World-leading Australian crowdsourcing platform 99designs gets $35 million, shows depth of Australian tech

As I have written before, Australia is a global hub for crowdsourcing platforms, with the likes of Freelancer.com, 99designs, DesignCrowd, Kaggle, Ideas While You Sleep and many more resident here.

We have tapped some of this Australian expertise for our events, notably our Future of Crowdsourcing Summit, held last November simultaneously in Sydney and San Francisco.

The latest news is that design competition platform 99designs, in its first external fundraising, has just received an investment of $35 million from major VC firm Accel Partners. Techcrunch reports that 99designs has been growing at 120% per year, and that the number of design competitions hosted by the firm has doubled in the last four months. While the company didn’t need money, it started to see the potential of investing in growth. According to Techcrunch,
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Charismatic robots can now do stand up comedy and respond to the audience

Heather Knight, also known as Marilyn Monrobot, studies human machine symbiosis and charismatic robots. In addition to her doctoral studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute she runs a stack of interesting projects.

Here is a video of Heather speaking at TED, demonstrating her robot which does stand up comedy. The audience provided live feedback to the robot during its performance, which it used to develop its routine.


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Tablet computers as seen from 1994

The rise of news on tablets such as the iPad is one of the defining themes of our times. This was foreseen by some, even down to the language that we use. The following video, created by Knight-Ridder in 1994, describes their vision of the future of tablet newspapers.


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Global mobile market shares: who’s winning

In preparing for the Ketchum Webinar Series on Tapping the Power of Mobile I wanted some data on international differences in mobile operating system shares. I was just about to begin compiling some data from StatCounter when my co-presenter One2One CEO Simon Noel pointed me to a visual created by iCrossing who have done a very nice job of it already.


Click on the image for full size

A few things stand out from this data:
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Keynote speech in Beijing on How Technology is Transforming Business

In a few weeks I will be in Beijing to give a keynote to the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) annual Company Directors conference. AICD has usually held its annual conference in Australian cities, but when in 2007 it held it in Shanghai they actually had far more attendees than usual. This is now the second time the conference has been held outside Australia, and it promises to be an outstanding event. Of course one of the great things about holding the conference in Beijing is that it exposes the directors of Australia’s leading companies to new horizons if they have not previously been actively engaged in China.

Here is a brief description of my keynote:

How Technology is Transforming Business
The rise of our connected world is transforming business, from how consumers buy and build relationships with companies, to the structure of the supply chain and the nature of global competition. Directors need to understand the emerging technologies that are changing business today, including the dramatic rise of mobile, the power of cloud computing, new elements of the media and marketing landscape, and user-driven computing. Establishing a framework for innovation-led governance enables companies to best take advantage of these shifts.

I will share some of the content I will be covering closer to the time.

Serendipity is at the heart of today’s emerging society

Serendipity is for me a deeply meaningful word.

The more than dozen posts discussing serendipity on my blog include how we created “enhanced serendipity” at an event I ran in 2003 in New York, more details on the story of the word serendipity and how to enhance it, the importance of the “serendipity dial” and far more.

One of the reasons I love Twitter so much is that it provides a rich substrate for serendipitous connections. A majority of the worthwhile connections I make these days come from Twitter. One of those connections is @AnaDataGirl. We have followed each other and had some conversations for a good while. So I heard multiple times that she did a gem of a presentation at SwitchConf in Oporto, Portugal last week.

Here are her lovely slides – while I’m sure they don’t do justice to the presentation itself they are well worth going through, as they capture some of the key concepts of serendipity and provide some delightful examples.

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Why high performance organizations will thrive on uncertainty and lack of control

I recently gave a presentation at an offsite meeting of the leadership team of a global professional services firm. I was asked to speak about the future of business, and to be provocative, which is usually my objective in that kind of situation – it’s not very valuable if you can’t get people to think differently.

I discussed the driving forces of global business, and then gave them three ‘propositions’ of how I saw the future of business. One of the three propositions, which was really the underlying theme of my presentation, was ‘High performance organizations will thrive on uncertainty and lack of control.’

When you look at what has really changed in the best performing organizations of today compared to say those of a couple of decades ago, this is at the heart of the matter. Executives used to be in control, know what was happening, and to direct the company’s activities in detail to achieve success. That doesn’t work any more.
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Future of Retail: 10 powerful trends and 1 meta-trend

I have just come across this – an excellent resource from PSFK on the Future of Retail.

PSFK presents Future of Retail report
View more presentations from PSFK

The report covers 10 major trends:
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Crowdfunding in film takes off: the case of the attack of the space Nazis

Crowdfunding is the topic of the moment, or maybe it only seems that way from the response to my recent posts on possible changes in regulation on crowdfunding and how the scene is developing.

Movies are probably the endeavor which has attracted the most crowdfunding initiatives, including:
A Swarm of Angels (which I first wrote about in 2006)
IndieGoGo (which started with films and has broadened into other creative spaces)
The Age of Stupid
Artemis Eternal (click on ‘Begin’ for details)
BuyaCredit.com
CinemaShares
and others.

Now a grand new experiment in movie crowdfunding is under way, with the Iron Sky project. The premise of this “dark science-fiction comedy” is that in 1945 Nazis went to the moon, and in 2018 they are coming back… It has all the makings of a cult classic, which is exactly the kind of movie that does well in crowdfunding. Budgets are small (compared to Hollywood), a limited pool of dedicated fans can make the venture profitable, and the crowdfunding process is integrated with building a community that will want to see the movie and spread word to their friends.

Check out the awesome trailer:

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Launch of Future of Sex: why we’re doing it

My company Advanced Human Technologies has recently launched the website Future of Sex (futureofsex.net), which explores the intersection of technology and human sexuality.

A few people have been surprised to see us launch this site, as it is a little different from the topics we usually cover. Here is the background and reasons why we’ve launched the site.
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