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.



1 Marc Kampschuur { 09.11.08 at 10:12 pm }


The reason that SE Asia was behind Europe & NA, does that relate to cultural differences? Was there no market for the product or?

2 Drew Murphy { 09.12.08 at 1:52 pm }

Joe: Your observations regarding Japanese elearning development bring up a very important issue when it comes to investing in technology ventures overseas. If you were trying to sell bubble gum, let alone complicated elearning technology, in an overseas market you would encounter many, many cultural obstacles in the distribution and marketing process. Even if it was an English speaking market, there’s still a minefield of cultural nuances to navigate in order to engage in the everyday business practices. So the Ingenia venture has a whole layer of other business problems waiting to be solved. It would have been useful to hear her acknowledge this awareness of the cultural issues.

From your experiences in Japan, Joe, do you think western entrepreneurs need to be aware of any cultural differences?

3 Ellen Wu { 09.13.08 at 1:25 pm }


You raised some good questions on investing overseas, especially in developing countries like Vietnam. We should also consider the availability of computers and the prevalence of the Internet in Vietnam. If access to computers and the Internet is limited, then this will affect the progress of e-learning in the country. Ingenia also needs to think about the government’s policy on e-learning and educational technologies. Is the Vietnamese government willing to promote new learning technologies? How’s the public’s opinion of e-learning? If the public’s not as open to e-learning, then Ingenia might have to revise their market entry strategy and consider an e-learning environment that includes both face-to-face learning and online course work.

4 Joe Dobson { 09.14.08 at 10:59 am }

Hi All,

This is off topic to pitches in general I suppose but in response to the comments above.

I see SE Asia as lagging for several reasons – this includes access & affordability. Infrastructure – even in major centres infrastructure simply isn’t on the same playing level as in Europe & NA. This is coupled with corruption & time lags. When we (my wife & I) were getting on a phone line (land) for a rental place we had in Chiang Mai we were told it would take 2-4 months – of course everyone also knew that a few dollars or friends in the right place would help speed that right along (this in part accounts for the cell phone boom there – the providers have been a lot more nimble even in rural areas – my wife’s 87 year old grandfather gave up on his land line and got a cell phone a few years back). Affordability and other factors can be seen in part in the boom of internet cafes – a lot of folks don’t bother or can’t afford to buy PCs and connect at home.

In Japan, a very different problem existed – connecting to the net was a pricey proposition til a few years ago. Getting an ISP wasn’t terribly expensive – about the same as here – but in Japan, telephone charges are radically different. A monthly fee gets one a telephone # and connected, but there are dial charges which are about 10 cents/3 minutes. So surfing for any length of time added up pretty quickly. Now alternatives with set monthly fees for high-speed access are plentiful, but there was a big gap in the average person getting connected vs. here in Canada. Similarly, computer usage and integration in education – even at the tertiary level significantly lagged behind the west – I taught there for close to a decade and the lack of use of technology was shocking – at one university I was hired at in 1998, I had to argue just to get a PC on my desk, so you can imagine what sort of resources were available to the general student body. It’s a country of real contrasts.

As far as westerners doing business in Japan goes there are a lot of cultural hurdles – too many to list here. But a few that come to mind include differing ways of doing business – in Canada/US the mantra is “time is money”, which differs radically from the Japanese approach based on relationship building which requires more patience and building a trusting, long-term relationship. The other is high-context/low-context (Hall, 1976). Japan and much of Asia falls in the category of being high-context societies – this means that communication styles tend to indirect. Conversely, societies such as Canada/US are low-context – this means communication tends to be direct and explicit (e.g. say what you mean).


5 Deepika Sharma { 09.14.08 at 8:29 pm }

Having lived in Vietnam for 3 years, having just finished an ed tech project with school teachers in Vietnam and belonging to the “region” I feel compelled to add my two cents 🙂

The reasons for why or not an e-learning project takes off in these countries (including mine – India) are complex – they go beyond the obvious and are a curious mix of culture and tradition.

Here are some vagaries of culture and tradition that could affect an e-learning project in Vietnam:

Internet content (most is in English)
Learning style (preferred style is instructor led)
Technology reach

Language is a huge issue and if the delivered content is translated, the question arises about the Internet content that is largely in English – this I found to be the single most un-surmountable problem during my workshops – I had Vietnamese instructors to translate every thing said in English – how would we replicate that in e-learning? Culturally, we like to see a person delivering a “lecture”, asking questions and leading the class through content. There is also the issue of connectivity but that I think is only a matter of time – there will be connectivity in remote areas and like cell phones it will provide access…On the technology issue India should have been running with e-learning (we have managed to set up world class software parts and BPOs) but that hasn’t happened – once again I see the deep cultural issues in learning as holding this back – we are waiting for the “tipping point”

My thoughts are that any company wanting to make forays must align its thinking with the ministry of education – local partners need to be strong for business in Vietnam – to work with them around these issues and start off a pilot to test the waters (this wont be a start up – right?).

Oops! I didn’t warn you guys about nor getting me started on Vietnam – did I 😉

You must log in to post a comment.