Sramana Mitra’s 1M/1M strategy roundtables have benefitted over 4000 entrepreneurs since close to two years now. By steadfastly adhering to her schedule of an hour a week for strategy roundtables, Sramana’s objective is to make a difference to entrepreneur mortality rate in the vulnerable pre-$1 million stage of businesses. The ambitious 1M/1M program was born to help 1 million entrepreneurs reach 1 million dollars in revenues, helping them negotiate the vulnerable phase. The weekly strategy roundtable is only one part of a whole grand buildup that is being developed for the 1M/1M program. She answers rapid fire questions on email from Venkatesh Krishanmoorthy, chief evangelist, YourStory, on 1M/1M strategy roundtables.
Sramana Mitra: A few years back, I was invited to do a session at a startup workshop in Silicon Valley where I first used this format of listening to entrepreneurs' pitches and giving them feedback in real time. It was a great success. It made me think about the possibilities, and what you see today is an evolution of that experience, but I wanted to do a virtual version that people from all over the world can access.
SM: At the roundtables I offer strategy advice. But there are various resources that come along with the roundtables - hundreds of case studies, for example, that I often point to, as material to learn from. We're also featuring some of the roundtable companies in our Incubation Radar series on my blog, and exposing investors to the series. We will be doing other things along these lines - to address the core needs of the entrepreneurs - customer validation and engagement, investor access, and team building - we have a variety of different requests from entrepreneurs, including private roundtables and such. But so far, we've offered everything for free, which with all the other more elaborate services that we need to offer, we won't be able to do for ever.
SM: My blog, first and foremost, got the word around. Plus, word of mouth from people who participate. The 1M/1M ambassadors. A variety of other columns that I write / syndicate. Twitter. Entrepreneurship Development Organization Partners like TiE and others.
SM: We've had over 4000 people participating in the roundtables. I hear that not all entrepreneurs who are working on their ventures using our methodology are presenting at the sessions. Often, they are doing their homework, honing their strategy. Over 200 entrepreneurs have actually presented and I have coached them personally. Some of them are moving along nicely. One did $6k in April when she pitched, but is at $12k/month now. Her questions were around conversion rates for her marketing campaigns, which I gave her some advice on how to improve. One took my bootstrapping advice, and has been able to break even. Another took my advice regarding his financing strategy, segmentation and market validation last fall, and has touched $1M this April, and has also raised money successfully. One thing I am very particular about - the credit goes to the entrepreneurs. Our role is that of a background player. We help move things along with some key pieces of advice on how to move certain levers to gain success. The entrepreneur does the actual execution and deserves full credit for making things happen.
SM: I have always believed that asking the right questions is half the battle. So we provide a framework of questions entrepreneurs should be asking. [Clarify Your Story appendix of her Positioning book to prepare their pitches. You can find the excerpt here]. If the entrepreneur does some homework using this framework before coming to pitch, the level of discussion will be vastly more sophisticated and useful in the end.
SM: Every time entrepreneurs tell me that I have given them some insight that they did not have before they attended the call, it makes me feel good. That is the whole point of why we're doing this.
The next free, online 1M/1M Strategy Roundtable for Entrepreneurs will be held on Thursday, June 17, 2010, starting at 11am EDT/8am PDT/8:30pm IST. TiE New Delhi is co-hosting this roundtable, so their members will be discussing their businesses. All are welcome to attend. You can find more details and register here.
YourStory has partnered with Sramana to bring a recap of her roundtables every week. You can read the last week’s recap: http://www.yourstory.in/news/latest-events/4128-startup-strategy-roundtable-dont-get-blindsided-by-a-large-competitor