Hello Sramana, thank you for taking time out to participate in this Q&A session. Please tell our readers what your initial career aspirations were growing up and what attracted you to entrepreneurship in the first place?
Sramana: I am an entrepreneur's daughter. My father was building a shipping company while I was growing up. So I watched an entrepreneur in action all throughout my childhood. I had decided to become an entrepreneur at 16. At 24, I did.
Please tell us what your early entrepreneurial influences were and how much impact they had on the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
Sramana: I was quite impacted by Ayn Rand's books, especially "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged". Over time, I have outgrown that influence. But at 16, a character like Howard Roarke, or at 24, a character like Dagny Taggart were hugely influential.
How much of your upbringing and background influenced your approach to entrepreneurship?
Sramana: I grew up in Kolkata, India. It's a very large city with huge poverty. It's not that I grew up poor. In fact, I grew up in a hugely privileged family. However, very early on, I was drawn to development economics. And that has shaped my work at 1Mby1M in a very big way.
What is your advice for non technical entrepreneurs who have great ideas but lack the funds and human capital to translate them into a sustainable business model?
Sramana: It is hard for non-technical founders to start deeply technical companies. But there are tech-enabled services that can be started by technical founders. In that case, you outsource the technology/product development. Outsourced tech is very common these days, and extremely effective.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to become entrepreneurs and business leaders for the future?
Sramana: Bootstrap first, raise money later. If you have established validation and traction, there is no bias against women entrepreneurs.
What key risks would you associated with the rapid growth of AI technology and how can these be mitigated?
Sramana: There will be massive job loss due to AI. It is unavoidable. As a personal strategy, try to position yourself in domains that cannot be easily automated. As a society strategy, we have to consider Universal Basic Income.
What inspired the idea for One Million by One Million (1Mby1M),and how did you validate its value creating potential?
I was disturbed by the fact that over 99% of startups that seek funding get rejected by VCs. VCs look for companies that go from zero to $100M in 5 to 7 years. Most companies can't grow that fast and that large. But those 99%' also deserves support and can build successful businesses. $1M, $2M, $5M, $10M, $20M businesses. 1Mby1M is an inclusive accelerator that doesn't just support the venture fundable businesses, but also those that have to be built without venture capital, in a bootstrapped mode.
Who is the target market for One Million by One Million and what value proposition do you offer them?
Sramana: Technology and technology-enabled startups and small businesses. We offer them education, incubation, acceleration support via methodology, digital curriculum, online mentoring, fund raising, PR, customer and channel partner introductions, etc.
How was the idea for One Million by One Million initially funded and what is its business model for creating value?
Sramana: We're a 100% bootstrapped company. We charge 99% per month for 1Mby1M Basic (curriculum only) and $1000 per month for 1Mby1M Premium (full acceleration program). We also partner with corporations, governments, etc. with our Incubator-in-a-Box platform to run cobranded accelerators.
Launching and marketing any enterprise is considered the linchpin of the entrepreneurial process. How did you navigate this stage successfully and what has been your marketing strategy to reach your target audience?
Sramana: When I started 1Mby1M, I was already well-known in the industry with a large following as a writer. Later, LinkedIn named me as one of their top 10 influencers alongside Bill Gates and Richard Branson. This vastly increased our following.
What key challenges has One Million by One Million faced since it’s inception and how have you navigated these?
Sramana: It's a very big idea, and it goes against the grain of the industry's excessive focus on VC funding. Thus, the message isn't always easy to get through. We've navigated with persistence, and have managed to legitimize bootstrapped entrepreneurship almost single-handedly.
Still on challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental to a lot of businesses. What impact has it had on One Million by One Million and how have you navigated this?
Sramana: Our workflow was always 100% virtual, and it remains 100% virtual. Nothing has changed.
What are One Million by One Million’s future plans in terms of expanding your value proposition further?
Sramana: We will not change anything. Just do the same thing and try to reach a larger number of entrepreneurs around the world.
Before we end the interview, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs on how to scale and grow their business?
Sramana: Bootstrap first, raise money later.
We would like to thank you Sramana for participating in this Q&A session. We wish you and One Million by One Million all the best in your future endeavours.