Update: Health, AusPost, eTaskr and Slow School

Over recent months, I have blogged about health and the digital economy, the challenges facing AusPost, the progress of eTaskr and the birth of Slow School of Business. Here are some updates on each of these topics:

IMG_0211Apple launches developer platform for health apps

On top of launching “Health” with iOS8, Apple has released a software tool called ResearchKit designed to help researchers and developers build and test new health apps.

I think that while we hear a lot about the Internet of Things (#IoT), health is one area where the connection of the physical and the digital will really deliver tangible benefits (not just a fridge with a screen…).

Australia Post plans to raise the cost of sending letters

In the wake of declining letter volumes (and poorer financial performance), AusPost is considering jacking up the price of letter postage, and introducing a 2-speed letter service.

While this is not a surprising move, it does seem shortsighted. Given the increase in parcel volumes, especially from e-commerce and small online purchases, I reckon AusPost would be better off with more refined domestic parcel rates. For example, using exactly the same dimensions and weight, I can either send an item as a “large letter” for $2.10 (which is perhaps too cheap?), or as a “small parcel” for $7.45 (which is incredibly expensive for an item that might cost no more than $25). Maybe different band rates of 50g, from 100g up to 500g (the current weight limit for a small parcel/large letter) or even 1kg  might be a better option, coupled with improved payment and lodgment automation? Just saying…

etaskr secures seed funding

Described as a “private label elance”, etaskr is a graduate of the AngelCube accelerator program, and was a finalist at last year’s Big Pitch organised by Oxygen Ventures.

Following their appearance at the Big Pitch, etaskr have recently closed $1.3m in seed funding from Oxygen Ventures. As mentioned in an earlier blog, etaskr is starting to see traction among corporate clients, including overseas markets, but the nature of the B2B sales cycle has meant that investors, incubators and accelerators are traditionally wary of such startups. Hopefully, this latest development will start to change market perception.

Slow School founder in the news

Finally, Carolyn Tate, the founder of Slow School of Business has been busy launching a new program of short courses (including Three of the Best) a new website and a new book. Oh, and she’s also become a B Corp. (Declaration of interest: I am a participant in, and adviser to, Slow School.)

Previously featured in Slow Living (required reading for the Slow Movement), Carolyn has taken a simple idea based on collaborative and peer-to-peer learning, and created a potentially disruptive platform for professional development and corporate training. Slow School is also tapping into the growing trend for people to work as independent contractors, freelancers and consultants (rather than permanent employees), and the dynamics of the digital economy where participants are also looking to make deep, personal connections rather than just online “friends”.

The new normal?

Post GFC, we’ve been told to expect a low/slow/no growth environment – that this is the “new normal”. I would add to that digital disruption, non-traditional commercial models and emergent ecosystems as being the other key influences on how we do business in this new environment. From what I have skim-read of the latest Intergenerational Report, the language is still couched in traditional terms of “jobs”, “productivity” and “industries”. Yes, there is mention of innovation, demographics, technology and flexible workplaces (i.e., deferring retirement?), but nothing that inspires me to think our political leaders understand what is really going on within the startup economy and the broader digital movement.

Next week: How to survive a Startup Weekend