161st 1M/1M Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Stealth Is Overrated
Today’s roundtable had a couple of discussions about the pros and cons of stealth mode startups. Someone from the audience asked if we have members sign NDAs before they listen to other entrepreneurs’ pitches. My answer: Absolutely NOT!
First up, Nav Kesher from Seattle, Washington, pitched Trevi, a mobile photo application that helps keep albums organized by location, send postcards, etc. It is especially helpful for travel photographs. The app is doing quite well in the Apple app store. The only issue is that it is a free app, and the monetization model doesn’t seem obvious. Of course, ad revenues can pull in a bit of money, but not enough to support a sustainable business. I would like to see a premium-pricing model, whereby, after loading a certain number of photographs, people start having to pay a fee.
Then, Ronnie Guha from New York, New York, pitched GeoLoqal, a mobile platform-as-a-service specifically designed for building location-specific applications with complex geo-targeting functionality. The company spent a lot of time in stealth mode, building a beta product without input from alpha customers. Now, they are scrambling to close business and generate revenues to support a sizeable burn rate.
I want all of you to note that stealth is highly, highly overrated. You need to get out there and immerse yourselves in customers ASAP. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Unless you can build products and services that customer want to buy, there is really no point.
In any case, I offered to help Ronnie with his pipeline of hot leads, and figure out closing strategies for the ones that seem the most probable.
Next, Emily Friedrichs from Buenos Aires, Argentina, pitched Educar, a K-5 Spanish language online teaching portal. Emily wants to license the content from a Latin American firm and sell to schools in the US. I have reservations about the business. What if Blackboard licenses the same content? They already have channels into the schools.
Kay McGowan from Boston, Massachusetts, pitched A Curated World, an e-commerce portal for unique, experiential products from different cultures. Kay has a background in importing home furnishings and related items. She understands the supply chain and merchandising issues.
I like the concept. I don’t know how scalable it is, but to have someone curate really beautiful, high quality, hand-made artisan merchandise from exotic destinations sounds like a wonderful idea. I am sure there is a clientele for it.
I am one of them.
Last up, Raj Arora from Natick, Massachusetts, pitched DreamSports.TV, an online portal for Indian kids to engage, experience, learn, and practice sports other than cricket. India, as you may know, is a cricket-obsessed nation.
The other sports get little attention. Raj wants to create a well thought through mechanism to bring together various coaches, academies, venues, etc., that teach and host different sports.
It’s an interesting idea. My father was the mastermind behind enhancing the level of Indian Table Tennis. He did that, largely, by spreading the game into the districts, sending coaches there, and setting up academies, bringing foreign coaches, etc. So I am quite familiar with the process of marketing a sport to kids and their parents. It would be interesting to see how this plays out.
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.