Biometrics IS the financial sector

“Have to update my chart again.”

C. Maxine Most of Acuity Market Intelligence. From https://twitter.com/cmaxmost/status/1418306725510193152

Since I’m treading into financial territory here, I should disclose that Bredemarket has financial relationships with one or more of the companies mentioned in this post. This is not investment advice, do your own due diligence, bla bla bla.

I don’t monitor the market enough to know if this is part of an overall trend, but there has been a lot of biometric and digital identity investment recently. Both Biometric Update and FindBiometrics (and other publications such as FinLedger) have written about some of these recent investments, and IPVM has published its acquisition analysis (for subscribers only). Here’s a partial list of the biometric and/or digital identity companies who have received new funding (via investors, IPO, or acquisitions) recently:

I am not a financial expert (trust me on this), but I suspect that these companies are benefiting from two contradictory factors.

  • The apparent WANING of the COVID threat suggests better market performance in the future.
  • Some biometric and digital identity investments are very attractive precisely BECAUSE of the COVID threat, and the resulting attractiveness of remote and touchless technologies.

Of course, markets run in cycles, and it’s hard to predict if this is just the beginning of money flowing to biometrics/digital identity companies, or if all of this will suddenly come to a grinding halt. Remember how hot so-called “fever scanners” were a year ago, until their deficiencies were identified? And remember how Microsoft was prompted to divest from Anyvision not too long ago?

It’s possible that a number of external factors, such as an increase in government bans of facial recognition use, consumer resistance to digital identity, or the entry (or re-entry) of much larger players into the biometrics and/or digital identity markets, could dampen the revenue hopes for these funded companies.

Of course, investors are used to analyzing risk, and in many cases the investments with higher risk can yield the greater rewards.

It’s all just a game.

You will soon deal with privacy stakeholders (and they won’t care about the GYRO method)

I’ve written about the various stakeholders at government agencies who have an interest in biometrics procurements- not only in this post, but also in a post that is available to Bredemarket Premium subscribers. One of the stakeholders that appeared on my list was this one.

The privacy advocate who needs to ensure that the biometric data complies with state and national privacy laws.

Broken Liberty: Istanbul Archaeology Museum. By © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1115936

If you haven’t encountered a privacy advocate in your marketing or proposal efforts…you will.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has appointed Christopher Bramwell as the Department of Government Operations’ first privacy officer….As privacy officer, Bramwell will be responsible for surveying and compiling information about state agencies’ privacy practices to discern which poses a risk to individual privacy. He will also work with the personal privacy oversight commission and state privacy officer to provide government privacy practice reports and recommendations.

Obviously this affects companies that work with government agencies on projects such as digital identity platforms. After all, mobile driver’s licenses contain a wealth of personally identifiable information (PII), and a privacy advocate will naturally be concerned about who has access to this PII.

But what about law enforcement? Do subjects in law enforcement databases have privacy rights that need to be respected? After all, law enforcement agencies legally share PII all the time.

However, there are limitations on what law enforcement agencies can share.

  • First off, remember that not everyone in a law enforcement database is an arrested individual. For example, agencies may maintain exclusion databases of police officers and crime victims. When biometric evidence is found at a crime scene, agencies may compare the evidence against the exclusion database to ensure that the evidence does not belong to someone who is NOT a suspect. (This can become an issue in DNA mixtures, by the way.)
  • Second off, even arrested individuals have rights that need to be respected. While arrested individuals lose some privacy rights (for example, prisoners’ cells can be searched and prisoners’ mail can be opened), a privacy advocate should ensure that any system does not deny prisoners protections to which they are entitled.

So expect to see a raised concern about privacy rights when dealing with law enforcement agencies. This concern will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based upon the privacy (and biometric) laws that apply in each jurisdiction, but vendors that do business with government agencies need to stay abreast of privacy issues.

A little more about stakeholders, or actors, or whoever

Whether you’re talking about stakeholders in a government agency, stakeholders at a vendor, or external stakeholders, it’s important to identify all of the relevant stakeholders.

Or whatever you call them. I’ve been using the term “stakeholders” to refer to these people in this post and the prior posts, but there are other common terms that could be used. People who construct use cases refer to “actors.” Marketers will refer to “personas.”

Whatever term you use, it’s important to distinguish between these stakeholders/actors/personas/whatever. They have different motivations and need to be addressed in different ways.

When talking with Bredemarket clients, I often need to distinguish between the various stakeholders, because this can influence my messaging significantly. For example, if a key decision-maker is a privacy officer, and I’m communicating about a fingerprint identification system, I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about the GYRO method.

My time wouldn’t be wasted effort if I were talking to a forensic examiner, but a privacy advocate just wouldn’t care. They would just sit in silence, internally musing about the chances that a single latent examiner’s “green” determination could somehow expose a private citizen to fraud or doxxing or something.

This is why I work with my clients to make sure that the messaging is appropriate for the stakeholder…and when necessary, the client and I jointly develop multiple messages for multiple stakeholders.

If you need such messaging help, please contact Bredemarket for advice and assistance. I can collaborate with you to ensure that the right messages go to the right stakeholders.

Three recent #DNA stories

By Zephyris – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15027555

Over the last few days, I’ve run across three stories that deal with two aspects of DNA collection: familial DNA, and DNA mixtures.

Familial DNA

(This case was mentioned on Forensics and Law in Focus, a recommended read for all sorts of forensic techniques.)

Of all of the biometrics, DNA has a property that the others don’t: the similarity of DNA between family members. Someone finding my child’s fingerprints won’t necessarily be able to find me, and even someone who finds my child’s face won’t necessarily be able to find me.

But 84 year old Raymand Vannieuwenhoven is on trial for a 1976 murder because of DNA similarities in families.

Vannieuwenhoven is accused in the July 9, 1976, murders of a Green Bay couple who was camping at McClintock Park in the Town of Silver Cliff. David Schuldes, 25, and Ellen Matheys, 24, were shot and killed at the campground….

A DNA profile obtained through evidence was already on file with the State Crime Lab, according to previous testimony….

Baldwin explained how a breakthrough came in 2018 when Parabon Nanolabs of Virginia developed new technology to examine DNA evidence, which could provide certain genetic characteristics of possible suspects through DNA….

On Dec. 21, 2018, Parabon contacted Baldwin and informed him that a possible suspect was found through the DNA testing. He said they gave him a Green Bay-area family—the Vannieuwenhovens—that had four sons and four grandsons who possibly could be a match.

The detectives then had to test the relatives and compare their DNA to the crime scene DNA. But not ALL of the relatives: this was solely used as an investigative lead, and there was no point in testing the grandsons for a 1976 murder. Raymand was one of those whose DNA was collected (by having him lick an envelope to seal it), and the probabilities indicated a match.

Obviously this technique has controversy in some quarters, since the family members who originally provided the DNA had no idea that it would be used to arrest (or, in some cases, exonerate) another family member in this way. But the technique is being used.

By the way, Vannieuwenhoven was found guilty, and the 84 year old may be sentenced to life in prison.

DNA mixtures

The other story concerns what can be found when a DNA sample is collected. The DNA sample may contain a lot of things, from a lot of people.

With improvements in DNA testing methods, we don’t need much DNA to make a profile and see perhaps if I am a likely contributor to that sample or if you have contributed — even if you never touched the table directly. That level of DNA profiling is useful for many different types of crimes, but also brings up the issue of relevance. We aren’t explaining how DNA got to a location. 

As an example, a single item at a crime scene may include the DNA of the person who committed the crime, the crime victim, an innocent bystander who touched the area in question before the crime was committed, and (if the police officer was careless) the police officer investigating the crime.

Now you have to look at the DNA sample that was collected. With DNA mixtures, this gets tough.

If single-source DNA is like basic arithmetic and a two-person mixture is like algebra, then a complicated mixture is like calculus!

The quotes above are from John Butler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who has a concern about how all of the different laboratories interpret DNA mixtures. Ideally, all labs should work together to have a consistent, verifiable way to interpret these mixtures.

We wanted to see if there were established methodologies that worked better than others when tested, and where those limits were being drawn. What we found is that there is not enough publicly available data to enable an external and independent assessment of the degree of reliability of DNA mixture interpretation practices.

NIST, as it does in other areas, seeks to advance the science, and is urging stakeholders to work together to do so.

But wait; there’s more on DNA mixtures!

While NIST has been conducting the work above, the National Institute of Justice have been funding other work.

Michael Marciano, research assistant professor and director for research in the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute (FNSSI) within the College of Arts and Sciences, and Jonathan Adelman, research assistant professor in FNSSI, have invented a novel hybrid machine learning approach (MLA) to mixture analysis (U.S. patent number 10,957,421). Their method combines the strengths of current computational and expert analysis approaches with those in data mining and artificial intelligence.

Marciano and Adelman received funding from the National Institute of Justice to further develop their idea in 2014. Although this intellectual property has not been fully developed for commercial use, they are pursuing funding to transition the technology. Once this is done, they are hopeful that the new method will be used throughout the law enforcement and criminal justice communities, specifically by forensic DNA scientists and the legal community.

Actually, once the intellectual property has been developed for commercial use, it will NOT be used THROUGHOUT the law enforcement and criminal justice communities. It will be used by PORTIONS of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities, while OTHERS within the community will use commercial products from competitors.

Commercialization of a product actually works AGAINST universal acceptance, except in very limited cases. Take commercialization of fingerprinting products. As Chapter 6 of The Fingerprint Sourcebook details, independent research was performed in four separate countries (France, Japan, the UK, and the US) which, after commercialization, led to three (now two) separate fingerprinting products: NEC’s product from Japanese research, and IDEMIA’s product from separate French (Morpho) and United States (Printrak) research. This initial research, combined with subsequent research that led to additional products, led to an interoperability issue, despite efforts from NIST to advance greater inoperability.

Will NIST have to do the same thing to reconcile competing DNA mixture analysis methods?

The 28th parallel

Black wildebeest. By derekkeats – Flickr: IMG_4955_facebook, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14620744

My Bredemarket activities allow me to eat my own wildebeest food, trying out activities that I can potentially duplicate for my clients.

One of these activities is a content calendar, in which I strive to balance my own content between the various foci of Bredemarket. This ensures that I don’t neglect talking about certain things that I do.

One problem that I DON’T have is generating enough content about identity topics. In fact, over the last few days I’ve built up several posts that discuss identity. Under normal circumstances, it would take a couple of weeks to post all of them.

I’m not going to do that.

I’m going to post several of them this afternoon. Especially since a couple of them are interrelated, and it’s easier to interrelate things when you post them at about the same time.

Be prepared for the identity posts that will appear on the Bredemarket blog, and in the relevant (i.e. identity-related) social media channels.

Will this abundance of content result in MORE engagement, or LESS? (Not that I’m planning to create 100 posts over the next couple of hours, but perhaps some may be overwhelmed.)

In case you’re interested in the entire slew of content, I’m going to tag all of this afternoon’s posts with the tag 28thparallel.

And if you have to ask whether I’m referring to the 28th parallel north or the 28th parallel south, the answer is…north.

Stay tuned.

Technology without a revenue plan will not survive

This tweet is trending.

And while Confidently Zay is missing the old MySpace, I myself run in circles that miss the former social service FriendFeed.

So what happened to these two innovative services?

  • Well, Tom may be long gone, but MySpace still exists today. It is branded as part of the “People / Entertainment Weekly Network.” And there are a number of people on the network, like a guy with the name Kanye, another guy with the name Avicii (yes I know he’s dead, but he has a MySpace profile), and others.
  • As for FriendFeed, if you try to go to friendfeed.com you end up at facebook.com. The service survived for several years after Facebook acquired it, but Facebook finally shut down the servers in 2015.

Let’s dig into the details of why these services are not what they used to be.

So what happened to MySpace?

At one point MySpace was the king of all social media, having acquired the title from Friendster. After being founded in 2003, it boasted one million members in 2004 and 16 million users in 2005, and was recognized as the social network until Facebook surpassed it in users in 2008.

MySpace offered several advances over Friendster, including an emphasis on scalability and the inclusion of various tools to allow people to build their own personal communities.

Yet MySpace’s founders chose to sell the service to News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch’s outfit) in 2005 for $580 million. A few years later, in 2011, News Corp. sold it again…for only $35 million. Tom, who stayed with the company after News Corp. acquired it, retired in 2009.

Why did Tom et al sell the service to News Corp. in the first place? And why did News Corp. buy it?

  • For the owners of Intermix (the company that ran MySpace), the attraction was money. MySpace wasn’t a big money-maker; recorded monthly revenues in March 2004 were $135,000. Presumably it made more money in future months, but even as late as December 2004 the service was only valued at $46 million. After the sale to News Corp., Tom Anderson signed an employment agreement giving him $30 million.
  • As for News Corp., it didn’t acquire MySpace for MySpace. It acquired MySpace because it added value to the Fox properties.

“Intermix is an important acquisition for News Corp., instantly doubling the number of visitors to our sites and providing an ideal foundation on which to meaningfully increase our Internet presence,” News Corp.’s Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.

Basically, MySpace was worth more as a feeder to Fox Sports et al than it was as a standalone service. And it became worth even more when it inked a lucrative $900 million advertising deal in 2006.

But as MySpace enjoyed the profitability it never had in its first year, its original users were being driven away.

MySpace became inundated with intrusive ads, many of which led to dubious pages asking users to sign up for credit cards and other services. Money was hemorrhaged out of developer resources as a “massive spaghetti-ball mess” of sections were created to try and generate revenue that would meet News Corp’s unattainable targets. Ultimately, a failure to focus on what its community wanted and the usability of the site saw users leave for other platforms.

Now the common version of the story is that Confidently Zay’s MySpace utopia was ruined by Murdoch’s takeover. In this version of the tale, Moneygrubbing Murdoch killed the golden goose.

The truth, however, is that the utopia of MySpace was ruined by its founders BEFORE Murdoch came on the scene. After all, if the original MySpace had enjoyed nice profits, Tom et al would never have had to sell the service to Murdoch in the first place.

Let’s face it: the Confidently Zay version of MySpace that had no ads was never going to survive anyway, unless the founders had come up with another monetization method. They didn’t.

When Murdoch’s company sold the firm, and when it was sold again, MySpace was rebranded as a music site, and survives as such today. But Tom’s out taking scenic photos, so he’s happy. Maybe he even bought a new t-shirt.

Whoops, I guess he didn’t.

And what happened to FriendFeed?

As News Corp. was working on monetizing MySpace, and Mark Zuckerberg was planning for Facebook world domination, other social media services entered into the fray.

In 2006 and 2007 alone, three notable services were launched: Twitter, Tumblr, and FriendFeed. Today Twitter is by far the most popular of the three, Tumblr is still around somewhere, and FriendFeed no longer exists.

Even those of us who used FriendFeed often forget this, but FriendFeed actually started as a feed aggregator. It wasn’t known for content creation, but was instead known as the place where you could share all of your social content from other services. The benefit was that readers didn’t have to visit every single walled social service to see your content; they could see all of it on FriendFeed. This in itself was a relatively new concept, as “lifestreaming” became a thing.

Eventually FriendFeed expanded from resharing content from other places began to host original content…coupled with new innovations:

When I post something to FriendFeed, all of my friends see it. If one of them comments on it or “likes” it, then two things happen that don’t happen on Facebook. First, our conversation suddenly appears in the news feed of all the friends of the person who commented on my item – whether they know me or not. That doesn’t happen on Facebook. I can see the names of people who comment on my friends’ items – but if my friends comment on items shared by their friends I don’t know – there’s no notification of that in my news feed.

Second, whenever anyone comments on or “likes” any item that’s appeared in my stream of friends’ updates – it’s pushed back up to the top of my FriendFeed page. That makes it all the more likely that I will comment on it again or for the first time.

This 2009 comment highlights two things that are common in social media today, but were rarities 12 years ago.

  • Liking things. Yes, FriendFeed pioneered the “Like” button, although other companies (including Facebook) quickly copied it. There used to be a video that noted one FriendFeed user had amassed tens of thousands of likes. Now everyone does it.
  • Dynamic feeds. Previously, feeds were chronological and static, but FriendFeed advanced some changes to the feed, including one that was very unpopular with certain segments of the FriendFeed community: updating of those static feeds as new content was posted. And, as noted above, comments and likes could also push old content to the top of the feed.

When dynamic feed updates, Michael Arrington (who was still with TechCrunch at the time) talked about it.

Of course, the impact of the innovation is dampened somewhat when you read the post today, because FRIENDFEED NO LONGER EXISTS. But you get the drift.

So FriendFeed was clearly innovative. In addition to the advances that I noted above, FriendFeed was also extremely stable, especially when compared to “fail whale” Twitter.

Revenue-wise, however, FriendFeed was subpar. During its existence before its acquisition by Facebook, FriendFeed had only participated in one funding round, and in that case the funding was from the founders. In terms of establishing a constant revenue stream, FriendFeed claimed to be ahead of other “lifestreaming” services (Plaxo, Iminta, Socialthing, Lifestream.fm and Zude). But FriendFeed had other competition:

However, Facebook, MySpace and Google are all ahead in the battle to become the preferred aggregators of social data, which is crucial if they are to build any significant revenue streams.

And while MySpace wasn’t exactly innovating at the time, Facebook and Google definitely WERE, with Facebook experimenting with the like and eventually acquiring FriendFeed itself. Google, of course, would launch Google+ in 2011 in an attempt to create a social network that united all of Google’s disparate services.

As it turned out, FriendFeed’s founders decided to cash out rather than try to keep FriendFeed independent. The founders stayed with Facebook for a while before leaving, but worked on projects other than FriendFeed for their new corporate overlords: Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed was clearly a talent acquisition, although most of the talent (Benjamin Golub being a notable exception) has long since departed.

FriendFeed’s founders were clearly cool technologists. Ironically, they were such cool technologists that they could have lived on their past glories (Gmail, Google Maps) and didn’t NEED for FriendFeed to make money. Perhaps that’s why a revenue model never really entered the equation.

How Facebook was different

In the Internet world, companies fail more often than not. Those companies that survive and thrive for years are rare. For every Microsoft and Apple (formerly Apple Computer) there is an Ashton-Tate or Lotus.

And in the world of social networking, Facebook (and probably Twitter) are unusual.

Why did Facebook survive while MySpace declined and FriendFeed disappeared?

While technological advances and scalability obviously contributed, the important thing about Facebook is that it established a recurring revenue stream. Five years after Facebook was founded in a dorm, it turned a profit from “from applications sold through the website and online advertising.” This ability to generate its own profits, rather relying on funding from outsiders, allowed Facebook to continue to expand. While short-term profits were bumpy around the time of Facebook’s IPO, the company weathered this storm. These days, revenues are…pretty good.

The founders of MySpace and FriendFeed could only dream of such revenue numbers.

Or, more accurately, they DIDN’T dream of those revenue numbers.

This is just a reminder of something that I’ve seen in a lot of situations: the coolest technology won’t amount to anything if it doesn’t produce revenue.

Biometric (and other) authentication CAN be spoofed…but it isn’t easy

A few days ago, Liam Tung of ZDNet wrote an article entitled “Windows 10 security: Here’s how researchers managed to fool Windows Hello.”

Those who read the title of the article may conclude that biometrics is a terrible authentication method because it can be spoofed.

Just a picture of candy. Nothing special. By Jebulon – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27753729

Well, until they come to the third paragraph of the article.

The attack is quite elaborate and would require planning, including being able to acquire an infrared (IR) image of the target’s face and building a custom USB device, such as a USB web camera, that will work with Windows Hello. The attack exploits how Windows 10 treats these USB devices and would require the attacker to have gained physical access to the target PC.

Of course, if the target is a really important target such as a world leader, it might be worth it to go to all of that effort to execute the attack.

However, the difficult attack would be much more difficult to execute if the authentication system required multiple biometrics, rather than just one.

And the attack would be even more difficult still if the authentication system employed multiple authentication factors, rather than the single “something you are” factor. If you have to spoof the fingerprint AND the face AND the driver’s license AND the five digit PIN AND the geolocation, and you don’t know in advance WHICH factors will be requested, it’s still possible to gain access, but it’s not easy.

(Bredemarket Premium) Getting competitive proposals WITHOUT submitting a FOIA request

One of the best ways to get competitive intelligence on a competitor is to request the competitor’s response to a government agency procurement, such as a proposal submitted in response to a Request for Proposal. This is done by submitting a request via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or equivalent.

One note: this technique primarily applies to government agency procurements, since governments are often required by law to disclose this information. Bids submitted to private entities usually remain private.

Of course, actually getting the competitor’s response isn’t easy.

  • First, you have to submit the request in the proper format.
  • Second, you have to be detailed in what you are requesting, and you need to request everything that you want: the actual proposal itself, any follow-up correspondence such as a best and final offer, the agency’s evaluation score, and everything else. If you only request the original proposal, the agency is only obligated to provide the original proposal, and nothing else.
  • Third, you have to wait for the agency to prepare a copy of the proposal. Depending upon applicable law, the bidder may be able to redact portions of the proposal, and it usually takes some time for the agency and the bidder to agree on what can legally be redacted.
  • Fourth, you may have to pay (usually on a per-page basis) to receive the materials.

This entire process may take several months, and you can’t even request the material until after the procurement has been awarded, or perhaps contracted.

But guess what? You don’t always have to submit a FOIA-like request to get a copy of a proposal submitted to a government agency.

By Neep at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3309749

And no, you don’t have to break the law; these proposals (and other valuable documents) can be obtained legally and ethically.

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I just re-rejoined the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. So what?

Remember my Tuesday post about the controversy regarding the possible name change of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals to the Association of Winning Business Professionals? And how the upcoming Denver conference of the organization (whatever its name is by October) might be…interesting?

By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11357434

Anyway, it turns out that I will have an inside view of all the brouhaha.

Why?

Because I have rejoined (actually RE-rejoined) the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. (Or at least that’s what the organization is called right now. The name may change, of course.)

Why does my renewed membership in the Association of Proposal Management Professionals matter to Bredemarket clients? And how can it benefit those who DON’T use Bredemarket for proposal services?

I’ll tell you why/how in this post.

So I re-rejoined the APMP

As I previously noted, this will be my third term as a member of the APMP (or, membership Version 3.0).

Covers from early APMP conference booklets, including the cover for the conference that I attended in San Diego in 1999. From https://www.apmp.org/page/ConferenceArchive
  • I initially joined the APMP while I was a proposal writer at Printrak, but I let my membership lapse when I became a product manager. I couldn’t justify having my employer pay for a proposal organization membership when I was a product manager who only occasionally contributed to proposals. (Although some of those proposals, such as West Virginia’s first state AFIS, were critical to the company.)
  • I subsequently rejoined the APMP when the initial MorphoTrak corporate reorganization resulted in my move from product management to proposal management. After joining in 2012, I (again) let my membership lapse in 2015 after I became a strategic marketing manager, because (again) I couldn’t justify having my employer pay for a proposal organization membership when I was a marketing manager who only occasionally contributed to proposals. (Although some of those proposals, such as Michigan’s first cloud AFIS, were critical to the company.)

Obviously, back in those days corporate reimbursement for professional memberships depended upon the policies of the corporation in question. Well, now I’m not an employee of a large corporation, so I don’t have to justify my memberships to a corporate supervisor or accountant. Instead, as a sole proprietor I have to justify my memberships to myself (and the Internal Revenue Service, and the California Franchise Tax Board).

And since much of Bredemarket’s consulting revolves around proposal services, it makes sense for me to re-rejoin the APMP.

But it turned out that I couldn’t just send money to the APMP and be done with it. As an ex-member, there was an additional step involved.

If you are a former member but cannot access your account, PLEASE: Do not register as a new member….If you cannot access your past email address, contact our Member Services team (or call +1 866/466-2767, then dial 0). Within one business day (or sooner), you will receive a link with which you can pay for a new membership using your existing account.

So I contacted APMP’s Member Services team, who associated my lapsed membership with my NEW email address.

And I paid my dues, time after time, I’ve done my sentence but committed no crime…whoops, I seem to have digressed from the discussion of my new APMP membership. But in my defense, I’m not the first to associate the old Queen song with the APMP.

Anyway, I’m now an APMP member…again.

Just call me 3143. (Want to fire up a copy of Microsoft Word 97 while you do that?)

The one big difference between APMP Membership Version 3.0 and Versions 1.0 and 2.0 is that these days I am not EXCLUSIVELY dedicated to proposals. After all, I am not only the (self-styled) biometric proposal writing expert, but also the biometric content marketing expert. (With similar expertise in marketing and writing for technology firms and general business firms.)

In fact, I guess you could say that I am a general expert in…winning business.

So what?

Since I spend so much of my time talking about benefits, I’m sure that some Bredemarket clients are asking about the benefits to THEM of my APMP/AWBP/whatever membership. Yes, this internal dialogue is taking place with some of you right now.

ME: “I am a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals again!”

YOU: “So what?”

Yours truly in a small group (I’m on the right) at the 2014 APMP Bid & Proposal Con in Chicago. Photo source: the gallery at https://www.apmp.org/events/event_photos.asp?eid=379324&id=130518 Fair use.

To answer this, I’ll state that my APMP membership will benefit my clients because I can provide them with superior services—superior proposal services, AND superior non-proposal services—that will help my clients to, um, win business. (As you’ve probably already noticed, I’ve found myself using those words a lot over the last few weeks.) My renewed affiliation with APMP will reintroduce me to beneficial outside education, general knowledge, and contacts.

  • For my Bredemarket clients who depend upon me for proposal support, the benefits are obvious. The things that I learn (and relearn) from APMP will help me provide better contributions to my clients’ proposals, hopefully helping the clients secure more proposal awards and business.
  • But there are benefits for my Bredemarket clients who DON’T depend upon me for proposal support, but instead depend upon me for content marketing or other marketing and writing services. The same strategies and tactics that contribute to a more effective proposal can be extrapolated to apply to other areas, thus contributing to better white papers, better case studies, better blog posts, better social media posts, better marketing plans, etc., etc., etc. Again, this can help my clients win business.

We’ll have to see exactly HOW my APMP membership directly benefits my Bredemarket clients.

Stay tuned.

How can small and smaller businesses market themselves?

While Bredemarket sends its solicitations to a (targeted) group of businesses, Bredemarket itself receives solicitations from other businesses. However, sometimes it seems that the solicitations that I receive aren’t targeted that well.

(Of course, perhaps some of the recipients of my solicitations would claim that my targeting attempts are also deficient, so I should watch out about casting stones.)

If you ignore the completely off-the-wall solicitations that I receive, some of the more serious solicitations just do not match Bredemarket’s needs.

For example, I’ve received at least one pitch from a company that offers to provide all of the human resources services that Bredemarket needs for a low monthly fee.

By Alan Cleaver from Whitehaven, United Kingdom – Interview, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57309901

A fine service to be sure…but since Bredemarket is a sole proprietorship that doesn’t engage other people as either employees or subcontractors, a human resources service would be overkill.

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a “small business” as a company with fewer than 1,500 employees and an average of $38.5 million in average annual receipts. My one-person company certainly has fewer than 1,500 employees, and I’m probably not revealing any confidential information when I say that Bredemarket’s average annual receipts are less than $38.5 million.

So I guess Bredemarket is a “very” small business.

But there are even smaller businesses.

Nano-small businesses of the past

Just to put things into perspective, Bredemarket has a city business license, has filed a fictitious business name statement with San Bernardino County, has a published address at which it receives mail, has received an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and files quarterly estimated taxes with both the IRS and California’s Franchise Tax Board.

Years ago, I operated a much smaller business that didn’t have any of those things.

Specifically, I was a paperboy.

Several decades before my time, but you get the drift. By Ruddy, Marjorie Georgina (1908-1980) – Whitby Public Library, Reference No. ruddymg_050_002, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4548723

Way back in the Dark Ages (before the Kardashian/Jenner women became famous independent of O.J. Simpson), newspapers were delivered by people under the age of 18. These days, the few physical newspaper deliveries that I see are performed by adults driving cars and throwing papers out the window. Former papergirl Molly Snyder explains the shift:

The shift in carriers’ age was due partly to the disappearance of evening newspapers that provided student-friendly delivery times. The accessibility of internet news, growing concerns for the safety of un-escorted kids, and new distribution procedures also affected the change.

“To remain profitable, we phased out the ‘neighborhood shacks’ and home drop offs and migrated to larger distribution centers dealing solely with adult distributors,” said Ronald Zinda, distribution supervisor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of 45 years.

Nano-small businesses of the present

Even with the disappearance of paperpeople, there are a number of jobs today that fly under the radar of the Internal Revenue Service, city business license departments, and other government regulatory bodies. Here are a few examples; while some of these types of business may actually comply with government reporting requirements, many of them don’t.

By Nalbarian – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95136303
  • The person on the street corner selling fruit treats.
  • The person on the street corner selling flowers.
  • The teenager who comes up to your door selling candy for a school club, a sports team, or as part of a supposed program to keep kids out of trouble by having them walk around neighborhoods and sell stuff after dark.
  • The person who sells homemade crafts.

Bredemarket can’t really serve these nano-small businesses. When your products (fruit treats, flowers, or whatever) only cost a few dollars, you’re not going to pay Bredemarket hundreds of dollars to create content for your website or social media outlet. In fact, you probably don’t even HAVE a website or a social media outlet.

Which businesses NEED Bredemarket’s services?

Let’s move up a step and look at small businesses that have an established online identity, do their best to comply with business requirements, and meet the IRS definition of a (non-hobby) ongoing concern.

Now any of those businesses COULD use Bredemarket’s services…but many of them don’t NEED Bredemarket. A number of small businesses are doing just fine in meeting their business goals, and are perfectly capable of taking care of the written communications necessary to keep the business profitable.

But what about the businesses that have particular goals that they can’t meet? Specifically, what about businesses that need targeted, regular online content to make customers aware of the business, but the business owners don’t have the time (or the inclination) to create the necessary online content?

By Unknown author – postcard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7691878

If you own a business and need a consultant to help you create online content for your website, your Facebook or LinkedIn page, or for another communication method (even paper), Bredemarket can help. My “What I Do” page lists the types of written content that I can create for your business, including both short length (400-600 word) and medium length (2800-3200 word) content. (No, I don’t author individual tweets, but I guess I could author a thread if you like.)

If you’re interested in using my marketing and writing services, talk to me. I can collaborate with you to ensure that your business goals are met and your business messages are disseminated.

My minority opinion on the APMP-AWBP brouhaha

About a month ago, the Association of Proposal Management Professionals posted this video on its YouTube channel.

It did not go over well.

Before discussing what the video said and why it’s controversial, I’ll explain my perspective on proposals, which helps to explain why I am happier about the move than some other people.

My five year itch, times two

Back in the summer of 1994 I had left my previous job and was consulting when I learned about an opportunity to write proposals for a company called Printrak. I had never written a proposal before, and the one Request for Proposal (RFP) that I had written basically consisted of a long checklist for which prospective vendors indicated what they could and couldn’t do. (Some vendors checked every box without reading them. None of them won the bid.)

I didn’t get that consulting opportunity, but Printrak had a second opportunity later in the year and I got that one. (Yes, proposal manager Laurel Jew was so outstanding that it took two people to replace her when she went on maternity leave.)

As it turned out, both myself and the other consultant ended up becoming employees at Printrak, and (if I may say so myself) valuable members of Printrak’s Proposals Department. The company was winning bids, and after a few years I joined the Association for Proposal Management Professionals, eventually going to the San Diego conference.

But after five years, I got an itch. (Five years, not seven years.)

By Published by Corpus Christi Caller-Times-photo from Associated Press – Corpus Christi Caller-Times page 20 via en:Newspapers.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37860629

I began to feel that there were limitations in proposals. The process that LEADS to a proposal is a long process; those familiar with the 96-step Shipley Business Development Process know that the Request for Proposal isn’t even released until around step 64. Yet in most cases, the proposals team didn’t even get involved until step 64, when the salesperson announced, “Hey, here’s an RFP. Win it.”

I wanted to move to the left of the timeline.

So I became a product manager.

I was a product manager for about a decade, but due to a corporate reorganization, I landed back in Proposals again. I enjoyed the work, and got to manage proposals for some new products, including my company’s first cloud solutions. My APMP membership had long since lapsed, but I rejoined the organization, ending up at the Chicago conference. I also participated in local chapter events, first via ESRI headquarters in Redlands, and later at my own company’s headquarters in Anaheim.

But after five years…I got the itch again.

This time I ended up in strategic marketing, and also performed significant work in product marketing, event marketing, and later competitive analysis and corporate strategy.

After leaving IDEMIA, I’ve found myself doing a variety of things, some of which involves proposal work. In some cases I’ve been confined to responding to RFPs or writing sole source letters, but at other times I’ve been able to perform more strategic duties that affect in the long term how companies…um, win business.

So from my perspective, the name change of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals to the Association of Winning Business Professionals appealed to me. There are a variety of ways to win business, and proposals is just one of them. From my perspective, it even tied in to past APMP efforts, including the 2013 creation of the Center for Business Development Excellence.

So I was delighted with the news.

But others weren’t.

The majority opinion on the APMP-ABWP brouhaha (but is it truly the majority?)

In this section of my post, I will be quoting liberally from a petition entitled “Call to stop rebranding and to commission an external audit.”

Note that this isn’t just a call to stop the rebranding. It’s one thing to object to an organization’s decision. It’s another thing when there’s a demand for “an external audit.” Money talks.

This is the expressed opinion of a number of APMP members. As you’ll see below, it’s not necessarily the opinion of ALL of the APMP members. Nevertheless, the petition writers are not happy.

To set the stage, the video at the beginning of my blog post appeared with great fanfare on June 21….and appears to be a surprise to the petition writers and the APMP members in general.

The APMP Board of Directors (BoD) led by the CEO (‘the Leadership Team’) has attempted to change APMP’s long-established name, brand, and positioning – the name change undermines the very purpose of the organization and the voluntary work that many of us have done over more than 20 years to promote the profession of proposal management….They announced this fundamental ‘rebrand’ through a faceless, poorly crafted 2-minute-video on social media. When members began airing their concerns on the very same platforms, the Leadership Team largely refused to openly address these concerns.

For what it’s worth, that original 2-minute video currently has 6 likes and 23 dislikes. Not a huge sample, but clearly those 29 people who chose to express an opinion expressed a negative one.

Incidentally, as of today, the most recently posted minutes for the Board of Directors dates from March 2021. The rebrand was NOT mentioned in those minutes.

By June 24 (three days after the original 2-minute video announcement) another video was posted to the APMP account, announcing a “pause” in the rebranding and the establishment of a “brand transition council.”

That video currently has 36 likes and 4 dislikes. Of course, it’s impossible to tell whether people liked it because of the promise of more deliberation, or that the people liked it because they hoped that the APMP would stay the APMP.

But wait, there’s a more!

A new video was posted on June 28, with twice the number of speakers (Rick Harris joined Krystn Macomber). Macomber repeated her comments from June 24, and Harris emphasized this, while using the words “moving forward” to describe where the APMP (or whatever it will be called) is going.

That video currently has 16 likes and 2 dislikes. The one thing that you can conclude from this is that there is now YouTube fatigue from all of these videos being posted.

But the positive reactions (albeit in limited numbers) to the most recent videos didn’t stop the petitioners from developing their petition.

Even after the members voted “no” to the proposed name change, the Leadership Team wants the Brand Transition Council to come up with suggestions on next steps to find a ‘compromise middle ground solution’. The survey results and the reaction of a large number of members on social media channels should be enough to illustrate to the leadership that this proposed change is ill-considered and ill-judged to say the least.

The petition goes on to request “an immediate and complete stop of the entire rebranding initiative for at least 1 year,” and also requests that the Brand Transition Council appoint an independent auditor. (It’s not exactly clear how the Brand Transition Council can do anything if all rebranding activities are being stopped, but that’s a semantic quibble. And why should proposal/winning business professionals care about semantics?)

As of now, the petition has 185 signatures.

As of 2019. the APMP had 9,487 members. Even if all the YouTube likes, LinkedIn votes. and petition signatures are all added up, the vast majority of the thousands of APMP members has not expressed ANY opinion on the issue.

It’s a safe bet that a large number of the members aren’t aware of either the proposed name change or the controversy surrounding it, since they’re busy…writing proposals and winning business (in one order, or in the opposite order).

But as more and more members hear about the controversy, I expect that there will be renewed interest in this October’s Bid & Proposal Con in Denver.

By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11357434

This year’s conference will be…interesting.