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Business

Businesses will need to actively monitor their income and expenses to maintain positive cash flow since economic headwinds, ranging from inflation and supply chain delays to higher interest rates and decreased consumer spending, are expected to persist throughout FY24. 

According to an unsettling new report, three-quarters of SMEs expect reduced cash flow before July of next year. Small Business Loans Australia, an Australian comparison website that assists Australian business owners in selecting the best financing and loan options in Australia, performed the research, which included 253 Australian SME owners and decision-makers.

There were 68 per cent micro businesses (1-10 employees), 18 per cent small businesses (11-50 employees), and 14% medium-sized businesses among the respondents (51–200 employees).

SMEs are expecting a cash-flow crisis

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents said rising interest rates and inflation would impact their cash flow before FY24. Specifically, 30 per cent feel their cash flow would be damaged because it will be more difficult to recover consumer payments, while 26 per cent believe it will be more difficult to generate customers. Another 20 per cent stated that both issues would impact their cash flow. According to the survey, 44 per cent of respondents do not have a strategy in place to maintain cash flow during difficult times. 

How much cash flow do small businesses require to stay afloat? Small Business Loans Australia also inquired about the amount of cash flow needed each month to cover business expenses. Although 68 per cent of all respondents are tiny enterprises, more than a third (39 per cent) claimed they need more than $50,000.

Will fewer small businesses invest in themselves?

Small Business Loans Australia wanted to know if the ability and incentive of small businesses to invest in themselves would be impacted by rapidly rising interest rates and inflation. More specifically, more than a quarter (29 per cent) of respondents saidthey had no plans to invest in their firms at all this fiscal year.

Forty per cent (40 per cent) will postpone planned investments until conditions improve, demonstrating that many small businesses’ motivation to grow is closely related to excellent economic conditions. Fifteen per cent will stop or have already terminated investment in their company, while only 17 per cent would continue to invest.

Among the businesses who had planned to invest in themselves before July 2024 (including those who are cancelling their investments), half (56 per cent) planned to invest more than $50,000, and a quarter (27 per cent) planned to invest more than $70,000.

The recent ABS Business Conditions and Sentiments survey found that in the first three months of 2023, 30 per cent of employing businesses had planned to increase wages and salaries, and 27 per cent would increase employee numbers. However, small businesses are less likely to action these investments to the same extent as larger businesses.

Alon Rajic, the founder of Small Business Loans Australia, says: “As Australian businesses continue to face the repercussions of the last two years, a significant proportion will have challenges, particularly without a savings buffer or strategy to help meet their expenses.

“One of the most effective ways to invest in and protect a business is to grow customers and sales – especially acquiring customers who have healthy incomes and good cash flow. This could be a good time for small businesses to develop a strategy to not only survive but grow. Businesses often reduce costs when external conditions impact them but then de-prioritise, driving new sales. However, there are opportunities even in tough conditions. 

“Growth often requires investment. Improving your product or service offering, getting in front of new customers, and customer loyalty will be important for many businesses that want to succeed in these times. For most, it will require financing.”

Alon adds: “Businesses seeking financing to help them will have a plethora of loan products to wade through. Research and loan comparisons will be important to finding the most suitable and lowest-risk loan. This may include flexibility in repayments and lower fixed interest rates. Many loans may have hidden costs and fees that should be factored into decision-making.

“However, ultimately, it is important for SMEs to seek advice from a licensed financial adviser before committing to a loan to ensure they can meet repayments and higher interest rates during periods of reduced cash flow. Using a comparison service can also assist in finding an appropriate loan option with lower interest rates.”

The full survey results can be found here.

Source: Small Business Loans.

ABS, June 2022 data: abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/business-indicators/business-conditions-and-sentiments/jun-2022

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Joining the online marketplace movement can help your enterprise expand its presence in the commercial arena.

Are you looking to increase your sales and profits and grow your footprint in new market segments? For most business owners, it’s a rhetorical question but making it happen via conventional business development activities is very often a slow burn.

Investing in a larger inventory is capital intensive. Hiring additional personnel to woo and win new accounts will increase your overheads and operating costs well before you begin to turn the desired profit. 

The rise of the marketplace

A growing number of consumer-focused businesses have circumvented these hurdles by implementing online marketplace technology that enables them to sell products and services that are owned and shipped by third-party sellers, a la Amazon and eBay.

Here in Australia, we’ve seen a string of household name players, including supermarket giant Woolworths and outdoor entertaining specialist Barbeques Galore, create their own destination sites. The next year, many others will follow suit.

Gartner highlighted the opportunity in late 2020, opining that enterprise marketplaces represented not only a new set of technologies for driving digital commerce but a fundamental business model change for commerce organisations. 

It predicted organisations that had operated enterprise marketplaces for more than a year could expect to record an increase in digital revenue of at least 10 per cent.

B2B businesses have been slower to embrace the online marketplace trend but that’s likely to change as more enterprises become cognisant of the advantages that can accrue from putting themselves at the heart of an eco-system of sellers.

Embracing B2B eCommerce

While, historically, B2B selling was heavily focused on face-to-face interactions, the Covid pandemic has upended that paradigm for what appears to be good and all. The protracted lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 put paid to industry roadshows, trade fairs and in-person sales and ushered in an era of online demonstrations and electronic interactions.

Research suggests business customers haven’t been unhappy with the change. Only 20 per cent of buyers were looking forward to the return of the rep, according to 2020 research published by McKinsey. Almost three-quarters of US businesses surveyed stated digital selling was working for them, and there’s little reason to suppose their counterparts Down Under see things any differently.  

Bottom line? Businesses are relaxed and comfortable about spending money online for everything from office supplies to high-priced plants and equipment. That means there’s a significant revenue opportunity for B2B businesses willing to invest in creating specialist destination hubs that digitally bring sellers and buyers together. 

Driving sales and growth

If you don’t know too many businesses that have succeeded in getting a B2B marketplace up and running, don’t worry – you will. Sceptics on this score may find it instructive to take a look at what’s been happening in other countries. 

Germany, for example, where Saitow, a company you’ve likely never heard of, runs Tyre24, an online marketplace where some 40,000 commercial customers go to buy tyres, wheels and automotive parts. It handles an impressive 100,000 transactions a day and clips the ticket on each and every one of them.

Steps to success: To get the wheels turning and emulate the Saitow online marketplace success story? At Spryker, we’ve seen a growing number of B2B businesses getting it right, not a few that have failed to launch. 

Those in the former category have used best-of-breed, composable software to develop a robust yet agile technical framework for their e-commerce operations.

Just as importantly, they’ve offered compelling value propositions to their seller eco-systems: clearly defined service level agreements and acceptable commission structures to all parties. 

Getting those relationships right matters far more so for B2B marketplace owners than their commercial counterparts because the former will typically deal with fewer sellers. Fail to keep them on board and on the side, and your B2B marketplace will struggle to gain traction.

Harnessing the power of marketing

And you’ll gain that traction much faster if you make marketing part of the mix from the outset. Establish your online marketplace as a go-to destination in the minds of the business buyers in your target market, and you’ll make it difficult for other suppliers in your sector to emulate your efforts.  

Smart operators will draw on the power of data to generate tailored campaigns and secure seller support to ensure those campaigns hit the mark and result in sales and growth.

Setting your B2B business up for success

The Covid crisis forced Australian businesses to abandon traditional means of doing business. Online marketplaces have emerged as an effective vehicle for bringing B2B sellers and buyers together and facilitating efficient, streamlined transactions. If increasing your revenue and profitability is important to you in 2023 and beyond, putting your enterprise at the centre of a specialist e-commerce network may prove a smart growth strategy.

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In order to reduce the cost of living pressures, businesses are now including inflation in their compensation budgets, according to new independent research.

This fiscal year, nearly all (96 per cent) business leaders have boosted their pay budget by an average of 20 per cent.

The findings are based on an independent poll done by specialised recruiter Robert Half among 300 Australian company executives, including 100 CFOs and 100 CIOs. As Australian CIOs report a 26 per cent increase in their compensation budget, technology teams are projected to receive the greatest salary budget increases. With CFOs reporting an average rise of 22 per cent, pay budget increases across finance functions are expected to be much lower.

The survey found that salary budgets in small businesses will increase by an average of 10 per cent, compared to 21 per cent in medium-sized businesses and 29 per cent in large businesses. At the same time, salary budget increases are anticipated to be higher overall in larger organisations compared to smaller organisations. Why? According to the poll, three times as many Australian office workers (44 per cent) cite inflation and the cost of living as their top work-life concerns, followed by high levels of stress (15 per cent) and work-life balance (12 per cent).

Moreover, in the current context, Australian businesses are actively tackling salaries and increasing salary expenditures. When there is high inflation, increasing pay transparency in comparison to other organisations (58 per cent), educating people managers to communicate about pay effectively (52 per cent), and proactively addressing employee compensation concerns (49 per cent), are additional approaches to improve pay equity.

Due to growing inflation and cost of living pressures, more than eight out of ten (81 per cent) employers anticipate increasing employee requests for pay increases in 2022. Nearly all employers (96 per cent) are prepared to grant raises to some of their workers. Just one-third (33 per cent) of employers will give raises to workers without their asking, while 63 per cent will only give raises to those who want them. Only 3 per cent of employers said they wouldn’t raise wages this year.

“The sudden rise in inflation that we have recently seen means that employees who have not received a pay rise from their employer are now on a lower income than a few months ago. Unsurprisingly, rising inflation and cost of living pressures have put salaries in the spotlight for Australian workers as they seek to mitigate any financial challenges,” said David Jones, Senior Managing Director Robert Half Asia Pacific, in announcing Robert Half’s latest survey results.

“Our research highlights that while salary is an important factor to workers, fewer employees intend to raise salary issues with their employer than there are employers who are willing to give a raise. 

Less than half of Australian workers (44 per cent) plan to request a pay increase before the end of 2022, but more than three quarters (78 per cent) say they’ll look for a new job if they don’t get one this year. This puts the onus on employers to proactively discuss remuneration plans for the coming year with their current staff or risk losing talented employees.

“In the current changeable economic climate, there’s no doubt that companies are under pressure to evaluate and benchmark their remuneration structure against the market regularly. This reinforces the importance of communication for both parties: employers should frequently address salary expectations with their valued team members, and workers should be upfront about their work-life needs – remuneration or otherwise – to ensure a transparent and satisfactory working relationship.”

“While we know that flexibility has been a significant driver of employees’ and candidates’ decision-making in the wake of the pandemic, remuneration is now becoming a primary concern as it’s expected to impact work-life increasingly. Importantly, salary expectations among contract workers are also rising due to the increased ancillary costs of taking on a role, such as transport and childcare,” concluded Jones.

More here.

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If you have a retail business, the ability to offer online sales and ease of purchase is essential to get ahead. As consumers have moved to embrace online shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, having an eCommerce option has become crucial for any successful retail business. 

A recent survey by BigCommerce showcased that millennials (67%) and Gen-Xers (56%) would prefer to search for products and purchase them online rather than doing so in a physical or brick-and-mortar store. 

So what is the best way to take your business online and increase sales? Or, if you already have an online presence, how can you easily, quickly, and consistently reach your target audience to raise awareness of your brand among potential customers? This is where multichannel strategies come to the fore and can really help grow your business. These strategies are the future of e-Commerce and should be a significant part of every NEW and existing small business game plan. Conversely, businesses that don’t adopt online selling and offer multichannel and omnichannel strategies may soon find themselves at a disadvantage over their competitors.

Let’s clarify what we mean when discussing multichannel instead of the better publicised omnichannel strategy. Omni-channel is a strategy by which a brand owns or manages several channels. For example, let’s assume we have the “HipHop shoes” brand. In an omnichannel world, HipHop would launch a shop (brick and mortar), a website (hiphop.com), a mobile app and a social media presence, all with the same underlying data store and customer record. This lets them interact with the customer in the way the customer chooses and can seamlessly transition between these channels.

Multichannel is about pushing your products not just through your channels but also through unaffiliated channels. This is analogous to HipHop selling its shoes in the HipHop store as well as at Foot Locker. 

So why would you want to embrace and use both approaches in your e-commerce strategy?

Well, it’s really about satisfying two distinct needs. First, omnichannel is all about customer engagement, retention and re-targeting. This is achieved by providing users with multiple options to interact with your brand. Multichannel is about attracting new customers and driving your brand into untapped markets. 

One way for small businesses to quickly adopt omnichannel and multichannel is to sell their products or services on online marketplaces. By taking advantage of existing markets and successful companies, businesses can get a leg up on the competition while saving time and expenses.  For example, if you are an Australian rural small business, you could create an online store on Spend With Us. The marketplace has a ready and waiting audience and community of over 365,000 members looking to purchase products from Australian rural and regional small businesses. Another example is if you have a computer parts business, you could create a profile on Newegg, a marketplace platform for IT computer components, and access their user base of customers looking to find those types of products.

+The benefits of using a marketplace to sell your products are plenty. Marketplaces can provide both an omnichannel and multichannel outlet to help you get new customers, raise brand awareness, and increase sales. By selling on a marketplace, your business also benefits from all its included marketing and brand-building expenses. People trust the marketplace, so they will automatically also trust you. Selling on a marketplace will also take care of most of the tech and marketing costs and tasks involved with selling online; design, hosting, processing of orders, financial transactions, advertising, marketing and promotion, saving you time and money, and importantly, opening your business to new markets and audiences.

Social Commerce is another way to utilise these strategies. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok provide another avenue for omnichannel organisations. Small businesses can expand their reach into previously untapped markets through digital advertisements on social media platforms and mobile apps. 

Small businesses have a real opportunity to gain with social commerce, and those that aren’t participating stand to miss out on a significant revenue stream, especially when considering that: 

  • 73% of shoppers across markets made a purchase in-store after finding or discovering the item on social media.
  • 66% of Gen Z Shoppers use social media to research a product before purchasing it.

eCommerce sales are estimated to reach nearly 24% of total retail sales by 2025. If you haven’t already, now is the time for your business to adapt to new consumer needs and behaviours, embrace online selling, and utilise strategies to help your business thrive.

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Gabrielle Munzer has been promoted to Partner at deep tech venture capital firm Main Sequence. Gabrielle will manage the firm’s renewed emphasis on bringing biotechnology (biotech) research to scale in her new role.

Gabrielle has been an integral part of the Fund’s “Feed 10 Billion People” and “Decarbonise the Planet”challenge during her three years at Main Sequence, assisting in the creation of new companies such as animal-free dairy company Eden Brew and infinite plastic recycling company Samsara Eco.

This year, she teamed with UNSW to launch Australia’s first biotech accelerator programme, SynBio 10x, to assist companies in accelerating their biotech or synthetic biology (SynBio) product development and commercialisation. 

As Australia embraces global bio-revolution, Gabrielle Munzer, Partner at Main Sequence, told Dynamic Business, “Australia has a great opportunity to become a leader in the fields of synthetic biology (synbio) and biotechnology. 

“With greater emphasis being put on our environmental output and the future of our planet, we are seeing Australian researchers delve deeper into reimagining the future of food, agriculture, plastics and more. 

“But this is just the beginning of where we’re headed. Solving the world’s biggest challenges requires much collaboration, and that’s where programs such as our SynBio 10x accelerator become so powerful. 

“As our research base continues to grow, the program serves as a way for us to support the burgeoning synthetic biology industry in Australia, helping to fast-track startups in the field, providing mentorship, infrastructure and capital.”

A $27 billion opportunity

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Main Sequence was launched in Australia in 2017 to handle the CSIRO Innovation Fund, which was established by the Australian Government and the national science agency to reinvest its historic contributions into future triumphs. Main Sequence’s Fund I and Fund II have invested in 42 firms that are transforming healthcare delivery, food production, and space connectivity, among other things.

Quasar Satellite Technologies, Endua, Eden Brew, and Samsara Eco were all born from Main Sequence’s Fund II, which saw the fruition of the firm’s innovative Venture Science model’s benefits. The method involves selecting a significant global challenge and putting together a research team to address it. The company will continue to focus on biologically-based solutions to address the world’s most pressing problems through Venture Science in its upcoming Fund III.

With support from the business community, CSIRO predicts that SynBio-enabled solutions could have a profound impact on the world and position Australia for a $27 billion opportunity that could create 44 thousand new employment by 2040. 

Main Sequence Founding Partner Phil Morle said, “Biology and nature’s smallest elements have formed the foundation of many leading innovations, for example, the insulin that is used for treating diabetes. Today, we’re only scratching the surface of the possibilities biotech and SynBio offer. Gabrielle is an important voice inside Main Sequence, pushing the boundaries and unearthing the next generation of breakthrough inventions.

“She brings a unique perspective based on years of helping to inspire leaders and build companies that challenge the way we think about alleviating the world from human damage.”

Researchers could overcome some of Australia’s biggest problems with the aid of synthetic biology-enabled solutions, which have applications in fields including health, agriculture, biosecurity, and the environment. According to CSIRO, by 2040, synthetic biology could provide up to $27 billion in annual income and 44,000 new jobs for Australia under a high growth, high market share scenario.

This National Synthetic Biology Roadmap report, published in August 2021, details the potential benefits of synthetic biology for Australia and offers suggestions for how to speed up the development, scalability, and commercial success of its uses.

Read the report PDF (4 MB)

More on Main Sequence.

More here.

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Farmers and industry experts will address the adoption of solar, batteries, microgrids, and agrivoltaics (the combination of solar with farming) in the sector, as well as how emissions and power costs can be reduced at the Renewable Energy Workshop on October 6. 

This October, Adelaide will play home to the 2022 Irrigation Australia International Conference and Exhibition, which will feature a Renewable Energy Workshop for the first time as demand for renewable energy soars in the face of skyrocketing electricity bills.

The nation’s food supply depends heavily on irrigated agriculture, but its continued sustainability and competitiveness depend on dependable, inexpensive, low-emission energy and diesel for water pumping. According to the National Irrigator’s Council, irrigated agriculture produces 93 per cent of fruit, nuts, and grapes, 83 per cent of vegetables, 48 per cent of dairy products, and 100 per cent of rice.

A session on future tech will see Neil Thompson, Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, talk about the hydrogen economy and how farmers could be well placed to take advantage of these new technologies.

Mr Thompson says, “Recent increases in gas prices on the East Coast of Australia have seen deteriorating margins in the ag sector. At the same time, volatility in diesel pricing has seen similar pressure on farms using diesel for vehicles and irrigation pumps. Accordingly, green hydrogen made from spare renewable energy and wastewater potentially offers some hope.”  

James Stacey, an irrigator in South Australia who grows grains, oaten hay and livestock, has been using solar to reduce his pumping costs. He had expensive power bills of $5K or $6K a month before installing solar. His power bills have now substantially reduced, with the payback in about three years. 

Mr Stacey says, “We’re able to export to the grid, so that helps generate a small income during the winter months when we don’t irrigate much.

“The rough payback for our solar was about three years, so it stacks up economically for our business. It has changed the way we irrigate too as we used to only irrigate in off-peak times, but now we can irrigate when it’s best for the crops and for us.”

Anne Dansey from AgVic will be speaking about the combining of solar and farming on the same parcel of land. AgVic has installed a number of solar panels above a pear orchard to test the impact on the trees, with early results indicating reduced fruit damage by sunburn and improved water use efficiency.

Entry is included with a conference registration which  can be purchased at www.icid2022.com.au 

For information on the renewable energy workshop program, visit https://www.icid2022.com.au/renewable-energy-workshop/ 

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Prior to the pandemic, the hospitality industry routinely used immigrants to fill job openings. Hospitality businesses are struggling to meet labour demands since many workers were forced to return home when the gates closed, and there is a significant backlog in visa processing.

In fact, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 51 per cent of hotel businesses report difficulty recruiting suitable personnel.

A new report from the leading shift work platform, DeputyThe Big Shift: The Changing Landscape of Australian Hospitality, reveals insights into how the hospitality industry is coping more than two years after the pandemic began, amid widespread labour shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Shift workers working multiple jobs and longer hours

Many people have taken up jobs across numerous hospitality businesses as labour shortages plague the industry. In the Deputy platform, the proportion of shift workers who worked multiple jobs in the hospitality industry peaked in July 2022 at just under 3 per cent. In addition, shift employees are working greater hours than they did on average before the pandemic or during high holiday and shopping seasons (such as Christmas), when shift workers’ hours typically peak.

According to Shashi Karunanethy, an independent labour economist, this can be attributed to the casualisation of work and increased job opportunities in the gig economy. At the same time, many workers may be compelled to expand their share of shift work in order to keep up with rising living costs, with the percentage of shift workers working multiple jobs rising in lockstep with inflation rates.

Major states hardest hit by labour shortages 

According to the data, this is especially noticeable in big areas like Victoria and New South Wales, where employers are rostering 30 per cent less shift work hours than before the outbreak. Karunanethy explains this to the presence of big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, which are hubs for education and business and hence attract more international students and overseas workers who work in hospitality. 

States that rely less on these people, such as Western Australia, have had the fastest rebound. However, these nations are not immune to labour shortages and continue to roster 10 per cent fewer shift work hours than before the outbreak.

Recovery across different hospitality businesses

Accommodations and sit-down restaurants experienced the greatest job gains and recoveries through 2022, with shift work hours increasing by 50 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Given that many Australians have avoided overseas travel, Karunanethy says they are turning to staycations and dining experiences to meet their experiential needs. On the other hand, bars and fast food outlets continue to struggle with labour shortages. 

To present, bars continue to employ 20 per cent fewer shift workers than before the pandemic. With growing price pressures from food and alcohol suppliers and problems moving to new revenue potential in takeaway and delivery services, the sector is experiencing a slew of challenges.

While food establishments are booking 40percent fewer hours than before the pandemic, this is mostly due to the industry’s adoption of food delivery models and labour-replacing technologies, resulting in fewer total shift work hours. 

Victorian fast food outlets showed the greatest decrease in shift work hours of any state. Consumer spending behaviours in the drive-through and in-app delivery purchases have now become maintained habits in the state that have been subjected to the most stay-at-home regulations.

A significant barrier for women employees 

The centrepiece reform to increase women’s labour market participation is universal daycare, with one in four potential workers citing childcare as the primary barrier to employment. As Baby Boomers and Generation X also take on childcare obligations, childcare policy will also impact older employees’ capacity to enter labour.

In the entire sector, women now make up 48 per cent of shift work hours, up from 47 per cent in 2020. Since women now work the bulk of shift work hours, cafes and coffee shops had the biggest growth for female shift employees (4 per cent). 

For more information and additional findings, access the full report here.

Visit: Deputy.

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Dynamic Business brings you the key startup fundraising from this week: 

Adobe acquires Figma for $20 billion

Software giant Adobe will purchase startup Figma for almost $20 billion in its largest transaction to date. The agreement will allow Adobe to enhance its products for creative workers.

During the pandemic, demand for Figma, which allows customers to collaborate on software as they built it, increased as more individuals worked remotely. Figma’s backers include venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures and Greylock Partners.

Sonder raises AU$35m in Series B funding

Sonder, a leading wellbeing and safety company, has today announced closing an AU$35 million Series B funding round. Blackbird Ventures led the oversubscribed round, with participation from new investors, including SEEK Investments and SecondQuarter Ventures, and existing investors.

Alongside Blackbird’s investment, Niki Scevak, Blackbird’s partner and co-founder, will join Sonder’s Board.

Kaloom Secures $21 million in Funding 

Kaloom announced it secured an additional USD 21 million from the Quebec government and current investor, Alternative Capital Group (ACG), who matched the government of Quebec’s investment.

This latest investment will support Kaloom’s go-to-market strategy and extend its current heterogeneous hardware strategy by supporting additional platforms like SmartNICs and Servers. 

Suzuki invests in Australian tech, Applied EV

Applied EV has closed the first tranche of two-part funding round, raising AUD $21M at a valuation of AUD $170M. Global automotive giant, Suzuki, has taken a strategic stake in the company. St Baker Energy and Innovation Fund is also a significant investor in this round. 

Applied EV is an Australian Technology company that has developed a vehicle control system based entirely on software known as the Digital Backbone for use in electric vehicles dedicated
to autonomous driving applications.

Agtech startup Lleaf raises $3.5 million

Lleaf, a Sydney-based agtech business, has secured $3.5 million in a seed round for its light-emitting plastics for indoor agriculture.

The financing was led by Danish investment firms ALFA Ventures and 2 Degrees, with participation from The University of New South Wales and Cicada Innovations, where Lleaf is situated.

HealthMatch lands $10 million Series C

HealthMatch, a clinical trials access startup, has raised $10 million in Series C funding. Folklore Ventures, the company’s original backer, led the round.

Square Peg Capital made an $18 million Series B investment in December 2020 and later invested in Series C. In late 2019, Square Peg also led a $6 million series A round.

OccuRx raises $16 million for kidney disease trial

OccuRx, a biotech startup, has secured $16 million to fund clinical trials for its oral medication to treat chronic kidney disease (CKD), a primary cause of death. Brandon BioCatalyst and Uniseed led the financing, which included a $1.5 million grant from biomedical incubator CUREator.            

New funding opportunities open for sustainable start-ups

Through the launch of the 2022 eco-Disruptive initiative, start-ups in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong will have the opportunity to receive money from Bupa to create pilot solutions that benefit the environment and people’s health. 

The eco-Disruptive programme, now in its second year, connects start-ups with specialised Bupa teams while providing selected start-ups with roughly $40,000 in early funding to create radical solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our world.

Selected start-ups will also compete for more than $300,000 in funding to further develop their product.

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Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is shaping up to be the corporate mantra of the 2020s, with the majority (83 per cent) of Australians concerned about climate change, according to the annual Ipsos Climate Change Report 2022. 

In Europe, we have seen the introduction of supply chain legislation that will make companies accountable for the behaviour and performance of their suppliers in a way never seen. As is the way of these things, we will no doubt be seeing a similar legislative effort on our own shores in the near future. 

The way we view our responsibilities as corporations, from the board down, is shifting. But this change has been slow. Current measures are not enough, on their own, to push corporate Australia down the necessary path to Net Zero.

Board buy-in is necessary  

Only 18 per cent of businesses have set a Net Zero goal, and of those businesses that have set a goal, only 21 per cent are taking steps to achieve it, according to research at Energy Action. That’s a fraction of the buy-in that we need.

At present, it can seem complicated and expensive for companies to get on board with Net Zero, which we know from just going through the journey ourselves.

There’s a growing demand for not only the cheapest power but the cleanest power. Before anything else, you need board buy-in. Currently, only around three in 10 Australian boards consider the Net Zero strategy a priority. To lift this number, a board-level commitment is non-negotiable.

Sometimes getting to that place can require a cultural shift, but it can be easier to achieve once you realise that solid environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) credentials aren’t just a feel-good box to tick off. Done right, ESG can be profitable and drive positive social and financial outcomes.

Steps toward Net Zero 

Net Zero certification doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult; it just requires an organised approach. In many cases, you can distribute the initial costs over time. The key steps to Net Zero energy are simple: measure, reduce, buy green, and offset. 

First, comprehensively measure your emissions. If you don’t measure what you’re currently consuming, you can’t bring that number down, and you won’t know what your offset burden will be. We thoroughly audited our last two financial years to find that number and identify several ways to reduce our energy usage.

Then, you convert your power to as many green sources as possible. Different companies will have different capacities to switch to green sources. Some might be able to install solar panels, upgrade to electric vehicles, and so forth, but everyone can change their purchasing decisions to make greener choices.

In our case, energy consumption was our biggest emissions contributor, so we were able to change our buying to mitigate that. We also switched to make the greenest possible purchasing decisions for all items we might need to run our business.

In some cases, these products may be slightly more expensive, but this is a cost distributed throughout the year, so it doesn’t have to be painful. Long-term, we hope to continue to transition to more and more Net Zero suppliers as those options come to market.

Carbon credits are the last piece of the puzzle. A range of certified credits – both nationally and internationally created – can be purchased to suit different needs and budgets.

But it all starts with board direction and the belief from the board level that Net Zero is important to the future of your business. If you aren’t there yet, you may want to consider it sooner rather than later. With investor mandates becoming more routine and consumers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of the products and services they buy.

The future; reporting, strategies, and commitment 

Current mandatory reporting, including National Greenhouse Emissions Reporting (NGERs), has been in place since 2007, but realistically this is a regulatory reporting doorstop with limited ability to change behaviour.

On the other hand, voluntary reporting through the government’s Climate Active program produces quantifiable and auditable emissions reporting but is just that – voluntary – and not without cost.

At a policy level, the challenges are that emissions reductions or, more broadly, ESG outcomes are driven by standards rather than a mandate to “achieve Net Zero”. Those standards have complicated implementations that take years to achieve and will be frustrated by paid lobby groups.

Instead, a strategy that leverages what we have already seen with domestic photovoltaic solar uptake around the country is needed. Incentives introduced in the late 2000s resulted in a vibrant and sustainable PV installation industry to this day, effecting meaningful long-term impacts on improving Australia’s energy security.

Targeted Net Zero could have the same effect. Properly supporting Climate Active certification could result in many more businesses finding innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and accelerate Australia’s Net Zero economy.

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It’s official: businesses’ poorly targeted and overly frequent communications are turning off customers.

According to recent Podium research, Australians’ tolerance for uncomfortable communication is declining in the aftermath of the pandemic. The Business-to-Customer Communications Report reveals that convenience trumps cost, with over half of Aussies willing to pay more for convenient communication with local businesses. 

Moreover, nearly three-quarters of Australians will blacklist a company that spams them. What’s to be done?

Here’s what the study finds:

  • Almost half (48 per cent) of Australians say that due to the pandemic and the digitisation of businesses, they have less tolerance for local businesses that don’t offer easy, convenient or customer-friendly means of communication. 
  • Fifty-seven per cent would be less likely to engage with a business if the channel were inconvenient. 
  • Fifty-five per cent would choose a business that offered convenient communication options, even if it was more expensive. 

Dynamic Business spoke with Dave Scheine, Country Manager, Australia at Podium, to understand more about convenient communication and how to make Email/SMS Marketing spam-free and convenient.

Make your marketing spam-proof

Dave says the key is finding a balance between quality and quantity. “Ask yourself, as a consumer, how often is too often when businesses engage with you? You don’t want to receive emails or SMS messages from them every other day, so why would your customers? It’s important to assess whether you should be sending that email or SMS based on what you have to offer to your customers,” Dave says.

“For example, don’t keep following up with the same discount or content. Instead, consider how to provide value in every interaction rather than sending a message for the sake of sending a message. By finding a happy medium that conveniently delivers quality, your customers are more likely to find your marketing useful and engaging, which will increase their loyalty to your business as a result.” 

SMS reigns supreme, email waning 

  • For 59 per cent of Australians, SMS was their primary or second choice of communication with a local business. It comes as the most convenient channel for consumers to change.
  • Younger people are more inclined towards businesses that utilise SMS to communicate.
  • Almost 50 per cent of Australians under 35 years of age are more likely to respond to a business over text and to continue to use that business in the future.
Credits: Podium

The desire of Australians to engage with local businesses has undergone one of the most significant changes. The typical Australian uses their smartphone for about two hours (119 minutes) every day, with one in four using it for at least three hours. 

Exploiting this fondness for and reliance on cell phones is a big opportunity for Australian businesses. In fact, 49 per cent of Australians believe that companies that communicate via SMS come across as more professional than those that don’t.

It happens as the channels that consumers find a most convenient shift. SMS has eclipsed email as the preferred method of communication between companies and customers. Six in ten (69 per cent) Australians say an SMS reminder has prevented them from forgetting an upcoming appointment, and three-quarters (76 per cent) say they depend on SMS reminders to handle daily activities. 

As email loses its influence, SMS becomes more valuable. In the last 24 hours, over half (46 per cent) of Australians deleted an email from a company without examining it, and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) disregarded an unauthorised call from a company in the previous week.

“Today, we live and work on our smartphones. According to Podium’s research, the average Aussie spends two to three hours daily on their phone. Convenient communication is about targeting them on platforms they’re already using,” Dave notes.

“What better way to do that than tapping into this affinity to, and reliance on, smartphones? In fact, with 55% of Aussies prioritising businesses based on convenience, and younger people more inclined towards businesses that utilise SMS to communicate, this is now more important than ever. Especially so when considering the research also revealed that three-quarters of Aussies rely on SMS reminders for day-to-day tasks.”

Consumers are losing patience with businesses that fail to cater to their preferences

  • As per the study, for businesses targeting a broader age demographic, convenient communication is just as important
  • Only 12 per cent of Australians over 55 are happy to interact in their non-preferred method.

Dave explains that asking for customer feedback is the easiest and most effective way to understand customer preferences. 

“The more your business can tailor its approach and operation to the needs and desires of your customers, the better customer experience you can provide. We’ve found that previously-effective channels like phone calls and emails are now losing traction, with methods like SMS becoming more popular because of their convenience. 

“More than half (57 per cent) of the Aussies surveyed said they’d be less likely to engage with a business if the channel were inconvenient, so take the time to find out what your customers want and cater to their needs rather than doing what works for your business. Ultimately, the more you show you’re listening to your customers and acting on their feedback, the more valued they’ll feel.” 

Convenience over cost

More than half of Australians said they would be willing to pay more for a company that provided a variety of practical communications. Most Australians prioritise convenience over price, with 55 per cent choosing businesses based on convenience even if they were more expensive than a rival.

“Australia is home to millions of innovative local businesses, but it’s not easy to compete on price or product in a saturated market. Our research shows that many consumers now judge businesses based on communication, with many willing to pay more money for a more convenient experience,” commented Dave

Stop the spam: Key takeaway

Emphasising the importance of convenience for consumers today, Dave says, “Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the extent to which Aussies demand convenience today. 

“Cost has always been a determining factor when choosing a business, but over half would choose a business that offered convenient communication options, even if it was more expensive. This is incredibly important learning for local businesses and should be viewed as an opportunity, not a challenge. 

“The more convenient your business engages with it, the more your customers’ affinity with it will grow. Today, as global economic pressures loom, convenience can be an easy and cost-effective way to drive real value for your customers and, by extension, your business.”
For more data, including state-by-state breakdowns, view the report here

Visit Podium here.

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