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.”  


1 cwickes { 09.11.08 at 10:35 pm }

I couldn’t agree with you more, Cheryl, about the impressive and positive impact Mr. Dodd’s speech/pitch/presentation had on me. Wow, surely a man of his obvious skill, proficiency and knowledge in his field is a great boon to UBC’s IT Services department. His key strategy – vision – was apparent in his focus on two key issues that stood out for me; global citizenship and e-strategy frameworks. Add my beans to yours.

2 David Vogt { 09.12.08 at 9:22 am }

Just to elaborate on the “it’s all about tactics, ideas are a dime a dozen” advice, the word “execution” comes to mind. Tactics are your plan for execution, and the credibility of your team provides confidence that you can carry out the plan. Your great idea is just point “A” – what investors are looking for is that you know what point “B” looks like, that you know how to get there, and that you have the team to do it…

3 David De Pieri { 09.13.08 at 10:34 pm }

I was skimming the 522 Blogadium (blog and stadium) cuz there’s so much stuff packed in there – and I landed on the YouTube video of Angel investor Dave Berkus.
Thanks Cheryl Miller for the link.

I started watching the video and 21 seconds into it, I stopped it and wrote the three words that best described why I’d like to be an Entrepreneur. I limited myself to three words only. I thought I should set a limit to only three words because too many, and that puts you in the category of being just about anything you want. Those words were, Excitement, Intrepid, and Passion. Why those three words? I really don’t know.

I went on to start the video again. Ya hoo… 1:37 – put a Tick mark beside “Passion.” I was like a kid in grade two marking his own spelling test. I continued to watch hoping to see my other words appear but, more over, I really began to listen to Dave Berkis speak. The next word I wrote was “Confidence.” This guy exuded confidence. As the video continued, I knew it wasn’t going to lead in the direction that I thought. But, I was intrigued and continued watching and listening. At this point, I didn’t care anymore that my words probably would not appear from his mouth, so my mind started to wander to the interview with Brad from Recombo.

This time around however, I’m not going to make a huge comparison between the interviewees, instead I want to mention a few things about Dave that were different from Brad.

As I watched I could see the years of experience unfold from an older fellow whose portfolio was stacked. I don’t mean to say that he is any better, but he does have a sizable track record from time spent in the trade. He mentions early that many fledgling entrepreneurs have a visions of grandeur, want freedom and inspire to life style changes. He… looks for one thing only, and that’s passion. I had the word passion, but is passion really enough?

The interview continues and I like the flow and pace. He speaks calmly and freely without all the buzz words, in fact, his inventory of words is quite simple. His experiences and solutions make sense. His ideas are solid and can be transferable in many ways. Consider how you run your household as he speaks, are there many correlations?

I especially like the Cash Out Date section of the video, – he answers his own statement, “scares the entrepreneur, rightfully… keeps them up at night, correctly…” It’s normal to sweat a little and at least he says it. He lays it on the table and people can learn if they choose to listen.

“…we watch the flow… but the cash out date is the absolutely date we focus on…” Again, very solid plan. No beating around the bush, just plain black and white.

Lastly, his view on venture money. “…taking Venture money often means you are using it to build and therefore spending it, not using it as a cushion and therefore saving it.” Imagine in 1980 when you wanted to buy that house in Vancouver for 98, 000 and you thought it was too expensive.


Oops, sorry guys, just read your note on keeping posts brief and to the point. Next time.

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