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.

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

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.

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

August 30th, 2016

Nicolas: Where are you located? I can be of help in this part of the world, but not everywhere. Sent from my iPhone

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 30th, 2016

Martin: I am in Miami. Thanks.

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 30th, 2016

Bill, I have zero experience in advertising sales and would not have any idea of what to charge advertisers wanting to use the platform. Furthermore, I would assume that the price, or the percentage, to be charged would vary greatly based on the type of advertising provided. Additionally, instead of acquiring advertisers one by one, I was thinking about some strategic alliances with major content providers in specific industries that would allow them to deliver their content on my platform through an API. For example, instead of trying to acquire each restaurant individually, I believe it might be a good move to approach open table and work some kind of arrangement that would give them access to my install base. However, something like that is for later. For now, I believe the focus should be on getting installs. I may be wrong but, at this stage of the game, I don't believe it would be wise to focus on monetization. Thanks.

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

August 31st, 2016

Nicolas: I will try to get you in front of reliable lawyers in Miami. Watch this space. Sent from my iPhone

Nicolas Placide CEO at Skyvoice Telecom, Inc.

August 31st, 2016

Harry: Thank you for your input. I can certainly understand checking criminal records. I definitely don't want to get involved with a known scammer or someone with poor ethics. I may be wrong, however, I fail to see how the financial standings of a cofounder would affect his ability to do his job... unless you are looking for a cofounder who would also be an investor?

Martin: Thanks. I will be looking forward to hearing from you.