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Sramana Mitra Headshot

Bootstrap America

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I have been a serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley since the mid-nineties, and have experienced multiple booms and busts through the years. When the 2000 dotcom bust happened, I was an entrepreneur. When the 2008 financial crisis happened, I was an entrepreneur.

I have also thought deeply about the dysfunctions in capitalism, and today, I am working on a venture that is aimed at fixing some of them, and putting America back to work.

But let me tell you a bit of a story, first.

In November 2009, against the backdrop of a world reeling in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I wrote an important piece on my Forbes column called Capitalism's Fundamental Flaw. In it, I underscored the observation that capitalism has been hijacked by speculators, and value creation and entrepreneurship are no longer at the center of the system. The modern financial crisis is but a manifestation of this fundamental problem, and rather than focusing on the rich vs. poor debate, we need to focus on how to rehabilitate the capitalistic system to put the emphasis back on value creation and entrepreneurship. This piece triggered a huge discussion all over the Internet.

In October 2010, I defined what the new form of capitalism needs to look like, and called it Capitalism 2.0:

Rather than just a handful of companies building up to become billion-dollar enterprises, we need millions of companies building million-dollar businesses. Or even 500,000 dollar businesses. Two hundred thousand dollar businesses. One hundred thousand dollar businesses. Fifty thousand dollar businesses. Ten thousand dollar businesses.

Yes, the $10,000 or $50,000 businesses are important as the developing world finds its own stride and grassroots entrepreneurs in all those regions build within their own capacity and economic realities.

I am convinced that the Western world's economic turnaround and the developing world's economic development are both dependent upon how well and how fast the entrepreneurs around the world step up to the plate. They are also dependent on how successfully world leaders design policies and frameworks to support this movement.

Indeed, my vision of capitalism 2.0 is a democratic, distributed capitalism that puts the emphasis on entrepreneurship on a very large scale. As a Computer Scientist who did most of her undergraduate and graduate research in the area of scalable parallel and distributed systems, my thought process in the domain of economics and capitalism has also been focused on designing a scalable, distributed entrepreneurship development methodology, educational curriculum and delivery model, as well as a virtual incubation and mentoring process that entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world can access and benefit from.

The result, my friends, is the One Million by One Million program. In 1M/1M, we offer a case-study-based online educational program, video lectures, and methodology, online strategy consulting at public and private online roundtables, as well as introductions to customers, channel partners and investors (pre-seed, seed, angel, VC, bank, alternative financing). The public roundtable is a free program accessible from anywhere in the world. The rest of the services are for paying members only. The $1,000 annual fee grants paying members unlimited usage of the service.

In her recent article on 1M/1M, Marylene Delbourgh-Delphis explains the benefits of the program's inclusiveness:

Physical incubators, even the largest, can only host a limited number of companies, which means that the vast majority of entrepreneurs are on their own for all sorts of reasons. 1M by 1M doesn't have to select or exclude entrepreneurs to function, and thus can accept companies regardless of their prospective TAM or the speed at which the business will grow. Small niche businesses are the economy operating system of the world, and yes, any small business owner can benefit from being trained. As a matter of fact, the program heavily focuses on bootstrapping and leadership (something useful to entrepreneurs with larger ambitions, anyway). 1M by 1M is a fully international social network of entrepreneurs (they only have to be able to speak/understand English). Changing the world for the better is a collective effort, where each entrepreneur defines his/her vision of effectiveness, while benefiting from sharing lessons learned.

[You can read her full article here.]

Indeed, we're not exclusive at all. We want every entrepreneur to have access to our curriculum and services, and give them an opportunity to build their businesses, irrespective of the scale of their entrepreneurial aspirations. After all, there are many more $5 million, $10 million, $20 million ideas out there than $500 million or billion dollar ones. The latter is the domain of venture capital, but the former is what we need to also nurture to startup America. [You can watch a video on this subject to understand more about what VCs do and don't fund, and why.]

I have learnt a great deal being based in the heart of Silicon Valley for the last 15 years, and having access to its inner circle. However, as I started designing 1M/1M, it was clear to me that what we have learned and fine-tuned here at such a furious pace needs to be encapsulated and made available to the larger world of entrepreneurs. No, you do not need to come to Silicon Valley to learn entrepreneurship. With 1M/1M, we have packaged the lessons from the trenches of over 600 entrepreneurs. We have synthesized a methodology that draws from their best practices. We have created case studies that help you get an up-close-and-personal experience of sitting down with some of the best entrepreneurs of our time, and sharing, perhaps, a cup of coffee with them.

And yes, it is working. We have several members in the program that have passed the $1 million mark. We have others who have gone from zero to $30 thousand per month in revenue within 12 months of working within the program. [Watch Dan Stewart's story and Vikrant Mathur's story]

These entrepreneurs have taught us much about what the issues are in getting entrepreneurial energy blossom and find fruition in America. We are addressing those, teaching entrepreneurs how to avoid common mistakes, and how to leverage common success strategies culled from the wisdom of many who have come before them. We are working hard to check the massive infant entrepreneur mortality that plagues America.

If you are an entrepreneur, please join the program. We would be delighted to help you succeed.