Surprisingly, there are no regular eCommerce industry drinks in Sydney or Melbourne. Sure there are a number of annual conferences, but no regular meet-ups.

Amblique have rounded up their eCommerce friends and colleagues and have arranged a monthly catch-up to fill the void between conferences. The idea is to provide a time and place where vendors, retailers, manufactures and agencies can casually network, share insights and have a drink.

Monthly meet-ups will be organised in both Sydney and Melbourne.

  • Shoptalk Sydney will take place on the first Wednesday of each month
  • Shoptalk Melbourne will take place on the last Wednesday of the month

The first meetup is on Wednesday 2nd May @ The Belvedere Hotel, 482 Kent St, Sydney.

Panelists include Bjorn Behrendt (MD and Co-Founder @ StyleTread), Lisa Powell (Veteran eCommerce Manager for Hutchison 3, Nutrimetics and Apparel Group) and myself.

Meetup group:
Linked In Group:
Twitter page:!/shoptalk_au

I hope to see you there.

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My thoughts on crowd sourcing

Crowd sourcing is one of those touchy subjects. When you raise the topic of eCommerce with an established bricks and mortar business, the hairs on their neck stands up. When you raise the topic of crowd sourcing with designers and branding agencies, the same thing happens.

Like many web services, crowd sourcing has disintermediated an industry. It has lowered costs making the end user the beneficiary. It is a structural shift that isn’t going to go away.

We used Design Crowd to make our BuyReply logo and it cost $440 which I think is a great deal considering we were able to choose from over 50 unique designs! Here is our logo:



Our brief was to incorporate the universal reply icon used in desktop and mobile email clients. The designer used negative space within the orange square to accentuate the arrow. We wanted to use the colours of orange, white and black. The designer included a square with round corners as the background behind the arrow. We never asked for the square in the brief but it was a nice surprise. We really liked the square with the rounded corners as it reminded us of a mobile app icon, and our product is all about mobile commerce.

There are four reasons why I like crowd sourcing:

  • Multiple options
  • Iterating on initial designs
  • Access to many creative minds
  • Helping other people

Multiple options

We received 50 different variations of our logo from 50 different designers. Having such choice and selection increased the likelihood of finding a design we like.

Iterating on initial designs

We went through a few iterations before settling on our final design. Design Crowd doesn’t pay the designer until you accept and finalise the project. Our designer was more than happy to make a few changes.

Access to many creative minds

The problem with contacting a single person or agency to make a logo is that the work outputted by the same group of creative minds over a period of time often tends to look and feel similar.  When you crowd source a design you receive 50 unique logo’s from 50 different people who each have their own ‘creative signature’.

Helping other people

When I selected the BuyReply logo, the designer who created it was a new Design Crowd user. It was the first design she had ever uploaded to the service and I was her first customer. I also noticed that she was in Indonesia. After winning, she received $440. For a person living in Indonesia, $440 is about a months wage. This made me feel good.

What you need to realise about crowd sourcing logo’s and designs, is that the results you receive should not be expected to be final, however more often than not they provide you with 80% of what you are looking for, then you work with the designer to iterate on them until they are exactly what you want. That was our experience anyway.

So if you want to have a logo designed, check out Design Crowd.

Power to the creators

There is a huge shift that’s happening and it’s happening fast. Creators of intellectual property are becoming more powerful as their dealings with customers become ever more direct.

This is a very, very powerful theme.

So where is this happening?

It’s happening in Apps. The app store is giving creators direct access to billions of smart devices where their ideas are accessible with the click of a button.

It’s happening in publishing. Writers now have the ability to self-publish and distribute books via Amazon and the kindle. They can bypass the publisher who used to add value via print and distribution. They can bypass the printer as books are now digital. Every computer, Kindle, Android and iOS device is an e-reader. Think about that. Today anyone can write a book and get an audience and if it’s a good book, it will be amplified by the social network and millions will find out about it.

It’s happening in retail. Shopping mall owners are getting bypassed by the web. The Internet has fragmented retail. We have a mall on our desk and in our pockets enabling creators to deal directly with their customers.

Creators are being empowered by platforms such as Kickstarter. Investors are being bypassed as consumers are willing to pre-order products in exchange for a product without creators giving away equity. This speeds up innovation significantly.

It’s happening via blogs and YouTube. Last week YouTube announced that anyone can now charge viewers to watch videos and streams. This extends the economics of a pay TV network to YouTube, however YouTube has no physical boundaries or infrastructure other than servers. Soon we’ll be watching boxing matches on YouTube for $20. Or we might pay to watch a comedian perform from their bedroom for $5. And there might be another million people watching with you, and paying as well. $5m for a 1 hour show from a bedroom? This kind of stuff is what lies ahead of us, and the social network will be the amplifier of it.

Creators are surfacing via the social web. Look at Caine’s Arcade. I stumbled across it via random tweet. That little kid accumulated a college fund of over $150,000 in 4 days. Why? Because he created something awesome and the Internet decided to shine its spotlight on it. The Internet changed his life, literarily overnight.

The Internet and social graph is like mixing oil and water. The valuable stuff always rises to the top. The best creators show up on Twitter.

All human creativity starts as a dream. As a spark of imagination, and those brave enough to pursue their dreams deserve to be rewarded.

It’s the creators who are doing the dreaming, thinking and doing. It’s the creators who are often taking the biggest risks, and now the power is shifting to where it should be. To the hands of the creators.

Power to the creators.

Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to Amazon shareholders

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starts his High Orde...Jeff Bezos is one of my favourite entrepreneurs. He is well known for his long term thinking and willingness to reinvest profits to innovate and build over the long term. Amazon started as an online retailer however today Amazon is as much a tech powerhouse as it is a retailer.

Two incredible bets he has placed that are paying off in spades are the Kindle and Amazon Web Services.

His most recent letter to shareholders came out on Friday. I read it every year. You can read it here.

Two of my favourite quotes:

“The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash theircreativity – to pursue their dreams,” writes Bezos. “These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum – they create win-win situations and create significant value for developers, entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers.”

I am emphasizing the self-service nature of these platforms because it’s important for a reason I think is somewhat non-obvious: even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation. When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried, because there’s no expert gatekeeper ready to say “that will never work!” And guess what – many of those improbable ideas do work, and society is the beneficiary of that diversity.


Caine’s Arcade

Don’t forget about email

One of the most powerful yet overlooked technologies on the web is email. It might be unsexy and old, but the truth is that email is the largest network of engaged users on the web. Larger than Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest combined.

Every citizen of the internet with a mobile device is in arms reach of their email 24/7.

Email is the network upon which all other networks have been built.

Why did Facebook engage so many users in their early days?
Because when we were tagged in images, we received an email notification and visited the site.

Why has Groupon become the fastest growing company of all time?
Because they used the immediacy of email to drive promotions.

How do we know if we’ve been mentioned on Twitter?
We receive an email.

Email is the one application that is on every connected device out of the box.
You don’t need to visit the app store to access email.
It is the lowest common denominator of networked applications.
People know how to use email an they check it very regularly.

Email is low cost, accessible, flexible, instant and incredibly powerful. Don’t forget about email.

A monkey could drive this train

While Meg Whitman was CEO of eBay, she would famously (or infamously)  joke that “a monkey could drive this train.”

What she meant was that the network effects of the eBay marketplace were so powerful, that they could close down the engineering team and cease all innovation – and the company would still roar ahead effortlessly.

When start-ups are architected to serve a network of engaged users, as the network approaches critical mass, the value proposition of the business shifts from a focus on technology, to a focus on where the most users reside. Twitter and Facebook are excellent examples of this. They are relatively simple services, however the sheer volume of engaged users that they each serve make it very difficult for other services to compete, even if they are technically better solutions (e.g. Google+).

I think this is true about a number of tech companies these days. If Facebook and Twitter stopped deploying code today and never wrote a single line of code again, I believe their services would continue to grow at an astonishing rate simply because they have an engaged critical mass of users.

Platforms that have similar characteristics include:

  • PayPal
  • Betfair
  • AirBNB
  • Etsy
  • Craig’s list
  • WordPress
  • Tumblr
  • iOS

Meg Whitman’s statement applies to these businesses as well. They could cease all innovation and would continue to grow because they have momentum and critical mass, and that is a very good thing.

Our new company, BuyReply, has been architected with a network effect in mind. As the user base of BuyReply accounts grow, so does the incentive for merchants to use the platform for transactional purposes. Network effects create huge barriers to entry and defensibility against competitors even if the technology you have created is straight forward and easy to build or copy.

Building an engaged audience and user base is hard to replicate. You can’t code that.