The digital dozen – our next big things online

While Australia is yet to produce anything of the scale of Google, eBay and Amazon, there is always an interesting crop of up-and-comers threatening to burst on to the scene. We've compiled a list of 12 companies that demonstrate the spirit of innovation that exists among Australia's internet entrepreneurs, and which may go on to become the "next big thing" online.

2Vouch

Every week hundreds of jobs are filled by word-of-mouth recommendation, with the referrer usually getting little more than a thank you from either party. 2Vouch adds a fiscal reward to this act of goodwill, through a job referral website that pays referrers between $1400 and $2800 whenever one of their recommendations is employed.

Ads cost nothing to place, jobs are automatically matched to its network of referrers, and the advertiser only pays when the job is filled. 

2Vouch has more than 600 active referrers servicing 105 advertisers, and plans to grow to 5000 referrers with 2000 advertisers by the end of 2009. 2Vouch is also linked to numerous job boards so employers can cross-post directly into the site.

Change2

Combining elements of social media with sustainable work practices, Change2 is Facebook for the environmentally aware. The company already sells sustainability-oriented e-learning services, but the new site lets employees and organisations share and compare information and activity related to sustainability.

Pilots have taken place with state and federal government departments, CSC and Suncorp, the latter of which garnered a response rate from employees 2.5 times greater than intended, and led to Suncorp becoming Change2's first paying customer.

It has also made its first overseas sale to a local government in North Carolina, and Hilton Hotels has committed to a pilot. The company reported revenue of $1.35 million for the 2008 financial year, and is projecting to double its revenue each year for the next three years.

Elastic Digital

Based on its heritage developing more than 400 interactive channel marketing campaigns marketing campaigns, Elastic Digital's Elastic Grid is a web-based system for managing the generation and distribution of marketing campaigns that can be customised and deployed by sales partners.

Current clients include the global technology makers Symantec and VMware, and Elastic Digital will soon start chasing opportunities in pharmaceuticals, financial services and in fast moving consumer goods. Elastic Digital expects to turn over $1.5 million this financial year, with growth forecast to exceed 30%.

ExitReality

ExitReality's vision is to take the current two-dimensional web and give it a third dimension. Its plug-in software for web browsers can make any web page a 3D environment where users can "meet" and discuss their experience.

The software is currently available in 12 languages, has been designed to run on low-powered computers, and works with five different kinds of web browser, and its makers say it is scalable to hundreds of millions of users. While the software itself is given away free, ExitReality has also created what it claims is the largest 3D web search engine, and will make money from selling listings.

HiiveSystems

HiiveSystems adds a twist to the model of delivering business services over the internet, by incorporating elements of social media sites such as Facebook.

Designed for services businesses, Hiive users can readily see the activity of their co-workers, giving greater visibility of workflow within an organisation. A spin-off from Wollongong-based Internetrix, since its launch in December 2008 Hiive has won clients including the NSW Department of Planning, an ASX-listed property trust, and numerous smaller companies, making a total of 300 active users. Founder Geoff McQueen says Hiive is on its way to making its first million dollars.

 OurPatch

Communities are big business online, and when it comes to geographic communities, Australia is loaded with them. OurPatch is the brainchild of Simon van Wyk, a founder of the web developer HotHouse, which has created a network of more than 160 community websites which are receiving more than 120,000 visitors each month.

OurPatch is now developing a mobile phone-based version for visitors to easily find information about the towns they are visiting. The company was recently recognised with the NSW/ACT Regional Business of the Year award. OurPatch intends to break into the US early this year to take a slice of its US$97 billion local advertising market.

Portable Content

Since 2006, the team at Portable Content has built out a destination for many forms of video media. Users hit the 10,000 mark in August 2008, with over 3000 views of content everyday across channels including YouTube, Joost, and TiVo.

Customers include the AFL Players Association, SBS and Tourism Victoria. Its Portable Film Festival draws more than 300,000 unique viewers annually and over one million views on third-party sites.

The company is now exploring verticals for other businesses, including Swappler, an e-commerce tool for retailers that will launch in March. Revenue has grown from $170,000 in 2006-07 to $650,000 last year, and is expected to grow in excess of $1.2 million in 2008-09.

RedBubble

RedBubble turns the ethos of consumer-generated media sites such as YouTube on its head, giving aspiring artists the chance to receive a financial reward by helping them sell their art. The site now boasts more than 100,000 members, growing by 15% each month, with more than 70,000 visitors each day.

With offices in Melbourne, San Francisco and London, RedBubble has shipped more than 130,000 products to 71 countries. RedBubble reported $1.2 million in sales in the 2008 financial year, and founder Martin Hosking expects to more than double that this year as the company moves into profitability.

With around one sixth of the population engaging in artistic pursuits, and the service expanding into digital art and books, he says the potential is huge.

RetailMeNot.com

Coupons may never have been a big part of Australian retailing, but they are big business for RetailMeNot.com and its parent company, Stateless Systems.

Founded in October 2006, RetailMeNot.com offers more than 100,000 coupons for more than 20,000 stores. It attracts seven million visitors each month, 90% of which come from the US.

The company is on its way to reaching $1 million in monthly revenue. Stateless Systems is hoping to repeat that success with a price comparison site, BeatMyPrice.com, which boasted 40,000 visitors in its first week.

 SellMyCastle

Designed to take the pain out of selling a house, SellMyCastle was launched in November 2006 to help property sellers find the right real estate agent to sell their property. Today it has 2300 registered real estate agents nationwide with 1000 properties listed, and employs eight staff.

The site has expanded from residential sales into commercial property, mortgages, and insurance. More than 1000 visitors are hitting the site each day, and the company has completed two successful capital raisings. SellMyCastle is now looking at expanding its operations through local partners into Britain, New Zealand and the US.

WhoCanDo

WhoCanDo was created to revamp the $400 billion services industry by helping the five million Australians who buy goods on eBay to buy services the same way. The service recruited its 11,000th service provider in December 2800 and is aiming at $40 million in revenue within four years.

Among the founders of WhoCanDo are William Klippgen, the co-founder of French-born kelkoo.com, the world's largest price comparison search engine. The company has reported an auction of $203,000 - higher than eBay's largest Australian auction of $187,000.

WhatsOnSale

Everyone loves a bargain, and WhatsOnSale is showing people in Sydney and Melbourne where to find them. Each day the site aggregates information from more than 300 retailers including Myer, Retravision, and Fletcher Jones. Up to 2000 visitors come to the site each day, and that traffic is growing at around 30% each month.

Retailers pay a subscription to upload and promote their sales. Since its launch in early 2008 has generated more than $1 million in revenue, and its founders have ambitions to see that grow to $2.5 million this year, as a national expansion helps to boost retail members to more than 1000.

Source: smartcompany, 05 February 2009

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