Coo Coo and the North County Transit District Upgrade San Diego Commuter Experience


San Diego is going CooCoo—literally! The North County Transit District (NCTD), which provides commuter train services from throughout North San Diego County into Downtown San Diego, is implementing e-ticketing technology to their COASTER commuter trains. With the addition of this technology developed by CooCoo, commuters will have a better riding experience. In the future, the NCTD hopes to expand their usage of     CooCoo technology with their BREEZE, SPRINTER, and LIFT trains. Read more.

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Kurt Vonnegut 8 Tips for…Entrepreneurs?

All startups start as stories, in my book.

The entrepreneur who can figure out how to tell the story of his company in a compelling way is more likely to get funding and sales off the ground.

And I’m not suggesting that if you have a lousy company idea, that a pretty story about it is going to make it successful.

I’m suggesting something even more radical.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t tell a good story about a lousy company.  And on the flip side, if you can’t tell a good story about your company, it won’t get off the ground.

Figuring out the good story behind your company should change your company.  Every protagonist has to have a problem or conflict.  Your competition is the adversary in the story.  How are you really different?  Different enough to tell a good story about it?  Or is your differentiation so slight and nuanced, that the story ends up a big yawn?

I loved Kurt Vonnegut’s eight tips on how to write a great story.  Number seven struck out as relevant to startups.

He definitely knew how to monetize Ice-9!

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

To me this says, “the company’s product should be directed to a very specific and clear market segment.”  If the audience (or customers) for a company’s story (product) is too large, then the entrepreneur hasn’t thrown enough out of his vision.  For example, CooCoo started out as a general-purpose SMS information service with sports scores, gas prices, and tide schedules.  But only after they focused on the transit riders, did the company really start to take off.

Mark Fasciano

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A Fat Wallet is the Enemy of High Investment Returns

Warren Buffett says, “A fat wallet is the enemy of high investment returns.”

Imagine trying to make a 24% simple return for five years on a Billion dollars.  Just to make that return, you would need to make a profit of $1.2 Billion.  This means by the time you get your capital out, you need exits totaling $2.2 Billion.

In this age, many fund managers manage hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.   Part of this is because successful managers attract more funds.   They may start small but get bigger and bigger.

In his book The Big Secret for the Small Investor, Joel Greenblatt talks about this phenomenon.  He also talks about “not playing the same game” as the big guys is the way to win.

Is it plausible that the small group at Canrock is so much smarter than the bigger funds?   We would love to think so but reality is… our competitive advantage is we are small so can do smaller deals and still make a meaningful return.  We do not have to be smarter.

I had the size problem when I was CEO of SYNNEX Canada.  Sales of my divisions were $2 Billion.  I would see opportunities to sell $1 million.  I could not even do it because moving the needle $1 million at a time was just too tough to do.  I needed to focus on the $10 and 20 million opportunities.  This focus on big deals created opportunity for small competitors who could do those small deals.  I know this because only a few years earlier, my company was one of those small companies (I grew from 0 to $350,000,000 in sales so experienced all these sizes).

At Canrock, we invest small amounts in small, light start-ups at fairly low valuations.  This allows us to make exceptional returns.  Even a small exit can create meaningful returns for us.

The advantage of “small” is there are thousands of opportunities.  “Big” funds have many fewer opportunities to put a meaningful amount of cash to work.  “Small” exits can also happen faster.

We like the space we are in.

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No Excuses

The weather is rainy today.  As a gardener (I am so much of a gardener that now I am practically living the parsley diet), I appreciate rain – especially when we need it.  Most people in the office are removed from the dirt though so they complain about it.

It got me to thinking about “conditions”.  We must fight to succeed regardless of the “conditions”.  Rain is not something we can do anything about – it just is.

In business, there are many such conditions.  The economy, the exchange rate, the government, etc.  Our job as entrepreneurs is to accept these conditions and make the best despite of them.  We mold our businesses around these conditions to thrive.

My experience with entrepreneurs is those that succeed are the ones who take responsibility for their reactions to the conditions they find themselves in.

I am frustrated when entrepreneurs take our money and then try to place blame for any lack of success on any external factor.  Life in start up involves multiple and continual changes and unknowns.  This is partly why the Pivot was invented (that will be the topic of a different blog).
No Excuses – Take Responsibility for Your Own Success is the title of a book by David Neenan.    It is Neenan’s life story.  Through life he experienced a number of life changing situations and despite those he ended up successful.  Some of those situations happened when he was a child where surely he could have done nothing to impact them.  Regardless of the cause though, success depends on how we deal with adversity.

The gist of his book is as the title suggests – take responsibility.

The book has 22 chapters – each with a life lesson like “patience”, “integrity”, “Persistence”.  Each of Neenan’s life situations and stories serves as an illustration for one of these key lessons.

There is another great book – Adversity Quotient which talks about success being linked with ability to overcome adversity.

In the end – it is not what happens to us.  Take responsibility and succeed anyways.
Now back to the garden (of course being careful about preventing back injuries – which speaking of conditions – is a painful condition)
Jim Estill

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Soletron Investment

Canrock Ventures has added Soletron to the portfolio. Soletron is a social commerce web portal for street and urban apparel. Soletron describes itself as “an information source for hip hop, fashion, sneakers, and more.” Members on Soletron’s board include New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, a founder of the And 1 Basketball brand, and the former CEO of Adobe.

Canrock Ventures has had much success with web based companies, and we expect Soletron to be no different. Our expert knowledge of internet marketing and search engine optomization (thanks to our in-house SEO experts at SEO Pledge) has been proven with the success of HowToGetRidOfStuff and American Health Journal.

HowToGetRidOfStuff is a site which features articles on a wide array of topics such as “How to get rid of japanese beetles.” Not surprisingly, it is known for its high ranking content in popular search engines.

American Health Journal is a site in the medical content field containing articles and high quality videos produced by an award winning show on PBS. Topics range from Preventing Back Injuries to Does The Cookie Diet Work.

We hope to parlay the success of these endeavors into Soletron. The urban clothing market has long been a fruitful niche in an otherwise cluttered space, dominated by market leaders KarmaLoop and smaller fashion blogs. Soletron attempts to break that trend by fixating their unique mix of e-commerce and social media.

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