As an educational venture analyst, I have responded in the following way:

1.  CEO Credibility

Ramona Materi exudes capability in that she is the co-chair of the Canadian e-learning Enterprise Alliance, the President of Ingenia Training, and the Director of E-learning BC.  Ramona Materi conveys confidence by maintaining that Ingenia has a place in the SE Asian market like Vietnam.  As well, Ramona Materi asserts that Ingenia can be successful in this market because Ingenia has young, strong, good people and quality products and services.  However, exuding and conveying do not translate into success against all odds.  Indeed, market forces/corrections, competition, currency fluctuations, operating costs, rules and regulations, government intervention, to name a few, play a major role in determining success or failure of any company, especially a young company like Ingenia.

2.  Management Team

Ingenia is comprised of a small core team of designers and consultants with Master and PhD degrees (with appointments at universities), but there is no mention of the team’s fields of related expertise, training, and/or experience.  The team is establishing partnership with a Vietnamese software company in conjunction with the World Bank.  However, the business partnership/establishment remains pending.

3.  Business Model

The team has done some homework in that it knows that there are 80 million people in Vietnam of which 75% of the population is under the age of thirty years.  The team also knows that other entrepreneurs have moved into the e-learning market, setting up a private campus, for example.  The argument is not compelling and I do not know if the information is accurate, but, as an EVA, I am interested in sales, past investments, the overall strength of the company, and marketplace dominance.

4.  Competitive Products

Ingenia is a consulting firm/services company, which is a harder sell than products, for the ROI can be longer and even more volatile because such companies can take a long time to establish; sometimes too long for investors (venture capitalists).  As an EVA, I am perplexed by Ingenia’s inability to gain some market share in Canada and the US.  After all, Ingenia is already twelve years old.  This is not what investors really want to hear.  I do not really know where Ingenia stands in terms of its valuation even though the company is seeking investments of $100,000CDN.

5.  Market Readiness

Ingenia has already been in business for twelve years, but the company has been unsuccessful in breaking into the Canadian and American markets.  As such, the company is trying to break into the Vietnamese market even though other companies have already moved in.  Ramona Materi did mention that the Japanese (i.e. Japanese companies established in Vietnam) think long term, but Canadians and Americans do not.  In turn, perhaps the Ingenia team should consider outside investors instead of Canadian or American investors.  Otherwise, Ingenia’s path to success might be long and challenging.

6.  Technical Innovation

I do not think that this company has an edge; I did not see, hear, or feel it.  Ramona Materi appeared to be honest, hard-working, forward moving, and forward thinking, but she seemed to lack the conviction, the pizzazz, the ‘pitch’ that presumably comes with selling an idea, a concept, or a product.

7.  Exit Strategy

Based on Ramona Materi’s pitch, I suspect that the team is looking to establish itself in foreign markets like Vietnam rather than the home market, which is said to be a very tough market because of stiff competition from established e-learning players in Canada and the US.  In turn, the team’s destination seems to be clear: foreign markets.  Here, Ramona Materi asserts that success is more viable in SE Asian markets, a relatively untapped e-learning market.

8.  Overall Investment Status

In the words of Kevin O’Leary (CBC’s Dragon’s Den), “Show me the money!”  I would not invest $100,000CDN in Ingenia because this consulting form/services company is already twelve years old, unable to boast past high returns.  And, although the ROI of 20-25% is pleasing, there is no mention of an estimated time line/period for the ROI.  As well, the American dollar remains low, whereas the Canadian dollar remains high: Ten cents to the American dollar is not enough of an incentive.  I do not think this will change too much with all the wars that the US is choosing to engage in.  Furthermore, Ingenia has had no outside investors (only internally generated funds).  Finally, Ingenia is a niche firm in a very specialized field, facing competition in a tough market at home (i.e. Canada and the US) and even in Vietnam where the Australians have already staked a claim in the e-learning market.  I can only imagine larger, wealthier American companies moving in very quickly into the Vietnamese e-learning marketplace.


1 Annette Smith { 09.20.09 at 10:02 am }

I think that before the Americans start moving into the market in Vietnam there is a window of opportunity for Canadian firms to stake a claim and take advantage of the demand. I just don’t think that Ingenia is the firm to do it because they don’t seem to be prepared for working in a Vietnamese environment. The fact that they are relying on Canadian firms to do their translation and preparation of materials says to me that they don’t have the tools to work in another culture and language.

2 Barrie Carter { 09.25.09 at 11:28 am }

Hello Annette:

Yes, Ingenia is not yet ready for the market in Vietnam. And, yes, perhaps another Canadian firm would have a better opportunity provided that (a) sufficient capital is available, (b) market understanding is evident, (c) the service is stellar and supported, (d) the operating costs are non-prohibitive, and (e) the said client-base remains high and interested.



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