5 things you need to know in Australian tech today


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An artist’s impression of Australian banks negotiating with Apple for access to its digital wallet technology… Image: Pacific Rim/Warner Bros.

Hello! It’s Tuesday and some tech companies are posting pretty good results.

1. Kogan’s killing it. Online retailer Kogan.com beat its prospectus forecasts with sales up 5%, moving from red to black in the process. Shares in the business dropped 16% when the IPO listed last month, but today CEO Ruslan Kogan says revenue for last financial year was up 5.4% to $211.16 million, with 2015’s $69,590 loss turned into a profit of $809,149 for 2016. Chris Pash has all the details here.

2. Seek’s also had a good year. Full-year profit at Andrew Bassat’s online jobs site was up 27% to $348.9 million, and revenue up 11% to $4.95 billion.
Meanwhile Bassat says he’s ploughing the funds back into the business, as well as hedging his bets via a number of “strategic acquisitions”. Money’s gone into Melbourne start-up Sidekicker, as well as Jora and JobAdder, plus overseas sites Workana and US-based Nimble Schedule.

“Our focus is to aggressively invest and execute our growth strategy,” Bassat says, and has more to say here.

3. Ooh, aah, Ooyala. There was an amazing piece in The AFR on how Telstra’s tipped $250 million down the drain on its investment in video business Ooyala, which was being hailed as the next YouTube, with the Australian telco spending $500 million acquiring the Silicon Valley startup.

We’ll just leave you with this snippet from Aaron Patrick and John McDuling’s report, which is well worth your time:

Two weeks ago, after Telstra wrote down the value of the business by $246 million, chief executive Andy Penn acknowledged that Ooyala’s video business isn’t succeeding and it is switching to a different way of making money, an admission of failure that has damaged Telstra’s reputation in the competitive world of venture capital investing.

While Telstra’s shareholders wore the cost of the mistake, Ooyala’s founders and earlier investors have walked away with millions.

Ooyala’s rise and fall illustrates how tough it is likely to be for Telstra to shift from a telephone utility to a technology company – and the difficulties it will face competing in California’s Silicon Valley, one of the most dynamic markets in the world.

Here’s the rest of it.

4. Who gets trodden on when Australia’s banks enter the room? Last week the ACCC turned down a request from four of Australia’s largest banks for an interim authorisation to act collectively against Apple and other third party digital wallet providers, such as Samsung and Google. The banks want access to Apple Pay, arguing Apple is stifling competition by not allowing them direct access to the wireless functionality in the iPhone to make their own “digital wallets”. Here’s a good look at what’s going on.

But meanwhile, the Acorns boss in Australia, George Lucas, has let fly at one of the banks leading the charge against Apple, the Commonwealth after it sent customers an email warning them that if they give third party fintech start-ups access to their internet banking passwords, CBA’s fraud protection on any financial losses could be invalid.

Acorns is a US-based spare-change investment app, which launched here in February and had 50,000 signups in three weeks.

Speaking to the Fin, Lucas said the CBA is “cloaking with security messages a way of being anti-competitive to the whole fintech industry”.

The CBA emailed people last Thursday after Yodlee, a US software service which handles login credentials – and is also used by the banks – began accessing accounts. The CBA note said “Never share your password or client ID with anyone. By sharing this information, you may be increasing the risk of unauthorised access to your account and money. If you have shared your password, you should change it immediately to keep your account safe.”

Read more here.

5. Optus is going data-free on SVOD. Optus will let postpaid mobile customers stream data-free TV, movies and music for an extra $10 a month under a new deal.

The telco say it will offer data-free streaming of Netflix and Presto, as well as for music services such as iHeartRadio, Spotify, Google Play Music and Pandora.

But there is a catch – you’ll still have to pay for any downloads and ad contents out of your personal data. All you need to know is here.

Enjoy the day. Find me on Twitter at @simonthomsen.

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