Why the government needs to invest more in Australian innovation … or perish

Last week’s AFR Innovation Summit raised a number of challenges Australia is facing. These challenges remained without solutions.

Conflicting views seemed to run counter to what the long-term view should be: how Australia plans for future prosperity, what we need to do today to ensure that we will have jobs tomorrow, defining a positive role for AI, and supporting innovation in software and technology. What’s at stake here is a relevant future for the Australian economy and a diversity of companies in sufficient numbers that create the greatest benefit over the longest term.

Our collective intent seems confused. The government should be inspiring and supporting the investment made every week, by companies like Digivizer, in product research and development, market development, export development and growth, so that we develop world-class products that create export wealth for Australia.

We have invested millions of dollars in product research and development — not on esoteric experiments that meet subjective measurements of proof of some sort of “pure” R&D, but on R&D that confirms new ways to create business value. For our part, we continue to research, develop, test, apply, learn and iterate to create something commercially viable.

Companies that grow through continuous development, which are able to separate what generates revenue today from investment in what generates revenue tomorrow, should be applauded and incentivised — especially those with track records of taking previous years’ R&D and apply it to future revenues.

We will only stay relevant and valuable if we continue to devote a good percentage of our time working out what will be important in the future. Yet speakers at this week’s conference opined that what companies like Digivizer do is somehow “not real R&D”. Certainly, the government’s policy now seems clear: to return savings from a cornerstone program back to the government, regardless of the fact that a number of speakers quoted figures showing how low Australia sits in the global innovation stakes. Let’s not forget that today’s R&D support in Australia is for many a forward tax rebate against investments already made, involving many hundreds of hours of self-assessment, often subject to seemingly subjective assessment, diverting energy and focus away from where it really counts: actual innovation.

It is a great disappointment that our government’s rhetoric is now focused on savings rather than on investment  for the future.

As CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall said, you can’t save your way to success.

Or, as Daniel Petre of AirTree Ventures phrased it: “The government shouldn’t f— up the R&D tax incentive — it’s critical for start-ups and critical then for founders to retain equity.”

Meanwhile, countries such as Sweden, Israel and Germany redeploy up to 100% of the savings from earlier R&D schemes into direct R&D grants.

Australia runs the risk of being an innovation backwater. Figures from the conference cite a drop in Australia’s gross R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP from about 2.25% to about 1.9% between 2007 and 2015. The OECD’s figures grew from about 2.3% to nearly 2.4%. The World Intellectual Property Organisation puts Australia at 17th in our region, behind Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.

For a nation with just 0.33% of the world’s population, we need to do better at going global. The government needs to create certainty, clarity and consistency with a focus on future global relevance, and then do all it can to allow businesses to flourish. By all means demand rigour, but don’t confuse forcing companies to jump through an endless procession of hoops with innovation.

We need to prove we are building a nation that supports innovative businesses with something new to offer. We need to support these businesses in their critical growth stages, to ensure they will continue to make a positive difference.

This article was also published on Smartcompany

Making the best of our technology available to every business

At Digivizer we continue to learn so much from providing services to our enterprise customers. We’ve spent a lot of time with customers like Microsoft, Lenovo, Intel, Barilla, McWilliam’s Wines, Snapfish, and more.

We’re grateful for their continued support as we broaden our range, and for all that we have learned and grown together.

Increasingly, we’ve been asked to help smaller-sized businesses. We still want to look to deliver services like digital creative, paid media and analytics at different budget levels.

We also see the much larger opportunity to help empower and arm all small-to-medium businesses with the same insights that we provide our enterprise clients – and that we use ourselves to our own advantage.

We’re passionate about helping all businesses easily understand their investment in digital marketing, whether that be organic, earned or paid. Businesses need to know exactly how they are performing across all their social and search channels. We want to make this available in an affordable way to every business.

We want to make it easy for businesses to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

I’m excited to share with you that for some time now we’ve been building a new product. It brings all our high-tech, big-end-of-town data crunching into a much more streamlined, accessible, affordable and valuable experience.

We have been testing and gaining feedback from our existing customers and are now ready to extend a beta version to more businesses.

For a limited time, we would like to invite you to register your interest to join our private beta at no cost or obligation to you. The more it’s used, and the more feedback is shared with us, the more we learn and understand what is important to you, and the better the experience for everyone becomes.

What does Digivizer deliver?

The Digivizer app brings all your digital data – paid and organic – into one live interface. That way, you can see what’s working on any given channel at any given time.

Digivizer gives you live data and insights to help ensure you deliver the right message, on the right channel, at the right time, to drive measurable business results. We answer questions like:

  • How am I performing?
  • What’s working and which platform?
  • Are we doing better than previously and where is doing better?
  • How much am I spending at any one time and where?
  • How am I performing against my objectives:
    • Impressions
    • Engagement
    • Video Views
    • Lead Conversion
    • Sales
  • How can I make sure I am not wasting my money as I am spending it?
  • How can I get this information easily and in one place?
  • How do I make my reporting easier?

One platform

Before now it’s been expensive – in time and tools – or just impossible to get an easy, single view across all platforms in one place.

We hear from our customers how painful it is for them to co-ordinate across each social and search platform. This has been made harder with the changes each platform makes. They move things around, change their algorithms, change what you see, and what things mean.

With Digivizer, you can easily connect all your paid accounts across social and search into our platform, see key insights and make easy comparisons. Today our product supports Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Adwords, and Google Display.

Real time

A key pain point for many customers is that they find out how their investment in digital is performing weeks and months after they have spent the money. This is far too late to action any learnings.

Traditionally, small businesses are forced to access each platform manually and pull out the data, which takes hours. Then they have to interpret it, cobbling together a single report to see how their investment is working for them. Alternatively, they look at the final delivery point of lead or sale, and which individual platform has delivered it.

By the time you’ve been able to get the answers, the chance to adjust your strategy has passed. If it’s not immediately obvious with a big spike or dip in the numbers, then often you’re left frustrated, feeling like you’ve spent money and time without the ability to influence the outcome.

Having one view of cost-per-lead versus a view of what is delivering best value for money and what’s most-valued by customer, are missing. That’s what Digivizer can provide.

Easy to use

With Digivizer, you’ll be able to see how your ad campaigns are performing graphs and tables that are easy to control and explore. You’ll be able to add and remove the variables you choose – like date range, platform, objective.

When some part of your campaign is working really well – or not working as well as it should – you’ll be able to see it in the data and jump right in to start figuring out why. Want to take the long view and see how your campaigns have performed against each other? You can do that, too.

Best of all, you won’t have to just invest your money and cross your fingers for three months. You can see what you’re paying for as it happens. This gives you the freedom to turn it up, or turn it off, as you choose.

Affordable

We’re working to ensure the best of our technology is made available for the lowest per month price so it can be available to all businesses, with all your owned, earned and paid social and search media data and insights at your fingertips.

Over time we will continue to add a greater number of platforms and insights to cover the broader digital marketing funnel.

It’s an exciting time for Digivizer. We can now start offering the best of our technology built over nearly 8 years to every business. Those who we know deserve to get the best out of their digital spend, who are sorely in need of tech tools that remove the stress and pain, we hear you!

Please join us in a private beta. Register your interest to join at no cost, no obligation now, at digivizer.com.

A version of this article is also published at digivizer.com.

The future NSW stadium debate cannot ignore esports – where the future fans, audiences and revenues are

The debate about the NSW Government’s plans to demolish and rebuild two of Sydney’s sports stadiums – the Allianz Stadium, in the SCG precinct, and the ANZ Stadium (formerly the Olympic Stadium) at Homebush – is predictably-heated: great politics, appropriate debate about investment across the State, and a lining up of the two camps for and against.

And in all this sound and fury, the future – esports – has been ignored.

Omit esports from the business case, and Sydney runs the risks of seeing the huge opportunity and upside of future esports audiences attending major events in major Sydney stadiums, and the economic benefits it represents in attracting overseas visitors and continuous audience revenues, pass it by.

The party-political “either-or” rhetoric needs to be replaced an economic argument based on long-term opportunities which didn’t exist when both stadiums were built.

These economic benefits to Sydney and NSW do extend interstate: as an example, 40% of the 20,000+ attendees who attended last year’s PAX event (in Melbourne), the largest gaming event in Australia and the largest penny-arcade expo outside the United States, were interstate visitors. In America, it’s common for half of those who attend gaming events in any given state to fly in from others or overseas.

Go where the audiences are

New stadiums, built for the future, will act as catalysts for additional revenues. Let’s look first at audiences, and where they are. Here is a summary of sports attendance for the main Australian codes relative to esports:

(Source: individual sports web sites and media coverage via Wikipedia)

Esports audience sizes inside stadiums can only grow. At last year’s Intel Extreme Masters held at Sydney Qudos Bank Stadium, 7,000 fans were present in person, in a venue only partly available to the organizers. However 8 million people around the world watched the main day’s events live online and within 3 weeks, earned them 92 million impressions.

As the following chart shows, while bigger venues have the capacity to attract more people to attend esports in person, esports already dominates in global viewing numbers:

While care is needed with these comparisons – it’s not possible to break out how any people outside Australia watched the Australian sporting codes, nor the proportion of those who watched IEM output based here in Australia – one thing is clear: esports attract greater audiences and a larger number of overseas audiences. This is why we need to advocate early for our new stadiums to support these type of events and digital infrastructure and support required.

Now on to the positive effect on additional revenues that we suggest result from having stadiums built for esports.

Media rights for esports events are forecast to crest US$340 million by 2020. They will act as new centres of gravity for additional pay-per-view and other forms of new media, all driving additional revenue around online participation advertising, content, merchandising and more. We should not underestimate the power of the tagline “…streaming to you from Stadium Sydney.”

Aussies have always loved our sport and music, but the question remains: will these numbers on their own sustain the Government’s proposed $2.5 billion investment, a policy that now seems to have ministers running for cover?

We think so. According to Statista, the size of the APAC esports market is worth US$406 million – 36% of the global market. Broader-still, gaming is worth US$51.3 billion in the APAC region, half the global figure of US$116 billion as reported by NewZoo. And with two-thirds of all Australians active gamers, we are seeing the economic impact of this market, with consumer brands and sports brands investing in the lucrative 25-35 year old demographic (nearly half of which is female). The Australian games industry already generates over $3 billion a year.

Overwhelmed with figures? You should be: with esports, they’re always big.

The largest-ever esports event – the Intel Extreme Masters Final at Katowice in Poland in 2017 – attracted 173,000 attendees. That’s twice State of Origin, 73% larger than either of the major codes’ Grand Finals, and 100,000 more than this year’s Super Bowl.

Opening Ceremony, Intel Extreme Masters World Championships Katowice 2017. Photographer: Helena-Kristiansson. Via Forbes.

If we consider the positive economic impact of hosting such an event, attracting teams and fans from interstate and overseas, we can see each major esports event paying for any investment in the new stadiums. Peter Fitzsimons, in his opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, questions whether the proposed investment can pay for itself in two years. With the detailed data behind the indicative summaries above to hand, that claim looks reasonable – and certainly deserves more analysis.

New thinking for new stadiums

Thirty years ago, when both stadiums were in planning, neither esports nor the Internet infrastructure that enables it existed. New thinking beyond steel, concrete and turf is now needed. The technology, screens and streaming infrastructure (especially super-high-speed Internet connectivity) to support interactivity, social media sharing, and new revenue generation requirements, must be part of any business case and any development planning. Tomorrow’s stadiums must be able to stage multi-purpose events that can scale. Inevitably, China is ahead, with the purpose-built Zhongxian stadium set to seat 7,000 people with significant investment in the digital infrastructure required to leverage their much larger online audiences, and our cousins across the Tasman in NZ already see the light.

But here’s the good news: Sydney is already on the esports map in the list of go-to cities. Hence why it is critical to ensure it stays there and our political debate incorporates the numbers and impact that this opportunity represents.

So to everyone in this debate, don’t ignore the future. Esports are already racing away from merely being options that fill the empty venues between sports events and music concerts to becoming the events that underpin stadiums’ revenues.

Esports events will fill any new stadium in Sydney, and attract global online audiences (and revenues) in their millions as long as the design and infrastructure supports it.

The government has an opportunity to consult with a new breed of experts, and take soundings from this vibrant and burgeoning industry sector, to tap into the new generation of sports fans. Research will easily show the defendable business case, that this type of new investment in Sydney will attract economic benefits that can be invested across the State, bring vision to the thinking, and consider stadium options that support today and the future.

It’s time for Sydney to look to the future, and when it comes to stadiums, that future must include esports.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

The relationship between government and business in supporting a digital-first economy

 

Yesterday I was on a panel of technology CEOs and leaders hosted by the Australian Business Software Industry Association (ABSIA) discussing the challenges that face Australian Businesses today, and exploring what would be required to support a truly digital economy.

 

The other panel members, representing a cross-section from industry and government, were Deborah Ralston, Kate Carruthers, Marjukka Maki-Hokkonen, Ramez Katf (Second Commissioner and CIO, ATO), Stuart Korchinski, Trent Innes and Karen Lay-Brew, moderated by Matthew Prouse.

Ahead of ABSIA’s own report on the discussion, here are my personal thoughts on where we are in this country.

Remove all constraints: be truly digital-first

Interestingly consumers are already digital first in their everyday actions. Our discussions related to how ready we were digitally in serving today and the future. In particular ABSIA asked the question whether Australia’s software industry was big enough to be a driver of the changes required to support the future and if so, what would be required.

What was a rarity less than 10 years ago is now the norm: people transacting, in their personal and business lives, readily giving up their personal data, often through mobile devices, desiring (and increasingly demanding) fast connectivity at all times.

Yet businesses often remain bound up too much by where we physically are – in our thinking and our infrastructure. This can be local infrastructure implementations itself – just think how much time is wasted trying to physically connect to a screen in a meeting room – or broader infrastructure limitations – for example, our inability to access fast bandwidth for processing large amounts of data from anywhere. Just yesterday I was unable to send a large file to a government body due to their file transfer limitations. This government department would not link to a Google Drive or Dropbox, nor take a USB drive, so instead we had to separate a single (and relatively small) PDF into three parts. Needless to say, this is not spending time on high-value activities.

This is before we look at the much more serious competitive limitations around the speed and cost of data processing, which is much more expensive here in Australia relative to other countries, and much slower. According to the Akamai State of the Internet Connectivity reports, Australia regularly ranks 50th in country connectivity speeds.

And whereas we still tend to fix employees to fixed workstations or points here in Australia, we see the removal of these constraints in some industries such as retail, and in some countries entirely – China’s consumers are operating almost entirely in a mobile world, including all financial transactions.

If we want to compete seriously, Australia’s future needs to be about supporting businesses and consumers operating without infrastructure or device constraints of any kind. Whatever you want to do, wherever you are, however you want to engage, it should be not only possible but totally personalised within an enabled environment.

This requires a fast and (ideally free) ubiquitous network.

The real promise of data

Data is all about opportunity. As I write this, debate rages about data privacy. We do need to build secure networks and data housing, but the issues that arise tend to be more around ethics, building trust, and permission. Organisations that have breached their customers’ trust have been punished throughout history.

For businesses the opportunity is to not focus on providing data infrastructure but rather to determine what questions we ask of data, and how do we want to engage, synthesise, transform and action data in meaningful ways that create value for the consumer. Unfortunately, infrastructure, speed, cost and connectivity become critically important: the closer your data analysis can get to real-time, the better-informed you are, and the more options around actions you have, also in real-time.

How do we choose to use data? How much data do we want or need? How comfortable are about the agreements we make with those with whom we share our data? These are decisions we are making every day.

If other countries are going to be able to hold and process data faster than we’re able to, and can more easily afford to do so, that we will limit our ability to compete for the global customer without considerable infrastructure investment.

When we factor in that tomorrow’s global workforce and consumers will know no other world than one rich on data and (mass) personalised offerings, we have some challenging questions to consider as a country.

One thing is certain, though: asking the right questions and determining how to action real-time data is the best advantage we can create for ourselves as businesses.

New dimensions for assessing skills

With the third of my three children now half-way through her high school years, I believe Australia’s education system needs major overhauls to equip our children for the future. This is more than an emphasis on STEM, important as that is. Unfortunately, today our children can “do well at school” through focusing on repeat activities and by building strong memorisation skills. With all the world’s information at our fingertips, this is not enough. With AI, robotics and machine learning impacting the way we work and the roles (and skills) required in the future, our advantages will come from exercising creativity, philosophy, ethics, and being able to think critically, take risks, and build, assess and refine strategies on the fly.

Already at Digivizer we are discarding any formal education as a measure of employment. Instead we look to hire on employees being able to demonstrate that they are smart, talented, infinite learners, get things done, and not assholes! We need people who are adaptable enough to a fast changing world full of many opportunities.

Back to our education system: I’m starting to see awesome pockets of capability being built through project-based learning when children get a mandate to build something, to create solutions to real problems and opportunities. These take form in fully fledged responses that include service offerings, websites, apps and new ways of doing things. This generation going through school don’t have to learn to think digital: they simply are digital. They are better-equipped than those who are 10-20 years older than them to navigate the world of opportunities available in a digital economy. This becomes a key advantage – or disadvantage if we are not considering this in our workplace designs.

If we want to compete globally, Australia’s education system needs to do a lot to help people think, more than how to remember. Talent needs to be defined and valued in new ways.

On the role of governments

Views on the role of government always seem to move between the government doing a good job and how the government needs to do more.  As anyone who has started and grown a business would attest, we are not playing victims expecting handouts. We are building great businesses based on determination, our own investment, grit and an appetite for risk. We have found a way – and have often overcome obstacles through sheer force of will. But with a population that represents just 0.34% of the global population, we need to be hyper-focused on how to compete globally. This is where we need the support of government.

The biggest benefits governments can provide are the infrastructure needed to be competitive and successful, updating our education system, opening up global opportunities for workforce and business, and financial incentives designed to support economic growth and value. The current R&D tax rebate incentive is an example of a good incentive designed to focus the minds of those seeking the rebates, so that true innovation, research and breakthroughs occur, but it is not enough.

As to future funding, we must ensure that the mechanisms for funding in Australia compete with those available overseas. Australian technology companies are receiving much more support at start up, yet need to go overseas for their next level funding – often never returning.

Final observations

As to the future of Australia’s software industry, yes – I firmly believe we have the opportunity to influence and lead, but we need to have the political and business will to make this happen. We can be smart and get things done, but it really will come down to our speed of adaptation to the digital future and a global mindset.

To scale globally we need access to funds and incentives to stay. And we need digital infrastructure like never before. As panellist Marjukka Maki-Hokkonen, who was born in Finland, noted, a small population spread over a wide, inhospitable landscape need not be a barrier to investment. Finland built a nationwide mobile network that connects the entire country, including unoccupied tundra, and citizens and business have access to very low-cost superfast wifi nationally. Sound like a plan?

It did strike me that much of the emphasis on creating a common data model, policies and infrastructure was being supported and lobbied by our financial industry and yet this industry is itself ripe for disruption. It is critical for us to consider the empowered future consumer: to win their business we will need to compete in environments where everyone has access to so many options. Emphasis will be on empowerment and value, and the consumer will respond with their virtual wallets and votes.

Whatever the solution to infrastructure, customers will expect, demand and insist that these options, services and systems deliver value and are available to them on their terms. As businesses, it’s our role to create the applications, product, services and capability that brings meaning to such infrastructure.

As always, the decisions and opportunities – as individuals, and as a nation – are ours to take.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

A personal observation of travel time – the impact of mobile technology

Photo: Manly Fast Ferry

Quelle horreur! – my iphone battery died just as I entered my 20 minute Fast Ferry ride home last Wednesday at 6.15pm. I usually use this time to catch up on emails and I felt at a loss about what to do with this time. I could have enjoyed the gorgeous view of Sydney Harbour. Instead, I thought it opportune to observe my fellow travellers, to answer the question, “what do other people do on their journey home”.

My data sample was 50 people.

  • 80% were on a mobile device
  • 2% were on computers
  • 2% were on tablets
  • 14% were reading printed materials (<1% on kindle)
  • Fewer than 1% were in conversation, which was double those that were looking out the window and those that were writing on notepads or in notebooks

Of those on their mobile device:

  • 9% were on the phone/talking
  • 29% had earphones in/watching a screen with some occasionally smiling/laughing – I presume they were watching entertainment or perhaps a Ted Talk – they were not engaging with their screen
  • 29% were scrolling – quick-flicking through their phone feeds (I am guessing most were social but they could have been flicking fasts through newsfeeds or emails)
  • 1% had earphones in and just were listening to something, perhaps music
  • the balance, also just under 30%, were engaged in some form – e.g. texting, typing, engaging with the content they were viewing.

It may have looked a bit creepy with my notepad, pen, and staring at people whilst jotting notes and creating tallies – but I was struck by the enabling power of mobile technology.

The question for me is whether we are using this time most effectively, or just conveniently.

I like to plan my day and use the morning before I leave for work to prioritise what I need to do (including what I want to do on my trip in). But I am definitely more lax just catching up on emails on the way home.

How do you use your travel time? Purposively?

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Failure is an option

One of the best-known lines in the movie Apollo 13 is, “Failure is not an option”, attributed to flight director Gene Kranz*, as played by actor Ed Harris.

You can’t, however, be in new territory, push for innovation, make a prediction of the future and hope to prevent failure. If you are creating your own future, which you are as an entrepreneur, you cannot guarantee success.

The only way to guarantee “zero failure” is if you take no risks. And if you don’t take risks, you can’t expect real gains.

You also can’t simultaneously say you care about developing your employees and then expect them to not make errors. Growth, development and innovation imply testing — testing can occur before your product is in market or when it is in market. Testing will mean some things will work, and some things will not.

We need to be OK with failure as an option –  as long as it is done fast, with purpose and with learning.

The risk balance: build to ship early

Opportunity windows can close if you ship only when you aim for the least-risky version or wait for what you think is the perfect product or service. Waiting to ship only when it is “complete” also bets your company on something that’s untested in the market, an option which has its own set of risks.

Much better to ship as soon as you have developed something that you are confident adds value to your customers. That point can be determined as when they are prepared to pay you for what you ship. Then continue to increase value, always measuring true customer interest, engagement, value and feedback. Knowing what your customer uses, how much they use, and why, is much more valuable to your future product or service development plans, and likely to be less risky than any other path.

The risk balance: preparing to learn

In the software development world, this notion of develop fast, deliver often — review, test, fail, learn and refine — is called Agile product development. Yet this approach is applicable more broadly than to just software development.

This means developing the nerve, thinking and processes to work through the obstacles that inevitably arise across any business function, especially when launching something new, or launching as a startup.

Creating a culture that allows for hypotheses, building, shipping, testing — and accepting that some things will fail — actually best balances risk against opportunity. As you move forward, you do more of what works, and stop doing what doesn’t.

In my experience it looks like this:

  • start with customers and define a problem statement that directly solves their needs
  • test the concept early, and when you have enough research to make an informed decision about scope, commit to building it (whether software, a service, or a product)
  • define and commit to the minimum viable version of what you seek to deliver — then get it to market early, in the hands of customers, managing the numbers as you gain feedback and refine
  • update, repeat and continuously deliver as you learn and scale

At Digivizer, by way of example, we have evolved an early product iteration into a fully fledged enterprise service offering. Now we are reusing this technology platform, experience and our data to work on the development of a new SaaS software solution that will allow all companies to easily measure the effectiveness of their social and search investment.

We have, in other words, continuously tested our hypotheses about what customers actually need, shipped, earned reviews, and fed back into continuous product development and product offerings.

Embrace, don’t fear, the possibility of failure: it’s a productive option to get you to your ultimate destination faster

The point about the Apollo 13 mission was not so much that failure was not an option but that the entire NASA team had to make quick decisions and act: the overall mission could not be allowed to fail because the consequences (the death of three astronauts) were simply unacceptable. They dispensed with the tried-and-trusted NASA ethos of testing and checking before executing (they had to). They assessed each task and fix on its merits, did quick assessments of risk (often in less than an hour), and (literally) pushed the button. They didn’t have the oxygen, fuel or power to wait for the perfect moment. More than once, they had to rethink their decisions on the fly.

No one wants to fail. No one plans to fail. But accepting that with progress there is also failure means that instead of waiting for that perfect moment, you are now prepared to ship and continuously innovate and deliver. And if you fail, fail fast, learn from the failure, quickly pivot or iterate, and repeat. And never forget to celebrate the wins and learnings along the way.

(*Kranz never actually said this during the mission, although after its use in the movie, he did adopt the phrase for his autobiography.)

This article is also published on LinkedIn.
(Photo source: Tantor via https://audiobookstore.com/audiobooks/failure-is-not-an-option-1.aspx)

 

Digivizer starts new venture to tap into $65 billion APAC gamers’ market

Digivizer has launched a new venture — called goto.game — to tap the global esports and online games market.

Goto.game is a new media hub and ecosystem 100% focused to deliver value for gamers, influencers, esports and brands. This is directly born out of our seven years of analysing the digital footprint of people across social and search platforms, and providing strategies and services to some of world’s biggest brands.

As with a fire, a new business needs three things: fuel, a spark, and oxygen.

For goto.game, the fuel was the gap in the market, to provide a meaningful ecosystem that brings gamers, influencers esports teams and brands together.

The spark was the realization that gamers, influencer and brands were all being short-changed. Our data let us understand and engage with the influencers, the gamers and the players in the market, what they sought, and how they interacted. We’ve been doing this, on behalf of clients and as Digivizer ourselves.

And we have proven two things: it must be authentic and it must be real.

The oxygen was the desire among gamers, influencers, their fans and brands to work together in new ways. Gamers and esports teams want to connect with commercial sponsors, without compromising their values and how they would authentically stream, play and engage. Brands want to understand how to work effectively in what for many remains unfamiliar territory. And fans want to enjoy their gaming without feeling “sold do” by anyone.

The result is goto.game — a gaming destination run by gamers for gamers.

But fires and new business ventures need one more thing: intent. You have to want to light the fire, and you have to decide to commit all to a new business.

With the data and the validation of the new market to support us, we’ve made that commitment, and lit the fire!

So: why esports and gaming? The gaming space is not new to Digivizer. We’ve provided social and digital insights and services in this market for clients that include Lenovo and Intel over the past three years. We’ve engaged some of the biggest influencers and esports teams in the APAC region, generating highly successful activations, streams, content and sponsorships, providing gaming and non-gaming brands with opportunities to be involved in the lucrative esports market.

And we have hired dedicated gamers to head the new company.

According to digital and online games research company Newzoo, the market is worth AU$131 billion globally, AU$65 billion across APAC, and AU$1.5 billion in Australia and New Zealand alone. There are more than 1.1 billion gamers in the APAC region and 12 million in Australia alone, according to Newzoo.

Our own analysis of the market, and our work at events such as PAX, RTX and this year’s Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) esports event in Sydney, makes it clear that there is a huge opportunity to fill a gap in the market. Over 7 million live views of IEM and 92 million in-content views for a single event represent audiences almost double those of mainstream TV viewing numbers, including the major traditional sporting AFL and NRL grandfinals.

And we have seen this market grow, in size and in the number of engaged fans who influence each other.

Respect (and data) at the centre of everything

Our strategy for goto.game is to bring these three groups — gamers and influencers, their fans and brands — together in a new ecosystem that treats everyone with equal respect, adds expertise and value at every point in the engagement, and uses real-time data to understand what’s working and where to go next.

For fans, influencers and brands, this is about creating a win-win-win, with content and contexts that matter to them. We have been thrilled by the overwhelming support we have received from the wider gaming influencers and esports teams across the APAC region, and from partnerships with the major social and streaming platforms.

Goto.game will be headed by Digivizer’s gaming team specialists Phid Oldfield and Jack Hudson, highly credible gamers and streamers in their own right, supported by a team of gamers including their content and advertising specialists.

Some of the goto.game team. From left to right?—?Jack Huddo, Fran Meliton, Emma Lo Russo, Phid McAwesome
Some of the goto.game team. From left to right—Jack Huddo, Fran Meliton, Emma Lo Russo, Phid McAwesome

Goto.game is already talking to top-tier gamers and esports teams, and I’d like to thank launch clients AKRacing (which is launching a new specialist gamers’ chair on the goto.game web site), Intel, and Legion by Lenovo.

Finally: how do Digivizer and goto.game connect? With real-time data and insights. Our technology, six years in the development and refining, powers and sits underneath both businesses.

To strike that first match becomes an easier decision when you have the best-possible information about what might happen next!

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

5 MBA insights for startups and entrepreneurs

Last night I was privileged to be the guest speaker at a UNSW AGSM Business School Executive MBA dinner of those graduating 2017. (I graduated in 2013.)

The conversation was how having an MBA can make a difference and to talk through my personal learnings and journey. After working internationally for the previous five years, my MBA helped connect me to a local network of key decision makers, it provided the assignment discipline for me to focus my strategy and assessments on Digivizer, and gave me access to first- rate lecturers and a peer brains trust I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

In my final year, I wrote my strategy and plan for Digivizer in which I was able to secure $2 million in funding. It was definitely tough working full-time in my startup, studying for my MBA and raising my family, but it gave me amazing resilience and the conviction to pursue the opportunity I see for Digivizer (now seven years in and 50+ employees).

For those wondering how to make an MBA and a start up work, here are my top-five MBA insights for startups and entrepreneurs.

1. Do, don’t just think

Business success is about actually doing, and this is especially-true for startups. There are plenty of consultants, advisers and commentators in the Australian startup ecosystem. The ones to listen to are those who have successfully launched and grown a company, those who have delivered value to customers, and earned revenue and profits.

Many startups suffer for the lack of a plan, and they can be light on strategy. MBAs are good at helping develop both.

It is important to develop a meaningful plan with key measures of success. Then you need to translate your plan into actions and delivery. You need to measure all that you do and refine on the way. I love Eisenhower’s quote on planning and plans: ‘In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’ This is true in preparing your business for success.

2. Define, then evolve, your strategy

When I co-founded Digivizer in 2010 we developed a clear vision: to provide value at the intersection of social media, big data and CRM. To help our customers in acquisition, retention and loyalty by knowing more about how to engage their customers. Back then this was new thinking as most focus back then in social was on volume measures of mentions and very little in connecting social to your customer base. Much of our time was spent explaining to marketing managers where the value was to be found in social media let alone linking it to actual customer acquisition and management programs.

Today that vision remains the same but we have had to evolve our strategy. We now talk to boards and C-levels about how to help to better understand the digital footprint of their customers and have this central in their customer engagement strategies and how to measure their digital investment.

Business of all sizes and at every stage in their growth now need to know exactly how their digital and social marketing budget is working, and to be able to take action on real time insights. We deliver those data and insights and have 7 years now of proof points.

We are also now working on going direct to the SMB business owner. A more simple message but largely the same vision (helping them grow their business by helping them know more about how best to engage their customers and know what is working and what isn’t).

Entrepreneurs are good at having instinctive visions, MBAs are good at building out business concepts against changing market conditions. The learnings in a MBA help form points of differentiation and bring frameworks that help you navigate the different stages of organisational growth.

3. Be flexible, ship value early

Back to doing: the value in any company is in what it ships and how that makes a difference to its customers. At Digivizer we started delivering value as soon as we could, and have built our company and technology primarily on the back of bootstrapping through our own revenue and cash flow. We received funding at a point that we wanted to accelerate building out our enterprise technology platform which allowed us to engage and serve some of the biggest technology, telco, financial, FMCG and retail clients. We are at the stage where we will be taking our technology and our learnings into the broader global SMB market in a SaaS model.

Part of shipping early is flexibility: you can’t wait for the perfect plan or the perfect product. You need to ship and learn from customer feedback. Today’s customers and users are very generous when taken on the journey with you, acting as beta testers when you’re developing a product (especially software).

MBAs can be guiding hands on these Agile environments, balancing product usage with product revenues. This helps remind the startup of the direction they should be heading in, and the ways to measure progress along that journey. Nothing validates a product more than a paying customer!

4. Develop your people and leadership teams

People are everything inside the organization. Startups have to compete against larger companies with larger budgets and established brands.

Yet startups also attract talent, often the best in the market. They offer opportunities to make a real difference from the first day at the company, and to do things never attempted or delivered before. And do so in new and more flexible ways.

To keep these people, you need to develop a team culture and develop them as individuals.

This means understanding everyone as unique individuals, having a clearly-articulated vision for the company, having well-defined opportunities to contribute, to share success, and to reward when the big prize is won (and with smaller prizes along the way). The biggest value you can offer is “the MBA every day”. Involving them in strategy, planning, pricing – all key decisions. Ensuring that everything we do is measured by impact on results, not ego or past experience.  It keeps the organisation flat, fluid and provides plenty of ideas and leadership opportunities. It certainly provides learnings.

MBAs can bring insights into structures, systems and programs that can help a start up grow through different stages. For example, at Digivizer we have introduced project management by objectives, and key results (OKRs, as espoused by Christina Wodtke). Anyone at any level can own a x-platform objective to deliver. We can connect all we do to the direction we’re heading towards (and why), and we can support our teams on the way.

5. The customer is everything

A great idea is just that without a customer. And, it must be said, an MBA is just a business degree without a customer. All businesses from start up to established are successful when they put the customer first. MBAs are most successful when they bring their knowledge to bear on the needs of the customer, working through the products and services of the companies they work for.

I’ve benefited personally from having an MBA, and Digivizer has as a company as well. Having an MBA means I can switch between structured thinking and creative development, between the growth mindset and the longer-term business mindset.

The result is that we have accelerated, evolved, and grown. We continuously check we are ready and relevant for our future.

Robert Kennedy said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” If there is a difference in having an MBA in the startup world, perhaps this is it: having the business rigour and training to sit alongside your passion, vision and experience, to instil the confidence to take risks, to be prepared to try new things, to be prepared to fail, and to inspire in leadership so you can achieve great things.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Taking your business through growth

I was recently invited to speak at a tech entrepreneurs’ lunch.

In the audience were entrepreneurs just starting out sitting alongside those a number of years in who had successfully navigated the stages of early growth to something more sustainable. We were also lucky enough to hear research presented by Cameron Research Group on key growth inflection points for SMBs.

There were a number of insights gained through the research and the discussions that followed:

1) Focus and commitment to success

Many had chosen to do their own thing not just because they were driven to harness an opportunity and to create a new future, but also because they liked the control it offered. Entrepreneurs felt they could live the life they wanted, and the more time spent on forging their own way, the less likely they could ever work for anyone else again. The result? Total focus on making their venture successful.

2) Managing growth through key inflection points

The way someone was able to run their business in the early days could only get them so far. That point seemed to be at 20-30 employees, at which point entrepreneurs needed to think about switching from a control model to an empowerment model, from an authoritative leadership style to more democratic style of leadership. This meant hiring differently, bringing in new systems, enhancing leadership capability, and formalizing HR and marketing resources and programs.

The next growth inflection point was at 70 employees, where the audience again recognized that what had been built to get them to that size would need to be revisited again, particularly in terms of systems, leadership and culture. The main concern each entrepreneur had was on how to keep and protect their company’s culture and the way they wanted their business to run when they could no longer be personally involved with, or connected to, every decision.  An emphasis on investing in building a strong culture based on values, trust and empowerment was key to those who were successful.

3) Four main growth pain points

This seemed to be universally agreed upon. To grow their businesses from startup to success, entrepreneurs needed to:

  • focus on cash flow,
  • scale recruitment and performance management
  • scale sales and marketing,
  • control costs.

Everyone agreed that all of these were challenging, especially when gearing up for sustainable and often accelerated growth. This has certainly been our experience at Digivizer and we have put much investment in each of these areas.

What was particularly insightful for me was the number of businesses that had realized they had to switch their marketing models from doing it themselves to recognizing they needed external solutions.

And it was especially interesting to hear that once businesses grew to that 20 employee point, they needed to save time and become better at seeing and understanding what was working for them. In particular, it was time for them to invest in solutions as it was important for them to easily and quickly know the ROI of marketing expenditure. They needed to be able to easily measure what was working for them, and to focus resources there ie do more of what works and fix or stop doing what was not working. Data matters and tools could help over manual options.

This resonated with us, given that at Digivizer our focus is on helping businesses create better experiences for their customers by knowing more about them and what they care about in order to help them generate leads and sales from digital.

All of which makes me even more focused and committed to rolling out our technology and solutions in an affordable way for every business.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Are boards being let down by their senior leadership teams?

The Australian Financial Review’s Tony Boyd raises some amber, if not red flags, in his recent article about the lack of preparedness, of most of Australia’s listed boards to the reality of the mobile-first world in which they now operate.

Deloitte cites an Australian smartphone adoption rate of 84% (rising to 94% if you’re under 24), calling Australia a nation of hyper-connectivity and exceeding many western countries permeation rate. With 17 million Australians on Facebook, with most of us checking in at the moment we awaken and checking out just before we turn off the lights for the night on our mobile devices, businesses who ignore mobile as a platform to entertain, inform, engage and delight their customers are at their peril.

We agree with Tony Boyd’s assertion in conversation with Stephen Scheeler that boards need to see digital and social as ways to know much more about their customers, and thereby create better customer experiences.

Given most companies spend between 10 to 15% of revenue on marketing, with now over half going to digital, boards should be asking to see digital and social insights and results in their board packs as a matter or priority.  The beauty of digital is that everything is measurable.  Measuring the ROI of investment in digital should be continuously reported to help organizations learn and do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

Boards need to hold their leadership teams accountable to appropriate investment in the strategic thinking and tools necessary to enable them to engage directly with customers, and to track every activity into and away from their websites, digital messaging and social platforms through to conversion.

While it should be assumed digital is an essential part of delivery, the real opportunity is in the ability to delight the customer and create friction-less, positive and outcome-driven experiences when and wherever the customer wants.  Measuring the delight and sentiment of customers in relation to their total experience (including digital experience with your brand), and by focusing on continuous delivery of experience improvements will provide the type of stickiness and advocacy businesses and boards are looking for.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.