Since starting RainmakerVT in February, this blog has been the neglected child, with no recent posts. For those still interested, I’ve moved it to a new blogging platform, Tumblr, and will begin posting new observations, rants, etc.

So, go to and sign up for the RSS feed and continue the journey with me.


Mike O’Horo and Craig Levinson are proud to announce that after a very smooth and painless gestation and delivery, their biz-child, RainmakerVT, arrived Friday, March 5 at 3:30pm PST. They announced no details, e.g., size/weight, etc., but assure everyone that parents and baby are all doing fine.

Here’s the first picture:

Unsurprising from such an aggressive marketing/sales pair, the new arrival already has a job: to bring virtual one-on-one training to 600,000 private-practice lawyers, whose business-development training needs have been under-served by the law firm marketing/sales support industry. After an appropriate development period, RainmakerVT will begin work this Summer.

Click to hear proud parent Mike O’Horo explain.

Those interested in following RainmakerVT’s progress are encouraged to subscribe to automatic updates at

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We’ve come full circle, i.e., back to the law biz, although in a completely different way.

Last June I had grown terminally stale with the lawyer training business, so I fired myself and set out to identify a new challenge/opportunity. My strategy was to insert myself into a vibrant idea stream and see which ones interested me and were aligned with my skills and experience. I created this blog to share the journey with those interested.

At the time, I speculated that industries undergoing the most wrenching change might logically offer such opportunity because they were completely redefining themselves. Through November, I investigated four emerging sectors: electric cars, sustainable construction, wireless media and education.

While I accomplished the easy goal of reinvigorating myself intellectually via the robust idea stream in those sectors, I learned that my strategy was sound but my timing was off. Each of those emerging sectors are at an early stage of evolution, e.g., proof-of-concept, early prototype or research grant stage; none were yet experiencing the kinds of strategic- or systemic sales problems that I solve. It will be awhile before they need someone like me.

I remain confident of the economic viability of SpeedRaceway, our electric go-kart track in Denver, however, my desire to participate actively conflicted with the control-freak founder, so I’ve gone back to being a passive investor.

A month or so ago I was trading ideas with Craig Levinson, who was a frequent client in the lawyer-training biz and who has become a good friend during that almost-decade. We discovered a glaring weakness in the introduction processes included in sites like LinkedIn and others, a weakness that we can solve by automating one of the core processes in my longtime ResultsPath training program. We decided that this would be a worthy venture, i.e., fun to create, having a big economic upside, and delivering positive social impact, e.g., connecting the unemployed and under-employed with those who need their skills the most.

In the course of looking for a co-founder with the technical capability to build and iteratively develop the product, I met Brad Doyle, of LightSpeed Marketing Group, the marketing arm of LightSpeedVT. During my site visit, I saw that LSV has the most sophisticated virtual training I’ve ever seen, that Brad has a brilliant subscription economic model, and has mastered the art of selling the training online. His virtual training has helped multi-level marketers recruit, engage and retain their distributor networks, adding hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental revenue. NADA is about to make VT available to all 16,000 US car dealers. Two years ago, General Motors took a look at his sales training and decided they could build it themselves; this year they acknowledged that they couldn’t and signed on for Canada, then expanded it to a global program.

As we walked through his production facility, I mentioned that of the 1.2 million licensed attorneys in the US, about 600,000 are in private practice, and roughly 500,000 of those practice solo or in very small firms, e.g., 20 or fewer. Further, that market is almost completely ignored by sales trainers and consultants because cost of sales is too high relative to these small firms’ buying power. However, when you leverage modern technology and sell virtual training to these lawyers online via credit card, you can provide high quality training/coaching at a very modest individual monthly subscription, e.g., $50 (which is less than coffee money), and do very well on the aggregate revenue from tens of thousands of subscribers.

When I said that I had legal industry visibility, an established brand, a proven training program and 18 years worth of content to monetize, his eyes lit up and he said, “Let’s do it.” We shook hands on a revenue- and equity-sharing deal (which we’re papering now) and we’re gearing up to go to market in 60-90 days.

What we’re going to do is “virtualize” me, i.e., make it possible for thousands of lawyers virtually to have a 1:1, interactive training/coaching session with a video “me” via the Internet, 24/7. For a better explanation than I could write here, click to hear poker star Daniel Negreanu’s description of the virtual poker training that Brad’s group created for him.

We’re about to raise a modest amount of capital to finance development and launch. To avoid violating securities laws, I can’t put particulars in this post, but would love to speak with you about the opportunity if you’re receptive.

I’ve been dark on this blog since mid-September, which is kind of embarrassing, but it’s been for the best.

Of necessity, my investigation of opportunities in industries transforming as a result of the seismic macro-economic shift is on hold for the rest of the year. I have a real live project to absorb my energies, and one in which we have a very real, and sizable, stake.

Many of you, noticing my pronounced orientation toward — not just on this blog but in my Tweets and Facebook posts — and knowing what a car junkie I’ve always been, have encouraged me to focus on the emerging EV industry. I’ll grant that I find that absolutely fascinating, but hadn’t yet found the right spot to apply my skills and interests.

Perhaps I now have, albeit on a much smaller scale. In this case, literally.

Suzi and I invested in an indoor electric go-kart track now under construction in Highlands Ranch, an affluent Denver suburb. Speed Raceway, as it’s to be called, will be the first green racetrack in the U.S. We’re pursuing for our build-out, and will use sustainable processes and materials throughout.

If your last ride in a go-kart was as a kid at the county fair, or even if you’ve been on one of the more modern gas go-karts, you’re in for a huge surprise — and an even bigger grin — when you ride electric karts. The typical gas go-kart, once it builds up RPMs and gets up to speed (no minor item for a full-size adult) goes about 12 mph. Our electric karts go 45 mph, immediately. You know when you turn on an electric bench motor? There’s no warmup; it’s instantly on, at full power. Same with these karts. You mash down the pedal and you’re flying — silently, cleanly, safely, with no noxious exhaust fumes.

We have big plans for a unique customer experience, too, that I’ll get into more as things unfold. But here’s one example you can chew on now (pun intended): The food at our concession will not be the typical junk food served at entertainment venues, but tasty, healthy and, in many cases, organic.

For now, I’m just happy for the opportunity to get serious about the smile-delivery business.

Among the more stimulating blogs occupying my RSS reader is Kevin Kelly‘s KK Lifestream. One specific post a couple of weeks ago — Maximize the opportunities of others — really got me thinking about how I might solve the “reinventing Mike” challenge, particularly this (abridged) aspect:

In every aspect of your business (and personal life) try to allow others to build their success around your own success. If you run a hotel, what can you do to permit others–airlines, luggage retailers, tour guides–to be part of your network?

You want to entice others to create services centered around the customer attention you have won, or to supply add-ons to your product, or even, if it is a new-fangled idea, to create legal imitations.

When confronted with a fork in the road, if all things are equal, go down the path that makes the opportunities of others plentiful.

This got me wondering: Could my dormant asset, i.e., the core decision processes from my sales training regime, enable me to create something that others could build on and thereby magnify?

To understand my thinking, please indulge me in a brief background explanation.

In the ’80s, two very smart guys and IT lifers, Garret Sheldon and Dennis McDaniel, invented a reliable people-process to help stakeholder groups make informed, trusted, sustainable decisions quickly, using internal talent. [They had previously proved its adaptability and effectiveness worldwide: Former mainframe computer maker Amdahl licensed it globally; its sales force used it to help IT executives make IT investment decisions that aligned with corporate strategy.]

Garret, Dennis and I had met many years before but had lost touch.  They reconnected during the dot-boom and asked me to help them adapt their decision process for web delivery. While updating me on their progress since the early version I’d last seen, we discovered that the core elements of their group decision process aligned exactly with the diagnostic and prescriptive thought processes and principles underpinning my sales training approach.

I asked some of their decision clients who had used these decision processes to assess their practical and economic impact. Their almost uniform estimate was “an order of magnitude” (10x) decrease in the difficulty and time required to make a decision and the same degree of improvement in the decision’s reliability, i.e., ability to retain buy-in and support during implementation. Finally, most estimated ROI at 10x total process cost, which included internal executive time.

I’ll end this backgrounder by saying that we were tardy to the late-’90s capital-raising party. Starved for cash and having invested way too much of our own money in development and biz dev, we put the web-enabled decision technology in cryogenic freeze and retreated to our respective consultancies to lick our wounds and repair our personal finances.

Fast forward to KK’s blog post and you see where I’m going with this. Could the web-enabled DecisionSCAN technology (as it was then branded) serve as the central engine around which we could build the kind of value constellation KK encouraged?

I buried myself in research to find out whether or not

  1. this issue would yield a reliable Demand Trigger, i.e., organizations acknowledged that decision-making was difficult enough to be a real problem, or was merely a solution in search of a problem,
  2. it had a high-enough Cost of Doing Nothing, i.e., was of sufficient strategic, operational, economic and personal impact that the cost of not acting on and investing in solving it was unacceptable
  3. our own decision process could expose and facilitate sufficient stakeholder alignment for them to make a decision and take action on it.

Next: Unearthing the potential Demand Trigger needle from the Google haystack.

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Every day, the argument over how best to power the U.S. economy while minimizing environmental damage, economic burden and dependence on hostile energy sources rages in the blogosphere and specialized media.  All bear at least some evidence of the authors’ interest in protecting one sacred cow or another.

Some tout the political advantage of making us less captive to Middle East politics through increased domestic oil production.  Others somehow claim that the (admittedly abundant) domestic coal supply that has blackened our skies and poisoned miners for decades is suddenly “clean coal.”

There is a growing conversation around electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles as a way simultaneously to dial back oil consumption and carbon emissions, and create new domestic jobs from EVs and the necessary recharging infrastructure.

Others argue equally passionately in favor of “renewables” such as wind, solar, biofuels, wave power, seismic activity and other, even more exotic, solutions.

I have no idea which are or will become most feasible, economic or available.  If I did I’d be investing everything we have in that winner.  Absent such clarity or certainty, I’m pleased to see the Department of Energy, under its key alternative fuel and fuel economy legislation, funding a wide array of prototypes and experiments in parallel, recognizing that only vision, time, technological progress and failure will sort this out.  (I guess it’s a high-stakes form of crowd-sourcing.)

One completely fresh approach (at least to these amateur eyes and ears) from Solar Roadways, described in an August 28 post in AutoblogGreen as “Tarmac 2.0,” is to replace asphalt surfaces with solar road panels to create intelligent roadways, driveways and parking lots that will solve multiple problems simultaneously:

  • collect solar energy to power businesses and homes
  • replace aging roadways
  • replace power transmission (telephone poles and overhead wires) and roadway information infrastructure, e.g., static signage
  • prevent snow/ice buildup
  • enable EVs to recharge along the highway
  • improve driving safety and provide up-to-the-minute driving info
  • produce 3x the amount of more power than we’ve ever used as a nation – almost enough to power the entire world

Solar Roadways recently was awarded $100,000 in seed funding from DoE to produce a prototype.

Watch the video to understand what looks like a truly creative concept, and one that the founder claims can be implemented with existing technologies.

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Catching up on some neglected categories in my RSS reader last night I came across this August 17 Techdirt post by Michael Masnick.  It’s written about the newspaper industry, but it immediately brought to mind widespread behaviors and attitudes I observed in my former domain, law firms.  (I suspect it would be equally applicable to many more categories, too, but I’ll only claim knowledge of the law firm world.)

I encourage my former clients and colleagues to read the post, shown below in its entirety, ignoring the literal example of online content, but otherwise substituting “law firm” wherever you see “newspaper.”

There’s this concept out there in the newspaper world, pushed by Alan Mutter more than any other, that the “original sin” of the newspaper industry was failing to charge when they put their content online. This is simply wrong. Many did try to charge, and they failed, because no one paid. However, Steve Buttry has a post making a much better point. The real “original sin” by newspapers wasn’t failing to charge, but failing to innovate. Basically, the entire competitive landscape and the entire marketplace they were used to changed. Entirely. And nearly all of them seemed to think that they could get by doing the same basic thing they had always done.

These days, they’re blaming everyone else for their problems: bloggers, readers, Craigslist, Google, some unknown “aggregators.” But the simple fact is that these newspapers were incredibly fearful of innovating themselves, and basically let all those other sites online do the innovation for them. And now they’re upset that the traffic goes to the innovators? At every turn in the game they were free to innovate themselves. They didn’t. To then step up late in the game and look for legal and regulatory support to hold back those who did innovate seems inherently ridiculous.

When the bottom fell out of the legal service demand market, many law firms acted as if they could get by doing the same basic things they had always done.  They cut costs and evinced the posture that they could ride out the crisis, with the implied return to normalcy (read: business as usual) at some point.

Many have their “blame lists,” too.  They include clients’ budget cutbacks, rising associate salaries, inordinate rainmaker power/mobility, escalating overhead, etc.  Peel the onion, though, and a closer, honest look reveals an almost complete lack of innovation.  Law firms have affirmatively resisted change throughout their histories.  Even allowing for the cultural effects of the precedent-oriented nature of the law itself, this is still a woeful record of intractability.

It’s not too late, my friends, to accept that the game as you knew it for X decades is over, never to return, and try to leap ahead on the innovation front.  Think boldly:  What will a law firm have to look like to satisfy the needs of its entire ecosystem of stakeholders, i.e., lawyers/staff and their families, clients, suppliers, and their surrounding communities?

As always, I welcome fresh thinking, amplification, disagreement, brickbats — whatever you think.

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I’ve only been following the EV space for a couple of months, but sporadic announcements had already given me a sense that, despite the growing economic and political significance of environmental issues, with the exception of the much-heralded press darling, Tesla, the popular press was largely ignoring the state of progress on this important front.

So, today I Googled “2010 EV launch U.S.” and the results confirmed my vague sense.  The specialty online press is robust and all over this sector.  Here is a sampling of just the individual makers’ announcements.  (This does not include the many parallel announcements of EV recharging infrastructure development, which gained temporary notoriety recently when the mayors of Seattle, Portland and San Diego engaged in some media smack talk about who would be first to claim the title of most EV-supportive city.)

According to the director of EV [electric Vehicles] solutions at the California based company Aerovironment, full EVs currently in the development stages and expected to be ready for production within the next three years outnumber the plug-in hybrids and EREV [extended range electric vehicle] expected to reach the market within the same time frame. Aerovironment director Kristen Helsel said, “I thought the majority would be plug-in, but by our numbers, 60% are full EVs vs. plug-ins.”

  • August 23, 2009: According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the Warren Buffet-backed Chinese automaker BYD has moved up its plans to sell a fully electric car right here in the United States next year. Interestingly, the automaker had originally planned to sell its first products here in the U.S. in 2010 before delaying that projection by a year. The new announcement puts BYD back on track for its initial target of 2010 and, perhaps not coincidentally, in line with the launch of the new Nissan Leaf.
  • August 22, 2009: Electric Cars: Mitsubishi (Now), Nissan 2010, BYD 2010, Toyota 2012, Honday by 2015
  • July 27, 2009: Nissan today revealed its electric-vehicle platform on a Vera-based prototype, showcasing its pure zero-emission vehicle ambitions which are expected to hit the U.S. and Japanese market as early as next year.
  • June 4, 2009: A California upstart plans to bring an all-electric sedan to market by the end of 2010.  Coda Automotive will initially sell the 100 mile range car only in California, for a $45,000 pricetag.
  • June 4, 2009: Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the maker of Subaru automobiles, today announced the launch of its Subaru Plug-in STELLA electric vehicle (EV), which is equipped with a high-performance lithium-ion battery. The model will be sold in Japan directly through FHI. Delivery will start from late July and around 170 units of delivery in total will be planned in this fiscal year (by the end of March 2010). After-sales services will be provided through some Subaru dealerships designated by FHI.
  • May 18, 2009: Chrysler is getting charged up about electric vehicles.  In a surprise move, last year, the ailing American automaker rolled out a trio of battery-powered vehicles that it announced would go into production during the coming decade.  Vice Chairman Jim Press has since said that one of them is set to debut as early as 2010.
  • April 20, 2009: As we draw closer and closer to the Chevy Volt launch day, we might wonder if GM has an exact target date within November 2010 for the launch. Greg Ceisel is the Volt Program Manger. I asked him whether GM will begin to ship Volts to dealers closer to November 1st or November 30th. “The exact date in November is about the middle of the month,” he said. “There is a target date. In this program, every hour is scheduled.”
  • December 12, 2008: Following its debut at the London Motor Show earlier this year, Britain’s answer to the Tesla Roadster, the Lightning GT electric sports car, is expected to move to the next stage of development in 2009. The team behind the Lightning GT has announced that they will be producing two prototypes by the second quarter of 2009, with a view to start the first customer deliveries in early 2010.
  • October 22, 2008: Chrysler has announced plans to launch its PeaPod electric car worldwide in 2010. The compact city EV will be available as a one-seater, a two-seater or a utility van, at prices starting from around $20,000.
  • September 25, 2008: Chrysler LLC announced today that the Company and its ENVI organization have new production-intent, advanced electric-drive technology packaged in three different vehicles – one for each of its brands, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge.  Chrysler will select one electric-drive model to be produced in 2010 for consumers in North American markets, and European markets after 2010. Additionally, approximately 100 Chrysler electric vehicles will be on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development fleets in 2009.
  • July 25, 2008: Daimler was not so forthcoming about their EV Smart till it didn’t pass around a hundred tests or so, and apparently since the car has done sufficiently well in those tests, the car will be on the roads by 2010. This tit-bit was announced by none other than the company CEO Dieter Zetsche.
  • June 19, 2008: General Motors and Toyota have are already that they are moving forward with their plug-in hybrid plans for 2010, and it looks as though at least one more automaker will be joining the party. Volkswagen has announced that it will be launching three hybrids in 2010 – including one plug-in – alongside an all-electric vehicle.
  • Think is back, part of an apparent resurgence of interest in battery-powered electric cars.  The Norwegian electric car maker, once owned by Ford and headquartered, briefly, in Southern California, has announced formation of Think North America with plans to begin selling a sub-$25,000 EV in the U.S. in 2010.

For car junkies who may fear that the evolution away from the internal combustion engine (ICE) would mark the end of exciting cars, the good news is that EV performance figures are amazing.  The instant-on, full-torque nature of electric motors produces stunning acceleration and torque.  Further good news is that these cars are good looking.

Let the future begin.

For some time now (much longer than I’ve been following the space, I’m sure), the tech blogosphere has been vibrating with a really robust debate about the proper role of intellectual property protection in the age of “infinite goods” on the Internet.

At the risk of gross oversimplification (and irritating the hell out of the IP lawyers I worked with), the gist of the two sides’ positions seems to be along the lines of:

  1. Copyrights, patents and the like are necessary protection to allow innovators time to recoup their investment.  The absence of such would inhibit innovation.
  2. In its current form, IP protection actually serves as a barrier to innovation.  The “patent system is fundamentally broken and clearly hinders innovation much more significantly than it helps it.”

I’m neither a lawyer nor a technology inventor, so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do have many friends who are stakeholders across the spectrum — some who perceive that the current system helps them (and innovators generally), and some who perceive the opposite.

For those interested, today’s Techdirt blog post offers a reading list that seems fairly comprehensive.  You decide.

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Those who have been following this blog since I fired myself from the lawyer training biz to seek out my next big thing may recall that my expectation was that, by following the conversations in a handful of industries undergoing transformational change, I would spot a high-impact problem I could solve (in the parlance of my former business, a Demand Trigger) and that would form the basis of a new venture.

I still believe that’s true, however, after absorbing information through a firehose since June, I’m reminded of some wisdom repeatedly offered by my friend, Mike Shetzer, who raises capital for some truly unusual stuff: “Whatever it is, it will take twice as long and cost twice as much as the entrepreneur projects.”  Right again, Mike S.

It seems that demand-triggering problems are easier to spot in mature business categories, perhaps because more of the conversation is centered on problems, whereas in emerging industries the conversations seem more frequently to be about opportunities, milestones, etc.  Why, you may ask, would conversations about opportunities not be exactly what I’m looking for?  IMHO, if people have already found the opportunity, I’m inherently trailing the play. I realize that I might recognize a way to improve someone’s approach to their opportunity, but it’s been my experience that, until a strategy or tactic proves itself deficient, there is limited appetite to challenge it.

Now, it may simply be that I’ve not yet figured out how to leverage “opportunity” conversations as well as I know how to do so with “problem” conversations, and I may have to learn how to break out of an old thought pattern to get out of my own way.

So, I guess it’s back to crowd-sourcing.  (With a nod to Blanche DuBois, I’ve always been comfortable depending on the kindness of strangers.)

Here is a short (certainly not exhaustive) list of industries that I perceive as undergoing fundamental change:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Automotive
  • Media, publishing
  • Mobile tech

What do you see as some of the most significant strategic or operational issues/decisions facing these industries?

What information sources would you suggest to help me answer this question for myself?

To whom would you encourage me to speak to progress down this path?

Thank you in advance for your thoughts, suggestions and, where needed, bops upside the head.

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