During today's roundtable, we worked with five entrepreneurs in Boulder, Colorado. We saw a lot of businesses with a ‘green' theme, as well as with themes of ‘giving'. Boulder, Colorado, it seems, is a very socially conscious community. Also, four out of the five entrepreneurs today were women.
CompoKeeper First, Kristen Hess pitched CompoKeeper, a new kind of composter with specific advantages over existing products. Kristen wants to manufacture the product herself, and would like funding to do so. My read is that angel funding for these kinds of businesses is minimal, so it is essential for Kristen to reduce her capital requirements and figure out how to bootstrap with either self-financing, friends and family funds or Kickstarter-type crowd funding.
The Biochar Company Then Lopa Brunjes pitched The Biochar Company, which offers bio char technology for waste management and farming. Lopa's business plan has the tendency to want to boil the ocean, in that they want to license technology to municipal waste management organizations and large farms (current revenue sources in the order of $250,000), sell to small nurseries and consumers. With eight people, it won't be possible to do all of the above. To me, it seems like focusing on the municipal waste management and large farm segments may be where the maximum ROI lies.
iGivefirst Next Sharif Youssef pitched iGivefirst, an advertising concept whereby publishers would place a ‘Give' widget next to the ‘Like' and ‘Share' widgets on various articles. Upon clicking the ‘Give' widget, the reader would see a box open up that has a list of charities (related to the article) to contribute to on the left panel and a sponsored ad on the right. Coca-Cola could sponsor a ‘Give' campaign on The New York Times site and help raise contributions for the earthquake in Haiti, for instance. I like the concept, but Sharif's presentation needs a lot of work.
Fashion Forward Maternity Then, Erin Lewis pitched Fashion Forward Maternity, an e-commerce business for renting high quality, well designed maternity clothing. It's an excellent concept and has already seen adoption elsewhere (e.g. baby clothing, toys, etc.). Erin already has some customers and is doing about $3,500 a month in business.
EConscious Market Last up, Pippa Sorley pitched eConscious Market, a venture that is currently being rejuvenated after five years. The company wants to be an e-tailor of green merchandise that also donates 10% of each transaction to non-profits – once again, a green + giving theme. Pippa's go-to-market strategy is completely wrong, and as she put it, “It seems that we are barking up the wrong tree.” Her proposal was to use the non-profits to sell on their behalf. I doubt that would work. However, building e-commerce businesses is a well-trodden path at this point, and there are specific methods of building such businesses. Pippa needs to course correct and follow those.
You can listen to the recording of today's roundtable here.
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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. Sramana has a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.