Monday, 29 September 2014

Market size: what's totally addressable (dude)

For some months now I've been wondering how med-tech startups were able to claim such huge global market sizes, and then I read this post from EC1 Capital. If I understand the definitions discussed in that post, then I've been using tiny Total Addressable Market numbers where I could have used much, much, much bigger numbers. As in several orders of magnitude bigger.

Med-tech companies sometimes quote global market sizes in trillions of dollars, which can only be the amount being spent on health or medical-related activity. So the equivalent for TwoTen...

Our product is designed for primary schools, nurseries & families, so we could use the same logic to claim that it has a total market size in the UK alone of over $100bn. I think.

This figure is derived as follows:

the estimated cost to parents of bringing up a child to age 21


divide by the number of years to get a per annum figure


Multiply by 5.2m - the number of households with children aged 10 or under (our target age group)


Add in primary school state funding (approximates to the primary school budget)

Average funding per school £4100, times approx number of pupils 4.4m

=£18bn (those are figures just for England rather than UK, so this total is low)

Total figure, which excludes nurseries and private schools to avoid any double counting of parental expenditure, is then


which in USD means our market size, just in the UK


An 18* multiple seems fair for extrapolating the global market size. Conveniently, yay! Turns out we're also targeting a global market worth trillions of dollars!

This huge number makes for an interesting contrast with the financial figure we would normally quote. It's from a report from analysts ABI Research, which estimated the global market for parental control software will grow to a rather dull


by 2018.

Again, based on the EC1 article, I think it's appropriate to use that as a starting figure for TwoTen's global Total Addressable Market (TAM) -  a starting figure because it excludes revenue sourced from schools, nurseries, mobile partnerships and special use cases. But still, that means our TAM is around only 0.1% of the market size derived above.

So while it's tempting to emulate those med-tech startups and use the big number, ours was always the more realistic and informative, simply because we can grow to dominate that dull figure, as all of it is expenditure on what we do (only we're doing it better, of course ;) ). On the other hand we would never, ever take more than a tiny fraction of that hugely cool first number, which includes spending on food, clothes, housing, primary and nursery staff wages, etc..

Similarly the med tech market size figure contains huge elements of expenditure that they can't expect to replace; nursing staff wages, medicines, food, power, buildings; so their figure might look impressive, their TAM is certainly smaller - and if they can't find a suitable analyst report, they're welcome to just apply our neatly calculated 0.1%.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Stopping PDF encryption hurting your productivity

Here's how to get around copy and paste issues with text from a protected PDF. No programming talent required (which is good, is not a talent I have...). Sharing this knowledge may put me in contravention of some anti-consumer law somewhere, I don't know, it's a weird world.

Scenario: my partner was working on updating a report, reusing and updating material from an earlier report produced by a colleague. This earlier report was only available as a PDF and it turned out this PDF had protection enabled to prevent copy and paste. Now, I could either let her manually type out the material (amounting to quite a few pages of text) or I could find a way around it.

Simple it turns out to be...

In summary: convert the PDF to an image and feed it into an OCR engine. With care on the PDF to image conversion, and presuming a decent font/typography in the original PDF, the resulting OCR output should be near 100%.

There's a bunch of ways this can be achieved, what follows is the process I used (which should be more or less applicable anywhere, but was done with Linux on my partners XPS15). You should be able to more or less cut and paste the following commands to achieve a similar outcome on your own machine, once you've got the right software installed (tesseract and ghostscript).

First convert the PDF to an image (the TIFF format was used here as the PDF was multipage):

gs -o /path/to/outputfile.tif -sDEVICE=tiffgray -r720x720 -g6120x7920 -sCompression=lzw /path/to/inputfile.pdf

Then run OCR software to convert the image to txt:

tesseract /path/to/outputfile.tif /path/to/ocroutputfile

Done. One text file, simply and cleanly formatted, containing all the text from the protected PDF. All DRM can be defeated this easily - if you can see it, it can be copied.

NB If in another scenario if you needed the final output to be more nearly a copy of the original PDF you'd need to involve OCR layout functionality - but much of that's doable with Tesseract by changing the output format to hOCR. And then, if you really wanted to, you could use hocr2pdf to recreate the PDF...

Friday, 18 April 2014

Thoughts for startups (no. 6)

"Nine-tenths of tactic were certain enough to be teachable in schools; but the irrational tenth was like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and in it lay the test of generals."
 T.E.Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

A quote from that Lawrence, from his book that became the basis of the film Lawrence of Arabia. This is as true now in a business context as it was then and now in military campaigns.

You can't teach that vision element of strategy; an MBA can give knowledge that helps prevent mistakes, to understand laws and financial accounts, and provide tools to help you analyse how the organisation or a team or a product line are performing, and how that performance might be improved; so much can be taught in an MBA. Maybe a good MBA can help you to execute

But what can be taught is Lawrence's nine-tenths; but you need the vision, the deep inner understanding of your company's strengths and weaknesses, of what your product will become, of your market, the future. You need the irrational tenth

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thoughts for startups (no. 5)

There's a fairy tale, made famous by being included in a Brothers Grimm collection, called The Brave Little Tailor. A very, very short version goes like this:

There was a little tailor and the flies are bothering him. He strikes out and kills 7 with one blow. Impressed with himself he makes a belt inscribed with this achievement

"killed 7 with one blow"

He encounters a giant who, assuming the claim on the belt means men, challenges him to a competition of strength. The giant squeezes a drop or two of water from a stone; the tailor squeezes a rock (a cheese) and gets more drops of whey; the giant throws a rock a long distance, the tailor throws a rock (a bird) which disappears into the distance, etc..

Various other things happen and eventually he beats some giants who are terrorising a kingdom and gets half the kingdom in return.

The appearance of a great achievement becomes a great achievement, once the tailor is given a chance. But right at the beginning it all depends on him presenting his achievements to date in the best possible light. Let's call this his traction...