One of those times where one sees an opportunity, but you have to have money to make money.
No, I’m not soliciting money, there’s really a question here.
I am aware of a potential ripe opportunity to create an alternative to a program that is very widely used…but incredibly outdated and inflexible. From all I can discover, it’s really the only solution out there, and as such is almost universally used at the state and federal level by agencies who have need of such a thing.
To say that there’s room for improvement would be an understatement. And perhaps there’s a reason nobody’s tried to get in to that niche market for years.
Q: How would one, lacking the money or skills to create a startup to directly challenge the status quo, leverage that situation? Is there such a thing as pitching it to an established company?
These are the things I find myself wondering while utilizing aforementioned platform while also in job-hunting mode.
That is what venture capitalists and angel investors are for. However, they probably won’t give you any money unless you have a detailed business plan, a path to profitability and a proven track record in software development. There are good reasons why most people get turned down.
Hint: Software development is not about just hiring a ‘couple of hotshot programmers’.
Minimum ante to have a hope of succeeding is several decent programmers (“hotshot” is overrated, you want folks who show up to work, do their job, and get along with their coworkers), a couple good QA folks, a product manager, a sales team, a marketing team, and someone to herd everyone along, aka a CEO type. This whole idea that a business is made with an idea and a rockstar programmer is bullshit.
Really, the idea is the easy part; bringing that idea to market is a whole 'nother thing.
Check out your local Chamber of Commerce and ask if you have a local economic development group. Get their contact information.
Also ask at local city, county, and state offices. The “big shots” are more likely to know about these things. Like Mayor, City Councilors, County Board of Supervisors / County Executive, etc.
Anyway there are some groups which are there to help YOU start a business! This helps the local economy. So they have funds available to help YOU! They can help you from starting point 1. - Making a business plan (if you know nothing about that!)
The other issue is this. The reason that many monolithic & bureaucratic organizations use “incredibly outdated and inflexible” software is generally not because nobody has ever thought of designing a better product. It’s often because the existing software is embedded so deeply in the infrastructure that it would be an overwhelmingly difficult task to replace it, so people just plod along using ad hoc solutions. The most challenging task may not be designing better software, it may be managing the transition to better software.
The way you are writing about this (vaguely, sort of secretively) suggests that you have fallen prey to the misconception that an idea for a company is a valuable thing.
In reality, ideas are worthless. That link is to an article by Paul Graham, a very successful early startup investor.
So, as to your question…
One would not. Seriously, there’s simply no way to do this. If you don’t have the money or the skills, why would people with money or skills follow you?
It’s like, if you had a great idea for a movie, but all you need is a script writer and a director and a producer and some actors and a group of riggers and caterers and…
That’s great, and true, but what is it that you add to the effort? Why would those groups of people rally around you? Do you have experience running a business, or managing employees, or selling things, or shipping products, or writing contracts, or anything that actually will help the business succeed?
Also, if your idea is to get rich by selling software to state and federal agencies, well, good luck. Yes, there can be a lot of money there, but the required sales and political savvy to lock those contracts down is absurd. The reason that the existing product sucks isn’t that no one had the idea to make a better one. It’s that the actual product is almost an afterthought. The real value of companies that can reliably get government contracts is in the institutional knowledge of how to win government contracts. The reason the product sucks is that the person who writes the checks isn’t making their decisions based on the quality of the product. They’re making the decision based on a bunch of rules that some legislators worked out (with the help of lobbyists) and seventeen reams of paper requirements that a team of salesmen has spent a bunch of time qualifying.
No, I have no illusion that I would ever make any money off of developing this idea. It’s literally a half-assed question that I thought of while I was driving to Chipotle, and threw out there while I was eating.
The reason I’m being vague is that I’ve had too many searches where the SDMB result was at the top. If I was specific, this thread could very likely come up as the result of a search by someone who knows me, and it wouldn’t take them too long to figure it out. Which leads them to the rest of my contributions here. Which I may not be willing to share with work associates.
If anyone actually wants specifics, feel free to PM and ask. :dubious:
Step 1: Business Plan
Step 2: Look into Small Business grants from the government. They will fund all kinds of things, but may actually have a specific grant area for your specific target market. Rumors to the contrary, they don’t really enjoy being tied to outmoded and difficult to use OSes and software anymore than anyone else does. You can find a lot of good information online.
Hiring the people, in a way, comes further down the path. You need to identify your project, you need to identify your funding, and then you can start working. Where you might need brain power before the coding starts, so to speak, is in the business plan portion. People who fund you (whether it’s the government or VC) will want to know a lot about your target market, your path to revenue, your product vision. Start looking into business plans and thinking about how much you can answer yourself, and where you need help.
It can be done, and I have the stock options to prove it But it’s incredibly hard work, and may fail in a massive heap if you’re not careful.
A couple of decades ago, two guys (later known as “my former bosses”) were in a similar situation - they were in a particular industry, saw inefficiencies everywhere that were just crying out for a software solution (though in this particular case there was not much legacy software to overcome - there was a lot of paper-and-filing-cabinet workflow in the industry). They knew no programming - they did know their own industry backwards forwards and sideways, had contacts in a lot of major companies, and had small-business-oriented family backgrounds.
The path from there to ‘extremely successful company worth a good deal of money’ was:
6 months doing nothing but sitting across a desk from each other making phone calls to venture capitalists, writing and rewriting the business plan, holding meetings to pitch their idea to large companies who might buy the software
Hire a small team of programmers (about 6 or 7), lawyer, office admin, sales dude. Develop software, get out and sell it
Repeat step 4 x 10,000
It could totally have failed horribly - ex-boss #1 says he used to wake up in the night sweating over the prospect of losing everybody’s money - but in fact it didn’t, it was wildly successful.
I don’t believe it could have succeeded though without the triumvirate of a)deep industry knowledge, b)business acumen, c)high-level contacts.
Oh, and obsession. Are you obsessed enough? I don’t think I would be.
I worked for a very large company with a well staffed computer programmers department. It took them about 8 years to really get our program down to being really effective and trouble free for the most part. They announced what the program would be doing maybe 5 years in advance and it doesn’t seem to be a super complicated program. I always think of this any time I get some idea about a program.
Perhaps a simpler road to the OPs goals is to get hired by one of the government agencies that use said software. Work oneself to a management position in that agency. Convince those above you that the agency would be considerably more efficient if they had new software and get funds allocated for the project. Hire a software firm to implement idea.
You would not own the software, but you would build a reputation of knowing how to make it work, which can be used to your advantage.
Government agencies are incredibility difficult to manage when it comes to funding. In part because they’ve been burned so often by “it doesn’t do what it was supposed to and cost more than we thought.”
The best way to do this sort of thing in the government is to fund it from within the government - and do it from within the government. Which means they’ll own it.
If the government decides they want to update their software, they’ll send out a series of RFIs and RFQs. There is a very strict process involved in responding - that takes a small army of people even to pull the “hey, we can do that for you” proposal together.
But VC firms don’t like it when your market is “the government” - they are incredibly hard to sell into.