Lead to Win May-June Sessions

The 2009 Lead to Win program kicked-off this week.  The program was originally planned to support 30 participants per session.  Due to overwhelming demand from highly qualified candidates the program capacity was doubled and 61 participants were accepted into the May-June program.

The first three days of workshops went exceptionally well.  All participants were highly qualified, highly motivated and highly committed.  The workshop was intense and there was a lot of interaction between the participants and the program leaders.  A breakdown of the participants company types, target markets, etc. is available: Lead to Win May 2009 Portfolio Snapshot

Photos from the first day of the program are available online –

Lead to Win (May 19, 2009)
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How do Keystone Organizations in the “Creative Class” Ecosystem-based Economy Make Money?

Keystone organizations in an Ecosystem need money to operate and sustain their functions.   The nature of how the keystone organization makes money depends upon whether it is a not for profit (social economy business) or a for profit (commercial business).

A not for profit Keystone organization typically makes its money through some or all of the following means:

  • Selling memberships
  • Selling consulting services
  • Selling documentation and books related to the Ecosystem platform product
  • Accelerating feature developments on the Ecosystem platform product in return for cash
  • Selling support for the Ecosystem platform product or service
  • Selling advertising on Keystone-associated websites, printed publications
  • Selling t-shirts/etc with the Keystone logos/tag-lines
  • Soliciting donations from Ecosystem users/consumers, e.g. through Paypal
  • Running conferences and symposiums
  • Selling company/product listing services for Ecosystem suppliers
  • Selling training services/courses related to the Ecosystem platform product
  • Selling certifications for products which use the Ecosystem product platform
  • Selling infrastructure services which the Ecosystem product uses, e.g. webservices
  • Selling sponsorships to commercial organizations in return for access to Ecosystem members, e.g. through offering of meetings, special offers/discounts from commercial businesses to its members
  • Government grants

A for profit Keystone organization may also make its money from any of the above, but may also include some or all of the following as key sources of revenue:

  • Sales channel and associated contract/transactions between consumers and suppliers of the channel  (e.g. Apple Apps Store, oDesk)
  • Selling products that are complimentary to the base product platform and other Ecosystem members that the Ecosystem is based on (and not competing directly with the Ecosystem suppliers)

Emerging New Channels to Market for “Creative Class” Microbusinesses

For a start-up, one of the biggest challenge is gaining access to customers and being able to transact business with them as easily and quickly as possible.  In the last 5 years,  new business models have been emerging that help reduce that challenge, referred to as Ecosystem business models.

These new business models are providing knowledge workers (aka the “Creative Class“) access to ready-made delivery platforms and selling channels to a well-defined market.

These emerging channels to market typically provide a means to connect suppliers with consumers, usually handling the transaction between the two as a trusted mediator (taking a percentage in return for the channel services, e.g. selling platform, marketing, customer management, fulfillment, transaction handling):

  • Apple Apps Store – sells applications to Apple iPhone phone users, handles delivery and payment, payment is via iTunes account
  • Google Android Market – sells applications to Android mobile phone users, handles  delivery and payment using Paypal
  • Amazon Webstore – sell your wares online, access Amazon shoppers and Amazon store tools, handles payment using Amazon account
  • 99Designs –  companies/individuals post requests for graphics designs and designated “prize money”, companies/individuals post responses, the winning design selected gets the “prize money”
  • oDesk – teams or individuals post skills/availability, companies/individuals post jobs with desired fee for completion (fixed rate or hourly)
  • Shutterstock – royalty-free photographs, individuals/companies provide photos and get paid based on sales
  • Innovation Exchange – companies/individuals post challenges and cash, suppliers post responses
  • Mechanical Turk – people post questions/tasks, suppliers post answers/accept task
  • Cafepress – individuals/companies generate graphic content, Cafepress puts it on mugs, shirts, etc and handles all fulfillment for the supplier
  • Amazon Kindle – sell eBooks via Amazon and their new eBook reader
  • uTest – on-demand software testing
  • Crowd Spring – similar to 99Designs
  • Lulu – sells self-published books
  • Beta Test – links beta-testers with software publishers (e.g. iPhone)
  • Eclipse Foundation – links Eclipse IDE consumers with suppliers who build on top of the Eclipse open source IDE platform
  • Just Parts – links consumers of auto parts with suppliers
  • Top Coder – links software designers with companies who respond to contest proposals
  • Article One Partners – offers rewards for finding prior art against posted patents
  • Spot Us – allows journalists to post story ideas and solicit funding from public

One channel which can be very significant for Microbusinesses is Paypal –

  • Paypal – “one-click” purchasing between suppliers and consumers.  Many niche sellers, e.g. 3rd party add-on suppliers for Joomla! use Paypal as their transaction vehicle.  Most eCommerce solutions provide a gateway to Paypal as the payment means.  Paypal itself also can accept credit cards on behalf of a seller.  Paypal by itself provides access to a group of consumers who are comfortable transacting business online.  Paypal provides a trusted supplier relationship between the buyer and the supplier.  I have to confess I never thought Paypal would amount to anything when I first heard about the business many years ago…

What Industries or Businesses Do Well During Recession?

There is a scene in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where several guys are tied to crucifixes, and suddenly Eric Idle launches into the song, “Always look on the bright side of life.”   This is  my favorite part of the song:

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For those looking to see the bright side of the recession and create their own job, the question that comes up in the current environment is “What products and services are people going to continue to buy during a recession?”

The following is a list of industries and businesses that are generally expected to see continued (if not increased) sales during a recession:

  • Funeral homes
  • Accountants (tax preparation, bankruptcy)
  • Health care (clinics, doctors)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Car insurance
  • Loan modification, loss mitigation and credit counseling
  • Rental real estate vs purchase real estate
  • Liquidators
  • Pawn shops
  • Flea markets, traders, classifieds
  • Discount retailers
  • Do It Yourself (DIY) industry for hardware, supplies and instruction for keeping up maintenance rather than replacing
  • Debt collection agencies
  • Education and training, as layoffs create need to prepare for alternative employment
  • Temporary staffing and contract employment services
  • Outplacement services
  • Rental and leasing firms, as companies have less cash for purchasing equipment
  • Resellers of just about anything used or refurbished
  • Equipment repair
  • Home maintenance
  • Auto repair and maintenance , as people will tend to put off purchasing a new car
  • Automotive parts suppliers
  • Lottery, alcohol and tobacco
  • Grocery stores, as people will tend to eat out less

From a statistical perspective, Sageworks, a company that specializes in financial analysis of private companies has published data for 2008 which listed the sales growth for the top 30 privately held businesses, which provides another perspective on what companies may do well in a recession:

Top Performing Industries by Sales Growth

They also published data on a subset of retail industries to highlight sales trends:
Sales Declines in 5 Small Retail Industries - 2008
Sales Declines in 5 Small Retail Industries – 2008

And they also published data on the top 10 most profitable industries as measured by net profit margin:

Top 10 Most Profitable Small Businesses - 2008
Top 10 Most Profitable Small Businesses - 2008

“Following the money” is more important now then ever before.   To that point, a Silicon Valley start-up  called RiseSmart recently raised $3 million in first-round funding in a bid to outwit the traditional outplacement industry.  RiseSmart is focused on providing what have traditionally been “high end” outplacement services (for job seekers looking for $100K+ jobs) to a wider market by using technology to streamline the service delivery costs and market price.

If you are looking to create your own opportunities in the challenging economic environment, you might want to take a look at the work on Business Ecosystems.

If you have an established business and are wondering what actions you can take to survive and prosper, please take a look at this blog entry.

Job Hunting in the Ottawa Region

I have received numerous queries from Nortel friends impacted by recent events.   For those asking about where to start and how to approach your job search, here is my advice:

For finding senior leadership roles in the Ottawa region:

  • Contact company CEO’s/VP Engineering informally to search for opportunities or leads to leadership role opportunities (if you can get an introduction through a mutual friend that works best).  Places to find lists/directories of local tech companies that are candidates for you to talk to:
  • Introduce yourself to recruiters working to recruit  senior staff in your area of expertise. Note that the recruiters won’t dedicate themselves to finding you a job, but by introducing yourself you can get your name and resume into their internal database and ensure you are considered for any recruiting projects their company may be working on.  
  • Contact Managing Partners and Associates you may know (or can get introduced to) in the local Venture Capital world to let them know you are actively looking for a new job, what type of role you are looking for, and why you are the best at what you do – they may know of openings in their portfolio companies they can point you to.

For finding general job opportunities in Ottawa:

Create your own job:

  • Contact OCRI to obtain access to training, mentoring and associated resources
  • I suggest you try to bootstrap your business as opposed to searching for Venture Capital, as there is very little Venture Capital available for seed-stage start-ups in Ottawa, or Canada

If anyone has additional suggestions, feel free to add them below.