Archive for July, 2011

The other day I was asked an intriguing question by Dan Baker of B/OSS World and the RA Roundtable: what if a large telco was organized into a thousand business units? Dan was pondering the unique management strategy of Zhang Ruimin, boss of the $20 billion Haier Group. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it might address lots of the inherent weaknesses of telcos. To find out more about Zhang Ruimin’s approach to management, and my thoughts on what impact they would have in telecoms, look here.

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Look here for an interesting interview of Simon Collins and Sergio Silvestre by Alex Leslie. The WeDo duo talked about the fraud and RA challenges posed by machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and near field communications (NFC). Their main thrust was that businesses will need to think differently in order to manage the risks, as was highlighted by Collins with this story:

In South Africa there was an experiment with traffic light monitoring and phasing. Something was wrong, but the supervision was inadequate and when the service provider finally checked they found that people had been stealing the SIM cards out of the traffic lights – hundreds of them.

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Recently I wrote about how peer-to-peer internet currency Bitcoin could emerge as a long-term threat to mobile banking and money transfer services. Since then I found this article in Time magazine which asks if Bitcoin might eventually rival the US Dollar and other government-backed currencies! The arguments are intriguing, though far from conclusive. Howver, it is worth taking a look at some of the well-informed comments from Time readers. There are people with both the tech saavy and the economic nous to see the benefits of such an independent P2P currency – and why it is a threat to various business models, including some of those being touted by telcos. For example:

Bitcoin shines in its ability to enable low cost peer to peer transfers of value with the delivery certainty of a wire transfer, yet being free of the chargeback risks presented by credit cards and Paypal.

and

Continuing the trend of an internet-based economy we are seeming to lean towards, well, I think it’s plausible to think that BitCoin may offer nice competition for not only USD, but many different currencies. However, diversity is great!

They say that the best kind of advertising is a personal recommendation from a friend. If these comments represent a large enough group of genuine advocates, then Bitcoin really could become a serious rival to other kinds of money transfer… thanks to the pervasiveness of the internet.

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It is pure speculation, but a run of peculiar events suggests that cVidya, the Israeli revenue assurance vendor, is up to something. Maybe they are tarting themselves up for an IPO or trade sale, or maybe their top team is in a state of flux. Take a look at some of the signals, and decide for yourself.

  • Management changes: According to LinkedIn, CFO Omer Regev recently left to work in California for an Israeli-focused VC fund, following Eran Wagner who had been President of cVidya’s North American Operations. In the meantime, Amit Daniel has joined in the new role of EVP for Marketing and Business Development. However, Daniel’s appointment looks like a revolving-door replacement for Elias Chachak, their long-serving VP (with no ‘E’) for Strategic Marketing and Business Development. None of these moves have been mentioned through cVidya’s normal comms channels.
  • 4-in-1 sales announcements: During the last 12 months, cVidya has only issued four press releases to announce sales; see their archive. In a February 2011 release they said they had four new but unnamed customers in North America. A press release this June talked of four customers in Western Europe; this release mentioned neither the names of the customers, nor made it clear if the customers were new. The other two press releases just seem to reveal the names of North American customers that were not disclosed in February. Why are they taking this peculiar approach to making sales announcements? It cannot be that they want to issue fewer press releases, so it must be something to do with maximizing the presentation value.
  • Peripheral marketing: Aaron Godfrey has been looking after cVidya’s PR for over a year now, so why has he recently spent so much time creating a tub-thumping Wikipedia page for them? See the page history here. On the other hand, their previously regular stream of corporate tweets went silent in January and has remained that way since.

None of this proves anything, but I think most neutral observers would agree there is something unusual with how cVidya is presenting themselves these days. Since cVidya acquired ECtel and delisted them from the stock market, we have no public numbers in order to analyse their performance. This means cVidya-watchers are heavily reliant on reading the subtext of cVidya’s press coverage and sniffing little bits of news wherever they can. Looking at the old numbers still in the public domain, we can see that cVidya’s January 2010 acquisition of ECtel saw them obtain ECtel’s strong balance sheet, but also ECtel’s burn rate, which was enough to consume all their assets within a few years. Now we can only guess at the current cashflows and balance sheet of the combined entity, though we do know the universal truth that no business can keep on losing money forever. It would be easy, but wrong, to add 2 (changes to finance and marketing management) to 2 (few sales announcements, with even fewer details) and come up with 5. On the other hand, sometimes saying nothing is worse than only giving upbeat messages which do not explain how and why a business is changing. Quietly losing a CFO, highlighting sales whilst being secretive about specifics, changes at the top of their North American office immediately after they report a batch of sales in that region… what cVidya is not saying is much more interesting than what they are saying.

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See here for an excellent interview about IP theft, given by Rockie Brockway of Logos Communications to the Smart Business Network. It gives an overview of the challenges and how to respond to them.

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