156th 1M/1M Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Winners of the New Year Challenge 2013 First Final
The first final of the 1M/1M New Year Challenge 2013 was held today during our 156th roundtable. The finalists were selected by audience voting.
The contest was judged by two 1M/1M premium members, beside myself. Let me first introduce you to the two judges.
Based in Chennai, Suresh Sambandam, CEO of OrangeScape, is one of our oldest members. He has traveled the zero to one million path successfully. OrangeScape currently sells two products: a Platform-as-a-Service product to large enterprises and KiSSFLOW, a workflow engine for small-medium businesses. Suresh has also raised funding from the Indian Angel Network and navigated the hairy world of partnering with Google.
Based in San Francisco, Siva Devaki, CEO of Mansa Systems, has also crossed the one million mark with a business that sells apps and services within the Salesforce.com eco-system. You may have read our recent coverage of Mansa Systems on the 2012 Deal Radar. Siva has an ambitious goal of bootstrapping a billion dollar company, and has not raised any outside financing thus far.
So let’s look at the presenters.
First up, Marc Beneteau from Norristown, Pennsylvania, pitched WP Academy, an online education offering for WordPress and related technologies, including plug-ins for SEO, e-commerce, etc. Marc is selling an online WordPress encyclopedia, some live coaching, courses, as well as a couple of niche software modules. He is currently generating about $150k in annual revenue.
To raise money, Marc would need to answer some key questions: How do you differentiate in this super noisy market place? What is the TAM? What is the customer acquisition strategy? Marc says that he may be able to generate the $100k needed for the foreseeable future through revenues, which, of course, would be ideal.
Then, Vincent Serpico from Phoenix, Arizona, pitched Spotlight, a social project management product for those companies outsourcing software projects to remote freelance workers or off shore vendors through eLance, oDesk, etc. Millions of developers work on these systems. Numerous projects fail due to poor management. Vincent believes he can address the problem. While the judges had concerns about the competitive landscape and exit barriers from existing project management tools, we agreed that there is enough of a market that doesn’t use any tool at all.
Next, Arham Faraaz from Bangalore, India, pitched LEAD: Learn Excel Achieve Drive, a leadership training concept. Arham’s idea is rather raw right now, and needs to go a great deal further in terms of validation of what corporate customers are willing to pay for. The presentation had the flavor of a non-profit social venture, although it did get to the business concept in the end.
Then, Rakesh Mondal from Kolkata, India, pitched Creative Crowd, in essence a 99Designs for the Indian market. Whereas the latter has a minimum fee of over $300 for crowd sourcing designs (logo, web site, etc.), Rakesh wants to position his offering at a $50 price-point. This is a concept arbitrage opportunity, and success will depend on solid execution.
Then, Tamir Rosenblum from Tel Aviv, Israel, pitched Playrock, a gaming platform app that aims to assemble a large number of games from various developers and publishers, and offer better match-making among gamers. In addition, for game developers, Tamir’s solution offers the ability to turn single-player games into multi-player games, as well as viral cross-promotion – each of which are attractive value propositions.
Tamir presented location-based gaming as a key differentiator, and proposes to work with not only premier gaming spaces, but also Starbucks and other such franchises. His thesis is that venues would be willing to pay a fee to introduce location based gaming to attract customers. He is also building in an advertising option for companies like Starbucks to offer gamers a reason to come into their cafes to meet other gamers in the vicinity. Very interesting ideas, and all under validation currently.
Next, Deepak Panigrahy from Bangalore, India pitched InstaSafe, a cloud security business. It took us a bit of probing to get to the heart of the concept: an SSL-based VPN. That happens to be a crowded market, and we could not fathom how this company differentiates.
The team is strong. They need to figure out the positioning.
Then, Shashank Shekhar from Erie, Pennsylvania, and Sunil Javaji from Bangalore, India, pitched Skillsume, a nifty search technology for sorting through mountains of resumes. The primary market for the product is small and medium sized recruitment firms. There was a lot of interest among the judges and the audience to try the solution. We also thought that a LinkedIn app is a must for the company. Suresh offered the analogy of Rapportive, which is precisely the direction for the company. Also, Siva suggested exploring OEM deals with various online recruitment platforms.
Last up, Katharine Coles from Redondo Beach, California, pitched Mad Marketeer, a one-stop marketing shop concept for small businesses. Katharine presented a variety of companies as competition, including HubSpot. Well, we didn’t see a HubSpot in the presentation, but agree, that a low cost version of HubSpot ($1000/month starting fee) could be an interesting product to bring to market. The good news is that Katharine has paying customers – hundreds of them – and refining the concept, the product roadmap, and the positioning are all doable.
The winners today were: Marc Beneteau, WP Academy; Vincent Serpico, Spotlight; Rakesh Mondal, CreativeCrowd; Tamir Rosenblum, Playrock; Shashank Shekhar, Skillsume; and Katharine Coles, Mad Marketeer.
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.