Category — Module Discussions

Elluminate

Elluminate (http://www.elluminate.com/index.jsp) promotes itself as an elearning or web conferencing solution for real-time online learning. The company is headquartered both in Calgary and Fort Lauderdale. The website mentions that Elluminate is “the winner of several prestigious awards, the company is also one of Deloitte’s 50 Fastest Growing Technology Companies and is positioned in the Visionaries Quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing, 2007.”

Through LearnNowBC (http://www.learnnowbc.ca/educators/OnlineToolsResources/), BC teachers have free access to Elluminate online meeting rooms and training. I have only had one brief training session, so I’m not really familiar with Elluminate, but here goes!

Face 1: Market Focus
According to its website, Elluminate seems to be targeting all three areas of the market: k-12, higher education, and training needs.

Face 2: Types of Offerings
Elluminate offers infrastructure in the form of a virtual classroom/meeting place. Elluminate Professional Services targets services: Elluminate training; custom implementation through content conversion, etc; integration support (integrating with learning management systems, for example); event hosting; technical support.

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?
The learning is bought for the learner, rather than the learner buying it for him/herself. In most cases, it seems that the learning is bought centrally (the corporation or, in BC’s case, the provincial authority). For BC teachers, training is available through Elluminate, but it is up to the local school to implement local changes in order to create an optimal learning experience for the students.

Face 4: Global Markets
The Elluminate website states that Elluminate is used in 185 different countries. It appears that Elluminate could be used with all of the markets except for “Other Regions with Restricted or Poor Quality Internet Service.” Although Elluminate claims to work with speeds as low as 28.8 kbps, it certainly won’t work if there is no connectivity. Markets with different languages could use the virtual meeting rooms. I am not sure about the ability of Elluminate to work with other alphabet sets (I can’t imagine that the text area would support this), but there would still be some value in the application sharing and the virtual meeting rooms.

Face 5: Development of the Market
Elluminate would work well on the right-hand side of this face – in markets that import or export of content and infrastructure. Elluminate might also work in a market that only supports custom work or indigenous suppliers. Because Elluminate can provide just the virtual meeting place, the content can be developed locally.

Face 6: Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning
This technology seems to fit best where there is already a well-developed learning system. It could also provide a substitute for other forms of learning by displacing face-to-face learning.

September 18, 2008   6 Comments

Tutor.com

I came across Tutor.com and it looks very useful and engaging for students.  It also has a simple platform that opens access to non-computer types.  The cost is lower than a f2f private tutor which breaks down the economic barriers to additional help that many students face.  I don’t know any students who have used this service yet, so don’t take my review as a pitch! 

 

Face 1 – Market Focus

Tutor.com is “homework help and online tutoring” for gr. 4 – 12 students that is available 24/7.

 

Face 2 – Types of Offerings

Tutor.com is both a content and infrastructure based e-business that assists students with homework, studying, and general concept questions.  Once learner/parents purchase minutes they have access to a real-time private tutor.  Instant messaging is used to communicate between student & tutor.  Both the tutor and student utilize a white board to hash out problems.

 

There are also a number of free articles for students/parents/educators/librarians to access.

 

Face 3 – The Buyer

The “learning is bought for the learner” here!  The website is marketed to both the parent and the learner.  The company markets to the parents by providing a solution to their child’s homework needs.  The company also elicits the learners “buy-in” by using appealing aesthetics and the word “you”.

 

Face 4 – Global Markets

Currently, the site has both Canadian and American tutors which limit the services to North America.  When a student logs on they are prompted to list the specific subject & grade they are looking for as to get the appropriate tutor.

 

Face 5 – Development of Market

The ‘market supports export oriented learning technologies and the substitution of imports’ for online tutoring.  This business can be exported to anywhere in Canada and the US (and if they can acquire tutors in other countries if they wish to expand).  There are also substitutions at a local level as learners can get tutoring f2f and not go online.

 

Face 6 – Competing with Other Forms of Learning

Tutor. Com falls into two categories here as it both supports traditional learning in the classroom and is a substitute for f2f tutoring.

 

 

 

September 18, 2008   6 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

Web 2.0 Tools: Rolling the Dice With the Cube

Face #3 – Who is the buyer?……When its free!!

For a change of pace, I thought I might focus on one aspect of the cube and raise some issues around the current economic meltdown and implications for  web 2.0 learning technologies.  In particular, I thought I’d focus on face #3 “Who is the buyer?”.  For many of the web 2.0 tools the buyer isn’t anyone.  There are no “buyers” only users. The services are offered free.  There are countless examples of such tools offering  presentation, video, slideshow, music, etc…. The thinking behind many of these ventures is to create a vast user base and then monetize this user base by offering paid premium services or by leveraging the potential of this user base to obtain a buy out by a larger company.  This model has been a driving force behind much of the innovation and creativity we’ve seen over the last few years.  However, in some ways this parallels the attitudes in the greater economy that have led to the current economic meltdown.  Web startups are borrowing time and money today with little or no ongoing revenue security going forward.

The End of Web 2.0 as We Know It?

With no real revenue model these ventures are hollow and highly exposed to external economic variables.  When the economy dips, the likelihood of converting non paying users nurtured on “free”  to premium paying users falls and the likelihood of obtaining a buyout by a larger, but now more cautious company also falls.  The short term “free” model now  becomes a long term charity service.  If I’m the owner of a web 2.0 startup operating on this model, do I stick around and support this venture and devote my time to non-paying users?  What happens when the first prominent web 2.0 tool pulls the plug and leaves users standing at the login page.  Will we loose faith in the reliability of small web startups to maintain our data and thus do we eliminate the “free” business model as a viable web model?

The Golden Age Of Web 2.0

Perhaps we are not only seeing the end of an economic boom, but the end of the web 2.0 boom of online tools where the business model of “free” will be seen as a golden era of creativity and innovation.

Any comments?

September 17, 2008   8 Comments

Moodle and the cube

I chose to look at moodle for my analysis since I work with it often.

Face #1 Market Focus

Moodle’s market focus is to provide people that need learning management software in all three of K-12, Higher Ed, and Training, with a free, open source solution. I’ve seen it utilized in the MET, university of Waterloo counseling, K-12, and as a training LMS/CMS in various situations where a group needed something but couldn’t afford a paid solution such as blackboard or d2l.

Face #2  Types of Offerings

Moodle as an organization offers the software as well as community driven, created, and monitored support. Moodle does license other for profit groups for paid training, hosting, and certification. (http://knowmoodle.ca). Moodle does organized conferences (moodlemoots) but users by and far create and share content freely through groups such as http://www.olearn.org/dev/ (BC Curriculum)

Face #3 Who is the Buyer

The purchasing buyer of a moodle national/regional license provider is for profit educational group. The rest of us happily purchase moodle software for free. Mostly the people involved are teachers, technologists, school authorities that are looking for a free solution to an LMS/CMS

Face #4 Global Markets

Moodle has multi language support that has been created through social networks. I’ve added the french component for some of my immersion teachers that come to my district with sometime low english technology vocabular. I’m thinking about adding the german and russian for some of our ESL students as well. This social contribution has made moodle accessible across the globe. Moodle runs on the free Apache server as well so the software infrastructure is free as well.

Face #5 Development of Market

Looking at the four categories of the development face I would say that moodle plays nicely in all the markets saving the one that does not have the physical infrastructure. I would enjoy playing with one of the xo laptops from the OLPC and see if it could host an apache server (which I believe it will) to load a moodle instance on it and serve to other xo’s in the wireless range.

Face #6 Competing with other forms of Learning

Moodle in my school district has been used to replace some f2f reporting for graduation requirements. While there is a teacher available there is no scheduled brick and mortar classroom time for this required four credit course. Moodle is also competing with commercial offerings such as blackboard/webct, and desire 2 learn (d2l). Moodle has facilitated the creation and sale of learning objects to other school districts. It enables us to compete in the DL market for students in a newly legislated, increasingly competitive market for distributed learners.

Moodle has been used in hybrid learning environments where there is a f2f and computer component. It can also be used in f2f and distributed or purely distributed environments. It plays well with others.

September 17, 2008   3 Comments

“Articulate” superimposed on “the cube!”

I’ve chosen Articulate as my e-learning product. This software suite is intended for users to deliver “rapid e-learning to any community of choice” and comprises a set of authoring tools, a flash-based presentation tool imported from Powerpoint, (WOW!) a quiz making tool to assess and conduct surveys, a means to create interactivity and an LMS.

 The essence of this product is to hand over the reins of development and delivery to the user. In the words of one of their sales support rep, “we provide the hammer and nails, you make the house!”

 1. Market Focus:

Articulate is found in all three vertical markets, K- 12; Higher Ed, Corporate and Government. Given that their focus is to provide the tools all markets are of interest to them. A key element of their success lies in the infrastructure in place to support the tools for each market.

 For example: there is a highly successful blog, created by Tom Kuhlmann who has done a fabulous job of pushing creative instructional design tips out to the marketplace. He has over 10,000 subscribers making it the most read blog in the e-learning industry.

 http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/

 

 2. Types of Offerings:

As Articulate is out of the content/customized content game entirely; they only provide the tools, support, and LMS infrastructure to the user.

 3. Who is the Buyer:

The majority of buyers are found in the corporate setting, with academic institutions and government representing the other key client base. Purchasing is largely made centrally by larger corporate headquarters, and with IT departments at University and government levels. Larger non-profit societies such as the Canadian Cancer Society and The UN are also clients of Articulate.

http://www.articulate.com/company/clients.php

 4. Global Markets

The market focus for Articulate is represented broadly with the exception of areas where there is poor quality internet service. They are represented in 115 countries, including North/South America, Europe and Asia and in more than 12,000 organizations. Now that is serious market penetration! They are also represented in military and maritime organizations.

 5. Development of the Market

This facet of the cube looks to developing the market in a quadrant of possibilities. Articulate is not in markets which have poor internet infrastructure or marginal languages, but flourish in markets which support custom work. They thrive in markets where content can be developed at any level, from the individual through to the corporation and government. It knows no real boundaries other than those with marginal technological infrastructure.

 6. Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

 Again, given that Articulate is a tool which can be manipulated to serve many masters, it can fit within other forms of learning, albeit not always optimally. The real question is how to engage the learning communities to see the value that this learning technology brings to the table and make allowances for its shortcomings by adding instructor led involvement.

 

 Certainly Articulate can work within a well developed learning system. Articulate Online has recently been added to their suite of software tools to track e-learning activity, as their LMS equivalent.

 

 As well, it could serve as the other form of learning technology for a region, however it may not be optimal if this is the only modality for learning.

 

 Articulate is by far one of the most flexible learning technology components, and while it may compete with an existing learning system, it can easily be geared up or down depending on the political circumstance.

 

September 17, 2008   3 Comments

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

Fun cube tool

Some Flash Guru wrote a script to take a cube and spin it around with 6 arbitrary images around the cube.  I’ve just adapted to our 6 pictures.  It’s not terribly useful, but it makes for a neat visual.

http://www.unitorganizer.com/myblog/node/310

Check it out, it may give you some ideas.  I may even take my responses to this exercise and add them as images to the faces.  Too bad I can’t then embed the flash here…

September 17, 2008   7 Comments

eXe Through the CUBE

eXe (http://exelearning.org) is an open source e-learning XHTML Editor I came across through the Commonwealth of Learning link on the International Development side of the mind map. The tool is developed in New Zealand and supported by CORE Education.

As an aside, this tool looked quite interesting so I downloaded the software and gave it a quick tryout.  I wish I’d found it sooner, as I think it might have been useful in some of my other courses such as the lesson development projects in ETEC 531, and ETEC 510.  Perhaps others may find it useful this way as well.

Face 1:   Market Focus
The market focus for eXe is probably largely higher-education, but I can also see it being used in the K-12 or corporate markets in cases where CMS’s are also being used.

Face 2:  Types of Offerings
eXe provides infrastructure.  It is a software package that allows teachers and academics to develop content, and publish in a variety of formats including SCORM, HTML, and iPod Notes. It also provides infrastructure that students could use directly to develop eportolios.

Face 3:  Who is the Buyer?
Since eXe is Open Source there is no buyer per se.  It doesn’t really require a local guide.  It is a single user software application and can be downloaded and installed for free by both teachers and students. It is available for Windows, Mac OS/X, and Linux machines.

eXe is basically a fill-in the blanks tool that doesn’t require much technical expertise or understanding. As such, I could see the tool helping Learning Technology department staff in post-secs work with teachers to facilitate course content development.

Face 4: Global Markets
Interface translations for eXe have been developed (remember it is Open-Source) to meet user requirements for a diverse range of languages. The eXe website lists 33 language translations including Norwegian, German, Japanese, Maori, Zulu, and Twi.  The markets would include portions of all the global markets on this face of the CUBE. The key barriers for the eXe market would be language (is there an available translation for the market, or is there someone willing to customize one), and network access (eXe could be used in a LAN situation, or an Internet situation depending on the market need).

Face 5: Development of the Market
There appears to be some local (Canadian) interest in eXe.  The eXe website publishes a frappr map (http://www.frappr.com/exe), but it isn’t clear whether all the pins indicate developed markets.

Darcy Norman has done a screencast, and a static eportfolio demo of his test with eXe, that also includes some discussion of his take on aspects of the market for eXe.

I am still working on my understanding of this face of the CUBE.  Wondering if someone might give me some insights on this?  Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood the whole exercise!?

Face 6: Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning
Content developed with eXe can be exported in a range of formats that can then be imported into most content management systems (CMS), including Moodle, WebCT, and other Open Source CMS systems. eXe would integrate well with most other learning systems that might already be in place.  It could work within a well developed learning system, it could substitute for other forms of learning, and because it is easy to use, it could also provide a bridge when working with other learning technologies has been imposed.

September 16, 2008   4 Comments

Cubism take on E-learning Products

The e-learning program that I would like to look at is probably very familiar to everyone. I wanted to look at the WebCT platform (Blackboard) because it is really the only one that I have had any experience with. Specifically I would like to look at how it is used within our own school district (SD 27 Cariboo-Chilcotin). Two years ago our school partnered with the distance learning school in Kamloops in order to offer more options to our students so that we could retain more of them. The idea was that we would offer courses to students that perhaps had a need to do their courses electronically for a variety of reasons. Some students were looking for ways to complete their high school studies at a quicker pace, others wished to take courses that simply were not offered in our regular timetable simply because of very low enrollment (i.e. English Lit 12). Still others, for a variety of reasons, felt that they could not successfully participate in a “regular classroom”.

In terms of the cube, the market is clearly K-12 although it really is only being offered through our school at the grade 10-12 level. The actual development of the courses/program was left up to the Kamloops school district.

In terms of the global market it is fairly limited. The students accessing this resource are really only those that fall within our catchment area. Theoretically we could be offering these courses to students outside of our area. Initially there was some attempt at being the hub for the whole school district but that never really got off the ground. The advantage form our school’s point of view was an increase in FTE. This is probably why it never happened as there does seem to be some competition between schools for FTE.

The development of the local market has not been very strong. The number of students who have taken advantage of these courses has been very small. The students that I have spoken to who have attempted these courses do find that there is a disconnect because they miss the face to face interaction with an instructor and their classmates. The delay in response to their questions (via email) is another common complaint.

The integration of the technology can be somewhat problematic. It is not that unusual for a student to have no access to high speed internet at home. In some cases, students have no access to internet at all. Because of this, the students are often tied to the computers in our school. Access to computers within the school can be difficult at times because of a lack of availability.

While I might be sounding negative, I do see a positive use for this type of program. The availability of these courses to students allows us as educators to fill a niche that perhaps a traditional timetable cannot fill. Despite the alarm expressed by some of my more senior colleagues on staff when we first introduced this new program, these courses are not being offered to replace staff. Instead, they are in place to meet the needs of students who, perhaps, would not have those needs met in a regular classroom setting.

Georges Braque, Woman with a guitar, 1913

September 16, 2008   4 Comments

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

Q for David & David

For the Module 3 post – is it ok to analyse the cube characteristics for an e-learning program that was piloted in a few countries, about few years ago, but never took off – one that I know of? I do not have another elearning software or environment in mind as of now. If this would not be ok then do I have the permission to analyse this MET program?

Dee

September 16, 2008   2 Comments

Using CUBE to evaluate Scholaris

Scholaris  is a Portal based learning gateway that the school district that I am an Administrator in has been rolling out over the past year.  I was one of the “champions” that was chosen to helped pilot scholaris as a solution to our lack of an e-learning platform.

Face 1 – Market Focus

The market focus for Scholaris is the K-12 public schools.  There are 3 products each targeting a different customer in that market.

2.  Types of Offerings

Scholaris offers infrastructure – provides a connected learning environment to allow collaboration between teaching staff and administrators, teachers and students, teachers and parents, students and parents.  The Through the internal portal District staff have access to the district servers from anywhere that they have internet access.  They can manage lessons, meetings, collaboration with colleagues and all components of their teaching.  Parents and students are granted permissions to access parts of the school portal. “In a single program the whole school community will have highly secure access to everything they need. ” (http://scholarislg.com/index.php)

 3.  Who is the Buyer?

In the case of our school district the learning is bought centrally -local guide offers to the learner.   After having the program piloted by several administrators and teachers within the district the purchasing decision was made centrally  and was imposed upon the entire district with the caveat that support would be provided at each phase of the rollout process. 

4.  Global Markets

Wired anglophone countries, Malaysia and Singapore.

5.  Development of the Market

The market supports the Import of Content and infrastructure?  I’m a little unclear how to go about dissecting this part of the analysis of Scholaris.  I would say that the market freely imports content and infrastructure to some extent. Local businesses tend to concentrate on services work. Any school district could replace previously imported products for various reasons including content or price but there are not many or any local companies producing similar products for export.

6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

The e-learning in this case works with and supports a well developed learning system.  After using Scholaris for the last 2 years I don’t believe that  Scholaris has developed to substitute or replace existing public education systems.  In their own words,

“Scholaris International is a software development company focused on building innovative solutions to improve teaching and learning across the global education market. Scholaris International’s flagship product “Scholaris Learning Gateway” provides an enriched and stimulating student centric learning environment, transforming education for the 21st century.  Scholaris allows;

  • Students have their own rich and engaging digital learning environment which is accessible anywhere anytime, where they can share, communicate, collaborate and complete assignments and activities.
  • Teachers are provided with a unified interface of applications, tools and student centric data allowing them to tailor an actionable curriculum for the student’s individual needs. Teachers are also able to communicate, collaborate and share content, curriculum, lessons and learning objects thereby fostering the use of best practise.
  • Parents have simple and seamless access to information, such as their child’s academic performance, attendance, workload, events and news enabling a richer engagement with their child’s learning and their school community.

Administrators are able to interpret and make informed decisions from a central view of information thus improving leadership and strategic direction.” (http://scholarislg.com/content/view/18/28/)

September 15, 2008   2 Comments

Using the CUBE to evaluate KEEP Toolkit

Warning:  This post is going to be (too?) long.

The product I’ll explore is KEEP Toolkit, an eportfolio tool developed through the Knowledge Media Lab (KML) at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Face 1: Market Focus

Their market is K-12 and Higher Education

“Carnegie is an institution whose thinking and actions are organized around teaching and those who teach, from preschool to graduate school (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/about/index.asp).

Face 2: Types of Offerings

KEEP Toolkit would fall under the category of infrastructure.

Their web page describes the product as follows:

The KEEP Toolkit is a set of web-based tools that help teachers, students and institutions quickly create compact and engaging knowledge representations on the Web. With the KEEP Toolkit you can:

· select and organize teaching and learning materials.

· prompt analysis and reflection by using templates.

· transform materials and reflections into visually appealing and intellectually engaging representations.

· share ideas for peer-review, assessment, and collective knowledge building.

· simplify the technical tasks and facilitate knowledge exchange and dissemination. (http://www.cfkeep.org/static/index.html)

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?

Rather than buyers, there are users. A university for example is able to install the software free of charge at its own institution and make it accessible to students and faculty from this installation.

Alternatively, anyone can create an eportfolio account that is hosted on Carnegie’s server.

Keep Toolkit stands for The Knowledge Exchange Exhibition and Presentation (KEEP) Toolkit and

is a set of open-source tools developed at the KML [and] is intended to provide an economical and accessible solution to this challenge. The KEEP Toolkit is available to educators and students at all levels as a free service from our website. We have also made the Toolkit available as an open source software application so that institutions, departments, and educational organizations can also implement and administer the Toolkit locally and integrate it into their local systems as needed. (http://www.cfkeep.org/static/about/about.html)

Recently, Keep Toolkit has been placed on the Sourceforge site, and a community to continue developing and sharing developments is being formed. http://sourceforge.net/projects/keeptoolkit/

Interestingly, two Carnegie initiatives will now focus on Higher Education and its need to prepare students for Political Engagement, as well examining how liberal education can give Business Majors a boost.

Face 4 – Global Markets

With this particular product, I would say that most of the users are from Wired Anglophone Countries.

Face 5 – Development of the Market

Market Supports Export Oriented Learning Technologies and Substitution of Imports

The market freely imports content and infrastructure. Local companies also produce similar products for export, as well as providing local services. In some cases, local products replace previously-imported products, either due to better localization of content, or because of a price advantage.

I’m not sure that I am clear on this aspect- my interpretation would be that Keep Toolkit is in a market that freely imports content and infrastructure. Where I work, ( University of Waterloo),  technology is supported centrally. However, because of the nature of higher education, individual instructors may have preferences for one tool over another. Students may decide to use another tool to create their eportfolio, or an instructor may decide to choose another tool. As we try to encourage and help students foster their ability to integrate their learning, it becomes a challenge to support a tool that will be all things to all users. At the same time, reliance on a number of different tools that aim to accomplish the same thing may make it more difficult for students to integrate their learning.

UW has recently chosen to comply with the Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLE’s) http://ocav.uwaterloo.ca/background/. This may make it more attractive to have an eportfolio system that supports administrative purposes of gathering data rather than a system that is more learner-centred.

At the same time, we want to support integration and life long learning. A system that integrates easily with the centrally supported LMS is very attractive. At the same, the ability for a student to have access to the eportfolio after graduation may not be possible using commercial software.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

“Fostering students abilities to integrate learning- across courses, over time, and between campus and community life- is one of the most important goals and challenges of higher education” (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/files/elibrary/integrativelearning/what-is-ILP.htm).

Depending upon how it is used, the eportfolio can be very learner centred. Students make connections that are meaningful to them. Although artifacts may come from individual courses, this is not necessarily the case. The eportfolio is a tool that helps students integrate their learning, helps them reflect on what they are learning, and how they are learning, and helps them plan for future actions based upon lessons learned in the past.

In my experience, in some instances, students have been able to choose the tool which best suits their purposes. In other instances, students have been required to use the tool that is centrally supported.

The IMS Global Learning Consortium describes different types and uses of eportfolios (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2005). The tool that a certain institution chooses to support, or require its students to use will depend upon the way the eportfolio is being used, and what type of information the institution wants to glean from students’ eportfolios. Similarly, the tool that a student chooses to use to create an eportfolio may depend upon the main purpose. Does the student wish to use the eportfolio to showcase strengths to a prospective employer, or does she want to use the eportfolio to help track her development over time, set goals and plan for the future.

The Cube model may not be the best for evaluating initiatives that are open source and encourage a more collaborative and open form of development where all community members adapt tools for their own use, and share this freely with the rest of the community.

I had problems trying to analyse KEEP Toolkit using Faces 5-6. Perhaps there is another model that would work better.

References
IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. (June 2005. IMS ePortfolio Best Practice and Implementation Guide. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.imsglobal.org/ep/epv1p0/imsep_bestv1p0.html#1663759.

September 15, 2008   2 Comments

Welcome to Module 3

Hi Everyone,

As you’ve probably guessed already, Module 3 is somewhat like a dry run for your Assignment #1 analysis of a specific venture or a market environment.  There is nothing special about the “CUBE”.  It’s merely one way of organizing an analysis of a learning technology venture.  We’ve offered other approaches and would appreciate further ones coming from you and your research.

Perhaps the most important point of departure for most of you will be to “think global” for your marketplace.  The rest of the world often seems a lot hungrier for learning than North America, but almost everything about making it a business is different.

Please remember that Module 3 is two (2) weeks long – indicative of the attention we’re expecting from you here.   See if everyone else’s cube-mapping activities make sense to you.

We’re looking forward to your contributions,
DavidV

September 15, 2008   No Comments

EVAs ‘R Us.com

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.

Ingenia

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

Texas Instruments

Trying to get a head start this week.

The e-learning product I have chosen to explore is the Texas Instruments TI graphing calculator.

FACE 1

In Canada, graphing calculators are required or recommended for most provincial high school exams, therefore, the market focus would be K-12 and probably spill over into Higher Education as well.

FACE 2

I would say that the Texas Instruments offers services to their clients. Their website has links for applications and downloads which can be added to the calculators. There are also lesson plans, classroom activities, test preparations for both educators and students.

FACE 3

The buyer differs in each individual case. There is the option for the learner to buy a calculator for themselves; however, a parent most likely will buy the calculator for their child to use in the classroom. Additionally, some schools may purchase a large number of calculators for their students so they will all be using the same instruments. Texas Instruments now offers educator calculators that are only sold to educators and administrators in a school bus yellow color. This enables the distinction and monitoring of school property.

FACE 4

Texas Instruments offer their product and services to many global markets including wired Anglophone countries, European countries with language skills, European countries requiring translation, and Asian countries with quality internet.

FACE 5

Because Texas Instruments has so many markets, I would say that the majority of them would fall under the category of “Market supports export oriented learning technologies and substitution of imports.” There are other graphing calculators and other companies that offer similar products.

FACE 6

Texas Instruments graphing calculators will not replace traditional mathematics instruction. Therefore, it is a technology that works well with an existing, well-developed learning system.

September 15, 2008   3 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.    

Ingenia

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

Inspired Notetaking

Here’s a thought for a handy tool for the Cube… make a cube with the six faces listed to help with your analysis, if I had more time on my hands I would make a properly dimensioned on in a jpg or pdf to share… the prototype was done by hand. Would anyone invest in my venture?
too much time on my hands?

too much time on my hands?

September 14, 2008   3 Comments

Bruce’s Final Attempt at an Introduction

My daughter Fiona and I. Tenerife 2007

My daughter Fiona and I. Tenerife 2007

Hi everyone.

My name is Bruce. I am a workplace Instructor with De Beers Canada. I’m originally from back east (Newfoundland) and I still maintain a home there (in St. John’s). I’m currently living in Yellowknife, NT and working at Snap Lake Mine which is a remote diamond mine 220 km northeast of Yellowknife. I work a two & two rotation or two weeks in then two weeks out, 12 hour days for 14 days straight. Phew. It can be exhausting at times.

My job involves, among other things, providing safety related training to employees (WHMIS, SHEOPS, etc.) computer related courses (basic computer skills, various software products, etc.) as well as educational training (basic literacy and numeracy skills, GED, ADLC, trades exam preparation, and so on.)

I have a B.A., B. Ed. from Memorial University and an IT Diploma from The Graduate Center (also in St. John’s). Most of my teaching/administrative experience has been in the public school system. Adult education is a relatively new adventure for me… and I must say I am enjoying it immensely.

ETEC 522 is my fourth MET course. I excited about the forum we’re using for this particular course and I am looking forward to exchanging ideas, stories and even a laugh or two with you all, over the course of the next several months.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in starting by the way. I recently moved into a condo prior to a trip back east. I don’t have internet service at the moment as it takes a while (welcome to the north) so I’ve having to rely on an internet café here in town. I should be up-and-running in a day or two (fingers crossed). See you then.

Cheers

Bruce
bruce5fionaATgmailDOTcom

UPDATE

My intro was mistakingly posted under the Comments section of Dave Porter’s Intro over a week ago… sorry for the confusion.

September 14, 2008   4 Comments

Resource: Open Source Economics

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

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/yochai_benkler_on_the_new_open_source_economics.html

September 14, 2008   1 Comment

Terms link not working on Other Business Concepts to Explore

I’m getting a 500 error on the link (http://www.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/stgc-evcc.nsf/en/00043e.html) listed on http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec522/phase-1-getting-started/mod2business-bootcamp/other-business-concepts-to-explore/ . Definitely a problem on their side that might clear up.

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

Thanks,

JB

September 14, 2008   1 Comment

Resource: Opening Up Education

Just came across this link…

http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11309

Opening Up Education
The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge
Edited by Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar
Foreword by John Seely Brown

“… Opening Up Education argues that we must develop not only the technical capability but also the intellectual capacity for transforming tacit pedagogical knowledge into commonly usable and visible knowledge: by providing incentives for faculty to use (and contribute to) open education goods, and by looking beyond institutional boundaries to connect a variety of settings and open source entrepreneurs.”

http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11309

Katherine

September 14, 2008   2 Comments

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.

 

Ingenia

  • 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,

 

Zilong

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.

 

Cheers!

 

Dee

 

Reference

 

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

Ingenia

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.

Joe

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 …

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3-ozlr_fYM

 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.”

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLRX_kwYNNE  

September 11, 2008   3 Comments

a great pitch

Hi,

I would like to share the following clips with you.

The Elevator Pitch

[youtube]http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq0tan49rmc[/youtube]

————————-

Make a great pitch

[youtube]http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=l-8EQPpA4DM[/youtube]

Alex

September 11, 2008   7 Comments

the Entreprenuer and the Intrapranuer – OLT and Recombo

I choose the Recombo pitch and that of Michelle – OLT. First of all, I too quite enjoy the scrutiny of these videos. Like dissecting a frog for the first time. The more you do it, the more you get out of it.

I selected Recombo and OLT because I believe these two people define the entreprenuerial and the intraprenuerial spirit. Two terms that were less clear to me before the pitches. Brad was about venture capital and Michelle needed to work within the constraints of her company walls. Both video clips enlighten me to a world of work that is very different from mine.

It is evident that Michelle is experimenting with management techniques such as work coop students, IT people who were senior design members and students who were the “knowledge builders.” A form of Open Source was developing here. Brad was looking at 100 million with an established repertoire of specialists.

In the opening first few minutes of Recombo, I expected a better pitch from Brad He seemed quite wordy and I found his confidence to be lacking somewhat and I found myself still asking, what does Recombo really do? I think it was his line, “great big huge piece of Technology on multiple computers and we can just add components together…” made me feel he was talking down to the listeners and left me wondering. Did he know that we were his intended listeners back in 05? The punch, for me, just wasn’t there. Having been previously interviewed in 04, maybe Brad felt that the viewers already had some background information re: Recombo, “Business Problem Solvers.” Michelle, on the other hand, seemed confident from the get go and clear with her responsibilities.

As Brad continued, I could now see he was becoming a master of his craft as he spoke often of integrative platforms that Recombo developed and controlled. He was clever enough to answer all questions and his depth was becoming apparent. His passion for the company began to shine and it was evident with contractual commitment with Lighthouse. They were their to solve “business problems.” Quite an undertaking of sorts for a company of only 12 people.

Michelle spoke eloquently at times describing the support required from her team and consequently, the expectations from OLT. She realizes it would be better to “outsource” – her mention of Wiki’s and Weblogs – rather than burden her central organization with something that is already available and supported. Why re-invent the wheel right? She is clear that the team does not become overburdened trying implement outside technologies. Her market niche is faculty and the kids on campus. She needed something effective, that was supported and over all, it had to work. Technical innovation came from a blend of “creativity and innovation” of a multitude of users, including staff. Who better than the end user to develop the product/process.

With the OLT, market readiness seems to be, shoot from the hip, though they seem to be standing on their own and Brad assures the viewer the Recombo is always market ready. I like his metaphor, “play well with others.”

Would I trust my money with these two at the helm…? Hmmm, I’m not quite sure. Probably, if I had some. I was, however, disappointed when Brad mentioned that he and partners would leave if they could not focus and “if the price is right, you sell.”  I guess I come from the old school where, “if it’s not right, you fix it.” And that means more focus.

Funny, there was never any mention of Mike Gardner – CEO of Recombo. Is he a recent transplant…?

September 11, 2008   5 Comments

Ingenia

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 www.ingenia-training.com  domain has expired.

September 11, 2008   5 Comments

Recombo

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.

Cheers,

Ken

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

Hi,

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.

Alex

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)

 http://cbet.uwaterloo.ca/

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:

https://rsvpn.ubc.ca/http/www.library.ubc.ca/

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

Thanks,

Nancy

September 10, 2008   5 Comments

Doug’s Introduction

Playing Thunderbird bass

Hi Everyone

As you might speculate…my passion is playing music…particularly rock music. Music is a big part of my personal life. I also play drums and guitar and hope to be a “Lenny Kravitz-like” musician some day…i.e. play all the instruments in a recording.

I’m happily married for 21 years and live on a farm by Highridge Alberta. My wife and I run a part-time horse stable business. Our “real” job is teachers at The Alberta Distance Learning Centre (http://www.adlc.ca)

For the past 15+ years I’ve taught in a distributed learning environment, starting at the Saskatchewan Government Correspondence School (http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/TSL)  then migrating to ADLC about 6 years ago. Within the 6 years in Alberta, I’ve taken two leaves of absences from teaching and have managed course development at The Open School BC, in Victoria BC. (http://www.pss.gov.bc.ca/osbc/)

In 2004 I earned a MEd from the University of Saskatchewan, in the Educational Technology program. With the years of DL teaching and KSA’s from the MEd in ETEC, I’m very stoked about this course. An entrepreneur approach to DL has been mulling around in my head for a few years so hoping I can come out of this course with a solid business plan.

Cheers

September 10, 2008   4 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