Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

Category: Industry (Page 2 of 17)

Our own industry wikileaks

Interesting package

I had a very interesting package waiting for me this week when I returned to the Bam Creative offices, after my recent leave.

An anonymous package containing the entire client list for a competing Perth web company. No note, no handwriting, just a typewritten address on the front of the envelope, mailed form the city, to make it harder to trace.

It contains the company name, primary contact name and phone, their postal address and email address for every client (I’m assuming) of a competitor.

I did what most people I would hope would do; I called the victim company, and let them know what had happened. I haven’t read it, nor will I be using it for any gain of my own.

Meanwhile, I also mentioned this on Twitter. Following that mention, I had five other Perth based web companies let me know that they had also received the same package. They all mentioned they had shredded it, or returned it to the victim company.

Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume someone is wanting us to use the information to hurt this other company. This is sad and frightening on a number of levels.

Firstly, they believe some of the recipients would actually use this data. I don’t believe they are giving us the credit we deserve – we’re an ethical bunch here, and not interested in mining other companies contact lists to approach their clients.

Secondly, if it is an existing or former employee, what are the chances, if they get found out, that they’ll ever land another job in the industry here? Imagine if you knew they did this at their last place of employ – what’s stopping them from doing it again, this time to you?

Thirdly – the damage of having client contacts details revealed like this is possibly an area the Privacy Act would also cover. Even unwittingly, the victim company could get into trouble over this behaviour.

My twitter buddy, Steven Clark, has written a blog post about this experience over on his blog – I recommend you check it out.

If you were the person who sent this to me, as well as at least five other companies, then shame on you. I’d hate for you to be the owner of a business, and have this happen to yourself. I’m assuming you no longer work there, but if you do, then my advice is to find a new job. Thanks but no thanks; we’re not playing your unethical game.

Australian Web Industry Events

Australian Web Events Calendar

Whoa, it’s the annual event season for the Australian web industry, with plenty of exciting events coming up in a city near you! As in previous years, I’ve penned a summary of what’s on; please visit the links, and support these organisations by attending and showing your support (you never know; they may just hold more events in your neck of the woods!).

Here goes, there are a whopping 13 events between now and Christmas 2010, in date order…

8/9 October 2010
Sydney NSW

Australian Web Awards Sydney
11 October 2010
Sydney NSW

Web Directions South 2010
12-16 October 2010
Sydney NSW

AIMIA Digital Summit
13-14 October 2010
Sydney NSW

Amped 2010
16 October 2010
Sydney NSW

Australian Web Awards Brisbane
26 October 2010
Brisbane QLD

Australian Web Awards Perth
6 November 2010
Perth WA

SMX Melbourne 2010
16/17 November 2010
Melbourne VIC

The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
23 November 2010
Sydney NSW

The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
24 November 2010
Canberra ACT

The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
25 November 2010
Melbourne VIC

The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
29 November 2010
Perth WA

The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
1 December 2010
Brisbane QLD

I encourage you to get to as many of these as you can! Attending events is always educational, not to mention the great networking opportunities that come with hanging out with a building full of geeks! If you know of an event that I haven’t covered, please let me know in the comments below…

Stepping aside…

Blokes and Sheilas

The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. I’m stepping down from my role as National Chairperson of the Australian Web Industry Association, at this years AGM. Since this forum post appeared, a number of people have been emailing or calling me to ask the inevitable ‘What’s up?’ and I felt that it was worthy of some explanation.

I rose to this role way back in 2002, when I did a call out for people to catch up for a pint and a chat with industry peers. The idea was low key, and it wasn’t long until we became an Incorporated Association under the name Port 80 Inc in July 2004. We then changed names to reflect our national focus a few years later. We’ve had great committee members come and go during the last seven or so years, and it’s been a great journey.

However, I’ve always been the Chairperson. Over the last eight years, we’ve really grown up as an Association, and I feel the last real change has been obvious for some time now; a changing at the top.

The reason is that I embrace the notion that great organisations need regular new blood to surivive, prosper and grow. We’ve had great new committee members join in the last few years (well, ever since the start), but I’ve always been there. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have consistency in management, but there must be a point that the Chairperson can change, and the underlying committee and structure becomes the constant.

I believe we’ve reached that point.

I’ll let my resignation email tell the story from here…

This hopefully won’t come as a surprise to anyone, however i’ve been thinking more frequently recently, that it is my time to move on from AWIA.

It’s been a very difficult decision, because since starting Port80 back in mid 2002, I’ve been involved in every decision and direction that AWIA has chosen. I’ve often felt that AWIA is one of my children, and I don’t want to stop being involved. I have, to a certain degree, felt resistant to leaving because I worry about the message that sends to our members.

On the other hand, I strongly believe that it’s important for any association to be seen to have fresh blood, and to reinvigorate the management committee frequently. It provides innovation, career paths (can you call this a career? :)) to fellow committee members and encourages fresh thinking. Over the last year, I have had less involvement from meeting to meeting, and it has been great that others have taken these duties and run with them.

My life has been very full the last 12 months. I feel that I’m not giving the Association the attention it deserves, and therefore not living up to the high expectations I personally have for somebody in the role of Chairperson for AWIA. A plethora of changes have occurred for me both professionally and personally, which has meant the time I have to devote to AWIA activities has become increasingly smaller for some time now. As a result, I’ve felt frustrated and guilty, in equal measures.

This is a long winded way of saying that after careful consideration, I wish to notify the committee that I will not be standing for re-election at the end of my current tenure, the August AGM. I would be open to being co-opted for a position such as ‘Immediate Past Chairperson’, which many Associations have as a way of reducing information loss, however I will not be standing as Chairperson. This has possibly been the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a long time.

I strongly believe that AWIA is in great hands, and the current committee have done a great job since the last AGM. Many of you have been on the committee for far longer, and a HUGE thanks for that. I wish to thank you all for showing through your actions your willingness to help foster a great web industry and strong member community. AWIA has an exciting time ahead of it, however not without some challenges, and I look forward to seeing where it heads in the future.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the committee members, both past and present, for giving their time up for such a cause. I’d also like to thank all Australian Web Industry Association members, for supporting the work that we’ve done, and will continue to do.

It’s been a great journey.

The week that was CeBIT 2010

CeBIT 2010

No sooner had I returned from Bali, back into the office, than I was off again, this time to Sydney, NSW to attend CeBIT 2010, where I had the honour of being involved in the judging of the Appciety awards, for the best Australian mobile and web start-up, as well as being involved in a panel for the WebForward conference.

Having never been before, I was unsure what to expect, however I was pleasantly surprised at how well put together this series of events were. I say series, because to call CeBIT just an exhibition would be a large understatement.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, on the picturesque Darling Harbour, played host to Australia’s (and probably the southern hemispheres) largest trade show event, with hundreds of stands in the CeBIT exhibition. The highlight of this exhibition for me was the Webciety area, with a number of web start-ups on display (including a few that I had just judged for the Appciety awards), along with an intimate lecture theatre where they demonstrated their products and services.

I arrived in time to attend the Welcome Reception / Innovation Nation event, hosted at the NSW Art Gallery, on Monday evening which was a great way to kick off the next few days.

Then on Tuesday, I attended the Enterprise conference, featuring speakers such as Simone Brunozzi from Amazon, Scott Chasin from McAfee and Stephen Beacham from DB Schenker Australia. The most prolific theme was the adoption and future of cloud computing.

Tuesday night was the popular ICT Celebration dinner, with over 750 guests enjoying the food, flowing drinks and networking whilst watching the CeBIT.AU Business Awards and e-Government Awards happening on stage, before kicking back with a live band and dancing.

On Wednesday, I attended WebForward, the web specific conference brought to you by CeBIT. Speakers included Stuart Bartram from LinkedIn, John Batistich from Westfield Group, Nick Love from MySpace and Bernie Sheehan from national broadcaster, ABC. The topics discussed definitely had a leaning towards the current topics of social media and the real-time web.

Nearing the end of the conference program, I joined fellow expert panelists, Marc Lehmann, Kim Heras, Brad Howarth, Mark Parker and Jeremy Woolf on a panel discussion, entitled ‘The Web Changing Landscape; And What the Future Holds for it’. Chaired by long time friend, Justin Davies, the panel was a great success.

There were plenty of other events and conferences that were also happening over those few days, such as an e-health conference, a number of web and ICT workshops, and the like, but there was no way I could even attempt to see it all. For such a huge combined event, the organisers, Hannover Fairs, did a great job of delivering it all; even the lunches provided for conference attendees were great.

If you are in business within the web or ICT industries, I’d strongly recommend that you consider attending a future CeBIT Australia. I hope to get the chance to attend a future one too!

Interview with Dave Greiner of Freshview

Pizza Quarters

Dave Greiner co-founded Freshview in 2004 with his long-time mate, Ben Richardson. Dave is the design half of the founding partnership, and is responsible for the UI of their products. When not obsessing about form layouts, he’s known to obsess about over-hit backhand slices in table tennis.

Hi Dave, the story of Ben and yourself creating an email campaign solution is inspiring. Can you give us the 30 second history lesson here?

Back in 2004, we were running our own small web design shop. Business was going well, and lots of our clients started approaching us to send email newsletters for them. The search began for the right email marketing software to handle this side of the business — but all the tools we tried were either missing key features or were bloated and impossible to use.

Quite quickly we realized there was a genuine opportunity here to build an email marketing tool just for the web design industry. By late 2004, the first version of Campaign Monitor was launched. Fast forward to today and we’ve got 15 staff and tens of thousands of designers in more than 100 countries using our software, running email campaigns for themselves and their clients. It’s been a wild ride.

So, given you previously charged for services (time), and now are making money based on product, you would have a great insight into both spheres. What are the pros and cons for going to product-based sales, versus the grind of hourly billing?

I think it ultimately comes down to the type of person you are and the things you enjoy. Some people love the idea of working on a new project every week for a different client. I’ve been working on the same project for four years and still love what I do.

Personal preference aside though, the most obvious and important difference between product and time-based work is scale. I’d much rather be surfing than working; so, when I’m working, I want it to be as productive as possible.

When you’re charging by the hour, it’s much harder to grow your bottom line without growing your head count. By selling a product, especially a self-service product over the Web, you can double your business without having to work harder or hire more people. That’s a fairly significant pro, in my opinion.

You managed to gain great traction in the early days, with little spent on advertising. What do you attribute that success to?

I think the biggest factor behind our early success was that we built for a specific niche instead of trying to please everybody. By creating a tool just for web designers, we could build unique features perfect for the industry that nobody else was offering.

Just before launching, we approached some well-known designers for their feedback on the software. A number of them were kind enough to write glowing reviews on their blog, and it all started from there.

Another area we focused on, and still focus on, is the idea of promotion through education. We gave away as much knowledge as we could through articles and other free resources; this helped establish us as experts in the email design field and gained us a lot of free attention in the industry we were targeting.

If there was a simple tip you could suggest for anyone considering starting a product rather than relying on service income, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to do both for a while. We built Campaign Monitor on the side a couple of days a week while we spent the rest of our time working for clients. It might take a little longer, but it also means you’re mitigating most of the risk involved in a new venture.

If I can sneak a second tip in, it would be to make things easy on yourself by charging for your software. If it adds value, people will be willing to pay for it.

Who doesn’t want to work at Freshview? Ping pong, free lunches, surfboards — you have a great philosophy there. What lessons have you learned along the way? (Oh, and when can I start?)

Our work philosophy wasn’t really a big strategic decision for us. It actually came down to our own expectations. This is where we spend the majority of our days, it’s our time away from the things we really enjoy doing. It better be fun.

To keep the balance right, we have a work environment where you can choose how distracted you want to be. All our developers have big offices so they can really dig in and get things done when they need to. But we also have break-out areas where you can play some ping pong , grab a free snack, and generally hang out.

We also try to get out of the office for things totally unrelated to work, like surfing lessons, lawn bowls, and go-carting. We always find we get the best out of our team if they’re spending some office time away from a monitor.

This post first appeared as part of Issue 424 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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