Lecture 12
27th November 2012

It was with some sadness that I approached the Lecture theatre, knowing this was to be the final lecture of the series, and the final of its type due to restructuring of the MBA course.

Which is a bit curious in a sense as my role was simply one of observer!   However as the weeks rolled by I found myself not only captivated by the learning process, but almost unwittingly forming friendships with this exceptional group of students.

Tonight’s lecture had been moved to a larger, tiered theatre to accommodate guests and observers.  I missed the openness of our usual room, but resigned myself to the importance of formality on an occasion such as this.

My sombre mood was to be short lived! The energy in the room as the students started to arrive was transformative.  They were exuberant, chatting, laughing and looked the part, having exchanged their relaxed student attire for business dress!!

Final Presentations

Without delay, David invited the first student team to deliver their final presentation.  They took to the floor with confidence, presented their businesses, and promptly made way for the next group.  The session ran like clockwork, and the pitches were impressive.  All will be posted on the Start Ups pages in the next day or so, but a quick summary here…

MaxMyRate – set the bar high with a very professional presentation.  One of the key learnings for the team is that suppliers (financial institutions) are willing to pay to secure low run off business.  (Loan portfolio runoffs accelerate when interest rates are declining, and borrowers refinance at lower rates.)

They believe they are in a position to leverage a perfect storm, when both customers and suppliers are in need.  Their next steps include refinement of the business model.

Empowered Energy – the team described the profile of their target customer – one who is seeking cost reduction and control over their energy consumption.  They presented an excellent graphical overview of their offering and have conducted research that indicates an uptake by 1.1% of households would see them break even.

Cumulus – a team which has undergone a number of rebrands  (look at the Reliable Ratings page for their journey) set the scene by describing their customer’s problem.  A teacher is struggling to connect with a particularly needy student and has no sense of how he might identify with peers who may have overcome similar challenges.    Their solution : an on-line platform which facilitates collaboration and co-creation.  The business model is solid and the business is built to scale.  Impressively, the team is not looking for cash, but for partners, expertise and passion.

View Cam – previously Drone Zone – the team shared their journey with us, acknowledging that they had started with a product focus before fully understanding the customer problem.  They have identified a demand for aerial photography enabling buyers of high value real estate to gain a better sense of their property of interest.  And perhaps as expected, willingness to pay correlates to the value of the property.

Flick IT – formerly IT As A Utility – delivered a very engaging presentation, encapsulating their value proposition succinctly : business enabler.  The team is proposing a service which would allow clients to outsource the operation of their IT infrastructure to Flick IT, thus freeing them to focus on their core business.

Fast Entertainment – the team described their target customer as one who is locked into routine, works hard and lacks excitement in their life.  Their solution?  Accessible and exciting entertainment in the form of a flight simulator and an indoor sky diving experience.  Position is key to success, with high visibility in premium locations providing a competitive advantage.  The team is in the fortunate position of having a proven international market – and business model – which they can leverage.

Quote2Me – the team delivered a highly entertaining statement of the customer problem – the need to furnish and equip a new home.  The task of evaluating and selecting white goods and furniture is fraught with frustration, thus the concept of a website which simplifies the process.  And whilst the team had a strong customer focus, they realised part way through the project that their customer was in fact the retailer, not the consumer.  Post realisation they have established corporate interest and are revisiting a number of their underlying assumptions.

UgotWot  – the team has  undertaken an interesting journey.  Their solution was a website that enabled students to buy and sell books, accommodation, bicycles etc in a location specific manner.  As students, the team felt they understood their target market, until they started their research!  The market is more nuanced than they had realised, and the prospect of making money tough.  The business needed very high volume, had little scope for error and the competition is well established.  So they took what seems to me to be a wise and courageous decision to kill the business.  And are currently distilling their learnings.

Incisive Biotechnologies – this team came into the course with internationally patented technology which they are seeking to commercialise.  Their offering is a product which allows early detection and treatment of tooth decay through the application of a topical solution.  One of their key learnings is that the customer wants not just a product, but an experience which includes information and support.  So the product will be augmented with an on line environment.  The business is expected to break even in 43 months and plans a strategic sale in 5 years time.

Mr Budgeto – like View Cam, this team also admitted to an early product focus.  They thought the customer wanted a cashflow safety net, and gathered data by asking customers to complete a survey.  However they realised that deep listening was required in order to truly understand the customer problem.  The team subsequently discovered multiple segments, and built a financial model around various personas.  On the basis of their learnings, the team has designed a smartphone application that empowers customers to better manage their money.

Positive Energy Places – the sole member of this team made his entrance by bicycle, impressing upon us the impact of climate change.  He advised that buildings in the CBD are responsible for 50% of greenhouse emissions.  His business refurbishes buildings such that they become ‘positive energy place’, generating rather than consuming energy.

Feedback from our Guests

David had invited three guests to observe the presentations and to provide feedback…

  • Drew Williams, a former Corporate Lawyer with experience in financial modeling, strategic consulting & early stage or pre-seed Private Equity.
  • Ian Mence, a successful timber importer, businessman and entrepreneur, Ian is keen to give back through mentoring, guest lecturing and participating in start up events.
  • Kostas Antoniadis describes himself as a philosopher, philanthropist, entrepreneur and business leader with a track record of delivering growth and outstanding returns in new and existing markets across the globe.

Their observations were insightful…

  • the willingness to Pivot will be critical to success – to absorb new information, to restructure and to change;
  • multiple failures on the path to success are to be expected;
  • keep being inquisitive, keep learning;
  • it is a  myth that a new business must represent a new idea;
  • the sense of enthusiasm in the room is wonderful!

A Small Gift

At the conclusion of the presentations, David made a small presentation of his own, in the form of a gift to each student, perhaps a small reminder of the journey they had taken….

Pic by Rak Shetgar

Pic by Raj Shetgar

Eleven Amazing Weeks

David had cued a PowerPoint deck entitled “Eleven Amazing Weeks”.  I settled back in my seat, bracing for a barrage of theoretical concepts, academic musings and a sprinkling of abstract frameworks.  And of course there was some of this, but the next few minutes were an exhilarating reminder of just what a journey we’d been part of.  The personal highlights for me….

  • peer mentoring is a life long skill, which this group has demonstrated with great trust and honesty;
  • the (very pithy) Pitch Deck forces clarity;
  • we cannot do it all – choose which pieces of the experience you can deliver superbly;
  • risk assessment is boring but necessary!
  • the misuse of the strategic gate process has the potential to shut down ideas without the design criteria being made explicit;
  • reading books, learning theory is important, but ideas will only stick if they’ve been put into practice.

Have Courage

David’s final piece of advice transcends the classroom….“You need to have the courage to show people who you really are”.

It seems to me that the students on this course have indeed had the courage to choose to do this, and to support one another in the process.  It’s been an extraordinary journey, one which I have been privileged to witness.


1 Response to “Lecture 12”

  1. 1 thushara (@excda) December 4, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Indeed it’s been an extraordinary journey. David, Jane and Luke ..Thank you for guiding the journey.

    Eric Ries twitted

    Eric Ries ‏@ericries
    My work here is done. https://twitter.com/ericries/status/275476246090108928/photo/1

    David your work is also done!

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