How to find a client that would pay for your development in exchange for a license?


It takes an investor with a special kind of appetite to invest in software. And in my research, I have found that there are very few with that type of interest. I have a business model for an internet marketing platform. How can I find a client that would pay for my development costs of the service in exchange for a license?

Saas Internet Marketing Strategic Investment

asked May 17 '12 at 02:40
32 points
  • How does that vary from just paying for a license, you get money, they get a license? – David Benson 8 years ago
  • @David This way they get the pleasure of paying for vapourware – Steve Jones 8 years ago
  • Thanks for the negative votes!! And awesome intellectual insight. – Chad 8 years ago
  • How much would it cost to develop your software? I think it'll be even harder to find a future customer who wants to invest than to find an investor. – Frenchie 8 years ago
  • @frenchie, this is a good point. I very well could be looking at a this from the wrong standpoint. – Chad 8 years ago
  • @Chad My question is a perfectly valid one. – David Benson 8 years ago
  • Perhaps you could get *multiple* clients to pay *a fraction of* your costs for a license (a la Kickstartr), but having one client pay full freight for you to develop software you would later resell seems unlikely. – Scott Wilson 8 years ago
  • @Chad: I've been in your shoes before. I had found the money to build the software and the people to create the product. End result: outsourcing doesn't work at all for a start-up because you're hiring people who will earn thousands of dollars to build a product that'll potentially make you a gazillion dollars. You best option is to learn programming. Your second best option is to find a technical co-founder. – Frenchie 8 years ago
  • @David, never said you had an invalid question. If I step out of the box and look at it as a whole, there would be no difference the way that I asked the question. – Chad 8 years ago
  • @ScottWilson, the a la Kickstartr would be something to consider, and more likely to fly. – Chad 8 years ago
  • @frenchie, you have brought up another valid point. I have a fair background in programming, but lack in integration and cloud services. I did have someone interested that has the skills I lack, but wanted payed for services and stock. I am starting to believe that I need to tune up my skills and start learn the cloud game. After reading some good literature suggested on this forum, I am no so inclined to be in such a big rush to be the front runner. – Chad 8 years ago
  • @Chad: if you can do it yourself, you'll thank yourself later:) – Frenchie 8 years ago
  • @frenchie, I will be thanking you too :) – Chad 8 years ago
  • ok, cool, good luck! When you're done with your site, just post the URL here and I'll get the notification. One last tip I learned in the trenches of entrepreneurship and that I thought might help you: see my answer to this question 8 years ago
  • @frenchie, Thanks, I'll have a look. – Chad 8 years ago

5 Answers


The model of the partner takes all the risk and pays all the money, whereas you get paid for development time, take no risk and take all the reward for selling the licenses is simply wrong, there is no way around this conclusion.

You must perform at least some part of the initial development at your own cost. At that point, you could try to pre-sell beta licenses to a number of customers to cover the next step of the costs. But your initial investment must be significant in order for customers to have something to see.

answered May 17 '12 at 15:41
David Benson
2,166 points
  • you make a good point here. A significant investment on my part would be crucial, whether it be monetary or sweat. Besides, anything worth while take more than a hand out. Thank you for your input! – Chad 8 years ago


If I was a client and had that money I'd just use it to build the software myself, give myself a free licence to my software, and recover that money by selling licences when the software is ready. What you're proposing doesnt make any sense

answered May 17 '12 at 13:23
41 points
  • You make the flawed assumption that the client has the capabilities to build software. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • @NickStevens, I also believe the assumption is somewhat flawed. My research shows that the clients that would benefit from this, do not have the capabilities. If they did, this would have been created long ago. – Chad 8 years ago
  • the client can hire a software development company to make the software, not make it themselves. they may not have thought about it before but if you come to them with that proposition then they will if theyre smart – Mikeg 8 years ago
  • @mikeg Yes, the client could go to a software house, except they dont understand what it is they want, let alone what it is that they need (which are two very different things). When you come with a value proposition, you're only transferring the idea and the outcome. Those two things are not sufficient to build software. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • i understand that steve, but if they really have no idea what they want or need then how will the op know enough to build them useful software, excludin any psychic powers he mayhave? im guessing the client is a rather large business because the op is asking them to fund the entire project which is very expensive. large businesses are capable of submitting tenders. i still dont see the benefit of paying for the development of software if the payee doesnt own the intelectual property they arw paying for. – Mikeg 8 years ago
  • @mikeg, check the answer by Nick Stevens, "We went to those clients and spent time understanding their problems, until we were sure we knew them better than the client did" – Kaj Magnus Lindberg 8 years ago


I've actually done this. More than once. We had ideas that we wanted to build as B2B SaaS/PaaS solutions and expanded to a good concepts. We didn't want to bring in external investment. We found a niche market, and made a list of target clients.

We went to those clients and spent time understanding their problems, until we were sure we knew them better than the client did. Free consulting if you like. Then we pitched our solution to them, in their context, with their real numbers attached to it.

Not only did the client(s) pay for the up front development cost, they took out a paid contract for using the platform ongoing.

With a good contract, and sensible billing against milestones, the risk for the client is actually quite low.

There's a couple of caveats:
We have a lot of experience in solving problems in large companies.
We knew what we were talking about in terms of our product.
We invested our time and experience into the client.
We knew how to make a compelling sale.
We are likeable people.
We have balls of steel.

If you're unable to fulfil these sort of criteria, you've got a very slim chance of pulling it off.

answered May 17 '12 at 23:20
Nick Stevens
4,436 points
  • I've done something similar too, but it is non-trivial and I would say I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Crossing the Chasm is out of date now, but still has some useful lessons. – Steve Jones 8 years ago
  • @Nick Stevens, I was hoping to find someone that has been through this example before. Your insight is PRICELESS! Love the Balls of Steel metaphor. If nothing else, I do have that. My team fits your description to the tee. Really appreciate the time you took to lay out what objectives need to be met, and a blueprint to follow. Thank you again! – Chad 8 years ago
  • @SteveJones, Luck, I will take some of that any day! – Chad 8 years ago


If I understand your question correctly, what you're asking is to find a client who will pay your costs for you to develop an internet marketing platform. In exchange, you will give them a license to use the software.

Disadvantages for your potential business partner:

  • Your technology is unproven and they don't know whether or how fast you will be able to get it to work. By contrast, they could take the money they would pay you and buy an existing marketing platform.
  • Paying for your development means to pay for you to do all the work to handle initial bugs, etc. This can be very expensive.
  • After they pay for debugging, you are going to turn around and sell the product to other companies. This will be pure profit for you and your original "investor" will get nothing in return other than a license.

I certainly wouldn't take such an offer myself.

answered May 17 '12 at 12:29
Patrick Kenny
277 points
  • This is very good insight from the partner's view. And everything you have stated would indeed be the case. Somehow there must be a way, or offering, that both parties reap the benefits. – Chad 8 years ago
  • @Chad: Perhaps if you treat them like a regular investor, and give them a percentage of the income of all of the licenses sold in perpetuity, because they fronted the initial development costs. – rbwhitaker 8 years ago
  • @rbwhitaker, thank you for your input. That would be a viable option, and both parties would come out on top. I will take a look at that. – Chad 8 years ago


You should find a partner that offers more than just paying for development costs. Others have stated there is nothing in it for the business owner, but I disagree. First, they shouldn't expect to pay the same amout as they would for a custom application. They're getting in on the ground floor and can have a strong influence on getting the features and functionality they need.

Second, don't expect them to directly compensate you for the cost of building the app, but work with someone who is connected in their industry and can attract other buyers. Again, you're offering to let them get involved in the project from the beginning, so they can have a lot of input into the app. You can also offer a referal agreement that could potentially allow them to gain their initial investment back.

You may want to find independent business owners who want to turn their business into a franchise or create dealership program. They're going to need an app on a much broader scale along with ways to aggregate all their dealers/franchisees. The members can pay the software license. This approach may delay your payment, but builds a strong relationship and revenue stream in the long run.

answered May 18 '12 at 01:23
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • this is a great answer! While reading it, several options kept popping in my head. This is a great approach to pursue. With this great input, and the others that have contributed with great insight, the ground I am standing on is more solid that it was yesterday. Thank you for taking the time to help lay out a great strategy. – Chad 8 years ago

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