PR: StartCon unveils first international speakers and claims Software is eating itself

SYDNEY, August 22, 2017: StartCon today announces top international speakers from Pinterest, SkyScanner, Dribbble, ClassPass, Moz and Segment as part of the initial lineup for Australia’s largest startup & growth conference.

Six years ago this month, Marc Andreessen published “Software is eating the world”, predicting the rise of disruptive technology companies such as Uber, Facebook, Google, Netflix, AirBnB and, which would transform entire industry categories.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Software is eating itself’ - where the, once disruptive, companies are now eating each other. These goliaths are stumbling into each other’s markets chasing the next customer. They are facing threats from new nimble competitors, established incumbents, increased regulation, growing pains, internal turmoil, dysfunctional board dynamics and conflict with investors.

Uber ate the taxi industry with Lyft yapping at its heels, Didi ate Uber in China, now Uber’s latest fiasco sees one of its early investors, Benchmark, suing to ensure Travis Kalanick no longer has control of the board, potentially eating into its investment. Tesla has announced that its autopilot feature cannot be used on ridesharing networks like Uber, and will only be able to be used on the Tesla network- and now Apple is rumoured to be making a car!

Andreessen said these new software companies would need to “build strong cultures, delight customers, establish their own competitive advantages and, yes, justify their rising valuations”. Now we’re starting to see that one of the primary competitive advantages they’ve achieved is the size of their user bases, which allows them to rapidly cannibalize each other's markets. This scale has allowed Facebook’s Instagram to copy Snapchat and almost instantly deliver 250m daily active users for its clone of the ‘Stories’ feature.

In the $2 trillion-dollar entertainment industry, Apple announced a $1 billion content war chest to take a bite out of Netflix and traditional television. At the same time, Amazon is now venturing into live sports streaming with the rights to ATP Tour tennis and NFL Thursday Night Football. Now Facebook has announced Watch, which lets you watch original videos on the Facebook platform- competing with cable TV right through to Google’s YouTube. It’s the battle of the titans!

Returning to Sydney for the 7th year in a row, on the 1st & 2nd of December at Royal Randwick Racecourse, StartCon promises content that will give Australian startups a better chance at becoming the next big disruptor. The lineup will feature speakers who are at the forefront of innovation, including John Egan- Engineering Manager at Pinterest, Yara Paoli- VP Growth at SkyScanner, Sarah Bird- CEO of Moz, Guillaume Cabane- VP Growth at Segment, Joanna Lord- CMO at ClassPass and Zack Onisko, CEO at Dribbble.

Pinterest is the world’s largest catalogue of ideas. Moz is the world’s leader in search marketing software. Dribbble is a top 1,000 website and exclusive community for the world's top designers. Segment, which has recently raised $64M in series C, provides a single place for companies to collect customer data. SkyScanner is a global travel search website that raised $192M and was acquired by ctrip last year. ClassPass is the leading membership to the world’s largest fitness network.

The conference, which is expected to sell out for the seventh year running with 4000 attendees, lasts 2 days, with over 15 international tech superstars sharing their knowledge and experience with the Australian tech and entrepreneurial community. The event will include:

  • Over 60 world class speakers in technology, entrepreneurship, growth, marketing, design, engineering and corporate innovation

  • 6 dedicated speaking tracks designed for early-stage startups, high-growth companies, designers, engineers, corporate innovation teams, and investors

  • A 150-booth expo showcasing the biggest technology names and a large startup alley with high-growth Australian startups

  • The largest startup pitch competition in the country, where over 100 startups will compete for the chance to go the USA representing Australia in the Startup World Cup with a grand prize of $1M in investment

  • A two day hackathon where teams compete to solve complex problems facing Australia.

  • The 2nd Annual Australasian Startup Awards, where leading and emerging technology companies in the APAc region are nominated and awarded at the event

Cheryl Mack, Head of StartCon, said, "With Alexa in our living room and smart computers in our pocket, it's safe to say Marc Andreessen was right. Now though we're seeing a battle to stay at the top and supply the tech for all our needs. And we think Australian startups could be in a position to disrupt the disruptors as Gafa and the Valley (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, etc) focus more on each other.

"We’ve brought incredible international speakers to Australian audiences for the last seven years and this year will be no different. We understand the importance of staying current with what is happening in the technology industry, and our theme reflects this. It’s important to the success of the ecosystem that local startups gain access to this calibre of speakers."

Early-Bird Tickets to StartCon 2017 can be purchased here. For more information about Early-Bird Tickets, conference information and upcoming events visit the StartCon website.

The first lineup of speakers includes:


John Egan - Growth Engineering Manager at Pinterest
Increased monthly active users by over 10 million for the world’s largest catalogue of ideas

As Engineering Manager, John leads the Notifications Team which has cumulatively added millions of active users. Previously, he led the growth team at Shopkick, a mobile loyalty app which was acquired by SK Planet for $200M, where he helped grow the userbase from 1M to 8M primarily through invites, geofencing, & push notifications.

Sarah Bird - CEO at Moz
Oversaw the growth of Moz from a few hundred customers to revenue over $40M

Sarah has helped grow Moz, the world leader in search marketing software, from a few hundred customers to becoming the world’s largest and most passionate community of online marketers with over two million visits to the Moz blog each month. Sarah is a top advocate for gender equality, in 2014 she was invited to share Moz’s workplace practices at the White House Summit.  

Zack Onisko - CEO at Dribbble
Achieved 1600% revenue growth in his first year at his previous company, now leading the team at Dribbble

Zack is a top 50 growth marketer in the world by Tradecraft and a startup growth professional with nearly 15 years under his belt. He's currently CEO at Dribbble, a top 1,000 website and exclusive community for the world's top designers. Previously he was VP of Growth at Hired, Chief Growth Officer at Creative Market, and Head of Growth at BranchOut.

Joanna Lord - CMO at ClassPass
Leads the marketing team that has booked 35 million classes to date, revolutionizing the fitness class industry

Joanna mentors start-ups for TechStars, NEXT, UP Global, and Startup Weekend. She contributes to and and was previously VP of Marketing at Porch, a leading consumer marketplace for homeowners, and CMO of BigDoor, an enterprise software solution serving companies like Starbucks, CBS, and the NFL.  

Guillaume Cabane - VP Growth at Segment
Leads the growth team servicing 15,000 corporate customers including Atlassian & Gap

With 15 years experience in Growth Marketing, Guillaume has a strong return on investment focus and is an expert in covering B2B SaaS growth marketing. Previously he worked at Apple as the Business Development Manager for Europe Online B2B. His focus is on marketing automation, scalable personalized marketing, and multi-touch attribution.

Yara Paoli - VP Growth of Skyscanner
Helped grow the company to over 60M monthly active users

Yara heads up the global growth team and the APAC region which has grown 200% YOY in South Korea. With over 11 years of experience in growth, marketing strategy, paid media, mobile marketing, campaigns management and content flow optimisation, she focuses on delivering sustainable hyper-growth for SkyScanner across its offices all over the world.

About StartCon

StartCon (formerly SydStart) is the largest Australian startup and growth conference, expo and entrepreneur community, established in 2009. The StartCon community has been supported by since 2011. Around 5,000 tech startup professionals, investors and ecosystem participants have already experienced StartCon events. Andrew Chen from Uber and NASA's Director of Advanced Explorations Systems, Jason Crusan, headlined the event in 2016.

The StartCon conference, held November 26 & 27th in 2016 at Royal Randwick Racecourse, attracted over 3,000 attendees. The conference was designed to enrich Australia’s technology and entrepreneurship sector by providing a forum for entrepreneurs and startups to learn from leading technology founders.

In 2017, StartCon continues to host monthly high quality events regularly at the offices in Sydney CBD. For further details see

About Freelancer ®

Ten-time Webby award-winning is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by total number of users and projects posted. More than 25 million registered users have posted over 12 million jobs and contests to date in over 1,000 areas as diverse as website development, logo design, marketing, copywriting, astrophysics, aerospace engineering and manufacturing. Freelancer owns StartCon, Australia's largest startup conference, expo and entrepreneur community established in 2009,, the world’s largest Internet marketing community & marketplace and, the world’s largest provider of  secure online escrow and online transaction management for consumers and businesses on the Internet. Freelancer Limited is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange under the ticker ASX:FLN.

How to Increase Conversions Through Personalization

We chatted to our 5th Speaker, VP of Growth of a data-driven marketing company on how he increased conversions down the funnel. 

A year ago our Growth team started using third-party data to create hyper-personalized experiences throughout the funnel, driving a dramatic increase in conversion rates.

We started at the bottom of the funnel (where there is more first-party data) and worked our way up. From our website to Livechat, from the signup experience to the onboarding emails, we drove massive conversion improvements.

What's next once the funnel is optimized with extremely personalized and relevant messaging? We are continuing our path upwards, before the beginning of the funnel. We're identifying, scoring and messaging individuals within specific companies before even themselves know about us. Before they even know they need us.

We're building a machine that contacts the right person at the right company at the right time with the right message. Just like the best sales rep would do - but at scale.

Want to hear more? Register for our Early Bird Tickets here. We're giving the first 100 sign ups a special offer. 

Why You Need Company Culture

Our 4th speaker is passionate about culture, and attributes it as a key factor to her company's success. By incorporating and reinforcing culture, she believes that all startups can benefit. She shares with us some of the benefits of creating and living your company culture every day.

Culture is essentially how do things get done around here. Are you conscious of your culture? If not, you might want to start. Here are 3 reasons why you need to define your company culture:

1. Efficient Communication - By setting out your team or company values, you have an already agreed upon criteria when judging success. By referring to the set values you can quickly reach the bottom line, explain decision-making choices and shorten up discussions.

2. Engagement - We want to keep everyone fully locked on, when they are engaged they care, when they care, they speak their minds. They will offer things and work hard, which is much better than someone who doesn't care and keeps their head down to 'just do their job'. Culture can increase engagement because we share what we care about. 

3. Attracting the Right People - whether you are conscious of it or not, you hang out with people who have the same values as you. If your employees have these values, those around them are likely to share the same values as your company, making referrals more qualified. Externally, you want to work with vendors who are like you, you want to work with people who think and share the same values. By putting your values out there, you begin to attract people internally and externally who can relate to them. 

Want to hear more? Register for our Early Bird Tickets here. We're giving the first 100 sign ups a special offer. 


Design Thinking - First Steps Startups Should Take

Our 3rd speaker shared with us the importance of understanding your customers needs when designing your product or service. 

Talk to your users. Understand their needs ahead of your business needs. Empathy is at the heart of design thinking, which sometimes gets lost in our day to day of building charts, geeking out over queries, pivot tables, lining up the next a/b test...

If you’re only looking at raw numbers you can get drunk on conversion rates and to get just a few more people to do a thing. If you want long-term, sustainable growth – It’s essential that you focus on the user’s needs and the core, intrinsic value that you bring to them. 

The concept of “design thinking” is a human-centered, prototype-driven process for innovation that can be applied to a product, service, and business design. It's an approach that should be used when designing anything meant to be used by another person—whether that’s a Facebook ad, landing page, onboarding flow, or check-out flow—to understand what that end-user needs. 

We all know that product/market fit is the pre-requisite for growth, yet so many startups fail to achieve it. Design thinking leads you to understand how to make things people want – Which is much easier and has greater odds of success than trying to make people want your thing. 

Want to hear more? Register for our Early Bird Tickets here. We're giving the first 100 sign ups a special offer. 

How to Build Brand Loyalty

We caught up with our second speaker, CMO of a huge disruptor in the fitness industry on how she built brand loyalty. Stay tuned on the 22nd of August for when we announce our first 6 international speakers and our Early Bird Tickets! 

1. Invest in your community - We aimed at connecting our fitness enthusiasts and the studio owners through events, virtual dialog, and surprise and delight moments. We invested a lot in getting face time with those power users that love our product and also have a ton of great feedback for us to lean on and learn from. Having the dialog running transparently with our consumers and our studio owners has been a key to our brand success.

2.  Celebrate your community’s accomplishments - We run 1,000 club dinners and 500 club events to celebrate those members that hit 1,000 classes or 500 on our platform. We want them to feel special, and we want them to associate us as the brand celebrating them and their accomplishments. In doing that we are so much more than a company, we’re the friend standing next to you reminding you how amazing you are.

3. Invest in beautiful design and copy - Great brands need to be shared, and people share beautiful stories. We work hard but we also have fun, we want fitness to be a great, uplifting experience and we try to bring that joy to every customer touchpoint. This includes marketing but also product touch points and offline ones. By committing to design and great copy early, our brand stood out as one you wanted to be a part of.

Want to hear more? Register here for a 50% discount on our full price tickets (only for the first 100 sign ups!). 

For exclusive insights from this year's lineup, sign up to our mailing list below!



3 Ways to Reactivate Dormant Users

We chatted with John Egan, Growth Engineer at Pinterest on ways to reactivate dormant users. John and his Growth team have reactivated over 10 million dormant users on Pinterest, primarily through push notifications. 

1) Try having their friends re-invite them back to the platform. Facebook surfaces low engaged/dormant users in the "People You May Know" list, to try and get you to send a friend request to them.

2) Leverage holidays or other seasonal events. Many retailers have sophisticated email campaigns in October/November as the holiday shopping season starts to ramp up. Facebook has had success with birthdays and "Year in Review" as hooks to re-engage dormant users.

3) Make sure you optimise your login and password reset flows. You would be amazed at how many potential users you're losing because they can't remember their login information. Look at your login funnel the same way you would look at your signup funnel.

Herry Wiputra - Scaling Growth Teams

How to scale your teams to create effective growth.

Herry Wiputra is the CTO of Campaign Monitor, also known as the "Apple of email marketing". While they've enjoyed exponential growth, they’ve had their hiccups too, including unwieldy code that took a long time to update. He shares how his role shaped their team structure and has helped create scalable growth. 

How do you scale?

The first thing to remember, Herry said, is that the most important thing is to be responsive to change – you need to be able to adapt to change quickly. How do you create a team structure that facilitates that? Herry gave us five areas which you can work on. 


What do you need in terms of culture? You need something flexible, where people know each other and can comfortably communicate. You need a system that bypasses outdated ideas of hierarchy and instead embraces a system where the value of each contributor is understood and used.

When it comes to managers, you need people who are willing to facilitate learning and inspire their team members – not people who just come up with ideas and expect others to execute.


The conventional wisdom is that you should hire the most intelligent people, right? But Herry suggests a different set of criteria. It doesn’t matter how intelligent someone is if they won’t work within a team. You need to look for people who are willing to step outside of their own competencies and teach and learn from others. People who can not just cooperate, but collaborate with others. You need what he calls “T-shaped people”.

In other words, don’t employ people who just want to do their own thing. They won’t be willing to work in the kind of environment you need to create a responsive, flexible team.


You need to get rid of teams which are focused on areas like “design” or “development”. Instead, you need teams which combine all of these roles – cross-functional teams with members who complement each other, so that they can work on a problem together. And instead of a separate quality assurance team, you need to make everyone accountable for their work. “Quality is the responsibility of everyone,” Herry says.



You also need to think about your process. Does everyone know what everyone else is doing? Is it clear what the purpose of the work is and what the key results you need are? Something like a Kanban board for each individual will help focus their priorities, increase transparency and get everyone working towards the same goals.


Herry quotes Conway’s law: “Any organisation that designs a system will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organisation’s communication structure.”

In other words, if you have an unwieldy, hierarchical structure, then that’s the kind of system you’re stuck with. He challenges us to think differently.



Key takeaways:

· Refresh your company structure. Get cross-functional individuals working in cross-functional teams to see the best results.

· Manage effectively. Don’t set up a hierarchy of management - make small effective teams who inspire and encourage each other, and where managers are a part of the team.

· The structure of your organization will be reflected in the product. If your hierarchical structure is difficult to navigate, then your product will be the same. Renewing your company structure is not a dead end: it’ll help renew your product as well.

Nazar Musa - Investing, Growth & Acquisitions

What are the keys to growth in any industry? Happy customers and even happier employees.

Nazar Musa has over 20 years of experience in the online and travel industry and he has demonstrated success driving multimillion dollar sales growth and award winning sales and marketing leadership in many markets. 

He’s the former General Manager and Regional CEO of LivingSocial and he’s now CEO of Medical Channel, a digital OOH media company that provides content to digital display screens in health practices.

Watch the talk here:


Being acquired and acquiring

Nazar has been on both sides of an acquisition. He spent 6 months at the height of the daily deals frenzy building and priming the travel vertical of his own deals business to be bought out. The secret? Know who you want to be bought by, then structure your business and processes after that. Being an early stage startup, the two key factors for valuation is revenue and scalability. By increasing the price of average sales through selling 5-star hotel deals, Nazar was able to raise the overall revenue, becoming an even more attractive investment to be acquired. 

On the flip side, Nazar acquired the Community Network last year as part of Medical Channel's growth strategy. The $25million acquisition of their major competitor gave them scale and advertising opportunities across the nation. However, as with most acquisitions that initially look perfect on paper, the integration challenges soon came. The first was to rapidly grow the employee base from 9 to 90 over 5 months (hire someone you trust, and then let them do their job). Nazar balanced that with the bigger challenge of repairing broken relationships from Community Network. By taking the time to talk to upset advertisers and medical practices, he was able to empathise with them and solve their problems. As simple as it sounds, listening to your stakeholders and acting on their requests converts them to clients for life.

Growing the LivingSocial brand

As the Regional Manager of Asia for LivingSocial, Nazar oversaw the growth of its portfolio of acquired brands. Each country was distinct from the next, which meant that to compete, Nazar hired local experts who knew the market in depth, and then proceeded to create relevant products for those customers. 

His second lesson, become a karaoke master. Jokes aside, relationship building is extremely important to get business done in Asia. Cultivating the right relationships through social events along with leveraging social media influencers who were popular in the market were propellers that grew LivingSocial's brand against Groupon in countries like Korea and Thailand.  

Bringing things offline

While tech companies are all the rage, Nazar also dabbled in starting his own boxing gym in Singapore with great success. To test whether there was a market, he created a fake page for the gym and spent $20 on Facebook ads over 7 days targeting potential customers in a 4km radius of the destined location. A set target of 100 likes would validate his new business idea. Overnight, the page received an astounding 400 likes and in 4 days another 600. That was more than enough validation for Nazar to open up his gym. 

It might have been well-crafted copy, the perfect location, or that he just got lucky, but Nazar shows how we can utilise lean startup methodologies and a very low budget to validate new ideas before executing. 

Key takeaways

  • Never forget you're serving a customer and a merchant- at the end of the day, if you are a marketplace, you have to understand your customers and merchants and make sure they're are satisfied to be profitable.
  • Capital comes to good businesses- there is an abundance of capital all over the world, if you have a good idea and you can prove traction or a path to revenue, you'll be able to get capital (and this applies whether you are in tech or not!)
  • Keep your employees engaged and happy- they are your biggest asset, build an environment they want to stay and grow in. If you hire people smarter than you, and let them do what they do best, the revenue will come. 
  • Be nice to people- whether they are investors or clients, always be nice to people as you never know where you'll meet them down the road.

StartCon 2017 Dates Are Out!

StartCon has officially launched its 2017 dates - and we're thoroughly excited about it! This year, Australia's largest startup and growth confernce will be held on December 1st & 2nd at the Randwick Racecourse. And it's going to be bigger and better than ever before.

Last year we moved StartCon to a bigger venue and saw 3,000+ startups, investors, growth hackers, and international speakers flow through our doors. This year we're expecting nearly 4,000 to attend, as we continue to be the largest gathering of startups, entrepreneurs, investors, media, and corporate innovation teams in the country.  So if you're thinking of waiting til the last minute to grab those tickets, you might have another think coming. 

StartCon has sold out six years in a row, and 2017 will be no different. 

So what can you expect from the most anticipated Startup event of the year? 

StartCon is the crème de la crème of startup and technology events, where hustlers, hackers, and wannabe unicorns unite to pitch, exhibit their wares, and learn from the best global talent. Oh, and did you hear about those funding rounds that were initiated at StartCon 2016? Investors, we're looking at you.

Over the jam-packed 2-day event, 500+ startups, 150+ exhibitors, and 60+ speakers will navigate through 4 levels of exhibition, pitch competition, stages, and party like entrepreneurs afterwards. Also, this year, stealing our unicorns will not be tolerated. 

Attendees and speakers jet in from all over the globe, some of our past speakers include top growth leaders at Uber, NASA, SurveyMonkey, Zillow, Twilio, 500 Startups, Growth Hackers, Pinterest, Atlassian, BitTorrent, Alibaba and more. This year's lineup is set to be even BIGGER with huge name speakers who are shaking things up beyond Silicon Valley.

There are too many takeaways from StartCon to list, but key highlights include notebooks full of actionable insights from our rockstar speakers, a case full of new business cards and contacts, new customers, exposure to new ideas and technology... and massive amounts of swag.

In the upcoming weeks we'll be launching ticket sales and making some HUGE announcements on keynote speakers, so stay tuned and get in quick for those Early Bird Tickets (soon to drop!). 

Oh, and if you're looking for amazing ticket deals and want to be the first to hear about new speakers, use the button below to subscribe... Go on, you know you want to.

Other important stuff: If you're involved in the startup/growth industry and want to partner with StartCon, we have a myriad of different ways for you to get involved. We love sponsors and community partners (without you StartCon wouldn't be the same). If you're interested in getting involved, please contact us here.