How to convert a pet project into a startup company / product?


I have been in software industry since Aug-2005. In beginning of 2009 I got a nasty memory leak related defect to solve from my employer. To help myself with such kind of errors in future, I started writing a C++ based tool which will find all kind of memory errors in C++.

Soon I realized that it can become a very effective way of finding memory errors in C++ for any programmer if we automate it. Sometimes motivated and sometimes frustrated (related question in programmers ), I continued to work on it in my personal time like evenings, weekends. By this date, I assume the tool is at least 80% complete if not more.

With current job, I am not able to work on it effectively and the rest 20% is giving me tough time. How can I convert this project into a start-up ? I haven't tried much to find any investor as I don't know how to do that. I am a pure technical guy. How can I present my 80% finished work to someone and get the funding ?

So basically I am not hoping for big investors (though I welcome them). This is not something to do with million dollar investment. It's as simple as someone funding me. It's a pet project trying to be a mainstream product.

I have decent reputation in my SO profile. Is it appropriate to write something related to this tool to find interested parties ?

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asked Dec 2 '11 at 23:29
182 points
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  • If you wrote that on company time or with company materials/equipment it is not yours - it is your your employer's – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @Tim, this is not an issue for now, as that company I left. – Iammilind 12 years ago
  • It is still an issue - if you did the work on their machines or on their time it is not yours... – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @Tim, I got this thought when I was in company A; started working on it when got the defect in company B. B got acquired by C, where I declared this tool as my intellectual property. Company C agreed and also is not interested in new ideas. :) – Iammilind 12 years ago
  • I see - If you get that in writing from them then you are fine. – Tim J 12 years ago

2 Answers


Steps to convert it to a startup:

  1. Stop looking for funding and finish the program.
  2. Once you have a finished product you can sell it.
  3. Now that you are selling it you have a startup.

You might be surprised to find out that getting funding will probably take you more time and effort than just finishing your program.

answered Dec 2 '11 at 23:58
Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • You are correct; this is my current approach. But as I said, with current job ongoing I can't concentrate on those remaining 20% effectively. It challenges my patience! Also, for social/economical reasons I can't quit my current job just to finish this project. – Iammilind 12 years ago
  • I understand, but it will be just as hard or even harder to get funding. If you can't get the time to finish it, you don't have the time to get funding either. Really I suggest you just focus and finish it. – Joel Friedlaender 12 years ago


The money is only useful if you can turn it into more money in the future. How much money are you looking for? What will you do with that money if you get it?

Chances of someone funding you at this stage (no product, no customers, unknown potential in the market) are slim to none. Take Joel's advice, finish the product and start selling it yourself.

Not to mention that other people's money is very expensive at this stage: people will want significant equity for their money. That means a piece of your business that they'll own forever. If they own 50% of your business and you make 1 million dollars, they get half of it. Did you do the math to see if it's worth it, for you?

Finally, I hate to burst your bubble, but you won't make money selling a tool for finding memory leaks for C++. There are, literally, tens of them, most of them free and open-source (e.g. valgrind), and they are on the market for decades. There's just no market for yet another memory leak finding tool. Have you done any research on competition? Is your tool better than all the existing tools?

answered Dec 3 '11 at 19:49
Krzysztof Kowalczyk
1,950 points

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