WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Government contracts can be big business

VoIP service provider MyNetFone struck a big deal this week when it was confirmed the company had won a $20 million contract to provide VoIP services to the Tasmanian Government.

The contract, which is in place for three years with an option for seven more, opens up a huge opportunity for the company, not only in private services but also in more government business.

This is an area some businesses tend to avoid, especially because it can seem so fickle. But there’s no reason why savvy tech businesses shouldn’t seek out all the government contracts they can.

It’s a lot of work, but if you’re in charge of a technology company, why not? You don’t have much to lose.

Daily deals require precise targeting

The flash-sale site Fab scored big this week, after it confirmed tens of millions in funding from some fairly big Silicon Valley names.

But, more importantly, it also shows there’s some life in the daily deals market yet, even as Groupon shares continue to tumble barely a year after it first listed.

The heat may have gone out of the more general deals market, but one thing is for sure – there is still life left in the sidelines. The most successful deals businesses are targeting a specific demographic, and then going all out.

No longer can deals companies depend on just applying everything to everyone. Now, a more targeted approach is needed if this industry is going to survive.

Apple results – the calendar is everything

Apple released its results this week and, by and large, they were fairly disappointing. Even though profit came in at $US8.8 billion, investors noted the year-on-year growth has started to slow.

But there’s an interesting lesson here that should be noted. Last year, Apple pushed its iPhone launch towards the end of the year, instead of the summer. That means there’s now about six months without any large-scale releases.

So what this could end up meaning is that Apple won’t have a “breakaway” quarter until the end of the year.

It’s a good lesson for SMEs – think about when you release your products. Having a solid product calendar is critical to maintaining good cashflow.

Investment is still happening

Peter Thiel has made his first Australian investment – finally. After years at work in California, and with some dabbling in New Zealand, he’s put some money into IT business ScriptRock.

It’s a winning story for the business and for others as well. It shows that there is still good demand for Australian businesses from offshore-based investors.

If you’re building a business and seeking investment, don’t discount the fact investors from all over the world could be looking for the next big thing. As a result, you need to build for a global audience – you’re more likely to attract big money if you’re targeting the largest market possible.

Smartphones driving all the growth

New research from PwC this week shows online sales are growing just as they always have. In fact, online expenditure is set to reach $26 billion by 2016 – a substantial portion of the overall retail market.

But there’s one key point in the research that should make businesses take pause. The most growth in the sector is coming from online devices, and for 15-25 year olds, the most important factor when choosing where to buy is the ability to compare prices and access comparison tools with their smartphones.

At the very least, this means you need to develop a mobile retail strategy. You cannot afford to let it fall by the wayside – after all, the research shows this is where the growth is.

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