to a piece on a public ledger, and there’s nothing else I need to understand”.

A pixel is a coloured dot, the smallest unit of a screen. Generally, hundreds or thousands of pixels come together to make an image.

Young already owned roughly US$1 million in assorted NFTs before purchasing the US$1.3 million token, which certifies him as the owner of a single pixel.

If you’re reading this and thinking that NFTs might be getting slightly overpriced, you’re not alone.

In fact, a new fashion brand called ‘Overpriced.™’ with the tagline ‘F*ck you(r) money’, has just sold a limited run of NFT-backed hoodies for US$26,000 a pop.

Backed up on the blockchain, if your hoodie gets lost or stolen, they will issue you a new physical item — provided you’re the owner of the NFT.


[caption id="attachment_206559" align="alignnone" width="733"] The US$26,000 hoodie. Source: Overpriced website.[/caption]

They've been designed with a certain kind of buyer in mind, with the hoodie having the same aesthetic as a computer tower built by a PC gamer, or a Monster Energy drink.


[caption id="attachment_206563" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Monster Energy. Source: Coles website.[/caption]

As one of the company founders James Zwadlo puts it, “We are a group of artists looking to create art-powered crypto fashion that aims to challenge the conceptions of what luxury fashion is”.

Performance art, a cruel joke, or the next fashion frontier? Either way, they’ve pocketed upwards of a quarter million by printing a scannable code on a hoodie and calling it an NFT.

Need a reminder on what NFTs actually are?

This SmartCompany Plus piece explains how they work, and whether you can offer them through your business.]]>
SmartCompany"Not even close": Despite no international travel, the airline industry hasn't collapsedby StartupSmart2021-04-16 09:16:53Globally, the main reason for the lack of large-scale airline bankruptcies has been government assistance.the future of the airline industry. Along with many other experts, I expected international air travel by this point would still be below pre-pandemic levels but well on its way to recovery.

We thought things would be so much better by now, but we are not even close.

After a disastrous 2020, in which passenger traffic globally fell by two-thirds, the International Air Transport Association’s latest forecast (published in February) doesn’t expect this year’s total traffic to be more than halfway back to pre-pandemic levels. Full recovery isn’t expected before 2023.

For some countries it might be even longer.

Deloitte Access Economics in Australia, for example, published a report on Monday predicting international air travel may not fully recover until 2024; and that prediction was locked in before the Australian government announced on Sunday it was abandoning its target to have all Australians vaccinated by the end of October — a time frame on which the opening of international borders was predicated.

That’s particularly bad news for Qantas, Australia’s main airline, which last year hoped to resume international operations by July. Now its plan (announced in February) to restart 22 of its 25 overseas routes in November also looks unlikely.

No travel, no large-scale bankruptcies

But things could be worse.

A year ago I (and others) expected many airlines to fail as prolonged revenue losses strained their liquidity positions beyond breaking point. I was wrong.

According to aviation and travel analytics company Cirium, 43 airlines went out of business in 2020. But this was fewer than 2019 (when 46 carriers went bust) and in 2018 (when 56 airlines went out of business).

Most of the bankruptcies were smallish regional carriers, such as Britain’s Flybe or AirAsia’s Japanese subsidiary AirAsia Japan.

So far no mid-sized and larger carriers went out of business, though a few have come close. For example, Thai Airways and Columbia’s Avianca (Latin America’s second-biggest airline) requested bankruptcy protection.

Australia’s second major airline, Virgin Australia, also went into voluntary administration but was saved from collapse — at least temporarily — by being sold to US private equity firm Bain Capital. These are the kinds of airlines I expected to collapse a year ago.

But at what cost?

The main reason for the lack of large-scale airline bankruptcies has been government assistance. The International Air Transport Association’s latest tally puts the amount of state aid to airlines globally at US$225 billion. That’s equal to more than a quarter of the global airline industry’s revenues in 2019.

IATA’s analysis of the first US$123 billion (published in May 2020) shows about 60% of the aid has been in loans or loan guarantees (with the balance being wage subsidies, equity financing, tax relief, operating subsidies and direct cash injections). Those loans must eventually be repaid.

As I predicted, governments have put little care into directing aid to the airlines with the best chance of surviving in the longer term. IATA’s analysis shows no correlation between the airlines’ likely viability and the amount of aid received.

This means many carriers could struggle to repay their debts post-crisis. It also means lending governments have greater incentives to keep them afloat so they can.

One possible consequence is governments offering further support by protecting struggling airlines from competition post-COVID. A government could restrict flights, for example, to make routes more profitable. That would mean higher airfares.

But at least the industry concentration I feared would result from collapses, mergers and acquistions — leading to less competition and higher prices for customers — looks unlikely.

The world is not as global as we thought

The single biggest disappointment of the past year has been governments’ inability to effectively collaborate to relax international travel restrictions — even between countries that have managed COVID-19 well, such as Australia and New Zealand.

The “travel bubble” could, and should, have started much earlier.

IATA’s efforts to have governments embrace a system of coronavirus tests for travellers before departures, rather than quarantine of arrival, fell on deaf ears.

Travel bubbles have proved difficult to agree on and maintain. Taiwan’s bubble with Palau, for example, only allows for miniscule travel numbers. The Singapore-Hong Kong arrangement was suspended days before it was scheduled to commence following a minor outbreak in Hong Kong.

Pretty much all such discussions have been bilateral. These are a start, but what is really needed are multilateral agreements for regional safe-travel areas. Australia and New Zealand, for example, could team up with countries with similar epidemiological situations such as Singapore, Taiwan, China and Vietnam.

Had governments adopted a more cooperative approach, they might have saved money paying local airlines for not flying. This lack of cooperation, if it continues, will ensure international travel resumes slower than it could have.

Vaccines are the key to travel

The IATA’s February forecast of global travel volumes being back to 80% of 2019 levels by the last quarter of the year now principally rests on the speed of vaccination programs around the globe, and what happens with new COVID-19 variants.

Until a considerable share of people are vaccinated, protective measures (masks, distancing, reduced capacity at events, track-and-trace) will remain necessary, both during travel and while out and about on the ground.

Crucial to international travel returning to normal will be “vaccine passports”, some form of which will likely be needed for most international travel for at least the next five years.

I expect requirements such as the need to quarantine will start to be lifted for those who have been vaccinated between July and October.

But, there will be big differences between nations.

Some may open their borders to everyone as soon as a sufficient share of domestic population has been vaccinated. Others may open quarantine-free travel only to vaccinated individuals for the next several years.

The more governments cooperate and learn from each other’s successes, though, the quicker we can return to a world of unfettered travel. The livelihoods of tens of millions of people worldwide depend on it.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.]]>
SmartCompany ultimate resilience resource, part three: peopleby StartupSmart2021-04-16 08:21:09When disruption hits, it’s people that carry a business through.SmartCompany scheme offers NSW businesses $1,500 to offset government fees. Here's what you need to knowby StartupSmart2021-04-15 12:35:21Sole traders, small businesses and not-for-profit organisiations in New South Wales can now apply for a rebate of up to $1,500.
The rebate is to help businesses recover from the effects of COVID-19 by reducing the cost of running a business.

Here’s what you need to know in order to apply.

What can the rebate be used for?

The rebate can be used to offset the costs of NSW state and local government fees and charges incurred after March 1, 2021, including fees from food authority licences, liquor licences, tradesperson licences, event fees, outdoor seating fees and council rates.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible, small businesses, sole traders and not-for-profit organisations must have total Australian wages below the NSW government payroll tax threshold of $1.2 million.

Business must have an ABN registered in NSW and/or have their business premises located in the state.

Businesses must also be registered for GST and provide a declaration that the business has a yearly turnover of at least $75,000.

Not-for-profit organisations, which are not subject to the GST requirement, must also demonstrate a turnover of more than $75,000 per year.

How many rebates can I get?

Businesses can receive up to $1,500 for each ABN.

When applying, businesses make a claim for a specific fee already paid for, meaning that they can make multiple claims. However, once a business has received a t0tal of $1,500 for their claims, they will no longer be able to make any more.

How do I apply?

To apply, all businesses need to do is log on to their MyServiceNSW account, upload their proof of identify, ABN/ACN, banking details and other evidence, including an accountant’s letter proving annual turnover.

When making a specific claim, businesses will also need to provide invoices and receipts showing they have already paid for state government and local council fees.

When will the rebate end?

The rebate will be available until June 30, 2022.]]>
SmartCompany startup funding round: $5 million for Marketplacer, tech tackling addiction, and a Tassie construction startupby StartupSmart2021-04-15 12:23:31We have a bumper funding round this week, featuring startups ranging from boat rental to a networking platform for people fighting addiction.
And, all that is in addition to Coinstash's $2.8 million equity crowdfunding campaign, and Superhero's whopping $25 million raise.

So, without further ado, here are some of the funding stories you might have missed this week.


E-commerce startup Marketplacer has secured $5 million from Salesforce ventures, for its tech helping retailers create their own online hubs.

The funding tops up the $20 million round the startup announced in November last year, and will help fuel its expansion into the US market.

But, for co-founder Jason Wyatt, the value comes from securing “an iconic name in the world of digital innovation”, with Salesforce coming on as a partner and investor.

“We have a shared vision to connect business and its customers in new ways to enable them to grow faster,” he said in a statement.


Pre-launch startup Arli has secured $2.5 million for its online platform connecting people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, helping them to form virtual support and mentoring groups.

The funding comes from startup generator Antler, AirTree Ventures, and Folklore Ventures — previously named Tempus Partners.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, founder Sally Krebs explained the deeply personal motivations behind launching the business.

Having supported her own mother through addiction for some 35 years, she realised the importance of connection with other addicts who had been through the same thing, but were further progressed in their recovery.

“It’s not a lifestyle choice, and we hope that by connecting people it will help [people with addiction] not land in hospital,” she said.

“Our vision is to have thousands of coaches who were early members.”


Corporate expense management platform DiviPay has secured $1.7 million in Series A funding, led by ANZ Bank’s venture capital arm ANZi.

The fintech is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses manage employee expense claims, making the whole process more efficient and more secure, while avoiding causing financial strain for employees.

Founded in 2017, it has attracted more than 650 customers and issued more than 20,000 cards, with growth driven mainly by word of mouth.

Now, the team is going to be investing in marketing, with an aim to attract bigger companies and not-for-profits, which are particularly in need of such a product, founder Daniel Kniaz said in a statement.


Another fintech, Payable, has secured $1 million in funding from one of the big four. This time, the investment comes from Commbank’s VC arm x15ventures.

Payable, a subsidiary of ASX-listed regtech company Identitii, utilises its parent company’s participation in the trial Open Banking scheme to help consumers pay bills on time — and to save businesses the cost of chasing up missed payments.

The tech assesses whether or not a customer or client has funds available to make automated payments, before their due, offering payment plans and extensions to prevent failed transactions.


Boat rental startup Flotespace has bagged $600,000 in seed funding, valuing the business at more than $4 million after just two years.

The investment comes off the back of a surprisingly successful year for the startup, which saw 675% growth in a matter of months, despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Key investors in the round include Airtasker co-founder Tim Fung, Amaysim founder and tech investor Rolf Hansen, and as serial-entrepreneur Bardia Housman.

“Flotespace has the potential to lead the charge in bolstering domestic tourism for Australians,” Hansen said in a statement.


Tasmanian construction tech startup Varicon has raised $440,000 in funding, from growth accelerator fund Galileo Ventures and high-net worth individuals, including early Aconex, Canva and Redbubble investor Andrew Sypkes.

Founded in 2018, Varicon is a cost-management solution designed to help prevent projects from blowing their budgets.

The round follows 18 months of the startup collaborating with demolition contractor Delta Group. Now, it’s looking to expand its presence throughout Australia.

In a statement, co-founder and chief James Baker said the industry still uses antiquated technology, which in turn exposes them to financial risk.

“By giving contractors the ability to see where they’re making or losing money, Varicon can save them billions of dollars every year,” he said.]]>
SmartCompany post offices slam a confidential review into Australia Post, saying more privatisation will come at a cost to post offices and rural communititesby StartupSmart2021-04-15 11:56:57Former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate has revealed the government commissioned a report recommending more privatisation of the postal service.
Holgate told the parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday that the federal government commissioned a confidential report in 2019, which recommended further privatisation of the postal service.

Holgate tabled part of the draft report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which states Australia Post could save $150 to $250 million in annual net profit after tax from its bottom line if the parcel service was privatised.

Graeme O’Brian, managing director of the Licenced Post Offices Group tells SmartCompany it's unsurprising the government has been considering ways to cut costs within the postal service.

O’Brian, who worked at Australia Post for 50 years, including as head of parcel processing, says the potential that Australia Post would privatise its parcel services — in a similar move to the UK — became apparent when it acquired StarTrack.

“The idea of privatising Australia Post, in my view, started when Australia Post acquired StarTrack, which I think was then going to be the vehicle to sell off the parcel business,” he says.

According to O’Brien, selling the parcel service would firstly generate money for Australia Post through the sale of the parcel business, on top of any ongoing benefits resulting from reducing services.

“Of course, from a government perspective, if you sell parcels and get a stack of money, you would rightfully argue that it would reduce public debt,” he says.

The trade off, however, is that any privatisation of the parcel service would mean Australian individuals and businesses would then only be able to access services similar to those of existing parcel logistics companies.

“They don’t have the reach and breadth of Australia Post, and they will look to reduce services, where they don’t believe they can be profitable,” O’Brien says.

What’s more, is that big logistics companies compete for metropolitan trade — which results in less efficient services in rural and remote communities, he says.

Holgate’s submission to the inquiry states that BCG’s review did not support the position of Australia Post’s management in regard to growing its parcel delivery service, while building new services, such as financial ones.

“We believed this strategy would protect community services, maintain jobs and build a new legacy for Australia Post to serve all Australians for decades to come, whilst remaining viable,” Holgate said.

BCG argued that management’s strategy was “too optimistic and risky”.

Instead, BCG proposed a strategy of cutting costs and boosting efficiency by reducing letter services nationally, increasing prices, closing post offices, privatising the parcels business and restricting financial services.

O’Brien doesn’t dispute the fact that selling off the parcel service would increase profits for Australia Post. However, he does say that removing parcel services from licensed post offices around Australia would significantly affect their revenue.

“The loss of that trade really puts a big dint into post offices generally and would have an impact in rural and remote areas,” he says.

Despite the federal government commissioning the confidential review, a spokesperson for the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said reductions in Australia Post services throughout the pandemic were temporary and would expire on June 30, The Guardian reports.

Minister Fletcher's spokesperson said Australia Post would remain a government business enterprise.]]>
SmartCompany Coinbase’s IPO ushers in a second crypto wave, Brisbane startup Coinstash has secured $2.8 million to ride itby StartupSmart2021-04-15 11:16:54Coinbase’s IPO has brought cryptocurrency back into the spotlight, with its share price indicative of a shift into the mainstream, for good.
Here in Australia, there are local startups ready to capitalise on the opportunity, already raising sizeable sums of cash themselves.

The Coinbase listing marks the first time a major cryptocurrency business has gone public. To say it went well would be putting it mildly.

Before the IPO, Nasdaq set a guide price of US$250 for Coinbase shares; however, the shares actually began trading yesterday at US$381, and eventually closed out at $328.28.

That gives the startup a market cap of about US$85.7 billion, reportedly more than ten times its last valuation.

Closer to home, this week has also seen Brisbane-based crypto trading platform Coinstash secure $2.8 million through its Birchal equity crowdfunding campaign.

The startup hits its maximum target with a good week left to go, attracting more than 1,300 investors.

The success of both the equity crowdfunding campaign and Coinbase’s IPO are “100%” indicative of a broader trend in the cryptocurrency sector, Coinstash co-founder Ting Wang tells SmartCompany.

A maturing market

Having first launched the startup in 2017, just before the first crypto-investment boom, he and co-founder Mena Theodorou have already ridden something of a crypto-rollercoaster.

That initial wave was mostly driven by retail investors, he explains. And it likely represents a continuation of that.

Coinstash’s raise was one of a very few opportunities for investors not only to get exposure to cryptocurrencies, but also to a local company operating in the space, he notes.

It marks a shift away from crypto companies raising funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs) — being sales of their own tokens for cash. ICOs dominated the startup funding news cycle back in 2017 and 2018, with Aussie startups like Havven and Power Ledger raising tens of millions in their token sales.

But, Wang is also seeing more institutional money flowing in.

[caption id="attachment_206490" align="alignnone" width="733"] Coinstash co-founders Ting Wang and Mena Theodorou. Source: supplied.[/caption]

Changes in monetary policies, largely due to the COVID-19 economic slump, are also driving money towards cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin in particular.

“People are now viewing bitcoin as an alternative safe haven to the traditional safe haven assets like gold or silver,” he observes.

All of this is indicative of a more mature market. And so, this time, Wang believes the shift into the mainstream will be a permanent one.

“The current boom is definitely going to be more stable,” he adds.

“The public perception of cryptocurrency, and the overall awareness and adoption is just at a whole different level.”

Regulatory hurdles remain

Of course, this all bodes well for the Aussie startup. Currently, Coinstash operates only as a cryptocurrency broker, and supports trading in 22 different cryptocurrencies. To date, it has facilitated more than $25 million worth of trades.

But, the next step is to develop products that “increase the usability” of cryptocurrencies, allowing them to earn a rate of return on their investments, to borrow against them, and to spend their cryptocurrency easily through card payments.

All of this is still subject to regulatory approval.

But, the founders are already in conversations with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and are planning on going through the regulator’s Innovation Hub.

The key barriers lie in the fact that this is still a relatively new industry. Regulators have to carefully consider how to classify the products, and that requires them getting up to speed on how it all works, first.

Then, they require a business case, explaining exactly how Aussies’ interests will be protected, outlining their plans, and explaining why this is the right team to execute on them.

Even so, the flurry of activity in the sector and the shifting public perception means consumer demand is there, Wang says. And that’s helpful.

People are not satisfied just to own cryptocurrency. They want to use it, and make it work for them.

“We’re trying to allow the everyday Australians to do more with their crypto holdings.”]]>
SmartCompany'Simple but ingenious': 21-year-old University of Sydney student makes quantum computing coding breakthroughby StartupSmart2021-04-15 10:52:59Pablo Bonilla Ataides has attracted the attention of researchers worldwide for a ‘simple but ingenious’ change to quantum error correcting code.
The science student has been able to tweak computing code that will effectively double its capacity to correct errors in the quantum machines being designed in the emerging technology sector.

And, his finding has researchers from the AWS Center for Quantum Computing and the quantum technology programs at Yale University and Duke University in the United States very interested.

Ataides, who is now an honours student, said that one of the reasons quantum technology remains in its infancy is because researchers have not been able to stabilise the machines that produce so many errors.

“In second-year physics I was asked to look at some commonly used error correcting code to see if we could improve it.

“By flipping half of the quantum switches, or qubits, in our design, we found we could effectively double our ability to suppress errors,” Ataides said.

[caption id="attachment_206462" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Pablo Bonilla Ataides Science undergraduate Pablo Bonilla Ataides. Source: University of Sydney.[/caption]

The ‘switches’ in quantum computers, known as qubits, are particularly sensitive to interference, or ‘noise’, from the external environment. This feature differentiates quantum computers from classical computers whose digital transistors or ‘switches’ run the phones and laptops most people use.

In order to make quantum machines work, scientists need to produce a large number of high-quality qubits. This can be done by improving the machines so they are less noisy and by using some capacity of the machines to suppress qubit errors below a certain threshold in order for them to be useful.

That's where quantum error correction steps in.

Yale University assistant professor Shruti Puri from the quantum research program said her team is interested in using Ataides' new findings for its work. She said she was amazed by the ‘sheer elegance of the new code’.

“It’s remarkable error-correcting properties are coming from a simple modification to a code that has been studied extensively for almost two decades,” Assistant Professor Puri said.

“With this new code, I believe, we have considerably shortened the timeline to achieve scalable quantum computation.”

Ataides is named as the lead author in an article published today in Nature Communications.

Co-author Dr Steven Flammia, who recently joined the AWS computing effort from Sydney University, said Ataides’ findings will help the error correction techniques of AWS’ quantum hardware.

“The AWS Center for Quantum Computing team looks forward to collaborating further as we explore other promising alternatives to bring new, more powerful computing technologies one step closer to reality,” he said.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.]]>
SmartCompany"Another chance to get it right": Why Whyalla needs to focus on more than steelworks after the collapse of Greensillby StartupSmart2021-04-15 10:25:03OneSteel Manufacturing, which runs Whyalla’s steelworks, was hit with windup applications following the collapse of major financier Greensill Capital.
All manner of things have been said to be about to destroy the steelworks town, including (briefly) the 2012-2014 carbon price.

BHP abandoned the steelworks, the harbour and the nearly Middleback Range iron ore mine in 2000, floating it off as a separate company it called OneSteel.

Renamed Arrium, the company collapsed in 2016, in circumstances that are still being fought out in court.

Bought in July 2017 by Dubai-based British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, the steelworks enjoyed a revival until this month, with an exclusive contract to supply steel for the planned eastern inland rail line and plans to make 100% “green steel” from renewable energy sources.

Two of Gupta’s companies, including OneSteel Manufacturing which runs Whyalla’s steelworks, were hit with windup applications last week, following the collapse of their major financier Greensill Capital.

The withdrawal of finance has once more thrown into doubt the future of South Australia’s fourth-biggest town and its 22,0000 residents, including the 1,800 directly employed in the steelworks and the thousands more who depend on it.

Also in jeopardy is a planned $600 million upgrade to the steelworks along with a related $350 million investment in the nearby Cultana Solar Farm, which was estimated to create 350 jobs in the construction phase and 10 to 15 ongoing jobs.

Gupta says he has been working tirelessly to secure refinancing for the $US5 billion (AU$6.5 billion) he owes Greensill, and in an open letter has described Whyalla as his “spiritual home”.

The Morrison Government is said to be considering a “back-up plan” (presumably some form of bridging finance).

Meanwhile, the South Australian government is offering $50 million on the condition it is not used to pay down debt.

The steelworks appears to be profitable following a turnaround in the past 18 months. The contract for the inland rail project is worth $10 billion.

The impact of COVID-19 on demand for steel has been a negative, but at the same time the pandemic has shone light on Australia’s weak supply chains and stimulated rethinking about the need for local manufacturing using local steel.

Steel won’t be enough to save Whyalla

But steel can’t be the only key to Whyalla’s future. The fact that locals are still talking as if it could be reflects a deep-seated inertia.

Unlike the larger steel cities of Newcastle, Port Kembla and Wollongong, Whyalla has been very slow to respond to the need for change.

Fortunately, the opportunity remains open. Whyalla has open space, 300 days of sunshine well suited to solar energy (potentially lowering costs for new and existing businesses) and a new A$100 secondary school situated between a university campus and a TAFE Technical Institute.

And it will benefit from a new $300 million investment in Eyre Peninsula’s electricity grid and its proximity to mining developments and port facilities. Whyalla already has a regional health precinct along with plans for a $45 million foreshore hotel; a $12 million airport upgrade, a $6 million organic recycling project and a $145 million state-of-the-art solar-powered greenhouse business.

Local contractors are potential suppliers to the new $80 million desalination plant to be located near Port Lincoln and a planned rocket launching facility at Whalers Bay near Port Lincoln which will allow access to polar earth orbits.

And it’s the “gateway to the Eyre Peninsula”, a region with world-class tourism potential.

No-one disputes that Whyalla is heavily dependent on the fortunes of the steelworks, but over the past decade it has shown little interest in diversifying.

The council appears to lack the skills and leadership needed to transform the economy.

Whyalla has another chance to get it right. But it will require an early display of confidence in the form of a successful refinancing of GFC Alliance and a bold switch to other drivers of growth, by the government, the private sector, or both.

It will need more strategic thinking and local action than we have seen to date.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.]]>
SmartCompany shows women suffer from Zoom fatigue more intensely than men, so what's to blame?by StartupSmart2021-04-15 09:57:49A new Stanford study reveals how the shift from in-person meetings to online ones has taken its toll more intensely among women.
In the first ever large-scale research examining the full extent of Zoom fatigue, academics from Stanford University found that women report feeling more tired than men following video calls.

What is to blame? It may very likely be the “self-view” display.

The new Stanford study reveals how the shift from in-person meetings to online ones has taken its toll more intensely among women. According to the data, Zoom fatigue — being the exhaustion that comes from a day of online meetings — is far greater for women than for men.

The evidence showed that one in seven women compared with one in 20 men reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls.

The latest findings coincide with a paper the Stanford researchers recently published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behaviour, which looked at the reasons people feel exhausted following video conference calls.

The latest study proves which cohort in society feel the strain most intensely — yet again, it’s women. The study surveyed 10,322 participants between February and March this year, using their “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale” to secure greater understanding of the differences of exhaustion due to the extended use of video conferencing technologies during the past year.

Jeffrey Hancock, a professor of communication at the School of Humanities and Science, believes the findings contribute to a growing understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting different groups of people.

“We’ve all heard stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that women are affected more, but now we have quantitative data that Zoom fatigue is worse for women, and more importantly, we know why,” Hancock said.

“Self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how one comes across or how one appears in a conversation.”

The biggest contributing factor to the feeling of exhaustion among women was an increase in “self-focused attention” set off by the self-view in Zoom.

Participants were asked questions including “During a video conference, how concerned do you feel about seeing yourself?” and “During a video conference, how distracting is it to see yourself?”

Women tended to answer the questions at higher rates than men, confirming prior research that found that women have a higher disposition towards self-focus than men when they are in the presence of a mirror.

“That prolonged self-focus can produce negative emotions, or what the researchers call “mirror anxiety,” Hancock said.

Women also felt tired by the continuous feelings of being physically “trapped” by the need to stay centred in the camera’s field of view, since video conferencing restricts one’s movement. Women also tended to have longer meetings than men and are less likely to take breaks between meetings, adding to their increased weariness.

“We see this gender effect across multiple different studies, and even after taking into account other factors. It’s a really consistent finding,” Hancock said.

Gender wasn’t only the only contributing factor to whether you experienced Zoom fatigue.

What kind of personality type you have also increased your likelihood of feeling weary. People who are more extroverted reported lower levels of exhaustion after a Zoom call compared to introverts.

People who were younger also reported higher levels of exhaustion compared with older research participants.

The colour of your skin could also determine how much Zoom exhaustion you felt. The researchers’ data found that people of colour reported higher levels of Zoom fatigue compared with white participants.

“We are working to understand what might be causing this race effect and develop solutions to address it,” Hancock said.

So, what are the possible solutions to this exhaustion?

Turn off your “self-view.” If you really need it on, move yourself away from the screen so you can move around without taking yourself off the screen.

The researchers also suggested that companies could organise meetings that are video-free, provide guidelines on how frequent and long meetings should be and specify more breaks between meetings.

You can also suggest no-video meeting days at your company, or have a day each week that does not require any video meetings.

This article was first published by Women's Agenda.]]>
SmartCompany gap titles, pronoun options: LinkedIn outlines steps to become "more inclusive"by StartupSmart2021-04-15 09:32:27LinkedIn users will soon be able to select from a number of new job titles when updating their profile to better describe periods when they’ve taken time out from work.LinkedIn users will soon be able to select from a number of new job titles when updating their profile to better describe times when they’ve taken time out from work. 

The change means parents now have the option of selecting “stay-at-home-mum”, “stay-at-home-dad” or “stay-at-home-parent” for times when they have been full-time carers of their children.

In coming weeks, users who select one of the ‘stay-at-home’ job titles and set their employment type to ‘self-employed’ will also no longer need to specify an employer or company. 

LinkedIn is also planning to introduce a new field for profiles to cover employment gap types, including “parental leave”, “family care” and “sabbatical”.

[caption id="attachment_206451" align="aligncenter" width="375"]LinkedIn profile Source: LinkedIn.[/caption]

In a post on the official LinkedIn blog, LinkedIn engineering lead Bef Ayenew said the changes are part of a broader effort to make the platform more inclusive. 

This also includes a new option that will allow LinkedIn users to add gender pronouns alongside their name in their profile, as well as other new features including video cover stories and ‘creator mode’ for users who regularly publish content.

Ayenew said the new ‘career gap’ profile options were developed in direct response to LinkedIn members, particularly women and mothers, requesting more ways to communicate career gaps due to parenting and other responsibilities. 

This has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Ayenew pointing to official data that shows more than 2.5 million women in the US left the workforce because of a lack of childcare or home learning requirements for their children. 

“A disproportionate amount of women’s jobs were affected by the pandemic, and our global labor market data finds that women’s hiring is more vulnerable, and prone to economic shocks and business disruption, than men’s,” he added. 

Ayenew also hinted at more changes to come for LinkedIn profiles. 

“Every person’s career journey is different and we’re working hard to make sure LinkedIn provides an inclusive experience for everyone,” he added. ]]>
SmartCompany media meets loyalty program: Barossa Valley Brewing founder encourages support of local producersby StartupSmart2021-04-15 09:14:15The app launched last week, and in this initial phase D’Silva says a single post will accrue 20 points, and 100 points will get users a free beer.
Denham D’Silva has been in small business since founding Barossa Valley Brewing back in December of 2005.

He came into craft brewing from the finance world, giving up a position as a vice president at investment firm Merrill Lynch to pursue a career in the independent beer industry.

Given his financial background, he built Barossa Valley Brewing on as steady a foundation as he could, orchestrating a partnership with McGuigan Simeon Wines (now Australian Vintage).

The relationship would have seen Barossa Valley Brewing sell 100% of its brewing capacity to the wine company, who would then handle the sales and distribution of the beer.

“So, from my desk at Merrill, everything works on an Excel spreadsheet, right?” D’Silva says.

“I went, ‘This is good, simple. I’ve got the second-largest listed wine company saying they’re going to take all my product. Done. Easy.’”

But in small business, even the steadiest foundation can give way.

The grape glut hit — an oversupply of wine grapes in the Australian market — which seriously impacted McGuigan Simeon, and the deal fell through.

[caption id="attachment_206455" align="aligncenter" width="733"]Denham D'Silva Denham D’Silva. Photo: Johnny von Einem[/caption]

“We got caught in a really hard place,” D’Silva says.

“The beer was winning lots of medals, it was opening up doors, but [the] sales, marketing and distribution never eventuated.

“I put my Merrill Lynch hat on and went, ‘This is a great product. We’re in the right place at the right time with a great product — I still wouldn’t invest in this business as an institutional investor, because I don’t have control of my sales and marketing channels.’”

D’Silva did spend some time trying to raise money from investors, but this unfortunately aligned with the Global Financial Crisis.

The money he did have, he pumped into traditional advertising streams to build up the Barossa Valley Brewing name — just at the moment when social media was taking off and brewers were finding their new markets in online spaces.

It was a less than ideal beginning.

Social media meets loyalty program

This experience stayed with D’Silva, initiating a line of thinking about how a business of Barossa Valley Brewing's size can compete against multinational corporations without relying on outside help.

A decade and a half later, D’Silva founded the app Agora Gourmet.

Agora is a mesh between a social media platform — similar to Untappd or Foursquare — and a loyalty program that is available across multiple venues.

Through the app, a user can author a social media post about a product they’re consuming (made by any of a series of small producers listed on the app) and tag one of the participating venues.

The post can either be shared to Facebook through the app, or a link generated by the app can be copied and pasted to another platform.

Once the link is successfully posted, the user will accrue points. Get enough points, and you can then redeem a free product from one of the venues.

The app launched last week, and in this initial phase D’Silva says a single post will accrue 20 points, and 100 points will get users a free beer.

[caption id="attachment_206456" align="aligncenter" width="733"]Agora Gourmet Seppeltsfield Road Distillers is a founding partner in Agora. Source: supplied.[/caption]

An app or platform offering discounts to users is not a new idea.

In Adelaide, Bellr released The Hospo Club, an app offering hospitality workers discounts at particular venues, which found backing by Coca-Cola Amatil.

There is also Shouted, another Adelaide idea, through which drinkers can access discounted drinks at participating venues, or even shout a friend a round of drinks remotely.

These ideas are ostensibly consumer-centred, and designed for venues to capture a price-wary segment of the local market — so long as the venue can afford the financial hit of offering discounts.

Where Agora differs is in its focus on producers and their relationship with venues and consumers.

The craft beer industry has a passionate and engaged consumer base who are happy to spruik their favourite brands — and D’Silva says the same can be seen for small producers across a range of categories.

By offering monetary value for each social media post made through the app, Agora rewards consumers for acting as brand ambassadors on behalf of these small producers.

A secondary benefit to the producer comes once a product is redeemed.

The venue will give away the product on behalf of the producer, and the dollar value of that giveaway will then come off the next invoice sent to the venue from the producer. This encourages a continued relationship between the venue and the producer.

“So for the price of a beer, we’ve locked in a future sale,” D’Silva says.

[caption id="attachment_206457" align="aligncenter" width="733"]Agora Gourmet A picture like this, posted via the Agora app, could get you one fifth of a beer. Source: supplied.[/caption]

Rather than the venue bearing the expense, Agora will ask producers to pay to be listed on the app (though it’s free at the moment).

“We take a tiny fraction of what we would pay our distributors and our marketing teams, and we direct that to the customer, in terms of free product,” D’Silva says.

“It’s much cheaper for me to pay [a customer] in beer than pay a salesperson in dollars. So that’s the secret sauce.”

Though it’s early days, D’Silva says he has seen a 100% success rate in pitching the app to producers.

He’s convinced the underlying business model will work, but is only concerned about whether his venture will capture enough attention.

“The question is whether we become the Friendster or the Facebook, and that’s all about execution,” D’Silva says.

There are updates planned for the app already.

D’Silva is looking to add direct-posting options for platforms other than Facebook, and he’s also looking at how Agora’s point-accrual functionality can be tweaked to allow for tracking the influence of a post.

“What we want to do is make this dynamic so that you get points not just for posting,” he says, “but, hypothetically, if you say, ‘Oh wow, this beer just came out. It’s here’, and a bunch of your friends like it, a bunch of your friends then come in and tag the venue… that can be worth extra points.”

[caption id="attachment_206458" align="aligncenter" width="733"]Agora Gourmet Mates might eventually equal higher rates. Source: supplied.[/caption]

South Australia is the perfect test case for Agora, D’Silva says, because “we’re just spoilt with all of these amazing small producers.”

The app, he hopes, will be an equaliser, allowing small producers to harness the enthusiasm their fans have for their brands and use it to compete against the monstrous marketing budgets of the multinationals.

“Fosters and Lion Nathan, their economies of scale allow them to have a network where their cost per unit comes down, so they can market and sell all of this stuff relatively efficiently. There’s no way I can compete with that,” D’Silva says.

“So what’s our competitive advantage? It’s definitely not our size and our budget. It’s the quality of our product and the passion of our customers.”

Agora Gourmet is available now in the Apple and Google app stores.

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia.]]>
SmartCompany leap from sole-trader to small business: Hiring your first employeeby StartupSmart2021-04-15 08:49:33Research shows that leaping from a sole-trader to a micro business with employees increases profit, improves work-life balance, and frees up your time to grow the business.SmartCompany doublespeak by Big Tech, risks vs rewards for vaccines, and the pressure on managers in a hybrid-workplaceby StartupSmart2021-04-14 12:28:16The most interesting pieces of news, insight and information from around the world, delivered to you by SmartCompany Plus.SmartCompany becomes latest fintech to offer super-fast loan financing for Aussie SMEsby StartupSmart2021-04-14 12:22:54Payments fintech Square has become the latest player to announce it is rolling out a loan financing offering to its small business customers.
Square Loans will be the first financial services product the global tech company has rolled out Down Under.

Founded in 2009 by Jim McKelvey and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Square launched its payments platform in Australia in 2016.

The loans service is expected to launch here within this quarter, marking the first time it has been available outside of the US.

The product is intended to offer Square’s small business customers access to funding quickly and in a way that’s simple and fair, Samina Hussain-Letch, head of industry and payments at Square Australia, tells SmartCompany.

The business uses the data it already has on a business to determine the maximum amount available to them.

That figure will then be automatically pushed out to them via their Square dashboard, allowing business owners to choose whether to apply for the full amount, for a smaller amount, or not at all — with the loans ranging from as little as $300 up to $250,000.

There’s no interest rate, but an upfront fixed fee based on the size of the loan and the risk profile of the seller.

Repayments are then taken as a percentage of the business’ daily sales made through the Square payments platform.

“If they have a quiet week, which we know happens ... they'll pay back less, and if they have a busy week they pay back more,” Hussain-Letch explains.

Typically, Square expects full repayment within 18 months. However there are no additional fees or penalties if that time frame is not met.

In the US, the average time to pay back a loan is about eight months, Hussain-Letch says. But, if a seller is struggling, the team will work with them to change the repayment structure and extend the timeframe.

Following the crowd?

The timing of this launch is “really intentional”, Hussain-Letch notes.

As we’re moving out of the COVID-19 health crisis, businesses are reopening, but are facing cash flow shortages.

Originally, the team was planning on launching last year, but instead pivoted to focus on tools to help them operate smoothly during the pandemic, supporting contactless pickup and QR code ordering and payments, for example.

Now, the time is right to help give them the momentum to emerge from the economic dip, Hussain-Letch says.

And Square isn’t the only one jumping on this opportunity.

Just in the past couple of weeks Zip Business has launched a new buy-now, pay-later style product offering small businesses up to $150,000 in credit. And, MYOB has announced a strategic partnership with fintech Butn to offer invoice financing for SMEs.

This is all activity Hussain-Letch has been keeping an eye on. And she, for one, welcomes the competition.

“There’s lots of movement in this space and we expect to see lots more,” she notes.

Small to medium-sized businesses have historically been underserved, she says. Square’s own research suggests sellers aged under 40, and women in particular, find it especially difficult to access capital.

The more offerings there are that serve different needs the better.

“If sellers have options, that’s really great for them.”

There is, of course, a lingering question as to whether more debt is what small businesses need after a particularly tricky 12 months.

Again, Hussain-Letch points to research, saying this is something she and her team know Square customers want.

The data they have access to also means they have an insight into the performance of each business, and can accurately assess whether they’re in a good position to take on a loan.

Being a responsible lender is important to her, she says.

“We’re not in the business of offering loans, we’re in the business of helping sellers grow the business,” Hussain-Letch stresses.

“Doing that in a responsible way is absolutely central to how we’ve designed this product.”]]>