Home Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: How Do You Bootstrap Freemium Ventures?

Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: How Do You Bootstrap Freemium Ventures?

During this week’s roundtable, we had Inoh Choe from San Jose, California, pitch DemoTunes, a freemium concept. One of the discussions that ensued was about how to bootstrap a freemium venture. I think this is a question on many minds, and we discussed it today as a core topic.


DemoTunes is proposed to be a LinkedIn of the music industry where a million plus musicians would be uploading music, getting feedback from their community, as well as, and more importantly, from talent scouts and connoisseurs who can help them further their careers.

In principle, this sounds great. I love the idea. Once there is critical mass, lots of business can, indeed, happen. However, how do you get to critical mass, and how do you finance the period during which this business runs on red ink? How much time do you budget for red ink financing? If there is friends and family money available to you, how far can that take you? How long can you go without a salary? How do you find co-founders who are willing to work for 18 months without getting paid?

These are some of the practical questions. The answers are highly subjective and situation-specific, but as a rule of thumb, I’d say, budgeting at least 18 months of red ink financing is necessary, including going without pay. One middle ground is to keep a job and develop a freemium site on the side, so that you still have your paycheck to pay the bills. Another is to do consulting or offer some other kind of paid service to bring in some money.

Whichever direction you go, please do not assume that some VC is going to finance you during this phase. Even angels like to see some progress so that the length of red ink financing that is simply validation stage work doesn’t happen on their watch.


Also, Irit Dabby from Tel-Aviv, Israel, discussed


, a neat concept about tagging photos of products differently than you would tag or ‘like’ a regular link or photo on social media. Rather, you tag a woman wearing a speedo swimsuit with a Speedo GoodyTag and then encourage your social network to further propagate that as part of an incentivized advertising campaign.

Whichever direction you go, please do not assume that some VC is going to finance you during this phase. Even angels like to see some progress so that the length of red ink financing that is simply validation stage work doesn’t happen on their watch.

I like the concept, and there is already a prototype and a pilot case with an advertiser. Irit, however, needs to think through some of the details of the business model, pricing model, and positioning. For instance, she showed Coca Cola as one of the target brands advertising on the GoodyTag network. She wants to charge $1 per tag that is generated, but Coca Cola is probably not the kind of brand that would pay $1 per tag because their unit price is so low. Speedo may, especially if every tag includes an incentive – a discount coupon – to buy a swimsuit for $300 or some similar large denomination.

My point is, the concept is good. It requires some serious fine-tuning, which will offer guidance on where the best customers are going to be.

You can select the business you like best of those discussed today through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page.

The recording of today’s roundtable can be found here. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

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. PDT on the following dates:

Thursday, August 11, Register Here.

Thursday, August 25, Register Here.

Thursday, September 1, Register Here.

Thursday, September 8, Register Here.

Thursday, September 15, Register Here.

Thursday, September 22, Register Here.

Thursday, September 29, Register Here.

We will be holding our 100th roundtable on Thursday, October 6, and are planning a special event for that day. You can register to attend here.

And 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. You can also take the 1M/1M self-assessment test here. 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.

Finally, I will be speaking at The Commonwealth Club next Thursday, on August 11, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. You can find more details and register here. Hope to see you there!

About Sramana Mitra

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.

Boots photo by Northampton Museum

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