[@OKau] Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special

Steven De Costa steven.decosta at linkdigital.com.au
Tue Feb 23 23:15:47 UTC 2016

Always great to have you share your experience and insight Rosie :)

On the article, it is quite antagonistic but understandable all the same.
I've run into a number of startup founders over the last few years, mostly
outside Australia, and they do present themselves as pretty special folk.
However, you just need to appreciate that they really do need to focus on
selling their ideas and vision in order to gain the backing they hope to
achieve. This naturally translates into common attitudes which I think the
article is attempting to debunk - but I find that outside particular
bubbles no one really believes the hype surrounding startup pitches.
Experienced folk only pay attention to the substance within the pitch.

Regarding open data businesses in Australia I do see a lot of opportunity.
I agree that establishing an open data channel for service or product
revenue within an established company is much more sustainable that
starting something fresh which is entirely dependent on revenue from open
data initiatives.

There are many emerging sectors where open data has gained some footholds.
That is, organisations are happy to allocate a budget for engagement on
initiatives. My short list would be:

Government - both jurisdictional 'whole of Govt' and agencies. This is
different in federal, state and council jurisdictions but there is enough
momentum that work can be found if you are able to build a profile for the
services and products you can provide.

Academia - the cross over between open data and open access is substantial.
With changes to research grant approvals being put in place to emphasise
market ready research, open data based innovations that link back to
academic research activities are an easy economic win. Now is a good time
to talk with research teams to learn about their work and help them design
ways that the value of their research can deliver more value published
within an open or public data model.

Corporate - large corporate operations face similar scrutiny from the
public as Government operations. Publicly trading companies and companies
with large consumer numbers have a need for more efficient disclosure. The
same tools and techniques that have matured within the open Government data
sector can be applied within such corporate environments.

NGOs - taking the success stories from initiatives that are being run in
developing economies by NGOs and replicating the approach within Australia
and our surrounding region is somewhat daunting, but not impossible. I
think that this will be an area of work that will grow quickly once it
takes off.

Self starting initiatives - I think this is likely where people begin when
looking for opportunities to develop value with open data and attempt to
establish revenue to sustain their work. Among this short list it is
probably the hardest form of work to secure. After building a profile for
my company over the last 14 years, and more recently around AWS and open
data since 2012, we've only just secured our first paying job to build
something designed entirely from our own ideas. Doing this requires an
enormous amount of stakeholder management and substantial risk. I suspect
it will be our most rewarding work, but it wont really pay staff wages for
at least two years.

In general, every contract is special. They pay wages, subsidise work to
build greater capability and it is a very long game you need to play. All
the while you remain terrified because any multinational with the slightest
understanding of how to engage in this space could easily swoop in and take
your contracts. As such, you need to pitch and deliver everything at the
enterprise level.

It is a great and worthwhile challenge which I think Australian companies
are well placed to tackle. We actually have the beginnings of a national
open data infrastructure in place today. With a little more work over the
years ahead Australia could have the best and most effective model for
publishing open data from all three tiers of Government, synthesised via
common standards, with open data from corporate, academic and community
generated sources increasing the total value of our infrastructure.


*EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR*www.linkdigital.com.au

On 24 February 2016 at 09:14, Rosie Williams <BudgetAus at hotmail.com> wrote:

> How do you see this as relevant and contributing to the understanding of
> open knowledge Lachlan?
> Speaking of business models, I've come round to the realisation that doing
> open data as a business product/service (unless you are an already
> established business with established customer base ie not a startup) is
> not a realistic way to be doing open data anymore than expecting to start
> organisations on alternative bases such as cooperatives or charities and
> achieve things within a short timeframe. After all just look how long it
> took for the OKFNAu to get incorporated, much less set up a sustainable
> financial model to fund new open knowledge projects.  Now apply that level
> of challenge to a team of maybe one or more open knowledge advocates trying
> to establish similar organisations.
> Trying to establish an organisation to accomplish goals whether it is
> under an ABN or ACN is a difficult process which is why there are so few
> open data projects  for financial and political transparency other than my
> own and so few open data projects generally. Even the OpenAustralia
> Foundation gets income from selling some of their services/products so the
> line between what is a 'startup' and any other type of organisation trying
> to make open data projects survive is pretty slim.
> This is why so few gov hacks go on to form the basis of future projects-
> because of the challenges inherent in creating financial sustainability for
> those creating and implementing them. If they require very little in the
> way of upkeep (and therefore not require full time labour) that might be
> plausible to continue them but most things that have value have value for
> the reason that they do require significant investment of labour and
> expertise. When people only ever spend a weekend mocking up apps, I'm not
> sure that gives the true picture of the ongoing labour, expertise and
> lobbying required to make projects an ongoing success. For example issues
> in the data may not be noticeable in hack events and only come to light
> when more serious/ongoing engagement with the data occurs.
> A better example is to compare your average hacker's daily work which
> requires full time commitment, a multidisciplinary team, management,
> contracts etc all of which are deemed necessary in order to create and
> maintain successful projects. That open data projects are so often
> considered not to need these things to achieve the same level of stability
> and success is something I've always found quite interesting.
> From my own experience, requiring one person to lobby to release data-
> wait for that release which may be months or years into the future, collect
> data (perhaps from multiple agency sites, clean it, design and write
> database backed websites, promote it etc puts everything on the shoulders
> of one person or at best a very small team. Open source projects hope to
> encourage volunteers to do the actual coding for free but those I know of
> struggle to recruit people willing to do that.  I certainly went down that
> road when I first launched some months ago now, but found it untenable
> given the short time frame put on me to prove my success.
> Much open data needs tweaking in order to be made serious use of which can
> only take place in consultation with agencies publishing the data. It is
> not just a matter of agencies saying here is the data and that's that, but
> of a process of engagement where those working with the data can give
> feedback as to how the data can be improved. This goes right the way into
> making submissions to inquiries into agency annual reports or budget data
> sets (for example) where you are actually changing the information that
> eventually ends up as open data.
> This sort of thing requires serious ongoing commitment and a decent level
> of expertise in the matters at hand. Very few people  in Australia actually
> run ongoing open data projects to know what it involves. Most people work
> day jobs doing other things (which may or may not be related to open data).
> I do have a plan for going forward so that the accumulated expertise (not
> to mention technological output) I have created is not lost at such a
> crucial stage as the leadup to the National Action Plan however it is only
> in considering a different role than maintaining finished and regularly
> updated commercial grade open data projects that I have realised just what
> a burden I was placing upon myself.
> Having said that, without having done what I have over the past six months
> I doubt I'd be in a position to carry on in the way I intend. I'll post
> more about that another time.
> cheers
> Rosie
> ------------------------------
> *From:* okfn-au <okfn-au-bounces at lists.okfn.org> on behalf of Lachlan
> Musicman <datakid at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, 23 February 2016 11:03 PM
> *To:* A List for Open Knowledge Networks in Australia.
> *Cc:* Maia Sauren
> *Subject:* [@OKau] Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special
> https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt
> <https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt>
> Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special. — Life ...
> <https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt>
> medium.com
> Building A Startup Doesn't Make You Special. Nobody owes you shit. I know
> startups are cool right now. They’re incredibly hot, they've broken into
> the mainstream ...
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