The Inspire9 Open

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Inspire9 residents made history recently at Melbourne Park’s National Tennis Centre for the inaugural Inspire9 Open. Four blue clay courts became the battlegrounds on which eight teams would fight for the glorious title of Inspire9 Open Mixed Doubles Tennis Champions.

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The Tributes: the Inspire9 teams and their countries

  • Ash and Alison represented Newfoundland, knowingly or unknowingly choosing a state rather than a country,
  • Sacha and Nicole represented France with fancy wigs,
  • Julian and Indi represented Spain with a bull mascot,
  • Caroline and Merwen rocked matching train gear as Indonesia,
  • Rod and Nicola represented Zimbabwe in red,
  • David and Katrina wore matching blue and white headbands and wristbands without a show of orange for the Netherlands,
  • Kunal and Kathryn represented Antarctica, again, who knows whether they know Antarctica is actually split between a number of countries, and
  • Armando and Xavier represented Mexico, the only male duo to play after an unfortunate exit early on in the day from Armando’s female half.

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The Results

We all knew France (Sacha and Nicole) were in it to win it from the outset, but this did not stop the courage and sets won against them by Zimbabwe (Rod and Nicola), Spain (Julian and Indi) and the Netherlands (David and Katrina), these were David versus Goliath moments at best.

France beat out Spain 6 sets to 1 after a punishing but brave effort from Spain to win the championship.

Up for grabs we had two giant tennis balls, wristbands and hard court tennis balls which are now proudly owned by Sacha and Nicole.

2015 advice:

Practice up teams and may the odds be ever in your favour.

Leni Mayo's "Office Hours"

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If you're looking to pick someone's brain on an idea, or you want them to pick away at yours as you are nutting out the finer details of your startup, asking someone to coffee isn't always the right way to make that magic happen.

Leni Mayo (investor in many Melbourne startups) has tweaked the "coffee date" and now opens his diary once a month to a whole day of brain pickings at Inspire9.

The process is simple:

  • head on over to Leni's ohours calendar
  • book a 30 minute session
  • turn up to Inspire9 and get stuck into it
  • say thank you!

You can read more about Leni's Office Hours experiment on his blog at moniker.net and follow him on Twitter @lenidot.

She Hacks - Melbourne's first female hackathon

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Girl Geek Dinners Melbourne will be hosting Melbourne's first ever female hackathon - She Hacks at Inspire9.

GGDMelb has been running workshops at Inspire9 for the last few years and
we are very grateful for their support. We are excited that She Hacks will be held at Inspire9 in Richmond. The Inspire9 co-working community has always welcomed us and it's a great convenient location right next to the train station.

Imagine what the internet would look like if there were more women building
it? Tech companies employ an average of 12.33% women engineers (link).
We want to find out what you wish the internet looked like! What do you
want to create?

We are very excited to be hosting Melbourne's first female hackathon and are also working in partnership with One Girl. One Girl is a non-profit organisation that gives women and girls access to education. We want to see a world where women and girls are creating and leading change in their communities. We are asking for all participants to make a $20 donation which will go to One Girl - because EVERY girl on the planet has the right to an education.

The theme for She Hacks is communities and neighbourhoods.

The event runs over two days (you can go home and sleep!). Friday from 6pm - Midnight and Sat from 9am-6pm. Don't worry if you don't know anybody, groups will be formed on the Friday night.

There are only 30 spots and we will form 10 teams of 3 on the Friday night which will include a hacker (programmer), hustler (business/marketing) and hipster (designer). You don't need to be an expert to participate. Beginners are welcome!

We are currently seeking sponsors for food, drinks and prizes - please get
in touch
.

Melbourne Girl Geek Dinners bring together Girl Geeks from around Melbourne
with a common goal of meet, inspire & encourage!

Jes Lowry started noticing Girl Geek Dinners popping up around the world, starting in London. They were happening in places all over the world, but none in Melbourne -- none yet. Jes started Melbourne Girl Geek Dinners in 2010. Tammy Butow then joined Jes in 2011 and now heads up GGDMelb as Jes has moved to the USA to work on her startup Key To The Street.

The ask to sponsors is simple -- buy dinner and drinks for girl geeks, and give away a piece of co-branded schwag (to extend the lifetime of the event). Invite female speakers in areas of their expertise, from well-known names to the up-and-coming. Encourage networking amongst the girl geeks and recruiting by the sponsoring company. Everyone wins.

The popularity of GGDMELB has been growing rapidly, and in the last 12 months we've had 8 dinner workshops. The girl geek community has grown to almost 800 people on our mailing list. We've been written about in Time Out Magazine "Girl Geeks throw their eponymous dinners, but also put on talks on subjects as diverse as Wordpress blogging, programming, and even social media. This isn't just for geeks, dorks, and nerds. There are people from all over - marketing, fashion, health, science..."

FAQ

What is a Hackathon?
An event in which a people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. You will be working in teams of 3 - a hacker (programmer), hustler (business/marketing) and hipster (designer). You don't need to be an expert! Beginners are welcome.

Is there a theme for the event?
Yes, the theme is 'Communities & Neighbourhoods'. This can be anything from 'an app that lets you rank the best food places in the cbd', 'an app about upcoming events in Melbourne' or an 'app that helps girls learn how to build a website' etc.

How big are the teams?
Teams of 3 should be formed (a hacker, hipster and hustler).

What if I sign-up alone or don't have a group?
Don't worry if you don't know anyone attending. Groups will be formed on the Friday night, there will be lots of time to mingle and get to know other attendees.

How much does the Hackathon cost?
We are asking for a $20 donation from all participants which will go to One Girl - because EVERY girl on the planet has the right to an education. One Girl is a non-profit organisation that gives women and girls access to education. We want to see a world where women and girls are creating and leading change in their communities. http://www.onegirl.org.au

Will there be coffee and food?
We are currently working on finding sponsors!

Who is this aimed at?
Women of any age with programming, design, user experience or project management skills. There are limited spaces however, and we will attempt to select the applicants who we feel will get the most benefit out of the event.

I can't code, can I still attend?
Yes! In fact, a well-rounded team of different skill sets might just give you the advantage! (Think Hipster (designer), Hacker (programmer) and Hustler (marketing and business - growth hacker).

What do I need to bring?
A working laptop, and a desire to contribute! You must be able to attend both days.

Can men attend?
Yes, but as per the GGD guidelines you need to be accompanied by a Girl Geek. Given the limited spaces available, priority will be given to female applicants.

What language can I code in?
Anything you desire!

Who owns the code that I write?
You do, unless you're using something that belongs to someone else.

I have an idea, can I pitch it?
Yes, we will be having time at the beginning of the event on Friday for those of you that already have an idea you'd like to see come to life. The theme of the event will be 'Communities and Neighbourhoods'.

Tax Tuesdays - 9-11am every Tuesday

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Ever wanted a hacker accountant? We searched high and low to find an accountant who understood where we were coming from - processing invoices through Xero, locating relevant grants and funding opportunities, negotiating the ins and outs of tax for digital businesses and helping us plan for decent cash flow.

Every Tuesday at Inspire9 Ryan from Interactive Accounting offers startups/i9 community pro bono accounting advice.

For more information drop in between 9-11am each Tuesday or email hello@inspire9.com

Startup Victoria is looking for a founding CEO

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If you know a passionate, talented and self-motivated leader keen to develop the startup ecosystem in Melbourne and Victoria - then this is the job for them!

The Startup Victoria CEO role will be based from Inspire9 and will play a key role in the development of the organisation. If you are keen to get involved but not quite ready to be CEO, they are also looking for volunteers.

Startup Victoria was launched last week at the Lean Startup event at Inspire9 with these brilliant slides by Scott Handsaker from Attendly and EventArc.

Melbourne Nightowls - every second Tuesday from 8pm

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When everyone you know is in bed, you're hunched over your laptop bringing your side project to life beyond the 9-to-5. Sound like you? Come to Inspire9 for Melbourne Nightowls!

For over 4 years Melburnians have been embracing the night to work on passion projects and all the things that sit outside the timezone of normal. It's a great way to get to know Inspire9 as a space and also some of the people who lack a preference for sleep.

Join us to meet amazingly creative people, talk startups in Melbourne, show off your DJ skills, and find that little bit of unexpected serendipity we all crave.

This event happens fortnightly so get reminders and RSVP on the Meetup group here.

PS: Bring a laptop if you plan on, you know, working.

My Inspire9 Story - Kathryn McGrath

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As someone who makes their living from working in events, I get to do some pretty awesome things. I get to hear some amazing people talk about their passions and what inspires them. I get to listen to some pretty awesome bands doing their musical thing. I also get to see the smiles and delight on peoples faces when they are experiencing something magical and having a great time.

It's not all rainbows and sunshine. As the person behind the scenes you are the one freaking out when one of your acts is a no show and you have to find a replacement with 10 minutes notice. When someone injures themselves you are the first one on the scene to make sure they are OK and remain OK until reinforcements arrive. There are the late nights and endless phone calls prior, making sure that everything is in place so that, hopefully, you are prepared for every possible eventuality, although inevitably life will throw you a curveball at the last minute no matter how prepared you are.

No matter how hairy it gets, how worried over little details or confused over designs, all the stress and planning is worth it when you see that glint in peoples eyes, the joy that someone is truly having a great time and that in some small way, I was a part of making it happen.

Over the years I have worked on lots of great events – music festivals, food festivals, fundraising events, conferences, health promotion programs, alternative lifestyle expos, weddings, parties and countless more.

At the beginning of 2013 I decided that it might be a nice idea to work for myself for a while and see where life took me.

Some friends of mine had been working from Inspire9 for a quite a while and thought it was a great community and space to be a part of. Another friend sent me a link when Inspire9 were looking for someone to contract their events out to and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the short time I have been working with the Inspire9 community I have met some amazing people with some very exciting ideas, working on some incredible projects.

I've been involved in meetups & meetings, pitches & lunches and drinking & hacking and am rather excited with the events we have coming up in the near future.

If you have any thoughts on things we could do at Inspire9, be it business or social, I'd love you to get in touch. I fancy a bit of a challenge so if you have an idea for anything from a Friday Night Drinks theme to a development course you think we should run, let me know, I'll do my best to make it happen.

I like cooking for people, Game of Thrones, diving, making and traveling. I am lucky enough to be going on a little adventure with my mum and my sister later this year - you can follow along here if you are that way inclined.

I look forward to making many many more fun times for the Inspire9 community.

A World Above the Clouds

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Catching the train into Richmond, I often look into Inspire9 to see if the lights are on, curious to know whether anyone has beaten me to work. Today, peeking in, I was greeted with a blue lagoon of colour. This weekend past, taking less than 48 hours, Mike Maka, otherwise known as Makatron, took to the walls enclosing the most frequented activity space in Inspire9, the table tennis arena.

A part of Optus’ 2013 sponsorship, the artwork boasts a number of butterflies, which, as you may not know, are prevalent to the Richmond area. Also featured is out of this world flower life, baby blue skies and white dreamlike clouds. Maka's work hits close to home for Inspire9’ers, with the recently painted whale that extends at least 50 metres across the base of Richmond’s train station on the Stewart street side.

Makatron’s artwork can be found in such places as the Berlin Wall and the River Ganges; he has exhibited his artwork throughout Australia and internationally, including Brazil, Japan and New York. You can read more about Makatron here and if you'd like to contact him personally, you can shoot him an email at: info@makatron.com.

Optus Sponsor i9 for 2013

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We’ve kept it a little quiet but it’s about time we let the cat out of the bag and told our nearest and dearest some pretty epic news. We’re to be sponsored by Optus for the year 2013. What does this mean for our community? Sponsorship will be used for general upkeep and current renovations, the purchasing of desks - which now sit comfortably in South Space – continuation of the high speed rate at which our internet functions, and an Inspire9 mural to be designed and completed by Makatron of the Everfresh street artist crew. The large whale on Stewart Street at Hoddle, that’s Makatron.

A self-funded project which started in 2006 this is the first time Inspire9 will receive funding of any sort. Optus’ sponsorship will strengthen our community by providing other entrepreneurs access to the space. With open arms we want to provide the best possible environment for Melbourne’s budding entrepreneurs, to meet other like-minded people and ultimately be a home for startups, freelancers, innovative thinkers, creatives and community interest groups.

Sponsorship from Optus is not as uncharacteristic as one may think. In fact, Optus is the major sponsor of the Melbourne and Sydney Startup weekend events and has it’s own mid-stage venture fund, the Innov8 Seed Program, which invests in up to eight startups a year. Sponsorship of Inspire9 is a further move in Optus’ continued support of the Australian startup community.

Sponsorship means Inspire9 can continue to cultivate, improve and sustain its current position as one of Melbourne’s coolest coworking spaces.

My Moo.com Business Cards - The Verdict

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My Moo.com Business Cards

Delivering the Business Card Teardown workshop last year made me realise that I need to save up some cash to be able to design and produce the business card my heart desires. After researching a few online business card printers, I decided to try some out and write a bit about the results. I wanted to confirm my hunch that sites like Moo serve a largely consumer market, not too fussed with foregoing some flexibility.

The Luxe Premium Business Cards from Moo were first on my list. I was attracted to the [high quality paper stock](Moo (acid free and archival – now that’s premium!) and the specialised technique they use called quadplex technology. So I decided to take advantage of a recent Moo promotion and get me some Luxe product.

Luxe, in Moo terms, means 4 layers of Mohawk Superfine paper that are fused together to make a super heavy stock. The 2 inner layers come in a range of 4 colours; enabling further customisation/personalisation of your design. All cards are printed on a 4 colour digital press which means there are limitations to what you can and can’t print. If I had clicked on the artwork guidelines, scrolled to the very bottom of the page and read them, I may have learnt what these limitations were before my cards arrived.

There were 2 issues with my artwork. The text on the back of my card is 80% black. It came out a little spotty but I’ve actually seen worse. The second issue was my line weight. I optimistically made my 2 horizontal lines 0.25 of a point and 80% black. I guess that was pushing it too far. The result is an even spottier line, one that almost looks dashed. Perhaps before submitting artwork on the site, the system could have prompted me with a checklist, just in case you don't read the guidelines (like me).

There's was a third issue too. One that I'm hesitant to take the blame for. About 70% of my 100 cards were printed off centre. I can't find anywhere in the guidelines that says centred content may be tricky to print in the centre. I did contact Moo and they did offer to have another go at printing or refund me if I returned the cards. Since this exercise was an experiment, I'm going to hang on to the cards, use the 'good' ones and use the wonky ones for chocking up the fridge in the i9 kitchen.

The Verdict

The Luxe cards feel great. They're solid, smooth and certainly give off a premium vibe. The digital printing is perfectly reasonable for solid colour, photography, and non delicate type or linework. Because of the off centre printing/trimming issue I experienced, I'd recommend using full bleed images or graphics that won't look weird if they don't end up exactly in the centre. Being an old school designer, piece of mind always comes from having a quick chat or email exchange with my printer. Even after many years of sending files to print without a hitch, nothing beats the matter-of-fact feedback you get from the folks who work closely with the press.

If anyone out there would like any recommendations for printing business cards or printing anything for that matter, get in touch! I love talking about this stuff.

Snakes, dragons and other reptiles

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On becoming a Mum and starting a business in the Year of the Dragon.

I’m not Chinese but I like the idea of totemic animals representing a year. When I’m looking back over time, it gives me a symbol to embody how the year felt. On January 23rd, 2012 we clicked over into the year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar.

I’m also into a lot of methods and practices that people call ‘New Age’ but which (for me) are experiments in living a little more freely. So, massively pregnant last February, I went to see my kiniseologist for a bit of insight into the year ahead. As she jiggled my wrist, I asked her ‘What’s with the Year of the Dragon?’

She answered in detail but what stuck with me was the bit about having to ride the waves of the feisty dragon’s tail. And true to the prophecy, I had the most rollicking rollercoaster year of my life.

Last year, for the first time, my husband and I ‘birthed’ two babies.

In March, we had a beautiful bouncing baby boy named Sidney Trahair Moore (I obviously did the birthing there!) and then sometime in June we officially took our business venture full time.

We had a darling newborn baby AND a growing new business AND we were working TOGETHER from HOME.

I didn’t need any sort of consultation to know that this was a ridiculous thing to do.

There were some elated highs and gloomy lows, probably all proportional to the amount of sleep Simon and I weren’t getting. I was in survival mode and my acupuncturist was not happy about the state of my meridians.

However. If Oprah interviewed me now, or if I was on a reality show, I’d talk a lot about the “journey” and how things happen for a reason. I learned much about myself, the murky waters of my subconscious and my Lizard Brain as Seth Godin would call it. (Lizard Brain = The Resistance…or being paralysed in the face of change).

I learned that my first instinct was to grossly underestimate the roles of being a mum and a business owner. An example of this was when, a few months after Sid was born, I found myself casually saying, ”Ohhh, I’ve had a baby so I’m just being a mum and doing some bits and bobs for our business”.

Yep. I said ‘just being a mum’. I also said ‘doing some bits and bobs for our business’.

Let’s just say my yin wanted a little more yang.

A less sleep deprived me would usually baulk at someone saying something like that. I’m not sure why I thought that raising a human merely deserved the word “just”. And then, as if ‘just being a mum’ needed beefing up, I added, “bits and bobs of work” to the description of my homebound day.

I said, ‘bits and bobs’ because my tired ticker assumed that many of the tasks of running a business don’t count as real work. I don’t know if you Inspire9ers have found this with your businesses, but for me, tasks such as preparing BAS statements, sorting Workcover premiums and paying invoices just didn’t count as ‘real work’. Real work was Content Producing and I was taking a break from that.

By tiredly uttering that sentence it became clear that my lizard often wanted to trivialise the big stuff going on in my life. Perhaps the change to my life was so monumental I was resisting the magnitude of it. Or maybe I just assumed I was a superwoman, so it was no biggie. Or was I doing that Aussie thing of playing everything down?

Whatever it was, I ended up burning out. I took myself to the beach because I needed to take a (yogic) breath or two and have a moment to realise all the small victories Simon and I had achieved over the past 10 months. We’d created this gorgeous, hilarious little boy and at the very same time grew our business from 2 to 5. We found the amazing Inspire9 to save us from working from home (and each other – thanks guys!) and we had a loving family and our health. I needed to acknowledge the hard stuff AND the good stuff in its entirety.

On February 10th, we enter the Year of the Snake and my Chinese doctor says it’s a balancing year to last years Feisty Dragon. Being a Snake sign myself, I’m REALLY up for a bit more balance and awareness. ‘Being more mindful’ is what my natural peeps would say. And then, I’d like to get better at owning what I do with a little more aplomb. Mum and FF CEO! I look forward to heading to LA in March, where I might take a leaf out of those audacious Americans’ book. Now, they don’t seem to have a problem with playing things down.

Namaste ☺

My Inspire9 story - Sidekicker

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The first move in Sidekicker and Inspire9’s relationship was made by Sidekicker in the Twittersphere, using the age-old pick up line of offering free drop in desks to the space. The casual approach was really clever and put us at ease immediately, as any potential lover should. There was an instant connection and things moved quickly after that first online meeting. An offline date was arranged right away and nerves were high on Sidekicker’s end, not knowing what to expect. After all, i9 had 1,500 followers on Twitter and Sidekicker only had 23.

Thankfully the first date went swimmingly. Despite not being a group date, the smiling pocket Rocket greeted us and made us feel incredibly welcome.

Right from the beginning Inspire9, especially Nate, believed in us and unlike some other relationships, they were completely supportive of our mission to change the way people access casual workers. Nate intuitively got what we were about and has been incredibly supportive, helping us out wherever he can.

Like any great partner, Inspire9 were there for us when we first launched our product and taught us the motto ‘F*** it, Ship it.’ They’ve also been one of our best clients.

Despite our relationship going from strength to strength last year, sadly we had to have some time apart. In November, Sidekicker packed a few boxes and headed off to sort out a few issues. It’s not you Inspire9, it’s us. We decided to take a break and just keep it casual, but deep down the feelings were still there and we always hoped we’d eventually rekindle the flame.

Well, 3 months on we’re excited to say that we’re officially getting back together. We’re looking forward to the future, further building the relationship and going from strength to strength together!

Australia Day - um, what are we celebrating?

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Ah - Australia Day! Celebrated across the land of the young and free. The young celebrate with Triple J whilst the free deck themselves out in blue, red, white, green and yellow with all the exuberance and delight of a Pride march. With fireworks exploding in splashes of each colour of the rainbow across the country, it is the perfect opportunity to stop, pause and reflect on the many great opportunities this country has to offer. But does anyone actually do it?

Or is it just another opportunity to get drunk & behave inappropriately, all in the name of patriotism? Wouldn't be the first time that's happened in history, won't be the last, so what is this day all about?

This year, I was in party-town Sydney - also known for its flashiness, Opera House & bridge package and its ability to look you up & down and seriously question your sense of fashion. Each year, it is at the beaches of Bondi, Manly and Coogee where Australia Day frivolity and fun comes with a free sunburn. As your intrepid repo-rter, I had to take part in these festivities. So I donned a pair of Aussie-flag styled "boardies" and choofed off down to the throng in thongs.

Probably listed as THE Australia Day hotspot, the festivities around Bondi came with a twist - no alcohol allowed. A public awareness campaign and ruling to ban alcohol within the general beach vicinity of the beach is an interesting step. If this day is to signify more than just a national piss up with a bogan dress code, then the concept should be applauded, and perhaps rolled out more widely.

That's not to say that we should attempt to curb the enthusiasm for a good party. However, in our own individual ways, we should just take the time to contemplate our rich and chequered history, acknowledge our current successes and think about what sort of country we want to be in the future. In my view, that being a country of real equality, fairness, inclusion and opportunity, with a maturity to mend past wrongs and an ability to move onto brighter horizons.

As we move past the holiday period and back into the reality of the working week, what sort of Australia do you want, cobber?

My Inspire9 story - Rob Ryan

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Like many others, my Inspire9 story starts out mostly by chance. As someone interested in programming and startups, I have frequented Hacker News for a long time. I stumbled across a post about a Hacker News Melbourne meetup that Ned Dwyer, Tom Howard and Fenn Bailey had organised.

At the time I had limited knowledge of the startup scene and certainly wasn’t part of that community. Having read a popular blog post by Tom, I’d been exposed to Adioso, but that was about it.

I went along to the meetup and met some really interesting people, one of which was Ned, who spoke about his plans at the time to disrupt the real estate rental market (this was many ventures before his current startup Tweaky). I also joined a conversation about coworking spaces and spoke briefly to Nathan Sampimon about Jelly Coworking and Inspire9.

Despite being excited about it all, I didn’t get around to stopping in for quite a while, focusing on my 4th year of uni instead. Over the past few years i've had various web development projects with my main focus being The Cosmetics Club, founded with Murray Kester, who I still work with today. That summer I had an experience with what you might call the ‘real world’ of software development, taking on a cadetship at Mintec Systems. While I enjoyed the experience, I realised that a stable workplace with big clients wasn’t necessarily where I saw myself long term, preferring the entrepreneur type stuff I had done up until then.

Around the same time as the Hacker News meetup, Murray and I started work on AffClicks - a management tool for Affiliate Marketers (people that are working to gain a commission by referring people to purchase from specific businesses). AffClicks brings sales and ad expenses together in an easy to use interface, allowing the user to see what is profitable and make changes to increase profitability. The startup mantra is “build something you need yourself”. The product started as exactly that, simply something we wished existed to help build the profitability of The Cosmetics Club.

Those involved in startups would have heard about lean startup ideals, such as “release early and release often”. We made the mistake all along of continually holding off. We ended up targeting a feature set for release which would have made AffClicks pretty much the most full featured product in the market. While the idea of a minimum viable product was appealing, we never really put ourselves in a position to do that.

It was mid 2010 that I heard about Inspire9’s Melbourne Night Owls. Naturally I was a little apprehensive going in as it was all new to me, however it turned out to be a great night where I met many new people, some still around the community today like Pat Allan and Ben Hoskings, I even got a little bit of work done! Nightowls was the catalyst for our introduction to coworking and Murray and I began spending more time at the space. It was a perfect middle ground as Murray lived in the South Eastern suburbs and I was in the North.

Over the next few months I kept dropping in at Inspire9, meeting new people within the space and continued to chip away at AffClicks. I was also working on my uni thesis - real-time clustering of news related short messages gathered from Twitter. Via the space I met Richie, who’d recently moved from Adelaide, and Kealey Nutt who had grand plans to get Thelma magazine (and numerous other projects) off the ground. I also met Daniel Werne and Christian Varga (and for a while got confused about who was who because they shared fairly similar personalities) and watched their business grow. They went from a few clients to highly in demand front end web developers with a months long waiting list. I also met Donal O Duibhir who was always very welcoming and was really great at helping form a strong community with the people who were around the space. It was a smaller and less formally organised Inspire9 but had all the same qualities and values it has today.

After uni finished at the end of 2010 I had more time to work AffClicks, which meant I spent more time at Inspire9. I held off on full time residency due to my financial situation … and there was a lack of space in the ever growing community around the Dover street office. I decided to work from home and soon realised this approach wasn’t for me. There were too many distractions, my hours were somewhat out of sync with the real world and I often felt isolated and lonely. Despite being an introvert, I love seeing friends at Inspire9 each day and being productive at the same time.

In 2011, Inspire9 went through a period of growth and moved to the current premises in Stewart Street. It was a bit of a rocky time as the community had grown around the new office and we had to move back to the smaller office for a short while. Once we'd moved to the new space permanently, I became a full time Resident and have worked from here ever since.

In early 2012, we reached a fairly pivotal moment in the development of AffClicks. We had reached the point where funds were running dry and we needed to launch something that produced some cash flow. I was pressuring Murray to do more work with marketing AffClicks which pulled him away from his other business, Cosmetics Now. Spending all the time on a business which currently made nothing at the expense of a growing business didn’t really seem like the best way forward. So we restructured, put AffClicks on the back burner and put our full efforts into Cosmetics Now. While we still expect to get back to an analytics based product this year, the switch has proven to be a great thing as Cosmetics Now has grown 5 times over in the past 10 months.

As someone who loves startups and entrepreneurship, it was excellent to see the startup incubator model up close when Angel Cube operated out of Inspire9 in 2011 and 2012. Some great people have gone through the program, all bringing their own unique ideas to building a successful startup. Startups are generally a marathon rather than a sprint, but despite it being early days, signs suggest that Angel Cube has launched some successful startups! Other startups have failed or moved on, regardless, everyone who has participated has gained a lot from the program and we can expect to see them doing big things in the future. Angel Cube has brought a lot of energy to Inspire9 - people moving fast, releasing new features and meeting potential customers, mentors and investors. I look forward to being around to see future batches go through the program.

Inspire9 has grown and doubled in capacity of late (and the official games room has made way for real work!). The year ahead is to be eventful and I'm excited to continue to be part of the community as it continues to grow. Mostly, I'm looking forward to many more runs, epic table tennis encounters, events and business achievements at Inspire9.

My Inspire9 story-Pat Allan

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It's hard to pinpoint the date when I first started dropping by Inspire9… but I know it was Melina Chan who told me about it. A friend of hers had an office that was too big for just himself, and he was a web developer like me, so I should drop in, help fill out the space, socialise and share.

That friend was Nathan, and that space was the old Dover St Inspire9 office.

Nathan and I quickly bonded over a combination of music and code - and he's such a genial and generous host, that it was hard not to stick around. Word spread quickly - it wasn't long before there was a solid group of regulars rocking the space. It certainly got crowded fast, but that wasn't surprising. Perhaps it's all a blur from this point in time, but it feels like Inspire9 very quickly became a hub of interesting people doing interesting things - and more importantly, willing to help others with their interesting challenges. The strong community spark was fanned by events that were cropping up in Melbourne at the same time, such as Melbourne Jelly, the Trampoline unconference and Social Melb breakfasts.

As this buzz built around Melbourne, I found myself counter-intuitively travelling around the world a fair bit - speaking at conferences, exploring countries, soaking up culture, meeting many amazing people. While I journeyed, I got to visit other coworking spaces. Some of those were pretty special - such as Co-up in Berlin - but none quite matched Inspire9. As much as I loved being in new places and meeting new people, Melbourne was still calling me back.

So back I came - and the people, events and energy around Melbourne hadn't disappeared one iota. Within Inspire9 itself, Nathan and I ended up working closely on a client project, and I also had fantastic support from many others with suggestions for my own ventures. The larger space took the experience to a whole new level, and I'm working with the Inspire9 development team quite often these days to help get their projects sparkling just a little brighter.

It's probably obvious from the tone in my post - I'm quite the fan of Inspire9, and very proud to have played a small part in helping it become what it is today. I can't wait to see how the community around it grows throughout 2013.

Become rich by doing nothing - a new revolution (part 2)

Blog cash money

So the quest continues – find a way to become rich by doing nothing* (actual results may vary). In last week’s post, I introduced you to a world of “email­‐cash”, “surveying”, “market placing”, and Lindsay Lohan’s sure‐fire way to make another successful comeback – “tweeting for cash”.

We’ve all heard the quote “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” but I want to defy this, and do what all of these new age books are telling us – live anywhere, work on your passions ­‐ and, providing you ship a blog post about it, then you’re sorted.

This week, I examined ASOS marketplace, eBay, and various surveying sites: all logical and seemingly recommended passive ways to earn income. As discussed last time – “what about the opportunity cost that is associated with all of this passive income? How many hours will you spend working on the pursuit of passive income – in comparison to being paid to do ‘real work’?...”
Earlier in the week, I jumped online and completed my first survey – earning myself a whopping few hundred points for trying. Although the legalities of the site do not allow me to discuss the nature of the survey, or my responses to it ‐ let’s just say, I’ve had more enjoyable times at the dentist. Still, at least I have that warm fussy feeling inside that I’ve given my voice to a public health awareness campaign. Time duration – 30minutes. Actual income – about $2. Hourly rate -­ $4. Perhaps I am better off tossing burgers.

Sunday afternoon’s activity featured me back online examining the new ASOS marketplace to rid myself of ties, t-­shirts and suits that I no longer need. Yes, all very stylish items at very affordable prices. But following the required photo shoot, image upload and efforts in creative construction of correlative conjunctions, the afternoon was over. Now, I wait to see the fruits of my labour deliver the goods. Same deal over at eBay. A set of rarely used blue dumbbell weights await a lucky buyer.

I’ve realized that all of this busy work requires one to sit at the bottom of the food chain. It’s all such small fry. Is the only way to make money through these sites by buying/selling in bulk, or outsourcing the activity to someone else or even owning one of these sites?

The quest and the questions continue...

*Nothing is a bit of a dangerous word, bandied about by those who clearly own the aforementioned “email‐cash­‐for-­comment‐surveying-­market-­place” websites. Doesn’t Edmund Burke tell us “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”? Ok – completely out of context. ‘Til next time.

Branding redesigned to suit the agile nature of Startups

Blog img 8776 600px
Ben Spear (far right) discusses logo options with fellow hackers Ben Whitla, Erik Weikert (both far left), Angela Gaimari (next to Ben Spear) and the Mapkin team (center) at their Brand Hack in October 2012. Photo by unseen hacker Allana Taranto of Ars Magna.

What is Brand Hack? During a single eight-hour day, a team of creative experts discover a startup’s business idea, strategise its development, prioritise the branding tools they need, and build them. This serves a new type of client in a way that old methods cannot, making brands agile and reflecting the true nature of today’s marketplace.

##A Brief History##

I’d been working as a communications and brand designer for ten years when I arrived at a fascinating impasse. Forever the science fiction fan, I’m obsessed with the future and, by logical extension, startups. But the structure of a standard branding project is designed for companies which already exist and will continue to exist in their current form forever.

Startups are unique creatures. They’re developmental, and adapt rapidly and unpredictably. Listening and responding to their market is more important than speaking for their market, which reverses the traditional flow of brand communication. In order to bring design thinking to this crucial sector, we had to redesign branding.

In true startup fashion, my partner Allana Taranto and I began in one place and through testing and iteration, ended up in another. Our initial concept, developed alongside Ben Mauer, Danielle Connor, and Justin Francese of the coworking space Ad Hoc in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighbourhood, was for a “nonprofit makeover”. Based on the agile development Ben Mauer was part of as a member of the web design cooperative Quilted and the wide variety of creative disciplines represented by the group, we figured we could do some serious good if a nonprofit gave us the reigns for a single day.

It wasn’t until a year later, when Allana and I had moved to the coworking space EnCandle, that we pulled the trigger. Boston World Partnerships connected us with a new social enterprise, One Degree, who needed brand strategy, identity, and web presence. The day was a resounding success. Over the past year we’ve developed the concept into a new paradigm for the delivery of creative thinking in an accelerated, adaptive marketplace.

##How It Works##

The ideal Brand Hack candidate is a funded startup, either seed or first round, and has little to no initial brand work under their belt. It’s best, but not necessary, for the organization to have their product or service firmly nailed down. If they don’t yet have that sorted, then the day should be devoted to analysing their raison d’êtrê and codifying their core vision, as we did for art startup New Art Love.

Allana and I speak with each client to review the concept of the Brand Hack, hear about their startup, and create a short list of deliverables. From there we build a team that has the expertise to understand the challenge and build the tools necessary for a successful introduction into the market. We look for the following criteria in these team members:

  • Started and run a creative enterprise
  • Are at the top of their game, leaders in their respective discipline
  • Have experience working with startups

These "hackers" see the value in disruptive thinking and embrace change creators of community. They are connectors of people, and are able to form high-performance teams quickly and efficiently.

We consider these experts our primary customers, since without their dedication the Hacks cannot function. Allana and I spend a great deal of time debriefing them on their experiences and analysing the value of participation.

We then create a schedule for the day, listing out who is doing what and when. The general breakdown is:

  • 9:00am–10:30am Discovery
  • 10:30am–12:00pm Strategy
  • 12:00pm–5:00pm Execution

At the day’s conclusion, we present the work to the client and their community (most Brand Hacks happen in coworking spaces and incubators so that other startups can observe the process and learn about branding and creative services) and deliver all files. We end the day in celebration, winding down hackers and client together, over dinner and drinks. A month later, we follow up with them to check in on the performance of the tools and schedule future hacks to handle the iteration of their brand.

##Insights and Trends We've Gleaned From the Work##

Agencies are miffed. Traditional branding agencies don’t like this idea. Typically, they argue that the reduction of scope and price means the devaluation of branding on the whole. While the success of the technique does signal a sea change in the way people are thinking about creative services, it’s not in direct competition for existing branding work. Rather, it serves a new type of client in a way that old methods cannot.

Startups are thrilled. Every startup we talk to is delighted to hear about the methodology, and understands it’s underpinnings instinctively.

Creatives feel better, work is stronger. During and after each Brand Hack we’ve done, the creative experts involved feel connected to their client and to each other in ways not previously possible. There’s no email during a Brand Hack, no phone calls, and no bad Skype connections. Being in the same room allows creative minds to function more closely together, and delivers a more holistically-considered product.

Brand Hack is a delivery method for startup thinking. We’d like to bring this technique into a large organisation, effectively treating them like a startup and making recommendations on how to deliver on their company’s core vision in way that is current and agile.
This is a bridge between classic branding and 99 Designs. People only use 99 Designs because they have to—the creative community hasn’t given them an option besides the months-long, agency-dominated branding exercise.

Brand Hack as open-source toolset. Our next step is to develop this technique into an open-source toolset that allows others to source, scope, structure, and complete Brand Hacks on their own. This toolset connects independent creatives with a new and underserved client base.

If you’d like to learn more about Brand Hack, get in touch at info@thebrandhack.com or follow us on Twitter.

Meet the Cloaca

Blog cloaca 1

There is a T-Shirt at Hobart's MONA -- "Modern Art = I Could Do That +
Yeah, But You Didn't". Makes Modern Art sound a lot like a startup.
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Kickstarter, eBay, Pinterest.. Yeah, I
Know, But You Didn't.

Part of the reason for being in Hobart was to explore it's growing
reputation as a place to eat, drink and otherwise be merry. Hobart
lived up to it’s rep in that respect. However, my main reason for
heading south was to visit MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art.

A lot has been said about MONA and it's
enigmatic creator-cum-benefactor David Walsh. The Age
describes Walsh as MONA's "most fascinating exhibit". If true, then
the building must take second prize. A space carved out of the
limestone on the Derwent River. Sheer limestone walls, a fully stocked
bar, sleeping bags on grassy rolling hills and lift that would be more
at home at an Apple Store.

Take a Ferry from central Hobart up the Derwent and get deposited
right at MONA. Grab your "O Device" - a
modified iPod touch that provides tour information. You can opt for
the "Art Wank" academic commentary, or go for commentary by Walsh
himself. I'm not a big one for audio tours, so I didn't listen a lot,
but Walsh's commentary did add colour to the pieces when I dialed in.
You punch in your likes and dislikes via the Playstation-esque "+" and
"x" buttons. I don't recall where, but I heard Walsh will remove
pieces if they are too universally liked. When you're done, it'll
email you a map of your tour. Neat.

One of the draws at MONA is a piece colloquially known as the "Poop
Machine" - a piece by Wim Delvoye that once a day simulates
the aforementioned activity. I must admit my initial reaction as
jaded. I imagined something crude, shocking onlookers with a grotesque
rendition of the act. Yeah, I see, great, I get it. Takes "I could do
that" very literally indeed. Despite all of that scepticism, I was
keen to take a look.

And I was surprised.

The first thing that struck me is how beautiful the machine is. Named
the Cloaca, a
number of machines are used in installations around the world. These
pieces appear much more industrial, chemical-plant refugees. Delvoye
doesn't sell these machines, keeping them to the installation circuit.

Walsh was able to convince and commission a machine from Delvoye to
set up as a permanent exhibit. This incarnation is a quite different
from the other installations. The five vessels that make up the
machine are suspended from a flashy stainless steel frame. The cabling
is ornate, organized, detailed. Lights flicker in the control box as
the various functions of the mechanism spring to "life". It's a
beautiful piece of engineering.

The second thing that strikes is the smell. It's not pleasant and
certainly odd. Not quite human, but not quite not human as well. I
was able to tough it out, but a number of my co-visitors had to make a
hasty exit.

Calling it a Poop Machine is ungenererous. The Cloaca simulates the
entire digestive tract. Fed twice a day via a macerator, the food is
pumped through and digested via five vessels, which in turn simulate
the stomach and intestines. Once a day the machine defecates, but in a
way that is really an minor event in a complex process.

Impressive. Not only was it a sight to behold, it made me pause. From
an initial reaction of being horrified, it left a lingering
impression. The piece is often lauded for being totally absurd and
completely useless. In that way it celebrates part of being human. Or
maybe it mocks it. I imagine many visitors don't like the Cloaca, but
I'm sure all leave with an impression and an opinion of their own.

Nice to be surprised and nice to be provoked. More of a case of
"Modern Art = I Could Do That + Yeah, But You Didn't + I'm Glad
Someone Else Did". Perhaps this is more of a 4chan than a Twitter...

MONA made me stop, do a double-take and reflect a dozen times. That's
enough to make it a must see for me. If you're in Melbourne, Hobart is
just a short hop away and well worth your weekend.

Also. Don't miss the Bruny Island Oysters.

In praise of Slow

Blog screen shot 2013 01 17 at 4.47.58 pm

The world is stuck in fast-forward. I’ve been well aware of this for years, yet willingly suffered the ramifications of partaking in the race. It is only now that I’ve actively stepped back and said enough is enough.

I’ve grown tired of being tired and wearing ‘busy’ like a badge of honour. I’m stepping up and taking ownership - every decision I’ve made, conscious or not, has lead me to this point.
I’ve cultivated this reality. The insomnia, the anxiety, the panic attacks - they’re my doing, nobody elses. Sure, psychological factors have played their part, however my fast-paced lifestyle and multitasking the shit out of everything certainly hasn’t done me any favors.

For years I rushed through the best parts of my life. On Monday I was already thinking about Wednesday, and when Wednesday arrived, I was lining up activities for the following week. I attended more events, exhibitions, festivals, gigs, parties, dinners, drinks, and brunches than I can possibly count. If it was happening, I was there. Figuratively speaking anyway. Despite physically engaging in conversation, I was elsewhere, mentally transitioning to what I was doing next. A skill I’m not proud of, I could hold a conversation yet not actually be present with the person I was with.

Last year I made a conscious effort to put a stop to the madness. Time to end the endless rushing. I joined the Slow movement and started to live by the ethos that faster is not always better. Let me be clear, I am not advocating slowing your life down to a snails pace. To be honest, I have little patience for time-wasters and people that dilly-dally tend to shit me. I am however suggesting that minutes and hours - and the important moments that fall between - are savored rather than counted down. It’s about allocating time to activities proportionately and slowing down enough to enjoy them.

Slow has become a universal label to explain the benefits of doing everything at the right speed. And why is it important? Because we are at a point of diminishing returns. We are addicted to speed, to cramming more and more into every minute and madly dashing to the finish line. We apply this to everything: work, education, diet, relationships and sex. Even in the bedroom it’s Ready, Set, GO! Seriously, there are articles on how to achieve an orgasm in a minute. I suspect I’m not the only person who thinks this is not ok.

We’ve become out of control in our addition to speed. I know it. You know it. We’re slaves to our to-do lists, going through the motions and getting stuff done at breakneck speed. Yes, productivity is important. I’m a realist and know business must be tended to, but what about pleasure? Mae West once said ‘anything worth doing is worth doing slowly’. I couldn’t agree more.

We’re so obsessed with output and results that we’ve lost the enjoyment of the actual journey. We’ve created a society in which instant gratification is no longer an exception, but an expectation. We bypass the pleasure of anticipation, lowering the pleasure of the end result.

I’ve also given up multi-tasking. I realised I’m not very good at it. I made a few embarrassing faux pas that I can’t risk repeating; misplacing car keys in the fridge and sending a text message to an unintended recipient. For me, doing something properly requires my full attention and having my brain focus on one thing at a time. Those that think they are multi-tasking are usually just flitting between multiple activities, most likely doing none of them particularly well.

The Christmas break and kicking off the new year provided a catalyst for change. I’ve stopped taking my phone to bed and I’m no longer a slave to checking my emails the second I wake. I’ve also swapped rushing to the gym for a gentle start to the morning, greeting the day with stretches and meditation instead. I haven’t plugged the TV in since I moved house last October. I don’t bother with a to-do list. I go out for breakfast on weekdays. I sit and reflect. I write letters to my parents - despite the fact that we speak every other day on the phone. I’m comfortable with declining invitations if I need to slow down. My life looks incredibly different to this time a year ago.

Aside from the obvious benefits of slowing down - lower levels of anxiety and harnessing the ability to live in the moment - there’s also been the unexpected spin off on those around me. Amongst the most noticeable, my friends being as present as I am when we’re together. Text messages, tweets and quite often, phone calls, are ignored. Urgency is replaced by slow, resulting in a deeper level of conversation and connection.

Just recently, for the first time in a long time, I had an entire weekend without plans. Completely free of any commitments and obligations, I experienced the pinnacle of the Slow movement. Coffee with a friend extended to lunch, lunch rolled into afternoon drinks, a nap and a completely impromptu (utterly enjoyable) dinner. Bliss. Sunday followed a similar suit. In the moment. Present. Slow.

Although I didn’t realise it then, one of the happiest times of my life was when I dated someone Slow. He’d roll out bed in a relaxed state, meander around the house like he had nowhere to be and needed three coffees just to function before midday. Yes, it occasionally frustrated me that the simplest things were a drawn out process, but deep down I envied his slow pace and ability to give life the time it deserves. I remember how happy I was the nights we’d spend 3 hours preparing dinner, even midweek, or the mornings we’d sit reading the papers and doing nothing in particular for hours on end.

I like to think that I’ve since found middle ground and 2013 will be a continuation of my journey, with a newfound equilibrium. Each new year represents a blank canvas . . . perhaps consider not rushing to fill it up.

Become rich by doing nothing - a new revolution!

Blog screen shot 2013 01 14 at 5.37.16 pm

If money makes the world go round, then the online space should be no different. Today we are bombarded by ways in which money can be made online. From surveying and market research, to selling your life’s possessions at a fraction of their original cost, to ad revenue, to even making money by blogging about making money by blogging (yes, it’s true!). If you’re horribly confused, so am I. And the best part is that it’s all passively earned. You do nothing to earn this ‘easy money’ – or do you...?

‘Passive income’ by definition is (according to Wikipedia) “income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it”. Individuals are living and working whenever and wherever they like, then often going on national media to gloat about how they made their money, and how easy it was to make it. Before flogging their e-­book.
But is it really that easy?

The online space is apparently ‘where it’s at’ in terms of where new money can be made very quickly. The Internet thrives on offering a labyrinth of webpages to trawl through which supposedly take you from rags to riches.

But... what about the opportunity cost that is associated with all of this passive income? How many hours will you spend working on the pursuit of passive income – in comparison to being paid to do ‘real work’? And what will ‘real work’ of the future look like? Will online passive income become part and parcel of a portfolio of personal financial resources in the future?

In an introductory vodcast, smiley “Lauren” from one popular surveying site tells me about all the exciting possibilities that await me, with ‘bonus points’ available when I complete a survey – woo! It all sounds so thrilling. Oh and don’t forget about all those special ‘prize draws’ for those who have not already zoned out following several minutes of hearing her and her incessantly positive music-­bed jingle. Apparently you can even win gold – yes, gold – well, that is gold! She then tells me, that having clicked on “complete this survey” that (because I clicked that I worked in the media), I was somewhat barred from the survey – huh?

So... I’m about to go on a journey to uncover the mysteries of online income. From surveys, to uploading stock photography, writing an e‐book etc. Did you know that you could also join Lindsay Lohan and tweet for cash? I’m prepared to be an exploring guinea pig. I’ve already earned $7.35 – (a rubbish salary seeing I spent an hour signing up to one surveying website), but still – it’s a start.

Has ‘passive income’ worked for you? If so, I’d love to hear from you. What are the tax implications? Will this elusive ‘passive income’ pay off in the long run or will doing none of the above ultimately offer me riches beyond my wildest dreams? Well, stay tuned to find out and tweet me @joelcarnegie to offer moral support. Perhaps I could be persuaded to tweet something in exchange for a dried biscuit... Cocky want a cracker?

My personal Chaos Monkey

Blog chaos monkey

About a year ago, I decided that life was too simple so I introduced the Chaos Monkey into my life.

The Chaos Monkey is a creation of Netflix which attacks it own systems by randomly shutting down services. As insane as it sounds, it is designed to ensure and prove their systems can gracefully tolerate any failure the AWS cloud can throw at them and build resilience in the process.

This time last year I didn't have anything exciting happening. I had crawled away from my startup after a falling out with my partners. My other companies were earning a basic income for me but didn't require much of my time and consulting generally sucks the life out of me. But the bills kept coming in and sitting around doing nothing wasn't going to be practical for long.

When I first decided I wanted to move the family to the USA I had no clue I was releasing my Chaos Monkey. It seemed like a simple idea - follow my career-long dream of working in Silicon Valley by finding someone stupid enough to send me and my family overseas. Little did I know that I would spend the next 12 months consumed with this plan and that I would increase the family stress level to Def Con 4 by hopping on a roller coaster of success and failure that still hasn't concluded its loops.

My first attempt was to acquire a job with a Melbourne company that wanted to open an office somewhere in the USA. I haven't been an employee for 12 years so this was part distressing and part de-stressing. Within three weeks of starting I worked out how unlikely they were to ever be able to open an office in the USA and how even less likely I was to risk my family in their incapable hands.

My second attempt was to follow the (seemingly) sagely advice of Geoff McQueen who codified the process of setting up a US legal entity (in my case an LLC), offering oneself a job and then applying for an E-3 visa to accept that job. The E-3 visa application is a pretty simple process once it's broken down into clear steps and really doesn't require an immigration lawyer. Within about 3-4 weeks I had a company, a virtual mailroom, the authorisation to hire overseas workers and a visa application all prepared and ready to submit in person to the US consulate.

The interview at the consulate was going pretty well. They asked a few easy questions about me, my work and my company. I didn't hide the fact that I was hiring myself and they didn't make a major issue of it either. But they sent me away a 221(g) request for more information, specifically my Australian company's "financial details". I sent them P&L statements for the last 5 years. They asked for bank records. I sent them the last 60 days worth. Then a few more days later, without notice, my passport arrived without a visa in it and an accompanying 214(b) rejection.

It seems that the E-3 visa is not to be used for transferring yourself to the USA, rather for filling a role in a US company. The problem is this process is exactly what Geoff's post suggests worked for him and many others. So, what went wrong? After speaking to a few people who also got rejected (where were they beforehand!?!?) the common thread is the Melbourne consulate rejects applications like this, the Sydney consulate accepts them. A few small changes might have made a difference but I will never know. I certainly should not have signed the paperwork (the letter of offer in particular) myself. That's what highlighted to them that I was hiring myself.

The really nasty side-effect of this rejection is that from now on, whenever I am asked "Have you ever had a visa application rejected?" I have to answer yes.

I am now nearing the 12 month mark since I employed my first Chaos Monkey and I am still in Melbourne. I am working on attempt three by trying to lock down a job offer from a "real" US company so I can get an E-3 visa the standard way. My deadline is the end of this month. If I haven't put the Chaos Monkey to bed by then, my wife will euthanise it. We are still married and we have learned a lot about patience, planning and stress management. A good example, is tell nobody about your plans until they are real.

Swimming is cool

Blog pool

Steven Wright once said, “If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do all the rest have to drown too?” It’s a hypothetical, which I like to think probably poses more of a question for humanity’s current obsession with “groupthink” rather than commenting on the actual practicalities of 8 potentially drowned synchronized swimmers.

Anyway, here are some top reasons why you should work on the art of swimming:

  1. Unlike bike riding, where death is certain whilst whooshing down Hoddle Street, the gentle art of swimming allows you to peacefully glide through a womb-­‐like liquid substance. Cool, huh!

  2. Ocean swimming is even cooler – this is where humans get to meet and greet the elements, whether that be getting to know the local “great-­‐ white” or your garden variety version of “plankton” – either way, no beached whales are allowed See Youtube

  3. Another wise soul also said, “Chlorine is my perfume” – and he or she does make a point. No longer does one need to pay for expensive duty- free perfume; the “l’eau de puel” is both fragrant and comes as a complementary gift with your local pool’s entrance fee.

  4. There is so much variety. Gone are the days where just one stroke is acceptable. Freestyle (otherwise known as “Front Crawl” anywhere else in the world), Backstroke, Doggy Paddle, and Disco (ask me what this is) all break up the monotony of following the black line.

  5. Swimming is an active form of meditation, combining both Asana & Pranayama (for those yogis out there). Depending on your technique, this may involve some level of flailing your arms around and gasping for breath.

  6. Swimming is cool, so it’s cool. It’s one of the only sports where you both exercise and keep cool on that 41-­‐degree day and not since you were a child have you had someone actively supervise your playtime.

  7. Needless to say, admiring the talent poolside is like the free set of steak knifes. It’s an additionally pleasant add on.

  8. If Paul Tsongas is accurate by announcing that if “Breaststroke is an athletic event; butterfly is a political statement”, then stay clear of those pesky squad swimmers doing a “6 X 100 metres reverse IM on 1:45 hard”.

I guess the moral of the story is that it that swimming can be as relaxing or as intense as you like. Just don’t get in anyone’s way, and you’ll be fine.

If you’re still unsure, perhaps I can convince you with this highly irrelevant ending to this musing:

“The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.” ~Edsger Dijkstra

Uber rolls into town

Blog uber

San Francisco based startup, Uber, rolled into town this week, providing Melbournians with a super convenient, tech-based alternative to the traditional cab model that has dominated the industry for far too long.

The unmanned car service is a god-send to anyone with a smart phone –pretty much all of us. You get your smart phone out, push a button and in five minutes a car arrives and takes you wherever you want to go. Nice!

Operating in multiple cities around the world and smashing it in Europe and Asia, Uber can now add Australia to its list.

The basics of how it works:

  1. Request from anywhere at anytime
    Using an Iphone or Android app, you set your pickup location on the map.

  2. Ride in style
    Uber dispatch the nearest driver to pick you up. No more taxi waiting game. Uber text you the estimated arrival time and text you again when they arrive. Jump into the sleek black car, tell the driver your destination and away you go.

  3. Leave your cash at home
    One of the highlights of Uber, you’re automatically charged (from your register credit card), so there’s no need to hand over payment to the driver.

Aside from loving how ridiculously easy and convenient Uber is, you can’t help but love and admire Uber Founder, Travis Kalanick, for being a no bullshit, maverick. In a recent one on one, Kalanick talks proudly about Uber being a disruptive technology service and causing a commotion within the industry.

Before you jump on their website and sign up, here’s a bit about what Kalanick has overcome in his quest to make cities easier to get around:

Uber started out as a simple idea, a lifestyle company, that would get Kalanick and his mates from one end of San Francisco to the other, with the push of a button. Very quickly it became clear that Uber was taking off and that it wasn't a limo company, but actually a technology company.

Kalanick, who’d just recharged from his last business, went before the board and committed to coming on as CEO full time. “Going from co-founder and incubator status to full-time CEO, that's kind of a big day” says Kalanick. During the monumental board meeting, the Uber team were served with Cease and Desist's by the city of San Francisco and the state of California.



Issues had risen around the name, however it really came down to an industry that was feeling threatened that Uber existed. They’d basically put in a call and said "Shut these guys down”, recalls Kalanick.

Having had several businesses that disrupted ceratin industries before, Kalanick is no stranger to law suits. “I’ve been sued before and, in fact, I had a suit two companies ago that was a quarter of a trillion dollars by 33 of the largest media companies in the world". For Kalanick, receiving the Cease and Desist on the day that he formally became the CEO, “was actually kind of like homecoming… For me it was like my happy place. It's like it was meant to be” he says.



Keen to know a bit more? Check out a recent one on one with the entrepreneur.

Bikes are cool

Blog bikes

For the past year I have been riding whenever the sun is out.
This has been such a simple and positive life change that I encourage everyone to get a bike and start riding.
It can all be explained with this simple mathematical equation:
life + bike = #winning

  1. It makes you happy

    Riding a bike is a fun and relaxing low impact form of exercise. Exercise produces endorphins and is a great way to remove stress.
    I often find myself smiling and singing to myself while riding, for no reason other than bike riding is cool.
    It's free, has obvious health benefits, so why not?

  2. It wakes you up

    Riding a bike has made me more productive and alert at work.
    Like a dog with it's head out the window I enjoy the wind on my face, the sunshine, the crisp morning air.

  3. Your ass shrinks

    Seriously, I need some new pants.
    It's not my biggest concern but I'm sure some people will appreciate riding for this reason.

  4. Get to see more of the city

    We, creatures of habit, usually take the same familiar routes making the trip dull.
    On a bike you can go anywhere without needing to know directions up front, it's a great way to explore without being restricted to certain well worn paths.

  5. It's faster and there's no traffic

    I was late to a gig the other night and I had an epiphany on the way there.
    As I watched the enlightened ones pass me on bikes while I cursed at my steering wheel it dawned on me.. Cars and waiting in traffic, suck.

  6. Friendship

    There's a certain camaraderie amongst bike owners, compliments, smiles and good will abound. Join the bikie club.

  7. People on bikes look cool

    Without lycra, bikers are totally bad ass. They make me smile.

Oh yeah, and the environment, and you save money, are you convinced yet?

I would like to leave you with these parting thoughts:

"I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds." - Steve Jobs

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." - HG Wells

My Inspire9 story: Peacock Studio

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3 years ago I was a budding IT student at Swinburne University, wondering what was to come once I’d finished my studies. The previous 3 years had led me from VCE, to TAFE, to Uni, yet I had no idea what I actually wanted to do.

Now, I'm travelling the world, spending half my days exploring cities all over Europe, and the other half working from exclusive coworking offices, cafes and airbnb rooms.

Before I delve into that, let me rewind and give you a bit of background on who I am.

I took the usual path, upon completing VCE I went to TAFE and studied a Bachelor Degree (Computer Science). It was here that I met Daniel Wearne. We clicked straight away and it was clear we’d be mates for a long time to come. We were both highly motivated and highly competitive, taking advanced courses to push our limits. We’re both hilarious and share the same sense of humour, so there were plenty of good times!

Despite there being only a couple of years age difference, I looked up to Daniel. He always seemed to be where I wanted to be. Daniel knew that we were capable of more, applying for an undergrad and encouraging me to do the same. We both got into the same course, studied the same subjects and spent a lot of time together over the years that followed.

Towards the end of uni, Daniel initiated a conversation that would change my life - he wanted to start a web development studio and he wanted me as his business partner. He’d put a lot of thought into it and had even chosen a name - Peacock. I was supposed to sit with the idea for a bit but I’d already made up my mind, I was in.

At the time I was working as a technical support consultant and while it wasn’t a bad job, it wasn’t great and I’d certainly settled. I’d assumed that after Uni I'd continue working there and Peacock would be a side project. Little did I know, fate had other plans.

Shortly after uni ended, the company decided to move their tech support to New Zealand and I was made redundant. One of my coworkers suggested taking on Peacock full time, an idea that I thought was crazy at the time. A week later Daniel came to me and told me he’d quit his day job. It was happening. We were really doing this...

We had one job at the time. We took on a big project for an event power company, building an app that would manage pretty much every aspect of the company’s day to day operations. If we got it right, it’d kick start Peacock. We tried working from home but realised within two days that it was too hard to separate work from play. We weren’t being productive so we decided to look for an office space.

We considered renting our own room in an office building, that seemed to be the go, but it’d take time. Daniel was on top of what was trending in the web development scene and came cross a site called Desks Near Me. As the name suggests, the site features desks that offices are leasing to individuals or small companies. He looked it up and came across Inspire9, offering drop in desks that could be trialled for free. It looked good, so we decided to give it a go.

We got the address and rocked up to a small building in Richmond, eager to get some work done but not knowing if we were at the right place. We were greeted by Nathan and Richie and before getting stuck into it, we had a good chat about coworking and gave the guys a rundown on Peacock.

At the end of the day, Daniel and I went and grabbed a coffee. We'd decided after only one day that Inspire9 was exactly where we wanted to be. We instantly felt at home and it was like no feeling we'd had before.

After a few more days at the office, we started meeting new people. I soon realised that I was surrounded by developers who were a hell of a lot smarter than I was. I was advised that I should be using a framework to build our app, so in one day I converted my Spaghetti code to Codeigniter. That wasn't the last piece of advice I would follow.

A few months passed and I had gone from an EEEpc to a Macbook and from not knowing what a framework was to becoming a full stack developer building apps in Rails. Constantly listening to conversations going on behind me, I picked up new words and learned new things every day. I was embracing new technologies and improving my skills as a developer 100 fold. Daniel went from a print designer to one of the best web designers in Melbourne. We grew fast.

That wasn't all though. We didn't just sit and learn at Inspire9. We became part of something bigger. We had an amazing community and when work was finished, we had BBQs and went to the pub for drinks. We always had lunch together and we ate pancakes for Pat's birthday. Everything just clicked. It was meant to be.

A year passed and the Inspire9 community had grown so much that the little office in Dover street could no longer hold the amount of people that were coming by. Nathan decided to grow into a new office behind the Richmond station. Daniel and I were as much a part of that as anyone else, it wasn't just Nathan running the space, it was the community. We all pooled together and helped out wherever we could to set up the new office. We were so excited that we moved in before the renovations were finished, we just couldn't wait to get in there.

By the time the new i9 officially opened its doors, there were so many Residents, I have no idea how they all fit into the old office.

We met so many people and had so many connections at Inspire9 that we were never out of work. If anything, we were in such high demand that we had to knock back work or plan it months in advance. I'm not sure this would have happened without Inspire9. Nathan took us under his wing and we grew into a desirable studio that everyone wanted to work with. This was a great feeling but at the same time it was extremely stressful. We bit off more than we could chew and although we wanted to focus on product, we never had the time to even sit down and think about it.

We were burning the candle at both ends and decided we needed a break. I went backpacking up the east coast for 3 weeks. Not a massive amount of time but enough to de-stress. Looking back I don't know why I decided to do that, it was quite unlike me. But I gave it a go and met some amazing people on my journey. And then it bit me. That little thing called the travel bug.

After coming back, the only thing I talked about was travel. I wanted to take at least 3 months off a year to travel. I spoke to people at Inspire9 and everyone I looked up to had done it... and recommended it. I was keen. But as I settled back into work, I started realising that it probably wasn't going to happen while I was with Peacock. And at that point, I pushed travel to the back of my mind, thinking it was just a dream that wasn't meant to be. My attitude at work started to change and I was affected on a deeper level than I'd realised. Only a few months after returning, Daniel and I had a chat and decided that it wasn't working and at the end of the conversation when Daniel asked what I’d do after we parted ways, the answer was simple “well, I’m going to Europe”.
All the thoughts that I’d tucked away came rushing back - I had the funds and the means to travel and nothing to tie me down now. I was ready and subconsciously I knew that it was what I really wanted, I’d just convinced myself to this point that it wouldn’t happen.

After my desire to travel became a reality, a massive weight was lifted. I knew that deep down this is what I had wanted to do for a long time. As I slowly stopped working on Peacock, I started freelancing. The more I freelanced, the more I realised that it was location independent - often working with people who I’d had an initial meeting with then completed the work remotely. I'd realised there were a few other developers at Inspire9 who live a life of travel and work, proof it was possible. The question was, could I really keep this up? Could I work and travel at the same time?

As my departure dated came closer, work wasn't running out. I took on more jobs and had plenty on my plate. When I arrived in Europe I had enough work to keep me going, yet enough spare time to explore the cities. That was 4 months ago, I've been doing it ever since and am in a new city nearly every week. I've not only been to London; I've lived there. I've experienced so many different cultures and met countless incredible people. I've got so many stories to tell. Throughout it all, I've been working with awesome people back in Australia who are all doing amazing things.

I'm sure that one day I'll settle but for now and as far as the eye can see, I'm a travelling freelancer, exploring the world for a long time to come.

Without Inspire9 I wouldn't be the developer, or person, I am today. I wouldn't have thought it possible to work and travel. And even in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined writing this post from an apartment view over London Bridge. But I am. This is my life and this is where I'm meant to be.

What is value, anyway?

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It's one of the things that we hear all the time and a tenet of the lean startup movement: find ways to add value for your customers. Do a quick search for adding value and you'll turn up seemingly endless references for ways businesses and individuals can "add value" to just about anything. But what do we actually mean when we say "add value." What is value? How do we measure it? How do we know that we're adding it?

I started thinking about this more deeply when a friend of mine asked me about value propositions. I realised that how I'd thought about value had lately been influenced by the indirect references to it by many of the bloggers and writers I've been reading. In other words, I'd been using it more like a buzzword instead of actually deconstructing what it means. So, in an effort to not just parrot to you what I'm picking up, I'm going to begin to deconstruct value and how it might be added. It's not meant to be exhaustive, rather, it's a beginning, and I'd like to your help to expand and build on it.

What does it mean to 'add value'?

I'm jumping the gun a bit by asking this here, but since it's what most often comes up, it seemed appropriate to at least introduce it the idea of adding value even before we look at value itself. In short, to add value means to create more of whatever it is that is valued. Duh. Think about it. It's not the adding bit that's revealing, it's adding more of what the other party sees as important. It means, if you go check out a new skincare store (as @nikkers808 and I did when living in São Paulo) and the staff offer you free samples of aftershave balm, it would help to notice whether or not the person shaves (I don't). Was there value added to Nikki's transaction? No. I don't care for shaving products. Value, then, is not something that's cut and dry...

Value is subjective:

Just because I say something is worth a certain amount of money, doesn't mean that it is (nor is value necessarily measured in dollar terms). And like the shaving balm, what do I care if it's free if I'm not going to use it anyway? Now, what I did value from the store visit was the fact that the staff were engaging, generous and intelligent - the exact opposite of 99% of my retail experiences when I lived in Brazil. Where will I go in the unlikely event that I'll shave again? The value for me was in the experience, not in the free sample that was offered.

Value is agreed upon.

A natural progression from the subjectivity of value is that value is always agreed to. If the value of something wasn't agreed to in a transaction, then it wouldn't happen. When there is disagreement on the value of something, it's price will either go up or go down or the items or services being traded will be reduced or increased. It's worth keeping in mind that agreed value means the agreed perception of value. You are more likely to think something is valuable when there are 100 other people who also think the same than if you were the first (and only) person to see it. The rise and fall of the stock market is largely about the perception of its value and not a reflection of it.

Value is about feeling.

I know. This is pretty close to the subjectivity of value. But where I see a difference (and another progression) is that the feeling of value is not tied to the object of value, rather, it's to do with the aura around it. The aura? The associations and connotations tied to the initial perception of value (subjectivity) and the way in which that sense of value is reciprocated between transacting people (it's agreed value). How we feel about the value of something is connected to the medium with which that value is communicated. As I touched on in the last point, a crowd draws a crowd. So it's the purveyors of would be things of value that influence the value we give to things. Who are these purveyors? The mavens, connectors and salesman as described by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point.

Value is the something more…

Not to be confused with Steve Jobs' 'one more thing…' The something more is the intangible. It's what you can't quite put your finger on until you don't have it. I remember in the late 90s when Australian businesses were undergoing massive restructures and the words 'economic rationalisation' were heard in the news every night. One story that struck me was about a woman who had been retrenched after a long time with the company. After her departure, things were different. It wasn't immediately apparent what that difference was (apart from the fact that a lot of staff had just been laid off) until some weeks later a number of staff members from the woman's floor had their birthdays. And then they figured it out. While she was a perfectly competent worker who did her job well, her value to the company was that she knew everyone's birthday on her floor and always brought in a home baked cake for the birthday person and their colleagues. You won't find that in a job description, but that made an incredible difference to the camaraderie and teamwork amongst her colleagues.

Value is magic

Well, you could be forgiven for thinking that. But then again, the sort of magic that delights uses a good story and sleight of hand to make the impossible, possible. In other words, there's a craft to creating value - rules, scripts, tricks - meaning that in theory, it can be learned and applied to anything. So how do you begin to add value?

Get inside their head.

Who are you creating value for? Your customer? Who's that? How old are they? Where do they live? What stresses them out? What do they want out of life? Why are they even considering you or your service? The narrower these answers are, the more targeted you can be at responding to them meaning you are more able to create value around it.

You prepare in advance.

Forewarned is forearmed. By getting into their head and understanding where they're coming from, you can anticipate what they want. Ramit Sethi describes exactly this in his Briefcase Technique which he's tested in interview situations although it's also applicable to almost any professional situation because you are demonstrating and embodying value.

You create curiosity.

There are a number of ways to do this and it's usually through creating a gap between what people know and what they want to know. Derek Halpern has a great, brief post over at Social Triggers about using this concept to create engaging blog content. Curiosity is created through good writing and by not giving the reader everything all at once.

Learn about framing

In psychology, framing is a cognitive bias where our judgement is affected by whether or not the pitch (or question) focuses on losses or gains. Check out Wikipedia for a quick introduction, but essentially, this ties into the first two points in that everything you do for your client is framed in a way that will benefit them and their desires.

This is just the beginning - I'm hoping you guys can help me flesh this out.

While I've not read a specific book all about value, there are a few that have specifically come to mind as I've been writing this post.

Roger Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating is an excellent book on the psychology and tactics of negotiation. It has been one of the most useful books I've read so far and has helped me negotiate increased design fees on recent jobs as well as a better understanding of difficult interpersonal dynamics. In a negotiation, both people want to feel like they've won. Winning is not simply about getting a price that you want since if your asking price for a house was immediately accepted, you won't feel like you've won, you'd feel like you could have got more. I will write a summary of the book soon so I won't get into the details here, except to say that if you are creating or preserving the perceived value of something - be it a product or service - then through negotiating concessions will be the closet thing to controlling that perception.

Pamela Meyer's Liespotting wouldn't be the first book to come to mind for most people about how to create value. But again, it is indirectly very helpful. First of all, it deconstructs the process of lying - it is a complicit act. You can't be lied to unless you allow it. By understanding the psychology and physiology of lying, you are equipped with how to explore the topic of interest further by asking why questions. How does this add value? Because you are able to analyse the other party's perception of the value of the item in question which can help you appreciate (or depreciate) your own sense of value for the item. If you're the person with the product or service, asking 'what' questions about it and you target clients will help you build a narrative around what you're adding value to.

Neil Strauss' The Game. This book game out a few years ago, somewhat controversially since it's all about the art of picking up. I've read references to it here and there and so thought I'd check it out. Hilarious. And the tactics described for picking up are can actually be applied to almost any social situation. In the context of creating and adding value, this book would certainly fall into the feeling point above - it's not the thing itself, it's the aura it commands which must be why these apparently unattractive guys can pick up so frequently.

Steve Blank's The Four Steps to the Epiphany is foundational to Eric Ries' Lean Startup movement, as well as books like The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development. Blank describes in depth how to discover what customers truly value so that the entrepreneur's product can better serve them. And what's more valuable to a customer than a solution that actually addresses their problem?


Finally, I think value creation is both complex and subtle. It's complexity comes from the fact that it's not only associated with one measure (i.e. money) and it's subtle because how a person responds something valuable is often subconscious. In working to create value, there needs to be sincerity and perhaps most importantly, consistency.

So, what do you value? Tell me about a time when you've knowingly paid more for something because of its perceived value (i.e. the Japanese buying Burberry that's made in Europe because the perceived value of the locally made product - that's sold elsewhere in the world - is inferior). Or, perhaps you have a different take on value or know of some great books on the topic. Let me know!

This article was first published on The Credentialist, Tim's short-lived blog about self-education and entrepreneurship (it got hacked).

Tim Webster is better than the master of one trade. He's part of the Low Fat Love team and is best described cross-functional. Follow him @timjwebster

Getting your fix!

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If you're anything like us, coffee is your chosen addiction and is therefore SUPER important, especially this time of year! More than a commodity, it needs to be taken seriously, which is why we were seriously heartbroken to discover our favourite coffee haunt (Cheerio), has taken a few days off. To be fair, Melbourne's army of beloved barista's deserve a break - there's only so many soy-decaf-three quarter lattes one can make before completely losing the plot! Rather than having a complete meltdown and refusing to work under such conditions, we've taken the high road, compiling a list of whose doors are open and whose are NOT! We couldn't list them all, so if you know of others that should be on the list, tweet us the deets! @inspire9

Annoying Brother Espresso
Closed December 24 to January 10

Auction Rooms
Closed December 24 to January 4

Backstreet Eating
Closed New Years Eve and New Years Day

Birdman Eating
Closed New Years Eve and New Years Day

Brother Alec
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Opening at 8.30am December 27–31
Closed January 1–2

Brother Baba Budan
Opened on Christmas Eve 7am-3pm
Closed on Christmas Day
Opened on Boxing Day 9am-5pm?
Closed on New Year’s Day

Cheerio
Closed until January 7

Coin Laundry
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Closed New Years Day

Collective Espresso
Closed December 23 to January 3
January 3–5, coffee only
January 5–14, limited menu

Cumulus Inc
Closed December 23 to January 3

Cup of Truth
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Closed New Year’s Day

De Clieu
Opened on Christmas Eve 7am-3pm
Closed on Christmas Day & Boxing Day
New Year’s Day 9am-5pm

Earl Canteen
Closed December 24 to January 7

Friends of Mine
Closed December 24-28
Opened December 28 to January 2 9am-4pm
Opened on New Year’s Day 10am-4pm

Hardware Societe
Closed December 24-25
Opened December 26 - 30 8:30am-2pm
Closed December 31 to January 1

Lil Boy Blue
Closed December 23 to January 14

Little Henri
Closed December 24 to January 1

Manchester Press
Closed Christmas Day to January 3

Market Lane Coffee
Closed on Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Closed New Year’s Day

Min Lokal
Closed December 31 & January 1

Miss Jackson
Closed December 24 to January 7
Olie & Arie
Closed December 24 to January 6

Pillar of Salt
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Closed January 1–2

Pope Joan
Closed December 23 to January 4

Porgie & Mr Jones
Closed December 24-28
Opened December 28 to January 2 9am-4pm
Opened on New Year’s Day 10am-4pm

Roller Door
Closed December 23 to January 9

Seven Seeds
Closed at 3pm on Christmas Eve
Reopened at 7am January 3

St ALi
Open every day (may close early on Christmas Day)

Three Bags Full
Closed December 24 and Christmas Day
Opening at 8am December 26-30
Closed December 31 to January 13

Two Short Men
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Closed New Year’s Day

Two Birds One Stone
Closed December 23 to January 7

Book summary: The Lean Startup

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It might have been the buzz word of 2011, but in the 18 months or so since his book was released, Eric Ries' trademarked Lean Startup concept has really gotten some traction amongst new entrepreneurs. But what is 'lean thinking,' anyway? And why should I ask why?

I read the book so you don't have to…

Eric Ries is an entrepreneur and the founder of The Lean Startup movement. Many of the concepts that Eric covers in The Lean Startup were tested in the real world at a company he co-founded called IMVU. These 'lean concepts' take their cues from Agile development, The Toyota Way and ideas in Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany. They were further developed on Eric's blog, Startup Lessons Learned. Eric's framework emphasises the fast creation of a minimum viable product that is continually modified in an ongoing process of testing and iteration. The data that this testing produces and the learning that's achieved enables entrepreneurs and businesses to make more effective data driven decisions about their businesses.

Looking at the table of contents again after a week, I realised that it provides a very succinct summary the various aspects of the lean startup framework (that's what a table of contents should do, right?).

Vision: Start, Define, Learn and Experiment.
Steer: Leap, Test, Measure, and Pivot (or Persevere)
Accelerate: Batch, Grow, Adapt, Innovate.

But I also realised that these sections are a lot more integrated than I first realised. Each section seems familiar but the tactical manifestation of lean concepts is different at each stage of the business. No wonder I had trouble trying to summarise this book! Ries' case studies are excellent for demonstrating the same but different implementations of validated learning and what I've attempted to do below is explain the main concepts that resonated with me the most.

Validated learning: it's more than just a learning experience.

Have you ever heard said or even said yourself: "oh well, at least we learned something." Did you ever stop and think what, exactly did you learn? If, in the first place you didn't have a concrete objective that clearly outlined what counted as a validation or a fail, how can you tell if you learnt something or not? In this instance, learning ends up becoming a rationalisation for something that failed, except that the lesson was lost. By making predictions ahead of time about your product or service and documenting them, you know when you're off the mark and you can take that result to iterate your product and test a new assumption. This is validated learning. Often, when people try to adopt this approach, they find it feels worse than their old, undocumented, rationalised approach. This is because in the old approach, problems seem intangible whereas a system of validated learning generates tangible data that you can cross check with your assumptions and use to fix those problems.

The Build, Measure, Learn (quickly) loop

The Lean Startup is continuously engaged in building a product, getting it out there to see if it finds a fit, testing that product by adjusting aspects of it and comparing it to the unadjusted version, seeing if it worked better or worse, then doing it again. Quickly. And then again. The same principles as validated learning are at work except that Build, Measure, Learn is a technique whereas validated learning is an outcome. It encapsulates the whole process that a startup is continually undergoing in order to find a product market fit.

There are metrics that make you look good and metrics that actually make you good.

The ones that make you look good are dubbed vanity metrics by Ries. These are things like an aggregate of page hits which isn't segmented to tell you if they're hits from the same user, a web crawler or multiple elements on the page. The number of people looking at your landing page doesn't give you any quantifiable information about the the number of people who actually want to buy your product. In that instance, you'd look at conversions and then you might segment where those conversions are coming from. The metrics that actually make you good are actionable in the sense that they test an assumption by demonstrating a clear cause and effect. If it doesn't, then it's a vanity metric, and vanity metrics don't give you the information that you need to make informed decisions about your company.

Metrics also need to be documented. A startup isn't just interested in how many users they might have now, they're interested in how many more users they acquired since last week or last month. Unless you track what you measure, metrics do little to show you what's happening to your business over time. And changes over time to your product or service is exactly what you need to to be able to see in order to know when to pivot.

Get to pivots faster

When a startup pivots, it is aligning its efforts with a business and product that create value and drive growth. As a startup, money is finite, which means you only have a certain amount of time to find your product/market fit. If something isn't working then you need to pivot, but that decision can only be made if you have the data to support that decision. And as we've already covered, if you're unclear about what you testing then it's almost impossible to experience complete failure which makes the pivoting so much harder. It should be becoming clear that the key to running lean is creating clear objectives that you want to test. You want to throw minimum viable products out into the market and see what breaks and what bits stick. And you want to do this as often as possible before the money runs out.

Get better at working in small batches quickly.

If you had to fold 100 letters, put them into envelopes, then address and stamp the envelope, would it be quicker to do it one at a time, or to fold all the letters, then address and stamp all the envelopes, then put the letters in them? It turns out that completing each one at a time is faster. Why? Because you don't account for the lost time in keeping track of the order of envelopes and the letters. What if, after addressing all those envelopes, you discovered that the were too small for the letters? If you had completed just one whole cycle of putting the letter into the envelope, you would have found that out and could have adjusted your process by either folding the letters differently or using different envelopes. In lean manufacturing, the single envelope approach is called "single-piece flow" and would constitute a batch size of 1. The biggest advantage of small batch sizes is that if something does become a problem (like the wrong size envelope), the problem can identified quickly and time, materials and money is not lost.

A jack of all trades, master of none, certainly better than a master of one.

Lean startups can't afford to have lots of people with singular roles. They're not big companies, they're startups. Apart from the extra bureaucracy it would create, every time the startup needed to pivot, people with different skills would need to be hired. Lean startups need people who are cross functional. Jacks of all trades but who have access to specialists in the form mentors. While people working for a startup may have a specialisation, it shouldn't stop them from fulfilling other roles. Being cross functional naturally lends itself to working in small batches which makes products easier to test and iterate. It also creates a 'pull' instead of a 'push' production cycle where resources are pull in as required (like the single piece flow) instead of pushed out on mass. Fewer people are involved which gives communication a better chance and when something breaks, it only affects a small batch. Imagine the envelope example at the level of a large organisation. In the lean startup, individual (or departmental) efficiency is not the goal, it's to create cross functional teams that use actionable metrics to achieve validated learning.

When something breaks, ask why. Ask it again and again and again and again.

When something breaks or doesn't work, it becomes a learning opportunity. Ries describes the approach of the andon cord which has been used by Toyota for years to eliminate problems in their manufacturing process. Essentially, you ask why five times. And you do this with everyone in at the same time, not just with the person who uncovered or caused the problem. By systematically moving through each causal layer, you are able to get past the individual problem and establish if something bigger is at fault. Ries described how he would have new employees at IMVU begin working on their live service on their first day.

Naturally, the new recruit would be tentative about breaking something, to which Ries would respond: if you manage to break the site on your first day, then that's our fault for making it so easy to break. Of course, if they manage to break something, he would have them lead the charge to fix it, but would also use the 5 Whys to understand why it happened. Early on at IMVU, this process lead to the realisation that they needed to create a training and induction program for their employees. They didn't just do this overnight, they developed it using the 5 Whys approach so that once a problem had occurred, it wouldn't happen again.

Since the book was published earlier in the year, there's been a lot of discussion about the concepts - how are you applying them to your own business? Or if you work for a large organisation, how are you managing introducing lean concepts there?

This article was first published on The Credentialist, Tim's short-lived blog about self-education and entrepreneurship (it got hacked).

Tim Webster is better than the master of one trade. He's part of the Low Fat Love team and is best described cross-functional. Follow him @timjwebster or on Google Plus

The history of Inspire9's home

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Aside from high ceilings, an open plan layout and two hundred-plus windows that bathe 700sqm of wooden floorboards in natural light, Inspire9 has another major thing going for it. History!

Located opposite the Richmond station where thousands pass by on their daily commute to the (cold and dark) CBD, Residents and the wider coworking community sprawl across the historic Australian Knitting Mill (AKM), solidifying the next chapter in the story of the Mill.

Just weeks ago, Inspire9 inhabitants added the finishing touches to make the space their own. Having undergone a brand refresh, launched the new Inspire9 website and celebrated the first anniversary of our move to Stewart street, now is the perfect time to share the backstory and heritage of our space.

The knitting industry itself is relatively young. The manufacture of hosiery and other knitted items began in 1899 when the first knitting mills were established and by the end of the war period, there were 68 knitting and hosiery factories in the Commonwealth, employing 2,176 people. Nowadays, there are more 17,000 people employed by 300 factories in Australia- a healthy growth by all definitions.

In August of 1899, Thomas Murray and Co established a small knitting mill in Richmond. Mr F. F. Robinson joined the firm in 1902 and it was incorporated as Thomas Murray and Co Pty Ltd soon after. To keep up with production demands, the mill grew to three times its original size in a few short years.

In 1908 the manufacture of Golden Fleece woollen underwear begun and the factory extended its production to include bathing suits. The company underwent reconstruction in 1910 and was renamed the Australian Knitting Mills Ltd. A lesser known milestone in the timeline, the landmark case - Grant v The Australian Knitting Mills. Dr. Grant (the plaintiff), contracted dermatitis as a result of wearing woolen underpants which had been manufactured by the defendants (Australian Knitting Mills Ltd). The garment in question contained an excess of sulphite and despite Grant wearing the underpants for an entire week without washing them beforehand, the Privy Council held that the defendants were liable to the plaintiff. The case is often used as a benchmark in legal cases and as an example for students studying law.

During Melbourne’s early years, Richmond was a working class suburb dotted with factories. Richmond workers lived in tiny cottages that can still be seen in the back streets of Cremorne and even in parts of the Richmond Hill, above Alto in Waverley Street. Some accommodation doubled as speakeasies and brothels, capitilising on opportunity. There were shootouts in the streets as infamous criminals like Squizzy Taylor operated nearby.

In the early 20th century the expansion of manufacturing across the nation was reflected in new industrial centres that were developed close to rail and road transport, as distinct from the Victorian-era industrial development that occupied coastal sites or river and creek banks. Near to the transport hub of Richmond Railway Station and busy Punt Road, a distinctive group of factories and warehouses grew, mainly associated with the growth of the clothing manufacturing industry in the City. The area had previously just been residential.

The Australian Knitting Mills complex was at the centre of the Stewart-Tanner streets industrial development area from 1912 when the supply for World War One uniforms provided an opportunity and impetus for its expansion. The complex had another major building addition in 1922-5, the same time that the 'Golden Fleece' and 'Kookaburra' were established.

The AKM building now forms part of the Richmond Hill Heritage Overlay, which has strict planning rules protecting the history and character of the area. The South Sub-Industrial Zone is described by Heritage Victoria as

“….a distinctive and visually related group of externally well-preserved factories and warehouses, associated with the growth of the clothing manufacturing industry in the City, dating from the early decades of the 20th century and symbolic of Richmond's special role in the development of key manufacturing centres in the first half of the 20th century...”

The building continued as an industrial warehouse and still has an industrial presence to this day. Achilles Enterprises , operating from the ground floor, operate in the textile industry, refitting coaches and carriages for Vline and other companies across Australia. In 2006, the Australian Knitting Mill site was taken over by BMG, who swiftly commissioned Moth to transform the building into the Red Bull Music Academy - a prestigious event staged once a year in a selected international destination. The space was made over to be used and abused by 60 talented musicians for three weeks. A rooftop and three levels became offices, lounges, recording studios and a garden to accommodate the Academy. Working alongside Chris More from Studio Organic, Moth gathered an eclectic array of furniture, lighting and the work of a handful of emerging Melbourne Designers to create a welcoming yet visually challenging space for the many international visitors to the Academy, including; Skream, Aloe Blacc, The Bamboos, Derrick May, Paul Kelly.

Laying dormant and in decline after BMG and the Academy retreated from the building, Inspire9 took the keys to level 1 at a time when it was in need of love and attention. The past year has seen our community polishing floorboards, sandblasting brickwork, replacing windows and equipping the space with mod-cons. Throughout, the emphasis has been on maintaining the heritage of the building and restoring the space to its natural glory.

Our Residents, drop-ins and coworking community form a rich tapestry of creatives, startups and entrepreneurs. Similar to the way AKM pioneered the industry and shaped the city of Richmond, Inspire9 is at the forefront of the coworking movement, providing a public space where Melbournians generate increasingly significant social change.

A sense of unease

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When Inspire9 asked me to write a blogpost for them, I remember feeling out of my comfort zone. You know that feeling that slowly creeps over you. That familiar, gnarly, sense of unease. While I’m completely at home creating content for others, the thought of writing a personal piece online sends me into orbit. It’s fair to say, I wasn’t crazy about the whole idea.

Last Wednesday was the 12th of the 12th of the 12th. A very special day for many reasons. The day that our National Indigenous TV (NITV) station launched as a free-to-air television channel. We’ve come a long way. Yet, when someone commented on twitter that this auspicious pattern of numbers won’t be repeated for another 88 years until 01/01/01, well, that left me feeling slightly uneasy. I won’t be alive in another 88 years.

What causes unease? A disagreement? Most definitely. Uncertainty? Absolutely. Unrest? Surely. It can be a conversation, an email. A text. A tweet. Even an instagram. But there’s a common thread – and it usually revolves around words.

At work, that sense of unease can be a godsend. Save you from a bad decision. Cause you to pause for reflection. Stop and put tools down. But when we have too much on, when we’re out of sorts, demands from all corners, that niggling feeling is sometimes suppressed.

Earlier this year, I was teaching a beginner ski group, who wanted to ride up the lift for the first time. “Great idea,” I said. Pleased they wanted to give it a go. The thing is though, you never really know how it’s going to turn out, until you are up there. The wind had started to pick up and I hesitated as to whether this was, in fact, a great idea. To take people up the chairlift who had NEVER sat on it, much less skiied the run. It was a fleeting feeling and I dismissed it. Half-way up, the lift jerked to a halt, when the mother of all mother of storms rolled in. From nowhere . As black clouds screamedpast us, I tried to reassure my guests that everything was going to be okay. We sang songs, told jokes, casually remarked on “what balmy weather, we were having,” while our heads were being blown off the cliff. For a while it worked. But, when the chair began swinging violently from side to side, like a wild comb-over gone mad, I reassessed. This is not good, I thought. We’re in trouble here.
We made it off that chair. Ours was the second last before they closed the lift. This is what happens in the mountains. In gale force winds with little visibility, I guided my class down the slope and straight through the door for a hot chocolate. My shout. They were absolute troopers. Not one person complained and they were terrified. As was I.

There’s a lot to be said for gut instinct. When do you trust it and when do you disregard it?

At work, in our relationships, at home - more often than not, that sense of unease is telling us something. But why do we ignore it? I learnt the most important lesson of my life, when I didn’t listen to my gut instinct.

My gorgeous gay friend regularly tells me, “Sit with the grey. Deal with the grey.” Are you friggin’ nuts? Try telling that to a person who views the world through a starkly black and white lens.

Another friend said to me, whilst travelling once, “You’re so principled.” Inexplicably, I replied, “Yes, with good reason.” What is that reason? I wondered later. Life experience? A deep-seated sense of community? Authenticity?

The only possible explanation I have is this... As human beings we are intuitively guided by our values, some ingrained, some stemming from childhood, others we aspire to our entire adult lives. When friends, partners or family don’t measure up, we feel let down.
A staunch New Yorker advised me, “Lower your expectations to rock-bottom, then lower them some more.” Not a bad philosophy, but why do we continually strive to avoid disappointment?

Last year, I was at a dinner with some people I’d never met before, bar one. Normally, at ease with conversation, I found myself quite withdrawn. Couldn’t pinpoint why. Everyone seemed nice, the issues were current, opinions flowing. Then, the strangest feeling swept over me. Something was terribly wrong. I had a sense of dread. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be there at all. I wanted to be out the door faster than you could say the 12th of the 12th. But I didn’t move. Paralysed with manners, I stayed and continued to draw out the opinions of those around the table. Call it social etiquette or a sense of duty, I just couldn’t get up and leave.

Later, it dawned on me why I’d felt so uneasy. Every time I spoke, I was shutdown. My opinions weren’t valued. Ideas not appreciated. My contribution disregarded.

So, next time you are going about your day and you feel a sense of unease… isolate that feeling. What’s causing it? Is there aberrant behaviour or a piece of communication? Is it a repeat offender? Listen to your body. It’s the best barometer of all. If you have an adverse reaction to something, it’s probably trying to tell your something. You know how the old saying goes, “If it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.”