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  • David Vogt 6:57 pm on December 1, 2011
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    Tags: , pitches, , , voting   

    Wow!  One of our liveliest 522 interactions has been triggered by the most recent posts from David (Price) and Jeneca. The Venture Forum has happened for several years now but the pulsepress voting is a new experiment, so I’m (pleasantly) surprised by the culture clash I’m witnessing – because it offers a learning opportunity. First […]

    Continue reading Venture Forum Culture Clash – a learning opportunity Posted in: Blog Café
     
    • Doug Smith 12:22 am on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Vancouver is an interesting place for venture capitalists and investing because of some shady history and somewhat isolated location. I’m a bit out of touch these days, but a few years ago there was a lot of investment action in various industries (hi-tech, lo-tech, etc), where the originating capital was raised through the old VSE, mining and gold speculation. In these cases I think the investments were committed extensively through personal contacts and affiliations, and much less on actual venture analysis.

      Another example of how we can see the importance of personal connections and trust is through a very niche group of investors: former NHL players. These are men that are looking for investment vehicles while in many cases having very little understanding of the venture markets they are considering. They have advisers, but I think there is a lot of the old boys club that plays a significant role in their investment decisions.

      • Allie 11:25 am on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

        Fascinating!!! I immediately thought of:
        – the short-lived McLean’s restaurant (in Gastown) that a friend and I were discussing last night – specifically its short-livedness. Non-Vancouverites/non-hockey followers: McLean refers to Kirk McLean, former Vancouver goalie from the early to mid 90s, famous/beloved in Vancouver for the Canucks’ 1994 stanley cup run.
        – I also think the Courtnalls (Also mid-90s Vancouver players – one (both?) of whom were part of that 1994 run as well) had a restaurant across from BC Place. I *don’t think* it lasted very long… but I definitely don’t know the details.
        – Former BC Lions’ player(s?) (Cantor?) who are very public part-owners of Vera’s Burger Shack.
        – Fitness World’s rebranding as the Steve Nash Fitness Club
        – I’ve noticed Trevor Linden is getting in on the act and lending his name at least to a new fitness club venture.

        Of course, these are all highly visible examples associated with high profile, well liked franchise players. The hipster in me would totally go to the bar fronted by the journeyman player 😉

        My boyfriend is good friends with a tech venture analyst – who also reports that much depends on contacts and intuition. When I was putting my app VP together for this class, my boyfriend asked him a few questions about smartphone usage in my demographic (18-34), and the response was essentially, well, yeah, obviously loads of people have smartphones/tablets and their use is only on the rise. Full stop.

        My boyfriend – a grad student in science – has been called upon a couple of times as a consultant evaluating prospective ventures, and it really comes down to his snap judgment on what is good science and what he happens to think – in that moment – the marketability of the science happens to be.

        And so my feeling is that part of what it means to be reeeeeeally convincing is about whether the particular variables in a venture project happen to click into place with what the analyst/investor already knows/thinks. Does the proposed science happen to correspond with what my boyfriend-as-consultant’s existing mental models on what good science looks like? Does this investor happen to think that mobile devices are where it’s at for education, or does he/she have a different mental model of what learning looks like?

    • khenry 5:48 am on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Hello David,
      Thank you for adding to, and clarifying, the lively debate, which I also enjoyed. I agree with both you and David W-P that in your first venture, particularly in the absence of a face to face meeting that visuals and voice are important if investors do not know you. However, what I enjoyed most from the debate was hearing reasons why persons chose the media they did and the considerations influencing design, choice and use of such media in determining what was the most effective way of pitching their product, given themes, concepts, restraints et al. I would like to also think conceptually and say that pitches can be more innovative and relevant if a balance is made between choosing a media that also reflects your product; provide essential information and a look at the team. Have a look at NoteWagon’s elevator pitch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ONC7O82YCs&feature=related . No video, very effective. Interestingly there is another 30sec clip of the CEO talking about it as well http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=Yo1nlEj1PII . Perhaps multiple access points or media in the forms of elevator pitches may be useful?
      They also appeared on Dragon’s Den http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjnI0W2w4-k

      At the end of the day the question is….would I get an email, a call or a visit to my website? If Steve Jobs stayed within the status quo of business and design would we have the ipad or the iphone??

      Re voting:
      From those I have read so far I have not seen a bad idea and often, as you pointed out, the idea is not the problem. Therefore perhaps a way to follow up on why it was graded down (constructivist criticism 🙂 ) would perhaps be more helpful. For those who are uncomfortable with this perhaps provide a way from anonymous tips/reasons.

      Personally I do not mind voting and commenting and I have really appreciated the insightful and solutions oriented comments of my colleagues. But here it also allows you to vote after. So I think persons can choose either way and you can just say votes should be in by x.

      Kerry-Ann

    • Angela Novoa 10:19 am on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for clarifying and moderating some ideas that have been discussed during this week. About voting, as you say, maybe there are diferent cultural perspectives. Maybe, for futuro ETTEC 522 this explanation coludí be provided before the venture forum beggins. Personally, I was a little confused about the voting purpose, so that is why I preferred not voting negatively. But reading at David’s (Vogt) explanations and yours helps to clarify this issue.

      Now, speaking about a diffent issue, I think that the whole venture forum could be useful for us, a week before submitting the final venture, as peer evaluation activity. This feedback could be very useful for completing our projects. I have experienced effective peer evaluation in other MET curses, such as ETEC 531 and ETEC 532.

      Angela.

    • Angela Novoa 10:24 am on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      By the way, I meant David Price’s explanations and yours 🙂

    • Allie 1:44 pm on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Curiously, I’ve had a positive vote taken away. Not moved to negative, simply removed. My total votes (you can see this on the dashboard) have gone down

      I have to say, the idea of voting – and being voted on – at first had me quite alarmed. Now, having observed these voting patterns with great interest (I’m a elections nut! with a soft spot for stats), IMHO they have very little validity as an indicator of pitch quality or readiness. But, people have expressed that they either do not want to vote and are doing so only because they feel required to, or that the voting has made them feel badly. The risks far outweigh the negligible benefits.

      As we saw with the emerging market forum, where we used the pulsepress feature, and the EP evaluations we did early in term, we can be a tough crowd. We have no problem voting ideas down. I seem to recall our prof putting up a comment sagely reminding us that those pitches were for real ventures, and real people are behind them, and can read what we’re saying. Critique, he wrote elsewhere, is easy. Being an analyst – and I’m still paraphrasing Prof Vogt – is like being a great teacher – identifying nuggets of brilliance, diamonds in the rough. In response, we collectively chilled out.

      But, this is a social forum. And our own butts are on the line. We have investments in our colleagues; we have worked closely with some; others have become friends. We cheer when they rock it.

      As an anthropologist, it’s clear to me that something interesting is going on culturally when we feel deeply uneasy about hitting a yes or no button attached to a colleague – when the same group has no reservations about critiquing strangers, or voting down broad ideas, as in the emerging market forum (maybe it’s not interesting; it’s a bit predictable). The comments *about* voting indicate that we’re generally only voting on each other under some feeling of duress (‘I thought I had to’). Our voting patterns indicate that we’re more inclined to say yes with conditions, than to say no. We prefer to refrain from voting than to say no.

      As an overall group, we are not wanting to – and perhaps cannot? – separate our actual intellectual and emotional investments in our fellow students with our virtual investment $. Things would look different if were actually asked or required to part with actual dollars. But most, if not all, of us aren’t actually venture capitalists or start-up investors. We just play them on the internet. (! what a case study to expose the potentials and flaws of serious games !)

      But the voting is flawed in other ways. As David V suspects, the anonymity is totally in question. I know who voted me down, though I don’t hold it against them.

      The correlation between votes and comments is very weak. Some pitches have many positive comments, but many negative votes. More troublingly, the pitches with the most negative votes are those authored by people who have been vocal in ‘the debates’ referred to in this post.

      Bracing for negative votes!! (i’m joking)
      Allie

      • David Vogt 4:36 pm on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

        Anthropology, indeed! Thanks for these constructive thoughts.

        One of the reasons I like the Venture Forum in 522, and want to find a way to keep it, and make it as authentic as possible without damaging psyches or communities, is that the real world of launching ventures is so anthropological (rather than scientific).

        For example, it is more like a lottery than an election. In real life perhaps 1% of ventures get any kind of “yes” vote, and decisions don’t happen by consensus. Yet it is hardly random. There are intense interpersonal factors that bring investors and entrepreneurs together, making a Venture Forum more like a speed dating event, and an investment more like a marriage. It is, after all, a deeply important commitment (more than financial) by both parties.

        So perhaps I could have simulated this better by allowing everybody just one (1) “yes” vote. I thought I was being generous to the cohort by allowing multiple “yes” votes, but this perhaps accentuates the hurt feelings generated by a negative or null vote (which are essentially identical). However, pursuing the dating-marriage metaphor further, I don’t know if we’ve found a way to make that process move that forward without hurt feelings either.

        For another example, it is not like education where constructivism builds toward the right answer, because there is no known “right” answer. In most cases, absolutely nobody can know whether a venture will eventually succeed. Investors are barely more knowledgeable than the average citizen – their success rates tend to be incredibly low overall (just marginally above what you might consider “common sense”). “Winning” for most investors means hitting a home run once in every ten to one hundred times at bat. So investors are just people who like to take risks, and generally have some management ability to optimize the potential success of their investments by working closely with the entrepreneur (which is why the interpersonal sense of being able to work together is so critical) to get the basic mechanics of the venture in order.

        What I’m saying is that good entrepreneurs still believe “yes” after hearing a hundred expert “no”s, because there’s a reasonable chance that they’re right. Their belief, and their perseverance in finding a way to listen to the message inside a “no”, then change their own perspectives slightly, and then find a way to communicate their vision in a slightly new way, over and over again, is intensely human. It is like crowd-sourcing in reverse. We’d all still be living in caves without that pioneering, indomitable, change-the-status-quo spirit.

        Thanks again,

        David

        • David William Price 10:54 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

          For those of of who’ve invested a lot of time and money in real pitches, gone to bat, and had things not work out, we develop the perspective that it’s “the nature of business” and it’s “nothing personal”. I was excited to take this course because it involved an all-public forum, pitches, reviews, etc.

          Those of us who’ve done pitches get used to shifting our disappointment into a post-mortem analysis and a revision to our concepts for another kick at the can, and perhaps that’s the part that’s missing from this process… the chance for another kick at the can that keeps entrepreneurs rolling and persevering as you put it.

          When I took a teaching seminar in the summer, I had to do a live teaching segment in front of the class then get reviewed. What was most challenging was not the fact that I appeared to “bomb” during the somnambulant 330pm presentation slot, but that there was no chance to do it again and see how I could address issues raised in the class.

          Allie presents an interesting anthropological perspective, and you yourself mentioned culture clash. Perhaps having that culture clash happen earlier in the semester with chances to revise as we go along might help people adjust not only to the culture, but also help scaffold the challenges of managing the anxiety that rolls with public performance reviews and channel the anxiety into analysis, revisions, and another try.

      • David William Price 10:39 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

        Allie, brilliant comment. Nicely put.

    • Tamara Wong 8:03 pm on December 2, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      David,
      Thanks for the clarification and additions to this debate! I am intrigued by the idea of using your face for an elevator pitch. I really like the idea and agree that it garners a degree of trust that is important to enticing investors. However, I have some points I’d like to make on why I didn’t include my face on my elevator pitch. My first and most important reason was this assignment terrified me!! I was way out of my comfort zone and was anxious about putting my ideas out there for weeks. I have little to no experience with ventures or pitches. I felt that seeing my face would be a detriment to my pitch as I would have communicated this fear even further. Also I am 26 years old and I look like I’m no more than 18, in addition to that I look shy and unsure of myself much of the time. While it garners trust to put your face on your pitch I wasn’t sure if mine would do more harm than good. I used my voice, which many said lacked passion, but even that was difficult as I don’t feel comfortable with my voice. I think that in some situations a face can garner trust but it is important to be self aware to assist you in understanding what your face will do for your company.

      I also want to make some points on voting. First is how can you tell if someone votes positively or negatively for you? Second, personally, I wanted to give each venture pitch a positive vote because each one I looked at was a great idea! For each pitch I thought “Now why didn’t I think of that?” I had some questions about how it would work but none of the questions were so big that I felt strongly enough to give a negative vote on the venture. I felt like I was baring my soul with my pitch and understood that these pitches could be intensely personal ideas and it was important to be constructive.

      I like the voting but as I voted I was also keenly aware of the importance of constructive criticism. I have been thinking about this issue for weeks as earlier on I received a comment that essentially said I wasn’t a good teacher, something that bothered me although I didn’t want it to. I think that the voting has a great place in this class and is helpful but maybe a reminder of internet etiquette and a professional code of conduct may be helpful at the beginning of the class. I have had this reminder in a another class and found it a useful guideline for what constructive criticism is.
      Tamara

    • David Berljawsky 8:44 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      I was surprised though at the comments that I read this week. I agree with aspects of both sides of the debate. Yes it is an elevator pitch, and providing face to face interaction is certainly the norm, but aren’t we asked to think outside the norm? I have read comments referring to Steve Jobs making a pitch, he was perceived as thinking outside the norm. So using that logic, why should we be making only video pitches when we promote our projects? Aren’t we trying as educators and as venture capitalists to create new and exciting initiatives? To quote Steve Jobs, “Think Different.” Of course, (and I’m guilty of this as well) PowerPoint may not be the most exciting medium, but that is not the point. It is still a valid form of expression.
      I personally do believe that some internet etiquette was breached this week. I can understand that if you are not comfortable with your work being analysed in public that this was very uncomfortable, and perhaps some of the criticisms could be seen as un creative criticism, ie: your project isn’t good, period. We had the option to have our work looked at privately. I thought long and hard about taking this route, but in the end decided to publish my project online, to help to contribute to the online community. I received some negative comments, and am near the bottom of the voting scale. I am fine with this as long as the responses that I received are valid and not mean spirited. Although I have read comments in other projects that could be perceived as the later under the guise of being honest. This is wrong and not in the spirit of the MET program, at least in the 7 other classes that I have taken.
      I don’t personally believe that the voting system is that flawed as it is. I do believe that by providing people with one vote it would be more accurate though, but that system could be flawed as well. It’s hard to know until it is being put into practice. As someone whose product is near the bottom of the voting scale I am personally not insulted or offended by the results I have been getting. This class is a learning opportunity and we are learning about what sells and what doesn’t sell. As someone with a lack of business knowledge this has been very useful to me. If we don’t learn from our perceived weaknesses and mistakes, what is the point?

      • schiong 9:28 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

        Hi David B.

        You have an excellent point.
        Honestly, I am new to giving pitches to people I do not know.
        For some reason, I get nervous. But, if you asked me to pitch the idea to people
        I know (like our school administrators or peers), I will be more “comfortable”.
        I guess that is the reality of life that we pitch to investors we have not met.

        I like the comments given because they are constructive… Well, I am assuming they are constructive or I am looking at it in a constructive perspective. hahaha 🙂
        “Think, hear, and speak of no evil?”

        I think words/ideas/statements can be viewed in a constructive or negative perspective. I am not sure if emotions or disposition got anything to do with it. hahaha. 🙂

        What I found really difficult are the following —
        a) I believe almost all of the projects presented are great. Sure, it lacks this and that… But, I love them. And choosing the top 3 was a headache.
        b) I am not good with words. So, I do not know if my questions or clarifications were conveyed in a positive way. I guess I need the rePhrase app here. hahaha 🙂 or porto to give me the right vocabulary or BreakOut to illustrate my point clearly. hahaha.
        c) I could not write a lot of comments because some of the people assigned in the same product already mentioned or highlighted the important ones. I do not like to repeat what was already been said.

        Actually, some of the products can be integrated to create a new service.
        Just quick one … possible integration on Looking at the Cloud + CityConneX + Connect LMS.
        Some of the learning applications can also be integrated. I noticed that what the other apps lack (features).. exists in another product presented. 🙂

        Of course, it needs tweaking. But, the possibility is there and it could be fun.
        I guess I just love to see the beauty in each product and find ways it could complement the other.

        cheers,
        Steve

    • Allie 9:40 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Hi David et al,
      I wonder if in lieu of yes or no, there might be a scale? I mention this because I think you said earlier on in term that investors/analysts might see a good idea, but want to also work with the entrepreneur to tweak it, or refine it considerably before it is market ready – hence this is more than a financial commitment. I’m thinking of something like:
      4) yes this pitch is ready – little need for changes
      3) yes this idea is original and really interesting – let’s do some work to it (elaborated in comments)
      2) there’s a kernel of something really good here, but the pitch could be revised and resubmitted (elaborated in comments)
      1) I’m afraid I don’t think we’re a match/it’s not you, it’s me

      • David William Price 11:01 am on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

        I think using a rubric is a brilliant idea. I tried using Vogt’s criteria from the week we reviewed real pitches because I thought it would be objective and fair to everyone (because that’s the criteria they used to evaluate others). While I felt those criteria were great for taking on the analyst role (which, quite honestly, was my focus) I think your suggestion is a brilliant one for handling the pedagogical side.

        I think it’s important not to take away from the effort people took to evaluate pitches. I spent hours viewing and reviewing and trying to answer questions from Vogt’s criteria. I also found that the world limits severely impacted my reviews… they became pretty telegraphic due to my efforts to squeeze down to the required limits while still touching not the criteria.

        A rubric with some more nuances would certainly help scaffold feedback.

    • Deb Giesbrecht 4:35 pm on December 3, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      I, respectfully, disagree.
      I feel, like Allie, that ETEC 522 did not provide a *safe* and collaborative environment in which to trial (and error) student work. Unfortunately I already handed in my class evaluation before this week, and therefore missed the opportunity to add my ‘constructive’ criticism. Fortunately though, I will have forgotten this course and its contents by this time next week.

      Have a great break everyone!

  • David William Price 7:27 pm on September 21, 2011
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    Tags: outsourcing, pitches, SaaS, security, webroot   

    GENERAL REACTION TO PITCHES I watched two dozen pitches on silicon.com and noted my reactions. I need a clear description of the problem. I don’t care about lists of features, jargon or broad, vague claims without specific use cases. I don’t trust pitches that claim to be the solution for everyone. I want to understand […]

    Continue reading Webroot – Problem and solution attract further inquiry Posted in: Week 03: Analyst Bootcamp
     
    • bcourey 11:27 am on September 22, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Wow! 2 dozen pitches viewed? That would really give you a sense of what is working and what is not. I watched a few video pitches prior to this discussion and was amazed at the poor quality of some of them…what were they thinking? As for your review of Webroot, I was intriqued at first as you described the main ideas of the pitch…but you make a good point at the end about long term risk..you are right – it is not worth the risk to have to replace your software later when budgets are unpredictable.

    • Jay 11:32 am on September 22, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      You chose a great pitch to review and I agree that while Ian Moyse doesn’t project a whole lot of enthusiasm, he clearly outlines a problem that his company can solve and provides pin-point answers to every question asked to him by the panel. He displays confidence through his composure and knowledge base. In my opinion, one of the better pitches on this site. Thanks for sharing your critique.

    • Kristopher 2:40 pm on September 22, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Moyse definitely came into his own answering the questions, but he was fairly nervous during the sixty seconds (which is fair enough). I think his credibility increased substantially as the Q & A continued.

      I didn’t get from his description of the gap what his team brought to the table; I am not convinced that his company is the best one as there are many external IT companies out there. It may be that I didn’t understand how his was different, but in that 60 seconds, I would have turned away.

      Thanks for the post!

    • Karen Jones 3:46 pm on September 22, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Your analysis shows insight and a familiarity with business investor strategy, David. I am really glad you are in our group 11! Illuminating points to consider.

      KJ

    • ifeoma 9:03 pm on September 23, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Two dozen pitches? impressive. i do like how you presented our thoughts by first giving a general summary of the pitches, focusing on a pitch and and itemising your comment on it. You wrote, “I don’t care about lists of features, jargon or broad, vague claims without specific use cases.”
      I must say that some of the pitches were focused on features -that was my issue with Evernote, and I found that did not impress me either. On the other hand, jargon i think can swing either way, make or break depending on the audience. I too think that there were a lot of vague claims too and e.g, WEbook and Edufire.
      On webroot, I think the presenter sounds like he understands his product/service. I like that he identified pain points and the role expected of IT and narrowed in on that to present their competitive advantage. However, you have done a good job analysing the short term and long term risks showing some good insight on your part.

    • khenry 5:15 am on September 25, 2011 | Log in to Reply

      Hi David,
      Great points. I also, from watching the pitches, was able to zero in on the kind of information I find necessary and/or am interested in. I like to know features but as you said presented within the context of practical and specific use. Also, zeroing in on competitive advantage is essential.

      A point you raised was the particular audience and that some elements were therefore not discussed. This is clearly context specific and so he knows they type of information to present for this target audience. However, can/should pitches be universal, particularly if they are presented via public media e.g. Youtube?

      Kerry-Ann

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