Monthly Archives: January 2013

What is your ‘no skirt’ Start-Up Smart story?


Amanda Gome, founder and former CEO of Private Media had a bad start to a brilliant day.  Getting up pre-dawn to fly to Sydney on the red eye to sell sell sell all day in back to back meetings, she pulled up her tights, grabbed a warm jacket and headed out the door to the waiting taxi only to get out at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne and think ‘it’s a cold day today’!  Oh, no! I forgot my skirt!!!  Never mind, push on, the plane is about to leave and the shops will be open in Sydney at 8am won’t they? Oh, no, nevermnd, first meeting at 8:30am – Sell! Sell! Sell! And so she did all day in fishnet tights, a short jacket and without her skirt, and her ‘no skirt’ start-up story lives on…do you have your own start up story?


Gome at age 45, had interviewed plenty of successful business people and entrepreneurs in her life as editor of BRW but when she put down the phone after talking to Matt Rockman, co-founder of Seek, she thought ‘it’s time’.  Now years down the track with a host of successful online media titles established under the Private Media umbrella including Smart Company, Crikey, Property Observer, The Power Index, Leading Company, Start Up Smart, Tech Company and Women’s Agenda, Amanda Gome found some time to share her insights on starting up smart with the VECCI HR breakfast in Melbourne.


Seek had a better product for job seekers and recruiters and Gome acknowledged that to Rockman.  Gome was not going to give Seek a profile in BRW, a Fairfax publication no less, until it had a couple of key clients and some runs on the board but when she put the phone back down and sat back in her chair it was blatantly apparent to her that advertising dollars were about to walk out the door and it was time to jump in and get her feet wet in digital media.


Tip #1 – Don’t miss an opportunity

Having spent plenty of time towelling business leaders for missing the Internet revolution, making mistakes or missing opportunity, Gome knew it was time to get out from behind the comfort of the keyboard and plunge into her own start up.  A few calls and $400K fundraising later and Private Media was up and running.


Tip #2 – Trust your gut

The early signs were there that media would migrate from print to online but the data and facts had not caught up with the trends.  Gome insisted it was time and knew it in her gut to get out there and have a go at a new business media model.


Tip #3 – Don’t stuff up your message – stories matter in start-ups!

Having interviewed countless founders before Gome noticed how they used the power of ‘storytelling’ constantly to answer questions, during interviews and made sure they were there to interview new starters and share their founder(s) stories.


Tip #4 – Recruit on attitude

Ever been to an interview where the founder(s) pre-empt the interview with a preliminary chat?  Then proceed to share stories, ask about family (probe for loyalty), check in if you have failed before and how you bounced back (resilience & learning) and then proceeded or not proceeded with the more formal ‘interview’?  Given you are going to be a part of a small team, experience failure, learn and need to be resilient the attitude you bring to the start-up is important.


Tip #5 – Recruit for diversity – sex, age and race

Balance is important in the workplace and so is diversity for creativity.  Too many men and its ‘blokey’.  Too many ladies and its ‘bitchy’.  Young workers can bring lots of technology and attitude, older workers can bring a lot of wisdom and knowledge – combine all these things together and you create a powerful combination to create and innovate.

Bonus tips:

Get a board of mentors – start-ups are lonely for the founders and odds are someone has been there before you and can help give you some advice to help you navigate the tough decisions.  Gome used past contacts to sound out and bounce and build her thoughts as she went through the inevitable crisis’s of growth and leadership all founders face to help her make up her mind what to do in difficult situations.

You’re a tech company first, a media or XYZ company second.  Bring IT in house and make IT’s mission training everyone how to use the latest technology to perform their work more effectively and more efficiently.  Don’t hate the nerds – embrace them and make it their mission to bring everyone forward with them including your older employees.

Stay on focus and innovate.  Sounds easy to say but when everything is going on and there is more to do than time to do it you need to constantly delegate to spend time on strategy.   You also need to protect your business models by building moats around them e.g. Leading Company & Start-up Smart are moats to protect the mainstay of Smart Company. 


There are always opportunities and ideas so keep your ears and eyes open next time you take a call or have a conversation with someone in your industry that makes you sit back and think afterwards – Wow! That is going to disrupt me and my industry.  It might just be the opportunity you do not want to miss for your Smart Start-Up!

Dermott Dowling is founding Director of @Creatovate, an Innovation & International Business Consultancy.


Opportunity Knocks for Postman Pat & You?


Australia Post is innovating to realise its vision ‘that connects the digital economy and the physical world’


The iPhone 5 launch last year was not the only thing happening in the global digital economy and being talked about last year.  At a VECCI luncheon on 9-11-12, Ahmed Fahour, Managing Director & CEO at Australia Post shared a few innovations from Australia’s own Postman Pat and his hologram friend in the digital economy who we are going to get a lot more familiar with in years to come.  Ahmed shared a few statistics that made me go “Wow” like that 400 billion emails are sent per annum, 98% of which are spam.  It’s hard to fathom that the iPhone was only released 4 years ago in 2008 and already 6 out of 10 adult Aussies have a smart phone, or that the iPad was released only 2 years ago in 2010 and yet by the end of this year one in three Aussie households will have one.


Not to mention that over the past four years, Facebook has gone from 90 million accounts to 900 million, and ‘tweets’ sent, each day, have grown from just 1.1 million to 140 million.  Digital technology has already transformed the music industry, book publishing, and the photographic industry and news organisations and is clearly changing the nature of retailing.  Australians might have been slow to pick up on things like online retail by global standards but they are catching up fast and its having a dramatic effect on how Postman Pat delivers the mail.

Australian Post mail volumes reached an all-time peak in 2008 of 5 billion items and have fallen by almost 20 per cent in the past 4 years.  This year Post will deliver the same amount of letters as they did back in the mid-1990s.  However, it’s not all ‘down down’ in the mail business with parcel volumes growing by around 8-10% a year driven by online shopping and 70% of those parcels are now generated by an online transaction.  All the research is predicting double-digit growth in Australian online spending through to 2020.  Of that online retail 70–80% is generated by Australian e-tailing sites and it’s really the new breed of online retailers (e.g. Catch of the Day, Ozsales, Deals Direct and Greys Online) that are dominating the market.  A recent study released by nab showed that over 70% of sales transactions are on Australian websites and that less 2% of total sales value is from off shore retailers.


Australian Post is innovating to catch up and realised their vision of ‘connecting the digital economy with the real world’.  Two recent examples are the postcard app which is free in the app store taking pictures from your iPhone or library and turning them into a physical postcard – and then delivering it within Australian for $1.99.  Post has also been installing Smart Parcel lockers around the country that are accessible 24/7 enabling customers to collect parcels when it suits them – day or night.  Customers simply register online and when their parcel is ready for collection Post send them a text message or email.  Trials at several sites around the country have received an overwhelming response with ambitious roll out plans to be announced later this year.

Another example of how parcel service is changing is ‘Delivery Choice’ where Post is working with online retailers to offer their customers the ability to nominate a day, time or an alternative location for delivery of the items that they have bought online.  They can even re-direct their parcel while it’s in transit.  Catch of the Day, Crazy Sales, ePharmacy and Chemist Warehouse where the first online retailers to integrate “Delivery Choice” into their website giving their customers real control over when their items are delivered.


Another big digital service innovation Post is developing is the Digital MailBox.  The Digital MailBox will be a free service that’s available to all adult Australians.  You will be able to use it to receive and store important documents (like bills and statements) and make payments.  Your own secure online vault with one-touch log-in with one password accessible anywhere anytime on any internet enabled device.  If you are thinking of equivalents in the physical world, this is effectively your letterbox, your filing cabinet and your payments card or bank account – but seamlessly combined in a secure, online environment.  No spam, no clutter, no junk mail and it will help businesses to cut the cost of delivering their essential communications by up to 70 per cent. Telstra, AMP and Westpac are on board already and government agencies and businesses will be announced in October. Australians can trust that their information is safe, stored securely in an Australian based cloud, provided by Telstra.

The Australia Post Digital MailBox will allow Australians to:

• Connect with service providers they have a relationship with – such as banks, utilities and government entities.

• Receive statements and bills, set reminders and make payments online, using any PC or mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

• Use the Australia Post Digital MailBox as a personal digital vault to upload and easily find important documents.

For businesses the system offers:

• A flexible range of integration options to help businesses connect securely to their customers through the Australia Post Digital MailBox.

• A secure digital delivery service to consumers and a range of payment options.

• Better value for money than any other singular service.

Australians can register for an Australia Post Digital MailBox at

In closing Ahmed noted that these kinds of innovation are not new to Australia Post who have been early adopters of both transport and communication technologies.  They have been around long before the telegraph, the car, the telephone, the aeroplane or the fax machine.  It was the colonial postal services – for instance – that built the telegraph in the 1870s that connected Victoria to other Australian colonies and the world, slashing the time it took to send a message from Melbourne to London from months to just minutes.


You might be sitting back and thinking how does this affect me as a business owner or entrepreneur or someone planning my own start up?  It’s yet another demonstrable example of how the digital economy is integrating with the real world to make online business models easier to reach mass market Australians.  With the trust and support of Australian Post the floodgates of eCommerce and eTailing businesses are about to open if in fact they are not already experiencing a torrent of transactions already washing over their spillways from the physical world.


Rest assured, if you are fearful your local Postman Pat will not round the corner on his trusty push bike or Honda, Ahmed assured reporters afterwards that you will get your mail every day on his watch.  Of course in the future who is not to say Postman Pat might be in a completely different delivery vehicle and you might be receiving a whole lot more than a couple of letters or bills. 


Time to sign up for your free digital mailbox


Dermott Dowling @Creatovate is an Innovation & International Business Consultant with a passion for building great brands, businesses and teams with extensive experience and achievements across cultures, countries and companies.

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