EVA of Ingenia and Recombo by Barbara Mair

A lot has been said in the blog about these two companies.

I would add that the CEO of Ingenia comes across as a very credible person in the education field although since the venture is taking place in Vietnam she is not focusing enough on her credibility in this market. In the case of Recombo, the CEO is highly knowledgeable about his product that has now become a service and i believe he would profit from being a little less technical in his pitch and a little more market driven.

As several of you have expressed neither one of the CEOs goes into the management team enough to judge if they are the right team for what they are trying to do, again Ingenia would benefit by explaining the partnership with the company who knows Vietnam well and telling us if anyone on her team has in depth knowledge about doing business in Vietnam. In the case of Recombo going from 12 to 24 people in a short time without outlining what these bring to the table could be dangerous and a source of cash burning.

Both business models could be successful given the right conditions, although i am not convinced by either of them as they stand in these pitches, they both will evolve although Recombo could be close if this lighthouse customer is as successful as they anticipate.

In the case of Recombo they have evolved from being a product driven company to a service company recognizing the pain and solving a business need for their partner. They are staying focused on developping this “distribution channel” for their products and services and i believe this will help them evolve further in understanding the end customer’s needs and adapting to them, they do sell the uniqueness of their products for the market they are addressing. Ingenia on the other hand has not found the uniqueness of their products, we do not know what the competition looks like in the market they are going after, Vietmam and they have had no success in their own local market. So it is to be seen whether they do have the right products.

I believe that Ingenia could be successful but i would not invest in it until i saw more proof of their ability to do business oversees in Asia.  Recombo i believe has got the product/service right although they are not clear on the exit strategy whether they are building up a company to sell or to expand to other customers or partners…. Looking at these as an EVA, of the two companies ithink Recombo is a surer bet.

September 18, 2009   1 Comment

Ingenia Pitch

As an EVA I was impressed by the qualifications of the core team. The venture also had a clear focus. I was concerned that Ingenia’s experience in the past has mainly been with governments and that their proposed projects will be mainly with multinationals. I would want to find out more about how significant this switch would be. Ramona is aware of, and honest about, the stiff competition Ingenia faces in the North American market and proposes an overseas venture partly to avoid this competition.

As I watched the pitch I was reminded of a recent report by the Educational Policy Institute on the effects of the recession on post-secondary education. At the end of this report (pages 28-29) the authors claimed that in Asia and Africa there is a high demand for education branded by large Western universities, and that Canada has been slow to respond to this demand. I noted that Ramona mentioned the success of an Australian university in Vietnam. Of course, Ingenia is not a large Western university and it is not offering post-secondary education. However, Ramona mentions that there is a strong presence of multinational companies in Vietnam, which is Ingenia’s focus, and this would suggest that there is a demand for the kinds of services Ingenia provides.

I would like to know more about Ingenia’s partner team and their experience. I could see this partnership as helping to overcome some of the problems that might exist with the venture. There is a question about what products they plan to use, as I assume that they will have to support Vietnamese. I understand that most of the connections in Vietnam are dial-up and that this is why Ingenia is proposing to buy a low-bandwidth portal in BC, but the slow connections may have ramifications for how attractive elearning will be and again what products should be used. I would like to know more about what solutions they implemented in their previous experience in Vietnam. When she discusses the need for insurance, Ramona admits that it is a difficult market and I would want to know more about potential risks.

I noticed that the Canadian government offers some resources for Canadians considering doing business in Vietnam. http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/vietnam/commerce_international/index.aspx?lang=eng

September 18, 2009   2 Comments

Article on Personal Ventures

This article has some practical views on starting a venture.  It’s focus is more on personal entrepreneurship.



September 18, 2009   1 Comment

Two useful pitch resources

The two linked resources below come from TechCrunch.

The first is about enthusiasm and its importance as an element of a product or service pitch. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the poster child for this resource.

The second is a recipe of sorts that you may wish to consider as you begin to assemble your own pitch for assignment 3 in this course.

This week you have been critiquing pitches, a task that I suspect that you will find more straightforward than crafting your own. It requires a great idea, organizational agility and presentation talent to build and deliver a compelling pitch. Do you have the right stuff?


September 17, 2009   1 Comment

Royal Roads OpenCourseWare Pitch

Mary Burgess states that the Royal Roads OpenCourseWare venture would have both an altruistic value and a benefit to Royal Roads University. I think it is difficult to argue with the altruistic benefit of sharing knowledge and promoting informal learning. As an EVA, I believe that people would still pay to be accredited and to receive instruction. I don’t think that there is a problem with competition from members of the OpenCourseWare consortium because OpenCourseWare is offered for free and to benefit from the venture it isn’t necessary to lead people away from using OpenCourseWare offered elsewhere for free (such as MIT) to get them to use Royal Roads OpenCourseWare for free. Furthermore, from what I can see, for the most part Royal Roads and MIT offer different kinds of programs and I’m not sure that there would be much direct competition between them.

The intention to make Royal Roads courseware available for free online indicates confidence in its value, a sense that its quality speaks for itself. It is possible that being able to see the course material before enrollment may attract potential students and possibly prospective faculty, but it would be difficult to establish this kind of cause and effect relationship by looking at the experiences of universities in the OpenCourseWare consortium because there are many factors that can affect student enrollment. I agree that offering courseware for free could enhance the reputation of Royal Roads.

I have questions about what the venture would involve. Is it just a matter of posting course syllabi and handouts online and advertising that they are available, or will it involve creating new content such as videos of lectures, podcasts, and so on? The answer to this would have consequences for the cost of the venture, its viability, and how excited I would be about it. As other EVAs have mentioned, there are also questions about who would be involved in the venture and what their qualifications are.

My main concern is with the issue of licensing. Much more would need to be said about copyright issues and how likely the creators of course content would be to get on board with the project. Other EVAs have mentioned that it isn’t clear what the audience for this pitch is. If it is to faculty, who would be concerned about their intellectual property, then, as a faculty member, I am not persuaded that people will not steal my course content just because from a legal standpoint they should not steal it.

September 17, 2009   4 Comments

UBC Office of Learning Technology

For this EVA, I look at the UBC Office of Learning Technology not from an investor’s perspective, but rather from the perspective of budget allocation. Michelle Lamberson is the director of the OLT, and she faces an interesting challenge of bringing about cooperation between faculty, staff, IT personnel, and students, as realizes the goal of this cross-campus initiative.

An interesting aspect of personnel management was noted when Lamberson mentioned the need to relinquish her hardware preferences to those that will be actually managing and maintaining the networks and servers. To me, this shows that she is willing to accommodate perspectives other than her own, and that she is looking out for the good of the project rather than her own comfort with familiar tools.

Looking at the market readiness, this was a unit that was already needed when the interview took place, so it is meeting a current and identified need rather than simplifying or streamlining workflow as was noted in some of the other pitches.

With regards to technical innovation, Lamberson seems to be aware of the developments in the new communication technologies, and is experimenting with many of those that could have a positive educational impact. She admits that it is difficult to predict which technologies will take off, but she is preparing to accommodate those that will be successful.

As for an exit strategy, Lamberson makes it clear that her direction and objectives will change with the technology, but the common theme will be supporting collaboration, and connecting decentralized groups and individuals to strengthen them as though they were a cohesive centralized unit.

If I were allocating the budget, I would make sure that the OLT had sufficient resources to continue its service to staff and students.

September 17, 2009   No Comments

Recombo -comparing 2005 to 2004

As a newly established EVA, I was impressed by the difference between Brad McPhee’s venture pitch from the 2004 video to the 2005 conversation.

CEO credibility

I felt that the CEO’s credibility had improved by leaps and bounds.  His confidence of success in the 2005 pitch was overwhelmingly obvious.  There was no doubt that he felt that his company would achieve success, and that the success achieved to date was in full support of that claim.

Management Team

Clearly this company is operating with a team framework that is flourishing.  In the 2004 presentation I wasn’t sure that there was a direct sense of the destination or growth of the company, but by the 2005 presentation, it was evident that the company was only looking forward, and was managed in a confident, clear way.

Business Model

The feasibility of this company is completely apparent in the 2005 presentation.  Brad McPhee has limitless examples of his services that are currently being used and who they are being used by and prospective clients that seek out this middleware.

Competitive Products

Clearly this technology is a competitive product, as he mentioned in the 2005 pitch that they were possibly going to IPO in that year.  With companies like IBM being interested in his services, there is no doubt that this company can capture a very competitive price for their services.

Market Readiness and Exit Strategy

Due to the fact that his company has been operating and succeeding, with many examples to provide for evidence of success, it is clear that even in the span of the one year between 2004 and 2005 that their path to success is well laid.

Technical Innovation

If companies such as IBM have taken an interest and the company is going to IPO, then they will have no difficulties keeping an edge in the current market.


As an EVA, I would not hesitate in risking my investment capital on this proposition.  McPhee exudes a confidence, with the examples to back it up, that his company has a lot of offer.  He convinces us that there are many clients who would seek out these connector and adaptor products.  Company growth and success is demonstrated in that the employee numbers doubled in a one year time period.  Investing in this company seems highly advisable.

September 17, 2009   1 Comment

RRU ready to invest? …

I may sound harsh here, but I’m going to start by saying no to investing in this one – for numerous reasons. (Comments most welcome if you disagree with what I say because I’m new to being an EVA.)

Burgess takes too long to get to the point in her pitch. The introduction is much, much too long. Actually, I’m curious: who is her audience? Would she not pitch this idea to people inside the university? If so, is it necessary to go into so much detail about RRU’s history? Please tell me if I’m wrong here. Regardless, I would spend a little less time talking about the historical significance of RRU … and the history of OCW, too.

Her words appear to have said a lot about RRU, but the rhetoric is empty. She said a lot about its history, its successful marketing team, its “innovative pedagogy”, and its “effective use of technologies”, but no concrete examples were given. Nor were there suggestions about how RRU’s OCW would be different from other universities. Yes, she showed that some research had been done with regards to how other universities adopted OCW, and she commented on common criticisms about this practice; however, there was very little (if anything) about how RRU would overcome the criticisms made about MIT and other universities. Instead she provides comments that are full of logical fallacies (sorry …), such as “The bottom line is it‘s the right thing to do”. Is it? I’m not convinced, yet. (Although, I do support the idea of OCW.)

Burgess does do well when mentioning how OCW would benefit the university. Yet there is little information about how this will be accomplished. Will they ensure high quality materials that are competitive against MIT’s OCW? Is that feasible? Will their methods for delivering content be innovative? How?

I also question whether her plan for how OCW would truly benefit students. She didn’t seem to give enough evidence for this. In fact, I got more of an impression that the OCW would be used more for marketing purposes, attracting more students, attracting more faculty.

And, which I’ll admit that I’m perhaps being too harsh here, I was not impressed by her delivery. For example, she relied too much on pathos (such as commenting on the university’s credibility) and ethos (such as visuals in the presentation like … the baby – why a baby?).

September 17, 2009   8 Comments

RRU Open Courseware Pitch

To open with full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Open Courseware (OCW), Creative Commons licensing, and the notion of free knowledge.  However, as an Educational Venture Analyst I would have to turn down the Royal Roads University (RRU) proposal based on the pitch.

One of the main thrusts of the pitch is that opening RRU courses will raise the university’s profile.  MIT OCW became widely known because they were MIT – they already had a significant global profile.  Has the profile of the Dixie State College of Utah (also an OCW member) been raised since they started opening their online courses?  Burgess gives little data about the affect opening their courseware has had on other institutions nor does she address the technical requirements or costs of this initiative.

Burgess (2008) also makes the bold claim that “being open can really help us with learner recruitment”.  However, MIT’s freshman enrollment before OCW was approximately 1050 students (Arnaout, 2000).  The freshman enrollment eight years after OCW?  1051 students (MIT, 2009).  Perhaps there are other recruitment metrics Burgess is anticipating for the small university but she doesn’t mention any.

While I appreciate Burgess’s passion for a very noble venture, the pitch simply did not establish sufficient details on the benefit to the institution to warrant pursuing.

Arnaout, R. (2000).  MIT Cuts Size of Class of 2004 To Prepare for Housing Crunch.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from http://tech.mit.edu/V120/N8/8enroll.8n.html

Burgess, M. (2008).  ETEC522 Assignment 3.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1avzWv3_JDw

MIT (2009).  MIT Facts.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from http://web.mit.edu/facts/enrollment.html

September 16, 2009   7 Comments

Recombo 2005

In 2005, Recombo seems to be a company that has finally settled on a direction, and has started to make a name for themselves, attracting at least one large customer. Brad McFee emphasizes focus as their current direction. This means focusing on a single product path and working with one major client to establish themselves and to prove to other prospective clients that they are the major player in their narrow field.

Recombo is a growing company, with plans to nearly double in size. This is in preparation for potential new clients, and so that they can adequately service Mindleaders, their new lighthouse partner. An interesting aspect of Recombo’s business model is that they are going to try to also service Mindleaders’ customers. While there are incentives for Mindleaders, it could sour the relationship.

Brad McFee is candid about the company’s exit strategy. If there is enough money on the table, then it might just make sense to sell out. Nevertheless, McFee has a plan to grow his company independently, and hopefully service all four of the major players, including Mindleaders, in his target field.

As an investor, there are a few concerns with Recombo. First of all, they are a company in transition. To me, transition means that they were doing something ineffectively, or that they have taken a new direction. Either way, they are venturing into new territory, and they are gambling their future on one player. The other concern is the overhead involved with their line of work. Mr. McFee spoke about creating content before being able to provide a quote for customers. While this does ensure that they price themselves appropriately, it also means that there’ll be a lot of work done by a lot of employees before the potential for profit even exists.

At this time, I would weigh my investment as much on Mindleaders as I would on Recombo, since it seems that Recombo’s success depends on their lighthouse client.

September 16, 2009   1 Comment