We started this week’s roundtable with a discussion of the top 10 tech trends to watch for the upcoming decade. The trends include Cloud computing, outsourcing, social Web, vertical and local Web, smartphones and tablets, online advertising, online video, online gaming, e-books, and bootstrapped entrepreneurship. You can find details in the blog post on http://www.sramanamitra.com.
As for the entrepreneur pitches, first up today was Bhupendra Kanal with InRev, a social CRM analytics company. Bhupendra has built a product and has started engaging a few customers. He is, however, playing in an extremely, extremely crowded space. Bhupendra’s questions were largely around competition. My key advice to him was to focus on acquiring customers, and getting a thorough positioning exercise done based on segmentation, competitive analysis and market sizing to identify a segment where competition is less active and the product is particularly effective.
Next Deborah Walliser with Solsustech discussed GotProduce.us. Today, the company produces low carbon footprint fruits and vegetables and sells to distributors in California, Nevada and Arizona. However, Deborah is looking for ways to sell her low carbon footprint green house technology to producers, and is in conversations with producers in Senegal and India. I asked her to stop wasting her time on producers in countries that do not have any focus on carbon footprint optimization, and instead look for countries and states with governments that have incentives and programs to encourage producers to optimize their carbon footprint. Hard ROI is essential to get dollars flowing.
Then Jimmy Hendricks presented DealCurrent.com, a white label platform for media companies to manage daily deal advertising on behalf of brands. Jimmy already has about 65 customers and about a million dollars in annual revenue. The company is profitable and has so far raised only $400,000 in friends and family and angel financing. The top two competitors are both venture funded to the tune of $5 million each, and have about the same or lower customer traction. Jimmy asked if he should be raising money at this point.
My advice was to not raise money if he didn’t need to. Jimmy has already managed the most complex part of the bootstrapping phase with very little outside investment. At this point, he can grow organically and leverage channel partners and other creative modes of non-equity financing and preserve equity as much as possible. This also makes it much more lucrative for him in the event that an acquisition happens in the medium term. More investment would make it more difficult to get a lucrative exit that creates sizable returns for everybody.
It is clear to me, after doing these coaching sessions for over two years, that entrepreneurs need a lot more training on positioning and go-to-market. As such, I have created video lecture modules with case studies in the 1M/1M premium lounge on these topics with very specific guidance on what analysis to perform and how. The easiest way for me to teach a large number of entrepreneurs some of these basics is to have you spend 30-40 hours on the curriculum I have created, and THEN have you come work with me on refining your strategies and positioning.
I have thought a lot about how to make entrepreneurship education and eco-system scalable and accessible to a vastly larger number of people. The answer to that question, I believe, is the 1M/1M Premium Lounge. Over the upcoming months, the program will become much, much richer. But for the moment, we can get you started and give you a significant jump-start.
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 MarketInnovation: Need Of The Hour, as well as Vision India 2020, are all available from Amazon.