This week’s roundtable was organized in collaboration with my partner MAD Incubator, a technology incubator in Malaysia that is dedicated to giving technopreneurs a chance to succeed and make a difference.
First up was Max Teoh presenting GetToDo, a real-time, vicinity-based sales and promotions solution for the Malaysian lifestyle market. It enables retailers and brands to promote their products to consumers interested in lifestyle products through Internet and mobile channels. In terms of target audience, the company targets trend-conscious Internet savvy consumers in the teenagers to working adult segments.
Max came with a few specific questions around pricing and content strategy. On pricing, his assumption is that retailers and brands will be paying for promotions, and he has checked with about 100 retailers and brands to validate this assumption. However, the pricing model he suggested – $.01 per minute of promotion highlight – doesn’t sit well with me. Elsewhere in the world, promotions pricing models generally revolve around CPM, CPC, CPA, and similar metrics. I have not seen a time-based promotion metric ever.
Even though Max wants to undercut the price-points of Google and Facebook, which may be a fine strategy, I just don’t feel comfortable about this cost-per-minute metric that I have not seen before. Readers, if any of you have seen it, please let me know. If not, then I would advise Max to stay within industry-standard pricing models like CPM, CPC, and CPA. Max also had questions about his user-generated content strategy, and how to ensure that UGC quality is maintained at a high level. Well, to that my advice is to introduce a layer of human moderation.
Next Tham Keng Yew discussed SocialWalk, a Web-based solution for managing conference and meeting registrations. Keng Yew has introduced a level of differentiation in this solution by helping the registrants connect with people with related interests from a business networking point of view, which I thought was quite clever. The company already has a number of good customers, and is a validated business.
His questions for me were around how to increase his sales momentum. Currently, most of their leads are coming in from referrals from event organizers. My response is to do a focused direct mail and email campaign, or even telemarketing campaign, targeting the conference and event organizers. We also discussed how to engage the attendee community further, and to that, my response was to build an event recommendation engine that promotes related events to their community.
Ooi Boon Sheng then presented Xilnex, a retail business software catering to the Malaysian SMB space. The company already has 200-plus customers, and a validated subscription-based business model. The product, however, needs some high-touch, hands-on support to drive adoption, which is why Ooi is selling the product through a couple of national distributors.
His problem is that distributors are lukewarm because of the low initial payment due to the subscription business model. Ooi needs to, therefore, make it as attractive as possible for distributors to sell the product, and the way to do so is to invest in some marketing and lead generation himself. And as the leads come in, pass them onto the distributors, so that they can service and convert those leads efficiently.
For a new product, the ISV needs to do some demand generation on behalf of the distributors, and thus make it worthwhile for the distributors to engage with them. And once again, direct marketing against very tightly segmented lists is one of the cheaper ways of demand creation.
Up last was Roslee Ali for Abbassy Sdn Bhd who has a comprehensive parking management solution. Roslee’s customers are municipal parking owners and also building owners with parking lots. There are about three existing competitors in the market who have deep relationships with the target customer base, even though their products are relatively simple, non-comprehensive, and commodity-based. Nonetheless, it is proving hard for Roslee to penetrate the market because the buyers tend to rely on these older vendors, and are reluctant to change into a new vendor or a new system.
My assessment on this scenario is that Roslee needs to partner with the existing vendors and extend their solutions, and sell to the customers with these vendors. Competing with them and trying to replace their solutions won’t work. We discussed a variety of issues about this business including financing and cash-flow challenges.
I started doing my free Online Strategy Roundtables for entrepreneurs in the fall of 2008. 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. In addition, we are offering entrepreneurs access to investors and customers through our recently launched our 1M/1M Incubation Radar series. You can pitch to be featured on my blog following these instructions.
Sramana Mitra is a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She has founded three companies, writes a business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy, and runs the 1M/1M initiative. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her Entrepreneur Journeys book series, Entrepreneur Journeys, Bootstrapping: Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction, Positioning: How To Test, Validate, and Bring Your Idea To Market and her latest volume Innovation: Need Of The Hour, as well as Vision India 2020, are all available from Amazon.
Photo by Ramasamy Chidambaram