On January 6, 2011 we hosted our 64th FREE One Million by One Million (1M/1M) strategy roundtable for entrepreneurs, and the first for this year.
We started this week’s roundtable with a discussion of all the resources we have brought together over the last three years to help entrepreneurs, including a comprehensive curriculum for entrepreneurship development on a large scale. This curriculum is based on the various questions entrepreneurs have asked me over these 64 sessions, spanning financing, positioning, customer acquisition, marketing, sales, channel, and various other early stage startup related issues.
As usual, then, I worked with three entrepreneurs working on specific businesses.
First up was John Bertoni with Mava Consulting, who is setting up a part-time sales force for companies to use without having to invest the fully loaded cost of a direct sales rep per geography. John has rightly observed that many small companies, as well as foreign companies trying to get into the United States, have limited budget, and could use 25% of the time of a sales rep in each geography, say, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle. So, effectively, at the cost of one full-time sales rep, they can access coverage in four different regions.
I like the idea, and recognise the problem. John already has a couple of customers, and needs about 50 customers to get to $1M in annual revenue. I offered to help him market his services through 1M/1M, since his target customer base overlaps rather nicely with the 1M/1M community.
Next Julie Acevedo presented Juju Band, a newborn navel protection band to cover the umbilical cord for about eight weeks from birth. Drawing on traditions in the Latin American community, Julie and her partner are bringing to market a very specific product to address a very specific pain, and I believe, she can build a very successful e-commerce business based on this idea. In 1M/1M, we have extensive expertise on bootstrapping e-commerce businesses, and will be happy to help her navigate the paths of customer acquisition, inventory, merchandising, and financing. To begin with, today, I gave her a set of immediate action items, including starting a blog, a PPC campaign with some ideas on how to position her keywords, as well as some guidance on merchandising.
Then J.J. Yosh presented Ancient Tomorrow, a concept for a TV show drawing upon ancient wisdom to unearth alternative energy innovations used by ancient cultures. Very cool concept, designed by an energy scientist, upon which J.J. wants to develop a mystery show. He has written a first season with nine episodes, and has built some relationships on the production side. He is looking for financing for the show.
My knowledge of television show financing is limited, although a friend of mine was the COO of Magical Elves, a Hollywood production company that has produced Top Chef and Project Runway. I’ve had several conversations over the years on TV show financing, and the basic formula is that you have to get a network to finance your show. This means, you have to convince a network that focuses on your topic – in this case, A&E, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, or perhaps History Channel – to buy into your concept, and agree to fund the production. And that is what I advised J.J. to pursue.
In the Entrepreneur Journeys methodology, we focus on customer validation as early as possible. In the case of J.J’s business, the customer is the Network. Unless he can get a Network to buy in, there will be no point in producing the show.
Finally, I spent the last part of the session on the methodology that we teach in 1M/1M, as well as few minutes on Trends.
In fact, in the discussion on Juju brands is yet another validation of the verticalization and niche-ization of the Internet. This week, I published an article called The Top 10 Vertical and Social Web Trends where I have discussed this at length. I am pretty convinced that the web will get increasingly more verticalized, where appropriate, localised, and niche businesses will do very, very well. This is my core assumption on Web 3.0. In 1M/1M, we have a huge emphasis on helping today’s web entrepreneurs navigate their ways into a Web 3.0 tomorrow.
It is clear to me, after doing these strategy sessions for over two years, that entrepreneurs need a lot more training on positioning and go-to-market, financing strategies, including alternative financing besides venture capital. As such, I have created video lecture modules with case studies in the 1M/1M premium lounge on these topics with very specific guidance on what analysis to perform and how. The easiest way for me to teach a large number of entrepreneurs some of these basics is to have you spend 30-40 hours on the curriculum I have created, and THEN have you come work with me on refining your strategies and positioning at the private roundtables.
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.