here.This morning I spoke with four entrepreneurs covering a wide range of businesses from an inventory optimization SaaS to an e-commerce site that creates a keepsake of your child's artwork. They each have different choices to make right now. Move to a different platform? Go nonprofit? I developed my Web 3.0 framework to help entrepreneurs make the right choices moving forward. You can find my Web 3.0 formula
John Krech kicked things off with Phitch. This SaaS business offers easy inventory optimization for businesses using QuickBooks. This is a validated business with a few dozen customers who are charged a monthly fee based on the number of inventory items the business is tracking, making this service affordable for very small businesses who also happen to be QuickBooks' best customers.
Sramana Mitra is a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She has founded three companies and writes a business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy. She has a masters degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her three books, Entrepreneur Journeys, Bootstrapping, Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction, and Positioning: How To Test, Validate, and Bring Your Idea To Market are all available from Amazon. Her new book Vision India 2020 was recently released. Mitra is also a columnist for Forbes and runs the 1M/1M initiative.
Recently John has been getting requests to expand Phitch to work with other platforms, but this is really not the way to go. John has carved out a nice niche for himself - very small businesses that use QuickBooks - where there is not much competition. QuickBooks is widely deployed with millions of users and John says he enjoys a good relationship with QuickBooks. There will be much more competition if he builds compatibility with the platforms used by larger companies. John's current positioning for very small businesses is very compelling and I encourage him to continue to focus on QuickBooks' customer base. In fact, he has the right solution for many of the e-commerce entrepreneurs who have pitched at these 1M/1M roundtables and I encourage him to reach out to them as well.
Heidi Allstop introduced Spill, an online community that offers peer-based mental health support to college students. Heidi explained that there is a lack of mental health services for college students, and even though the universities have a serious interest in providing them to the students, budgets sometimes go unspent. Spill offers a student 24/7 anonymous access to a group of peers on campus to get advice, tough love, a shoulder, etc., and Heidi provides the school with useable data drawn from the interactions.
With a pilot program in place at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and four other institutions, and seven more being set up over the summer, she seems to have a good proof of concept. Her question is if she should become a nonprofit and I don't think that is the way to go. Two reasons: More talented people are attracted to working for a for-profit business than a non-profit. Also, as a for-profit you are not depending on the charity of others, and charity is not reliable. As a for-profit, Heidi has the opportunity to build a stronger foundation for creating a solution that many more schools and students can benefit from.
Heidi needs to discuss pricing ideas with the decision makers at these different schools to figure out what kind of pricing model will work best. She needs to continue moving through the process of validating her business by finding out what her customers are willing to pay and if a repeatable pricing model can be established.
Then Catherine Byers Best presented Arbez. Catherine is an experienced recruiter who has developed a video curriculum based on all the speaking events she has held in recent years sharing her coaching and career advice. I told her this sounded very similar to the pitch on Careerealism I heard during a roundtable just a few weeks ago and encouraged her to take a look.
After further clarification, we narrowed her target customer down to career offices at various institutions of higher education. She has just started having preliminary meetings with those offices to discuss her system for private labeling. I'm not completely convinced myself, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. I told Catherine that if she can close five deals in order to further validate her business idea, then she should come back to me at a future roundtable and I can tell her exactly what to do.
Last up was Dana Hostage pitching her e-commerce business Artimus Art. This idea was a favorite of those participating in the chat today. Parents send Dana a collection of their child's artwork and she will do a high-resolution scan of each item and pull it all together into a high-quality book of art. She also posts the artwork on a Web gallery to share with family and friends.
Since she launched in 2007, other copycat competitors have popped up, which concerns her. When I told her I didn't think a large number of people would be willing to pay so much for this service, she pushed back saying she is okay with this remaining a small business, which of course is perfectly fine with me too. We agreed this is more of a high-end service for parents, so how to reach them while bootstrapping the business is the question. She said she has had some success getting PR placements in the past, and I really think Dana needs to take a more systematic public relations approach and be very diligent about it moving forward. That should help create the word-of-mouth momentum she needs.
These roundtables are the cornerstone programming of a global initiative that I have started called One Million by One Million (1M/1M). Its mission is to help a million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond, build $1 trillion in sustainable global GDP, and create 10 million jobs.
In 1M/1M, I teach the EJ Methodology which is based on my Entrepreneur Journeys research, and emphasize bootstrapping, idea validation, and crisp positioning as some of the core principles of building strong fundamentals in early stage ventures.
If you are an entrepreneur working on an idea or an early stage business, I am also very interested in hearing what you are looking for from 1M/1M. Please weigh in here. We are crowdsourcing the design of 1M/1M, and requests that have come up include Receivables Financing as a way to bridge to a validated business without giving up precious equity, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Photo by Sigurd Decroos.