Bill Gates reveals the three industries he’d dive into if he was starting out today

Dinushi Dias /

[Left to right] Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Bill Gates

[Left to right] Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Bill Gates

Artificial intelligence, energy and biosciences are “the most promising fields” to make an impact in today according to Bill Gates, and if he was starting out now, these are the areas he would tackle.

The Microsoft co-founder shared the insights in a tweeted speech to new college grads on Monday, during which he also explained what he wish he had known when he left college and what he believes to be the most important things in life.

“Intelligence takes many different forms,” said Gates.

“It is not one-dimensional. And not as important as I used to think.

Gates said today’s graduates and young people have an advantage that he didn’t at their age.

“I also have one big regret: When I left school, I knew little about the world’s worst inequities. Took me decades to learn.

“You know more than I did when I was your age. You can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.

He also urged those embarking on their careers to remember those around them.

“Meanwhile, surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. As [Melinda Gates] does for me,” he said.

“Like [Warren Buffett] I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me [and] by the difference I make for others.”

It’s no secret that Gates loves to read, and he told his followers the “most inspiring book [he’s] ever read” is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Why? Because, according to Gates, it “shows how the world is getting better”.

“Sounds crazy, but it’s true,” said Gates.

“This is the most peaceful time in human history.

“That matters because if you think the world is getting better, you want to spread the progress to more people and places.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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Twelve books every ambitious entrepreneur should read

Dinushi Dias /

Growing entrepreneurs with great ambition and sky-high goals are on a constant journey of learning. One way to drive this further and win new insights lies in reading books.

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates says he has been reading about one book a week since he was a child.

“Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading,” he wrote on his person blog.

Are you keen to bury your head into a book but don’t know what to read?

StartupSmart asked a panel of entrepreneurs and startup leaders what titles they recommend for high-achieving startup founders. Here’s 12 of their suggestions.

Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

“Written in the 1960s, [Drucker’s book is] still so relevant and all about becoming effective as a leader. Not ‘efficient’ or ‘productive’, but effective. Inspiring case studies and very practical tips.”

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish

“[This is] something of a bible for scaling [and] growth companies when they’re making that transition from shooting star startup to bigger business, when leadership and what it takes to run and grow a larger team [and] company changes.”

InDigital founder Mikaela Jade

Five by Dan Zadra 

“It’s an essential book to help you decide what’s next in your life and strategise how to get it.

“It looks small, beautiful and not at all like a business book, but don’t be fooled; it asks the big questions. It is incredibly tricky to fill out as it takes you deep on an inward journey like no other.

“The most motivating page is the ‘every day matters’ page where you run through a calculation on how many days you probably have left of your life! I do this every three years to keep on track and it’s a great wake up call for me to get motivated when I feel like giving up!”

RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson

Drive by Dan Pink

“I recommend all leadership teams read Daniel Pink’s fantastic book Drive. In his book he outlines how short term cash rewards cause long term disincentive and reduced creativity.

“It is important to ask employees what they want as a reward. You may be surprised by the answer; ‘more money’ is rarely top of the list. Loyalty is rarely about the money (this is table stakes in the HR world).

“Notice people, love them, value their contribution and make them heroes — make their dreams come true and they will be with you forever — and will also give you their valuable discretionary effort.”

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“Malcolm Gladwell’s books The Tipping Point and Blink are essential reading to anyone interested in social connectedness.

Blink talks about ‘thinking’ and having knowledge without understanding. We have no explanation for how we make a decision, it is a ‘gut response’. It is important to consider that a customer’s decision making bias is filtered directly from their unconscious knowledge and perception of the world.”

Tribe founder Jules Lund

Unwritten by Jack Delosa

“The most encouraging lesson I’ve received since founding Tribe, was within Unwritten by Jack Delosa. He talks of Martin Luther King Jr being riddled with doubt before delivering his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

“I always expected M.L.K knew he was on the brink of greatness. But those moments before felt just as terrifying for him as they do for us.

“The courage is in doing it anyway.”

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

“It’s a very human business book about inner drive, wanting to be great, working your butt off for years on very little money with only the hope it will pay off, and what it feels like when you finally are ‘successful’.

“Plus it’s funny, and if you can’t laugh while running your startup, what’s the point?”

D:HIVE co-founder Leigh Harris

The Boy Who Could Change the World — The Writings of Aaron Swartz by Aaron Swartz 

“This book is about big ideas, it’s about how together we can effect change in world, and by being equitable we all have the power to change the system for change, impact and opportunity, not simply through technology and the digital world but through society generally.

“Swartz also talks about how important it is to confront people with your ideas and be to be excited and inclusive about them.

“I am a strong believer of the logic of Swartz and this book is very relevant to the world today and tomorrow and is a must read for everyone. It’s different and enlightening about effecting change. Together we can all fix the world.”

“[My] favourite quotation: ‘Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for Themselves’.”

Startup Victoria chief executive Georgia Beattie

Dimensions of Wealth by Shakti Durga and Zero to One by Peter Thiel

“I believe a young entrepreneur would benefit from [segmenting] their life into two areas: personal and business.

“Understanding how to get the most out of myself has been a big growth path on its own. I recommend Dimensions of Wealth by Shakti Durga.

“For business, I recommend Zero to One by Peter Thiel.”

Seed Digital co-founder Mike Ebinum

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

“Regardless of what line of work you are in, the principles in this book are timeless and when applied will help you reach your highest level of achievement.”

Muru-D co-founder and Lighthouse chief executive Annie Parker

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

“I’m a huge believer in the importance of purpose in your business — and this book really nails that.

“It’s all about how if you want to do well in today’s economy, purpose and clear messaging about what you stand for and what value you bring to the world and to your customers it of prime importance.

“Don’t just make money — make a difference!”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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Top five government grants for startups

Dinushi Dias /

The government support offered to startups across Australia is the envy of many entrepreneurs around the world, but these grants can be a tough nut to crack.

The lengthy applications, process times and chance of rejection are enough to put most off, but for those who win it can be a game changer for their venture.

Here are five grants for the startup sector that may be well worth your time.

1. Entrepreneurs’ Programme

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme, replaced Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation and Investment Fund in 2014, aims to help businesses increase productivity and competitiveness with funding and access to a national network of private sector advisers and facilitators.

The programme offers entrepreneurs grants through the Accelerating Commercialisation fund and Business Growth Grants.

Accelerating Commercialisation Grants offer ventures up to 50% of expenditure on a project, which is capped at $250,000 for commercialisation offices and eligible partner entities, and $1 million for other applicants.

Entrepreneurs can also apply to get free expert advice on their ventures to address knowledge gaps and accelerate growth via Innovation Connections.

Additionally, the Entrepreneurs’ Programme offers funding support for incubators helping startups enter global markets.

New and existing incubators can apply for grants equalling 50% of the project value capped at $500,000, and entrepreneur or expert-in-residence projects can gain up to $25,000.

Applications are ongoing. To apply now, click here.

2. Research and Development Tax Incentive

The R&D tax incentive aims to help all businesses stay ahead of the curve through a tax offset that encourages innovation in even the smallest ventures.

From July 1 2016, companies with an annual turnover under $20 million can claim a 43.5% refundable tax offset against R&D expenditure that amounts to $100 million or less.

All other eligible companies can claim a 38.5% non-refundable tax offset.
Non-refundable offset amounts that go unused can be carried on to future income years.

For R&D expenditure under $20,000, companies can only make a claim if it was undertaken with a research service provider or co-operative research centre.

Applications are ongoing but companies must register for R&D activities within 10 months of their income year first.

To apply now click here.

3. Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (VCLP)

The VCLP programme aims to draw in foreign investors to Australia and boost the local VC market with tax benefits.

To be eligible, funds must register as a VCLP under the Venture Capital Act 2002 and make high risk investments that hold for at least 12 months.

The investments must be in ventures where total assets are valued under $250 million, 50% of assets are located in Australia and 50% of employees are also located here.

Tax benefits for VCLPs include flow-through taxation treatment, exemption from capital gains tax on their share of profits made by the partnership and the ability to claim carried interest on the capital account instead of revenue.

Fund managers are encouraged to get professional tax advice before registering.

To apply now click here.

4. Austrade Landing Pad

This initiative aims to give Australian startups a leg-up in the global market by immersing them in one of five world-class innovation hubs.

Startups accepted into Landing Pads in Singapore, Berlin, Shanghai, Tel Aviv or San Francisco benefit from on-the-ground presence in these markets plus access to their networks, talent, mentors and investors.

To be eligible, startups must demonstrate strong vision, scalability, traction and differentiation, and explain how 90 days in a Landing Pad could help their venture.

Austrade provides workspace in an accelerator and free services but participants must fund their own travel, accommodation, living costs, visas and insurance.
Austrade does providing funding for global startups in Australia through the Export Market Development Grant.

To apply now click here.

5. Export Market Development Grant (EMDG)

The EMDG has been set up for aspiring and current exporters across a wide range of industries and products to help drive new outbound markets from Australia and encourage inbound tourism.

For businesses that have spent $15,000 or more on export promotion, they can be reimbursed up to 50% of costs exceeding $5000.

To be eligible, businesses must have promoted either the export of goods and services, inbound tourism, export of IP and “know-how” or Australian events and conferences.

Eligible businesses will have an income under $50 million in the grant year.

Applications lodged by approved consultants are open till midnight, 28 February 2017 and self-lodged applications close on 30 November 2016.

To apply now click here.

Have you seen any other exciting government grants or support programs for our startup community? Tell us in the comments.

Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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Yes, your startup still needs a business plan

Jon Westenberg /

Yes, you should write a business plan – just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean you won’t need it.

I know business plans aren’t in vogue. They’re not popular. Many of the startups that I talk to either don’t have one or laugh at the idea of writing one.

They’ve read the Lean Startup and all they’ve taken away from the book is “fuck planning, startups don’t need it” — which totally misses the entire point of it.

So when I ask them about their business, they’re vague. Vague, unfocused and messy. They don’t have their stories straight, or their products straight, or a clear vision for where the company is going. Each individual member of the team has a completely different concept in their heads.

A business plan isn’t necessarily what a VC firm are going to want to see — although trust me, they don’t hate them as much as startup scene kids think — but it is a pretty vital document for most young companies. Because creating a business plan puts everyone in tune.

Even lean companies still need a business plan

I know the lean methodology, and it works extremely well for product development. In an ideal world, it would work for building a company in the exact same way.

Unfortunately, a company is an organisation that does need something else to hold it together, because all it really is, is a loose collection of people who are vaguely aligned in a business sense.

That’s the purpose of a business plan, it’s to give everyone involved with a company a clear document that lets them know whether they’ve won or lost, grown or stagnated, met or missed their goals.

A business plan doesn’t need to be complicated, and it could start out only being a few pages of clear language that expresses the following things:

  • What your product is, and what it does, and why
  • Your strategy for bringing that product to market
  • Details about your revenue model
  • Goals and milestones
  • The method you’ll use to know if you’ve failed
  • Your customer personas and target market
  • Your financial needs

Don’t stress about trying to churn out an overblown, old-school-MBA business plan that takes up 60 pages and has a complete appendix.

In fact, I would try to keep your plan as short and sweet as possible. When I write a business plan, if I can’t express the whole thing in less than 10 pages, that’s my first hint that the business is too complicated, or I don’t understand enough about it.

When you first write it, your founding team should all be involved. This is your chance to hash out the differences and discover whether anyone is out of sync. You can analyse their points of view, and work to define what your startup is trying to achieve in terms of product development, growth, business model and culture.

Your business plan is the working blueprint that you’re going to be using to create a company together, and it’s important that everyone on the founding team has a say in it.

If you’re a sole founder, try to pull in some people you trust who can work with you on the plan to challenge your ideas and preconceptions.

Creating a plan is a team exercise

I think a startup team should come together to work on a business plan as a regular, on-going activity.

It’s not a document that gets finished and thrown away, it should be something that is looked at and worked through on a monthly basis. That kind of activity will make sure you don’t veer off course or lose focus, and it will prevent anyone from your team from losing track of what they should be doing and what their role is in the company.

Once your document has reached its first draft stage, in that it hits all the right points and includes all the necessary information, make it the focus of a monthly session where you set aside a strict 30 time limit to walk through the document and ask the following questions:

  • Are we following this plan?
  • If not, is there a good reason that could show a problem with the plan?
  • What goals have been reached?
  • What’s changed in our strategy?
  • Does the plan still represent our company?

I think there’s something dangerous about completely rejecting traditional parts of business planning and operations. There are founders out there who have read all the current books, and are up to date with the latest ideas in startups, but they don’t know the basics of business.

They’re in the kitchen trying to follow a complicated recipe, when they’ve never learned how to preheat an oven.

Call me crazy, but I don’t have a lot of faith in those entrepreneurs. They’ve forgotten that a startup is a business, and it needs the same amount of groundwork. Rejecting a business plan, the concept of it, because it’s not in vogue is a short sighted thing to do.

You might call me out on this, and maybe you’ve got the years of strategy experience to tell me I’m wrong. But most younger entrepreneurs, starting out with their first company, don’t have that knowledge. They’re fumbling blind, and they don’t know the ropes.

For them, a business plan is going to be a crucial document, because writing it and analysing it is going to keep them moving forward, with a clearer idea of what their company is, what it’s not, and what they want it to be.

This article was first published on Medium.

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Five Australian business ideas that made millions

Nina Hendy /

Envato founders Cyan and Collis Ta'eed

Envato founders Cyan and Collis Ta'eed

The winning formula that goes into creating a business that not only succeeds but prospers financially isn’t easy to replicate. Otherwise everyone would be doing it. But sometimes startups go on to change lives, making their founders millions in the process. Here are the stories of five Australian business ideas that grew into multi-million dollar business ventures.

1. Envato

An ambition to travel overseas for an extended period of time was what initially drove an Australian couple to build an online business that last year turned over in excess of $50 million.

Collis Ta’eed and his wife, Cyan, wanted a business that would allow them to quit their successful freelance life and run a business from their laptops while enjoying some overseas travel, so they launched Envato with their best mate Jun Rung in 2006.

Envato’s earnings have skyrocketed since making just $10 on the first day of business. Today, the business launches, promotes and operates multiple online marketplaces which facilitate the exchange of digital goods from thousands of independent sellers and digital authors to both amateur and professional web designers, creative agencies and digital web properties.

It’s also the creator of several online marketplaces, including ThemeForest, CodeCanyon, Videohive and GraphicRiver – all market leaders.

2. Invoice2Go

Chris Strode was fired from his six-figure salary job as a software developer with Macquarie Bank after getting drunk at a Christmas party.

He’d enjoyed the security of the role so mentally buried his desire to quit on a daily basis, but admits he hadn’t been able to give his business idea any oxygen.

But after being fired and thrown out of the building, he was able to get cracking on his business idea – a more cost-effective invoicing system for small business owners.

Even in those early days, he knew his idea was going to change the way people do business, launching the desktop version of Invoice2Go within a matter of weeks of losing his job. The mobile app version followed, which propelled the business to new heights.

Today, more than a million small businesses have used Invoice2Go as a way to invoice their customers. The company has been valued at $US100 million ($A125m) after $US35 million in funding, and is one of the highest grossing apps in the app store.

3. Airtasker

Australian tech startup Airtasker has made a name for itself online by offering users the chance to outsource menial tasks like picking up dry cleaning or performing household chores.

The site has been used for tasks as diverse as paying someone to stand in a six hour queue for the Game of Thrones exhibition, to a Sydney surgeon who used Airtasker to find someone to fly to the US and pick up an engagement ring.

Airtasker says that businesses could use Airtasker to scale quickly by accessing a huge army of people all over the country for tasks ranging from market research, promotions to deliveries. The business last year acquired Melbourne-based odd jobs outsourcing rival Occasional Butler

Founders Tim Fung and Jonathan Lui say they intend to expand the focus of the business to take a share of the $20 billion corporate temporary recruitment sector.

4. Carman’s Muesli

Carolyn Cresswell

Carolyn Cresswell bought Carman’s Fine Foods for $1000 more than two decades ago and moved it into her Melbourne kitchen.

She’s worked hard since then and successfully beat the multinationals, with retail sales of Carman’s products topping the muesli category across Coles and Woolworths.

The brand is now exported to more than 32 countries and Cresswell has won a string of accolades, including being named one of BRW’s Fastest Growing Companies and taking out the 2012 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year Award. Cresswell would like to see 30% of Carman’s revenue sourced offshore in the next two years.

Creswell’s ability to respond to trends has kept her at the top of her game. She introduced Blueberry Seed Nut Bars last year and sales were lower than expected, but by changing the word ‘Seed’ with ‘Superfood’, she managed to double sales, for example.

5. Canva

Australian company Canva is an online graphic design platform that shook the scene by replacing the expensive, complicated software that put design out of reach for most people. The design platform makes it simple to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, blog graphics, invitations and more.

Canva was launched by Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht after the pair firstly took out a loan and brought in a tech team to build Fusion Books, which is now the largest school yearbook publisher in Australia and has expanded into France and New Zealand.

Canva, which recently raised an additional $3.6 million in funding, has grown to 600,000 users who have created more than 3.5 million designs, and enabled other websites to integrate Canva’s design capabilities.

It also recently unveiled its Canva Button, a new plug-in for third party websites which allows their users to create their own graphics.

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