Hi All,

As opposed to the 2004 Recombo pitch (the fairest comparison), it was a lot more polished as a whole.  As Marc notes, she used the classic SWOT approach – without naming it.  As far as strategic planning exercises go SWOT is pretty feeble, but for a 12 minute pitch using it to help frame the discussion makes it easy for the intended audience and it works in this respect.

In terms of their focus on SE Asia goes, I wasn’t sold as there were too many unanswered questions.  Time differences, amount needed $100,000 seems somehow insufficient to sustain anything, internet access issues were mentioned but not really meaningfully addressed ( I’ve spend a lot of time in SE Asia and it is an issue and can’t be glossed over – especially in the world of e-learning), and the last aspect that I felt she could have expanded on more was how they’d access the organizations they were targeting .  An awful lot that happens in the expat world is simply about who you know and how you know them – and that goes for both working with locals (gov’t etc.) and foreign organizations.

The last thing worth questioning was the Japanese re e-learning in Vietnam as she mentions it as being the only competitor in the market (a good thing).  In the late 1990s I did a survey of Japanese universities (I was working at one at the time) that were even remotely delving into incorporating e-learning and profs that used it.  The result was simply that it was several years behind N.A. and Europe at the time for a lot of reasons.  So, I can’t help but wonder what they’re doing, as late as 2000 there was nothing even at Japan’s open university (hoso daigaku – the so-called “university of the air”).  That said raising it didn’t hurt her pitch.

Those points aside, I thought that her presentation was concise and reasoned in many key respects, and she stayed on track and didn’t bombard with powerpoint slides.


September 11, 2008   5 Comments

Intra and Entrepreneurs

by Cheryl Milner

OK I’ve got my IPhone in hand, my EVA hat on and my Starbucks coffee is frothing in the background. Here’s my take on the intrapreneurial presentation offered by Ted Dodds, CIO, UBC. Talk about a professional who exudes confidence, he appears to have his finger on the pulse of the academic community regarding information technology, as evidenced by his original thought to create an open forum, invite colleagues from various academic institutions and develop an e-strategy for UBC. The management team is embedded in each faculty and their governance committee consists of all 5 UBC’s VP’s to oversee their evolving strategy. Very impressive from a leadership perspective.

 A critical question put to Ted Dobbs was how his department deals with innovators or mavericks to which he replied that they are often consulted and used as partners at a more strategic level. Two excellent examples were referenced regarding commercialization opportunities at the University, one being WebCT and the other open-sourced Student Information System which is currently incubating.

 While Universities are not typically organizations which are considered nimble, flexible  and generally “out there,”  I was impressed by the issues Mr. Dobbs reflected on, namely a focus on governance issues, supporting commercialization of research, and a commitment to inclusiveness of ideas. These are all elements which support UBC’s excellent reputation and in particular that of the IT department. Would I make a large endowment to the University based on this “pitch,” if I had the beans in the first place I would.

 Recombo’s Brad McPhee is another good example of a maturing entrepreneur. The difference between ’04 and ’05 displayed a great deal of growth and in Brad’s words “focus.” While there wasn’t a great deal of discussion about the capacity of his fellow management team, it is apparent when you go their site.

 Recombo’s business model and product appears to have shifted from ‘04 to ‘05 and this being ’08, one wonders where the business is at currently. His ’05 remarks suggest a completely different approach, intending to drill down as a service company, thus creating success through it’s client’s clients. Do I consider that risky behavior, you bet! It is just too many eggs in one server basket for me.

 Interestingly an interview question posed on Youtube to Dave Berkus, angel venture capitalist, revealed a major theme in Brad’s pitch  “you must see a lot of entrepreneurs who shift their focus, thinking they know what their core competencies are and then hope the marketplace will fine tune them for them?” Mr. Berkus’s response was that most business plan’s original idea is rarely how it is ultimately manifest. Brad McPhee’s pitch in 2005 is an example of a more mature organization than in 2004, one which is no longer reliant on the marketplace to help ReCombo define itself. It knows what it is and how to get there.

 Have a look …

 Recombo’s exit strategy is based on the fact that as a middleware company that they may get the nod from an IBM. It would be interesting to see how Recombo could get the attention of an IBM sized company, and how other companies have been successful in that regard. This must be the dream of most companies, but you also have to be prepared to slog it out on your own.

And here is another interesting interview, somewhat lengthy, with Arthur Rock, legendary venture capitalist, and certainly among the first in Silicon Valley. He had some solid down to earth advice, including the idea that “it all about tactics, ideas are a dime a dozen.”  

September 11, 2008   3 Comments

a great pitch


I would like to share the following clips with you.

The Elevator Pitch



Make a great pitch



September 11, 2008   7 Comments

the Entreprenuer and the Intrapranuer – OLT and Recombo

I choose the Recombo pitch and that of Michelle – OLT. First of all, I too quite enjoy the scrutiny of these videos. Like dissecting a frog for the first time. The more you do it, the more you get out of it.

I selected Recombo and OLT because I believe these two people define the entreprenuerial and the intraprenuerial spirit. Two terms that were less clear to me before the pitches. Brad was about venture capital and Michelle needed to work within the constraints of her company walls. Both video clips enlighten me to a world of work that is very different from mine.

It is evident that Michelle is experimenting with management techniques such as work coop students, IT people who were senior design members and students who were the “knowledge builders.” A form of Open Source was developing here. Brad was looking at 100 million with an established repertoire of specialists.

In the opening first few minutes of Recombo, I expected a better pitch from Brad He seemed quite wordy and I found his confidence to be lacking somewhat and I found myself still asking, what does Recombo really do? I think it was his line, “great big huge piece of Technology on multiple computers and we can just add components together…” made me feel he was talking down to the listeners and left me wondering. Did he know that we were his intended listeners back in 05? The punch, for me, just wasn’t there. Having been previously interviewed in 04, maybe Brad felt that the viewers already had some background information re: Recombo, “Business Problem Solvers.” Michelle, on the other hand, seemed confident from the get go and clear with her responsibilities.

As Brad continued, I could now see he was becoming a master of his craft as he spoke often of integrative platforms that Recombo developed and controlled. He was clever enough to answer all questions and his depth was becoming apparent. His passion for the company began to shine and it was evident with contractual commitment with Lighthouse. They were their to solve “business problems.” Quite an undertaking of sorts for a company of only 12 people.

Michelle spoke eloquently at times describing the support required from her team and consequently, the expectations from OLT. She realizes it would be better to “outsource” – her mention of Wiki’s and Weblogs – rather than burden her central organization with something that is already available and supported. Why re-invent the wheel right? She is clear that the team does not become overburdened trying implement outside technologies. Her market niche is faculty and the kids on campus. She needed something effective, that was supported and over all, it had to work. Technical innovation came from a blend of “creativity and innovation” of a multitude of users, including staff. Who better than the end user to develop the product/process.

With the OLT, market readiness seems to be, shoot from the hip, though they seem to be standing on their own and Brad assures the viewer the Recombo is always market ready. I like his metaphor, “play well with others.”

Would I trust my money with these two at the helm…? Hmmm, I’m not quite sure. Probably, if I had some. I was, however, disappointed when Brad mentioned that he and partners would leave if they could not focus and “if the price is right, you sell.”  I guess I come from the old school where, “if it’s not right, you fix it.” And that means more focus.

Funny, there was never any mention of Mike Gardner – CEO of Recombo. Is he a recent transplant…?

September 11, 2008   5 Comments


The presentation was well structured complete with an agenda, swot analysis and summary.  The content brought the audience into the business, who is on the team, what do they do, how do they do it… quite personable in feel.  The President provided credibility to the presentation through her own intimate involvement with the product, customers, and business operations.  Credibility was further increased through referencing a 10 year track record and clients. 

The pitch was based on a SWOT analysis and candidly presented their strategy.  The strategy can be interpreted as being unable to make it in the home market thus heading out to a foreign market.  Intuitively, I would consider the home team to have an advantage, especially when ties to the government are identified as important in the presentation.  

The pitch requests $100,000, that is not a lot of money to raise in the form of love money ($10,000 each if 10 employees and thus available as a line of credit).  I am uncomfortable with the fact that they were able to self finance for the preceding 10 years and now require an outside source for $100,000.  The 20% return is less than the 20% EBITDA or 20 times return on investment in 5 years as per Angel’s selection criteria.  The numbers presented suggest no go.

Interesting side note, the  domain has expired.

September 11, 2008   5 Comments


Change from 2004 – 2005.

  • More professional demeanour (and appropriate attire).  
  • Spoke more clearly and more concisely.
  • Clearer definition of value proposition to customers and Recombo (less tech talk).
  • Less animated, less passionate.
  • No summaries, graphs, numbers which may make it easier to convey message (though should define technical terms such as SCORM prior to its use in presentation materials). 
  • Overall, change in feel from company in startup mode to company in growth mode.

I am curious (as with the M. Lamberson interview – see comments under OLT – Interesting, but not a pitch? by Mary Burgess) whether Mr. MacPhee was able to prepare responses in advance.  If pre-prepared, he did come across naturally, not scripted.

Concerns watching 2004 pitch

  • What is Recombo’s competitive advantage over the traditional publishers (Pearson, Thompson…)
  • If have all these clients (80% Fortune 1000), why this pitch?  
  • Markets and revenues ~doubling year over year, too good to be true?

Concerns watching 2005 pitch

  • Great shape but… transition…  is past relevant to future?  
  • Company appears to change strategy annually.
  • Nearly double size of staff, what will the company be, what is the strength of its management?


Strength in both presentations:

Clear definition of the problems that Recombo intents to resolve for customers.

Company seems to understand its own business model.

Company has a vision (though in state of flux).

Company has a financial plan – positive cash flow goal, revenues growth projection, source of financing (IPO / acquisition).

September 11, 2008   No Comments