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Founder Friday with Madison Stefanis: making film photography fun – and sustainable

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Founder Friday with Madison Stefanis: making film photography fun – and sustainable

It’s always an interesting story when entrepreneurs find their successful business idea in areas they would never have expected. For 22-year-old Madison Stefanis, it was in photography.

Specifically, from a “clunky old SLR film camera” that she didn’t know how to use.

“I don’t come from a background in photography,” she admitted. “I used to shoot film for fun – it’s trendy and very popular (again) so I used to carry a disposable camera with me on weekends. Then one day, I decided to list the old film camera at home for sale on Facebook.”

Madison, a marketing and entrepreneurship major at RMIT University, knew she had stumbled into something good when the camera ended up selling for five times the amount she had listed it for.

“I always say to people that I come from a business background rather than photography. I came across the right niche and decided to give it a go,” she added. “Vintage film cameras are in low supply and high demand, which commands a high price point.”

However, it wasn’t long before 35mmCo, her vintage camera business, ran into supply issues from constantly running out.

The dilemma inspired The Reloader camera: small and compact like a disposable camera, but completely reusable.

“Customers were seeking a beginner-friendly camera at a lower price point, so I invested all of my savings ($50,000) into my first stock shipment of The Reloader at age 20. It took us 12 months to launch. I spent a lot of time focusing on the packaging design and how I could market shooting film as something easy and fun,” Madison explained.

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For today’s iPhone generation, the product was an instant hit.

“We’re more forgiving of film photos because there’s usually only one image from a particular moment, rather than scrolling through hundreds of images on an iPhone in pursuit of the perfect photo,” she explained. “Plus, the developing process is exciting: you often forget what photos were taken on the camera so it’s super fun to receive your film and relive those memories.”

Source: supplied

Building a sustainable business

Coming from a generation that is “very aware of the climate emergency we’re facing in the world”, Madison knew early on The Reloader was addressing the important issue of single-use plastic waste.

Not only was it reusable, it simplified the photography and developing process by only needing one AAA battery. After finishing the film roll (24 photos), customers could drop off or mail in the roll to a film developing lab.

“You can select whether you would prefer to receive the images as digital scans, physical prints, or both,” she explained. “Processing usually takes between one to three business days, depending on the independent lab. Digital copies of the images will be emailed or texted to your phone, and physical prints can be collected in-store or mailed to your address.”

Customer feedback so far, she says, has been fantastic.

“People love that the product is reusable so they don’t have to worry about purchasing single-use cameras once they have completed their roll of film. It’s a great product for beginners that want to learn about film photography.”

In the next year, she intends to lean more into sustainability at 35mmCo. Currently, its fulfillment centre partners with Ecologi to plant trees around Australia for every order sent from the warehouse. 

They are also a corporate partner of the National Breast Cancer Foundation this October and will be donating $10 from every camera sold to help fund breast cancer research. 

Madison observed, “Consumers expect businesses to implement sustainable practices. It’s no longer considered a good-will practice to operate sustainably – it’s an expectation for all organisations.”

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READ MORE: Founder Friday with Sarah Neill: creating an online fashion community for women

Photo by Ruby Ryan. Source: supplied

Finding success as a young entrepreneur

In developing her own product at the age of 20 while her friends were “being young adults and experiencing the freedom that it brings”, Madison’s the first to admit that entrepreneurship has its isolating moments.

“The first 6 months in business were really lonely. I think all entrepreneurs experience this feeling at some stage, especially at my age,” she admitted. “Nobody in my family comes from a business background and I didn’t have anyone in my inner circle that could relate.”

She also launched 35mmCo during Melbourne’s lockdown, working all hours of the day on the business, and found it difficult to adjust when restrictions lifted.

“I was so used to spending all of my time working on the company! It’s hard to switch off when you’re always thinking about work,” she added.

Nevertheless, she eventually found her stride. In its first six months, 35mmCo turned over a million dollars in revenue and stayed on track to turn $2 million by the end of its first year.

Madison credits role models like her supportive mum, along with podcasts and inspirational founder stories, for continuing to fuel her passion for business.

“Australia has such an abundance of clever and successful entrepreneurs. There’s so much knowledge and value in learning from other people’s experiences and lessons,” she smiled.

Photo by Ruby Ryan. Source: supplied

Celebrating milestones

She got to observe firsthand the incredible community 35mmCo has created at their first birthday event in Sydney this week, marking one year in business.

“It was surreal to see a room filled with so many people that love and support the brand. The community we’ve built is incredible,” she described. “I’m lucky to be the same age as our customers – it allows us to really foster a strong connection with them and understand their needs and wants.”

The main focus for the next few years is on a range of new camera colours, fun accessories to accompany the camera, and moving the business into overseas markets.

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“There are a number of major retailers where I love to see The Reloader stocked. We’re focusing on expanding our product range and transitioning into the lifestyle space. Shooting film encourages living in the moment and reliving your memories later – we would love to hold more events and activations to connect with our community.”

Any advice for other young entrepreneurs keen to start their own business?

“Be resilient and confident,” Madison affirmed. “Follow your ideas through to execution and don’t be discouraged by rejection. No dream is ever too big – if you believe in it, you can achieve it.”

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READ MORE: Founder Friday with Jacqui Bull: transforming Australia’s staffing market

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.

“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.

Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”

“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”

The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.

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The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.

Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.

The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.

But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.

Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.

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The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.

“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.

The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.

Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.

According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.

Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.

“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.

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Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”

Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.

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The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers

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Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.

It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.

The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.

There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:

1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.

2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.

3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.

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4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.

5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.

6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.

 

We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.

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