Revheads, V8 Supercars … and me

Revheads V8 Supercars … and me POST

 

“Valerie Khoo” and “V8 Supercars” are rarely found in the same sentence. So it would probably surprise most people that I attended the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercars event last weekend near Launceston.

Let me put this in context. My partner is a V8 Supercar NUT. He owns two V8s, is constantly admiring the sounds of their engines and, when he’s not watching AFL or golf, the television is regularly emanating the dulcet tones of those blessed cars.

So when I received that invitation to attend the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercars last weekend as a guest of Microsoft … put it this way … I did it for love.

Having said that, I’ll admit … it was a fascinating experience. I now know more about V8 Supercars than I ever thought possible. I even discovered a business angle and wrote about that in my Enterprise column here.

The experience also enabled me to test out my new favourite app, Vine. These are six-second videos which I’ve embedded here, which hopefully give you a sneak peek into the event.… Read more ...

Adapt your business to the fast lane

Enterprise 11 April 2013 Valerie Khoo

My recent visit to V8 Supercars event in Tasmania was an eye-opening experience. It inspired this week’s Enterprise post on “4 ways to adapt your business to the fast lane”.

The last time I went to a motor racing event I was 19, it was Mount Panorama at Bathurst, and I swore I’d never go to another one ever again. I spent most of the day trying to avoid drunken louts perched on sofas which they brought to the track on the back of utes. They were surrounded by endless slabs of beer and some smoked dubious smelling substances. At the end of the day, these sofas were unceremoniously torched after the final race and the aforesaid louts left the track with a sea of carnage in their wake.

So when I went to the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercar event last weekend, I wasn’t prepared to find cappuccinos, a Disney amusement park for kids, and a crowd so well behaved you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a church picnic. (Just a very noisy one.)

The business of motor sport is, after all, a business.

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Killing your darlings: getting rid of products to improve profits

Enterprise Kill Your Darlings

Off with her head! That’s been the theme for this week. I’ve been watching The Tudors on DVD – and Henry VIII sure loved a good beheading when it came to getting rid of the traitors (or wives) that got in his way. I channelled Henry when I did the gardening earlier this week and got immense satisfaction from dead-heading 93 roses in the backyard (yes, I counted). Then I heard that publishing house Bauer Media axed another two magazines (Madison and UFC) after already putting Grazia on the chopping block. This inspires this week’s Enterprise post.

Earlier this week, publishing house Bauer Media announced the axing of two magazines: monthly fashion magazine Madison and martial arts magazine UFC. This comes hot on the heels of its decision to shut down weekly fashion rag Grazia.

These kinds of decisions are never easy – for management, owners, staff or readers – but sometimes, the best strategy is to clean house as swiftly as you can so you are not bogged down by under-performing products.

The same can be said for the products and services offered by small business owners.

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I like cats. I like blogging. So I can build a $37 million company right?

Ben Huh

There used to be a time (yes this is true) that I used to wake up each morning, reach for my phone and – before even checking emails or messages – I’d look up Icanhascheezburger. If you’re not familiar with this internet phenomenon, it’s simply a website full of cat photos accompanied by funny captions. These days, other animals of the non-feline variety also feature on the site.

I used to look up this site because I was guaranteed to have a giggle. And it was a great way to start the day. Such a simple idea, so effective. Since then the site has grown from one person blogging funny pictures of cats into a media empire which has garnered more then $37 million worth of investment.

Rexy in a Meme

Behind this empire is entrepreneur Ben Huh. And when I had the opportunity to interview the Seattle-based business owner when he was in Sydney earlier this week, I couldn’t pass it up. His story is this week’s Enterprise post.

I have cats. I like taking photos of them. I love sharing these pictures with my friends.

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Aussies embracing Berlin as hot startup hub

Enterprise 21 March 2013 POST
It's been a billion years (okay, 24 years) since I've visited Berlin. But my interest in the city has been piqued lately because so many friends come back from their holidays raving about it. As it turns out, there is a vibrant startup scene with more than a few Aussies. This inspired this week's Enterprise post.

German isn't the easiest language in the world to learn. But when you're at high level meetings with the investors who are funding your start-up, you pick up the vocabulary pretty quickly. That's what former Brisbane writer Joel Dullroy is facing in his new life in Berlin as a start-up founder.

Dullroy is co-founder of Deskwanted.com, a site that connects co-working spaces with those looking for a work space. He is part of a growing Australian contingent of entrepreneurs who have embraced the start-up community in Berlin.

"This city has always had a good flow of highly creative Australians," says Dullroy, 30. "Many artists and bands have spent time here. Us entrepreneurial Australians are a relatively new cohort, but we are quickly making our mark. Australian accents are becoming more common at start-up events."

An accidental entrepreneur
Dullroy's journey into the world of start-ups was not planned. He left his hometown of Brisbane at 24, after working as a newspaper journalist. He then spent two years living in Estonia, before moving to Berlin in 2008. "I was instantly drawn to the creativity and energy of the city. It is a magnet for dreamers, drifters, idealists, escapists, creators and opportunists. The rent was cheap and the people inspiring, so I decided to stay."

Anatomy of a startup – the DesignCrowd story

Alec Lynch POST
I love a good entrepreneurial story. Especially when there's high risk and high reward. So it was great to chat to Alec Lynch from DesignCrowd. Alec threw in his fancy corporate consulting job to found his own startup. He went home to live with his mother and lived on a shoestring budget in order to make his dreams come true. His story inspired this week's Enterprise post.

These days, it seems that everyone wants to found a startup. However, it takes more than just a smart idea to become the next Facebook or Airbnb. For every Instagram success story there are thousands of failures or entrepreneurial tales that involve struggle, conflict and drama. Startup entrepreneur Alec Lynch, 29, is a typical protagonist on a journey that has all these elements.

Lynch is the founder of DesignCrowd, an online marketplace that connects businesses looking for graphic designers with a talent pool from all over the world. Business owners can crowdsource graphic design projects – ranging from logo creation to ebook design. Last month, Sydney-based Lynch announced a milestone when DesignCrowd hit over 100,000 designers using his service. Over the last year, Lynch experienced a tipping point in his business and says that the demand for crowdsourcing from small businesses has doubled since late 2012. According to Lynch, DesignCrowd has seen more than 50 per cent growth in posted projects already in 2013 and has processed more than $10 million worth of projects since it was founded in January 2008.

While these numbers may seem impressive, they are the result of sheer hard work, blind faith and the occasional lucky break thrown in.

The five steps to successful content marketing

The five steps to successful content marketing POST
I'm a big fan of content marketing. In fact, it's been the cornerstone of how I've built my business. So it was great to be able to attend the Content Marketing World Conference in Sydney this week. This inspired this week's Enterprise post.

One more thing. It's just one more item for your "to do" list. But it's one you have to pay attention to. As a small business owner, it's a list that's already full of tasks like sales, recruitment, staff management, operations, customer service, administration, you name it. But now there's another essential item if you want to succeed and grow: content marketing.

At least that's the concept that hundreds of keen delegates embraced at this week's Content Marketing World in Sydney (4–6 March, 2013). A conference for … you guessed it … those interested in "content marketing", it's an initiative of the US-based Content Marketing Institute. [Aside: I go to a lot of business conferences and this is definitely one of the better ones on the calendar.]

For those of you who are still wondering "content what?", let me explain. According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) founder Joe Pulizzi: “Content Marketing is owning, as opposed to renting media. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance consumer behaviour.”

Seven deadly sins of social media

Seven sins of social media POST
I'm often amazed at the comments I hear from small business owners who seem more afraid of social media than the plague. When social media was still relatively new, I completely understood this trepidation. But now that it's simpler and quicker to use than ever before, it's perplexing that some business owners stick their heads in the sand when it comes to learning about it. It's not rocket science. This inspired this week's Enterprise post.

Social media is either too hard, too scary or too ridiculous to waste time on. I hear these sentiments constantly from business owners of all ages. Of course, prolific users of social media probably find these attitudes archaic. But they are real – and more common that you'd expect.

For example, I recently met a business owner who runs a small nutrition practice. He told me that he studied Facebook for six months – researching what it does and how it works – before finally registering for an account. Six months! Seriously, Facebook is not akin to nuclear physics. It doesn't require this level of study.

Similarly, I recently did a video interview with a business owner, profiling her work and products. At the end of the interview, she told me that she didn't want it on YouTube. I was perplexed. She was happy for us to film, she saw us set up the cameras. I wondered if I had unwittingly offended her or if she was unhappy with the interview. It turns out that she thought the interview was just fine. "I just don't want it on YouTube."

A Silicon Valley state of mind

A Silicon Valley state of mind POST
This week I chatted to Tony Perkins, the founder and former editor-in-chief of Red Herring. I remember buying my first copy of Red Herring back in the nineties. I was mesmerised by the stories of these innovative companies in Silicon Valley and all the talk about this new-fangled thing called the information superhighway and the internet.

Tony grew up in Silicon Valley and is now focused on globalising the Valley culture by connecting key players with Australian startups. It was great to talk to him this week on Enterprise.

While the startup community in Australia is growing, it's still a far cry from the dynamic eco-system that is driving the tech epicentre of Silicon Valley. However, entrepreneur and Silicon Valley native Tony Perkins wants to change all that.

Perkins is the founder of AlwaysOn, a US-based media company that has its sights set on the Australian startup scene.

Connecting the players

This week, Perkins is in Sydney to promote what he hopes will be a leading event for startups in Australia, AlwaysOn Australia, which will be held on 11-12 April 2013. While tech events are not new in Australia, Perkins plans to combine this event with a trade mission where he plans to bring 30 CEOs of US tech companies and representatives of US-based venture capital firms to Australia to explore the startup scene.

Perkins hopes that his trade mission will create awareness among US firms about the opportunities available in Australia. "This way they can get the lay of the land and move into this 21 million-person market more rapidly," he says. "In addition, a lot of these folks are looking at the possibility of establishing in Australia to use it as an outpost to the Asia-Pacific region."

Are you still in love with your business?

Are you still in love with your business
It's Valentine's Day! While you are busy making goo goo eyes at your beloved, consider whether you need to stoke the fires of passion for your business. This auspicious day inspired this week's Enterprise post.

Happy Valentine's Day! As couples all over the country celebrate with romantic dinners, bouquets of roses and the odd proposal, it might be a good time to consider if you’re actually still in love with your business.

Whether you’re a new business owner still flush with the excitement of first love, or a seasoned veteran in a long-term relationship, it can be worthwhile to think about whether you’re doing enough to stoke the fires of passion in your business.

This depends on what stage you're at in your relationship.

Stage 1: Flirting and courting

Before you even start your business, you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while. You might do some research, check out the competition and determine if your potential new love could be the right fit for you.

You toy with the idea, flirt with the concept of whether this business could be The One and daydream about the possibilities.