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

Recombo and Ingenia

September 21, 2009   No Comments

Some links

Here are a few things I found while surfing:

The Entrepreneurial Foundation of Saskatchewan has some information on what is necessary to be investment-ready:

This column has some good tips on pitches, including the 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes including questions, 30 point font.

September 20, 2009   No Comments

Noah on Recombo 05

Recombo 2005

CEO Credibility:

I think that Brad McPhee’s ability articulate how he and his company have morphed with market forces  shows that he and his team are paying attention to the market and are knowledgeable of the field within which they work.  McPhee is also able to clearly articulate how his product and services work and  how those functions help his clients and make his company solid.

Management Team –

I would be somewhat concerned with the management team.  The need to expand the company from 12 to 22 is a serious concern.  I think McPhee is aware of these challenges and alludes to them as he emphasizes the need to maintain the company culture.  McPhee identifies the challenges, but simply identifying them does not necessarily mean that they can be easily overcome.

Business Model –

A key component is that the company is adaptable. Recombo has a focus on their product and they have a clear goal of a 100 million dollar business.  They have lighthouse customer a publishing firm Mindreader and plan to use them as an avenue through which they can access Mindreaders clients. Mindreader has agreed to provide access as Recombo provides financial incentives to Mindreader when business is created through this channel. Recombo is primarily trying to prove their product and services in order to demonstrate success.  I think building a solid reputation while working through known avenues will be a great way to move the company to the next step.

Competitive Products –

I wish that McPhee had expanded upon the field in which he operates.  From the discussion I was not able to discern what competition Recombo faces.

Market Readiness –

They are ready for the market and are now taking time to build a company name and reputation.  By using a proven technology and spreading the word the company will be able to expand and enter a larger market with a proven technology and company.

Technical Innovation –

The recombo connector connects multiple interfaces and systems and eliminates the difficulties of having multiple platforms within a system.  The innovation itself is a great product, but as I am not aware of the market place in which it operates I do not know if they have the ability to maintain an edge over competitors.

Exit Strategy –

I think that the exit strategy is not clear.  Although they are looking the acquisition by a major player such as IBM, the target range and the price point is not yet decided.  I think that a set target needs to be established. Perhaps it is the 100 million dollar price.

Overall Investment Status –

I would invest money with Recombo.  But, I would first need to research the market place a little more before entering the arena.  McPhee could have elaborated a little more on the competition to build a well rounded view of the company in context.   I would also want an exit strategy to be specified.

Is Recombo still in business? It seems that the latest news is from 2008.


Just a few thoughts.


September 20, 2009   No Comments

Ernie’s UBC IT Services Pitch Analysis

Here’s my 2nd go at a pitch analysis…hope it makes sense…my eyes are starting to close!

  • CEO Credibility – Does this person exude capability and convey confidence that they will achieve success against all obstacles?
    • Ted Dodds appears confident and well-spoken.  He exudes a very professional, experienced demeanour.
    • He speaks of UBC’s mission, considers the students and the community
  • Management Team – Have they assembled a stellar team along with the other human and material resources required for success
    • Dodds suggests that UBC is a very decentralized university.  Each faculty has its own e-learning component.  He stresses the importance of formal and informal meetings and strategies, including the use of E-strategy Townhall meetings, which include invited leaders of other institutions (peers and competitors), boards members, deans, vice presidents etc.  He stresses the importance of collaboration between these e-learning stakeholders.
  • Business Model – Is this feasible? – have they done their homework? – are their arguments and information accurate and compelling?
    • Yes, I believe this model is feasible.  By working collaboratively with e-learning stakeholders, university leaders, and competing educational institutions, UBC’s reputation stands to gain.  In turn, registration may increase.
    • Dodds suggests that the E-strategy is a framework, not plan or mandate, thus giving more freedom to members of the community.
  • Competitive Products – What is a realistic market size, market share and selling price that these products or services can capture in a very competitive world?
    • There is a demand for e-learning and UBC IT’s vision is to be a active an collaborative partner in the e-learning community.  They are working together with other universities and educational leaders to create products that can promote e-learning.  Unfortunately, Dodds does not provided any statistics on market size, student enrolment, demand etc.
  • Market Readiness – How long and difficult is their critical path to success?
    • No time length is given but UBC is working with other educational institutions in the e-learning community.  It is leader in e-learning innovation.  Path to success is ongoing.
  • Technical Innovation – Do they have an edge, and can they keep it?
    • Dodds mentions that UBC is well known for “commercialization of individual research within the campus”.  E-learning innovation at UBC has brought about commercial products such as WebCT.  He mentions that UBC is taking a leadership role in opensource software and community source software which help to get campus level innovations to a broader audience.  Working with other campuses to create a community source system
  • Exit Strategy – Do they really know what success looks like – is their destination clear
    • Participation and altruistic relationship in the e-learning community helps to promote UBC reputation.  By taking a leadership role in opensource software and creating E-strategy townhall meetings for community stakeholders contributes to UBC IT’s success.
  • Overall Investment Status – Am I going to risk my investment capital on this proposition?
    • Yes, as an EVA, I would invest in UBC IT’s vision for e-learning.  Furthermore, I would encourage and recommend potential students to take a serious look at e-learning programs through UBC.

September 19, 2009   No Comments

RRU and Open Courseware explored

The two pitches have been reviewed together because to me, they are very different–one intrapreneurial, the other enterpreneurial. The RRU one is in her own institution, while the other,  Ingenia, is in a Far Eastern country where language and cultural and other barriers may impact the venture. I thought that would be a good challenge.

I have approached this like a so-called dragon in the TV show den, though I only saw it for the first time in the other student’s link to the outside pitch today. Having dealt with VC meetings, I think the dragon analogy is very good and so will proceed wearing that hat!.

re: CEO Credibility

The RRU spokesperson is a confident speaker and appears heavily invested in the open learning concept. Her track record is not discussed, nor does their pitch elucidate how they will achieve success against all odds. The specific challenges and details of how the concept would be implemented are not presented. One would look for some mention of a system going into play to assess the efficacy of the initiative.

The Ingenia training CEO has a good level of enthusiasm for the initiative she is pitching; the extension of their company services into Taiwan. She does mention a few things that I found distracting. One was her assertion somewhere in the middle of the talk that because of contracts, “you can take them to court” which is a comment that really does not belong in a business pitch. The CEO first asserts the market is open, and later asserts this is indeed a difficult market so consistency of message was lost. Due to the risk of the venture, the proposed investor return of 20-25% does not seem worth the risk. Research dealing with how the company has adjusted its forecast activities, based on the current recession would need to be done before an EVA study would be considered complete.

Management Team

The RRU pitch does not detail her management team at all, nor do we hear about specific resources. This is a deficiency in the presentation.Is there a group of people in the institution in key positions that are on the team? Mentioning such a workgroup and providing access to their early meetings would help the institution know this is  not a lone ranger agenda.

The Ingenia pitch makes mention of specific academic qualifications, but there was no mention of the familiarity of her key staff with the language and culture of the area. It sounds like they will use the VC capital to invest in the appropriate software to use in the venture, but no mention is made of the current level of available hardware and software upon which the expansion phase is going to build upon.

Business Model

The RRU segment makes it sound feasible, but no specific numbers are given. Data from a number of institutions that have already taken the plunge, showing open course access indeed boosted student registration numbers would be desirable. Tracking systems to confirm any registration increase was due to this factor and not any number of other factors which can affect registration numbers would also be really important to hear about but are not presented. Complexity will be inevitable around copyright, so information about the road blocks that might arise here need elucidation. Has she talked to faculty? How many are “on board” for the concept? Note aside: The merits of the initiative itself (open courseware) are not being judged in the EVA review, rather the pitch is what we are to focus comments on.

The Ingenia CEO’s assertion that there is good opportunity in the region would be bolstered by some testimonials from her initial contact with those she has already spoken with about opportunities. Availability of a letter of intent to form a consortium with the software company for example, would be most reassuring.

Competitive Products

RRU of course does not have a selling price per se in an open sharing of the courseware. The question remains: would people looking for open courseware go to the MIT site for content before RRU ? (asked, and answered).

So, marketing of the RRU course availability outside of the consortium would be necessary. The institution would need to develop engaging materials to show interested students what makes them special, so they tune into RRU courses specifically. Our pitch person refers to showcasing media use to attract students and faculty, but no details were given about this aspect, which might be a good differentiator. The MIT sessions I have looked at are just .ppt and overhead/slides with the talking professor in the limelight but the content is good.

The Ingenia CEO does mention the population of the country but does not provide details about market size for in-progress work, or proposed work. There is no detail provided about any pricing for the services, just that they will be paid in USD not CAD dollars. If the pitch was done today, that probably would be left out with the dollars being so close this year. Mentioning some specific competitors in more detail, such as the Japanese group would let an EVA know she has done homework and is not afraid to share the good or bad news.

Market Readiness 

RRU is not providing any timelines.

Ingenia is also not giving set timelines. We do not know how long those marketing trips will take to complete, and how international, legal, import issues and language issues may delay their plans or not. Some track record on things would help here—she might share that it took 12 months for example, to go from contact to contract.

Technical Innovation 

RRU is not technically innovative and does not pretend to be.

Ingenia does project their expertise as being very narrow and specialized and such. The question in my EVA mind is whether their innovation exceeds the competitors from Japan already in the market in any way. No proposal is offered for differentiation in the pitch. It appears their strength has been in institutional and government rather than in industry, and now in the far east their first proposed work is with international banking and a software company. This does not mean they are not a stand-out, but the pitch is not strong in this area.

Exit Strategy 

RRU is not planning to exit, as this proposal does not lend itself to this point.

Ingenia does not talk much about when they achieve their goals. We do not hear about proposed company earnings, nor do we hear about their plans of merging or acquisitions or selling out if they do not end up meeting target. Investors would want more detail in this.

Overall Investment Status 

In the case of RRU, the proposal has merit but is not fleshed out in enough detail to allow the pitch target audience (investment assumed to be by the institution management) to know enough about the investment in time or dollars, nor enough detail about the benefits to the institution.

The Ingenia proposal also has merit, but again, unless this is an elevator pitch, more hard data would be needed to provide a VC the sense of solidity in their business acumen.

best wishes, Kathleen

September 17, 2009   No Comments

Recombo’s Pitch

Initial Response to Recombo

My initial response to the Recombo pitch was positive. I found Brad McPhee to be knowledgeable, confident, personable and realistic. He appears to have a good grasp of his market niche and knowledge of the other players. I don’t personally know how innovative his product is but it certainly seems to be in demand and able to fill several needs. As I heard recently on “Dragon’s Den”, his product is not a “one sku wonder”! He was focused on a clear goal, being a “100 million dollar” company, yet admitted that if the price was right he might sell before hitting that mark. I felt that he was able to see ahead yet still be flexible.

In terms of market readiness, Recombo is already in the market and has reasonable plans for expansion. I do worry a bit about the rate of growth (he talked about needing to double his work force in 10 months). Through personal experience I know that extremely rapid growth can sometimes be problematic for a company. However, his calm, matter-of-fact manner put me at ease.

Would I risk my investment capital? Yes, I think I would.

September 14, 2009   No Comments