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Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Exciting Companies Lined Up For Microsoft Startup Grant Finals

June 19, 2011

Freshdesk

First, Girish Mathrubootham from Chennai, India, pitched Freshdesk, a SaaS company that provides small and medium businesses with on-demand customer support software that offers multi-channel social support. Freshdesk introduces itself as a kind of Salesforce.com for customer support so to speak. Small and medium size business owners can set up online customer support platforms that combine the backend help desk system used by agents (ticketing, knowledge management) with an online customer portal (self service, forums, idea management, voting, etc) on the front end.

What I find exciting about Freshdesk is that they may be able to do the same thing in customer support that Zoho did in CRM: a drastic downshifting of the price-point of a full-functionality, differentiated, cutting edge customer support solution. For the uninitiated, Zoho introduced a CRM system that was one-tenth the price of Salesforce.com and penetrated the lower end of the market using an Indian cost structure.

In the case of Freshdesk, their main competitor, Zendesk, is operating with a San Francisco – Copenhagen cost-structure and will find it harder to compete with this strategy. Zendesk is heavily financed by Benchmark and Charles River and has 10,000 customers. They charge $9, $29 and $59 per agent per month and I am eager to see bootstrapped, scrappy Freshdesk morph their pricing structure to aggressively compete with them. Higher end players like ServiceCloud charges $65, $135 & $260 per agent per month. RightNow’s per agent price starts at $110 per agent per month.

The space is validated. The game, now, is to push the envelope on price, performance and functionality – a game that 1M/1M looks forward to helping Freshdesk play!

You can read more about Freshdesk on the 1M/1M Incubation Radar today. The company already has paying customers and a validated business model. They have an opportunity ahead to build a billion dollar company.

Outsourcing is spreading at a frantic pace today with a global footprint and players like oDesk and eLance have made it very easy for companies to connect with outsourcing vendors. Now, if the communication can be smoothed, the entire process will become a great deal more productive.

Bizosys (10Screens)

Then Abinash Karana from Bangalore, India, presented 10Screens from Bizosys. Bizosys Technologies, a Bangalore, India based software engineering company was founded in 2009. The founders, Sunil Guttula and Abinasha Karana, are experienced IT professional with 15 years of experience between them solving various enterprise IT problems. Guttula, Bizosys’ CEO, and Karana founded the company with the goal to “simplify software development.”

Toward that end, they have created two products. The first is HSearch, a NoSQL technology based search engine for big data that aims to break the barrier of scale of growing information and accessing it across information silos. The second product is 10Screens, a tool to visualize business requirements critical to software development, which tend to be hampered by poor communication among various stakeholders. 10Screens is currently also a finalist in the Microsoft BizSpark India Startup Challenge.

This company is 100% bootstrapped and, like Freshdesk, they are also offering a value proposition at a substantially lower price-point than competitors, making it affordable for small companies. Outsourcing is spreading at a frantic pace today with a global footprint and players like oDesk and eLance have made it very easy for companies to connect with outsourcing vendors. Now, if the communication can be smoothed, the entire process will become a great deal more productive.

In 1M/1M, we are committed to supporting businesses that are not only focusing on billion dollar market opportunities, but also those that focus on $5M, $10M, $20M niches. We see Bizosys as a promising niche vendor with demonstrated capabilities in creative bootstrapping. We look forward to helping them move through the milestones of various levels of validation and market penetration, on the way to becoming a sustainable, profitable company delivering real value to customers.

You can also read more about Bizosys on the 1M/1M Incubation Radar today. The company already has paying customers and a validated product.

Techcello

Next, Ram Kumar, also from Chennai, India, discussed Techcello, a multi-tenant SaaS framework for moving applications from .NET to a cloud architecture. The value proposition is definitely interesting and the company has already validated with customers. In fact, they generated $100k in revenues over the last year, since they first pitched at one of our roundtables. Techcello presented a TAM of about $25M-$50M a year, which I haven’t had a chance to study. They need to get a handle on the customer acquisition strategy and I advised Ram Kumar to utilize the Positioning and Customer Acquisition modules of the 1M/1M premium curriculum to work on it further.

Luna Ergonomics

Next, Abhijit Bhattacharjee from Noida, India, pitched Luna Ergonomics’ CleverTextingä and the Panini Keypad. The technology has been highly acclaimed in the mobile device community as a way to let users type in multiple, especially non-Latin, languages. LG is licensing the technology and many other device vendors are in the queue. Abhijit foresees primarily a technology licensing business model whereby device vendors would be paying royalty per handset or tablet. This, needless to say, projects a very large TAM.

Having worked on technology licensing businesses, I have a good idea on how challenging those are from a sales cycle and cash flow perspective and, since Abhijit is still running a bootstrapped operation, I asked him about his strategy to manage the long sales cycle and the associated cash flow challenge. Well, Abhijit believes that he can sell enough apps on iTunes and other app stores to mitigate the cash flow challenge and assured me that he runs a very tight shop.

The technology has been highly acclaimed in the mobile device community as a way to let users type in multiple, especially non-Latin, languages.

Very cool technology and I think this company has a fair shot at winning the mobile category in the Microsoft challenge. To learn more, you can check out some of the videos here.

Blue Coin

Last up, Sunil Sharma from Walnut Creek, California, presented Blue Coin, a loyalty program management platform and service catering to small to medium size businesses. Effectively, Sunil is speaking to a trend that I have been discussing recently on my blog that companies like Groupon are pointing at: revenue sharing with merchants for providing marketing services. In my recent piece, There’s a Trend To Spot In Groupon’s Growth Rate, I noted that, “Simply put, they are offering a massive channel and effective customer acquisition strategy for merchants, small and large, and for that they charge a hefty channel fee.”

In the future, the channel fee will, perhaps, go down. But Sunil is saying that he can provide yet another kind of marketing service to local merchants where he will also be charging a channel fee.

I like this genre of thinking and would look forward to watching Blue Coin evolve. The company is still very early and has just completed an alpha prototype. But this is not that difficult a business to validate and Sunil intends to bootstrap for another 6-8 months, during which time, I am sure, the business can be sufficiently validated.

You can select the business you like best of those discussed today through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page.

The recording of today’s roundtable can be found here. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here. We will be holding future roundtables at 8 a.m. PDT on the following dates:

Thursday, June 23, 2011: Register Here
Thursday, June 30, 2011: Register Here
Thursday, July 21, 2011: Register Here
Thursday, July 28, 2011: Register Here

And you can sign up for the 1M/1M premium program here.

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.

Photo by  Alexander Mooij

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