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Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts

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When you are the founder of a young startup, it is always very hard to gauge the right amount of effort to dedicate to marketing. Botch it and you risk looking unprofessional. Hire a traditional agency and you might be wasting time and money.

Australian growth marketing agency Ammo, in contrast, wants to make sure that its clients aren’t overinvesting nor underinvesting. Geared toward tech startups, it boasts that it has “supercharged the growth of over 200 innovative businesses,” from fintech and SaaS to hardware.

Ammo is based in Perth and an active member of Western Australia’s startup community, where it is “very highly regarded,” in the words of the survey respondent who recommended it to TechCrunch. But if that person decided to work with Ammo, they said it’s because “their results spoke.” (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)

After reading this, we reached out to Ammo’s director Cam Sinclair for insights on early-stage brand development, marketing readiness and more. Check out our interview below:

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us an overview of Ammo?

Cam Sinclair: Ammo is a growth marketing team based in Perth, Western Australia. We work with startups and innovative businesses to help them set and reach their growth goals.

Cam Sinclair

Cam Sinclair. Image Credits: Aline Kuba(opens in a new window)

We’ve been in this community for seven years now, and have a small, lean team from a variety of backgrounds — none of which are traditional marketing.

As a nerdy kid I loved tech and was fascinated by how business works. I always knew I wanted to find some way to help founders and innovators get their great ideas out into the world. After working in political campaigns, I realized that many of the skillsets overlapped with what startups need: moving fast, being lean, communicating well, being adaptable and staying flexible.

That inspired me to grow an “anti-agency” where startup founders could genuinely feel like they had someone on their team who understood their challenges and the risks they were taking.

How do you collaborate with startups?

Our services cater to every stage of the founder journey. When you’re starting, you’ll need a brand, strategy and the marketing infrastructure to reach early customers. As you’re growing, you’ll need ongoing marketing campaigns and automation that bolsters your funnel. As you’re maturing, you’ll need the broader reach that PR and ongoing strategic advice provides.

We like to keep engagements as flexible as possible because startups are always discovering new marketing opportunities or customer needs. Some relationships are ongoing, others are quick projects completed in a week. Our long-term relationships start with a growth strategy workshop, where we identify a north star metric so that everyone is pulling in the same direction from day one.

Our workshops help startup teams design a customer journey using the pirate metrics framework and turn that into a clear, step-by-step action plan which they can implement or outsource.


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There’s a survey on your site that encourages companies to check whether they are “ready for growth marketing.” What are the high-level points that make a company ready?

It’s really about having a small number of early fanatical customers — evangelists. Many people call it product-market-fit, but it’s really customer fit.

There is little point in lighting a rocket under a startup to grow and reach a wide audience without a clear, confident direction. Sure, you might get somewhere fast, but where are you going?

We’ve made the mistake of taking on clients who were too early for growth, so we know how important it is to say “no” when it’s not a good fit. We can direct all the traffic in the world to your website, but without customer fit you’ll be fighting for every sale.

Startups need to get a few things right to be primed for growth. Not every startup will be ready for what we can do for them. We’re focused on our own customer fit too.

For one-on-one work, who are your typical clients? 

Our most successful relationships are with startups who have already established customer fit and are looking to grow quickly. We work with B2B and B2C SaaS companies, as well as more traditional businesses who are looking to disrupt the way things are done in their industry.

We’ve grown startups in Australia and abroad, including neuroscience startup Humm, based in Berkeley, California. We worked with them to identify early customers and preorder channels while they were gathering initial investment, build a learning/experimenting system within the team as they grew and, more recently, provide advisory at a strategic level.

What mistakes do you help startups avoid when it comes to branding? 

After working with over 230 startups, we know what works and what doesn’t. Our clients work with us because they know we can help them avoid the pitfalls that inexperienced founders regularly fall into and make the most of the tight budgets that startups run on.

Marketing agencies are taking money that startups don’t have to build brand identities that startups don’t need. We would much prefer to see those resources invested into building their product and talking to their customers.

That said, it’s important for a landing page or slide deck to be believable to customers, investors and partners — and when startups underinvest in their branding, people are less likely to hand over their attention, email address and money.

For example, some clients often don’t even have suitable logo files or a wide enough color palette to create websites that effectively convert people into customers. If someone can’t clearly see your “sign-up” button when they land on your website because everything on your website is blue, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.

Can you explain why you advise startups to create a “minimum viable brand”? 

The temptation in the startup world is to use a freelancer through an online marketplace (or even worse — letting an overenthusiastic employee create a logo in PowerPoint). But this usually results in a surface-level logo design without any consideration for how it might develop over time or fit within a larger brand identity.

Other startups might work with an agency to create a brand identity, and this can lead to brand overkill — stationery kits, photography, lofty mission statements and endless meetings. None of which pre-seed startups need yet. This process wastes time and money better spent elsewhere and traps pivoting startups with an expensive brand that can’t evolve as they do.

We take branding processes used by world-class agencies and distill it down to the core parts of the brand you need right now. This leads to a minimum viable brand identity that’s built to grow and created with the expectation that it will change as your startup does. It’s inspired by lean methodology and the minimum viable product (MVP) — it’s built to challenge assumptions and catch the attention of customers without overinvesting.

What’s the process you follow to help startups develop their minimum viable brand?

Initially we help them come up with a name.

Naming is important so we generally invest time into this part to avoid changing it in the future if possible. We want to make sure it meets the basic principles of distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, easy spelling and pronunciation, likeability, extendibility and protectability (based on Marty Neumeier’s branding-in-business book Zag).

From there we design a logo. A good logomark (the “icon” part of the logo) is generally figurative and not literal. It should be scalable, simple and work in multiple environments including single color black or white. The logo is then complemented with brand color selections, fonts and simple imagery direction to create a basic but useful brand guide.

Most importantly, we believe your startup’s brand guidelines should be available publicly online, rather than in a PDF hidden in a folder on your Dropbox. Somewhere that you can direct your team members and partners to so you can ensure everyone can maintain brand consistency.

How does Ammo compare to having an in-house CMO?

Like a CMO, we’re strategic. But unlike a CMO, we have experience with hundreds of startups across dozens of industries — we can pull insights and lessons from unexpected places when we’re working with clients.

While we align closely with commercial goals like an in-house CMO, we also know the importance for startups to move quickly. That’s why everyone at Ammo rolls up their sleeves and gets things done for our clients.

We don’t have the mindset of taking months to develop an annual marketing strategy, we want to help our clients get in front of customers quickly, collect valuable data along the way and stay nimble to adapt when they need it.

How do you and your clients measure your impact?

At Ammo, we don’t measure time, we measure outcomes. At the start of every project we define what success looks like with the client. Every client is different, and we’re responsive to that. We check back in with ongoing clients in monthly meetings to see how we’re tracking toward the success metric we agreed on, adjusting as necessary.

All of this is measured through quantitative analytics, qualitative feedback from customers and gut instinct.

In the past we have described our role as making ourselves obsolete — that our clients would grow large enough to be able to hire their own in-house marketing team. Today we still retain many of these client relationships in different ways, by providing more strategic advice. Those long-term relationships are the greatest indication to us that we’ve had a valuable impact.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/20/australian-growth-marketing-agency-ammo-helps-startups-calibrate-their-efforts/

Aerospace

TrustPoint raises $2 million for GPS alternative

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SAN FRANCISCO – TrustPoint Inc., a startup developing a global navigation satellite system (GNSS), has raised $2 million in seed funding from venture capital firm DCVC.

With the funding announced Oct. 18, TrustPoint plans to expand its engineering team, continue developing core technologies, including satellite payload testing, and extend key partnerships.

Heavy global reliance on GPS, Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s Glonass and China’s Beidou for everything from communications and transaction timing to maritime and aircraft navigation is prompting companies and government agencies to look for backups and alternatives.

TrustPoint founders Patrick Shannon, a former Astro Digital vice president, and Chris DeMay, former Hawkeye 360 founder and chief technology officer, said GPS alternatives are necessary because the current system is inaccurate, slow, unencrypted, and susceptible to jamming and spoofing. What’s more, GNSS systems alone are not precise enough for many of the emerging commercial applications like drone delivery, self-driving cars, urban air transportation and augmented reality, Shannon and DeMay said.

TrustPoint’s GNSS alternative is intended to provide government and commercial customers with improved service, security and reliability. Promised improvements “include better accuracy, quicker time to first fix, and anti-spoof and anti-jam capabilities,” according to the news release.

“NewSpace startups have been successfully revolutionizing a host of space applications, like launch, earth observation and communications for the past decade,” Patrick Shannon, TrustPoint co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Our effort to develop a fully commercial GNSS service is the logical next step to this trend, a much-needed layer of security for today’s GPS users, and an enabler for nascent applications in the autonomous navigation sector.”

DCVC Partner Chris Boshuizen, who led the firm’s investment in TrustPoint, said in a statement, “It’s easy to imagine TrustPoint’s innovative and fast-evolving commercial service alongside government GNSS, or even as the primary solution.”

Boshuizen, the former Planet CTO and co-founder who was one of the passengers on the recent Blue Origin New Shepard flight, will join the board of directors for TrustPoint, a firm based in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia.

DCVC also has invested in radar satellite operator Capella Space and launch vehicle provider Rocket Lab.


PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://spacenews.com/trustpoint-seed-round/

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Startups

Customer Acquisition: 5 Cost Effective Ways to Reach Customers Online

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Returning customers will spend 57% more money than new customers. However, this doesn’t mean that you must focus all your resources on keeping current customers.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to reach new customers. The presence of online marketing platforms provides cheap marketing alternatives. Small businesses can now convert new leads without investing in an expensive marketing campaign.

So, how can you reach new customers? Here are five effective strategies for new customer acquisition.

  1. Use Social Proof

You’ve told your customers that your services and products are of the best quality. Yet, most people will believe your claims if another person praises your products or services. These individuals shouldn’t be associated with your company.

The majority of customers buy products recommended by their relatives or friends. It’s important that you request your current customers to provide their honest reviews of your products. You’ll then post positive customer testimonials on your website and social media platforms.

Social proof will increase your brand’s positive reputation and attract new customers.

  1. Use Chatbots

Interacting and answering customer questions is a time-consuming process for any busy marketer. However, you should get chatbot software to converse with and attract customers. The chatbot can answer common customer questions and introduce them to your business.

Unlike human agents, chatbots have a 24/7 online presence. They’ll be doing the job of your sales and marketing team members. You can also use AI to improve the chatbot’s responses to customer queries.

  1. Design Gated Content

If you’re creating good content, you can create restrictions around it. A person will only be able to read that content after they’ve filled a form. This is a smart method since customers will be providing their information in exchange for free content.

Your gated content can include reports, guides, and white papers. The content should be well-researched and present current information.

  1. Create an Optimized Website

Your websites should be popular and easily accessible if you want to attract more customers. You can create a marketing funnel on your website to categorize potential customers into segments. Targeted ads can then be shown to each segment of customers.

The websites should have visible calls-to-actions on every page. This call to action can appear at the bottom of your pages or as pop-ups.

You must also ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. Visitors to your website will only become customers if they get a good experience while browsing your website.

Learn more about these strategies by consulting a reputable SEO company.

  1. Create Attractive Social Media Profiles

Your social media followers should be the first people to know about your latest offerings. Therefore, there should be regular product highlights on your social media profiles. Images and videos must accompany these social media posts.

It’s also a good idea to connect your social media profiles to your website. For example, each social media post can have a link or call to action button to your website.

Use Customer Acquisition Strategies to Boost Sales

Customer acquisition is one of the most important things that any business can do. New customers will buy more products and services, and this will increase your overall sales. You can use affordable and straightforward strategies to attract new customers.

For more practical Tech and digital marketing tips, please read our other blogs.

 

Source: Plato Data Intelligence

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Biotechnology

Volta Labs: Improving workflows for genetic applications

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The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted at a rate faster than Moore’s Law, opening large markets in the sequencing space. Genomics for cancer care alone is predicted to hit $23 billion by 2025, but sample preparation costs for sequencing have stagnated, causing a significant bottleneck in the space.

Conventional sample preparation, converting DNA from a saliva sample, for example, into something that can be fed to a sequencing machine, relies on a liquid-handling robot. It is essentially a mechanical arm equipped with pipette tips that moves liquid samples to plastic plates and other instruments placed on the deck. These systems involve multiple fluidic transfers that lead to poor utilization of reagents and samples, which means less DNA sequenced. Moreover, they are systems of separate data silos that lack integration and rely on expensive consumables.

Unlike traditional liquid-handling automation, the suite of solutions developed by MIT Media Lab spinoff Volta Labs provides end-to-end integration for a wide variety of workflows. It’s a sleek alternative to costly liquid handling machines and manual pipetting. “Our technology is a small-scale, benchtop device that is low-cost and has minimal consumable usage, enabling rapid and flexible composition of new biological workflows,” says Volta Labs co-founder and Head of Engineering Will Langford SM ’14, PhD ’19.

The Volta platform is based on digital microfluidic technology developed at MIT by Langford’s co-founder, Volta Labs CEO Udayan Umapathi SM ’17. The core principle behind the innovation is called electrowetting. It allows its users to manipulate droplets around a printed circuit board to perform biological reactions, automating from raw sample to prepared library that can be run on a sequencing machine.

Umapathi arrived at the Media Lab with what he describes as “a fascination for building automation from the ground up.” Though trained as an engineer, Umapathi has applied his skills to a variety of fields. In 2015, he founded a startup that created web and physical tools to enable content creation for digital manufacturing. However, it was while working for a synthetic biology company, engineering liquid-handling systems for genome engineering solutions, that he identified the scaling up of automation as a pain point for the field.

Meanwhile, Langford spent his MIT days at the Center for Bits and Atoms, a proudly interdisciplinary program that explores the boundary between computer science and physical science. His research centered on the idea that engineering could learn from biology. Put another way, all of life is assembled from 20 amino acids, so, thought Langford, why not attempt something similar with engineering?

In practice, this meant he built integrated robots from a small set of millimeter-scale parts. “Ultimately, I was trying to make engineering more like biology,” he reflects. “I see Volta as an opportunity to flip that on its head and use automation to treat biology more like engineering. We want to give biologists tools to manipulate liquids and biological reactions at a finer granularity and with more digital flexibility.”

While Volta’s automation platform simplifies sample prep by integrating complicated workflows, it also drives down costs in the space with a new consumable construction. Between the circuit board and the sample board is a consumable layer, which is removed and replaced after each run. Conventional consumables are expensive, conductively coded plastics or large microfluidic structures. Volta, however, uses a simple plastic film to reduce the cost of consumables, which opens the door for the widespread adoption of gene sequencing.

All of this points to a more efficient and inclusionary model in the gene sequencing space. Thanks to Volta, soon, it won’t be just large biotechnology companies with the ability to invest in automation. Academic labs, core facilities, and small-to-medium biotech companies won’t need to worry about whether they can afford an expensive mechanical robot. “The thing that excites me is that we’re providing early-stage and mid-to-low-throughput biotech companies with powerful tools that will allow them to compete with bigger players, which is good for the industry as a whole,” says Umapathi.

And the fact is that traditional automation machines used in the biotechnology space come with their own set of problems. They’re error-prone and you can’t scale them. Consider Illumina’s NovaSeq sequencer. It’s capable of sequencing 48 whole human genomes in under two days — that’s 20 billion unique reads — but there is currently no automation to feed those machines at scale. “To run those machines day in and day out, the cost simply doesn’t make sense, which is why we have to tackle the cost of sequencing and sample prep,” says Umapathi.

Volta’s system is built on solid-state electronics, and the Boston-based startup is looking to leverage the scalability of the semiconductor fabrication industry and the PCB manufacturing industry. “The goal,” explains Langford, “is to enable biologists to create an experiment and modify it quickly, iterate on it, and generate the data necessary to see biology at scale.”

Beyond the sample prep bottleneck, eventually, the work of Umapathi and Langfordwork will impact a variety of applications in the synthetic biology industry and the biopharma industry. Diagnostics will be transformed, according to Umapathi. “We can help the biology industry by cutting down on the use of pipette tips by 20 or 50 times. In specific workflows, we can almost entirely eliminate this bottleneck in the supply chain,” he says.

To accomplish all of this, to truly innovate in a field as complex as biology, Umapathi and Langford insist that a multidisciplinary systems perspective is essential. It’s what informs the Volta approach to genomic sequencing in particular, and biology as a whole. “Volta is a new type of biotechnology company,” says Umapathi. “It’s inevitable that more engineers and systems thinkers and those who want to build tools to engineer biology better will join companies like ours or start their own.”

Turning biology into an engineering principle is no small feat, but according to Umapathi and Langford, it’s a necessity.

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Source: https://news.mit.edu/2021/volta-labs-improving-workflows-genetic-applications-1014

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AI

Look Beyond Big Tech Investments

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Last Monday, Facebook experienced an outage that lasted for about six hours. Users couldn’t access Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp or OculusVR. 

The effects were felt across the world. Suddenly, everyone who relied on Facebook or WhatsApp for communication was left in a lurch. Even Facebook’s own employees had to rely on Outlook emails and Twitter (ouch!) to communicate. 

The outage came a day before whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress about her experiences at Facebook.

When she took the stand, Haugen called on Congress to change the business incentives that encourage Facebook to highlight harmful content for its users. And to push the company to be more transparent. 

“It is unaccountable until the incentives change,” Haugen said. “Facebook will not change.”

Haugen also urged lawmakers to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies from legal liability for its users’ content. She said the rules need to be changed to make Facebook responsible for its algorithms, which are used to rank content. 

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) answered Haugen’s call: 

Here’s my message for Mark Zuckerberg: Your time of invading our privacy, promoting toxic content, and preying on children and teens is over. Congress will be taking action. You can work with us or not work with us, but we will not allow your company to harm our children and our families and our democracies any longer. Thank you, Ms. Haugen. We will act.

Looking Forward

Haugen’s testimony is only adding more fuel to Congress’s fire. Regulators have been coming after big tech for months. Over the summer, lawmakers have proposed six different bills aimed at reining in big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. 

Whether the bills will pass in the Senate this year is questionable. But eventually, regulators will clamp down on big tech.

So what does this mean for investors?

Big tech companies won’t stop being profitable anytime soon. But as with any tech investment, investors should still look toward the future, however distant it may seem. And they should consider not just the technology itself, but the technology that surrounds it.

Cybersecurity is a major example. Remote work — which also isn’t going away anytime soon — often requires employees to access sensitive information. Crypto exchanges handle billions of dollars in transactions on a daily basis. Social media companies handle billions of users’ data at any given moment. All of this requires top-notch cybersecurity and encryption technology to keep information safe. 

Artificial intelligence is another space worth watching. As scientists and engineers discover more ways to leverage AI capabilities, its potential applications continue to expand. The healthcare industry is a particularly exciting use case. As telehealth services continue to grow rapidly thanks to COVID-19, companies are using AI to collect patient data, analyze it and even provide health recommendations to patients. Some companies are leveraging AI to treat conditions directly.

And finally, investors should also keep an eye on social media. While Facebook is a dominant force today, a growing number of people are seeking alternative social networks. Many of them — like many of my own friends — have grown disillusioned with Facebook’s data mining and lack of privacy. And as regulators continue to crack down on the company, Facebook’s power may diminish. Discord, for example, grew from 56 million monthly users to 100 million monthly users in 2020 alone. It now has 150 million active monthly users. And growing privacy concerns are only creating more opportunities for new social media startups to reinvent the world that Facebook pioneered.

These are just a few examples of tech sectors that have enormous potential. Agile startups run by smart founders have the ability to disrupt and revolutionize dozens of industries. 

And startups have at least one advantage over big tech. While big tech companies may have the revenue to dominate their markets, public opinion is turning on them. And it’s only a matter of time before the government tightens the leash.

When it does, startups will be there. And they’ll change everything.


PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://earlyinvesting.com/look-beyond-big-tech-investments/

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