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Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: YCombinator vs. 1M/1M

February 2nd, 2012 02:30 admin View Comments

shutterstock round table 150.jpgToday’s roundtable, as usual, was an international affair, with entrepreneurs presenting from different parts of the US, India, Israel, and many other geographies. Before I share what we heard from them today, I want to highlight an important aspect of 1M/1M that is repeatedly underscored in these roundtables: the international, inclusive, democratic nature of the initiative.

In fact, one of the best ways we can delineate this phenomenon is by contrasting 1M/1M with YCombinator. (Video after the jump.)

This short video explains how the two programs differ:

Bottomline: YC, superb incubator, is a program that applies to less than .01% of entrepreneurs, whereas 1M/1M is an inclusive, global program. The businesses we will discuss today will put this distinction in perspective.

Hooduku

First, Sudhendra Seshachala from Houston, Texas pitched Hooduku, a professional services business that already has significant revenue from cloud integration work. Hooduku is a 1M/1M premium member and is interested in moving away from pure services toward a product+services model.

Sudhi presented the idea of a platform that bridges between Microsoft Azure customers who are also using RackSpace and other Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers for their content management and delivery. He uses a classic and highly successful mode of building products, that of being deeply immersed in customer situations through services projects and using that domain knowledge and relationship to identify opportunities for building products. A major example of such a company is Appirio, which went on to get funded by Sequoia Capital and has since built a strong product-services company in the cloud integration domain.

My advice to Sudhi is to not position his company as a ‘platform’ but rather pitch the value proposition as an ‘integration framework’. These subtle wordings make a huge difference in how a company is viewed.

Buy Or Boycott

Next Doug Lowenthal from Jacksonville, Florida presented Buy Or Boycott, which he came up with at the recent Startup Weekend program. Buy Or Boycott wants to offer consumers an easy way to avoid buying products that have major issues, be it political or environmental. However, the user experience that Doug described to deliver this was not convincing. He proposes to offer a mobile app with which to scan every product in your grocery store shopping cart. I don’t believe consumers would do this. When we stand on grocery store lines after a long day or week, the last thing we want to do is scan a bunch of products with our mobile phones.

NXI Group

Then Kaushik Mitra from New Delhi, India, pitched the NXI Group of Companies, a custom hardware vendor that presented itself as a laptop and tablet company. It took me a bit of time to parse through the details and figure out that NXI is NOT a laptop or tablet vendor competing with HP, Dell and Acer. Rather, it is developing custom hardware for consumers with specific needs. For example, they are in the midst of developing RFID-enabled tablets for the universal ID effort by the Indian government.

Kaushik’s company already has $400,000 in revenue, and while the business is not a typical venture-fundable one, I see no reason why the company cannot continue to grow in its niche.

Koolaring

Last, Edoe Cohen from Tel Aviv, Israel pitched Koolaring, a SaaS solution for building private alumni networks a la LinkedIn. I have seen numerous startups with this general idea. It makes perfect sense for universities to have their own private alumni networks, and it is only a matter of time before they do. Whether Koolaring will be the winner in that space or not will depend on execution.

So you see, I just shared with you four businesses, none of which would suit YCombinator for a variety of reasons outlined in the video. However, 1M/1M is delighted to help any and all of them.

You can listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here. As always, I would very much like to hear about your business, so let me invite you to come and pitch at one of our free 1M/1M public roundtables. We will be holding future roundtables on the following dates starting at 8:00 a.m. PST:
Thursday, February 9, Register Here.
Thursday, February 16, Register Here.
Thursday, February 23, Register Here.

If you want a deeper relationship with me, you are very welcome to join the 1M/1M premium program. If you have any questions about the program, please, first study the website, especially What to expect from the 1M/1M premium program and the FAQs. If you have additional questions, please email me, and I would be very happy to respond. Please note that I work exclusively with 1M/1M entrepreneurs.

I also invite you to join the 1M/1M mailing list for the ease and convenience of getting updates. This way we can stay in touch, and it will help you to decide if 1M/1M is a program for you.

Source: Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: YCombinator vs. 1M/1M

Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Microsoft’s $100K India Startup Challenge Grant

April 1st, 2011 04:00 admin View Comments

roundtable_indiaflag.jpgAt this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we announced our collaboration with Microsoft around a $100,000 grant that they are offering to four Indian entrepreneurs as follows: A $40,000 grant each to two entrepreneurs, one in Mobility and one in Cloud Computing; and a $10,000 grant to two entrepreneurs, also one in each of those two categories.

1M/1M will be working with Microsoft in helping entrepreneurs prepare for these grants. I will be traveling in India in April, and doing live roundtables in three cities: Chennai (April 9), Mumbai (April 16), and Pune (April 17). Girish Joshi, from Microsoft, will be attending the roundtables, and scouting companies for the grants with me. I will be reporting back on the companies we see on this column from the road.

Mango DVM

At today’s session, first up, Ramkumar RS from Chennai, India, presented Mango DVM, an innovative solution to turn vendors of illegal, grey market music to legal distributors using a combination of mobile apps and media server technology. Ramkumar has made certain pricing model and delivery model assumptions that are yet to be validated. We brainstormed about the risks of those assumptions. However, only the market can tell to what extent those assumptions will hold true.

3gSimplified

Next Jigar Doshi, also from Chennai, India, pitched 3gSimplified, in effect, a comparative shopping solution for mobile plans, which are apparently quite complex in the Indian market. As for business model, Jigar wants to sell services like refilling cards.

3gSimplified is a very early concept that has just launched, and the market feedback will be rolling in over the next few months. Our discussion today was around prioritization of the next few critical steps around customer acquisition and validation.

Report Bee

Then Balaganesh S., from Chennai, India, as well, discussed Report Bee, a data visualization solution for schools around report cards and student performance. Report Bee has two paying customers, and we discussed segmentation issues around where to focus for the early market penetration strategy. Clearly, affluent schools that can afford to buy technology, and also parents who have access to computers would be the best early adopters.

Swayam Foods

Janardhan Swahar from Salem, India, presented Swayam Foods, a health food company that is focused on the Indian palette across snacks, quick-to-prepare items, etc. The company has distribution through about 50 retailers in Chennai, and is looking for ways to market their product through online channels. We discussed guerilla p.r., product reviews through blogs, as well as SEO, blogs, and social media marketing.

Promedik

Last up, Rahul Mishra from Bangalore, India, pitched Promedik, a “decision support system” for physicians. I wasn’t convinced about the assumptions of the business – there are too many gaps and flawed assumptions around the source and the cost of the data upon which the product is built. I advised Rahul to study Epocrates as a model. I believe, trying to offer a reference manual may be better than trying to offer a decision support system, which is a much more complex value proposition that requires expert systems to implement.

Before I end, let me also point you to an interview we’re running on my blog with Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, which you may find enlightening.

Also, some of you have asked me questions about the 1M/1M Premium Curriculum, which I have addressed on the blog.

Next week, the 1M/1M roundtable will focus on entrepreneurs in East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. You can register for the next roundtable here.

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Source: Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Microsoft’s $100K India Startup Challenge Grant

Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: 75th Session Spotlights The Midwest

March 24th, 2011 03:45 admin View Comments

roundtable_sponge1.jpgThis week’s One Million by One Million roundtable was our 75th session, and we worked today with three entrepreneurs from the Midwest region of the United States. Our co-host for the program was TiE Midwest, based in Chicago.

First up, Priyanshu Harshavat, from Evanston, Illinois, presented Socioclean, a service for cleaning up your reputation on social networks. The company addresses a widely-experienced pain: employers are now using social networks for background check on issues such as comments about prior employers, substance-usage, and general image issues that may come across as red-flags to a prospective employer. Jobseekers, therefore, need help cleaning up their social media profiles so that objectionable material does not find its way to these background check scenarios, disrupting their chances of getting hired.

Socioclean already has about 25,000 users, and has good interest from a dozen colleges and universities who want to offer white label solutions through their career development offices. Monetization models, while not yet validated, can come from charging the customer base that is already acquainted with the service, as well as selling the white label solutions to colleges. In addition, Priyanshu is also considering an enterprise solution with the notion of cleaning up the profiles of employees (based on social media policies) of objectionable material.

The discussion today was around Social Media financing and go-to-market strategy. My assessment is that this is a good company that should be able to raise money at this point. Additional work in figuring out the precise go-to-market consumer, academic institution, or enterprise – each is a different business), and consequent business model and pricing model will help enhance the company’s valuation.

Spikeball

Next Chris Ruder from Chicago, Illinois, pitched Spikeball, a new volleyball-esque game that is being played at camps and college campuses. The game set retails online at $49.95, and about 2,000 unites have already been sold. Chris is primarily trying to assess his customer acquisition strategy, which requires that people see the game being played.

This pretty much rules out SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, etc. at this point, because no one is really looking for Spikeball online unless they have seen the game being played. Campus sales reps is a good strategy that Chris is experimenting with, as well as marketing to camp directors. I like these two strategies. The missing piece is getting reviewed by campus blogs and newspapers, which I advised Chris to look into.

Then Satish Tripathi from Skokie, Illinois, discussed Biomedical Consulting International Inc., a consulting company that provides consulting services in writing and reviewing regulatory filings and other kinds of highly specialized applications in the biomedical field. Satish has about 20 customers, and 60 consultants around the world. His customer acquisition strategy, however, needs a lot of work. Being a domain expert in the biomedical field, and not having much experience in marketing and sales, Satish is hitting the wall on business development.

I advised Satish to study his current customers, what problems his firm has solved for each, and create a target list of other potential customers with similar issues. Then we need to define a precise process of how to approach them, and how to make them aware of the firm’s expertise.

Next week, the 1M/1M roundtable will be co-hosted with TiE Chennai and TiE Mumbai. You can register for the next roundtable here.

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Photo by nazreth

Source: Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: 75th Session Spotlights The Midwest

Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Spotlight On India

March 10th, 2011 03:15 admin View Comments

roundtable_indiaflag.jpgFor this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we teamed up with the Indian Angel Network (IAN).

First up, Nimesh Khiara from Mumbai, India, discussed StopWaitin, a restaurant reservation system that includes managing waiting lists and is similar in concept to OpenTable. Nimesh has a couple of corporations that are interested in beta testing his solution to offer corporate discounts to their workforces, and a few restaurants are also interested.

One of Nimesh’s questions was that he is discovering that the BPO/call center industry does not give Internet access to employees; hence, the solution would not be accessible to them. Well, this is a clear indicator that he should avoid the BPO/call center industry and focus on industry segments where corporations not only provide Internet access to their employees, but the employees themselves are tech savvy. Fortunately, there are numerous such companies in India.

I advised Nimesh to focus on getting a couple of large corporations in Mumbai and a dozen restaurants in the beta program, and get the business going. As he grows, he can simply focus on increasing the restaurant portfolio and getting more corporate clients. I also advised him to avoid consumer marketing and market his service through the HR departments of the corporations as an employee benefit. It would be much cheaper to acquire customers this way.

FEED

Manivel Karuppasamy from Bangalore, India, presented FEED (Funding Entrepreneurs, Encouraging Dreams), a crowdsourced funding marketplace for India. I did not get the sense that Manivel knows anything about raising money for businesses, and he wants to cover not only entrepreneurial fund-raising but also funding for musicians trying to produce an album, and so on. That’s a broad charter, with huge scope, and I asked Manivel how he proposes to establish trust in the exchange and prevent fraud?

It turns out that Manivel has experience raising money from philanthropic projects from his alumni association, which gave me the idea that he could create and manage whitelabel exchanges on behalf of various alumni associations; this approach would have built-in trust and validation mechanisms to prevent fraud.

I advised Manivel to reposition his company to cater to institutes that want to develop private funding exchanges and conduct a thorough customer validation process based on that assumption.

Subscription Carpool Service

Next, Gurdip Singh from Gurgaon, India, discussed a subscription-based managed carpool service that would create groups of four people, each responsible for driving the others to work one week a month. The ROI is straightforward and compelling; however, how do you prevent people from finding their buddies to drive with and stopping the subscription?

Well, it turns out that Gurdip wants to do reconfiguration of alternatives if one day there is a no-show after 30 minutes, so that all his subscribers have rides without any disruption to their schedules. Now, this is a hard problem to solve, but I can see that if Gurdip can solve it, it would mean that the service is worth subscribing to on an ongoing basis. I advised Gurdip to figure out how he would do the reconfiguration because his business depends on cracking that nut.

i-Globify

Edward Varghese from New Delhi, India, pitched i-Globify, an outsourcing service catering to the niche travel vertical, focusing on building Web 3.0 back ends for medical, religious, sports, and other kinds of tourism solutions.

Edward has a medical tourism portal customer for whom he is building such a solution. I liked his approach to building an outsourcing solution: focusing on a niche and building in-depth skills and credibility within that vertical. I think that Edward can not only build a successful outsourcing services company based on this premise, he can also build an IP portfolio and potentially a platform product that would make it more compelling, specialized, and higher-margin business than any old labor arbitrage shop.

Next week, we are focusing on entrepreneurs in Latin and Central America. You can register for the next roundtable here.

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Source: Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Spotlight On India

Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Spotlight On The Northwest

March 3rd, 2011 03:30 admin View Comments

greennwmap.pngAt this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we put a special focus on entrepreneurs in the northwestern part of the United States, and we had three presenters, all from Washington.

The first, Nitie Mehta from Redmond, Washington, presented Dental Office Services, a business process outsourcing (BPO) concept targeted to help small dental offices handle their office management, financial processing, claims collections, and patient communication functions

Nitie is working with dentists to validate her assumptions about the service, and she is a member of the 1M/1M premium program. In the spirit of 1M/1M, I invited the audience to connect her with dentists in the United States who may be willing to speak with her and help her understand the specifics of what she needs to put together in her offering. And readers, I request you to do the same. Please feel free to e-mail Nitie with your suggestions through 1M/1M

Meanwhile, I also asked Nitie to look into what athenahealth offers in terms of dental practices since they are one of the most successful SaaS-enabled BPO companies in existence right now in the field of healthcare IT. It would be a good idea to explore what part of their technology could be used to deliver what Nitie wants to offer. You can read more about athenahealth here

We also had two other entrepreneurs who are working with the William Factory Incubator in Tacoma, Washington

Wise Mind Studios LLC

Scott Deutsch and Robin Deutsch with Wise Mind Studios LLC in Tacoma presented Life Skills Winner, a learning app to help autistic and developmentally challenged children learn certain skills. The app has just been released and has been downloaded about 250 times in a week, which is a good start

While I like the basic concept, the company needs to do a lot of positioning work. It’s a bit all over the place, trying to cater to everybody and their mother (literally), including refugees from developing countries. I advised them to focus on parents of autistic children of a certain age band, say 5 to 7 years. It is that kind of precision that will drive a focused go-to-market strategy

Orbiter

Then Greg Snead, also from Tacoma, discussed Orbiter, an RFID venture that is moving along quite nicely, having clocked more than $700,000 in revenue last year. The company has bootstrapped using services, a philosophy we espouse heavily in 1M/1M, and has simultaneously gathered a group of angel investors who are supporting it through the next phase.

At this point, Greg is in the process of bringing in two additional investors, and the primary topics of our discussion were valuation and ROI issues around the new investors. Orbiter expects to give its investors a 15 times return on investment based on their current pipeline and revenue forecast. If that does happen, I would say the investors will have done extremely well

Happy Grasshopper

In addition to the Northwest contingent, we had Dan Stewart from Safety Harbor, Florida, pitching Happy Grasshopper. Dan is also a premium member of the 1M/1M program and a serial entrepreneur, having done about seven companies so far.

Happy Grasshopper is an e-mail marketing service that assists real estate agents in reaching out to their networks and generating referrals. Dan is already seeing strong conversion from site visitors to free registrations (over 17%, which is excellent), and reasonable conversion from free to paid subscribers for the service. Dan wanted to know how to increase the conversion

My sense is that because Dan has such good ROI case studies, it would simply be a matter of showcasing these case studies prominently on the landing page and then focusing on increasing traffic flow into the site. We discussed a numbers of customer acquisition methods to do so. We also discussed Dan’s options vis-à-vis channel partners

Social Pulse

Up last, Thomas Vellaringattu from San Jose, California, pitched Social Pulse, a service through which he is helping small businesses that are not terribly net savvy set up profiles and use social media to market and curate relevant information to help them market

Tom wants to use college students and unemployed people and arm them with the Social Pulse platform, such that they can market the service in their local region, as well as make money by building and managing Social Pulse profiles on behalf of local small businesses

Tom has positioning issues and has presented Social Pulse as a much broader service than what it needs to be. We discussed ways to acquire small business customers and how to recruit college students through internships

Next week, we are going to partner with the Indian Angel Network for the strategy roundtable. You can register for the next roundtable here

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, writes the blog Business Strategy for Entrepreneurs and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Source: Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Spotlight On The Northwest

Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts

December 5th, 2010 12:55 admin View Comments

theodp writes Autodidacticism — self-education or self-directed learning — is nothing new, but the Internet holds the promise of taking it to the masses. Sugata Mitra, an Indian physicist whose earlier educational experiments inspired the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ is convinced that, with the Internet, kids can learn by themselves so long as they are in small groups and have well-posed questions to answer. And now, Mitra’s Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) are going global, with testing in schools in Australia, Colombia, England and India. On their own, children can get about 30% of the knowledge required to pass exams, so to go further, Dr. Mitra supplements SOLE with e-mediators, amateur volunteers who use Skype to help kids learn online.”

Source: Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts

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