Get Started with Your Startup with #StartupSundays

Once upon a time, we all had a dream of writing a novel. In fact, many of us are fond of explaining that we have that Great Australian Novel locked away in a drawer – or more likely – a computer file, gathering dust. One day … we say, we’ll dust it off and finish the story and garner the applause of the world. But like so many great dreams, the Great Australian Novel, often never materialises. But over the last couple of years, I have noticed a distinctly different aspiration coming from friends and colleagues. They speak not so much of a Great Australian Novel, but of a Great Australian Startup. Their own business.

From the number of conversations that I have had over the last 12 months, it seems that we’ve started the awkward journey of becoming a nation of entrepreneurs.

We no longer dream of writing a modern day Kings in Grass Castles. It’s all Canva this, Atlassian that.

Starting at the start

Of course, just like writing a novel, the trick to starting a startup is to “just start”. But while we can all pull out a piece of paper and start to write, surely a startup takes something more … substantial!?

Not so. The Disruptor’s Handbook, for example, is a program that literally guides you from idea to soft launch. And a lot of it requires writing words on paper. It’s just like a novel – but one where you are the hero. The villain. And the entire supporting cast.

Startups are a community affair

While writing a novel can be a fairly solitary activity, startups thrive on community. Feedback is the lifeblood of the startup, and that means the very worst thing you can do is bury yourself in your bedroom (or garage) and hope to knock out the next greatest Facebook/Insta/App. This is where coworking is your saviour. Coworking is a way to get out of the house, connect with others and test your ideas – and your business – in the hard light of day. After all, it’s no use building a business that no one wants or needs.

With this in mind, Vibewire has just announced a new program to support startups of all shapes and size. Called #StartupSundays, it runs each Sunday in October from 9:30am to midday. It’s like a lazy breakfast with motivated people. Over the two and a half hours, there will be speed mentoring and networking, inspirational talks and a chance for peer feedback and a spot of pitching. It’s a simple but effective way to get ahead of your week.

All in a friendly atmosphere – the Vibewire Common Room in Ultimo, Sydney.

  • Where: Vibewire Common Room
  • When: 9:30am-midday, each Sunday in October 2016
  • Bookings: Register here.

New Journeys in Product Development with the Qantas Hackathon

For the last two years, Disruptor’s Handbook have been working with Qantas to create an innovation program that brings the power, agility and speed of the startups into their customer journeys. With a focus on customer experience, these weekend intensives, known as the Codeshare Hackathons, expose Qantas business challenges to the scrutiny – and creativity – of the hackers, hipsters and hustlers of the startup world.

It’s a form of open innovation that we’ve developed specifically to deliver new product opportunities rapidly and at scale. This approach takes a leaf out of the startup book (should I say the Startup Bible), Lean Startup by Eric Ries – focusing however, not on product-market fit but on market-product fit. That means that we help our corporate clients focus on the business challenges they face, coach them through a process of articulation, reverse pitching and presentation, and then open the challenges to startups, students and entrepreneurs.

Then, in a matter of days, we all collaboratively develop working prototypes – what is known as an MVP (a minimum viable product) – to the stated challenges. I call it “marketing-led innovation”.

The secret sauce of corporate hackathons

To the outside world, hackathons are like a cauldron of mystery. We throw in some ingredients, mix them up, and emerge some time later with a magic solution. Somewhere in the middle of the process, a secret sauce is added. But this is anything like Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe. You see, it’s all about process and people.

Over the last couple of years, we have been building out a process that reduces the risk of innovation. We use systems and design thinking approaches, add a dash of lean startup, good old fashioned project and event management and highly targeted coaching and mentoring. We consult with clients, manage stakeholder expectations and do so within what is a relatively controlled and safe environment.

And the results are stunning. New products. New collaborations. New businesses and startups. In many ways, it’s marketing in action. And we’ve got more planned. Get involved, you’ll be amazed at how tasty the secret sauce really is.

If Only Climate Denialists Checked Their Rage to Read Your Twitter Bio

Humans can be delightful. Whimsical. Entertaining and surprising. But they can also be frustrating. Embarrassing. Comically inept.

And one of the amazing things about humans is that they can be all these things at the same time.

And the fact that humans invented Twitter – and bring it to life each and every day – shows just how creative we can be.

Author, JK Rowling seems to agree, retweeting this stellar conversation between one of my favourite astrophysicists, Katie McGarvey and one of her “fans” (ok, I think Katie may be the only astrophysicist that I have ever met).

Long live Twitter.

Share Your #CoffeeMornings Moments

It’s amazing how a relatively random event can turn into a “thing”. It’s what happens when you bring people together and find a spark.

Well over nine years ago, I walked into a cafe where I knew no one. Emily Reed waved to Katie Chatfield and I, and the first ever #CoffeeMornings became a reality.

Over the next couple of hours, plans were hatched and alliances formed. We decided to meet again the following Friday. And the Friday after that …

As we approach our 10th Anniversary, I thought it would be nice to collate some of the stories and connections, photos and even videos that make Sydney Coffee Mornings a unique event. So whether you are a casual participant or a long term stalwart, leave a comment, link or photo about your experience. Or better yet – drop in on Friday.

Special thanks as always – to Single Origin in Reservoir Street, Surry Hills – management and crew. It would never happen without them!

Enter the Constellation Supernova Awards

I’m judging the 2016 Constellation SuperNova Awards again this year. It has been a while, but I am excited to see the innovation that is emerging from enterprises around the world. Every year the Constellation SuperNova Awards recognise individuals for their leadership in digital business. and the great thing is, you don’t have to be a North American business. Anyone can enter. Nominate yourself or someone you know before August 8, 2016. It’s a great way to promote your program while also learning from others in the same field. Learn more and apply here.

About the SuperNova Awards

The SuperNova Awards honour leaders that demonstrate excellence in the application and adoption of new and emerging technologies.

In its sixth year, the Constellation SuperNova Awards will recognize individuals who demonstrate leadership in nine categories:

  • Internet of Things – A network of smart objects enables smart services. (sensors, smart ‘things’, device to purchase, artificial intelligence)
  • Data to Decisions – Using data to make informed business decisions. (big data, predictive analytics)
  • Digital Marketing Transformation – Personalized, data-driven digital marketing
  • Future of Work: Social Business – The technologies enabling teams to work together efficiently. (enterprise social networks, collaboration, digital assistants)
  • Future of Work: Human Capital Management – Enabling your organization to utilize your workforce as an asset.  (talent management, benefits, HR core)
  • Matrix Commerce – Commerce responds to changing realities from the supply chain to the storefront. (digital retail, supply chain, payments, ‘ubiquitous-channel’ retail)
  • Next Generation Customer Experience – Customers in the digital age demand seamless service throughout all lifecycle stages and across all channels.  (crm, customer experience)
  • Safety and Privacy – Strategies to secure sensitive data (blockchain, digital identity, authentication)
  • Technology Optimization & Innovation – Innovative methods to balance innovation and IT budgets. (innovation in the cloud, ENSW cost savings, cloud ERP, efficient app production).

The SuperNova Awards are seeking leaders and teams who have innovatively applied disruptive technolgies to their business models as a means of adapting to the rapidly-changing digital business environment. If you have what it takes to compete in the SuperNova Awards submit your application today:

The Importance of Brands in the Social Media Sphere

Facts and figures are boring. Yet almost every B2B brand relies on facts and figures to tell the story of their products or services. Countless whitepapers, videos and presentations wheel out the features and functions or a particular platform, technology or product line, yet everything that we know, as marketers, as data analysts, tells us that there is a better way. A more efficient way. In fact, neuroscience has provided vital clues that help us understand not the power of logic to drive purchase, but the importance of emotion to tip our decision-making.

So at the point of decision, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.

But it is one thing to know something and quite another to do something about it. Just imagine being the marketing director pitching in a new campaign to your CMO where there is little reference to product features and functions. Imagine the questions. The feedback. The personal-professional risk.

This week I recorded a podcast with the NewsModo team. We talked about branding, social media and content marketing. But mostly we talked about how storytelling allows brands to tap into the minds and emotions of their customers. One of the examples I had in mind was this video from the recent election campaign. The video captured my imagination because it’s a great example of how facts and figures can be incorporated into a campaign that drives not just action but activation. In fact, if brands (and political parties) can learn anything from the election results, it is this … listen to your audiences, understand what drives their collective mindset and help or encourage them to act on that mindset.

When you have a moment, check out the NewsModo podcast. There have been some great guests – and it may just inspire your next, best idea.

Walking a Mile in the Shoes of an Old(er) Person

At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet
— Plato

One of the great challenges of age is empathy. As a child, I viewed my father not as the young, vigorous man that he was, but as an old man. A keeper of knowledge and secrets.

As a young man I saw my elders as fixed barriers. As red traffic lights that would never turn green.

But as many of us do, I was using the lens of my youth to view the world. I saw slowness where there was none. I wore my impatience like a badge of honour. And I favoured action over strategy.

But worse.

I reined in my imagination. I conformed thought to structure. I shrank at the point that I should have expanded. And I did so out of a paucity of love.

But it was in my impoverishment that I received the greatest gift. Time and attention was bestowed upon me without expectation of return. And I learned, to my surprise, that my learning was far from at an end. And that the road ahead was built on the generosity and efforts of my elders and my peers.

To this day I seek mentorship and insight not only from my elders but the young people I come in contact with, my peers – and even strangers. It doesn’t always make for an easy path, but the rewards cannot be measured.

Find and give love in any and all its forms today. You’ll amaze someone (and it may be yourself).

Australian Businesses Finally Get Social with #SensisSocial

Throughout the year I am consistently asked for the state of the social nation. Business leaders and Boards ask about strategy and the shifting digital trends. Executives ask about statistics, business models and ROI, and community managers and social media strategists get into the social media plumbing – what’s hot, how can you prove it and where should we spend our limited time and resources (ie budget). And where that conversation involves a small or mid-sized business, the conversation may range across all those areas.

In almost every one of these kinds of conversations that I have had over the last 2-3 years, I invariably fall back on the Sensis Social Media Report. More than any other report from consulting company or rating agency, the Sensis Report has established itself as the most authoritative overview of the Australian digital landscape. And because it has a grounding in small business, it feels gritty and real, as if the data and analysis could actually be applied in the real world.

So what does the 2016 report have in store for us?

Insights for leaders and Boards

As the social media early adopters have been saying for close to a decade, the shift to digital and the rising tide of social is more than a passing fad. Organisations that have failed to tackle digital transformation in this time, will now be feeling the pinch across a range of business indicators, from innovation and customer service, to talent acquisition and retention, sales and marketing.

And they will be feeling this pressure because their audiences – that is, their customers, employees, suppliers and partners – have already switched from the one-way direction of broadcast communication and engagement to a more nuanced, targeted and multi-directional format offered by the digital and social web.

As the Sensis Report shows, Australians are:

  • Spending more than 12.5 hours per week on Facebook alone (this is a 50% increase over 2015)
  • More actively using ratings and reviews with 60% relying on blog posts and reviews ahead of buying decisions
  • Loving Facebook with a relatively steady number of regular logings (32 per week) but an increased length of engagement (up from 17 to 24 minutes since 2015)
  • Still finding value in Twitter – with a 2% growth year-on-year (up to 19%).

Activation: This is a wakeup call for those leaders and Boards who have yet to commence or accelerate digital transformation efforts. This needs to be a PEOPLE DRIVEN program and should focus on the process and cultural change required to deliver value AHEAD of the technology. For those organisations that are on the transformation path, there is more work ahead. In fact, transformation is the new BAU. Assess your organisational digital transformation maturity according to this model.

Insights for executives

For those responsible for delivering business outcomes, the focus needs to shift from an ROI model to a business impact model. The ROI model works where there are fixed budgets and program lengths. But as we shift away from business as campaign driven to business as “always on”, so too do our budgets, structures, processes and KPIs.

The Sensis Report shows, Australians are:

  • Deeply connected, using an average of 3 internet-enabled devices
  • Reaching saturation of smartphone adoption, up 6 points to 76% and overtaking laptops as the dominant device
  • Demanding mobility – with desktop and tablet ownership stable over the last two years.

Activation: The responsive web is the place to be. It’s no longer enough to have a brochure site full of corporate information. The web is now a service channel and your digital strategy needs to take this into account. This means staffing, technology, processes and training need to be mobilised within your business to serve your audiences.

Insights for businesses (all of you, yes, even small businesses)

Last year’s Sensis Small Business Report indicated that small businesses invested less than $2000 in technology each year. For a small business to exist online, that kind of expenditure is insufficient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this level of expenditure just gets a business a seat at the customer table. Small businesses need to start thinking about business plans that include digital as a longer term investment, rather than a simple expense.

Rachel Beaney has provided some great insight into the business opportunities arising from the Sensis Report – take a look at her recommendations in full here. Some of Rachel’s key takeaways include:

  • Keep an eye on emerging platforms as the demographics shift from 20s to 30s
  • Understand where and when your audiences use social media
  • Frame offers via social media
  • Build trust through content
  • Use ratings and reviews to build credibility.

Holly Galbraith provides a focused analysis of the Sensis Report for the tourism industry. Holly’s analysis can be read in full here.

B2B Marketing Leader Interviews: Andrew Cornell, Managing Editor, ANZ BlueNotes

In the leadup to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC 2016, I took the opportunity to speak with the Andrew Cornell, Managing Editor of BlueNotes, the ANZ newsroom about brand publishing, strategy and content.

Gavin Heaton: Earlier this year, eConsultancy published an article saying that the trend of brands becoming publishers is a nonsense. But BlueNotes has found success. What are the top three things that you are doing differently?

Andrew Cornell: Having worked in the traditional media for 30 years, I’d describe Fairfax and News as brand publishers too – a minority of their actual revenue comes from either subscriptions or direct purchase of articles. Audiences too, particularly when not familiar with the mastheads, have no pre-conceptions. The critical elements are audience understanding and quality content. So for BlueNotes, the three things are:

  • Truly understand your audience and what they value (and how they want to get their content)
  • Provide actually compelling content – which can’t be marketing or direct promotion. It needs to be thought leadership (as it has long been with Economic and business research the traditional media has always used)
  • Ensuring BlueNotes looks interesting in its own right, not as a “brand” site, although we’re clear our “publisher” is ANZ.


Gavin Heaton: At the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum there is a theme of linking marketing with the bottom line. What does that mean for BlueNotes – and perhaps as importantly – what does that mean for ANZ?

Andrew Cornell: For ANZ BlueNotes is a kind of online weekly magazine version of the thought leadership the bank has always done with economic research report, industry insights and major analyses like Greener Pastures and Caged Tiger, our long studies of the agricultural opportunity and the transformation of the Asian financial system. The “marketing” advantage for ANZ is reputational, not direct sell. This is a bank that is innovative with content, authoritative and able to provide genuine insights


Gavin Heaton: Where would a CMO start with a program like BlueNotes? Is it strategy? Is it vision? And what would you recommend?

Andrew Cornell: Start where any good journalism needs to start: who is the audience? How do they get their information? What do they want? Each is necessary. The content especially has to be authentic, genuinely insightful and valuable in its own right – audiences increasingly source information from multiple sites and mastheads so there needs to be a reason to come back – and that’s quality.

The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum 2016 runs 25-27 May in Sydney, Australia. It equips B2B marketers with the skills to cut through the technology hype and keep up with the many changes in digital disruption, industry and societal change and learn strategies for turning their departments into revenue generating machines.