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

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

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