Showrunner, Artist, Neophyte


I have taken up three videos for this analysis – Recombo, Ingenia and UBC.


The Showrunner

When I looked at Recombo’s 2nd (improved business model) video, Brad Mcphee strikes me as an entrepreneur – not only is he in control of what is happening at Recombo and is able to analyse the market trend and its implications for Recombo. He is one of the few who has an exit strategy. It is easy to see how he would score on the criteria laid out in our material – McPhee would score a neat 4 on a scale of 1(low)-5(high) on most (except competitive products – there wasn’t a mention of any of these in his spiel). I am tempted to cast him as the “showrunner”  who tends


to demonstrate enough know-how to convince…that ideas can be developed according to industry-standard practices…Though they may not have to best ideas, showrunners are those rare people in organizations who see the majority of their concepts fully implemented.”(Elsbach K., 2003, p. 4)


The question that comes to mind is what happens to a business plan that rides the “first in the marketplace” wave when competition catches up? I am referring to the DVD case study from YouTube link sent by DavidV (can’t find the link now – help me!). Two things that need to be addressed here in a technology related scenario – cost of technology will continue to decrease and competition will increase – should the 12 minute plan address this, how?


The Artist


I am tempted to cast Ingenia CEO as an artist – the “non-conformist” in our pitch pool for having displayed “single-minded passion and enthusiasm” about her idea of doing business in Vietnam. Her pitch is confidently delivered and as an EVA if I have to give an instant decision I would be tempted to go for Ingenia (Vietnam has made a strong business case past 5 years or so) but give it some thought – how have the following been addressed for a foreign market – country regulations for foreign business, consumer behaviour, market size, competition, country risk (language barrier, technology)? To my mind, these issues make a strong case for a robust business model (“tie-up with a foreign University campus” – isn’t one), expansion plan and an explicit exit strategy.


I sense a certain genuineness in this pitch and.I would go along with Elsbach’s about genuineness making the artist credible, but then we are in the business world where expecting the unexpected is the norm!  


Aside- I have lived in Vietnam for 3 years (2003-2006) and just concluded an education technology project with Vietnam schools funded by the Japan Social Fund and overseen by The World Bank – enjoyable as it is, the turf is tough!


The Neophyte


Ted Todds, CIO UBC, comes across as the neophyte because he presents himself as an eager learner, “…by asking directly and boldly for help –not in a desperate way but with the confidence of a brilliant favorite…” (Elsbach K., 2003, p. 7) in openly inviting and working with other campuses. If the intrapreneur must ask the question “Where is the better business in this” then Ted Todds has got it right. His credibility is high, has a good management team a sound business model.


In my view “e” models are organic – they are self-propagating and have the potential to grow exponentially (facilitated by the downward trend in technology prices over a period of time) – shouldn’t e-learning models then address ways in which they beat competition by increasing outreach (overseas students for instance)? If this is not adequately addressed isn’t there a danger of competition creeping up from behind to grab new markets when “on-campus” business is reaching saturation point?


I will look forward to all your thoughts while I set out to read the other posts.








Elsbach, K.(2003, September). How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea. Harvard Business Review, 81(9), 117-123. retrieved September 8, 2008, from Business Source Complete Database.



1 David Vogt { 09.12.08 at 8:56 am }

Dee –

Thanks for this characterization. If you strip away all of the venture analytics, marketing hype, and profit potentials, the majority of Venture Capitalists will admit that the *most* critical factor for them in funding a venture is whether they “like” the proponent. It isn’t all about credibility and proven performance, its about personality. Charm. So looking a personality types (and understanding your own, knowing which ones you find appealing) is important.

Personality as a driving factor? It may sound crazy but its not. A venture funding relationship is like a marriage where the couple is focused on money – – fireworks can easily happen when things don’t go right. I’ve seen many ventures (including one of my own) fail purely because of personality conflicts amongst investors.

So this rule (“be careful who you get into bed with”) is true for entrepreneurs as well – if you don’t really like an eager investor be very careful…

2 Cheryl Milner { 09.12.08 at 11:59 am }


Seems to me all e-models are de facto organic, they have to be as there are so many moving parts. Technology evolves, the market is fickle, talent can be unpredictable. My question is when do you stop the madness as Brad McPhee alluded to and said this is where we will focus our energy? That is the brilliant flag pole setting moment that I so admire.

3 Deepika Sharma { 09.13.08 at 3:41 am }

In response to DavidV – I agree with you 100% – it is a lot about personality types which is why “showrunner”, “artist”, “neophyte” strikes a chord! I had started my post with two instances of my own experience in making the 12 minute pitch (but pulled them out because the post was becoming unweildy) and the successes and failure of these ahd a lot to do with what you wrote here. I am taking the liberty of putting in those examples here as is:

“I would like to begin with a couple personal experiences – a confession – I have been in a 12-minute pitch situation (internal to my organization) and flopped miserably – my folly – I had not analysed the strengths my competition that our model should have countered therefore falling short of the robust business model that our CEO was seeking! The business was set up some years later by someone else and wound up equally quickly. My thoughts then were would they have considered what I had not, and if they had then why did the business not succeed? An important lesson I learnt – the business place is complex and “tipping point” is real…what tales off and what doesn’t is a complex interplay of circumstances and perosnalities that can hardly be encapsulated in a 12-minute pitch.

Years later I was in the tough spot again – that same 12 minute pitch (then I did not know this is what it is called!) thing had to be done – this time to the head of a conglomerate of 1000 schools – I was representing an education company and we had just wound up a pilot project in 20 schools to understand whether or not technology intervention in the class room produces better exam results (than if there was no intervention) – it was a number crunching exercise, data sheets, graphs, spreadsheets…although the data did not show a significant change due to intervention (there are many valid reasons / explanations for this but we had to lead with numbers…), we won our case (yes!) just on the number crunching exercise – I learnt my next important management lesson then – use numbers to prove your point, they hide as much as they reveal!”

I hope I am making sense here.

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