Australian startups and small businesses had an exciting 2014 where change seemed to be the only constant. Business sentiment varied across industries. On one hand, there was optimism fuelled by a growing tech startup environment, increased funding, favourable changes in the budget, and increased business confidence. Concurrently there was caution and worry over weaker stocks, falling mineral and fuel prices and unemployment figures.
Business confidence was high with a recently published Commonwealth Bank SME Confidence Report stating 87% expected conditions to improve or stay the same early to mid this year. With more that two million SMEs employing over seven million Australians, the health and confidence of this segment is crucial to the development of the nation.
Many startups and small businesses are using the optimism to focus on growth – in Australia and globally. Likewise, inspired by success stories on our shores and from places such as the Silicon Valley, more people are starting their own businesses.
So what are some of the trends that will continue to shape this segment in 2015? ation.
Cloud technology will support growth and scalability
Cloud technology transformed industries and how we did business in 2014. Here’s how it will continue to shape the market this year:
- The levelling effects of technology, increased need for consumer control and easier access to data will see more businesses ramping up their presence on the cloud to offer innovative solutions. Consumers can expect to see more apps and tools that give them increased connectivity across different touch points, more control in all areas of their lives and better engagement with brands they like.
- The infrastructure / enterprise cost of doing business will continue to drop with more cloud systems becoming available to startups and small businesses. Easier collection and management of data will also result in more streamlined processes and increased productivity that can help SMEs scale.
- More opportunities for people with innovative ideas to enter the market and deliver solutions quicker than they have ever been able to. Going global – especially for service industries – is easier than ever.
Niche and community focused businesses
Australian companies tackle niche markets 14% more often than those in Silicon Valley. A great case study is handmade and creative community focused tickle your imagination magazine (of which I am an investor), that at a time where print is dying out, has successfully crowdfunded its print editions – receiving higher than expected amounts in just over 10 days. The magazine recognised a niche segment, started small by building a product for the community and grew locally and recently went global.
While mass consumerism will not go away anytime soon, business ideas and growth will spring from people working together to integrate technical capabilities true to the needs of communities. Collaborative consumption will also fuel businesses such as TuShare that enables people to give and receive unused household items for free to anyone in Australia. 2015 will see more people start businesses that help overcome a challenge they faced, a passion they share with others or help address a problem close to their heart.
Scaling will make or break companies
2014 was a good year for Australian startups – particularly tech startups. Most followed the momentum from 2013 to pitch for and receive funding to grow their business. 2015 will be the year for these small businesses to scale up and grow significantly, or face some harsh realities about their ventures.
With increased funding support from angel investors, banks and other institutions, the pitching platform has never been as active. The mood is similar to that of the dotcom era. This year could be the reality check which will either reiterate the strength of Australian startups and small businesses that, in turn, will help bring more VC money to our shores, or go the same way as dotcom companies 10 years ago. A lot of this will also depend on how much more entrenched technology will get into our lives and subsequently, the infrastructure around us. Are we reaching a saturation point or is this just the tip of the iceberg? Only time will tell.
The changing nature of competitiveness
The ubiquitous nature of technology has made everyone an expert on everything – particularly in service industries. Reduced manufacturing costs have also resulted in minimal product differences across any range. Where previously competition was based on product, design and price, wars are now being fought on whole new battlegrounds.
Value, conversations, content and customer experience is setting brands apart from their competitors. Every brand, from the biggest in the world to small startups, is trying to engage in positive dialogue with its communities in the hope of drawing them closer for the long run. The focus on customer service to maintain a competitive edge will continue to grow through the year.
Here’s to a more dynamic 2015. Dream big, think
This article was originally published on http://www.joomag.com/