Australian startup snapshot: Shiny Things

Bring intuitive technology into maths classes

Monkeys help children learn in the iPad app Shiny Circus. Credit: Shiny Things

Monkeys help children learn in the iPad app Shiny Circus. Credit: Shiny Things

Going global

From the start, Shiny Things wanted to capture an international market, targeting about 12 countries, said Peterson. But the company was surprised to find another 130 countries downloading apps as well, he said.

While an Australian company, Shiny Things has received the most downloads from the United States.

With apps sold in many different countries, Shiny Things pays close attention to localisation issues. Math is fortunately a universal language, he said, but that doesn’t mean the same app can be rolled out to every country.

“It adds a whole interesting set of conundrums. People write numbers slightly differently in other countries.”

Even among English-speaking countries there are differences—in the US, for example, Quick Maths is sold as the singular “Quick Math”, he said.

The startup works with a third party to handle language translation “and we do a lot of research internally to work out which areas are going to trip us up so we can work on that and make sure we’re prepared for it.”

Shiny Things has not opened offices in other countries, and has no plans to move from Australia, Peterson said.

“It’s always a consideration of moving to Silicon Valley, but I would prefer to remain in Australia because I think our tech industry is very helpful.”

The road ahead

Quick Maths is the most downloaded app by Shiny Things. Credit: Shiny Things
Quick Maths is the most downloaded app by Shiny Things. Credit: Shiny Things

Peterson said the startup is considering new pricing models, such as making apps free initially to schools and parents and having the school pay later on. Schools have been receptive to the concept, he said.

While Shiny Things apps are only available for Apple devices at this time, Peterson said he would like to expand to other platforms in the future. However, Shiny Things does not have the resources to do so at this time, he said.

“It’s something we’ll look at in two or three years’ time.”

By then, more schools will have bring-your-own device (BYOD) models and there will be a greater mix of devices in the classroom, he predicted.

Startup scene

“Australia is set up nicely to be a digital exporter,” said Peterson.

“It’s a 14-hour flight to get to San Francisco, but when we export digitally that’s instantaneous and anyone in the world can access it.”

However, Peterson expressed mixed opinions on the startup scene in Australia.

“I am opposed to the idea of a startup for monetary purposes. I like the idea of a startup for pushing new ideas and trying to create change.”

“I don’t see that happening very much in Australia,” he said. “I see a lot of people going into it for money.”

The brain drain of engineers has gotten worse over the past decade, said Peterson. “It’s very, very easy now for an engineer to travel to California and get a job there. It’s incredibly easy for Apple, Facebook or Twitter to poach someone.”

At the same time, fewer and fewer people in Australia each year are graduating with ICT degrees, he said.

“The world’s becoming smaller and Australia seems to be losing out.”

Previous startup snapshots:

The Search Party

If you’ve got a startup or know about a cool new Australian business, please email Adam Bender at or on Twitter (@WatchAdam).

Adam Bender covers startup and business tech issues for Techworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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