Category: business plan

scalable revenues

My intention has always been to phase revenue distribution to SQ ratio distributions. So, Ecosquared won’t take a cut from whatever is directed at the originator (musician, author, blog-post writer, giff-creator, etc), they are thanked by them using the app itself, and this means a natural distribution of money. It’s all about moneyflows. I’d hoped it will be anywhere between 2-10%, but it could be a hell of a lot lower or even higher. Very difficult to tell at this moment.

At this stage, investors want something more concrete, hence I established a clean % rate. Initially I thought 2%, but this is only operational if we get enough people using it. So, I could charge say 25% (still less than eg iTunes or Appstore). But what would be the incentive of attracting a company to soft-launch with us if later, this figure reduces down to 10% or even 2%? If I was a company, I’d wait until soft-launch was over, and the standard rate of 2% appeared. It’s a no-brainer. So, Ecosquared has to offer 2% right from the start, doesn’t it?

and thus, the inevitable complication around money arises…

Here’s a viable solution: charge people based on the number of people using our app.
  • 32% for up to 10,000 users
  • 16% for up to 100,000 users
  • 8% for up to 1,000,000 users
  • 4% for up to 10,000,000 users
  • 2% for up to 100,000,000 users
  • …etc

Or some such scaling system. Now, is this too complicated?

I don’t mind how much we make, because the more we make, the more we will be able to give for the adoption of the next iteration — ‘marketing’. That is, if we clear £100,000 say, we can distribute this according to how ‘influential’ certain people are. For instance, we can gift a socially important player £10,000 when we give them an update to the app. They can keep the money (like a payment for their proven influence), or gift it forwards as usual. And the chances are — they will! Why? Because they are influential. It’s a virtuous cycle, all positive. The more influential they are, the more money they get. Obvious really.

no to tax — and yes to revenue distribution

It makes me think about how TV programmes were free for viewers because of advertisers. “Soap operas” because the highly dramatic shows (“operas”) were paid for by cleaning products (“soaps”). Facebook operates similarly. It offers a free channel of social content (people engaging each other rather than watching shows), and advertisers are willing to pay for eyeballs (companies, or any individual who wants to pay for promoting a post). Facebook is a “soap social-media”.

A cut of revenue is simply a tax. A forced costing. I have never liked this. It’s the wrong attitude. I shouldn’t be forced to pay for something which is obviously good, eg NHS. It’s because it is wrapped up with things like paying for defence, which is inherently morally arguable.

So, no tax, means voluntary gifting. Hence tracking gratitude, and SQ. That all makes sense.

I guess the thing that differentiates Ecosquared equity from standard equity, is that it determines the distribution of revenue. Profits are distributed to owners according to %-distribution of equity share of the company. The company has to be in profit for the owners to make money.

(A necessary aside. I was disgusted earlier this week because I saw the news — rare I know — about the power company Centrica which is closing down power-stations (and thus depriving people of jobs) because their profits have fallen. Their profits. So, it is a perfectly healthy company, everyone doing what they are meant to be doing, it’s going well — but because the owners are not getting as much as they did last year, they are going to cut the company. This… doesn’t… make… sense. I sat in front of the TV, irritated. The anchor was interviewing one of their specialist business journalist, and I just couldn’t believe no-one drew attention to this glaring injustice. They talked with moral weight about the potential loss of jobs, sympathetic for those who will lose their jobs, as well as the CEO who had to make such a weighty — but necessary — decision. I expect Russell Brand will be pointing this out in a more entertaining fashion, if he hasn’t already.)

Ecosquared equity (equity^2) distributes revenue. Front-wheel drive, as it were. And so, such owners can simply starve the company by keeping the money, or they can re-invest it in the company for it to continue working well. That is, they are responsible for the health of the company, rather than just feeding off its profits. Does this make sense?

ownership and usership

I suspect it does make sense, if we shift our thinking away from ownership, towards usership. That is, it is the users who determine the moneyflow through an organisation. Makes sense. But we don’t have the skills currently to make such decisions, other than those made people in positions, who are in a more or less static structure, whose salaries are generally hierarchical ordered. We need a more fluid dynamic system, with multiple moneyflow channels, which generate a more flexible decision-making consensus. But that is years ahead from our current social skills.

Right now, I am pulling together the business plan for Ecosquared which contains financial projections which are attractive to investors. Investors want ownership. Simple as that. I had hoped to introduce them to %-equity of the revenue. If the app goes viral, they could make 16% of £1,000,000+. No strings. Not a cut of the profits, but of revenue. But, at this stage, my very capable of experienced business advisor and no doubt the accountant will see this as a non-viable business proposal for investors. So, we must stick to ownership, and so they will be limited to profit. And the chase for profit means a squeezing of costs and that old game…

Honestly, if we are producing a value-tracking engine, we really do need an investor of quality. I have been saying that we are looking for high net-worth individuals. Perhaps I should rephrase it? We are looking for high net-value individuals.

It will be in all of our interests, as users of the app, to generate sufficient funds so that these investors will be more than happy to be bought out at say 10x their investment, ie £600,000. We can then phase to a gratitude distribution system — including the very same traditional “professional” investors!

Without investors, Ecosquared will struggle, so I shall no doubt be indebted to them — personally — for the rest of my life, just as I am indebted to Colin who coded the back-end SQ-calculator, and to Kevin who has taken me further business-wise than I could have gone alone. I am tracking their value with the app, of course, and they shall be receiving a percentage of everything I get until the day I die. And so does anyone else who helps.

there’s nothing to it

Just now, that’s zero. I guess that’s why people haven’t quite cottoned on to the power of this thing.

Well… if I get it all lined up, pertinent players have the heads up (like lawyers, accountants, app developers, marketing directors, musicians, authors, etc) — when we launch, we have a chance to take this globally. A parallel economic system, free from ownership and ‘negative’ money. And then it is for us, each one of us, to make our decision as to how we operate economically. With the app in our hands, and our personal network of relationships… it will take years…

big day, in that little kind of way

This won’t excite anyone else on the planet, but I noticed it.

I was replying to an email from Scotland’s talent scout for Angel’s Den. His email went to the heart of it — understanding Ecosquared, explaining it, and trust. For the later, he’s actually introduced me to a colleague of his from Oak Team, to check the worth of our system, before he can approach individual investors. So far so good — though if we were operating Ecosquared, all this would involve moneyflow.

I finished my email thanking him for his candour — I am so glad I am operating in Scotland! — up-front and honest is the way I like it. And I mention (in parenthesis) that I am recording it. I sent off the email, and went to the Ecosquared Prototype app and dutifully recorded my evaluation of the engagement: partly for his observations (he said it was a waste of his time or it was brilliant), and partly for what was evoked in me (genius is in the mind of the beholder). He’s second on a specific list of people (the people I have introduced to the app, not the core group), and fourth in terms of SQ. I sat there, checking the evaluations, how people compared, and thought yes, that’s fair, at least from my point of view. And is the SQ fair? Difficult to say since there’s not enough density of engagement. SQ matches my evaluations just about perfectly with the exceptions of Colin and myself.

And then this happened. I closed the app and noticed that it was on a side page. I flicked to my home-page. I use Ecosquared all the time. I like using it. It is useful to me. Yup, home-page is where it deserves to be. Here’s what it looks like now:

Screenshot_2015-01-22-10-10-28

Gmail, Maps, a torch (I have used this a few times, very practical), and now ecosquared. What did it replace? Google Play Store. Yup, it ousted one of the Google products. Question is, will it ever replace one of the docked apps? Phone, Chrome, Camera, Settings…?

ok… anything slightly bigger to share with us, David?

In the wider world, things are going relatively well. Jorge is making headway with the back-end coding of the Gifting Mechanism. My God it has been a rigmarole getting a server and server-admin, and we’ve got a new URL to operate in the background. All his work is being hooked to the front-end, so we should have something to see pretty soon. All very exciting, in a back-end kind of way.

Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with Kevin from the Alba Innovation Centre. Once before Christmas, and twice since new year. He’s set up a meeting this Friday with an IP specialist and a regional manager from Scottish Enterprise. We agreed last week to meet at Kevin’s offices in Livingstone Tuesday. At his request I have been writing up a business plan over Christmas and New Year. Finally I have succumbed to ‘business sense’. Business Plan, horrible thing for what Ecosquared is, wrong tool. It reads more like an academic paper, nearly 50 pages. And on Monday, I decided to pivot, the lean-business term to basically signify a change of direction, taken from basket-ball I believe. I forked a business plan exclusively concentrating on the Gifting Mechanism. Much more succinct, and much more attractive to investors.

Mistakenly thinking Livingstone was south of Glasgow, I thought it sensible to make a few appointments in Glasgow to make the journey from Dundee worthwhile. I called up three angel investor groups, two responded positively: Lancaster Capital (the chap running caught me when I got my first knock-back last year; there’s a story behind that which I will go in to one day if that avenue turns out well), and Kelvin Capital. Meetings went well. Why? Because of the maths! I’ve modelled the Gifting Mechanism using InsightMaker. Take a look at the following.

healthy viral page

I’m not going to explain it. Perhaps it will make sense to you, or perhaps it just piques your curiosity. But it sure is exciting.

anything else?

My parents have been ill. Influenza of some sort. They are rather old, and it has floored them. My father in bed for a week with aches in his bones. Illness like this makes them age visibly before my eyes. My mother hobbling around, coughing to the edge of the very end of her breath. I’ve seen news reports about flu and how significant it is to that generation, but only in person does it have meaning. Honestly, their mortality is visible, to themselves too. Definitely a wake-up call.

Why mention this personal thing in this Ecosquared blog? Because the thing that is missing when I talk to people is the real experience. Adults are so used to simulating things in their heads, with business plans and financial projections, etc etc. The level of misunderstanding that Ecosquared triggers is very very basic. People think it is about ideas, on models. It is not. It is based on genuine, real relationships between people. Friend, family, living relationships, of blood, of feeling. This is why it will work. Not because it is commercial. It is real. It is an accounting system which tracks genuine value between people. And old people in our society deserve all the help they can get. Ageuk is one of the charities I’d like to pull in for the soft-launch in Easter.

It’s less about age, it’s more about wisdom. If the app doesn’t help us generate a sensitivity to wisdom, then it isn’t worth it.

Projects Function & business update

So, here’s a screen shot of the Android app, Projects Function:

projectsfunction

What does it do? You simply evaluate how enthused or committed you are to the projects you are involved in. ‘My’ shows your current value, 0 to 10. ‘Soc Av’ shows median — and because not enough people have evaluated their projects yet, the medians are uniformly 0!

Why this function? So that everyone can see how the project is doing at any moment. It should be possible to get data from the server to show individual scores within a specific project, which would then allow users to get the heads up very easily on how people are faring. Think collective project management. We’ll be doing a lot more in this direction once we get moneyflow.

up next

I’m paying Jeditech to code one of the financial functions, ‘Gift’. I had thought of doing ‘Invest’ first, but when speaking with angel investors over the last month, it is the Gifting Mechanic that seems to attract their attention. It’s our ‘route to market’, as they say. It is so counter-intuitive, some ran screaming, specifically one whose background was marketing. When speaking with Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, and Scottish Investment Bank, it makes sense — but only when I have a meeting. Written material just doesn’t seem to work in its favour, at least not the way I write it. Which is problematic because I’ve started business plans. Hard work trying to transform the content of a gifting economic into the structure of business plan. The usual questions — problem solved, unique solution, route to market, competitors, etc — are difficult to answer. I am the wrong person to answer. Or at least, my answers are great, but they don’t conform. Such questions lead me to think of the current system and I consider potential ecosystem that may form around the app. I don’t like projecting into the future false figures, I detest those projected figures over 5 years, and I don’t like ‘expectation’ period. Seems very close to speculation. However, a bit of maths has come to my aid.

While explaining the Gifting Mechanism to my coding partner, Colin, a couple of weeks ago, he pointed me at a brilliant bit of free online software — InsightMaker. I’ve been modelling the Gifting Mechanic ever since, onto the 12th iteration. Amazing. It allows the user to choose various rates of gifting, amounts of money, number of people who take, and so on, and runs a simulation, and I’ve included some standard deviation too. It even allows ‘sensitivity testing’, allowing 50 simulation runs simultaneously so it is possible to hone in on the rates that produce favourable results. That is, virals. Amazing! This is not only useful for potential investors, but for people using the app in the future to guide their behaviour — its the gifter’s equivalent to the ‘buyer’s guide’! Each user can get an idea of the kind of behaviour they need to exhibit if they want the thing they are recommending to go viral. And with a financial dimension, this means the money follows things we value. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean exponential growth, it can mean sustainable growth.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Point is, after working on this, I feel confident I can produce some potential figures in a business plan that actually make sense. Combined with the prototype version of the Gifting Mechanism, investors can make an informed decision. Part gut from direct experience, part mind from models and projections. Nice.

bonus insight

And this experience has given me an insight into what a traditional business plan is. It is nothing to do with the product, its all to do with the financials, costings. And because I am naturally aligned to lean business practices, I have come up with a minimal MVP for under £3,000, and the next one at £30,000 for a global open-ended viral capacity. This doesn’t take into consideration salaries for me or my coding partner, nor costs for compliance, etc, etc. It is the minimum to get us off the ground. If we reach the next threshold of funding, so we can pay for the heavier costs. Sustainable growth. I’ve never thought of taking money from an investor to pay me. Which is why our costs are so low. If we factor in salaries, even reasonably small ones, and the other expected costs like ‘sales’, we are dealing with £100,000, which is the figure that all government business loans and most investors are looking at as being ‘realistic’. You live and learn.

interested?

Drop me a line. I’ve been terrible at finding user-cases, which would provide us with some valuable data for the business plan. And an investor of course. And coders, etc, etc. Download ecosquared prototype at google play, athe iPhone version should be online very soon. Help to make good things happen — and get generously remunerated for it. Why? Because there’s a global population somwhere down the line who will be incredibly thankful to those who act now.

investor gatekeepers

After a few weeks of putting the word out, here is a summary of my experiences of the angel investment situation here in Scotland.

first there were ten

Of the ten or so contacted, it has been relatively easy to arrange meetings, once I learned that I have to talk about level of investment and equity, nominally £30k for 16%. Of the few who request written info before even contemplating a meeting, they all respond with a negative, saying it does not match their criteria. I usually have to reply with a rather forceful email requesting what criteria exactly, and on two occasions this has led to a meeting.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 17.32.11

from five to two

Of the five I have met, one did not have a clue what I was talking about. I am on point, and I do explain how the gifting mechanic works. This can be overwhelming. For all but two so far, the app-server combo does not conform to the criteria they use to evaluate and subsequently pass on to their syndicate of funders. Most of these syndicates consist of reasonably well off professionals who are looking for different investment opportunities. In comparison to ISAs or playing on the stockmarket, investment in any kind of company or startup is a high-risk. They are not looking for innovative. They are looking for a niche product, something which fits the current market and makes a reasonable case for growth. Most are physical companies, many biologically orientated for some reason, and only a few in app development, eg controlling household boilers or lights with a mobile app, that kind of thing.

Of the three that said it was not suitable for their syndicate, they did offer to pass on my proposal to specific individuals they thought might be interested. None have honoured their word. The quality of response of individuals I have met here in Scotland is higher — where what they say and what they do match more closely than business people I have met south of the border. It is a tiny sample, for sure, but I suspect there is more hardness in the Scottish businessman. He doesn’t want to promise anything he can’t deliver. But still, I find the gap between word and action is still wide enough that I mistakingly take a barge of bullshit for a trustworthy relationship. I am learning. I am now entirely skeptical. It doesn’t matter what anyone says they will do now, it means less than the vapour from their tongues, insufficient to moisten a stamp let alone a letter of intent, or anything resembling useful action.

Why this behaviour? Because there is no moneyflow. I have dabbled with the notion of introducing MTTP into the initial engagement, but I have found that it appears to be too much of a gimmick at the moment. Only when I have sufficient funds and a body of practice behind me, will it operate well. Indeed, operate for anyone on the planet. Point is, we need to have moneyflow from the initial conditions. The current system has all this hot-air, talk, preparation — which could go on for months! — until eventually ‘gold’ is struck. And course, the investment has to be worth the time and effort that everyone has put into make the decision. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that upward of 25% of money funded goes to pay the time and effort before funding is released. Absurd, and also makes for a distrusting business environment. The alternative? Money flow from the start.

I am tracking people’s contributions through the app, of course. So, when moneyflow does arise, I can distribute it to those who have have actually been helpful. I tell people this, but because this is early days, they can’t ‘compute’ the significance of this. When I end up distributing £1,000,000 to these critical first-steps, the world will be a different place — it will pay to be sensitive and helpful.

two interested — why?

Through this relatively painless procedure, two have shone through. Despite the obvious challenge of comprehending the app in the first place, they were open-minded enough to listen. This indicates a qualitatively different mind-set. Both were quite unlike the others. First, they were investors themselves. Second, they were not simply going through a checklist, establishing what other products our app is like. They were genuinely looking for newness.

One began to relate ecosquared to trust networks already out there. For example a child-sitting service which was growing slowly in the US west coast (where else?). He talked of the importance of sharpening the pitch so that it was super-clear what was being offered, giving me examples of mechanical buzzards, of all things. Of course, the problem I have is that the tool has potentially ubiquitous use, but what I need to do is pin-point some specific potential user-cases. Specific problems solved, so the ‘market’ will find the offering obvious. And this chap offered to do just this.

Another had direct experience of equity investment and he was specifically interested in the gifting mechanism of our app. He recognised what I call the ‘fractal seed’ of the gifting mechanism, and revealed that another company was pitching this for £500,000. Good news to know there is a competitor, so I don’t feel so bad when I meet someone who has no idea what I am talking about, their response being more a reflection of what they don’t know or haven’t come across. The bad news is, they are putting together a professional bid with plenty of commercial bells and whistles. Another bad thing is that it was intimated they are using a traditional business model and will not be using the gifting mechanic themselves on their own product. That is, those who are tinkering with the gifting mechanism may be first to market, appropriating our one last great chance to escape the capitalist system (or thing-ownership strange-attractor).

In both cases, these individuals were genuinely engaging. Genuine potential here.

a final surprise

My nephew did something unusual, in fact doubly so. Firstly, it is unusual for (my) family members to mix business with blood, and secondly, it is unusual for someone to recommend something when they do not understand it. Both, I believe, are natural to the human state and once ecosquared has some validity, people will find it is healthy to trust friends and family first, whilst also developing the courage to explore things they do no understand or feel is right. That is, genuine trust network, and thus a strong enough existence to explore new experiences. Strong roots, strong branches.

So, my nephew showed a few slides to a neighbour of his who is a successful entrepreneur, and his response was positive. From what I heard, very positive. It looks like the most positive response has occurred indirectly, ie not through me directly — which is a good sign. It indicates that whatever is presented is reflecting what the viewer already knows. That is, they have observed the elements in society themselves, and my composition brings these elements together in a rather pleasant composition. Thus, resonance and acknowledgement, followed by appreciation and excitement. I am only speculating at this stage, since I haven’t met the gentleman. But I do know how the psychology of discovery works based on my experience with young adults.

I am, in fact, envious, that my nephew witnessed the buzz. Had I been present though, I am sure I would have white-washed whatever their excitement was with my own. This is a major problem with inventors or creators, at least for some. Without recognition, the creator internalises the lack of response, and so whenever even a glimmer of appreciation appears, it can often lead to an incandescent explosion of delight from the creator, which all too often snuffs out the joy of the receiver. I don’t make this mistake with kids. Or rather, when I see a kid start to light up with a discovery, I add my passion like fuel to their flame not just for having a new enlightening perspective on fractions say, but expanding it out to the joy of mathematics in general, and the ability of any one of us to learn! I have found that this genuine learning flame is weak in adults and can get easily snuffed out, whereas with young adults it has the radiance of nuclear fission, all-at-once intellectual, emotional and indeed spiritual.

conclusion

So, who is to know what may emerge? It is slow progress. I am certainly not excited about a positive response any more, because I have had people say ecosquared is genius before and very little came of it. In fact, the opposite — I trusted their perception and their direction and risked too much, losing my family in their enthusiastic promises. I won’t make that mistake, indeed I can not.

I have also begun the route through the public funding maze. Very nice engagement with managers at Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise so far, with potential matched funding or 70% funding, but it is going to be 12 weeks putting together the proposal and then a further 12 weeks getting a decision. We’ll see how far I get along that path before I run out of steam, though perhaps some business-minded people may be attracted to complete that journey. Again, the method justifies the accretion of more ‘business folk’. The more money involved, the more people, and the more it costs to get anything to happen. Something which our app has the chance of cutting completely.

Meanwhile, Colin continues to develop the back-end engine and I fund the front-end app, which can be found on Google Play, ‘ecosquared’. I’ll write about user-cases in another post — feel free to submit your interest in the comments, via the app itself, or from the ecosquared.co.uk website.

financial health and steve jobs

I tried to create a financial projection like you’d find in a business plan, expected revenue, for the ecosquared entity last year, based on a starting fund of £30,000. Silly thing to do since the entity is not a business, however I’ve gone back and stuck in a column called health. It may be a useful thought-experiment. ‘Health’ indicates how many week’s ahead the entity would live without growth and simply honouring MTTP contracts. That is, if no more people were invited, how long would the MTTP contracts be honoured (and this is without considering any money attracted to the value co-produced). Ignore all the other numbers, just the coloured columns have meaning, and the addition left hand ‘health’ column.

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 13.45.51

instant health-check

If we are tracking MTTP contrasts as they happen, it should be possible to see how long it will live, at any instant. The spreadsheet above is done weekly. On week 17, for example, the entity will live for another 14 weeks before it dies.
An observation: everyone is responsible for the entity as a whole because the rate of invites will effect the longevity of the entity. Too many invites at a lower period than the current health will further shorten the life-span of the whole entity. Hence the need to invite people at a longer period. Thus, at the level of the whole entity, the notion of competition is redundant. There is no competition at the highest level, since all our well-being depends on the health of everyone.

steve jobs and apple’s responsiveness

One of the reasons Apple took off was because they used their computers to track their accounts. Because of their speed, Steve Jobs was able to see the state of his company on a weekly basis. Thus, he could change rates of production etc based on sales etc on a weekly basis, thus he could out-manouver other companies which relied on quarterly or even annual cycles. This meant he could respond to the market faster. Apple, as an organism, had greater responsiveness and thus a competitive edge.
If the entity forms because of the number of MTTP contracts and people agree to track SEA, it will have the fastest response time ever — instant info — as well as having a completely responsive interface — everyone! Of course, there may be people who are more like Steve Jobs within the network, and hopefully if we recognise them and value them, their input will allow the entity to grow while producing amazing value, whether it is in the form of computers, products, services of experiences.
I like to think of Steve Jobs as a social artist. And though Apple has taken on a monolithic form, the products are very much designed with aesthetic and the people who use the computers have a pleasant disposition. Will MTTP and SEA encourage a similar pleasant disposition to us?