Start Up Blog

The Moldova connection

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 21, 2013

In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites – rentoid.com

In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.

They facilitate an important cultural exchange.

Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…

Vasilii Racovitsa

… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.

Besides the fact that he made my first web play rentoid.com come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else.  The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me.  But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.

Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.

I’m  keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.

This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:

“a bed for beta”

“divan for development”

“a cot for code”

“a hammock for HTML”

…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.

While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.

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The future is less

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 23, 2011

You’ve heard this:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve every done. Then you can only expect all you’ve ever got.

It’s changed slightly, actually it has changed radically:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve ever done. Then you can expect much much less than you used to get.

This is because there are a nearly 2 billion people in the BRIC nations who are prepared to do what you do for around 10% of your price. And in a ‘web everywhere’ world people can find them. Yes this includes nearly all of us – Architects, Engineers, Accountants, Lawyers, Graphic Designers, Coders, Developers, Journalists  – every single task that can be done remotely, and even some that can’t be.

For them 10% of your pay is a 50% pay rise. A pretty good deal from where they sit.

What to do – do more with the stuff that lives around the edges. Make meaning from the seemingly disparate. Add a creative edge by mashing things up in a new and interesting way.  And demand the people near you take notice of your ideas. If they don’t, then find a better place to share your creativity.

The trick to the future is to organise the factors of production, not be them.

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The truth about digital offshoring

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 13, 2010

BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are the buzz word in business for good reason. In the good news for us small entrepreneurs is that access is no longer limited big players. The internet has made it possible to have a global work force from launch date, and the same cost advantages that multinationals have had since they started exporting labour to China and other parts of Asia since the 1960’s. Anyone can do it now.

Before you worry about the ethics of ‘off shoring’ there’s some stuff we should know. Exporting labour overseas is ethically sound. It is beneficial both to the recipients and the providers of such work (us). The average computer programmer earns around $1000 a month in India. In the USA and Australia it’s more like $7000 a month. Unethical? Not really. The $1000 a month versus the average in India of $85 gives new information workers in India and very high standard of living.

When we inject money into developing economies we are increasing the living standards not just for our employees, but for their economy in general. In addition we have the option to pay them above market rates to create strong loyalty. We have the option  treat our people well and create important cultural exchanges and relationships.

Other peoples time is what we must leverage for startup success. A simple business fact time immemorial. Only now we have both currency advantage and access. The issue of moving jobs overseas is a crock. We live in a global age, an internet economy. We all buy goods everyday from overseas. Geographical barriers simply wont exist shortly. So we should just get on board. Protectionist attitudes are outdated. No one is sending kids down mines with digital offshoring. If local people are getting put out of jobs, then they’ve been earning too much for what they’ve been doing anyway. Their outplacement is inevitable.

Startup Blog says:

• Outsourcing is available to everyone, not just powerful companies
• Off shoring improves living standards
• Off shoring is ethical and important culturally
• We must embrace it, or get left behind. There is no choice.

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My new startup

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 19, 2009

I’m launching a new startup. For those who don’t know about it here are some of the key points:

  • The brand extension comes from an already successful enterprise
  • The partnership & legal agreements were entered into over a year ago
  • The idea is not an original one, rather a new execution of a proven formula
  • We didn’t pitch the idea or ask for permission, we just did it
  • It’s a brand extension
  • It’s a self funded project with no external capital. But we wont have ownership
  • We will give away the corporation, once it is cash flow positive
  • It’s a very long lead project
  • It wont be cash flow positive for more than 20 years
  • Estimated cost of the project is around $500K
  • We do expect to however, to yield emotional & community benefits very early after launch
  • It’s an industry we’ve never worked in before, but have a natural flair for it
  • Some of the product development will be outsourced to 3rd parties
  • Outsourcing will occur in 3 large segments of up to 6 years each
  • The most important product development will be done in house
  • There wont be any major advertising, brand awareness will be driven through family & friends
  • We already know it’s unique, but wont require any intellectual property protection
  • However, major security measures will be taken to protect the asset, especially in the incubation phase

My new startup is my baby due January 25th, and it’s the most exciting one I’ve ever been involved in. We’re involved in more startups than we think…

Startup Blog says: Let’s not define ourselves by what we own, but the cool stuff we do.

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Outsourcing – little tips

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 15, 2009

As a follow up to my last post on The White Collar Reality here is a simple Slide Share presentation as a thought starter of why it matters, and what is happening. This is a snippet from the syllabus at Startup School.

Startup School

The white collar reality

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 13, 2009

It was easy for white collar workers to be smug during the 1980’s. Their blue collar counterparts faced a dire future as hands on jobs increasingly went overseas to low cost labour markets. It even made it possible for information workers to extract larger salaries as the profitability of their organizations soared. The white collar desk jockey rode the wave of efficiency as corporations globalized and consolidated manufacturing.

The art of Tailoring

Life has a funny way of going full circle. And now it’s our turn, the white collar worker. We are also an endangered species in developed markets.

Yep, you and me. We too, will be outsourced. All us accountants, IP Lawyers, Engineers, Computer Programmers (insert university educated profession here).

Don’t believe me? Then consider this: In India each year there are over 300,000 Engineering graduates and over 400,000 IT graduates who will happily work for 10% of what conglomerate X pays you right now. It’s only a matter of time before large corporations, who are usually struggling for top line growth, can get over the emotional barrier of having a large corporate head office and go offshore. The spreadsheet will make that decision for them. But this time the barriers will be lower than when all the call center went overseas because consumers wont even notice. Society wont care either. They are sick of people earning well above average incomes in ivory towers. No one will feel sorry for us.

Micro outsourcing as provided by Elance, Odesk and Guru for entrepreneurs is just the test case. The head office is next.

What to do?

Stop being a factor of production and start organizing them. Stuff gets done, things can be built, and anything which is done at a desk is about to disappear to low cost labour markets. The way information workers can survive is through undertaking entrepreneurial endeavors (corporate & private). Be able to manage complex projects and by managing situations and people, not doing stuff. The age of the entrepreneur is about to become something which is so significant it changes work just like the industrial revolution did.

Startup blog says: Are you ready?

Get ready at Startup School.

Startup School

Startup School – 1 seat left

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 2, 2009

I’m very excited that Startup School Melbourne is this weekend. We still have a single seat left which is currently being warmed by this guy….

Picture 128

But we’d love to replace him with you. And if you need any more convincing then I’m pretty sure I’ll have done the job once you finish reading this blog entry.

Firstly – here’s a list of topics we’ll be covering in detail:

  • Idea Generating
  • Creativity in business. Creative thinking
  • Raising Capital
  • Art of Pitching
  • Legal tips, shortcuts and administration
  • Successful outsourcing (digital & production)
  • Building an international work force
  • Cash flow for startups & budgeting
  • Simplified project management
  • Personal & business branding
  • Selling like a guru
  • Generating PR and media
  • Building a Team

All of which is fully documented in a take home working manual so you’ll leave knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. Like I have.

We are also being joined by Yvonne Adele – Globally renowned Creativity and ideas guru!

You can’t learn this stuff in school, books or at University. And I should know as I teach Marketing at Melbourne University. You also get me as an on going mentor as a Startup School graduate with unlimited help in your start up. Which is incredible value give what most consultants (with less real experience) charge by the hour.

We are holding the event in the groovy boutique Lindrum Hotel. Where the space is great and the food and espresso is awesome. I tested it.

Picture 132

All of which is included in the price. You’ll be one of 10 people in an intimate learning environment. Not in a room full of people.

If that’s not enough , Startup School comes with a money back guarantee to blow your mind. I can say this because I know the 2 days will.

No, it’s not priceless – it’s priced at $998.

It will be the best investment in your entrepreneurship education you’ve ever made. it will make and save you thousands. This event is a one off, there is no next chance. If you want to chat about it – call me on the phone number in the right hand side bar of this blog.

Click here to book now.

(Seats still available for Sydney 21st & 22nd of November)

See you on the weekend, Steve.

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Startup School just got better

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 16, 2009

For those of my blog readers already locked and loaded for startup schoolGood News.

For those thinking about coming long – Another great reason to join us.

The uber terrific Yvonne Adele from at Ideas Culture has just joined us for the 2 events. She will be facilitating and helping us out through the two days. But don’t think she’ll just be giving the intro’s and outro’s – she’ll be giving us her spin on creativity and ideas, as well as getting us pumped up, motivated and thinking. Which will also blow our minds!

Picture 106

For those who don’t know, Yvonne’s business was recently featured in Springwise and has a list of credentials and testimonials as long as both my arms.

So, if you’ve been on the edge of booking startup school. Time to get moving. The Melbourne event is about to close the door with only a couple of seats left. And Sydney is filling quickly.

Feel free to contact me if you have any queries and want to chat in more detail about it on 0438 779566. Steve.

Startup School this November

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 28, 2009

If you’re planning a Corporate Escape or are an early stage entrepreneur. Then 2 day event I’m running is an investment worth considering. For a very simple reason: It’ll save you many thousands by not having to make all the mistakes I did before I got it right.

What stuff are we covering?

Content taught includes:
– Idea generation
– Idea validation
– Art of bootstrapping
– Setup costs / legal Tips & tricks
– Project / Cash flow management
– Outsourcing ( digital & production)
– Raising capital
– PR – Getting on TV, radio and in newspapers (all of which I’ve done before – see http://www.rentoid.com/about and scroll down)
– Social media tools
– Staffing & handling the growth curve.

All of which will be interactive – and busts the myths of success. You wont read the truth about this stuff in books because the truth isn’t shiny and doesn’t sell. All 10 alumni graduates get me as an on going mentor to help them startup and success like I have with www.rentoid.com.

It also includes food & drink for 2 days. It is $998 for the 2 days. It’s not cheap – bit it’s the real deal. A worthy investment with a money back guarantee to blow your mind.

Startup School

If you think it’s expensive – then think about this:

  • How much is 17 minutes of prime time ‘in program’ TV coverage worth? More than $500,000. I’ve done it and startup school will teach you how.
  • How much is full page spreads worth in National Newspapers & magazine worth?
  • How much did your last website cost to build? I built www.startupschool.com.au for $220 and I’m not a tech person, designer or a coder.
  • How valuable is knowing how to raise Angel and Venture Capital? Or even know the right people?
  • What about in market validation without the actual expense of launching?

The point is your investment will pay for itself many times over.

It’ll be running In Sydney and Melbourne for 10 people only. It’s pretty much a one off event. So if you want to come book or seat at www.startupschool.com.au or feel free to give me a call {0438 779 566} for more info. Be quick it’s limited to 10 people only.

Steve

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10 steps to web start up

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 2, 2009

It’s never been cheaper to start a business in the history of man. Especially on line. Startup guru Guy Kawasaki proved it with his $12,000 example for www.trumours.com – But startup blog says you can do it for pretty close to zero. In the spirit of sharing here’s the startup blog list of the 10 things you need to get started, and resources to help perform these necessary tasks.

  1. Idea generating – Ideas these days are free and omnipresent. Steal ideas from www.springwise.com or www.idea-a-day.com – Just take one that suits you and do it. Maybe bring their idea to your geography, or just copy something already successful and do it. There is no currency in ideas. They are free. Take them. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that is the easiest part of any venture. And they are right.
  2. Name Generating – Actually your business name has nothing to do with success. There’s only two things to consider. Firstly that it’s available (.com?) and secondly that people can say it. Check out www.nameboy.com to help you generate some.
  3. Idea testing – I loved the idea from Timothy Ferriss who tested the idea for the best book name (4 hour work week won it) by using Google Adwords for the various options and seeing which one got the most clicks with certain key words. Inspired stuff. Steal his idea and use adwords to test your business proposition before investing heavily.
  4. Project Managment - Keep your project stuff all in one digital location. The crew over at 37 Signals provide some awesome tools for free in doing so. We’ve used it extensively for rentoid.com
  5. Communication – Get skype set up for all your international dealings phone calls and chats required in managing your project and team. I work with with people all over the world on rentoid and have never paid for a phone call yet. You can even get it on your iphone to make free calls from – Giddy up.
  6. Design – Don’t get stooged paying a zillion dollars for an agency to design your stuff. Leave the agency work for big companies with big budgets, you’re a bootstrapper and need to get it done cheap. But lucky for us these days cheap doesn’t have to mean crap. Check out 99 designs to get your site designed. If you need digital icons or related visuals check out istock photo for great up to date design. For pictures use Flickr creative commons.
  7. CSS (Cascading Style Cheets) – Check out slice and dice it to get your shiny new designs ready for coding.
  8. Coding / Programming - Yep, that tricky stuff which makes it all work under the website. Easy, go straight to Elance or ODesk to find coders for HTML, PHP, Rails, AJAX – anything. They’re all there waiting for your brief. (this should be the only biggish expense for your web startup – which means a few hundred dollars with a currency advantage)
  9. Payment gateway – Use paypal – free set up and the cheapest, most trusted way to accept credit cards and multiple payment forms on the internet.
  10. Promotion tools –  OK this is the stuff you’re all familiar with and using daily. So turn these fun parks into business tools by using them properly. But just choose a couple of them and use them well. My favourites are youtube, twitter, blogging (recommend wordpress).

So there you have it – web start up in 10 easy steps. Feel free to add any other cool tools and ideas in the comments.

What are you waiting for? Get started.

Steve.

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