First attempt: Ingenia and Recombo 2004

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

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

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

September 19, 2008   3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing Speak

I have just looked at Recombo 2005 and also Ingenia.

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

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

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

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

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

Carolann

September 8, 2008   12 Comments