At today's roundtable, we discussed three major trends and opportunities for 2012 and also worked with an entrepreneur from Europe.

Social Contacts

Our audience of readers is full of entrepreneurs. And what do entrepreneurs do? They market and they sell. Well, at the very heart of the marketing and selling problem is the concept of lead generation. Once upon a time, it was a rather straightforward exercise of collecting names and mailing addresses, and then running direct mail campaigns. As the Internet became mainstream, this was largely replaced (at least in the universe we live in) by email marketing campaigns, so the key information was the email address of a lead.

Today, the problem has once again changed definition. Suspects and prospects are everywhere in the vast realm of social media, watching, reading, commenting, engaging. And to engage effectively with them, we need to reach them through all those various channels.
So, the definition of a lead database has expanded from being Name, Address, Email ID, Phone No, etc., to include Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, blog URL, and more.

Yet, the process of generating such lists with all the Social Contact data remains cumbersome, time-consuming, and necessarily manual. Very little by way of technology has been applied to the problem thus far.

It needs to be. You can participate in the discussion here: Social Contacts: A Hairy Open Problem. Note: There are technology limitations, which were discussed to some extent at today's roundtable, and quite possibly, the solution is a somewhat manual one. Nonetheless, this IS a significant business opportunity.

Too Much Unmonetized Ad Inventory

If you are a content producer or a freemium app or game developer, you would know, instantly, what I am talking about. There is WAY too much ad inventory out there. Too many eyeballs that are not getting adequately monetized; major publishers sitting on top of huge masses of unmonetized impressions; game developers monetizing, barely, 1% to 2% of their traffic; app developers similarly struggling to convert free users to premium.

If you are an entrepreneur looking for an open problem to solve, look no further. This is your opportunity. In 2012, one of the greatest unaddressed pain points for the mobile and online industries is this overabundance of eyeballs that publishers, software, app and game developers are struggling to find monetization models for.

There are many ad networks that offer very low monetization rates and take a large sales commission. If you decide that the way you want to address all this is by becoming, yourself, an ad network, that is certainly one way of addressing the pain point. However, you would need to know how to sell $25 to $50 CPMs, because at $4 to $5 CPMs, there is no money for anybody, not for the network and not for the publisher. It's just not worth it. Some vertical ad networks have gone after this opportunity, Glam Media being one of the most successful of the lot.
But, by and large, the problem remains unsolved from the publishers' perspective, especially the small and mid-sized publishers.

You can participate in further discussion here. There are some excellent comments, especially observations made by Vikrant Mathur, founder of iFood.tv.

Indian Product Entrepreneurs Emerging

We have discussed the topic of technology product companies from India on my blog for many years now. In 2012, finally, we will see the first major crop of Indian entrepreneurs playing on the global stage. I can say this with confidence based on my first hand experience mentoring a number of serious and promising Indian product entrepreneurs in the 1M/1M program, one of which, Freshdesk, has just raised financing from Accel Partners.

To put this evolution in context, you can find both some historical commentary and also a bit of a blueprint for what is working and why this is going to be a major trend, as opposed to a one-off happenstance, on my blog: Indian Entrepreneurs: Your Time Has Come. There were several Indian entrepreneurs at the roundtable today, and some weighed in on the topic.

CarRentalBookers.com

Today Stathis Katinas from Greece, pitched CarRentalBookers.com, a business he founded with his partner Tristan Mcvean. The business is effectively a Hotels.com of car rentals. The market is crowded, but Stathis has a critical mass of traffic and transactions, as well as a large portfolio of car rental companies providing data to make the service viable. Today's discussion was about how to generate additional distribution and acquire traffic. Stathis also needs to think through the competitive positioning in a lot greater detail to be able to compete in a crowded market.

Nonetheless, I was very happy to see a European entrepreneur, especially one from Greece, amidst that country's utter crisis-ridden state. Europe's challenges can best be resolved by reinstating an entrepreneurial culture, instead of the welfare-based system that large parts of the continent have degenerated into.

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 at 8:00 a.m. PST on the following dates:
Thursday, December 15, Register Here.
Thursday, December 22, 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.

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.

Roundtable photo by Jim Linwood