For this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we turned the spotlight on Latin and Central America. One of the things I have enjoyed tremendously about 1M/1M is its distinctly international nature. Over the years, we’ve had entrepreneurs from all over the world attend and pitch, and I’m delighted to see that we’re propagating the methodology and the platform far and wide.
1M/1M and ENTREPRENEUR JOURNEYS represent my attempt to capture the tribal knowledge accumulated in the private lives of great entrepreneurs and institutionalize it, so entrepreneurs all over the world can use it. In Silicon Valley, we’ve had access to the tribal knowledge, but no one has tried to capture it, derive a methodology out of it, and package it in a way that entrepreneurs around the world can benefit from this knowledge and expertise.
We have done that in 1M/1M.
And over time, I envision that eco-system after eco-system around the world would learn how to use this program to do effective and precise entrepreneurship development, not spray and pray, which is largely what goes on today, with huge amount of resources being wasted.
As I said to an entrepreneur from Hong Kong at a previous roundtable: whether you are building a startup in Silicon Valley or Timbuktu, the methodology of bringing a product or service to market is not that much different.
With that, let’s look at the two entrepreneurs who pitched today from Costa Rica. Entrepreneurs from Latin and Central America were given first priority to pitch their businesses at today’s roundtable co-hosted by Innova Tiquicia and Startup Weekend Costa Rica.
First up, Adrian Montero from Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica, presented FinqIt. Adrian wants to build a location-based service focused on assembling, and then reviewing and rating various services from fixing roofs to plumbing.
What Adrian described sounds to me like a concept arbitrage on Angie’s List, a popular service for the US market, and is a fine value proposition for the Costa Rican market. It is however, still a concept, not yet a business, and Adrian should not be under the misconception that VCs would be lining up outside his door to fund the business. He needs to bootstrap it to a certain level, and following the 1M/1M methodology would be a good start.
Marcial Cambronero, also from Costa Rica, pitched HandIt.me, an intriguing concept for ‘social shipping’. Marcial proposes to use friends living in the United States to transport products on behalf of consumers in Costa Rica who are regular customers of products from the US e-commerce vendors.
As I listened to his pitch, however, I felt that a better and more interesting value proposition would be to create a ‘marketplace’ for crowd-commerce, so to speak, where Marcial can create small groups of consumers segmented by location and merchandise interest, and have them aggregate their orders from US merchants, to cut down on expensive shipping charges. Consumers can take turns in placing the order, and Marcial would need to provide the infrastructure to manage the flow of funds, as well as the distribution of merchandise locally. A well designed ‘trust’ system with reviews and ratings and dispute settlement would be necessary to prevent fraud, the way other exchanges like eBay do.
Overall, I like this notion of Social Shipping, since as we become a more global world, and as e-commerce takes off in more geographies, this could be a service not only applicable to Costa Rica, but much more broadly in many nations.
Next, Alexandra Suarez-Mondshein of Miami, Florida, discussed Words To Live By, a neat concept of designing and producing high quality books with fine paper and fabric for special occasion gift giving. The service has the functionality for a group of people to submit custom messages to commemorate occasions like bridal shower, baby shower, milestone birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and each book costs $375 retail.
My feedback to Alex was that the $375 price-point is way too high, and I asked her if she has the provision to pool together the money for a group gift? Well, she doesn’t.
In my opinion, to gain fast adoption, this offering needs to be a group-gift, and it needs to be positioned as such. Ten people paying $37.50 each is much more acceptable than one person paying $375, and my suggestion is to focus on making the product a group-gifting service.
Adarsh Patil from Bangalore, India, presented ResortHunt. Adarsh observes that there are over 30 million search queries for the term ‘Resort’ and over 25 million for the term ‘spa’. He wants to convert ‘lookers’ to ‘buyers’ by creating a spa and resort booking site with specific advantages for the owners of those properties.
Adarsh really needs to do some thorough competitive analysis and decide which market may have room for him to enter. The travel booking category is excruciatingly competitive, crowded, and continues to attract new entrants all the time. I probed his market entry strategy, and it was all over the place. So, I suggested, as a first order of business, that he determines where there is a gap, and where he can meaningfully compete.
Last up was Ashni Mohnot from Mountain View, California, discussing Enzi, an income linked education loan program for students. Ashni wants to create a Kiva-like exchange whereby consumers can fund the education of students in exchange of a percentage of the future income of those students.
While I like the general concept, I feel that the program needs to be specific to alumni associations, and not an open, public exchange. The trust factor needs to come from being part of an alumni association, and as such, it should be a white label solution – software and services – offered by various alumni associations, to their alumni and students as a way of giving back, and directly engaging with students.
I also suggested that Ashni focuses on funding science, technology and engineering program students, since there is so much energy today around America’s role in the world, and whether the country is losing its edge in science and technology. This would be a way to engage alumni around a specific program, and let’s not forget, the employability of the students post-graduation is an important aspect to ensure the loan repayment.
The 1M/1M roundtables are pretty much oversubscribed by at least 250% every week, right now, so if you are trying to get a slot to pitch, I suggest you sign up early, or you can join the premium program to access a broader and more comprehensive range of services.
Next week, the 1M/1M roundtable will be co-hosted with TiE Midwest. You can register for the next roundtable here.
You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.
Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and 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. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.