Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Creating a Repeatable, Sustainable, Valuable, and Predictable SaaS Business: The Value Prop at the IBM Innovation Center in Cambridge, MA with Michael Skok

Approximately 75 intrepid attendees braved freshly falling snow (again!) to join MassTLC’s Cloud Cluster and Sales & Marketing Community in their joint program, Creating a Repeatable, Sustainable, Valuable and Predictable SaaS Business: the Value Prop. This event was the first of a three-part interactive workshop series with entrepreneur and investor Michael Skok. Special thanks to our event host and MassTLC Global Sponsor IBM and Cloud Cluster sponsor CenturyLink!

Next up: The Business Model and Turning Products into Companies.

Highlights of the Value Prop workshop included:
  • Michael led attendees through his Value Prop template with help from Co-Founder and CEO George Adams of ViziApps and Co-Founder and CEO Shantanu Dhaka of Modit as case studies
  • Many companies don’t have a good idea of what their true Value Prop is
  • Understand the problem you believe you are solving before you get too excited about your idea
  • Try to solve a problem that cripples businesses - problems needing to be solved should be: Unworkable, Unavoidable, Urgent, and Underserved
  • Customers want you to solve their problem first, then make it better - avoid using “Solution,” “Faster,” “Better,” “Cheaper” in your Prop
  • Big problems are big opportunities – it takes as much energy to tackle a big market as a small market, so why not go in for the big fight?
  • Realize that when you pitch that you are asking people to change their budget and make your solution a priority


Check out Michael’s recap of the event here.

Being Agile in a Value Prop Framework – Modit Case Study

Crystallizing our Value Prop and Fundamental Benefits for Customers – ViziApps Case Study 


Complete Event Recap

Every business needs a Value Prop. Chances are that your business was based around an idea that you believed was your Value Prop. As time passed, your idea evolved, the product started to come together, and now your sales deck is a bloated, incoherent mess that only you can understand and the true Value Prop is buried or completely lost somewhere between slide 1 and 60.

According to Michael Skok’s Value Proposition template, if you can clearly and concisely answer five critical questions, you can build a successful Value Prop:
  • Who is your product for?
  • What are they dissatisfied with?
  • What is your product?
  • What is the key problem solves?
  • Why is your product is better than anything else in the space currently?


To answer those questions he suggested following a three-step process:
  • Define the problem you are solving
  • Evaluate your solution
  • Build your Value Prop.


Simple, right? However, tackling each step of the process is going to be a bit of work.

Is your product solving a real problem? What defines a real problem? A real problem can be identified by 4Us:
·         Unworkable – If this problem happens, someone loses their job or the company goes under.
·         Unavoidable – Everyone in your market will encounter a time where your solution will be beneficial.
·         Urgent – The problem is currently causing issues and the customer will be able to benefit quickly.
·         Underserved – Don’t compete in a flooded market, your resources are finite.

After you’ve defined the real problem, look back at your idea and determine the real solution. Is it a breakthrough opportunity? Look for the 3Ds - it should be Discontinuous Innovation, Defensible Technology, and have a Disruptive Business Model.

With the solution now in hand, it’s time to evaluate it. Are the client’s gains from using your product going to outweigh the pains of trying it and implementing it? Could they get by with a competitors’ cheaper product, or even without doing anything at all? If there’s not a large enough gain to pain gap (gain >10x pain) you will have a difficult time getting clients to adopt which tosses you into the unworkable problem category! Focus on disruptive innovation with non-disruptive adoption.

Now – with all these insights in mind - take another look at your Value Prop to fill in the template:
  • Who is your product for?
  • What are they dissatisfied with?
  •  What is your product?
  • What is the key problem solves?
  • Why is your product is better than anything else in the space currently?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MassTLC Welcomes National Telecommunications Company CenturyLink as a Global Sponsor

Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), a leading technology association and premier network for technology executives, announced today that the third largest U.S. telecommunications company, CenturyLink, has joined the organization as a Global Sponsor, a category that includes companies such as IBM, HP, Rocket Software, Microsoft and other notable brands in the technology sector.

“We are thrilled to have CenturyLink come on board as a Global Sponsor and show their commitment to the region’s technology community. Their strong reputation for leadership in the areas of cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions will help to enhance the value of our Cloud Cluster community and beyond,” said Tom Hopcroft, President and CEO of MassTLC.

“MassTLC is a leader in this region in connecting thought leadership together in the technology industry and we are excited CenturyLink will be a part of this organization,” said Boston based Gary Sloper, Area Vice President of Solution Engineering and Operations. “Our goal is to help give back to the local community by serving as a stewardship resource in areas such as Cloud which has multiple definitions to various organizations.” 


About CenturyLink

CenturyLink is the third largest telecommunications company in the United States and is recognized as a leader in the network services market by technology industry analyst firms. The company is a global leader in cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions for enterprise customers. CenturyLink provides data, voice and managed services in local, national and select international markets through its high-quality advanced fiber optic network and multiple data centers for businesses and consumers. The company also offers advanced entertainment services under the CenturyLink® Prism™ TV and DIRECTV brands. Headquartered in Monroe, La., CenturyLink is an S&P 500 company and is included among the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. For more information, visit www.centurylink.com


About Mass Technology Leadership Council
The Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) is the region's leading technology association and the premier network for tech executives, entrepreneurs, investors and policy leaders. MassTLC's purpose is to accelerate innovation by connecting people from across the technology landscape, providing access to industry-leading content and ideas and offering a platform for visibility for member companies and their interests. For more information on MassTLC, visit www.masstlc.org.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Transforming Healthcare through Technology and Innovation: MassTLC Healthcare Conference


What does a crash course in healthcare in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts look like? In short, it is full of lessons in innovation, advancements and the power of data analytics in driving better decisions for consumers and businesses. 

The December 3 MassTLC Healthcare Conference: Transforming Healthcare Through Technology and Innovation began with an inspiring keynote presentation by Roy Smythe, CEO of HX360 and Chief Medical Officer of Avia Health Innovation, who talked about the “Big Shift” in healthcare. Smythe boldly asserted that there’s never been a better time to effect change in healthcare in the US. He issued this challenge despite the government’s three failed attempts to improve the healthcare system over the last 50 years and with the US being ranked last in healthcare system performance in repeat studies by The Commonwealth Fund. Smythe posited that three vectors are aligning for change:  1) widespread acknowledgement that change needs to happen, 2) a digital revolution that is a forcing function for change, and 3) a large amount of investment dollars flowing into healthcare IT.

Historically, if you look past the last century, healthcare was available in our homes as we tended to our own. Our current medical system, however, is built around big box and small box facilities, namely hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. As baby boomers age, healthcare facilities are not plentiful enough to meet the demands - there are not enough beds in skilled nursing outfits, for example. As individuals become more technologically savvy and empowered to care for themselves our current healthcare system has the chance to support new ways of providing and accessing care. The internet allows patients to research symptoms and diseases. Simple devices allow people to monitor and assess their conditions at home.  We can take such information and become our own advocates, our own health coaches, rather than defer to doctors as the ultimate authorities. We have the chance to become true partners in managing our care.


Dr. Smythe’s keynote was followed by a reaction panel comprised of key stakeholders in the Massachusetts healthcare system: a payer, a provider, an innovator, and a patient representative. Led by moderator Joe Ternullo of Kinematix, healthcare leaders Jason Robart, of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Eric Isselbacher, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital, Paul Grabscheid of InterSystems, and Nancy Finn of The Society for Participatory Medicine, used Dr. Smythe’s keynote as a springboard for delving into the Massachusetts healthcare ecosystem now, and what the opportunities are for future impact and innovation.

We have all decried the current fee-for-service healthcare system as misaligned between the goals of reducing costs and improving outcomes. I’ve heard our system described as a team without a coach. Companies like Iora Health, with their direct pay system where patients have health advocates, and Twine Health, which has created a collaborative care platform with an open API and plans to be open source, are bucking the status quo. Athenahealth is modernizing healthcare data systems by using something familiar and common in many industries today - the cloud. Use of the cloud allows athenahealth to share data findings across clients so they can all benefit from the collective knowledge.

The massive amounts of data generated and collected by healthcare companies and providers can be leveraged to ensure quality care. Innovative companies are utilizing predictive analytics to improve healthcare outcomes. SimulConsult has built a database of rare diseases, their symptoms, and differential diagnoses to help practitioners identify instances of those rare diseases.  While some may question the power of identifying rare diseases, Lynn Feldman, CEO of SimulConsult, points out that 8-10% of known diseases are “rare” diseases and so we can improve treatment when we better understand the cause. ConvergeHEALTH by Deloitte leverages claims and clinical data to develop healthcare models that can improve outcomes.  There are myriad examples of data innovation in healthcare, and opportunities abound as data systems mature within the healthcare context. This in turn increases the alignment of incentives between payers, providers, and patients, which will generate more possibilities to leverage data in creative ways.

Another area of rapid innovation is the digital space as patients, doctors, and healthcare companies become more digitally aware. New products such as wearable and at-home devices allow consumers more freedom and enable doctors to receive the data and monitor their patients without the need for repeat office visits for important but simple tasks such as documenting blood pressure. Remote tracking devices, telehealth measures and digital technology can be used to reduce costs while improving health outcomes.  Ultimately, adoption of consumer digital technology will not succeed with a web of technologies and interfaces, but rather, it will require creating a frictionless, integrated experience for consumers and providers. 

Naomi Fried of Boston Children’s Hospital and Pam Reeve of The Commonwealth Group concluded the MassTLC Healthcare Conference in an engaging conversation, urging participants to see the change that is on the horizon.  Dr. Fried noted that “Healthcare will look markedly different.  Instead of going to brick and mortar providers, people are going to be more digitally enabled.”  It’s a good time to be an advocate for change in healthcare.


Thank you to our Platinum Sponsor Deloitte!