Category Archives: Business Growth

Women’s only groups?

A while ago a few entrepreneurial women and I decided to start a monthly Meetup for like minded ladies.

Over the months, the Meetup has become fairly successful, drawing an array of fascinating and very successful women out of the woodwork, with the promise of worts and all stories about ourselves, by ourselves.

The question has been raised time and time again: Why do we limit the group to females only?

As a general rule, Im not a big personal fan of segregating genders. I’d never send my kids to single sex schools, Im not necessarily a fan of quotas and the only reason I went to the women only gym at Les Mills is because it was the only place with spare treadmills. But in this case, we thought it was worth a try.

Why (I think) we did it.

The first reason was based around the fact that we’d all been to a bunch of big tech events and conferences and noticed the distinct lack of female presenters. My initial theory was that women were somehow more shy or less primed for presenting (major projection happening there). Providing a safe place to practice speaking to a crowd and building confidence, to me, seemed the greatest benefit of starting a female only group. Maybe if we acted as a breeding ground for female speakers, we’d be all over the show and that would solve an issue we all felt existed.

Secondly, Ive been in enough female dominated social situations, where, with varying degrees of subtlety, the men involved conveyed their lack of interest in the ‘nattering’ and ‘gossip’. As a general rule, we DO socialise differently. There are a ton of places women can go and socialise in the tech sector, it’s just that they are dominated by men. I genuinely don’t know if that has a big impact on the way things are done at those events, but I do know I save my blatant venting and full disclosure of anxieties and issues for my female friends.

Maybe we should just jump right on in and start those conversations in the existing places, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t happening enough for any of us.

So we decide we may not be right, but trying something new had to be better than wishing and hoping for a greater representation of female tech founders.

What we’ve found so far

The group’s format is very loose on format (a round of intros, 1-2 speakers, then requests and success/failures), but very strict on openness. We don’t want your sales pitch, we want your trials and tribulations and how you managed to get through them.

I was wrong about a fear of public speaking, thats just me. What I think we’ve found though is that the what we speak about is quite different from anything Ive heard in a more traditional techie meetup, we can evolve from ‘how to get through the day to day grind’ to ‘how to survive an emotional breakdown to ‘is it ok to breastfeed while at a meeting?’ in the space of 10 minutes. People ask questions and others answer with brutal insight. And I find it very helpful.

One thing I’ve very much found, is that life is way easier when you see people who look and act like you, doing things you are scared of. It also puts a lot more pressure on because it ups the standard of what you expect for yourself and removes the excuses that are all too easy to find. So maybe it’s not even about the absense of men, but the presence of so many other women that makes a difference.

Any conclusions?

Nope. Im still personally torn, and hate to think separation equals success. I still wonder if it’s just the culture we created and think if we could hold onto that and let everyone and their dog in, we’d be equally successful. The way the group has grown, and attracted so many people that I literally wouldn’t have known existed, does make me think its successful. We’re a small community overall, where have all these women been hiding? I suppose the more important question is why? And how does a female only group change that?

Who knows?

We launch LittleBlackFrock!

(Slightly delayed announcement)

LittleBlackFrock has been the cause of many a late day to work in the past few weeks… It’s the answer to many issues I (and others??) have to buying clothes. Girls love fashion, some girls are extremely good to putting together outfits that rock, and that Id never have thought of on my own. Other girls like looking good, but struggle to find clothes that work with their body, colours or just get generically stuck trying to find an outfit for an upcoming event.

We’re trying to fix that by changing online shopping from browsing screeds of products to adding a little bit of smarts. On LittleblackFrock, you shop by browsing LookBooks created by everyone from proper stylists, to fashion bloggers to your friends. And the best thing is you can click through and buy all or each item separately. Its a really cool (and addictive) way to find the latest clothes, looks and get inspiration… And Ive found that when Im super exciting about an upcoming event (races, Toast, birthday parties), Im all over the site making LookBooks of what Im going to wear.

Give it a whirl, send us your feedback, tell us what you love and what you hate, why you always go back, or why you went once and then never bothered again. We want to hear it. We’ve got stacks of options of where the site may go, and Id love to hear what you think :)

Dabbling in the Share Market

One revelation that recently came to me, is that when you have some savings and you are almost 30, you should probably look at other options than the bank. I always thought share trading was for people with Money (the capital ‘M’ refers to the seriousness of their bank account balances), and people with serious financial intellect.

I have neither.

But I do have the desire to learn something new, so armed with the lesson that you never invest anything you can’t afford to lose, I signed up for a share trading account (Mine is with ANZ, but I hear Direct Brokers may be better). The sign up proces is simple and you simple get charged a transaction fee for each trade.

Im writing this, because since then, a few of us have got into it and are madly trying to convince others to look into it. I think generally, girls in my age group are very conservative about investing, and spend far, far too much of their salaries on clothes etc, while never building any wealth for themselves. Im trying to dispel the ‘I cant afford it’ myth by investment small amounts (my understanding is $3,000 is about where you want to start to ensure the trading fees dont suck up too much profit, but that can be split into 3 $1,000 investments)

Then comes the ‘Portfolio’. Based on advice, Ive sort of come to the conclusion you want to keep the vast bulk of your money in something safer. Im not convinced Im taking my own advice, but I think I may be more of a risk taker than I thought, and startup life changes your perception of risk :) So the rough plan is to keep 80% in the bank/house, 10% in high risk shares and 10% in low risk, long term holdings.

I have assumed, since Xero IPO’d and I convinced my entire family to invest, that Im a share market natural. I suppose it’s not ‘normal’ that your first dabble increases over 1,300% (is that right?) in a few years, but it sure gave me confidence. My theory is to go off my gut. I know it seems a bit cowboy, but I started with the research way of doing things, and the general consensus seemed to be its all a big gamble anyway. Like I say, I feel like a natural (terrible advice, but whatever).

So I started the year with a piddly portfolio. Unfortunately for me, Xero IPO’d when I was buying an apartment, so I made a very small, $1,000 investment initially.

I then bought $10,000 of Xero shares at $7.50 in January and kicked myself for a month when they steadily tanked. But now they’ve pretty much doubled. Im very happy as the point of that was ‘oh well, Im sure they’ll raise more than the 4% I’d get in the bank’.

I then started spamming everyone I know who has financial literacy for hot tips. On the basis that it was totally judgement free (people are quite hesitant to recommend shares in case it all goes terribly wrong), I got a few ideas.

I then had a grand plan to become a share trader. I bought $1,000 of Diligent shares at $5.20 or something. When they hit $6 a few weeks later I was like ‘kapow!’ and sold up. Then sat glumly watching them rise further and further. I was stoked at the couple of hundred extra in my pocket. It was fun, but I think I realised Im not a trader.

So I bought back in the other day at $6.85 when they went down a bit That was the same $1,000.

In the meantime, I also invested in Snakk Media. Probably my worst current investment as the price is still hovering around what I paid. Ill probably take advantage of the $0.12 offer though. I think that took $3,000 of my money. I will definitely hold onto these, but consider it the biggest gamble Ive taken. Im totally ok with it because, like I say, this is probably the best chance I have to take risks without it seriously causing harm if it turns to custard.

So thats my high risk out of the way! I think I may have got a bit over excited on that front.

Next up is the long term. I am thinking a NZX 50 fund, a bank and/or a resthome (once again based on advice from people far more competent than me).

So anyway, so far, Ive been pretty fortunate. The worst Ive done is to not make anything.

I also know, for a lot of people, the sums Im throwing around still seem like heaps. But so does the salaries that most people spend, to savers like me.

So that’s my sharemarket 2 cents :)

Power Kiwi takes on the Fast 50!

A year on from Powershop taking out the award for being New Zealand’s fastest growing company in the Deloitte Fast50 awards (winning with with a record growth percentage of 5280.41%!!), PowerKiwi is following on their coattails!

Powerkiwi is an entrant this year and are looking forward to the results, which are announced tonight. We want everyone to share in the celebrations, so we’ve doubled our usual $50 signup gift… Make yourself a fast $100 just by switching to Powershop today!.

Powerkiwi sells FlowerPower, Green Power and Tree Power on Powershop. We’ve had an incredible growth rate over the last few years, and just hit over 220 million units of electricity sold to date through Powershop. FlowerPower is our main product, if you purchase FlowerPower, you help us give back to some cool organisations. So far, we’ve supported everything from the Canterbury Earthquake fund, to the Wellington Hospitals & Health Foundation and the Million Dollar Mouse campaign. We also sell carbon neutralised Green Power, as well as Tree Power, which supports global rural communities to plant trees.

So far this year we’ve already reached over 80 million units, and we’ve already beaten last year’s top line revenue. That’s not quite at the growth rate required to be on the stage for next year’s Fast50, but when the numbers get bigger, maintaining the growth rate in percentage terms is much harder. We are grateful to our thousands of customers, and aim to keep bringing little smiles into their lives.

Read the full story from Lance here :)

Great advice for anyone wanted to get in the startup game

A few years ago in Wellington, we had this weird wave of businesses that were so over-hyped, everyone assumed the founders were superstars, despite there being virtually nothing behind the buzz.

Out of the rubble a couple of key names emerged. These people actually seemed to have their heads screwed on correctly and had spent that time, heads down getting stuff done.

Rowan Simpson, has invited a few of them to guest post on his blog about their experiences and lessons from their own startups. Their stories are hugely interesting to read and shine a light on what it REALLY takes to get a technology product off the ground, while being honest about the gap between ‘off the ground’ and ‘driving Ferraris into the sunset’.

The posts will continue over the next wee while, so here’s a link to Rowan’s homepage. If you get lost, you’ll most likely find everything else there pretty darn useful anyway.

More customer success: MyLawsuit

Just heard from Michele about some early buzz around MyLawsuit.com.

Michele and I ‘met’ several years ago now, and we designed the initial screens for MyLawsuit. Michele is a true inspiration (just read the articles to see what she gets up to!) and I love the concept of a website that helps the little guy in the legal world. With a limited, yet hugely painful experience of the reality of legal battles, I very quickly realised that even if you are 100% in the right and/or you are fighting to regain something someone took from you, it costs a FORTUNE in time, emotion and finance…

Michele (like all my favorites clients) has a very unique and very cool view on her industry, you can see a lot of her personal ethics in the product. I love the fact that she’s trying to remove the terrifying legalese that you are normally subjected to, and run a very open and transparent process to connect lawyers with clients. Its an industry full of sharks and awesome to see someone who’s not afraid of taking them on!

Moneyscope: Standing out from the Crowd

One of my favorite customers just sent me the latest review of Moneyscope – a Basecamp style approach to financial planning, that enables financial planners to quickly produce attractive, simple and understandable reports for their clients… As opposed to the typical, hugely complex modeling systems that result in reports no one really understands.

I love this product. I love designing it, I love working with Richard (who is about as onto it as they come), and I love the idea of taking on an industry that, to the ordinary person, is shrouded in mystery and complication.

Moneyscope has never intended to compete directly with the big players – it’s monthly cost and simple functionality attest to that, BUT we are quickly picking up on more and more users switching the vast majority of even their most complex customers to Moneyscope… And this is even before the next release of some cool functionality that will take it to the next level.

Read page 25 of this industry publication for this full review, but I think this sums it up:

The discussions with the users of Moneyscope were quite enlightening. We had expected the tool to be used by the mainstream adviser, for simple cases or for initial engagement of clients. The reality is that it is used by sophisticated financial planners as a core part of their advice process.

Keep an eye out for Moneyscope, it’s got the perfect mix of strict focus, simplicity and a massive need from the market.

The allaboutthestory.com Media Scholarship

We’re starting the new year with a bang at AllAboutTheStory.com, with a full scholarship to one of the biggest web events in New Zealand – Webstock.

It’s a pretty cool package: The Allaboutthestory.com Media Scholar will get to attend Webstock 2011, interview big names from overseas tech companies and fill their contact books with the good and the great of New Zealand’s own web glitterati.

How to Apply

Email Julie Starr – julie@allaboutthestory.com – by January 30, 2011 explaining:

  • why you would like to attend Webstock 2011
  • which speaker you most want to interview and why
  • which publication you write for or intend to pitch any Webstock-related stories to
  • how the scholarship would help you in your career
  • why you’re the right person for the scholarship

Find out more about the scholarship here.

MyTours is a finalist for the onyas!!!!

There was much excitement over MyTours email in the past few days, when Glen announced that we are a finalist for the onyas (which for those NOT in NZ, is basically our tech version of the Oscars… Sort of)

The funny thing about making products, is that you spend most of your time just trying to make things look/work better, and as a result, you sort of focus on all the bad stuff and the to-do list, rather than how awesome the product is. And despite a very disparate team who are all very much part time, it’s quite nice to look back and see what we’ve made… Which is pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself!

The judges say:

“Worked well. Like the integration of service website, clear targeting, and a nice-looking app.”

Check out the available apps here or signup to make your own

And thanks gang! There is nothing better than working with awesome people, on an awesome idea and seeing it come together.

Allaboutthestory.com 1 year on and it’s getting exciting!

Apparently the gang at Allaboutthestory.com celebrated our one year anniversary a month or so back.

And what a year it’s been!

From the start, we were all aware that this was not the sort of site that will go from no to woah in a year. Anything to do with listings requires a delicate balance of building of the buyer and the audiences. But on the discovery of this satisfied user, it struck me that it could well be a good time for the ‘State of the Startup’ overview.

Our big focus

One of the big mottos of the year, and a question thrown about with abandon is ‘what will this new functionality/tweak/button etc etc TEACH US?’. Learning about how people use the site was priority number 1, 2 ,3 4 and 5. This can prove amusing in the early days when the user base is so small that 50% of your audience doesn’t equate to a huge number of real people.

But we’ve learned a lot. Most importantly, that the mainstream media industry is indeed changing and people are gearing up for it. I think this was proven very early on, when our founder/cheif editor and super talented Julie Starr signed up some fairly substantial publications and journalists before we’d really even proven ourselves.

Some big highlights

  • The first sales made to people we didn’t know
  • Discovering Cartoons! Allaboutthestory.com has some of the funniest and most clever cartoonists around, regularly selling their relevant and timely takes on the world.
  • Watching traffic rise – as I say, it’s early days, but it’s growing. This is especially cool when it’s the result of some new thing that Julie has done (anything from a good blog post, to email newsletters, to Twitter and Facebook)
  • Seeing the quality of the content continually rise. As the site grows, so, it seems, does the percentage of really well written articles. We’ve had some sell within hours of listing, which is pretty exciting and does mean that publications are on the lookout constantly.
  • The process we’ve developed of regular monthly/6 weekly get togethers with intense updates. These are prioritised around time and focused on making the biggest improvement within that site – which can be the subject of much debate and hard questions. Some months, I believe Julie forces herself to not pull her hair out at the lack of progress, other months, we make a leap forward.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many hiccups, barriers and whole sections of the website we still cringe at. But that’s life and a million times better than my experiences of intense startup environments, full of infighting and freakouts.

Check out the website