Disrupting Graphics: Now Design’s at Your Fingertips with Canva for iPad

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Canva-ipad One of the great local startup success stories, Canva – the platform that lets us all create great graphic design in an amazingly simple way – has reached a milestone – 850,000 users. This is no mean feat – especially in a world where every startup, every mature business and hoards of consultants, freelancers and the like vie for our attention, loyalty and share of wallet. With a super-intuitive yet powerful interface, Canva have made it easy for anyone to produce quality graphic design, collateral and presentations.

And by “anyone”, I mean anyone. Including me, my brother and my mother (so yes, it passes the family test). And by “quality” I mean that the results don’t look like they were produced by me, my brother or mother. They look like they’ve been done by a designer. This is largely down to the great library of ready-to-go images, design elements, templates and fonts that come with a Canva account. But it’s also largely by the Canva co-founders keeping a close eye on their advocates, user base and fans.

Speaking with co-founder, Melanie Perkins, over a year ago, it was clear that the Canva team needed to walk a fine line between democratising design – making it available to the masses – while also maintaining the goodwill, support and efforts of the design community. After all, Melanie and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht had come from a design background themselves and were actively working with designers to build out libraries of assets that could be commercialised at scale.

In just over a year, more than 5.7 million designs have been created, Guy Kawasaki has come on-board as chief evangelist, and the team has grown beyond its cute digs in the funky Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

But not content to rest on their laurels, Canva have now released a new a full function app for the iPad.

And for me, this takes Canva into a whole new market. It puts their powerful platform into the hands of its users. Literally. And that means small business owners. Those who work in shops, restaurants and cafes. It brings ease-of-use to a new level too – with access to your iPad’s camera and camera roll, there’s no more messy transferring of images across devices. It’s all in one place – ready to be edited, filtered and combined with illustrations and images from the Canva library.

Now, I won’t lie. Canva in the hands of a good designer will astound you. And my mum’s birthday card designs, while a big hit with the family, are unlikely to end up being featured in a Hallmark promotion. But Canva is a massive step up from the entry-level tools that still dominate small businesses the world over. So say goodbye to that old Paint program, and say hello to a new universe of creativity. Download Canva for iPad here.

Disrupting Failure – The Secret to Success

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In the world of startups we have been obsessed with failure. And learning. Or what Mick Liubinskas from muru-D calls “flearning”. You will, no doubt, have heard of the concept of “fail-fast” – a term borrowed from system design and applied to software engineering – where the focus is on fast, iterative design that irons out errors through the process of repetition and improvement. But failure comes with risk and with stigma. And no matter how bravely we celebrate our failures, as 99dresses founder, Nikki Durkin points out, “luck and timing are often huge factors in success and failure.”

So I was interested to see the way that this infographic by MaryEllen Tribby focuses not on the outcomes of success or failure – but on the attributes and behaviours of the individual. And I am wondering – if we are honest – could we find a way to disrupt failure on our way to being successful. Is there a way to observe and recognise some of our own behaviours and then work to move them from the right hand side (yellow/unsuccessful) to the left (green/successful)?

And beyond that, what if we moved beyond platitudes (and infographics), and ACTED ON some of these things. Or all of them? I am going to give it a try. I’m going to spend 30 minutes a day carrying out actions from the green side. And I will let you know how I go. Perhaps disrupting failure is the secret to success. Time will tell.

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Ready, Set, Startup at Muru-D. You’ve Just Got the Weekend

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We_are_looking_for_Atlassians_of_the_future_-_Annie_at__muruDNow that the dust has settled on the first intake of startups into the Muru-D incubator, the team are ramping up the next round of startups. But the thing is, you’ve now only got the weekend to apply.

The startups who secure a spot at Muru-D benefit from six months of tailored support designed to get you ship shape:

  • Bootcamp is a week long intensive that covers the basics
  • Milestone mapping sets out the agreed reference points between your startup and Muru-D
  • Mentoring is on-going and includes Telstra and external experts
  • Networking focuses on getting your business investor ready

It’s a competitive arrangement, but if you think you have what it takes (and if you think this kind of incubation can help you and your business), then get cracking. There’s only a weekend standing between you and opportunity.

 

Bye, Bye Buyosphere – A journey of disruption, disrupted

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Focusing on the customer journey is never easy. After all, customers are fickle, transitory, loyal and contradictory. I am somebody’s customer. You are. We are all somebody’s customer. And being a customer is an emotional experience. We buy on whim, impulse or trigger. We may plan, research and save as long as we like, but decisions can be swayed by friends, connections, a good salesperson. Or even a lingering smell.

But knowing this doesn’t make easy for businesses – even marketers don’t make it easy for marketers. With every click, interaction and purchase, with every review, tweet, blog post or call, connected consumers like us are shaving away the stubble of established brands. We are eroding the protective layers that brands have built up over time to insulate themselves from us.

We know this has been happening for some time. It is a shift of power in the buying process away from brands to consumers. It is digital disruption in its purest form – connected consumers tapping into the opportunities and power of the internet to out flank the efforts of brands. And helping us to chart this disruption – indeed helping us to move from idea to practice, has been Tara Hunt, author of (amongst other things) The Whuffie Factor, coworking pioneer and theorist (in a very accessible way). In many ways, Tara has been a harmonising voice in a technology dominated world – reminding us that its the people that matter most.

Tara’s 2009 presentation on vendor relationship management has influenced the thinking of many (or even found its way into the thinking of many surreptitiously), including myself. But never content to let ideas percolate in isolation, Tara  went beyond the theory into practice, bootstrapping and launching Buyosphere, a fashion suggestion and style matching website. I can remember signing up myself, wondering how it may work out here in Australia. It was an idea ahead of its time.

In late 2012, after growing and struggling to scale, Tara stepped out of Buyosphere, taking a role with Toronto based communications and engagement company, MSLGROUP. As she explained at the time, “If we were going down, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. Or at least with a product we could be proud of.”

Yesterday, in classic style, Tara shared the next stage of the journey – saying goodbye to Buyosphere:

Once upon a time there were three startup founders who had a dream. They were going to build something that solved fashion search. And they spent 3 years of their lives, their entire savings and pretty much all of their energy on it. Fortunately, they built something great and learned a whole bunch. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, time and energy and had to go back to work and once they abandoned the site, it never took off. xoxo Buyosphere. We love you.

Watch this video and you will hear the very personal, emotional and exciting journey that Tara and the team went through. It’s the journey that so many of us take – or wish we had taken. And while I too, feel sad, to see from a distance, that Buyosphere has ended, I also feel great hope. There have been lessons learned and friendships forged. This is a story of disruption, disrupted, not destroyed. And I for one can’t wait to know what’s next – not just from Tara but from all who build on her experiences.

It’s Gruen for Innovation – That Startup Show

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What is a startup? How is it different from a small business? And what role does innovation and/or technology play in a startup?

These are some of the first topics addressed by the new “entertainment startup” web-cast show, That Startup Show. Hosted by Dan Ilic and streamed live, the show takes a leaf out of ABC’s The Gruen Transfer – a smart, funny and insightful panel drilling into focused topics interspersed with clips and live pitch sessions.

Panelists Bronwen Clune, Alan Noble and Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, provide an industry perspective and Dan Ilic does a great job of keeping the conversation flowing. They take live tweet questions from the crowd and cover a vast range of topics in a very short time.

This first episode marks an important innovation in the development of the Australian startup ecosystem. It’s “StartupAus” beginning to tell its own stories at scale. And that can only be a good thing. Looking forward to Episode 2.

Startups – How Do You Like Them Apples?

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Starting a business is like flying by the seat of your pants. Even experienced entrepreneurs experience the simultaneous challenges of validating and launching a product, marketing, resourcing, managing staff, engaging stakeholders and securing funding. Often – in the whirlwind – a strategic approach to marketing is lost. Or worse – ignored. My view (as it would be), is that it is never too early to market.

But wouldn’t it be great if there was a way that you could accelerate your marketing? What if you could draw upon the experience and know-how of not just your best-friend-who-does-some-marketing, but one of the world’s most respected agencies?

You are thinking big dollars, right?

And yes, it could easily cost $100k.

A Little Help from Leo Burnett

During the Great Depression, Leo Burnett opened a small advertising agency. As a symbol of hope in a gloomy and challenging time, a bowl of fresh apples was placed at the front desk to welcome clients.

These days, Leo Burnett is one of the world’s largest communications companies – and they still welcome clients with fresh apples.

And now – with Help from Leo – they are aiming to give one new Australian business the chance to win $100k in strategic and creative advice.

How? They are taking the apples and turning them into a cider business.

If you think your business – your startup – or your idea could do with a boost, it’s time to hone your pitching skills. To be in the running, the minimum entry requirement is a short written statement of up to 250 words describing your business vision. Polish your words and enter at www.helpfromleo.com.

Prize is up to $100,000 (incl. GST) worth of strategic and creative advice for a single project, and excludes execution of ideas, including production or placement of any TV, press, radio, digital or other campaign, and also excludes 3rd party / external costs. Value of prize will depend on project winner requests. Conditions apply see helpfromleo.com. Ends 03/05/13. Entrant must be 18+ and own or own a majority of an Australian business with an ABN operating for 2 years or less as at 02/04/13. Limit 1 entry per business. Crafted by Leo Burnett with assistance from Eling Forest Winery.

Good luck!

What’s in Your Startup DNA

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There’s plenty of hype around startups – and around the founders of those startups. We buy books (books, really? Yes!) written by startup entrepreneurs, attend talks, download podcasts and go to  conferences. Sometimes it can feel like meeting a rockstar rather than a business person.

But for every startup, there are countless others, often behind the scenes, who have helped drive those startup successes and the failures that they are built on.

This great presentation by Yevgeniy Brikman is the view from the front row. It talks about the nitty gritty of startups. It’s not the big ideas or the grand plans. It’s the stuff that makes the business tick. And it makes you think … what’s in your startup DNA – and how deep does that go.

Image: Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Dodge Shows Startups the Power of Advertising

There is no doubt that Dodge and the team from Wieden + Kennedy have produced a great piece of advertising for the Dart. But as I was watching it … as I was listening to the sparce copy that was voiced with just the right amount of self-deprecation and assurance, I couldn’t help but think that it was describing the world of the startup entrepreneur.

Watch it – because it’s great. Then, play it again and listen with your eyes closed. Don’t think cars. Think startups.

What do you hear?

Start with a simple idea. Stop thinking. Start doing … Drink more coffee. Build a prototype. Mould it shape it. Hate it. Start over …

Now, despite the hype and energy around startups, I often wonder why they don’t take a small proportion of their often overblown valuations and invest in advertising. And I don’t mean advertising for themselves … I mean in brand building for the sector. Surely there are some grand stories to be told and some people to inspire.

If the car industry was the powerhouse innovator of the 20th Century economy, then surely we should look to the startup industry in the 21st. It’s about time we told some stories.

Did You Try and Fail? Then It’s Time to #flearn

At the recent FailCon conference in Sydney, Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas threw a challenge to the audience. “When it comes to startups, let’s redefine the language around failure”.

FailCon was a day-long event bringing startups, innovators, supporters and investors together to share stories and experiences. And while there was plenty of goodwill and intention from the folks in the audience, it wasn’t until Mick pulled out a live Google Document and started challenging the audience and putting names against action items that things started moving.a  Taking on the role of facilitator, he fired questions at the audience – what do we need to open up debate around failure and startups? How can we talk about success? How can we remove the stigma?

Here in Australia we not only have the “tall poppy syndrome” which aims to lop the head off anyone who becomes too successful – we also have what I call the “failure undertow” – where even a sniff of failure can drag your reputation deep into the depths of business obscurity. That leaves a very small area in which new entrepreneurs can navigate. And that, in turn, lowers our sense of reward and capacity for risk taking.

The folks in Silicon Valley have a completely different view of failure. In the startup capital of the world, entrepreneurs who have not survived a business failure are often considered amateurs. In fact, Dave McClure, founder of incubator 500 Startups considers his business a Failure Factory.

As Mick prowled the stage at FailCon waiting for audience input – a voice from the back of the room rang out. We were talking failure and we were talking learning. What if you combined them? What if we could talk about “FLEARNING”?

And it was done.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mick Liubinskas, myself and FailCon organiser, Josh Stinton have been putting our heads together to build a place to share our failures and the successes that follow. We have been talking up the concept of “flearning” and are now looking wider – for stories and experiences of failure that we can share with the wider Australian startup community. We’d love to have you involved.

Take a few minutes to check out FLEARN.ORG and let us get this conversation started. You know you want to get that story off your chest – and now’s your chance.