Recap of the 22 September 2011 roundtable by Sramana MitraI have thought a lot about the issue of how to stimulate a region’s entrepreneurship over the years. Today, at the roundtable, we had a discussion around the topic, especially in the context of specific geographies that were represented at the session: Dublin, Ireland, and Kolkata, India.
Today, building Internet businesses, or businesses that are primarily marketed through the Internet, is viable for entrepreneurs all over the world. It is no longer Silicon Valley’s exclusive domain. So, there is no real reason why places like Dublin or Kolkata cannot create significant entrepreneurial energy locally.
And yet, most regional development efforts are still floundering – at best, moving slowly, and not very surely – and we need to understand why.
Over the years, we have heard many explanations. One is culture. A geography that doesn’t support a culture of failure doesn’t do well in drumming up entrepreneurship. Risk is an essential part of entrepreneurship, and risk assumes a high probability of failure. Cultures with deep roots, low immigration and long memories tend to punish failure, instead of celebrating the effort.
Over the last few years, however, several geographies have come up. Seattle, Portland, Austin, New York City and Chicago have come up in the U.S. Chicago has even produced one of the most talked about companies in recent times: Groupon. We are also seeing significant companies come out of Europe. Gilt Groupe from France and Xing from Germany are good examples. There are pockets of entrepreneurship developing in various European capitals.
In Singapore, the government has been extremely supportive, and there is entrepreneurial activity, although we have not yet seen very significant companies emerge. Malaysia is trying hard to build a hub and finding it difficult.
In India, five of the seven major metros are seeing significant improvement in entrepreneurial energy. Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Chennai are all producing a steady stream of interesting ventures. Kolkata and Hyderabad are behind. For Kolkata, I think the lack of the culture of risk is a real issue.
But there’s also a real lack of understanding of what it takes to bring a venture to market. As Abhishek Rungta from Kolkata pointed out today, “Entrepreneurs do not work out the details of their ideas.” I think this is one of the key issues.
No matter where you are, an idea needs to be chiseled and refined. Your idea is like that large block of stone that Michelangelo started with when he set out to sculpt David. It needs to be chipped away. It needs to be chiseled. It needs to be sculpted. The tools with which an entrepreneur crafts a business are positioning, segmentation, competitive analysis, market sizing, etc. These do not require reinventing the wheel. They do not require taking any risks. They simply need the diligence and work ethic to learn and to implement.
My hypothesis is that people fear risk when it looks like a large blob of unknowns. But if a population can be thoroughly educated in the mechanics of building a venture, gradually, the fear goes away. The unknown turns into a blueprint.
This education – teaching the framework of business building – is at the heart of catalyzing an entrepreneurial culture.
Let’s look at today’s presenters.
First up, Manik Kinra from Bangalore, India, pitched Jade Magnet, a crowd sourcing platform for creative services like logo design, website development, animation, video production, etc. Jade Magnet currently does about $50,000 a month in business volume and charges 25% of the project price as a fee. Having validated the business idea, the company is now looking to scale. The bulk of our discussion today was around scaling and customer acquisition strategies.
Then Gerard McDonald from Dublin, Ireland, discussed Customer Discovery, a concept-stage venture around online marketing services using social media mechanisms for customer acquisition.
Gerard started off by saying that anyone looking for a customer on the Internet is a potential customer for this business. This, as you have heard me pointing out over and again, is one of the most commonly made mistakes in entrepreneurship. Gerard’s is a business that has neither been positioned nor segmented.
And that brings me back to the issue of these common errors that cause tremendous infant entrepreneur mortality. Gerard, in fact, cited a scary number today: 1,100 companies go out of business everyday in the UK. I am not sure if the number is accurate, the US number is about 600,000 per year. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that a tremendous number of companies DO go out of business every year.
And, we at 1M/1M are trying to do something about it.
You can listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here. As always, I would very much like to hear about your business, so let me invite you to come and pitch at one of our free 1M/1M public roundtables. We will be holding future roundtables at 8:00 a.m. PDT on the following dates:
Thursday, September 29, Register Here.
Thursday, October 13, Register Here.
We will be holding our 100th roundtable on Thursday, October 6th. To celebrate the occasion, the 1M/1M initiative is inviting a dozen 1M/1M premium members from all over the world to step in front of the camera to share their entrepreneur journeys -- their ups and downs and next steps -- as inspiration for other startup entrepreneurs. They will also share how they are using the 1M/1M program in that journey. You can register to attend here.
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About Sramana Mitra
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. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.