The MBET Experience

The University of Waterloo – Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Program

The MBET Experience header image 1

HealthSpoke Pitches at Communitech Lunch

June 13th, 2007 · Comments Off on HealthSpoke Pitches at Communitech Lunch

Today I had a great opportunity to present HealthSpoke(TM) at a Communitech luncheon. The event featured guest speaker Mike Pascoe of Meriton Networks, who has been a part of growing and selling a few high-tech, networking companies.

As part of these networking lunch events, Communitech provides the opportunity for early stage tech companies to give a short presentation at the start of the lunch. A while back they approached MBET looking for people to present, and I had the good fortune of being selected to deliver the pitch for HealthSpoke at today’s lunch.

Over the course of the MBET program, I have had the opportunity to work on and refine the 1-2 minute pitch for the company, so I had material to draw on. My little talk was well received, and I had a number of people approach me afterwards asking for more information, including someone who had a strong interest in the product and could be another lead customer. The message – the more free PR you can get as a small company, the better!!! And you never know where you will find new customers!!

I also had the pleasure of sitting with the speaker, Mike Pascoe over lunch, and heard a lot of great stories shared by him, Tim Jackson of Tech Capital, and Iain Klugman, the President of Communitech. Mike’s talk, which focused on how to build an exponential growth company, was also excellent. He particularaly highlighted the importance of building a sales organization early in order to position a company to grow – you can’t reach $100 million in sales without having sales people!

All in all, it was a good lunch and I’m glad I had the opportunity to present. Thanks to Communitech for putting on the event and giving me the opportunity to continue to promote HealthSpoke!

Comments Off on HealthSpoke Pitches at Communitech LunchTags: Uncategorized

Discussion with former eBay CFO

June 5th, 2007 · Comments Off on Discussion with former eBay CFO

Today in finance class we are having a great discussion with Gary Bengier, the former CFO of eBay. Gary was a key part of the company during its early formative years, from 1997 to 2001. He was deeply involved in the company’s strategy, and led the company’s initial and secondary public offerings.

The class has the opportunity to ask a number of questions about the IPO process and hear Gary’s stories about taking eBay public. So far, the key point that I’ve taken away from the discussion is that an IPO is all about planning. Once the process starts, you are stuck on a roller-coaster ride, and you’d better be ready and have everything in place or else you’re in for a tough ride!

Anyway… this is a fascinating conversation so I’d better get back to listening. 🙂

Comments Off on Discussion with former eBay CFOTags: Uncategorized

Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge Wrap-Up

June 4th, 2007 · 3 Comments

As I mentioned in my last post, James and I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Rochester, NY, to take part in the Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge. After crunching the numbers, the staff at CBET determined that instead of making the 4-hour drive the evening before and staying in a hotel, it would be just as economical to charter a plane for us! So we showed up at 7am at Waterloo airport, and boarded our small 6-seater plane for the short, 1-hour flight to Rochester.

Since we finished in 2nd place in LaunchPad, we had to compete with the three other 2nd place teams in a semi-final round first thing in the morning. The winner of this round would advance to the finals in the afternoon with the first place winners. James and I were up last, and as we were both too nervous to watch the other presentations, we spent an hour or so rehearsing while the other teams presented.

Finally, it was showtime, and we delivered our pitch as well as we ever have. However, the judges asked us some great questions, such as “What happens to you if Google decides to enter your market?” Unfortunately, I think we were both nervous, because usually we handle those questions well, but we didn’t come back with a strong answer.

After a short wait while the judges deliberated, the semi-final winner was announced – Wakonda Technologies. They have developed a new solar-cell technology that produces more power at a lower cost. This team went on to win the entire competition, so we didn’t feel too bad losing out to them!

The judges gave us some great feedback afterwards on our pitch and our strategy, and also some helpful suggestions for people to contact. We also got to spend the afternoon relaxed and watching the other presentations. It was nice to be able to sit back and evaluate them without having to worry about doing our own. It was a totally different league than what we were used to, with very experienced teams, and one company had already raised $5 million in venture funding!

All in all, it was another great experience. When I started MBET, I would have found it hard to believe that I would have had the chance to fly to Rochester on a chartered plane to compete for $100,000 in cash to start my business! Definitely a good selling point for the program!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge Tomorrow

May 31st, 2007 · 1 Comment

Big day for me and HealthSpoke tomorrow. Because we finished in 2nd place at the LaunchPad competition, we get to go on to compete in the Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge. The event is taking place in Rochester, NY, and the winner will take home a cool $100,000 in cash to start their business! The event features the top two teams four business plan competitions, held in Waterloo, Buffalo, Ithica and Rochester.

Because we came in 2nd, HealthSpoke has to present in a semi-final round with the other 2nd place finishers. The top team from this round will advance to the finals in the afternoon to compete for the $100,000 with the four 1st place teams.

Just to make things even more fun, CBET has booked us on a chartered plane to head down in the morning. So, we get to fly out of Waterloo airport on a nice little six-seater plane!! How’s that for red-carpet treatment?

It should be a great experience and I am excited for the event no matter what happens! Check back tomorrow to see how we do!

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

WestJet – Building a Culture That Cares

May 14th, 2007 · 1 Comment

There was an interesting talk on campus today from an executive at WestJet. The company is starting service to Kitchener airport, so some people from the company were in town to mark the occasion.

WestJet believes that ultimately, its success comes down to culture, and because culture is people, they need to empower people to do the right thing. “Great customer service comes from the heart, not from a manual.”

The following mantra, shared with all new WestJet employees, is especially powerful:

Watch your thoughts; they become your words.
Watch your words; they become your actions.
Watch your actions; they become your habits.
Watch your habits; they become your character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

— Frank Outlaw

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

HealthSpoke Takes 2nd Place at LaunchPad

May 11th, 2007 · 4 Comments

As mentioned in my last post, James and myself reached the finals of the LaunchPad $50k Venture Creation Competition, and presented our plan for HealthSpoke on Wednesday. We spent all our time yesterday at the Communitech Tech Leadership Conference anxiously awaiting the announcement at 3:30pm. Finally, we got through all the speakers and breakout sessions, and it was time for the news. We figured we had a good chance, but really weren’t sure how the judges would have scored us. It was awesome when we heard the announcement: “The first runner up… HealthSpoke Inc!” We were extremely happy, and the prizes will give the business a nice little kick-start.

First place went to The Nesting Space, a parent-centric networking, education and wellness centre, which focuses on the early years of parenthood in a relaxing and welcoming environment. Check out the full announcement here:

So what do we get for our efforts? Well, $15,000 in prizes – $7500 cash and $7500 in services. We are also pre-qualified for a loan from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. As icing on the cake, the top two teams get to go on to compete in the Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge on May 31st in Rochester. Should be exciting!!

→ 4 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

HealthSpoke Reaches the LaunchPad Finals

May 9th, 2007 · 1 Comment

One of the things that James and I worked on during April was completing our business plan for HealthSpoke. First, this is a significant portion of our MBET practicum. Second, we were entering the plan in the LaunchPad $50k Venture Creation Competition, and entries were due in mid-April.

While putting together the plan, I realized the true value of what we had done during the first two terms of MBET. We had used HealthSpoke as the subject matter for many of our assignments, and were able to use material directly from these assignments in our business plan. This included strategy, marketing, operations, finance, law, and e-business. When I started proof-reading our final draft, I realized how far we had come.

Despite feeling good about the plan we put together, I wasn’t sure how far we would go with it. It turned out that approximately 20 teams were selected for semi-final presentations. HealthSpoke was one of them, but unfortunately, I was going to be in Florida on the day of the semi-finals. James stepped up to the plate though, and took on the 10 minute presentation himself. When I returned from Florida, I was extemely excited to see an email informing is that we had made the top 5 teams and would present in the finals!! Check out the announcement on the LaunchPad website!

The final round was held this morning. James and I spent the last couple days working on a longer version of the presentation and running through it. Having taken a couple weeks off, I felt a little rusty at first, but quickly got back into it, and we were ready to go this morning.

The judging panel included Jacqui Murphy, a partner at Tech Capital Partners in Waterloo, Tom Hunter, a partner at Gowlings law firm, as well as other senior people from KPMG, RIM, Atria Networks and TD Bank.

We have prepared and delivered similar presentations a few times in the last couple of months, so we felt pretty good heading in. Our practice helped, and things flowed smoothly. The judges asked a lot of good questions afterwards, mostly around things we had discussed privately. The most difficult question was “Who owns the data?”, which was hard to answer because there is a lot of debate going on regarding that topic. All in all, we both felt we couldn’t have done much better, and received positive comments from our MBET classmates who showed up to watch!

The top 3 teams from the contest all receive some nice prizes – up to $25,000 in cash and services for the winners, $15,000 for second place, and $10,000 for third!! Any one of those would be a nice little kick-start for HealthSpoke!! Now we just have to wait until 3:30pm tomorrow when the winners are announced at the Communitech Tech Leadership Conference! I’ll be sure to post an update!

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

MBET – The Final Term Begins

May 7th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Alright, alright… it has been a while since my last post. Wow – almost a month!! Since then, we have finished up Term 2 of MBET, I took a vacation to Florida, and we are now starting the third and final term!!

The end of Term 2 was not as bad as Term 1, though much more prolonged. At the end of first term, we had five assignments due in a week. With second term, classes seemed to drag out into mid-April, and we didn’t finish all our assignments until April 23rd. So much for having most of April off!!

I did take a nice break and headed down to Florida with my girlfriend for a conference she was attending. I got to sit by the pool, sip beer and work on my tan while she was off at meetings during the day, so it was a great break for me!!

Term 3 officially got underway late last week, but due to the Florida trip, it didn’t really start for me until today. Our schedule looks a little lighter, not nearly as much class, but I still think that things are going to get pretty busy in June and July. Everyone is also starting to think about their next steps, looking for jobs or trying to decide if they want to pursue their own ventures. I am still planning on giving it a go with HealthSpoke full-time when I am finished! Should be exciting times!!

More to come…

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

Swing 2 Cure – Charity Golf Tournament

April 9th, 2007 · Comments Off on Swing 2 Cure – Charity Golf Tournament

Alright everyone… spring is here, The Master’s was played over the weekend, and I’m sure the snow will stop soon! All of which means that golf season is upon us!!

In the spirit of giving back to the community, a number of MBET students have teamed up to organize Swing 2 Cure, the first annual CBET Charity Golf Tournament in support of the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre. The MBET organizing team includes Jud Whiteside, the star of the championship winning University of Waterloo Men’s Golf Team.

The tournament will be held on July 17, 2007 (that’s a Tuesday), at Rebel Creek Golf Club, located just west of Kitchener. The cost is $165 / golfer, and includes a gift bag, golf shirt, dinner and lesson. That’s great value to play an excellent course, not to mention contribute to a great cause.

For more information:

Hopefully I’ll see some of my readers out on the links at Rebel Creek on July 17th!!!

Comments Off on Swing 2 Cure – Charity Golf TournamentTags: Uncategorized

Capstone – Team Chester Had the Blueprint to a Billion

April 5th, 2007 · 1 Comment

We wrapped up the Capstone business simulation a couple weeks ago. Our company, Chester, continued its dominance of the sensor industry. We fell just short of half a billion in sales, and with our stock price soaring to $233, we had a market cap of just over $1 billion!! Our cumulative profits were $280 million, with the next closest team at $125 million.

A few people have asked me what our secret was to doing so well. First of all, we had one team member, Steve, who was REALLY into the game. He spent a lot of time analysing the practice rounds and figuring out the model. Our strategy in the first couple years was to have the best product in each market segment. We focused on the customer buying criteria, and aimed to beat the competition on the customer’s top two buying criteria. In the low-end market, which was extremely price sensitive, we invested in automation which allowed us to undercut our competitors at a reasonable margin.

In the later years, we took advantage of the growth in the market, and some interesting strategy choices by other teams. Two market segments, size and performance, were abandoned by other teams. It was like shooting fish in a barrel – the markets were underserved, and even with two products in each, we couldn’t make enough. We ended up with 70% and 80% shares in those markets.

In my opinion, the biggest thing we did was continually invest in plant capacity. For a number of years, we literally couldn’t keep up with growth in the markets. We needed to raise a lot of money, in both debt and equity financing, to fund growth to grow sales. Our strong performances meant that we could raise more money from the markets.

To “manipulate” our stock price, we paid some big dividends in the last few years. In Year 8, we paid $25 / share, almost $60 million in total, in dividends. This drove our share price up by $77 though! We also left the company in good shape, continuing to invest right through to the end.

All in all, Capstone was a lot of fun and a good learning experience. It was a cool way to learn about the kind of decisions executives need to make, and the level at which they are made. Hopefully our success will translate over to the real world!!! 🙂

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized