Entrepreneur Report – Lab Connect LLC

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The Company

Lab Connect LLC was founded in 2002. It is a clinical research company that provides global central laboratory services including routine and esoteric laboratory testing, kit building, sample management, bio-storage and scientific support services for biopharmaceutical and CRO clients. The company has a unique combination of state-of-the-art technology, world-class laboratories, easy access to emerging markets and extensive specialized testing expertise, which means the drug development industry can rely on a single provider for all of their central laboratory service needs.

Target market

Its target market is small and mid size biopharmaceutical companies. Its target contacts are decision makers with titles such as Project Manager, Director of Clinical Operations, Clinical Research Associate, etc. with BS, MS or PhD degree, typically 35 to 50 years old, tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech-savvy.

They are disrupting an existing market. The current market size is about 4 billion dollars and the company has more than 20 competitors, including some billion-dollar companies such as Covance, Quintiles, and Quest. But the goal of Lab Connect is to develop a unique, distinctive and memorable brand to effectively differentiate from the much larger, more experienced competition. They want to promote the “decentralized central lab” concept with the messaging of “The world’s local central lab. Global reach. Local expertise”. As the CEO said, Lab Connect should be the “Toyota” or “Crate & Barrel” of the lab industry—connoting a well-designed product with good value. They are striving for a unique and differentiated “look and feel”. Some differentiating factors include connectivity and accuracy, humanness and “high touch” customer service, and high tech yet “user friendly”.

Positioning and Value Proposition

Positioning: The CEO wants to position Lab Connect as the “decentralized central lab” that provides biopharmaceutical companies with strategies for any phase of development, from target identification to commercialization, whether those companies require short- or long-term storage of their samples. He believes that proper sample management is a vital aspect of today’s clinical trials. Because samples may have to be retested for compliance, data or drug-safety reasons, a comprehensive bio-storage plan should be a part of their initial trial outline.

Value proposition: Lab Connect is focusing on taking customizable approach to meet clients’ protocol’s geographic and analytical needs, establishing regional laboratory hubs for site support, building industry leading specialty laboratories, providing unparalleled project management experience, developing innovative sample tracking and reporting technologies and keeping service oriented organizational culture, with solution driven mindset.

Channels and distribution

Since it’s a service company, its current sales channel is direct communications with decision makers of its target companies. They are taking a project management approach. Since the CEO used to work in the biopharmaceutical industry for several years before he founded his own company, he has a strong network in his target companies. He used to list all the primary contacts and let the sales people to call or visit them on a regular basis. Once they acquire a customer, they will have face-to-face meetings and start with project planning and hold routine project team meetings. They also have on-line collaborative tools with their clients.

Their customer acquisition is mainly through word of mouth. Starting from the CEO’s network in the industry, the company now has a stable customer group. Since the company did a good job in improving service quality and keeping a high switching cost, their retention rate is pretty high (around 22%, which is much higher than the industry benchmark). The company’s strategy is always focusing on increasing sales of existing customers. They’ve also tried email and cold-call sales to acquire new customers before, but didn’t achieve as many leads/sales as expected.


Blog #4 – Retargeting

Products: I used to shop in Macy’s online store. Recently I just searched for boots on Macy’s website and clicked on the product I’m interested in and stayed on that webpage for couple of minutes. Several minutes later when I logged on my Facebook page, that pair of boots appeared on the right hand side of my Facebook page.Screen shot 2015-02-09 at 4.33.09 PM

Services: I just joint Marketing Profs as a member and have searched for its online courses. Several days later when I happened to go to gigaom.com to read a marketing article, the online course provided by Marketing Profs appeared on that webpage. Another example is about Marketo. I used to search for marketing articles through Marketo. And an ad asking me to download an article from Marketo was magically showing up on my Facebook page. I’ve also seen many other retargeting examples from online retail stores such as Amazon.com and taobao.com.

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Generally speaking, these retargeting type of ads are distracting, especially when they are showing up on some totally irrelevant website of their business. But they are still effective in my opinion since they do make me more likely to buy and I did take many actions through those retargeting ads. I will download most of the articles from Marketo whenever I saw the ads on other website. And I used to spent hundreds of dollars on Amazon.com through its retargeting ads. The most important reason those ads work for me is because they know my product preference and shopping style through my recent activities on their website. So the products or services they displayed on the other website are either attractive for me in general or what I’m looking for recently. That’s how retargeting ads success – get to know the customers purchasing behavior and meet their demand.

Blog#2 – Breathometer

Breathometer is the leader in breath analysis technology. Breathometer chose Facebook, blogs, twitter, Google+, Pintrest, and Vimeo to focus on their marketing online channels. From the number of followers, their Facebook did the best job on 15,281 likes and the least market on Google+ on 78 followers.

Their mission is to build the world’s first portable breath analysis platform to help people make smarter decisions, improve healthcare and to save lives. Founded by Charles Michael Yim in September 2012, Breathometer develops innovative breath sensing technology combined with superior design, and usability to deliver the best of breed digital health products.

They did pretty good job on the video, which introduces the product and provides samples how end customer to use it and how the product impact people’s daily life. However, from the number of views and likes from their youtube video and Vimeo, they still have lots of space to improve to market to targeted audience.

Company Profile: MightyCall

MightyCall is a B2B cloud-based contact center and customer experience company based out of Seattle. They help companies manage customer requests coming from any source, whether it’s from a phone call, e-mail, social media or company website.

Their target markets are both small businesses and big enterprises that value high-quality customer service. Their offering caters to a variety of industries from software companies to restaurants. They offer small businesses an easy way to showcase their customer-centric focus. For enterprises, they offer a cost-effective solution to managing customer requests and satisfaction.

Company Profile: Flash Volunteer

“Flash Volunteer is powered by volunteers, for volunteers.” – Holly Wyrwich, Flash Volunteer board member

Flash Volunteer, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Seattle, connects interested volunteers with opportunities and community through their online and mobile platforms. Not only can groups and individuals post their own events, but many are cross-listed from VolunteerMatch to spread awareness.

Their company model is business to consumers and businesses, where their target users include both potential volunteers and non-profits. Volunteers are tech-savvy early adopters, ages 18-35, with enough time and interest in volunteering, but who maybe can’t commit to a weekly or monthly project. They’re interested in volunteering when they have a free moment, and might have several volunteering interests, from trail work to education. Target non-profit users include small and/or young 501(c)(3) companies in the Seattle metro region with interest in reach these potential volunteers and not enough time or funding to successfully market every event on their own. These nonprofits can reap the benefits of using an existing, known platform rather than building from scratch and gaining access to already interested volunteers.

Their user approach differs between the online portion of the site, which is more about letting users announce and attend events, and the staff’s skills. Flash Volunteer sees its own strength in volunteer engagement, raising awareness and interest at a scale otherwise challenging for young and small non-profits. While they are similar to VolunteerMatch in terms of recruiting volunteers, Flash Volunteer’s site is built for mobile use for reaching volunteers on the fly, while VolunteerMatch has a larger database on a site built for traditional web. With the two are already working together towards their common goals of reaching multiple audiences, hopefully they can build one amazing way to reinvigorate local volunteerism.

While they’re currently focused on the Seattle area, I hope they can expand and scale to work with nonprofits throughout the Pacific Northwest. The ability to connect with others while doing good is incredibly powerful, and nonprofits can always use more volunteers.

Torch Illumination

I had the opportunity of interviewing the founder of Torch Illumination, Lisa Ravenel. She started Torch back in 2010 whilst she was still in college. Initially, her goal was to make enough money from the business to cover school expenses however, Torch has evolved into an artisanal candle making company that seeks to create a lasting social impact in the area of reforestation.

According to Lisa, Torch is a result of a google query for “businesses with zero startup costs”. She was determined to start and run a business she could enjoy without any huge upfront capital investments. From its early beginnings, Lisa has validated and improved her line of candles through feedback from her friends, relatives and coworkers who also became customers and ambassadors of Torch.

Candles produced by torch are handcrafted from natural soy and recycled glass containers. With the purchase of each candle, a tree is planted. This is made possible through partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation. A big differentiating factor between Torch and other artisanal candle makers is its social mission which has become a source of competitive advantage in this market. The company also emphasizes its all natural and recycled product components which is also another differentiator.

It relies on social media channels mainly Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to interact with its customers. It primarily retails through sustainability and local themed stores in Washington State. Torch’s line of candles are also available on Amazon and its website. Torch uses social media to inspire its customer base and to inform them about new product lines and scent profiles. The company targets key decision makers for home purchases who are mainly women between the ages of 20 and 50. It also caters to weddings and other custom orders.

A successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo was useful in broadening the customer base and encouraging trial of the candles. This campaign proved useful for Torch as it generated some buzz on its social media platforms and collected data on its customer preferences for the scents it has developed.

All in all, my interview with Lisa proved to be a great learning experience. I learnt how valuable it is to run a business you genuinely enjoy or are passionate about, oftentimes it can be the key factor to success.

Lose It!


If I were an angel investor, I would invest in FitNow, Inc a Boston based start-up. Its flagship product is Lose It! an iPhone and Android based health and fitness app which allows users to record and manage their diet and fitness activities. It has a huge database of nutritional information for everyday foods as well data from several restaurant chains. Additionally, the user can add new foods and exercise information to the database. It has one of the cleanest and easy to use interfaces which makes it simple for users to stick with the app.

Lose It! targets individuals who want to stay informed and smart about their health. The app is offered for free in the store but there are premium offerings for more advanced users. The company partners with health professionals and other fitness related companies to promote raise awareness about the benefits of Lose It!

In my opinion, investing in FitNow is a good idea because it has huge and growing customer base. It has remained one of the best fitness apps on iTunes and Android since it was introduced and has received rave reviews and publicity from various TV shows and health magazines. Consumers are making smarter choices and are looking for simple ways to keep it all together and this company is well positioned to ride this trend. Lose it has formed crucial partnerships with Fitbit and other companies which allows users to view and summarize their fitness and diet information on a single platform

Another unique business advantage is their social platform. This allows users to ask questions and share their progress. Users are rewarded with badges and medals for meeting their health goals. Such unique offerings translates to users sticking with the platform for a longer amount of time. Network effects make it difficult for users to migrate to other platforms.

The founders, JJ Allaire and Charles Teague are experienced serial entrepreneurs who have been successful at other ventures. For example, in 2006 Microsoft acquired Onfolio, one of their earlier ventures for an undisclosed sum. Based on their track record, I am quite confident in their abilities to make this another success story.



The 86 Company

The 86 Company is focused on building high quality spirits for the emerging craft cocktail industry.  The company’s differentiation point is that their product is designed “by bartenders and is for bartenders.”  The company has four spirits that were inspired by the bartending community.

Market Type: Their product is targeted at the bartending community and the bars that they service.

Customer & Their Problem: Similar to the product that we want to build, their customer’s problem is that the market is lacking a “craft” distillery product.  Their product is for “mixing’ so they anticipate that bartenders will mix their four products with other drinks.  They claim that the bottles were made to include “useful and engaging information”. 

Competition:  Their site includes very limited information on their product so I’m not sure who their competitors are.  The alcohol industry is already extremely competitive, so I’d assume that their competitors are all of the products already out there.

Gain Creator: This product isn’t solving a particular “pain” but seems to be a “gain creator”.  This product is supposedly made by people who know what they’re talking about (bartenders).   


MKTG 555 Recap

Wow! What a quarter. This course was one of the favorite that I took as an MBA at the University of Washington. The assignments were interesting, the exposure to real entrepreneurs was great, and the topics were relevant. 

As a regular TechCrunch reader I had some exposure to the entrepreneurial tech world and social media scene but I enjoyed that this class went deep into the marketing concepts and ideas that I had learned throughout graduate school. I enjoyed being able to relate to the material and the different marketing techniques that the start-ups we talked about decided to pursue. I’ve always been interested in customer acquisition and have run facebook ads and used analytics before so it was interesting when we talked about that in class. When Andy ran an ad targeted right to our class I even was thinking about how it could have more effectively reached us with a higher bid amount. The final project and check-ins were great and definitely helped drive the concepts home.

The companies that I plan to follow are primarily analytics and customer acquisition related. I am very interested in following Simply Measured and also SEOmoz. I’ve used Google Analytics many times before and I am always fascinated about the reasons people visit a website and what I can do get them to stay longer. I think following SEOmoz will show me how people get to a website and following Simply Measured will show me what they do while there. I’m excited to do more research on both companies and continue to learn ways to better market a website or company through SEO and analytics.

Thanks for a great quarter Andy!

SeniorHomes.com – Chris Rodde

SeniorHomes.com is a free resource for finding local senior homes.  They have a comprehensive listing of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care and retirement communities, as well as articles on senior housing topics to help in one’s search.  They make money by helping senior housing providers find residents.  Providers who pay SeniorHomes.com become included in featured listings and are displayed more prominently and frequently.  The company is paid when the featured provider is connected with the potential residents.

On the demand side, with baby-boomers turning 65, otherwise known as the “silver tsunami,” there will be 72 million seniors by 2030.  A large fraction of these seniors, like my grandmother, will one day reside in a nursing home, assisted living or retirement community.  And they will need help choosing the appropriate residence from the many options they have across the country.  On the supply side, as of 2010, there were 1.7 million beds in 16,000 certified nursing homes across the country.  There are approximately 30,000 assisted living facilities across the country.  SeniorHomes.com is targeting large senior home providers in the U.S. and Canada such as Holiday Retirement, Sunrise Senior Living, Atria Senior Living, Assisted Living Concepts, Inc., and Merrill Gardens.

The company acquires and retains its customers through connecting with marketing managers of senior homes through traditional marketing and sales efforts. They provide these customers with warm leads that would potentially become future residents.  To do this, they invested heavily on building a high quality and professional website, which is full of rich content that attracts potential residents and their family members.  The resource page covers 20 different subjects and each subject has dozens of articles on the subject written by one of its 15 expert writers. This content driven model increases credibility and traffic to the site.  Once customers land on the site, they can browse facilities by zip code or by other characteristics, and then once they select properties of interest, they are asked to provide the following information, which will then be sent to the property:

  • Name, address, email, phone, move-in date, payment method, comments/questions

Consumers can also speak with a SeniorHomes.com advisors over the phone and the advisors will connect them with appropriate properties that may meet their needs.

There are an increasing number of competitors in the space.  Especially in Seattle and the surrounding cities, where SeniorHome.com is based, there are some well-known big players in the market.  Despite this, SeniorHomes.com continues to make great progress which can be attributed to many factors, including but not limited to:

1)     Smart CEO and team that bring a wealth of experience from other companies and industries; for instance, Chris and his co-founder used to be at All Star Directories, which is a lead generation company in the education space.  Their disruptive innovation in that industry provided them rich insight into bringing innovation to the senior home industry.

2)     Credible and comprehensive articles written by expert writers help to attract more seniors and caregivers to the site.

3)     Quick and responsive advisors/customer service representatives on the phone helps convert initial leads into residents.

4)     Creative ways to feature and highlight senior home providers on the website based on actual user feedback creates more opportunities to build trust and revenue.

SeniorHomes.com recently celebrated its four year anniversary.  In the past four years, it has grown to become a trusted resource for seniors and their families looking for a home.  And it has created jobs for 27 individuals who strive to connect reputable senior homes with seniors daily.  With the impending silver tsunami, the need for its services will only increase over time. We wish SeniorHomes.com great success!  -CL


Apptentive is the easiest way for any company with an app to talk with their customers.


With the widespread and prevalent use of social networking and store-based smart phone apps over the past decade, the business-customer relationship is more vulnerable than ever. Customers can easily research a company’s past performance based off online reviews and find a suitable replacement if need be; thus the communication exchange between the business and the client is of the utmost importance in order for the company to adapt and provide the customer with the best experience possible. To date, this interplay has been largely ignored in the app based market, which is where Apptentive hopes to make their mark.

Apptentive is marketed as “the easiest way for any company with an app to talk with their customers”. There are of course are numerous channels that can be used for increasing app downloads, but these media are not always affordable for developers, especially before it’s been determined that the app bears real momentum. Apptentive functions by modifying the customer built app to incorporate an in-app mechanism that gathers feedback, encourages favorable reviews, conducts surveys, and communicates with customers directly. Apptentive is mainly aimed at increasing customer referral and retention through building relationships as opposed to merely client bases.

While it is not their direct operative, the company seems geared towards larger sized developers that offer multiple apps, and are also concerned with developing a high quality app brand. However, the main goal and philosophy of Apptentive is developing relationships, and they will gladly assist any developer towards that means.

Keeping in line with their product, Apptentive’s strategy of acquiring and retaining customers seems to take the same approach by building relationships that focus on communication. Apptentive has clearly stated through their blogging channels that they believe strongly in inbound marketing, as this is an often an under-utilized and under-developed sector of the app based market. By providing app developers with a specific set of tools, Apptentive makes it possible for apps to successfully utilize inbound marketing while looking past less substantiating statistics (i.e., number of downloads). This is done by:

  • Being social
  • Telling your story effectively, and
  • Empowering your customers to share their stories about you

Through using these techniques, developers can significantly increase the permeability and retention of their app. Through a similar set of features, Apptentive listens to its developers to collect their insights and suggestions on how to provide a better product. This information, paired with an adaptive attitude, has poised Apptentive to surpass customers’ needs while providing a pleasurable experience (as opposed to a merely business like relationship). Ultimately, the customer will go on to spread their experience with Apptentive organically, thereby leading to a high referral to adoption rate.

One marketing tactic that Apptentive has done, and presently does, especially well is to develop a strong web presence. Leading up to their launch, the co-founders of Apptentive routinely blogged about the need for more inbound marketing in the app sector, and that treating the developer-customer dynamic as a relationship as opposed to a single download count can bolster app retention and referral. Following the launch of their product paired with their continued blogging and outreach efforts, Apptentive has managed to snowball its web presence and establish itself as a relationship oriented service in a market where ambiguity and anonymity have long been the norm.


UrbanHarvest is a start-up in Seattle that provides high-end vegetables to local farmer’s markets, restaurants, and specialty grocery stores.  They grow their vegetables using hydroponics in high-tech greenhouses and indoor warehouse farms.  Because of this growing process, UrbanHarvest’s vegetables never have any chemicals applied to them and are able to be grown within just miles of their final destination.  The growing process and customer proximity lead to vegetables that are fresher, better tasting, and more nutritious, and production that is more sustainable than conventional farming. 

The ever-growing base of consumers who are concerned about how their food is grown and where it comes from serves as a ready market for UrbanHarvest, and this is just the market it is targeting.  “Local is the new organic” is a sentiment that is gaining traction, and UrbanHarvest is taking the local food movement to a hyper local level.  Customers who are educated about growing practices and their impact on the environment and food quality know that there is much more to the nutrition and sustainability equation than simply organic practices.  UrbanHarvest wants to engage these customers in a conversation about their food – how it is grown, who grows it, where it comes from, and how it gets to them.  It will do this through a presence at farmer’s markets in the Seattle area, where it will hand out brochures explaining how it grows its vegetables, and will allow customers to experience the difference themselves.  It will deliver vegetables to these markets that were harvested that morning or the day before in a pick-up truck.  Also, because of the proximity of its greenhouses, it will be able to call in for reserves, harvested just hours before, when its customers clamor for more vegetables than it has on hand. 

In addition to farmer’s markets, UrbanHarvest will provide local specialty grocery stores and restaurants with their high-quality produce.  Customers will be able to identify UrbanHarvest’s vegetables by its distinctive “Grown in Seattle, WA” sticker.  Let’s be honest, when you live in a decent sized metropolitan city, what is cooler than knowing you are buying vegetables grown just down the street by people just like you?  UrbanHarvest will invite its retail customers to visit its growing sites so they can understand how the process works and meet the people managing it. 

UrbanHarvest understands that there is a certain romantic element lost with high-tech production of vegetables.  There is something really special in knowing that vegetables came from the soil, cultivated by people whose families have been doing it for generations.  UrbanHarvest thinks that knowing your vegetables come from just down the road can more than compensate for this loss.  Because of this, customers could conceivably develop a level of trust they simply couldn’t with people growing their food cities, states, even countries and continents away.  Beyond that, though, UrbanHarvest also believes its customers will be able to taste and feel the difference with their produce, and once they do, they wouldn’t dream of going back. 

If I’ve gotten you all excited and you’ve already become disappointed by an internet search that turns up no local carriers of UrbanHarvest vegetables, that’s because they haven’t yet started production, at least officially.  One of UrbanHarvest’s founders has been growing vegetables using hydroponics in his living room for years, but they have not yet established their first commercial production facility.  But soon, very soon, they will, so keep your eyes open for that “Grown in Seattle, WA” sticker at your favorite Seattle farmer’s market or grocery store.


Fracture – Customer Acquisition

Fracture is a new way for the average consumer (not professional photographers) to print their photos – except now they come on glass. The website allows the user to upload any photo, decide how they would like to present it (wall/stand/etc) and the size and then place the order. The website is attractive, easy to use, and comprehensive without being overwhelming.

From a customer acquisition perspective, Fracture does a nice job of making the service available to anyone and everyone in a variety of forms. As a first time user, you can upload a photo, make your selection and place your order in under 10 minutes (5 if you are really moving). You don’t have to sign up for anything or commit to using the service in the future. Once you have placed an order, the site asks the customer if they would like to sign up for the newsletter (which also has coupons) and then asks them to refer a friend (or two or six).

This is a great start for Fracture as it appears that Fracture depends on both inbound customers and outbound efforts for their acquisition strategy. Most of their customers appear likely to come from their activity on Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, as well as their blog which they post to periodically. They have also been featured on a number of television shows and in a number of prominent publications which note their accessibility. Through these forums, they are generating customer interest and then acquiring new customers with an easy to use website that allows for a low cost initial investment for those who find their way to the page (you can get a glass photo for $10). Fracture makes it easy for a new customer to try their service and then determine – once they receive the first photo – if they would be willing to remain a customer and refer the company to others.

Fracture appears to make customer acquisition easy once a customer gets to the webpage.

There is another option which is that customers can register on the website and upload a series of photos to an account that can then be accessed later by the customer. Though I registered for Fracture, I have not received my confirmation email that would allow me to access the account. This will give me a better sense of what it means to be a long term user of Fracture and what the process is like for uploading and saving photos for future purchases which will be important for customer retention.

All in all, Fracture has an attractive platform whose simplicity appeals to a variety of individuals – from moms, college students, and even the tech savvy who aren’t expert photographers. And it doesn’t hurt that it was started by two UF grads (go Gators!).

Remitly – Pricing and Distribution

Remitly is a convenient service for those wanting to send financial support to friends and family overseas, particularly to those in the Philippines. They market themselves as service that is able to get rid of high transfer rates, low exchange rates, delays and long lines that are typical of money transfers overseas. Started in Seattle, Remitly has been able to specialize in one market targeting Filipino immigrants who have settled in Washington but their product is also available in seventeen other state around the US.

Remitly has created an interesting pricing model for its customers. Its pricing model is dependent on the avenue chosen by the customer for delivering cash to family and friends overseas. In some cases, individuals can use Remitly for free with no fee for transferring cash to individuals in the Philippines. In other cases, the cost per transaction can be as much as $4.59 per transaction. This depends on whether the individual receiving the transfer will be receiving it as cash, as a bank deposit, or on their mobile phone (it is worth noting that the starting price for transferring money using Western Union is $5).In order to use Remitly, the sender must have an account with the site, but it is free to register. Since the user pays for every transaction, Remitly must ensure that transfer goes smoothly to convince the customer to return in the future and then to share this information with others in their network.

While the pricing model allows the consumer to use Remitly free of charge, the potential market for money transfers is very large, creating the opportunity for Remitly to sell advertising space and potentially provide additional products and services to their customers.

Though not much is available about Remitly’s current distribution model, they appear to be marketing their product directly to the consumer. Currently they are using facebook, twitter, and linkedin as tools for advertising their product. In addition, Remitly recently received $2.6 million from Trilogy Equity Partnership which will allow them to expand and improve their advertising and distribution channels. While the web will be the most affordable way for them to expand their customer base, it may also be worth exploring advertising at cultural staples such as Filipino grocery stores and churches. They could also pursue partnerships with banks in Filipino communities. As they continue to grow, partnerships with regional and national banks may be an option especially as the customer base grows and taps into emerging markets overseas.



Dwellable – Positioning

Dwellable – Positioning

Dwellable describes themselves as the google of vacation rentals. Through their website, you can find all available vacation rentals in some of the most popular vacation destinations primarily in the United States. Dwellable’s tag line is “Where do you want to go” and their sites specializes in homes and condos that also have pictures, reviews and maps available for those looking for a  rental property.

Based on the list of vacation destinations featured on the front page of their website, Dwellable’s target audience is upper middle income families who want the amenities of home while on vacation in places such as Cape Cod, Hawaii, and Lake Tahoe. Since it is likely that this market segment is also busy in their day to day lives, Dwellable wants to provide one stop shopping for vacation home hunters. The site is easy to use, provides instant feedback about availability as you enter specific information about the type of space required for your stay. Though you can get the same information on other sites, such as VRBO, Dwellable will search all available rentals in an area pulling from real estate sites, homeaway.com, and other commonly used websites to provide one stop shopping (with the exception of VRBO).

Dwellable appears to be positioning themselves well as a vacation rental search engine. Their website is attractive and easy to understand. They also have applications that can be used on the iphone, ipad or android, making their website accessible to people on the go – an important feature for those who are likely to use the site. However, they are limited in the number of locations the site is able to search. This is likely to deter a user especially if they want to compare potential vacation spots across a state such as California. In addition, they do not have a compare option that would allow individuals to compare features of various rental properties. These features would help them position themselves more efficiently to the busy mom/dad, company, grandmother looking for the perfect vacation location.

In order to more effectively highlight their access to Western vacation properties until they have built out their connections around the United States.  With their strong connections in Hawaii, California, Washington, and Oregon, they are appropriately positioned to acquire significant market share of those looking for a vacation rental in these places. With the addition of Alaska and more listings throughout California including Big Sur, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco area, Dwellable can emerge as the leader in the West while continuing to expand its connections elsewhere. 

One final note, Dwellable focuses on the Business to Cutomer side of their business but could also put more emphasis on the business to business connections that are possible, targeting individuals who want to rent their homes. 

Calico Energy Services

     Many leaders in the renewable energy sector have labeled the current system of energy management as archaic. Currently, general guidelines and protocols under which the grid system must operate require that enough electricity be on standby to meet full customer demand (100% load) and allocate for a contingency plan, even though we only operate at 90% load capacity ~4% of the time. Additionally, some of the most recent proposals for a wide-spread “smart” grid (and accompanying device technologies) update come in at costing the US $476 billion over the next 20 years, but with a payback of up to $2 trillion in savings over that same time frame; this is in addition to the environmental, national security, and financial benefits.

     A Seattle based startup, Calico Energy Services, has set out to tackle this energy distribution issue by offering two critical functions of energy management in a single product that offers: (1) near real-time decision making and load analysis and (2) centralized load control through dynamic energy management. More specifically, Calico has developed several packages of products available to consumers. For utilities and power providers, Calico offers a single energy management platform which allows energy providers to reduce demand through software-grid integration (i.e., baseline management and interactive device communication). Calico also has a package developed for residential customers that allows customers to obtain real-time energy demand information, remotely control devices, and have a more intimate relationship with their energy provider. Calico also tailors to several other applications, including commercial energy management, whole building energy assessment, and enhanced automation.

     Concerning their positioning, Calico has separated itself from its competitors by offering the two function energy management platform, while most other companies only provide isolated features of these programs for specific applications. According to the Electric Power Research Institute, the average electric bill will increase by approximately 50% by the year 2050 given the deployment of smart grid technology. In the absence of a smart grid, the same electric bill could increase by nearly 400%. That is an astounding discrepancy, and an overall problem unknown to many Americans. Using a modular approach, Calico offers the only solution which is targeted for both utility and customer use – a strategy which could potentially lead to massive utilization and growth. Calico’s position in the market is solid, but it could spur itself into the forefront by educating consumers on the energy forecast and use, and highlighting the potential savings that could be gained from using their platform. Other than that, Calico will benefit tremendously from government energy regulations focused on increasing the US energy independence and environmental impact.


Korrio is a product that simplifies lives by providing one integrated system that meets the needs of all involved: sports clubs, individual teams and players, and busy families on the go. Korrio is the place you go to manage your sports life—the necessary glue that pulls it all together for you. With the number of kids participating in youth sports increasing with each passing year, the need for an organizational tool for parents and youth organizers is continuing to increase. The Korrio website discusses three main market segments that they are targeting for this tool: Youth sports organization, individual youth sports teams, and families with children in youth sports.

The first segment they are targeting is large youth sports organizations. This can be adults who are in charge of youth sports camps or leagues that involve several teams. Using Korrio can help these organizations manage their finances, keep track of league teams and personnel, and make scheduling, registration, and communication easier among their participants.

The next market segment Korrio is targeting are adults that manage a youth team. They give the coach the ability to set up a website and keep track of their team. The coach can also manage the schedule, communicate easily, and check rosters with the convenience of Korrio.

The third market segment that Korrio is going after is parents. Korrio allows parents to manage their families sports schedule, allow for calendar synching of events, provides event details, and allows the parent to store pictures of events. Korrio is a one stop shop for any family that has children in a number of youth sports.

Korrio is clear about the market segments they are going after. Whether it is a large youth sports organization trying to keep track of several teams and hundreds of children to a family of four attempting to juggle their many youth sports endeavors Korrio spells out exactly what it can provide to each segment. Having the abiliy to know who they are targeting in a growing market will help Korrio maximize their product’s potential.

Presage Biosciences

In order for a Pharmaceutical company to go from the discovery of an active drug molecule to a brand name on the shelf, they must first put the drug through multiple stages of clinical trials. Moreover, each stage of clinical trials can cost an order of magnitude more money that the previous stage. That is to say, it can cost a pharmaceutical company hundreds of millions of dollars just to pass clinical trials and become FDA approved. What is more, only a small fraction of drugs that begin the clinical trial stage actually make it through all the stages. As you can imagine, if a pharmaceutical company could predict which drugs have a greatly likelihood of passing clinical trials, they could potentially save lots of time and hundreds of millions of dollars. This is where Presage Biosciences steps in.

Presage Biosciences, a local Seattle startup that is a spinoff of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, specializes in testing combinations of drugs in vivo to better predict their efficacy. Having spun out of Dr. Jim Olsen’s lab at the Hutch, Presage specifically focuses on predicting the efficacy of cancer drugs. They do so by using the Presage platform, a technology that allows Presage to inject combinations of cancer drugs with high spatial resolution at multiple sites within a single tumor. Presage’s world-class researchers then subsequently apply their analysis of the tumor to determine the efficacy of the drug. Big Pharma can then decide whether or not to invest large sums of money to go to clinical trials. As Dr. Olsen states in an interview by Luke Timmerman on xconomy.com,

We can help halt inefficient programs at the early stages before Big Pharma companies put millions of dollars into programs that are going to fail. We can help weed out the winners from the losers early on.

Being a relatively new startup, Presage has already started to garner success. The company with around 20 employees has recently secured millions in Angel investing and has been tapped by other biopharmaceutical companies to use their preclinical testing platform. Presage has targeted a very specific market: large pharmaceutical companies that have developed a cancer drug that is at the pre-clinical trial stage. Being a B2B business, their marketing strategy is a little different than for a B2C strategy. However, they do have a LinkedIn profile as well as a being the number 1 search result when “presage” is queried in Google.

Customizable golf clubs – Nakashima Golf

I, like many, have a fondness for golf. I am pretty average when it comes to score, but it’s those one or two (hopefully many) shots that keep me coming back. Not to mention the exercise and the good banter between friends as we hack our way around a course on a beautiful day in Seattle. Recently, I purchased a new driver (Ping G20) and upon my arrival at the San Francisco airport I noticed it was broken in two pieces. Now, I’m stuck without a driver for the weekend and overall in just a foul mood.

My trip brought me to San Francisco for a wedding and to play at one of the most prestigious golf courses in America, the Olympic Club, which hosted the 2012 U.S. Open. I arrived early to hit some balls and noticed a golf company setting up shop on the driving range for a demo-day, one that I had never heard of, Nakashima Golf. This surprised me because I lived in Japan for a long time and because I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the main players in the golf market. Ping, Calloway, Nike, Titleist, etc., but I walked over and asked if I could hear more about their company and hit some of their drivers. 

The Nakashima rep told me that they position themselves far different than most of the big players in the market. The only provide custom made shafts, heads and grips after a thorough analysis of the individuals swing. Most players are off-the-shelf players and rarely take that extra time to have their swings analyzed and figure out which type clubs will make the best use out of their swing. Club speed, length, loft, stiffness of the club shaft, grip, etc are all taken into consideration, tested, before a recommended club set is shown to the player.  Of course, all the of major players mentioned above have this kind of service, which is usually done through a third party, like Puetz Golf.  Nakashima forgoes the middleman and does it all with the player. 

This is a unique way to position a golf company in my opinion because they are going straight to the source of people that have a passion for golf (at high-end golf resorts) and will have the extra expendable income to purchase such a customized product. They guarantee that if you spend one hour with them in their studio that you will gain at least 15 yards on all your shots. Pretty good, for those of you that know golf and know the value of an extra 15 yards!

“The increased distance and accuracy achieved with perfectly fitted clubs can help every golfer reach their full potential.  At Nakashima Golf we provide all golfers with an even higher standard of quality then PGA Tour professionals enjoy.”  

As my golf game gets better (hopefully) and my wallet gets fatter after this MBA experience (hopefully!) I may be in the market for some customizable Nakashima Golf clubs. BTW, I hit a few drivers at different lofts (9.5, 10.5) and different flexibilities and I was VERY impressed with their offering, but did not buy.