Category: News

Update: See What’s in Store for Tring in 2020 and Beyond

Tring’s mission to use technology to help retailers understand their customers better has never been more important. The pandemic has affected the way consumers around the world approach shopping through brick-and-mortar locations, curbside and local delivery, as well as online, so investing in data collection and analysis is quickly becoming smart strategy for everyone, and in fact may become a key to understanding the market as supply chains become less reliable. “Predictive analytics are fast becoming a must-have tool for retailers,” says Andrew Casson. “Retailers have rarely had to buy their stock so efficiently, but having a deeper understanding about what drives demand will allow them to carry what their customers want and dial in the value of shelf space, maximizing their ROI.” Stay tuned for more exciting updates.


Emergent International Payment Systems’ Executive Director Travels to Africa

Oh, The Places We Go

At first it happened in slow motion, and then accelerated rather quickly. International borders were closing rapidly and commerce ground to a halt. The departure board at JFK started to blink with one cancellation after another until there were barely any flights left. Marc Asselineau realized that returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo wasn’t going to be the hard part of his latest adventure. It was simply getting out of North America and then through Europe that would prove challenging.

Yet for the executive director of Emergent International Payment Systems, this was just another Tuesday. As he finally settled into his Economy-Plus seat, glad to be returning to the base of operations in Kolwezi, he began poring through the detailed notes that would guide his next few months in-country. Marc is one of those executives who is propelled by the belief that his efforts and those of the partners of EIPS are truly making a difference for customers and investors alike. Any obstacles laid before him are met with shrugged shoulders and a whimsical smirk. Sitting back in the comfort of his home hosting Zoom calls is just not his style. Instead, quarantining at the Hotel Moon Palace in Kolwezi, better positioned to carry out the company’s initiatives, felt like the only option for Marc.

At this writing, thanks to his efforts and the Fresnel partners, Emergent continues to expand its business in sub-Saharan Africa after last year’s launch of a prepaid debit card in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even with the pandemic and government-instituted quarantine in major cities including Kolwezi, Lubumbashi, and the capital city of Kinshasa, the Kolwezi Visa has been the reliable payment method as both Western Union and Moneygram have had times of limited access or service interruptions.

In light of this, Marc and Emergent are well positioned to take advantage of the burgeoning financial services markets in sub-Saharan Africa where a young, digitally savvy segment is growing into financial maturity:

  • In DR Congo, the City of Lubumbashi has agreed to go forward as the next major E-Pay Certified City, with a dedicated card and similar platform to that of Kolwezi. The nearby city of Likasi is also on Emergent’s growing list of future partners.

  • Also in DR Congo, the five provinces that make up most of the capital city of Kinshasa are advised by a central economic advisor, who reviewed and approved Emergent International Payment Systems for stage one of the approval process for the Kinshasa card. With a population of 11 million in the city of Kinshasa alone (and 3 to 6 million in the nearby provinces), this card has immense potential. “As we saw in Kolwezi, where municipal branding gave Emergent’s Visa card instant street cred, the trust that it establishes is a key step in the process of adoption and early success,” says Tom Thies, co-founder and partner at The Fresnel Companies.

Although the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic continues to dictate global commerce, the government of the DRC is well versed at monitoring for viruses as a result of the unfortunate events of having other significant outbreaks in the past. And while following safe self-isolation procedures, Marc continues to drive Emergent operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar, while advancing plans to expand into the Republic of Congo and Cameroon. We’d like to tell Marc’s wife that he’ll be home soon, but he’s not leaving until he finishes taking Emergent International Payment Systems to the next level and beyond—something you just can’t do on a video call.

 


Spotlight On: Dialing in the Message with Blue Creative Group

The workshops always start out the same. A badly lit conference room is occupied by senior executives, arms crossed, questioning why these marketing guys have invaded their bubble to pepper them with questions. Some eyerolls follow introductions as thoughts of these guys don’t know my business as well as I do bounce around the room. And that is precisely the premise of the “Know Your Message” workshop that the Blue Creative Group, a Fresnel portfolio company, conducts with companies around the world. Nobody should know a company’s ethos better than the folks running it. However, surprisingly, the Blue team often finds there is not only a fair amount of fragmented understanding within all types and sizes of companies, many are not able to communicate a company’s message in a singular and concise pitch. Often before Blue begins working on any marketing deliverables, they want to ensure this foundational blocking and tackling is complete and will host daylong workshops with teams to nail the “pitch.”

“Think of it as an elevator pitch—delivered in one minute—that shares who your company is and, just as importantly, who it is not,” says Andy Hawk, executive vice president of client strategy for Blue Creative Group. “This pitch, when properly honed and delivered, will work for you to make an impression in any last-minute situation, or whenever you’re meeting someone new. Ideally, you’ll develop a statement that can evolve, but the fundamental truth of it means you can deliver it half asleep. It becomes innate.” As part of the brand and marketing strategy program offered by Blue Creative Group, Andy visits companies and runs the workshop where this elevator pitch is formed, examined, torn apart, and reconstructed. The result is a single paragraph that each member can turn to and consider… and memorize.

The exercise can be daunting, particularly in an entrepreneurial environment where strong personalities bring their own complete versions of the pitch, only to realize it needs to be assimilated with those of the other participants. Often the sales manager on the frontline might not possess the same USP as the finance team and these sessions are designed to identify the true company purpose. “You want your CTO or CFO to understand the importance of their work, but also keep the big picture in focus,” Hawk says. “By constructing the pitch together, an organization can align stakeholders at all levels around a shared outcome.”

The pitch is more than just a conversation starter. Looked at critically, it can help guide strategy sessions, create new lines of discussion for evolving the business, and even inspire development of the new pitch. But it all comes back to the session where the first pitch is worked out. “Every successful business evolves through phases as growth goals are achieved and its focus changes,” Andy says. “If you can’t say what you’re doing—and why—in a way that gets to the point, you may need to recalibrate.” Class dismissed.


Fresnel Expert-in-Residence Is an Evangelist for Disruptive Technologies

Expert-in-Residence Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is an Expert-in-Residence for The Fresnel Companies. He is an avid networker who seeks and delivers connections that help move the dial. He has a mix of enterprise and startup experience, including 20 years at Microsoft, where he got a good taste of technology and formed a strong understanding of how a technology can be disruptive.

“At The Fresnel Companies, our strategy of Enterprise Optimization relies heavily on the assets that our Experts-in-Residence bring to the game,” says Andrew Casson, founder and managing partner of The Fresnel Companies. “The combination of specialized knowledge and strong relationships with experienced players mean that our experts can review and validate any ideas we have in a meaningful way that improves on our success rate. No one does this better than Frank, who sees creative applications of technology across segments and has the people to call to help speed the process.”

Frank’s experiences at Microsoft gave him exposure to the entrepreneurial way of thinking that is the lifeblood of startups. “I did some startup business inside Microsoft,” Frank says. “I had to go before Steve Ballmer and make a pitch to get $100 million in funding, and at the time I didn’t realize how unusual that is. I had just one meeting with Microsoft executives, and I told them why I wanted the money. After, they told me everything I didn’t think about—but they still gave me the $100 million.” Frank learned about disruptive technology and how it can work in many different ways. Often, it’s not just a product, but instead is platform that can be applied to problems in a variety of industries.

After Frank left Microsoft, he cofounded a company with some friends from Microsoft, and became a Microsoft partner. Microsoft has thousands of partners globally and Frank’s company became a top-35 national systems integrator for Microsoft within three years. Within five years they sold the company to a Fortune 500 company. “It was a startup and it exited successfully,” Frank says. “We want our investors to do well, and sometimes that means we want capital events.”

Frank met Fresnel Partner Tom Thies at the office a debit-card processor in Woodland Hills, California. They both had meetings there one day, and, after talking in the lobby of the office, they became friends, bonding over the topic of debit cards. “If you look at the Fresnel portfolio right now, Tom’s debit card initiative from back then has become Emergent International Payment Systems now,” Frank says. “He stuck with a great concept—and he did better than me!”

Frank’s relationship with the Fresnel partners and his fellow Experts-in-Residence has been forged over the last 15 years. Frank says, “There are a lot of opportunities in the world that are just average opportunities. You can look at debit cards and Emergent as something that is way above average in terms of potential to generate wealth over time. And I respect the fact that Tom stuck with it, despite the fact that it wasn’t easy, and he’s done really well. I like the fact that they’re taking longer-term horizons and they’re not scared of hard work. The folks at Emergent are not afraid of falling down a couple of times and picking themselves back up, and marching forward. It’s good for their investors, it’s good for their business partners, it’s good for their friends, that they have that discipline.”

The work habits and the teamwork of The Fresnel Companies team are a foundation that gives Frank confidence in good things to come. “They’re finding out how to repurpose disruptive technology and they’re finding all sorts of upside across the entire portfolio,” Frank says. “I look at the future of Fresnel and it’s building a library of disruptive technologies and figuring out how to monetize those technologies across the several portfolio companies.” And it’s a safe bet that Frank Murphy will be there, leveraging his knowledge and his network, to help make it happen.


All Hands Alliance Gets New Executive Director and Office in Newport

All Hands Alliance has had a busy couple of months, naming Holly Paterson executive director, and opening an office in Newport. This nonprofit worldwide community effort has the mission to eradicate trash and debris from the world’s oceans and waterways through global citizen participation. Sound familiar? The effort was previously introduced as C-Change, but has been renamed All Hands Alliance to capture the collaborative, grass-roots nature of the program. Paterson comes to the organization from a background running successful events and programs based in the marine industry. “We’ll work with yacht clubs and other organizations to gain traction in this worldwide problem,” Paterson says. ““The people who love our oceans and nature the most are the people who are out in it the most—it’s a natural goal for them to pitch in.” Keep an eye out for updates from All Hands Alliance.


Spotlight on: Leveraging Technology

Blockchain has potential beyond virtual currency, and The Fresnel Companies
will bring it to businesses that are built for growth.

The Fresnel Companies sees opportunity in certain areas of IP held by its various portfolio companies. The technologies include blockchain, security, payments infrastructure, and more, and the idea is to help clients to realize rapid growth through innovation.

Technology can be a source of the excitement that encourages creative thinking, and blockchain and its use in virtual currency is just such a groundbreaking development. But the technology has the potential to disrupt other business models just as completely, and deliver solutions that are powerful, scalable, efficient, and agile, and are limited only by the imagination. Up to now, it’s been very expensive to implement, largely because the consultancies that license the technology and build out solutions chiefly look for large-scale projects at huge multinational companies.

“Many businesses have potential and can grow with the right tools and careful management,” says Tom Thies, co-founder and partner of The Fresnel Companies. “The best gains may be had in small- and mid-sized businesses that are set up for growth and primed to scale, and blockchain and other technology solutions are well suited to replace outdated business models.” The broad experience profile of the partners, managers, and Experts-in-Residence at The Fresnel Companies will bring to bear a strong history of creative innovation to the challenges facing startups and mid-size companies. The result will be a small team of consultants offering resources to help businesses implement innovative solutions that are designed to grow.

At The Fresnel Companies, we don’t see technology as the solution in and of itself, rather it’s a building block, one of several on which a robust business can be based, and that foundation is the sturdy structure that supports all future growth. Reach out to learn more.


Blue Creative Group Launches New Website for Emergent International Payment Systems

Emergent International Payment Systems, a Fresnel Portfolio company, worked with marketing-services agency Blue Creative Group to launch a new responsive website to help share its groundbreaking business model with prospective partners. The company offers unique solutions to the unbanked and underbanked populations of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. “Emergent creates new business opportunities by building local relationships and applying technologies that add convenience and security,” says Tom Thies, cofounder and partner of The Fresnel Companies. “This website will help lay the groundwork to start those conversations and create connections.” Emergent worked with Blue to create a site structure that captures the essence of the business. See the site and learn more about Emergent International Payments at emergentpayments.com.


New Blog: Insights from Parker Street – The Origins and Interactions of Good Business That Create Growth