Spotlight On The Northwest

At this week's One Million by One Million roundtable, we put a special focus on entrepreneurs in the northwestern part of the United States, and we had three presenters, all from Washington.

The first, Nitie Mehta from Redmond, Washington, presented Dental Office Services, a business process outsourcing (BPO) concept targeted to help small dental offices handle their office management, financial processing, claims collections and patient communication functions.

Nitie is working with dentists to validate her assumptions about the service, and she is a member of the 1M/1M premium program. In the spirit of 1M/1M, I invited the audience to connect her with dentists in the United States who may be willing to speak with her and help her understand the specifics of what she needs to put together in her offering. And readers, I request you to do the same. Please feel free to e-mail Nitie with your suggestions through 1M/1M.

Meanwhile, I also asked Nitie to look into what athenahealth offers in terms of dental practices since they are one of the most successful SaaS-enabled BPO companies in existence right now in the field of healthcare IT. It would be a good idea to explore what part of their technology could be used to deliver what Nitie wants to offer. You can read more about athenahealth here.

We also had two other entrepreneurs who are working with the William Factory Incubator in Tacoma, Washington.

Scott Deutsch and Robin Deutsch with WiseMind Studios LLC in Tacoma presented Life Skills Winner, a learning app to help autistic and developmentally challenged children learn certain skills. The app has just been released and has been downloaded about 250 times in a week, which is a good start.

While I like the basic concept, the company needs to do a lot of positioning work. It's a bit all over the place, trying to cater to everybody and their mother (literally), including refugees from developing countries. I advised them to focus on parents of autistic children of a certain age band, say 5 to 7 years. It is that kind of precision that will drive a focused go-to-market strategy.

Then Greg Snead, also from Tacoma, discussed Orbiter, an RFID venture that is moving along quite nicely, having clocked more than $700,000 in revenue last year. The company has bootstrapped using services, a philosophy we espouse heavily in 1M/1M, and has simultaneously gathered a group of angel investors who are supporting it through the next phase. At this point, Greg is in the process of bringing in two additional investors, and the primary topics of our discussion were valuation and ROI issues around the new investors. Orbiter expects to give its investors a 15 times return on investment based on their current pipeline and revenue forecast. If that does happen, I would say the investors will have done extremely well.

In addition to the Northwest contingent, we had Dan Stewart from Safety Harbor, Florida, pitching Happy Grasshopper. Dan is also a premium member of the 1M/1M program and a serial entrepreneur, having done about seven companies so far. Happy Grasshopper is an e-mail marketing service that assists real estate agents in reaching out to their networks and generating referrals. Dan is already seeing strong conversion from site visitors to free registrations (over 17%, which is excellent), and reasonable conversion from free to paid subscribers for the service. Dan wanted to know how to increase the conversion.

My sense is that because Dan has such good ROI case studies, it would simply be a matter of showcasing these case studies prominently on the landing page and then focusing on increasing traffic flow into the site. We discussed a numbers of customer acquisition methods to do so. We also discussed Dan's options vis-à-vis channel partners.

Up last, Thomas Vellaringattu from San Jose, California, pitched Social Pulse, a service through which he is helping small businesses that are not terribly net savvy set up profiles and use social media to market and curate relevant information to help them market.

Tom wants to use college students and unemployed people and arm them with the Social Pulse platform, such that they can market the service in their local region, as well as make money by building and managing Social Pulse profiles on behalf of local small businesses.

Tom has positioning issues and has presented Social Pulse as a much broader service than what it needs to be. We discussed ways to acquire small business customers and how to recruit college students through internships.

Next week, we are going to partner with the Indian Angel Network for the strategy roundtable. 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.