Category — Mod02:Business Bootcamp

Lance Armstrong Speaks at Web 2.0

38 minutes.  He discusses Twitter, Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, (a for-profit web venture), (non-profit Lance Armstrong Foundation), and of course cycling 🙂

November 7, 2008   1 Comment

News Article – Perfect Pitch Scores Deal for BC Firm

From the Globe and Mail.  The Snapshot provides an interesting summary of decision factors including stats.

November 4, 2008   6 Comments

TED talk on Pitching

Interesting advice –  TED talk by David Rose on pitching to VC’s


October 2, 2008   2 Comments

Pitching Your Idea – Some Internet Resources

This site has a brief explanation on how to pitch (elevator pitches, knowing your investors), and also has a video with information on selling your business:

This site is focussed on female entrapreneurs, and has links to various information (market fundamentals, creating a pitch, business plan guide – all of which also have accompanying videos:

I hope these are helpful!

September 20, 2008   2 Comments

Speaking of free…

Speaking of free…

Here’s a new venture that hosts up to 1TB of media “free.”


Maybe someone would like to subject it to a cube analysis, or even a combined cube-pitch analysis if you haven’t posted one as yet.


September 19, 2008   1 Comment

First attempt: Ingenia and Recombo 2004

As an inexperienced EVA I decided to focus on both Recombo 2004 and Ingenia pitches.  Their format and the visual aid used by the speakers made it a lot easier for me to follow the pitch.  I’m assuming this format also makes it easier for any potential investor to get the most out of a 12 minute pitch.

Recombo 2004: MacPhee seems very confident about his company’s potential and shares his vision for the long-term.  He identifies key players in the team he’s assembled and highlights they’re relevant experience.  For now, I am impressed with the business model that was presented.  The speaker describes the company’s specific goals and the strategies to reach these goals. He uses clear graphics and relevant examples to get his point across.  MacPhee mentions some of his clients and key partners but also takes the time to mention the competition he is facing.  Furthermore he seems to give a realistic view of the company’s path to success by identifying the challenges that need to be dealt by the company in order to reach the described goals. MacPhee mentions the positive feedback he’s received from publishers/clients and shares his desires for the long-term.
Ingenia: Materi gives an overview of her presentation before she starts her pitch per say.  She describes her company’s activities in detail.  Shares the company’s success to date and briefly mentions the type of team members she is working with.  Materi emphasizes her own personal experience in the field.  She shares the type of clients she works with.  Materi clearly identifies some of the challenges faced by the company and discusses the approaches the firm will take to tackle these. She specifies the market the firm wishes to tap into and describes the logic behind choosing that market.  Furthermore she highlights her personal experience with this market.  She shares Ingenia’s main goal.  Very clearly describes the type of investment needed and the percentage of return that is expected.  Materi seems a lot less confident when discussing the potential challenges.  Some of the language used, such as “we think we can” and “ this will be tough”, is likely worrisome for a potential investor.  Overall, I feel more substantial facts about the firm could have been shared within the allotted time.

If I had the required funds and had to make a decision between both firms, I do believe I would go forward by granting Recombo another chance to further discuss investment potential.  I believe it will be interesting, however, to do this same comparison once I have more experience as an EVA.  The outcome could very well be the opposite.

September 19, 2008   3 Comments

Answers to questions not asked

While reading through the module 2 & 3 materials made some notes in CMap format.  Idea is to develop them over the course of the modules and reference them when designing and evaluating pitches.  Future versions will be made available at a nominal fee – actually will just post them when and if it happens (suppose will need to add version numbers).

Curious about reaction to the blog interface format.  Candidly, I find it more frustrating to use than Vista and find it affects my interest in the course – suppose that qualifies as exploratory learning.  The use of applications (i.e. a news reader) to add basic functionality to the interface attest to user unfriendliness (and still does not resolve direct access to posts or comments, direct/private communication with users)….

It may also be that patience is worn a little thin through repeated interaction with Shaw this week.  At least telephone and internet service seem stable again (the irony of telephone and online customer support when your the reason for customer support is no telephone and no internet connection).  Will peruse the 118 posts and 197 comments currently on the blog tomorrow and resume comment.  Thank you for your patience

September 19, 2008   16 Comments

Alan’s views on Recombo and Ingenia

Both presentations were convincing and easy to watch.  In Recombo the company has changed with the need/? and this is good.  I am a little uneasy about the  large turn around.  Was this always in the design, or just what exactly caused the large shift.  It is not clear in the presentation.  The first presentation was very “silicone valley” , relaxed, open shirt, whereas the second was more “business” with shirt and tie, etc.  This may be healthy growth, but is there a hint of non specific direction, or indecision?  All in all a  case to support this opportunity could be made, but another presentation could place this one out of contention.

Ingenia looks good on the outside, but I am hesitant about their expertise.  I would like to know more about the “guru” status of the presenter and why is it that with all the cultural concerns, are they working with Vietnam, without a solid base at home?  There may be very good reasons for all these concerns, but it is not clear in the prersentation.  Again I have some concerns and another project may be more rewarding.

September 18, 2008   1 Comment

Jag’s thoughts on Recombo and Ingenia

First off, I enjoyed watching all the ‘pitch’ examples and the use of video technology has definitely made this course more personable.

The two venture’s that I reviewed were Recombo and Ingenia.  I found both companies focused on offering e-learning services to traditional companies that are trying to digitalize their training or product offerings.  These clients have a choice in how to enter the e-learning  marketplace.  Either they develop the platform and resources ‘in-house’ with intrapreneurs and hire ‘IT’ specialists, or they contract out to a 3rd party entrepreneur who will develop and manage the technical infrastructure.

Recombo – offers clients a technological infrastructure that will allow the clients applications to be shared and used across other applications.  The company has made the transition from multiple product offerings to strictly being a service provider and a manager of the technical infrastructure that Recombo would customize for their clients.  A major client of Recombo is the traditional publisher Mindleader, and through this major client, Recombo is hoping to gain further clients.

Ingenia – specializes in e-learning applications and is focusing on the developing S.E. Asian market, specifically Vietnam.  Locally, this company has many government clients (SFU, ICBC, to name a few), yet when looking to establish overseas they are concentrating on multi-national corporations.  The e-learning applications for corporations could be for internal training or for accreditation.  In order to compete for government contracts in Vietnam, Ingenia did partner with a local software firm…ensuring that jobs and wealth are being re-invested back into Vietnam.

As an investor, I found both CEOs to be credible and knowledgeable about the industry.  That being said, I found it interesting that Recombo’s VP, Brad MacPhee, was wearing an earring.  I know that earrings are no big deal and apart of today’s norms, however I come from a traditional family and if Recombo is looking to venture into foreign markets,  it would be worth investigating how other cultures  perceive piercings and even tattoos for that matter.

In terms of the business model, both ventures revolve around large-scale contracts with major companies or with various levels of government.  Information technology and software architecture is a huge business, what is stopping giants such as Microsoft or Google from entering this market?  How would these companies respond and/or survive with greater competition?  Or is the goal of these ventures to be bought out by one of the larger companies allowing all investors to cash out?

In regards to the e-learning industry, are these programs being used for accreditation or are they being used by companies for internal training?  As an investor, I don’t see continuous cashflow in these businesses without the large scale contracts from major clients.  From my senses, it seems as though these companies are relying on large multinational corporations or governments to supply them with that ‘home-run’ contract.  Outside of these contracts, there are no external sources of revenue.  While I wish both entrepreneurs success in their ventures, I would not invest in either of these ventures…but than again, I never invested in Microsoft, Google, or Apple for that matter.

September 17, 2008   1 Comment

Three Deal Making Principles

According to Joan Wood Moser, “Intrigue opens the deal, Facts justify the deal and Emotion closes the deal”.

Read about Why Investor Pitches Fail to Deliver.

September 16, 2008   4 Comments


Due to my late registration in this course, I’ll focus on two Pitch Pools:

·         Recombo

·         Ingenia

The title of this article suggests we/I are/am Educational Venture Analysts (EVAs). I certainly did not feel like an EVA. My M.O. throughout these pitches was to start/stop them frequently (to decipher what was said and see how it fits with the criteria). Here are the results of my efforts.

Recombo 2004/2005

Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) to listen to my “gut instincts.” As an EVA, my gut says “pass.” Here’s why:

  • Within one year they’ve transitioned from a products company to a services company. This “flip” in focus implies the organization did not have a strong understanding of their proposed market. They didn’t do their research. They’re basically functioning on a trial-and-error basis. That’s an unattractive concept for investors. Do you want to invest money in a company an experiment? Sure, a company must adjust to customer needs and so on, but this appears to be a complete overhaul.
  • It seems that Brad’s business motivation is to sell off the company once it gets big enough (i.e. 100 million). A bit of a “cart before the horse” scenario.
  • The business model relies heavily on customer’s opening up their client lists to Recombo. For example, Lighthouse would allow Recombo access to their learning clients. Since Recombo has already changed focus once, what’s to stop them from gathering large client lists from other companies, change focus to service them…basically steal customers from Lighthouse.
  • Having various computer systems share data streams is the panacea of most technology companies….i.e. everyone’s working to that end. I would invest my money in a proven company..e.g Sun.
  • No real discussion about the management team, their credentials etc.

I could go on but think you get the point.


The pitch started off wonderfully and she almost had me sold on investing, but here’s a few reasons why I decided not to investment:

  • It’s primarily a consulting firm. Consultants are a dime a dozen! I’m interested in investing in companies that “do” instead of companies that “tell you how to do it” All the “do” stuff is sub-contracted so I’d anticipate Ingenia’s margin for profit would be low.
  • They’re going after foreign markets when they really haven’t established themselves locally…besides a few government contracts which we don’t really learn about. Asian markets are culturally sensitive so wondering if they have an Asian within their management team.
  • 40% of my investment would go to pay for their travel! I’m  not investing money in a company so they can travel.
  • Ramona claims to be a guru in her field.  I don’t see any evidence in the pitch.

For both pitches, I’ve included some of the pitch criteria within the given points. Again, I looked at it as an EVA looking to invest my hard earned money. Hopefully, this synopsis doesn’t come across as being too gnarly…I don’t like to foolishly part with my money J

September 15, 2008   4 Comments

Rate of Return

Recombo – 2005

This video was more difficult to follow. It was only after reviewing the video three times and taking notes that I finally understood what the product (service) was and how it was to be used.

A condensed version of my notes is as follows:

  • Year of transition –Changed perspective from a products company to a services company
  • New customer – Publisher – Mindleaders – Recombo technology platform to replace Mind Leaders existing platform – Will provide Mindleaders with value added features.
  • Traditional Learning Management System vs. Content Integration Router
  • Recombo Connector Router Product (IT Manager, Product Managers)
  • Used for learning content – connects content within learning management system
  •  Recombo Adaptor Product (Joins systems together)
  • Exchanges data between systems – Platform becomes the communicator/interpreter between these two systems
  • Company currently at twelve employees which has expanded to twenty-two
  • Reworked the sales pitch and bet the future of the company on one major deal
  • IPO possibilities – Considerations about possible takeover offers by some mid-ware Company (IBM)

I believe Recombo’s CEO has done an adequate job of explaining his company’s position and the direction they are taking. It would seem that the company’s latest venture with Mindleaders will solidify Recombo’s position in this exciting industry. This assumption is based on the company’s successful bid to hire new talent and their ability to build a team that will meet and exceed the challenges and expectations leading up to this deal.

Most startups fail within the first 12 to 18 months. Recombo is into its third year and thus far, has weathered the good and the bad times. From what I can gather, their business plan has changed from its original form to reflect its current situation. They are looking towards the future and their business plan (marketing strategy) tends to support this notion. Assuming the transition from Mindleaders current platform to Recombo’s platform goes well (tests would seem to indicate that is doable) this may be a worthwhile investment for any wannabe venture capitalist.    


This video was much easier to follow. A condensed version of my notes is as follows:

  • A Canadian company marketing both at home and abroad (Vietnam)
  • Multiple contracts already in play – a track record
  • Competition is an issue – other companies appear to have the competitive edge
  • The amount is small but the return could be big.


The CEO presented her company in a positive an informative manner. She came across as being in knowledgeable, confident and determined to succeed. It would be hard not to so no to this lady. However, I am rather hesitant to commit myself just yet, for a couple of reasons.

First, I’d want to make sure that the competition (the ones with the deep pockets) weren’t also in the bidding. Second, I’d want more information about the infrastructure being proposed in the Vietnam situation (I’ve travelled in enough similar countries so I know not to make comparisons with developed countries such as Canada). Finally, I’d want to take a closer look at the finances to see if the proposal was being adequately funded and the rate of return reasonably high.

Why would a venture capitalist want to spend peanuts if he/she can only expect peanuts in return?

Thanks for taking the time to review this post.

September 14, 2008   2 Comments

Resource: Open Source Economics

This is something I find fascinating from a TED talk on Open Source Economics

September 14, 2008   1 Comment

Terms link not working on Other Business Concepts to Explore

I’m getting a 500 error on the link ( listed on . Definitely a problem on their side that might clear up.

Is there another site with similar info the people have found?



September 14, 2008   1 Comment

Ingenia vs Recombo

I found the Recombo person used a lot of technical words I wasn’t totally familiar with, but have been learning about recently during my web design.  As he started describing what he was doing, it started to sound more and more to me like it was an aggregation hub.  In other words, a piece of software which automatically collects information from a variety of sources.  The model I see here is that each of these sources pushes out data (using an RSS feed for example) and this aggregator pulls the data together.  Seems like a neat thing, but as I mentioned before, I know someone who cooked up one of these sites using Drupal in an afternoon.  So my money isn’t on them, unless they somehow change their tune again.

As for Ingenia, I am worried about the prospects of a start up company doing business in South East Asia where cultural norms are very, very different than in the West.  Unless they have familiarity with the quirks of Vietnamese culture, they are going to find some very basic things quite frustrating.

For example, my wife just asked a Thai silk company to order some silk for her, a whole 10 yards of it (and a cost of $9 or so), and they told her no problem.  A week later and they still haven’t ordered the silk for her, and so she calls to find out why.  The reason?  She hasn’t prepaid for the silk.  Why didn’t they call to tell her that she has to pay?  Because my wife might lose face when they point out she made a mistake, and a Thai business would go out of business pretty quickly in Thailand if they forced their customers to lose face like this.

Knowing these kinds of cultural assumptions is key to doing business in this part of the world.  So unless Ingenia has some very experienced Vietnamese partners, they are going to lose a lot of money and productivity to these kinds of mistakes.

Does anyone here have any other cultural awareness issues that could affect business in various parts of the world to share?

September 14, 2008   4 Comments

Gone in 60 Seconds

I’ve worked with a number of higher-level decision makers; and have at times wondered if their directness and urgency, their push “to get to the point” was a bit of an act – a convenient persona; but after this exercise, things are changing.


I hear the EVA voice inside my head pushing to get the pitcher to hurry up.  It’s not that I want them to speak faster, but I want them to spend less time on material that is not relevant to my decision.  There is one question I want answered before I can devote any attention to the deeper levels of consideration and analysis.  Answer this: Does it work?  As a product, as a business, an idea, a venture – can you help me believe in this with you?


With that in mind – here are my bullet point re-writes that would have helped pitchers stay with them past the first 60 seconds:


Recombo ’04:

  • The Content Object approach to computing is changing everything – the US Department of Defense sees this as a significant new development in computing.
  • Our company builds hardware that makes this type of computing work.
  • The chairman of the board is the guy who built Lycos Terra
  • Motorola and Sun Microsystems are buying our hardware
  • We’ve just taken on a client that’s using our hardware to deliver on contracts with 800 of the Fortune 1000.


Recombo ‘05

  • We’ve been in business for more than three years, and we’re reaping some of the rewards of having survived the early start-up challenges.
  • We’ve just signed one of the largest companies in the publishing industry – they are switching their entire operation over to our platform – they are really excited about the advantages we’re opening up.
  • Mindleaders has a client base of approximately 700 major corporate clients.
  • Mindleaders wants to leverage their huge client base to develop new customers for our company; our agreement rewards them if their clients buy from us.



  • Our team is composed of the top E-learning developers in Canada:  I’m the director of E-Learning BC and co-chair of the National organization. We recruit experts from universities across the country.
  • Our company is doing well; we have solid contracts with a list of significant clients.
  • We have the option of expanding into Vietnam – a hub for multinationals and international banks.
  • The Vietnamese Education Sector is growing (X) times faster than the North American market.
  • Our early trips have already produced a number of contracts; we think we could take the leadership position in this market within the next 18 months.

September 13, 2008   13 Comments

Thoughts on pitch pool examples

I compared videos of Ingenia and Recombo. As an audience, I like the video of Ingenia, the presentation is concise and well structured, her plan is attractive and convinced, and also the request is rather low, only $ 100,000. Maybe ten minutes are too short, but if I were to invest, I need a more detailed plan from them.


The most important reason I like their presentation is that they know their problems, which is very important for the future development. When the lady said that they are not good at selling expertise in home market, I once thought they want investment to help them improve on that part. As it will be a great business to introduce educational technologies into home market or even integrate them into mobility devices. But they are right, they will face a lot of competitors in that market and in Canada, and they are not good at it. It is a good choice and strategy to utilize their advantages in a undeveloped market with great potential – Vietnam.


Of course there are a lot of unanswered questions in their presentation, many of them have been mentioned and discussed, like country regulations and policies, culture difference and barriers. But these problems can be solved, they need to do a good survey on their target market and hire several local experts who familiar with the government regulation and education system. From my experience, if they do it right, they will even face less challenges in these developing countries than in many developed countries.


On the other hand, they need to prepare to face the competitors, even there are not a lot currently. They are selling a service, not a product, so when people realize that it is a good business, they will all squeeze into the market Foreign competitors are not a big threat, but when local companies begin to show up, they only have two choices: become a local company or leave the market.


Most importantly, their services also need to be examined, if their ability is really as good as they said, Ingenia is really a precious investment opportunity.


However, regarding Recombo, maybe it’s my problem as I am not familiar with the product they try to sell, I found the presentation long and unfocused, and it is not interesting and attractive. They compared themselves with many famous companies who made big success, but I cannot find relationship between them. Whatever, I admit I don’t like the feeling that they “force” me to believe that they are the best.


At last I want to mention that I really like the style of their presentation, PPT slide show on one side and “face-to-face” talking on the other side, it helps me to remember and understanding and also gives me choices to either continue to listen their speech or consider the topics they just mentioned.


Best regards,



September 13, 2008   3 Comments

Ingenia’s Business Pitch

As the director of e-learning BC and co-chair of Canadian E-learning Enterprise Alliance, Ramona (the director) leads a team of highly educated consultants and designers in her business. She exults confidence and shows that she has the expertise to back up her business by developing “guru” status and speaking in various important e-learning conferences around the world.

Ramona presents a feasible business proposal by backing up her findings with statistics presented by IDC to show that there is still continued growth in e-learning services. However, she’s honest when she speaks of the various challenges that lie ahead, including the lack of market at home and limited marketing and development funds. Taking business into Asia is a risky move, especially into developing countries like Vietnam, where one’s investment may not be protected by the government. However, Ramona turns this problem into an advantage by stating the fact that there is less competition in e-learning services in Vietnam and there’s a strong desire for education in large cities, where many young learners reside. Also, even though Ingenia is a young company, it has a strong clientele at home and is establishing its reputation and services in Indonesia and Vietnam. On top of that, Ingenia has also partnered up with an established software company in Vietnam that is funded by the government and will likely work with reputable universities that are expanding in Vietnam.

Ingenia’s Vietnam pitch is an adventurous move for the company and its investor as it will take money abroad to Vietnam. Although this investment pitch is well-prepared and the company does have a good reputation in the business, I would still like to see more detailed breakdown of how Ingenia will enter the Vietnam market. How will they research and create materials that are tailored to Vietnamese students or learners? Will language and cultural difference be a problem? How many universities or government agencies will really need e-learning services that are offered by Ingenia? In other words, how big is the e-learning services market in Vietnam and how much will it expand in the foreseeable future? What’s the perception of e-learning in Vietnam and does the government has plans to promote e-learning to the general public? These are some of the questions investors will have to consider before joining Ingenia on this Vietnam adventure.

September 13, 2008   No Comments

The evolution of a business

In my role as educational venture analyst, I compared Recombo in 2004 and 2005.


Brad MacPhee’s presentations in both years were convincing, although for different reasons. The initial pitch was a formal one, and as such it covered many of the key factors one would expect to see. I was impressed with the opening hook: ‘standards create markets’. Good, strong one-liners like that, which encapsulate the company’s value proposition in a single statement, are excellent indicators that the presenter thoroughly understands what they’re trying to do: convince me to invest my money. These hooks often stick with an EVA long after the graphs have faded.


Beyond the hook, however, I was impressed with the business case. There was a clear presentation of the gap they are trying to fill, and a multifaceted approach to filling that gap. In other words, the presentation was more than just hype, there was an underlying argument about why the software was invented, who needs it, and why Recombo can be successful selling it.


Finally, there was an impressive list of reviewer comments from industry heavy-hitters like Pearson and NETg. These were the types of potential customers for whom system incompatibility is a huge issue, so their enthusiasm was encouraging.


Following this presentation, I would ask for more detail about the product they produce. While Mr MacPhee laid out what sectors of the industry competition might come from, there was too little information given for me to judge how sustainable their competitive edge is.


The 2005 pitch was a much less formal one, but it too had some convincing elements. The speech about focus speaks to a lesson learned quickly and well. Successful businesses focus most of their attention on their core, and CEOs and management teams who are able to articulate that as their business evolves are way ahead of the game. The focus on proof was also heartening for a business at this stage, essentially on the edge of a big breakthrough. Mr MacPhee’s conviction that the next phase involved intensification of the relationship with their lighthouse customer, rather than looking for ‘the next big one’ articulates a sensible strategy that I felt very comfortable with. It was very clever to anticipate the problem with MindLeader’s possible unwillingness to share access to their customers and build in an incentive to change that behaviour. I was also very impressed with the way they were training their sales people to ask ‘Why isn’t this a connector sale?’ – encouraging critical reflection on the part of the sales staff rather than a knee-jerk response to engineer the problem away. The latter approach may make the customer happy in the short run, but Recombo would lose the opportunity to make them happy in the long run. Sometimes you serve everyone better if you take the long view!


The final piece that appealed to me was the consistency of the ethical tone – ‘play well with others’ was a theme that Mr MacPhee articulated in both an internal context and an external context, ie. it was both part of the corporate culture they were fostering amongst their employees (and were working to keep in the face of massive expansion) and integral to the way they structured their relationships with the customers.


My questions following this presentation would be the same: who is the competition? How hard are they coming after this business? How hard will the technology be to reproduce?


In sum, I would recommend moving to due diligence with Recombo.

September 12, 2008   6 Comments

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.


September 12, 2008   3 Comments


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.


September 11, 2008   5 Comments

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.”  

September 11, 2008   3 Comments

a great pitch


I would like to share the following clips with you.

The Elevator Pitch



Make a great pitch



September 11, 2008   7 Comments


The presentation was well structured complete with an agenda, swot analysis and summary.  The content brought the audience into the business, who is on the team, what do they do, how do they do it… quite personable in feel.  The President provided credibility to the presentation through her own intimate involvement with the product, customers, and business operations.  Credibility was further increased through referencing a 10 year track record and clients. 

The pitch was based on a SWOT analysis and candidly presented their strategy.  The strategy can be interpreted as being unable to make it in the home market thus heading out to a foreign market.  Intuitively, I would consider the home team to have an advantage, especially when ties to the government are identified as important in the presentation.  

The pitch requests $100,000, that is not a lot of money to raise in the form of love money ($10,000 each if 10 employees and thus available as a line of credit).  I am uncomfortable with the fact that they were able to self finance for the preceding 10 years and now require an outside source for $100,000.  The 20% return is less than the 20% EBITDA or 20 times return on investment in 5 years as per Angel’s selection criteria.  The numbers presented suggest no go.

Interesting side note, the  domain has expired.

September 11, 2008   5 Comments


Change from 2004 – 2005.

  • More professional demeanour (and appropriate attire).  
  • Spoke more clearly and more concisely.
  • Clearer definition of value proposition to customers and Recombo (less tech talk).
  • Less animated, less passionate.
  • No summaries, graphs, numbers which may make it easier to convey message (though should define technical terms such as SCORM prior to its use in presentation materials). 
  • Overall, change in feel from company in startup mode to company in growth mode.

I am curious (as with the M. Lamberson interview – see comments under OLT – Interesting, but not a pitch? by Mary Burgess) whether Mr. MacPhee was able to prepare responses in advance.  If pre-prepared, he did come across naturally, not scripted.

Concerns watching 2004 pitch

  • What is Recombo’s competitive advantage over the traditional publishers (Pearson, Thompson…)
  • If have all these clients (80% Fortune 1000), why this pitch?  
  • Markets and revenues ~doubling year over year, too good to be true?

Concerns watching 2005 pitch

  • Great shape but… transition…  is past relevant to future?  
  • Company appears to change strategy annually.
  • Nearly double size of staff, what will the company be, what is the strength of its management?


Strength in both presentations:

Clear definition of the problems that Recombo intents to resolve for customers.

Company seems to understand its own business model.

Company has a vision (though in state of flux).

Company has a financial plan – positive cash flow goal, revenues growth projection, source of financing (IPO / acquisition).

September 11, 2008   No Comments

Pitch comments-Cori

As promised, the pitches have been extremely interesting and worthwhile.  In my mind, however, no self respecting EVA has enough information in these 12 short minutes to make an educated, quality decision regarding investment of any dollars. I’m sorely lacking in any business knowledge and I find that the credibility of the pitches is really hard to decipher. In trying to analyze the most promising pitch, many areas stand in the way (whether they should or not) such as likeability of the presenter, choice of presentation style, technological jargon overload, lack of critical evidence, etc., etc. Ingenia has definitely crossed all the t’s and dotted the i’s as far as the key components of the pitch analysis is concerned but for some reason I end up with a somewhat shaky sense of believing in Ingenia as a profitable investment possibility.  I think that this company’s spokesperson demonstrates passion but does not necessarily have a realistic & compelling argument regarding investments of huge capital in E-learning in Vietnam.  Much more proven data is required.  The Recombo company has proven success in terms of dollars, timeline, business expansion and flexibility in the IT industry.  The company has faced and overcome business crises but appears to be goal oriented and most importantly, people oriented, in order to succeed and achieve its goal of being a 100 million dollar business. So I guess I’m finding the Recombo pitch to be the most credible and compelling of the two.  Hmm, interesting stuff.

September 10, 2008   3 Comments

How about some inspiration?

Here’s where some of the hottest new technology plays are being unveiled today …

The TechCrunch50 event in San Francisco.

This is the pitch pool on steroids!

September 10, 2008   2 Comments

Ken’s Impressions of the Pitch Pool

I also have a decided lack of business and financial knowledge (my Dad still does my taxes, but he’s also an accountant).  I’m going to do my best to comment on the Recombo and Ingenia pitches.

I found that the representative from Recombo had a more fluid and confident delivery than the representative from Ingenia.  The use of a slide presentation to accompany both presentations was helpful but I did feel that the representative from Ingenia focused too much on reading much of the slide presentation as she continued along through her presentation.

The representative from Recombo did a good job of referring to the slide presentation without having to read it word for word.  I have been to too many workshops as an educator where the presenter has simply read a PowerPoint presentation to the group.  The slide presentation was used as a reference point instead of forming the basis for the whole presentation.   The explanations given were quite clear as as I found myself beginning to understand what they were actually marketing.

The representative from Ingenia did offer services which I felt were more relevant to my area of interest, that being education.  Their target market was also very interesting because I never would have thought of Vietnam as an obvious market to move into.  It was obvious that the presenter had personally researched the market directly by traveling to the country.  I would think though that any potential investors would want to have more information before investing the amount of money being discussed in the presentation.

It certainly appeared that both companies had done their homework, particularly in terms of what niche they wanted to fill.  Recombo and Ingenia both had partnerships already in place which would probably help with investor confidence.  Ingenia gave a much better breakdown of what they were looking for from investors and how that investment would be utilized.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the pitches.  This is the first time I’ve ever viewed a pitch before (apart from the vacuum salesman I couldn’t get out of my house once) and I found it very interesting.  Hopefully as the course goes along I’ll gain more insight into them.



September 10, 2008   No Comments

Rookie Analysis

Here’s my tally of Recombo vs. Ingenia with respect to the criteria that we were asked to keep in mind as rookie analysts.

Management Team – each pitcher claims to have assembled an excellent team, but I wonder what pitch wouldn’t include this claim? I for one would need to dig a little deeper into the particulars of this aspect before investing, or recommending investment.

Business Model – both ventures appeared to be based in sound business models. But again, this is an initial perception based on little information and for every assurance that was offered another question came to mind.

Product – both products came across as competitive; Recombo’s as it is cutting edge and Ingenia’s as it is targeted at a market that currently shows little competition.

Market Readiness – ready.

Innovative – it would seem, from what I could understand, that Recombo’s cutting edge “solution” software is definitely innovative. Ingenia’s product is less innovative if viewed within its home market, but could be considered innovative in the target market where product of this type, we are told, has little representation.

Exit strategy – Recombo is not firm in this regard with a willingness to accept growth or consider options for buy out at the right price. Either scenario could work well for an investor. Ingenia’s take on this seems to be to simply grow their company. I get the feeling that if the Vietnam venture is a success the strategy would be repeated, but it’s only a feeling.

From what I could gather Recombo is a company that continues to experience growth. I must admit, I had to visit their website to determine what it is that they actually offer, but really the bottom line is that they continue to grow and evolve to meet the demands of the market place and from an investment perspective isn’t this what we’re looking for? Igenia on the other hand looks to be higher risk as they are attempting to access unfamiliar markets with no proven track record in these markets and in order to attract my investment dollar to such a high risk opportunity the promise of reward would need to be considerable.

Conclusion, my money is on Recombo and I’m hoping for a buy out!

September 10, 2008   1 Comment

Impressions on the Entrepreneur Pitches

I have tried to look at Ingenia and Recombo with my venture capitalist hat firmly on. I have quickly realized what Elsbach’s paper has also suggested. It can be quite difficult to cut through the pitchers’ creativity and to not be carried away by their enthusiasm.  Making these kinds of decisions can be very weighty, and perhaps somewhat subjective.

Initially, a few things have struck me about the Ingenia and Recombo pitches.

Both pitches seemed to indicate they had a strong core team. By the nature of the business I think it was important for Ingenia to make mention (as Ramona did) of the credentials of their team, and the fact that they had a pool of external consultants to draw from. Ingenia did note that “infrastructure was something to think about in Vietnam”.  What was not so clear to me from their pitch was specifically what thinking they had done on this. Perhaps more info on this would have been useful?

Ingenia also seemed to be facing a fair bit of competition in the local market. Ingenia was very open and candid (too much so?) about their competition. Targeting the SE Asian market seemed to be their way of helping to address that. Ingenia was also open about being new to the Vietnamese market. Their plan seemed to include leveraging some existing contacts, which increased my level of confidence. Again, as a venture capitalist, I am not sure that would give them enough of an edge?

I wasn’t sure about what the existing market share might be for Ingenia and how much this new market might figure in their future plans, or really what their future plans were. Recombo addressed this issue more directly.  They did not seem to have one fixed exit strategy, but I was pleased that they articulated some possible scenarios.

From Recombo’s second pitch I really felt that they have identified their market, share, and size. The pitch was very clear about their product, services, what the benefits are to their customer and why they will pay-up.  As a VC I found the description of their  relationship with the lighthouse customer reinforced my confidence here. The pitch demonstrates a good handle on the business problems going forward. The incentives idea also seemed to me to show some creative forsight in planning their business model.  In moving through their transition year, I got the impression that Recombo are capable of absorbing lessons, adapting, and moving forward.

September 10, 2008   3 Comments

Rocombo and Ingenia

First, let me point out that if there is a business minded bone in my body, I haven’t found it yet. I feel like I am out of my element. After watching all the clips, I felt that I must have been missing something… The interview-style pitch did not appear to me like the pitcher wanted anything from me. So I decided to try my roockie hand at only 2 of the examples, that of Rocombo 2004 and Ingenia.

I feel that as an EVA, I would be better equipped if I knew more about the technical aspect of Brad Macphee’s discourse. Nevertheless, I was able to critically analyze some aspects of his pitch.

For one, I found him to be extremely credible. Although he faltered in his speech several times, something that may give the impression that the presenter lacks confidence, he made up for this with his obvious expertise. Like the artist pitcher, he seems consumed by the excitement of his project and less interested in trivial details. In his presentation, he introduced what appeared to be a stellar management team. He established the readiness of the market for his product with concrete examples, being careful to diversify his examples in such a way that several business contexts were included. Where it becomes difficult to for me to decide whether or not I would view his project as being bleeding edge is where lies my own lack of knowledge on the subject. However, Macphee does express the fact that his company is dealing with an extremely competitive market without really enunciating how his project would outshine anything that is already out there.

In the case of Ingenia, it was easier for me to relate because I am in the e-learning business (secondary school online and F2F teacher) and understand somewhat better, both product and market.

Ramona Materi gives me the impression that she is completely devoted to her cause as opposed to being concerned with how she will appear to viewers. Her entire body is engaged in getting the message across. She discretely refers to her notes, yet her delivery is seemless and she appears self-assured. Her company’s affiliations to prominent governmental institutions inspire confidence. Again, Materi stresses her company is challenged by very stiff competition, but she fails to bring out to the forefront what might separate her company from the rest. Something I was looking for in her pitch was a more detailed account Vietnam’s growing economy and concrete reasoning as to why the Vietnamese population is an ideal fermenting ground for Ingenia’s project. I think that including data on the later would have made market readiness more sturdy. In all, Ingenia appeared to have solid foundations, leardership and goals.

September 10, 2008   No Comments

E-learning as a recession hedge? Could this be part of a pitch?

Came across an interesting little theory about E-learning companies and consumer behaviour during a recession.  Have a look, its fast….. What do you think?  Do you agree?

September 10, 2008   7 Comments

Winning Pitch


Here are my thoughts on the pith pool examples: Recombo, Ingenia, UBC Office of Learning Technology and UBC IT Services.

In terms of both presentation style and content, the pitch of Ingenia outshines them all. Ms Ramona Materi talks to the audience in a very clear and succinct manner. Her manner of speech reflects her enthusiasm and passion into this venture. Her presentation easily captures the attention of listeners. Without going much into the validity and quality of their venture visions, CEO seems credible, the management team seems to be in order, the business model seems feasible and convincing, the product seems competitive and market ready, they have an edge, their destination is clear, and investment return is clearly presented. With this excellent pitch, I would think that Ingenia would at least piqué the interest of investors.

With respect to Recombo, I felt that they are already a highly accomplished venture which does not need any more of my investment. Both the UBC Office of Learning Technology and UBC IT Services seem to be telling me that they are so contented and confident with their funding that they are not at all interested in getting any of my support. They put me on the receiving end of support rather than as a partner or sponsor.


September 10, 2008   No Comments

Module 2 Business Bootcamp – other internet resources

I’ve worked with students in this program (Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET)  They are involved in some really amazing ventures.  There may be similar programs offered at other institutions. What I noted about many of the students was how involved they were with the community, and how they “give back”  -reminiscient of the The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid article (Prahalad & Hart)

From the website:

Why Was the Centre Created?

The Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CBET) was created to support, build on, and expand the entrepreneurial initiatives at the University Waterloo. The university’s reputation for encouraging and spinning off successful entrepreneurial ventures is unmatched in Canada.

What does CBET do?

We offer the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program. The 12-month program is designed for entrepreneurially-oriented people who need the business skills to move ideas from concept to successful commercialization.

In addition, we work with UW undergraduate student groups, such as UW DECA, SBSA, Impact, UW ACE, and CUTC to support their initiatives.

Our Outreach programs are designed for executives of companies, both large and small, who want to create or enhance a culture of innovation within their company.

Finally, we have a strong group of faculty who do research on entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

September 10, 2008   No Comments

Brilliant ideas anyone?

WRT: the article posted on the ‘Art of Pitch’ section of Module 2: How to pitch a brilliant idea.. I have just spent the las 30 minutes trying to access it with no result. I have full access to UCB Library via this link:

Made many queries using Academic Search Complete… always get “no result found’… what’s my problem?



September 10, 2008   5 Comments

Recombo 2004 VS Ingenia

I compared the Ingenia pitch with the Recombo 2004 pitch because both were similar in style, with a management figure delivering a pitch to investors. I wrote this in Word, and copied and pasted to this blog. I then realized how long it was – I’ll try to keep it briefer in the future.

CEO Credibility: I based my evaluation on the presenters (they weren’t necessarily the CEO’s). The Ingenia presenter made what felt like a more formal presentation. The Recombo presentation involved more “thinking on the spot”.

Management Team: The Ingenia pitch seemed to highlight the high academic level of the management team, while the Recombo pitch did not focus on the team. Some YouTube videos gave a bit of a mixed message about management teams: strong teams were essential components, but venture capitalists were willing to “fill in the gaps” if necessary. Overall, however, I’d have to say that Ingenia had the edge in this area.

Business Model: Ingenia seemed to have much smaller goals than Recombo, and was targeting much less money for investiment. However, Ingenia presented more relevant and detailed research than Recombo. Recombo maintained that focus is key (2005 video), but the implication is that it has shifted plans quite a bit over time. This could be interpreted as adaptability over time, or as a lack of a focused model in the 2004 video.

Competitive Products: Selling price was not addressed. In addition, not much was mentioned about market share. Both pitches mentioned market size. Recombo showed huge possible markets which could perhaps be tantalizing for investment purposes, but could also be overly inflated. Ingenia was much more conservative about market size, but that could be less appealing to investors.

Market Readiness: Ingenia seems to have made contacts within the targeted market. Recombo already has business clients and contracts, with saleable product.

Technical Innovation: It is tough to determine whether each company has an edge or whether they can keep it. Ingenia is a boutique company but acknowledges stiff competition. Recombo is an early adopter, so could be swallowed up in the adoption rush at a later date.

Exit Strategy: Recombo is not committed to a particular exit strategy (I may have taken this information from the 2005 video). Becoming a large income producing company is the goal, but buyout is a possibility also. Ingenia doesn’t mention future size beyond “major learning services provider in Vietnam” but suggests a possible 20-25% percent return for the investor.

Overall Investment Status: Ingenia seems to be a well-researched company but with a lower return (20-25%) than is possible in other technology sectors (product). It seems to be a smaller, “safer” investment, but with possible correspondingly small returns. Recombo is definitely aiming for the big leagues, with higher possible returns, but with higher risks.

As an EVA representing a more conservative venture capital company (my lack of experience in the business world leads me to be less of a risk-taker!), I would lend money to Ingenia.

September 9, 2008   1 Comment

Public Forum Reminder

Just a small reminder, when making comments about pitches and the people behind them, to focus on business rather than personal issues.  There’s no question that the credibility of the pitch-maker is a huge business issue, but remember that this blog is a public forum and those individuals (or people they depend upon) might find your commentary within searches, etc.  So say exactly what you feel, but learn to position your commentary in polished professional prose…   Thanks!

September 9, 2008   No Comments

Pitchers and Hitters

I’m really enjoying this process!! And as I listen and observe the various pitches, one notion keeps coming up for me as an EVA.  Apart from the typical issues around market readiness and presenter credibility, etc…, I keep looking for evidence of credibility about the people making and designing these products.

This is software and from my experience in dealing with software development, the programmers, engineers and designers have a very influential role in the direction and outcome of a software venture.  Programming is a very intense and creative craft and the process of software development from idea through to completion is an incredibly complex process fraught with potential interpersonal issues, idea conflicts and misinterpretation.  Its a huge challenge to keep this process on track.   As a result, what you might be pitching  at one end of the business might not resemble what’s actually coming out the other end.   In the recombo interview, I got the feeling that they were still sorting out the influence of the engineers at the marketing end.  And in the Ingenia pitch, I had a red flag at the point where she glossed over the connection they’d made with a Thai software firm.  Who were they?  What was their track record.

So I see some useful questions going unanswered in these pitches.  Who is actually coding the software?  Are these designers and programmers any good?  What else have they done?  Are they greenhorns?  Who is ultimately hitting the keyboard?

September 9, 2008   5 Comments

Intrapreneur or Entrepreneur at heart?

As an Educational Venture Capitalist, I found it interesting how differently entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs pitched their proposals.  Both intrapreneurs (Michelle and Ted) are centralized figures in a very decentralized environment and that perhaps is their biggest challenge; they have to share their vision and gain acceptance of that vision with varied stakeholders.  As intrapreneurs, they have to prescribe a direction, yet be tuned into the changing needs of the users – not an easy task I assume!


I found the entrepreneurial pitches much more black and white – as an Educational Venture Capitalist, I would either give my money or not.  In Elsbach’s article, “How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea” she would have coined both Recombo’s and Ingenia’s spokespersons as “showrunners”.  Both came off as knowledgeable professionals that were passionate about their business. 


I found Ingenia’s pitch to be well thought out and researched.  I gasped when she suggested Vietman, but she seemed to anticipate the audiences reaction and have answers to some of the obvious concerns.  Their core strengh seemed to be their team and their ability to adapt.


I found the differences between the Recombo ’04 and Recombo ’05 pitches to be quite dramatic.  The company in ’04 had dreams, but not necessarily a “focused” vision.  I felt the company’s focus, on focus, was a reason for their continued growth. 


Where would I put my money?  Well, after all my ramblings, I might not be a black-and-white business person after all.  I guess it is no surprise that I put my Business Degree into my pocket and went into the softer side of teaching…

September 9, 2008   2 Comments

OLT – Interesting, but not a pitch?

While I found the Michelle Lamberson interview fascinating (we have very similar jobs, mine is just on a way smaller scale) it didn’t feel at all like a pitch…?

September 9, 2008   5 Comments

Marketing Speak

I have just looked at Recombo 2005 and also Ingenia.

What I saw with Recombo was a very unfocused pitch, obviously made by a sales/marketing guy.  I don’t think there was a buzz word he left out.  I started making a list of them because it made me laugh.  Here are a couple of my favorites:  productization, (huh?) interoperability, bet the company.  Also his “focus, focus, focus” speech sounded like it was straight out of a bad how to book.  As far as I could tell, the only “focus” he articulated was his mission “to be a 100 million dollar company.”

There is an existing product but there is no pay off in terms of investment.  No competitive analysis was provided, there is no clear offering that would make IBM or anyone else buy the company. IBM has been marketing and selling software and hardware solutions for over 50 years.  I find it hard to believe that Recombo is providing any value that IBM could not reproduce on their own.  There are economies of scale to think of.  IBM has the staff, the infrastructure, the expertise already in place.  Why would they think of buying a company like Recombo, unless there were people, (customers or staff) or a product that they couldn’t attract on their own.

The CEO  of Ingenia was considerably more articulate, she had done her homework and at least came off sounding intelligent.

Ingenia is selling a service rather than a product, which in itself forces a more articulate discussion.  If they are trying to sell expertise, one would hope that the person doing the selling could sound like an expert.  The one thing that caught my attention was that it seemed like they couldn’t make it at home, so they are trying to find somewhere they can make it. (Vietnam)  Not the greatest business model in my mind.

My money goes with neither company.  I can’t see either one making it.


September 8, 2008   12 Comments

Different pitches

Hi all –

For those of you who remember my intro, I work in textbook publishing. One of the most interesting entrepreneurial ventures I’ve seen in a while is a new company called Flatworld Knowledge, which makes textbooks free, and uses all sorts of new technologies to create learning communities. It is a for-profit business, but I’m intrigued by the way they’ve turned the traditional model on its head. They have four clever little videos describing what they do at the following site: 

These aren’t formal pitches to investors, but they take a pitch-like form (although if being impressed by the presenter is one of your criteria, I’m not sure what you’ll think of stick figures!) The business isn’t yet fully launched; their first ‘books’ will be ready for the January semester. One of the most impressive things to me is that the entrepreneurs running it come from traditional publishing. Take a look and see what you think. I can’t wait to see where this one goes!


September 8, 2008   10 Comments

Pitch Pool Observations

I’m going to focus on the differences between the Recombo 04 pitch and the Recombo 05 interview because, as Susan indicated, there are some really interesting evolutionary processes revealed here.  In the 04 pitch their plan showed, I think,  some typical issues associated with early business planning.  The target market was huge and multileveled (The “virtuous circle”).  The product was a complex offering of services and software which attempted to show their all encompassing position as a solutions provider.  At the surface level this market potential and thorough coverage might appear persuasive to an investor but as an EVA, it raised concerns that the plan was too broad, lacked a compelling implementation strategy and didn’t show an insightful understanding of their client’s corporate cultures.

In the Recombo 05 interview, it was very interesting to see the adjustments they had been making.  For example, he talked about redefining their mission as selling a service and not a product. In otherwords, they’ve realized their “product” was too complex and needed less “engineering” focus and more of a solutions approach.  In fact, he repeatedly commented on the need for “focus” in their 05 approach.  In terms of their approach to their target market, there was, again, this movement towards a more specific segment of their overall market.  The establishment of a single account as a “lighthouse” client, demonstrated a more strategic approach that was not evident in the 04 pitch.  And the fact that this client was a content publisher whose clients they were looking to excavate further, again, showed a major refinement of their overall approach to their market and a more tangible path to the other segments of their overall market.  With the luxury of hindsight, if the 04 pitch had contained some of these specific strategic insights that the 05 interview revealed, the 04 pitch would have appeared much more persuasive.  (Ahhh, yes, hindsight! I know it well!!)   There lots other aspects of the Recombo 04 and 05 presentations that one could discuss. This is a really interesting duet and great example of the evolution of a business model.

September 8, 2008   1 Comment

Pitch Pool – round one

As I watched the first round of pitches, I was struck by the different levels of aggressiveness shown by the interviewees.  The pitch that emerged as the leader to me was that of Ingenia.  They were the one entrepreneurial company to satisfy the conditions of CEO credibility, a stellar management team, a feasible and well-researched business model, competitive products, technical innovation and market readiness.  Even though I was watching this video as part of an assignment, I still felt sold by the thorough research and forward thinking exhibited.  If I were to invest, this would be the one!

Another significant characteristic that differentiated the four entities was the level and degree of forward thinking.  To me, the two that stood out on top were Ingenia and the intrapreneurial BC IT.  As I listened, I was impressed by the proactive nature with which they anticipated problems, designed safeguards and planned for future success.  

The entrepreneurial Recombo seemed to react well to change in their business using a solutions-based approach.  This approach, while successful for Recombo, does not instill confidence in me as an EVA as I do not see that they are anticipating future concerns.

BC OLT seemed quite reactionary in their actions, solving problems as they arose.  I realize that intrepreneurial ventures do not necessarily have the resources to implement their vision to its fullest; working with what the IT department could support, but it seemed to me that BC OLT was satisfied to do the best they could with what was easy.  While this may instill confidence in me as a user or consumer, I would not be motivated to invest as the aggression and planning for success are lacking.

A separate study could be done just on the improvements made in Recombo’s 2005 pitch as compared to their 2004 pitch; even the manner in which Mr. MacPhee dressed and spoke affected the confidence one would feel as an EVA.   There is a lot riding on the business’ spokesperson as it is the impression one gets of their abilities that sells confidence in the company.

September 8, 2008   7 Comments

Pitch Pool EVA responses

So far I’ve watched three of the pitch’s and something that resonated about the RECOMBO 2005 and the UBC IT Services was the idea that we need to “Play well with others”. RECOMBO actually uses that phrase, and Mr. Dodd’s idea of a framework that draws people and having an e-strategy that is an enablement-strategy are excellent.

While being in business RECOMBO is looking for what a win looks like for their customer, it is not just about making money, but about helping their client. UBC’s IT department uses “partners” that work in the different faculties and help determine how IT can help them best, and how the faculty can help shape IT.

While RECOMBO is a business and UBC IT is not looking for financial gain, they both have a very service oriented philosophy. We’re not here for ourselves, but to help you succeed. As an Educational venture analyst I believe this is a critically important philosophy for business in the current marketplace.

With a move towards open source software or community source software permeating the internet and a larger community expectation of philanthropic contributions from large companies, I believe that shared success needs to be a guiding principle for companies to succeed vs make money at all cost tactics.

RECOMBO’s Brad MacPhee seemed confident about the success of the company. Moving to double the work force of a company is a large undertaking and would require a capable managment team. From my little experience with business models, the “lighthouse” client struck me as a critical asset to the feasibility of their model. The market sounds vast and their ability to grow rapidly based on their lighthouse’s clients talks to the even greater potential for growth. It seems that their transition from an engineering provider to a solutions provider has been a key reason for their success. This is a technical innovation that greatly increases the market size. Their exit strategy wasn’t clearly defined but it sounded like the IPO was a worthwhile step between being acquired by a larger middleware provider like IBM and staying as a private company. As an EVA I would put this company on my shortlist to invest with.

UBC IT’s use of the flexible framework and consultative town-hall strategy, and partners within the faculties have obviously drawn the clientele towards e-learning (or as David mentioned their pitch video, we can drop the e and just call it learning) in a successful and inclusive way. UBC has a track record of developing successful commercial products from research (WebCT for example) and now prefers to focus on community sourced software and partnerships. While not something that is going to make money immediately for the university from a free product, it will likely make the university programs more competitive and bring learning more efficiently and effectively to people at a distance. As an EVA I would support this kind of project in my university.



September 7, 2008   No Comments

Getting To Work

Thanks everyone for your introductions and first steps into the course – now its time to dive in some venture content!

Our business “boot camp” may introduce material that is unfamiliar to many of you, but we promise it will be interesting and very worthwhile.  In the first iterations of this course we actually went deeper than we do now – offering an exposure to interpreting financial data, etc, – but even then we couldn’t begin to cover all of the material an entrepreneur needs to master.  So for those of you aiming to be entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs this is just an introduction, and for everyone else it’s a solid overview of the process and thinking involved.

My original training was as a scientist, and there’s no question that the essence of all great science is asking the right question of the Universe.  In business, that same essence is asking the right question of the marketplace.  That’s why we’re focusing on the pitch – the entire story behind a venture needs to be contained there – something really credible and compelling needs to stand out.

We’re offering some good starting points, but the journey is yours.  There are lots of materials you can discover and explore on your own.  Please share those that resonate with you.

Good luck!

September 7, 2008   No Comments

Pitches on ipods

I’ve been making a point of trying to do some of my masters work using my ipod touch as an experiment. I notice that the ingenia presentation shows only the presenter video but no slides. Pretty powerful tool but doesn’t quite step up to full technology standards like regular client browsers. I’m curious about building resources that can be fully accessible via ipods and iphones for some future training, especially in large cities where a large portion of a sample company could be using mass transit and training while they travel to work.

nb. This is certainly not a complaint to the developers to the course, more of an observation about ipods


September 7, 2008   3 Comments

Problems accessing pitches


I’ve been watching the pitches this rainy, cold afternoon, and Recombo 2004 and the UBC IT pitch won’t play for me. They give me a message saying ‘unexpected system exception’. Is the problem on my end or your end?

Thanks! Laura

September 7, 2008   5 Comments