Transportation · Business Development

Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not. How to find the right business development partner?

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 30th, 2016

When I was younger, I used to think that a successful business required a brilliant idea. Over the years, I have come up with many ideas and products which I thought were so good that I tried to get some of them patented by the US patent office (interactive Radio, interactive Billboards, a mechanism to prevent seat belts from getting jammed, a mechanism to drop the windows in case of accident, technology to eliminate texting while occupying the driver's seat, etc...). Heck, I even managed to get some patents issued. Whoop Dee Doo.


Over the years, I have come to realize that a properly executed mediocre idea will yield results far superior than a poorly executed seemingly great idea. Michael Dell said it best:" Ideas are a commodity. The execution of them is not".


I live in South Florida where Uber became legal in Miami-Dade only a few short months ago following the lifting of its ban in Broward Country earlier this year. Keeping in mind that in many countries, ridesharing is still not legal, and looking at the low penetration numbers among phone users, it is safe to say that ridesharing technology is at its acceptance phase and it stands to grow a lot more. Consequently, although ridesharing is big now, I am inclined to think that it stands to get even bigger.


I certainly understand that it's a tough market to penetrate. The deep discounts given by Uber and Lyft make it almost impossible for a third party to acquire market share. That's why sidecar had to fold and analysts keep talking about either a monopoly or a duopoly in that industry, at least here in the US.


Focusing on the US market, I would say it's a duopoly as Lyft market share is continuously increasing and more drivers are joining its network every day. At any rate, I am not trying to compete with the various ridesharing apps on the market. Instead, I intend to offer a product that will complement their offering.


Originally, I came up with the idea of providing an entertainment platform to the ridesharing space. After all, you have a captive audience that is not going anywhere for the duration of the ride. I decided to validate my idea by talking to ridesharing users and drivers. I joined the drivers' forums and conducted a couple of online surveys. I quickly realized that approach wasn't enough when I found out about Vugo and Tripcam. Those two companies provide in-car advertising but they are not exactly household names. Several drivers knew of the existence of those two companies, yet, they were not signing up with them. The drivers I spoke to could not explain to me why they were not interested. Therefore, I decided to become a driver.


I have driven in every Uber category available in South Florida: UberPool, UberX, UberXL, Uber LUX, Uber LUX SUV. I have provided over 1,000 rides and quizzed almost every rider about changes they would like to see, showing them prototypes and implementing features and suggestions which I felt were appropriate. I have talked face to face with countless Uber drivers. In the process, my original idea has morphed significantly to the point where in-car advertising and the accompanying entertainment platform are no longer the main focus. What I have now is completely different from what I started with. I believe I have figured out how to get drivers on board as well as riders; by providing them with what they want....lol. I have a waiting list of hundreds of drivers in the Miami area alone. I've built a prototype and I believe I am now ready to move forward.


I understand my limitations and I know I have never played at this level. Consequently, I will need to get onboard a cofounder with business development experience, someone with experience in fundraising as well as marketing and advertising sales. I have had many riders in my car who have expressed interest in joining me as cofounder. Among them are a former Apple executive and two current Google employees. However, I am worried about messing up the whole thing as I know that the wrong cofounder could sink a business. Hence the following questions: how do I go about finding the right business development partner? What should the next move be from there? How do I know that THIS is THE guy that can help me take this thing to the next level? Your input is very much appreciated.

Google AdWords doesn’t have to be a source of stress. In this course, we’ll teach you how to set up campaigns, utilize extensions, craft effective content, and track ROI and conversions without all of the anguish, leaving you with more time to focus on growing your customer base.

Bill Lennan Red Rope Social

August 30th, 2016

Why don't you sell it yourself to the first ~20 customers?
That will prove a market ( VCs like adoption ), get you some revenue, and give you a chance to flesh out a sales pitch and process ( invaluable ). 

I've been at a few startups where the founders had not done any sales and hired sales people without any pitch, process, prospects, etc. They all failed spectacularly. 

Sales is a key part of founding a business - do it yourself, then figure out what you need next. 

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 30th, 2016

My original post could have probably been shorter. However, I felt it was important for the reader to understand where I was coming from , how much work has already been completed and why I was concerned about making the right choice.

I would think it's very easy to understand what I am asking for but, apparently, it's not. The primary question is in the title itself. Additionally, anything with a question mark in the last paragraph is also a question.

As for your third concern, it's because FD pulled the information from my LinkedIn profile. I used to own a mortgage company Home Rescue Partners which folded in 2008 and my current company is Skyvoice Telecom. Sorry for the confusion. I will look into fixing that issue.

Thanks for your input.

Harry Kamp Commercial Director at Avicenna Group B.V.

August 31st, 2016

Well Nicolas, I have just been through hell with a wrong partner. First check a criminal record. Then check his or her financial record. I failed to do so and I failed to ask frank questions. Both records and or outcomes should still not make a judgement by yourself. Let me explain. Some ex-criminals can be a fantastic partners. Some ex- financial failures can be fantastic partners. My point is it is all about *disclosure* so you can make a fully informed decision. Heck, my financial situation looks bad now, temporarily, after this failed business cooperation. Yet a few years ago I was one of the most successful salespersons in my industry. Like in good marriages.....disclose,....talk......find out in a spirit of freedom, not control but simple transparency and "failing forward" (title of a book that was given to me by my university mentor) Trust this helps. Kind regards, Harry

Ashley Titus Founder at RAGS Solutions

September 9th, 2016

Nicolas...just getting started with a limo operation in Qatar..perhaps you could connect with me (Ashley Titus Qatar) on LInkedIn and offer some advice on whether we could use some of what you are offering in the future as we get started on the revenue stream first with the limos. To be followed by - starting a smart discussion with our passengers mainly from the hospitality industry in Qatar and thus be part of the tourism ecosystem in the future which is growing in this place as dependence on oil and gas is shifting

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

September 1st, 2016

I wish you the best. If your idea is sound and well-defined, that is a good start. Building a business around it, however , is a separate and challenging activity. Please keep us informed. Sent from my iPhone

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

August 31st, 2016

Nicolas: I have sent out my feelers. Awaiting responses. Right now, I have one guy in Ft. Lauderdale. Is that close enough?

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

September 1st, 2016

Martin: Once I came up with this idea, I wrote a business plan. Then, I read a book by Eric Ries titled "The Lean Startup". I realized I had been doing a lot of things wrong with previous business ventures and decided to do things a little different this time.

I went and tested out my assumptions and realized that many were dead wrong. I made adjustments and tested some more. I have found the use of a validation board to be invaluable. The current iteration of the product is completely different from the idea I started with and will probably morph even more in the future as I test and make more adjustments. In the process, I have come to understand why Tripcam and Vugo have not exactly been success stories. My product is not just in-car advertising, it's not just an entertainment platform for ride-sharing, it's an actual add-on for ride-sharing that will make you wonder why the ride-sharing companies did not think of it.

When you get to know the product and understand ride-sharing, you will then realize that it might not be because they did not think of it but because it would not have been in their best interest to implement it while it makes perfect sense for a third party to do it.  I am feeling pretty confident at this point. Just about every driver I've talked talk to has been ready to enroll. I have also collected hundreds of email addresses from passengers who have expressed interest in downloading the app once it's on the market.

A business plan may come later. However, at this stage of the game, I don't see it as a necessity as I already know EXACTLY what I need. As always, your input is very much appreciated. Thanks :)

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

September 2nd, 2016

"it's an actual add-on for ride-sharing that will make you wonder why the ride-sharing companies did not think of it."

Could Uber and Lyft be your customers? And maybe taxi/limo companies too? If you can sell it to them without them ripping you off, that would be pretty sweet, wouldn't it? Of course, we don't know what the app will do, so this is noted from within a vacuum.

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 30th, 2016

Martin, thank you for the advice. I am indeed a beginner; I have never played in the big leagues. I was interested in applying for YCombinator and it's during the application process that I really came to understand the importance of a cofounder. I was under the impression that it was important to first locate the right cofounder, the guy with the business experience who would know all the right moves, and then go from there. However, what you said makes sense as getting into bed with someone more experienced at this than I am could spell disaster should I choose the wrong person. What is the best way to locate such a lawyer? How do you find out about the reputation of that lawyer once you locate him/her?


I know I am not ready for fundraising at this point as I have no experience in that field and would probably get eaten alive should the funding partner decide that they like the product. However, it will certainly be my pleasure to talk to you once I find someone who speaks your language. Thank you very much for your contribution.

Bhaskar Thatti Consultancy, One of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012 !!!

September 2nd, 2016

Hi Nicolas, Since you seem to be passionate about an idea which has transformed into a worthy product or service, the next thing for you is to prepare a biz plan for funding. If you have your initial funding to execute the idea thru' the company you may be owning already,here comes the need for biz development. When there is a product or a service that has a target audience , biz development gets easy. Here you say you have that product or service for which there are clients having a need and willing to pay for it, then pricing it suitably is necessary. The higher you fix the price, the more you drive away your clients. The lower the pricing is , there will be more clients but your profits will take a knock. So price it rightly and release it to the market using time tested biz development methods and you become the winner. I've had more than 25 yrs experience in marketing but presently cooling my heels due to prolonged back pain and I live in India. Good luck.