Drew Murphy’s Venture Pitch

You’ll find the links below to the executive summary and the full pitch proposal.

This proposal is about a venture possibility, we call classconnections, involving the development of innovative, classroom ready online assignment marking and discussion tools.   The concept of classconnections is based on our years of experience integrating and observing teachers using technololgy in the classroom setting. We’ve currently developed our own successful online school community system we call xspression.  And, classconnections is the next iteration of classroom software for teachers in our ongoing development process.  Check it out.  Its quite interesting.

Both videos may be found at the same location.

Executive Summary…

Full Pitch ……..

13 comments


1 Joey Dabell { 11.25.08 at 10:55 am }

Drew:

An interesting proposal, with a good summary. I would have liked to have seen the summary slide broken into individual slides so they were easier to read. I liked how you finished the summary with the personal video invitation.

For your pitch, your use of slides, diagrams, audio, and video made for a very engaging presentation. For me, the only thing that occasionally detracted was the movement of the mouse cursor. Your diagrams really helped to illustrate the problem, how classrooms work, and how they could work better with your solution.

You have done a good job of convincing me that your problem is real and that your solution would have value.

As an EVA I don’t have the strongest business background, but using a consortium model as your business model is an interesting idea. The idea of teacher ownership shows some innovative thinking to help solve the problem of how to involve teachers when a project may involve some effort from them outside their normal contract hours.

I do still wonder about additional workload for teachers in helping to evolve this project. Your timeline seems pretty compressed. I can’t help wonder if a 3-year plan isn’t a little optimistic. For example, as an EVA who has also worked as a software designer I find there is often a tendency to not allow enough time for testing and debugging. It might be worth a second look at the timeline, but then again you also are pretty clear that you have similar prior experience.

Overall the venture shows innovation in solving a real problem, and seems sound. I would recommend the venture be funded.


2 Gillian Gunderson { 11.26.08 at 5:19 pm }

Hello, Drew,

Your presentation was comprehensive and compelling. I liked the use of video and visuals (although you might want to think about cutting down on the amount of text on the screen sometimes); the screen shots of the product allowed me to see what was achievable. You clearly articulated the problem and the solution. The advantages were laid out and I, as an investor, was easily able to understand your product. In addition, the uniqueness of your product was well-described. You also presented the possible problems or barriers and showed how those problems could be overcome. That assured me that you weren’t being too idealistic in your venture. The market was researched and the figures presented (although dating back to 2000) showed enough of a potential demand to make the idea attractive.

Your financials were presented with a great deal of thought to all of the aspects of business that an investor may need to see. You sounded knowledgeable and confident that you knew where the business was heading each year. The yearly cost that you suggest compares favourably with the competition you mentioned. The experience of your team was mentioned several times, and focused on the success and experience you have already encountered. The 50% interest retained in the organization would be very attractive to investors.

What was a bit of a problem for me was the investment you were asking for was directly targeted at marketing. However, when you detailed the team, the marketing person was not yet determined. This meant that I could not evaluate this important team member.

Also, your pitch lasted approximately 13.5 minutes, which meant it was over the 12 minute time limit. I noticed that there was some redundancy of information sometime before the 6 minute mark. You talked about the ease, effectiveness, and reward of using the product from a few different viewpoints. I think there would be room here to cut some information to make your presentation shorter.

Overall, you have created a great presentation that would have me, as an investor, wanting to know more.

Thanks for letting me view your venture.

Gillian


3 Joe Dobson { 11.26.08 at 9:01 pm }

Hi Drew,

This is an interesting concept that seems to have a niche market. You clearly state the rationale and need. Others have already commented about the text on the slides. I also wonder if in a 10 minute pitch, too many details about the financial plan are distracting as the point is to bait the fish. It might be better to leave that and cut it back a few minutes. You also talk about your team twice in the presentation and once at the start would be enough. In regard to the areas of risk you mention, you do a good job of turning them around and showing them as benefits and rather than saying these are not insurmountable might pitch them as advantages.

I liked the demonstration of the product at the beginning – it helped make the proposal a lot clearer and the timelines you discuss seem clear. I also like the use of video over the slides – if only I was that savvy!

As an EVA, I’m intrigued to follow up and learn more.

Cheers,
Joe


4 Drew Murphy { 11.26.08 at 11:37 pm }

Thanks for your comments everyone. Your perspectives are greatly appreciated. Its very useful to get everyone’s take on the various aspects of the pitch. I’ll definitely be using the feedback.

Just to extend any further visits….. how do people feel about the basic idea of the pitch: classroom teachers using a central site to receive and assess assignments and discussions…. any thoughts?


5 Bryan Funk { 11.27.08 at 12:04 am }

Hi Drew.

Executive summary gave me enough information to want to listen to the pitch. The slide was pretty jam packed with information so maybe separate slides would help with that but overall well done.

I also felt that some of the information was a bit redundant but I recognize that in the 12 minutes it is important to highlite some of the key selling points more than once. I was also wondering about the aggressive timeline. The product is already in use and sounds like it is ready to go in 2009 but there are some pieces still missing from your puzzle that need to be filled before I hand you my money. What happens in the event that revenues do not allow me to get my $100 000 back after year 3?

One of the areas I think you may want to investigate further would be your competitors. There are products out there that offer the same features as Classconnections and do so on the Microsoft SharePoint platform which is common to many districts. Many schools are trying to streamline the money they spend on software and are looking for solutions that can combine the student information systems with grading & assessment and the bloggin,wikis, assignment repositories and discussion boards for staff and students. How will classconnections fit with existing IT infrastructure in schools and districts? Is it a stand alone add-on? What kind of support/training will be available to other schools or districts that purchase the program.

These were just some questions that came to mind but overall the presentation is very well done and at the very least it left me wanting to hear more and as an EVA I think I would offer the opportunity for you to anwwer those questions.

Bryan


6 Drew Murphy { 11.27.08 at 10:12 am }

Thank Bryan. Your mention of Sharepoint as a competitor is useful and I should deal with that in another iteration of the plan. Here I’ll practice now by saying that…. Sharepoint is a direct example of why technology integration won’t work in schools. Its a business hand-me-down that assumes an adult audience only and lacks the particular functionality and work flows that teachers are wanting for the unique aspects of classroom teaching. Hmmmmm,….I don’t, something like that.

Thanks everyone. Wow, this is really helpful. Keep it coming if you can!


7 Alex { 11.27.08 at 9:51 pm }

A Powerful and well thought out presentation with good logical flow and arguments. However, I would like it better if the words were legible in your PowerPoint presentation. Also, you could have made your presentation more succinct, slowed down your speech, and put effort in clear articulation. Also, please allow more time for the audience to digest all you would like them to digest by using pauses efficiently. I had to view your video a number of times to capture the essence of your presentation.

Over all, you presented too much information to accomplish your goal. I think the venture itself is interesting, yet, I am left with a question: How is your system is superior to others? I am not sure of the economical merit in this venture.

Alexandra


8 Drew Murphy { 11.27.08 at 11:42 pm }

Yeah…. thanks so much for the feedback Alex. Sorry you had to watch it over and over again. Watching me over and over again is enough to put anyone on overload.


9 Alex { 11.27.08 at 11:54 pm }

Hi Drew,

But, after all that, I feel like I know you well 😉 That is a great effect in itself.

Alexandra


10 Marc Kampschuur { 11.28.08 at 10:45 pm }

Drew:

Enjoyed the form of the presentation and thought its setting in the actual school site helped with context and credibility.

At over 15 minutes between intro & pitch you can render it more concise on the basis of the critique you already received.

I see you are also a victim of compression to a degree with difficult to read slides, some may benefit from having less text. I liked the idea of the diagrams, were visually appealing and engaging but could not make out what they said. Pace and variation of speaking also helped make the presentation engaging.

Was initially unclear if software for DL or inclass use and if in addition to… adding to workload. The demo really helped clarify its application. Does it link to gradebook or existing assessment SW?

Liked the background on the development and the team, was encouraging. Am unclear on why competitors (who may have more resources), would be unable to offer the same functionality – especially over a three year period.

Would expect the competition/environment to be quite a bit different in three years and more money needed for development in the interim – dont think this product can remain static if it wants to compete.

Am also unclear on the structure, if the investor ends up with 50% interest, dont they run the company at that point / how will company be managed?

Do like that there is a plan for the future with clear goals and numbers.

I like the product, I see value in it, would be interested in learning more about it.


11 Alan Kilistoff { 11.29.08 at 10:16 am }

Hi Drew:

Excellent presentation! Very thorough and easy to listen to. Great information and even though I don not teach in the public school system, I think this is a very useful and helpful tool. You mention considerable experience in your company, but does this include more than your 15 years? I think this is a proposal that I would support.


12 Laura Macleod { 11.29.08 at 12:31 pm }

Drew –

Excellent presentation – from both a technological and content point of view, one of the best I viewed. Some thoughts:

I found the structure of your pitch compelling, as you laid an excellent groundwork by showcasing what you’ve already achieved and demonstrating the lessons you learned from your previous experience. That to me is a big mark on the plus side for investment. Proven track record and learning from your experience – great combination. The breakdown of the problem you’re trying to solve was especially well done: careful, clear, with excellent visual support.

The focus on smoothing teacher workflow is a good one with lots of potential. However, I thought your initial market size assessment was far too broad and needed refinement. ‘All teachers’ isn’t specific enough because, very clearly, you know that not all teachers will be interested. I’d want to see more detail, although I did like the communication strategy you identified later in the presentation.

Given your market size assessment, I actually thought you were aiming too low in your sales projections. 2000 teacher-users doesn’t seem ambitious enough to me, given the powerful tool you’re handing them.

A question about the assessment: I think the ability to customize the marking comments in the drop-down menu would be important. In Ontario, where we’ve moved to standardized comments on report cards, there has been pretty significant push back both from teachers (who feel it devalues the time and effort they put into their students) and from parents (who feel it puts all kinds in four kinds of boxes).

Finally, I was unsure about the teacher consortium financial involvement. I would guess that a $3000 investment might not be a huge thing, but the reward at the end (the change to pay more money – $100) didn’t jive. If I was rewarded at the end with my bond returned, plus a stake in the company, that would drive the behaviour I think you’re looking for.

Overall, I thought this was a very strong proposal. I had some questions that I would want answered before I was willing to invest, but I would certainly put this proposal in the for further investigation category.

Thanks!
Laura


13 Kenneth Heales { 11.30.08 at 2:33 pm }

Hi Drew,
This venture is one I could certainly identify with because it is targeted for use in a secondary school setting. The area of distributed learning is certainly one that has been expanding in recent years as there is now a recognition that flexibility in course delivery is a desirable option for many students and teachers. The fact that you are building on an already existing program indicates that this product could be far closer to being a viable venture than a product that is being started from scratch.
The use of discussion forums is a very interesting idea. I like that this type of format allows for a freer flow of discussion within a class as the possible barriers of face to face discussion are not present. A question I would have, though is how difficult are these discussions top moderate for appropriate material and discussion? I like that the inclusion of a social networking site allows teachers to interact with their students in a professional and appropriate way.
The actual presentation was very well done and made a strong case for this product. There were actual screenshots of the product at work which would give investors a tangible example of what they would be investing in. What is required for investment is also clearly laid out with a plan as to how the product will be built up. You have also done a good job of comparing prices for your product against those products that could be considered competitors.
With the three year plan in place, this venture seems to be well on its way to becoming a reality. I think that this product would be attractive to investors because of the existing product in place and the well organized plan for its growth.
All the best,
Ken

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