We started this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable with a discussion of online advertising trends, looking at them from the perspective of cost-effective customer acquisition and brand building, as well as entrepreneurial opportunities. You can find more on the topic on my blog at Top 10 Online Advertising Trends For The Decade.
While on this topic, I want to particularly emphasise the social media advertising trend, and my observation that the infrastructure to measure, analyse, optimise, and target is really wide open, and I’d like to hear from entrepreneurs working on the various nuances of that particular problem. My Facebook’s Strategy In Perspective piece has more on the issue.
Next, we had two very interesting entrepreneurs.
First up today was John Boyd with MeetingWave, a social media platform that caters to university alumni associations and addresses the challenge of helping them create walled garden professional and social networking groups under their own brand, as opposed to groups within Facebook or LinkedIn.
John’s idea completely resonated with me, having run the MIT Club of Northern California’s Entrepreneurship program for many years, and being intimately involved with the inner workings of that alumni association (10,000 members).
We discussed various segments for John’s go-to-market strategy and pricing model options. In particular, I saw a number of different strategies that John has been nibbling on – different segments, different delivery models (white label vs. MeetingWave branded domains), different pricing strategies. In my opinion, the strategy is too broad, and needs to be reined in, focused, and tighter. While I like the idea, I don’t as much like all the various options at this stage, because each has implications on the execution side, and leaving so many options open would mean the complexity of the business will simply be exponential, and thus the risk of failure will also be high.
For example, instead of pursuing universities, trade show organisers, hotels, resorts, corporations, I am of the opinion that John should focus squarely on colleges and universities and their alumni associations for now. The rest can be on the back burner for the moment.
Then Umashankar Balasubramanian of RDimensio pitched an SMS-based classified service. Uma is a member of the 1M/1M premium program, and has already started validating his idea with several online classified players in India.
He is using natural language processing to translate free text SMS queries to classified queries, and then translating the responses back to SMS format.
Uma too has too many segments, and I asked him to focus 100% of his energy on online classified vendors, and forget newspapers (unless they also already have online classified offerings) and so forth. Instead, he should broaden his geographical scope to include international classified vendors.
Also, I think Uma’s offering is under-priced, and I asked him to do some homework on pricing which I will review next week to advise him better on the pricing strategy.
Interesting technology, and I will be working with him to build a comprehensive go-to-market strategy as part of the premium program.
I have thought a lot about how to make an 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. In fact, at a time when we’re facing severe youth unemployment in America and Europe, and the emerging markets are just starting to build their entrepreneurship eco-systems, we really need to think deeply on how more and more young people can be efficiently, rapidly and cost-effectively be trained in entrepreneurship.
Yesterday, I posed two questions on my blog: one, to high school and college students as well as recent grads, asking how they were viewing this deep recession, and whether they are taking destiny in their own hands, starting companies, becoming entrepreneurs.
And a second, to educators, teachers, and mentors in various schools, colleges, and universities who are preparing the youth to face a depressing job market, asking whether they are steering them towards entrepreneurship, and how.
If any of you would like to participate in these discussions and help me with the research, please feel to comment on the issues. I will be writing more on the topics here and elsewhere.