Smartboard Cubed

Smartboard Cubed

Smart Technologies, the maker of the Smartboard, was founded in 1987. They create interactive whiteboards, interactive pen displays, interactive digital signage, wireless slates and software. The interactive whiteboards are becoming commonplace in today’s classroom.

Face 1: Type of Market

Smart Technologies supplies Smartboards and other interactive technologies to every level of educational or corporate training.

Face 2: Type of Offerings

Their main offering is the Smartboard interactive whiteboard. This comes bundled with Notebook 10 software. The whiteboard is connected to a pc which it controls by using touch (human hand, electronic pen etc). The company provides training for their product in the form of online tutorials, videos, manuals and webinars.

Face 3: Who is the buyer?

Smartboards are typically bought by individual schools and school districts. Some school districts are purchasing this product and putting them in every classroom in certain schools while other districts are leaving the purchase decision to the individual schools.

Face 4: Global Markets

Smart Technologies is presently concentrating their efforts on the English speaking ‘wired’ countries. Given its ties to Intel and Microsoft it is easy to imagine them expanding globally.

Face 5: Market Development

The North American and English speaking European markets would support this product. Worldwide they account for more than 53% of all such devices sold. In North America their market share is 62%.

Face 6: Learning Technology Integration

The Smartboard is becoming more and more common in today’s classroom. It is replacing blackboards, whiteboards, maps, charts and other visual teaching aids. Its interactive nature allows students to quickly and easily interact with the technology.

September 24, 2009   8 Comments


NGRAIN is an electronic training development company which specializes in 3D simulation technologies.  More specifically, NGRAIN has focused on equipment training programs, virtual task training and maintenance support systems using interactive equipment simulations.

Many of their products and services take the form of interactive, explodeable 3D representations of complex machinery and equipment such as aircraft engines, military weapons or off-shore oil rigs.  Their goals are to accelerate training, increase first-time performance, minimize downtime, streamline operations and optimize worker performance in general.

Face 1 – Market Type

To date NGRAIN has focused on the training needs of government, military and corporate training needs.  NGRAIN’s customers include all branches of the United States and Canadian militaries, as well as leading manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Standard Aero, Northrop Grumman, and CAE.

Face 2 – Type of Offering

NGRAIN’s focus is to provide consulting, designing and development services to their clients.  They create 3D training solutions by consulting with the client and designing models, applications and courses that are deliverable over average computer systems as opposed to custom or expensive workstations.

Although the creation of custom models and application is where they began, NGRAIN has also developed a number of “off-the-shelf” solutions that can be implemented with simple technical and training data provided by the customer.

Face 3 – Who is the buyer?

NGRAIN’s business model is based on a corporation or government entity purchasing the content for the learner.

Face 4 – Global Market

NGRAIN has focused on two global markets: wired Anglophone countries and special (military/maritime) situations.  They have had no major issues reaching these markets and have made significant progress in the North American Market both in the private and public sector.

Face 5 – Market Development

I would say that the market NGRAIN caters to is highly developed.  Large Western corporations, military and government agencies are among some of the earliest adopters of educational technology used for training.  This market is not only well established but has fairly deep pockets and the justification for accurate, high-quality training such as 3D simulations and interactive scenarios.  The potential costs of downtime in these markets are often very large and extend beyond the financial to include the safety and well-being of those trained.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Integration

NGRAIN focuses on content development but has made strides in meshing their content with established learning systems.  Many of their materials are designed to fit within established learning management systems or be delivered along with traditional training methods.

This company does not wish to replace traditional training methods such as hands-on time with equipment, traditional class-based learning or on-the-job training but provide a new, supplemental view of equipment and tasks which is unavailable any other way.

September 24, 2009   4 Comments

Echo360 Cubed

Echo360 is a hardware and software solution to capture any classroom lecture and convert it to a podcast, video or rich media to be retrieved by students from the school web site, portal, LMS, iTunes or even as RSS feedback.

Face 1 – Market Focus

Echo360 has a very clear focus on the Higher Education market. I believe this comes as a natural result from competition between academic institutes to offer innovative alternatives for students missing any class lecture or just want to revise the lecture as whole or selective essential elements.

Face 2 – Types of Offering

A clear infrastructure solution that is based on a hardware component – named the capturing appliance – which can be integrated with smart classroom equipments (podiums, smart board, document readers, audio/video peripherals) and the instructor laptop to capture the whole lecture experience. Supportive software application servers then handle the capture processing (converting to different publishing options) and then the streaming part.

Company also offers another nice solution called the “Personal Capture” where you can run your lecture from your laptop wherever you are, and this software will capture what’s on the screen together with the audio narration and your video if you’ve your web cam on.

Face 3 – Who is the buyer?

Another clear “Learning Bought for Learner” typical situation. Within the campus, people in charge of smart classrooms/eLearning technology purchases are the target decision makers.

Face 4 – Global Markets

The company had so far achieved quite an impressive track with clear achievements in the US market, in addition they have clientele from all other continents (except for South America)

Although they have developed localized versions of their application, but I think the reason for the global success is product’s user friendliness. Once it’s installed by the campus IT (who normally are OK with English based products in case their local language is not there), the end user (classroom instructor) will not need to do anything except step in the classroom and deliver his/her lecture. (the software has a scheduling module)

Face 5 – Development of the market

This products is built around special “patent” technology, this allows it to enter almost all markets and not only those which supports import. Local competition is rare and the demand is there.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

The core essence of this product is based on a live classroom lecture (classical type of f2f learning), so the model here I would say; “eLearning Works With A Well-Developed Learning System”. Although, in some – well, may be rare – cases, the product faces resistance from faculty member who just don’t like the idea of being “captured”  and exposed in such a semi-public way.

September 24, 2009   4 Comments

Venture Design and Assessment Resources

Below are  a few interesting resources I was able to find regarding Venture Design and Venture Assessment

New Start-up business consulting website

 The Impact of New Venture Design on Entrepreneurial Exit Abstract: In this research we examine how the selection and assembly of initial strategic resources (financial, human, and technological) impact the entrepreneurial exit strategy. Our results suggest that an IPO exit strategy is positively related to all three types of strategic resources, while a strategic sale exit strategy is positively related to financial resources or total initial investment, and a sale to an individual exit strategy is positively associated with percentage of ownership, a financial resource. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Leading With Vision: The Design of New Ventures ‘Design is now readily acknowledged as essential to the enterprise. Andrew Hargadon argues, however, that designers must go beyond the making of individual products and brands to cut across the traditional boundaries within firms to create innovative business ventures. Advocating a new profile of design leadership, Hargadon explains how design principles and practices are uniquely suited to this exciting, multidimensional task.

 Heptalysis is a methodology, software solution and set of tools for planning and analyzing startups companies and business ventures

Venture Company Assessment Tool

September 24, 2009   2 Comments

Pitch Pool Assessments: Recombo 2004, Recombo 2005, Ingenia, UBC OLT, UBC IT, Royal Roads

Recombo 2004


CEO Credibility

ü      Brad at this point has poor presentation skills

ü      He does not exude confidence, in fact his voice is weak and his speech often stumbles

ü      His lack of a clear goal or vision does not leave me confident in his company’s success


Management Team

ü      It is interesting to note that neither Brad’s credentials nor those of his team are discussed during the pitch.  An oversight on his part after doing some research on the web as Brad does have some excellent credentials and experience behind him.


Business Model

ü      The general lack of focus leads me towards a ‘no’ as to whether this is feasible.  They are looking at too wide an area with tools, platform and service.  They need to have a clearer vision to share to compel the investor


Competitive Products

ü      Brad has not convinced me that his product is ready to compete with the existing competition and take a market share.  Price point was not discussed but is relevant.


Market Readiness

ü      The product is already in the market place but I’m not convinced the company is ready or prepared for growth.


Technical Innovation

ü      The company does have a unique edge with their ‘connectedness’ this is where I think their focus and vision should lie.


Exit Strategy

ü      Right now, overall Recombo is lacking a clear vision and goals, without these I don’t think that it is possible for them to accurately define what their success looks like.  They do not have a clear destination for themselves


Overall Investment Status

ü      At this time I would not be willing to risk my money on this proposition


Recombo 2005


CEO Credibility

ü      Brad at this point has improved his presentation skills

ü      He is very confident in his company and the product

ü      His lack of a clear goal or vision does not leave me confident in his company’s success


Management Team

ü      It is interesting to note that neither Brad’s credentials nor those of his team are discussed during the pitch.  An oversight on his part after doing some research on the web as Brad does have some excellent credentials and experience behind him.


Business Model

ü      Recombo has obviously learned from past successes and failures and have remodelled the company

ü      They are now focused on being a solution based company and are willing to turn down business that does not fit into their new vision

ü      Brad’s presentation, however, does not compel me to believe that they have done all of their homework to be competitive in this market



Competitive Products

ü      From the presentation it appears that the product is scaleable and adjustable for various markets, however, it’s niche is not readily apparent


Market Readiness

ü      The product has its first lighthouse client and has an interesting approach towards incentives for existing clients to produce new leads.  However, the sales teams approach does not seem to be focused and unified


Technical Innovation

ü      The company does have a unique edge with their ‘connectedness’ but do they offer their client’s and edge?  I am not convinced.


Exit Strategy

ü      Brad talks about focus but doesn’t seem to have a clear focus for growth and success.  They do not seem to have a clear vision of where they want to be with their product (other than a million dollar company)


Overall Investment Status

ü      At this time I would not be willing to risk my money on this proposition.  There is still work to be done on this company.

Further Remarks

ü      I took the opportunity to investigate Recombo’s website.  They have changed the focus of their product yet again.


Ingenia Training


CEO Credibility

ü      Confident, clear speaking voice

ü      Excellent credentials

ü      Concise Presentation


Management Team

ü      Solid business, highly qualified team

ü      Industry leader

ü      International expert

ü      Good successes already


Business Model

ü      Good research into the market

ü      Ripe for growth in eLearning and custom content

ü      Aware of the competition

ü      Already have contacts in Vietnam

ü      Money is available for the product

ü      Solid focused goal


Competitive Products

ü      From the presentation it appears that the product is easily able to take a good piece of the market share in this country that has yet to be tapped into

ü      The price for investment is clear and clearly broken down


Market Readiness

ü      The product is ready, the path to success should be relatively short


Technical Innovation

ü      If they act quickly and take the large market share than I believe they will have an edge that they can keep


Exit Strategy

ü      Their vision and goals are very clear and focused


Overall Investment Status

ü      I would invest in this proposition.  Although the return on investment is relatively small I do believe it is feasible


Further Remarks

ü      From further research on the Ingenia website it looks like they were successful in securing the IDRC/Government of Vietnam as a client


UBC Office of Learning Technologies


CEO Credibility

ü      Although the director was not a great speaker she does seem very knowledgeable about the various intricacies of overseeing the learning technologies for such a large institution with so many unique faculties and individuals that require accommodation inside her office’s vision


Management Team

ü      The UBC Office of Learning Technologies is filled with highly qualified individuals


Business Model

ü      The office does have a strategic plan

ü      They ensure that they work collaboratively with all individual and faculties

ü      They provide facilitation and co-ordination across UBC, which is difficult in an institution that values de-centralization

ü      Works collaboratively with IT services to ensure that the infrastructure can support the learning technologies


Technical Innovation

ü      This office values advanced and innovative users

ü      They look to the future and value online interaction


Exit Strategy

ü      Although the focus has to be on broader goals to encompass so many unique faculties and client groups, they still seem to achieve a clear focus and strategy for the future


Overall Investment Status

ü      No office is perfect and learning technologies are still continuously emerging and evolving.  This is a very difficult office to hold and please so many separate interests while keeping a common vision.  I think the director does an admirable job.


UBC IT Services


CIO Credibility

ü      Wow, Ted is a very well spoke individual

ü      He is clear, concise and exudes capability and confidence


Management Team

ü      All 5 of the UBC VPs volunteered to sit on the executive steering committee


Business Model

ü      Ted is very much aware that it is essential to have a clear vision, and the ability to articulate and share that vision with others

ü      The office has an eStrategy framework

ü      Annual town hall to discuss the strategy

ü      They give voice to the entire community

ü      Align their goals with the strategic goals of the faculty and the university


Competitive Products

ü      The office makes a point of keeping track of the innovators within the UBC community

ü      Liaise with other universities

ü      Keep current with the work of other institutions


Exit Strategy

ü      I was very impressed with the clarity of Ted’s vision.  He has a clear definition for success for his department


Royal Roads Open Courseware


CEO Credibility

ü      Miss Burgess speaks confidently and believes in the success of her proposal


Management Team

ü      It is made apparent that the current staff at Royal Roads are highly competent

ü      However, no mention is made of the team that would design and implement the Open Courseware – are they the same?  eLearning courseware is different than teaching in class


Business Model

ü      Although Miss Burgess talks about open courseware at other institutions and the benefits of open courseware, there is very little substance about how this would be implemented at Royal Roads

ü      Is the infrastructure already in place?  Are the courses fit for online learning?  What type of budget are they looking at?  Where is the evidence of a business proposal?


Competitive Products

ü      The selling price is zero dollars, Miss Burgess has done little to convince what the return on investment will be


Market Readiness

ü      This was not addressed at all during the presentation

ü      Are there courses already created?

ü      How much hardware requires purchasing

ü      What will the software requirements be?

ü      How long will this take to implement from start to finish?


Technical Innovation

ü      There are already a number of universities that offer Open Courseware.  Miss Burgess has not emphasized what will be unique about the Royal Roads open courseware


Exit Strategy

ü      I believe that Miss Burgess has a clear picture of what she would like to see, unfortunately she has not paved a clear road of how she will get there.


Overall Investment Status

ü      At this time I would not be willing to risk my money on this proposition.

September 24, 2009   1 Comment

Terminology troubles…


Perhaps others are “new” to the venture side of elearning as I am so there are many  terms/connected concepts that are challenging to grasp the first time.  There are probably many sites but this one has a comprehensive list of “investor terms”  Might be of use.

Cheers,  Greg

September 24, 2009   1 Comment

Applying the cube to E-line ventures E-line is a venture dedicated to the creation of digital entertainment that engages and empowers.

According to their website E-Line is currently developing several original games and comics. The focus for these projects is to be fun, relevant and make meaningful impact in the areas of learning, health and youth empowerment.

At this time the strength of this venture is in the personnel the E-Line team features. Described as “seasoned executives who’ve helped build some of the world’s leading game and digital comic franchises as well as social entrepreneurs who are committed to harnessing popular media for impact.”
Face 1: Market Focus
- Public schools (K- 12) Although the concept of gaming is not exclusive to young people aged K-12 there seems to be a strong base for interest from this group based on the statistics quoted on the eline website (stated below but not supported by a documented source) and through personal experience of how many young people gravitate to and enjoy computer based gaming environments.
97% of kids in America play computer & video games
86 million gamers visited casual gaming sites in December, 2008
The game industry is a $30+ billion global business that experienced 20% growth in 2008, despite the down economy.
There are approximately 100 million Nintendo DS handheld game machines and 50 million Nintendo Wii consoles which offer great opportunities for family friendly gameplay.Face 2: Types of Offerings – Services/Content
 “Talkers and Doers” is one example of a game designed to empower youth who are at risk for dropping out of school and give them tools and motivation to become young entrepreneurs. This game seeks to utilize fun and relevant gameplay with the integration of real- world mentors, opportunities and resources. This company seems to be going through a morph as indicated by the soon to be released sections of their website “view all eline game projects” and “view all eline comic projects”. From my review I cannot determine if this project is open to creating games/comics for their customers or if they do market research to inform them of what gaming/comic content development would be the most marketable. I am presuming the later although they may be open to original projects if adequately compensated. Also I am presuming that the games are web based requiring adequate infrastructure and computers to run them.
Face 3: Who is the Buyer? – Learning bought Centrally – Local Guide offers to Learners My interest in gaming environments would be to provide engaging and valuable learning experiences to my students. According to the website for E-line the following list are examples of organizations or groups for whom games with real-world impact can significantly accelerate their mission and outreach:
Educational institutions
Documentary filmmakers
Book publishers
Corporations (CSR)
Social Entrepreneurs
E- line does not give an adequate explanation for how these groups would utilize their services. They are marketing a service for building customized content but evaluation of how well a product is accomplishing the goals set out by the customer needs to be addressed.
Face 4 – Global Markets – Wired Anglophone Countries Potentially this product could be used anywhere a computer had adequate memory and processing to run the game program (assuming it is not net based) but if having adequate internet support is a requirement the market would be restricted.
Face 5 – Development of the Market – Market Only Supports Custom work or Indigenous Suppliers The market for this product seems to be extremely competitive and based on the customer’s ability to buy the product. A game simulation can be adapted for other countries and culture and may be valuable in terms of a basic model but could easily be ripped apart and rebuilt as a clone of the original product. Therefore, this company needs to work where copyright laws will protect the content of the game/comic.
Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning A key element for this learning technology is the appeal that games and comics hold for young students. Currently both forms of learning are elements of popular culture. Why Nintendo would not start to develop this type of product should it become lucrative enough seems to be answered in that different potential customers may require unique elements and circumstances to be included in their learning product (game or comic) to maximize it’s effectiveness. This could be accomplished but there is not a clear formula as to what the costs would be. Also programs such as comic life allow students to create their own comics, which is a more extensive learning process then taking in a comic that has already been prepared.

September 24, 2009   3 Comments

European venture resource list

I take global resources to include European ones as well.

Here’s a list of top 20.

September 24, 2009   1 Comment