Pitching ERPNext to Silicon Valley

Pitching ERPNext at Sramana Mitra's 1Mby1M Public Round Table

 · 4 min read

The dust had not yet settled on the new release, and my thoughts started wandering into what next. I was getting worried that our sales were not where we were expecting. We could not point out any specific reasons though. It could be that more users where using ERPNext Open Source than ERPNext Cloud, it could be the economy or it could be some changes we made on the website or the product. Whatever the case, it got me thinking on the marketing side.

I realised that more people need to know about ERPNext, and started looking for people who had written articles on ERPs and specially in India (though we could have looked globally, but I thought that Indian bloggers or journalists may be a bit more interested in our story). Thats when I came across Sramana Mitra's blog. I had read Sramana's blog before and I knew she wrote about startups. Maybe I could drop in a mail and see if she would be interested in writing about us. I got a reply from her assistant that I should pitch at one of her public roundtables that she hosts online every week. 

So I looked up her site and found recordings from previous round tables. It was very interesting. Here was a resource of hundreds of startup pitches I never had a look at. I figured she ran a project called "1Mby1M", her ambitious project  / startup to create one million enterprises each valued (or with revenues?) over one million dollars each. Sramana seems to me like a Silicon Valley insider who wants to innovate on the startup incubation industry. Well either ways, I thought it would be a good idea to present, there was nothing to lose. So I prepared a presentation outlining what ERPNext was about and what challenges we faced. Even though I do this every month (for our Open Day), it was still interesting to make a pitch for someone from Silicon Valley.

The presentation went okay (skip the first 30 or so minutes). There were two things I would take away. One is that she felt that this was a multi-million opportunity that could be bootstrapped (without taking venture funds). That was a great validation. I am sure Sramana has seen hundreds of pitches and if thats what she felt, it was awesome. The other point was that she did not like us using the word "hosting" for our services. She wanted us to use the word "cloud". This has been on my mind sometime too. Couple of years ago, all enterprise software companies were screaming cloud from the roof of their buildings and I had never liked the word. But now some water is under the bridge and the hype around cloud has subsided, I think cloud might be a better word to capture our service offerings - Cloud Hosting for Open Source ERP. I liked that.

Sramana also has a paid offering for startups. That is her virtual incubator. I think its an awesome concept, for $1000 she offers hours of recorded course material, introduce us to her contacts in Silicon Valley, have private strategy group discussions and will also put in a word for the media. From our perspective, we could surely love to get help in getting the word around, specially in Silicon Valley, where the world's eyes are.

But as a few days passed, I realised that we are happy being an outsider and we were doing okay. Firstly, our sales same time last year were also low. Maybe June to August is not a good time for ERP sales (maybe its a cyclic industry). Secondly, we still had a number of level zero requirements to be finished. Fixing our documentation (now in way earnestly) rewriting our old code (more than 70% complete) and building better infrastructure and improving our conversion rates. Even if we got 1000 trials signed up in a hurry, I was not sure we had the infrastructure in place to handle them.

But in all, it was a great experience, I am thankful to Sramana for her time and feedback. I am sure her program will help a lot of startups get their foundations in place.

I would surely recommend startups to pitch at her Public Round Table.

ps. Some feedback for Sramana: I think she needs to redesign her website. It looks very 2000 and there are too many links. These days, too many links on a page makes it feel spammy. Plus the hanging social buttons on the side are very annoying. She needs to look at medium.com for inspiration. Also the website has to be more about 1mby1m, her project. By projecting her blog and personality strongly, the program gets ignored. I can automatically think of a much better design. Maybe she should hire Sukh Dugal's StudioMarch (probably India's best web design company, and we have worked with them before) for a redesign! I wish her all the best.

Rushabh Mehta

Rushabh is a software developer and founder of ERPNext. He usually writes about the startup experience, open source and the technologies he is working on.

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