Spotlight on Western Massachusetts

07/17/2012 06:53 pm ET | Updated Sep 16, 2012

During today's roundtable, we turned the spotlight on Western Massachusetts, spanning the Northampton-Amherst area and the home of Smith College (my undergraduate alma mater), Amherst College, UMass, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire College.

First, Dede Wilson from Amherst, Massachusetts, pitched Bakepedia, a site focused on baking, with recipes as well as other kinds of content. Dede's thesis is that a large portion, almost 6 million, of the traffic of 25 million consumers is looking for baking related content. She wants to provide validated recipes that are tried and true, based on experiments in a testing kitchen. She is in discussion with potential sponsors such as Kitchen Aid and King Arthur Flour.

I think there is definitely a business opportunity here. The size of the opportunity and the business model (advertising vs. commerce) have yet to be figured out.

Then Parker Holcomb from Hadley, Massachusetts, pitched eHighLighter, an OCR-based iPhone app for digital note-taking from physical books. The app includes annotation, highlighting and other features that sound quite useful. We discussed Parker's monetization strategy, and I happen to be of the opinion that the app should offer limited usage for free, and then switch to paid (~$5) as soon as the consumer has experienced value. There is potentially a second app here, which is a marketplace for notes from other people.

Next Chris Landry from West Whately, Massachusetts, pitched YouQ, which he wants to position as a review site for business content, workshops, etc. As with Yelp and other review sites, there is always a chicken-and-egg issue in getting critical mass. Today's discussion was primarily around how to mitigate those issues.

Bradley Presents
Then, Bill Bradley from Easthampton, Massachusetts, pitched Bradley Presents. Bill wants to use his experience in the diet and nutrition space and launch a Mediterranean Diet Challenge that he would like to sell for $20 to $30. Well, he currently has a mailing list of about 1,000 consumers interested in Mediterranean diets, so I would like to know how many of those convert into paying customers. This is the first and foremost validation step that ought to be Bill's immediate priority.

You can listen to the recording of today's roundtable here.

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