During today's roundtable, we held the finals of the A&N Media-Elance contest co-hosted by King's College, London. This was perhaps one of the absolute best sets of pitches at a contest final this year.
First, Dr. Dele Omotosho and Michela Menting from London pitched Happerture, a vertical ad network for healthcare mobile apps. As a concept, vertical ad networks have been quite successful, with companies like Glam Media, Travel Ad Network and Adify leading the pack. Happerture's presentation, however, had other elements of a review site and a storefront for mobile healthcare apps, which confused the pitch somewhat.
Then Victor Alexiev from Sofia, Bulgaria, pitched PoolTalent, a site for IT recruitment with a special focus on personalized matching against specific criteria. Of course, online recruitment is a tried and true concept and we often see niches and variations on the subject. In this case, the questions were largely around differentiation and competitive positioning.
Next Brian Pietras from London pitched SpareSquare, a marketplace through which consumers can rent out storage space to students and professionals. This is a concept that we have seen before as well, and in fact, we're seeing quite a trend in the domain of ‘marketplace for sharing.' The success of Airbnb in renting to travelers has created variations of the concept in domains such as storage. It is definitely a reasonable and viable concept with many early players vying for market adoption.
Yetunde Murphy from London pitched Appsy, an outsourced mobile app development company. Now, speaking of a competitive space, this one is not competitive; it is hyper competitive. It is, obviously, a viable business, but one with not hundreds but thousands of competitors in it.
Then Timothy Armoo from London pitched Doodlar, a marketplace for urban designers to sell their T-shirts and other fashion merchandise to consumers. The closest comparable company to the concept is likely Etsy, although Doodlar's focus is not on fashion. The judges found the idea compelling.
Fashion Forward Maternity
Erin Lewis from Colorado 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.
Next John Hazell from London pitched Netcopy, a service through which publishers with significant paper archives can turn those archives into digitized, subject-specific articles that can be published online to harness additional search traffic. The A&N Media judges validated the concept on the spot saying that they have a similar effort under way, although not exactly the same.
Then Dana Hostage from Massachusetts pitched Artimus Art, a service for parents to turn their children's art into museum-quality photo books. Massachusetts entrepreneur Dana Hostage has so far sold $250 books to 1,000 customers. It is not a stretch to think that Hostage can recruit 4,000 customers, which will get her to the prized $1 million mark in short order.
Parker Holcomb from Massachusetts pitched eHighLighter, an OCR-based iPhone app for digital note-taking from physical books. The app includes annotation, highlighting and other features that sound quite useful. I happen to be of the opinion that the app should offer limited usage for free, and then switch to paid (~$5) as soon as the consumer has experienced value. There is potentially a second app here, which is a marketplace for notes from other people.
Last up, Ali Ahmed from London pitched Lutebox, a social shopping site with a special emphasis on video-based collaborative discussions and screen sharing capabilities. Ali has gathered a good number of retailers and has started monetizing through an affiliate model whereby retailers receiving traffic through the site fulfill the orders. Again, an interesting concept targeted towards women 22-44 to begin with.
Finally, the winners of today's contest are: Victor Alexiev, PoolTalent; Brian Pietras, SpareSquare; Timothy Armoo, Doodlar; Erin Lewis, Fashion Forward Maternity; John Hazell, www.netcopy.co.uk; Dana Hostage, Artimus Art; Parker Holcomb, eHighLighter; and Ali Ahmed, Lutebox.
Please note, we gave out a very large number of scholarships today, a testament to the quality of the pitches, and even the two that did not win, we believe, are viable businesses. It's just that they have more work to do.
Also, we saw a number of companies today with strong alignment with the segments in which A&N Media has significant presence. Of course, they own Mail Online, the largest site focused on women, but they also have a strong presence in urban and career demographics. It would be interesting to see if any of the scholarship winners from today's session actually mature to a degree where they gain access to the channel.
And of course, ALL the winners will receive 100 Elance credits each!
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:
Thursday, July 26, 136th 1M/1M Roundtable, Register Here.
Thursday, August 2, 137th 1M/1M Roundtable, Register Here.
Thursday, August 23, 138th 1M/1M Roundtable, Register Here.
Thursday, August 30, 139th 1M/1M Roundtable, Register 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.