Monitor Deloitte, previously Monitor Group, is a multinational management consulting practice. Monitor Group was founded in 1983 by six entrepreneurs with ties to the Harvard Business School, including Michael Porter. In January 2013, Monitor Group was acquired by Deloitte to form a strategy and business transformation consultancy known as Monitor Deloitte. Monitor Deloitte specializes in providing strategy consultation services to the senior management of organizations and governments. It helps clients address a variety of management areas, including Strategy, Innovation, Organization and Leadership, Economic Development and Security, and Marketing and Pricing. The advisory services are in line with Monitor Group's legacy expertise but expanded to a broader set of implementation and capabilities design focused on greater resilience to economic uncertainty. Today, Monitor Deloitte is a distinct market-facing strategy and business transformation practice. It is led by Bansi Nagji who is a principal of Deloitte LLP. Prior to the merger with Deloitte, Bansi was President of Monitor Group and led the firm’s global innovation practice. Wikipedia.
News Article | December 19, 2016
PROVO, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vivint Smart Home, one of the leading smart home services providers in North America, today announced the appointment of Scott Hardy as chief operating officer. Hardy will be responsible for the customer-facing operations of the company, including customer care, monitoring, field service and business analytics. Hardy had been serving as senior vice president of inside sales at Vivint for the past two years, where he led customer acquisition through the company’s digital marketing, inside sales, retail and partner channels. Under Hardy’s leadership, his 300-person team doubled the volume of sales through these channels, while decreasing acquisition costs. Hardy joined Vivint in 2013 as the vice president of business analytics. “Scott has demonstrated great leadership and success in driving the growth of our business,” said Alex Dunn, president of Vivint Smart Home. “His customer-centric approach will be critical in continuing to deliver a great experience to all our customers as we accelerate our growth.” Before joining Vivint, Hardy was a principal at the Cicero Group, LP, a consulting and market research firm, where he led the firm’s strategy consulting practice. He also spent several years at McKinsey & Company and Monitor Group, where he focused on sales, marketing and operational improvement projects for several Fortune 500 companies. Scott has led operating divisions of other companies, including Cisco where he was a director of product management and an early member of the company’s TelePresence cloud business unit. He also spent several years in general management and marketing roles for Tandberg and NCH Partsmaster Europe. “Vivint is an incredible company that is transforming the smart home industry,” said Hardy. “I’m excited to work with our leadership team to deliver outstanding service to our rapidly growing customer base.” Hardy earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Brigham Young University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Vivint Smart Home is a leading provider of smart home services in North America. As the only vertically integrated smart home company, Vivint delivers its integrated platform and products with in-home consultation, professional installation and support delivered by its Smart Home Pros, as well as 24-7 customer care and monitoring. Dedicated to redefining the home experience with intelligent products and services, Vivint serves more than one million customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.vivint.com.
News Article | February 7, 2012
Here are five words every children's clothing chief hopes to hear in her lifetime: Disney wants to work together. Fangfang Wu heard them last year, when the House of Mouse asked the CEO of Greenbox, a children's clothier based in Shanghai, to manufacture a line of Disney-branded apparel. With Shanghai Disney Resort set to open in 2016, Disney wants to stoke the Chinese appetite for all things Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, and Disney Princesses. The company's licensing division is a $28 billion global business that could immediately boost the fortunes of an upstart brand like Greenbox. Wu, of course, said no. "The players in children's clothing in China are original equipment manufacturers," says Wu, who is soft-spoken but totally self-assured. Greenbox is the exception to that norm, a strong brand with a deep commitment to distinctive design and worker safety. And Wu was not going to have her brand name subsumed by Disney's. In a telling surprise that reflects the growing power of cutting-edge brands catering to China's emerging middle class, Wu persuaded Disney, after six months of negotiation, to collaborate. (Disney did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.) The labels on the line that the two brands launched last August read Disney by Greenbox. "Among China's rising middle class, brand consciousness is becoming more and more important," Wu says. Launched in 2003, Greenbox is now the No. 1 children's apparel retailer on Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao. Wu, a former marketing exec, started the company a few years after she and her husband welcomed their daughter, Alice, into the world. "I wanted clothing that reflected a personality," Wu says. "I wanted Alice to live and behave like a princess." Dismayed by the shoddy, boring clothing she found for sale, Wu, a self-taught designer, created her own. Indeed, part of the reason for the company's success may be that Wu is her own best customer. Wu designed her first brand, Miss de Mode, with Princess Alice in mind. The line is ultra-girly—think ruffled dresses in floral prints with plenty of eyelet lace—intended to groom "elegant" girls. (So far, it seems to be working at home: Wu reports that Alice, now 13, enjoys music, art, and cooking.) Early success on EachNet, China's eBay, inspired Wu to open some physical outlets in 2006. But the global financial crisis forced her to shutter the storefronts, and creditors pressured her to sell the business. Instead, Wu relocated to Taobao, which allows companies to open branded online stores. "She realized that a lot of moms—young, white-collar workers who spend their days on the Internet—have the desire to dress up their kids," says Hurst Lin, a partner at DCM, which invested roughly $10 million in Greenbox last year. That sentiment is increasingly common among the Chinese middle class, especially those affected by the one-child policy, which leaves six adults—two parents and two sets of grandparents—to dote on a single child. Made in a moment of duress, the shift to Taobao has been Greenbox's most valuable move. "Offline retailing is not an efficient system in China," says Lin. "Once you send items to the store, you almost lose control of the inventory." Moving online gave Wu—often described by employees as a perfectionist—greater control, but it also allowed her to drop prices by 30% at the very moment that e-commerce was beginning to blow up in China. The number of Internet users there has jumped 63% since 2008, and 36% of the population is now online. "Greenbox just really hit that growth trajectory," says Torsten Stocker, an analyst with Monitor Group. In 2010, Greenbox netted $8 million in revenue; in 2011, that number more than quadrupled. Greenbox is also a pioneer in product safety. "Currently, there aren't strong safety standards for children's clothing in China," Wu says, noting that in recent years, apparel containing dangerous levels of formaldehyde and heavy metals have hit store shelves. Needles have even been left inside clothing. "We're working with industry associations and the government to create standards." Wu monitors Greenbox's quality with regular visits to production facilities and also champions the use of environmentally friendly materials and processes. "The fact that Greenbox delivers a brand that's more than just a name and logo, with good design and the use of nonharmful materials," Stocker says, "makes it stand out from many other apparel businesses in China." Wu, who gave birth to son Jerry in 2004, is now building two families. She employs 30 designers (though she still insists on designing at least 20% of the items herself) and has added three additional brands. Jenny Bear revisits the princess aesthetic for younger girls; M.I.L. Boy offers tough-guy street style, complete with big sunglasses and rock-and-roll prints; and the newly launched Hi Girl, boasting metallic puffer coats and faux-fur jackets, is for the young urbanite. Some American shoppers find Wu's clothing too precious or too adult, and it certainly is a far cry from the mini-me look of Gap Kids. That's the whole point, she says: "Design from overseas doesn't fit the Chinese market, and the Greenbox look is not easily replicated." Which is, of course, why Disney came calling in the first place.
News Article | July 21, 2015
BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bullhorn®, the cloud-based CRM provider that puts powerful customer insights at users’ fingertips, today announced that it has hired Deb Hordon, PhD, as senior vice president of leadership strategy. This visionary role was created to empower managers and leaders within the company to better navigate Bullhorn’s rapid growth and to cultivate a strong talent pipeline. Hordon, a certified executive coach and organizational/leadership consultant, has extensive international and multi-industry work experience. A published author and former teaching fellow at Harvard and Columbia Universities, Hordon has more than 15 years of experience in growth strategy, organizational innovation, and leadership coaching. Hordon will apply her expertise to a targeted group of cross-functional managers in pivotal roles at Bullhorn who touch all aspects of the business. “Companies experiencing rapid growth like Bullhorn have a ravenous appetite for leadership talent,” said Art Papas, founder and CEO of Bullhorn. “We created Deb’s role as SVP of leadership strategy to develop and support the leaders we have today and ensure that their professional growth keeps pace with our employee growth. Deb’s leadership development experience spans a highly diverse set of businesses and industries. Her experience helping leaders learn, innovate, and tap their true potential is a real asset. She’s a very powerful addition to our leadership team.” Before joining Bullhorn, Hordon served as principal consultant in leadership at Korn/Ferry in Boston where she provided executive coaching to senior leaders (CEO, CTO, EVP, VP, AVP) in both public and private organizations, including Bullhorn. Prior to that, Hordon delivered development programs to European private sector clients and governmental agencies in Ireland and the U.K. as senior HR consultant, leadership & innovation for Hay Group. Additionally, Hordon held a faculty position focused on innovation at the Irish Management Institute, served on the steering committee of a global study of innovation at Demos, a London-based think-tank, held a leadership role at Monitor Group focusing on growth strategy, and spent four years coaching executives for Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. “Bullhorn leaders are passionate, quick-thinking, customer-obsessed doers with good values and a huge appetite for success and achievement. I discovered this having worked with Art and the senior leadership team at Bullhorn over the past three years, and it was the company’s unique culture and exceptional roster of talent that attracted me to this role,” said Hordon. “My goal is to accelerate our managers’ and leaders’ professional growth so they can help realize our aggressive business targets.” Since a major investment in 2013 to more closely align its technology with the way people live and work, Bullhorn’s CRM has expanded well beyond its roots in staffing and recruiting. Today, multiple industries are using its solution in place of traditional, horizontal CRM offerings. Bullhorn now has a client base of 10,000 organizations and 350,000 users, and is making further investments in ensuring ongoing success for its clients. To learn more about leadership at Bullhorn, view one of our leader profile videos here: http://www.bullhorn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Leadership-Series-Kumaran-one-minute.mp4 Bullhorn provides cloud-based CRM solutions for companies in business services industries. Its data capture and customer insight technology puts the most up-to-date and powerful information at users’ fingertips to give them everything they need to win customers and keep them happy. Today, Bullhorn serves more than 10,000 clients and 350,000 users, and its software solutions are used by some of the world's most prominent business services enterprises to help increase sales, improve service delivery, and streamline operations. Headquartered in Boston, the company has offices in St. Louis, London, and Sydney, with 500 employees globally. The company is founder-led and backed by Vista Equity Partners. To learn more, visit www.bullhorn.com or follow @Bullhorn on Twitter.
News Article | August 12, 2015
No, I haven’t made a mistake in the title. The age-old saying, ‘Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently,’ made famous by Shiv Khera in his book You Can Win, is, in my opinion, wrong. I remember it was quoted a lot when the book came out. Every individual can be great. All you need to do is work hard, and ‘work smart’. And every one would nod knowingly at the last clause. So that’s what I did – studied hard, went to a good B-school, got a great job and worked hard (and smart) there. Unfortunately, that saying doesnt always apply. And it’s becoming antiquated as ‘technology eats the world’ (to co-opt Marc Andreessen’s pet phrase). This mentality of doing things smarter now pervades all aspects of our life. But it suffers from one fallacy, which I call ‘focusing on the numerator’. It’s like a company that focuses only on improving its profit margin. It brings in cutting-edge efficient machines and implements just-in-time production techniques. But with all these productivity improvements, how much could the profit margin increase? From 15 to 20 per cent? To 40 per cent? Is 100 per cent possible? Even in the best (and quite impossible) scenario, the upside is capped at 100 per cent of revenue. But, what if you focused, instead, on the denominator? What if you looked for ways to achieve a step jump in revenue? Suddenly, there’s far more value to capture, even if you are inefficient. What you work on matters, and matters far, far more than how hard you work. This is an example of a Power Law, which I’ve written about before. In the early 1900s in England, there were some people who were called ‘knocker-uppers’. Their task was to wake people up every morning. They would walk the streets with a long stick, and tap on windows till people woke up. Many of them worked hard. I’m sure they worked smart too, with well-balanced, aerodynamic and sonorous sticks. Still, they lost their livelihoods in a jiffy when alarm clocks came into the market. Moral of the story: Do more valuable tasks, instead of doing less valuable tasks efficiently or smartly. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. This is how the world is today – it’s the new normal. The companies that win are the ones that innovate 10 times more than their competition and ‘change the game’ and not the ones who innovate incrementally. As Peter Thiel says in his book, don’t move an industry to greater efficiencies (i.e., from 1 to 1.1). Focus instead on moving something from zero to one. Look at the biggest companies around us – Google (search advertising), Apple (iPhone), Amazon (e-commerce, e-books, etc.). They didn’t just improve search algorithms, build a better phone, or sell books through a simpler distribution chain. They revolutionised their respective industries, not by doing things differently or more efficiently, but by doing different things. And it’s not just companies: it’s visible in every aspect of life. No longer can you say, “Karm kar, phal ki chinta na kar” (“Work hard, don’t worry about the result”), in all honesty. If the recipe is bad, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are. This may be bad news. But it’s good news as well. Once you start looking for this ‘focus on the numerator’ behavior everywhere, you can make more valuable decisions on your company, your products, and with your time. A few examples of the implications, off the top of my head: TL:DR: In work as in life, we should strive hard by all means. But we must think hard first: is what I’m doing the most valuable thing I could do? Let’s build more important things, instead of optimising our lives away.
News Article | April 19, 2013
We have the pleasure of presenting the Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa report compiled by the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic foundation established by Pierre Omidyar — the founder of eBay — in partnership with global strategy consulting film, Monitor Group. This epic 48-page report is the result of a three-phase research project launched in 2012 aimed to better understand the state of entrepreneurship in Africa. The project started with a survey of 582 entrepreneurs across six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania which was then augmented into 72 in-depth interviews. It promises to be one of the most comprehensive studies done on African entrepreneurship to date. Benchmarked against 19 global peers like China, India, the USA and the UK, the issues addressed were divided into four critical aspects of entrepreneurship: The second phase invited business, government and thought leaders to the 2012 Entrepreneurship in Africa Summit, held in Accra Ghana, to analyse the survey findings, and offer proposed solutions. The report presents the findings of the survey, as well as the outcomes and solutions given at the Accra meeting. We have compiled an abridged version of the report for your reading-pleasure, but if you wish to read the full version you can find it here. The report starts by listing financing, skills and talent, and infrastructure as Africa’s greatest challenges. The study quotes research by the International Finance Corporation that estimates that up to 84% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are either un-served or underserved, representing a value gap in credit financing of US$140- to 170-billion. So there’s not enough capital right? While, 71% of the entrepreneurs surveyed agreed, the report says something rather interesting: financiers argue that many of the new ventures are simply not fundable. Financiers note a lack of fundable business plans, pointing to issues ranging from the quality and feasibility of the business idea to the commitment of the entrepreneur and his or her team. Of the six countries surveyed, Kenya seems to fare the best in terms of capital supply — only 52% of Kenyans sees this as a challenge. The main sources of financing are personal and family loans (45%), private equity (19%), bank debt (18%), government funding (5%), venture capital (5%), angel seed (4%) and other (4%). “Other” funding sources include corporate funding, lease / receivables financing or stock options. Some entrepreneurs in South Africa claim that their businesses are funded using multiple credit cards because most banks are reluctant to provide a loan to businesses but are willing to increase limits on the entrepreneurs’ credit cards — expensive, but easy. The majority of respondents are in agreement that the cost of funding is too expensive — the report found that in some cases, banks require 150% of the borrowed amount in collateral. An alternative, government lending, could be more attractive was it not for bureaucracy and nepotism reported by some respondents. The report concludes that venture capital in Africa is still an emergent phenomenon and the majority of survey respondents (67%) agree. Entrepreneurs are forced to pursue bank loans which simply are not tailored for startups. Banks see startup investments as high risk, low reward and like to quote statistics that show 9 out of ten startups fail within the first five years of operation. Illustrating a profitable business model is critical to boosting VC activity in Africa says the report. Entrepreneurs need to focus on being rigorous business planners and demonstrating their understanding of a particular sector to investors. Entrepreneurs must “know something about everything, and everything about something,” says the founder of First Rand Group in South Africa, Paul Harris. The report warns however, that finance is not the determining cause of a venture’s success or failure. “Rather, the entrepreneur’s ability to adapt to market changes and cope with uncertainty, as well as their level of tenacity, are greater determinants of a business’ success.” Entrepreneurs also forget about market access. Without multiple product channels, revenues and profits likely stall, and this lack of growth makes funders reticent to invest. When looking for funding it’s important to get matched with the correct funding provider and to be proactive. A mismatch might occur where a financier is looking for historical data when the venture is fledgling. Entrepreneurs must identify the availability of capital sources and the suitability of capital given their company’s stage of growth. They must also be able to assess their funding requirements and identify those funders that are most likely to fund them. The report advises that misperceptions and misunderstandings can be mitigated by enhanced communication. The report identifies a lack of viable exit opportunities, which leads to a disincentive for funders to make investments — funders can’t recoup their investments. 48% of Ghanaian respondents report that it is uncommon for business owners to use buyouts to sell their firms. Respondents in Ethiopia (42%), Tanzania (41%), Nigeria (38%) and Kenya (37%) share the same concern. The regulations for exiting businesses are also considered rigid, and there is little awareness about the fact that large multinational corporations or private equity funds can sometimes be compelling buy-out options. The report raises a fascinating point about how the size and power of an entrepreneur’s network shapes innovation. A larger, more powerful network, with a larger funding pool will allow for bigger ideas and lessen the chances of a startup stagnating. The research calls for the formalising of seed and angel investing networks. It singles out successful examples, such as the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the Tony Elumelu Foundation. To mitigate some of the challenges, the study proposes solutions for startups in different growth stages. The report identifies a need for experienced managerial talent to complement technical talent. Startups lose out to well-established corporate firms that have the means and security to hire those specialising in management. The research suggests that management and other entrepreneurial skills should be fostered in schools. African schools are geared for producing a corporate workforce. As entrepreneurs in Africa require training and education to allow them to succeed in starting or growing a business, more time should be devoted to entrepreneurship at primary and secondary level. Respondents overwhelmingly agree that there is an inadequate focus within schools on the practical skills required to start, manage or work in entrepreneurial ventures. The same goes for tertiary institutions that according to respondents, lack practical aspects. Limited opportunities for hands-on learning and managing small projects mean that students are not afforded clear paths for cultivating competencies related to practical thinking and creative problem-solving — skills needed to successfully build and manage a business. As a result, most Afro-entrepreneurs do not feel adequately trained to manage a new firm, which for many leads to the tendency to look for corporate jobs. There’s also a culture problem, says the report. Society fails to encourage students to recognise their entrepreneurial potential, as society often values and respects professionals over entrepreneurs. The study notes that it is important to teach entrepreneurs to delegate. Taking on too much is hazardous, it is important to identify the professional skills needed, acknowledge existing strengths and gaps on the team and then source the missing skills accordingly. Trust must also be established between businesses and service providers. Among entrepreneurs, a significant fear exists that, whilst engaging advisory services, the service providers may steal their business ideas. How should startups attract talent, when they can’t offer corporate salaries? Providing opportunities for problem solving in the work environment, which offers increased individual responsibility, is an effective means of attracting talented staff. Startup culture should also excite, inspire innovation and reward creativity. The study goes on to provide recommendations for mitigating skills and talent challenges. The report cites access to electrical power as the biggest challenge in terms of infrastructure, especially in Nigeria where only 27% of respondents believe that the physical infrastructure provides sufficient support for new and growing firms. South Africa seems to have the most stable supply, but suffers from high tariffs. Additionally, poor quality and limited breadth of road and rail networks, and poor communications infrastructure are all highlighted as having a significant impact on the cost of doing business. Only 38% of Afro-entrepreneurs agree that infrastructure provides sufficient support for new and growing firms. 23% of those surveyed believe that new and growing firms could afford the costs of using infrastructure. The report suggests deploying and upgrading infrastructure first in selected productive areas where there are substantial business activity and strategically important local industries, and to favour public-private partnerships in the execution of infrastructure projects. Africa might lag behind its global peers on the Entrepreneurial Assets and Business Assets front, but when it comes to Policy Accelerators the continent is in touching distance of the world’s legislation. There remains key administrative burdens to overcome though. The survey responses indicate that laws governing business competition are perceived to have a bias towards well established firms because they are better equipped to handle the heavy penalties for non-compliance. This bias is particularly felt with South African entrepreneurs who view the requirements of the Labour Relations Act, Consumer Protection Act, and National Credit Act 73 as onerous and time-consuming. Heavy penalties for non-compliance also unwittingly encourages entrepreneurs to set up shop in the informal sectors where they can stay below the law’s radar, avoid paying taxes, operate without certificates and informally hire employees. Not only did 60% of respondents say that they find it acceptable to establish a startup in the informal sector, but 62% personally knew entrepreneurs who had done so. Formalising industries and processes is key to the state not losing out on potential tax revenues and affording entrepreneurs better access to financial and consumer-markets. Preparing entrepreneurs to operate more formally and compensating for higher operating costs in a regulated environment were identified as challenges. Despite acknowledgement of recent improvements of reforms to doing business, administrative burdens still plague the continent. Other than South Africa (35), Kenya (109), Nigeria (133) and Tanzania (127) all rank in the bottom half of the 183 countries ranked by ease of doing business. The same holds true for rankings for starting a business. The report proposes that policy accelerators should offer incentives to entrepreneurs to enter and develop key sectors that are currently underserved as well as to develop more nuanced legislation that differentiates between big business and SME segments. Legislation should also reduce the excessive costs, time and bureaucracy associated with regulatory compliance to encourage startups to enter the regulated environment. Reforms should aim to continue to reduce red tape and create a more enabling environment for new businesses. The Monitor Survey suggests that pursuing entrepreneurship as a career has gained acceptance and legitimacy in Africa but for the most part African entrepreneurship culture is defined by necessity – entrepreneurship as a means of survival, a last resort, not the pursuit of opportunity or aspiration. Efforts should be placed upon changing this mindset from necessity to opportunity. It is also noted that Africans might not fully appreciate the ‘entrepreneurial journey’ and the practical challenges that come with it, but rather romanticise the image of a bold and rich entrepreneur who conquers markets and lives a life of luxury. The notion of a successful ‘business person’ relies on wealth and lifestyle rather than business acumen and entrepreneurial flair. This drives the mindset of young people embarking on entrepreneurial ventures, who often enter an industry without enough knowledge of said industry and therefore cannot innovate or compete effectively. To cull these stereotypes and offer another model of success there is a convergence of the awards celebrating entrepreneurship as well as media coverage promoting successful African business stories. The attitude towards failure was also identified as a challenge – hindering risk taking in business ventures. It was proposed that ‘bouncing back’ should be a far more effective trait to nurture. While most respondents agree that governments have a role to play in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, views are mixed as to the extent that that role should be. Opponents to the notion view government as – by its nature – not being entrepreneurial. They also voiced concern that a dependence on government could stifle creativity and resourcefulness. Proponents of the notion point to South Korea, whose government successfully improved its culture of entrepreneurship after the 1997 economic crisis by encouraging entrepreneurship with creative policies that changed tax laws and bankruptcy codes. One solution offered for motivations and mindset is to establish programmes and media initiatives that celebrate entrepreneurs’ success, honour their journeys and encourage those who have failed to rise again. Another solution would be to formulate and introduce income-insurance schemes for selected types of African entrepreneurs.
News Article | May 7, 2013
Microlending has lost a lot of its shine in the seven years since Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for delivering small loans to help poor women start businesses. Starting in 2009, randomized trials (PDF) suggested that the benefits of microfinance had been oversold and that small loans have limited power to lift people from poverty. The next year, borrower suicides in India followed overreach by for-profit microlenders, punctuating the point. The world now has a well-developed, decades-old system of getting small loans to poor people in many remote places. But mechanisms to offer them additional financial products common in the developed world—insurance, savings accounts, and easy ways to move money—are still in their infancy. Microlending pioneer Accion, a global nonprofit based in Boston, today announced investments in five startups that intend to deliver such financial products to people around the globe. “The business models and the technology that will enable this broader range of financial tools to reach poor customers are just much less proven,” says Paul Breloff, managing director of Accion Venture Lab, which will invest $10 million of Accion’s money in such ventures. While microfinance remains “a hugely important part of the puzzle,” Breloff says “it’s only one part of the puzzle, even from the perspective of financial services needs.” Accion Venture Lab’s first investments include Salud Facil, intended to help low-income people in Mexico pay for health care, and Varthana, an Indian company that finances low-cost private schools. The fund is also investing in payments companies in Asia and Mexico, as well as a Hong Kong startup that’s trying to use data to improve credit scoring. Other investors are moving beyond microfinance to offer a broader range of financial products for the developing world. LeapFrog Investments has a $135 million fund focused on businesses bringing insurance to underserved markets. “Many more people actually demand insurance and savings” than loans, says LeapFrog founder Andrew Kuper. “Low-income people, like everyone else, need a full suite of financial services and shouldn’t be using credit as insurance or credit as a savings tool.” Omidyar Network, one of LeapFrog’s investors, backs microfinance and other financial products for the poor. Partner Amy Klement says microloans spread quickly, partly because they’re easy to make profitable. “Unfortunately, it has been harder to find savings or insurance products that are self-sustaining or profitable at the same level,” she writes in an e-mail. “These products are inherently lower margin, and require more education and marketing.” Innovations that can move the poor from cash to digital money, she says, should bring down transaction costs and make a wider range of financial products viable. A 2012 report from consultant Monitor Group and the nonprofit venture firm Acumen Fund suggested that money is scarce for early, unproven ventures that target the world’s poor: “The overwhelming majority of impact investing funds and advisors we spoke to expressed a strong preference for investing in the later stage”—once a company’s commercial prospects have become clear. Accion’s own Frontier Investment Group targets businesses at the later stage. Accion Venture Lab typically invests about $300,000 and teams up with other seed funds or angel investors. Breloff hopes it can nurture ideas not yet ready for larger investments. “If a company comes asking for a couple hundred thousand and doesn’t really have revenue, we can be a good investor,” he says. The bias toward more proven business models could mean that ideas to help the poor as much, or more than, microfinance does are left to die on the vine. Breloff says that while some of Accion Venture Lab’s early bets may not pay off, “we can learn a lot in the process about what works, what doesn’t, where there’s promise, where there’s hype.”
News Article | March 4, 2015
AIIM15, which runs from March 18-20, 2015 in San Diego, will bring together thought leaders and experts from around the globe, along with deep-dive sessions, to provide information professionals within organizations with the tools to overcome the challenges of digital chaos and put them on the road to successful digital transformation. AIIM15 will explore the three major disruptive forces that are accelerating the pace of change and driving organizations into a digital chaos corner: Cloud, Mobile, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sessions and speakers will explain how organizations can navigate through these daunting times without sinking in information overload. “The ever growing volume of content is leaving organizations, both large and small, struggling to manage and structure their information effectively,” said John Mancini, AIIM president. “At AIIM15 we will show organizations how they can embrace the chaos and turn their information into a competitive advantage by deploying new and radical approaches.” Keynote speaker Charlene Li is CEO and principal analyst at Altimeter Group, and author of The New York Times bestseller “Open Leadership.” She is also the co-author of the critically acclaimed bestseller “Groundswell,” named one of 2008′s best business books. She is one of the foremost experts on social media, and a consultant and independent thought leader on social technologies, interactive media, leadership, strategy, and marketing. Formerly, Charlene was vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research and a consultant with Monitor Group. One of the biggest changes in business and society is the emergence of the post-Millennial generation, Gen Z. Keynote speaker Tom Koulopoulos, prolific author and founder of the Delphi Group will examine how Gen Z has the unique ability to connect every human on the planet and what this will mean for business, markets and educational institutions of the future. Other keynote sessions include Daniel Barchi, CIO, Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Health System and Alan Pelz-Sharpe, research director for Social Business at global analyst firm 451 Research. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in the information management and consulting industry, providing strategic advice to numerous enterprises, government departments and suppliers around the world. Alan is quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, the Daily Mail and The New York Times. He has appeared on CNN, CNBC and the BBC commenting on the tech sector, and writes a regular column for The Register. The AIIM Conference 2015 attendance includes access to all keynotes, breakout sessions, the Solutions Lounge, where attendees can view a host of solutions from leading vendors, and entry to the AIIM Celebrates Party. Attendees will also able to view the conference program via a mobile app exclusively designed for the conference. To register for AIIM15 go to: http://www.aiimconference.com Join in the conversation on the AIIM15 social channels – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube AIIM has been an advocate and supporter of information professionals for 70 years. The association’s mission is to ensure that information professionals understand the current and future challenges of managing information assets in an era of social, mobile, cloud and big data. Founded in 1943, AIIM builds on a strong heritage of research and member service. Today, AIIM is a global, non-profit organization that provides independent research, education and certification programs to information professionals. AIIM represents the entire information management community, with programs and content for practitioners, technology suppliers, integrators and consultants.
News Article | September 2, 2015
Don’t you get irritated when you make a rookie mistake? I’ve been reading a few books and articles on product design lately. Some recent, and some classics that designers still swear by, even 30 years after the first print was released. Comparing the two, one thing struck me. Devices, user interfaces and users have morphed beyond recognition. But the principles of good design haven’t. Yet, we still make tons of elementary mistakes. I know I do. These were silly mistakes then, and they’re silly now. It’s a cycle we’re all prey to – make a few errors, learn from them (I’m optimistic), and then go make some new ones. But, surely, reinventing the wheel is not efficient. Each time someone repeats a basic mistake, it’s a waste. A waste of our collective efforts. So here’s my attempt at reclaiming squandered time. Here are the three most critical design mistakes I’ve made. I hope others building new products can learn from them. Design gurus talk ad infinitum about the importance of onboarding users. And it’s also common sense. Therefore, in the first version of my app, I included a six-screen tour upfront to help users immediately see how they could get value from the app. But that didn’t work. In a world where you lose 80 per cent of your users within three days, users don’t just want to see the value upfront. They want to get the value immediately. So, after a few cycles of lower user activation, we now focus exclusively on soft onboarding – guiding users as they do actual activities on the app, rather than “teaching” them before they enter. If you ask the user to do some “work” before she’s sold on the app’s value, you’ve lost her. Let’s say you ask users to create an account. About 90 per cent won’t if they’re not convinced that the app is great. What about Facebook login, you may ask. Yes, it takes only 14 seconds. But no, that’s too long. To overcome this, we made the registration simpler in each successive iteration. First, we reduced the number of mandatory fields. Then, we removed some fields altogether. Finally, we had only ‘mobile number’ left. Just one ten-digit number, which your fingers know by rote; surely that’s not inconvenient? But still, user numbers were deflating. It was only when we removed the login altogether that our sickly funnel began to recover. We now collect the mobile number only once the user completes her first iteration through the app – when she has already derived some value from it. Unlike your investors, your users need to see the return BEFORE they invest On the mobile screen, space is scarce. And space in your user’s mind is, if anything, in even shorter supply. Therefore, you must keep things simple. Don’t make the user think about what she wants to do. Once she opens your app, the next step should be self-evident. There are two ways to mess up here: (a) give the user too many options; or (b) put important actions deep inside the app. We paid attention to the first, but missed the second. No matter how many triggers we gave, if a functionality was two or more taps away in some menu, users wouldn’t see it. Finally, we mapped out the different user funnels on the app. And redesigned it such that the user sees what she’s looking for on the first screen itself. And not in some corner of the header. Front and centre. No brain cycles wasted makes for a happy user (and a happy me). Think about all the contexts in which the user will use your app, and make each of these as simple (one-click) and clear (visible) as possible. A related issue that several apps (including mine) suffer from is that funnels tend to be too long. It’s pure wishful thinking: “I’ve placed a pot of gold at the end of the funnel. The user will jump through as many hoops as I place in the way.” Won’t happen. We did this too. Our initial funnel was quite long, and very few users reached the end and benefitted from the app. Today, we’ve made our funnel much shorter, and are seeing far more users complete the journey through it. And they’re earning their (small) pot of gold. The important learning for us here was that shorter funnels are much more optimised for conversion, and take users to their “Aha!” moment much faster and more often. Notifications are quite powerful. When a user first installs your app, she may not check it often. Notifications help build the habit. Make her phone buzz every day with a message from the app, and she’ll check in often. This worked wonders for my app. For a limited time. As users got more acquainted with our app, the standard daily messages, albeit highlighting user value, became just noise. After receiving a stock notification for five straight days, the only action users often took was to uninstall the app, as we very heartbreakingly heard from some of our (ex) users. The only notifications that work sustainably are personalised messages. Not just including the user’s first name. You also need to customise the message based on the user’s in-app activities. If a user comes to your app every day for five days and suddenly misses a day, tell her you’re missing her (in a non-creepy way!). If she’s close to a milestone, remind her of the waiting rewards. Referencing users’ past activities creates a much stronger hook to reel them in. Today, we strive to send more personalised messages to users, uniquely tailored to their usage of the app. I hope I’ve learnt from these mistakes, and that our bucket won’t be as leaky now. What about you? What are the design mistakes you’ve made, that now make you cringe?
News Article | October 8, 2013
Africa is rising, but will we rise together? Africa Summit 2013 at a glance The 2013 Africa Summit (#AfricaSummit), hosted by the Omidyar Network in Mauritius, took place last week on 2 October where delegates from around Africa assembled to discuss the Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa report compiled by the philanthropic foundation established by Pierre Omidyar, in partnership with global strategy consulting firm, Monitor Group, and published in April this year. The in-depth report, arguably the most comprehensive entrepreneurship study done in Africa, was discussed at last year’s Africa Summit held in Accra, Ghana, where solutions were put forward for the challenges raised in the report. This year’s gathering was aimed at putting insights into actions, with panelists representing both government and private sectors. This article seeks to provide an oversight of the event, and hopefully it is an illuminating summary. Malik Fal — MD of Omidyar Network Africa — told media delegates after the summit that Omidyar Network sees its role as a convener. It neither has the power, nor authority to enforce any policies, and can only encourage discussion, networking, and create an environment — in the form of the summit — to allow the continent’s own leaders a chance to voice their concerns, be heard, and hopefully take action. “The summit is a place to share their stories”, Fal said during the media briefing. The promise of action is not one Omidyar Network itself can make, because of its role as a convener, and perhaps that illuminates the challenges for entrepreneurs(hip) on the continent. Africa is not short of positive-thinking, nor of ambition, Omidyar Network has done its part with the research and encouraging discussion, but now the power shifts to the African leaders (both in government and in private) to make the changes Africa needs to foster and grow entrepreneurship. The role of the government One notable aspect of the summit was the tension between the government and private sector. It is a wide-spread view that entrepreneurship in Africa is based on necessity (entrepreneurship for survival), rather than opportunity-based (aspirational, scalable). This means entrepreneurs cannot wait for policies to change over months (or even years) nor can they wait for inefficient systems while they need to feed themselves and their loved ones. This frustration was most felt when the summit opened up to the floor and the entrepreneurs had a chance to speak. Why is it so difficult to register a business? Why is it so hard to open a business bank account? How can the banks expect financial history (three months bank statements or financial records for example) when entrepreneurship by its very nature is about the future, not the past. Investing in an entrepreneur should be based on what could be, because in most cases there is no history. Necessity entrepreneurship cannot survive the inefficiencies of government and the mountain of red tape. One way suggested to improve government efficiencies was the implementation of feedback mechanisms. According to panelist Jason Goldberg (Edge Growth, South Africa) these can be simple processes, such as SMS or even Twitter. The president of Rwanda was cited as a great example, as he frequently responds to tweets from citizens. The poor enforcement of regulation, coupled with prevalent necessity-based entrepreneurship, sees the African entrepreneurial landscape structured around a large informal sector, with entrepreneurs functioning “off the grid” so to speak: unregistered, unbanked, tax-free. How we transform the people operating in the informal sector to the formal sector was a hot topic of debate during this year’s summit. For panellist Andile Khumalo (MSG Afrika, South Africa), the solution is not as simple as transforming the informal sector into a formalised one, for example, at the time of the study, Nigeria’s informal sector made up roughly 50% of its GDP — the informal sector has a role to play. Khumalo suggested that we rather transcend high-impact entrepreneurs and put them on the trajectory to create jobs and, in the process, become local role models who can also invest in younger companies down the line. IKED and Intentac Thomas Andersson (Sweden) disagreed to a point, saying that there is a danger to creating an “elite,” and indicated that the solution lay in training (and thus empowering) people at school level. However, he agreed that we need local role models, but “shouldn’t make a show of it”. Perhaps the most pressing question at the summit was how do we practically build an angel network? One of the solutions put forward by the report was to formalise angel and VC networks, with greater collaboration between government and the angel and VC ecosystem. One entrepreneur from MODE in Kenya said that entrepreneurs are resilient, but the infrastructure has to allow for failure. “Angels need to truly be angels.” Another concern was that angels tend to invest in people who remind them of themselves, and this intrinsically does not promote diversity in investment. We need an angel network that is inclusive, especially when it comes to gender. There was a not a concrete answer, although initiatives like Angel Fair in Johannesburg was touted as a good example of practical exposure to angel networks. The most ambitious, and inspiring, piece of advice came from seasoned entrepreneur, Manu Chandaria (Chairman and CEO Comcraft Group), who also won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship hosted by the Africa Leadership Network. He said that we need African solutions to African problems — we cannot just take responsibility for our countries, but need to take responsibility for the entire continent. His solution: open up our borders and trade among ourselves. “That is the way forward” Chandaria told the audience. This mirrored something panelist and government representative Astrid Ludin (South Africa) said — take away provincial powers to regulate, and keep it national — make legislation consistent. Whether regulatory frameworks can practically be catered to an entire continent is yet to be seen, but the rhetoric is a positive and inspiring message nonetheless. The Africa Summit is a well-intentioned event, but what will come of the discussions that were held? The Omidyar Network cannot enforce, it is a convener after all. It has played its role: it has facilitated the conversation, and we have heard the stories. Now it is up to the policy-makers, the leaders — both in government and the private sector — to make the practical changes the continent needs to grow, and foster, entrepreneurship across the continent. Could Chandaria’s solution work — with over a one billion strong growing consumer market on the rise, perhaps opening our borders and trading with our neighbours will work. With entrepreneurship based on necessity there is no time to waste, we need regulations put in place so that small businesses can do more than survive, we need to enable them to thrive. Africa is rising, but will we rise together?
News Article | October 30, 2014
I believe Innovation and creativity are the most important facets of a company to stay afloat, especially during the troubled times like the one we are experiencing right now. So which ones are the most innovative Indian companies ? To find the answer, Business Today and Monitor Group jointly surveyed more than 75 senior executives across sectors (nearly half of them through in-depth interviews) on their innovation related attitudes, beliefs and practices. Based on which the the survey tried to find the top innovative companies in India.