DVogt’s Venture Forum Pitch :: CrowdTrust

Greetings, ETEC522 Venture Forum –

As promised, here’s a real live venture that I’m leading.  You were introduced to an early CrowdTrust pitch in the course – the reason we didn’t explore it further or use it more was that, behind the scenes, I was rebuilding the product for commercialization.  We have a Beta release this week, so I’m very excited!  Anyway, the executive summary is below.   The full pitch isn’t “public” yet, so if you want to review the details or try our Beta release I’d be delighted for your critical response – please email me directly and I’ll send you the document and link details.

DavidV

CrowdTrust :: Network What You Know

Executive Summary
CrowdTrust is a web service enabling individuals to harness their web presence (their browser history, interests, ideas, expertise, networks, feeds, audiences, etc.) with unprecedented ease and impact.

We will become a $100M company as the dominant player in web presence and search personalization.

Vision
CrowdTrust believes that the “social web” is about to get very personal – that the technologies and demand for personal web services, autonomy, and advantage are rapidly emerging and will soon dominate Internet culture and commerce.

Market Problem
We address two core, coupled Internet problems: 1) Industry Pain: better service isn’t possible without exploiting identity; and 2) User Friction: online social networking and reputation management are simply too much work.

Our Solution
CrowdTrust does for people what Google did for web pages.   Google applied the PageRank algorithm to integrate individual web pages with the Internet. CrowdTrust’s proprietary personal index technologies integrate your personal contexts with the web, effortlessly offering better service and amplified presence. PageRank has reached it’s limit – this is the next wave.

Value Proposition
Your every click has value. So do your ideas, the people you connect with, the content you read, and the resources you use. We make it easy for you to concentrate and channel this value.

Business Model
We make money by managing and brokering data in our clients’ interest, with no loss to personal privacy or security.  Our clients own and control all their data.

CrowdTrust is therefore a trusted broker – a very fresh and timely Internet business model.

Target Markets
Web-savvy, reputation-driven professionals and post-secondary students.

Revenue Model
We will obtain third-party transaction fees related to brokered index contexts.  One example is smart advertising, where we enable significantly more relevant ads without identity loss.  Other revenue streams include non-exploitive aggregate datamining, OEM & channel partner licensing of core technology and services, and premium client services (our basic client accounts are free).

Path to Profit
The beta release of CrowdTrust’s flagship service (code-named “CrowdTrust”) occurs on November 26, 2008 following 2 years of prototyping & market research.

CrowdTrust seeks $1M angel & early VC funding to reach profitability in 2009Q4.

19 comments


1 D.B. { 11.23.08 at 10:40 pm }

Wow. What an ambitious and practical project! I am impressed. I will be very interested in learning more about how CrowdTrust ends up dealing with privacy details since this is one of the big concerns in today’s data-farming society of internet-preneurs.


2 Cheryl Milner { 11.24.08 at 5:14 pm }

Hi David,

Could you pass on more details about Crowd Trust.

I look forward to having a look at it.
Cheryl


3 Michael Awmack { 11.24.08 at 9:47 pm }

David, based on the written pitch presented here, I would certainly be interested enough in the Crowdtrust venture to want to carry out further research. All of the key components to an effective pitch are incorporated, including a basic introduction to the idea, a clear description of the revenue model, and the path to profitability (the exit strategy).

The limitation to this type of pitch – and I’m sure a video/interactive pitch exists in some form, or will in the near future – is that there is no possibility of being given a virtual tour of the product. A five minute tour, if the product possesses the level of function described in this pitch, could work to illustrate the venture’s possibilities in the marketplace.

As it stands right now, I like the idea of this venture, but I do not yet have any sense of how it would work in reality. Due to the privacy concerns related to harnessing personal data for the purpose of improved targeting of content, I would need to conduct a significant amount of due diligence to ensure that Crowdtrust is a viable venture legally and morally.

An intriguing idea, certainly worth further investigation, Crowdtrust could be a great success assuming it is able to reach the “trusted broker” stage. With people ever more concerned about online privacy, Crowdtrust’s launch would, by necessity, have to convince people that their data would be safe. With its very concept balancing on this fact, this could be the deciding factor in its success.
If there is one suggestion I could make for the pitch, it would be to include a brief scenario illustrating how Crowdtrust works. This may be in the making for your formal pitch, but it would certainly clarify the function of this intriguing venture.

I would recommend funding this venture assuming it passed my due diligence for privacy and revenue models.

Mike A.


4 Bruce Spencer { 11.25.08 at 7:00 am }

A well executed, thought provoking and ambitious venture. David’s company has discovered a weakness within an existing internet application and has come up with a solution that will improve the technology immensely. CrowdTrust also hopes to capitalize on the Personal web market, a market that it anticipates, will grow exponentially over the course of the next few years.

David has suggested several ways he believes his company can generate revenue from this venture. They have been proven to work for other ventures so there’s no reason to think it couldn’t work for this one.

The success of this business plan relies heavily on Personal Web development being the latest internet rage. Some thought should be given to a plan B (i.e. alternative markets) should the personal web craze not materialize as expected.


5 David De Pieri { 11.25.08 at 2:29 pm }

Hi David,

Reading through your Executive Summary and PDF, I see much time and effort have gone into this venture and you have done your homework with regards to how the Net has evolved and how a service like this is now required. Scenario #1 with Maria (the student) and #2 with Karl (the engineer) makes perfect sense to me that we need a virtual place to store and organize, well… just about everything. To provide back-bone to your venture, a little about my my web site experience and how I needed an online organizational tool like this.

My first attempt with, theShopTeacher.com, I too became over-whelmed with what you call, “User Friction: looking after my web presence is simply too much work.” That was in the day of HTML which was quite limiting. With money already donated to my site from outside interests, I am able to hire a professional designer using appropriate tools. Your Market Opportunity, on page 3, makes total sense to the Web savvy individuals who have experienced the issues that your service plans to eliminate, Industry Pain and User friction. A problem for sure, the key is to build the confidence in your clients as soon as possible.

The problem with CrowdTrust being a “trusted broker” I believe that would be an issue with any start-up Web venture. How does one assess due diligence? I suspect contacting the management team, the board and / or advisors to get a “feel” for who you are dealing with. If you live in Vancouver, drive to West Pender. Not all private or vital information needs to make it’s way to the CrowdTrust platform after all. Not yet, anyhow. There is a mention about trust, a small mention of “respect, value and control of client information and your web presence.” I would like to read more on encoding information of personal data in the “Barriers to Adoption.”

This service is not just for University students and Web-Savvy types, but a good place to start. Now, how do you get the CrowdTrust name to 20M and 77M students…? Can Facebook and MySpace market properly without losing some of the CrowdTrust original appeal? What if the CrowdTrust name becomes associated to a “less desirable” web entity?

The Competitive Analysis I understand and like the incorporation of Personal Index, Value, Ease, Control and Equity. It’s re-assuring to see a powerful management team like you have behind this project.

David, I thought I mentioned back in September, something about another Web “Organizing” business doing something like this? Are there other competitors on the verge?

One other thing on your site, CrowdTrust.com site, (temporary site I assume)
The term, “CrowdTrust finds your signal in the noise.” Maybe change to, “CrowdTrust organizes your signal in the noise.” Just a thought…

I look forward to the “Grand Opening” tomorrow, I believe it’s Wed. Nov 26th, and look forward to the growth of this business. I believe it may suite my needs too.

ddp


6 Jagpal Uppal { 11.25.08 at 7:13 pm }

Hi David,

Your proposition seems very promising and well timed. Could you please send me some more details.
Best of luck on your “Launch” tomorrow.

Jag


7 Jarrod Bell { 11.25.08 at 9:56 pm }

Hi David, the venture sounds promising. Just having read your summary (and looking forward to the beta) I wonder what kind of effect this could have on professional development for teachers if there were a way to use a defined personality and explore their services… Stepping into someone’s shoes and take full advantage of their connections.

Is a trusted broker possible with the Patriot Act? Would you mitigate this by using non-US servers or is it possible to truly be anonymous? I would think this could be difficult as the pieces could be put back together to lead back to the source.

How does a declining economy affect a venture such as this? Are the third parties there putting in funds to advertising? Do they see the investment as small compared to their ROI?

Would it be advisable to wait until a point that the markets were stronger and investors may be more interested in angel investing or is there competition waiting in the wings to land the first strike?

I’m looking forward to the grand opening and reading the rest of your document. I’ll write some more after.

Cheers,
JB


8 Cheryl Milner { 11.27.08 at 1:10 pm }

Hi David,

Now that is one polished pitch!! Clearly you have had much experience in communicating to venture capitalists and it was very instructive to see how the pitch is structured and what is emphasized, so thank-you for that.

Overwhelmingly, I wanted to have a glimpse into the interface, how does the service behave, what is its ease of use that you speak of? Perhaps there is some reluctance to show this for fear of some pirating?

Another concern lies in the barriers to adoption and here I believe your company has to put some effort into a message which demonstrates how information is secured. Perhaps this will assuage US users who may be limited by the US Patriot Act or not, but I think it is critical.

I thought the focus on two key markets is a clever kick off point and perhaps represents the largest users of the tool, tertiary markets become gravy after that.

I was impressed by the management team that has been assembled.

Good luck in your beta kick-off and hope you take the world by storm!!

Best,
Cheryl


9 Alex { 11.27.08 at 10:04 pm }

Hi David,

You have presented a very timely and ambitious venture of harnessing individuals’ web presence which promises unprecedented ease and impact. Your venture, CrowdTrust, is designed to serve the online community of Anglophones and the target population is post-secondary students and professionals. Although your market research demonstrates the viability of your venture and establishment of probable sponsors, I would like to raise a couple of issues.

I have reservations towards your target population. Most of the established web savvy professionals and post-secondary students have been living with technology without the services of CrowdTrust for decades and have been operating with some kind of web system of their own. CrowdTrust should be able to earn a larger market by expanding its target population to a less informed and less experienced market.

Another issue I would like to address is its liability. The commercial management of private information must be subject to legal responsibility. At present, there is no international legal legislature to deal with any web-oriented international crimes. Many people are very aware of the fragile nature of digital information and are reluctant to digitize their sensitive information. CrowdTrust must be explicit in stating the non-legal liability of its operation at the same time as creating a trustworthy image of the company amongst the public.

I would like you to give careful consideration to the points that I made. Congratulations on your ambitious venture proposition.

Alexandra


10 Jagpal Uppal { 11.27.08 at 11:52 pm }

Hi David,

I congratulate you for your ambitious venture and think that it has potential. I also think that some of the points brought about from my colleagues need to be considered:
How will the current recession impact the release of this product and the ability of sponsors to come on board?
Is this the best time to launch a new business?
Liablity issues as mentioned by Alex above should also be considered.

Overall, I wanted to thank you for sharing your pitch with us. I realize that it takes a lot of work and facing many challenges to take your product/pitch from an idea to a reality.

Best of luck and I look forward to watching the evolution of CrowdTrust.

Jag


11 Jarrod Bell { 11.28.08 at 10:37 am }

Thank you for the prospectus! I certainly fit in the market research exactly. I could see something like this benefiting educators as there is a lot of time on the front end maintaining blogs and web resources to help others, and it takes them a lot of time to find things that they will find valuable. If crowdtrust can better organize this for me with less time and I could better support teachers who are looking to integrate technology then I would find this valuable.

I look forward to giving it a try!

Jarrod


12 David De Pieri { 11.29.08 at 5:07 pm }

so you took us all to the cleaners eh… Davey… good one…

thought there was something wrong when I mentioned “temporary site” and none of the links were working…

ddp


13 Crystal Pullman { 11.30.08 at 12:54 am }

Hi David,

I agree with others, your text proposal is very nice, and polished! Then, I think you’ve had a bit more practice than we have!

I think the comparison with Google is an interesting one – do you view them as a potential competitor then for your company? I suppose though you’re only going to focus on “one-upping” them on some particular areas, since Google has its fingers in a few more pies, you might be able to pull it off nicely!

I think you’ve got a few potential investors already based on the feedback I see here! I think as an EVA I too might inquire further as to the details and potential of CrowdTrust.

Thanks for sharing with all of us!

Crystal


14 Laura Macleod { 11.30.08 at 6:55 am }

David –

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the prospectus. Your characterization of the ‘pain points’ you’re addressing is excellent – I DO feel exhaustion every time I think about managing all my online presence and really, compared to your average 25-year-old, I’ve got barely any presence at all! In my view, anything that addresses time as an issue gets my vote, although this may be a product of end-of-term fatigue.

The market research statemet at the end of page 6 seemed really critical to me and I’d be tempted to bump it up in the presentation. As I understand it, CrowdTrust will be a tool to help focus time and activity on the web and reduce the noise while getting better results, and that market research should be highlighted more prominently.

Because I’m definitely not the target market for this tool, it took me some time to get my head around the idea. I think the proposal holds incredible value, though, for those on the fringes. Once you have an established base, I’d love to see this marketed in a way that made it appealing and simple for people like me – how can I get more from the web? I would see myself as a secondary market – I spend a fair bit of time on the web, my business is going digital, I create resources for those post-secondary students, but I can’t bring myself to make a Facebook or LinkedIn account because I want to spend my free time with my kids and my friends. So how can CrowdTrust help me use the time I want to spend on the web more effectively?

This is a proposal definitely worth funding and I’m excited about seeing where it goes. Thanks for sharing it with us. Good luck!

Laura


15 Alan Kilistoff { 11.30.08 at 11:04 am }

Hi David:

I like what I see, but I have a lot of questions. Not being as “savvy” as my MET colleagues, I must work harder to understand the nuances. As I teach at a post-secondary professional school, I am very interested in understanding this project.
What is in the executive summary has indeed whetted my appetite. It is very well done, has all the elements that I would expect, and is clearly and well written. Some of the terms and abbreviations are not clear unless this is your area of interest, but otherwise it is very easy to read. I would like to read more and add more to this soon.


16 Gillian Gunderson { 11.30.08 at 4:05 pm }

Hi, David,

Thanks for sharing your prospectus. It made me realize how much I had learned in this course as I was mentally checking off each component as I read it! After reviewing many of my classmates’ pitches and responding to 10, I am now starting to see how VCs need something to capture their attention. I think that your prospectus was visually stimulating, and incorporated visuals that supported my understanding of the components. Summarizing information in key visuals is obviously part of the “eye catching” process.

As a few people mentioned above, it would be interesting to see a video tour of the product to get a more specific feel for how it would be used.

As I am currently involved in a group project regarding digital presence, I am starting to understand how difficult and time-consuming it is to maintain and monitor presence online. There is definitely room for some sort of computer-assisted help in this area. I also think that your target market is good – those that are tech savvy are the ones who are understanding the importance of, and trying to maintain, a digital presence but becoming exhausted in the process.

Financials are where I get a bit stumped, as I don’t have business experience. Your figures seem impressive but I’m not sure in an untested market what they are based on – that’s a question for another course! I’m going to have to assume that the figures are supported and explainable as I’m sure that this information would be important in attracting people who are used to dealing with money in the business world.

The summary at the end was excellent – I should have used a similar one in my own pitch!

Overall, I found the prospectus contained all of the components that we have been learning to include. It was visually impressive and contained enough information to give a good sense of where you are heading. The idea seems to be coming at the leading edge of a projected wave, so it’s a good place to be.

Reading all of the above comments about your prospectus has given me further information on what to consider, so thanks for allowing us to learn a bit more about the business side of things. Good luck with this venture.

Gillian


17 Deepika Sharma { 11.30.08 at 8:50 pm }

Hi David,

Am sure what I have to say here is nothing new – others have said it all!

Wow! I liked the “crispness” of the exec summary – very well written and conveys all the key points!

Here is my predicament – how will a product like this be adopted in the developing world, where people are yet not Internet savvy to have “trusted brokers” …so maybe for us it is a product before it time and so like in many other cases we will just follow the west …

I am also fuzzy on how this product will work – so perhaps I should have (earlier in the week) asked for more details via email…too late now or is ot not?

I like your Value proposition but a million $ is a lot of money so I would like to see more before I commit.

I am also thinking …like everything that went to open source what if something similar does – have you factored that in your business model – how would you mitigate that competition?

Deepika


18 Drew Murphy { 11.30.08 at 10:31 pm }

Hi David: I enjoyed examining your pitch from several perspectives. Its very interesting to see a what a full blown, deeply researched, expert supported, innovation driven, step up to the plate and try and hit a home run proposal looks like. The moment I read your executive summary I had an aha! moment ( I’m sure others did too.) and understood the license available to convey a succinct yet creative vision of the idea. As educators we tend to default to our expository skills and under utilize our marketing instincts. Feel free to post your exec summary as a sample for your students in future ETEC 522 courses. They’ll find it very enlightening.

The larger pitch was also very interesting and compelling. The pitch has a certainty and specificity that gives the impression you know something the competitors don’t. Its intriguing to see the approach to capturing web value through the content collections of individuals. Your model is testing the new abstract economic relationship between humans and digital content. If we make the assumption that all human economic interactions are about the allocation of resources than you are essentially creating a post modern resource based venture and you are extracting people’s content “coal”. And, because this venture is attempting to exploit this relationship at a very fundamental level, I think the risk in this venture is whether these human content collections actually have any value or enough value. Like all resource based industries you are feeding a secondary industry that uses your resource. So the question is will the content collections you are extracting be an essential resource needed by other large secondary industries (silver, uranium) or a lesser, non essential resource (gravel, wood chips). I only put it in these terms in order to keep the abstractions of digital ventures grounded in the fundamentals of the world as it is and always will be. So your pitch is, as everyone is saying, intriguing and promising. But, may I be so bold as to add that in my humble experience this: your pitch is somewhat abstract and that is a bit of a red flag. The web itself is an alluring abstraction of possibilities and promise that can confuse the issue of what does and does not have value, what is a real need and what is a digital mirage. In the end its all just a collection of bits of light on a screen, a thing. And so remain clear about what is the “thing” you are selling.

Thanks, David. Best of luck.


19 Amber Van Der Mark { 12.01.08 at 5:02 pm }

I like the idea of where it is going. I am not too sure how it will look and work out there? It would be nice to see a prototype of how it would be set up to get a better understanding and picture of the whole thing. Security would be a bit concern. I know sites claim to be protected but I still feel that it can still be broken into. I would have to read more into it before making a desicion of yes or no. I can see where it would come in very handy though. I do like the idea, just need a bit more information on it first.

Amber

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