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4 October 2011

Bootstrapping 3: Building a business

By Andrew Clifford

Truly flexible software should be able to sell itself.

Creating MA2 in itself is all well and good, but there is a danger that we could polish and play with our new software for ever. We have to turn our new software into a business.

We know what we are trying to achieve with MA2. It could be used to build nearly any type of web-based solution, but marketing it as a general-purpose web tool puts it in direct competition with well-established products. We are going to focus on assessment and advisory solutions, where MA2's flexibility is particularly valuable. We see the following uses.

  • Self-service advisory products. We are in a unique position to deliver products for individuals and organisations to carry out assessments online and to get good quality automated advice.
  • Complex surveys. MA2 can support complicated surveys, collecting and analysing different types of data in different structures from different people.
  • Consultancy tools. MA2 can automate the fact finding and analysis which takes place in the early stages of consultancy exercises, allowing consultancies to focus on valuable downstream work.
  • Enterprise use. MA2 can be a platform for complex enterprise solutions, capturing, maintaining, analysing, transforming and presenting complex bodies of information.

This is a very wide marketplace. How do we get there from where we are? How do we bootstrap our business?

Product promotion and marketing traditionally involves large budgets and networking with C-level executives. However, MA2 lets us do something different. We can use MA2 to build capabilities to help market MA2, such as demonstration products and free trials. We can develop the MA2 business in a series of phases, each one laying the foundation for the next.

  • Phase 1 involves creating initial products and proofs of concept. We are working with existing partners to re-purpose their content in MA2, focussing on easy-to-use self-service products. We are creating self-service features, such as a survey capability. We are using the software internally, moving our administration and the Metrici website onto MA2. The focus in phase 1 is building a solid foundation.
  • Phase 2 involves scaling up use of the product. The self-service products provide clear and immediate benefits, and can be promoted widely, recruiting users and also new partners. We can offer meaningful free use of the product, and low-cost licensing for more extensive use. Because we are offering a low-cost web-based service, it makes sense to use web marketing methods to promote it.
  • Phase 3 involves positioning MA2 in the more demanding consultancy and enterprise markets. The users and products from phase 2 will demonstrate the appeal and stability of the product, which makes it easier to position MA2 as a platform for more advanced use.

In the same way that we can build the MA2 products within MA2 itself, we can build the MA2 business using MA2.

We have the outline of a plan. But "no plan survives contact with the enemy", and of course we can not let our plan get in the way of customers' requirements. Although we are just coming to the end of phase 1 we are already talking to people about phase 3 solutions. Exciting times indeed.

Next: Database independence - payback time

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