150th 1M/1M Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: An Inside View Into Mentoring 2.0
It is hard to believe that we have been running FREE mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs since 2008, and just concluded our 150th roundtable on Nov 29. What started as an experiment four years back has really caught on, and blossomed into the foremost mentoring solution in the entrepreneurship eco-system, especially under the 1M/1M umbrella.
During this week’s roundtable, we wanted to give you an inside view into some of our work with 1M/1M premium members by turning the public roundtable into a regular working session. I will summarize the discussions, but before that, let me share something exciting with you: we announced the 1M/1M New Year Challenge today to celebrate the 150th roundtable milestone.
Twenty entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to compete for twelve scholarships to the 1M/1M program – worth $1,000 each – by pitching their startup businesses during the 1M/1M online roundtable mentoring sessions on January 10 and January 17, 2013. To apply for this opportunity, entrepreneurs need to complete the application process here by December 20. They then need to have at least 50 of their Facebook friends to vote for them here by January 3, 2013. Finalists will be notified by January 7, 2013, and instructed on preparing their presentations for the January 10 and 17 finals. So get working, entrepreneurs!
And here are the entrepreneur pitches and discussions from today’s session.
First up was Dan Stewart from Safety Harbor, Florida, pitching Happy Grasshopper. Dan joined the 1M/1M premium program in February 2011, incorporated his company in March 2011, and has since built a validated business with $250k in 2012 annual revenue. Dan discussed how he has been using the program, and what key decisions have been beneficial in his journey. One of them, the decision to focus his email ‘keeping in touch’ service focused on sales people in the real estate vertical.
Today, Happy Grasshopper has become a popular service for that segment, and the word-of-mouth and testimonials are creating great momentum. Channels are opening up. We have more work to do in negotiating and structuring the deals, but I could say with a reasonable degree of confidence that Happy Grasshopper will hit the $1M mark next year, and without any external financing. It is catering to a large TAM of several hundred million within the real estate vertical, and several billion beyond, so if Dan decides to raise money down the road, he will have that option.
And that is precisely what our goal is. We want you to have options and negotiating leverage.
Next, Kimbra Orr from Denver, Colorado, pitched Kimbra Studios, a company that has been around since 1998. Kimbra joined the 1M/1M program earlier this year, as she has been navigating her way through various changes she is making in her custom photo jewelry business.
One such change that we have worked with her on is a shift to outsourced manufacturing. Another, that occurred as she came into the program, was that one of her major OEM partners went bankrupt, jeopardizing a large chunk of revenue. I introduced her to the CEO of Shutterfly, and she has been able to successfully navigate her way into that and other new OEM partnerships.
Today, as I have often done, I discouraged Kimbra from spreading herself too thin in terms of her product range. To deviate out of jewelry and into home, etc., is a decision that I have reservations about, just as I did when she proposed doing men’s and women’s personalized items.
Good news: Kimbra listens. Not all entrepreneurs do. And they are a lot harder to help. Kimbra has been a pleasure to work with.
Then Kevin Fullerton from Houston, Texas, pitched PartingOut.com, a used auto parts marketplace. Kevin has deep domain knowledge in the auto-parts business. He is learning the online portion of the business, and is following the 1M/1M methodology diligently. One example: Kevin has, from his prior business life, an email list of 500,000 people interested in auto-parts buying and selling. We have not marketed to this list yet, cautiously holding on to this piece of ammunition until we have a good handle on the messaging, landing page design, conversion ratios, etc. That testing and modulation is under way, and the larger email campaign will begin AFTER the testing and fine-tuning is complete.
You may find this a conservative strategy, but we prefer not to waste powerful ammunition without ensuring that they will hit the target.
Next, Gulin Yilmaz from Palo Alto, California, pitched OpsVisibility, a validation stage business that she has brought from concept to customer validation in about three months. The value proposition is to help IT organizations of mid-sized companies manage their cloud infrastructure, monitor assets, manage downtime, etc. Gulin has done a thorough job of business model and pricing model validation, TAM Analysis, and now has customers ready to pay. The MVP will be completed within the next 60-90 days, and we have made the decision not to chase investors, but instead to focus on customers until after the MVP is ready and more customers start paying for the product.
This decision is also based on our confidence that we know how to find and convince customers, and our firm belief that it is the customers who will convince investors when the funding round begins in another 3-6 months. Meanwhile, however, I expect Gulin to have a revenue generating business fairly soon.
Last up, Ajit Narayanan from Chennai, India, pitched Avaz, a communication and learning app for autistic children. Ajit has also been with the program for a couple of years, and has used our tried and true ‘bootstrapping using services’ methodology. Today, he has an app that is selling in the Apple app store in the US, Australia, and India. Our discussions currently are about penetrating other markets where there are low-hanging opportunities.
You can listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here.
Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, a virtual 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. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.